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Board Game Barker

I recently started a board game review blog: http://toddsboardgames.blogspot.ca/ I make sure to touch on POSITIVE points of games, give a breif overview of how the game plays out and let you know who I think would enjoy it and why. There is no number rating just good old fashion words.

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My Review of Machi Koro - Really fun light game that feels like monopoly meets dominion

todd barker
Canada
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Okay you might have seen this game come up recently online, a lot of people are predicting it to be the next big craze and I will do my best to explain why. In my review of Machi Koro I will explain how to play as well as how I liked it with 2/3/4 players. I also consider the who should buy section much more important than usual and of course I will touch on my thoughts including why I think Machi Koro is a great replacement for monopoly and why I think some groups might ditch it unfairly.

To read the complete review along with images to assist explanation go to http://toddsboardgames.blogspot.ca/2014/05/machi-koro.html

How to Play:

Objective:
The goal in Machi Koro is simple, the first player to complete his 4th starting landmark is the winner. To complete a landmark you must have the right amount of cash and importantly like regular buildings you can only build 1 per turn.

Setup:
To start deal each player 1 of each of the 4 landmarks face down. Next give everyone a wheat field and baker (make sure they are cards that do not have a coin cost on the bottom left) and finally give everyone 3 coins. Then lay out all the available buildings you can buy, we found arranging by colour works better than by price or die roll.
machi koro setup

On Your Turn:
Your turn is simple, you roll 1 or 2 dice (if you have constructed your station) and then depending on the result all players get a chance to activate their appropriate buildings. It is important to remember what the colour coding of the cards means and when they will activate.

Note: If you have the station you can choose between rolling 1 and 2 dice, when you roll two dice the results are added together and not counted as 2 rolls (notice the cards that require higher than a 6 to activate).

Green / Purple Cards - Activate only if you roll the die
machi koro card example greenmachi koro card example

Blue Cards - Activate if anyone rolled the corresponding number
machi koro card example mine blue

Red Cards - Activate only if an opponent rolled the corresponding number
machi koro card example cafe red

All the cards tell you when they activate but if you can remember the simple colour coding you will be able to quickly survey the table and see the strategies of your opponents. This will also ensure the game moves along a little quicker, and its easy to memorize the meaning of a few colours.

Next you get the chance to buy a building from any available stack or construct one of your starting landmark cards. This is how you build your engine, note that you can only buy once per turn. Then play passes to the next player who follows the same fast and simple process.

Components:

As this is not the finished copy I will not spend too long on the components, I will note that they will have better currency in the finished version. We are currently working on an appealing solution to the plastic chips, so far we have used real coins a couple times and dice others but the plastic chips included simply wont do. I am in love with the Art which is actually what first intrigued me about Machi Koro. One thing I do like is Machi Koro gives us dice lovers a chance to break out some of our d6s, rather than pass the dice around we simply each had 2 of our own.

My Thoughts:
Before I delve into how it plays / scales with the different number of players I just want to touch on why this could be the next craze in the board game hobby.

It is very simple to teach. There is luck factor that stops people who are teaching from gaining a huge lead on the players still learning the game. This also stops you from having to hold back when teaching, which creates a much better intro experience.

It plays fast and how it plays. A turn can be related very well to Monopoly that I think any non gamer will pick up on it almost instantaneously. You roll a die see if you get money and then spend your money, this is actually a lot more fun than monopoly where you roll dice see if you owe money and then spend your cash. The action of rolling dice at the start of your turn, occasionally giving money to other players, spending your money and passing the dice / your turn to the next player keeps everyone interested even when its not their turn. All together playing a game has been taking us 5-20 minutes depending if players know the rules and how many people are playing and of course what numbers actually get rolled.

Sense of accomplishment. In monopoly you get to see your properties and you get to see your money making scheme develop as you add hotels and houses to your lots. In Machi Koro your accomplishment or sense of building towards something is amplified because each investment pays off so much easier and quicker. All someone needs to do is roll the right number instead of landing on the right space which yes is just rolling a number but each space cant come up on any given turn. At the end of the game when your landmarks are turned over and you can quickly see how many everyone else had turned over you get a much better sense of how everyone placed than in a game like Monopoly especially when you are not the winner.

Mechanically Machi Koro appeals to both non gamers as you can see from my examples above but it also appeals to board gamers by giving us a refreshing take on already well known mechanics. Something like Dominion without the shuffling/deck, the process of playing provides lots of interaction and room for table talk and of course there are those take that screw you mechanics, they are totally optional which brings me to my last point, that Machi Koro is a game where you get out of it what you put into it. If you want to just sit back have a beer buy some investments, roll a die and see what happens then Machi Koro works for you but if you want a nail biting take that race built up by the anticipation that "anything can happen" when the dice are rolled, where you need to count out every move and make sure every action counts, then you can do that with Machi Koro too.

My only criticism I have already seen elsewhere, there simply aren't enough cards to choose from but that can be combated by refusing to give in to Machi Koro's play me again attitude. This can be offset by future expansions, at the very least this is a very easy game to add some of your custom cards too if you aren't happy with the current selection. My only other complaint ties into the lack of card selection and that is how quickly you can burn out from Machi Koro. Even though it leaves you wanting to play again I do not believe it was intended for multiple plays in succession to each other although that is purely my perspective / speculation. I think that if you pace yourself with Machi Koro it will be a great addition to every group however I think that it has the potential to sit on someones shelf because they get tired of it and assume it is because of the lack of card selection meanwhile they played it 20 times in the week because it was new and shiny.

How It Scales:
2 Players - At first I did not enjoy playing two player, my first thoughts were this is kind of cool but you can see how it would get a lot better with more people. Now after playing 15 or so times with different number of players, I think the two player game is just fine. This builds off my last point above where I say you get what you put into it, this is important for my two player gaming because depending on how busy our day was sometimes we just want a minimum thinking game and other times we are ready for an all out war. Some things I like about 2 player Machi Koro over 3 / 4. The overall game length is shorter, your rolls benefit other people less and it feels more strategic even when not giving it a lot of thought because there are fewer rolls, more room to play around with your strategy because no buildings will ever run out. I enjoy 2 player Machi Koro because it provides better sense of accomplishment than lots of other 2 player games in my collection, my only criticism is its a lot to break out if you are only going to play 1 match for a 2 player game.

