New (to me) games I played in 2012
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I have a blast making these every year.

But this year, I'm going to put it out at the start of the year, instead of the end. If you want to follow along, just subscribe to the list

My tastes tend to run Wargames and Ameri-Trash, but I'll have Euros and fillers and maybe even a few abstracts and CCGs by the end of the year.

For each entry, I start with a brief background, followed by the rating I give and the comment I put with my rating on BGG.

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1. Board Game: Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-83 [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:1391]
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Mistermarino and I opened up the "Year of Block Games" with this one. Barteus and I played it later on VASSAL.

Rating: 8
Comment: A very fun game. Lots of great chrome! It's not strong in the ways of simulation, but it captures aspects of the war and is quite enjoyable and very easy to play!
When it works, it works really well. When it does not (America draws high point cards and doesn't draw supply cards, whereas the British player draws excessive supply cards and low point cards), then it becomes a stagnant game. While not necessarily ahistorical, it is not fun from a gaming standpoint. Statistically speaking, this is pretty hard to do, but it did happen to me, and caused me to lower my rating by a point.
Also, this is the only Columbia game that I have played with unclear rules, namely in the area of sea invasions. Even BGG-based errata is not well-thought out.
Hence, while a good game, it is not on the level of its cousins Julius Caesar and Richard III: The Wars of the Roses.

For more, read my review.
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2. Board Game: The Lost World Jurassic Park Game [Average Rating:5.84 Overall Rank:7131]
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MisterMarino introduced this to me as a light filler after we played Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-83. If you put a dinosaur on anything, we'll play it.

Rating: 5
Comment: A beer and pretzels dinosaur game, but good for a laugh and it has neat 3d buildings and great dino pieces. Hard to win as the humans if the dino player is smart in how he positions his raptors. It needs a random element (such as a small chance that the human player can move the dinosaur.) Instead of trying to get 3 to safety, we tried to see if we could get ANYONE to safety. In two plays, we had none and 2.
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3. Board Game: Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:1286]
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This became a "must have" item about 2 seconds after I learned about it from Worthington's site. This game is better than the hype. I played plenty of times over VASSAL.

This is my game of the year. It was nominated for many awards, and I dare say that if it were put out by GMT, it would have cleaned house on all of the wargame awards. It's that good.

Rating: 10
Comment: This was not a game as much as a revelation.

I have been looking for the perfect WWII/small unit/tactical game my whole life. I have tried out many. Some suffer from too many rules. I want a game, not a way of life. Some suffer from absurdity, such as not being able to order a unit because you don't have a card, be it a sectional card or a "fire" card. Some suffer because of a lack of vehicles. Some suffer from "gameyness", such as bum-rushing a unit that has fired or used OP Fire, because you know the unit cannot fire. Some suffer because they aren't on VASSAL. Some suffer more than one of these reasons.

What this game does is take a small rulebook and clearly present a system that gives a realistic feel to small unit WWII combat. It utilizes two levels of suppression and casualties. The values are printed right on the counters (along with range), so in order to initiate combat, you use these values and use the player aid's other modifiers (generally terrain-based), and you have your value, which not only tells you if you hit, but also how much damage you committed in terms of casualties and suppression. After a game or two, you no longer need the player aid, because you have memorized those values, as well.

It uses no cards, and no random events. The game play is logical. You don't do moves because of rules, but rather because it is what you would do in that situation, in other words, no skulking. And did I mention the rulebook? Seven pages cover infantry-based combat (with mortars and machine gun crews). Nine more pages give you artillery, bazookas, tanks, and vehicles (yes, vehicles!)

The biggest complaints I hear about are component quality, over-simplicity of melee combat, and too many die rolls. In regards to quality, the counters look good. The maps have something to be desired in terms of trying to look too pretty vs. functionality, which is a shame, because it adds a small level of confusion that should not be there (involving LOS). Melee is a bit too simple, but I prefer it over 8 more pages of rules covering this -- especially since fire and barrage combat are covered so well with so little overhead. As far as die rolls, this is a legitimate complaint as well, because if you want to have a unit move and fire on an enemy unit, you could roll the die three times to perform that move and 6 times if the enemy succeeds in OP Fire. But seriously, how long does it take to roll a die, when the numbers are right on the counter without a need to consult a chart? You aren't getting carpal tunnel syndrome!

