New to you January 2017 => Best new boardgame
Andy
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What games did you play for the first time in January 2017?

Please share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month.

In order to assist with collecting Statistics from these lists, please post an entry with your chosen game of the month, and if possible please use the "insert board game" feature to add other games you mention in your entry.

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1. Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:67]
Andy
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== NEW GAMES ==


Roll for the Galaxy - 1 play -  9 
First Published 2014

I am a huge fan of Race for the Galaxy, so when this game was announced I was really excited to play it, but because of the high price tag I never got around to picking it up myself... Finally this month I made it to one of my old game groups after a long period of absence, and someone at the group had this. I jumped at the chance to play it and I was not disappointed.

While the game feels really familiar, with very similar cards, and similar phases to the game, it also feels incredibly different, and my vast experience of Race did not enable me to do particularly well in Roll.

However I really enjoyed it and I would love to give it another try some time soon.



Dixit Jinx - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2012

We picked this up from a charity shop because of the Dixit name, however it bears only a passing resemblance to the original. It tries to be a more fast paced game with players supposedly racing to point at the card, from a 3x3 grid, that they think the start player is describing. We only played with 3 so it was a bit anti-climactic anyway, but I think it would still fall really flat even with more players.



== NEW EXPANSIONS ==


Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition -  9 
First Published 2015

My one play of Roll for the Galaxy included this expansion, so I'm not entirely sure what was part of the base game and what was part of the expasion, but whetever it was felt like a completely natural part of the game.
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2. Board Game: Fields of Arle [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:53]
Juan Carlos Goyes
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Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp

2017-01-15

Initial Rating: 5.0 (January 2017)

I have never seen the point in playing solo games, I understand why other players play them and I in no way mean to imply anything negative in that activity. If someone enjoys playing solo games that’s great, but to me, boardgames are a social activity. If I’m alone I will rather read a book or play a video game which is how I came to play Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp, I played it on the iPad.

I really like the theme.

The rules are very easy to learn.

The name of the game is great and very evocative, that’s the whole reason I bought the game in the first place. Obviously I cannot comment on the game´s components, but I can on the gameplay and, so far, I have been disappointed.

I though the game was going to be a challenge but it’s been very easy to beat. There is a caveat on this point though, I have played the scenarios and they are slowly becoming harder to beat so perhaps this issue can disappear but that leads to the next point. The decisions needed to play the game are painfully obvious! At first I thought the iPad implementation wasn’t the whole port of the game, but I watched a play through and they are the same. The game has lots of uncontrollable luck with the randomly drawn proteins, if your draw is lucky you will win easily, if not perhaps you can lose but apart from that there isn’t not a heavy problem to solve. You have some helpers and equipment that cost money but when to use them is also obvious.

Mutations and outbreaks are also bound by random rolls. On that same point, outbreaks doesn’t have an effect on the gameplay, if there is an outbreak nothing happens to you mechanically, it is only a thematic setting unless you do lose the game due to having a high death toll. It seems weird.

Bottom line, I was expecting a much better game from Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp, but so far it has been a disappointing experience. The decisions are obvious and luck decides too much of the game, you win or lose by how lucky you were on the protein draw, not by how good were your decisions and that’s a huge minus for me. Perhaps I will continue to play the scenarios to see if I’m missing something, besides playing it on the iPad takes very little time. I would never buy or play it in real life, but that’s because I don’t enjoy solo games. I was expecting a much heavier game.

Current Rating: 4.0



The Gallerist: KS Stretch Goal Pack #2

2017-01-15

Initial Rating: 7.0 (January 2017)

I enjoy The Gallerist so it is no wonder I also enjoy The Gallerist: KS Stretch Goal Pack #2.

These new work of arts are a good, but non-essential, addition to the game. Purchasing a work of art is a bit more interesting now because these new tiles have different rewards than the base ones.

I like them and I see no reason to not always include them in my The Gallerist games.

On the bad side, with the new addition to the game I cannot fit all the work of art tiles in their designed insert space, but this is a minor issue.

I’m rating this expansion the same I rate the base game.

Current Rating: 7.0



Pixel Tactics 4

2017-01-15

Initial Rating: 7.0 (January 2017)

I really enjoy the whole Pixel Tactics series of games, I have them all but taking them to the table has proven a challenge. Two players games are difficult to play in my current game environment. We are, more often than not, more than 2 players, but I had the opportunity to play Pixel Tactics 4 while we waited for some friends to arrive, and I really enjoyed it.

I have only played once so I barely scratched the deepness of the game.

Pixel Tactics is, in general, an easy to learn (around 7 minutes) hard to master game. It offers a plethora of choices with only 25 cards. Each card can be used in 5 different ways so the permutations and combos possible are very high (very high replayability) and that increases exponentially if you mix the cards from all the games, a very positive thing in my book.

Playtime is around 45 minutes.

The game offers interesting decisions in a, relatively, short time frame. Every iteration of the game adds something new to the game and in Pixel Tactics 4´s case, it adds traps. I previously played with traps with the Deluxe Edition, but it was this game the one that introduced them. They are very fun to play because they allow you to bluff a little and you can also surprise your opponent.

Within my limited perspective, it seems some of the leaders of this game are very powerful, my opponent had one that hurt my leader every time I played a new hero, that’s insane!

Bottom line, Pixel Tactics 4 is a good two game and a keeper in my game collection. I wish I could explore the game further and my desire to play it again is high.

Current Rating: 7.0

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Pizza Theory

2017-01-15

Initial Rating: 5.0 (January 2017)

For some reason, I thought Pizza Theory was a flicking game, but I was surprised to find an abstract game. That happens to me because I buy lots of games without any research but that’s my MO and it is very unlikely to change. In general abstract games are not my cup of tea.

The rules are very easy to teach, you can do it under 4 minutes. The game´s components and art are good. I particularly like the pizza box, neat feature! Playtime is around 25 minutes.

The theme is novel.

Pizza Theory is a majority game coupled with simultaneous selection. There is no luck in it.

The decisions needed to play the game seems obvious at first, but they are more deep than I initially thought. In each turn you need to decide where will you cut the pizza, but having to guess and outguess your opponents is kind of fun. At first, I thought that when a player had too much stuff already on the pizza he was the foregone leader, but that wasn’t the case in our game and that is positive for me. On the bad side, a player can easily make a mistake and benefit un-proportionally another player, but as the game play so quick I don’t mind much.

Bottom line, as I wrote before, abstracts are not my cup of tea, so I’m at best lukewarm toward the game. I think it can be a good introductory game, but it leaves me unsatisfied. It has a kingmaker effect. I already sold it. I would play again if requested.

Current Rating: 5.0



Queen's Necklace

2016-01-13

Initial Rating: N/A (January 2016)

The insert of the game is useless once you sleeve the cards. I had to toss it :/.

I hope to play the game soon, however I have a very low expectation. Last Cathala and Faidutti´s game I tried was a debacle (Mission Red Planet Second Edition). I hope this one is way better.

Current Rating: N/A


2017-01-22

Initial Rating: 5.0 (January 2017)

I finally played Queen's Necklace. It was better than expected, but still it is not my kind of game.

The rules are easy to teach, you can do it under 9 minutes. Playtime is around 50 minutes.

The theme is ok, I like Dumas´ work, but still, you don’t feel it through the game.

The game´s art and components are good. Best with 3 players.

The gameplay uses a devaluation mechanism that is kind of cool, however, the game´s decisions are rather simple and, often, obvious. Luck plays a significant role (a minus) but there is still room for some clever play. Memory also plays a significant role, a plus to me. The most interesting decision is deciding how many gems to sell while trying to outguess your opponents, the rest of the game is bland and boring.

The player who score the most points in the first round, becomes the target of all other players and can have a hard time winning the game. I have come to dislike this “attack the perceived leader” mechanism. Another minor minor issue with the game, it is annoying to constantly move the rings .

The card “Queen´s Necklace”, is very powerful and perhaps too much powerful with 2 players so I’m worried about the cards balance. It seems some of the cards are much more powerful than others and it is luck if you can buy them at the right time or not. With four players the game is way too random and you cannot plan ahead. It is pure tactics.

Bottom line, Queen's Necklace can be a good family game, but there is too much luck of the draw with the cards and the decisions are way too simple for us. It was a bit boring. I will sell the game soon.

Current Rating: 4.0



Fields of Arle

2017-01-22

Initial Rating: 7.0 (January 2017)

I generally love Uwe Rosenberg´s heavier designs and this game is no exception, I really like Fields of Arle as does my SO.

Fields of Arle is a medium weigh worker placement game. The game´s rules aren’t very complex but there are many of them. You can explain the game in about 30 minutes. Playtime is around 3 hours the first time but I guess it will be less with repeated plays. I´m no solo gamer so I won’t be playing the game alone, but as is usual with Rosenberg, it is a possibility and that’s a plus.

The box is heavy and full of components, it was also expensive but it is worth it. The components and art are very well done.

Fields of Arle is reminiscent of Agricola and Caverna, but it is also different, it is its own game. I prefer it to Caverna, but Agricola is still better for me.

I´m no fan of the theme, but I don’t mind the theme in most Euros, however you do feel it through the game and that´s always welcomed.

The setup can be a bit long but I don’t mind, also, you don’t always use the same buildings, so there is some replayability there.

The game decisions are meaty and non-obvious, every turn you have about 15 to 30 options so it isn’t easy. It seems there are many paths to victory but I have only played once. There is no luck in the game so the better strategy will win. You can plan far ahead and you feel you won’t accomplish everything you want with so few workers. I love the tension.

As it plays only two players, getting it to the table can be a challenge, but that’s not a negative, I prefer to play two players games.

Bottom line, Fields of Arle is a good Euro game and a keeper in my game collection. The decisions are very interesting and there is no luck besides the setup. It can probably get an upgraded rating from me with more plays. Good stuff.

Current Rating: 7.5

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In the Shadow of the Emperor

2017-01-22

Initial Rating: 6.5 (January 2017)

I wasn’t expecting much from the game, I haven’t hear much about it either, but I was pleasantly surprised. It is the first game I play from designer Ralf Burkert. In the Shadow of the Emperor is a mean control area game and I kind of like it!

The rules aren’t very complex, you can explain them under 16 minutes. Playtime is around 120 minutes. It has a medium weight.

The game´s components are ok and functional, but I really hate how they depict the number “4”, they do it like this “IIII” so I constantly mistook it with the 3 Roman number. I’m not sure why they did this as they use Roman numerals for the other tiles/phases.

The art is from ugly to ok.

The theme is kind of neat and you do feel some of it during the game.

The game´s decisions aren’t obvious and you have to constantly assess your position and guess your opponents intentions, it have lots of tension (a plus). The aging mechanism is very neat and novel, this is the oldest game I have played with it (2004). You can´t turtle because the game encourages you to attack to get VPs and knowing when to go for the emperor title is hard and perhaps you won’t get the support (votes). It seems to have many paths to victory. I love that it doesn’t have any luck whatsoever, a huge plus for me. In the Shadow of the Emperor is mean because it is a tight game and betrayal is not far away.

It is reminiscent of Lancaster, another game I like.

Best with 4 players.

On the bad side, all players need to try their best to win, otherwise it is way too easy to give the game to another player, that is, the game can have kingmaker issues.

Bottom line, Shadow of the Emperor surprised me and I kind of like it. I will keep it in my game collection for now and I need to play it again before deciding if I really like it or if I should sell it. My gut feeling tells me I will love the game with more plays.

Current Rating: 6.5



Diamonds

2017-01-29

Initial Rating: 5.5 (January 2017)

There was a time I loved trick-taking games (I still like Wizard) but I no longer do, still, I had some fun playing Diamonds.

The rules are very easy to teach, you can do it under 5 minutes, playtime is around 30 minutes.

The game´s components are very well done, the diamonds look gorgeous on the table and the cards themselves have a neat back and have a good card stock quality.

The core trick taking game’s rules are in effect, but Diamonds also add powers if you win a trick or if you don´t follow the lead card, that’s neat! The goal of the game is to amass the greater amount of diamonds in and outside your vault. Unlike most trick taking games, this one has a “take that” element as you can steal diamonds from other players. I’m still not sure how I feel about this.

Best with 4 players.

I have played the game twice now, so I’m still not sure how much luck affects the game. It could be that the suits themselves are unbalanced. I need more plays to verify but on the whole, I don’t care much about that because it plays so fast!

Bottom line, Diamonds is among the best trick taking games I have played, but still it isn’t a game for me. It is a perfect game to play with the family or with non-gamers. If you like trick taking games you should like the game. It is much better than Clubs. I already sold my copy of the game but I would play again if requested.

Current Rating: 5.0



Inis

2017-01-30

Initial Rating: 7.0 (January 2017)

As is usual from me, I bought Inis without knowing anything about the game, however, when I realized the game was from Matagot, I knew it would have, at least, great components. After playing the game, I also liked it very much.

I have been slowly drifting away from area control games because they have the hated (by me) “bash the leader” mechanism, however, Inis is much more Euro than Ameritrash and that allows me to enjoy it.

The rules are easy to grasp, but there are many rules. You can explain them under 18 minutes. Play time is surprisingly short for this kind of game. You can perhaps play it under 60 minutes with seasoned players or around 90 with new players.

I like the theme.

The game´s components are very good. The art is gorgeous and the bits are also great. The modular board looks amazing on the table and adds great replayability.

The game decisions aren’t obvious. Each turn you have to draft cards, the novel point being that you can pass previously drafted cards. I like it. Also the amount of cards you draft are around 15, so you get familiar with them rather quickly. Once all players have their cards they begin playing them to control territories and expand. There is some luck with the epic cards (red ones) and with the terrains but I feel you can control and react to it so it doesn’t bother me.

I like that combat is not mandatory, you can inhabit the same terrain that your opponents, and when there is combat, it is dice free!

I feel it is best with 3 players (as most drafting games), but I would play with 4 players also.

I´m a bit worried that with experience, the game could drag a lot as no player could fulfill the victory condition without being attacked. That wasn’t the case in our game but it seems the logical conclusion if all players want to win the game and play to the best of their skill. I need more plays to verify this point.

Bottom line, Inis is a good area control game, it appeals to me as a (mostly) Euro gamer. The game´s decisions aren’t easy. A friend wanted the game for Christmas so I gave it to him, but I already bought it again. I think it will be a keeper in my game collection but it depends if the game will drag or not with experienced players. MUCH better than Blood Rage though.

Current Rating: 7.0



Ponzi Scheme

2017-01-30

Initial Rating: 3.0 (January 2017)

I bought Ponzi Scheme by mistake, but I was expecting a good game as it is well ranked here on BGG, however I heavily disliked it.

The rules are very simple and you can explain them under 8 minutes. The game also plays very fast, you can play it under 50 minutes with fast players.

The theme is cool but I didn’t feel it very much through the game other that your business is doomed to fail. You don’t feel you are creating a Ponzi Scheme in any way.

The game´s components are good, perhaps over produced for such a simple game and for the same reason, it is an expensive game.

I was disappointed by the decisions needed to play the game, they seem obvious. The only part I liked was the secret trading, but here lies also a BIG issue for me. If you know that you are going to bankrupt this turn, nothing stops you to give all your money to other player buying a worthless industry, thus, this is one of the worst forms of king making and I hate this. I guess this is why money gives so little VPs, but it can be enough for a player to win unfairly. There is also a lot of uncontrollable luck with the cards. Gameplay is very repetitive and boring.

Bottom line, Ponzi Scheme is a fail for me. I already sold the game. It is obvious and simple and the king making issue it too big for me. I heavily dislike the game. There is one caveat though, I wasn’t the player who read the rules so perhaps there is a mistake somewhere, but my friend assured me we played it correctly, in which case I won’t play it again.

Current Rating: 2.5



Cry Havoc

2017-01-30

Initial Rating: 6.0 (January 2017)

Cry Havoc is a well-regarded game but I’m not a “dudes on a map” kind of gamer so I wasn’t expecting much from it, and I was right. It is an ok game but not a game for me.

The rules are easy to grasp. You can teach the game under 18 minutes. Playtime is around 3 hours the first time but with experience you can play it faster.

It has gorgeous components and great production values. The art is also pretty cool.

I like the theme.

The factions of the game all play very different and everyone has some skills that won’t play every time, so the game has lots of replayability and that’s always welcomed. There is a bit of deckbuilding with the cards, but there is also some luck with them. Managing your deck is important. The combat system is unique and interesting, even if you lose you can do something interesting, still it gets repetitive soon.

The player who played with the human faction, said it was very weak compared to the other ones, but as I have only played the game once I´m still not sure this is the case. All players have to gang upon the Torg player or he could win the game easily and I think I kind of dislike this, although it makes thematic sense as they are the natives. Perhaps the game´s factions are unbalanced.

I didn’t read the rules but the friend who did said it wasn’t very good.

Bottom line, I don’t like the game very much, however I don’t like the genre much. Cry Havok can be a good “dudes on a map game”, it seems it has a high replayability with the variable faction´s skills, but after all that, it isn’t a game for me. I’m not sure if the game is balanced but it seems like it is not. It is kind of boring and repetitive for me. I already sold my copy of the game. I will probably play it again if suggested but if I don’t play it ever again I won’t be sad.

Current Rating: 5.0



Spy Alley: Dice Game

2017-01-30

Initial Rating: 1.5 (January 2017)

I wasn’t expecting much from Spy Alley: Dice Game but still the game managed to disappoint me. It´s the worst game I have played in a long while.

The rules are uber easy, you can explain the game under 75 seconds. Playtime is around 10 minutes.

The game components are ok and that’s the better feature of the game.

The decisions needed to play the game are dead obvious and mostly luck. You roll the dice and you attack someone if you can. There is some slight memory element but it is almost meaningless.

Bottom line, Spy Alley: Dice Game is a very bad game, perhaps it is can be a good game for small children, the decisions are obvious. It took the mantle of worst game of 2013 from Ghooost! It is almost not a game. I already got rid of it.

Current Rating: 1,5

Jgoyes´ Awards:





Nippon

2017-01-30

Initial Rating: 7.0 (January 2017)

What's Your Game? is perhaps my favorite game company and they haven’t let me down yet with any of their tittles, Nippon isn’t the exception, I like it a lot. I also love Madeira so I was keen to try Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro and Paulo Soledade´s last game.

