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

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

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1. Board Game: Ginkgopolis [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:408]
Board Game: Ginkgopolis
Juan Carlos Goyes
Colombia
Bogota
Cundinamarca
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Board Game: Going, Going, GONE!

Going, Going, GONE!

2017-02-16

Initial Rating: 3.0 (February 2017)

When I bought Going, Going, GONE! I was pretty sure the game was going to be fun! However I’m sorely disappointed.

The rules are pretty easy. You can teach them under 2 minutes. Playtime is around 20 minutes (its best feature).

The art is cool but the game´s components are regular, moreover, it is a very expensive game for what comes in the box.

There are almost no decisions within the game and the few you make are, glaringly, obvious. There is no game here.

Going, Going, GONE! is a party game but no one had any fun playing it.

Bottom line, Going, Going, GONE! Is a miss for me. All the players really disliked it and I expected way more from the game, in fact, it is almost not a game. I will sell my copy ASAP if I can if I can´t I will give it away. I´m surprised Stronghold Games published the game as it is. Awful game.

Current Rating: 2.0


Board Game: Ginkgopolis

Ginkgopolis

2013-10-18

Initial Rating: N/A (October 2013)

So far, I have only read the rules. They could have been clearer. The game is not hard rules wise.

Current Rating: N/A


2017-02-19

Iniital Rating: 7.5 (February 2017)

I finally managed to get Ginkgopolis to the table! I have previously played it twice online but, as I play by turns, I never understood it correctly.

The rules of the game aren’t complex, but, for some reason, I could never understood them perfectly from the rulebook. I think it could be a lot clearer with better examples, perhaps it uses heavy language to explain simple concepts. To summarize, I don’t know why I didn’t understand the rules clearly from the rulebook as I do with most games, but once you understand the rules, you can explain them under 17 minutes. Playtime is also fast, perhaps under an hour with fast players.

My desire to play the game was very high as it is a Xavier Georges´ design and I really love Troyes and like Carson City.

The game´s components are ok as is the art.

The theme is also ok, nothing exciting and you don’t feel it very much through the game, it is almost an abstract game. I dislike the name of the game, but (obviously), this is a minor issue for me.

Ginkgopolis has a mix of area control with drafting. The game´s decisions are very interesting! On one hand you have the tiles that allow you to strategize and form a long term plan. On the other hand you get every turn a new set of cards so thinking the better way to play them is very tactical and fun. The decision aren’t obvious in any way (which card should I play? Should I replace my hand? should I play a card with a tile or without a tile, which tile should I play? should I try to get the majority in a district?),

I think it plays better with three players. I will play with any configuration but one. With higher number of players you have much less control. I need to see if this is an issue for me.

Ginkgopolis is a novel and unique game, it feels very different from any other game in my collection and that’s appreciated.

On the bad side, the game is very expensive and now that I liked it, I must have the expansion which is also very expensive. I hope they reprint it soon. Luck plays a minor role in the game and there are ways to mitigate it, so it doesn’t bother me much.

Bottom line, Ginkgopolis is a good game with the perfect mix of strategy and tactics. It plays very fast for a game this deep and it is also an unique game. A keeper in my game collection.

Current Rating: 7.5

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Board Game: Malta!

Malta!

2017-02-19

Initial Rating: 4.0 (February 2017)

As Malta! is currently rated 12791 here on BGG, I was expecting an awful game, but I confess I had some fun playing it. Still it is NOT a game for us.

The rules are very simple to teach, you can do it under 90 seconds. Playtime is very variable, it can be very fast or too long for such a simple game.

The game´s decisions are obvious, you don’t have to think anything here. Luck of the draw rules the day. There is no strategy, pure tactics.

Bottom Line, Malta! can be a good game to introduce to new players, but I dislike it. Too much luck, nothing to think and very light. It can be too long for what it offers. I will do my best to stay away from the game and I already sold it.

Current Rating: 3.5


Board Game: Oceanos

Oceanos

2017-02-19

Initial Rating: 4.5 (February 2017)

Antoine Bauza is mostly a miss for me, so I wasn’t expecting anything good from the game and I was right. Oceanos is a great looking game but too boring and simple for us.

The rules are easy to teach, you can do it under 10 minutes. Playtime is under one hour.

The game´s components are great! IELLO always deliver in the production values department. The art is also amazing! The game looks gorgeous in the table.

The theme is ok.

Oceanos is VERY similar to another game I dislike (The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet), the game´s decisions are obvious and luck of the draw is very high.

Bottom line, Oceanos can be a great family game, but I dislike it. Bauza (almost) never delivers for me (I love Hanabi). Oceanos is a very simple game with obvious decisions and lots of uncontrollable luck. I already sold my copy of the game.

Current Rating: 4.0


Time's Up! Party

2017-02-19

Initial Rating: 9.5 (February 2017)

Time's Up! is my favorite party game EVER! And it is currently number 4 among my favorite games of all time! I love it!

This new edition is great because it adds more (badly needed) variety. We play the game so much that many of us have memorized a lot of cards.

The party edition of the game doesn’t focus on famous people, it has a bit of everything.

It is great to have the game in Spanish, so everyone can play with us.

As the game´s box is yellow, this edition has been confused with the Yellow Edition, but they are different. There is currently not a BGG entry for the game.

Bottom line, Time´s Up! Party is a great (the best) party game and I totally recommend it. Having more cards for the game is always very welcomed. Time´s Up! Party is a keeper for me.

Top Ten game.

Current Rating: 9.5


Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse: Infernal Relics

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Infernal Relics
2013-02-18

Initial Rating: N/A (February 2013)

I played this mixed with the base game and another expansion. As I’m not sure what elements were particular of this expansion, I will refrain from rating and commenting this expansion. I really like the game though. I have rated the base game a 7.0.

Current Rating: N/A


2017-02-19

Initial Rating: 7.5 (February 2017)

I´m currently loving Sentinels of the Multiverse, so I really like this expansion.

The art continues to be great and the new cards don’t add much complexity rules´ wise.

I’m disappointed that the expansion only adds 2 new heroes and 2 new environments (way too few ). It also adds 4 new villains (a decent number). At this point, I have only played against The Ennead and Gloomweaver and we beat them rather easily! It seems Rook City´s villains were much harder to beat (especially Spite! It took me a long while to defeat him).

The environments are cool to play. Tomb of Anubis really helps the heroes in many instances so it is a, relatively, easy environment. Realm of Discord is a much harder environment with its Discord cards (I love them ).

The new heroes play very different from previous heroes so that’s a huge plus for me. Nightmist is a powerhouse. She deals herself a lot of damage but she also can heal a lot, and she can deal a lot of damage or prevent a deck from playing, VERY POWERFUL. Argent Adept is mostly a support hero. He relies heavily on his cards and playing him isn’t as straightforward as many heroes. Both heroes need to combo cards to work properly. I really like them

Bottom line, Sentinels of the Multiverse: Infernal Relics is a very good addition to the game and a must have for me. It adds a lot of variability and my desire to continue playing with it is very high.

Current Rating: 7.5


Board Game: Hex-A-Gon

Hex-A-Gon

2017-02-27

Initial Rating: 4.0 (February 2017)

I bought the game by mistake on 2013 (it took me a long time to play it.), I thought it was Hexxagon, a game I played on Yucata, instead, it was a very different and disappointing game. For the record I no longer enjoy Hexxagon either!

Hex-A-Gon is an abstract game with very simple rules. You can teach it under 75 seconds. Playtime is also fast.

The game´s components are great, very high quality and that´s its best feature.

As most abstract games, it is much better when played with two players, with more the game decays into pure chaos and you cannot think ahead of your turn. Still, the game´s decisions are pretty easy and obvious with two players.

Bottom line, Hex-A-Gon is a very light abstract game and a failure for me. It has obvious decisions and I will do my best to stay away from it. I already sold my copy of the game.

Current Rating: 3.5


Board Game: Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

2017-02-27

Initial Rating: 6.0 (February 2017)

I bought Leonardo da Vinci when CSI had it on sale, and it was on sale for ages so I, naturally, was expecting a very regular game, however, I´m pleasantly surprised.

Leonardo da Vinci is a mix of worker placement with area control.

The rules are easy to teach, you can do it under 15 minutes. Playtime is around 110 minutes.

The game´s components and art is ok, nothing too exiting though. There is a pawn (Lord of the City) that you never use (you are supposed to use it to show what action in the city you are resolving, but the rules don´t mention it). The rules could be better written, there are some ambiguities.

The theme is ok, but you don’t feel it though the game.

Best with 4 players.

The game´s decisions are interesting (where to play your helpers, where to play your master, which invention to pursue, should I go for the same kind of invention of for a different kind?, should I upgrade my laboratory?, should I get a robot?, should I pay for the benefit of my spot? Should I devote more pawns to my invention?, should I get resources?).

On the bad side, I (somewhat) dislike that when you and other player finish an invention at the same time, you have to auction for it. This allows the other players to pull ahead and the competing players to fall behind and it is mostly luck if (furthermore at the beginning of the game) you do the same invention. Perhaps this issue can be solved for me with more plays. In general, the game has a low luck factor. Another issue is that it seems it is hard to catch a runaway leader. I need more plays to verify if this is indeed the case.

Bottom line, Leonardo da Vinci is a decent game and I should like it more but I wasn’t excited over it when I played it. I can’t say at this moment why I don’t like it more, I should love it but I don’t. Perhaps it can get an upgraded rating from me with more plays and I’m open to play it again, however, as I´m currently trying to downsize my game collection, it has to go. If I play it again I will play with the variable setup, we played the introductory one.

Current Rating: 6.0


Board Game: Spyfall 2

Spyfall 2

2017-02-27

Initial Rating: 7.5 (February 2017)

I really like Spyfall, so it is no wonder I also like Spyfall 2, furthermore if you take into account that both games are VERY similar.

Spyfall 2 is not an expansion, but a standalone game. The rules continue to be very easy to explain, you can do it under 2 minutes and playtime is around 1 minutes or less.

I love that the game comes with 20 new locations (although I expected 30) and you can mix them with the ones from the base game, however, I´m not sure how to do that just yet. I haven’t read the rules and both games have a different number of cards per location, so it is very easy for the dealer to know if the location is from Spyfall or Spyfall 2 or for the spy if he gets the new art (female spy).

With the new edition of the game, up two 12 players can play now and there is now two spies instead of one. The spies can play ignorant of the other spies or knowing each other!

I still prefer to play it on the range of 6-8 players, but I already played it as a twelve player game and we all had fun! In fact I cannot think of another game (other than Time´s up!) that handles 12 players so well, this is a huge advantage.

As with its parent game, it doesn’t come with player´s aids and they are a must! There are some excellent aids here on BGG.

Bottom line, I like Spyfall 2 because it is a great party game, it plays fast, it is easy to teach, it can play up to 12 players and I love the bluffing required to win it. It is VERY group dependent though, I have a couple of friends who despise the game, but it is a keeper for me.

Current Rating: 7.5


Board Game: Guilds of London

Guilds of London

2017-02-27

Initial Rating: 7.0 (February 2017)

Guilds of London is a good Euro game, I really like games in which the cards have multiple uses .

The rules aren’t very complex, you can explain them under 16 minutes. Playtime is much more than the advertised 45 minutes, furthermore, when you are learning it as you constantly have to refer to the game aids to see what your cards do. Still, I have a hard time imagining the game ending in about 45 minutes with 4 expert players. Playtime for me was about 150 minutes, with expert players I would guess it can end in about 75 minutes.

The art and components are ok, but nothing that excites me. The icons are functional and you understand them rather quickly.

The theme is also ok.

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

Guilds of London has interesting decisions, basically, how to play your cards to the best effect. You can play cards to recruit people, play people to try to gain the first or second place on a guild, play the effect of the cards (sometimes paying for it) or use them as money to pay for the effect. It seems the game has a lot of replayability and multiple paths to victory.

The luck of the draw is present, but I´m not sure if it impacts the game negatively. I need more plays to verify if it is too much or, as I suspect, it can be mitigated with clever play. I think you always have something interesting to do, no matter which cards you draw, however, sometimes you do need the correct color of cards and you just simply don’t have it.

As with most area control games, going last is a huge advantage so having the player who has the least VPs going last is a good balancing mechanism.

Guilds of London has some “take that” elements that I don´t enjoy much. Also the black meeples can be used to attack someone, they are very powerful and mean.

Bottom line, Guilds of London offers a mix of strategy (goal cards) and (mainly) tactics with very interesting decisions in each turn. The first game will be very slow because each player has to refer to the aid often. I think Guilds of London will be a keeper for me, but I need more plays to see if this is the case. It is a borderline 7.0 for me right now.

Current Rating: 7.0


Board Game: Deus: Egypt

Deus: Egypt

2017-02-27

Initial Rating: 7.5 (February 2017)

I love Deus, so the expansion was a must have for me and I’m very glad I got to play it. It elevates the game for me!

Deus: Egypt is a modular expansion, it adds 16 new cards for each of the six areas of development. The great part for me is that you can use replace some of the cards of the base game and leave others so the combinations are high and that makes for a high replayability factor.

The expansion adds many new rules, but they are easy to learn and teach. In general, now most cards have a once per game power that activates as soon as you play it and some cards have a precondition that must be met before playing it. There are a couple of new concepts (oceans and rank) but they work intuitively, so teaching them is very easy and you can do it in a minute. Each area of development now introduces a new rule and I love this .

The maritime buildings now change the market value and end game VP bonuses of the game´s resources. Manipulating this price is very fun.

The production buildings now come with a barge a la Imhotep, and they work as a storage for your resources. This changes the game deeply as in the base game a good strategy was amassing a lot of resources of the same kind to negate them to other players, you can no longer do this unless you have a lot of barges (very unlikely).

The scientific building have crazy powerful once per game effects.

The civil buildings now come with a scribe often that interact with the effect of the cards. In my game I didn’t use them very often but i want to try them again.

The military units come now with combat token that you can use in many ways. In our game a player used two of these token to get the points from a village without surround it first! Powerful stuff.

The temples are my favorite addition to the game, now they no longer work at the end of the game, but they offer powerful effects and VPs during the game.

Bottom line, I love the Deus: Egypt expansion. I was expecting just only new cards to add, but they added so much more with the new rules. Each of these new cards changes the game radically and I really like it. There is much to explore here mixing all the combinations. A must addition for the base game, it really enhances it without adding too much complexity. I hope they release more expansions for the game with this modular idea in mind.

Current Rating: 8.0


Board Game: Kraftwagen

Kraftwagen

2017-02-27

Initial Rating: 7.0 (February 2017)

Matthias Cramer is a designer that I respect a lot. I love Helvetia and I really like Lancaster and Glen more, so my desire to play Kraftwagen was very high!

I imported the game from Germany on 2015 and it was very expensive, and worse of all for me, it came without the V6 mini expansion, I had to buy it separately, again from Germany. For this reason I prefer the Stronghold edition of the game, and it is much cheaper as well.

Kraftwagen´s rules are very easy to grasp and teach. You can teach it under 15 minutes. Play time is around 1 hour, which is very fast for this kind of game.

The game´s component are well done and they serve their purpose well. They are thick cardboard. The art is ok.

The theme isn’t among my favorites but it works!

Kraftwagen reuses the main mechanism found in Glen More, that is, the turn order is decided by who is going last and that player can get any action he desires, but if he jumps ahead by a lot, other players will play many turns before he plays again. It is a tense balancing mechanism deciding how many spots to jump, it is brilliant.

The game´s decisions are not obvious, in fact I’m amazed that it has a lot of deepness for a game that plays this fast. In particular, deciding how much to price your car is a tense and fun decision!

