Mikko's Quick Reviews
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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I was one of the most active board game reviewers on BGG years ago - back when there were just couple of people with more than 100 reviews posted. Then I stopped writing reviews in English, focusing on Finnish reviews.

I've recently started doing English-language reviews again. I created a format, which makes writing reviews faster and more effective. My reviews are quick: they aim to provide you with a pretty good idea of what the game is about, without delving deep into explaining rules or offering deep analysis. This is the kind of review I'd like to read myself.

I'm mostly reviewing slightly unusual games, as I prefer to review games that have no existing reviews on BGG. These are usually games that are easily available in Finland, but perhaps not yet available in English. However, in the end, I'll review anything I feel like reviewing.
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Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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"I bought this based on recommendations from friends, mostly because my son is a huge Lord of the Rings fan. He’s seven years old and while he reads, he doesn’t understand English. I had to translate the game in Finnish for him. It was worth it: he loves the game and thinks it’s the best Lord of the Rings game (better than the Knizia co-op or Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation).

I was surprised myself: I’ve played Ascension on iPad and found it lacking, but while this game clearly has roots in Ascension, it’s much better. Despite the heavy luck element, this game is simply fun to play. There’s enough meaningful decisions and building a deck that includes good card combos is fun and rewarding.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring Deck-building Game gets Suggest, bordering on Enthusiastic."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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"I wouldn't have bought the game myself; I'm not particularly keen on worker placement games. Viticulture is more evolution than revolution: I don't think it brings much new to the genre, just combines good mechanisms from other games. Well done, that's quite something, and I think Viticulture does it well. After my first game, the game felt a bit random, and the cards seemed overly powerful. After the second game, everything clicked better. The cards are powerful, yes, but that's just why you have to make sure you draw enough cards to get the ones that are good for you.

I don't think Viticulture is a must-try, but for those who are interested in the wine-making theme, it's certainly worth checking out. For the fans of worker placement genre it's another solid game in the genre, with some new ideas and an interesting combination of old ideas. If you don't like worker placement games, on the other hand, I don't think Viticulture is going to change that.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Viticulture gets Suggest for now, but I can see eventually dropping my rating to Indifferent once I've had enough – this is not a keeper for me, but something I'll enjoy for a while – probably quite enough to justify the price, had I bought this – then move on."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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"I’m a big fan of the game, in many ways Suburbia is my kind of game. At the same time it’s clear this game is not for everybody. See the long list of things not to like above! Frankly, I’m surprised the game won the Mensa Select award – it does deserve the award, but it’s not the most elegant design. Once you figure out how the tile interactions work, though, it’s quite logical, and I really like how the theme works. Playing this game is fun, because you tend to come up with narrative, explanations why your borough turned out like it did.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Suburbia gets Enthusiastic."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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"With my gamer friends, Ab in die Tonne wasn't a wild success. It's kind of fun, but not very exciting. I could see playing this as a filler, but since the box is so big, I'm just not going to carry it around (I travel by bike or bus, so there are limits to what I can carry). My kids loved the game, though, and I found the game fun – it's a real game, after all, and quite pleasant to play with the kids.

So, for gamers, this is of limited interest. For families, Ab in die Tonne is a fine choice. It wouldn't be a bad choice for adults, if we're talking about really casual gamers looking for light entertainment – at least the game looks interesting enough to grab the attention.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Ab in die Tonne gets Suggest for families or casual gamers, Indifferent for gamers."
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"Die kleinen Drachenritter is not a bad choice at all. It looks great, is attractive and unusual. Game play is intuitive and the rules overhead is low. The game's a bit easy, though, and the replay value might be limited. However, the game is unusual enough to make it worth buying; you should be get your money's worth easily, and then you can pass the game on if it feels stale. The more difficult variant gives the game some extra life.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Die kleinen Drachenritter gets Suggest."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"Dragi Drache should charm children with the air jet gimmick – that's something the kids probably haven't seen before. Once the gimmick gets old, I'm not sure this game has lots of replay value. So, I'd say this might be a good, if you get a decent deal and pass the game on, once it gets old. It's not a staple game for anybody's collection of children's games, but a fun little diversion and quite decent for a electrical gimmick game.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Dragi Drache gets Indifferent."
 