Nippon is a medium weight Euro game with very interesting decisions.

The rules aren’t complex, but there are many of them. You can teach the game in about 20 minutes and you can play it in around two hours.

The theme is ok but nothing exciting.

Best with 3 players but I would play any player configuration.

The game decision’s aren’t obvious in any way. In each turn you have only two decisions to make, to consolidate or to take a worker, but that decision is not easy. It is painfully interesting and if you do take a worker you have many options to choose from (should I buy a new factory? which one?, should I advance in my knowledge track, should I advance in my coal track? Should I deliver some goods?, should I manufacture products? Which color of worker should I take?). It isn’t easy and I really like it. The game has a lot of depth I want to explore.

Bottom line, I really like Nippon and it is a keeper for me. It is a satisfying Euro game with meaty decisions and easy to teach/understand rules. I think I like it better than Signoire. What's Your Game? has produced another winner in my book.

Current Rating: 7.5

Jgoyes´ Awards:





Dungeoneer: Den of the Wererats

2017-01-30

Initial Rating: 5.0 (January 2017)

Dungeoneer: Den of the Wererats has a great premise, but the game fails to deliver! I think the idea of the game was to translate a RPG experience to the table and in a short time frame and it succeeds in that regard.

The rules of the game are more or less easy to learn, although the rulebook could be a lot clearer. You can teach the game under 15 minutes and play it under 50 minutes.

Dungeoneer has a great theme and the art is pretty good but it has a lot of luck in it, more that I’m comfortable with. The dice don’t bother me as much as the luck inherent in the location/quest cards, as you are building the dungeon, they can appear in any moment and benefit one player over the other one giving him a win that was decided only by luck.

Most decisions are rather easy and obvious. The game is much more thematic than strategic.

Bottom line, my old self would have loved this, but in recent years, I have drifted away from this kind of game. If you like fast RPGs you probably will like the game. It has a lot of uncontrollable luck. I will sell it ASAP along with all the Dungeoneer sets I have.

Current Rating: 5.0



Port Royal

2017-01-30

Initial Rating: 5.5 (January 2017)

I generally don’t like “push your luck” games but Port Royal is among the best game in the genre. It is also from Alexander Pfister, a designer that is on fire right now so I was keen to try it.

The rules are pretty easy to teach, but there are many more that you initially thought for a “simple” card game. You can explain them under 15 minutes. Playtime is around 60 minutes.

The art is ok.

I dislike pirate themed games but you don’t feel it through the game.

The decisions needed to play the game seems very simple, but it after playing it twice, it seems Port Royal has more meat that I initially thought. Still the decisions aren’t very hard and luck plays a prominent role in the game. It can be partially mitigated with your deck, but not enough for my tastes.

I like that in each turn all players are engaged taking decisions, so you don’t feel the downtime, still I prefer to play it with 3 players.

It is a hard game to buy, I could only find it on Europe.

Bottom line Port Royal is a solid and clever game, but not for me. I will be playing it more times in the future to see If I missed something, but this kind of game (push your luck, easy decisions, very light), is not for us.

Current Rating: 5.0



Time's Up! Family

2017-01-30

Initial Rating: 7.0 (January 2017)

I love Time's Up!, a game currently on my Top Ten favorite games of all time. I also have liked every version of the game I have played and I did like the family version of the game but it is, by far, the worst version of it (I still haven’t played the kid´s one). It is still fun to play with the right crowd.

The game remains the same, but you only deal 30 cards instead of the customary 40. The cards themselves are so easy no one has any problem playing the game. Also the game´s so easy it becomes hard in phases two and three as there are many related subjects.

Bottom line, Time's Up! Family is a great family game and a decent game in general. As a family game, It fulfills its purpose perfectly but it is way too easy with adults. I prefer to play regular Time's Up! instead. I´m still undecided if I should keep it or sell it.

Current Rating: 7.0



Welcome Back to the Dungeon

2017-01-31

Initial Rating: 5.5 (January 2017)

Last year, I played Welcome to the Dungeon. It was a fun game, but it wasn’t for me so I sold it. This year I bought Welcome Back to the Dungeon because it was on sale and after playing it, my opinion remains the same.

The rules are very easy to teach you can do it under 3 minutes. Playtime is very variable, from 20 minutes (ok) to 60 minutes (way too long for what the game offers).

The art and components are very good. Love the theme.

The idea of the game is pretty neat and it is fun for a while, but then it becomes very repetitive so it bores me.

Gameplay remains the same, namely, you draw a card and either add it to the dungeon deck or you discard an equipment. In theory the game is very fun, but it loses the novelty quickly and becomes a boring affair. The decisions are very simple.

This new edition of the game adds special monsters and a board to track health. I really like that you can mix the heroes from the previous set, that’s always welcomed!

Best with 3 players, the chaos and downtime are minimized this way.

The new heroes are very cool.

Bottom line, Welcome Back to the Dungeon is a good family game, but it is too simple for me. It takes way too long for what it offers. I will sell it ASAP. My desire to play it again is low.

Current Rating: 5.0



Res Publica

2017-01-31

Initial Rating: 5.0 (January 2017)

Res Publica was described to me as a negotiation game and I love negotiation so I went for it. After playing the game, I can say it IS NOT a negotiation game, in fact, the rules explicitly prohibit any negotiation by the players (or they lose the turn). Res Publica is a light trading game from designer Reiner Knizia and he is mostly miss with me these days, so I wasn’t expecting anything good, but the game (kind of) surprised me.

The rules are surprisingly simple, you can explain them under 4 minutes. Playtime is fast, around 40 minutes.

The game box is too big for what comes inside (just a bunch of cards) and in an ironic turn of events, the game box is too small for the game rules, they come wrinkled due to this.

The art is ok, but nothing ground breaking.

The decisions needed to play the game are mostly obvious. The best part is when you offer or request something. A bit of memory is good to have so you can remember what other players want. I do like that each player only have one opportunity to offer or request something, that keeps the game moving at a fast pace.

Best with 4 players.

It seems that the player who first build a settlement have a huge advantage. In our game that player had 3 whole turns before any other player and he finally won the game so perhaps it has “runaway leader” issues. Luck of the draw is very high.

Bottom line, Res Publica is an odd trading game (it is NOT a negotiation game), but can be a good game with the right crowd. I find it too simple for my current tastes. I will sell it ASAP but I would play again if requested. I think the luck of the draw is too much and catching a runaway leader is almost impossible.

Current Rating: 4.5



Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant

2017-01-31

Initial Rating: 6.0 (January 2017)

Martin Wallace is one of my favorite game designers, so I always play his games. It took me a while to play Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant but I finally did it .

The rules of the game aren’t very complex. You can explain them under 16 minutes. Playtime is around 2 hours.

The art of the game is regular but in form with many great Wallace´s games so I had a high hopes for it. It is also very functional. Some of the tiles were damaged during the punching process. Components are regular in general.

The decisions are not obvious, but still, I was expecting something heavier from Wallace. In your turn you can buy airplanes, install airports, buy advantage tiles, get money or transport passengers but as I wrote before it isn’t that hard to play.

Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant has many mechanisms reminiscent of previous Wallace´s games.

Best with 4 players.

After all players have played their turn, the first player has to roll the die to see who will become the first player, so it is basically luck if you play first or not and I dislike this mechanism in an strategy game. Sometimes you need to be first to ship some passengers and you are never sure if you will be, to summarize, I heavily dislike the luck of the first player die because you cannot plan ahead. There is luck with other dice as well, but in that case you know the odds and you can mitigate the luck with money and/or advantage tiles so in that case, luck doesn’t bother me. The luck to the tiles doesn't bother me either, you can react to it.

Bottom line, I was expecting something heavier from designer Martin Wallace, still the game offers interesting decisions but they aren’t very hard. I hate the luck of the first player die, all other luck can be mitigated with clever play and/or money and advantage tiles. I think I will sell the game but I would play again if requested.

Current Rating: 6.0



Aeroplanes: PWS-24

2017-01-31

Initial Rating: 6.0 (January 2017)

The card Aeroplanes: PWS-24 is a cool expansion to have if you like the base game, but it isn’t a must. I don’t see that it adds anything new to the game, it is only another airplane to be bought.

I’m rating it the same I rated the base game.

Current Rating: 6.0



Jungle Speed: Silver

2017-01-31

Initial Rating: 4.0 (January 2017)

Jungle Speed: Dark is exactly the same game as Jungle Speed but much more smaller and portable. The cards are round and that’s a shame to me because I love to sleeve my cards. It comes with much fewer cards (40 instead of 80) so in our games duels weren’t very common.

The rules are extremely easy, you can teach them under 1 minute, playtime is under 8 minutes.

I think I like the original game better, but I have never been a fan of Jungle Speed.

Bottom line, Jungle Speed: Silver/Dark is an ok re implementation of the game, very portable but not for me. Duels aren’t as common as you would think and that’s the point of the game. I already sold it.

Current Rating: 4.0



Greed

2017-01-31

Initial Rating: 6.5 (January 2017)

I have had Greed among my games since late 2014! I bought it because it was a Donald X. Vaccarino game but my desire to play it was low because I haven’t heard much about it, thus, I thought the game was regular or bad. This month I had the opportunity to play it and I was pleasantly surprised.

The rules are easy to learn. You can teach it under 12 minutes and play it under 30 minutes.

The art is very cool, the game components are ok.

I like the theme, but one of the friends I played the game with said he wouldn’t buy the game due to the theme.

Greed is a drafting game and as such, it is better with 3 players. With that configuration luck plays a very minor role and you will get more of the cards back, so you can plan ahead. With more players the game´s luck and chaos increase a lot. The drafting itself is very interesting because you always have at least 3 cards in hand making it much more strategic than other games of its kind. The decision of which card to keep and which card to play isn’t obvious.

I really like that you don’t play with all the cards all the time, a Vaccarino signature and one I love. Due to this I think the game has lots of replayability. Expanding it would be easy but I think the game didn’t do very well as I don’t hear anything about it these days.

Bottom line, I like Greed. It can perhaps get an upgraded rating from me with more plays. For now I will keep it in my game collection and I want to play it again soon. Perhaps it is an underrated game, but for me, it is another Vaccarino hit. Good Stuff.

Current Rating: 6,5
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3. Board Game: The Oracle of Delphi [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:518]
James Moline
United States
Tampa
FL
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The Oracle of Delphi - No surprise that Stefan Feld's latest was my favorite new to me game this month. I don't normally enjoy race games, so I was a little nervous about this one (and I still don't think I'll like it as much with 2 players, but we'll see). I really enjoyed the evolution of the Castles of Burgundy dice mechanism for action selection. I like the different card types and what they add to the game quite a bit as well. Despite the fact that there's little variation in the goals from game to game, I think the cards and map layout will add a decent amount of replayability. The biggest knock on the game for me is the setup. Creating the map layout is pretty painful (it took three of us trying to figure out how to duplicate the tile configuration in the rulebook, and we never did get it quite right). That part aside, though, I really enjoyed the actual gameplay. Looking forward to playing it more.
Rating: 7.5

Nippon - Nippon is an interesting action selection game with a nice learning curve. I'm not good at it. I've lost both times I've played it, but I enjoyed it while I was losing, which says something good about the game. The way you pull workers down and how the different colors affect you when it comes time to pay them can be both interesting, and really frustrating. This is a game that I'm always trying to do everything in, and I think that's part of why I keep losing. We'll see, though, as I fully intend to play it more.
Rating: 7.5

 
Adrenaline - Adrenaline might be the new game from this month that is mostly likely to get played. It's the perfect combination of theme and playtime and player engagement for our weekly meetup group. I'm happy about that because I really enjoyed it quite a bit. The different weapon effects and the way that the reloading works is really interesting, and adds a nice wrinkle to what would just be a simple area majority game. The area majority scoring is pretty interesting, as well, and really factors into who you might attack on any given turn. The easy shot is definitely not always the best, and you may actually just be helping another player. All in all, this is a fun game, and I'm looking forward to more plays.
Rating: 7.5

Bruxelles 1893 - Any game that gets described by rahdo as "Feldian" is probably going to be a game I want to check out. It looks like Bruxelles 1893 was Etienne Espreman's first design, and boy did he nail it. There's so much to think about with every turn. Placing on the main board means selecting an action, but also considering area majority and a card auction. Placing elsewhere could cost you a worker, so must be well considered, too. I've only played this a couple of times, but I've enjoyed it very much. There's definitely a learning curve, but I don't feel like it's too steep at all. Worth checking out if you like medium weight, interactive Euros.
Rating: 7.5

DOOM: The Board Game - I love the original Doom board game, so I was very excited when Fantasy Flight announced this new version. It's pretty significantly different than the original game, but I think it might capture the feel of the video game a bit better. The original game gave the marines a little more control, and was a bit more strategic on that side, while simultaneously being much more difficult. I really like the card system, which I think they took from Gears of War. I also really like the combat system, which is super simple, but still very interesting. I miss the second action commands from the first game (guard, focus(?), etc), but they are also pretty unnecessary, because of the constant combat. I had a lot of fun playing this game, and I'm looking forward to playing it more. The first mission we played felt a little like the marines might be overpowered, but that could have been because of suboptimal play. I suspect that it will even out as we become more familiar with the systems.
Rating: 7.5

Ginkgopolis - Ginkgopolis has been on my radar for a very long time, and I finally broke down and learned it on boiteajeux.net this month. The rules are actually pretty simple, and it has some nice engine building elements to it. The tile laying presents an interesting area majority puzzle that can be frustrating if you aren't getting the right cards (but then, with the drafting, you can try to make sure your opponent doesn't get the right cards either). So far, I can't say I've enjoyed my plays enough to go to the trouble of ordering a copy from overseas, but if it continues to grow on me, that could still happen, especially if the expansion adds some interesting wrinkles.
Rating: 7

Masmorra: Dungeons of Arcadia - I've only played the Alliance mode of Masmorra, which I don't really think is how the game shines, so I won't say too much about it. The cooperative game is interesting, if a little fiddly (lots of easy to forget upkeep). We won, barely, and had a good time with it, but I think there are just better cooperative dungeon crawlers to play. It's pretty easy to see how the game will play with everyone out for themselves and sending monsters to mess with other players. I think that would be pretty enjoyable (if maybe still not something I'd want to buy). The components are really fantastic, and I love the miniatures.
Rating: No Rating

First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express! - After watching rahdo's run through of First Class, I came pretty close to just buying a copy without playing it. I've been trying to do that a little less, though, so I help off and actually got a chance to try it out this month. I really like the card drafting, and the different paths to points that there are in the game. I don't know if each of the paths is completely balanced, but the game is pretty fun regardless. THe different modules that you can shuffle into each play to change it up a bit provide and interesting variety. After our play I was reading about the Murder deck and it sounds like a fun twist, but I don't think it would be good for 2 players at all. We played with the passengers and contracts. I focused a bit more on contracts and found them to be pretty interesting. I don't think I'm going to rush to buy my own copy (especially at its current price), but I would like to play it more.
Rating: 7

Santorini - I've only played the basic game, no god cards, so take all of this with a grain of salt. I played a best of three series with a friend who owns the game. This is a beautiful production, but it is still a very abstract game. It may be sacrilege to some, but it very much gave me a similar feeling to Chess. What I really liked about it, though, is that it has the perfect time/thought ratio for me. I won't say I loved the game, but I would really like to play it with my wife (and with the god cards) to see what she thinks of it. Fast playing, thinky two player game is a hole in our collection that we've been feeling lately, and this game has potential. We'll see, though.
Rating: 7

Cubo - Cubo is a fun little light puzzle game. There's a real time element and then the arrangement of the dice to get the highest score. Both of those aspects feel a little like Dimension. You also need to be able to quickly evaluate a bunch of dice for potential scoring patterns, and that gets pretty tricky. Once someone else has settled on their roll, you're stuck with what you have, so you definitely want to roll quickly and be the first to settle so you'll be happy with the results. This is a fast filler, and I could see it getting a decent number of plays as a closer or in between meatier games.
Rating: 6.5

Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 - I'd honestly never heard of Days of Ire when my friend mentioned that his kickstarter had come in, but I found the idea of a 1 vs All historical game to be pretty interesting. The game is essentially a tug of war, with the Soviet player adding events and troops to the board, and the Revolutionary players trying to clear those events and troops with cards from their hands and Revolutionary fighters that can be activated on the board. The mechanics are simple enough, and it has multi-use cards which is pretty much always a good thing. I liked the game well enough, but I'm not sure tug of war games are really for me. I find it pretty irritating doing something, having my opponent undo it, rinse, repeat for pretty much the whole game. There were also several points where the luck of the draw pretty much meant that at least one of the revolutionary players could basically do almost nothing on their turn. Not a bad game, and I'd play it again, but I'm not going to be in a hurry to do so.
Rating: 6

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4. Board Game: Flowerpower [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2780]
David Fox
United Kingdom
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Nothing particularly stood out this month; I've started SeaFall, but that needs a full play-through before passing judgement. Flowerpoweris probably the first among equals, as it's the only one without drawbacks.

LIKED


Flowerpower - 2 Plays - Initial Rating 7

Flower-themed abstract in the Kosmos 2P line from 2001, which was always mentioned alongside Lost Cities as the perfect spouse game: it's taken a while for me to get a copy, but I can report after all that time, that it is, indeed, another great game to play with a non-gaming SO. The rules explanation takes 2-3 minutes and, while I played all strategic and "I'll build in the middle early to save my space" and "I'll block her with weeds" and "Getting a 10 will put me well clear on points", my wife happily scored her 3s and 6s and won by a point. There's actually some depth to this little game, strategy and tactics, too; and none of it daunting. Digging it.


Quantum - 5 Plays - Initial Rating 7

Dice manipulation game a la Alien Frontiers, but with a dudes-on-a-map feel to it rather than area control: humanoid races contesting a galactic sector to control planets by constructing Quantum cubes. If it were just a footrace to place the cubes, this would be fairly monotonous and mostly decided by who rolled most usefully at the beginning. However, you *must* interact, which means there is a lot of conflict, destroying of ships and occasional gnashing of teeth. One player got into a position he could barely do anything but fight; but another escaped from a terrible start to a quiet sector of the map and sneaked up on those that were now stopping each other from winning. Good mechanics.



