@EuroGamerGirl on Games

Sarah Reed, aka @EuroGamerGirl on Twitter, is an avid board gamer, hobby game designer and huge supporter of Kickstarter. She is a co-host on the All Us Geeks' Game of Crowdfunding podcast. This blog is her attempt to get into game reviewing. Reviews will be posted at least every 2 weeks on Monday.

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Preview of Good Cop Bad Cop: Bombers and Traitors Expansion

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Board Game: Good Cop Bad Cop: Bombers and Traitors


Brief Synopsis:
The base game of Good Cop Bad Cop is simple, but engaging. You’re all cops, but not all of you have the same integrity. Some of you are good, some of you are crooked. One is the Agent, the leader of the good cops. One is the Kingpin, the leader of the bad cops. However, nobody knows who anyone is. The goal is to find the opposing team’s leader and wipe them out, ensuring a win for your team.

The expansion Bombers and Traitors adds additional roles and new ways to win the game.

Introductory Thoughts:
I’ve never liked any party-style deduction game. That is, until I played Good Cop Bad Cop. Most games of this genre have never interested me because I don’t lie well, but here you don’t have to. You can be completely honest, yet people still may not believe you due to how the mechanics work.

Board Game: Good Cop Bad Cop


You see, each person gets 3 integrity cards which will show either good cop, bad cop, Agent or Kingpin. If you have the Agent or Kingpin card, you are the leader of that side no matter what other cards you have. Otherwise, whichever side you have more cards of is what side you are on. As the game progresses, one or more of your cards will be revealed and people will try to guess what you are, but they won’t know for sure until they see all of them, but by then it may be too late.

The expansion adds more depth without being more complex. There are new icons on the integrity cards that could make you a Bomber or a Traitor, which means you could win the whole game if you meet certain criteria.

The 6 C’s

Chance: There is quite a bit of luck in the game, but a lot of it is deciding whether to make risky choices. At the beginning of the game, no one really knows anything about anyone, but you have to move forward and take action, which may or may not go the way you plan. The luck factor works well to keep the game light and balanced for all players.

Choice: There are a lot of choices in the game, which really appeals to my Euro-gamer side. The fact that most of your initial choices are random isn’t a bad thing. Eventually, you’ll start learning more and be able to make more informed decisions. However, you can’t wait around to learn everything so you will have to take risks. The great thing is, if you make a really bad decision, the game will be over quickly and you can just play it again.

Character: The players make or break the game in terms of theme. The first game may be a bit flat as everyone gets used to how to play the game and how other players play. Once you get into your second game and beyond, it can really come to life as people get into character and start acting things out. I think this would be a great game for shy people to get them to be more outgoing. You can sit back and not say much, but have a lot of fun playing. And the more you play, the more you begin to interact with others.

Conflict: You can eliminate people in the game, which is normally a bad thing, but it’s just as much fun to watch as it is to play. Plus, games are so quick that you really can’t take anyone’s aggression too seriously. Many times you still interact when you’re eliminated, especially when you can point out that someone shouldn’t have eliminated you because they had faulty information.

Clarity: The Equipment cards are the most complex part of the game, which is not saying much since most are pretty simple to understand how to use. New players will take a few rounds to fully get what’s going on and how to do things. The expansion doesn’t add any complexity to the rules, just more depth.

Concealment: Anyone with severe vision disabilities will not be able to play due to the hidden information, though this is not unique to this game, but to this genre of games. However, when my husband and I played, we played as one person and I whispered the hidden information to him. This worked well so that he was able to play and, since I was hesitant at first to play, I didn’t mind being his eyes. Though I have to admit to wanting to be my own player after several games because of how much fun it was.

Final Thoughts
Good Cop Bad Cop is the first party-style deduction game that I’d want to own and that’s saying a lot since 90% of my game playing is two-player with my husband who has severe vision disabilities. The base game is a lot of fun and very engaging. The Bombers and Traitors expansion adds amazing depth that I was not expecting and really enjoyed. There were quite a lot of surprises in the games we played with the expansion.

I highly recommend checking this out on Kickstarter when it launches on January 22nd and before it ends on February 20th. For those who’ve never played it before, there is a pledge level for both the base game and the expansion. For those who have the base game then you already know how good this game is and you’ll definitely want to get the expansion to shake things up.

Kickstarter link: Good Cop Bad Cop: Bombers and Traitors

[I]This review is also posted in the game's forum.
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Thu Jan 22, 2015 6:05 am
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Preview of Knee Jerk

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Brief Synopsis:
Knee Jerk is a party game about reacting with the first thing that comes to mind when you hear a situation. The situation is made up of three different cards. Each card has three lines of text on it. The top text is the beginning of a situation, the middle text is the middle of a situation and the bottom text is the end of a situation. But you don’t use all the text on one card, you only use one line from each card by placing three cards next to each other, off-centered, to get a funny and unique situation. Here are some examples:

“I feel like we’re about to have fun” E “In the stadium” E “Because Someone is Eating...”

