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

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

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

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1. Board Game: Pop-Up Pirate! [Average Rating:4.68 Overall Rank:19524]
Board Game: Pop-Up Pirate!
Andy
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== NEW GAMES ==

Pop-Up Pirate! - 1 play
First Published 1979
Board Game: Pop-Up Pirate!
Board Game: Pop-Up Pirate!


Although I only logged 1 play of pop up pirate, it was really 1 session of playing it with my two kids (6 and 4)... They had fun with it, but it really is just a case of pure chance. Unfortunately it was the only new game I played this month, so it wins by default.
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2. Board Game: Secret Hitler [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:181]
Board Game: Secret Hitler
Juan Carlos Goyes
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Board Game: Firenze

Firenze

2017-05-31

Initial Rating: 5.5 (April 2017)

I generally like Andreas Steding´s designs. I absolutely love Hansa Teutonica and I like The Staufer Dynasty so I was expecting a lot from Firenze. I like the structure of the game, but it is much lighter than I was expecting, perhaps family light.

The rules of the game are easy to teach. You can do it under 10 minutes.

The game´s decisions aren’t very hard. You only need to see all the options, read all the cards and the best one will be rather obvious. I like the card system (similar to Through the Ages) and you need to pick a card per turn. Also there are colored bricks in the cards and you need to pick the right colors. Once you analyze this, the best card to pick isn’t difficult to pin point. Later, you can trade for the colors you need, thus, diminishing the seriousness of the colors in the pick a card phase (although you trade 3 to 1 so the price is steep). Once you chose the card, everything is pretty straightforward. I really expected a more deep game.

As players need to read all the cards every turn, I think it is best with two players.

Bottom line, Firenze is an ok game, mechanically sound and perhaps it has the correct weight to be enjoyed by families, but it is too light for me, I was expecting meatier decisions. I need to play it more times to see if it improves with time but for now it is, somewhat, of a disappointment for me.

Current Rating: 5.0


Board Game: Automobiles

Automobiles

2017-05-17

Initial Rating: 6.0 (April 2017)

I absolutely abhor racing games. I’m not sure why but they don’t interstate me in the least. I was going to pass Automobiles but then I found out it has a Bag Building mechanism and I love those games so I decided to check it out.

The rules are much easier than I initially though. You can explain them under 6 minutes.

I hate the theme.

In your turn you either make a pit stop or move around the track. Once you have certain cubes using them is obvious, but the strategy lays in how you buy the cubes. Also you need to balance the need to use the cube right now for its effect or for money to buy more cubes. To summarize, Automobiles does have interesting decisions, but they aren’t very complex.

Best with 3 players but it plays very well with 2. I could play up to 4 players but for this point upward I begin to feel the downtime for such a simple game. If the game moves at a quick pace can enjoy it.

I really like that it comes with 2 different tracks to race and I’m pretty sure expansions will come. Automobiles seems very easy to expand.

Bottom line, Automobiles is an ok game for me. I won’t buy it due to its theme, but I can play it and enjoy it due to its mechanism. It is perhaps the best racing game out there. I was expecting a heavier game, but it is fun for what it offers. Novel game.

Current Rating: 6.0


Board Game: Secret Hitler

Secret Hitler

2017-05-17

Initial Rating: 6.5 (April 2017)

I have never heard about the game before playing it. I bought it by mistake as a friend wanted it and then didn’t take it when I bought it for him, so the game became mine.

The first impression is that the game is very expensive for what comes in the box. The components and art are great and they look gorgeous on the table, but still it was expensive. For the same amount of money I have bought games with much more content. This is a minor issue for me though, if I like a game I buy it without price considerations (most of the time).

The rules are easy to explain, however, you have to explain the roles of the Chancellor and the President, and everything needs to be crystal clear before beginning, so you can explain the game under 11 minutes. Playtime is very variable and depends on the players themselves. It could go up to 11 turns which is way too much for such a simple game.

The theme is great. I know some people dislike it, but it didn’t bother us.

Gameplay is very fun, more over after the first game. It is very reminiscent of The Resistance: Avalon. There are some fascists hidden within the group trying to pass fascist agendas. If they manage to pass 6 of them or Hitler is elected chancellor after the third fascist agenda, the bad guys win. It has considerable more luck than The Resistance, even if you are a liberal, there are situations in which you can only pass a fascist law, so it is much harder to defend yourself here, even if you are a good guy. I like that, sometimes, the liberals want fascist agendas in play to execute the special power.

Secret Hitler is completely language independent. There are some text with aids and the powers, but they are covered with detail in the game manual. We played with people who doesn’t speak English and they didn’t have any issue.

Bottom line, Secret Hitler is a fun game, but in general, it plays very similar to The Resistance: Avalon and it gives me the same vibe when I play both games. I prefer to play Avalon (the superior game IMO) so I see no reason to keep Secret Hitler in my game collection as they are very similar. It has a lot of uncontrollable luck, so making deduction is much harder than in The Resistance. Playtime can be too long for what the game offers. I already sold it, but I’m up for a game whenever a friend request it. Good party game.

Current Rating: 7.0


Board Game: To Court the King

To Court the King

2017-05-17

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2017)

Due to its designer (Thomas Lehmann), I was very keen to play To Court the King. I love Race for the Galaxy and I wanted to see more of his work. After playing the game I can say it is fun to play, but it is rather light, so it isn’t for us.

The rules are very easy to explain, you can do it under 8 minutes. Playtime is around 60 minutes.

The art is ok, nothing too exciting.

To Court the King has a good theme, but you don’t feel it through the game.

Best with 3 fast players. It also plays very well with 2 players. I don’t want to play it with 5 players as the downtime is too much for such a simple game. Once players are familiar with the characters, it will flow a lot faster.

The game´s decisions aren’t very complex (which dice to re roll, which power to use, which character to get) and the luck factor is high but, sometimes, it can be controlled.

Bottom line, To Court the King is an ok game to play from time to time. The rules are easy to teach so it is a good game for the family or for non-gamers, it plays fast but it is too light for us. I won’t buy it (nor its re implementation Favor of the Pharaoh). I will play it again to see if the games improves for me.

Current Rating: 6.0

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Board Game: Call to Glory

Call to Glory

2017-05-31

Initial Rating: 4.5 (May 2017)

Michael Schacht´s designs are generally very light and family friendly, in a nutshell, not for me and that´s ok. When I began playing boardgames I really appreciated his games, but I have changed a lot these years. Due to all of this, I wasn’t expecting much from the game.

The rules are pretty simple, you can explain them under 3 minutes. Playtime is also short, around 30 minutes or less.

Like the theme, but it is pasted on. You don’t feel it through the game.

The game´s decisions are obvious and the luck factor is very high. Low in strategy.

Bottom line, Call to Glory can be a good game to introduce to new gamers to the hobby, but it is way too light for me, obvious decisions. It can work as a filler but these days I almost never play filler games anymore. I can play it again to see if I missed something, but I don´t think the rating will improve with more plays.

Current Rating: 4.0


Board Game: Bluff 'n' Peg

Bluff 'n' Peg

2017-05-17

Initial Rating: 5.0 (May 2017)

Bluff 'n' Peg is not even rated on BGG´s database, so I was expecting and awful, awful game. I was pleasantly surprised when we had some fun playing it , but still it isn’t a game for us.

The rules are very easy and very few (if you are familiar with poker). You can explain them under 3 minutes. Playtime is closer to an hour which is too long for this game.

The game´s components are ok. They consist of a tradition deck of cards and a peg board.

Best with 4 players.

It has no theme.

There is a lot of luck in the game as players are trying to get the best poker hand, but the game itself revolves around bluffing your way, if many players think they have the best hand you can get a lot of points via some multipliers. Luck plays a prominent role in the game, either you have a better hand than your opponents or you don’t. The bluffing aspect is limited because you have to play a better hand than your opponents in your turn and that is a shame. It could be better if this rule didn’t exist, as it is, many players fold in their turn without any other option, including bluffing.

Bottom line Bluff 'n' Peg is an ok if you like gambling games. I had some fun playing it but it can be too long for what the game offers and the luck factor is too high, if you get a poor hand you don’t stand a chance at bluffing or winning. I like Poker better and there is no reason to play this game over Poker. I will sell it ASAP.

Current Rating: 4.0


Board Game: Visionary

Visionary

2017-05-21

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2017)

Years ago, I leaned about the existence of Visionary and I thought it was going to be great, I needed to have it. I even bought a game by mistake thinking it was Visionary but I finally bought it and play it. I think my expectation was too great and the game didn’t deliver, but there are caveats.

I still don’t know the full rules as the version I have comes with a German rulebook and I didn’t find the rules online. A fellow geek pointed me to a website with the rules but I haven’t played it again since then. Still, it seems the rules are pretty simple and we extrapolated them from some sources. It seems the game has 2 modes of play, head to head and timed. We only played head to head and that seems the funnier mode to play, but I will play it as intended soon. In the head to head mode a player, who plays blind, must construct the figure depicted in the card. The team that build it first wins. The idea is pretty cool and, having into account Visionary´s release date (1997), pretty novel as well.

The game´s components are ok, the masks seem pretty cheap though. The cards themselves have some symbols that the game doesn’t use . The image on the cards are, sometimes, hard to understand due to perspective, some players took the wrong piece by mistake. This isn’t necessarily bad.

It was a very expensive game.

Best with 4 players as two players play blind and the other two serve as their guide. With more, there is a lot of redundancy and the loudest player can take control of the game.

Bottom line, I was disappointed with Visionary, but I will keep it in my game collection until I play it correctly. The idea of the game is really cool and I want to play it again soon. Visionary is a very novel party/dexterity game for its time, reminiscent of Ugg-Tect.

Current Rating: 6.0


Board Game: Cavemen: The Quest for Fire

Cavemen: The Quest for Fire

2017-05-21

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2017)

My desire to play Cavemen was low, but when I read the rules I thought the game could be better than expected. For some reason, I thought the game was very simple, but there is some depth to the game.

The rules are more complex than I initially thought. You can explain them under 12 minutes. Playtime is around 60 minutes, the goal of the game is to invent fire.

The game´s components are ok. The art is pretty good.

The theme is fun, but you don’t feel it too much when you play the game.

Cavemen´s decisions aren’t very complex. Once you understand the rules the game flows very quickly. Players bid to be first (and last) player and then they take actions based on the available pool of cards. The options available are: recruit, hunt, invent, explore or forage. Most actions are only available if the corresponding card is in the pool and the tribe has the ability to execute it. Every round you need to feed your tribe and the feeding phase is harder on the first player. The decisions needed to play the game aren’t very complex but they aren’t trivial either. Going first is important to decrease the luck of the draw, that is, it is important to get what you need.

Best with 3 players.

On the bad side the game can be very repetitive.

Bottom line, Caveman is an ok game for casual gamers. I would have loved it when I entered the hobby, but nowadays I crave heavier experiences. I already sold it, but I would play again if requested.

Current Rating: 5.0


Board Game: Wealth of Nations

Wealth of Nations

2017-05-25

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2017)

I recently bought Wealth of Nations. It was very expensive, furthermore, if you have into account the game´s components (low quality in many aspects) but the game is from 2008 and it is out of print. I would have LOVED this game a couple of years ago, but I have changed a lot in these years and, although I enjoyed the game, I prefer to play many other games over Wealth of Nations.

The rules seem complex, but they are deceptively easy. You can explain them under 9 minutes. It comes with great player aids (printed on paper). Playtime can be over three hours, which is too long for this kind of game.

The game´s components are low quality in general. The tiles and bits are thin, the aids are printed on paper and they wrinkle easy, it has paper money, the flags that distinguish the players are small and thin. It is hard to see what players own from across the table. The central board is small. The market boards are good though.

Just after reading the rules I was very keen to play the game, on paper it looks great.

Wealth of Nations is almost theme-less.

The game´s decisions aren’t obvious, in fact they are interesting through all the game. The game has only 3 phases in each turn. First comes the trade phase in which you buy and sell resources you will need. You can trade with other players if it is you turn and, although fun, this part takes a long time to play. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t mind much about this downtime, but now I do. The game itself has a recommended bartering price, but still this phase is very slow for me. I think this is what keep me from rating it higher. Second, is the Development phase in which you claim terrain by placing your flag and you build and automate industries, this phase is fun to play and it doesn’t take much time. The last phase is the Produce Phase which plays very quick as all players play simultaneously. As I wrote before, the rules are easy to get, but the choices of when to build and what to build aren’t easy.

I’m not sure the game is 100% fair to players in the setup, the packages don’t feel balanced, but I would need more plays to verify. As it stands, I feel the first players have an advantage which would be very unfair in a long and deep game.

In the game, you are a generic nation, I was expecting every nation to play differently, but all nations are exactly the same. This is a minor issue for me.

I think the game would play very well with 6 players, but then the downtime would be too much for me. I prefer to play it as a 4 player game.

Wealth of Nations is a long game with zero luck after the setup. I really like this aspect of the game, however, for a game this long, it seems very hard to stop a runaway leader, that is, the game seems decided in the first half of the game, but you have to finish it anyway. I’m not sure if this is the case at all, it is more of a feeling I have after one play. I need more plays to verify.

Bottom line, Wealth of Nations is a medium weight game with lots of interesting decisions and zero luck after the setup. It is a novel and unique design. I should love it but the slow trading phase kills it for me. It (perhaps) have some issues along the lines of “the rich get richer” but I need more games to verify this part. I already sold the game but I would gladly play it again if requested. I sold it because I prefer to play many games over this one and I´m trying to shrink my game collection to a manageable level. Just the day I was going to play it, I found there are some new rules from an expansion. I didn’t try them.

Current Rating: 6.0


Board Game: The Little Prince: Rising to the Stars

The Little Prince: Rising to the Stars

2017-05-25

Initial Rating: 3.0 (May 2017)

I’m not sure why I bought The Little Prince: Rising to the Stars. It clearly was going to be a disaster. I heavily dislike The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet and in general, I dislike most of Bauza´s and (in a lesser way) Cathala´s designs. I bought the game last year on a sale and I was clearly out of control. I’m trying to control my game collection so I’m trying to not buy games I know I won’t enjoy. I don’t sell or gift unplayed games so I finally played The Little Prince: Rising to the Stars and it was way worse than expected.

The rules of the game are pretty basic. You can explain them under 4 minutes. Playtime is, mercifully, short.

The game´s components are very well done as is the art. This is its best feature.

The game´s decisions are very obvious and luck plays a definitive factor deciding who wins. The Little Prince: Rising to the Stars can be a great children game (not family game), but in any other regard it utterly disappointed me and I wasn’t the only one who shared this feeling. I played the game with 4 other players and my copy of the game has been played two or three times after that (without me) and only ONE player thought the game was near to ok, but he wouldn’t buy it. Even complete newbies to our hobby thought the game was very regular. A friend who is a fan of the designers said to me “having into account the geniuses that designed the game, one would have expected something way better from the game”. No one had any fun playing it.

Bottom line, I heavily dislike The Little Prince: Rising to the Stars, it is even worse than The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet. This is a lesson to pick better games for me. I´m trying to sell the game but no one wants it among my gaming groups. I will probably gift it soon. I will do my best to never play it again. It is a children´s game.

Current Rating: 2.0


Board Game: Tinners' Trail

Tinners' Trail

2017-05-28

Initial Rating: 6.5 (May 2017)

Martin Wallace is among my favorite game designers. I generally buy his games without knowing anything else from them and I´m always keen to try his games. Tinners' Trail was a hard/expensive game to get and I was expecting a lot from it. In some ways, the game delivers, but it other it is a letdown.

The rules aren’t too complex. You can teach them under 12 minutes. Playtime is around 90 minutes, which is pretty fast for a strategy game.

The art of the game is functional as are the game´s components, but nothing too exciting. There are blue cubes that have no relation with the blue player who also has blue cubes. They are a bit different but easily mistaken. They should be different colors.

The theme is ok.

The game´s decisions aren’t too complex, but you do have to think all your options through. Most actions don´t have a financial cost but a time cost and the player who has the more time available will play next, that means, you can play several turns in a row, I like this system. In your turn, you can build a mine which later gets auctioned, mine ore to get money, build a port, a train or a miner to be able to mine more ore, build adits and steam pumps to get water out of mines. You can also sell pasties to get a little bit of money. Every time you build a mine or mine ore, more water is added to your mine and that makes mining more expensive, I love the concept. You can also pass and that decision is also important because it decides turn order and if you go first, you can prospect and invest first.

Another part of the game I really like is that you don’t get any VP if you don´t invest, so you need to decide how much to invest and how much to keep for your next turn, so your mining operation continues to expand. It isn’t a trivial decision.

Everything I have written above is positive for me, but the luck factor is the deal breaker for me. It is too much for a strategy game. You roll each turn to change the price of the tin/copper cubes and they can change radically from turn to turn. Your cubes can pass from almost worthless to extremely valuable in a roll. Also, every time you prospect or build a mine you also roll the dice. You can spend a lot of resources and get very little in return due to the dice. This luck makes thematic sense, but it sours the game experience for us.

It seems the game has too few water cubes, they ran out in our game, this is a minor issue though. Another minor complaint is that the money track doesn’t use multiple of 10s but of 20s, that’s weird and a bit inconvenient, but nothing serious.

Bottom line, I like all aspects of Tinners' Trail but the luck factor, it is way too high for a strategy game and I feel it can decide the game outright, there is no way to control it cry. The game plays very fast and it is novel, but I will sell it as soon as I can. It is lighter than I expected, but still has a lot of depth and it plays very fast for a Wallace´s game.

Current Rating: 6.0


Board Game: Garbage Day!

Garbage Day!

2017-05-28

Initial Rating: 3.0 (May 2017)

Garbage day is, easily, the worst dexterity game I have ever played.

The rules are pretty simple to explain, you can do it under 90 seconds. Playtime though can be up to 45 minutes or more which is too long for such a simple game.

The game´s components are ok. The cards have holes in them and it is impossible to sleeve them due to the nature of the game (a huge issue for me) which is ironic because Mayday Games is one of the main sleeves producers an also the publisher of the game. The plastic recipient looks great but it isn’t practical to storage and the cards and rules suffer inside. The art of the game is pretty good.

The label around the container falls as soon as you unpack the game.

The theme is novel at least.

Gameplay is very boring and obvious. The cards have some effects but they are obvious when is the best time to play them. Unlike most dexterity games I have played, you can stack A LOT of cards together without making them fall, so the little excitement the game offers at the beginning dies pretty quickly. The overflow concept is meaningless because a player never drops one or two cads at the same time, when a player drops the pile of cards, he drops a lot of them, so the player gets eliminated without using his overflow space. Once a player is eliminated from the game, players (almost) begin a whole new game as it will take a lot of time again to make the stacking cards fall once more. VERY boring.

There are cards that don’t get explained in the rulebook and don’t have any effect on gameplay (gross, smell).

Bottom line, Garbage Day is an awful game, It seems under developed, the overflow concept doesn’t work, the stacking cards take a long time to fall, I don’t think they are the right component for a stacking dexterity game. It is very boring. The only redeeming factor is the art. I already sold my copy of the game. I won’t ever play it again.

Current Rating: 2.0


Board Game: Say What You Meme

Say What You Meme

2017-05-28

Initial Rating: 5.5 (May 2017)

As is usual from me, I bought this game without knowing anything about it. It ended up surprising me and I had fun when I played it. Say What You Meme is a fun party game.

The rules are pretty simple. You can explain them under 1 minute. Playtime, though, is way too long for this kind of game, it depends on the number of players which is why I prefer to play it as a 4 player game, I would play it up to 6 players but with more the downtime and playtime becomes excessive. More than 45 minutes with this game feel too much.