3 Players - This is my favourite size for Machi Koro, I feel like there is just the right amount of everything, play time, strategy, dice rolled etc. I do not have a single complaint about 3 player Machi Koro and if your gaming group consists of 3 players often, you definitely need to buy this game.

4 Players - Alright, this is my least favourite way to play that is not to say that I think Machi Koro is bad with 4 players but let me explain why. Some of the cards can run out, in a game that doesn't give you a ton of different strategies to begin with, it is annoying when someone takes the cards for the strategy you want although you can argue that is part of the meta game that comes with playing 4 players (watching what cards your opponents buy more carefully). I do not like how the odds can landslide in someone's favour, in 2 player it is easy enough to make a comeback but I never managed or saw it happen in a 4 player game because you get 1 buy / 4 rolls as opposed to 1 buy every 2 rolls. That means that if the person in the lead is utilizing blue buildings they are likely to remain in the lead. Also as engaging as Machi Koro is on other players turns sometimes it takes a little too long for it to be your turn again, I am generally impatient but I wasn't the only one feeling this way. 4 Players is also a tight fit on our table once everyone gets an engine going we start running out of room and have to shuffle things around or risk our cities sprawling into our neighbours.

Who Should Buy Machi Koro?

Family Gamers - This is one you can play with any of your relatives or family from kids to grandparents. The theme I think is great and accessible to anyone, who doesn't want to develop their own city? I think that Machi Koro actually teaches you some cool concepts as you are playing you learn some basics about investing, probability and definitely makes it easy for non gamers to think strategically. You can explain that it is sort of like Monopoly but much quicker and without a board and I think you will get your family interested, for that reason I cant wait to show my sister (total non gamer).

Casual Gamers - You own Ticket to Ride, King of Tokyo and Pandemic, your next buy should be Machi Koro. I would say this really depends on the number of games you own and what they are, if you only own 3 games and one of them is a deckbuilder I would not buy Machi Koro, if you only have 1 or 2 games then I would also not buy Machi Koro as its very easy to burn out on especially since it leaves you wanting to play again and is short enough that there is always enough time for one more game. If you play a lot with non gaming friends or people who aren't entirely sold on the hobby yet, definitely get this one, this is where I think it will shine the most, brining people into our hobby.

Gamer Gamers - Great for in between games, great for showing friends and family that aren't as enthusiastic about the hobby as you are. Smaller size makes it easy to justify adding to your already huge collection. Machi Koro is a game I think everyone should have in their collection and since you have more games to choose from it is likely that you will ever burn out from Machi Koro.
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Tue Jun 3, 2014 5:44 pm
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Online Board Gaming Pros and Cons

todd barker
Canada
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Often when I see "Online Board Games" brought up they are talked about as if they are inferior to playing their physical counterparts. I am going to try and highlight some of the pros and cons I have noticed while gaming online. Personally I do not feel that one way of playing is superior to another I think it is entirely situational and dependent on what mood you are in and how much time/money/friends are at your disposal.

You can check out my blog (which is mostly reviews) at toddsboardgames.blogspot.com

The Social Experience
The number one argument against gaming online is that the social aspect of board gaming almost disappears entirely. While for the most part this is true and it was actually quite off putting when I tried my first couple games of Jaipur and Stone Age. But then I realized if I did any of the following things at a meetup or games night people would be talking about how strange I was for days.

Sit down at a table without knowing anyone or introducing yourself at all.

Not talk about anything happening inside or outside of the game at any point while the game was actually being played.

Some people don't do this but I like to have a conversation about the game after, not so much what happened during the session but the game itself, I also didn't do this in my first few online board game matches. What I am trying to say is lots of people may seem closed at first but all it takes is one person to start a conversation. Just like sitting around the table you can talk about anything you wish and people are friendly because after all they are still board gamers.


Friendly advice from another player, ended up playing two games with these guys and getting last both times, I suck at Tzolk'in

Rules Discrepancies
One thing I like about getting your board gaming in online is there is no gray area, it doesn't matter what platform you are using there is one thing that is universal and that is that the games properly follow the rules and don't allow cheating. Although there aren't many cases of either cheating or rules bending in my group this impossible to cheat does make it appealing to learn a new game this way.

I will admit I have jumped right into a game before without even reading the rules, I would not recommend this. Not because its hard to learn the game this way, I guarantee you will know how to play by the time its over, the problem is you spoil the game for people who are trying to play a game. And who knows maybe the reason they are gaming online is they don't have much time for gaming that day, maybe that is their only game and you gave them no competition at all. Which brings me to my pros and cons of gaming online, note that a lot of the points can be seen from both sides as both a pro and a con.

Pros:

You can play whatever game you want provided its available online somewhere
You can play with the number of players you prefer
Cheating is impossible
You don't have to travel anywhere
You don't have to invest in the game
You can try a game before you buy it
Games can go quicker because fiddly things are automated
You can multitask better on other peoples turns because you are not being "rude"
Can listen to loud music because you don't have to hear anyone talk
You can play with people you regularly discuss board gaming with online
Easier access to your opponent's resources / playing field


Math and Calculations are done for you
You don't have to fiddle with little pieces that require constant taking and putting back
No set up / pack up time

Cons:

You do not get to play with the physical components, I find much more satisfying holding a hand of cards than looking at pictures of cards on a screen. (Bolded because this is the most important point to me)

You can get stuck with someone who has absolutely no idea how to play (they didn't even get the rundown you would before starting the tabletop version)

Less table talk and chit chat

Your internet and or power can go out and same with your opponents

People can go pee/smoke/get side tracked without saying anything leaving you to pick your nose while you wait

Math and calculations are done for you (some people enjoy doing this)

You definitely lose a lot of the theme

Easier to get sucked into AP since you can see all your opponent's stuff without having to lean over the table


Conclusion

So overall the list of Pros in longer but the Cons might be more important, a bigger chance of your game being interrupted or not being able to finish or just a generally crappy game session. That being said you do have more options for what and when you play when gaming online and by getting regular online gaming friends you aren't going to have a bad time. Both can be an equally satisfying experience, and similar to various board games, both experiences satisfy very different itches. If you have never played a game online I would highly suggest giving it a try.
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Fri May 16, 2014 3:29 pm
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My Review of Fairy Tale - Drafting in its purest form for 2-5 players takes 15-20 minutes to play

todd barker
Canada
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Fairy Tale is a card drafting game that plays very quickly and seats 2-5 players. I don't have a lot of experience with drafting games but out of the ones I have played this is one of my favourites. Fairy Tale has been knocking all our other filler games off the table since we picked it up. What I like best about it compared to other drafting games other than the play / setup time is how the gameplay encourages you to draft to hinder your opponents. Read below for a quick explanation of how to play and my thoughts on how it scales between 2 and 5 players.