“I feel like I should change my clothes” E “In the hot tub” E “Because someone put...”

“I feel hopeful” E “In the haunted mansion” E “Because a zombie said...”

Introductory Thoughts:
This game is best for highly social situations that often involve alcohol and/or very creative and free-thinking individuals. I am not part of that crowd very often and so it was hard to get this game to truly shine. The first group I played it with was primarily strategy and eurogamers. So their responses were mostly umms, uhhhs and silence (and crickets). The second group was better as they were actors and improv comedy people. Even still, they had some trouble at first since many of the situations were funnier than anything they could think of and so their responses paled in comparison. After warming up, though, it flowed more easily and there were many laughs.

The 6 C’s

Chance: This game is very random in how a situation is created, but that adds to the humor when people try to respond. Party games, in general, are more about having fun than winning, and Knee Jerk is very much that. People will probably not care much about keeping track of points and will much rather just go through more combinations of the cards to see what crazy situation comes up next.

Choice: The choice that the host has is which of the cards in their hand they are going to play as the conclusion to the situation. This is just enough choice to have meaning without slowing down the game. Even though the host is “left out” in coming up with responses, they get the opportunity to craft the “best” situation they can, which is usually the craziest possible.

Character: The theme is pretty open, but there are definitely some fantasy and sci-fi influences in many of the cards. I particularly like this as it results in even wackier responses than what would happen if the situations were all based in the real world.

Conflict: The hard part for the host to handle is everyone shouting out their responses all at once so it’ll take good hearing to be host for this game or else you’ll be asking people to repeat themselves a lot. However, not everyone will respond every time. At least with my two groups, there were usually at least one or two people who couldn’t think of anything and so they stayed silent. I think this works well and these people should not be pushed to come up with something. To keep the game flowing, just pick one of the responses and move on to the next situation.

Clarity: I received a prototype copy of the game, but the rules were very simple and easy to understand. This is not a complex game and, like many party games, there can be a lot of ways to play the game. While I didn’t get any variants in the rules, there will probably be some later. Even if not included in the rules, this would be an easy game to come up with your own rules.

Concealment: The only thing concealed is the cards in the host’s hand so when playing with visually impaired gamers, they will only be able to be players, not the host. However, for some, this could be a positive as it allows them to rest their eyes and just focus on their hearing, thinking and, of course, vocalization.

Final Thoughts
Knee Jerk, like all party games, is not for everyone. I do not recommend playing it with most heavy strategy and/or eurogamers. It will not go over well. As one guy said, he was two beers short of being able to play Knee Jerk. The other problem some people had is that often-times, the situation was funnier than anything they could think of so they had nothing to respond with. However, the second group, after a few rounds of stuttering, the juices got flowing and people were able to get into their grooves and come up with great responses. In the end, this game is best for those with quick wits, can talk fast, like to laugh and probably have a few drinks in them. If any of this sounds good to you, check it out on Kickstarter starting September 16th and going until October 15th.

This review is also posted in the game's forum.
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Mon Aug 25, 2014 11:00 am
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Review of Battle Merchants

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Board Game: Battle Merchants


Brief Synopsis:
You are not only a crafter of weapons, but a merchant trying to sell your wares to the warring races. While some delight in peace, you revel in war – it’s when you make the most money. And the one who makes the most money off the year-long war is the ultimate Battle Merchant!

Introductory Thoughts:
This game has a light-hearted attitude with a heavy-weight strategy. I definitely enjoy the fun fantasy art, but don’t let it fool you. There are a lot of decisions to make, each one with different results, and some actions you take may not pay off until the end, if at all. This is one of those games where your first play is truly a learning game. Some things won’t click or make sense until the very end. And even then, additional plays will reveal more details that you can utilize more efficiently in developing your strategy in the next play. This also means that more experienced players will most likely do better than players new to the game.

The 6 C’s

Chance: There is randomization to the cards, but otherwise everything is predetermined. The cards provide the variability that is needed to make each game different, but the low level of chance here does mean that more experienced players will have an advantage. This is true of many euro-style games, which I definitely consider this game to be. I personally like this as it allows for developing strategies as you play more and has a higher level of competition as you try to get better at the game over your opponent.

Choice: Your business will thrive or wither depending on the choices you make. The hardest part is to keep the end goal in mind – making the most money. Almost every action you do will get you towards that, but some are better to take at different points than others. But making that determination is not easy. There will be times when you have several good choices, but by choosing one, you lose access to another. This game will not be easy for those who are inclined towards analysis paralysis.

Character: You are money-grubbing weapons dealer who is gleefully selling to all sides of the war and you don’t care who wins as you’re getting paid! This is what drew me to the game from the moment I heard of the concept. I love crafting games, but some feel very abstract. Not so here. Every mechanical choice feels very thematic. You have some tough choices on how to run your business, but that’s just it – you think of the choices in terms of the theme. You’re trying to make the most money by the end of the game, not just earn points and be the winner of a point salad. For a euro-style game, Battle Merchants has a very strong theme that will keep you involved until the very end, and even after as you discuss your triumph or failure as a weapons merchant.