Say What You Meme is a fun game in which one image card is revealed each turn and a player says a keyword. Combining these two concepts you have to write a meme. At first, it is hilarious but it get old pretty quickly because the end game condition takes too long to be accomplished. I think the game would benefit a lot from a shorter playtime and a sand timer to keep the round short.

The game is perhaps among the best I have played in this category, but it still has a fatal flaw for my liking. It has way too much subjectivity. In general I heavily dislike subjective games (Apples to Apples, Why Did the Chicken...?, Cards Against Humanity) because they aren’t fair and they lend themselves to “attack the current leader” even if he clearly wrote the best answer. In our game, a player always eliminated another player and he identified him just by his writing. I prefer objective games in which the correct answer in unequivocal (like Dixit). Still, in Say What You Meme, the judging is more fair than in most games of its kind. Each turn, the judge decides (arbitrarily) which is the worst meme and he eliminates it, then the owner of the meme that was just eliminated do the same thing and so on until only one meme remains.

Bottom line, I kind of like Say What You Meme and I could play it again but it isn’t a game for me. A friend already bought it from me and he bought it to do some classes with it. He says it fosters creativity (I agree) and it can be a good tool to have in a classroom. Subjectivity kills the game for me, but the judging here is a bit fairer than in most games if its kind. It can be a good game to break the ice among non-gamers.

Current Rating: 5.0


Board Game: Apocalypse Chaos

Apocalypse Chaos

2017-05-28

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2017)

As is usual from me, I bought Apocalypse Chaos without knowing anything about it. I bought it on a sale a long time ago. When I read the rules, it was a surprise to find out it was a cooperative game.

The rules of the game aren’t too complex, but there are lot of rules and each player has a different power, so you can explain the game under 20 minutes. Playtime depends on the scenario (or on how quick you die) but gameplay keeps flowing at a fast pace.

The game´s components are very good as is the art. Once you assemble an scenario to play, the game looks gorgeous on the table with its multilevel floors. The art is pretty good as well. The custom dice are very good.

The theme is great, I love it. Best with 3 players, but I would think it plays very well with 2 players as well. With 4 players the downtime is excessive. It also has a solo mode if you like that sort of thing (I don’t).

Apocalypse Chaos is a hard game to win as any good cooperative game should be. The game´s decisions aren’t obvious. All your actions depend on the dice you and your teammates threw, so it has a healthy luck factor in it, however, there seems to have many ways to mitigate the luck of the dice, so I’m not sure if luck is decisive or not. You have to calculate and plan a lot to succeed in this game and that bothers some people.

Once you assemble an scenario, it can be hard to read the cards from the other side of the structure, but perhaps, this part of the game is good to the cooperative effort, no player control all the information at a glance.

I really like that the game comes with a campaign mode, I would like to play through it but I, most likely, won´t.

It is hard to see the info on the other side of the structure, but perhaps that part is good to the cooperative effort, no player controls all the information easily and players have to really cooperate.

I would have thought the game to be much more recognized as I think it is a good cooperative game and many players would love it. I´m surprised it didn’t have more buzz, perhaps it is an underrated game.

Bottom line, Apocalypse Chaos is a quirky and innovative cooperative game. Last year I would have kept it among my collection but I’m trying to reduce it to a manageable level so I sold it. Still, I think it is an ok to good cooperative game, but my desire to play it again isn’t that high.

Current Rating: 6.0


Board Game: Cardline: Dinosaurs

Cardline: Dinosaurs

2017-05-28

Initial Rating: 5.0 (May 2017)

Since last year, I have had a fall with the Cardline series of games. Now I feel they are they are somewhat boring. Funny enough, I still enjoy Timeline and its ilk but I sold all my Cardline games. Cardline: Dinosaurs is not the exception. I think it can be a good educational game, but I don’t enjoy it very much.

The gameplay remains the same, the goal of the game is to get rid of your cards playing them in the right spot. For the dinosaur edition of the game, they included two stats only (the least stats among Cardline games), I would have liked more stats. Unlike the Cardline: Globetrotter edition of the game, here you can reason and deduce the correct spot in many cases.

Bottom line, Cardline: Dinosaurs can be a good educational game but it isn’t for me. My desire to play it again is rather low. It also can be a good family game.

Current Rating: 5.0


Board Game: Alchemists: Publisher

Alchemists: Publisher

2017-05-28

Initial Rating: 7.0 (May 2017)

I absolutely love Alchemists, so any promo and expansion for it is a must have for me.

Alchemists: Publisher is a good addition to the game and it allows for new strategies. It works as an insurance of sorts as now you can change your mind about published works before the penalty hits you. You can also publish earlier if you know you will have the opportunity to correct later. In fact, it seems very powerful but I’m not sure it that’s the case, after all, it is very situational. I need more plays to verify.

I’m not sure how many copies of this cards should be in the deck. One seems unfair and too few, but I would love to hear an official answer to this.

Bottom line, Alchemists: Publisher is a good card to have.

Current Rating: 7.0


Board Game: Vast: The Crystal Caverns

Vast: The Crystal Caverns

2017-05-29

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2017)

I was keen to play Vast: The Crystal Caverns, it seemed like a great game with a great concept, but after playing it, it was a bit of a disappointment.

The rules for the game aren’t very complex, but as each player plays differently, the explanation is long (around 30 minutes) and boring (because you can only explain to one player at a time). This is a weakness of the game. Playtime is also very variable, it depends if a player will reach his goal or not. In any case it surpasses the 90 minute mark easily.

The game´s components are from okay to good. The art is pretty good.

Love the theme.

The idea behind the game is fascinating, each player is trying to win the game by meeting different criteria, so all players need to balance each other until a player wins. I love the idea of the game, but this very mechanism ensures you will have a long game and it encourages "take that" and "attack the leader" (I´m not fond of those mechanisms).

Vast: The Crystal Caverns’ decisions are not very complex, in fact the options you have available are rather clear each turn. I played with the Goblins and it was pretty straightforward once I understood the rules. The best option was always apparent to me. I’m not sure if the other roles are the same, but from my LIMITED perspective the Dragon is very easy to handle as well. The Knight has to decide how to distribute his cubes each turn, so it is a bit harder to handle it, but not by much. Perhaps the Cave player has the greatest difficulty to win. We didn’t play with the thief.

I don´t think all the roles are perfectly balanced and I’m also worried about king making, if a player doesn’t plays his best, another player will be enormously benefited.

Best with 4 fast players. I wouldn’t want to play with 5 players. The downtime is too much for me and it begins to feel very repetitive.

There is considerable luck with the cards for the goblins, the tiles for all players, the die of the dragon, but I´m not sure if it is too much. My gut feeling says it isn’t, but I need more plays to verify.

In the player aid for the goblins, it says you can move and then you can execute and action per tribe, that implies that you can move and then reveal and that’s not the case. What I’m trying to say is that it is confusing and could be a lot clearer and better redacted and organized. I didn’t read the rules of the game, but from my (limited) perspective they are confusing in some parts.

Bottom line, Vast: The Crystal Caverns is a thematic experience and I love the games concept, however, it takes a long time to explain so my desire to teach the game isn’t high. The decisions aren’t very complex, the complexity comes from the rules. I already sold my copy of the game but only because a friend really wanted it, perhaps I will buy the game again because I definitively need more plays to gauge it better and I want to play other roles. Novel game.

Current Rating: 5.5


Board Game: Deception: Murder in Hong Kong – Dice Tower 2016 Kickstarter Promo Pack

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong – Dice Tower 2016 Kickstarter Promo Pack

2017-05-29

Initial Rating: 7.0 (May 2017)

I love Deception so these promo cards were a must have for me. In reality they are very expensive for what they offer, but the heart wants what the heart wants. I feel the compulsion to have them all, to complete the set .

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong – Dice Tower 2016 Kickstarter Promo Pack offers 4 new cards to add to the game, that’s all. They add a little variety to the game.

Current Rating: 7.0


Board Game: Deception: Murder in Hong Kong – Game Boy Geek Season 4 Kickstarter Promo Cards

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong – Game Boy Geek Season 4 Kickstarter Promo Cards

2017-05-29

Initial Rating: 7.0 (May 2017)

I love Deception so these promo cards were a must have for me. In reality they are very expensive for what they offer, but the heart wants wat the heart wants. I feel the compulsion to have them all, to complete the set .

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong – GameBoyGeek Season 4 Kickstarter Promo offers 2 new cards to add to the game, that’s all. They add a little variety.

Current Rating: 7.0


Board Game: Pandemic: Contagion

Pandemic: Contagion

2017-05-30

Initial Rating: 5.0 (May 2017)

I heavily dislike Pandemic so my desire to play Pandemic: Contagion was very low. I only played it because my gaming system chose the game and it was a (somewhat) better experience than expected, but still not a game for me.

The rules of the game are very easy to teach. You can teach them under 5 minutes. Playtime is around 45 minutes.

I love the theme, but you don´t feel it through the game.

Pandemic: Contagion is a competitive game, I was expecting a cooperative experience but it isn’t. Not that this is an issue in any way, I like both kind of games, it is just a bit weird. Pandemic and Pandemic: Contagion don´t have anything in common but the theme.

The game´s components are good. The player´s boards are great. The cards are very similar to Pandemic.

The luck factor is high, but you can mitigate it a bit. Two cards of any color equals the color you need. There is also luck with the event deck, but you can prepare for it with your resistance rating. To summarize, the luck factor, although high, is not out of control. Besides, the game plays very quickly, so I have no issues here.

The decisions needed to play the game aren´t complex, in fact they are pretty straightforward and simple. Each turn you can do two out of three actions, you can draw cards, you can infect a city (area control) or you can mutate. You need to think a little bit about what you are going to do, but the game is on the lighter end of the spectrum. It seems Pandemic: Contagion is very fragile, if a player makes a mistake it will benefit another player enormously, perhaps it has king making issues as well.

Bottom line, Pandemic: Contagion is an ok family game, but it is way too light for my current tastes. It plays fast and its decisions aren’t very complex. I prefer it to regular Pandemic, but there is no relation between both games. I already sold it. Not very fun for us.

Current Rating: 4.0


Board Game: Dominion: Empires

Dominion: Empires

2017-05-30

Initial Rating: 9.0 (January 2017)

I love Dominion. It is, currently, my third favorite game (after Dungeon Twister and Through the Ages) so it is only natural that I also love its expansions.

Dominion: Empires is a great expansion. It adds debt cards, landmarks cards, split pile cards, gathering cards, a couple of duration cards (a mechanism I love) and more events (which I also love). The landmark cards are my absolute favorite from Dominion Empires and they alone make the expansion worthy. They RADICALLY change how you play the game and you can mix them with any expansion for the game. I like them even more than I liked the Events.

The debt cards are also very different from previous cards and very interesting. You can buy them now without enough money, but you cannot buy anything else until you pay your debt.

The art and components continue to be good.

Dominion´s replayability has always been high, and with these new cards it is amazingly high.

Bottom line, I really like how Dominion: Adventures and now Dominion: Empires have taken the game through new venues. I particularly love the landmark cards from this expansion. They change the game a lot. Dominion: Empires is one of my favorite expansions. I can’t wait to play it again.

Current Rating: 9.5


Board Game: Dominion: Intrigue Update Pack

Dominion: Intrigue Update Pack

2017-05-30

Initial Rating: 8.0 (May 2017)

I love Dominion, it is my third favorite game of all time and my most played one , so it is no wonder I also love its expansions. I have everything for the game so I needed to buy this update pack and I will buy any new expansion (if it comes). It is very nice of Rio Grande Games to offer this update pack as it is, otherwise I would have to buy repeat content and that always bothers me.

I don’t know which cards they replaced, nor I care about that, I’m happy to have ALL the cards for the game. They are supposedly a better fit for the game, but I’m glad I can play them all if the mood strikes. In all honesty, I would have preferred that these cards didn’t replace anything but that they published a whole new expansion with them. However, this is a very minor issue for me. I read that Rio Grande Games will continue to update Dominion´s old expansions and I’m excited about it. At the end, I always want more cards and it doesn’t matter how they release them .

I have only played with one card from this set. Lurker, but it is a VERY powerful card. At first I thought it was ok, but then I saw it in action. At a cost of 2 it is amazingly powerful. You can in two turns get any action you want, no matter the cost. I think, if only one player is playing early Lurkers, that player will win more often than not.

I´m also very keen to play the other 6 new cards.

Bottom line, I love the new cards Dominion: Intrigue Update Pack adds to the game. I’m not sure if they are indeed better than the ones they replaced (nor I care because I have both copies), but I’m excited to play more with this set.

Current Rating: 8.0


Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse: Miss Information Villain Character

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Miss Information Villain Character

2017-05-31

Initial Rating: 7.0 (April 2017)

I really like Sentinels of the Multiverse so it is no wonder I also like its expansions and promos. Miss Information is a very thought villain to beat and she defeated me rather easily.

She has some nasty cards, for example Another Reality´s Debt makes each hero to destroy all his cards or discard all his hand, very nasty and slow to recover from. The diversions are hard to deal with and they come out from the discard pile rather easy. She has lots of of ways destroy hero cards. All things considered, a very though villain to beat.

I still haven’t defeated her, but I want to play against her soon. Very thematic villain, I love to play against her .

In general, I always welcome more cards for my Sentinels of the Multiverse games.

Current Rating: 7.5
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3. Board Game: Axiom [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:4886]
Board Game: Axiom
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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This month, I was fortunate enough to play 2 new games. I liked them both - so I'll list them in a semi-random order (as I try to guess their relative placement in the future.) I've only a single play of each one, too; so not enough exposure to have anything but the very beginnings of an impression.


Axiom -- (1 play) _7⅓_
Board Game: Axiom
Board Game: Axiom
(images by gmcnish & jack61)

It's really pretty (by my standards.) The gameplay is odd, though: rather than something like Go where many moves have at least a superficial veneer of plausibility, this one features very few moves each turn that do not immediately lead to defeat. (So, more like Yavalath; which has a bit of that character, too.)

I'm pretty confident that we weren't playing well in our first play; and I've hope that we might be able to discover what (at least a bit) better play looks like over the next few years.


Tin Goose -- (1 play) _7⅓_
Board Game: Tin Goose
Board Game: Tin Goose
(images by GiochinScatola & netes)

This was quite a ride: there was a lovely and outrageous groupthink in play about the value of an offered airplane. It's completely possible that we were all quite delusional - yet it worked, too.

I found the game quite engrossing. And yet, while I'd be entirely happy to try it again, I found myself wondering how (and to what degree) the randomness of the initial card draw skewed the possibilities for each player. (While I'm often wrong, and so one shouldn't be disinclined to play based on this reflection at all, it wouldn't surprise me if, given competent play (which at least a few of us, me included, didn't display in this instance) the result was a foregone conclusion given a seating order, start player selection, and initial draw.)


Thanks again to my youngsters, the Monday Lunch folk, and the Wednesday Night gang for some great game experiences.
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4. Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:282]
Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon
James Moline
United States
Tampa
FL
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Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon
In the Year of the Dragon - I picked this up earlier this month when I stopped into an FLGS while on a family trip. I'm a big Stefan Feld fan, so I was thrilled to see that the reprint was on the shelves. I've only played this one time, with 4 players, but I really, really enjoyed it. It's seriously punishing and difficult, but we were all in the right mood and had a really good time with it. The strategy is pretty variable, just because the events are random. I'm hoping to get to play this more in the future. I was very encouraged by how much the people I played with seemed to enjoy it.
Rating: 8

Board Game: Ethnos
Ethnos - Ethnos has had a lot of buzz lately, and I like Paolo Mori, so I was keen to give it a shot when I got the chance. We played a 6 player game, and the game really plays quickly. The different races are... Maybe not very thematic, but they are interesting. The turns are so fast that we actually got ahead of ourselves a couple of times and almost lost our places. I love that there are so many races in the box, and I'm curious about how the others play. I'm pretty seriously disappointed in the art and design, especially given that it's a CMON game, who usually have great productions. The board art is notoriously boring, but that's not that big of a deal. I was more disappointed in the plastic tokens, which were kind of difficult for everyone to handle and stack. The game is solid, though, and I would happily play it again.
Rating: 7.5

Board Game: Crisis
Crisis - I've been curious about Crisis since I first started hearing about it. I don't know how I missed it on kickstarter, but I'm kind of sorry I did. It's really a pretty simple worker placement game that models the mechanism sort of like Carson City (or Caylus?) where you place your workers in whatever order you want, but then the actions are resolved in a fixed order. The strategy isn't too difficult to grasp. I found myself cursing the other players frequently, which I often think is a sign of a game I'm enjoying. I've only played it once, and I definitely want to play it again.
Rating: 7

Board Game: Asgard
Asgard - I picked up Asgard for $10 a year or two ago before I really knew anything about the publisher. Since then, I've played several What's Your Game? games and it upped my enthusiasm for trying Asgard. Our first play... Did not go very well. There's a lot about the game that I found interesting, and I definitely want to play it again, because I don't think my first impression was very accurate. Everyone at the table tried to do a little of everything from the start of the game, and it kind of crippled us. We spent the whole game basically having 2 or 3 actions each round, and it felt very difficult to get anything done. I can think of ways to possibly improve our strategy, though, and I think future plays will be better. Hopefully, I'll be able to get it played again to give it a fair shake.
Rating: 6.5

Board Game: DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Rivals – Batman vs The Joker
DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Rivals – Batman vs The Joker - Batman vs Joker is a decent head-to-head deckbuilding game. It lasted a little longer than I would like, but maybe that will get shaved down as we play it more. It's probably not as good as Star Realms, but there are some things I like better. The idea of winning by (essentially) buying increasingly high value cards from your opponent is pretty cool and focuses on building a big turn engine, rather than whittling your opponent's score down. It also does away with those annoying health tracker cards that you need for Star Realms. I do like the Batman theme over the generic space theme, too. All that said, I think I would almost always choose to play a different 2 player game. It's working very well for me as a gateway game for my new little brother, though, so it will probably see the table periodically.
Rating: 6
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5. Board Game: Guerrilla Checkers [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:10504]
Board Game: Guerrilla Checkers
Goat Goatington
United Kingdom
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Guerilla Checkers

An asymmetric abstract that's a hybrid of chess and go played on an 8x8 board. The red player has 6 pieces that behave like checkers for the most part, plays on the squares and captures by jumping pieces. The black player has a bucket of pieces that behave like go stones, plays on the intersections and captures by filling the 4 points of the square. Red start with 6 in player and can't get more, black plays two adjacent per turn and the first player to eliminate the opposing pieces wins. Black loses if they run out of pieces, which acts as a timer on the game. The sides of the board count as black pieces for purposes of capture so red typically wants to stay nearer the middle.

This is seriously impressive as an asymmetrical abstract. Both sides play completely differently and it also feels balanced, though your first few games are likely to derail quickly because neither side is entirely obvious and it's easy to make a mistake that puts you out of the game.

Red can kill huge numbers of black pieces at once by jumping around the board. If black builds up, it's easy for them to lose 10+ pieces in a single turn when red is able to get into the group. However, the late game is claustrophobic as black surrounds and cuts off safe moves, leading you into capture chains that trap you in a corner to be captured yourself. I've not seen red win by capture yet but winning by time is very feasible if you play well.

Black has the advantage of flooding the board with pieces. You can force red back by surrounding the position without being adjacent and you have a lot of freedom on where you build as long as you have kept a reasonable number of pieces alive. Approaching the red pieces is always dangerous though as red can take a huge chunk of your board presence down with ease, even if it is a sacrifice. You need to edge in and constrict their moves without opening up an escape halfway across the board.

As a whole, very satisfying to play. I always love games with asymmetric powers so this working so well in the small abstract space is great. Easily one of my favourite nestorgames releases played so far, probably just behind Margo.