To read the entire review complete with full sized images or to browse other reviews go to http://toddsboardgames.blogspot.ca



Objective / Goal:

The game is played in 4 rounds, at the end of the 4th round each player will have played 12 cards to create their own Fairy Tale. Players then score points depending on what cards each player has in their story

How To Play:

The game is broken into 2 phases, players will go through both phases in all 4 rounds. The first phase is the drafting phase and the later being the activation phase.

Drafting Phase:
In the drafting phase players will start with a hand of 5 cards, select 1 to keep for their hand and then pass the remaining cards to the player on their left. Continue to do this until you are each passed 1 card that you are forced to keep thus completing your hand of 5 drafted cards.




Activation Phase:
Players choose 1 of their 5 cards to play and wait until everyone else has selected their card. Then, at the same time everyone turns over their card revealing what they played.

Depending on the cards played, players may have the opportunity to perform actions that cause their own or their opponents cards to turn over (either face down so they are worth 0 points or face up to restore the loss of a face down card.)


After players have selected cards they both reveal them simultaneously.


Since this is the first card played, and the player has no other leaf cards they must turn the Fairy Ring face down.


Face down cards score 0 points at the end of the game.

During each activation phase players will only get to play 3 of their 5 cards, this is where I say Fairy Tale encourages you to screw with your opponents plans, the extra 2 cards you have should either be situationally better than the 3 cards you are planning on playing or simply taken to stop your opponents from gaining more of a set they are collecting.


Some cards allow you to turn a face down card face up, they have a green flip symbol.



The top row of shadow cards all allow you to turn one of your opponent's cards face down.

Games End (Scoring):
After everyone has turned over their ninth card and executed any resulting actions, players get to total their points. Only cards remaining face up will count towards a players total points. I found the scoring simple, but a couple people I have shown it to find the scoring a bit confusing and there is definitely 1 icon that adds to the confusion (the ally).

Any card that has a number in the top left corner is worth that many points unless it has conditions that need met on the bottom.



All of these cards have conditions that need met, the leftmost needs you to have the most cards with statues on the top.

The red leaf card requires you to have the Fairy Queen. The leftmost green card requires you to have 2 yellow and 2 red leaf cards. And the rightmost card requires you to have the most Green cards at the end of the game.

Note: For cards that require majority a tie is good enough to score the
points.



Any card with a star is worth a variable amount of points depending on the other cards you have face up at the end of the game. There are two types of variable scoring (star) cards.

The first work as multipliers for each other, if you have 1 it is worth 1 point each, if you have 2 they are worth 2 points each and so on. The most I have ever been able to get is 5 of these kind.

The other work with your Ally cards and are worth 3 points for each of the corresponding Ally card you have (who are worth a base 3 points themselves). You can tell which Ally you need by looking at the bottom scoring conditions of the card with the star.



At final scoring, assuming this player had or was tied for the most books, they would score 33 points.

are multipliers of themselves 3x3 = 9 points.

0 Points for the Leaf Fairy Tale Chapter since they did not have at least 2 green cards.

The dwarven warriors give 3x # of bronze dragons (1) = 3 points
And the remaining cards all score their face value = 21


How does it scale between 2 - 5 players?

Two Players: Surprisingly fun, I like drafting with just 2 players because its more of a head game, you have to think of what cards will make it back to you and weigh that as you consider which cards to take yourself and which to make sure your opponent will not get. 2 player Fairy Tale is a tense game but turns still go around quickly and the whole thing can be done in 5-10 minutes, definitely leaves you with a want to play again feel.

Three Players: For a lot of the reasons said above 3 player Fairy Tale is just as good as two player, I like it because each round you will have more options for strategy than in a two player game. The other major difference is there is there will simply be more cards to cycle through meaning the ones you want might turn up more often, still not enough for me to choose the King and Matching story cards as there are only 1 copy of each out of 100 cards. In a three player game 60 cards will be seen.

Four Players: This is where I start to consider using some of the more chancy cards, if you start with the King or Queen and not the story card I will take them every time as they are guaranteed points with a shot at very high points. I like how quickly turns the game plays with 4 players and I like how different your strategy needs to be from a 2 player game. In a four player game 80 cards will be seen.

Five Players: This is my least favourite number of players to play with, that being said I would still rather play fairy tale than a lot of other 5 player games. My reasoning is that turns go around quick but because it is played over 4 rounds and the cards you chose greatly effect the next round, you really feel like you are building towards / creating something. With 5 players I find people tend to focus more on their own Stories than screwing with other peoples because enough grey cards will come up that screwing with other people's plans just kind of happens. 5 player is fun because you can come up with some really good strategies since the probability of seeing the cards you want / need is much higher than with any other number of players since every card in the deck will be used..

Who Would Enjoy Fairy Tale?

Family Gamers: There is no violence and once you have learned the iconography the game play is surprisingly simple. There is no long setup or explanation needed so you wont lose anyone's attention. The game is over and done with in less than 15 - 20 minutes and there is no text that you need to read. Fairy Tale is really accessible while still having a cool theme, if fantasy doesn't appeal to you then this is a game that you can very easily retheme and is worth doing so because it is a lot of fun to play.

Casual Gamers: Quick game play, easy to learn rules, no reading required and no long boring turns make this ideal to play with non gaming friends. That being said there is a lot of meta game involved in Fairy Tale which makes it easy to get into as more than just a filler and will leave your friends / group wanting to play again. Also because its a relatively inexpensive game its easy to justify adding a copy to your collection especially seeing as it is easy to bring with you somewhere.