Conflict: There is a denial of opportunity and direct competition of weapons, but most contests of battle don’t really matter. Like many euro games, when you take an action, it will deny your opponents that opportunity. This is even more-so when playing with two players since each card you take will discard another. Then there is also the contest of battles, which weapon defeats the other, but overall, this is not as important since you’ve already been paid for the weapon and it’s harder to affect since all information is public and you can see the craft level of each person. However, if you can win, you get the defeated weapon to show a growing reputation and you get a small bit of money for repairing it at the end of the season, as you are the blacksmith on retainer. So there is definitely a strong feeling of competition to the game without being too direct.

Clarity: The rules are very comprehensive and easy to learn from. There were only two questions that came up. One was what the region bonus tiles were for. The rules mention them a few times, but it’s not until you play the game and see the Kingdom cards that you figure out how they are used. Basically, they give you a bonus to selling in that region just like the race bonus tiles do. Second, it is not clear that when you use the Hoarder’s card to flip it over that you still retain the bonus 2 card slots. These were pretty easy to clear up. The most challenging part of the game is when you first learn it and try to remember to do everything in the right order, especially the two player game with Steve. In the first few games, we often forgot to have him sell after one of us sold. It’s not complicated. There is just an order of operations with a few steps to remember, which gets easier the more you play.

Concealment: There is complete open information, which makes this game very accessible to those with vision disabilities. Even the card choices are on display, face-up, for everyone to see and remain face-up when a player takes it. This makes Battle Merchants a great option for playing outside the house as you don’t have to worry about taking along assistive devices. You just need at least one person able and willing to read everything. There is only one issue with sorting the Craft cards. The backs indicate which season they are used in, but the contrast between the colors is not very good and blends in with the rest of the image. So just take careful note of the circle in the middle of the back that is broken into 4 parts. The cards where you see green and pink in the circle are for the Spring/Summer deck while the cards with gold and white are for the Autumn/Winter deck. Though the gold and white look more like yellow and grey to me.

Final Thoughts
While other games have included weapon crafting, this is the one where I really feel like I’m a blacksmith and selling my fine-honed (or shoddily-made) weapons to make a living. The artwork is a very fun take on fantasy art and a good reminder not to take the game too seriously. Yet, all the choices lead to a deeper strategy and competition can get a little cut-throat. The only downside that may bother some people is that the game is played slightly different for each player count. The four player game is the most straight-forward. The three player game removes one of the races and the balance of weapons wanted is different. Lastly, a two player game requires an additional board that introduces Steve, a fake third player. Steve is not a bad fake player, considering some other games. He adds strategy to the two player game in that the players can predict where he’s going to sell and use it to their advantage. However, we often found ourselves forgetting to do his sell action after ours so it takes some getting used to. Overall, I think this game is a solid euro-style game with a strong theme that I highly recommend checking out.

This review is also posted in the game's forum.
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Sun Jul 6, 2014 4:45 pm
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Preview of Ghosts Love Candy

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Board Game: Ghosts Love Candy


Brief Synopsis:
Ghosts love candy! Everyone knows that, but sadly, ghosts can’t eat candy… except on Halloween night! On the spookiest night of the year, ghosts can possess Trick-or-Treaters and eat their fill of candy! Now the competition is on between you and your fellow ghosts. Good thing you each have different cravings and can focus on getting the candy that you like the most. The winner is the ghost who has the highest valued collection of candy at the end of the night. But be careful, if you are the last ghost to possess a kid when he or she gets sick, you are responsible and lose points.

Introductory Thoughts:
Ghosts Love Candy is a fun, light strategy game that will fit into a variety of game groups. While it’s visual appeal is definitely for the younger and more casual crowd, it has a strong layer of strategy with the Trick-or-Treaters’ abilities that shouldn’t be ignored.

The 6 C’s

Chance: Most of the game is completely random. This is definitely necessary for replayability. It also presents a challenge to the players, requiring them to adapt to the current situation. Everyone will have a different craving card, telling them which candy is valuable to them. The Trick-or-Treaters will be laid out in the line differently every time, which modifies how their abilities interact. Lastly, which candy is put on the kids is random, which affects player’s choices.

Choice: Which Trick-or-Treater you play your Ghost cards on is really what this game is about. You have 9 Ghost cards, numbered 1 through 9. In each round, the higher number will go first, but that number also contributes to making a kid sick. Too many high numbered cards will get a kid sick faster. Oftentimes, the candy you want is on kids you don’t want to activate, usually due to the kid being close to being sick. So you have to choose whether the candy is worth it or not. Maybe it’s better to go for a candy that is not as valuable to you, especially if you can avoid getting a kid sick. You also have to consider what the other players might go for. As the game progresses, you can get a good idea of what is valuable to other players and take that into consideration.