Blood Bowl Team Manager - 1 Play - Initial Rating 7

Somewhat put off by the bloody-future-sport theme, I never really bothered looking into this: now - with FFG and Games Workshop all split up - I wish I had, as it'd most likely be an overly expensive purchase; which is a shame, because I could see this working really well with a couple of colleagues. I played a three player game which - once the obvious moves of ensuring the best return from the highlights games were done with - became more tactical with each card played. Reminded me of Baseball Highlights 2045 (a good thing); my only worry would be that the card plays were a bit obvious. Bloody good fun, otherwise.


Mechs vs Minions - 1 play - Initial Rating 7

Happy to see what all the fuss was about, and still really amazed by the quantity and quality of stuff you get for your comparatively-little money. Wouldn't make much difference if the game wasn't all that, but the game itself is fine: mechanically sound, Roborally-lite programming, with cool power-ups and thematic damage system. We played Scenario 2 with three novices and only lost to one measly Minion making it through to the school: we were, though, having enough of a good time to want to finish repairing the Inhibitor, which says a lot. The stand-out downside to me is that the game looks like it would become exceptionally repetitive: only four scenarios, and once the cards are 'unlocked', where would the incentive be to continue? Interesting to see if Riot support their product. Good mechs.


Burke's Gambit - 5 Plays - Initial Rating 6.5

Hearing that this hidden-role game (with two discrete pieces of hidden information) played well at 4/6/8 players, I thought of how I much prefer Secret Hitler at 7/9 players, and hoped this would slot in nicely. We played five games off the bat, probably too many, and had two new players for the last two plays. The first two games (8 players, Blue victories) were what the game should be: deception, trust issues, where's the Parasite? Oh no, they moved the Parasite!? Can we figure it out before we get to Earth? and so on, and they engendered much mirth and engagement around the table. The third and fourth games (8/7 players) fell flat as a pancake, with Engine rolls ending the game before some players got a second turn: these were obvious Red wins. The fifth game (7 players) was back to where it should be, although we ended with a single Red rolling forlornly as all hope had gone. I liked it, but it's more BANG! The Space Game than a rival to Secret Hitler.

NOT SO MUCH


Ice Flow - 1 Play - Initial Rating 5.5

Small form factor tile game which was fine, although we found a misplayed rule toward the end which may have made a difference. Sticking with the pack is a must, otherwise you'll drift off out of the game. Ice enough.
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5. Board Game: Poseidon's Kingdom [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:2178]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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== NEW GAMES ==


Poseidon's Kingdom - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2011
It took a couple plays for this one to totally click with us, but it has been a lot of fun in those 2 plays. The components are the obviously interesting part of the game, but there's some decent strategy to it as well. It is fun, and has some tense moments with that shark and even some surprises in the end game with the coral. It's one of those games that I want to keep bringing back to the table until the rules have completely sunk in with the family and we can play a game in less than an hour. The only problem with the rules is just the amount of them. No single piece of the game is all that complex, but it has enough different layers that it is probably a little more than just a gateway game. But I think it's completely worth the time investment to get non-gamers over the hump with this one because it has a lot of enjoyable qualities.



Rolling America - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2015
We picked this up because it looked like a decent follow-up to Qwixx (which is a favorite of ours.) The game is simply built around the idea of filling in the states with numbers that are, at most, 1 away from any neighboring state. I found the strategy hard, and thinking ahead is tough. As a result of this, the length of time for each turn might be a bit longer than some people will like, because everyone will be puzzling out what is the best move for them at any given moment. I liked having the option of the 3 different cheats, and it is challenging to know when to burn those. My one big complaint would be that the maps are kind of small so it gets tough to write in those little boxes. If we enjoy this one more with additional plays, then I might just have to blow up the maps a little and do some lamination & dry erase additions.



Aquarius - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 1998
The best of Looney Labs games tend to be be the ones that can end in a matter of seconds, but rarely ever last more than a few minutes. Aquarius is one of those games. It does have a bit of that Fluxx-style chaos, but it feels like there is just a bit more control in this one. It's not a game that we'll be playing regularly, but it is a filler that I feel like I could take with us anywhere and teach to new people in seconds. I love the fact that one person can be winning by a large margin, but by the playing of one good action card, someone else can steal away all their progress in a matter of moments.
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6. Board Game: Railroad Revolution [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:730]
Joerg Schaefer
Germany
Frankfurt
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Mostly solid new games though nothing outstanding. A difficult decision this month which game to list. Any of my 7's could have been chosen as I'm unsure how my enjoyment of them might change on repeat plays with regard to their potential weaknesses: Railroad Revolution's strategy balance, Signorie's design flaws, Hellas' limited scope, Ulm's replay value, Tongiaki's overwhelming chaos, Freedom's susceptibility to alpha players. Railroad Revolution made it in the hope that fears of a dominant strategy prove untrue.

I've already managed to play all my 'must-play' Essen releases from last year. Up on my list now are less prominent releases that hopefully show up some time in my gaming circles: Solarius Mission, Habitats, Dokmus.

GAME OF THE MONTH

Railroad Revolution: d10-7 (1 play)

Strategically straightforward with minimal player interaction. The three multiplier tracks (west coast city connections / stations / telegraphs) define the three basic strategies and give players focus. At the same time, the requirements of the orders are a constant deviation making things interesting. Variation comes from the distribution of the city bonus tiles and the order of the trade offers. Timing the trades that other players cannot participate and being first to a spot to gain the first player advantage are the only interactive elements.

Railroad Revolution is the WYG title for players who like to build long-term plans. Hopefully, no strategy is overpowered. My gut feeling is that pushing out telegraphs is a must but another player opined that the west coast connections are very strong. So far a good sign that indicates that there might be some beef in controlling game length.


GOOD GAMES

Ulm: d10-7 (1 play)

At the heart of Ulm is the original action selection matrix. Players draw one action tile from a bag and slide it into a 3x3 matrix of other action tiles. Then, the three actions (out of five different ones available) can be executed. Players move down the river, put their seals on buildings, purchase and play special cards and earn money and tiles to pay for these actions. Be prepared that players will take their time to decide on the wanted actions, their order and their individual execution. Luck plays a role in drawing the cards and can decide the game if a player going for the set collection cards doesn't draw the necessary third one to score relevant points.

The theme is generically medieval, the artwork is immediately recognizable as Menzel. Ulm is as euro as gaming gets, mostly tactical, an AP trap extraordinaire when players try to solve the action selection puzzle. In short, a solid game. The heaviest Burkhardt game so far.


Hellas: d10-7 (1 play)

Players have three rounds to build cities and connect them to temples and monuments to score points. Building columns for the temples brings additional points and introduces a small majority competition. A steady supply of marble has to be maintained. The central element is the selection of an action. Some can be executed by other players as well, others are exclusive.

Old-fashioned, abstract, lean, short. Variation comes from the player interaction which can be mean. It's a good game but I doubt that there's a buying public out there making it worthwile for the publisher. No special powers, no cards, no drafting, no combos. Hellas feels more like a light alternative to Tigris & Euphrates. I'm surprised that a title with such a strong pre-2000 vibe can get published in 2016. While modern games offer a plentitude of mechanisms and random elements for exploration, Hellas offers a simple framework within which the players interact.


Signorie: d10-7 (1 play)

The WYG title that flew under everyone's radar. A few critical voices in the forum kept me from seeking it out. Unjustified, as it turned out. While not groundbreaking, it's a solid game on par with other more popular titles. Though mechanically not as sound and replayable as e.g. Nippon, my personal enjoyment was a bit higher.

Initially, the game requires building up the engine by improving the five action areas with permanent benefits. Choosing the benefits and finding the balance between continued engine building and using the main actions of each area is nontrivial. The strategic aspect is complemented by the tactical puzzle of choosing and attributing the action dice each round.

With repeat plays, the luck of the crest tile distribution could prove to be annoying. Some of the tiles are stuck in the display, being of use to no one or a single player who can choose to keep them for the last round, reducing opponents' choices. The action tiles constitute another weak spot. Until the last rounds, they rarely will be chosen except for the one tile raising the allowed pip count. Except for this action, they are too expensive to be a strong choice. Having to use one of them is a notable efficiency disadvantage.

The tactical challenge of selecting the dice is the reason why I would probably choose Signorie instead of most other WYG titles notwithstanding its mechanical weaknesses.


Tongiaki: Journey into the Unknown: d10-7 (2 plays)

A nice surprise. I wasn't expecting much from Tongiaki with its mediocre rating and reputation for being an odd mix of abstraction and chaos. We actually played it twice in a row. Clever and mean moves are possible with the growth action. Discovering the new tiles is a fun push-your-luck element. Watching the landscape grow combined with the ebb and flow of the ships gives a satisfying sense of development. A pleasant light game one step beyond a filler game.


Freedom: The Underground Railroad: d10-7 (1 play)

Logistics puzzle with an unusual theme. Managing the economy of the underground railroad is an important prerequisite to enable movements and advance toward the victory condition to free enough slaves.

For a game with such a strong theme and a deck of cards with historical events the gameplay is astonishingly dry. Cooperation among the players is far less relevant than in the best cooperative games as no player has an individual position. Still nice to play with more than one player to discuss strategy but gameplay doesn't change much. The game is prone to alpha gamers dominating the group's decisions. A good game with equal players. Interested to see how it works as a solitaire game.


OK GAMES

Karuba: d10-6 (1 play)

Thematic bingo variant. Take It Easy in the jungle. Players have to run their adventurers to temples before others arrive and collect silver and gold on the way.

Pleasant family game but I don't like the element of peaking at other players' tableaus if they place a tile or move an adventurer. My go-to bingo fix remains Augustus.


JamSumo: d10-6 (1 play)

Another decent flicking game I'll happily play again but won't miss as there's nothing outstanding and I don't find it particularly attractive. I rank it above Ice Cool but below Carabande, Carrom or Ascending Empires. Counting the pips on the dice introduces an uncontrollable luck factor while giving the scoring a necessary finer granularity.


AVERAGE GAMES

Adrenaline: d10-5 (1 play)
 

Adrenaline is an unusual area majority game with areas being moving targets. The shooter theme works but unluckily, the game beneath the original theme is average.

Gameplay is exclusively tactical which isn't bad in itself. The problem is a lack of distinction. The common turn has a player grabbing some ammo, shoot and reload. Sometimes, grabbing and reloading is replaced by getting a new weapon. Pulling off a clever move doesn't help much. In the end, the scores will be close. Getting a fitting power-up card or matching ammo cube replacements in front of you can be as decisive as own decisions.

Worth a play for curiosity but no hidden depths to discover. Thematic gamers will be put off by the abstract scoring.
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7. Board Game: Camel Up [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:419]
Eddy Richards
Scotland
Allanton
Duns
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Some friends introduced our family to this amusing betting/racing game. Good fun, if seemingly extremely random with the number of players we had!

Also new to me, and both quite good:

Himmel und Hölle (a print and play abstract using dice as pieces)

The Agents
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8. Board Game: Viticulture Essential Edition [Average Rating:8.14 Overall Rank:19]
Jason Ober
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
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Not a ton of new plays in January, but everything I played I enjoyed, so that's a good sign for 2017!

GREAT

Viticulture Essential Edition takes the top place for me this month. We played a 5 player game and it played really smoothly. I really like the race to VP instead of an arbitrary number of rounds with a high score winning. Having the worker placement divided into 2 phases was also pretty interesting.

GOOD

Pandemic: Iberia we played twice and won twice, both times on the very last turn. Laying rails is key, as is using researched diseases cards to put down the distilled water tokens. Nail biter both times on easy!

Sushi Go Party! is more variety to Sushi Go!, which I think will give it some legs. It has the dumbest insert design ever though, and it took me a while to figure out it wasn't clever, but dumb. Card drafting in its simplest form.
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9. Board Game: King of Tokyo [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:262]
Jim Jamieson
United States
Purcellville
Virginia
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== NEW GAMES ==

King of Tokyo - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2011


A classic game that turns Yahtzee into an actual game. Roll dice, gain special abilities, and fight each other until either players are eliminated or someone gets 20 victory points. Easy to teach and quick to play, the perfect family filler.

Parade - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2007


Love the unique theme on this one and the art is great. You simply draw a card and then take cards based on the number or color played. Of course because it's Wonderland you don't want points so getting cards is bad. The catch is if you have the most of 1 of the 6 colors you simply count the number of cards instead of the point value on the cards at the end of the game. Sometimes it makes sense to take a bunch of cards if they will give you the majority in that color and reduce your score. Good stuff!

Tales & Games: The Hare & the Tortoise - 4 plays -  8 
First Published 2011


What a great betting game it plays fast and is very easy to teach as you simply play cards to move the animals through the course. Each animal moves differently, and with a limit of 8 cards in total or 4 of 1 animal there is a lot of different ways to play cards so that certain animals either move a lot or don't move at all. Points are awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place and you can total points over multiple races with each race only taking 10 minutes typically. The only downside I can find is you only bet at the beginning of a race so you can go most of the game and get very few cards for the animals you want to win making it hard to feel like you have much control. That betting approach makes it tough and probably a little less enjoyable than Camel Up, but the game is just simply fun.

Jump Drive - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2017


A streamlined Race for the Galaxy for sure with the difference of first to 50 points wins. They aren't kidding when they say this game is over in 6-7 rounds on average. Our first game was 8 rounds and in the last round I had 24 points and still lost. It distills RftG into playing development and world (regular and military) cards, using the card powers, and gaining victory points and more cards at the end of each turn. It's pretty multi-player solitaire but it does have some cards that allow you to gain points and cards from your opponent if played so there is interaction in that regard. The only downside for me is the use of chits for keeping score. This game screams scoreboard to me as otherwise you're counting round points and income each turn plus total points as well towards the end. It's an easy fix that can be made at home, but the VP chit decision is mind boggling to me.

Villages of Valeria - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2016


Build a village and recruit people to it all in a race to 12 cards. On your turn you take 1 of 5 actions, not taking the 1 last chosen, and then everyone else has the option to follow at either a slightly higher cost or less beneficial to you. I always enjoy this in a game because it keeps people involved every turn and really keeps the game moving along quickly. I played with 2 and it seemed a bit like we were just alternating the same actions towards the end either build or recruit. One downside is the coins for gold are so incredibly small, they easily could have been a little bigger. Overall a good game, just not wowed by it.

Kanagawa - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2016


A decent card game that feels a lot like Abyss to me in terms of pressing your luck to get cards to build out your tableau. However, the tableau in this one isn't very interesting: new paint colors, first player, and more brushes is about it.The lords in Abyss to me make the game by giving you special powers while the diplomas just give you points and in some cases are difficult to remember when you can take one.

While Abyss is a much bigger box it's about the same weight, same playtime, has much better art, and it's less fiddly so I'd almost always rather reach for that instead.

Dominion - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2008


As smooth a deckbuilder as you can have with plenty of cards not just in the base but with the almost the dozen expansions out now give you plenty of opportunities to try out new and different cards each time. The attack cards bring some interaction to the game, but in some ways slow the game down a bit as you may have to wait for your opponent to finish shuffling before completing the action. If I didn't have Legendary I'd consider this, but now with the second edition maybe it's worth it still.

Herbaceous - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2017


A decent game of collecting herbs to put into pots. The pots can only be used once so there is a bit of push your luck to determine when to pot as the player before you could take the cards you want but that decision feels a bit bland. This game also copies the Biblios rule of drawing 1 card at a time and having to make a decision on where to put it from 2 possible options so looking at that first card is always tough. I worry there are not as many decisions as in Biblios, but still might be worth picking up for games with the wife.

First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2016


A nice card drafting game that like Russian Railroads sees scores jump incredibly in the later rounds as you are able to combo everything together. Moving your train to get bonus actions every other round seems incredibly important and that can drive your conductors and your trains further along. Everything just works so well together and even with just the base A/B modules the game is a lot of fun. I'm interested to try more modules to see how they change the game up. Overall while this game may not receive the same overall acclaim as Russian Railroads it does play quicker and is a bit lighter which for me makes it the better choice.

King Chocolate - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2015


A decent game of setting up production chains to make chocolate but the idea is so abstract that the theme could really be about anything. The rules are simple but offer a lot of tough decisions as you play in order to make the most out of your turn. Since you only have 4 workers you can place on the board and there are 6 steps in the chain you are forced to help your opponent by making moves that will help them but must provide a better benefit to you. This is definitely more a gamers game due to the abstract nature of gameplay and for my taste lasts a little too long for what it is. I would play it again, but not one I would suggest.

Mystic Vale - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2016


I was somewhat surprised by this game and the unique card crafting system. It worked pretty well and I did okay for my first play, and see where I could do better if I played again. The challenge is finding the right cards to combo together to get you the most out of each card when played. For me this game is just completely dry and lacking theme. You're primarily counting symbols to buy stronger cards on later turns and turn those into victory points. In a way it felt somewhat similar to Splendor in that regard and I'm interested to see where this game system goes but it needs a bit more for me to enjoy it.

Happy Salmon - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2016


I'm not sure why I find this fun but I do. It's more activity than game, but it always results in a lot of laughs when we start game night. Try to get rid of your 12 cards by matching the action of another player and then performing it. Quick fun to start or end a game night.

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2012


A silly game of building a hand of 3 cards that try to kill your fellow wizards. The game is over the top as the cards are overpowered and requires a little personality injected by the players to make the game fun. Typically it only takes 3 rounds for a game to end and first to win 3 games is declared the overall winner. I'd play with the right group but not one I'd ever own.
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10. Board Game: Wind the Film! [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:3354]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I got to play a happy 14 new-to-me games during January, including one - Wind the Film! - which I really enjoyed, and plan to pick up. It's taken 20 years, but finally there's another game to do something really interesting with Bohnanza's "don't sort your hand" mechanism.

Sly Knight Robbery was quite good as well, and I may well pick up a copy. It's a simple, short game (which also describes Wind the Film!), but without quite as clever/unique/original a feel to it, and a theme that doesn't capture my interest quite as much.