Gamer Gamers: This is one I would encourage getting to play with your less serious friends. Even with the meta game there just isn't enough meat for someone wanting to play a serious drafting game or even a game rich in fantasy theme. That being said it is really easy to teach and quick to jump right into and a fun game to bring to your local meetup and definitely satisfies the drafting itch.
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Wed May 14, 2014 4:32 pm
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My Review of Trains, the game that breathes new life into deckbuilding and how it scales between 2/3/4

todd barker
Canada
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For a long time Dominion was one of my go to games, when it first came out we played a lot but without expansions it simply loses its charm after a lot of plays. Then I got into Thunderstone and instantly took to it because of the way more exciting theme and less solitaire gameplay. However owning Thunderstone and 2 expansions put me off from reinvesting into Advance and for some reason classic Thunderstone takes a few plays to understand the strategy / rules. Where is all this going? Well the next stop was my discovery of deckbuilding / board hybrids and let me tell you they blow old deckbuilding games right off the table. Trains from AEG is simply fantastic and although I've burned two different groups out on it I would gladly play Trains any time of the day. What makes it so great / addicting? I will go over how to play Trains, then explain my thoughts on how it plays with 2, 3 and 4 players.



If you want to read the entire review or other reviews, complete with full sized images go to: http://toddsboardgames.blogspot.ca/2014/01/trains.html


Objective: Similar to Dominion and most other games your goal is to have the most Victory Points when the game ends. Trains gives you more options than a traditional deckbuilder, you can score points via cards, or two different ways on the gameboard. This immediately gives you room to experiment with different strategies and my first few games I spent trying out your options to see what gives you the biggest edge.


Example Victory Point Cards

Deckbuilding Portion: There are two things to keep in mind when playing Trains vs other deckbuilders.

First there are no limitations to the number of cards you can play in a turn, instead you must collect a waste card (explained in detail later) when you play any card with the recycle symbol, these are typically found on cards that let you place pieces onto the game board.


Secondly there are no limitations to the number of cards you can buy/play on your turn (other than their cost) if you can afford to buy 6 cards you can buy 6 cards.


Cost is located in the top right corner of all cards in a red circle.

Let's cover the different types of cards starting with the unfamiliar ones.

Station Expansion Cards: These cards allow you to place train stations onto any city on the game board, you do not have to have a railway constructed in the city. There is no $ cost associated with the construction of a Train Station, however you do have to collect one waste card.


Train Stations Explained: If Railways are your bread then Stations are your butter, your railways are worth no points if they are not in a city that has 0 Train Stations. Each city depicts a specific number of skyscrapers, these indicate the number of Stations allowed to be built inside that city. At the end of the game, 1 station is worth 2 VP, 2 stations are worth 4 VP and 3 stations are worth 8 VP. Any Station that has your railway marker in it will score you points regardless of who constructed the Station.


In this example Green would score 10 Victory Points.
Blue and Yellow would both score 4 Victory Points.

Lay Rails Trains Starting Card AEGThat sounds like a pretty sweet deal how can I get my trains to go through cities occupied by opponents? Its actually quite a simple process but I will need to cover the basics of laying rails.



The green cards allow you to place your Railway tokens (cubes) onto the gameboard on any space adjacent to one of your other Railways, some of them will give you discounts based on where you are constructing your Railway for example the Tunnel card makes it cheaper to build through mountains. Each time you play a green card you will be required to take a waste card. Playing the green card is not enough to build a network of railroads though and you will need to bring financial support depending on where you wish to place your cubes. Here is a breakdown of the costs:


River = 1$
Mountain = 2$
City = 1 + # of Stations
Remote Location = $ = to the number inside the star
Opponents' Railroads = $ = number of railroad tokens + gain 1 waste.
Field = Free
The Yellow and Black striped lines may never be crossed.



If the Yellow player was starting their turn in Amagasaki and they wanted to connect to Umeda they would need: Two Green cards allowing the Yellow player to place two railway cubes on the board, and a total of 4$.


These would be the two Rail Laying cards Yellow wants on their turn.
Their only cost would be gaining two waste.


The mountains sort of look like forests, they cost an additional 2$ to place a railway.
Assuming the Blue Player started in Oji and wanted to connect to Kashiwara in 1 turn they would need to play: Two green cards that allow the Blue player to place railway onto the board and a total of 4$.


Looks like laying railways can get expensive pretty fast, how do you get money? By playing Train cards of course! Each Train Card has a numbered value inside a golden circle in the top left corner, these work like copper/silver/gold in Dominion but lots of them also come with a special text ability that range from gaining additional money if conditions are met to removing waste cards from your hand. I especially like this because it gets rid of that boring startegy from Dominion where you just continue to buy and upgrade your copper-gold cards.

The symbol choice is a bit strange and doesn't match up thematically, I want to call them dollars but usually end up paying for my railways in gold coins.

Then we add action cards to the mix, these are the red cards. They allow you to do cool things ranging from drawing more cards to gaining additional money or removing waste. Remember there are no limits to the number of action cards you can play on a turn, this lets you create some pretty cool combos. More than having the ability to play numerous action cards, I prefer the way they are designed in Trains versus any other deckbuilder I have tried. How are they different? I think they are much more interesting, a lot of them offering you choice or the ability to combo with other cards of other types.


Click Here For Example Action Cards:


Waste Cards: Think of these as victory point cards in Dominion, except that they are worth no points. When you draw them you simply get screwed and have 1(or more) less usable card that hand. Lots of cards force you to take waste and fewer allow you to get rid of it but you can always skip an entire turn to remove all the waste in your hand from your deck.


Game End: The game ends when one of the following conditions is met.

One player entirely depletes their supply of Railway Tokens.
The stock of Train Stations runs out.
4 different stacks of cards available for purchase have no cards left.

If any of these conditions are met the game ends immediately and players count score.

My Thoughts:

In case you still need it spelled out, Trains is far superior to most games I own, it takes a lot of known mechanics and intertwine them in a way that hasn't been done before. I have played well over 50 games now and tried many times with each # of players. Here are my thoughts and observations on how Trains plays with 2/3/4.

Two Player: At first two player trains seems a lot like Dominion or other deckbuilders, just a Race to get the most points. However with only 2 players I found that you get to build your routes more and place more pieces onto the board, I also found that there are more than a few different approaches you can take to the 2 player game. My go to 2 player strategy is to focus on building lots of $ at first and then lots of Railway card once the other player has built up some stations, you can piggy back off their points and use your high $ value to pick up a couple Skyscrapers before the game ends. I found that more often than not, a players supply of Railways will be the reason for the game's end.