Maskmen
Board Game: Maskmen


A shedding card game with a novel luchador wrestler theme that's basically pasted on, but I like the look of it during play compared to a standard card deck. During the early round ascending sets of cards are played to determine the strength of each of the 6 colours, then the late game is simply trying to play what you have as quickly as possible to win.

The real meat of the game is in the early game when you determine the relative strengths of each wrestler. You can play a set of cards that's one more than the previous set (climbing style) to make that colour stronger, but in doing so you also spend a lot of cards that are now better for everyone else. I've not managed to work out how to play the early game at all yet. When the strengths are all known, it's immediately obvious whether you have done well so far. Each card must be stronger than the previous one played this hand so having a large hand of the weakest wrestler at the end is catastrophic for your game.

It's a little awkward to explain and understand but I do enjoy it. It's not a standout game, just plenty of fun while playing. I'm not sure why they have so many masks in the box because we've never come close to using half of them so far. Maybe if we played more early 3 card sets they'd be more relevant. As it stands it's just a pain to get back into the box.



RED
Board Game: RED


A tile laying game for 3 with a clever scoring mechanism. Each player is assigned a colour and every tile has one foreground colour and a different background colour. You take turns placing tiles from the shared pool until everything is out or nothing can be placed, then score your colours. You count your largest connected group of foreground colours and multiply that by your largest connected group of background colours, which means scores can go up quickly if someone is allowed to create a large group.

Every tile that helps you is also potentially helping someone else because of the two colours so it's tempting to place to cut groups up, but the lack of grid means it's also possible to build around blocks to make an even bigger group later on. The large tiles add an interesting twist as they can connect groups easily but also limit your future gains significantly if placed badly.

Even for a nestorgames release, this is very portable in both storage and play space and it plays quickly too. I don't like it as a 2 player game because there doesn't seem to be a lot of variance compared to the 3 player game.



Yokohama
Board Game: Yokohama


A worker movement/placement game of gathering resources and converting them into points in many ways. It's an intimidating game on the table because it has a giant board covering in text, tracks and cards. In practice it's an easy game to learn but still a little slow to play at first because you need to understand possible paths around the board to plan anything.

Each turn you place assistants on the board then move your president to a tile for an action following a path of your assistants, with the strength of the action depending on how many pieces you have on the tile. You can only place 2 on one tile or 3 in different tiles but you ideally want 4 (ignoring buildings) on your action space to do a strength 5 action. You must pick your assistants in the space up after every action so building up to a 5 strength action means taking weaker actions elsewhere until you can place enough.

This balance between creating paths on the board, amassing assistants on the actions you want to take and trying not to get blocked or run out of pieces is the heart of the game. You can place some buildings on the board as you go that add permanent strength to a space but even these don't make life easy. The actual actions are fairly typical resource conversion actions - get resources, get money, get orders, convert things to points - but they work for the game because the placement and movement of your pieces is so important.

It also has a very randomised setup that's both good and a little awkward. The good is that every game does feel different. You randomise the location of the action tiles, the building placement bonuses, the 5 strength bonuses and the 3 achievements eac game. The orders typically cycle enough that they aren't important but the technology cards don't seem to cycle fully so you effectively have different techs available each game too. However, all of that randomisation means the start of the game continues to be a little slow while everyone works out what's where and how to get around properly.

As a whole, an excellent game. It's good with 2 and good with 4 because of the varying board size and duplication of production at higher player counts. I'm definitely looking forward to playing more of this.



Heptalion
Board Game: Heptalion


A simple tile laying game of matching dominoes to matching locations on the board, losing when you can't place a tile. The dominoes are all unique and divided randomly between players while the board contains every domino exactly 3 times. This is incredibly easy to learn and start playing - what I've just said is every rule in the game - and yet there's still enough going on that it's interesting to play. The strategy comes from assessing how many valid placements your remaining tiles have and which ones can be blocked. If your tile still has 3 open spots and another has only 1 space remaining, play the latter as soon as possible unless it's impossible for it to be blocked.

It's definitely at its best with 2 players as you can easily count the remaining tiles and work out the urgent pieces. It's still fun with 3 and 4, it's just that you can get blocked more easily because there are more placements between yours. I enjoy it at all counts though and it's typically done in 5 minutes, sometimes up to 10 if everyone plays carefully.

The extra boards are a nice additional bonus and I'd recommend them if you're getting the game. They fit into the same case so they're just as portable and the layouts do make a difference. The fundamentals don't change but the tile balance is a little different. For example, in the standard board the double dominoes (two of the same symbol) are always together and relatively fragile because 2 placements can block them entirely so they typically get played early. The extra boards split these up and group other things instead, which seems relatively unimportant but does prevent some 'sameness' from creeping in.



Chaos in the Old World
Board Game: Chaos in the Old World


Finally got a chance to play this game with 5 players using the Skaven expansion. I love Cthulhu Wars so any thoughts of this are naturally going to be in comparison to that as they share a lot of similarities, even if they do feel quite different in play. First, the good bits:

It's not a combat game, even if combat does happen quite a bit and is important. Khorne obviously fights anything in reach but the other factions are playing their own games and only fight when necessary. That's still unusual for an area control game with combat like this and easily the best part for me. It doesn't replace the other combat games but it makes it stand out much more.

The factions are asymmetric and grow more asymmetric as they upgrade. You have different goals, slightly different units and very different upgrades, leading to some big differences later on. I played Nurgle (badly) and I'd like to play it again now I understand the game better, only the other factions also looked very interesting too. I prefer the Cthulhu Wars approach of more asymmetric (totally different units in some cases) starting factions and even more extreme upgrades, but this is still very good.


I wasn't such a fan of the dial system. In theory it's great and it gives everyone their own focus, I'm just not sure how big a deal the dial win is. I think this would become more apparent with some experience. In this game nobody came close to a dial victory before the world ended, even the players focusing on the dials. The upgrade order is also entirely fixed, which is a negative for me.

We played with the Horned Rat expansion faction upgrades and they seem much more interesting. Nurgle with the base game stuff would not have been nearly as fun. I suspect the game also fundamentally relies on all factions being present and wouldn't be too sensible with 3 base + Skaven as a 4 player game, whereas Cthulhu Wars works with varying factions much better.

As a whole I had a lot of fun playing Chaos in the Old World. I still prefer Cthulhu Wars but they aren't the same and I'd happily play this more.



Dark Souls: The Board Game
Board Game: Dark Souls: The Board Game


I'm glad I avoided getting this one through Kickstarter because it has some serious problems that I can't believe managed to make it through to production. First the good bits:

The boss fights are great fun. They have move sequences you can learn, each with their own arcs and ranges, so positioning is much more important than your typical dungeon crawl. I want to stand on the left to be in the weak point this time but the next move is a left swipe so maybe I should just play safe, or maybe we're on the home straight and it's ok. This ties into the other good point - health and stamina.

Each character has a single bar for health and stamina, with damage filling in from one side and spent stamina filling in from the other. Lots of the good actions require spending stamina and you refill some of your stamina at the start of your turn. If you ever fill your bar with any combination of damage and stamina, you're dead. This makes for some interesting push your luck moments and risk assessment because sometimes you need the strong attack and sometimes you need to not place 4 cubes on your track to stay alive.

Sadly, all of the good is undone entirely by a fundamental problem with the game - grind. Dark Souls features a huge amount of grinding to get anything done and I don't know how nobody noticed this during design and development. Clearing a room gives you 2 souls per player in a shared pool. You can spend 1 soul to draw the top card of the item deck to a shared supply, which can be freely equipped by anyone with the stats. Stats are effectively 1-4, starting on 1 and costing 2, 4 then 8 souls to level up. Drew a mace with a high strength requirement? That'll be 14 souls of stats to equip it, plus the 1 you spent drawing the card. That's one item on one player. In a 4 player game it takes 8 rooms to get the souls to equip it, which is the clear to the boss twice in a row. One item, one character.

Items draw randomly from the deck and the deck is gigantic. I don't know the count but it must be 60+ cards. 1 soul per card, randomly off the top. Half of what you draw is junk for your current characters, most of the rest requires more stats than you have and occasionally you get an actual item you can use. I got a bunch of items I could equip with similar stats (randomly) and was a damage machine, the owner got almost no upgrades and lucked into a weapon on the last clear. If you get good items then you can smash through lots of the rooms, if you don't then you best hope you roll well.

I played this two player with the owner having played a few games and it took us just over 3 hours (with rules) to do the clear to the first mini-boss with 2 characters. That's only half the game, we didn't even set up the second half to clear to the main boss, and we were using a house rule the owner suggested that meant we auto cleared a room if we'd done it previously with no consumables.

Enjoying this game would require a serious overhaul to the souls, stats and items for me. I can't see how anyone could think the current design is a good thing at all, which is a shame when the boss fights are so good.



High Frontier (Third Edition)
Board Game: High Frontier (Third Edition)


I'd played 2nd edition High Frontier a little and hoped this would provide a better basic game so I could get it played more often. The basic game is a little easier (landing is now very simple) but it still doesn't manage to be anywhere as interesting as the full game with most or all of the advanced rules.

The production of the new edition is fine for the most part, though I do like the new boards. Playing with the full double board is quite the experience, even if it doesn't really fit on most tables. The rest of the changes are largely not much of anything - not worse but not really better either.

The basic game is still hard to grasp for new players, particularly since you have to decide your early rocket components long before you really understand the importance of mass, thrust and fuel consumption. The late game is pretty straightforward as everyone flies to the site types they've specialised in so that early game of confusion is the main decision point.

As ever, the advanced rules offer a huge range of options that transform the game completely. When you're playing with all these, the game is fun throughout and you have interesting decisions to make most of the way through. I can't imagine trying to teach the game from scratch starting with all these rules and it's both dry and complex enough that I don't expect to get regular play from it, much like 2nd edition.

I'm disappointed in this. I suspect what I wanted from it just isn't possible - a mode that keeps the theme, offers interesting decisions for the length of the game and isn't going to scare off most of the people I'd play it with. The importance of the early auctions is too much when people still don't really understand thrust calculations yet. I'll probably end up getting rid of it for the same reasons as 2nd edition went too.



Kingdom Builder: Marshlands
Board Game: Kingdom Builder: Marshlands


More Kingdom Builder, more cards and tiles. This one adds new scoring cards and is instantly an excellent expansion because of that. Scoring cards are one of the best variations available because they interact with all the previous powers, even if you're using an old power set. As an easy example, this expansion adds palaces in place of castles, which score 5 points to the person with the most houses around the palace. One of the new cards makes all locations palaces, dramatically changing how the whole game plays. Another card removes one terrain card from the deck entirely and grants points for playing adjacent to that terain, which is a very different game.

The new powers are OK, if getting a little too complex for new players. The main new feature is the concept of giving a bonus for getting a matching pair of power tiles. Each tile gives you a bonus and if you get two of these tiles then you get an additional 3rd bonus. It feels a little arbitrary because the right cards at the start can make this much easier but they're typically weaker powers individually so it's a gamble. There's one new power that interrupts someone else's turn to place things and I don't like that one because it changes the simple flow of Kingdom Builder.

The marsh tiles are a nice addition, quite simple and not particularly game changing.

I wouldn't recommend this as a first expansion but it'd be fine as a second expansion because of the goal cards. I'm still enjoying this game thanks to the expansions and I plan to get Harvest too, if it ever comes out.



Skull King
Board Game: Skull King


A bidding, trick taking game that mostly made me want to play spades for the first time in years. The game lasts 10 rounds and each round you get cards equal to the round (1 card in round 1, 10 cards in round 10), then everyone bids simultaneously on how many tricks they can win. You get points for matching your bid (20 x bid) and lose points if you miss your bid (10 for every trick you're off by), with 0 bids getting or losing points equal to the round based on success. There are 4 suits numbered 1-13 plus 3 types of trumps that have various interactions with each other. Every hand starts with shuffling the whole deck and dealing out.

In the early rounds and with fewer players I have two serious problems with this game:

The early rounds are random. Totally random. You get one card and bid 0 or 1 trick based on the card you see. There are a maximum of 6 cards in play from a 66 card deck so who knows what might be in play. If you got a trump, bid 1. If you're leading, bid 1. If you're not leading, bid 0? The chances of anyone else having a card that's even in suit is low with the 5 players we had so you're likely to win based on that alone. It's at most 20 points in a game with a winning score of 240 odd so who cares anyway. This continues up until you get 5-6 cards in play, at which point you have a hand that you can manage with high and low cards to reasonably win or lose tricks with some control.

The second problem is that the deck is 66 cards and is not culled for lower player counts. Some form of card counting is necessary for any control in a trick taking game, even if you're just vaguely counting that 3 hands of red have been played so there probably aren't any good ones left. At 6 cards per player we had 30 cards in play, which means you have no idea how your hand is. If you aren't leading the first trick you may never even get a chance to win without a trump.

I think I could have enjoyed this if it started at 10 cards and reduced the deck size. Removing one suit, leaving 3 suits and 53 cards total with 50 in play, would solve the deck problem some. I don't see any way I could enjoy the early game. You bid 0 when you aren't leading, you hit your target most of the time and you get some meaningless points. As it stands, give me spades every time. At least Diamonds managed to add fun stuff on top of Hearts without breaking the core of the game.



Sagrada
Board Game: Sagrada


A dice drafting game of building stained glass windows with some excellent presentation. The gameplay itself is fun enough, if not outstanding. You draft two dice each round and place them in your grid following some basic restrictions - no matching colours or numbers adjacent and follow your grid's printed restrictions on number and colour. You get a few tokens to use on the tools, which allow you to manipulate the dice you're placing or have already placed slightly.

I do like the presentation a lot. The boards are twice the size they need to be with big stained glass pictures and the dice are colourful and look suitably stained glass ish when in play. The theme itself doesn't feel too relevant to the gameplay but it does look good.

My main complaint is that I've played Roll Player and I enjoyed that more because it has a bit more going on. This is quite light and decisions never feel particularly hard, even using a difficulty six board. It's certainly much more streamlined than Roll Player and quicker too, it's just a little too streamlined for me. I also much prefer the theme of Roll Player.



World Monuments
Board Game: World Monuments


Another very straightforward game of drafting bricks to build a monument. Building higher bricks will give you more points but as soon as you can't play a brick in a round, you pass and lose points for anything not placed. You'll still keep the bricks, you just won't get to place them this round. Taking bricks for the bottom level is necessary if you want to be able to place but taking higher bricks will give you more points if you can keep playing to reach them.

It's a nice balance and again, I enjoyed playing it but I wouldn't seek it out much. It's a little too straightforward for me in most circumstances. I definitely like the whole building a model of the monument and some of them look great. I particularly like the ones that have a brick colour that's on multiple levels of the building, which makes for more interesting decisions during the draft. I don't think you need the phase of placing bricks on the wheel to draft and could easily do that randomly instead.
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6. Board Game: Oh My Goods! [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:619]
Board Game: Oh My Goods!
Will Plante
United States
Greenville
Rhode Island
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May ended up being a pretty divisive month, I either really liked the games I played or they were complete misses. Still working my way through the back log of games I have including an order I placed from Germany a while back that finally came in. Twenty One has been the biggest disappointment given how much I like roll and write games including his other design, Qwixx. Opposite that, my opinion of Port Royal has completely turned around thanks in large part to the excellent expansion. On to the new games.



My favorite game of the month

Board Game: Oh My Goods!
Oh My Goods! -> 15 plays, all solo

Initial thoughts and rating (10):

Wow, is this game good! I ordered this a while ago with the Longsdale expansion, so all but one of my plays include the expansion. In this write up I'll talk in more general terms about the game and get into specifics about the campaign in the Longsdale in Revolt write up. Also, please note I am plying with the 2.0 rule set which came with my edition of the game and all of my plays have been solo.

I was initially attracted to Oh My Goods! because it seemed to be a card game version of an Uwe Rosenberg style euro. This game manages to incorporate a bunch of mechanisms I love in games, engine building, resource conversion, hand management and Klemens Franz artwork. Especially with the expansion Oh My Goods! is a difficult game which is a huge + for me and the game plays so quick, under a 1/2 hour, that I just want to reshuffle and play again.

Oh My Goods! is a top tier design, what Alexander managed to create from a deck of cards is amazing. There is no doubt that this game has been play tested countless times, there is nothing bloated or extraneous about the design. Game play is smooth and intuitive, but packed with tough choices. Managing your hand is paramount in this game as well as being flexible in how you play the game. Similar to a game like Race for the Galaxy some will complain about the randomness of the card draw, but that is only an issue if you are trying to execute a strategy based on certain cards. If you are flexible Oh My Goods! provides you with plenty of opportunity for creative play.

I have enjoyed Oh My Goods so much that I repurchased Port Royal because I don't think I gave it a fair shake and my taste in games has changed a lot in the last three years. I am really enjoying these smaller games with simpler rules that still pack a punch.

*I'm playing the game solo so I can't speak to the multi player experience, but I'm pretty sure this would be a multiplayer solitaire experience. I really don't see how you could have much effect over what your opponent(s) are doing.



Board Game: Kribbeln
Kribbeln -> 2 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8/10):

I was placing an order from Germany for a bunch of games not available in the States and stumbled upon Kribbeln. The quick synopsis is you have three rolls to complete a challenge, if not you may be able to score the bonus row associated with the set of challenges you are progressing through. The challenges all deal with ending up with differing amounts of colors showing on each die. There are six dice and each face of a die is one of six colors. Also each color has the pip values of 1 - 6 once.

Kribbeln isn't a deep game by any stretch, but it is extremely fun and the push your luck element is handled very well. Since you always score points based on the pip values you are tempted to re-roll lower numbers, but you may not be able to complete the challenge. This often leads to you having to decide whether or not you want to put the die total in the bonus space, except each time you fill in the next bonus space that number has to be higher then the last one. This adds risk and tension to your decisions which makes the game fun even when other people are rolling their dice.

Kribbeln is an excellent family game that anyone can learn after playing one round since it shares some similarities to Yahtzee. Definitely one I'd recommend, but it hasn't seen a US release yet so I ordered a copy from Germany.



Board Game: Qwixx: Das Duell
Qwixx: Das Duell -> 4 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8/10):

Qwixx: Das Duell is an excellent implementation of Qwixx for two players. I was skeptical at first, especially since I enjoyed Qwixx with two. However; since I have an obsession with roll and write dice games I finally decided to get a copy.

The big change in Das Duell is that players now place discs on a shared board. This opens up the game for a lot of player interaction because it is now possible to remove someone else's disc. Also, under certain circumstances you can also stack discs on one number, this combined with the other rules differences really change how Das Duell plays out in comparison to Qwixx. You really need to pay attention to what your opponent is doing; at times you will make a move that may be sub-optimal to stop your opponent from racking up points.

Game play is brisk, typically wrapping up in 15 minutes or so. I am really impressed with the changes the designer has made; he was quite successful in transforming Qwixx from a good 2p game to an excellent one in Qwixx: Das Duell. I believe that folks who don't like Qwixx may enjoy Das Duell because of the player interaction. The game is no longer driven by optimization; instead you are reacting to what your opponent is doing. Hopefully there will be a US release of Das Duell, but there are a few retailers that have import copies if you're interested.



Board Game: Mexica
Mexica -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

Mexica is another game I've had on my radar for a while; one because it's a Kramer/Kiesling design and two, the beautiful new production by Super Meeple. I have a feeling we may have gotten a rule wrong since we ran out of bridges early and didn't realize we could move them. However; this lead to our game being downright nasty. It was a 4p game and we played an extremely cut throat, screw your buddy game which probably lead to some sub optimal moves but it was a blast. As can happen in area control games, there was one player who seized control and never gave it up, but it was our fault for not collectively doing enough to knock him down a few pegs.

