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The most unique gaming experience
Martin Larouche
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Sure, you can get another resource trading game near the Mediterranean with a big frowny dude looking at you on the box cover, where you'll get to update your personal player board and occasionally interacting with the other players when you both go for the same space on a central board.

But THIS time, it's going to be a much different game... because... erm... this new game has a random deck of cards to spice things up?


Nope... this time, you go for the truly innovative games. Games that bring you an experience unlike anything else you can find. Games that don't play like anything else out there.
Sometimes they work out great. Sometimes, they are more in the category of failed experiments... but at least KUDOS for trying new things and giving us new experiences developers and publishers.
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1. Board Game: Tragedy Looper [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:553]
Martin Larouche
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This is a weird game if you ever saw one. A deduction game like no other.

You know something bad is going to happen. But you don't know what, or when. You'll have to find out, then prevent it in order to win. If you can't do that you lose.

Come day one. A schoolgirl moves to the hospital. A shrine maiden goes there too. The doctor is in. Some paranoïa is felt around downtown.
On day two. The schoolgirl dies. The players are sent back in time. The tragedy has occurred and they'll have to relive their time.

Second time around...
So the girl dying must have been the tragedy we are supposed to prevent. Maybe the doctor or the shrine maiden could be a killer? They were both near the schoolgirl when she died.
So this time, let's make sure we isolate he girl.
On day one, the girl moves to the hospital, but the doctor goes away and the shrine maiden doesn't get there.
On day two, the girl hasn't died! we have not failed yet. Hurray... The schoolgirl start getting paranoiac though.
On day three, the schoolgirl commits suicide... and we failed again.

Third time around...
Okay, so the girl will commit suicide on day three if she becomes overfilled with paranoia AND there's a killer. Let's do this again...

Fifth time around...
- "Okay... so if the girl become filled with paranoïa, she'll kill herself on the third day. The doctor is a serial killer who kill anyone he meets and the office worker is ANOTHER killer who has the schoolgirl in her sights."
- "So this time, let's make sure the girl doesn't get paranoïa and let's keep both those characters away from her..."
"Mmmm. There might be another way... let's try to have the good doctor meet the office worker alone. That way, he'll kill the office worker, protecting the schoolgirl at the same time. And let's bring the police officer near the doctor after that so he won't kill anymore. We'll just have to worry about the girl's paranoïa".
"Awesome idea... let's do it!"

next game... no killers. No one dies. You just have to prevent some other tragedy and the entire game will completely change. This time, there's an alien in human disguise in the city. Will the alien help or do we have to stop him? What's going to be the problem THIS time?

My take:
Tragedy Looper is the ultimate deduction game. Every game is very different than the last. This is unlike other deduction games like Clue or Alchemists, where the process of deduction is a very straightforward and mechanical elimination process each and every game.
In Tragedy Looper, figuring it out will be different every time, because it's not an AI that tries to hide the culprit(s), it's an actual human player that will try to be as subtle as possible.

To this date... THIS is the most thematic game I have EVER played. The anime style pushes perfectly the "dark" animes thrillers like BoogiePop Phantom, Serial Experiments Lain and Perfect Blue. Forget horror-themed games like Zombicide, Mansions of Madness and Arkham Horror. These are not horror, nor thrillers. Those are adventure games with monsters in them that are closer to Dungeons and Dragons than anything else.
In Tragedy Looper, you will FEEL the tension of the moment. The "feelings" of those thrillers will come through to you. Even if you perfectly solved what the problems are... are you sure you got the perfect solution to prevent the tragedy from occurring? This is your last chance! Each and every card played could spell doom for you... or not. And you'll have to play about 20 of them to win.

The problem with the game? It's so unique and alien to anything else on the market that even if you are a hardcore gamer that played over a thousand games before, you'll be going in as a beginner and you WILL need to play the tutorial scenarios.
There's also a limited amount of scenarios and you can't really replay them. However good news: scenarios are real easy to do and the game provides a manual dedicated on how to make your own scenarios.
A small expansion more than double the amount of scenarios, and gives so many additional characters the scenario possibilities become endless.
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2. Board Game: XCOM: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:530]
Martin Larouche
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The obvious game from last year.

XCOM: the board game is a coop game where you'll fend off the alien invasion. Nothing new here.

However, this time, one player will be in charge of managing the soldiers as squad leader. He'll decide who to send on missions and who to keep in base defense. Another player will decide which technology to research as the chief scientist, decide which priority and efforts to spend on each tech. A third player will manage logistics, money income, launch interceptors to shoot down UFOs and crisis management. The fourth player will manage the communications, send information on what the aliens are currently doing, try to keep the team together by fixing whatever mistakes the team has done and sending satellites in orbit to help in UFO defense.

All these roles... and you won't have time to coordinate as best you can. The game is split between a "timed" phase where you have to concentrate on your own task and just hope your partners know what they are doing, and a "resolution" phase where you get to see if your decisions will pay off.

The aliens themselves will change how they behave every game, making it totally unpredictable. This game, they'll play overtly, sending wave after waves of UFOs. Next time, they'll attack your base mercilessly. The third time... how about messing up your communications by making you defend against an attack before you even know what you are up against?

Sure, the game needs a phone or a PC near the game in order to play to have that awesome AI working (the communication officer player manages it). The game's still definitely a boardgame at it's core and interaction with the app is marginal.

My take:
The ideas behind this game are great. Personally, I think it's a version 1.0 of something that could become much, much better. As it is, the player roles are great, but they come off as little minigames that become quite repetitive the more you play them. The push-your-luck aspect of the resolution phase is a bit on the simplistic side and ultimately a bit boring.