There is a lot of uncontrollable luck with the engineering cards and I’m still undecided how I feel about them. On one hand you see two cards at any moment, but some cards are clearly much more powerful than others, so it is pure luck if you get what you need when it is your turn. I would have preferred this to be less random, besides, it feels un-thematic for the players not having access to the same level of development. In Rococo, the random cards destroyed the game for me, I hope this is not the case here.

Bottom line, I enjoyed my play of Kraftwagen. I wish there was a way to control the luck of the draw but as it plays so fast I don’t mind much. It is a solid 7.0 for me and probably a keeper in my game collection but I need more plays to decide. I also like that the new edition of the game comes with a variant that I want to try soon.

Current Rating: 7.0

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Board Game: Glen More

Glen More

2016-01-13

Initial Rating: N/A (September 2013)

So far I have only played the game online but I want to play it face to face before rating it. To that end I bought the game and I plan to play it soon.

The insert of the game is useless.

Current Rating: N/A


2017-02-28

Initial Rating: 7.0 (February 2017)

I finally played Glen more face to face. I have previously played a couple of times online and, although I understood the core mechanism of the game, I had some holes in the rules. I always lost my games and I didn’t know why. A friend explained the game to me and it turned out the biggest you village the more points you will lose at the end .

I bought the game on 2015 and I finally played it. In general I dislike tile laying games, but I enjoyed Glen More.

The rules are pretty easy to teach, you can do it under 10 minutes. The hardest are the special tiles but you can explain them as they appear. The game moves at a fast pace, playtime is around 60 minutes.

The game´s components are very flimsy, furthermore, it was a very expensive game, I had to import from Germany as it was out of print in America. The art is ok, but the tiles have tiny text on them that isn’t easy to read.

Best with 4 fast players, with more I begin to feel the downtime.

Ok theme, but it doesn’t excite me (that’s ok for an Euro game). In any case it is very thin.

The game´s decisions are very interesting (namely, which tile to take, where to put it, how to move your meeples inside your village and how far to jump ahead in the turn order track). Going last all the time seems great, but, as I wrote before, if you take a lot more tiles that your opponents, at the end of the game you will lose a lot of points, so you have to strike a balance between opportunistic turn order and village size, I love this (and that’s missing from Kraftwagen, a game that uses the same mechanism but do not penalize taking a lot of extra actions). Glen More is more deep that I initially thought.

I also enjoy the spatial element of building your village. It seems the game has many paths to victory, but I need more plays to verify this point.

Bottom line, Glen More is a good Euro game and a solid 7.0 to me. It plays very fast for a game of this kind and I want to explore it further. It is a keeper in my game collection. I know a second edition of the game is coming, but I’m not sure if I will get it, time will tell.

One of 2010 favorites.

Current Rating: 7.0
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2. Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:457]
Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest
Frederic Heath-Renn
United Kingdom
Islington
London
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A pretty good month for new games - didn't play anything I think was entirely without merit. In roughly ascending order, then, as ever:

Santorini (7 plays) - Only new on a technicality (which is why I list it here - think of it as being screened out of competition) since I'd played the original edition before. Still elegant of rule and fun of play, the new version is a bit overproduced but it's nice to look at and the ergonomics of it are pretty rad. Haven't dug into the newer gods yet so can't speak for balance and playability for those but it's a great little abstract.

Tumblewords (1 play) - I got utterly hammered at this. It's a neat concept but it feels quite inflexible, and played on SDG with a sharply delineated wordlist it's more an abstract with random elements than it is a word game exactly. I'd be interested in playing again but it didn't amaze me on first outing.

Timeline: Inventions (1 play) - It's another Timeline game. Not that that's any slight exactly but it'd be a bit silly to rate it my top discovery for the month. Probably harder than the other ones I've played, but I kind of like that it requires you to make educated guesses for, for example, what sort of time the toothpaste tube would first have been feasible as an idea to be invented.

Terra (1 play) - Another trivia game; I've played Fauna and I'm not convinced this is as good - the thing is, I don't know much about animals, so the guessing and adjacencies and following other people and holding cubes back elements are more important in that; whereas a few of the questions here I did, in fact, know pretty well on what the correct answers were so it was a matter of maximising my score given those. Fundamentally I do enjoy quizzing so no game about me showing off my trivia knowledge is ever going to be a slog, but I'm not sure that Terra's attempts to add something more to the fundamental 'do you know this or not?' dynamic are successful. Definitely not the best or second-best game that matches the regex /^Terra.*$/.

The Others (1 play, with Gluttony expansion) - Reasonably decent, for a miniatures combat game. This sort of three-hour dice-chucker is never going to fit entirely within my wheelhouse but I enjoyed our play of it: the different roles of the heroes distribute well enough in a way which gives everyone something to do, the mechanics (corruption, combat, reactions) are mostly relatively simple and intuitive rather than being weighed down by rulescruft, and it felt pretty challenging and on a knife-edge from my point of view on the Faith team. I may not play it again but I don't regret playing it. Better than Fury of Dracula (Third/Fourth Edition), for sure.

Colony (1 play) - This I enjoyed surprisingly much: in part, perhaps, because of its superficial resemblance to Dominion, but it's a nice light dice game which doesn't outstay its welcome and is mechanically interesting. Perhaps on further play it turns out the dice luck steers your choices a little too much, or perhaps on further play you git gud. Who knows. The name 'Colony' makes it sound a hell of a lot duller than it is.

Powerboats (1 play) - Mechanically simple but oh-so-satisfying race game, reminiscent of schooltime pen-and-pencil game Racetrack and abstract delight Crosshairs. It's about knowing when to speed up and slow down, when to execute pixel-perfect turns and when to crash into an island (probably don't do that last one). Plotting increasingly complicated courses around increasingly difficult tracks felt like natural and enjoyable escalation, and even if the staggered scoring is a cheap way to keep everyone involved until the end, well, it does keep everyone involved until the end. Not harmful in the slightest.

But I feel as if game of the month should probably go to 1846: The Race for the Midwest (1 play) - definitely the game I've thought about most since it finished. It's a little difficult at the start to work out how everything fits together mechanically and I was probably a bit slow (no-one's first time is perfect, I'm told), and I will admit I don't really see what I did wrong and could have done better - but isn't that meant to be the joy of it? Whatever, even outside of the competitive element there's a simple logistical joy in buying and running trains, not to mention desperately trying to work out how you're going to cope when you're forced to buy another train for a lot of money. I'd definitely like to play this more, and I can imagine once you get into the rhythm of it and can focus more on shafting each other it becomes a blissful delight. I can see that it's probably not worth playing the field with any other 18xx games until I can successfully reach completion with this one.
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3. Board Game: Neolithic [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:3882]
Board Game: Neolithic
Joe Wyka
United States
Pleasant Hill
California
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Not a great month for new-to-me's. Only one game here that I'm inclined to hold onto. I did get in some great plays of some older titles, like Roads & Boats that I hadn't brought out for a while, so all is good.

I have so many games, I seem to get just as excited for game I don't love and can let go of as for great new discoveries. It's gotta be a psychological condition.



Board Game: Neolithic

Neolithic - 7
Cool, little two-player tableau-building card game. Best game from Clowdus and Small Box Games that I've played, by a long shot!

The game is a bit of a turn off when you first look at it. The art is nothing special. The card backs are cluttered with text reminding players how to draft them. Each card is dual-use, so cards have pictures and text going in two directions. However, once you get past that first impression, you'll find a fun two-player drafting game with a considerable decision space.

Players are ancient tribes developing nascent cultures through hunting, gathering, procreating and innovating. Each of these aspects are represented by a different deck of cards. Those four decks, plus a fifth deck, "Forage", which is a mix of the other four, are shuffled and placed between the players. Players play their villager cards next to a deck in order to draw some cards and then immediately play or keep some in hand - the rules for which are a little different for each deck. Instead of playing a villager, players can take their villagers back and play an equal number of cards to their village, which is a tableau players build throughout the game. Cards in your village give you icons which act as requirements for other cards and/or points at the end of the game. Balancing what you draft with what's in your hand and what's in your village is what the game is about. The way in which villagers are retrieved and how that is tied to developing your tableau creates opportunities for some pretty crafty play. This game plays bigger than a small deck card game has any right to play.



Board Game: Nippon

Nippon - 6
Fun action selection mechanics leading to advancement on pretty standard income tracks and area majority contests. A good game that doesn't quite hit my gaming sweet spot.

The design duo of Soledade and Sentieiro has risen to prominence in the last few years with popular, somewhat complex mid-weight euros such as Panamax and Madeira. This was my first experience with one of their games and from what I understand it is smoother and less opaque than their other titles. I plan to get all of these to the table this year. Lacerda and these guys are the designers of late I really need to get caught up on!

Nippon is a game of the Japanese industrial revolution. Players are Zaibatsu, one of the four giant corporations competing to contribute the most to the industrialization of Japan. On a turn, players either select an action or consolidate. The game comes with many pawns in 6 different colors and these are randomly distributed in sets of 3 to each action box, each of which is a associated with 1 or 2 possible actions. To pick an action, a player takes a pawn from the action box of their choice, perform the action, and add the pawn to their player board, which can hold up to six pawns. The trick here is that when you consolidate - which you can do on any turn, but you must do when you've collected six pawns - you have to pay a maintenance cost for each different color you've collected. So you want to collect as few colors as possible, which potentially makes some actions more expensive depending on the colors that are available. This decision point is the best, most original part of the game. The actions themselves are pretty mundane - build a factory, produce goods, advance on income tracks, use goods to complete contracts, use goods to add influence tiles to the board, or add influence and point bonuses to regions. Nothing too special. Another interesting aspect is that the more pawns you return during consolidation, the higher end-game scoring chip you get to apply to an end-game scoring category of your choice.

It's great weighing the cost of the available colors for action selection and evaluating what colors might be coming up after the next bag draw based on what's been consolidated back into the bag to minimize your color differences and your costs. The rest of the game however feels really pedestrian to me.

Halfway into the game, one player asked, "What is the historical context for the benefit of having a homogeneous workforce?" Good question! Let's ask Steve Bannon.



Board Game: Hanamikoji

Hanamikoji - 6
Super-quick filler in the same style of Knizia's Battle Line. The "I split, you choose" card play here sets it apart well enough. Games are almost too quick, and after the first round, when half the geishas are claimed, card draws start to have an out-sized influence.

Our games had gone so quick, I kept looking back at the rules to see if we'd missed something. Seven geishas are lined up and players draw six cards to start. On a turn, players draw a card and then pick one of four actions - save a card, remove two cards, offer 3 and take two, offer two pairs and take one. Cards are specific to a geisha and cards taken are played to the appropriate geisha. When both players have taken their 4 actions, scoring occurs. More cards on a side gives the geisha to that player. First player to win 4 geishas or get 11 charm points (geishas are worth 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5) wins the game.

Because there are so few cards, geishas are claimed quickly. Seems like it is uncommon for a game to go past 2 rounds. For me, it is too quick. With half of the geishas claimed in the 2nd round, many item cards become useless and the person who draws fewer of those is in a much better position. That's my take, anyway, and it is disappointing in a game that is otherwise well put together. The decisions are interesting, but the whole game is too quick for me to get much invested.


Board Game: Aeon's End

Aeon's End - 6
Very playable co-op deckbuilder with claims of mechanical originality. While there are a few new tricks, they don't prove to be particularly interesting to a casual player in the genre. The astoundingly generic theme and objectives don't help.

Players work together to defeat a "Nemesis", a powerful beast with unique abilities and whatnot. Players must defeat the nemesis or survive to the end of its draw deck before they are all brought to zero life or their home, which they are defending, is brought to zero health. The base game comes with 4 nemeses and 8 or 9 champions and various "village" cards to purchase. Expansions, I assume, simply add cards to each of these categories. Turn actions generally follow the basic co-operative deckbuilding format (power up, purchase, cast), so let's focus on what's different.

1) You never shuffle your cards. When you need a new draw deck, you simply flip over your discard pile and start drawing. 2) Turn order is randomly drawn each turn. In a four player game, you'd shuffle one turn order card for each player and two nemesis cards into a pile and shuffle it again when you burn through it. 3) Attack spells are readied one turn prior to taking affect. Many cards and actions make use of spells that have been readied but not cast. 4) The Nemesis deck has different forms of attack that can be potentially thwarted in different ways, or have delayed effects. 5) Each character has a powerful ability that needs to be powered up, which gives you a new choice for spending other than acquiring new cards.

Suprisingly, it is the most mundane element - the special player powers - that does more than anything to set this game apart. Once you know your nemesis and your purchase cards, players can strategize their game before beginning and these strategies seem to be largely governed by when and how players are going to use their abilities. If one player is more of a healer and another can cast powerful versions of other character's readied spells, you are going to choose and pace your purchases to support those abilities. Not shuffling is not as impactful as you'd think. With a hand of 5, your ability to manipulate your deck without leveraging special powers is very limited. It mostly means that any card you acquire (and goes on your discard) won't get drawn for a looong time! Random turn order does add some tension, especially when things are down to the wire.

While the game has some mechanical creativity, these aspects are offset by having a bland theme, mundane objectives, and a lack of card variety (all spells are attack spells, all gems are purchase/power cards). While the card variety will likely improve with expansions, the other aspects will not and that's what keeps this game from feeling all that original. For me, I find Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game to feel more unique and different and for me that is the better co-op deckbuilding title to keep.



Board Game: Klunker

Klunker - 6
An Uwe Rosenberg card game that shares some key aspects of another card game from that period, Bohnanza. It feels more random though, and the levers of control feel pretty weak.

Before his big box worker-placement designs, Rosenberg was known as an innovative card game designer. This one came two years after Bohnanza and has a similar objective of turning sets into cash by flipping cards. Turns have a fairly clean structure - draw back up to 6 cards, put any number of cards from your hand into your "shop window", take turns adding cards to your "safe" (which is where your sets are built), and then take turns purchasing from each other's shop windows to immediately add those cards to your safe. Any time a set of four is created, turn it into cash and remove those cards from the game. Repeat until you cannot replenish everyone's hands back to 6. Most cash wins.

The trick that makes the game interesting is that for every different type of card in your safe when you trade in a set, your set is worth one less. This requires holding more cards in hand until you have a set or can complete one through buying from the shop windows. Shop windows, though, often have things you want and things you don't and it all has to go direct to your safe. That said, no strategy seemed as powerful as an advantageous draw. The game plays super-quick, almost too quick for anything meaningful to develop. It wasn't terrible, but I'm not sure why I'd play this over Bohnanza.



Board Game: 12 Days

12 Days - 6
A Christmas-themed card game with surprisingly tough decisions. That said, the game comes off as strangely static as you struggle to maintain the points in your hand.

Everything happens in twelves. You have a hand of 12 cards. You play 12 rounds. Cards are worth from 1-12 points. Every round you "gift" a card to the player on your left. You then bid for a point card (worth 1-12, depending on round), with the lowest card winning. Then you draw. Repeat 12 times. At the end of the game players with a majority in their hand for each number scores that number, so if you have the most 10s, you add one of your 10 cards to your score pile. The number of cards of each type equals its value, so there is 1 one, 2 twos, 3 threes and so on. There are also two zero value cards that can be used to win bids for point cards, but if you win with them, you have to gift the card you win to someone else.

This is essentially a set-building auction game. The twist is that the sets you are building are in your hand and are not revealed until the end of the game. Since you are forced to give up two cards each round, it can be hard to maintain your sets and to know how many of a number you need to save to get your majority. Careful observation of the cards folks bid with can tell you what people are not likely to be collecting. We found that early in the game you sort of commit to certain numbers and then only a small portion of your hand cycles and it is usually dictated by what you draw. Since you have limited visibility to what others are collecting, your hard decisions start to feel a bit like guess work. It's a strange game that I didn't dislike, but still found it a bit unsatisfying. This is a borderline low 6 / high 5 game for me. The artwork is garish and hard to read and bland at the same time. I don't know how they did it.