Character: The light-hearted story and artwork brings the theme to life, er afterlife. Each ghost is colorful and unique. Every kid is different in all aspects. I have to point out how wonderful it is that the designer created characters of both genders as well as ethnically diverse. There are 3 female ghosts and 3 male ghosts, and interestingly various ages. The Trick-or-Treaters are even more diverse as many different skin tones are presented. Besides the diverseness, the artwork is light and cartoony and just plain cute.

Conflict: This game definitely pits players against each other, but in a way that everyone laughs. While there will certainly be a lot of groans and curses when someone else takes a kid you want, there’s just no way to be too serious about it. And when a good play is made, everyone at the table will cheer. One kid that many will grow to hate is the Hobo because he travels around from one person’s stack to another and woe be the one who ends the game with him. But while the game is going on, it’s a race to get rid of him or make sure you don’t get him at all.

Clarity: The prototype rules were very clear and only had one point of uncertainty. I gave feedback to the publisher already so I am not worried about the rules at all. It is very clearly written and has good diagrams.

Concealment: Only your craving and ghost cards are kept secret. What candy you have and what ghost cards you have played are public along with the kids and candy in the line-up. Those who are colorblind should not have any trouble with reading the cards. Those with more serious vision disabilities will need to use some form of magnification to read the candy craving cards, but not as much for the ghost cards as the numbers are fairly large.

Final Thoughts
This is a fun, fun game that is very well designed and has some of the cutest art I’ve seen in a while. I really appreciate the diversity in the characters’ gender and ethnicity. This will be especially important when playing with children and having characters they can identify with. For hardcore gamers, you’ll really enjoy the emerging complexity the game has to offer. While the game starts out slow in the first few rounds, it ramps up pretty quickly and your choices get tougher as the game goes on.

The only problem I have with the game is when you play a two-player game, it is very easy to count cards. This can be upsetting when one player is playing more seriously than the other. On the flip side, I love playing it with 6 players because it is crazy chaotic with lots of laughing. With 6 players, no one really cared who won because everyone had fun!

Ghosts Love Candy will be launching June 2nd on Kickstarter. If the game sounds interesting, please check it out. If you decide to back, please let them know that @EuroGamerGirl sent you!

This review is also posted in the game's forum.
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Mon May 26, 2014 11:00 am
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Preview of Voodoo Island

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Brief Synopsis:
A tropical boating vacation sounds just the thing to relax, right? Well it would have been if your boat hadn’t broken down and stranded you on a deserted island. You weren’t too worried because you know how to fix things. However, your family has wandered off into the jungle and now you must find them. Along you go, with your trusty machete, sure that you’ll bring them back. Unbeknownst to you, there are forces on this island that don’t want you there and have control over fallen explorers to use against you.

Introductory Thoughts:
This asymmetric two-player, tile-laying game is quite challenging for both players, but in very different ways, providing very different experiences. One player is the explorer, going through the jungle to find their family. This person is pressing through the unknown and is a very tense role to play. The other player is the force behind the island and controls zombies to try and trap the explorer. This person is strategically moving zombies around the board, trying to outmaneuver the explorer and finally catch him. It definitely feels like fire versus ice with the explorer being under heat from the calm, constant force of zombies.

The explorer role is probably best for casual gamers as it’s the easiest to play and does not require a lot of strategy or knowledge of the game. The zombie role is best for experienced gamers, especially ones who have played the game before as it can take a few games under your belt to fully grasp all the options you have. It is also a bit more complicated in the movement rules for zombies than the explorer.

The 6 C’s

Chance: How the tiles come out plays a big role in how well either side does. It is very possible for the explorer to get trap with how the tiles come into play. On the flip side, if tiles come out in a very good order, then the explorer can make it very difficult for the zombie player. Additionally, the first few rounds of the game can be very boring for the zombie player as there is nothing for them to do until a zombie tile is drawn, which randomly comes out between the 1st and 5th tile. Worst case scenario, the zombie player won’t have anything to do for five turns, which can be a bit of a downer.

Choice: There is a lot of choice in movement, for both the explorer and zombie player. A tactical explorer will move themselves into corners of tiles to have the most possibilities of where to place the drawn tile. While this is not always possible, the use of the machete tiles is also critical. For the zombie player, it is really important to plan ahead and try to figure out where the explorer is going so you can maneuver your zombies into position. Just because you are moving zombies, doesn’t mean you have to think like one. And remember, the explorer has to go back to shore, so you don’t need all your zombies chasing him.

Character: This game is mostly thematic with the explorer going through a jungle infested by zombies. Where it loses focus on that theme is the fact that the last tile represents where you find your family, but there is no physical representation of your family. It’s just the last tile and then you have to head back. This is a little detracting, but is not a huge deal considering the game is more focused on the asymmetric play, the battle of wits being played out between the two players.

Conflict: This game is a competition of one player trying to get away while the other player is trying to trap them. So this game will not be for everyone, especially those who don’t like such direct conflict. Having said that, there is not much one player can do to affect the other player during the game. There is no stealing or damaging of any kind. The explorer player has control over the terrain, but that type of blocking is built into the game mechanics. Now we only played scenario one, and that’s all that was presented in the rules we received, so maybe future scenarios will be different in how the players interact. For this one, it’s a race to run away or catch the one running away.