Many of the games I played fall into the "happy to play again, don't need to own" bucket. 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis was rather good, but not quite at a level I really want to push to explore it further. Amphipolis is a bit bland, but with a standard Knizia clean approach. Kanagawa was better than I heard - quite pleasant, if not quite compelling for me. Okey Dokey is a nice little cooperative game, likely of more interest to those who find coops more compelling generally than I do. Rhodes wasn't bad, and worked, but there seem to be a few too few choices. I'd been interested in Run for over a decade, and was thrilled to try it; I'd be very happy to play it more, but being a two player abstract I can now lower my search to a "watch for it" level. The Pyramid's Deadline and Via Nebula were both perfectly acceptable games, but not ones I'll remember two years from now.

Castle Crush!, Clockwork Empire, Heat Up Live!, and Tataraba and Forest weren't for me.
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11. Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 [Average Rating:8.64 Overall Rank:2]
Kirk Groeneweg
United States
Clear Lake
Iowa
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I was able to play 5 new to me games in January and I thought they were all good.

Best New Game:


My wife, daughter, and I had a fantastic time playing thru Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. There's nothing new I can say about the game. I can however say we had a great time living and dying throughout each month of this game. Win or lose, we talked it over picked out what we should try next and just enjoyed every minute of this game.

Other good ones:


I received Seeland as a gift from my in-laws. I was very excited to get this, I've had my eye on it for quite some time. I was really intrigued with the developing of the land and the scoring of the windmills. I must say I was not disappointed. Trying to be strategic in the placement of the windmills, not using all your money so you can limit what you opponent(s) can do, and deciding when to claim and windmill all add up to a fun time. Glad to have this one.


I received T.I.M.E Stories from my BGG Secret Santa. I had a couple buddies over to play this in one sitting. We had a great time trying to figure out the puzzle and get to the end. They are both interested when I get any expansions for this.


Just this week I finally tried out my thrift store find of Bandu. I keep forgetting about this one hiding in the corner. I thought it would be fun for my parents and daughter to play. I was right. I found quickly this game can be kinda brutal! Don't get caught with no money so you can't refuse and item! I can see this coming out on a Thursday Game night.


My daughter got Suspicion for Christmas. I wasn't sure what to think the first time I played it. I wondered if it was just too simple to figure out who all the other players were. BUT, after playing it a couple times it's gotten more strategic. People are a lot more careful where they put the pieces when they move them and what gems they take. It's actually growing on me. For a mass market game it's quite decent.
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12. Board Game: The Colonists [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:366]
United States
Davis
California
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The Colonists

(Image credit: Me! Sorry about the glare. I couldn't find a picture in the gallery that really showed the sprawl of the game.)

Grand scale resource management and development game with a very interesting spatial action selection system.

In some ways, the Colonists is a pretty conventional resource development euro. You perform actions to acquire resources of different types, convert basic resources into more advanced resources, sell resources for VP, acquire "development" cards that provide one-time or ongoing bonuses, build buildings that give you permanent resource production or special abilities, and feed your workers.

But there are two things that separate the game from the rest of that crowded field:

First, the game is long. A full games proceeds through four different eras (each with its own set of tiles and cards). An era takes a couple of hours to play (with two), so a full game would take my wife and I about 8 hours to complete. That's a long time for thinky heads-down euro-optimizing. I can't even imagine trying a full game with more than two, or with slowpokes. I don't have that kind of stamina.

Fortunately, you can choose to play fewer than all four eras. You can also choose which era to start with, giving you an easy opportunity to sample what each era has to offer. The game also has rules for "saving" a game in at the end of an era and returning to it later. We didn't try that, so I don't know how well it would work.


Second, the game's built on a novel action selection mechanism. The board for the game is made up of hexes, each offering a different action (e.g., the forest lets you collect wood). Every turn, each player gets to perform 3 actions. This is done by moving your dobber around on the hex map. You must perform the action for any hex you stop in. If you can't do it, you can't stop there.

This creates a very interesting spatial puzzle, as you need to figure out how to move around to the actions that you need in order to achieve your strategy. The sequencing and timing constraints are excellent!

That puzzle is made even more interesting by three important wrinkles. First, there are a small number of "market" hexes distributed around the map. Rather than walking your dobber from hex to hex, you can always choose to jump to any market. This gives you some welcome flexibility, especially as the map grows. Second, the map grows! At the end of each year, the start player has a small number of hexes to add around the edges of the map. The decision of where to put each hex presents an important strategic choice, as you're literally building the decision space that you and your opponents will navigate. There are lots of opportunities to build the terrain in a way that favors you and screws the others. Ha ha. Finally, you can gradually acquire powers that let you move more efficiently. These include an increased movement range that allows you to move further before stopping (skipping over spaces you don't need or want to activate) and the ability to add additional dobbers to the map, allowing you to have presence in more than one part of the board.

Overall, the game is very good. The mechanical design is solid and clean. The graphic design is clear and attractive. I love the tactical play. My only concern is that some of the strategic choices (especially in the early game) might be a bit scripted. But that may just be group-think or inexperience talking.

The Colonists will not appeal to most gamers, but if you enjoy long, dry, and thinky games, this one's quite good.


Tramways

(Image credit: Oblivion)

Tight, card-driven network builder, with huge variability.

This is a pick-up and deliver train game, built around a card-driven-action deck-building system.

Every turn begins with a painful auction, which determines turn order and lets the players (in turn order) choose from among an available set of cards to add to their hands.

Then the players use their hands of cards to perform a series of actions, in turn order.

Actions must be paid for by discarding cards from your hand that show the necessary action icons. For example, if I want to build three pieces of tramway track, I need to discard cards with three track icons on them. You can use more than one icon from a single card, but each icon used after the first causes you "stress," (which causes VP penalties at game-end).

After the players perform their actions, there's an "administration" phase, when players can discard cards that show administration icons to receive modest benefits. Players refill their hands, do a bit of housekeeping on the board, and it's time for the next turn.

So, what kinds of actions can you perform?

(1) Build track. This connects parcels and buildings. It's worth end game VP and provides the infrastructure you'll need to move passengers. Each time you build track, you need to exhaust one of your two rail workers.

(2) Upgrade track. This provides immediate VP and increases the payment you'll receive when that track is used to move passengers.

(3) Build a building on one of your owned parcels. Importantly, buildings come with a passenger, waiting to be transported.

(4) Upgrade a building. This produces immediate VP.

(5) Move a passenger. This requires that you play a "ticket" icon and an action icon showing the passenger's destination. An available passenger is then moved over any non-repeating series of player track to the specified destination (and is then removed from the board).

Each player whose track is used gets VP and money for that use. If the active player uses her own track, she gets paid by the bank. But if the active player uses another player's track, she must pay that player for the privilege.

If the passenger's destination is a building, the active player gets a benefit associated with the building's type (commercial, residential, industrial, and entertainment). Commercial gives the player a new card or money, but adds one stress. Residential reduces stress by one step. Industry adds a stress but allows you to refresh one of your exhausted rail workers. Entertainment gives you an opportunity to buy VP for money.

The game is short and tight, with a very interesting set of spatial and hand-management constraints that leave you feeling like you're always a little short of where you need to be -- a good kind of frustration.

And I love the modular board. The map is constructed differently each game, out of a combination of 12 different rectangular map tiles (each with two different sides). The impact of this variability is enormous, as the maps can have major differences in the available parcels, existing buildings, and impassable or expensive terrain. My two plays felt and played out very differently.

A very good game.


Railroad Revolution

(Image credit: Malibu_Babe_28)

Solid medium-weight point salad.

My first play of this, with four, was destroyed by slow play. It ran over two hours, with most of that being downtime (there's very little player interaction).

I played it again with only two, and enjoyed it well enough. At that count, downtime was reasonable and it was possible to enjoy the decision making.

Thematically, you're building 19th Century rail connections to cities, expanding West across America. You're also building stations in those cities, and Western Union Telegraph offices (which occupy an abstracted linear space).

The most interesting thing about the game is the worker action system. You start with a few generic workers and one specialist (which come in four different flavors -- which you can acquire as the game progresses). Any worker can perform any action, but the specialists give you unique bonuses, which are different for each action. That gives you a lot to think about. Which action should I perform on my turn, and using which worker?

This is a solid 7. I'd be glad to play it again (but never with slowpokes).


Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails

(Image credit: henk.rolleman)

A beefed up TTR variant.

I like TTR as a light-medium route builder, and have enjoyed playing some of the more complicated variants (and am looking forward to trying the rest).

Rails and Sails takes the basic game engine and adds another layer. There are now ships (and ship cards) which must be used to complete water routes. You need to manage both types of cards and tokens to get your ticket cards completed.

This is a nice extension of the system, but I'm not sure that it's worth the hefty price tag. I would have preferred that it be released as an expansion box, with just the additional required components, rather than as a stand-alone game.


The Oracle of Delphi

(Image credit: Gonzaga)

Dice allocation to race around Mythological Greek islands.

This is a medium-light move around and do a bunch of stuff game, with victory going to the player who gets all the required stuff done the fastest.

The stuff includes two flavors of pick-up-and-delivery, exploration, and fighting monsters!

Before your turn, you roll a number of dice, with each face showing a different colored icon. You place the dice in the matching spaces on a color-wheel on your player board.

When you perform an action you must spend a die showing the proper color. Importantly, you can spend tokens to move the die clockwise around the wheel, changing its color to the one that you need.

There are loads of special power bits and bobs available, which are fun to acquire and use. There's also a Feldian threat management system (players gradually accumulate "injuries" which can cause skipped turns if not addressed).

I thought it was decent, as a light-medium romp that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Be warned, I think there's a high risk of AP players grinding things to a crawl. There are many options available every turn, which can be combined to create a compound set of possible actions. Players who insist on maximizing every turn are likely to kill the fun.


Honshū

(Image credit: msaari)

Pleasant enough.

You're dealt a hand of cards. Each has a unique numeral and a grid of six squares showing different features. In turn order, every player plays a card to the center of the table. Turn order is then reset, based on the numbers played (highest to lowest). In that new order, players choose one of the played cards and add it to their growing map. Cards must be placed so as to overlap one of your previously played cards.

At game end, the features showing score VP based on rules specific to each type of feature.

It plays cleanly and is fairly pleasant. I don't really feel any urge to play it again, but I would if others really wanted to.


Above and Below

(Image credit: Paedra)

Euro mechanisms meets choose-your-own-adventure.

Manage workers and currencies to acquire more workers, currency, buildings that provide bonuses or VP, sets of resources, and ... go adventuring in an underground world.

The first part is pretty standard euro fare. The second part is ... not. It's a paragraph-driven adventuring system, where you draw a card that directs you to a narrative paragraph, which is then read aloud. It usually offers more than one option on how to respond, with varying degrees of difficulty for success. Bringing along extra people (or more-capable adventurers) lets you achieve the more difficult challenges. What's your reward? You won't find out until you try.

I enjoyed my one play well enough (I won, which always helps). But the degree of chance in the adventuring system left me dissatisfied. I won because I lucked out in my adventuring, consistently getting rewards that boosted my score. Others had worse luck. They lost.

I'm glad to have played it, but probably won't play again.


Haspelknecht
 

(Image credit: William Hunt)

Disappointing.

I really wanted to like this game.

I love mining as a theme, but I've yet to find many mining games that really satisfy me (Tinners' Trail and Magnum Sal are pretty good, and I've got my eye on Coal Baron: The Great Card Game).

I had hoped that Haspelknecht might do it. The game has an interestingly obscure theme (farmers digging up near-surface deposits in the earliest days of coal as a resource), a pretty solid extraction mechanism that includes wastewater management and wooden bracing, and a branching tech tree, that allows players to acquire special powers over the course of the game.

Sounds great! So what went wrong?

The system used to determine what actions you can perform on your turn has a heavy dose of luck in it. On any given turn, you might wind up with good choices or bad, with very little that you can do about it. That was frustrating (in a bad way).

I imagine that fans of the game will argue that the turn order mechanism provides a way to mitigate the luck -- if you don't want to get hosed by a bad draw, grab an early position in turn order.

I see that intention in the design, but it just didn't work for us, at least with two-players. Maybe with more players there would be more room for that kind of maneuvering, and the consequences of being on the short end would be less zero-sum. But I'm not interested enough in playing again to find out.
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13. Board Game: Santorini [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:101]
Joe Wyka
United States
Walnut Creek
California
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Wrote a quick note here from work, but an observation. 5 of my top 20 new-to-me games last year were re-implementations. The trend is continuing here in January with my top game yet another great re-implementation. I wonder if this will continue to be a trend in 2017. I don't really mind, because these are great games, but it is interesting. In order of preference...



Santorini - 9
Much like how Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization improved so much on the original, which itself was still an excellent title, this new version of Santorini accomplishes the same feat. With more variety in the cards and incredible beauty, this version is a new jewel in my collection.

I owned and occasionally enjoyed the old version for years, which I had rated an "8". Santorini is a very tactical abstract where players control two pawns, and each turn chooses one to move and build. The first player to have a pawn ascend to the top of a three level tower, before the other player can cap it, wins. The game is about maneuvering your pawns and building in such a way as to block the other player so they cannot prevent you from a winning move.

The base game is quite engaging, but I would describe it as more crafty than deep or strategic. The game comes with optional cards that give each player a unique ability, exponentially increasing the replayability. Every different pair of cards used in a given game creates an entirely different experience. The new production with plastic towers infuses a fundamentally themeless game with lots of character. As i was getting to know the new version, my wife glanced over at my towers and said, "What's that game called? Santorini?" Why yes, in fact, that is exactly it! That's a well-produced game when someone can simply look at the board and accurately guess the game's title!

When my 9-year-old daughter learned this game, she didn't want to stop playing. My wife is both enamored and challenged by it. Truly a game that appeals to just about everyone who doesn't absolutely hate abstracts. I liked my wooden version for its white-washed, sterile charm, but it was hard to get people excited to play. I score this a "9" right now, but it is a high 9 and might end up a rare 10 before the year is out. I want to play with the cards more to see how they balance out before granting a 10. Either way, I can't see this ever leaving my collection.




Homesteaders - 8
An engaging, straightforward auction and resource engine building game. I have a minor concern with replayability, but there's a number of plays here before that becomes a factor.

Homesteaders has players building a town, acquiring buildings over 10 auction rounds. Once you earn the right to build a building through the auction, you still have the pay the building cost in resources to add it to your tableau. Income is generated by your buildings, either automatically or when a cowboy is placed on them, and usually comes in a mix of resources, cash and trade chips. Throughout the game you can buy and sell just about anything to get the right mix of money and resources you need to build or to buy more cowboys so you can generate additional income through your buildings. You can acquire points throughout the game by selling resources or through some buildings as income. At the end of the game, buildings give points and you get points for your more valuable resources.

What makes Homesteaders different? There is one form of currency I have never seen in another game that gives this one a cool wrinkle: the very ability to buy, sell, and trade is actually a currency in the form of a "trade chip". Even though they have no monetary or resource value, they become the grease to your economic engine and the less of them you earn the more limited your options will be. The game has a very simple and appealing rule set. There is a wide variety of resources that can be bought/sold/traded creating numerous paths to accomplish things. My one concern with replay-ability is that the same buildings become available in the same stages of every game. While the variety of buildings is adequate, it isn't huge and all buildings are in play every game. In spite of that, this game holds that tenuous place of being appealing to both light and heavier gamers for its combination of simple and appealing game play with a fairly challenging economy. The 1st edition had lots of component issues, but my 2nd edition is pretty nice.




Fuji Flush - 7
Addictive filler card game that is destined to be one of the perennials, in the same category as No Thanks! and 6 nimmt!.

It's a simple game. Cards are numbered from 2-20. As the numbers get higher the distribution gets smaller. Players are dealt a hand of 5 or 6 cards and the object is to get rid of your cards. Each turn you play one card. Any players to your right who have played a smaller number must discard and redraw. If you are able to keep your played card in front of you until your next turn, you discard and don't redraw and that's how you get rid of them. The twist is that all of the like numbers add their values together for all of the players. So if three players have all played a "2", then those players each have a value of "6". If someone plays a "5", none of them need to discard. But if someone plays a "7", all of them discard and draw. So we have a game of constant short-lived alliances in the hopes that your low-value cards can actually be removed rather than cycled.

Yes, there is a lot of luck. It is a filler game after all. But the fun of trying to keep your cards alive for a round and jawing with the others to join you rather than beat you makes this super-casual and fun. If you keep a collection of these types of filler card games on hand, you really should add this one to it. Good stuff from the FF!




Via Nebula - 7
Has Wallace finally figured out how to make a decent family game? Maybe it's a fluke, but this one is really very much okay. It's positively fine, to say the least!

Most of Wallace's attempts at making lighter games turn out like The Witches: A Discworld Game, a game you'll find further down on this list. Uneven, overly complicated with no payoff, these are usually the trademarks of his attempts. Via Nebula, however, is mechanically straight-forward with the right amount of think for the audience and is well-produced. This game was better than I expected.

The game is set up like a reverse rail game, where you build connections by clearing out fog and forest and only delivering resources over completely empty tiles. Potential resource pools are distributed randomly and each player has two craftsmen they can use to open up a resource pool. Once opened, you cannot take your craftsman back until it is emptied. Not only do you need to clear fog and forests, you can't deliver over resource pools, building sites, or any tile with anything on it whatsoever. So the most challenging aspect of the game is not so much clearing the fog, but using resources in a way that they don't sit around blocking delivery of other resources. It's a bit of a puzzle and a pleasant one. The resources to build a building are determined by the contract card chosen, either from the display or the two private contracts you start with. You don't need to choose until you are ready to build, so the contract you are targeting can remain flexible until you build. If you have extra resources on your building site after building, those go to "storage" and count against you at the end of the game. You get points for buildings, opening resource pools, clearing fog and forest, and for building all five of your buildings first, which also triggers the end of the game.

I like it! It's a good intro to connection-building games that is not too long and has enough going on to interest the veteran gamers. Replayability comes in the randomized placement of resource pools, which is adequate, but ultimately this is likely a game with a limited shelf-life. The after-work, not-so-heavy gamers I played this with said they liked it more than Ticket to Ride, so that's something.




Locomotive Werks - 6
A game that feels like it should be an economic super-filler, but lasts 2 hours. I'd up this a point if it was designed to be half as long.