Board Game: Crazy Karts

Crazy Karts - 5
Team-based programmed movement sounds like it could lead to fun and surprising chaos. Unfortunately, in this case, there is more chaos in the game mechanics than there is in the result of your choices.

In this racing game, players team up to control a cart. Each player controls different aspects of the cart by programming moves at the start of their turn. Players are not allowed to communicate about what they are programming, so while one player controls the brakes and the steering, the other controls the speed and so on. There are 5 aspects of the carts that each player controls. The entire point of the game is enjoying the surprise and potentially hilarious chaos of teams getting out of sync in their programming.

However, it doesn't quite unfold that way. Many of the obstacles reduce your cart's speed to zero, which really limits the kind of crazy things that could happen. Mismatched programs lead to small changes rather than crazy results. The track lacks the conveyor belts and automatic shooting that really contribute to the unpredictability in a game like RoboRally. Because each team member alternates in their actions as their turn unfolds, it can get to be confusing as to where you are in the sequence and what comes next. In our game, I felt the need to actively orchestrate the game, or people would have been lost to a point that it would have made the game really drag. With me actively orchestrating, folks liked it okay, but I don't think that would have been the case otherwise. The game is most like a Mario Kart race, with power ups and minor obstacles to traverse, but ultimately, this game feels like too much work for what comes of it. It's rare that I would say this to criticize a game, but there simply isn't enough surprise and chaos to create the good times the premise promises.



Board Game: Joking Hazard

Joking Hazard - 4
A "change-of-pace" game for fans of Cards Against Humanity based on the Cyanide & Happiness Random Comic Generator. While it generally suites the purpose, the incredible laziness in both the design and the card art is plainly apparent.

I could tell you the rules for Joking Hazard, but there is little point since the rules clearly state that if you don't like the ones published, stop being so anal and just make up your own! Each card is a comic panel. First the judge draws one panel from the deck, then adds a panel from their hand to place before or after the drawn panel, and then the other players suggest a final panel from one in their hands. The judge decides which card wins. So, yes, this is CAH with comic panels, with an equal degree of crass topicality.

Okay, so the design is pretty much non-existent. What about the humor? Well, some of the cards and combos can be really funny. Just like in CAH, some rounds will be humorless because of the available cards, sometimes it will be hilarious. You can bet on a fair amount of both kinds of rounds in each game. However, many times people look at their cards and say, "Are there duplicates? I've had these cards before." In reality, I don't think there are dupes, but the differences in some of the cards are so minor, they start to feel repetitive. There are too many cards where they just swapped the expressions of the two characters and left it at that. THIS, more than anything, is really unforgivable. If the main point of the game is to play with comic panels and you have thousands of previously produced panels to choose from, why add so many cards that can be barely told apart in the playing? This is the height of laziness and is truly unforgivable.

However, if you have friends who insist on playing CAH more than you'd care to, Joking Hazard's main purpose in life is for you to bring this out after that suggestion is made and say, "I think we should try this one. Trust me. You'll love it." In that particular context, it might serve a useful purpose for you.
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4. Board Game: Tyrants of the Underdark [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:190]
Board Game: Tyrants of the Underdark
Will Plante
United States
Greenville
Rhode Island
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I'm still working through a backlog of games I've gotten via trade, plus a few recent purchases. I also went with my whole family to Totalcon where I got to play a bunch of games and see folks that I only see at this event. If you're a New England'er I'd recommend checking it out. I highlighted all the new games I played at TotalCon in green.



My favorite game of the month

Board Game: Tyrants of the Underdark
Tyrants of the Underdark -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8/10):

This ended up being one of my favorite plays from TotalCon. It was on my radar for a while, but by the time it came out I wasn't sure that deck building + area control would be a combination of mechanics I'd like. Also pictures don't do this game justice, itlooks much better in person. The art on the cards is great and the relatively sparse board actually works well with the game play. The board ends up being covered with minis so it is easy to count up majorities in each region, especially since each area is clearly marked.

As far as game play is concerned, Tyrants knocks it out of the park. I love area control games, deck building not so much, but the combination works surprisingly well. The card play dovetails nicely with the actions you would normally take in an area control game. Tyrants adds two types of units you can place on the board which has a lot of different implications during the game. Soldiers need to be placed contiguous to one another, but you can place spies outside of any region. Once a spy is in place, soldiers can now be placed in that region without worrying about the usual placement rules. This really opens the game up since no area is ever truly safe.

One component of the deck building I really thought was clever is that each card will score points at the end, but you can "promote" (remove from the game) a card to your inner circle and it will score more points. This sets up an interesting dynamic as you try and time when you should start promoting cards from your deck because the more points a card is worth the better the powers it'll have.

There is a lot more going on with the game play, but suffice it to say that everything works seamlessly and there is a lot of depth to explore. Each game you choose two of four decks to play with so there is still a lot more to explore in the game. Tyrants is an in your face, aggressive game, it is area control at it's nastiest.

I'm excited to see designers explore different ways to combine mechanics with area control. Guilds of London and Lotus are great examples of this and hopefully there will be more to come. On the flip side I'm not usually a fan of deck builders, but when it isn't the whole game I've found some games I really like such as Clank and Super Motherload.

Tyrants exceeded all my expectations and I'm looking forward to playing with my kids, I even think my son will enjoy it in large part due to the theme, even though he normally isn't a fan of area control games.




Board Game: Kanagawa
Kanagawa -> 5 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8/10):

I finally got to play this with my family and it was a hit. First I'll mention that the art and production are top notch, this is a beautiful game. Kanagawa is another perfect 30 - 45 minute family weight game and there is just enough going on in the game that it will appeal to folks in most game groups. The combination of drafting, set collection and duel use cards (they are either paintings or paints/special powers) make this a very engaging game to play considering how light it is.

I'm always impressed by games that fall into this weight class and time frame yet manage to create play experiences that you want to keep revisiting similar to heavier games I enjoy. Kanagawa falls into the same category as Takenoko, Finca and Habitats.



Board Game: New York Slice
New York Slice -> 2 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8/10):

I hadn't played Piece o Cake, but always thought it'd be great to play with my family so I picked up NY Slice when I got the chance. NY Slice is the best I split you choose game I've played and will probably replace Animals On Board in our collection.

NY Slice does add one new mechanic, the bonus cards. When I play with my youngest daughter (6) I'll leave the bonus cards out to begin with just to keep the game straightforward. However; I played a few times over the weekend with my older daughter and friends and included the cards, they add a bit more strategy to the game especially when dividing the pie.

I have to mention the production as well, NY Slice might have the best combination of theme and components in a game I've played. The box opens up like a pizza box, the score pad looks like an order pad, the directions look like a menu and the daily special tiles look like chalk board signs. The pizza slices are nice and think and the artwork is great, a huge thumbs up from me!



Board Game: Avenue
Avenue -> 3 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

Took a flyer on Avenue and ended up getting a great game. The quick pitch is take Karuba and get rid of all the fiddly set up and you have Avenue. I really like Karuba, but setting up that game takes as long as playing it, so it keeps it sits on the shelf when we are looking for a quick game/opener. With Avenue you open the box, give everyone a sheet, shuffle some cards and start playing.

I also think I prefer the scoring in Avenue, especially since you have to score higher inn each successive round or you score 0, needless to say I score too many zeros. Avenue is simple to teach and really a blast to play. My only concern is that all the sheets have the same layout, but so far our games have played out quite differently. It also wouldn't take much to come out with new maps and sell them as mini expansions, here's hoping the game warrants this. For the price I'd highly recommend taking a flier on Avenue, especially if you're looking for some games to fill out an order.



Board Game: Game of Trains
Game of Trains -> 9 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

I took a flier on this game because I love the artwork. The game play is Racko (getting numbers in a sequence) with some special powers thrown in. There is some added player interaction as you can cause everyone to have to discard cards from their train and possibly derail their chance to win. Game of Trains is feather light, but there is just enough there to make this a really fun filler with amazing artwork. I'd recommend it if you enjoy light, card game fillers. Game of Trains also plays great with two which is a huge + for me.



Board Game: Jump Drive
Jump Drive -> 2 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

At first I was excited to get this game, thinking maybe it would be a gateway into Race for some folks. Upon it's release I realized that Jump Drive shared some key concepts with Race, but played it in a very different fashion and I tempered my excitement. I finally got a chance to play a couple of 2p games and enjoyed it immensely.

Right off the bat the structure of the game is very different since cards in your tableau score points every round which leads to a game that plays even quicker than Race. Typically my son and I can play a game of Race in under 20 minutes, Jump Drive is about 10 minutes tops. In Jump Drive games typically play out in 6 to 8 rounds.

There are enough similarities to Race that Jump Drive could definitely be a jumping off point to try and get people excited about taking the time to learn Race. At the same time it is an excellent filler that offers a surprising amount of strategic depth. I'll also mention that it is simple to teach the game if you have some familiarity Race, but folks unfamiliar may still struggle through their first game or two. The couple of plays I got in were enough to convince me that Jump Drive deserves a spot on our shelves because there are enough differences from Race.




Board Game: Lotus
Lotus -> 4 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

An excellent, light, area control card game. Definitely not a combination of theme and mechanics that I'd ever expect, but it works quite well. Renegade games continues to carve out a niche of creating great gateway games that are a bit different than a lot of other "gateway" games. This is due in large part to their choice of theme and/or innovating on a mechanism already found in a lot of other games and managing to make sub 45 minute games that are rules light and easy to teach to anyone. Lanterns and Clank are other hits in my house from Renegade, I like 1893: World's Fair but not nearly as much as these others (I think it had the least intuitive rule set of the bunch).

I love area control games, but they tend to usually shine with 3+ if not 4+ players. Up until this point Royals has been the notable exception, for me, that works extremely well with two players. Now I'd add Lotus to that list and similar to Royals is an excellent gateway game. Compared to Royals, Lotus is much easier to travel with since it is only a card game and could easily be played at a cafe or pub. Lotus also has a great theme, building flowers, and beautiful artwork and little wooden bugs. The theme, compactness and simplicity of the rules will make this a hit with my wife. For such a light rule set there are plenty of decisions to be made, Lotus is not a light game that plays itself.



Board Game: Escape from the Hidden Castle
Midnight Party -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

I had a blast playing this late at night during a con while enjoying some beers, it is a great party game. It is a very simple roll and move game, but it delivers in spades if you are playing with the right group. Midnight Party is an experience game and shines because of the stories told during and after the game, not because of the game play. I'm looking forward to getting together with the same group to play next year. If you get the chance to play this with a raucous bunch, I'd highly recommend checking it out.

A quick aside, I'd recommend Spooky Stairs if you are looking for a great kid's game with a similar theme/concept. I think young kids will enjoy the game play of Spooky Stairs more and find it less frustrating.


Board Game: One Deck Dungeon
One Deck Dungeon -> 2 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

Biggest surprise of the month for me by far. I keep trying different solo games and haven't found one that I not only enjoyed, but is relatively easy to set up. I am a fan of the Omniverse games, but set up can be a deterrent to my playing the game. And now on to One Deck Dungeon's highlights:

- Quick, easy set up. You can be up and running in a couple of minutes.
- Mostly straightforward rules, there is a good FAQ on the publisher's website to help with some common rules questions.
- There are a lot of decisions to be made in a relatively short game (probably around 30 minutes).
- The variety of characters and upgrades you can get throughout game play gives this game have some serious legs.
- The time mechanic forces you to keep moving and sets the tempo for the game, you always feel the time crunch in this game which forces you to gamble sometimes.
- The dice mechanics are clever and make solving each encounter a puzzle where you have to figure out how to manipulate your dice to overcome monsters and traps without taking too much damage or wasting a lot of time.
- And finally, the designer was able to capture the feeling of old school rogue likes in a card game!

*So far I've only played one off games, but I am looking forward to sticking with a character in the campaign mode and being able to level them up after each dungeon run.



Board Game: Power Grid: The Card Game
Power Grid: The Card Game -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

Power Grid: TCG was a surprise hit this month and I can't wait to play again. I was hesitant to buy the game and reading through the rulebook didn't inspire much confidence. The rules make the game seem much more complex than it is, although there is a lot of maintenance between rounds similar to Power Grid. This is not a streamlined card game version of it's big brother.

PG:TCG eliminates the board and completely focuses on the power plant auction, and resource market. You still fire up your power plants for money, but at the end of the game you get points instead of cash and cash is a 10 to 1 point ratio which is actually a nice change. Hoarding money doesn't pay off in this version so auctions tend to be quite competitive.

All in all I really like what PG:TCG brings to the table, it still offers a deep play experience while cutting the game time in half. I still think Power Grid is the better game, I love the map/city competition, but I think the card game will be easier to get to the table and will make a great opener since you'll still have time for a longer game on a typical game night. I also think this will appeal to folks who found PG to be too mathy, that is cut way down in the card game.



Board Game: Room 25
Room 25 -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

Well after four years of trying, a buddy of mine finally got me to play this by enticing my daughter with visions of being a *traitor. I'm not going to get into too many specifics, but the game has you trying to get out of a 5x5 grid of rooms using a programmed movement mechanic. The caveat is rooms start the game upside down and can only be revealed by walking in them (you can take an action to look at a tile first, but time is precious), on top of that we played with a traitor who was trying to kill us before we escaped. To add even more to the puzzle, tiles can be moved around via one of your actions, so things get crazy.

There is plenty of player interaction, although you can't share too much information with your teammates, so you need to coordinate with other players without coming out and telling them what actions to program so there is no alpha player problem to be found. Rooms range from okay to pretty bad to instant death so walking into a room blind is usually a bad idea. Every player plays a character that has a special power and you can play the game as a pure co-op, traitor game or free for all so there is plenty in the box to hold your attention.

I think the game will be at it's best with higher player counts so it's not a game I'd seek out to buy, but I'll be happy to play it once in a while. It also got the seal of approval from my daughter and she is looking forward to another play.

*What was really funny was that my daughter ended up being the traitor and relished the role, even though we eventually pulled out the win.



Board Game: Railroad Revolution
Railroad Revolution -> 3 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

Wow, a couple of plays in and I'm really enjoying how Railroad Revolution plays out. This is the second What's Your Game game I've played, the other being ZhanGuo which was designed by the same guys and you can see some similarities between the two games, but they both stand on their own.

There are a few design decisions that really make this game fun to play and a lot of strategies to explore. One of the key decisions the designers made was to allow for a lot of flexibility when carrying out your actions. Basically you are free to carry out any regular actions and bonus actions in any order you want; this really opens the game up and allows you to cobble together some great turns. Also each of the different worker colors will trigger a bonus associated with each action, so managing your pool of workers is key to doing well. RR is definitely about being efficient in your actions, especially choosing the right color worker to trigger an action and then grant the bonus action that you need. There is plenty of opportunity to trigger multiple bonuses each turn, not only do the workers trigger bonuses a lot of the actions you take also have bonuses attached to them. You have stock which can either be used as cash or at certain points in the game trigger a different area that grants extra actions. Finally when it comes to scoring there are multiple paths to explore so I'll be playing this one for a while.

There is a lot to like in this game, if any of the above sounds interesting check out RR there is too much to talk about in a quick write up. After playing RR and ZhanGuo I would like to try other WYG games, especially Signore and Nippon.



Board Game: Hanamikoji
Hanamikoji -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6/8):

This is a mind bending card game, you are forced to really think through how you are going to use your actions each round. The problem is you don't know which cards you will draw as the round unfolds which makes this simple game very punishing. I felt like I continually chose the right action at the wrong time which forced me to rethink my strategy from turn to turn. The amount of depth packed into Hanamikoji is surprising and impressive.