Clarity: The rules are very easy to read with very helpful diagrams. We got a prototype rulebook and it was very well written and organized with only a few areas that weren’t clear. However, the diagrams are very helpful in explaining what can and cannot be done.

Concealment: Colorblind players will have no issues with this game; however, those with serious vision impairments might. The tiles have good contrast and won’t present any problem for those with color issues. Those with more serious vision impairments will probably have trouble seeing the grid lines on the tiles. They are on the thin side. Additionally, the explorer must keep their machete tiles secret so if the person playing the explorer has serious vision impairments, it might be hard for them to play. My husband is legally blind and managed to play the explorer, with some help from me as I described the tiles and helped place them down. The good news on the machete tiles is that he could see the contrast between the jungle spaces and clear spaces so was able to use those on his own.

Final Thoughts
This game is great for those who like different win conditions for each player and, of course, zombies. If you’ve got someone who likes exploring the unknown and experience a very tense situation, then they’ll be perfect for the explorer. If you’ve got someone who likes to think things through, explore tactical puzzle-like choices, then they’ll be perfect for the zombies. The experiences are so very different for each player. Due to my husband’s vision, he always played the explorer and every game left him on edge and sweating from the tension of the zombies coming to get him! I, on the other hand, got to sit back and calculate how to move the zombies to the best effect based on how my husband had placed the tiles. Overall, this is an exceptional addition to the two-player game scene that I look forward to being expanded with more challenging scenarios.

This review is also posted in the game's forum.
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Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:00 am
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Preview Epic Resort

Sarah Reed
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Brief Synopsis:
You are a resort owner on a tropical island where heroes from across the lands come to rest and restore their health. You can develop your attractions, train your staff and attract tourists to your resort. But beware for monsters are also attracted to your resort for they wish to destroy the heroes! You must manage your resort well in this fantasy-themed deck-building and worker placement game to come out on top as the best, most epic resort!

Introductory Thoughts:
When I first saw the description of the game, I was immediately hooked. It has a fantasy theme, which I love. Then it has some of my favorite mechanisms: worker placement, resource management, and deck-building aspects. These aspects are well blended and the game is very well developed. It is comprised of cards, both regular and over-sized, which is a nice break from board-based games. There are a lot of moving parts and there isn’t any slow-down as some phases are done at the same time, but even when it’s not your turn, there’s always something to think about.

The 6 C’s

Chance: Other than the randomness of how cards come out, there is not a high degree of luck. Being mostly card based, all the stacks of cards, save the skilled workers, are shuffled. So you never know exactly what’s going to come out when, but that’s what adds to the replayability of the game.

Choice: Your choices really matter as you need to plan ahead and be aware of what your opponents are doing. There are several paths to victory. Do you focus on heroes, attracting them for points, or do you upgrade your attractions for points? Or do you do a little bit of both? There is no one single way to victory and your choices will lead you there. I also like how there are several different types of workers and not all of them will be used in each game. So your strategy will always differ just based on that, not to mention which attractions, heroes and tourists are available.

Character: A fantasy theme that doesn’t take itself seriously is always good in my book. There are the stereotypical heroes and some not-so stereotypical heroes. The tourist names are funny. And I just love the lazy peon that you can chuck at monsters to make the monsters go away. And the theme is well integrated into the mechanics of the game. You send workers to staff the attractions, you use flair to attract heroes and tourist to your resort and you use the money you make off the tourists in your attractions to upgrade your attractions and train your workers to become more skilled. Nothing feels out of place here.

Conflict: Like many euro-style games, the only conflict here is denial. A lot of the cards are limited, especially the skilled workers. So you have to plan well and get what you need the most before someone else swoops in and takes it from you. Now for those who do want more player interaction and a take-that aspect, you can have players choose which attraction gets attacked by a monster rather than follow the instructions on the monster card.

Clarity: This is a big game when it comes to components and setup, but the prototype rules did a good job of explaining everything. I expect that the final versions of the rules will be very thorough, especially with it being posted to the Kickstarter and anyone being able to download it and provide feedback.

Concealment: Color-blind people will have no problems with this game due to the unique iconography, though there is a lot of information to take in for those with serious vision disabilities. However, someone with low vision can play the game with the aid of someone else reading the cards and options available. My husband, for example, has me read to him which workers he’s drawn and his game has never suffered for others knowing what is in his hand. This is due to no one being able to affect the cards he has. And even when they know which cards he’s kept in his hand, it has not affected any choices when it comes to training a skilled worker.

Final Thoughts
Epic Resort is a highly thematic, euro-style card game. I would highly recommend Epic Resort to anyone who wants a lot of choices in their strategy and a lot of fun in game-play. I do caution that it takes up a lot of table space, which can be a problem, and there are a lot of moving parts, which some may consider fiddly. If you have no problems with those then I suggest packing your bags and making reservations at Epic Resort.

For those interested, Epic Resort is on Kickstarter from March 11, 2014 through April 6, 2014.