Three Player: Three player was not very fun when we first started playing. It is very easy to end up with a Kingmaker situation where two players will be investing in stealing each other's points while one player can simply construct an extremely well thought out efficient route that scores a lot of points. After about 10 plays though three player Trains became my favourite, if everyone knows what they are doing it is really intense, trying to piggyback points and get an edge over your opponents, with three players I like how there is variance in each player's strategy and I like the length that the game ends. With three players you have the ability to speed up the game and bring it to an end quickly if you are in the lead, you are also easily able to prolong the game a bit to catch up, most importantly when your game ends you will want to play again. You get to see your strategy come to life but not entirely flourish and while playing you got to see the magnitude of other strategies at your disposal.

Four Player: At first I hated 4 player Trains, I thought wow this ends way too fast, then I really enjoyed it for a few plays thinking wow these are the closest games points wise and therefore must be the best way to play. My opinion is close to where it was at the start now, with 4 players unless someone is using a strictly card strategy it always ends too quickly. I think the reason the scores are close together is not because the 4 player game is balanced but because no one really gets to develop their plans. Instead you are left with what could have been and to me 4 player trains seems very anticlimactic.

The combination of deckbuilder and physical board to do stuff on has captured my attention in a way that no game has been able to in a while. Even if my friends won't play Trains anymore I have my eye on a couple more of these deckbuilder / board hybrids.



Tokyo Trains Game Board



Osaka Trains Game Board


Who Will Enjoy Trains?

Family Gamers: The rules are simple to learn especially for someone who has played Dominion, the strategy is a bit harder to come up with on your own but definitely allows for more creativity. The theme is neutral and I think there is a lot that can be learned from playing Trains. Obviously not one that kids can play on their own but for a board game oriented family Trains would be a hit.

Casual Gamers: Trains has a very fast setup time and the cleanup isn't bad either, the rules are easy to explain and turns whip around the table. Even though it is a "train game" the typical train theme is almost non existent, I think this makes it more accessible since I know a few people who have been turned off by train games or just simply not excited by them. I think what makes Trains great is it has that addicting feel of wanting to play again and again, this is great to show more casual and newer gamers because it really lets players develop their strategy and a lot of mechanics cross over into other games.

Gamer Gamers: Like I said, its great for showing non gamer friends, plays well with 2,3 or 4. Easy to explain but difficult to master, and multiple routes to victory. I think more serious gamers will appreciate how much you are able to manipulate the playing time and the level of interaction. And of course if you are someone who enjoys numbers you will like trying to figure out which strategy provides the most points and how to play more efficiently.
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Thu Mar 20, 2014 4:52 pm
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What is the deal with Trains anyways

todd barker
Canada
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I've never understood the whole train theme genre of games and haven't been able to get into them really. String Railways didn't really change that, but it brought "trains" to a tolerable level - a 20 minute light filler that is visually attractive and is unique from any other game in my collection.

To read the full review, complete with full sized images go to http://toddsboardgames.blogspot.ca/2013/09/string-railway.ht...



Objective: Score victory points by placing your strings, representing your railroads, onto stations cards. The winner is the player with the most victory points at the end of the 5th round.

Setup:
The "game board" is created out of a large, looped, black string.

The smaller grey string is placed inside the board representing the mountain.

The blue string is similarly placed representing the river.

Players choose one of the marks on the black border string, and place their Starting Station card. They take five strings in their colour, four short and one long, and the game is ready to begin.


On a player's turn, they turn over a station card from the deck, place it anywhere inside the playing area, and then lay down one of their strings (railroads). Strings must begin and end on different station cards. After a player has placed a railroad, they score points scored based on the stations it is going through.



There are eight different types of stations, each with specific scoring rules - clearly indicated by consistent use of icons on the cards themselves. Most stations simply award points for an initial connection, and impose a limit on the number of players that can connect to that location. A couple of them award points to the owner (the first player to connect to it), but then remove points for any future connections by other players. Players also lose points for building over the river, mountain, as well as other player's railroads that are not inside a station card.



My Thoughts: I loved the creative feel to it, playing was fun, the components were surprisingly fiddly but easy to understand. I like how fast you can teach players and that it doesn't take too long also the vibrant colours. I think that String Railway works nice as a family or something to play at the start of your night.


Who Would Enjoy Playing String Railway?

Family Gamers: Choo Choo All Aboard, String Railway will do great in a family gaming setting, very colourful and visually attractive, rules are simple to learn, setting up and playing are quick, theme is neutral and teaches some math skills with both adding and subtracting involved frequently in the scoring.

Casual Gamers: Everyone likes playing a fun new game with unique mechanics, String Railway provides some light gameplay where you don't have to be paying that much attention. Turns go around quickly and you can easily enjoy conversation, company, and beer without grinding the game to a halt. That being said there is still enough of a game that is enjoyable to play, making routes with string is actually pretty fun and a very different mechanic that makes String Railway leaves a refreshing taste in your mouth.

Gamer Gamers: Do you own every train game that exists? Then maybe string railway is for you. Seeing as luck is a big determining factor of who wins and there are not any real tough decisions to be made I would not recommend this to a serious gamer. On the other hand "Gamer Gamers" tend to have collections and non serious gaming friends. Because of the uniqueness of String Railway and lower price point I would recommend it even if you only get a few plays here and there.
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Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:22 pm
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Hive: Why I've Never Been Happier With a Recommended Game

todd barker
Canada
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Up until roughly a week ago I had next to zero 2 player only games in my collection. Even though the girlfriend and I play more games just us than with company I don't like the restriction of not being able to add more players. Between my lacking 2 player collection and not touching a chess piece in over 10 years I would have been the last person to pick up Hive. That was until I asked /r/boardgames for advice on a solid vacation game that was not simply a pocket / travel edition of an already mediocre game, I had seen Hive's name mentioned dozens of times on various websites but always brushed it off due to the player limitation. Well I bought Hive and I am very disappointed, not at the game though but rather myself for dismissing it some 6 months ago without even giving it a try.