The design is very elegant too, it doesn't have the rough edges of Capital Lux which in many ways felt like it offered a very similar play experience. The tension caused by only having four actions of which you can only use each one once during a round is the catalyst for a lot of agonizing and less than optimal decisions. Interaction is high because two of the actions involve an I pick "x" cards and your opponent then chooses which card(s) they want first. The thinking required for this game is a great mental exercise for kids as well, this is not a straightforward game, you need to be able to bluff and change plans quickly.



Board Game: Herbaceous
Herbaceous -> 3 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (6/8):

After a couple of plays I'm still a bit unsure of my thoughts on Herbaceous although I'm leaning towards thinking it may be too light or my taste. I enjoy quick, light games as long as I still feel like I have some meaningful choices to make and so far I don't feel like that in Herbaceous. The problem I've run in to is that it seems like some of the scoring opportunities are much easier to complete than others, so it seems like there is an optimal order to score each of your four pots.

Mechanics wise I enjoy the game, it plays like a very simplified Biblios minus the auction phase which in turn really limits the player interaction. Instead you are left with a light push your luck vibe since you have to judge how long you think certain herbs will last in the shared garden. Since it is so quick and easy to teach, it is a great gateway game and one I'll play a few more times before deciding if it's earned a spot in our collection.



Board Game: Inca Empire
Inca Empire -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6/8):

I initially heard of the game because I was looking for games the artist, Alexandre Roche, had worked on. I stumbled upon Inca Empire and was intrigued, but I knew this game wouldn't see the light of day if I bought it. Fast forward a few years and I got to play it at a con with a group I only meet up with while there.

In short it is a route building game, with card play. Everything came together to create a very engaging, yet difficult, puzzle to solve. There was a lot I liked about the game, turn order is decided by who is first on the VP track which always makes jumping into the lead dangerous as you are not able to react to what other folks are doing. Card play is handled well, you can effect yourself or others with your play. However; two players are always effected by each card so you have to figure out what the best play for you is while taking into consideration how it'll effect other players.

There is one major problem I have that holds it back for me, scoring is insane later in the game. Since there are so many routes and buildings on the board by the mid point of the game it really becomes a hassle to figure out scores and it'd be quite easy to miss count points during the game. It would be great if there was some way to track each players temples, forts and cities without having to refer to the board. You could definitely home brew something so it is not an insurmountable problem and it wouldn't stop me from playing again.

Inca Empire is a long game, but that didn't bother me at all. Turns were usually quick and you have a lot to think about between turns and you can start planning what you may want to do. There is so much more to the game, so if you enjoy heavier Euros I'd check this one out. It is not a game I'd want to play often, but I'd be happy playing it a few times a year.



Board Game: Agility
Agility -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

Unfortunately this was a major disappointment for me. I am a huge fan of Morels, it is a 2p classic in our house that everyone loves so I had high hopes for Brett's second game. The theme is awesome and unique, and I really like the dog illustrations. However; the game play fell flat for us and didn't capture the combination of simple rules with engaging game play. I found the choices you make in the game to be pretty straightforward and not that interesting. The separate mechanics of the game don't integrate very well and the whole game felt cumbersome which is just the opposite of Morels.

All that said I am still happy I backed the game on Kickstarter and I wish Brett continued success and I'll continue to support his projects. I definitely think other families will enjoy this game, but for us it was too light and straight forward. My older daughter is keeping the game, she loves the extra pieces we got with our dog Parker's name on them.



Board Game: Bottom of the 9th
Bottom of the 9th -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

Bottom of the 9th was an okay filler game, basically it is a guessing game between you and your opponent as far as what pitch you are going to throw (via a couple of double sided discs). You then throw some dice and consult a chart to see what happens. The one part of the game I really disliked was the real time die rolling that happens if contact was made. Each player also has some special abilities which can effect things as well, all though not as much as I would have thought.

Overall this is not a game I'd buy, but I'd play it again if someone really wanted to since it was so short less than 10 minutes) I could see fans of baseball enjoying it even more since the theme shines through in the production and most of the game play.



Board Game: Capital Lux
Capital Lux -> 2 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

I knew a little about this going in and was looking forward to checking it out. This is a very clever card game that can go off the rails quick, I got trounced my first game because I didn't fully grasp how the scoring would work out. We decided to play a second time and my initial hesitation was washed away, my thoughts that there was a rich get richer issue were unfounded and I quite enjoyed playing again.

You have a lot of information because there is a card draft, but there are just enough unknowns to make the game unpredictable yet not random. There is a bit of an area control feel, however there are other ways to score points besides having majorities which opens up the scoring opportunities. Despite the draft and majority scoring the game doesn't feel very interactive in it's execution. Yes you can effect the scoring in the capital which in turn effects your opponent, but you always feel like your action can be undone by your opponent.

Comparison to Hanamikoji:

Looking back I prefer the interaction in Hanamikoji which made for more agonizing decisions. I guess what I found missing in Capital Lux was the urgency found in Hanamikoji. It could simply be the fact that Hanamikoji could end after one round while Capital Lux has a set number of rounds that are played.

Overall a very fun play session although I think the game would be even better with more than two players. It played well with two, but more with more players it wouldn't be a zero sum game. I will gladly play this again with more players (hopefully at our game night), but will probably choose to buy Hanamikoji because it plays better with two and the game play feels more tense.



Board Game: Dark Moon
Dark Moon -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

This game has been on my radar for a while, back when it was still BSG Express and I finally go tot play. It is a hidden traitor game where you are handcuffed by the dice you roll. Dice are rolled in secret and there is a 4 in 6 chance your roll will fail, but try explaining to the group that you aren't purposely tanking a mission.

That is the whole game, but the rules surrounding the game play are not the most intuitive, there were a lot of cases where we needed to consult the rule book. I know this would improve with repeated play, but this is by no means a streamlined experience.

Also Stronghold couldn't secure the BSG license which is a huge negative for me. The game goes from being highly thematic to a generic space setting. I know there is nothing Stronghold could do, but it's to bad the game lost so much of it's flavor. The other side of the coin is that Stronghold did a great job producing the game, the art is great, if generic, and the components are top notch. In the end I'm not sure how much I enjoyed the game, even if it wasn't a learning game I'm not sure the game play holds up for 90+ minutes. In comparison I felt like Room 25, another hidden traitor game I played at the con, played quicker and was more intuitive. I'd definitely like to play Dark Moon again and see how it improves now that we have a lot of the rules down.



Board Game: Tides of Madness
Tides of Madness -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

Right off the top I think Tides of Madness is better than Tides of Time just for the share fact that it adds another mechanic to the game, madness tokens, which can trigger an instant loss. This opens up the game a bit more as you try and figure out how much you can push your luck because the cards that cause you to take madness tokens are quite powerful. Also, while I'm not a Cthulhu fan, I prefer the art in this version as well.

I think you could get a good number of plays out of this before it starts to feel samey so I may pick up a copy because it is a great 10 minute filler that sets up in seconds.



Board Game: Pairs
Pairs -> 1 play session

Initial thoughts and rating (4):

I'll probably get grief for this one, but there is very little game to be had in Pairs. It is a dead simple push your luck game that can be played no matter your mental condition (aka, during a late night at a pub). There isn't anything wrong with the game, there are just so many other games I'd rather play in that situation that I'd never pick Pairs.



Board Game: Quests of Valeria
Quests of Valeria -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (4):

The sales pitch for Quests of Valeria, Lords of Waterdeep the card game, had me hooked. Unfortunately the game play didn't deliver. The game plays out exactly like LoW except you are using cards to trigger actions. So far so good, but the game quickly breaks down do to constraints put on you that really don't enhance game play in any way. There are quests face up, but the problem is everyone is trying to complete the same public quests so you can't plan on a quest being there long term. On top of that you can only reserve one quest at a time which drags the game out and doesn't add tension to the game, just frustration.

The second problem is the iconography is not intuitive and there are too many abilities to keep track of for what amounts to a very simple game. In the end the game dragged on for way too long and we were all trying to end the game as quickly as possible without worrying about winning, not fun. The concept of Quests is great, but the execution falls completely flat.



Board Game: They Who Were 8
They Who Were 8 -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (4):

This just wasn't my type of game, the best way I can describe it is imagine a convoluted version of Between Two Cities that uses cards and instead of building things you're moving + and - gems around. Honestly the game felt more random than anything and not fully developed. I'll be avoiding this one in the future.



Expansions

Board Game: Barony: Sorcery
Barony: Sorcery -> 2 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (10):

Barony is one of my favorites and the expansion just adds to its greatness. Sorcery adds a bunch of tweaks to game play which I turn really open things up and can dramatically impact the game dependent on which magic tiles are out for a certain game. There are nine total tiles you will draw from and only five will be out for one game so there is a lot of variability in the expansion.

I will note that I wouldn't recommend the expansion until you've played a few times (I had played the base game 18 times). The benefits of the magic tiles won't seem as useful as they actually are; the differences they make are very subtle yet quite powerful in certain instances.



As always thanks for reading and please feel free to ask any questions.

Cheers,
Will

*My ratings are based on even numbers only; this forces me to commit to a 6 ( a good/solid game I'd enjoy playing occasionally) or 8 (a very good game that will usually be a keeper in our collection). This helps me avoid rating a bunch of games with indecisive 7's.

Also rating games on what amounts to a 5 point scale works for me. I may initially give a game I'm on the fence about a split rating (6/8), then update the rating in a year. I rate the game the lower number in the BGG database.
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5. Board Game: The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:230]
Board Game: The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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Board Game: The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire
The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire = 3 Plays

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To be honest this title flew under the radar for me (actually, MANY titles have been under the radar for me recently as I have not been as up to date these days unlike the previous years. Signs of a jaded board gamer maybe?). It was only the overwhelmingly positive video reviews that turned my head so when it was available locally I immediately got it. It turned out to be a good choice as 3 games were immediately played in the first week of February and more games would probably have been played had I not spent 3 of the next 4 weeks travelling overseas.

The main mechanic is one drawn from it's very interactive predecessor The Manhattan Project. Players either place a worker on the main board or decide to pullout and recover all the workers they have placed. Besides that the theme is totally different and unlike the previous game where it was a race to build bombs, this one is more of your points accumulation euro. Placing a worker on the board gives you the ability to trigger all built structures of the same color board section you placed the worker in (1 of 3 colors). This turns the game into an engine building and resource management game as you try to chain activate several actions at the most opportune time, meaning you have to make sure you have the spare workers and resources needed to do so as well. Pulling workers off board not only recovers all your used workers but also is the opportunity for you to generate energy using colored dice you purchase or temporarily use (in the case of oil). Energy is all important in this game as you can use energy instead of workers to activate actions and stacking energy underneath a worker used to be placed on the action board is one way to use an already activated space as you need to be physically higher than a previous placed worker (even yours). This is also one way you can screw other players as you can decide to make the stack as high as you want in the hope that others are forced to stack higher than your stack in order to use the space, if they can. Energy generation as well as buying buildings plus a few other actions also gives you the risk of gaining pollution which must be placed on your personal player board. This gives the game it's spatial puzzle element which if left unmanaged can cost a player a lot of points. Points can also be gained via goals and the game also gives you the ability to buy more goals (up to the maximum of 5).

Worker placement + engine building go really hand in hand and this game does it in spades. I like how you can screw others by really stacking up workers on an action space and I like how the game can really ramp up if you can combo your buildings right. The game really moves fast and this forces you to make important decisions since those pollution tokens can really disappear quick. Great game and one which can benefit from expansions!

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6. Board Game: The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:230]
Board Game: The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire
United States
Davis
California
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The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire
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(Image credit: League of Gamemakers.)

Surprisingly fun resource-management engine-builder.

This one surprised me. I'd heard almost nothing about it before playing and was very happy with how the game looks and plays.

On your turn you either place a worker on the main board to perform an action or retrieve your workers back to your supply.

When you place a worker on the board, you can occupy a space that already has one or more workers in it, but to do so you need to stack energy tokens under your worker until your worker has more energy than any other worker in the same space. So, e.g., if you want to place a worker in the space that lets you buy or sell oil, but there's already a worker there, you'd need to put at least one energy under your worker.

One of the available actions is to buy a "structure" card, from one of the board's three sectors (government, industry, and commerce). Once you have structures in your tableau, you can use them as secondary action spaces (using either workers or energy tokens to activate them).

There are two important restrictions on the use of structures to perform secondary actions:

(1) You can only use structures that match the sector that you're playing in on the board. E.g., if you placed a worker on an action space in the government sector, you can only use government structures to perform secondary actions.

(2) You can't use a structure that already has workers/energy on its action space. In other words, once you've used a structure card you can't use it again until you've recalled your workers (thereby clearing the structure's action space).

When you recall your workers, you also discard all of your energy. So how do you get more energy? The retrieval action also allows you to roll "power plant" dice. These come in different flavors (wind/solar, hydro/geo, coal, oil, and nuclear). As an action, you can acquire power plant dice for your permanent use. You can also discard oil in order to temporarily add oil dice to your pool. A clever system of icons on the dice give energy, but may also produce pollution.

Pollution needs to be placed onto your environment board. This is bad, because you will periodically receive VP for the number of unpolluted spaces you have.

Fortunately, some actions on the board and structures let you clean up pollution, and some kinds of power plants don't produce any (though they generally produce less energy as well).

Once you understand how everything works, the game really hums along. There are lots of interesting decisions that you'll be making on how to tune your resource engine and keep pollution under control.

I was really pleased with the way that the theme was simply and directly integrated into the game's systems. The structures and event cards all have effects that nicely match what they represent thematically. And the power plant dice provide a nicely thematic trade-off between clean energy sources and the amount of power you can generate.

The graphic design is nice too. The art is bright and distinct, without being too cartoonish. And the iconography is very clear. The resource bits are excellent. The oil barrels and dice have some real heft to them.

I'm really happy I picked this one up. It's a keeper.


First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express!
Board Game: First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express!

(Image credit: W Eric Martin.)

Brisk, fun, "modular" railroad-themed tableau-building card game.

Each round the players will take turns selecting cards from an array, to add to their tableau. These cards can be used to do things like:

• Add cars to your two trains.

• Upgrade previously added cars (to increase their VP scoring value at the end of each round).

• Move your conductor down your train toward the front car (only those cars that your conductor has reached or passed will score at the end of the round).

• Increase the length of your line of track, by adding a track card to its end.

• Move your train marker forward along the track (as you reach stations along the line, you'll score immediate VP or unlock an end-of-round bonus power).

The game is "modular" because, in addition to using a stack of base cards, you will also mix in two different modules of cards (from five possible modules). Each module of cards has different rules which supplement the core systems of the game. They let you do things like:

• Acquire a contract that will provide benefits when you've met its conditions.

• Add celebrities or luggage to cars to increase their value and accrue VP or money.

• Collect clues to solve a mystery (I haven't tried this one yet).

This should create lots of scope for replayability (and expansion?).

First Class plays very quickly, but it still provides enough of an arc to let you pick one or two main strategies and try to build them up to a win.

Another good game!


Kepler-3042
Board Game: Kepler-3042

(Image credit: rascozion.)

A 3X sci-fi game (no fighting) with an interesting action/resource system.

In Kepler, players are building interstellar colony ships and sending them out from Sol to explore and colonize "nearby" systems. Once a system has been colonized, it can be used to produce resources.

Resources (which come in different flavors) are needed to build ships, advance on a tech tree, and terraform planets you've colonized (which increases their VP value and resource generating capacity).

The tech tree provides several ways to improve your efficiency (e.g., converting resources from one type to another, increasing your ship speed, increasing your production rate for energy or anti-matter, increasing your terraforming level -- which is necessary to terraform the more hostile worlds).