In many ways, this game feels like a simpler antecedent to Martin Wallace's excellent Automobile. The board is ringed with locomotives of increasing advancement. Each round, players can develop a new or existing locomotive, adjust their production capacity on their factories, sell to existing orders, pay taxes, and adjust demand, driving older locomotives into obsolescence. This continues until one player has 300 cash after paying taxes. Then the game immediately ends and the most money wins.

The "engine" of the game, so to speak, is the creative use of dice to simulate the size of the customer base and their level of demand. Each locomotive, when developed, starts with one die that indicates the initial orders to be filled. When demand is satisfied, the dice become the "customer base" that are then re-rolled to determine the number of loco orders for the next turn. A die is added each turn for the newest loco of each type (up to the defined limit) and a die is removed if there is a newer model in existence, which does a great job of simulating increasing demand for the new and the slow decline of demand for the old. Each turn, a player can only satisfy the demand value of one die per locomotive they produce during a selling round. If other players cannot satisfy the remaining demand, then the selling player has a chance to continue selling if they have more locomotives to sell. Locos older than two levels of advancement become obsolete, even if demand still exists.

So basically the game is a technological and economic race to 300. It's a fun game that invites real decisions around how quick to upgrade engines and how to upgrade capacity in a way that does not outpace nor fall behind the current demand levels. Turn order is an important factor in the decision. Turn order is also an effective catch-up mechanic (if you are moderately close...), as players with less money get to sell earlier, possibly eating up demand before the richer players get a chance to sell all that they can. While I enjoyed the game, it can get to feel a bit repetitive over 2 hours. At that length, I suspect I would always pull out Automobile, which has a few more levers to pull and creates a higher degree of tension all around.




Vault Wars - 6
A super cool idea, adequately executed. It's as if the designer stopped developing the game when it was simply "good enough".

This the fantasy version of the TV Show "Storage Wars". Dead adventurers have left behind their stashes and supply sheds and enterprising profiteers are auctioning them off! Every round each player puts a vault up for auction. Each vault contains from 3 - 7 or so items. This is a partial-information auction where, depending on the vault, different players have different information about what's in it. Only the auctioneer knows all - usually. The auctioneer gets the winning bid as payment for the vault, or they pay the bank if they win it themselves. The items are worth any combination of money, points, or abilities. Many are worth more money or points if you combine them into sets first. Between auction rounds, players can sell up to four items and need to pay to store the rest until the end of the game. At games' end you get points for items, money, and an end game bonus chosen from two goal cards that are dealt at the game's beginning.

Fun in concept and mostly fun in execution, there are some pretty obvious flaws here. For example, money is worth very little at the end - getting almost any Vault is likely to be worth more - which saps all tension out of the end auctions. May as well just compare money and have the player with the most pay one more than the next lowest player. The selling limits and the different rules surrounding "junk" cards don't flow as smoothly as they should. Feels too gamey at times. I'm not convinced the end game bonuses are balanced either, but I need to play more to be sure. Some of the cards are a little unclear. I feel like all of these aspects could have been tightened up in development and if they had, we'd have one of the best light auction games available! However, here we just have an average game with a fun idea. The family likes it, so I'll keep it around for a bit. Could have been so much more, though...




Pentaquark - 6
Nifty, small, highly portable solitaire game inspired by the behavior of quarks! Takes some plays to internalize the rules, but it's a solid little challenge.

A science-based solitaire card game brought to us by the designer of Bottom of the 9th. The 15 cards come in 3 colors, with a matching anti-color on their backside. There are 5 symbols in the basic game so that each symbol appears in each color once. The object is to build two "confined" sets of 5 specific symbols with three colors in one set and an additional color/anti-color pair for the other set. A challenge in understanding the objective is that the symbol and color objectives are completely disconnected. As in, it does not matter at all what symbols are what colors, just that you have both of the requirements met.

When you initially set up the deck you make sure all color sides are facing the same way, shuffle it, and then cut the deck in half and turn half of the deck over to its anti-color side. Shuffle that up and then you are ready to go, with a roughly even deck of color and anti-color cards. Each turn you draw three. You then distribute the cards to three different play areas: the background, the detector, and the discard pile. As you distribute the cards (quarks), you are trying to group cards in a way that you can confine them and prevent annihilation. Only sets of three different colors and color/anti-color pairs can be confined. When you get through the small deck, confined sets in the detector stay there while free quarks are discarded. Confined sets in the background are discarded while free quarks there are annihilated. Then you shuffle the deck and go again trying to build your target sets in the detector. Each time you reshuffle, you add an annihilate card which annihilates a free quark when drawn and diminishes your chances of winning.

The game comes with a few small expansions to mix things up slightly. Overall it is solid, but not remarkable, a bit like a true game of Solitaire. It comes in a durable plastic wallet rather than a box, which makes it super portable - which is maybe the strongest argument for keeping it over other small solitaire games.




Greed - 6
Quick-playing combo-building filler. The very example of a game that is "okay", but okay doesn't cut it when I have so much "great".

Each player starts with a pile of 12 cards. Every turn, a player drafts a card and the game ends on the turn the 12th card is drafted. In 10 of the 12 turns players play a single card after the draft and do or take what the card says. And that is the game! Most money at the end wins. There are three types of cards: thugs, holdings, and actions. Cards give you money, markers (worth money at the end) or icons. Icons can meet requirements for other cards. You can use the card types and icons to build combo chains to accumulate wealth faster than your opponents. Since the hand of 12 is passed around for drafting (a la 7 Wonders), you see all cards in the game, which allows you to partially plan the combos you are going to build (if others don't beat you to it). This visibility is the game's strength. This is a game I'd play, but it would only ever be chosen over a game like, say, Innovation, because of length. My son hated it, for some reason. A hand of 12 cards at the start of the game is a lot to parse and I suspect that had a lot to do with his disinterest. If my wife doesn't care for it either, it won't stick around.




The Witches: A Discworld Game - 5
A mechanically weak family game from Wallace that relies too much on its theme.

I acquired The Witches collector's edition when I was collecting all Treefrog games, not because I had any particular interest in it. It survived my recent purge of unplayed/unwanted Treefrogs because my wife, a Pratchett fan, wanted to try it out. We tried it out two-player and she enjoyed it, but also said that if the kids didn't care for it, she'd be okay letting it go. We will see.

The game is beautifully illustrated and the collector's edition comes with a set of fine pewter witch playing pieces. The board depicts a valley filled with Pratchettesque locations that are connected by a network of roads. The locations are partially seeded with "problems" for the witches to solve at the beginning of the game. Every turn a new problem arises, witches move to try and solve problems, and then players draw back up to their hand limit.

Players have a hand of cards to help them, but this is a actually a dice-driven game. To solve a problem players roll two dice - potentially play cards - then roll two more dice, add the results together to match or beat a difficulty rating for the problem in their current location. The decisions mostly revolve around picking problems that you can solve based on the difficulty and what cards you have that can help you. As you solve problems you collect the tiles, which have point values that contribute to your final score. However, throughout the game as locations that already have problems are seeded with new problems, they pick up Crisis counters instead. If all the Crisis counters are out and another needs to be placed, all players lose. All players also lose if three "Elf" problems are face up on the board at any given time. So only one player wins, but all players need to work together so that everybody doesn't lose. This can lead to players who are well behind to lose motivation in solving any problems at all. A problem in and of itself.

The game is cute thanks to the art and production. The main problem is that this plays with the luck of a basic kid's game, but with the cards adding a weirdly misplaced complexity. I suspect if this game was developed by any publisher other than Treefrog, the finished product would have looked quite different, more consistently less strategic, or consistently more so.




Salem - 4
A deduction game with rather too much blind guessing. The theme and historical content are fascinating, however.

I've only played the "full" game and I understand the full and basic versions to be quite different. My opinion is also not tainted by participating in the disastrous Kickstarter that took 4 years(!) to deliver. The person I acquired this game from was so pissed off he couldn't even look at it, much less play it. I went into this simply liking the theme and liking deduction games.

In this grim title, players control factions of historical characters in the town of Salem during with witch trials of 1692. Half of a player's characters are secretly witches. Players accuse each other's characters of being witches, an alibi is offered for the accused characters and then everyone votes on who to hang! After four rounds of witch hunts and hangings, you lose points for voting to hang villagers and for NOT voting to hang a witch. Whomever has lost the least amount of points wins.

Alibis are the clues that players offer as to the identity of their characters. You can either equate the role of your accused character to another of your characters, specify that the role of the accused is unequal to another of your characters, or create a pool of three characters - including the accused - and say how many witches are in that group of three. You write the clues down on your deduction sheet and the clues slowly, and somewhat obtusely, build up.

Your deduction sheet is presented as a grid of 7 rows and 7 columns. There is a row for every player and you write your clues on those rows. However, there is an aspect to the deduction that was not clear to us when we started - and really it is the one thing, besides theme, that sets this game apart. The player who won kept saying, "This is like witch-killing Sudoku." I don't think the rest of us really caught on to that until too late. The set up for this game is VERY specific and VERY laborious. It wasn't clear to us at first why this was so. Essentially you are randomizing the identities in a very specific way that creates not only three witches per row (and per player), but also three witches per column (across different players by number)! So this gives you a layer of deduction that goes beyond the clues to the patterns building on your deduction grid. The one player who understood this won the game. It was the missing piece of information that had the rest of us scratching our heads.

While that is admittedly cool, you are still pretty much blind guessing during the first two rounds of accusations thanks to a lack of information. In most deduction games you don't start accusing until you actually deduce something. This game doesn't wait for you to do that. Some bad guesses early can sink you and that's not very satisfying. A game like Alchemists influences you to make some educated guesses early, but you aren't forced to do it. I think that is the downfall with this title and why I would never pick it over other deduction games I own, which includes Clue.

Besides, there is something downright demeaning about being sentenced to death by a-holes in lampshades!






Brew Crafters: Travel Card Game - 3
The game commits the biggest crime of all: not offering anything of interest to anyone.

Draw a card, play a card for its ability or play a set for points. *Yawn* Uh, stop when you hit a target number of points. Um. Yep. I think that's everything.
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14. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.40 Overall Rank:4]
Simona Dostalova
Czech Republic
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January is the only month during which I go to a gaming convention (for around 80 people) - which means loads of new games! I played 15 new to me games this year.

The winner


The clear winner is Terraforming Mars, a game I believe will easily come into my top 10. I have heard about it since it came out and for this one, the hype was really well deserved. For me, it combines the cardplay of Imperial Settlers with amazing theme, scientific correctness, a sense of building something out of nothing (which I love) and hard decisions. I will buy it the day it comes back in print and I can't wait for that day to come.


The great


Terraforming Mars was not the only game that captivated me. I also got to play this oldie but goodie - Tichu. I love clever cheap little games and this one deffinitely checks all the boxes! It doesn't look awesome but who cares? Deffinitely going to get this one soon.


I also got to finally play Ra and (during the same night), Ra: The Dice Game. I loved them - great theme, clever and different gameplay, short play time. I actually prefer the dice version to the original, though, since the original is more about reading your opponents and the social skills you have in your group which I am not very good at. Sadly, Dice Ra is not sold in my country, but I would deffinitely like to get some almost new copy


Santorini finally came from KS and it plays very smooth and fast, the rules are amazingly simple with a lot of room for strategy, the gods make every game different, and, it is one of the most beautifully produced games in my collection. Very glad I got that!


I didn't even know Tumblin-Dice existed prior to playing it and I was surprised how much fun it was when I did! Yes it is "just" a silly party game but can you really ever have enough of those?


The good


Mask of Anubis was one of the most innovative games I played in a while. I really love the app implementation in this one. We had a great time playing it. BUT. I think there are too little dungeons in the game as it is and would like some more variability since I feel you can very easily play through all of them and then it loses its charm. If they made a map generator, though, I would buy it instantly.


I have been eyeing Kanagawa for a while and finally got to play it. The game is simply gorgeous. It is also fun and good but it is very, very light. But it has the perfect time for how light it is so good by me! Still thinking about buying it


A friend raved about Dead Men Tell No Tales so we played it. And it was good, solid, coop game. It reminded me a lot of Pandemic and Flash Point: Fire Rescue and have I not own both, I would buy this one deffinitely. As it is, though, it doesn't scratch any new itches.


Ca$h 'n Gun$ is another fun, fun party game that I would like to own. I actually enjoyed Tumblin-Dice more but there is something magical about pointing a gun at your friends...


I also got to play Mechs vs. Minions, another beautifully produced game. Although I am a sucker for beautiful games, and I enjoyed the play of this one, I have no desire to own it. There is just nothing it does that other games I own don't.


Flamme Rouge is another game I did not hear about until I played it. It was a great play, I love the cardplay in this, I love the rules about going up/down hill. I love everything. Except the theme. I just can't justify bringing a game about bike racing into my collection. Noone would play it with me


The not-so-good


Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar was a game I knew existed but never really wanted to try and I knew why. But I do want to try everything I can so when they suggested, I said yes. Thoughout the whole game, I felt really frustrated that I couldn't do anything, I did not have enough time/workers/money do to what I wanted. I was completely confused about what do to. Which is not a bad thing. Except, I ended up 2nd. The 2 guys below me were actually the only ones who played before (multiple times) and loved the game. I still don't know what I did to end up 2nd. It just left a really bad taste.


Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure is another game that everyone's been raving about. Honestly, I don't get the buzz. Yes, it is beautiful. Yes, it is clever. But is there anything really different? It just felt to me like a generic fantasy game that combines a lot of popular mechanisms.


I get that Great Western Trail is a very good, solid, euro game. I don't mind the theme (I love El Gaucho, afterall). It's just such a dry, dry game, it's simply not for me. But, again, it's good, and clever and all.

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15. Board Game: 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:542]
Chris Ferejohn
United States
Mountain View
California
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Pitying fools as hard as I can...
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Mansions of Madness: Second Edition - 1 play -  10 
First Published 2016


A someone who really *wanted* to like to first Mansions of Madness (and actually played it a fair amount), but jus tfound it too fiddly, this was amazing. I was a little gunshy about narrative driven games after T.I.M.E. Stories fell on its face so hard for my group, but the app just makes the whole experience of this so much better. I have to say FFG is really good at refining their existing formulas, speaking of which:

Arkham Horror: The Card Game - 5 plays -  10 
First Published 2016


I bought into the Lord of the Rings card game for a while, mostly because I was hoping my wife or my friend Grey would like it. Well, my wife was intimidated by it and my friend Grey is not very good at deckbuilding, so the game just ended up being frustrating. AH: TCG improves that across the board by constraining the deckbuilding a bit and adding a difficulty slider, and added stuff I didn't even realize I wanted like limiting each player to a single character and implementing partial victory/defeat for several scenarios. My wife even liked it on first play even though she was exhausted at the time.

13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2016


This might go up – I need to play it more to determine if it is going to have more depth to explore or if it will start feeling samey. Definitely an extremely clever design, with an area control game that interlocks with several minigames (an agenda 'bluffing/guessing' game, a defcon game of brinksmanship, and Twilight Struggle's multi-use event cards. Just neat.

Fabled Fruit - 2 plays
First Published 2016


Played with a friend's copy, but we started from 'the beginning'. I liked it, though I'd want to play it with an at least mostly consistent group of people, since the experience of it really wants players to see it grow, and if I'm the only one doing that, that's kind of no fun.

Rory's Story Cubes - 1 play
First Published 2005


Got the first pack for my 4-1/2 year old son and he *loved* it, which prompted us to order 3 more packs (including batman). And we thought he told long rambling stories *before*...

Adrenaline - 1 play
First Published 2016
 


An area control game disguised as a shoot-em-up. I appreciate localization, but having to consult the rules for every weapon (the icons don't really do it unless you've already read the rules) was a bit annoying. Also, not being able to defend yourself, or even really hide at all, was kind of odd, and the last turn rules were a bit odd (I like letting you do more, but the exact 'more' you're allowed to do felt a little nonsensical). I'd play it again, but I'm not running out to buy it.
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16. Board Game: Tataraba and Forest [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:9625]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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This month, I was fortunate enough to play 4 new games. As is my custom, I'll list them in decreasing order of current enthusiasm - which, I'll note, is not remotely a proxy for "quality" or design excellence.


たたらばと森 Tataraba to mori 'Smelter and Forest' -- (3 plays) _7⅔_
(both images by W Eric Martin)

(Yeah; BGG translates this one "Forest of Tataraba", and they plausibly know more of what they're doing on that front than I do.)

In any event, it's a game about collectively managing (harvesting; replanting) a forest in order to run one's Tatara (a kind of iron furnace/smelter that requires a lot of charcoal - if you're not willing to chase the link.)

The game presentation is very pretty (by my standards: chunky wooden bits; clear and simple cardboard tokens.) And the game takes about a half hour to explain and play: so it doesn't overstay its welcome at all. I've been quite entertained by the play, too: there are some interesting questions of timing and movement to answer.


Lignum -- (1 play) _7⅔?_
(images by spielmaterial & HedgeWizzard)

Only a partial play of this one, and also with a couple slightly-wrong rules, so my rating is even sloppier than my after-first-play ratings often are.

The game is an intriguing, if also somewhat ferocious, logistics puzzle. It's definitely son #1's style of game: and one he'd really enjoy (and, frankly, I'd have no hope in giving him any serious competition.) I enjoyed the tensions I was able to perceive; and could easily imagine there were some subtle decisions I'd not even the wit yet to understand. But I'd be delighted to give this another shot: and I guess that's some of the rating. Whether I have the option, though? No idea.


Québec -- (1 play) _7⅓_
(images by Comet & matthew.marquand)

I enjoyed this game: though, I expect, that was as much for the company as the actual game at hand. I found the presentation to be every bit as messily busy as I'd expected from a couple plays against the AI years ago.

In its favour: it makes sense; and didn't overstay its welcome with 5 players. And I'd be totally happy to play again. I might even ask for it, if someone else brought it to a game event. Not convinced (yet?) that I'd buy a copy, though.


Kansas Pacific -- (1 play) _6_
(images by chilibean & Big Bad Lex)

I wasn't terribly impressed with either the physical presentation or the game. That latter could easily have been the result of our not playing it terribly well: but I'm not convinced there's much subtlety here. And, in that sense, it was disappointing: I generally expect (or, at least, hope for) more with a Winsome-sourced game.
I could imagine being convinced to play this by some hypothetical person that enjoyed this: but I'd not take any steps to be part of a game other than that.