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7. Board Game: Nations [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:110]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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"If I try to look about the game objectively, I don't think there's much wrong about it. It's a well-done design, with some issues, but nothing serious. If you like Through the Ages, you'll probably find Nations disappointing, too light and yet not light enough, so you'll just rather play Through the Ages (I keep comparing the games a lot, but that's because Nations is almost uncomfortably close to Through the Ages). If you enjoy Through the Ages in theory, but don't like the fiddly book-keeping and want something that is easier to play and especially easier to teach to new players, you're going to love Nations. Also, if you find Through the Ages untolerable with more than three players, Nations is going to work much better with four or five players.

My personal verdict, however, is that it'll take lots of persuasion for me to play this game again. I like more easy-going games, really. I can enjoy more challenging games like Age of Steam or Brass, but in those games the game isn't constantly tugging at the things I build, trying to destroy them. Nations feels like game hates me, and I'd rather play something that doesn't hate me. I can't tolerate that in shorter games (I'm talking about you, In the Year of the Dragon) and making the game three hours long doesn't make it any easier.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Nations gets Avoid."
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Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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"As a family game, South Seas is easily going to see enough play to justify the price. For hardcore gamers, other versions are better. If you want just one Carcassonne game, I think the original is superior (some would probably say Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, and some would say The Ark of the Covenant). If you like the original game with lots of expansions, South Seas is going to feel a bit bland (but you'll probably want to try it anyway).

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Carcassonne: South Seas gets Suggest."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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"I'm a big fan of Machi Koro. This easy game moves along quickly and offers interesting if a bit light decisions. Building your city is fun, and the die-rolling offers excitement. The strategic depth is quite enough for a quick and easy game like this: will I build couple of cheese factories and hope to score 20+ coins with a roll of 7, or should I buy some mines and score 15 coins every time somebody rolls a 9? The way the game works in every occasion is a big bonus for me, I've really enjoyed playing the game with my son.

I've yet to try the expansion – I've got a Finnish version of the cards done and ordered from Artscow, but I haven't received them yet – but it seems to add a bit more meat to the game, while keeping the complexity moderate and only making the game slightly longer.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Machi Koro gets Enthusiastic."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"I'm sure there are people who'll like this game: planning your moves is fun, figuring out the best way to use your cards is interesting, and there's some entertaining player interaction. If you like programming, direct interaction and a zesty take that element in your games, Zeppeldrome is a good choice for you.

I, however, am not particularly keen on programming and actively dislike direct interaction and take that elements. I don't see myself playing Zeppeldrome, even when it's pretty good for a game like that. The puzzle element is fun. The game's just too silly and chaotic for my tastes, and a bit too slow-moving and long for what it is. Something like this might be fun with the kids, but the direct interaction is going to end up in tears and the game's a bit complicated for a family game.

The price is right, though. We Europeans can get a single copy of the game for less than 30 euros, including shipping (from within EU). For Americans, the price is just $29, which is quite decent. Too bad the project doesn't look too good at the moment. With only 26% pledged at the moment, looks like it's going to fail, unless there's a good boost in pledges in the end.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Zeppeldrome gets Indifferent. Not bad, but not really that interesting, either."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"Since the game is so easy to try, I recommend it to everybody with an interest in card game fillers and two packs of cards to spare. If you like it, buy the game – not only to support the authors, but also because the game is easier to play with the proper pack. The colour-coding where all the same-numbered cards are the same colour is quite helpful.

Abluxxen is currently one of my favourite fillers and I’ll be sure to include the cards in my small box of card game fillers I carry with me every time.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Abluxxen gets Enthusiastic."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"I don’t like Chess, but I really like Dominion. I kept hearing about For the Crown and decided I need to check this one out: the concept sounds on the other hand so obvious and on the other hand quite weird. Turned out that’s what it is: familiar and thus very easy to teach to anybody who knows Chess and Dominion, yet enough unlike both of them to be interesting. If the concept intrigues you at all, For the Crown is very much worth checking out.

To me, the game has one problem: it’s a long-ish two-player game and too difficult for my son to play. That’s a type of game I rarely get to play, so For the Crown is going to be hard to get on the table. However, I find the game odd and intriguing enough that it’s a keeper – I want to explore this game further and will hang on to my copy. That’s pretty good for a game that on the basic idea level is so simple as For the Crown.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, For the Crown gets Suggest."
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"It’s nice to see more Finnish game designers enter the market. Troll Hunt wasn’t a huge Kickstarter success, but managed to get the funding it needed, which is great to see, as it is an interesting and somewhat unusual game. It’s quite abstract, but with the familiar fairy tale theme tacked on, it’s also approachable.