The action system is a 3x3 grid, kind of like the action grid in Vinhos. On your turn you'll move your dobber to any other space on the grid and perform the associated action (meaning you can't perform the same action twice). Whenever you perform an action, you also have the option of performing one or two secondary actions, which are associated with the row and column of the space you chose. But to do so, you'll need to take a resource cube and discard it into the void. It will stay there, limiting your total number of available resources, until you use a special action to retrieve it (which are pretty rare).

The move/explore/colonize/terraform systems are solid, but somewhat dry. The most interesting part of the game is the action system and the resource produce/consume/destroy options. Resources are really tight, and you'll need to make hard decisions about when it makes sense to take some out of circulation in order to get bonus actions. Resources spent to perform an action also need to come from a single source, meaning you'll want to tech up to be able to move or convert resources at your remote planets, in order to be able to use them effectively.

I enjoyed my one play. It's a good game, but it didn't blow me away. Solid 7.


Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Board Game: Arkham Horror: The Card Game

(Image credit: CristiQ.)

Story-based Lovecraftian adventure LCG.

My wife doesn't like adventure/co-op games, and something like this wouldn't fit well into my regular game group's rotation, so I've played it solo a couple times.

The game system is fun and the sense of narrative that the game provides is pretty engaging. It's lovingly-crafted. ninja

Ordinarily, I have almost no interest in solo gaming. So it's a good sign that I'm debating whether to buy anything beside the base box.

There are a couple of little side quest packs that I might pick up and try, before deciding whether to commit to the main story line.

But I'm kind of doubtful. After playing through the first couple of scenarios, I haven't been motivated enough to set it up and finish the scenarios that comes in the base box.

Good stuff, and I'm glad to have played it. But this is not the kind of thing I'm really excited about.


Order of the Gilded Compass
Board Game: Order of the Gilded Compass

(Image credit: EllenM.)

Fun little dice-allocation filler.

I used to own Alea Iacta Est. I liked the light dice-allocation game play and the goofy ancient Rome cartoonish art style. But I really had a hard time remembering the icons used on the special scoring cards that you could acquire. That was enough of an annoyance that I traded the game away.

Gilded Compass is a reimplementation of Alea's basic game play, but with much cleaner graphic design. It also adds some modular variability to the game set-up. There are several allocation boards (with differing rules on how to place dice and for what rewards), more than you will use in any given game. So each game you'll choose a subset of the available options before you start. This means that the combination of tactical choices and mechanisms can be different each time.

As a light dice filler, it's pretty good. Not a great game, but decent in its niche.


Kanagawa
Board Game: Kanagawa

(Image credit: henk.rolleman.)

Pretty, light, set collection card game with a unique theme.

You are apprentice painters in 1840 Japan, studying under Master Hokusai.

Each turn, you'll choose cards, which you can either use to add panels to your growing landscape painting or add to your "studio" to improve your painting abilities.

The painting panels have objects on them which you'll use to achieve set-collection VP. You'll also score for your longest contiguous series of panels that share the same seasonal motif.

The cards you add to your studio will give you more colors to paint with, an improved ability to move your paint pots between colors, the ability to hold a card back for a future turn, etc. All of this gives you more flexibility when adding panels to your painting.

The physical production is charming (if a bit fiddly -- the paint pots are tippy and you need to slide cards under each other, which is a bit difficult).

It was pleasant, as a filler card game. The novel theme added to the experience. Again, good but not great.
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7. Board Game: Gloomhaven [Average Rating:8.81 Overall Rank:1] [Average Rating:8.81 Unranked]
Board Game: Gloomhaven
Goat Goatington
United Kingdom
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This is only going to talk about stuff in the rules for anyone not wanting spoilers. We're 13 games in so far.

Gloomhaven manages to be both my current favourite dungeon crawler and favourite legacy game in one. We're completely hooked on this and it's taking up most of our game time at the moment as well as most of the forseeable future game time. There is a great deal here and it dwarfs the scale of all the previous legacy games I've played (Risk, Pandemic, Seafall). In fact, it dwarfs most other games I've played that aren't RPGs even without playing the scenarios in the sandbox (i.e. no campaign progress) mode. My favourite bits:

The dungeon crawl element is quite unlike other dungeon crawls. There's a real focus on action efficiency and time taken; every turn you play 2 cards, when you play all cards you rest, lose one played card permanently and claim the rest back. Many cards have special effects that are powerful but permanently discard the card without going into the pile to be recovered. The starting classes only have 6-11 cards (of what I've seen), which isn't very many turns at 2 cards per turn even without the one-shot effects. If you run out of cards (all permanently removed), you're eliminated from the run.

There's a real urgency to the game that isn't always present in dungeon crawls. You don't have mana or action points but the constant 2 cards per turn means you can't sit around, gather all the loot, heal up and refresh your items before opening the next door. Your actions are all defined by your cards - there are no default actions and cards are class specific - and you're going to lose many of them over the run. Do you use your one-shot now because you really need to kill that elite and be a card down for the whole run? What you do you lose when you rest? These are hard decisions at all times and I love it. Even levelling up doesn't remove these because you still have to build a deck of the same size for the scenario, you just have more decisions on which cards go in your deck this time.

Characters progress at a good rate, even if you're losing, and there are both perks and new abilities to unlock as you go. The upgrades aren't game changing individually but the rate you get them means your character has plenty of scope for personalisation. My character has smoothed out a lot of the variance in the combat deck and made it slightly better so my hits are more consistent, but I rarely have a spectacular turn. I could have built it the opposite way quite easily. You only get to use half the upgraded ability cards and (probably) half the perks so you can't get it all either.

We haven't actually done it yet but I do like the idea of the character retirement a great deal. Your character gets a personal goal (which are varied) and they retire when they've done it. The party continues with a new character you make, Gloomhaven and the world continue with all the relevant progression and unlocks and you get to open new legacy-style boxes when you complete them.


The game isn't perfect and I have a few minor complaints (left loot makes sense mechanically but not thematically, turns with lots of monsters in play are a bit slow off the top of my head) but this is highly recommended. It is worth pointing out how long a campaign of this is going to run compared to the other legacy games. We're 13 games in and we've done almost nothing so far, at around 1.5 hours per game I think.



Mythos Tales
Board Game: Mythos Tales


We enjoyed Sherlock Consulting Detective for about 4 cases but the errors (particularly case 3, even with the fan fixes) were simply too much and we gave up on it because they drained all the fun. Mythos Tales is the same idea with Lovecraft instead of Holmes. First, it still has some errors but they're much easier to fix by comparison (the odd mistake or missing number on the map or in the directory). If you're going to play, there's a very useful list of corrections in the files that you can use to make most of them without any spoilers.

I'm a big fan of Lovecraftian stuff so it's not great surprise that I'm enjoying Mythos Tales too. Mechanically it's almost identical to Sherlock Consulting Detective; visit location, get a bunch of information, pore over the map, directory and papers to find more locations to get more info to etc.

The game adds a new twist with time of day suddenly becoming a factor as well as a time limit to the cases. I'm not a big fan of the time of day mechanic and it feels a bit arbitrary sometimes. You can work out some of them, like don't visit the haunted house at night, but not all of them. You can visit lots of people at work at all times, except when you occasionally can't. This house has a monster in it at this time of day, hope you worked that out before coming!

We're still enjoying it and plan to play more, I just don't think it's quite as good as Sherlock can be. It makes a nice change of pace to add in all the supernatural elements, plus the suggested solution at the end doesn't have the serious bullshit that Sherlock does. The path feels reasonable and eliminates most suspicions well. There are no 4 step solutions here that look impossible without guesswork or knowing the answer.

We picked up the new Sherlock Jack the Ripper box the other week and I'm looking forward to that, which may reduce the amount of Mythos Tales played in the future.


T.I.M.E Stories: Expedition – Endurance
Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories: Expedition – Endurance


Time Stories is one of my favourite games so I enjoyed this because it's more Time Stories, it's just that this was probably the weakest one for me so far. I can't say too much about it without spoilers. There's a new thing during the run (thanks Bob) that I thought was very clever for the subsequent steps but it didn't do much beyond that. I had a good guess where the story was going and it went there, there weren't many choices to make or big shortcuts to unlock, there wasn't a lot of exciting combat and there weren't any big puzzles either.

It was okay? I'm glad I played it for completion at least and that new thing in the run was nice. Oh, I got to be a dog!

Spoilers for those that have played the previous:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
It has some interesting hints to the overall story but nothing major. It could be skipped if the theme didn't appeal.


Spoilers for those that have played this one too:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I liked that first run that could give you hints on what was coming. The plane would kill you but you saw it was sabotaged in the future. You saw where people were going to die for your next run too. Sadly, that was the best part of it. I've read all the location 666 cards and I like the info they give you; if you want to play to the letter you might not read them, but I'd recommend it if you aren't too bothered about that. We don't play with beacons at all for example.



Bloodborne: The Card Game
Board Game: Bloodborne: The Card Game


A short push your luck game with a theme I'm a big fan of. You want to stick around to get more blood echoes but you need to use the dream at some point to bank your existing blood. Ideally you want to dream at the same time as the others so you're attacking together and getting trophies from kills, except people have their own risk thresholds and priorities so sometimes you're left alone. The weapons are simple, there's a little bit of screwing other people and only a little bit and there's a decent range of upgrades to get. There's also a good variety of monsters and bosses to fight.

The biggest problem is the lack of end bosses. I think two are unplayable, which leaves only three to use. I don't ever want to play with the player elimination final boss and the one that summons more monsters just drags the game out longer than it should. The remaining three are good and there's enough other stuff to play with, it's just a shame I don't want to use 2/5 of the end bosses.

I much prefer this to Cutthroat Caverns, which was a similar idea that took longer, dragged a bit in the middle and had too much screwing other players. It's not a standout game, it's simply a lot of fun for 3-5 in not much time.



The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
Board Game: The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game


I haven't read any of the books so my view of this is largely mechanical. This is a seriously tight game that packs a lot of small, hard decisions into 30 minutes. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it with something so compact. You have a max of 12 cards, often half that available in practice, and you're still having to discard a good chunk of them to generate fate for the group. I've not had an easy game of this yet on standard difficulty and I've also been defeated more often that not. I do appreciate a game that aims small and still manages to pack in those choices. It also has a sensibly sized box even with the expansions.

Having no real knowledge of the setting beyond a high level overview, I found it a little lacking in theme. Foes and cases are numbers to defeat, cards are categorised based on what they can discard from the centre and there's no flavour text or overview to give me a hint about what's happening. I've enjoyed it despite that, I just don't think it does a good job of conveying anything about the stories through the game despite the use of one scenario per book.

I've played this with people who have read all the books and they say it feels suitably thematic, especially in how close the game is even when you're winning. They seemed to recognise lots of the cards and the abilities tied into the characters by all accounts.

For two players you mix together two character decks each and use both sets of stunts and talents. It works well enough, it's just slightly odd and not quite as good as the 3+ player game.



TZAAR
Board Game: TZAAR


A quick game that reduces your possible moves every turn until someone is left unable to do anything. The start is very open and you seem to have lots of choices on what to do, then every turn reduces the number of pieces on the board until there are huge spaces around everything. You need to stack your pieces to survive but every time you stack you effectively lose a piece and get a little closer to losing. We've only played this a few times and our play is already shifting; first you stack your tzaars because they're the obvious target, then you notice your tzarras are rapidly dwindling and eventually your totts are the real threat.

I prefer some of the other abstracts I've played this month but I don't see me getting bored with this any time soon because of the constant push to the endgame with every turn.



YINSH
Board Game: YINSH


Use your 5 rings to make 5 in a row 3 times, only you lose a ring every time you make 5 in a row. It's a nice self-balancing mechanism that means early points aren't a sure sign of winning. It still feels quite chaotic at this point and we aren't able to spot long term strategies, particularly early on with 10 rings still in play and pieces flipping everywhere. I liked this more than TZAAR, I just don't think I'm anywhere near competent at this one yet.



Conan
Board Game: Conan


A rather ridiculous miniatures and dice game where Conan murders everything on the board assisted by miscellaneous friends. The game feels very loose and freeform compared to most overlord vs group dungeon crawls and skirmish games, which isn't a bad thing.

Players spend gems to take actions and can spend as many or as few as they want per turn in any order they like; player 1 attacks an enemy, player 2 decides to run past and shoot something else, player 1 now continues to loot the chest, etc. You only recover a set number of gems per turn and you'll need to rest to get more than a couple back, which means you don't do anything beyond defend yourself. When you do attack you'll kill enemies by the dozen, particularly if you're Conan. The scenarios I've played use a timer to add balance between the overlord and the players and it feels pretty balanced so far with victory coming on the last two turns and very marginal.

The overlord activation system is probably my favourite overlord system so far. The monster groups are set up in a row of tiles with the left one costing 1 gem to activate, then 2, 3, etc. Activating a group will move it to the right end of the track and make it cost 8 (I think), sliding everything else down one step. Gems can also be spent on defending your units all over the board. It's most action efficient to activate the cheapest units every round and save the gems for defense dice but sometimes you really want the giant snake to go right now while it's still costing 5.

If I hadn't just received Gloomhaven I'd be seriously tempted to buy this. It's not felt serious at all during play and we've had plenty of fun with it. My main complaint is that the characters don't just feel like different classes, they're more like different power levels. The heroes feel very much like Conan and co, with the female one (I only know Conan's name, which says a lot about the characterisation of the others in the game) in particular playing cheerleader to Conan in one scenario and prized possession not to be risked in the second. The other two also feel much weaker than Conan, though that may change with more scenarios played. We did get to leap between ships and kill a bunch of pirates though.



Terraforming Mars
Board Game: Terraforming Mars

I've played this a few times before but this month was the first time I got to play a full game with corporate era cards and without quick start, i.e. 0 in all production instead of 1. These change the game significantly for me and make it a much, much more better experience. Your engine now requires full assembly instead of the kickstart it normally gets, which means you really need to commit to your strategy to make it work. Titanium is very rare at the table and plants require some commitment to do anything useful. The corporate cards also add a lot of interesting effects beyond just terraforming some more.

I'd love to play all my games of it like this but it's rare I get to play a >2 player game without any new players. It felt like it would be pretty punishing to learn the game like this. Maybe if they're suitably experienced in similar games I'll try it.


Yavalath
Board Game: Yavalath


A very small set from nestorgames with a hexagonal board and a set of pieces in 3 colours. I've tried a few games from the suggested book (
http://www.nestorgames.com/docs/YavalathCo2.pdf) so far but these are the only ones I've seen enough of to comment on yet.

Yavalath itself is a very simple idea - make a line of 4 in a row but if you make a 3 you lose - that works very well. I've played it with 2 and 3 and it's probably best with 2, but it works with both. You quickly learn the 'standard' Yavalath pattern (2 pieces in a row, 1 space, 1 piece) that's needed for victory and it becomes a game of trying to trap your opponent so they can't block your 4 without making a 3. My experience so far is that the game has two possible endings, either making your 4 through a good set of forcing moves or filling out the board until someone has to play a 3 line because the space is gone. The latter happens a little too often compared to what I'd like, particularly with 3 players.



Pentalath
Board Game: Pentalath


Apparently best played on its dedicated board but I've only played it on the hexagonal Yavalath board. Take turns playing pieces to make 5 in a row with Go's capture rules added in. If a group of pieces has no liberties it's removed from the board. The endgame is containing and capturing a piece that blocks your 5 in a row and leaving no non-suicide move to block it. I've enjoyed this more than Yavalath so far and I'm seriously tempted to get the proper board if it's a better experience. Capturing pieces is significantly harder than go due to the hexagonal spaces and takes much longer, which means it isn't just a go derivative. I like it equally with both 2 and 3 as well, which is unusual for this kind of abstract.