This review is also posted in the game's forum.
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Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:04 pm
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Preview of Gone Viking

Sarah Reed
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California
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Brief Synopsis:
In this trick-taking style card game, the players are Viking lords going on raids to gain wealth, but you all have sworn fealty to a Jarl (chieftain) who demands half the wealth of the wealthiest lord after each raid. Whoever is able to balance gaining wealth and avoiding the Jarl will become the next Jarl and win the game.

Introductory Thoughts:
The theme of the game is what really makes this interesting. I’ve seen many trick-taking games that try to add theme, but fail at integrating the theme into the trick-taking mechanics. Here, a round is a raid where the players bring back wealth depending on what cards they use to win each trick. Also, the gods come into play as very powerful cards that rule over each type of plunder (suit). Then there are consequences of the raid when you go home and face the Jarl. All in all, the theme is very well executed.

The 6 C’s

Chance: This game has a high degree of luck, as most trick-taking games do. You are mostly at the mercy of how the cards shuffle out. This can be especially frustrating when one player draws all four god cards. If that happens, there’s very little the other players can do. But the good news is that the game lasts for several raids, so there’s a possibility of catching up.

Choice: There are some choices you can make to mitigate some of the luck in the game. At the beginning of each raid, you can choose to turn in your wealth to discard cards in your hand and draw new ones. The god cards can be played as the strongest value of each suit or played for their effects. There is also an option to play more than one card of a suit to win a trick, which is called boosting. So it’s not all blind luck and offers some strategy for those looking for more out of a trick taking game.

Character: As mentioned above, the theme is the best part of the game and very well integrated into the mechanics. The gods included are Odin, Freya, Thor and Loki and are very well matched to their suits and the abilities they have. Plus the suits are books, coins, hammers and fists, which do a good job of representing what a Viking would have taken as plunder and brought home. And then the ability to turn plunder into ships that cannot be stolen also fits well in the Viking theme.

Conflict: This game has conflict, though more in the way players stealing from other players, especially when it comes to using the gods’ powers. It’s a sneaky kind of conflict and to win, you must always be aware of your opponents’ level of wealth and cards in their hands.

Clarity: The prototype rules were easy to read and understand with only two things that were not clear. I have given the designer feedback and I’m confident the final version of the rules will be very easy to learn from. The only caveat is for those who are not familiar with trick-taking games as some of the terminology may be challenging. However, one play is enough to understand.

Concealment: As with any game where the cards must be hidden, Gone Viking will present some challenges for those with serious vision disabilities. Some of the text is small and the icons may be hard to distinguish as they are very detailed. However, those with colorblindness will not have any problems as there are distinct icons for everything.

Final Thoughts
Overall, the theme is what makes me interested in the game. So if you like trick-taking games or light casual card games with a very well integrated theme that is fun then Gone Viking is the game for you. On that note, I have to say I’m not a fan of trick-taking games. I am EuroGamerGirl, after all. So this game is not quite my cup of tea. But if I were to play a trick taking game, Gone Viking would be the one I’d keep in my library.

For those interested, Gone Viking is on Kickstarter March 10, 2014 through April 1, 2014.

This review is also posted in the game's forum.
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Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:40 pm
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Review of Dragon Caster

Sarah Reed
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written by Sarah and Will

Brief Synopsis:
This is a two or four player abstract game. Each player is a powerful mage that can summon forth elemental dragons to throw at their opponent(s). To aid them in this, they can collect mastery tokens that provide them with supportive spells. Casters must collect resources to summon dragons and mana to the land. Whoever can destroy the location that their opponent is on will be victorious.

Introductory Thoughts:
This game definitely plays and feels like an abstract game. However, the theme that is provided is beautifully done from the world map to the various dragons. The game revolves around tactical positioning and the utilization of your various powers. These decisions need to be made while your dragons are ever moving forward. It feels like a combination of playing chicken while conducting guided missile strikes.

The 6 C’s

Chance: Everything generated in the game comes from chance. In order to choose dragons or mana to put out on the board, you will need to roll a pair of dice and use their combined result to make choices on a resource table. The numbers you cover up, give you your options. In addition, if you cover up all of a particular color (red, green, blue), you get to draw a random mastery token. Finally, combat is determined by die rolls, granted certain modifiers will match up more or less appealing.

Choice: Despite its randomness, there is always a decision to be made. The mastery tokens, by far, are the most easy-to-use abilities. Each has a specific time and place to be used and there is no token that feels under-powered. As for the resource table, when you cover up a number, you can summon a dragon of that power or put a mana of that color onto the board. Consequently, if your number is already covered up, you can use die results to remove counters to free them up for future turns and put out a mana of that color. Throw in the fact that there are three different elements for the dragons and two types of each element, this equals a lot of decision making that’s done even with a random die roll.

Character: The name of the game clearly represents what all of the mechanics support. From the name Dragon Caster you will expect to cast dragons, which you do. But as a caster, you are more than a summoner of great beasts. You cast other spells, which is represented by the mastery tokens. Of course to access all these great powers, you need to tap into the land around you and make ties with the earth. This is represented nicely with the resource table. And to top it all off, you actually have a caster meeple who can move throughout your kingdom, which puts you into the game.