If I had one knock against the game it was the ability to hoard the extra action tokens. Being able to play a handful of those can be absolutely devastating, but on the other hand I realize you need to give up actions to take them. It just seems like there are moments during the game where those actions are much more beneficial. It was by no means a huge deal, I'm just curious why there isn't a limit on how many of those one player can have.

This is the first game in the mask trilogy I've played and now I'm really looking forward to trying the others. I'm especially interested in Tikal which seems to be regarded as the best of the bunch and my buddy that owns Mexica also has a copy of the Super Meeple edition of Tikal.



Board Game: Pyramids
Pyramids -> 3 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

I'm still not sure how I heard about Pyramids because it seems to be flying under the radar. A few plays in and I'm really enjoying it. Game play is brisk, decisions are meaningful for what is a relatively simple game rules wise. I am a huge fan of spacial puzzles and Pyramids has some of that in it's game play as you build the different buildings, with the pyramids themselves taking center stage in the puzzle department. Scoring is a good mix of scoring the features you've built (pyramids and obelisks) and majorities versus other players (the burial chamber).

Pyramids has been the biggest surprise for me so far this year based on how little I'd heard about it and how much fun I'm having playing. Bonus points for the box having the magnetic lid a la Biblios. The balance between the decisions you make and play time is perfect. Pyramids gets a recommendation for me as a great filler/family weight game that also plays well with two.



Board Game: The Walled City: Londonderry & Borderlands
The Walled City: Londonderry & Borderlands -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

The Walled City has been on my radar for a while so I was very excited when I finally got a chance to play and also surprised by how much it diverges from a lot of other area control games that have come after El Grande.

The two big differences are the map and the citizens you can deploy. The card play is also different, you build walls and roads using cards which also dictate how many and where you can place your citizens. When you begin the game you have a map that has yet to be divided into neighborhoods. There are predefined sections where roads/walls may potentially be placed, but your actions will determine that. As you subdivide the map into neighborhoods you are creating the areas that will score you points. Once you build a road/wall you then have to decide which citizens you want to place in each neighborhood. There are two types of people you can deploy, peasants and nobles. Nobles outrank peasants and will win ties, but at the end of the game if the are not completely surrounded by walls they will flee which could potentially cause you to lose control of an area. There are also watchtowers which will grant you points based on majorities, but if I have piqued your interest at all please check out a review because there is a lot more going on than I have briefly described here.

The important question for me was how it compared to El Grande, which may be my favorite game? The best way I can answer that is to say while both are area control games they both give you very different play experiences. El Grande has a simple rule set which allows players to completely focus on the other players at the table; El Grande is all about players interacting with one another and defining how the game will play out. The Walled City also has significant player interaction, but it also adds more rules to the mix. has a lot more rules to digest. solve. The Walled City adds some more rules to the formula, and while you're still playing the players at the table you also have to play the game (if that makes sense).

Even with the added complexity, The Walled City is still an excellent game I hopefully will get the chance to play more of. I really appreciate the new ideas the designers brought to an area control game, it certainly provided a very memorable play experience. I really think folks who enjoy more complex Euros would really enjoy The Walled City since it incorporates mechanisms found in those types of games into an area control game.



Board Game: Aquaretto
Aquaretto + Aquaretto: Three Coworker Tiles + Aquaretto: The Trains-> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (4):

I've now played all of the Coloretto/Zooloretto games and unfortunately, despite my high hopes, Aquaretto is my least favorite. For a frame of reference I order them as follows: Coloretto (by a large margin), Zooloretto Junior, Zooloretto: The Dice Game, Zooloretto and Aquaretto.

Aquaretto plays very similar to Zooloretto except you don't have predefined areas that your animals go. Instead animals can be placed anywhere, although in practice there are still very limiting rules that govern placement. The biggest being that different animals can't touch each other and your initial board only holds three types of animals.

Besides the change in placement rules, there are some different scoring rules. They mostly in the involve different workers you can hire; unfortunately the way the the workers score are very pedestrian. While the expansions add a few more workers I didn't find that they were nearly as game changing as others have commented. I also dodn't find the 2p game to be much improved compared to Zooloretto.

I think it's obvious to say I was extremely dissatisfied with Aquaretto, I was expecting a much deeper game based on how folks talk about it. Instead Aquaretto feels like a retread of Zooloretto with a few rules tweaks. The only good thing we got from this are some new animals to add to Zooloretto Junior; my girls love the animals in Aquaretto so I'm not sorry I ended up buying a copy.



Board Game: Kenjin
Kenjin -> 2 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (4):

This has a similar vibe to Battle Line, but is much less interesting. It's a typical Iello production, which means nice components but artwork I'm not usually a fan of. The game seems more complex from reading the rules than it actually is. The biggest fault I have with the game is that you start the game with all your cards in your hand, which eliminates hand management which is one of my favorite aspects of these types of games. Strategies are very straightforward, cards powers are uninspired, basically I got totally taken in by one person's review. I wouldn't even recommend this game to families, Battle Line is easier to teach, offers much more strategic depth and is a great family game.



Board Game: Sheep & Thief
Sheep & Thief -> 3 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (4):

I bought Sheep and Thief to play with my 7yo daughter, but she's not a fan. She found the rules confusing and has struggled to fully grasp the game on her own. As a frame of reference she can play Lanterns on her own. I've found that the game isn't challenging or fun enough to break out when I am looking to play lighter fare.

Sheep and Thief is a very basic drafting/tile laying game that doesn't offer many meaningful decisions. A lot of the game comes down to luck of the draw as you wait to get the card that will let you continue a road you are building as you try and connect to other cities. Stealing sheep via the fox, while fun, often isn't a very profitable move when compared to other actions you can take. I also really, really don't like the artwork in the new Pegasus Spiele edition; my girls thought the animals looked weird as well.

In the end my kids and I all found Sheep and Thief to be a very forgettable experience and after three plays we don't have any desire to play again.



Board Game: Twenty One
Twenty One -> 3 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (4):

I'm a huge fan of roll and write games and Qwixx is one of my favorites, so I was really looking forward to playing Twenty One. Unfortunately I don't have much positive to say about it, I found Twenty One to be devoid of much choice and extremely luck dependent... even for a dice game. Instead of giving a rules overview I'll mention the design choices that really killed this game for me.

First you can only score one row at a time which makes the game much less dynamic than Qwixx. Yes there is a push your luck element because of this constraint, but luck has more to do with the winner than any choice you will make. Second you only get one, very limited, re-roll attempt. If you choose to re-roll you have to keep any 1's rolled, but that's it, you can't choose to keep any other dice. This exacerbates the next problem I have with the game, other players can check off any number of dice on their sheets that you've rolled. And since everyone is filling in a different sheet there will be many turns where your roll benefits your opponent(s) more than you and nothing about that feels satisfying.

After my first play we were all convinced I got rules wrong, specifically that you could check off any number of dice on another players turn (which is correct). We all felt like there was almost no strategy in the game and the push your luck element just wasn't fun. Balloon Pop is a much better push your luck game and Qwixx is by far the deeper roll and write game. I just can't see playing this game over other roll and write games.

My personal rankings for roll and write games that use standard d6 dice are: Qwinto -> Qwixx -> Rolling America -> far down -> Twenty One.



Board Game: Vabanque
Vabanque -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (4):

This is a gambling game that I picked up to play with our family during holidays, etc. since it plays up to six. Our families aren't huge into traditional party games, but throw a gambling/betting game on the table and we're in business. I had heard about Vabanque a while ago, but the game was out of print and copies never seemed to come up for sale. Well I finally got a copy and had a chance to play, so was it worth the wait... short answer, no.

There are some games that stand the test of time for decades (Acquire, El Grande and Ra spring to mind), but unfortunately Vabanque feels like the 17 year old game it is in terms of game play and design. The rules felt overly complex for such a simple game and everyone was struggling to figure out how the game worked. Eventually things smoothed out, but that didn't make the game feel any less chaotic.

A game of Vabanque consists of four rounds with the amount of money being won at tables increasing exponentially; which only serves to make the first round or two to feel completely superfluous. My wife went from last place to completely crushing in the last round. Instead of feeling like she pulled off something amazing she admitted that she just guessed right. Another person playing commented that she felt like there wasn't any strategy in the game, anything but a ringing endorsement.

We won't be keeping Vabanque in our collection for long; Winner's Circle was published in the same year and is still one of the best betting games ever designed. I'd also recommend Camel Up as a contemporary betting game that gets things right and if you want to introduce a push your luck element Auf Teufel komm raus is a must play.



Board Game: Isle of Monsters
Isle of Monsters-> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (2):

I had heard of this game before I played and thought it might be a game my youngest would enjoy. However; Isle of Monsters doesn't feel like a fully developed game, in terms of game play and the physical production.

The first half of the game is almost completely devoid of choices, you may choose a monster or take a food token to place on a previously selected monster. Food tokens are in scarce supply and they are randomly placed on the board so it will take multiple rounds to get one monster card in your hand. After that there is a phase when you play cards and compare strengths, but since you get new monsters at such a slow pace there still aren't many choices to be made if any at all. A few players in our game went a couple of rounds with no cards and then several more with one, not fun. The actual card play is okay, basically rock, paper, scissors using earth elements. From there it is rinse and repeat until you go through whole deck of monsters; absolutely tedious.

I know this sounds really harsh, but it really feels like this game was rushed out the door and not fully developed. While there are some good ideas in the game it really drags for the first half and the whole token collection aspect is never fun, it's just tedious. I will not play Isle of Monsters again.



Expansions:

Board Game: Oh My Goods!: Longsdale in Revolt
Oh My Goods!: Longsdale in Revolt

Initial thoughts and rating (10):

This write up will only talk about playing through the chapters of the campaign; check out my OMG! write up for thoughts on game play. Hyperbole aside, this is an absolutely essential and amazing expansion. I can not stop thinking about/playing OMG! now that I have the Longsdale in Revolt expansion. I am playing through the chapters solo and this game is tough; it took me 6 plays to beat the first chapter. However; rather than being frustrated I couldn't wait to play again. The game is so well designed that I enjoyed each and every play as I tried to figure out how to best use the cards at my disposal to meet the chapter objectives.

Each chapter has a very short story, but everything you are doing ties in with the story. Characters cards that get added to the deck offer further bits of story and help flesh out the story. I am interested to see how everything unfolds as I play, especially since a few chapters branch out in a couple of directions depending on choices made in the previous chapter. I really appreciate the introduction of a story mode into a Euro game; I much prefer this as opposed to playing a legacy game. The solo game shines because you are not just aiming for a high score; instead you're trying to meet certain goals for that chapter and progress further into the story. I haven't played many solo games, but Oh My Goods! Longsdale in Revolt is by far my favorite.

Unfortunately this expansion is currently unavailable, but Mayfair has said that they are reprinting the expansion and it should be available this summer. Also Alexander is designing a similar campaign for Port Royal that I can't wait to play.



Board Game: Port Royal: Just One More Contract...
Port Royal: Ein Auftrag geht noch... -> 9 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8/10):

Just One More Contract adds a couple of things that improve the base game of Port Royal without adding a lot of rules overhead. First off, every game now has public contracts you are trying to complete. These not only will give you VP and gold for completing them, but also will coax you into playing the game a bit differently than you might otherwise. There are now solo and co-op rules included in the rules.

The three new characters added to the game are also a welcome addition. The Vice Admiral gives you a coin when there are 3/4 cards in the display when you select one, the Gunner gives you x - 1 gold based on the number of ships in the harbor when selecting a card and the Clerk gives you an extra card when selecting x color ship (each clerk is associated with one color). There are also new ships that will give your opponent(s) gold when you take them.

All of these additions make the Admiral/Governor less powerful, especially in the 2p game. I've really been enjoying this 2p with my kids, this has become a go to filler for us. All in all I'd consider this as close to a must have expansion as there is.

The co-op game is brutal, which in my opinion is a good thing. My daughter and I have been just trying to win at the lowest level (land lubber) and haven't been able to do it. In the co-op game you each take turns drawing cards and you're collectively trying to complete a set number of contracts. The combination of co-op and push your luck is a lot of fun, I'm not usually a fan of co-ops in the vein of Pandemic. The co-op module wasn't just thrown in, it is a very well designed component of the game and adds yet another way to enjoy Port Royal.



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

Cheers,
Will

*I use a 5 point scale to rate games on BGG, after all these are games I'm rating. I really don't want to spend time deciding whether a game is a 6 or a 7, so I nixed the odd numbers. I may give a game I'm on the fence about a split rating (6/8), then change the rating when I update my thoughts a year later. When I do, I rate the game using the lower number in the BGG database.

A 10 is a classic that defines a genre. 8's are the evergreens, games I'll always enjoy playing. A 6 is not a poor rating, just an average one. A 4 is a game I don't enjoy playing or has a theme I really don't care for. A 2 is a game I actively dislike and will not play again.
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7. Board Game: Warsaw: City of Ruins [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:1087]
Board Game: Warsaw: City of Ruins
United States
Davis
California
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Warsaw: City of Ruins
Board Game: Warsaw: City of Ruins

(Image credit: Filip Miłuński -- Designer!)

Very good light/medium city building tile-layer (with theme!).

Capital is a tile-laying game where players are building (and rebuilding, after WWI and WW2) the city of Warsaw.

The game is played over six rounds. In each round, the players are dealt 4 tiles from a stack of tiles specific to that round. Then the players take four turns of simultaneous play. On a turn, a player keeps one tile and passes the rest to the left or right (depending on the round). The players then either discard their chosen tile (for 3 coins) or place the tile in their district.

To place a tile, you must pay coins equal to its cost. You can either place it adjacent to an existing tile, or on top of one. If you build over a tile, you lose the benefit of the overbuilt tile, but you receive a discount equal to the cost of the tile you're covering (e.g., to build a 5 cost tile over a 2 cost tile costs 3 coins).

You're limited to a 3x4 grid, so eventually you will probably need to do some overbuilding.

At the end of a round, when you've played or discarded all four of your tiles, there is a special phase in which players:

(1) Remove one or two tiles from their districts if it is round 3 (WWI) or round 4 (WWII).

(2) Award the round's milestone tile to the player who best fulfilled its target condition (e.g., most parks in your district). This tile can immediately be placed in that player's district.

(3) Score the tiles in each player's district, for VP and/or coins.

After the sixth round, players get some VP for remaining money (1:5) and the player with the most VP wins.

As in many city-building games, the tiles have different types of districts on them (parks, residential, commercial, civic, industrial, and special). When players score, they get get rewards based on special adjacency rules (e.g., residences next to parks gives VP, residences next to commercial gives money, residences next to industry subtracts VP, etc.)

The "special" tiles and milestone tiles are all Warsaw landmarks, with (mostly) thematic effects and nice little historical blurbs in the rulebook.

The game doesn't break any new ground in terms of design. But everything hangs together extremely well, resulting in a really enjoyable light-medium game. The spatial and money constraints are just tight enough for satisfying play, without being brain burning. With the six stacks of round-specific tiles (which become progressively more expensive and powerful), and the individualized development of your district, there's a nice arc to the game. Game play is brisk, with little downtime (due to the simultaneous play). My wife and I finish in about 30 minutes (quick enough that we played two sessions back-to-back).

The art design is clear, colorful and handsome.

With a two-player game, you use only half the tiles, so there's a fair bit of variability between games. With three or four, the game might get a bit samey with repeated play, since you're seeing the same tiles every game (though not in the same order or availability in the draft).



Coal Baron: The Great Card Game
Board Game: Coal Baron: The Great Card Game

(Image credit: ulfi)

Card-driven worker placement coal mining!

Each turn, players have a hand of worker cards, with values ranging from 1-5 (with five 1s, two 2s, and one each of 3-5). In a two player game, you omit the fours and fives.

There are a whole slew of worker activation spaces available, including:

• Nine face up piles of cards showing: (1) & (2) "lorry" loads of coal, (3) & (4) train cars, (5) locomotives, (6) contracts, (7) shares, (8) special powers, and (9) objectives.

• Action cards that allow you to: load lorries full of coal into your train cars, complete a contract by removing a complete train with the specified amount of coal, draw four cards off the top of any card deck and keep one card.

On your turn, you place one or more of your worker cards down on an activation space in order to take a card or perform an action.

But there's an important constraint on placement -- and this is the heart of the game -- you must play worker cards with values that total exactly one more than the highest set that has been played for that action in the current round.

For example, if no cards have been played in a location yet, you MUST play a value 1 card to perform that action. If the highest prior placement is a 1, you MUST play one or more cards totaling 2. Etc. No over-paying!

Worker placement continues until all players pass. Players retrieve their worker cards and the next round begins (the game lasts a fixed number of rounds).

End game points are scored for all completed contract cards, matching shares, coal loads printed with VP, and objectives.

For me, the main source of fun of the game (and it was quite a bit of fun) was managing the tightly constrained worker placement system. There's also some dry-geeky-logistics fun involved in sequencing the lorries, so that they flow into train cars that match their icons, and then matching those loads with contracts, contracts with shares, and everything with end game objectives.

The game plays pretty quickly. It looks great (to my taste, which favors gritty industrial themes).

It's a very nice little game, with a good dose of turn angst.



La Granja: No Siesta
Board Game: La Granja: No Siesta

(Image credit: hellp)

Dice-drafting, box-checking, worksheet fun.

I really like La Granja, a medium weight resource euro with a dice-production element. No Siesta takes the theme (and aesthetic) from that game and distills it down to a relatively simple and quick-playing dice drafting game.

Each turn, a number of dice are rolled. Players then take turns selecting single dice and marking the good that it shows on their resource boards. This proceeds in rounds until there's only one die left, which everyone gets to use.

Players then use their goods to check boxes on a printed sheet. There are five areas, with differing rules for how boxes are checked and what rewards are received when a discrete chunk of boxes are checked.

That sounds pretty dry (since I haven't bothered to describe the theming of the different areas), and it is. But the game is light and quick, and the rules for how the different goals operate are interesting and clever.

This is a super-filler, with a dice-drafting heart. It's attractive, pleasant to play, and interesting enough to sustain itself.



Ethnos
Board Game: Ethnos

(Image credit: W. Eric Martin)

Ethnos

I've heard others say that Ethnos takes the card selection/set collection mechanism from Ticket to Ride and combines it with area control. And that's largely correct.

But it adds special powers for each of the game's various fantasy races, which let you break rules in interesting ways. And, there are many more races than you use in a game, so each play will have a different mix of special powers.

The rules are very simple. On your turn, you either draw a card (from a face up display or the top of the deck) or you meld a set of cards to the table.

The cards in the set must be all of one race, or all of one color (which matches a territory on the board). When you meld a set, you choose one card to be the leader of the set. The race of the leader card determines what special power you will activate. The color of the leader card determines
the region where you might be able to place a control token. To do so, the number of cards in your set must exceed the number of tokens you already have in the region.

When you play a set, any other cards in your hand return to the face-up card display. That is the only way to get new cards into the face-up display.

The game is played over three rounds, with each round being triggered by the appearance of the third dragon card (the three dragons are randomly distributed in the bottom half of the deck at the beginning of the round).

At the end of the round, players score points for having majorities in the various regions (with the points for each region varying randomly each game, and progressing over the three rounds). Players may also score points based on the special scoring rules for races included in the game.

That's it.

I mostly liked my first two plays and am interested in trying out different combinations of racial powers.

But I have a niggling concern that the luck of the draw may be too much for me. I can tolerate a big dose luck of in a quick and breezy game. But our four-player game of Ethnos took about 90 minutes to complete. At that length, I could see the degree of luck being frustrating.