For the complete review in an easier to read format please check out my blog at http://toddsboardgames.blogspot.ca/2013/08/hive.html

How do you play?

Learning to play is simple, learning how to win will take practice. In the most simplistic explanation, you and your opponent will take turns placing and/or moving insects around the 'Hive' in a fight for dominance, in order to take control of the Hive and win, you must completely surround your opponent's Bee using a combination of both players' pieces.

Setup:

The setup occurs during the first 4 turns, these turns follow different rules from the rest of the game.

Your first piece you play MUST touch your opponent's piece.
You MUST place your Bee within your first 4 moves.
You can ONLY place pieces and not move any until after you have placed your bee




Playing:

After the "setup" phase you will have to choose between placing a new piece and moving an insect already in play. First I will cover the placement of new pieces.

Placement:

When placing a new piece regardless of which Bug it is, you can ONLY touch your colour piece.

To make things clear / reiterate you cannot place a new tile so that it is touching both colours.





When your Beetle is on top of an opponent's bug, that tile is considered yours and you can place pieces off of it so long as they do not touch any of your opponent's pieces.

Moving:

This is where the majority of the strategy comes in, each bug moves along a set path similar to chess piece (although with much more abstract paths) I will now explain how each bug works.

note: At no point in time can you cause a separation that would split the tiles into more than 1 'hive'.

Grasshopper: It hops! You can only move your grasshopper if it hops a piece next to it, the Grasshopper MUST move in a straight line, MUST hop over at least 1 piece and MUST fill the first available gap.



Ant: These crawling insects work much like their real life counterparts and can move anywhere as long as they can get to that space by sliding along the table, without pushing other tiles out of its way or having to pick it up to fill a hole.



Beetle: Beetles move only 1 space in any direction, however unlike any other bug they have the ability to move on top of other pieces. A piece with a Beetle on top of it cannot move and is considered to be the colour of the piece on top. Beetles can be stacked up to 4 high.



Bee: Similar to the initial Beetle movement, your Bee can also only move 1 space, however this is all your bee can do, it possesses no special power.



Spider: These 8 legged freaks MUST move in a single direction and MUST move 3 spaces.


Components:

The components are one of the best parts about hive, the tiles are a perfect size and are heavy enough that they don't push each other away as you move your pieces, the sturdy tiles make Hive perfect for outdoor play and the travel bag it comes with lets you take Hive anywhere.


What makes Hive so enjoyable to me?

My absolute favourite part about Hive is how easy it is to get a game in, our average match lasts 5-15 minutes, combined the setup and cleanup time takes 30 seconds and you can play with pretty much anyone or anywhere. The rest of the appeal:

- Abstract / "Sandbox" style strategy
- Different from games that my group frequently plays
- Great warm up for longer games
- Lots of replay value
- Theme reminds me of an old Warcarft 3 custom game "Bug Evolution" players were split in to teams of 2 and each controlled a different bug type that filled a different roll in the colony, each side expanded and evolved until there was no more room left and only one colony remained, it was awesome. Couldn't fnid a video of it but here is a link to the download http://www.epicwar.com/maps/84634/

Who would enjoy Hive and why?

Family Gamers:
- Easy to learn rules
- Like Chess, Hive encourages and helps teach strategic thinking
- Quick playtime
- Fun 'Bug' theme
- Play inside or outside

Casual Gamers:
- Easy to learn rules
- Quick playtime
- Play inside or outside
- Leaves you wanting to play again
- Great for improving your strategic thinking to help win other games

Gamer Gamers:
- Fantastic quick playing 1v1 strategy game
- No luck involved
- Fairly unique to have in one's collection

I think that Hive would do great with anyone who would consider playing a board game, obviously the limitation of only being a one on one game will be an impact on all categories, but when there are just two of you, Hive is perfect.
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Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:00 am
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My Review of Augustus and Why it didn't stick around our table

todd barker
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A Worker Management/Set Collection game set in the roman empire, count me in! Although the theme could have been over 9000 times as exciting as it was, Augustus is quite a fun game.

I will first give an overview of Augustus then I will explain why it didn't stick around at my gaming table.

To see the original review posted on my blog, with full sized images go to http://toddsboardgames.blogspot.ca/2013/07/augustus.html




Objective:

You want to score as many points as you can before the game ends, the game ends as soon as a player has seven completed objectives.


The scoring in Augustus is pretty complicated at first
their score sheet helps make it easier, I just hate using
score sheets like this.


Setup:

Give each player 7 red legions
Deal each player 3 objectives
Put all of the 'mobilization tokens' into the cloth bag.
Create a stack of the remaining objectives and then turn over 5 in the middle of the table
Display all the rewards (number of objectives, coloured objectives, gold and wheat)

Gameplay:

One of the benefits (or drawbacks) of Augustus is the simultaneous gameplay, once a mobilization token is revealed, all players execute their turn at the same time. The game ends AS SOON AS a player completes 7 objectives.

The oldest player player starts as the 'Town Crier' that is, the person with the bag! They draw 1 token place it on the table and read aloud what it is:




Players now get to mobilize their legions that match the token that was just drawn out of the bag. In English: 1. You may place your red legions from your supply of seven onto any of your objectives
2. You can move a red legion from any space on an objective to a space matching the token that was just revealed




IMPORTANT: You can only place 1 legion or move 1 legion for each token drawn from the bag.
KIND OF IMPORTANT: You only pass the bag once someone has completed one of their objectives or the wild/joker token is drawn, you then pass the bag to that player and they become the town crier.

If by placing a legion that matches the revealed token you have successfully filled all of the spaces on your objective you can now shout out "AVE CAESAR"

Once someone calls ave caesar, the gameplay stops and that player resolves his completed objective.

Resolving an Objective:

1. Remove all legions from the completed objective.
2. If the objective provides a power, use that 'power'.
3. Move the objective into your completed/scored objectives
4. If available, you may choose to take the 'reward'
5. Choose 1 new objective from the 5 face up objectives in the middle of the table.

IMPORTANT: If multiple people call ave cesar at the same time then the player with the lowest numbered completed objectives goes first.

Rewards are given when you are the first player to collect a set of coloured objectives or if you are the first player to reach a number of completed objectives. These award bonus victory points



Powers range from extra legions, rearanging your legions, removing opponent's legions and more.