Conflict: Like all two-player/team games with player elimination, Dragon Caster creates direct competition. You are not playing for points nor are you building an impressive cathedral. You are simply shoving a dragon down the other person’s throat. This means someone will fall while the other is victorious. While each player is attempting to do this, smaller battles are being played out as enemy dragon forces meet head-to-head on the world map.

Clarity: The nuances of the game create a slight stumbling block for players just learning the game. There are two areas that have a lot of small rules that make the game a bit tricky to understand. The resource table has different options if you roll doubles versus extra rules when you cover up a certain combination of resources. And if you miss any of these rules, the game is bound to feel unbalanced. Additionally, remembering all the dragons’ abilities along with how the special surge die works adds a fiddly quality to the game that may frustrate beginners. As for the rulebook itself, the page background is rather busy, which makes it hard to read the small text.

Concealment: The only element in the game that is concealed is the mastery tokens. The game board and dragons are fairly straightforward and will not pose a major obstacle for those with vision problems, like color blindness. The mastery tokens are a bit a dark and can be a little hard to read. Of course, if you play the game enough or have the rulebook accessible, it’s fairly easy to make out what tokens you have.

Final Thoughts
Many people who would play this game would compare it to chess. This is not because of what you do in the game, but the fact that it shares the same design goals as chess. Essentially, it’s two factions with abstract pieces, trying to kill/capture a central figure. It accomplishes this goal by using tactical choices you make in the game. But beyond this, the games are completely different. Although this does mean that those who like chess may be a bit predisposed to also Dragon Caster. In a lot of ways, the theme of Dragon Caster helps make a complex tactical game more accessible.

This game is not for everyone. Those who do not like direct conflict, for example, will probably not enjoy Dragon Caster. Additionally, if players have different skill levels at tactical decision-making, it can be really felt in the game as the more skillful player tends to dominate. However, for those who enjoy both conflict and tactical choices, Dragon Caster is a good choice to summon to the table.

This review is also posted in the game's forum.
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Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:00 am
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Review of Farmageddon

Sarah Reed
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Rancho Cordova
California
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Brief Synopsis:
Farmageddon is a card game where the players are planting crops, fertilizing and harvesting them. The goal is to have the most valuable harvest at the end of the game. This is not easy because there are action cards that allow you to mess with your opponents’ crops. Plus there are only 3 fields that must be shared by all players, but can only hold one crop at a time. Control of fields and crops can shift quickly during the course of the game so victory is never assured.

Introductory Thoughts:
The base game is a very light, casual family game. It’s best for families or very casual players. However, there are 10 FrankenCrops included in the base game, which adds a little more complexity and strategy to the game. It’s with these FrankeCrops that we like the game the best, but then again, we’re strategy players who favor euro games.

The 6 C’s

Chance: The game has a high degree of luck, which is inherent in any card game with randomized decks. This can be especially felt in two-player games, which can be very swingy depending upon the cards that are drawn. However, this is a light game that should not be taken too seriously. I mean, look at the fun artwork! And considering it plays fast, if anyone has a bad experience due to unlucky draws, just play again.

Choice: There are several decisions to be made that impact your success in the game. There are action cards that allow you to affect your own or other people’s crops, but you can only play 2 each turn. Plus, the crop cards are both used for crops and fertilizer. When you want to use a crop as a fertilizer, you place it face down on a crop. So you have to choose between planting low, medium or high value crops and then also decide which crops to use as fertilizer.

Character: As I already said, I love the artwork and that’s what gives this game its fun, light-hearted theme. The various crops really come to light in an almost laugh-out-loud kind of way; definitely makes me smile. The art on the action cards is also great. It’s not just the art, but the names of the cards and what they do that also reinforces the funny take on farming. Some of the funniest names are Grumpy Melon, Sassy Wheat, Bodacious Broccoli, and Darn Gophers.

Conflict: This is a highly competitive game in which you steal, destroy or otherwise mess with your opponents so you can get ahead. This is not a game for people who can’t handle take-that kind of games. The game is not inherently mean, but it can feel that way, especially if you’re having a bad game and not getting what you need.

Clarity: This game is very easy to learn with clear instructions. The only cards that may raise questions are the FrankenCrops, especially the Mirror Bean, which is not so clear on how it works. Thankfully, you can either make house rules on how to play the cards or go ask questions on the game’s forum.

Concealment: The font for the abilities is not easy to read for those with vision disabilities. There isn’t enough space between the letters and so it can be hard to read for some. The other challenge was the fertilizer value with the red number on the green background, which will be hard to see for certain color blind people. But overall, after a few plays, it is pretty easy to memorize the abilities of the cards and know what the cards do just by reading the title.