Kanban: Driver's Edition
Board Game: Kanban: Driver's Edition

(Image credit: Vital Lacerda -- Designer!)

Sod off, Sandra!

I won't bother summarizing Kanban in detail. It's a heavy, complex, worker-placement game about working in an automobile factory. I expect you already knew that.

Instead, I'll share my thought on one central aspect of the game -- Sandra.

Sandra is the factory manager. She has two personalities, "nice" and "mean."

Nice Sandra moves from department to department, handing out VP rewards to the player who has the highest level of training in a department, if that player meets the department's production quota. Mean Sandra dishes out VP penalties to the person who is worst trained in a department, if that person fails to meet the production quota. The size of the VP reward or penalty is based on how many "banked work shifts" you've accumulated.

Considering the daunting complexity of the game, my wife and I decided to play our first game in nice mode. We tried slightly different strategies, leading my wife to get an edge in most of the department training tracks. Then she quickly increased her "banked work shifts" to the maximum of 10. This meant she was getting 10 points per turn from Sandra, which is huge. By the time I saw that developing, there was not a lot I could do about it (though I tried, spending most of the remaining game trying to get ahead of her on the training tracks).

That was no fun and the final score was absurdly lop-sided.

We played again the next day and I concentrated on pushing up training and banked time shifts. My wife was less focused on training, leading to the same problem as in the first game. I was soon earning 10 points per turn from Sandra rewards, with my wife unable to break my training advantage before the damage was done. Another blow-out.

In the post-mortem we concluded: (1) the only way to avoid the Nice Sandra landslide would be for both of us to dedicate ourselves to a training arms-race, disregarding all other aspects of the game to ensure that neither of us could get a break-away dominance in Sandra rewards. (2) That would be miserable. (3) I should sell or trade the game.

A few days later I was thinking back on the experience and I realized: we hadn't tried Mean Sandra. I went back and read the rules for how her penalties are meted out. She punishes the lowest trained player in each department, but the VP penalty is capped at (5 - banked shifts). So a player who keeps at least banked shifts will never be penalized by Sandra, no matter where they are on the training tracks.

That seemed like it would completely cure the runaway leader problem, as there would never be any 10 point rewards handed out. And, with careful hoarding of a few banked shifts, the penalties could be mitigated or avoided entirely.

The next weekend, we tried the game again, with Mean Sandra. The play experience was entirely different. We spent the first turn or two grabbing five banked shifts and then we ignored Sandra entirely. This completely opened up the rest of the game. Since there was no training arms race, we only trained when it made sense to train (to get bonuses for certification and for end-game majority VP). With that distortion avoided, we were able to experience all of the other parts of the game. It was much more interesting and enjoyable.

It might be that the problem with Nice Sandra is particularly acute with two players, where the training reward disparities are zero sum. With more players, the huge payouts might be distributed more evenly, reducing the need to hyper-focus on an arms race, to the exclusion of all else.

The bottom line is that I would never play two-player Kanban with Nice Sandra again. The extreme rewards have a distorting effect that can lead to completely unenjoyable blowouts and a narrowed focus that eclipses most of what the game has to offer.

Mean Sandra doesn't cause that problem, but only because it's quite easy to get to a point where you can just ignore her penalties.

If I were to play 2p Kanban again, I think I would play with Indifferent Sandra. No rewards or penalties for meeting her goals. Just make great cars!
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8. Board Game: Cry Havoc [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:539]
Board Game: Cry Havoc
Mike Jones
United States
Gainesville
Florida
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== NEW GAMES ==

Cry Havoc - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2016
[imageID=es/pic3090929 square inline]

I've been so inspired about new games lately, but I sat down to try this one. I had an amazing experience. I've already played it a second time.

The first time I played humans. It was the first time play, so I was a bit confused on what to do and how there buildings really work. But, I caught on and rode the humans to victory. All while the Grog player complained about how it was impossible for him to win.

So, second game I plated Grog and now people want to know how it is possible for Grog to lose.

I think I want to try Pilgrims next.


Yokohama - 1 play -  7.6 
First Published 2016
[imageID=es/pic2948038 square inline]


Hear a lot about it, so was existed to try it. Was left in the dust, but had an enjoyable game. Look forward to the next.

May end u being a bit long for what it is though.


Apex Theropod Deck-Building Game - 1 play -  6.6 
First Published 2015
[imageID=es/pic3466209 square inline]

Noy bad, not great. Decent Legendary Encountersesque dinosaur game, but rather play others.

Portal of Heroes - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2015
[imageID=es/pic3292931 square inline]

Cute, simple, quick. Nothing to write home about.


Qwixx - 2 plays -  6 
First Published 2012
[imageID=es/pic2282547 square inline]

Cute, simple, quick. Nothing to write home about. Deja Vu.

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9. Board Game: Shadows over Camelot [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:395]
Board Game: Shadows over Camelot
Carthoris Pyramidos
United States
Littleton
Colorado
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Shadows over Camelot - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2005
Board Game: Shadows over Camelot


Here's an older game I had been curious about for a long time, and it turned out to be better than I expected it to be. Five of us prevailed, and the traitor never even got revealed, though he was frustrated. My main individual accomplishment was defeating the Saxons, so that was okay! The graphic design of the game is really beautiful, and quite functional too.

Viticulture Essential Edition - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Viticulture Essential Edition


It was another six-player session for this one, which turned out to be the longest worker placement game I've every played, I think. I was in first or second place for most of the game without harvesting a single grape: I got VP for planting vines, turn order bonuses, card redemptions, and other action bonuses of various sorts. I couldn't close the deal at the end, though. I liked it well enough to play again, though I doubt I'd be the one to suggest it.

Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City


I had played Machi Koro before, and with its expansions, so this rebooted integration of the base game with a mix of expansion cards really didn't seem very "new" to me. It did work, though, and if I were to own the game, I might choose this version. I liked the nocturnal palette too. I lost like usual.

Poison - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2005
Board Game: Friday the 13th


This Knizia game goes under a variety of titles, including 13, Baker's Dozen, and Friday the 13th. It is fun, and if you ever wanted a way to play Lost Cities with 3 to 6 players, this game is pretty much it. I really liked the card quality in the copy that we played (nice art, linen finish), but I was not impressed by the three superfluous cardboard cauldrons that turned a game that should have been a simple pack of custom cards into a medium-sized box of mostly air. Oh well, I guess Lost Cities does pretty much the same thing, though more tolerably.
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10. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:452]
Board Game: Pax Porfiriana
Alison Mandible
United States
Somerville
Massachusetts
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I played 22 new games this month, but most were on Yucata.de and my notes are a little messy. So I'll just say this was my favorite. The pace of the card row seems to be what makes the game; you can plan for the landscape of the next several turns, but any player can, essentially, pay to make a certain card relevant earlier than their opponents might have expected.
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11. Board Game: Mystic Vale [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:380]
Board Game: Mystic Vale
Keith Rudolph
Canada
Langdon
Alberta
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Mystic Vale
Board Game: Mystic Vale

Vale of Magic
Board Game: Mystic Vale: Vale of Magic

Vale of the Wild
Board Game: Mystic Vale: Vale of the Wild

We took a bit of a chance on this one and picked these up on a whim while at our FLGS. The card crafting system idea sounded interesting but neither of us were too sure just how well it would work in practice. The start of the first game left us a little underwhelmed as nothing was really happening; it took a while to slowly build up some of the cards. Once we started being able to buy more valuable advancements, see them cycle through the deck, and get a chance to play those enhanced cards, however, we started to get a good feel for just how well the system really works and what sort of cool combos you can start building. This is one that I think we'll definitely be playing for a while and even if we take a bit of a break from it, we never really need to worry about forgetting the rules as they're re-learned in about 30 seconds. We grabbed the Vale of the Wild expansion as soon as it became available and have really like what it has added. I was a little worried that the heroes would be a little unbalancing but considering that they eat up a blank card in your deck and that you can never add enhancements to them, they're actually a very interesting addition and are a neat way of starting with a slightly customized deck that can give you a direction to work towards.

Unlock! The Elite
Board Game: Unlock!: Escape Adventures – The Elite

We played this one just before the next 2 entries, though after we had purchased them. This one was a slightly underwhelming introduction to the Unlock! series. Saying why would spoil things as it points to an answer. Still, it was enough to pique our curiosity enough to decide to get the rest of the Unlock! modules that are coming out. Our biggest complaint with T.I.M.E Stories has been the lack of puzzles in them and this seems to fill that gap quite nicely (along with the rest of the escape room games).

Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer's Manor
Board Game: Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer's Manor

Escape the Room: Secret of Dr. Gravely's Retreat
Board Game: Escape the Room: Secret of Dr. Gravely's Retreat

My wife and I have really been wanting to try out something in the recent glut of escape room games and these were the only ones that we could find while down on a trip to Spokane, WA. Stargazer's Manor was easily our favourite of the two. While not exactly a brain burner, there were some neat little puzzles that really worked well for us. We had heard Dr. Gravely's Retreat was supposed to be the better of the two but we both disagree. There are a few occurrences of one type of puzzle that just didn't work for us at all and we had just find the solutions. The bulk of the remaining puzzles were pretty much gimmies with the answers written out quite plainly. Both of these were definitely enough to

Star Realms
Board Game: Star Realms

There's a small group of guys in the office at my new job that take advantage of the time during the lunch break to squeeze in a short game of something, so I decided to join them. This was the first game that I played with them. Very easy to learn this one and feels a lot like Dominion with a space theme slapped on it. I can't say I'd go out of my way to play this one or like it enough to seek out my own copy, but it's decent enough little game to serve as a distraction at lunch time. I can't say I really see the appeal of this one though.

Timeline: Diversity
Board Game: Timeline: Diversity

I had seen a few of these games before and always wanted to give them a try. I managed to give this one a shot one day during our lunch break at work. This teeters right on the line of being a trivia game that and turning me right off of it. It was nice to get a chance to play it but it's not something I'd actively look to play.

Ascension: Year Two Collector's Edition
Board Game: Ascension: Year Two Collector's Edition

Just another deck builder as far as I'm concerned. It's fine but there's nothing really remarkable about this one to set it apart from any others. The foil effect on every single card is extremely irritating. One that I'll be playing on occasion with the guys at the office at lunch which is enough for me.

EXIT: The Game - The Secret Lab
Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab

EXIT: The Game - The Pharaoh's Tomb
Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Pharaoh's Tomb

EXIT: The Game - The Abandoned Cabin
Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin


Escape Room: The Game
Board Game: Escape Room: The Game

So far the weakest of the escape room line of games we've played. The chrono decoder device, while an interesting idea, feels incredibly cheap and flimsy and often judges the correct combination as being incorrect, only to change its mind if you leave the keys in there or re-insert them. The first two modules were the best in our opinion; the third was a little iffy, and the last one was just irritating. The decoder could have easily been replaced by an app and putting the various cyphers on handouts as it would have been far more reliable. Including a device that incorrectly judges correct combinations is a little off-putting.

Stockpile: Continuing Corruption
Board Game: Stockpile: Continuing Corruption

The introduction of commodities and taxes are nice as they add a little something extra to consider when purchasing a stockpile. The dice are a nice way of making each stock more random but they're a little tedious as you now need to pick out the adjustment cards from a stack each turn. Bonds are really the only thing in here I might consider playing without. They're an interesting idea but buying them if you have enough money to do so is almost a requirement.

Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers
Board Game: Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers

Really noting different from the original Animal Upon Animal apart from the shapes for the animals. Works as a nice little filler game at lunch when we've finished something but don't have enough time to start another, longer game.

Camel Up
Board Game: Camel Up

This is one that I had been wanting to try for a while and finally got a chance to with the lunch group at work. Incredibly simple to play but ended up being a lot more fun than I thought it would be. One that I'll definitely look forward to playing at lunch in the future.
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12. Board Game: Masons [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1888]
Board Game: Masons
Benjamin Benson
United States
Dublin
CA
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Masons
How can this be my favorite game of the month with The Great Zimbabwe listed below? Because this will be accessible with anyone I game with, though TGZ is the 10/10 game. Masons is an abstract game, and I love abstract games. I really enjoy how this one works with playing cards to meet goals as the board fills up with things. The cards make for a good random factor, which is fine in this game as it is lite.

Santa Fe Rails
Played this twice, once the short lines never came out and the other time they did. It is a route building game, which is another favorite style of game I have discovered I enjoy. Here you build your rails westward and try to claim valuable territory before others. Clippers was recommended so now I must try that as well.

The Great Zimbabwe
Absolutely brilliant. 10/10. So why not #1? Because it is a VERY select audience I would ever be able to get this to the table with. I have played Roads & Boats and Food Chain Magnate, but this one is my favorite.

Trick of the Rails
I love trick taking games. I enjoy train games. This combined the two successfully in my opinion, though it's more a stock ownership game than a train game, but, I like it.

Doge
Area control game set in Venice, ala, Rialto and San Marco. I love Rialto, I read up on San Marco and seems too similar to Rialto for me to bother with. This is very different and pretty good as well.

Dream Factory
Knizia game. Auction/Bidding game, kind of like Ra I guess. It is different but it seems if I own one, I don't need both and RA just seems like the better game. Every auction there is a chance something will come out to entice me, whereas here, I see what is out in advance and so I feel you just sit there until what you want is auctioned off and then you compete for it, only seems like you would participate in another auction to screw your neighbor, but, if you screw your neighbor, somebody else may benefit from your actions.

Flamme Rouge
Was curious about this. Got to play it. Enjoyed it. Seems like a kick-back game. The winner came down to a card-draw at the end, so, random luck. Thankfully the game doesn't last too long for that to matter too much.

In the Year of the Dragon
Order the 10th Anniversary edition. Received the 10th Anniversary edition. Played 10th Anniversary edition. Sold the 10h Anniversary edition.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
A decent game. Want to play a few more times to decide if I really want to keep it or not.

Las Vegas: The Card Game
Similar, yet different from the dice version. I will keep both, as they function a little differently and they play quick.

Sweets Stack
Not bad. A screw-your neighbor game, which is not my style of game. I get irritated when I am getting screwed by the card draws the person to one side of me gets that are good draws, and my draws suck and so I can't do as much to the person to my side. A luck game. It's alright.

Taj Mahal
Something tells me that when this came out, it deserved whatever praise it got. I just played this game many years since it came out, and I have played similar games, probably games that owe their existence to this game, but, this game didn't pop for me so I will probably depart with it.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
Played Pennsylvania, have not yet played UK. When I heard stocks in TtR, it was an insta-buy. Now that I have played it, the stock feature is NOTHING like I thought it would be, which was a disappointment. However, the map is kind of brutal, which I really liked, so it's a keeper, and it's just another decision space with the stock options.

Vinhos
Played the 2010 rules. HATED it. I have now played three games by this designer. CO₂ and Kanban: Driver's Edition are hall of fame games for me. Vinhos can go to hell and burn. Though, I want to try Vinhos Deluxe Edition with the new rules, cause... why not.
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13. Board Game: Paris Connection [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1465]
Board Game: Paris Connection
Paul Schorfheide
France
Tarbes
Hautes-Pyrénées
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Situation excellente, j'attaque!
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== NEW GAMES ==

Paris Connection - 1 play
First Published 2010
I can't believe I still hadn't played this, one of the games I picked up during Queen's christmas sale. I know it's highly regarded and it didn't disappoint. Almost no rules, played in ~15 minutes, and all of the final scores were within $5. Great little title and one I hope I won't have trouble getting to the table again.



RAF: The Battle of Britain 1940 - 1 play
First Published 2009
I played 1 day of this to learn the rules and squeaked out a win. I got lucky with the Germans mostly doing minor raids and the time increasing quite quickly to the day end. I could already see how patrolling was thinning out my squadrons, though, and had to start picking my battles a bit by the end of the day.



Ottoman Sunset - 3 plays
First Published 2010
This is my first Series: States of Siege game, and I enjoyed it. As you can tell by the play count, it filled a nice time slot for my solo gaming and I got it out a few times when my wife was out of the house. I'm not sure if I need to buy any more of the games for a while, but it's a fun way to kill 30 minutes or so.



Monikers - 2 plays
First Published 2015
I got this as an early birthday present and played with a few friends. I don't really like party games but this was fun. I like the mechanic of the rounds getting increasingly more difficult as you learn the deck.



1870 - 1 play
First Published 1992
I finished a PBEM game of this earlier in the month. It has some interesting mechanics and I need to spend some more time on it. I got steamrolled in the game I played, which always makes me want to play more.
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14. Board Game: Santorini [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:153]
Board Game: Santorini
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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Board Game: Santorini
Santorini = 18 Plays

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This was the star of the month due to it's very simple and easy to teach rules and quick playing time. The rules are simple enough "ie move a piece then build" but this is one of those games which will be a future classic since so much thought goes into one's moves despite it's simplicity. Throw in the Gods which gives you ways to break the basic rules and now I understand why this game is such a hit. Great great title and one I am glad I purchased right away when it became available!



Board Game: Imhotep
Imhotep = 4 Plays

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The game on the surface is so easy to learn as each turn players simply decide whether to restock 3 blocks, to place 1 block on a ship, to sail a ship which has the minimum number of blocks required to sail, or play an action card acquired from the market. The objective of the game is to earn points by shipping the blocks to 5 sites with each site giving different ways to score points based on the position of the block on the ship and where it was placed on the site (this is also the way players can interact with each other as you can ship one player’s blocks to sites where they do not want!). The spatial element is what makes the decisions so “crunchy” and replayability is present since each site has 2 sides so each game can have you mix and match these. I expect further expansions to add more sites to further increase relayability.



Board Game: Power Grid: The Card Game
Power Grid: The Card Game = 2 Plays

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Power Grid is one of our group’s all time favorite game so a card game version is instantly on my radar. This was offered together with Inis so I got it at the same time and got to try it out that evening. The game is essentially the same as its parent version except you do not have a physical map and thus there is no network building phase. The way to win is also different as now the final production of your plants after the “last round” card is drawn is for VP and not money, and any 10 money left over translates to 1 VP. The other big difference is that resources do not have a fixed refill rate but are rather drawn randomly from a draw pile and this gives the main tension in the game as you must be more careful in evaluating the resource market otherwise you may run out of the required resource to power your plant. Auctions for the correct plant given the resource market as well as hoarding the resources are the main tension points now.

This gives you the Power Grid feel in less time, although the table footprint is not necessarily smaller since the layout of the resource market takes up space. The original game is still better though so given space and time I would play that over this, but this is good for portability and a quick fix.



Board Game: Inis
Inis = 2 Plays

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I was interested in this game due to the title, as it means “Irritated” in the Filipino language. I became to get more serious about the game due to the buzz surrounding its art and later on due to reviews that this is the best “dudes on a map” game and the fact that it is published by Matagot. I therefore grasped at the chance to get this when someone offered it for sale online. Perusal of the rules revealed that the game is deceptively simple since all you do during your turn is to play a card or pass or try to claim victory by getting a Pretender token. Victory is not points driven but rather depends on 3 conditions: Presence in at least 6 territories, Presence in territories with a combined total of 6 or more sanctuaries, or being a Chieftain (having the most figures) in a territory with 6 or more enemy clans (ie figures). You get your hand of cards during a drafting phase with the twist that you can decide to pass cards you had previously selected during the current draft. Combat has no random element as no die rolls or combat cards or attack strength is used. The players instead make a maneuver which is choose an opponent to attack and he either loses 1 model or 1 action card, withdraw to an adjacent territory where he is chieftain, or play an Epic Tale card which can be used in combat. Combat ends when only 1 side has models remaining (except defenders in Citadels as they are protected and are thus out of the clash) or when all parties decide to end the combat. The Pretender token is also an interesting mechanic as Players can use an action to take one and this gives all the other players time to deny that player the victory condition until the next Assembly phase where all players with Pretender tokens are evaluated to see if they still fulfil those victory conditions. The player who fulfils more Victory conditions wins although the Bren (ie Chieftain of the territory with the Capital building) autowins in case of a tie where he is involved.