In addition to the best realism vs. amount of rules payoff in the business, this game also tells a narrative. It's not the kind of John Henry/Paul Bunyun barroom stories that you can get from a certain game series, which is fine by me, because I also don't have to tell the story of my machine gun nest not being able to fire because I couldn't draw a "fire" card even though the spot they manned was worth a bunch of VPs. Instead, the GAME tells a narrative: the scenarios follow the missions of the 101st Airborne division from Normandy through Market Garden.

I guess in that sense, another complaint I see is "another airborne game?" Sure -- another airborne game -- because it's about time someone did it right and gave the airborne a game worthy of them and this is it!

One of the most amazing games that I have ever seen. I lost interest in the other games that cover the same scope because this one does in better and does it with less verbiage and waste. I love many games, but only a few (less than 5) are what I would call "game changers" and this is one of them, because it changed how I looked at games.
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4. Board Game: Naval Battles [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:3353]
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This was a Christmas present. I wanted to try it out for newness sake, although it was just a 2-player game with Barteus. You really need a big group with this one.

Rating: 7
Comment: This rating is based on what I believe it can be. I played it in a 2-player game and in that context, it's probably in the the 5-6 range. If you put this in a large group, it really could be an awesome Beer and Pretzels game. It's like a less historical, lighter, naval version of Down in Flames.
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5. Board Game: Alea Iacta Est [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:891]
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I played this with Barteus and his daughter after they taught it to me.

Rating: 7
Comment: One of the better fillers that I played. Easy to figure out and it takes less than a game to figure out the strategy. A lot of luck involved with the dice, but a decent amount of strategy to play the odds. To me, the sign of a good filler is that you should be able to play with good players after 1 play, because if it took multiple plays, you should play something other than a filler. This one certainly qualifies.
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6. Board Game: War of 1812 [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1375]
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After playing Quebec 1759 I knew that

a) I had to have this and
b) I would like it...

BI-WINNING!

Barteus and I played this one to face to face.


Rating: 8
Comment: An easy block game. Not a simulation but a lot of fun, but I really like block games. The rules are a lot like Quebec 1759, but there are no feigning attacks and dummy blocks, but you manage 3 fronts. The Americans really have to play smartly on the first turn and if not, they'd better brace themselves for the British juggernaut on the 3rd turn.
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7. Board Game: Rommel in the Desert [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:630]
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#2 game in MisterMarino's and my "Year of the Blockgames."

Rating: 8
Comment: I am 5-for-5 in block games. I really like them!!! This one was more complex from the others (not that it was really complex), but lost nothing in terms of fun. The map was giving me feeling of deja vu with Afrika Korps.
It always amazes me how Columbia really balances out their games and many of the minutiae they capture. In the case of the latter, the hex side limit through passes, the way they handled the German elite units (takes 2 hits to reduce each one), the lower quality Italian units, and even the Matildas.
I played the 1941 scenario and it was a real challenge: the Germans really have to push hard to Tobruk with limited resource cards. The Allies try to fight a war of attrition with extra cards and excess, lower quality units.
It's not a super simulation, but it captures the essence and it does it in a simple format and one that is very clever and fun without being too difficult.
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8. Board Game: Conquest of the Empire [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:771]
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While visiting back in my hometown, Barteus got together a big 6 player game of this. And I won! Hail, Caesar!!!