Final Thoughts
Even though this is not a game we’d typically play, it’s one we’re going to keep. I am hoping to teach it to my sister and her kids as I think they’ll really enjoy it. Plus, the designer, Grant Rodiek, is making more FrankenCrops and an expansion called Livestocked and Loaded. We expect those will increase the strategy and complexity of the game, which will increase our enjoyment of it. Don’t get me wrong, we have fun playing this game, but usually as a filler when we need to waste some time. This is a fun game that will grow on you.

This review is also posted in the game's forum.
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Mon Dec 23, 2013 3:39 pm
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Review of Dominion

Sarah Reed
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California
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Brief Synopsis:
Dominion is one of the original deck-builders and is often seen as the grandfather of the genre. In Dominion, every player starts with the same set of cards and a tableau of ten stacks of kingdom cards in the middle of the table. Through the course of the game, players will purchase and add these kingdom cards to their deck. The game ends when any three stacks are depleted or the highest value victory card stack is depleted. Then players add up the victory card points in their deck and the player with the most points wins.

Introductory Thoughts:
Dominion remains my favorite deck-builder. I’ve tried several others, but none of them compare to the simplistic complexity of Dominion. What I mean there is that the game is simple to understand, but the strategies of the game can be complex and challenging. I like that there are so many expansions to the game that add different mechanics, but it’s not overwhelming because in any one game, you still only use ten kingdom cards. What those kingdom cards are determines the complexity of the game and greatly affects the strategies you employ.

The 6 C’s

Chance: Since the cards are randomized, there is a bit of luck in the game. You could get lucky with the draw or really unlucky. Shuffling is quite a challenge in this game as early on, you only have a few cards so mixing them up adequately can be difficult. Clumping of cards happens a lot in the early game, though sometimes this can be good, but it can also be bad. But this is true of most card-based games.

Choice: This game is all about your choices. What cards do you add to your deck to make it the most efficient machine possible? That’s the hardest part of learning the game. But once you start making your choices, it usually becomes easier as you follow your path, hopefully to victory. The downside is that it is possible to make critical mistakes that you cannot recover from. The good news is most games are short enough that you could just play again with the same kingdom cards if you wanted to get better at it.

Character: I personally think this game has a lot of theme. There are those who disagree with me, but then I just ask, did you read the introductory paragraphs on the boxes or instructions? Those are hilarious! Do you even look at the pictures on the cards or pay attention to the names of cards? We have had some highly thematic kingdom card selections using the randomizer cards. One set we even wrote down because it was so good not only in terms of theme, but for the strategies behind the set. True, there are games that have much more theme, but I feel that what’s in Dominion is enough as the focus is mostly on the strategies and mechanics.

Conflict: This really depends on the kingdom cards that are selected. This can be a very Euro-style game with no direct conflict and the only thing that you can do to affect other players is to buy out a stack of kingdom cards that they want. On the other hand, this game can be highly aggressive if you use a lot of attack cards that directly affect the other players, usually in a bad way for them. So this game is highly customizable for different groups of players. I’ll have to say that I actually enjoy most of the attack cards because it provides the only form of player interaction in the game. Except Possession – I hate that card with a passion!

Clarity: This game is as easy as A B C. On your turn you start with A, play an action card. Then you go into the B phase where you buy one card. Finally, you end your turn with C, the cleanup phase where you put all your cards in play and hand into the discard pile and draw five cards. Very very simple… until you get to the strategies and that’s where the learning curve comes in. Understanding, recognizing and employing the combos in the set of kingdom cards in front of you is the real challenge of the game, especially if you use random cards which may not synergize. But this is the fun and meat of the game and after a few games, most people pick it up.

Concealment: I’m happy to say that this is one of the few cards games that those with limited vision can play relatively easily. Not because you play open-handed (because you don’t), but because the titles on the cards are large enough to be seen with a strong magnifier. So those with limited vision, like my husband, can play away from home. We just read the kingdom cards to him since they’re all out in front of everybody and he memorizes the main text of the cards. It takes him a bit of time in the beginning of the game, but the more we play, the more he learns the cards and doesn’t need to be reminded what the cards do. I think a lot of others with limited vision will also be able to play, if able to memorize quickly.

Final Thoughts
Those familiar with Dominion already know this, but I did want to point out that the base game is for 2-4 players except if you buy Dominion: Intrigue then you can play up to 6 players with the extra base cards included in there. You still only play with ten kingdom cards, but the base victory and money cards are increased when you combine the two. Intrigue can also be played on its own and offers a more complex variety than the base game. Oh, and personally, my favorite expansions are Prosperity, Cornucopia and Hinterlands. Though the newest one Guilds might replace one of those, but we haven’t had a chance to play with it very much, but I like what I see of it so far.

While I do keep my eye out for new deck-builders, it’ll take a very strong one to come close to, let alone replace, Dominion, especially considering we own all the expansions and promo cards. This is solidly in my top ten games and it’ll be a long time before I get bored with it. I always enjoy the ease of play, the complex strategies and how I’ll never play the same game twice! Plus, a lot of my friends enjoy the game so it hits the table quite often.

This review is also posted in the game's forum.
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Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:00 am
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