End Game Scoring:

The scoring can be a little tricky due to a '?' where the number of victory points should be listed. These ? symbols give you points for each completed objective that matches them, eg: Green Provinces are worth 2 points each while Orange Provinces are worth 6 points each.



Each objective with a red banner coming down it is worth 5 bonus points.

Add all your points listed on objectives, rewards and bonus rewards together, the player with the highest score when a player completes 7 objectives is the winner.

Components:

The artwork is sort of confusing how some pictures show areas providing "resources" but the only resources actually used in the game are wheat and gold. It looks nice, just not functional, the cards are also quite flimsy, the one thing I did like is that they give you a lot of objective cards and since you don't go through too many in a game there is a bit of added replay ability. The workers/legions are boring, all being the same colour is not only a good mechanic for gameplay but looks nice too. None of the components are really special or awful.

Who Would Enjoy Augustus?

Family Gamers: It can be tricky to teach since gameplay is simultaneous but the rules are not complicated and very fun. There is no violence so the Roman theme can be brought onto the table even in family settings. Augustus can also be a fun way to teach worker placement to new or younger players, getting used to not spreading your workers, in this case legions too thin, this is a valuable skill in the world of boardgaming. Calling AVE CAESAR when you complete an objective makes this fun a bit extra fun for families and once you have the rules down so does racing to be the first to complete your objective.

Casual Gamers: Augustus has enough strategy to keep you interested while not being too rules intensive, but lots of games have that what makes Augustus so special for casuals? Not a whole lot sets it apart other than its very quick setup and take down time because you don't have to sort coloured legions, all the tokens are drawn randomly anyways and the gameboard is on cards dealt to each player.

Conclusion

I play with my share of family and casual gamers, so why doesn't Augustus get played that often after the first two weeks of owning it? To put it simply there are better games out there, shouting Caesar was fun the first game but after that got pretty boring just like Bingo does, since there is no other real way to know if you are the first person to finish you are forced to shout something and since 'finished, bingo or done' all sound equally unappealing I would go with Caesar. I would be more inclined to shout Caesar during a game involving Roman politics or where legions actually clashed, sadly this game's key mechanic does not fit its theme and simplicity to me. The only other game that lost its appeal as quick for me was Escape: The Cursed Temple, both are solid games and I would recommend them to the right person, they are just not for me.
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Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:00 pm
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How Netrunner replaced all the LCGs in my collection at once

todd barker
Canada
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Is Netrunner all its cracked up to be, I mean how has it locked down the hotness section on Board Game Geek since its release basically never losing a top 3 position? Well I am here to help you make that decision for yourself. First I will give a brief overview of how the game is played, then I will compare it to the other LCGs I have played.



Gameplay:

Players take on the roll of either a Corporation or a Hacker (Runner) and their goal is to either advance your own goals/agendas (Corporation) or sabotage corporate plans and steal their valuable information (Runners).

Each turn players get a limited amount of "clicks" which serve as your 'actions' for the turn. There are predetermined actions you can take or playing cards from your hand (Installing Cards) or activating abilities on cards in play requires 'clicks' as well.

The Corporation player must 'install' agendas and place enough advancement counters on them to score the agenda points. In order to stop the Runner from stealing their 'Agendas' the Corporation player must install 'Ice' and 'Upgrades' in order to protect their Assets and Agendas.

The Runner must steal agendas from the Corporation player, this is initiated by 'starting a run'. During a 'run' the hacker will need to bypass the corporate security measures using 'programs' and 'hardware'. If the Runner successfully makes it to the agenda and steals it, the Runner instead scores the agenda points.


Corporations will also play 'Asset' cards to both help them achieve victory faster and mislead the Runner.


The Corporation player will 'install' ice in order to protect their Agendas from being stolen by the Runners.



In order to get past the Corporate defenses and protect themselves the Runners will need to utilize 'Programs' and 'Hardware'.

Program: Icebreaker are the programs Runners will play to combat the Corporation's defences, each Icebreaker is broken
into a subcategory that specializes in breaking certain types of ice.


Now that you have a basic idea of some of the types of cards I will demonstrate a hypothetical run.



Here are the different types of servers the Runner can hack:
Central Servers:
R&D - corporation card draw pile
HQ - Corporation Player's Hand
Archives - Corporation trash / discard pile

The Corporation player may also have multiple 'Remote Servers' where cards can be installed.

My favourite thing about Netrunner by far is he huge community behind itwill have no problems finding someone to play with and there are so many extra materials available online, here are some of the ones I found useful:

Complete Tutorial
Solo Variant
Deck Builder
Full Card List & FAQ
Awesome Looking Player Mats

My Thoughts:

There is a lot of terminology and since both players have different rules the learning curve for Netrunner is quite high. That is not to say that it is higher than other LCGs, if I were to rank it in difficulty out of the LCGs I have played, I would say it is the 2nd hardest to learn.

In terms of the LCG matching its universe/theme, I think that Netrunner does better than all of the other LCGs out there. They did a really good job keep the ambiguity of each faction making sure to emphasize that there is no real 'hero', only lesser evils. The Game of Thrones multiplayer does a fantastic job capturing the treachery and backstabbing from the books, but I feel like the 2 player game lacks, so Netrunner has replaced Game of Thrones in this aspect for me.

Until playing Netrunner, the Warhammer Invasion LCG was my go to 2 player competitive game. Although they play totally differently, they both feel very me vs. you and sometimes you need a game like that. Netrunner has replaced Warhammer for me though because the real world is becoming more and more like a science fiction movie each day and if you keep up with the latest technologies and research...cyber crime is already a issue and as someone who is anti corporation in real life, it feels nice to make their plans crumble around them.

Netrunner almost feels like an evolved, better Call of Cthulhuu, players compete over the same victory points and try to cripple their opponents enough that scoring the points is easy. I found that CoC had a run away leader problem and Netrunner did not, Netrunner is also just more fun.

Who Would Like Netrunner?

Casual Gamers: I think that LCGs make great games for casual gamers because they leave the option to expand and get more into the game without draining the wallet and more importantly without you burning out from the game itself. The advantage LCGs have with casuals is you can play it right out of the box but you can also make the experience what you want based on who you are playing with. Being able to appeal to different groups and ranges of gamers is important in casual friendly games.