Rating: 7
Comment: Very high production values: Great mounted board. The artwork on the cards looks very good, and the bits are some of the very best.
I like a lot of the game play functions, such as bidding to determine allies and turn order. Getting only 2 actions is painful in a good way, as you cannot move, battle, and convert influence. At the same time, that limits combat a little more than it should (why would you spend your turn destroying your opponent, only to see your opponent convert his influence?)
But the best part of the game is the shifting allies. Will they cover your back? What happens the next turn when your ally is now your enemy? That part is rich.
Also, the combat system is slick for a simplified wargame: reverse Memoir. You roll X number of dice (not adjusted for range, but you match the symbols for what you BRING to the fight. Dice are base 3, but you have to have at least 3 units to score 3 hits, and is adjusted based on leadership, cities (defensive modifier), and training. Not perfect, but it works very well. This isn't trying to be a highly detailed game.
Probably an 8 on gameplay, but pulled down a notch because game play is very long (about 4 hrs for 6 players).
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9. Board Game: Pocket Kung Fu [Average Rating:6.42 Unranked]
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Bart was doing a review for this for the Dice Tower. So I tried it out with him.

Rating: 5
Comment: There are some interesting facets of this game, such as pivot points, block zones, and cards moving in open areas. It could use some help in the way of another summation card, so you don't have to keep flipping back to the rules, but that's minor.
Overall, a decent game. I guess the theme didn't do too much for me, which is funny when you consider my avatar. But if you do like Kung Fu, this may be up your alley. It is more engaging and tactical than, say, Kung Fu Fighting and it has a lot of possibility for growth.
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10. Board Game: Team Yankee [Average Rating:5.78 Overall Rank:8059]
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I started reading the book this year that this game is named after. I will update as I work through the scenarios.

Rating: 5
Comment: Played the first scenario: meh. The game is simple, which is fine by me. Modular rules are a plus, especially the way the scenarios proceed in chronological order with the book.
As my my thoughts so far, the first scenario did not impress me. It really didn't follow the book closely enough. The Russians took out the APCs on turn 1 (high probability) and then it's 2 tanks and 2 infantry against an army. I don't remember the book being anything like that.
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11. Board Game: Attack of the Mutants! [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:5934]
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MisterMarino introduced me to this at game night. Hard to believe it took us over a month to get some Ameri-Trash on the table.

Rating: 6
Comment: This one has a siege mentality: the mutants are closing in and you try to hold them off and still have enough humans to "beam" out of there once the machine is working. Buckets of dice & dripping with theme. You wish the map could be a little bigger, but this one has a lot of nice balance in it.
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12. Board Game: EastFront II [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:790]
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My buddy Bart was reviewing it for the dice tower, so I agreed to playtest it with him. We walked through the Edelweiss scenario, and then played some of the Barbarossa scenario. I was impressed enough with it to go out and buy the 1st generation version of the game.

Rating: 7
Comment: I have barely scratched the surface of this one. There is a lot to like in it: lots of scenarios and more or less a campaign block game. The command-activation system with Blitz options are great (and create painful decisions). The supply is more difficult that typical Columbia, but is far more realistic than the one in Rommel in the Desert.
The advantages outweigh the negatives, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention them: 1) The price -- it's worth what it's worth to you, and I got around this by buying a 2nd hand copy of the predecessor EastFront, 2) The maps are huge and this could be a problem if your table isn't huge. Again, I bought the predecessor that doesn't have such a huge map, but doesn't tie in as well to the Eurofront system, which is fine with me, 3) Numbered hexes would do a lot wonders. I am not an expert in Russian geography, and this makes set-up more difficult than it should be, and 4) I hate the scenario set-up nomenclature. Don't tell me "20 CV armor". Tell me which blocks and what strength, and which hex. It gets confusing. If I were an expert player, this would not be difficult, but for a beginner, it's a real pain.
But if these are not a big deal to you, then by all means, do like me and get this game in some form, because I love the system and it's not too heavy.
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13. Board Game: 1812: The Invasion of Canada [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:423]
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Bart brought this for our Wednesday night Church gaming session. We played it 3 times. It became something of a "go to" game at the end of the spring session.

Rating: 7

Comment: Very light game, but it packs a lot of fun. Initially, I was worried that the cubes would make a Euro, but it is not. The cubes give it a slick way to make it into a 2-5 player game. This is all about punching the other guy in the mouth and taking his land.
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14. Board Game: Pacific Victory [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:2020]
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MisterMarino introduced me to this one in our Year of Block Games. I was so in awe that I traded for it a week later.