Yavalanchor
Board Game: Yavalanchor


Feels clever and a also a little non-obvious. Trying to make a line but you can only place next to red anchors. Reds can be placed anywhere by either player and count as wilds for line completion. Most games were won accidently because we had a hard time planning both using the red anchors to expand the play area and using the reds as wilds for yourself and not your opponent. We were getting better at least.




Shibumi
Board Game: Shibumi

I also picked up a Shibumi set from nestorgames and played a few games from the book (http://www.nestorgames.com/rulebooks/SHIBUMI_EN.pdf) too. I've not played any of these in depth yet, just a few attempts to see the different styles of games available. I would like one of the expensive sets with the bigger balls and I suspect I'll get one in the future.



Spline
Board Game: Spline

You're trying to make n in a row where n is based on the height of the row. Length 4 on the 4x4 base, length 3 at height 1 (3x3) length 2 at height 2 (2x2). Each turn you place a piece either on the base or a platform of 4 balls (i.e. anywhere it's stable) until someone wins. It's a nice introduction to the set and not much more as there aren't too many choices to make.



Spline+
Board Game: Spline+

Spline+ is Spline with an additional placement rule, allowing you to move an existing ball and place it like a new ball instead of placing a new one. Any balls resting on it will fall down and balls pinned by two above can't be moved. It's a small addition but it makes for a fun game because there's now some value to pinning balls and the shifting stack gives far more choices. This was my favourite of the Spline variants in the book.



Splice
Board Game: Splice

Another extension of Spline that uses the red balls too. You can place a red instead of your colour on your turn, red are wild for victory and you can only place your colour balls on platforms (squares of 4 balls) that contain a red. A nice twist that leads to some small but tricky decisions. You need to place some reds in the lowest level to build up but their use as wilds makes them very dangerous to introduce for both players.



Spava
Board Game: Spava


Spline crossed with Yavalath. You still win with a straight row of n on level n x n, now you also lose with a row of n-1. You can place reds on your turn as neutrals that aren't wilds, just blocking balls. It was fun but I'd rather just play Yavalath because this is very constrained in size by comparison.



Sparro
Board Game: Sparro


Make as many lines of 3 as you can in any direction, i.e. vertically and horizontally. A row of 4 is two rows of 3 for scoring. You score one point per 3 row and most points wins. I'm not a big fan of the scoring system so I don't think we'll play this again. I notice the rules in the book are described on the BGG page as the extended version. The shorter one described there doesn't sounds particularly interesting.



Span
Board Game: Span


Connect two opposite sides of the board with connected balls. The addition of stacking means you can cut your opponent's line so it seems fun even within the physical limits of the set. I prefer the n in a row games so far but I suspect the connection games will get better with more play.



Sponnect
Board Game: Sponnect


The same game as Span with some neutral balls stacked in the middle so there are no hidden balls. I think this will be more interesting in the long run than Span because the first moves seem less obvious, but I've not played enough to be sure yet.



Well, that list got long thanks to the two nestorgames sets. I'm very curious to try some of his other stuff now but it's an intimidatingly large list of things. I'm interested in Margo, though I'd probably try Spargo (Margo on a Shibumi set) first. Gloomhaven is not leaving a lot of time for exploration of the rest of the games possible with the Yavalath and Shibumi sets at the moment.
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8. Board Game: First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express! [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:385]
Board Game: First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express!
Brian Wiese
United States
Ventura
California
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A decent month of new games so no complaints from me.

Board Game: First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express!

First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express!

This just got a single play so far but I expect to get many more plays of this in. It's a great action-selection game where you are trying to increase the value of your two trains, move conductors to score points, and extend your train's route for bonuses. Deciding how to balance these three different areas is the key to winning. Actions are laid out and there's a clever mechanism that will remove unused actions as more get taken adding uncertainty if actions will remain when it comes back to your turn. There's also a nifty money/bank system where you can save up money to get better bonus actions which can combo into some big turns down the road. Add in the fact there are multiple modules in the box and that the game appears to scale pretty well from 2-4 (including a swift 20/mins per player) and you have an overall great game. I've heard this is "Russian Railroads: The Card Game" which might be true but I've never played it so can't speak to it.


Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe

The Great Zimbabwe

My first foray into Splotter games. Their reputation precedes them so I knew this was going to be a quality game. This game is all about the interconnected-ness (is that a word?) of the map and all the resources/craftsmen/monuments that occupy it. You're essentially building up a logistics network and trying to position yourself to have access to the most things while also selling your wares to others for money. It's definitely on the heavy side but there's also not all that many rules which was surprising. It also plays fairly quick for it's weight which was nice. Definitely a game that feels like even after 5 plays it would have plenty of depth left to explore.



Board Game: Castle Panic

Castle Panic

Another first; this time with co-op tower defense games. A pretty simple game of using cards to fight off various attackers that are appearing from all sides and moving towards your castle. There's quite a bit of luck with card draws and dice rolls galore but it's fun. This got played in the hotel during a weekend beer trip down in San Diego. It was me and my wife and my brother-in-law and his wife. For that group, it was a perfect game. We learned it in about 5 minutes and had plenty of "yay" moments. Is it a game I would bring out with a group of experienced gamers? Probably not but I hear the expansions make it better.



Board Game: Codenames: Deep Undercover

Codenames: Deep Undercover

Another one that got played in the hotel room. This is the exact same game as vanilla Codenames except the words are PG-13 or implied words. Actually maybe 80% of the words are regular words but *could* be naughty in context. This leads to a couple laughs as you see words get revealed. My personal feelings on Codenames pretty much apply here which is it's a great game but it's getting stale for me. The downtime as you wait for codegivers to figure out their clues is boring. The moments when you link 3/4/5 words successfully are very rewarding for both sides but it just doesn't seem to happen often enough. The PG-13 words added a bit of fun and I could see bringing this out in future settings of adults but...it's still Codenames.



Board Game: Cabaret

Cabaret

This is a trick-taking game where there are as many colors (i.e. suits) as there are players and when it's your turn you have to play a color that hasn't already been played. Most tricks will then result in a set of cards of one in each color. Cards in your own color will score points whereas every other color has no effect for you. One twist is the two highest cards of your color (11 and 12) score negative points. The other twist is any numbers in a trick that match cancel each other and so you ignore them while determining who won the trick. It's an ok game that I think has a couple (potentially) fixable problems. The main problem is there's a huge amount of luck through what you're dealt because you actually don't want your own color in your hand. It's hard to win tricks playing your own cards. There's also no passing cards so you just have to play what you get. Also, if you're last you're forced to play a color and sometimes it might inadvertently help someone quite a bit if it cancels another card or gives someone one of their high-point color cards. Overall the game felt inflexible compared to other trick-takers (a genre I enjoy) but it also seems one or two rule changes could really open this game up.
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9. Board Game: Super Motherload [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:588]
Board Game: Super Motherload
meepleonboard
United Kingdom
Somerset/London
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This was definitely the game of the month, even if we only played it twice. I was already seeing more to it the second time through and am fairly confident that it will remain in our collection. Only "fairly" confident, though, because it is very good rather than great, but hopefully it will reveal more of itself in time, and it certainly fits that niche of being easy to play but having some tricky decisions to make.


This was a bit of a damp squib for us, far less impressive with two than it is with more players, so much so that we ended up playing our own two-colours-each variant which made things much more interesting. Having said that, it's a nicely produced game with variable setup and additional tiles, so there is plenty of scope for exploration, just not for us, I fear, even though it will get some more play in March.

Happy gaming!

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10. Board Game: Dungeon Time [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:4248]
Board Game: Dungeon Time
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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While it falls a bit short of being a game I need in my collection, Dungeon Time is quite interesting, and is just as Frank Branham described it to me - a speed, cooperative Mamma Mia.

PaiMiahhh isn't a bad trick taking game, if not a standout in the genre. And a bunch of games were OK - good enough to play if others really want to. Tak is a fine game, but not to my taste. A to Z Electronic is, likewise, fine for a game of its type - but not my type. Actually, the same's true for Risk 2210 A.D. - it does have some interesting advantages over the original. Star Search has squishy rules, but some nice ideas - though I wish it weren't at heart a race game.

Insider is my least favorite game I've played since at least 2014. Which, too, doesn't mean bad - broken for _me_ but I suspect not for many others.
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11. Board Game: Jenseits von Theben [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:2704]
Board Game: Jenseits von Theben
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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My favourite new game this month is a title only 13 years old! Jenseits von Theben is the ancestor of the modern Thebes (a game I also enjoy.) On the other hand, there are only a few differences from the newer version (in gameplay; the presentation of the new one is quite a bit fancier.) So perhaps it shouldn't count.

Next favourite would be 1825 Unit 3. And, again, it's an element of a system that I've played before (Game: 1825) - and though significantly different in feel than 1825 Unit 1 (the variant trains and smaller companies help there, not to mention the limit to only 2 players) it possibly doesn't count either.

Which leads me to The Colonists. A gigantic, sprawling, multiplayer solitaire optimization exercise. That I shouldn't like at all. But, strangely perhaps, I do. It's the infinitesimally-more-adult version of the sitting around playing with Lego trying to construct something cool thing that I might have done back when my age was measured in single digits: and sure, one could (the game does!) assign a winner to the exercise - but the game seems far more about the building. So why the other players? In each of my three games, I've learned a lot about things I could do by watching the others: my settlement (or whatever it is that I'm making) is better because of drafting the others' good ideas (and avoiding their bad ideas!)

I've also played 3 sind eine zu viel!, Mint Works, and Girl's Time; but while they might have been momentarily amusing (and I'd likely play again, were my participation wanted) they're not things I'm vying to repeat.

On the expansion front, I did see Panic Lab: Shower in play, too: and it's quite cute. Even if the shower card has rounded edges, and the rest of my set has square ones!
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12. Board Game: Kingdomino [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:213] [Average Rating:7.36 Unranked]
Board Game: Kingdomino
Jim Jamieson
United States
Purcellville
Virginia
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== NEW GAMES ==

Kingdomino - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Kingdomino


A great filler that has you building a kingdom out of dominoes. The tiles are nice and thick for how cheap this game is the quality is outstanding. Turn order is determined based on the last tile you picked and you use the tile to build a 5x5 grid using simple connection rules ensuring 1 tile always matches an existing side. Scoring is simple as well number of squares in a contiguous area times the number of crowns in that area. A nice and simple game but with just enough to think about on each turn as you build your kingdom makes this a hit.

Loopin' Louie - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 1992
Board Game: Loopin' Louie


Absolute hilarity for my daughter trying to keep her chickens safe from Louie and being able to hit the plane, spin it around, and take out my chickens. Even my 2 year old was getting in on being able to hit the plane. Great family fun in about 5-10 minutes and easily handles repeat plays. Very happy to have found this awhile back and finally gotten it out for her to play. A children's game everyone with little ones should try at least once.

Château Roquefort - 4 plays -  7 
First Published 2007
Board Game: Château Roquefort


Played this with my 5 year old and while it took a few turns helping her through the actions she eventually got it. Naturally her favorite part is sliding the tiles hoping to catch a mouse in the dungeon which she does fairly well. It's a bit fiddly with setup and always replacing the roof tiles, but the theme comes through so much more compared to other Labyrinth like games that this may be the one to keep. Very charming game!

Schotten Totten - 1 play -  7 
First Published 1999
Board Game: Schotten Totten


A classic numbers game of playing 3-card poker hands to either claim 5 stones in total or 3 consecutive. This is definitely a Reiner classic akin to Lost Cities with how simple the gameplay is and ability to play multiple games back to back. The new IELLO version has great art, much better than Battle Line and also includes the tactics cards as an "expert" variant. Without the tactics cards that let you manipulate the game it's a straight play the best hand that you can so these 10 extra cards do add a nice variety to the game. My only concern with them is if someone draws the majority of them if the other player has a good chance at winning. Surprisingly given the poker feel my wife enjoys it and is willing to play it so it's a keeper.

Mechs vs. Minions - 2 plays -  6 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Mechs vs. Minions


Great production as everyone has said, and while the game works I'm not sure action programming and co-op go together because it's so hard to strategize on what you want to do as a team to actually complete the missions. We tried mission 1 twice and failed miserably both times, each time barely moving the bomb along the way to its goal. The biggest problem for me is the game is just fiddly as on each turn you kill minions, remove them from the board, move all remaining minions, then add more minions. Like Zombicide it just feels like work instead of fun to me and while I would play MvM over Zombicide because the theme is better I have no desire to own it.

Baseball Highlights: 2045 - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Baseball Highlights: 2045


A decent deck builder with a unique theme that plays great with two. You are playing a series of mini games with your deck trying to win a world series. After each game you can buy new cards for your deck and replace the weaker cards. The new cards go on top of your deck so you know you will have them for the next game. What holds this game back for me is the turn structure constantly going back and forth with each card played and keeping track of what needs to happen was a little confusing to me on the first play. I imagine it would get better with repeated plays though. The other problem for me is the defensive cards that negate the offensive cards, they felt so random coming out it was really hard to try and strategize about what card to play from your hand of 6 for that game. Each card play feels so important but it really hurts when multiple cards get shutdown seemingly every game. I would be willing to play this again but I know for these reasons my wife would not enjoy it so it's unfortunately leaving my collection.

Deep Space D-6 - 2 plays -  6 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Deep Space D-6


Played twice, but with the wrong rules because the Oroborus rules are nowhere to be found in the rulebook! They are on the inside of the box lid so the rating has a bit of a caveat right now because I was lost when a few of these cards came out. I also wish some of the cards had a bit more text on them to help with gameplay so I didn't have to go back to the rulebook. Now that I understand some of the cards a bit better I am eager to play again as I like how everything comes together as the decisions based on your dice roll can be tense. With both plays I only made it about halfway through the deck so there is definitely some challenge here. It also plays quick so it's not hard to play it a few times in a row. Looking forward to trying some of the other ship boards too!

Above and Below - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Above and Below


An interesting storytelling game which has some worker placement and city building thrown into it. While there is strategy around the latter two the storytelling which is the main selling point of this game feels very random to me. You get an encounter which is randomly selected and you try to meet its requirements. The problem is the rewards are completely random and without knowing the rewards you simply guess at which option is best and a tougher reward may lead to less end game scoring for you which makes little sense. At that point the whole story flavor text is kind of pointless to the game, just tell me what my options are and let me roll dice. The rest of the game is decent I just wish the storytelling was better integrated into the game strategy.

Capital Lux - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Capital Lux


An okay game that takes a little bit to explain how the scoring in the game works. Either play cards to your tableau for personal points or play to the center for a special action. As long as the total of cards in the center is less than or equal to your personal tableau you score points by taking a card from the middle. While the game tries to present interesting dilemmas we all just felt that the game was playing us and nothing felt like a good decision. It may be that playing this game multiple times with the same group would help everyone understand the turn decisions better, but I just don't see that happening with all the other great fillers out there.

Kill Doctor Lucky - 1 play -  5 
First Published 1996
Board Game: Kill Doctor Lucky


A decent beer and pretzel game that is the inverse of Clue. Try to kill Dr. Lucky in a mansion when you can't be seen. It's highly random because it's all about drawing cards to move, trying to kill him, and trying to prevent someone else from killing him. With all that card drawing you can get completely hosed by the cards and have little chance to do anything productive. With 5 the game played in about 25 minutes which is the perfect length for how random it is, but as long as everyone is in for having some laughs with the flavor text on the cards it's a decent time.
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13. Board Game: Lanterns: The Harvest Festival [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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== NEW GAMES ==

Board Game: Lanterns: The Harvest Festival

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2015
Lanterns is a cool tile-laying game with simple rules and enough strategy that we'll make it one of our regular family games. I enjoy games with those tough choices built around simple mechanisms. The fact that you have to decide how to play your tile so that it will benefit you and not your opponents makes for some tense moments. I wish it didn't lead to analysis-paralysis, but it does sometimes. There's a lot of little things to think about on every turn including: what do I need, what do my opponents need, which scoring tile should I pursue, etc. I knew next to nothing about this game, and my wife bought it for me as a Christmas gift, so I enjoyed the surprise of getting a good game I didn't have to request. Like I said, it will probably become one of our tried-and-true family games, but I have to accept the fact that the analytical players may significantly increase the play time.
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14. Board Game: Space Cadets: Dice Duel [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:1264]
Board Game: Space Cadets: Dice Duel
Alison Mandible
United States
Somerville
Massachusetts
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A+ - plan to play again (1 games)

Board Game: Space Cadets: Dice Duel
Space Cadets: Dice Duel - A lot like Captain Sonar, except...