After a couple of plays I feel that this is not as good as Blood Rage, which is a game with similar drafting mechanics. This maybe because there were some rules confusion in our first play as well as some difficulty in adjusting to the win conditions instead of a straight up points system. Needs further plays to get a better grasp of the game.



Board Game: Pandemic: Iberia
Pandemic: Iberia = 1 Play

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I've had a copy of this for quite some time and was very curious to find out how the game would feel in light of the less modern theme and restrictions on travel and curing.

The main changes the game as compared to the base game is that you only ever get to remove 1 cube even if it's color is already cured, the lack of the flight action (although you can travel from port to port), the ability to lay rails (and players can travel to locations connected by rail in 1 action), the ability to purify water using cards of the same color as a cured disease (a very similar mechanic to the quarantine action from Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 except that tokens prevent the addition of cubes in a region of cities. I have to say that the game did feel different and quite tense since it is not as easy to get rid of cubes and you must pay attention to the laying of rails in order to move quickly at the expense of other actions. I feel the game captures the theme and the time period very well and I am looking forward to try out the Patient Migration rules as well as the more powerful diseases in our future plays.



Board Game: Jaipur
Jaipur = 1 Play

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I had a chance to try this with Robert’s copy. It was very easy to learn and the game is all about trying to collect and sell sets of the more valuable commodities while trying to force your opponent to grab the cards you discarded and revealing more goods which you can then collect ahead of him. Very interesting game and I now understand why this is such a great couple’s game and one I will be willing to play again.



Expansions

Board Game: Scythe: Invaders from Afar
Scythe: Invaders from Afar = 1 Play

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More races with only minimal addition of rules, namely counters you can drop on the board. Not sure if I will try playing with the max player count though!



Board Game: Masmorra: Dungeons of Arcadia – Adventurers Set
Masmorra: Dungeons of Arcadia – Adventurers Set = 1 Play

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More characters for this is always good, especially if I can also use them in Arcadia Quest! Having new bosses and dungeon tiles is also great!

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15. Board Game: Baptism By Fire: The Battle of Kasserine [Average Rating:8.19 Overall Rank:5142]
Board Game: Baptism By Fire: The Battle of Kasserine, February 1943
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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I received this new wargame from MMP in May and played partway through the easiest scenario. It is very different from most wargames I have played; it forces you to think about how armor is different from infantry; this is common enough in the tactical games (e.g., ASL,) but not so much in operational games.
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16. Board Game: Magic Maze [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:477]
Board Game: Magic Maze
Jim Jamieson
United States
Purcellville
Virginia
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A couple of great games this month and I ended up going with Magic Maze over Codenames simply because Magic Maze can play anyone well while to be fair with Codenames you really need equal teams of 4, 6, or 8 in my mind.

== NEW GAMES ==

Magic Maze - 2 plays -  9 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Magic Maze



What a great co-op game with a ridiculous theme. You are fantasy heroes that have lost your weapons and need to go to the mall to steal new ones. A similar idea to Escape Curse of the Temple where you need to get out in a certain period of time, but executed so much better in my mind. Everyone gets a subset of all the actions and you have to work together to get the pawns to their respective stores and then out of the exit with no communication other than a pawn to indicate when someone should go and when you get to one of the limited sand timer spaces you can talk until the next move. The game comes with 17 scenarios, 7 to learn the rules and 10 more variants. We played scenarios 1 and 3, won the first one, and lost the second one because we weren't paying attention to the timer. Such a good game and produces so many good moments in a short period of time. Highly recommended!

Codenames - 3 plays -  9 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Codenames


Such a simple concept executed so perfectly and it can work with just about anyone. A great party game that creates tension and laughs with a fair amount of thinking regardless of what side you are playing on. Can't wait to play this again and I look forward to Duet and the Disney versions.

Impulse - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2013
Board Game: Impulse


Enjoyed my first play although it ran a little long with 4 I was pleasantly surprised at how the multi-use cards, movement of the spaceships, and battle worked. I ended up losing by 1 point due to a wild 10 point swing on the last turn. Some people may not like that idea but for me it helps keep everyone engaged and the idea of 4 programmable actions each turn really is a neat twist on action selection since the action you take will also benefit others. The only downside in this game is if someone is not getting the cards they can have a tough time scoring points as our 4p game one person ended up with only 2 or 3 points with the rest of us all over 14. Now I am bummed I missed the recent Kickstarter.

Leo - 3 plays -  7 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Leo


Pure memory game where kids have to memorize the path hoping to land on the same color tiles or signpost tiles in order to not advance the time. The 30 path tiles seem challenging at first, but you do get 5 tries before you lose. I was surprised how well my 5-year old did at memorizing the tiles and realizing when she didn't have the right card to get to a tile she knew and would have to guess. In our first play we ended up winning on our third time through. I'm glad I picked this up for my daughter and will be happy to play it with her again soon.

Viva Topo! - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2002
Board Game: Viva Topo!


Not a bad race game as you try to move your mice around the board before the cat catches you, but luck of the die certainly comes into play with how quickly the cat moves around the board. I played with my daughter and both of us got all of our mice home and the cat had barely made it around the board once. It was a little disappointing to not have a little more challenging decisions but I guess in other games we would be rolling a lot of 1s and moving the cat more. We'll see if she requests this one again and if it's any harder next time.

North American Railways - 1 play -  4 
First Published 2016
Board Game: North American Railways


I have a natural dislike for stock games because for some reason I can never keep track of the money moving around between myself, the companies, the bank, and the other players. In this game you are buying stocks with whoever as the most being the president of that company. After everyone has a turn of buying stock you can then all assign routes to the companies which cost money from the company pot. Finally, at the end of each round the companies pay out in some crazy formula but always ensures the president gets the most. The math for such a simple card game was too much for me and I really had no clue what I was doing and lost by at least $1,000. It seems the only stock game I can understand is Airlines Europe.
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17. Board Game: Potato Man [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:2699]
Board Game: Potato Man
Joe Wyka
United States
Pleasant Hill
California
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A mixed bag this month with no real home runs, but three solid keepers-for-now (Potato Man, Flamme Rouge and Sweets Stack - because it fits a niche). Vinhos Deluxe needs more exploration before I decide. Our first play of the 2010 Reserve was a rough go!

Here they are in order of preference:



Board Game: Potato Man

Potato Man - 8
Quirky trick-taker (aren't they all?) whose nuances are not immediately apparent, but the levers in this one keep everyone involved, no matter what you are dealt.

Potato Man, Evil Potato, and colorful cast of potatoes duke it out for... more potatoes! There is a bunch of surprising subtlety in this design that manages to set this game apart, but to not be so weird as to alienate most casual gamers. First the easy stuff. In a trick, all colors played (there are 4) must be different (except in a five player game where one color can be duplicated once). High card wins, regardless of color, with ties going to cards played later. While no color is superior for trick-taking, colors have slightly different ranges, with the highest cards belonging to red then blue, green and yellow in that order. When you win a trick, you don't take the cards, but you take sacks of potatoes that match the winning color - the value of which is in reverse order - red is worth one, blue two, green three and yellow four. There are three scoring cards in each color. If you need to draw from a depleted color, you get to take from a "golden" pile with 5 potatoes. Every player deals once then the game ends. Whomever has the most potatoes wins.

The real standout mechanic in the game is that if you cannot legally play a card (because of the color restriction) the round immediately ends and no more points are awarded. If you are dealt a crappy hand, your primary goal is going to be to prematurely end the round by voiding yourself in a color. This creates a dynamic like no other trick taker I've tried. If you have a great hand, you may need to leverage it quickly and get points before its over. Having great cards is no certainty. This gives everyone a stake in the jockeying for position and points no matter what your cards. What you want to do may change as the round evolves. This is really great stuff and Potato Man is a trick-taker to keep!



Board Game: Flamme Rouge

Flamme Rouge - 7
Simple, fast-playing, and crafty racing game. The experience of this game is a bit like surfing a wave into the shore. The key strategic point is in how you intelligently deplete your decks.

With all of the hype Flamme Rouge generated at Essen last year, I was not expecting so simple of a game! That's not to say that its simplistic or dull by any means. Players have two racers, a driver and a sprinter and each racer has their own deck of cards. The driver's cards are ranged from 3-7 and the sprinter's are ranged from 2-5 and 9. Every turn you draw four cards from one deck - pick one to play face down - and then draw four from the other deck and play one. All cards are then flipped and racers move in race order. After movement, packs of racers with one space between them and a rider ahead of them draft forward to close the gap. And then any player with no racer in front of them gets an "exhaustion" card added to their deck. All exhaustion cards have a value of 2. Cards are removed from the game after being played.

If this is all there was to it, the game would get dull pretty quick. However, most track configurations have hills, which adds another layer of hand/deck management since uphill and downhill limits or extends some of the cards you play. But where is the strategy? The card elimination is quite crafty. If you are able to manage your position well and not pick up too many exhaustion cards, towards the end of the race, your deck size could very well be the same as your hand size. Ideally, you should have good cards at the end, and NOT be dependent on a lucky draw to use them. This is the position you are fighting to be in for the entire game! Although various track configurations are included, they are all of a length that - if played well - you should be running out of cards in your deck at about the same time you finish. I think that's the one aspect that sets this game apart and makes your initial turns just as crucial as your last.

Ultimately, control might be a bit too limited for a lot of repeat plays. My score could rise a point if I continue to enjoy it.



Board Game: Notre Dame

Notre Dame - 7
The game that rescued the classic Alea series from the doldrums. Solid design with a classic Euro feel. However, the action constraints of the pass 'n draft and the rotating selection of personages are no longer fresh and there isn't enough interaction to counter the game's dated feel.

The Alea Big Box series was, for four pivotal years, THE premiere line of serious eurogame publications that started with Ra and subsequently published classics such as The Princes of Florence, Taj Mahal, and Puerto Rico. After Puerto Rico, however, the following three publications were notably weaker and the series was definitely in decline. Whereas the first 4 years saw 7 excellent publications in the line, the following 3 years saw only 3 mediocre titles getting published. Eurogames were just starting to crossbreed with other board game styles and the next generation of game mechanics - action drafting (worker placement), deck-building, and cooperative play were poised to explode. Notre Dame and In the Year of the Dragon were Stefan Feld's 2nd and 3rd contribution to the Alea line after Rum & Pirates and they were hailed as a resurgence in an esteemed series that had lost momentum. Feld contributed 6 titles in a row to the Alea line - from 2006 through 2015 - single-handedly keeping the series relevant and maintaining its high reputation.

Notre Dame is a game I should have played a long time ago. I played In The Year of the Dragon close to its publication and I liked, but did not love it. I feel similarly about Notre Dame. I really enjoy some of Feld's titles - with Macao and The Castles of Burgundy as stand-outs. Getting introduced to Notre Dame now feels a bit like stepping through a time machine to a different era in board games. No doubt, it is a well-designed game. Each round starts with a short bit of card drafting and then two cards are played for actions with a third action available for purchase from three personage cards that are changed every round. Most actions involve placing influence cubes in your borough to get points, more cubes, money, or to control the negative effects of the plague. At the end of each round, players increase their plague track by the number of rats on all of the displayed personage cards. If you have to extend off the end of the track, you lose points and an already placed cube. Most points after 9 rounds wins.

The game is about controlling the flow of cubes and money in order to generate points and plague protection. While a pass 'n draft card mechanic probably felt fresh 4 years prior to the publication of 7 Wonders, it feels anything but today. (Fairy Tale, I think, was the first game to introduce this mechanic and was published two years prior to Notre Dame.) Keeping a consistent flow of cubes and money and controlling the constant pressure of the plague is challenging to be sure, but I feel like this game has been surpassed in ingenuity in the last 10 years and it lacks the interactivity that generally keeps me interested in some of the older designs. Good, but it doesn't feel special enough to set it apart today.



Board Game: Sweets Stack

Sweets Stack - 7
Screw-Your-Neighbor Tetris.

Sweet Stacks is very much like playing Tetris not against a randomly generated set of shapes, but against an evil intelligence (the person sitting next to you) who is dealing you the most ill-fitting shapes in the arsenal to ensure your defeat. Each player is dealt 16 cards which they then shuffle into personal draw piles and from there players draw a hand of five cards. Every turn, players play a face-down card from their hand. They turn up the card, gain pumpkin tokens if the card says to, then pass it to their neighbor according to the passing directions for the round. Each card has a tetris-style shape on it. With pencils, players are filling in boxes on their personal sheet according to the card they are given. Shapes must be added right-side-up, unless a player spends 2 pumpkins to rotate the card. Pumpkins can also be spent to re-draw your hand or to switch a card you are given with a card in your hand. When you can no longer fit the shapes (candies) into your bucket, you are out for the round. The game ends after 3 essentially identical rounds are completed.

The game is definitely enjoyable if you are a fan of Tetris-style puzzles. My main reservation is that how well you do seems more highly influenced by the skill and card availability of the person passing to you than by your own endeavors. The game however plays quick and is not meant to be taken too seriously. The game comes with "advanced" cards that add to your restrictions and challenges, but I haven't tried them yet. Pleasant game for the right audience.



Board Game: Cities

Cities - 7
Played Limes last month, which is a recent re-implementation of this title. I prefer the scoring nuances in Limes, but Cities is a solid little tile-layer as well.

Just as in Limes. One player draws a tile randomly and all other players find the same tile and everyone adds it to their 4x4 tableau. Each tile has 4 areas that are a combo of park, attractions, terraces or water. You can also place a meeple on an area of the tile you just placed, jump a meeple from another tile to the one you just placed, or move a meeple from any area to an adjacent area (you will be placing about half as many meeples as tiles). At games' end you score for each area where you have at least one meeple. The game is about optimizing your tile lays and meeple placements for points.

There are differences in meeple moving and scoring between the two games. In Cities, meeples can never be placed on water. Also, you can never have two meeples on the same tile. These movement limitations made the meeple management more restrictive and slightly less interesting. Also, without scoring water directly, you only have 3 area-types that you score instead of 4. Cities has a "simple" way of scoring (which is frankly too simple) and a scoring method that relies more on adjacency that is closer to the scoring in Limes. The two advantages Cities has over Limes are strictly physical - it has the components to play 4 and it uses cardboard tiles instead of cards. Other than that, I think Limes is a more nuanced game in both scoring and meeple management. If I want to play 4, I guess I'll keep on the lookout for a 2nd copy of Limes...



Board Game: Steam Park

Steam Park - 6
This game is a mixed bag for me. I don't love the dice rolling action selection nor the random draws, but I do like the tight, puzzle-like placements and the dirt management. Amusing for a few plays.

The rule book for Steam Park is VERY insecure. With headings like "Boring and Obvious Stuff" and multiple intertwining fonts and backgrounds, I think the book is fearful I will find it dull. You know how being around insecure people can make you feel insecure? That's how I felt learning this game. It's okay. I'll get over it.

Oh, the game? It's all right. Actions are all available on a set of six dice which players simultaneously roll, saving the actions they want and re-rolling until they are satisfied and snatch the highest available turn order marker. Players are trying to earn points by building a theme park and attracting customers as well as fulfilling goal cards. Actions allow you to build rides that hold customers, stands that give you special abilities, play goal cards from your hand, attract customers and clean up the dirt. Rides and customers come in six colors and customers always want to ride rides that match their color. To attract customers, you add customers of the colors you seek to a bag (which already has a mix of colors) and draw out just as many, hoping to draw colors that match your previously built rides. Stands allow you to fix dice or redraw customers or clean more dirt and so on. Rolling the dice and drawing the customers doesn't excite me too much. So what's to like?

Your rides and stands are positioned on a very small board that can be expanded a little at a time by spending any dice. Rides and stands of like colors and types can touch, but different colors and types cannot touch, even on the corners. This makes a nice little spacial puzzle as you try to build out your park and space things intelligently. I like the concept of the dirt. Most actions and customers create dirt, which you constantly have to clean up or risk losing many points at game's end or possibly losing outright if you have 30 or more at game's end. I really enjoyed managing my dirt and positioning my rides. Ultimately, this is not enough to keep me interested long term, but game is very cute, there are definitely some interesting aspects to it, and that rule book just needs to get over itself.



Board Game: X nimmt!

X nimmt! - 6
A variation on 6 nimmt! that is intended to work better at smaller player counts. I think it meets the objective, but that doesn't make it a better game.

This is a variation on the classic Kramer card game by Richard Staupe. The four lines of cards of identical length are replaced by 3 lines with lengths of 3, 4, and 5. When you are forced to take a line (which you do more frequently with shorter lines), you add one card you collect to a personal "X" line in front of you and add the others to your hand. The "X" line follows the same rules as other lines (numbers must be ascending) except that it can be any length. If you ever have to add a card to it and you cannot add a higher number, then the entire "X" line gets put into a score pile and a new line is started with the card you added. When one player runs out of cards, you score points for cards left in your hand and you score DOUBLE for cards in your score pile. Cards in the "X" line do not count against you. Fewest points after two rounds wins.

There is a lot more hand management in this version of the game, and it also seems harder to get your low number cards played without risking big penalties from your "X" line. It plays fine and it is enjoyable, but I did find the play options a bit too restrictive for my tastes. In most situations, 6 nimmt! gives you more options on a turn. While I do think this plays a bit better at a lower player count, I don't think that's compelling enough for me to get a copy for myself.



Board Game: Coup

Coup - 6
Essentially a gamer's version of Perudo. I don't like Liar's Dice, but if you do, you'll probably dig this as well. It's a good design that just isn't for me.

Everyone is dealt two face-down characters. Every character in the game allows a certain action and/or counter-action. On your turn you can take any action (and on other's turns you can counter any action) but anyone can challenge your ability to do so by accusing you of not having the character that allows it. If you are caught taking an illegal action or counter-action, or you wrongfully accuse someone else of doing so, you turn one of your characters face-up. When both of your characters are face up, you are out of the game. Last player in wins.

It's a quick game. Players generally attempt to collect chips that - if you have enough of them - you can use to directly attack other players without defense. I don't mind bluffing in games, but simple short-form versions like this and Liar's Dice don't really engage me. I can see clearly that this is a great design, so I'll give some credit for that, but for me personally, when I play this I just want to shrug and move on.



Board Game: Dead Man's Draw

Dead Man's Draw - 5
If Circus Flohcati was originally designed by an average designer, this is the game that would have resulted...

The fundamental mechanics and primary scoring method of Dead Man's Draw and Circus Flohcati are identical. In both games you have 10 suits of cards with a specific value range and in both a player draws cards from the top of a deck until he chooses to stop or is forced to stop by drawing a card identical to one already drawn and going bust. At the end the highest card in each suit you have collected scores. In CF, if you stop before going bust, you only pick one of the face up cards to add to your hand, but in DMD, you collect all of them and add them to a face up tableau.

There are a few obvious differences and a few subtle differences between the games. The most obvious is that every suit in DMD has a special power. When you draw a card and don't go bust, the drawn card's power is activated. Powers range from forcibly drawing more cards, protecting those already drawn, attacking your opponent's tableau, or forcibly pulling cards from your own. Players each also have a special trait that makes one of the card powers more powerful for you alone. The game ends when you get to the bottom of the draw deck.