Rating: 8
Comment: So far, this is my favorite of all of Columbia's block games. It is like an easier version of Empire of the Sun. Not that it is an "easy" game, mind you. It's complexity is on par with Rommel in the Desert and less than EastFront II. Like so many of their games, they take a basic system (in this case Hammer of the Scots) and sufficiently modify it to custom fit the theme like a glove. It is also playable in one sitting and provides plenty of challenges for each side. Lots of chrome combined with great rules, and challenging strategy = another winner.
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15. Board Game: Julius Caesar [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:444]
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After playing Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-83 and getting re-acquainted with the Hammer of the Scots system, I had to get this one and it became the first game I purchased this year. Mistermarino and I played it face to face and then Barteus and I played it twice on VASSAL.

Rating: 9
Comment: Another awesome block game using the familiar Hammer of the Scots system, yet customized to fit the theme like a glove. Very fun. Very easy. Playing time is 2-3 hrs, but it feels fast.
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16. Board Game: Melee [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:1722]
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MisterMarino and I played this at game night. Because this is one of his few "10" rated games and because we both like pocket games so much, I was thrilled to try this out.

Rating: 7
I tried hard to get this on EBay, but the price was too rich for my blood. The entire Microquest series seemed like such a cool idea, and it still does. I only experienced this game in a quick 2-on-2 duel. I like the tactical aspect and the fairly simple role-playing aspects. If I were to experience the system in its full glory (meaning in the Microquest games), the rating would go up even more. Otherwise, it's a fun filler. I got to try out a quick Wizard duel also, and liked this one better because I prefer hand-to-hand combat over spells. But after playing these, Ogre, G.E.V. and many other Metagaming Concepts games, it's pretty obvious that Steve Jackson's games were the on an entirely different level from the others.
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17. Board Game: Wizard [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:1988]
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After playing Melee, MisterMarino introduced me to the magic-based version of the system.

Rating: 6
Comment: I tried hard to get this on EBay, but the price was too rich for my blood. The entire Microquest series seemed like such a cool idea, and it still does. I only experienced this game in a quick 2-on-2 duel, and in that arena, with novice wizards, it's going to be over fast (I missed my first 2 alpha strikes, and it was pretty much over).
Between this and Melee, I preferred Melee because I always prefer hand-to-hand combat over magic ("Klingons do not cast spells!") but this one is a lot richer in what it offers. Combine them together or with the Microquest expansions and I can see where this series was that special. Otherwise, it's a fun filler. But after playing these, Ogre, G.E.V. and many other Metagaming Concepts games, it's pretty obvious that Steve Jackson's games were the on an entirely different level from the others.
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18. Board Game: All Things Zombie: The Boardgame [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2536]
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Mistermarino and I like to fall back on our Ameri-Trash classics, so we played this and Summoner Wars: Master Set one day.

Rating: 4
Comment: It's a romp through Ameri-Trash goodness. It's loaded in theme and all the ensuing craziness that goes with it.
It does create "gamey" moves, such as how we had one low-reputation survivor run around in the open and attract zombies away from the main group. (By staying in the open and having the low rating guaranteed that they would panic and run without a melee, buying time). In the end, I'm not sure what we accomplished. We went into a zombie-infested town, got all but one of our crew killed, checked out some buildings, found some useless stuff, killed a small handful of zombies, and at the end of the day, the town was still infested with zombies. Were we at war with the zombies or were we executing a drunken dare?
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19. Board Game: Asia Engulfed [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:1253]
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Got this one as a Christmas present. This has been big in my growing fascination with block games as well as my realizing just how much I love PTO (WWII Pacific Theater of Operations) games. I got in a game of this via VASSAL. I would love to play it much more.


Rating: 9
Comment: Rating may go up as I play it more. I really like this one. It fits in between Empire of the Sun and Pacific Victory in terms of complexity and time scale. If EotS is just too much of a monster to take on, yet you are wanting a little more beef than Pac. Victory, then this is the game for you.
The supply system and strategic warfare are excellent! I also like how you receive points to spend, rather than having to take the historical reinforcements/replacements. Separating oil points, build points, transport points, and victory points are what really set this one apart. It adds levels of strategy to the game in terms of resource management while maintaining a lot of history at the same time. Lots of chrome in this one as well, and it's fun to have the Chinese nationalists and communists in the game.
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20. Board Game: Small World Underground [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:180] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
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Bart introduced me to this one at church while we played in the lobby. I never played the original and wanted to see what the hubbub was all about.