Thanks again to my youngsters, the BAP attenders, the Monday Lunch folk, and the Wednesday Night gang for some great game experiences.
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17. Board Game: Aeon's End [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:83] [Average Rating:8.07 Unranked]
Jim Hansen
United States
Naperville
Illinois
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== NEW GAMES ==

Aeon's End - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2016


As a big fan of Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, Aeon's End appealed to me as another cooperative deck builder. Here are the things that distinguish it from these other similar games:
Breaches for casting spells, so you prepare a spell on one turn and cast it on you next turn. You need to spend money to unlock more breaches and cast more spells.
No deck shuffling, so you get to choose the order of discards and setup combos.
Variable turn order, determined with a turn order deck, so you never know who is going next.
Very unique enemies that make each game completely different.
Fairly generic fantasy theme and art.
The pacing ramps up a little bit, but not as much as I would like. It lies between Legendary (no ramping, just starts fast) and Harry Potter (excellent ramping that starts slow and accelerates)
Some direct cooperative interaction beyond taking turns killing bad guys. Again, more than Legendary (virtually none) but less than Harry Potter (constant cooperative interaction).
Basically only a 2 player game. 4 people is too many for pretty much any deckbuilder. The 3 player game is strange because the turn order deck has 1 card for each player, then a wild card where the players choose who goes. I found this to be extremely awkward because we pretty always want to take the turn ourselves, but nobody wants to be selfish and say they want to go. The best strategic option would be to always have the same person take an extra turn, since power in deckbuilders is exponential.
In our game, we got one card early on that basically doomed us. If we had drawn it near the end, it would have done nothing. So, I'm worried the AI decks have too much variability.
In our game, because of the random setup, we had no abilities to heal. This also doomed us, I think.

Overall, I like a lot of the things they did differently. But, I'm a little worried that the game is too generic and basically only a 2 player game for me. Definitely want to play again, but it's only going to be my 3rd favorite cooperative deckbuilder, at best. Despite my negative comments about Legendary, it has a theme I love and an enormous amount of variability and replayability.

Automobiles - 1 play -  6.5 
First Published 2016


Automobiles uses an interesting combination of racing and bag building. Overall, I really enjoyed the racing aspect. It uses an interesting gear management system with 4 different gears that advance you on certain areas of the track. It also handles drafting pretty smoothly as you avoid suffering any wear if you end your turn behind someone else.

However, I have two complaints with the game. My first complaint is that there are a lot of abilities that interact with your discard pile. Deckbuilders inherently have a lot of luck, but using this mechanic adds to the luck because they are useless if you draw them when you have no discard pile. My second complaint is that, like all deck builders, downtime becomes an issue with more than ~3 players. But in a racing game, you generally want to have more players to race with. So, I'm not sure the whole racing/deckbuilding combination is meant to be.

I'd play it again, but not seek it out.

The Golden Ages - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2014


This is a relatively abstract civilization game that I hadn't heard of. The tech tree and exploration mechanics are pretty mediocre, but it has a nice flow to the game with the action system and economy. Iconography took a while to learn and there are some small quirks that I have minor complaints about. Overall, not a bad attempt at a more quick/abstract civilization game. But, I don't have a desire to play it again.

Archer: Once You Go Blackmail... - 1 play -  5.5 
First Published 2016


I mean, it's Love Letter, which I find overstays its welcome after about 3 rounds. I did at least like the Krieger ability because it gives you a chance to instantly win the round, instead of relying on eliminating everyone else.

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18. Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 [Average Rating:8.64 Overall Rank:2]
BorderCon is Run and Done...Again!
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Thank You to all those that attended BorderCon this year and made it special again!!!
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January of 2017 has been fantastic as as you will see below I have really played a wide breadth of titles. The winner this month had to be very good.

New to Me

d10-1 Pandemic Legacy

I finally got around to playing this with my partner, despite having had it for over a year. I have to admit this is pretty great. Is it the greatest game from a mechanisms point of view? It's very good but it probably isn't the best ever...in fact I can think of numerous games that have a more interesting mix of mechanisms that make them work and drive the decision making.

But to look at that as the key indicator as to the quality of the game is really missing the point. Legacy games are all about the experience, the ongoing narrative and their ability to create a greater story that hooks the participants - the gamers. In many aspects Pandemic Legacy is really just tapping into what other games have been doing for decades. BloodBowl, Formula De and other games are decent stand alone games, but they come to life in a season format, where the results of one game can have a bearing on the next and the season format overall. Pandemic is a decent game but Legacy takes it to the next level again by adding in new characters, new story elements, simply upping the tension and the like.

We are up to August and I have not seen a game capture Annie's attention like this one has, to the point that we have played 9 games in the space of 2 weeks. I too am enjoying the ride.

Even if this game had no new content from June through to December, this will take some beating. I have also played Risk: Legacy to the 3/4 point mark and I think some things are done better there and some are better here.

End of the day I am a fan and I don't think Legacy Games are going anywhere anytime soon. I think this will be a new genre within the industry over the next decade or so. Someone create a Walking Dead Legacy game and I am all over it.



d10-2 Kanagawa


I was really impressed with this game. Part of it is its zen nature, great artwork and components and part of it is the mechanisms of the game itself.

In brief, the players are students of a master artist and they are striving to create their own masterwork to impress him/her. The players must gain skills in painting various seasons, characters, animals, buildings and the like and to do this they must develop their studio which grants them access to such skills.

What drives the game is the central mat in which cards can be taken from. Players can pass in order to gain access to more cards but if they do, other players may take the cards they are after. This feels a lot like Coloretto/Zooloretto in many aspects, except you can't really foul up a player's taking as such.

The cleverness here is that each card that is taken has a dual purpose (I always like it when cards can be used in more than one way). They can be added to their artwork if they have the skill to paint it or they can add it to their studio to broaden their skills and options. This is done simply by turning a card one way or the other.

Underpinning all of the above are a broad set of Bonus Tiles that the players are in a race to win. These are won by being the first to paint a number of unique characters, painting a set number of trees, painting a combination of specific animals etc.

Iello have published some really clever games over the last 2 years but this is perhaps the best I have played to date and it has a little more gaming chops in it than the average game.

Add in that the artwork is gorgeous and this is one I will be adding to my collection at some point.



d10-3 Pandemic: Contagion


I was pleasantly surprised by this spin-off title and how it used the basic theme (albeit turned on its head) to create an interesting and enjoyable game.

Here the players are all playing as individual viruses who are attempting to infect cities in order to earn points and it is WHO )World health Organisation) cards that are the bad things as opposed to Epidemic cards.

On a players turn they can try to infect cities based on their current infection rate, increase their mutation rate in one of 3 stats to add them later or draw contagion cards to hand based on their current incubation rate (these must be played to spread disease).

What drives the game is that each city available to infect has a value that must be met to overwhelm. The player that infects an overcome city the most earns the big points (whilst 2nd and 3rd can also score points). But the player that adds the final cubes to trigger a city's demise can earn the bonus power on the card. So the players need to weigh up when working together is worth their while and when they should pursue other options.

I would happily play this again as I liked what it had to offer.



d10-4 Star Wars: Rebellion


One play is about 3 games too few to truly formulate an opinion on this one as it was very much a learning game and I'm sure mistakes were made both in the rules and in our strategic decisions.

But for now I stand against the tide when I say I was largely underwhelmed by the play of this one. That is not to say it isn't good as I think many of the mechanisms are novel and interesting. This game certainly does create something of a space opera that is impressive in its scope and what it is able to achieve.

But for me, it is the pacing of the game that didn't excite me. I played the Rebels and I get that the game is not a toe-to-toe military battle as the game really looks to explore the reality that the Empire is a military force that can eliminate all before it. For me though I just didn't find much to enjoy about playing the Rebels and the style they must adopt. I felt like I didn't really do all that much in the 3 hours we played for and yet in the end the result was very close as I was able to hide my base for some time.

I'm also not sure if I buy into the reports of how great the stories are in the game. Sure some cool things can happen regarding diplomatic missions, captured heroes and the like but in truth I didn't feel like I was so immersed in the story that I felt like those moments were living realities that I was a part of. Instead they felt like game-based outcomes that had some consequences and that was it.

I hope that something clicks for me in plays 2-5 but time will tell. I will return with further comments to this list in the months ahead to share the final verdict.



d10-5 Rivet Wars: Eastern Front


This is one of the early games that featured CMPN minis that escaped me as I was unaware of Kickstarter at the time.

This one uses the thematic backdrop of the World Wars and uses an alternate set of forces to create a 2-player game with Asymmetric powers.

It is cute for sure and the minis are cute. The game play is fairly simplistic and that isn't a bad thing at all, but I suspect it may get a little stale after a while as it usually revolves around controlling objective points in the middle of the board. Action Points are used to add units to the board each turn and each unit has its strengths, weaknesses and tactical value that vary based on the target it is attacking and being attacked by.

This game is all about small victories and the dice will play a factor for sure. The time frame for each scenario is kept to an optimum by keeping the number of objective points to a reasonable level. The interest factor is then maintained by offering up so many different unit types that the players can be experiencing new content for many months and possibly years to come.

I think this is a game I could explore for a good 5-15 plays but beyond that I think I would tire of it. The game also seems to have stopped receiving support in the form of new expansions.

Not a bad game at all but not something I would go out and purchase.



d10-6 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past


This is another kickstarter game that I passed on but a mate picked it up so we gave it a try.

In truth 1 play is not even close to being enough here as the first scenario is really a learning tutorial at best.

In short, the game is a miniatures game of the 1 vs many approach. Each scenario offers an objective for both sides in order to win and I suspect that these are dominated by one side having to get to a certain location on the boards or take out a number of the enemy, but I may be wrong on that.

What sets TMNT apart is that the Turtle Players must role their dice at the start of the round and how they place those dice in front of them is important as each turtle can access the leftmost and rightmost dice of their neighbours. Skills then denote how far a turtle can move, how many dice they can roll in attack and defense and the like. The game also looks to include interaction with the environments on the boards by introducing leveled terrain that must be climbed up or down and so on.

What the game demands of the turtle players is that they work as a team and each player plays to the strengths of their turtle as each one is unique, including the nature of the dice that they roll.

The forces of evil player has some thinking to do as well. Not as much as some other 1 vs all games perhaps. This comes in the form of playing their Battle Cards )that may not be their actual title) but the timing of cards played and the attacking and defensive bonuses they impart to different unit types is important. This is becuase cards will only stay in their cue for a period of time and the cards also denote what units can be activated.

The game uses an Imperial Assault-like, one turn for the good guys and one for the bad guys system. If you throw in rules where figures can lock in battle with one another to slow down the movement of the enemy (which is crucial in a game where getting to key locations on the map is important) and you start to get the idea of what is on offer.

I should also mention that the game offers mini-campaigns of linked scenarios to drive a narrative and the results of each can see a mini-campaign branch down different paths.

I wasn't in love with this one after one play but I was tired and that first scenario was basic to say the least. I look forward to exploring this one further and again I will be back ti give a fuller assessment later in the year.



d10-7 Dream Home


This is a bit of light fun from a gateway game that can be played in the time of a filler once everyone has played once or twice.

The game is really a board game version of the Sims, well the home improvement aspect anyway. Each player is trying to build rooms to deck out their home in order to score points.

What drives the game is the card taking mechanism and the scoring. Wach turn a player must take cards from one of the 4 columns, which can have at most 2 cards. The top row offers various resources (tools, roof cards, workers or decor items), whilst the bottom row features room cards. The catch is that the cards on offer are not replenished until the end of the round, so the players at the end of the pecking order are likely to consider taking the leftmost column, which only offers 1 card but also the start player token.

Many rooms can be extended if a matching room of the same type is placed adjacent to one already in play. In this way rooms can offer cariable points based on their size. Throw in some building placement rules, the ability to build a uniform roof and add decor items worth extra points and the game is pretty decent.

It is basic though and I have to stress that for more experienced gamers this will not hold there attention for more than 3-5 plays. This is because the variety of room cards is limited and every card is used in every game, which limits the replayability for me. I also didn't find it very compelling for 2.

But I have some gamers in my group that are at the lighter end of the wading pool and I will happily play this with them once a month or so if that is what they are after.

I also wrote a Detailed Review of this one to examine it further -

Dream Home - A Detailed Review



d10-8 Space Crusade

Ok this wasn't new to me this month, but the last time I played it pre-dated the Geek by about a decade.

This is essentially a sci-fi styled HeroQuest and a quasi Space Hulk from Milton Bradley that features Citadel Miniatures. It is a 1 vs many game again but this time the Marine players are limited to 3 so this could be played with 4 players instead of 5.

It features blips like Space Hulk and the alien player has more menacing units compared to HeroQuest. The game offers campaign play and the Marine Players can customise their units by selecting from a variety of weapons.

I like this one quite a bit and am enjoying playing this with my boys. I think this has a little more appeal to older kids compared to HeroQuest and given that the players are also looking to win the Primary and possibly Secondary Mission Objectives in each mission, there is a nice bit of co-op versus competitive play going on here.

I'm glad I kept this one all these years but I may let it go after we have played through it.



d10-9 Freya's Folly
After winning this game at a small gaming event 12 years ago I finally got it to the table! This is a game that is very much a product of its time. It is a straight-laced Euro design with a pick-up and deliver system. The theme sees different Dwarven clans delving into a mine to collect gems. These gems are for Freya, a Norse Goddess. She wants pretty things but above all else she wants the Brisingamen, a necklace that can bestow great beauty on here. In exchange for the help of the Dwarves, she will bestow sexual favours on them (Ok the game didn't spell this out but it alluded to it and I did some searching). In game terms she bestows bonus actions.

The game uses an action point system, which is extremely tight and the play is dominated by taking clever move actions that allow your Dwarves to delve deeper for less effort (actions).

It is a good game to be sure and very much out of print as it was self published. But I am happy to let this one go as it doesn't spark any fires within me.

I also wrote a Detailed Review of this one to examine it further -

Freya's Folly - A Detailed Review



d10-1d10-0 Captain Sonar
This is a provisional scoring only as we only played the introductory scenario, played quite a few things wrong and cut it short ready for next time.

Captain Sonar is a game that can accommodate up to 8 players in teams of 4 each. Each character has a specific role on their submarine and limited communication rules drive the play as each team tries to locate the enemy and take them out, whilst they try to stay hidden and out of danger.

There are some clever rules in here for how the various systems can stay online or go offline. I think it will work well once we play it correctly and in the right spirit but the trouble with these games is getting the full compliment and finding the right kind of people.

I will return to this one with a fuller picture in due course.



New to Me - Expansions

None to start off the year!
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19. Board Game: Santorini [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:101]
Goat Goatington
United Kingdom
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Easily my favourite game this month. Santorini is a great abstract that's dressed up in some fantastic components. Yes, it's entirely overproduced and could be made for a lower price point but it does look good on the table. It's actually a nice draw to get people to play the game who would see something like the old edition and decide it looked a bit dull.

The rules are very simple and there are plenty of decisions to make each game. My favourite part are the gods though; there are a great many of them and each one dramatically changes the game. I suspect I could quite happily be playing the game without gods but they're so good that I don't want to. New players will almost always lose to experienced players; the gods can actually go some way to helping balance that out because the veteran might not have played a combo like this and loses some of their advantage. So far none feel overpowered or unbalanced either, which is impressive for such a large pool.

I don't like a few of the gods that come with the Golden Fleece expansion (Hecate, Moerae, Tartarus) because they add hidden information to what is otherwise a perfect information game. Tartarus in particular feels pretty arbitray, but that's fine because I can just not play with those 3 and still have plenty of gods.

I do think it's best with 2. It's fun enough with 3, if a bit chaotic. I'm not particularly fond of the 4 player team game. I think it could be fine if you vetted the gods a little because some combos of gods do feel overpowered. The first team game I played had one team with Aprodite and the Harpies, which felt much more powerful to everyone than most combos, and I've seen one or two others that felt similarly unbalanced.


SeaFall


We're only 3 games in so any opinions are still early and I won't spoil anything. I've played both Risk Legacy (not so good after the novelty) and Pandemic (good game with good legacy elements) and, so far, this sits in the middle of both. It has some elements I love - exploration, steadily upgrading your fleet, multiple routes to victory - and some that are quite dull, mostly the trading economy. It also has significant downtime even with only 4 players. The bits I like are good enough that I'm still eager to play but it does have some flaws as well and I wouldn't easily recommend it to people.

It's interesting to see a game that's built from the ground up for a legacy system and some of what it does is much more interesting than the previous two, but it also feels like the core game just isn't that good compared to Pandemic. I suspect my opinions will change as the game goes on because right now there's a lot of appeal in the exploration and unknown things to come.

Pandemic: Iberia


I'd grown a little bored of base Pandemic after many plays of the game plus expansions over the years as well as two Legacy campaigns so I'd largely ignored Iberia and Cthulhu Pandemic, but I do like the changes this makes and it feels quite different despite sharing the same core. Moving around the board feels harder without flight, the rails are very powerful while taking valuable actions to build, some of the character powers are quite different and the game never gets easier with the changes to researched diseases.

The largest change for me is the water purification action. You can now discard cards to place water tokens on regions (the spaces between cities); each time a cube is placed on a city around the region you don't place the cube and instead remove one of the water tokens. They're a very effective way to fix an entire area covered in cubes immediately and vital to surviving, you just can't do it too much because it takes cards and you need half the cards in each colour to win at a minimum.

It's not something I'm going to play regularly, particularly with a bunch of new coop games on the way, but I do like it more than regular Pandemic. I'm now curious about trying the Cthulhu one as well, which I'd largely written off as 'just more Pandemic.'


Terraforming Mars


A game of building a tableau of cards to power your engine to points and more points. The terraforming theme is nice and the cards all have appropriate names and effects but the theme doesn't come through particularly strongly for me. The game feels like shuffling cubes about and is a little dry, which is odd because I do like a good space theme. There isn't much interaction and there are no particularly exciting plays. Most games have had a fairly narrow spread of scores too and the components are pretty poor.

