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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26. Board Game: Dominion: Intrigue [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:51] [Average Rating:7.79 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Dominion Intrigue on The Critical Boardgamer

Dominion Intrigue was actually the box I started Dominion with. I only went back and purchased the base set later for completionist purposes. It's by far the better way to start the game. The decisions are more interesting, and the deck building opportunities have a lot more depth. It also comes with a second set of basis cards, if you wanted to play with 5 or 6 players. But I wouldn't recommend it.
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27. Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:92]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Lord of the Rings: The Card Game on the Critical Boardgamer

My friend picked this up at PAX East 2013, but we didn't take the time to learn it for a while. A few weeks ago we finally put the effort into learning the rules, and have been playing it exclusively ever since. I'm really impressed by the quality of this one. On top of being a first rate cooperative game, I think it's FFG's most complete core set for an LCG to date. I'm not saying it's the best LCG. I'm just saying it definitely has the best core set.
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28. Board Game: Lords of Waterdeep [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:46]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Lords of Waterdeep on The Critical Boardgamer

Lords of Waterdeep is an enjoyable if mediocre game. It has a fantastic 2 step crank to generate points. And it has great rising and falling tension each round as the Intrigue spaces fill up. But to me the game lacks interesting dilemmas.
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29. Board Game: Soviet Dawn [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:2254]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Soviet Dawn on The Critical Boardgamer

The best way I can describe Soviet Dawn, is that it's a solitaire, 30 minute version of Twilight Struggle. I've been trying more solitaire games lately, especially of the historical wargame variety, and by far this is my favorite to play. It's not as deep as others, but far and away it is the most enjoyable. I've also found that every conceivable rough edge the gameplay has, gets rounded out by the optional rules presented in the expansion. The best part is the base game plays perfectly fine with those optional rules, whether you own the expansion or not!
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30. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:178]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Love Letter on The Critical Boardgamer

I didn't think I'd enjoy Love Letter. Obviously I was wrong. There is a lot to admire about it. It's one of those great combinations of simple rules but great depth. This makes it incredibly accessible, but also a great game to go back to over and over. But what I appreciate most about Love Letter is it's perfect balance of tension and humor. The situations you find yourself in alternate between being incredibly thoughtful, and outright hilarious in equal measure. I can't think of another game which required as much thought from me, but also elicited as much joy.
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31. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1 – Greece & Eastern Kingdoms [Average Rating:8.26 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.26 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Commands & Colors: Ancients - Greece & Eastern Kingdoms on The Critical Boardgamer

This is among the best content expansions I've ever played. But that is all it is, a content expansion. Purely more of the same. So if you liked the base game, you will love this. If you didn't, this won't change your mind. But personally, my favorite part of this expansion is getting to experience 300 years of military history, from the Persians invading Greece around 500 BC, through the rise of Alexander the Great's empire, and wrapping up with Greece falling to the Romans around 200 BC. It's a fantastic journey, that covers a lot of ground.
 
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32. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:256]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Innovation on The Critical Boardgamer

Innovation is a card game that has really stood the test of time for me. It presents an incredibly rich tactical space thanks to 105 unique Dogmas, and allowing you 2 actions per turn. It also provides the variety I crave in a game. The odds are good that no two games will play out even remotely similar.
 
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33. Board Game: Ottoman Sunset [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:1655] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Ottoman Sunset on the Critical Boardgamer

I really enjoy the more mature game mechanics in Ottoman Sunset. All the different core systems are very tightly coupled, and it just feels good. However, I do find the game to be slightly too predictable, and just a tad too easy. Still it's a fantastic game, but not my favorite entry in the States of Siege series.
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34. Board Game: Escape: The Curse of the Temple [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:369]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Escape: Curse of the Temple on The Critical Boardgamer

So far Escape has been probably the most compelling 10 minutes of game I've ever played. The timed aspect wonderfully solves the quarterbacking problem other cooperative games can have. Additionally, it's one of the only coop games that I like to play on the hardest difficulty possible. I highly recommend it.
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35. Board Game: Guildhall [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:626] [Average Rating:7.03 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Guildhall on The Critical Boardgamer