Rating: 6
Comment: My exposure was limited, but I would certainly give it another try. It has a lot of variety to keep it interesting and fresh from game to game and has the flexibility to play as little as 2 players or significantly more. If you are looking for some light conflict, it will scratch your itch.
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21. Board Game: Robber Knights [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:2153]
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I was back in my home town in late March, so Barteus and I hooked up for Battle Cry: 150th Civil War Anniversary Edition, Glory to Rome (a staple), and two games of this (for filler). He is the master of the filler game, and they always hit the spot: easy to learn, easy to compete, and play quickly.

Rating: 7
Comment: A really good filler game. It's something of a math exercise. I can see how this could create Analysis Paralysis if placed in the hands of the wrong people, but if not, it's a quick trip through resource management and on-the-fly decision making. The rating will probably go down with more plays, because there are not a lot of directions to go (the strategy is straight-forward), but for the first two times playing it, it was a fun one.
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22. Board Game: Kairo [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:3020]
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Bart introduced this to me at Wed. night church (we sit in the lobby while the kiddos are in class. We aren't that rude).

Rating: 6
Comment: This one is like a cousin to Ticket to Ride. You do one of 3 actions balancing victory points, money, and availability. It has a lot of balance and a make-believe theme, which is par for a Euro. It's barely more complicated than Ticket, which is to say it's really not complicated at all. But in the end, I kind of like the aspect of solving the puzzle and this one has more interaction than many Euros, which I find interesting, so it's one I'd agree to playing when I have about an hour, and I'm going to have some fun with it.
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23. Board Game: Toledo [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:1649]
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I went to a Euro-based game night for a game of Founding Fathers and got this one as a bonus. I didn't know it was Martin Wallace until I went to make this entry.

Rating: 5
Comment: Pretty much average Euro. I won my lone game. It's a game of balance and puzzle-solving. Collect components to make swords and try deliver them to the boss-man for points and count your victory points when the game ends. The theme is pasted on, but it's a solid Euro. If Euros are your thing, you are going to like it a lot.
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24. Board Game: The Terminator: CCG [Average Rating:5.64 Overall Rank:8851]
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Mistermarino introduced this one to me at game night. This one did not change my opinion that all CCGs are utterly and completely broken.

Rating: 3
Comment: It looks like it has some potential, but became apparent that with the starter decks, that it was completely broken. The resistance didn't have a single weapon that could exceed the terminator's power + armor rating. But if you go buy a bunch of extra packs, you could find weapons that will do this. Then you have to suffer through many a suck game just to figure out how to build your deck. That is precisely why I will never buy a CCG, even if it was the complete set.

Beyond the gripes I have with CCGs as a genre, I'm not sure tricked-out decks could make it better than a 4. You mean the humans really can win if Sarah Conner dies, but you can get enough reporters, street punks, and garbage men to the police station? I thought Ah-nold tore the police station to pieces. John Conner sent Kyle back to protect a local police officer and a garbage man? When Sarah got wasted, didn't that kill John and destroy the resistance? How could saving garbagemen and the local police officer and reporter offset this? Seriously? Did I watch the wrong movie?

Theme is important to me. It far exceeds the need to have rare cards for a broken game for the sake of collecting.
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25. Board Game: Crusader Rex [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:768]
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Mistermarino and I had each recently acquired this game, so we set out to play our new prize.

Rating: 7
Comment: This is an odd duck. It uses the Hammer of the Scots system, but it just doesn't feel "right". I have version 1.4. My observation was that the knight charges were too powerful. There is now version 2.0, so that seems to say that 1.4 needed help. However, I hear little good about 2.0 and it seems like a step in the wrong direction.

My impression is that there is a good game somewhere in this box (because I liked much of what I saw), but it has not been properly play tested. If you want to try a Columbia game, don't start here.
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