Obviously, giving cards that you draw from a face down stack special powers invites a lot of randomness and uncontrollable happenings. It has the effect of mitigating the stress of the push-your-luck aspect by giving you other ways to acquire cards. By collecting all cards instead of having to select one, you are eliminating another decision point wholesale. Also, since high cards are the only way to get points in DMD, you also eliminate the decision of whether or not to shoot for triples to get bonus points. DMD has given me a new appreciation for how an average designer can take a strong core concept and take all of the strength out of it in the name of chaos and variability. In Circus Flohcati, Knizia was able to maximize the interesting and challenging decision space of a fundamentally simple design. I certainly appreciate Circus Flohcati more now than I used to. On the plus side for DMD, my daughter was turned off by the freakish flea art on the new CF design, but was thoroughly entertained by DMD. So that's something! I'll hold on to this for a while for her sake.



Board Game: Zombie Dice

Zombie Dice - 3
The most basic push-your-luck game on the face of the known and unknown and unknowable universe.

Roll. Keep. Roll. Keep. Roll. Bust. Roll. Score. Roll. Keep. Roll. Keep. Roll. Score. Roll. Keep. Roll. Bust. Roll. Keep. Roll. Score. Roll. Keep. Roll. Keep. Roll. Score. Roll. Score. Roll. Keep. Roll. Bust. Roll. Keep. Roll. Keep. Roll. Keep. Roll. Bust. Roll. Score. Roll. Keep. Roll. Keep. Roll. Bust. Roll. Keep. Roll. Keep. Roll. Win. Play again? (...or shoot me, at this point I no longer care.)


Board Game: Vinhos Deluxe Edition

Vinhos Deluxe Edition - Incomplete
Only got in one play of the 2010 Reserve so far. I will score this when I get the 2016 version played.

Initial thoughts on my first play of the 2010 Reserve? First off, we played poorly. None of us concentrated adequately on building out our estates early and we were all pretty starved for money and actions as a result, especially when on turn 5, with bad weather, only one of us could produce more than one wine (and yes, that player won). I don't think it is fair to judge this based on a poorly played learning game. Scarcity of money appears to be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Overall, I thought the mechanisms were interesting but I agree with the critics who say that the game lacks opacity. Paths to development and points are all very clear once you grok the mechanics and there is minimal change from players bumping into each other. Yes, players can claim spots ahead of others, but there are usually decent 2nd options available in most cases. I could see games quickly falling into familiar patterns, which could make it less interesting. I do want to play this version again now that I have a better understanding of the arc, but ultimately I think I'll need to like the 2016 Reserve a bit more than the 2010 for me to keep this game longer term. It will be interesting to see differences, for sure.
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18. Board Game: LYNGK [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:1548] [Average Rating:7.62 Unranked]
Board Game: LYNGK
Frederic Heath-Renn
United Kingdom
Islington
London
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A month mostly of abstracts and card games, but I played a few, ahem, 'actual' games too, don't worry.

GoRoGo (3 plays) - Until I went and had a look just now I remembered absolutely nothing about GoRoGo, which I think relegates it to an automatic last place on this month's list.

Cation (2 plays) - Square grid connection game WITH A TWIST. Metatwist: it's not a very interesting twist.

Sluff Off! (1 play) - I normally really like it when a trick-taker gets you to estimate how many tricks you'll, er, take, so I'm not sure why Sluff Off!/Seven Seals felt a bit flat to me - the cardplay seemed a disappointment after the bidding phase, unlike in eg Eternity. One to play again.

Fano330-R-Morris (2 plays) - I fear the challenge in this game might lie more in navigating the unusual topology and multiple dimensions of connections than in playing any sort of strategy in the very restrictive game tree. Interesting, certainly, but more puzzle than game.

Bargain Hunter (1 play) - Better than I (and we) expected, I think, given the monumentally crap art. Sort of vaguely Coloretto-ish air as you attempt to collect certain sets of appliances without collecting too many others, except you can change what you're collecting a couple of times.

Valley of the Kings (1 play) - An entry-levelish deckbuilder which I won on my first play by following what seemed a relatively obvious course of action, something that always makes me a bit suspicious.

High Frontier (3rd edition) (1 play) - No gaming career could really be complete without attempting to navigate space the Phil Eklund way. We played the basic game, of course; even at that level it seemed painfully difficult to actually do anything worthwhile, what with rocket parts being so damn heavy all the time; a fun system to navigate as an experience once but I think I dread rather than savour the chance to play it again with the whole edifice of mechanical complexity layered over it like far too non-Heinz ketchup settling greasily over a desultory sausage.

Colt Express (1 play) - Better than I expected given the 3-D train (dear me what a snob am I). The programmed movement seems to strike a pretty good balance between perfect knowledge and RoboRally-style interminability (the fixed number of rounds is also a blessed relief), and it all fits together mechanically speaking quite nicely.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1 play) - Twisty trick-taker where you get to nominate other players to play your half of the deck for you (it makes sense in context). I don't think I was ever playing it at scorchingly deductive level but it seemed fun and has potential for interesting nooks and crannies.

Rhode (2 plays) - Another square grid connection game WITH A TWIST, except this time the twist actually facilitates interesting gameplay: it becomes a game about using the rules about weak connections to manipulate tempo to your advantage so you can race to make your connection first.

Linage (3 plays) - Interesting abstract of territory capture; ladders and that sort of thing all seemed to fall out of the simple ruleset in pretty satisfying ways, and I enjoyed our noodle around with it.

But with, perhaps, weary predictability, I must cave and award New Game of the Month to LYNGK (4 plays); all the trap-setting, stack-bouncing, balance-keeping, move-forcing, point-stealing fun you'd expect to be in the box is there alright, and in such a colourful and attractive package.
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19. Board Game: Kemet [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:100]
Board Game: Kemet
Oliver Paul
Iceland
Reykjavik
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Finally, school's over for the semester, so lots of new games played!

Great

Board Game: Kemet

Kemet

Top honors for this month go to Kemet, which really surprised me. I had heard it was similar to Cyclades, a game that I didn't really like, even though I love Greek mythology. The bidding for gods and the wonky endgame in that game really killed it for me. A friend of mine brought over Kemet, and being the affable person that I am, I agreed to play. Kemet is a really good game!

I quite enjoyed how many different powers there are, and how they can shape your strategy. I went big into white power (unfortunate but hilarious name), getting discounts on stuff and extra money for other stuff, and kindof kept a low profile, which almost won me the game, but not quite. I really like that you get victory points for winning combats, so even if you don't think you're going to win, it might be worth it to attack. I like that you're only playing to 8 victory points, so the game only takes 90 minutes or so. I like how people can purchase the creatures and they give them special powers for one army.

Really excited to get my hands on this one. Not sure how often I'd play it, since most of my gaming is done 2p, and it's probably not great at that player count.

Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin
Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Pharaoh's Tomb
Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab

Exit: The Game series

Really enjoying this new craze of escape room board games. This one might be my favorite. I won't spoil anything, but I highly recommend them.

We played them in the order of Abandoned Cabin, then Secret Lab, then Pharaoh's Tomb, since that was supposed to be easiest to hardest, but we found the last one the easiest. There were definitely some great moments in each of them.

I really like the hint system in this game, where there are 3 hints for each puzzle. The first one will tell you what you need to solve it, so if you don't have those things you can stop and work on something else. The second one will give you a big hint to solve it, and the third one is the solution explained. I really liked the Unlock games, but felt the hint system in that one was really wonky and not really helpful a lot of the time.

Looking forward to trying out more games in this series as they come out in English.

Good

Board Game: Epic Card Game

Epic Card Game

Another big surprise, as I wasn't expecting much. Like many others (I assume), I bought this mainly because of how much we like Star Realms, thinking it was something similar. Learning it was more of a crazy, intentionally unbalanced version of Magic: The Gathering, I shelved it for a few years, not terribly interesting in trying it. I mainly brought it out recently because there was a trade/sell market at a local FLGS, and I wanted to play as many of my unplayed games as possible, to see what I wanted to sell. Needless to say, I didn't sell this one!

I don't really enjoy drafting, so we just shuffled the deck and dealt out 30 cards to each player. That worked out better for me, as I got some cards that worked well together, and pulled out the win. I enjoyed the back and forth nature of putting out huge creatures, having them killed in an instant, then killing my opponent's huge creatures, and so on.

The rules are a bit of a mess, and the turn structure takes a while to get used to. I also haaated that they only supplied a few of the human/demon/wolf/skeleton things, where obviously you need a lot more than that.

My SO wasn't as taken as I was with the game, so I don't know how much play it'll get, but I really enjoyed it.

Board Game: Le Havre: The Inland Port

Le Havre: The Inland Port

This game could also be called Spreadsheet: The Game. Holy beeswax this game is dry. You're buying buildings and using them to move colored markers to the right or diagonally up or straight up or whatever, then using other buildings, bringing those same cubes down or diagonally down or straight down or whatever and moving other cubes up instead.

I still enjoyed it, but the fact that there is no variability in the setup really kills it for me. The other game in this series, Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small also came out with a fixed setup, but later came out with two expansions which rotated buildings in and out, so each game will be a bit different. If they had done the same for this game, I probably would have kept it. Alas, they did not, so I did not.

Board Game: Pandemic: Iberia

Pandemic: Iberia

A Pandemic variant, which I enjoyed. I'm just not sure if it's different enough to keep both this and the original Pandemic (w/ expansions). I liked the purified water mechanism, along with the laying rail, and this definitely changed up the strategy a bit from the base game. We ended up getting our butts handed to us, but that was expected, as we're pretty bad at Pandemic to begin with.

Board Game: Trajan

Trajan

I've only really liked one Feld game (Castles of Burgundy), and that trend seems like it won't let up anytime soon.

This isn't a bad game, don't get me wrong, I just feel like it gives me a similar feel to Burgundy, but that it's worse in every way. Instead of rolling two dice, then trying to use/modify those dice to do actions, you do a mancala, which makes me feel stupid in the worst possible way. When you look down, and see that every single bowl you can choose all go to the same place, and you can only do one thing, you feel like an utter moron. Also, choosing which colors go where to try and plan for future Trajan tiles also made my brain hurt, and I gave up halfway through trying to make any sort of plans.

The other big thing that I like better about Burgundy is that in that game, you're taking tiles and putting them down on your board, physically building your little kingdom. It has a nice feel to it, seeing it built up. In this one, you're just doing actions, maybe even grabbing tiles, but you don't feel like there is any building going on, except for maybe in the map portion, but that's just dropping off guys.

To summarize, not a bad game, I just think Burgundy is better in every single way.

Meh

Board Game: Adventure Land

Adventure Land

I knew this was light before I got it, but this is just too light for me. Move a guy right or down, pick up what's there. The game comes with 3 "adventures", but they're just different scoring options with tiny changes between them. We played the first one, and we didn't enjoy it enough to try the other two.

Already sold off.

Board Game: Elder Sign: Unseen Forces

Elder Sign: Unseen Forces

As with Pandemic, we're really bad at Elder Sign. I've read online that people say "If you lose a game of Elder Sign, you're playing the rules wrong." We've lost plenty of games of Elder Sign.

We didn't enjoy how difficult Gates of Arkham was, but we really enjoyed the Omens of Ice expansion. We tried out Unseen Forces just recently, and got absolutely destroyed, although that was mainly because we couldn't roll to save our lives, and were getting unlucky time and time again. When we lose, it's usually from too many monsters coming out making most, if not all of the adventures literally unbeatable, and that's what happened here. We played with the AOO that brings out monsters each midnight, and it was just too much.

If there's one thing that we didn't like, it was the Blessed/Cursed thing. Because I killed a couple of the Children of the AOO monsters, I was cursed a big part of the game, effectively reducing my dice pool to 5, which meant I couldn't complete many adventures, which kinda sucked.

We still enjoyed it more than Gates of Arkham, so I'm sure we'll try it a few more times before we decide to just give up and only play Omens of Ice from now on.

Board Game: Inca Empire

Inca Empire

Strange little game that I bought mostly because I'm reading John Hemming's Conquest of the Incas (and have been for the last 2-3 years, off and on). I enjoyed the little bits of flavor interspersed in the rules and in the map. I liked the game, although I'm not sure anybody else at the table did.

It was a 3p game, and it felt like it went on for a bit too long. It also felt very mechanical, moving through the turn structure, "ok now we play a card. ready, reveal. ok, now we build. ok, now we build again. ok, now we play another card."

The rules were a bit fuzzy in places, and after the game we found a few things that we got wrong, but overall, it was a decent experience. It just doesn't have anything special that makes it stick out from the crowd, or makes me want to get it off the shelf again soon.

Board Game: Kingdomino

Kingdomino

I know the trend has been towards lighter games in recent years, but come on, there's barely a game here. It's pleasant, and it offers... choices? I guess. They're just not interesting choices. I would play this with children, but with adults? No.

Board Game: Reiner Knizia's Decathlon

Reiner Knizia's Decathlon

Fun, little PnP that is in essence 10 Yahtzee variants, then you total the scores. Fun while having a few beers, and my epically bad luck at rolling dice comes out, much to the delight of everyone except me. I rolled ones and twos for much of the events, until we got to the running bits, where sixes count as minus points. Guessed what I rolled there? I think in the last run, I had rerolled so many times, that I had to roll my last 6 dice with no rerolls. I decided to just roll them all at the same time, and rolled six 6s. That's when I gave up.

Still, fun if you're in the right mood.

Board Game: Stronghold (2nd edition)

Stronghold (2nd edition)

This was a real disappointment. I had heard that the 2nd edition was much improved from the first, rules tightened up, artwork changed, typos fixed. If this is a fixed edition, how bad was the first? There are spelling errors, typos and bad English littered throughout the horrid rulebook. At one point I gave up trying to find a rule in the rulebook and on the forums (which gave conflicting answers on the same rules questions in multiple places), and watched a Watch It Played video on the game. In the middle of a game session.

Anyways, the game. I played as the invader, and it was fun enough. I really hated, though, that the guys you spend to build machines and use actions with, they're gone, and the guys you're left with? That's your invading force for the round. Shit, I only have 3 guys left. Too bad. Really didn't like that.

Didn't like it, and sold it off after one play.

Bad

Board Game: Escape from Colditz

Escape from Colditz

This is an objectively bad game, but it's to be forgiven, since it came out in the 1970s. Roll and move, huge swings of luck, and a long playtime are all to be expected. I just thought that since it's being reprinted with a nice, new fancy edition, they would make it a little bit more playable my modern standards. Nope.

I think I would've liked this as a 13 year old obsessed with WW2, after school with loads of free time with my friends. Today, as a 30 something year old, less obsessed with ww2, with not a load of free time, or gaming friends? Not so much.

Given, we got some rules wrong (some huge rules), but I don't think anybody had fun. We set up the game for the recommended 50 turns, and when there were 25 left, we decided to stop.

I think this is a missed opportunity more than anything. They already had a copy of the classic rules in the back of the rules, they could've completely overhauled the game and made it more in-line with modern game design, with more strategy and more options, while keeping the thematic flavor. They didn't, and it's a shame.

Board Game: Kanban: Driver's Edition

Kanban: Automotive Revolution

I don't really like Vital Lacerda's games. CO2 wasn't bad, Vinhos was clunky and opaque. Kanban is clunkier and even more opaque. After reading through the rules, I looked up and realized I still had no idea how to play the game. I bought the game used from a friend, who sold it to me unplayed after buying it from another friend, who had sold it to him unplayed after buying it new. I almost feel a bit sad having played it, because I broke the chain of people who just could not understand the game enough to play it.

Our one play was painful. We had no idea what we were doing, or how we were going to achieve the thing we didn't know we were doing. After about 90 minutes, we realized that we still hadn't had a meeting happen, and the game might just go on forever. A collective moan escaped from all players. I ended up just grabbing cars like crazy to try and speed up the damn endgame, and ended up coming in last. I was ok with that. I also hated the whole timing of the actions and the supervisor judging us thing. Hated hated hated.

Imagine a Feld game, where you get stuff to turn it in for other stuff to turn it in for other stuff to turn it in for points. Now imagine each step taking a good 15 minutes, with some mandatory homework after each step, and someone behind you physically choking you, not too hard, but just enough for you to be uncomfortable. That's how I felt while playing this game.

I really hated this game.

Board Game: Yamataï

Yamatai

I think I might've used up all my vitriol on the previous entry, but you can infer most of the hate from the previous game towards this one.

This feels kinda like the 'I feel stupid' thing of Trajan, combined with a dash of the 'everything takes forever to accomplish' thing from Kanban. You know there's a really good move somewhere on the board, if you can just sit there for a good 10 minutes and puzzle everything out. However, you don't want to do that, so you just go for the first move you see that nets you a few points, followed by groaning when you realized you set up the next player to get a whole mountain of points.

I played this twice, first with 4p, and it wasn't that horrid. Played it again at 2p and hated the experience. I also felt like that in the first game, I was exploring the game, and enjoyed seeing the new specialists and moves you could make. In the second game, that exploration was gone, replaced with the feeling that I just did not like any part of this game.

Anyway, it's late, and I might be a bit too annoyed to go to bed. I should probably just calm down a bit. Yeah, that's what I should do...

Nah, I reaaaaally hated this game.
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20. Board Game: Sushi Go Party! [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:188]
Board Game: Sushi Go Party!
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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I played 7 new-to-me games, and none of them stood out as fantastic. But I played this one with my wife. my oldest daughter, and 3 new friends, and my wife TOLD me to get a copy of this. So its my winner for May.

The other 6 were Morgenland, Rallyman, Sour Apples to Apples, Rubber Band Game, Time Management: The Time Management Game, and Keythedral, all of which I would rate in the 6 to 7 range.
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21. Board Game: Codenames: Pictures [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:309] [Average Rating:7.27 Unranked]
Board Game: Codenames: Pictures
Jason Vicente

Avon
Connecticut
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== BEST GAME OF THE MONTH ==

Board Game: Codenames: Pictures
Codenames: Pictures - Played 3 times - 8.5/10


My daughter's friend Kaylee joined us for a day of games on Memorial Day. In addition to King of Tokyo and Codenames we also played Codenames: Pictures. This proves to be more interesting than regular codenames because the pictures are drawn with the intention of invoking different concepts therefore allowing you to seek to connect them with a word or phrase. We all enjoyed this quite a bit and had silly fun with the ways we tried to communicate our ideas.

= Other New Games for May 2017 =

Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab
Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab - played 1 time - 8/10

The whole family engaged in this escape room game and we had a blast for an hour and a half figuring it out. Most times we understood what the puzzle was and how to go about solving it, but a couple of times we need to turn to a clue. The game is great because you feel like you accomplish something as a team.

Board Game: Onirim (Second Edition)
Onirim (Second Edition) - played 10 times - 8/10

The enthusiasm of the Dice Tower's Zee Garcia for Onirim (Second Edition) prompted me to purchase this game about a year ago, but it sat on the shelf until I watched a recent live playthrough that Zee gave on the channel. It seemed like fun and it was. I played the game numerous times enjoying the challenge and the variety this deck of cards provides.

Board Game: The World of Smog: On Her Majesty's Service
The World of Smog: On Her Majesty's Service - played 1 time - 8/10

It has been a while since Patrick and I played a new game. Baseball season and school have severely reduced the time we have for games. Today I woke up earlier than usual to play a game with him and we decided on adding The World of Smog: On Her Majesty's Service to our Father v. Son Two-Player Board Game Tournament . This bodes well for Patrick who destroyed me today. The premise of the game is to obtain four artifacts, gather a combination of ether and leave the board from a certain location on the board. Patrick was able to get all four artifacts while I could only accumulate two. He successfully blocked me from gathering the other two by turning their costs to the most expensive and turning other gears to force me to spend either coins or ether to get through the smog. Patrick took the interesting tack of turning the whole board on his last turn which put the location for his departure right in front of him with his gentleman already on it giving him the victory. I must say this is a unique game. I'm not sure that I have played anything like it. It has extraordinary components with miniatures I enjoyed painting which you can see below. Overall an 8 out of 10 from me.