It’s unusual to see games to only support two or three players, but it’s better that way than to just slap 2–5 on the box, no matter how well the game works. Here, while a four-player game might work somehow, it would also add way too much downtime.

This game is not for everybody: there’s a spatial element that some people are not going to like. I have no complaints on that, but I did find the game slightly dull. You choose a troll, then try to align your mirrors to hit it, then repeat that six times. There’s certainly room for clever play in placing your mirrors, but I didn’t find it that intriguing.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Troll Hunt gets Indifferent, bordering on Suggest – I wouldn’t say no if someone suggested this."
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"I like Subdivision. I like solitaire puzzles and don’t crave interaction: it’s fine to build things alone with other people and then compare scores in the end. I understand some people won’t like that and will not enjoy Subdivision because there’s hardly any interaction. I’m also sure some people will think the game looks dry and boring; I like the clean look myself, but it’s not the most exciting look.

My biggest beef here is the replay value. I’ve played three games so far, and while the first one was a disaster, I managed 130+ points in the next two, and think I have a good feel on how to score lots of points. Of course, it’s up to the other players what is a good enough score, but is the game rewarding enough if getting a good score is too easy? That takes some time to see, and I’m interested to see how it goes. Thus, I have no doubt that I’ll get enough value for my money to justify buying the game, it’s just a question of whether this is a permanent part of a collection or something traded away after ten or twenty plays. Subdivision certainly doesn’t have the huge variability of Suburbia to create replay value.

If you don’t mind or even enjoy the lack of interaction and like a nice puzzle challenge, Subdivision will deliver.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Subdivision gets Suggest."
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"This game is well done and offers some excitement. However, it’s also quite easy: we played three games and the dragon wasn’t really close to winning even once. My son is eight and my daughter is five, and we’ve played lots of games, so this is a bit too easy for us. I think the game might work if my daughter played it with her friends, without adults involved – I think they could manage it, the rules are simple enough.

I’d like to see a way to adjust the difficulty of the game. It would be nice to have more dragon tiles to add to the mix, or something like that. Now the game is good for smaller children, but runs out of steam pretty quickly with older children. My copy is most likely heading to a family with smaller children than ours: they’ll get more out of this game than we. If you want a co-op for smaller children (four-year-olds, even three-year-olds), Koboldbande is a nice choice.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Koboldbande gets Indifferent."
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"Realm of Wonder certainly looks good. I wasn’t, however, completely satisfied with it. The revolving board seems to be one of the key elements in the marketing, but it felt quite pointless when actually playing the game. I know the game has been under development for several years, and frankly, I find that hard to believe – there seem to be so many rough edges in it, and parts that feel underdeveloped. For example the graphic design lacks helpful symbols – easy enough to miss, if you test the game with the same people for years, but something that a pair of fresh eyes should’ve spotted immediately.

Another example: the magic cards are either really good, or mostly pointless, and in the end you do seem to end up with a bunch of them, without much idea what to do with them. Unless you’re lucky and draw cards with combat boosts, as those are always necessary, almost mandatory to beat the monsters. If you’re not lucky enough to draw them, beating the monsters is going to require luck.

So – almost there, and I’m sure many people will find Realm of Wonder interesting enough. It certainly has positive sides, as well: it’s kind of like old-fashioned adventure in the vein of Talisman, but with modern elements, like much shorter playing time and streamlined game mechanisms. I would’ve just preferred even more streamlining. Another round of development, preferably by someone not deeply involved in the game design, could’ve improved the game a lot.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Realm of Wonder gets Indifferent."
 
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Mikko Saari
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"Kyoto Protocol has been around since 2006 in some form, and finally got published. That was great, because this is a good game – it’s just a filler, sure, but at the moment of my favourite fillers. The game is very flexible when it comes to the amount of players, the rules are a breeze to teach and the gameplay offers enough interesting decisions and player interaction.

If you want a quick filler that looks great, works with a large scale of players and both with hobby gamers and families, Kyoto Protocol will do the job.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Kyoto Protocol gets Suggest."
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Mikko Saari
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"I see what this game is trying to achieve, and I think it does a marvelous job at it. Most of the games like this are fun to play in the right company and are a way to have a good time, but often fall a bit short on the scoring. Co-Mix doesn’t, the scoring works really well.