Well, it's a lot like Captain Sonar. It came first, and uses die-rolling to limit how fast stations can be used instead of Captain Sonar's ingenious movement-charging system. The randomness and lack of hidden information makes it a little more giddy and less panicked than Captain Sonar. But real-time team games are fun for me because of the communication challenges and the real-time. So the mechanics are not entirely the point.

Honorable mention: 7 Wonders Duel: Nature, a fan expansion. I've played with some of the new wonders and liked them, but I'm several games away from seeing all of them and haven't tried the 'Natural Wonders' mechanic.

A - hope to play again (2 games)

Board Game: VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game
VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game - This has a deep flaw: both the limited rerolls (compared to most other dice games) and the scoring system lead to mild despair / anticlimactic results. "Okay, so I... uh, I can't do anything. I guess you win." But the pacing and the give-and-take are surprisingly good, with way more depth than I expected coming from the variable abilities even though most of them boil down to a free RP or a free PP.

Board Game: Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings - The free entomb makes this much more like a handbuilding game (my deck was 6 or 7 cards for most of the game) than a deckbuilding game. But the drafting and the non-trivial difficulty of building up to big purchases made this fun to play even when it was kind of solitaire due to my opponents being new to deckbuilding. Handbuilding. Whatever.

B - willing to play again (4 games)

Board Game: Mint Works
Mint Works - Short enough that the frustration of being blocked was quick to fade. Nothing thrilling or new... except that I've played other pocket Euros and they mostly didn't work as well. Good job, Mint Works.

Board Game: My Village
My Village - Sort of a sandbox-lite game, I guess? There was a fair amount of flexibility and just not enough time to do everything (though even that was open to manipulation; I spent time heedlessly once I had a lead in points, hoping my opponent couldn't catch up). That's interesting.

And yet it's not EXCITING.

Board Game: Frank's Zoo
Frank's Zoo - I do like climbing games, and while the arbitrariness of the strength chart in this game was a little annoying, I had it mostly down by the second hand, so I can't complain too much. Partnerships are fun too. But 7 is too many players.

Board Game: Jump Drive
Jump Drive - Having played RFTG (both of them) let me skip the "feeling stupid" stage, but not the "being really bad at the game" stage. It's missing the produce-ship part of RFTG, which I never liked, and the midgame, which I do kind of like. Tossup.

C - enjoyed it but would rather not play again (2 games)

Board Game: Cry Havoc
Cry Havoc - Interesting systems, with multi-use cards and asymmetry and whatnot. I think I'd just rather play Blood Rage, though. No, they aren't the same, just... kind of the same.

Board Game: Wok Star
Wok Star - Underlying task is too easy and not very interesting. At some point I thought maybe it would be more fun if the timer was short enough that you had to memorize the dishes, but the few easily memorized dishes were actually even less fun, so I don't know. Clever ideas but way too simple a game.

D - annoyed that I played this (2 games)

Board Game: Topology
Topology - Tracing the loops exhausts my mind in a way I think I just don't like. Misaligned tiles make it worse, but it's hard to tell if they're the culprit or if this game is simply not for me.

Board Game: Torres
Torres - I think I should not play action point games. I don't know why they make me mad, but they do.
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15. Board Game: Anachrony [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:47]
Board Game: Anachrony
Larry Rice
United States
North Newton
Kansas
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== NEW GAMES ==

The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2016
Board Game: The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire


Enjoyed this worker placement game which involves a bit of tableau building, dice for energy and pollution production, and workers/energy mechanic present to go where others have gone before.

Anachrony - 4 plays -  8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Anachrony


I've gotten in four plays already in less than a week and have enjoyed all four plays. The use of time travel as a "loan" system is interesting. The minis are over the top and in-necessary but I must admit I love having the toy factor! Games do tend to take long - about 35-45 minutes per player when learning the game.

Gloomhaven - 3 plays -  8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Gloomhaven


This has become our Monday night game of choice when one person of our five cannot make it. I think the card system for combat is interesting and the leveling up process and modifier deck system is also quite interesting. Challenging too!

Yokohama - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Yokohama


Glad I kickstarted this game. Enjoyed the Japanese version which feels somewhat like Istanbul on steroids. There is a lot of information overload initially but the game is fairly streamlined once you get going.

Villannex (2nd Edition + expansions) - 2 plays -  6 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Villannex (2nd Edition + expansions)


Takes longer to teach than to play. Fine filler.

...and then, we held hands. - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2015
Board Game: ...and then, we held hands.


I had largely ignored this one due to the theme. A new friend at OrcCon suggested this two player game when we were waiting for our third and we were barely successful. The balance mechanic is well implemented.

Indigo - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2012
Board Game: Indigo


Knizia's take on Tsuro? It works fine. Nothing I need own but I'm happy to play from time to time.

Joraku - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Joraku


Had largely ignored this one and am uncertain what to think after one play. Trick taking mixed with area majority. I still want a way to remove my own pieces from the board.

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16. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.30 Overall Rank:9] [Average Rating:8.30 Unranked]
Board Game: Twilight Struggle
Jason B. Hesse
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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== NEW GAMES ==

Twilight Struggle - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2005
Board Game: Twilight Struggle


Thoughts: A good game, though I do not think I will ever play it enough to get good at it - mostly because card familiarity is heavily rewarded. Liked it, would play again but am more interested in trying out 13 Days.

Mint Works - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Mint Works


Thoughts: A good game for such a small package. Overall it works, I think it is better with more than two. I don't think the replay value will necessary be there though.

Red7 - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2014
Board Game: Red7


Thoughts: An interesting game that seems easy to teach but isn't. It goes against the grain in a lot of ways. I liked it, not sure how much it will get played.

Potion Explosion - 5 plays -  7 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Potion Explosion


Thoughts: I surprisingly enjoyed this one. It is simple, but gives you that nice, puzzly feeling of bejeweled. A good game every now and again.

Wits & Wagers Family - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2010
Board Game: Wits & Wagers Family


Thoughts: A simpler and less enjoyable take on Wits and Wagers. Though it is a bit more accessible for younger folks - so it has its place.
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17. Board Game: Roll Player [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:193] [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked]
Board Game: Roll Player
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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I played 5 new-to-me games in February, and Roll Player is my choice for the best. The other 4 were Imhotep, New Bedford, Xia: Legends of a Drift System, and Nuclear War.
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18. Board Game: Eminent Domain: Microcosm [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:2484]
Board Game: Eminent Domain: Microcosm
chearns
Canada
Montréal
Québec
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Eminent Domain: Microcosm - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2014

This will almost assuredly become a ten. I wanted the card play of Concordia without the whole bog standard resource conversion to points rigmarole and what I got was the card play of Concordia without the whole bog standard resource conversion to points rigmarole. It's a tight zero sum game that lasts nine turns. So each turn has quite a few factors to consider between denial and multi-functional cards. I'm impressed.

Also, this game has almost nothing to do with Eminent Domain. That's a slapped on theme. It's, as I said, a micro version of Concordia.

Fictionary - 1 play -  4 
First Published 0

Ugh. I hate games where someone has to be able to read my handwriting, which is atrocious, without stuttering. I also get no pleasure out of trying to write definitions that sound like they came from a dictionary. At least it's a parlour game, so no one paid for it.
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19. Board Game: Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:62]
From gallery of Photodump
Peter D
United Kingdom
london
UK
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From gallery of Photodump



Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure - A first class deck-builder - the best since Dominion?

Dominion derivatives have been numerous over the years but for me none has ever completely successfully wedded the full deck building experience into a game on a board...until now.

Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure successfully uses the core Dominion mechanic (draw a hand of 5 cards, do stuff, buy more cards, fold your hand) within a spatial maze. The two principal ingredients of Dominion are present: money to buy more cards and VPs on cards. Three new currencies are introduced: movement of your piece on the board, power to attack monster cards in the draw pile which give instant benefits, and finally the bad currency of Clank. Build up too much Clank and you could get eliminated if the Dragon gets annoyed. Elimination triggers the game end so fear not.

The interesting bit is the board: a maze (dungeon) which you move through trying to pick up treasure (VPs). The deeper you go, the higher the reward. Once you have treasure you can leave the dungeon which triggers the game end. Then everyone else tries desperately to get out, or at least get away from the deepest parts of the dungeon as that would mean death.

What makes the game so appealing is the combination of deck-building with a little push-your-luck (in terms of the end game escape), and the Clank mechanic which is exciting and just plain FUN!

It is a game which has an in-built sense of humour: not in the sense that it is overlaid in a gratuitous layer over the top, but simply in the way it makes you feel when you play it.

Clank is entertaining, no question.






Board Game: Kanagawa



Kanagawa - A beautiful and engaging set-collecting game - Coloretto with added complexity

In Kanagawa you are painting a piece of beautiful art. It takes the mechanic from Coloretto whereby your decision is to take a row of cards now, or wait for it to get better but possibly lose it to someone else. Then it adds in a double-use for the cards: they either increase your ability to be an effective painter, or they can be reversed to be part of the painting. This works very well and adds interesting decisions beyond simply what column of cards to take and when, as now you have to decide which side of each card to use in your tableau.

Sadly the rule book is appalling. Quite how such a simple game can be made so complicated in a few short pages I have no idea. I would recommend watching a video of the game as then you will get the game is 5 minutes.

It plays in 45 minutes and is a delight to look at as you build a delightful painting in front of your eyes. Excellent.





Board Game: The Networks



The Networks - A fiddly fairly average Euro saved only by a decent thematic overlay

To give context: I am a Eurogamer. The Networks has been heralded as an accessible Eurogame whilst having the strong theme and context of an Ameritrash, but maintaining a thoughtful simple Euro mechanic. I disagree. Yes the game has a great accessible theme where you make programmes which, on first play, are amusing (though on subsequent plays this humour surely wears thin). But the game mechanic is not simple enough for most families, being fairly fiddly and unintuitive, whilst it isn’t particularly deep and engaging for a heavier Eurogamer.

The success of this game in the US tells me that accessible theme is important; perhaps Eurogame publishers and designers should take heed of The Networks by looking at the real world for thematic inspiration rather than always defaulting to Science Fiction, Fantasy, Cthulhu or History.




Board Game: New Bedford
Board Game: New Bedford: Rising Tide




New Bedford - A bland and uninspired low-medium weight Euro

New Bedford played with the expansion New Bedford: Rising Tide is reminiscent of a Euro from 10 years ago. There is nothing wrong with that if the game was truly excellent. But it isn’t, it is fairly average. Go to buildings in Worker Placemnet fashion to collect resources. Convert the resources to new buildings or to Whaling boats. Sail the whaling boats and draw whales out of a bag.

If low-medium weight Euros such as Stone Age, Havana, orLords of Waterdeep had never existed, or if New Bedford had come out at that time, maybe we would be celebrating it. But as it is, it is fairly pointless other than having a theme which is a little different from the norm.
I thought that this view of mine maybe just my old jaded mind coming through, but one of the players at the table is fairly new to gaming and even he thought it bland compared to other games we have introduced him to recently.





Board Game: Railroad Revolution



Railroad Revolution - A solid if slightly underwhelming Euro

Whats Your Game? Are one of my personal favourite publishers. The incredible Madeira by that publisher is amongst the finest of all complex Euros in my book. And all of their games are good meaty Euros.

Railroad Revolution was a disappointment only because this publisher raise my expectations so high. It is a solid Euro with some interesting decisions along the way. I am a little concerned about one particular strategy being overpowered, much discussed on the forum, but even with that the game remains an enjoyable play.

However, I am not sure that I would choose to play it above other Euros of a similar weight: it pales in comparison to the aforementioned Madeira and this year is overshadowed by the peerless Great Western Trail.




Board Game: Siena



Siena - A weird and wonderful Euro unlike anything else in the market

Siena is from the same designer as De Vulgari Eloquentia which is a true sprawling classic. Like that game Siena is an oddity with game mechanics not really seen elsewhere. De Vulgari Eloquentia is the better game but Siena is worth exploring if you like auction-based Euros. The game has three distinct phases to it and you move from one phase to the other when you choose to. You cannot win until you reach the Banker phase but you can do that at the last minute if you choose to. So the game is almost three distinct games with a lot of interaction within each phase, and with the auction providing the interaction for players in different phases.

If you enjoyed De Vulgari I would recommend searching this one out: its low rating on BGG really is not justified if you are open to this kind of game. If you have not played De Vulgari I would recommend starting there if you want a left-field Euro unlike anything else yet massively compelling.




Board Game: Spectaculum



Spectaculum - A typical Reiner Knizia game which feels like a classic German game from the 1990s

There is much talk on BGG that Reiner Knizia has lost his mojo. But I am not so sure as I think it is as much a change in the tastes of modern boardgaming as a reduction in his abilities. Spectaculum is classic Knizia and could easily have come out in 1997, when he was in his full glory, producing game after game of simple, elegant design.

Really this is a stocks and shares game, I am not sure why the publisher gave it a ludicrous veneer of a travelling circus. You buy stocks and make their price go up, you sell them before they go down. Their price is determined by the placement of discs on the board.

It is clever, quick, and engaging. Worth 30 minutes of anybody’s time and rather unjustly often found in the bargain bins.






Board Game: Via Nebula



Via Nebula - Age of Steam redux redux redux

There is a family of Martin Wallace Games which began with Age of Steam and carried on with Railroad Tycoon, Railways of the World, Steam, and now Via Nebula. Although the railroads have gone to be replaced with clouds and meadows the game is the same: create a network (in this instance a shared network) then pick up and deliver along that network.

Here that original game is stripped down to its bare essentials, with a rule set that even a light gaming-minded family could understand. This is not a lot more complex than Ticket to Ride, and lighter than Stone Age.

The interesting twist in the game is the idea of building this shared network: by opening up routes you are helping everyone else to help themselves.

It is a good solid Martin Wallace game, giving the same feeling as playing Steam but in half the time and with a much simpler rule set.




 



Codenames: Pictures - Not as good as Codenames

On BGG a follow-up game based closely on another game usually has a better rating than its parent due to the fact that the people buying and playing a follow-up are generally fans of the parent game. Therefore the sample of people rating the follow-up game is a biased sample, largely drawn from those who enjoy the parent.

Codenames Pictures has a lower rating than Codenames. I think therefore my view seems to be shared widely: this is not nearly as good as Codenames. I can’t actually put my finger on why, but it just is that way.






Board Game: Codenames: Deep Undercover


Codenames: Deep Undercover - Pick out the clean cards for a good expansion to Codenames

If, like me, you are a mature adult who doesn’t find much of CAH particularly funny, or thinks the idea of playing pornographic codenames an act of poor and immature taste then FEAR NOT, there are a lot of cards in here which innocently will sit in your base game.