Guildhall is a game I immediately enjoyed. From the outside it looks like a simple set collection game with special abilities. It took several more plays for me to appreciate the elegance of the game design. I consider this a true classic. The rules are easy to learn, and most importantly easy to go back to, with a timeless unforgettable quality. But despite the simplicity of the game, it has fantastic emergent play. No two games have gone the same. In fact, no two turns have felt the same! Truly a better game than the sum of it's parts would lead you to believe.
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36. Board Game: Forbidden Desert [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:228]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Forbidden Desert on The Critical Boardgamer

The key changes in Forbidden Desert from other coop games is that the entire board is hidden information, from everybody. This goes a long ways towards solving the quarterbacking problem many coops can suffer from. It also makes the game less solvable. Personally I love these changes, and it really feels like more of a cooperative experience. Plus the production values are absolutely top notch.
 
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37. Board Game: Star Realms [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:78] [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Star Realms on The Critical Boardgamer

I'm not sure how these guys ended their Kickstarter Nov 2nd, and had Star Realms in my hand on December 26th. It's impressive however they did it. Since I got it, I've played it every chance I get, and it's the first Kickstarter game I've gotten that seemed like the real deal. I love how much the heavy emphasis on ally abilities adds a new strategic dimension to an otherwise done to death formula.
 
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38. Board Game: Zulus on the Ramparts! [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:1376]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Zulus on the Ramparts on The Critical Boardgamer

Zulus on the Ramparts might be my new favorite States of Siege game, of the four I've played. I think I'll always have a soft spot for the quick, rapid fire play of Soviet Dawn. But the gameplay of Zulus strikes pretty far from that mold, and manages to be much more compelling and meaningful. If only the iMpi chits weren't completely unreadable to my poor old color blind eyes. Well, it was nothing a sharpie marker couldn't fix.
 
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39. Board Game: Guts of Glory [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:5948]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Guts of Glory on The Critical Boardgamer

This is probably one of the most unique themes I've ever encountered. It's an eating contest taking place in the irradiated wasteland of the post apocalypse. Perhaps the theme got my hopes up though. Sadly underneath the theme is a game I found mediocre. It has some interesting decisions every now and again. But not enough to keep me that interested. I have a suspicion I'll grow bored of it soon.
 
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40. Board Game: No Retreat! The Russian Front [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:597]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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No Retreat: The Russian Front on The Critical Boardgamer

I was incredibly lucky to get this game at a reasonable price on eBay after it was out of print. What I found was one of the most accessible, yet deep and compelling operational wargames I've played. Which hasn't been many, granted, since I shy away from monster games. But No Retreat is no monster, and I'm thankful it's not.

It's a fantastic union of old and new mechanics. It has many of the tried and true hex and counter mechanics. However through all of them runs a fairly modern hand management system that ties elegantly into all the other systems. For months I wanted to play this game all the time. I didn't tired of playing the same scenario repeatedly, which never happens. The only thing I'd caution with this game is that the rules are a minor disaster. You'll definitely want to print out the latest version of them. And a reference sheet or two from the BGG files section as well.
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41. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:14]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Agricola on The Critical Boardgamer

I was first exposed to Agricola in probably the worst way imaginable. Through a library copy at a convention, where the last person who played just dumped all the bits, unsorted, back in the box. A passing gamer saw our struggles, and offered to teach us how to play. He then proceeded to do little teaching, and much beating the pants off us. It was then I swore Agricola was a crap game and I wanted nothing to do with it. Thankfully, that was not the last I saw of Agricola, and I've long since moved past that awful first impression to really appreciate what an amazing game it is. Full of tension, tough decisions, and endless variety thanks to the many cards included in the game, and the many more available.
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42. Board Game: Rise of Augustus [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:719]
Kyle Smith
United States
Herndon
Virginia
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Augustus on The Critical Boardgamer

So I mostly got Augustus because it had a few nominations, and I love Roman themed games. It also looked like a great game to play with my girlfriend during the week when she's had a long day. At the end of the day though, aside from her enjoyment of it, there isn't much that keeps me coming back to it.
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