That said, I can’t see myself playing this more than once or twice per year; I simply don’t play these kinds of games. It’s not the fault of this game, it’s just the way it is.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Co-Mix gets Indifferent from me, but if you play these kinds of party games, Co-Mix is well worth a Suggest."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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"I wasn’t disappointed. I like deck-building games and don’t mind lighter games. For gamers, Dale of Merchants is a filler, but it packs quite a bit of game in a small package. I like that, and the game has certainly enough interesting decisions. It’s also good that it isn’t a Dominion clone.

I’m really hoping the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, because I think the game is fun. I also hope it’s successful enough so we can see some additional animal packs – the basic structure of this game is built to be expanded, and ideas are already running fast on BGG forums.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Dale of Merchants gets Suggest from me."
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Mikko Saari
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"Not really my cup of tea, this one. I'm not a huge fan of chaotic games, and especially with four players, Race to the North Pole is a chaotic game. With two players, it's more to my liking, and I can see playing this occasionally with my kids.

The rotating board mechanism is an interesting one, and I wouldn't mind seeing that used somewhere else. Having the card hands move along with the board is a nice touch.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Race to the North Pole gets Indifferent from me."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"Ubongo does this much better. Out of Mine! is not a bad game, but I’m not sure who I’d recommend it to. It looks like a family game, and the puzzles are very easy (especially compared to the more difficult Ubongo games), yet this just doesn’t work when adults try to play with children.

With just children, sure, why not – but even then you need to have children of equal skill, otherwise you’ll get tears and hurt feelings as the slower players just don’t have a chance.

I like the puzzle in the game, but I just can’t play it in a meaningful way. Ubongo is a much better game, and I can’t play it enough to justify owning it, so Out of Mine! just doesn’t have a chance.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Out of Mine! gets Indifferent from me."
 
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Mikko Saari
Finland
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"My daughter took one look at the box and immediately loved the game. The first time we played, we did seven rounds and she would’ve wanted more. So something’s done right here.

I think the game’s a bit too fast and bit too simplistic, it’s over before it really begins. But I can understand why it feels addictive. It looks cute and stands out – and while it looks like a proper mass market game, the game play is decent.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Fashion Show gets Indifferent from me – but if you have a six-year-old girl who loves Top Model, they’ll love this."
 
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Mikko Saari
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"This game looks stunning and it’s really easy to get kids excited about it. If you’re mostly familiar with simple roll and move games, Kakerlaloop will deliver an exciting experience full of thrills.

Well, at least most of the time: sometimes the cockroach spends ages whirring around the board kicking the bugs and when it finally dives under the board to let players actually play the game instead of just watching the cockroach, it may reappear right away. Sometimes it doesn’t really surface at all, and then the game is quickly over and boring. The cockroach is unpredictable, in good and bad.

However, if you expect more than just roll and move with a little twist and pretty setting, Kakerlaloop is a disappointment. Despite the flashly looks of the new game, the original Bugs in the Kitchen is still the more interesting game.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Kakerlaloop gets Indifferent from me – but if you are looking for a really simple roll and move game with a flashy twist, do check it out."
 
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Mikko Saari
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"Haba is a reliable source of quality games for kids, and I've learnt to trust the yellow box. Rüben Rallye meets the expectations: it's simple, fun and easy game that goes beyond the basic roll-and-move mechanics it's built on.

We've played tons of Fleeting Foxes and I have no doubt this game could reach similar numbers. Now that my kids are 7 and 10, though, this seems a tad childish. Well, my seven-year-old daughter who likes simple games was enthusiastic about this, so maybe this will see play.

I would give this as a gift to a family with a four- or five-year-old little gamer without hesitation.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Rüben Rallye gets Suggest from me."
 
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Mikko Saari
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"Dokmus immediately reminds me of Kingdom Builder. In both games, you’re trying to maximize your scoring and every turn you place three tokens on board, under similar restrictions. Both have similar feeling of a tactical puzzle.

Kingdom Builder has variable scoring, which is good and brings variability. Dokmus, on the other hand, has more opportunities for clever play, thanks to the guardian powers that let you manipulate the board.

If you hate the one card hand in Kingdom Builder, Dokmus will give you more freedom: place anywhere, as long as you’re adjacent to your previous tokens. This is a solid game, and if you enjoy tactical puzzles, Dokmus is well worth trying.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Dokmus gets Suggest from me."
 
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