Despite all that, I've enjoyed this a great deal and want to play it more. I can't really pick which bit of the game it is I enjoy, it's just a very satisfying experience. You build an engine with lots of one-shot and ongoing cards so you can move more cubes to build a better engine to eventually score lots of points, then total up and compare at the end. I've not played many games I enjoy so much without being able to say why exactly it's so good.

The biggest downside is that I think a cover for the player boards to hold cubes in place is almost mandatory in any setting outside of the home because those boards have small spaces and knocking them can ruin the entire game.


10' to Kill
 


One play of this with only one experienced player and I really couldn't tell you if I like it or not. It was quite random because nobody knew how to play; some were obvious and found easily, some were shuffling pieces hoping for a better plan to appear. I think I'd enjoy it if I'd played it a few times and had the chance to figure things out, I just won't expect to get the chance to do so.


Codex: Card-Time Strategy – Core Set


I love this game, I just don't have anyone to play it with. The usual suspects I'd play it with either won't be able to play regularly enough to get the most from it or were overwhelmed with decisions, the power of the cards and the aggression needed. Most of the cards feel overpowered when played properly and the full game seems to have plenty of scope for different strategies, it's just overwhelming to learn. Much like learning Magic against an aggro deck or an RTS against a tank rush, you can get stomped before you've even worked out how to play properly.

I suspect I'll be trading this quickly, which makes me a little sad because it seems like it's such a good game.


Quartermaster General: 1914


This captures the feel of WW1 quite well compared to regular Quartermaster General. Everything happens more slowly as you can now spend cards on reinforcing your armies, which makes for long build up rather than constant warfare. As soon as one player starts to prepare a few cards, everyone suddenly feels the urge to also prepare and we spend a while in an arms race where you don't know how strong anyone else actually is. Making every card dual purpose (play for the action, prepare for later use) makes each card a hard decision, which is a big plus on the base game.

I don't like this as much as Quartermaster General for a couple of reasons:
It feels much slower. The actual length isn't much changed but you spend more time building up and less time fighting, which is at least more appropriate for WW1.
I prefer 3v3 to 3v2. The Central Powers are much stronger individually than the Allies (Germany in particular is a powerhouse) but I liked the equal teams more.

I think 1914 has more depth and the mechanics are more interesting, it just doesn't work for me as well as the base game.


Roll Player


A dice placement game of the RPG character building process. I've rolled up plenty of RPG characters so this theme appeals to me a great deal and it actually works well too. You have a range of goals (alignment, class, history, money for items) and it's impossible to do everything due to random rolls and other players drafting the dice before you so you have to decide what to give up and what's worth chasing, and those decisions will change as the game goes on.

It's hard to make long term decisions and the first few rolls will give you a good idea which goals are achievable this game. I'm not too sure of the long term appeal because it feels quite short term and tactical, but the theme will keep me coming back for a few more at least. I'm very curious about the coming expansion too.
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20. Board Game: Mü & More [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:971]
Frederic Heath-Renn
United Kingdom
Islington
London
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Starting the year as I will go on: playing everything exactly once. In roughly ascending order as ever:

Solarius Mission (1 play) - So it's mostly down to the fact I was rubbish at it, I'm sure, but this one really felt as dry as sawdust and about as intellectually compelling. I don't think it earns its weight of rules; it feels like it would be better boiled down to something more abstract and fundamentally elegant.

Clank! (1 play) - Nice theme and overall idea but I think there's a little too much randomness in it for me to properly enjoy it.

Take The "A" Chord (1 play) - Great theme but I found the cardplay a bit disappointing - to me it felt a tad too chaotic to be able to plan out your hand in any particularly strategic way. Peeve: I found it unbearably irritating that cards get weaker going up the alphabet from the current key (so for instance, if D is the current key, the order of card strength going up is C-B-A-G-F-E-D) rather than the more natural alternative.

Skat (1 play) - Yes, I know it's a venerable traditional game, but from my very short experience of it it felt way, way too complicated for what it was when it seemed extremely dependent on the strength of the hand you get dealt.

Sticheln (1 play) - Rules-light and probably good fun but I didn't get it. I'd be willing to play it again.

Potato Man (1 play) - Another one that suffered from a very short acquaintance with it: the couple of two-player hands I got to play established it as a generic trick-taker and didn't show off anything more.

First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express (1 play) - Seemed an alright short Euro. I basically pursued one strategy single-mindedly until I won: I'm willing to attribute this working to the fact we were all pretty new to it but it still makes me feel a little sceptical.

Chronicle (1 play) - Very pretty, light, and mechanically interesting. I have my doubts as to how badly restrictive the cardplay rules might feel on further play, but I'd play it again for sure.

Here I Stand (1 play) - Hmm. Fantastically historically deep CDG with lots of room for funsies and it's definitely an experience, yes, but... I feel doubtful of my enthusiasm for playing it again. It really did seem as if the religious roles, at least in the first couple of turns, are heavily dominated by dice-rolling; the inter-player dealmaking seemed kind of fun but... hrm. I don't know, perhaps it's just not my kind of game.

Medina (second edition) (1 play) - I enjoyed this quite a lot, largely because it seemed to mostly be an effort in being colossal wooden cocks to each other. I've since found out we played the rules wrong, and I fear that with the correct rules the opportunity for obnoxiousness, the window for wankery, is somewhat lesser. Oh well.

Capital (1 play) - I felt this rose above the generic. I like the scoring, the milestones, the art style, and the ease of flow of the game - it definitely didn't outstay its welcome.

Baseball Highlights: 2045 – Deluxe Edition (1 play) - Fun baseball-themed deckbuilding game. It feels like the sort of thing I could feel myself getting better at, and in hindsight I think it would have been nice to have played this a couple more times. Just a question of drumming up the effort for it I guess.

But I have my biases and prejudices and so new game of the month is (1 play) - like all the others I've only played this once but I have been thinking about it since. The bidding system, once you get over the hurdle of the game being 'confusing as balls' (Kester J), does flow and make sense and become, well, not intuitive exactly but sensible, you start to understand why other people are doing the things they do. The shifting partnership idea is implemented cleverly and it's fun and exciting to play on the Chief's team and on defence. I really wish this wasn't so hard to get to tables; I can tell it deserves more play.
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21. Board Game: Onward to Venus [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1631]
Carthoris Pyramidos
United States
Centennial
Colorado
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Onward to Venus - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2014


This game is even better than I had hoped when I ordered it blind at a serious discount. I've had a blast over a couple of two-player sessions, and I expect to introduce it to my game group soon.


Scythe - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2016


Although the enormous hype predisposed me against this game, it turns out to be genuinely fun, and surprisingly easy to pick up for a game of its complexity.


Istanbul - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2014


This game is also great fun. In my initial play, I blew off mosques and never expanded my cart: I was an impious little bastard merchant rocketing around the city and waving my fist at everyone, to good effect! I was the first to score a ruby, two rubies, three rubies, four ... but not the game-winning fifth.


Sandships - 3 plays -  7 
First Published 2016


This game was the Looney Labs holiday gift for 2016. Although you throw three dice each turn to determine your action options, the "wild" result and the additional ability to use doubles as "wild" makes it more a matter of tactics and less subject to chance than you might think. The Martian theme is a plus for me.


Battle Line - 2 plays - 7
First Published 2000


Some lunchtime gaming at work introduced me to Battle Line, which deserves its good reputation. It's a simple, but intense game. I won my first play and lost the second. I still haven't got much of a handle on the tactics cards.


Roll Player - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2016


I seemed to have more fun than the other players being introduced to this game, another one where dice are subject to manipulation and selection. My character was hilarious: a "Dragonkin" monk hunter lunatic leather-fetishist!


Color Wheel - 2 plays - 3
First Published 2016


I easily won my first two plays of this solitaire/co-op. It's pretty to look at, but I'm unlikely to play again.
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22. Board Game: Mythos Tales [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:1009]
Tiago Perretto
Brazil
Curitiba
Parana
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A good lot of new to me games!



MYTHOS TALES

Mythos Tales is the younger brother of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases and, likewise, is an unusual game.

First, the amount of rules: read the introduction of the case. Now, go wherever you want whenever you want (following the map by using the Directory, which contains the adresses of everyone of interest, and also the adress of several business locations) and talk (read) with the people there. Read the newspaper of the day, if pleases you. Also, you might want to talk with some fine folks that usually are aware of things (some Allies, but it might be tricky to know which will truly help). Now, also whenever you want, you can return to present your fiddings regarding the case to Armitage. The case will contain some questions, each will be worth an amount of points. Then, for every location you went beyond the amount that Armitage did, you will lose points. Here you don't really compare the amount you achieve with that of Armitage (Holmes would always get 100 points). Yet, you can apply the same and then you can feel good or bad, depending on how well you did. And that is it. Well, less than it, actually, since my last bit of feelings is more a thing I added. That is all the rules.

In every case you will have at your disposal: the booklet of the case (you can always consulte passages you read), the newspaper, the Arkham Directory (the adress of many things and persons in Arkham) and the map of Arkham, and this one, by the way, one of the players (we played in 4 people) thought it was utterly unnecessary, since how close one thing is to other, or the relation of one to another, wasn't playing any roll in the case. But then, in the end, the game hit us hard in the nutsack for not using it properly (you know, as a map). So great.

Mythos Tales is, probably, one of the most pure experiences of playing that one can have. There is no board (the map is not a board, you don't take action on it, you use it, as I pointed out, as a reference), no meeples, no pieces, no tokens, no money, no cards, no keeping rounds (though, you can see every new location as a new round), no gameplay time as we usually time it. What there are: reading and talking. After the reading of what happened in the case we started discussing: where to go? With whom to talk? What information we had? What means this or that? What about visiting the school for girls? And after we decided to go to a place, and the reading of what occurred there, we returned to the discussions. And now what? What we take it from this? Which lines/leads we now can follow? Usually quite a few, but it was worth our time to follow most of them? Which was more likely to actually advance our case? What was the place - or the person - with the best chances of providing clues? We compared notes, explored options, created scenarios - this because of this and this. Yes... but what about this? Well, this I can't explain properly right now. So, which place or person would shed light on this matter? I think this one. But wouldn't he just say what we already know? Then, we can take a chance here. Yes, it can work. And things went this way during the whole game. Mythos Tales is a game of pure deduction, taking notes, clashing options.

A play of Mythos Tales ends when the players want. You can visit 10 places, 50 (if not using the time track) or two. The decisions are yours, always. You know you are "running" against Armitage, but you did not know how many places/persons he went/talked to. I doubt that in any of the cases Armitage needed to go to 50 places to solve the case, but the main question here is: which is worth more - beating Armitage or solving the case? For us it was solving the case, and only after we had a solid overall view of most of the things in the case, and a scenario that answered (for us) most of our own questions, that we went to see the end result. And this can't be taken lightly: once you read the solution of the case, you probably won't be able to ever playing it again since the challenge will be gone. There aren't any variations in the set up, nor event cards, nor different characters to take - the case will always be the same, the result will be the same, the clues will be in the same places.

So, yes, Mythos Tales has a "due date" - after the 8 cases, it is over. Except by reasons of really weak memory, disease and amnesia, even many years after playing you won't be able to fully enter a play of one of the cases (since, you might start not remembering things, but then something clicks, you remember, and now you basically can't participate). However, this is all that much important? There are lots of games I bought and probably won't clock 8 plays of them. But, more relevant, a game that gives you 8 memorable experiences? I can't, as up to right now, say that it will actually be 8 memorable experiences, but the first case was, and I doubt that the others will fall short.

The amount of work of the authors in the cases is awe inspiring - the newspaper and so many places with informations (most not relevant, but there, anyway). One thing I wished it was present in Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases I found here: an internal clock. Sometimes it matters reaching a place in the morning, afternoon or evening. This is simpy great and adds a lot both to the difficulty to the theme and consistence.

The key difference between Mythos Tales and Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases is the supernatural: it is part of the first. You must be open to consider it, to think in such a way that the occult, the Ancient Ones, the powers from beoynd the veil are true and work in mysterious ways. This make things harder to come up with solutions, as we leave the realm of usual possibilities and the "everything that is left must be true" got a whole lot bigger. Yet, the game provides enough clues for even those that aren't fans of the Mythos and Lovecraft to get to the answers - it plays fair, but sure, knowing your Mythos will help.

And Mythos Tales gives that feeling of being instrumental do fight the cosmic terrors, without actually engaging in monster fights (which bothers many that play Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, Eldrtich Horror and others) . You won't carry many shotguns or do spells here - yet, you will be able to thwart evil schemes (or, at least, be of help to Armitage).

While Mythos Tales doesn't have the originality and charm of London and Holmes, it compensates, a little, with some ingenious decisions and challenges regarding the cases. I won't spoil, but they are good!

It was a night of talks, and exploring in our minds. We visited places, talked to people - and even going to only 14 different places, still the play lasted for almost four hours! The play reminded me of when, in college, we discussed books in the class of literary analysis - many views trying to reach an overall acceptance of the intent of the whole thing.

Anyway, I'm totally excited to tackle the next mistery!

Rate: 9 / 10



TAJ MAHAL

About Taj Mahal:

1) What is it?
Taj Mahal is a strategy game focused in hand management, set collection and building routes. In it, players use a limited hand of cards in order to put castles on the board, take goods, points and cards, and/or collect the economical influence of the province.

While the game is easy to teach and has a truly simple set of options for the players (play cards or withdraw), it carries a weight in the decisions and some deep thought, not only about what is happening right now - which province is being disputed, what it has, what cards where already played, what cards are open for taking -, but also what will occur next - cards to keep for later disputes, what the next provinces have in their economy token, and so on.

The replay value is high: the set up is random, both for the position of the goods as well as the order of resolution of the provinces. The draw of cards, for the starting hand and the available for drawing, also have impact on the game.

Production value is fine: the castles are pretty neat, while the board, tokens and cards aren't pretty, but do their job.

2) How do you play?
Players fight to influence provinces, one by one, be to take goods, gain cards or points (the three types of bonus tiles), add castles and/or receive the economic tiles of the province (all contain 2 goods, except the first province), as well as influence tiles.

In each turn the player has 2 options:
- Play one or two cards (one colored; one colored + one white; one colored + one special);
- Withdraw.

If playing, the first card used can be of any color, but, afterward, the next cards must be of the same color as the first one. The second card played must be a neutral (white) card or a special card. Therefpre, only one colored card can be played each turn - white and special cards can be played alone.

When the person withdraws, she compares the influence she has, in each of the six areas:
- Vizir, General, Monk and Princess: if the person has the highest influence in one or more of these, she takes the connected influence tile (for exemplo, the Vizir tile when winning the Vizir), then places a castle (in open places) for each area she won - if she gets one or more bonus tiles, she scores them immediately. She also gain 1 point for a castle added in the province (regardless of how many) and 1 extra point of each province the player can connect by an unbroken line of their own castles;
- Grand Mogul: the person puts a castle in any spot in the province, even if the place already contains a castle, and scores it;
- Elephant: the person with the most elephants wins the economic tile of the province, and scores it immediately.

After the player finish her withdraw, the cards are discarded, which can influence the withdraw of other players, since now one or more might now be winning areas of influence that they weren't before. Finally, the withdrawing player draws two cards from the available cards. The last person to withdraws only gains one card.

If a player accumulates two influence tiles of the same type, she takes the special card corresponded to it. Special cards can be lost, if another player later gets two of the influence you used to gain the special card - the advantage is that special cards, once used, aren't discard, returning to its owner hand.

Once everyone withdrew, the visit is over. Play will proceed in the next province.

Play ends when all provinces are visited. Then player scores the cards left in their hands: one point for each white and special card; one point for each card of the color the player has the most.

The player with the most points will be the winner!

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
- Which card to play. This takes into consideration what is up for grabs in the province, the position of it (for scoring purposes of castles), the influence tiles the player has her eyes on (to gain a special card), the other cards in her hand (considering the next cards must follow the same color), etc;
- When withdrawing. Sometimes is clear when to do it: if you are winning two areas, with a single card, is likely good to withdraw. However, this isn't always the case, because isn't simple about what you will get, but what you will be opening for the others to get as well. Sure, you can get a +2 points bonus tile and a fine position for a castle, but if this will be at the cost of giving two influence tiles to the next player, plus the economic tile, will it be worth? After each withdraw, the balance of power shifts, not always for the best for you. On the other hand, what proceed in the visit will net you? Maybe you will only lose important cards, to get the same thing as right now - or, worst, not being able to carry on and lose everything, pushed to withdraw. This is the brilliance of Taj Mahal: a simple action, but with a LOT to think about and to evaluate;
- Which cards to take: is normally best to take colors you already have, or neutral cards, as these usually allow for a quick win of an area. However, it might pay off to go for a symbol, in order to being able to gain the influence required to gain a special card;
- Where to place a castle: be to take a bonus tile and/or to position it to score more now or later.

Overall the decisions are clear, without much complexity, yet all of them have branching elements and can't be taken lightly, as the main two (play, withdraw) have many aspects to consider.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Easy to teach;
- Language independent;
- Great depth to rules ratio;
- High interaction, without being agressive;
- Game starts small and builds up.

5) Which are the bad news?
- It has some random factors, in the display of cards and drawing (with bonus tiles). This is more true after the initial distribution of cards, but the designer balanced this by making the economic value of the first province worth one good, while all the others give two (as from the second round on you already get to draw cards from the display, making your own hand);
- Scoring of castles can lead to some mistakes;
- Best with 4 players.

6) How do you feel while playing?
Remembering a time where Reiner Knizia was the Grand Mogul, as Taj Mahal is tense, tight, leading to some strong competition, several choices, with a lively pacing. All while avoiding mini-games and an overly complex overhead.

Taj Mahal keeps true to many of the Knizia classics: short rules, few options, while also being able to bring an unexpected depth, many hard decisions, a good deal of interaction (not harmful) and much to think about on each turn. It has that great beauty in simplicity.

Rate: 8 / 10



IMHOTEP

About Imhotep:

1) What is it?
Imhotep is an area control/influence game in which players take stones, load them to ships and sent these out to monuments, in order to build (influence) them.

