The Reviews of a Critical Boardgamer
Kyle Smith
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Herndon
Virginia
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Starting in January, I decided to begin blogging reviews about my favorite boardgames. I wanted to really get critical about games. I didn't want to be just another site saying "I played this once or twice. It was a lot of fun." I wanted to describe why the game was fun. What the experience of playing the game was really like. How taking a turn felt. What are the games strengths and weaknesses.

My writing has definitely improved since I first started, and I hope it continues to do so. I'm going to keep this geeklist going as I publish more reviews. If you want to be apprised when I publish a new review, this would be the place to subscribe.
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1. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:84]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Commands & Colors: Ancients on The Critical Boardgamer

My first review. Or should I say love letter? I still intend to return to this review and update it to my current standards. More pictures illustrating my points. A timelapse after the rule summary. Plus a few other details. Perhaps make it more concise, without losing any of the message.
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2. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:431]
Kyle Smith
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Herndon
Virginia
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Kingdom Builder on The Critical Boardgamer

Kingdom Builder is a game I got a lot of time with. I view it mostly as an abstract. But with the variable setup I've come to love about Dominion. I know not everyone likes this game, but I found it to be a fantastic abstract that I play alternately with Ingenious.
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3. Board Game: Battle Line [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:161]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Battle Line on The Critical Boardgamer

This is my absolute favorite fast 2 player game. It strikes an amazing balance between depth of decision and ease of play. It consistently impresses me how certain games can have such simple rules, but such fascinating decisions.
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4. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:312]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Ingenious on The Critical Boardgamer

My other favorite abstract! Actually the first abstract I really fell in love with. I used to get together with my friends in the area and play during our lunch breaks. The dichotomy between trying to max out a score for a bonus turn, or pulling up your lowest score before it's blocked out, makes for a consistently fantastic experience.
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5. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:39]
Kyle Smith
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Herndon
Virginia
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7 Wonders on The Critical Boardgamer

7 Wonders was a difficult review for me. I just don't see what's so great about this game. I think my biggest problem is that the game makes you think you can strategize. There are a lot of interesting card synergies. The problem is, the game is almost 100% tactical as no strategy will ever survive the chaotic drafting system. Every game seems to end the same. Who committed to a strategy in Age 1 that had a lucky card distribution over the course of the rest of the game?
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6. Board Game: Zombie Dice [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:1636]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Zombie Dice on The Critical Boardgamer

This was a pretty brief review. I find Zombie Dice to be an interesting case study in how to fully explore a single simple mechanic. But that's about it.
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7. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:400]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Eminent Domain on The Critical Boardgamer

Eminent Domain is a game I've never played as much as I'd like. It seems to suffer from a bit of a group think problem in my play group. But I really enjoy what can happen when players do start to branch out, and purposely prolong the game to pursue more diverse strategies.
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8. Board Game: Chaos in the Old World [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:87]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Chaos in the Old World on The Critical Boardgamer

This is my absolute favorite area control game. Despite it's numerous and tedious upkeep phases, it still manages to just hum along. I think those upkeep phases while obnoxious serve as a fantastic opportunity to relax after very tense action rounds. A great example of a game that is greater than the sum of it's parts.
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9. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:109] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Memoir 44 on The Critical Boardgamer

I didn't originally enjoy Memoir 44. At first it seemed like the simplest rules possible slapped on top of some green army men. However, about halfway through the scenario guide the game really hit it's stride. By the final scenario I was quite eager to dig into an expansion. I wish the game didn't underestimate it's audience so badly in the first few missions. But it does turn into a fantastic game.
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10. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:131] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Carcassonne on The Critical Boardgamer

One part review, one part retrospective. Carcassonne is one of those games that is like riding a bike. You never forget how to play. 2 years can go by and you forget nothing. What I always find most shocking about Carcassonne is how for some people it's a light and friendly tile placement game. Then for other people it's a vicious and brutal game of conquest. Tears are shed when those two types of players meet.
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11. Board Game: SUTAKKU [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:4601]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Sutakku on The Critical Boardgamer

I discovered this hidden gem at PAX East 2013. What's odd about this game is that there are numerous things that are pure gimmicks. The stacking is pointless. The asian characters on the dice can be downright obnoxious when you just want to play quickly. And yet, it all adds to the game instead of detracting. I absolutely love it, especially with the challenge cards.
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12. Board Game: Core Worlds [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:483]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Core Worlds on The Critical Boardgamer

This game is the reason Eminent Domain doesn't get played more often. I find the rules to be surprisingly elegant. The reference material is fantastic. Plus the core of the game is learning the cards, not rule minutia. My favorite type of learning curve.
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13. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Napoleonics [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:271]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Commands & Colors: Napoleonics on The Critical Boardgamer