Still, this is a game that needs to be experiences at least a few times. It's frantic and it's really fun (the first few times).
 
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3. Board Game: Fleet Commander: 1 – Ignition [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:3926] [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked]
Martin Larouche
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This game task you into the role of a Fleet Commander, trying to destroy your opponent. So far... like any other miniature game.

However in most miniature games, you can always move whenever you want. Then combat is a random affair of throwing dices or playing cards from a random deck.

In Fleet commander, it's the total opposite. You are never quite sure your fleet is going to be able to move in time to do what you want... but once they get there, combat results are assured.

You'll have a pool of 3 colors of dice to choose on each turn. You'll have 3 yellow dices for movement, 3 red dices for attack and 3 green dices for shields. At the beginning of your turn, you'll choose 3 dice and roll them.
Then you'll have to allocate those dices to your fleet. This will dictate what your fleet can do this turn and you might have to change your entire tactical plan because your troops have reported they can't make it to were you want them!

Every dice has two orthogonal (+) and two diagonal (X) direction. If you roll a orthogonal (+) for movement with a yellow dice, you'll get to move a single square on the board orthogonally. If you rolled 2 movement dices and got a + and a X, you'll get to move a ship two space, one orthogonal, one diagonal.
Same thing with red attack dices. With a diagonal red dice, you can attack a diagonal square adjacent to your ships. If you use 2 red dices, you will be able to attack two squares away, in the direction the dice provides.
Shield will protect from diagonal or orthogonal attacks.

The other dice sides are 1 omnidirectional result and 1 "special", that allows you to evade, counter attack, drain your opponent of his stored dices or unleash your battleship's special weapon, which changes every game.

My take:
It's a weird system that looks totally random at first when reading the rules. But trust me on this: the system really, really works!

A game can be set-up in less than a minute and you can have a big engagement of 7 VS 7 capital ships attacking one another in less than 30 minutes.

A great game that should be played by many designers, so they could come up with something else for space shooters than moving a ship a few inches on the table then throwing a bunch of dice to see if you hit. Those are a dime a dozen. Fleet Commander is really unique.

The new upcoming edition fixed all the component problems the original "Ignition" release had.
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4. Board Game: Five Tribes [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:56]
Martin Larouche
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Another obvious inclusion in "unique" games.

This is a worker "displacement" game. Move the little meeples around, then depending on where they end and the type of meeple you pick from the board, you will get a different action possible.

At the beginning of the game, you'll have so many options, you won't know where to go. So many paths, lots of choice.
At mid-game, you'll find a few good moves where you'll start to formulate your overall strategy.
In the late game, there won't be much moves left... but your own great move for your strategy might be completely different from the ones of your opponents.

my take:
No other games quite like it. It's really close to a worker placement, but being the total opposite of it, it doesn't play or feel anything like it.
In my top 10 of personal best games. 'nuff said.
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5. Board Game: Lemmings in Space [Average Rating:5.36 Unranked]
Martin Larouche
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A 4X game where the first player to kill his entire crew wins!

Upgrade your ship... so you can get into bigger fights and lose quicker your crewmen.

Send them on dangerous planet expeditions hoping they won't come back.

... and so on and so forth.

my take:

Very funny the first time. Then you can throw this game in the garbage...
It IS a unique game however. You won't find gameplay like this anywhere else.
 
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6. Board Game: Dungeon Petz [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:145]
Martin Larouche
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Take care of your monsters, make them grow, try to manage their needs, then sell them to dungeon lords.

Managing your critters is going to prove to be a mental exercise. If those requirements are not met, they'll smash their cages, injuring minions, possibly escape, mutate into undesirable monsters, vanish into another dimension, or become sick...

You'll also have to put your monsters in contests to see which ones perform the best.

My take:
This game is certainly unique and quite like nothing else... but boy oh boy is it fiddly. Lots and lots of parts in this game. The refresh phase between turns is a nightmare:
- move the turn marker
- turn over the next customer
- turn over the next critter contest
- move the neutral imps on the board
- add the cages
- add the cage improvements
- add food to the market
- move imps on the stage to the backstage
- bring back all the players imps from the board
- restock the improvements
- grow the monsters on your board
- grow the monsters on the main board and move them to either "meat" or the bigger field
- bring in new monster babies
- return the used cards for monster needs to their discard piles
- shuffle the required monster needs cards that have exhausted their decks
... and that's without the expansion.

This turn a game that should last around 1.5 hours to a 2.5 hours affair, resulting in a game that's way too long for what it is.

It IS a unique game however. The worker placement is formulaic and been played to death already, but the monster requirements mechanics are unique to this game. Well worth experiencing at least once.
 
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7. Board Game: The Mushroom Eaters [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:4618]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Meh...5 Tribes? Try this one. Simulate a mushroom trip while wearing 3D glasses and wandiering over a fold out, fold away board.
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8. Board Game: Origins: How We Became Human [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:2693]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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...or develop your primative mind, unlocking language centers or social brain regions as you manage your fecundity and deal with environmental and other disasters.
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9. Board Game: Battle of the Halji [Average Rating:5.32 Overall Rank:13974]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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...or play a giant, three legged Halji on a planet of acid rain and scouring winds, mind controlling belching sex-crazed minions awash is various diseases, vomiting their disgusting meals about the board as you try to explode your primitive followers underneath your opponents to have them scatter to the upper atmosphere. Kinda puts Dungeon Pets to shame for oddity, actually.
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