I didn’t do an actual count but I estimate that nearly a half of these cards can be included in with the base game without concern even if you were playing with your granny: the double-entendre meaning is so lateral as to be meaningless in a normal context. Then throw the other half of the cards away. It makes for an expansion that only delivers half the amount of cards, but if you play Codenames as much as we do in our family you will welcome the extra cards and the variety they bring and it still offers value for money on that basis.
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20. Board Game: Through the Desert [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:488]
Board Game: Through the Desert
Daniel Valencia
United States
San Diego
California
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== NEW GAMES ==

Through the Desert - 7 plays -  N/A 
First Published 1998
Board Game: Through the Desert




Schotten Totten - 5 plays -  N/A 
First Published 1999
Board Game: Schotten Totten




Lost Cities: The Board Game - 3 plays -  N/A 
First Published 2008
Board Game: Lost Cities: The Board Game




Qin - 2 plays -  N/A 
First Published 2012
Board Game: Qin




Le Havre: The Inland Port - 1 play -  N/A 
First Published 2012
Board Game: Le Havre: The Inland Port



Mostly new Reiner Knizia games! Through the Desert is by far my favorite of the bunch. Really simple gameplay but can be quite strategic. But oh! I can only play two camels!! Excellent. I also liked Qin quite a bit, I have got to try the tournament rules next time (where everyone has the same tiles and makes their personal draw piles).
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21. Board Game: John Company [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:1346]
Board Game: John Company
Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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I don't know if it's fair to name John Company as my favorite new-to-me game as it is still in playtesting and I suppose the final version could end up changing significantly, but I'm excited about it so there. Very cool game about running the East India Company and one that I'm very keen on playing some more. It's a big game with lots to wrap your head around and space to play in. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.

Other new-to-me games this month were 18Ireland, 1857, and Rummikub of all things. I'm definitely interested in more 18Ireland though somewhat undecided on it. Also, I was finally able to play the Pax Pamir: Khyber Knives which was excellent.
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22. Board Game: This Is Not a Test: Post-Apocalyptic Skirmish Rules [Average Rating:8.73 Overall Rank:9648] [Average Rating:8.73 Unranked]
Board Game: This Is Not a Test
Murray Fish
Australia
Canberra
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This Is Not a Test: Post-Apocalyptic Skirmish Rules

Board Game: This Is Not a Test: Post-Apocalyptic Skirmish Rules


Finally got this Kickstarter I backed a while ago to the table. I played a game between Peacekeepers and Mutants set around searching a derelict building for hidden items.

The game played really well. There is a lot I like in this game beyond the post-apocalyptic setting and background (which would work really well for fallout-inspired gaming as well).

This Is Not a Test: Post-Apocalyptic Skirmish Rules has some excellent and innovative mechanisms which really put it head-and-shoulders above many of the skirmish rulesets out there. The activation system is great moving away from the old and out moded IgoUgo sort of things and the effects of shooting are calculated after a player loses the initiative so there is no 'gamey' decisions made to shoot knowing the results of other shots.

The warband set up can be a bit complex as is keeping track of what mutations can do what but that will come in time with familiarity. but these are minor quibbles.

Overall, I am delighted with these rules and look forward to using them in the future.

Tumblin-Dice

Board Game: Tumblin-Dice


At the end of a long gaming session Tumblin-Dice was broken out and eight of up played in a surprisingly vicious knock-out tournament.

Despite being knocked out pretty early on I really enjoyed the game and hope to play again soon.

Palace

Board Game: Palace


I haven't played 'normal' card games of any description for ages. A friend in my regular lunch gaming group at work brought along a standard deck and suggested we give Palace (which is known by many other names) a try.

Well, it went over a treat. a lot of fun with a great 'take that' element - especially in games with 3 or more players.

I really enjoyed the game and, weirdly, quite enjoyed the refreshing novelty of playing with 'normal' cards. This is a game I'd play with non-gamers and gamers alike. I introduced it to the Little Fish and they liked it too.

Well worth considering for when you have a bit of downtime and only a normal deck of cards at your disposal.

Heir to the Pharaoh unrated

Board Game: Heir to the Pharaoh


I quite enjoyed my one play of this fun little two player game. The components are good and the theme is rather fun.

The key aspect of the game is bidding for the Favour of the Gods cards. These cards give the player that wins the bid the opportunity to utilise one of the variety of options to score points.

After one play I am not unconvinced that there are too many ways to score (a points salad so to speak); this was true in my only game where I found myself losing the majority of the auctions but winning the game despite having significantly fewer scoring options. Then again, my opponent focused on placing and claiming the monuments on the board so perhaps that's not the optimal strategy.

Anyway, all good fun and one I'd play again but would be unlikely to purchase.

The Golden Ages unrated

Board Game: The Golden Ages


I played this with a group that had previously played it one year ago, but not since. They were, however, supremely confident that they were across the rules.

Turns out, they weren't.

We played this to the end and it went quite well with the game demonstrating depth and aspects of interesting gameplay, but the last age seemed to go forever. The rule we got wrong was the way any player could end the game in the final age hence it just going so very, very l-o-n-g.

In the end, given that this mistake was so profound and it affected all players so significantly, we just decided to give up and not score it. As I didn't really played the game 'properly' I have elected not to score this game.

That said, I would be up to play again, but probably wouldn't buy. I should also say, the game is done no favours by the appalling artwork.

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23. Board Game: Neue Heimat [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:1878]
Board Game: Neue Heimat
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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After a long hiatus of not posting here (but still frequenting BGG), I'm back! I've only played two new games this month, but they are both great!

Board Game: Neue Heimat
Neue Heimat
What an evil evil treat that game is! So much collusion, shifting alliances, devious plays and bids which apply pressure onto players. What's better is that withthe multi-round variant suggested by the author -- keeping money (and points) between rounds -- creates such a dastardly condition. Because it is first to two wins or most points at the end of the agreed upon number of rounds (I suggest one per player), you know who you cannot let win, and interesting moments of collaborating and unsteady alliances emerge.

It's important to check the forums for variants (e.g., zero value roofs, zero multiplying roofs) as they help keep the game EXTRA mean. Loads of fun.

Initial rating: 9

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Board Game: Trick of the Rails
Trick of the Rails
Good grief. What a wacky trick-taker; combining traditional trick-taking with the stock-taking and track-laying of many train games. This means that, like with the brilliant Triumvirate, you are not strictly looking to take tricks -- but use your tricks tactically to tank or boost differing train companies. Such a creative and well achieved genre mash-up.

Initial rating: 8
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24. Board Game: Rallyman [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:963]
Board Game: Rallyman
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Just two "new to me" games for February: Rallyman and Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

Rallyman was a pleasant surprise and restored a bit of my confidence that there are light to medium weight games out there that are actually worth playing. The last few lighter games I've played have been disappointments and include one other dice-roller: Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis and Clark.

Rallyman does mess a bit with one's sense of time and space. Going farther on a turn doesn't necessarily equate with going faster. Going five spaces, accelerating from 1st to 5th, for example, takes 10 seconds. Going five spaces decelerating from 5th to 1st takes 50 seconds. Physics suggests that because both cars travelled the same distance in one turn, that their average speeds should have been the same whether they were accelerating or decelerating. But the turn for the one car was 10 seconds and the turn for the other car was 50.

So it's a bit counter-intuitive to discover that although your car has seemingly caught up to your opponent (who had a one turn "head start"), you are in fact 20 seconds behind at the end of the race.

And this should seem annoying, but I find the whole space-for-time thing mentally stimulating.


Board Game: Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Speaking of annoying, I've been having a bit of a love/hate relationship with my other "new to me" game. Arkham Horror: The Card Game is somewhat similar to the earlier Cthulhu themed games from Fantasy Flight Games which initially I didn't particularly like and then learned to love, okay, enjoy. This one, however, I'm having a harder time with.

I think it's because FFG have added more story through the campaign booklet and the act and agenda cards while at the same time removing the flavour that the older games have with encounter cards at each location. At the same time, they've reduced rolling a handful of dice to pulling a single token from a bag. All in all, the game is drier and more procedural than it's predecessors.

Which, really, for me, isn't usually a bad thing. After all, I like Euros. And I like The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. So I should like Arkham Horror: The Card Game. But I don't. Not really.
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25. Board Game: Gloomhaven [Average Rating:8.81 Overall Rank:1] [Average Rating:8.81 Unranked]
Board Game: Gloomhaven
Jim Hansen
United States
Naperville
Illinois
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== NEW GAMES ==

Gloomhaven - 9 plays -  10 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Gloomhaven


Oh man... This has already locked in my favorite game of the year. It is an incredibly produced and designed game that happens to hit on many of my favorite mechanisms. Let me list some of my favorite aspects.

The core gameplay of choosing two cards each turn where you use the top half of one card and the bottom half of the other card is simultaneously simple and deeply strategic. Combine that with the fact that some cards are one-and-done and you also naturally lose cards over the course of the game, and I find myself constantly making meaningful decisions at every turn. It's kind of like Mage Knight Board Game, but less fiddly.
The enemies are awesome. They are extremely variable (I think ~40 different types) and they each have their own strategy deck that fits their play style. While most of the missions are just "kill everything in the dungeon", they feel very different because of how the enemies differ. The AI deck is easy to use, although there are some strange corner cases. This is 100 times better than having an overlord, imo.
Customization galore! You get to choose your items, which skill cards to unlock, which skill cards for each battle, and how you want to customize your combat deck. As someone that loves LCGs for the deck construction aspect, this scratches that same itch. Similarly, I used to play a lot of D&D, so this feels like home.
There are so many things to unlock. You start with 6 starter classes, but unlock another ~12 as the game goes on. I am dying to see which character we unlock first. Also, you retire your character after 10-15 missions, which is a pretty crazy idea. But I've really warmed up to the idea and am looking forward to trying more.
It's a unique setting. No elves, dwarves, etc. Instead we have rat people, crystal people, elementals, and several other unique races. I play a lot of fantasy games, so this is a breath of fresh air to me.

If I had to pick nits, I would say:
The missions thus far are feeling a little same-y. Combine this with the fact that character progression is a slow burn, and I fear my enthusiasm may decline a little bit over time.
The writing is average. Maybe I am spoiled by Arkham Horror: The Card Game, but a lot of the writing in this feels like a cliche.

So far I'm loving it and can't wait to play more. The legacy aspect doesn't really scare me at all because you can play like 60 or 70 scenarios and they are ~2 hours each. This is only the second game that I've gone straight to a 10 rating (the other being War of the Ring: Second Edition). We'll see if it holds up for the whole campaign.

Clank! - 1 play -  7.5 
First Published 2016
From gallery of Photodump


Clank applies a unique theme to the deckbuilding-with-a-board genre currently occupied by games like Trains and Automobiles. I think the theme in this is great. You are adventurers delving underground, trying to get as much loot as possible and get back to the ground surface. The dragon attacks people with growing ferocity, and the target of his attack is based on how much noise (or "clank") you make while running around.

The deck building is pretty good. There are 4 currencies: skill (like gold in Dominion), feet (which let you move through the dungeon), gold (primarily worth VPs), and swords. The swords let you move through monsters without taking damage, or you can "kill" some cards in the market to get rewards. The game uses the Ascension/Star Realms-style market of 6 random cards, although they do not immediately replace. I generally prefer that Dominion-style market, but I think the random market works well here. It works because some cards cause dragon attacks when revealed and some cards do other effects when revealed. Something like that wouldn't work with the Dominion-style.

Movement on the board is pretty interesting. There are a lot of paths to choose and those whole thing is one giant exercise in push-your-luck. You can buy items like keys (for locked doors) and backpacks (to hold more treasure). There are also exploration tiles that give you random bonuses, and get stronger as you go deeper.

Overall, the game comes together nicely. There is a lot of luck, but it feels fitting with the theme and push-your-luck element. In my first game I tried to sprint and grab a treasure, then get out and leave everyone to get eaten. I ended up making so much noise that I died to random dragon attacks on the turn before I was about to make it back to the castle. At least you still get points when you die, you just don't get the bonus points. I'd like to try it a few more times to explore different strategies.

Mystic Vale - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Mystic Vale


I'm very conflicted about Mystic Vale. It's a lot like a typical deckbuilder except instead of buying cards, you are customizing your cards by buying clear insert that you put into sleeves. Each of your sleeves can hold a top, middle, and bottom, so you can combine up to 3 different abilities into one card. I love this idea. Not only do you build combos between cards like you might in Dominion, but you are also building combos within a single card. This is amazing and has me wanting more.

The problem I am having is that it's virtually impossible to keep track of what the other players are doing (especially in a 4 player game) because I am using most of my brainpower to think about my own deck and each player's deck is fairly complicated. You can't just see that so-and-so is going for X strategy or Y strategy, because they aren't always that binary. Also, as far as I've seen, there is no player interaction at all (other than buying cards that other people might want). So I take my turn, think about my next turn, then wait for other people to finish. It is the epitome of multiplayer solitaire. I think I would love this game as an app, but am lukewarm about it as a tabletop game.

Ice Cool - 1 play -  6.5 
First Published 2016
Board Game: ICECOOL


This is a super simple flicking game that brilliantly uses the boxes to make a large maze-like map. The pieces that you flick are very asymmetrical with a low center of gravity that opens up the possibility for many different types of shots, including jumping over walls. It also makes it sometimes challenging to flick it straight.

Flicking isn't really my cup of tea and I was completely terrible at it in my first play, so I'm not the biggest fan. But if you like flicking, you should definitely check this out.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past


I checked this one out because my wife is a big fan of the Ninja Turtles and I haven't seen any other good games with that theme. I really like how the action dice work. You roll the action dice at the start of the round to determine which actions you can take (my favorite mechanism from my favorite game, War of the Ring: Second Edition). Plus, you kind of share action dice with other turtles, so that part is even more gravy.

Then the game proceeds by alternating between a turtle and then the bad guys until all 4 turtles have gone. The turn sequence and action resolution is decent, although nothing ground breaking. My biggest problem is the way attacks work. Like many games, you roll a number of attack dice to determine how many hits you get. I prefer rolling before I make a decision instead of after, but I can live with it. But then the defender has to roll defense dice. I really hate that. It's what absolutely killed Mice and Mystics for me. The game becomes such a dice fest.

So, while there a lot of good aspects of the game (including simple rules and many variable scenarios) I don't think it's for me. But if you don't mind a dice fest and like the TMNT theme, check it out.

Burke's Gambit - 1 play -  4 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Burke's Gambit


Burke's Gambit takes several aspects of hidden role / deduction games and mashes them together. Unfortunately, it chose some of the worst aspects instead of the best.

1) Per usual in social deduction games, there are two teams like in Resistance and Werewolf. Like those games, the bad guys get the advantage of knowing who is on their team. But in this case there isn't a significant downside to revealing yourself as a bad guy. The good guys start with only a marginal advantage (1 or 2 more players are on the good guys team). But, with the advantage of knowing who is on which team, the bad guys can even the numbers (either by killing good guys themselves, or by good guys killing other good guys) before the good guys have much of a chance to react. So, instead of the bad guys having to stay in the shadows and use guerrilla tactics like in Resistance and Werewolf, it's more like they wait in ambush and then launch into full combat.

2) A lot of the game revolves around targeting one person to kill. In the early game it is completely arbitrary. In the late game, it's not an interested decision. This borrows from a game like Coup, but unfortunately used the worst part instead of the best (bluffing roles).

3) There is player elimination and you can get totally arbitrarily eliminated before your first turn. I thought we had evolved beyond this as as a species.

4) The dice feel out of place in this type of game. Even if you have solved the social deduction, there is a good chance that you will be unable to do anything to act on it because the dice either won't let you attack/heal anyone or you won't get any action at all (if you roll the engine face). I like the idea of having dice with different faces and the die rolls somewhat restricting/enabling your actions but this implementation just doesn't work.

The one thing I thought was cool - how one person has a parasite and it jumps to a new host if their old host dies - seems almost entirely irrelevant to the game. Odds are most people will be dead by the end of the game anyway and it won't matter.

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