I didn't think I'd like Napoleonics. I am a huge Ancient's fan. Both the time period and the game. But Napoleonics really grew on me until I could no longer deny that it is easily Ancient's equal. A much harsher game than Ancients, that requires a lot more tactics and strategy to succeed.
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14. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:546]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Roll Through the Ages on The Critical Boardgamer

Another game I discovered at PAX East. Once I saw through the incredibly bland components, I saw a fantastic dice game. It manages to encapsulate a 4X experience, minus the exterminate, into a 20 minute dice game. That's an accomplishment to me.
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15. Board Game: Quarriors! [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:644] [Average Rating:6.81 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Quarriors on The Critical Boardgamer

Today I reviewed Quarriors on my blog, The Critical Boardgamer. I mostly focus on how much longevity the game has gained thanks to the "Advanced" rules. I also wonder how appropriate it is to call them "advanced" in the first place.
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16. Board Game: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:54] [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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X-Wing on The Critical Boardgamer

Today on my blog I reviewed X-Wing. I discuss many facets of the game, including my love for the pilot skill system, the actions, and the metagame. But I do worry about power creep in new waves of ships, and if the actual game isn't as great as the metagame.
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17. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:61] [Average Rating:7.68 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
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Herndon
Virginia
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Dominion on The Critical Boardgamer

The one thing I really think Dominion has on other deck builders is more complex resource management. Many deck builders will have you balance two currencies. Usually influence and force of some sort. Dominion has you balancing coins, actions and buys. Yes, actions and buys are resources, especially compared to other deck builders which let you buy or play as many cards as you want. I find that these aspects of Dominion allow for greater, and more meaningful, specialization of strategies amongst players. I also find that having victory cards be dead weight adds a more nuanced pacing to the game, as opposed to other deck builders which seem to keep up a singular pace throughout.
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18. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:202]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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San Juan on The Critical Boardgamer

This week I reviewed San Juan, which greatly impressed me. Aside from it's obvious resemblance to Puerto Rico and Race for the Galaxy, I also found it superficially similar to 7 Wonders. I think it's probably the best game to start with if you are trying to teach someone role selection. It also has one of the more perfect skill gaps I've seen. Enough that experience is rewarded, but not so much that new players feel utterly demoralized trying to play.
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19. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:384]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Alhambra on The Critical Boardgamer

Alhambra is a game I enjoy about once a month or so. It's a light easy game that everyone can enjoy. But I was done with the base game after about 3 or 4 plays. Thankfully I'd been talked into the big box, which has variety I doubt I'll ever get to the bottom of. It also has some odd pacing issues that crop up from time to time.
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20. Board Game: Down in Flames: WWII-Guns Blazing [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:5034]
Kyle Smith
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Down in Flames: Guns Blazing on the Critical Boardgamer

Down in Flames is a game I discovered recently, and to my shock it has a 20 year legacy! It's a very clever card based abstraction of air combat. It plays very fast, and has a fantastic back and forth. Best of all, it's dirt cheap on Amazon lately. $2 last I checked!
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21. Board Game: Timeline: Diversity [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:937] [Average Rating:6.84 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
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Timeline Diversity on The Critical Boardgamer

Timeline is a light, friendly trivia game where you only roughly need to know historical trivia. The artwork on each card has some hints, and you only need to be able to place events relative to one another. There was a real sense of exploring history together in my playgroup, as everyone silently guessed when an event took place while the active player talked it out. My only concern is overplay, since after 3 or 4 games in a row, you'll begin to see the same cards which is a let down.
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22. Board Game: Star Wars: The Card Game [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:406]
Kyle Smith
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Star Wars The Card Game on The Critical Boardgamer

I really enjoy the Star Wars LCG. It has a lot going for it. I love that the edge battles add an element of bluffing and nondeterministic combat, without using dice. I love how much the game oozes Star Wars, and the fantastic Objective system for deck building. What I don't like is that the core set feels like half a game, with streaky play, and gimped deck building options.
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23. Board Game: Forbidden Island [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:558]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Forbidden Island on The Critical Boardgamer

I really enjoy Forbidden Island. It's colorful, and has tons of character. But I feel it suffers more than other coop games from an alpha player problem.
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24. Board Game: Field Commander: Alexander [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:1737]
Kyle Smith
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Field Commander Alexander on the Critical Boardgamer

Field Commander Alexander is my first purely solo game. It's interesting to see how the AI has been "programmed". But it's also a fun game that plays quickly, and gives you a good flavor of Alexander's career. It's definitely up to you how much you want to get out of it though.
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25. Board Game: Dungeon Roll [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:1881]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Dungeon Roll on The Critical Boardgamer

I do enjoy Dungeon Roll. However to me it feels like a very light dungeon crawling game. I hardly get any feeling of a push your luck at all. Mostly because the risk/reward ratio is so horribly lopsided towards the risk end. It's just too blatantly obvious when you should quit, and when you should keep going. I've not once seen bold play ever pay off. But still, it is a fun, very light, dungeon crawling game.
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