Gamer Gamers: This is where I think Netrunner shines. Because of the deckbuilding component LCGs do really well with Gamer Gamers, there is room to bend the games rules and really make your own strategy. The only thing that hinders Netrunner is its 2 player limit, but tons of choices, additional content, great gameplay, new mechanics and a large following makes Netrunner great for all avid gamers.
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Mon Oct 14, 2013 5:03 pm
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Cockaroach Poker

todd barker
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Hope you brought your poker face, well KakerLakenPoker might not be real poker, but it's a game that revolves entirely around bluffing. It makes a great filler game for 2-6 although, I wouldn't recommend with less than 4, they do have two player rules but it wasn't very good. 4 or more though and you have a really fun and more importantly quick game.


The object is to not be the loser, instead of having player elimination, the game is over as soon as one player is eliminated in KakerLakenPoker. How do you get eliminated? Easy, by gathering 4 of the same kind of creature face up in front of them first.

So to recap the objective of the game is: to make someone get 4 of a kind before you, you do NOT want four of a kind. These cards need to be face up in front of you, not just in your hand.


You do not want 4 of a kind!!!! One of the 4 cards does
not have a huge glare in order to lose the game.

Gameplay

To start the game the entire deck of 62 cards is shuffled and dealt out evenly to all players. Then the first player picks a card and slides it facedown to anyone they want. As you slide your card you will declare what kind of animal you are sliding, the goal is to make that person guess wrong. So if you slide someone a stink bug, but declare it a 'bat' and the player you gave it to accepted the card, believing it was a bat, he would have to place the card that you "pawned off on him" face up in front of him. If the player calls your bluff, then you instead have to take the card face up in front of you.


Slide a card to another player and declare what it is, in this case a "Bat"


The player accepted the Bat only to find out it was a Stink Bug! That player must now keep the Stink Bug face up in front of him along with the two scorpions that were already there.


After you pass and declare a card to a player they do have another option if they cant decide if you are telling the truth or bluffing. They can choose to peek at the card, declare it as a creature and pass it to another player. If you are the last person to pass on the card you have to make a decision if it is what people say it is, this can get really tricky because with 6 players they could have said it was 5 different things by this point.


Ending the Game

The game ends one of two ways, as I said earlier if someone gets 4 of a kind they are the loser and all other players win. If you have to start the round, by sliding one of your cards to someone, and you don't have any cards left, you lose the game and everyone else wins.

My Thoughts

Although the components are just cards with 8 different types of bugs, rodents and insects they are phenomenal. The art work is fantastic and not a single card has the same art! If you like bluffing KakerLakenPoker is great, if you haven't tried many games with bluffing give this a try, if you need to kill some time its great.



Who would enjoy playing KakerLakenPoker?

All Gamers: Why? Because who doesn't need to kill 15 minutes at some point, waiting for friends to show up? waiting for pizza? waiting for another game to end? KakerLakenPoker can be played whenever wherever, its fun, its fast, its simple, its competitive, its great.
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Mon Jun 3, 2013 6:53 pm
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Rondo - This game NEEDS an app

todd barker
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When the store clerk first suggested this game to me I glanced over it, the box did a poor job showing what the game was about. However I looked it up online later that night and had to return the following day to buy Rondo. I was not disappointed, Rondo was much more than I had ever hoped for, Rondo is awesome.


If you would like to read the entire review complete with full sized images go to http://toddsboardgames.blogspot.ca/2013/05/rondo.html

Objective: The goal in Rondo is to have the most points when the game ends. That happens when all of the dark grey spaces on the board are covered or when there are no more chips to pull out of the bag.



Scoring Points: You score points in Rondo by playing chips of a colour matching the space on the board. Each matching chip is worth the value that appears on the board. You can place multiple chips on the same space and they will each score the value of the space.


The 3 blue chips would score 6 points, the red would score 3
and the yellow would score 4 for a total of 13 points.

Gameplay: Turns go by quickly as you only have 2 options, play chips or draw chips.

Drawing Chips: You draw 2 random chips out of the bag and then pass the bag along to the next player.

The chips you play must follow some basic rules, they are:

The chips you play must connect either to the center of the board or to a previously played chip.

The chips you play must be continuous, you cannot place from 2 different starting points in 1 turn, once you have played your first chip of the turn any other chips you play that turn must connect to the first one you played.

You can play chips upside down on any colour space, these chips will not score you any points though.

The upside down chip works as a bridge to more valuable spaces.

You can place multiple chips on the same space to score that space's value multiple times.


You can play any number of chips on your turn and after playing you always draw 1 chip.

My Thoughts: Rondo is probably the most refreshing game I have played in a couple years, it is abstract and has a ton of different ways to win, turns can be kept to a time limit, Rondo is tactical, and most importantly Rondo is fun. Someone needs to make Rondo into an app so I can play on the go wherever whenever.

Components: The`rondo`discs/chips feel nice in your hand and are very nice to look at, in addition the board having 2 sides that vary slightly in gameplay but both sides are beautiful, the first matches the colours on the box, blue with a nice design the other side sort of looks satanic, well not quite but its red and black and has the same design just with a different number layout. The only problem was the rules, even the online English rules on BGG are just "translated from google".


Red Side of the board, photo courtesy of Dougadamsau


Who would enjoy Rondo?

Family Gamers: Rondo would appeal to family gamers because of its simplistic rules, quick playing time, neutral theme. Rondo also builds math skills and critical thinking skills, and as in other tactical games you are forced to think in ways that you do not in everyday life. I believe Rondo would be a greatly perceived by everyone in the family regardless of age.

Casual Gamers: Because the rules are quick to pick up the game has a short enough playtime that you can play it as a filler. The main reason Rondo will do well in a casual gaming group is its seemingly total neutrality, what I mean is anyone who can play chess, checkers or tic-tac-toe can play Rondo and that is part of what makes it such an amazing game.

Gamer Gamers: If you like a game that is totally adaptable to your playstyle, Rondo is it. At first glance the strategies seem fairly simple but there are endless ways to shape what seems to be a simple abstract game into a power gaming session of a game that plays as if it was designed for you. If you like scoring small points every turn, you can. If you like planning a few turns ahead and scoring huge you can.
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Thu May 30, 2013 4:54 pm
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