Imhotep has pretty straightforward options for the players actions - only the three mentioned - but they, coupled with positioning, timming and what the others do (usually to thwart your plans) add a good amount of depth to the gameplay. And this is done with a fine pacing: just one action done by turn keeps the game going and the downtime small, even with some thought being given to everything being done - it isn't a surprise that the community put it as better with 4, and, second, with 3 players.

The production value is quite good: the tiles are sturdy, the art is fine enough, and, oh dear, what about those huge cubes? They didn't need to be that big, but, by god, kudos to whoever decided that, well, they should be. Replay value isn't through the roof, yet is still there: all monuments have an A and a B side that can be mixed and matched, and also the random order of cards also adds more to the variety.

2) How do you play?
The game lasts for 6 rounds, and at the start of each, a card is revealed and shows which ships will be available for the round. On each turn the players have three options of actions and can do one of them:
- Take 2 stones (a player can have up to 5);
- Add 1 stone to a ship (choosing between empty spaces to place it, if there are more than one);
- Send one ship to a monument (respecting the minimum amount of stones a ship must have in order to be sent out).

Stones are put in monuments in the order they are in the ship - for most places nd moments, the position matter a lot. Points in some monuments are given immediately, while others score at the end of each round or at the end of the game. There are four types of cards that can be taken from the Market when a ship gets there: red cards have an immediated effect; blue cards are kept for later use; green cards scores at the end of the game due to the amount of stones in a given monument; and purple cards are Statues, and the player scores it at the end of the game considering the amount of Statues she has.

At the end of the sixth round, the game is over. End game scoring will happen. The player with the most points will be the winner.

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
- When and where to put a stone. This is relevant not only considering the size of the ship, the amount of stones required for it to ship, what other pieces are already there, but also the place in the ship it will occupy can make a huge difference;
- Where to sent a ship. This works both to use a ship in the best possible way for yourself, or in the worst way to affect your opponents;
- When to take stones. This might be done out of necessity (you are out of stones), to stall and try to buy more time, or simply because you don't want to sent a ship nor can add a stone to one;
- What card to take. This is done less often, but still have big importance, as all cards are good and can have an effect in the outcome of the game;

Overall, the decisions tend to be very clear cut, and all have consequences in the game, as the timming aspects in all of them matter a lot, and what could be awesome if done one round sooner, now can be very bad. Being able to seize opportunities, as well as making the right choices, is key to winning.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Excellent production value;
- Great amount of decisions in a short frame of playing time;
- Has a good level of interaction, but it usually doesn't come as agressive or too mean;
- While is more tatical, a bigger strategy can have its place;
- Easy to teach and to play, but offers some depth;
- Fast paced with small downtime;
- Almost no luck (only in the draw of cards for the Market) - players and their choices decide the outcome.

5) Which are the bad news?
- Mostly is an abstract game - the theme does very little;
- Box is way bigger than it needed to be;
- Allows for some portion of bashing and screwing the others.

6) How do you feel while playing?
Like having the most reliable quarry works and the most rushed ship capitain in the whole Nile. Egypt wasn't bult in a day, people, could you care to wait for just a little while? And he is already gone.

Imhotep hits many positive notes: it is clean, lean and a little mean - not enough to cause much trouble, due to its short playing time and more laid back nature, but in an amount to put it above the multiplayer solitaire, as there are disputes in scoring, for the places in the ships and the movement of them. Imhotep is the type of game that can found a place both for family nights as well as with the gaming crowd - easy to explain, quick to play, choices matter, little luck. Everyone around here liked it, and I'm with everyone: recommended.

Rate: 7.5 / 10



TURN THE TIDE

About Turn the Tide:

1) What is it?
Turn the Tide is a card game of hand management and simultaneous action. It is quick, smart and more balanced than I could imagine for a game with random distribution of cards and random reveal of Water Level cards. It has some memory aspect, in card counting - but is not truly mandatory in order to do well, still, it will help a lot, specially after the first round, when most, if not all, the cards in each hand are revealed.

This happens because of the main twist of the game: once a round is completed, my hand of cards is passed to the player to my left, and I receive the hand of cards of the player to my right. And the game proceeds until everyone has played with all the hand of cards. This is a stroke of genius, as it makes the whole "You did better because you had a better hand" still true, but you will have the chance to try for yourself that hand and see if you will be able to do better or worst.

Turn the Tide has a strong 6 nimmt! feel, due to the simultaneous selection and reveal of cards and because the numbers on them are compared. However, Turn the Tide has a more immediated resolution, as the cards used don't form rows, but they still can have some lasting effects, as the Water Level cards remain with the players until covered by another the player takes, which means a Water Level with high number can be bad for several rounds in a row (or a low numbered can be good for several rounds).

Overall, Turn the Tide is a tatical card game, with a lively pacing and fast resolution, good level of interaction (without targeting players), and it allows for constant decisions, even if not hard ones, to be made.

2) How do you play?
Each player starts with a hand of 12 cards and they count the number of lifesavers in their hand - this shows to the others the strength of the hand of each one: the more lifesavers, the weaker is the hand, but higher the possibility of scoring, if the hand is well played.

Then, two Water Level cards are revealed - these cards range from 1 to 12. Next, all players, at the same time, will pick one of their cards, put in the table and reveal simultaneously. The player with the highest card will take the lowest Water Level, and the player with the second highest card will take the highest Water Level. The other revealed cards are discarded without effect.

Players will, now, compare the Water Level cards they have showing (as Water Level cards taken in earlier rounds are covered when another one is taken by the same player), and the person with the highest Water Level loses one lifesaver, in order to rescue the sheep in most dire neeed.

The round goes on like this until either all the 12 cards have been used, or until there is only two players still with lifesavers - as players without lifesavers are out of the round -, whichever happens first. Each player will gain points equal to the amount of lifesavers they still have by the end of the round.

Before a new round begins, every person passes their hand of cards and lifesavers to the player to the left of them.

The game will end at the end of the round once everyone has played with all hands of cards. Then the player with the most points will be the winner!

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
Only one: which card to use.

It is, as one can imagine, not a very hard one to be made. This is correct, but it isn't without ponderation also. Because the decision of which card to use must take into consideration a few things:
a) Which cards have already been used;
b) Which Water Level cards are open;
c) Which Water Level cards were already taken and which are open in the players area;
d) Which cards you have in hand.

Usually these considerations are done quickly, but this doesn't mean they don't carry importance.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Small and portable;
- Easy to teach and to play;
- Basically no downtime and with fast resolution once the cards are revealed;
- Decisions, while not hard, matter;
- Good amount of interaction.

5) Which are the bad news?
- Though the game have simultaneous action, it will increase in playing time the more players you have, as more players add more rounds of play;
- It has players elimination from the round (not from the whole play). However, the game is made in a way that this will usually happens when the round is near its end anyway, as the less lifesavers a player starts with, the stronger is her hand, therefore, less likely she is to lose those few liversavers.

6) How do you feel while playing?
Very weird. I want to save the sheep (my edition have sheep) - but I must restrain myself and let others do the job. Ok. I can understand this. What bothers me is that, once the game is over, the "winner" will be the person that least helped the sheep!

Look at them, judging you for leaving their kin to drown:




No, no. This can't be right. The winner should be the person that helped the most these poor unfortunated sheep, which all lived in peace and harmony, in the island, near the lighthouse, until climate change made the level of oceans rise and, now, you will let them die and be proud of it?

This all means that, in spite of the game being a very good option for those looking for a quick and smart game, one with a short amount of rules, but carrying a twist that makes it stand out and allow for a more balanced game than most card games out there, in the end Turn the Tide toys with your feelings.

Maybe if I just toss a wood for that sheep...

Rate: 7.5 / 10



EVOLUTION

About Evolution:

1) What is it?
Evolution is an strategic game that has hand management as main mechanic. It puts players in charge of creating and evolving species in order to feed and survive better.

Evolution has a high amount of indirect and direct interaction. The indirect comes from every Herbivore mostly fighting for the same, and limited, amount of available food. The direct is attacking the species of other with Carnivores, which feeds them and lower the population of the attacked species.

There are several paths to follow and combos to be made, both inside the same species as well as with others. Decisions are, normally, not hard to be made, but are important, driving your options: your ability to eat, to resist attacks, to attack, etc.

Replay value is high: the random order and distribution of cards guarantee that the plays will follow different directions, not only in species created, but also in the availability of food, the interactions and timming.

The production value is good: the drawbags and player boards are neat, the tokens, board and cards are OK and it comes with an awesome first player token.

2) How do you play?
Each player starts with a specie with 1 Population and 1 Body, and 4 cards. At the start of each round the player chooses one card from her hand to add to the pool of food that will be available (cards have numbers that says how mch food it will add - some have negative numbers). Cards can be used to:
- Add traits to a specie;
- Increase Population of a specie;
- Increase the Body of a specie;
- Start a new specie (which will begin without traits, and with 1 Population and 1 Body).

Cards can be kept in hand for later rounds. Once everyone has used the cards they want in the way they want, comes the Feeding phase. The cards added at the start of the round will be revealed and the total amount of food will be tallied. Then, starting with the first player, food can be gathered (for Herbivores) or hunted (for Carnivores). Herbivores take food from the pool of food created by the cards, while Carnivores hunt other species and its food comes from the bank (don't affect the central pool directly, but, by lowering the population of other species, it has an indirect effect).

Both Herbivores as well as Carnivores can normally only eat until the food amount reaches the number of Population of the specie. Carnivores can only attack species that have a smaller Body, even if this means attacking a specie owned by the same player that has the Carnivore. Only one specie of the player can attack or take food from the pool, then the feeding turn passes to the next player.

There are, as expected, traits that help gather more food (from the bank, like Long Neck, more from from the pool, like Foraging, etc), others that help protect from Carnivores, others to enchance the ability to hunt, and so on.

Food from the pool that isn't eaten stays for the next Feeding phase. When every has finish eating or there isn't more available food (be to take or to hunt), feeding is over. If a specie wasn't able to feed enough to reach their Population size, it loses population until the amount of food it was able to get.

Players take the food gathered and put them in the bag - they will count as points, at the end of the game.

The round is over. In the new round players will receive 4 cards plus 1 for each specie above 1 the player controls. Play phase continues the same, until the draw deck is empty, then the last round will begin. Once it is over, players will count all the food they gathered - each will be worth 1 point. Also, players will gain 1 point for each trait on the species they have, plus 1 point for each point of Population on the species they have.

The player with the most points will be the winner!

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
The main one: how to use the cards you are dealt. This is valid from the start of the round (which card to add to the food pool) to the play phase - not only to select which Traits will work better with your specie, considering what the others have and what you want, but also to spend cards to increase Population (to gather more food: meaning more points), Body (to defend against Carnivores) and/or to start a new specie (if kept alive, will earn you more cards and increase the cap of the amount of food/points you can get per round).

These use of cards doesn't tend to be much difficulty - there are many you don't want (making it easier to discard) others that maybe are too important, and will be used as traits as soon as you see them. Yet, considering that the traits stay on the table and the increase in Population and Body are permanent (Population can decrease due to hunger or by being hunted), the choices carry weight for later rounds.

The other decisions that can happen often is which specie to feed first and which to attack if you have a Carnivore. Is possible that not all species will be able to feed, and extinction can, indeed, happen, not only due to hunger but also due to attacks of Carnivores, meaning that being able to keep a health amount of Population is very important, not only to being able to take more food (points), but to keep the specie around. On the other hand, this is why deciding which specie to attack is important, both to hurt someone that is doing too well and as a bargain chip if there are other Carnivores around.

Overall, decisions matter and have consequences, but aren't overly complicated nor too difficult.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Production value: the art if neat, the components are nice, everything looks great on the table, specially the first player token;
- High replay value;
- Theme has a strong presence;
- Offers constant decision making;
- Different paths to follow to victory;
- High amount of interaction, both indirect and direct.

5) Which are the bad news?
- Luck has a strong presence, due to the random draw of cards, normally something unwanted in a strategy game;
- Has strategy, but tatical decisions matter more;
- Being able to attack with Carnivores can both lead to some bashing the leader and, worst, to attack players already behind, inducing to a vicious cycle;
- Some cards seems much better than others.

6) How do you feel while playing?
In a very thematic enviroment: the game does create a microcosmos of Nature, in which food is coveted, hunters pray on the weak (and meaty), and evolution makes species better in surviving and grow - be to take more and/or being able to protect themselves, directly or with the help of others. This is truly an achievement, specially for a card game with a few tokens and cubes.

I was excited to play Evolution, as it seemed to fit my bill almost perfectly: theme, reasonable playing time, options and decisions mixed in a not too heavy form. But my first play was lackluster: I was attacked before being able to make my game really start, and this, coupled with some bad decisions, meant I felt like I was just rolling with the punches, not truly playing, instead I was just there - some more attacks meant I was near last when the game finished - the position wasn't an issue, if I at least felt I gave a good try. I didn't.

Then I played again and the experience was better: less players (from 5 to 3) in a more friendly enviroment (as things went, I had the only Carnivore for most of the game), I could develop my tableau, seeing and using more options provided by the game. I still lost, however, I did played.

Games that allow direct attack can have these issues: read the game state is important, but, sometimes, due to protections, is possible to be attacked even when the person doesn't want to do this against you: is simply the biological imperative survival. You better grow a hide and horns, or you won't be able to handle Evolution: this is my warning call.

In the end, Evolution gives a nice thematic experience, a good set of decisions and a high level of interaction, all put in a pretty package and a almost short playing time. Evolution won't work for everyone, mostly due the random aspects and attacks, but can be a good option for those looking for a medium weight tatical game.

Rate: 6.5 / 10




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23. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.40 Overall Rank:4]
Murray Fish
Australia
Canberra
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They explained everything in detail and at great length. After they finished I sat, despondent, contemplating a bleak and empty future. "I’m glad you’re depressed" said one. "It means you’ve understood the situation.”
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== NEW GAMES ==

Terraforming Mars - 1 play
First Published 2016


Played this at a convention and nearly missed out on this gem. What happened was that it was getting a bit late and there were five of us looking for a game. Once chap suggested we try Terraforming Mars as he hadn't read the rules or anything but had watched the first hour of a game earlier in the day and was confident he could explain it all. None of the rest of us had any experience with the game but were up for a challenge. Terraforming Mars was also getting pretty good 'buzz' so we were keen to see what it was all about.

So, we sat down to play and really struggled with just about everything. After about 30 or 40 minutes the 'rules observer' pretty much said "Sorry, guys. This is beyond me". At that point we could have quit and tried something else but we persevered, fumbling our way through one trial turn.

Then it clicked.

Once we worked out how the game worked all five of us really got into it and found ourselves absorbed in the game. It worked and worked very well indeed. Plenty of challenging decisions, great art and gameplay that really captured the theme. The only criticism I'd venture is that the player mats could be better designed with indentations and suchlike to stop tokens sliding about in the course of play.

I probably won't buy this as It wouldn't get much of a run in our house, but I would definitely play again.


Codenames: Pictures - 2 plays
First Published 2016
 


This was my first try with the Codenames family of games. I played it as a filler at the same convention and must say that I really rather enjoyed it.

The basics of the game are very easy to pick up and the stack of card means there is a heap of replayability here. The real make-or-break of game like this is the other players. Fortunately, the other three people (all unknown to me as this was convention gaming) were all great and we had a couple of really interesting games.

Might think about this for the Little Fish in a year or three.


Mysterium - 1 play
First Published 2015


We played this in a games cafe and struggled with setup as the game was not put away as well as it might have been. Not he games fault but it did take a while which was a bit annoying.

The game itself was pretty straightforward and ended up being really easy to the point that there was no real challenge. Both investigators found their person, weapon and place pretty easily and we guessed the correct identity at the end with no real problem at all.

Note that we played on 'easy' level which seemed a fair enough place to start as it was the first game for two of us while the ghost was already a one game veteran. That said, I don't think that playing at a harder level would really have enhanced the experience.

So anyway, we played the game out and that was that. Wouldn't really want to play again and definitely wouldn't purchase. Not my thing at all.
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24. Board Game: Pandemic: Iberia [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:81]
Andreas Pettersson
Sweden
Arvika
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Given our like of regular Pandemic, I think this game will have the most staying power of the new ones this month. Really easy to learn if you know regular Pandemic, but experience from the original game can lead you to losses. Definitely different enough.

The rest of the new games were pretty good too and I think most of them will get more play unless too many new games push them out.

Other new games:
Five Tribes
Chinatown
Citadels
For Sale
Incan Gold
Last Will
Marrakech
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25. Board Game: Brew Crafters [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:532]
Mikael Ölmestig
Sweden
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It was hard to pick a favorite this month because there were no new games that wowed me.

Abracada...What?
Cast spell against other players. The problem is that you don't know what you have. It is a deduction game, but feels more like a push-your-luck. There is not a large amount of strategy and tactics, but it is both enjoyable and fun. With added sound effects even more so.

Black Box
This is more a puzzle than a game. The players are trying to guess where marbles are placed on a grid by probing. With variants I might try it again.

Brew Crafters
Expand your small brewery, make beer and sell it. This is a pretty solid worker placement game that I gladly play again, but it has a hard time to stand out.

Captain Sonar
Each player control a station with some mundane tasks. I was engineering where I control that the systems are fully operated. It's a good team work excercise that I gladly play, but there are better games in the same vein.

Exploding Kittens
I don't know why I played this. Was I awfully bored? (Yes.) To check this off a list of games to try? Even before playing I knew this wasn't meant for me.

Love Letter Premium
This is the greatest surprise of the month. Turns this simple game into a party game when six or more are playing. In this case, I don't mind player elimination.

Trump: The Game
It is not as bad as it looks like. There are some interesting decisions and money management in the game and it doesn't drag on forever.

Tallinn
Not bad, but unremarkable. I would rather play Visby.

Expansions:
Arkham Horror: The Card Game – The Dunwich Legacy: Expansion
The scenarios are fun, new cards for deckbuilding are welcome, but the greatest thing about this expansion are the new characters. They are interesting and flavorful.

Clash of Cultures: Civilizations
I don't mind that the players are more directed to the playstyle of their civilization. There is still more openness than in Sid Meier's Civilization.

XCOM: The Board Game – Evolution
We hadn't played the game in a while and there were a new player, but we found it really hard and we lost horribly. There are now more things to think about which is generally good.
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