Board Game: The World of Smog: On Her Majesty's Service

Board Game: The World of Smog: On Her Majesty's Service


Board Game: Covert
Covert - played 1 time - 7.5/10

Patrick and I learned to play Covert as part of our Father v. Son Two-Player Board Game Tournament as well as satisfying the "C" in the The Alphabet Board Game Challenge - 2017 Edition. This is an intriguing game with many parts. The goal of the game is to complete at least six missions by placing six rolled dice to different areas of the game board to collect equipment, agency cards and moving about a map to satisfy the requirements listed on each mission. In order to obtain equipment you have to unlock a combination on the equipment card. The bulk of the resources you will need to complete missions come from the versatile agency cards that allow a variety of uses from special abilities to flying to cities to supplying the materials necessary for a mission. This was a pretty enjoyable game that probably benefits from familiarity to understand how the different mechanics mesh with one another. For example, Patrick began to appreciate how to use dice not only to take certain actions but to prevent me from taking actions. Despite his increased knowledge I was able to defeat him soundly 85 to 65. I do, however, anticipate that Patrick will step up his effectiveness with repeated plays. Right now I rate this a 7.5 but suspect it may go higher after playing it a few more times.
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22. Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon: 10th Anniversary [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked]
From gallery of Photodump
Tom Flatt
Canada
Whitecourt
Alberta
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After a hectic month of traveling, May brought the opportunity to visit with family and play more games than the previous two months combined! In all, there were three new games:

In the Year of the Dragon: 10th Anniversary

-1 play -Rating of 8.5

From gallery of Photodump


After searching for an affordable copy of this for a couple of years, I was ecstatic when the tenth anniversary edition of the game was released! It certainly lived up to its billing; you know before the game begins that things are going to be tough but they never tell you that silly mistakes are amplified and will continue to haunt you long term! Great game!

Kingdomino

-6 plays -Rating of 8

Board Game: Kingdomino


A lovely little filler that is, IMHO, likely to win the SdJ, Kingdomino reminds us a bit of Karuba. In our minds it's slightly better in that you have some opportunity to mess with your opponent's plans through clever tile drafting. After playing with four, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it also plays well with two! Definitely a keeper!

A Fake Artist Goes to New York

-4 plays -Rating of 6.5

Board Game: A Fake Artist Goes to New York


We had high hopes for A Fake Artist but, unfortunately, we were playing it with a full count of ten players in a noisy, poorly lit setting. While the first game was a flop, the subsequent plays were fun even if no one was overly impressed with the game. We are hoping the game will provide more satisfactory results with a smaller group in more intimate surroundings.

Have a great June!

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23. Board Game: Yokohama [Average Rating:7.87 Overall Rank:102]
Board Game: Yokohama
Robert
Canada
Ottawa
ON
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Yokohama
First Published 2016
Board Game: Yokohama


Yokohama is very straightforward game played on an anxiety inducing "board". I suspect that the layout is modeled after the actual shape of its namesake, but even if it isn't, it creates a few nice points where players get in each other's ways. It is not hard to understand what to do or why to do it, and I am hopeful that there are a number of ways to win. We plan to test that hypothesis soon. I also hope our games in the near future will have a little more tension, too.




聖杯サクセション
First Published 2016
Board Game: Throne and the Grail


Throne and the Grail is from the same art and designer team as Too Many Cinderellas. It’s a two-player, set collection game with elements of Parade and Hanamikoji. Over each of the four rounds, the players either play one of the five cards in their hands to the centre, or they pick up all of the cards in the centre (only once per round) to add to their scores. Timing is everything here, and it makes for some exquisitely painful choices. A great candidate for wider distribution.




Neuland
First Published 2004
Board Game: Neuland


Neuland was not without its challenges to play, but we had many laughs, a healthy amount of trash talking, an interesting analysis of the game afterwards, and the desire to play again. I am craving more games with shared incentives!





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24. Board Game: The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:3042]
Board Game: The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport
Tally C
United States
New York City
New York
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In April 2017, I played 6 new (to me) games and 5 new (to me) expansions. New games are listed first from highest ranking to lowest, with expansions following them (also highest to lowest).

== NEW GAMES ==

The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2016
Board Game: The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport
My game of the month is tied between RDI: Battle for Greyport and The Blood of an Englishman, but I decided to give it to Battle for Greyport due to how pleasantly surprised I was with it.

Battle for Greyport takes place in the same world as the Red Dragon Inn games, but is a completely different game. Whereas RDI is a competitive, take-that card game, Battle for Greyport is a cooperative deckbuilder. I remember when BfG was on Kickstarter, I saw it and immediately thought it was just another expansion for RDI. I think many people also had and continue to have this misconception, which is a shame because BfG is really an excellent co-op game.

During set-up, players pick a scenario collectively and then choose characters individually. Each character comes with their own starting deck (fairly similar decks, with the biggest standout being they each get one unique item card) and three level cards. Everyone starts at level 1 and will advance to levels 2 and 3 as the game goes on. Scenarios come with specific Encounters which will task the players with defending a specific location from enemies. They’ll also be dealing with enemies that are dealt to their own individual threat area. Enemies are that are not engaged from the location (i.e. moved from the location to one of the player’s threat areas) will do damage to the location at the end of each round. One thing that I found really interesting about BfG is that while every player can play cards and attack each round, only one player is considered the Defending player (meaning, their threat area enemies attack them, they are able to buy a card for their deck, and they get to replenish their hand at the end of the round). There’s also a limit to how many characters you can play a round, which includes your main character (certain cards increase this cap). This leads to some very interesting strategic play. Do I play my main character card on another player’s turn as Defending player? He could really use the help. But that also means that I won’t get my main character back until the end of MY turn as Defending player.
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I also really like how card recruitment works. Each encounter allocates a certain number of coins to each player. These coins come in bronze, silver, and gold denominations. Each card (divided into items and characters) costs one of these types of coins. At the end of an encounter (when all enemies have been defeated), players get to spend any of their unused coins on items and characters. These cards go straight into your hand for immediate use, which is excellent.

BfG has similarities to Shadowrun: Crossfire and Warhammer Quest: the Adventure Card Game, but I actually like it better than both of those. I like how all the players are actively involved, no matter who is considered the Defending player. I enjoy how the characters each feel a bit different with their own strengths and weaknesses. The encounter system works well (allowing players to level up each time they complete an encounter) and the scaling of player counts seems sound. BfG got a bit of a bad rap because some people felt the game was too difficult, but Slugfest has provided some small tweaking that adds in healing between encounters as well as a more gentle introductory scenario. I highly recommend downloading the updated rules if you give this one a try. I initially put it on my wishlist after hearing people talk about how it was such a hidden gem (and overlooked because people assumed it was another expansion for RDI). I’m very glad I wishlisted it (and my friend decided to gift it to me as a birthday present) because this game is extremely solid. I hear there is an expansion in the works and I’m very excited to see what it has in store. Great co-op deckbuilder that I highly recommend.

The Blood of an Englishman - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2016
Board Game: The Blood of an Englishman
I got The Blood of an Englishman back in the fall, I believe, after hearing high praise for it from several bloggers and reviewers that I follow. Tyler and I find Arboretum (by the same designer), to be one of our favorite card games, so I purchased this one without hesitation. The Blood of an Englishman is a 2P asymmetrical card game where one player takes on the role of Jack while the other takes on the role of the Giant. Jack is trying to collect three treasures to win the game, while the Giant is trying to line up his Fee, Fi, Fo, and Fum cards to catch Jack and win the game.

The game has three kinds of cards: Beanstalk cards (numbered 1-9), Treasure cards (two each of Goose, Gold, and Harp), and the Giant cards (two each of Fee, Fi, Foe, Fum). The cards are all shuffled together and divided into five stacks of ten cards, splayed downward so all cards are revealed. Jack and the Giant each have their own way they’re allowed to manipulate the cards in the stacks, with Jack getting three actions a turn and the Giant only getting one. Jack is trying to collect three sets of six Beanstalk cards, one set at a time, in ascending order. Once he has six, he can finish it with a Treasure card. Jack wins once he collects one of each of the three Treasures. The Giant is trying to line up a Fee, Fi, Foe, and Fum card (order doesn’t matter) either in a column, or so there is one of each in the front position of four of the five stacks.

Tyler and I each took a turn playing as Jack and the Giant. In our two games, Jack won both times, though the second game felt extremely close. I think that Jack is probably easier to play when first learning the game, but it did not feel imbalanced to me (as I said, the second game was tense). As someone who loves card games and asymmetrical games, this was a huge hit for me. I can definitely see how The Blood of an Englishman is designed by the same person as Arboretum (the decisions are tough and there’s a lot of messing with your opponent(s) in both games), and I can now say for certain that I am a fan of Dan Cassar. Just like Arboretum, it’s mind-blowing how much game is packed into a simple deck of cards. I love this one.

Dream Home - 2 plays -  7.8 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Dream Home
My birthday was at the beginning of May and my very good friend Terry sent me two games that were on my games wishlist. Battle for Greyport was one and Dream Home was the other. I’d heard very good things about Dream Home, so I was quite eager to try it out. It’s a fairly light game with elements of drafting and card placement. Each round, players draft a pair of two cards from the center board. One of the cards is always a room. The other is either the first player marker or a utility card. In a 2P game, the first player gets to choose one pair of cards to discard (it can’t be the position with the first player token, however), so being first player can be quite a strong advantage since you can deny your opponent potentially two pairs of cards they may want. After drafting a pair of cards, they must be immediately put into your house, obeying placement rules (e.g. you can’t place a room on top of a space that doesn’t have a room below it; regular rooms must be put on the top two floors while basement rooms must be put on the bottom floor). Utility cards either bring in Helpers that allow you to bend the rules in your favor, or add a décor item that might have special placement restrictions (these give you bonus points at the end of the game).
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The game ends once all the players’ houses are filled up with rooms. You get bonus points if your house has a bathroom on each of the top two floors, possesses a bedroom, living room, and bathroom, and if you have a complete or matching roof. Keeping an eye on these bonuses as well as planning your house as you’re building it keeps Dream Home from being overly light. There’s still a lot you can consider while playing the game, despite how quickly turns go by. We found it to be an excellent filler game!

The King Is Dead - 1 play -  7.5 
First Published 2015
Board Game: The King Is Dead
The King is Dead is one of a handful of games in our collection that’s been sitting on the shelf in shrink for well over a year. It wasn’t for any particular reason, it just somehow didn’t end up hitting the table month after month after month. Well, May 2017 ended that! We finally broke it out of the shrink and played a game. And it was good, as we expected it would be.

In the King is Dead, players are competing over 8 regions in Britain. Instead players gaining direct control over a region, however, they’re manipulating the factions (Welsh, Scots, Romano-British) to win the regions, while slowly collecting favor with those factions as the game goes on. At the end of each round, a region will score (this order is determined randomly at the beginning of the game and is clear to all players the whole game). The extremely interesting thing, however, is that players only have eight action cards to play over the entire course of the game and they’re completely in charge of which round they play them in. So you could obviously play one card each round, but that might not get you the outcome you want for enough regions. So say you play two cards in a round – that means there’s going to be at least one round where you won’t be able to play any cards. You also want to consider that it’s only after you play an action card that you get to remove a cube from the board to place in front of you. At the end of the game, the person who has the most cubes of the faction that control of the highest number of regions wins the game. But to make things even trickier, there’s a second winning condition to consider. When determining control of a region, if it turns out that there’s no clear winner, then control goes to a fourth neutral faction (called an invasion). If 4 invasions happen, the game immediately ends, and instead of the winner being the person who collected the most cubes of the faction with the greatest control, the winner is the person who collected the most complete sets of all three factions.

The game is super smart and unlike any game I can think of that I’ve played before. It’s the very definition of a tense game where you’re constantly questioning what the right move is in a certain situation. Every action is precious and every cube is precious. You obsessively take note of which actions your opponent(s) have used (since they can never be used again) and how many cubes they’ve collected of each faction. The King is Dead is supremely intelligent and lives up to its high reputation.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases - 1 play -  7.2 
First Published 1981
Board Game: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases
I received Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective last year in a trade, but we hadn’t managed to play it before this month. We started with the first case (the Munitions Magnate). I won’t say much about the game, of course, to avoid spoilers, but I will say that it played about how I expected (though perhaps even more detailed than I would have guessed). Sad to say, however, that we ended up failing pretty abysmally due to following a red herring and inferring some of our conclusions, which ended up being completely wrong. We still had a very good time, though, and I think we’ll fare better in our next case, now that we know a bit better how the game operates and expects us to act.








America - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2016
Board Game: America
This month, we had some friends over in a semi belated birthday get-together (i.e. a reason to play a game and eat some dessert). Tyler had picked up America on a Tabletop Day sale at the end of April, and I thought it was an excellent time to bring it out and give it a whirl.

I’m not very good at trivia or history, but I still had a really fun time with this one. I really enjoyed the part of the game that was almost like a deduction game: trying to figure out who was more likely to know the answer to a question. Our one friend just completely destroyed us in our game of it, but I was not surprised at all (he’s very into history and was taking Masters’ classes in it for a while). There’s definitely topics that won’t favor history buffs here, though! A fun party game that I enjoyed playing.

We were also curious about how the game claimed to play 2 players, so we gave that a whirl one night. As expected, it wasn’t as interesting as at the 5P count. Not terrible (it’s still the same game, but with less cubes on the board and less people to leech information from), but much better reserved for a larger group of people.


== NEW EXPANSIONS ==

Zombicide: Wulfsburg - 1 play -  8.5 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Zombicide: Black Plague – Wulfsburg
I really love Zombicide: Black Plague. For me, it’s simply a rollicking good time of chucking dice, fighting baddies, collecting loot, and leveling up: the Diablo of board games. This month was the first time we broke out the Wulfsburg expansion scenarios (we had played with some of the characters from it before, though) and the Wolfz enemies. We played Quest 1 of the Wulfsburg quests and we managed to beat it, though it was tough. The ramparts were a pretty neat addition (loved being able to shoot down from them), and the scenario we played was pretty sound. The Wolfz were super mean (3 actions a turn!), but not insurmountable. All in all, a good expansion. Not absolutely essential, but a solid choice if you want more stuff for the game. And let’s face it, most of us ZBP fans do! I mean, just look at how Zombicide: Green Horde is blowing up.
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Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala - 1 play -  8.3 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala
We really enjoy Five Tribes for its combination of euro puzzle and mancala. I’d heard a lot of positive things about the expansion, Artisans of Naqala, which led me to eventually picking it up. We played the game with its first expansion for the first time this month.

Artisans of Naqala adds in a sixth tribe (purple artisan meeples) as well as a handful of additional tiles to add to the game (this also makes the board a bit bigger). Many of these tiles have mountains on their borders which block pathing. Artisan meeples can be turned in via a specific action for artifact tokens, which either score you additional points at the end of the game or special abilities you can choose to use during the game. A few additional Djinn were also added with this expansion.
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We both really liked what Artisans of Naqala added to the game. I don’t think it’s an essential expansion (that seems to be the case with most of the expansions I played this month!), but it’s one that we’ll probably play with all the time when it’s just the two of us. The Artisans, larger board, mountains, and artifacts add in more choices. I can understand that for players who already get really bad AP, that probably isn’t a good thing; however, we personally don’t suffer very much AP when playing this game, so the added choices make things interesting. I liked the added challenge and restrictions when navigating the board, as well as another meeple “currency.” When teaching this game to new players, however, I’d probably leave out this expansion.

7 Wonders Duel Pantheon - 1 play -  8.2 
First Published 2016
Board Game: 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon
7 Wonders Duel was on my 10x10 challenge last year, but we hadn’t gotten it back out to play this year so far, despite receiving the Pantheon expansion as a Christmas gift. This month, we finally broke it out of the shrink to give it a play. Overall, I like what the expansion brings to the game. A few new wonders and technology tokens are always welcome, but of course the main pull here is the God and temple cards.

A separate pantheon board is added to the game, with five pantheons represented in the game, each with three gods. The Age I and Age II card templates have been slightly changed to have tokens put on certain cards. When these cards are revealed, the person who revealed them gets the token. The Age I tokens have one of the five pantheons, permitting the player to draw two and pick one of the gods from that pantheon. They set their chosen god face-down on the pantheon track to be revealed during Age II. At the end of Age I, the Door card is put on the pantheon board as the last card. During Age II, all the gods are revealed and can be activated as an action during Age II and Age III. The tokens on the Age II template give players a gold discount for activating a god. Gods cost a variable amount of gold, depending on where they were put on the track (the closer they are to you, the cheaper they are to activate and more expensive for your opponent). Last, the Guild cards from the base game are replaced with Temple Cards. Temples are expensive to build, but give players a lot of points (with even stronger point gains the more temples they are able to build). The temples are affiliated with particular pantheons, and players who have corresponding pantheon tokens (from Age I) can build those temples for free.
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The two things I like most about the expansion both correspond to the furthered choices they offer to players. Before, you very much wanted to NOT reveal cards to your opponent, but now with the token cards on the board, you are greatly incentivized. Those tokens can be really useful. The second thing I really appreciate about the expansion is how the pantheon board gives players another place to spend their action. In the core game, with a little luck and some careful planning, you could sometimes box your opponent into being forced to take several specific cards in a row (because that would be their only choice). Adding another way to spend their action gives them the chance to break out of this.

I think 7 Wonder Duel: Pantheon adds a good amount of variability to the game, in addition to providing more choices to the players. The randomness of the pantheons, gods, and temples will ensure that each game feels a little different, which I think is just what the game needs.


Tokaido: Matsuri - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Tokaido: Matsuri
We own the Tokaido Collector’s Edition which includes the two expansions: Crossroads and Matsuri. While we had played with Crossroads in the past, this month was the first time we also included Matsuri. Matsuri adds several new characters (some of which we’d played with before) as well as the Matsuri (Festival) cards. At all the intermediate inns, once all the players have arrived, the first play who arrived gets to draw two Matsuri cards. They pick one whose effect will be carried out. There’s a lot of different effects these cards might have, such as providing an extra collection set icon to a specific gender of character, or allowing players to each roll the die and collect the corresponding amount in coins or points.
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The Matsuri cards don’t add too terribly much to the game, but they also don’t detract from the experience. I’m happy to play with or without them. I think the additional characters are definitely worth picking up Matsuri for, if you don’t already have it. More characters are always welcome for such a lovely, relaxing game like Tokaido.


Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
The UK and Pennsylvania map expansion for TTR is yet another game I picked up last year, but only got to the table this month. We played the UK map which added in technologies. This map was really quite interesting as it felt quite different to me than all the other TTR maps I’ve played, of which I’ve played many. At the beginning, every player can only build along routes in one area (the England area) and they can only build routes that are 1 or 2 cars long. In order to connect to other regions or build longer routes, players must purchase technology cards. At the start of your turn, you can purchase any technology for a specified number of Locomotive cards. These technologies allow you do things like build 3-car routes, build 4- or 5-car routes, build along Ferry routes, or connect to other regions like Ireland. Many of these technologies interact with each other, so if you want to build a 4-car Ferry route to Ireland, you’ll need at least three different technologies.

Locomotives are also used for specific parts of Ferry routes as well as their standard usage as a wild card, so they’re extremely valuable. Fortunately, UK adds in an extra rule that players can discard any 4 cards as a Locomotive. I think this is exceedingly smart and aptly addresses the issue of ending up with too many cards in your hand that you don’t have any immediate use for.

I think that UK is probably my favorite map I’ve played for TTR so far. It makes the game a whole lot more strategic and a bit more of a gamer’s game as opposed to a gateway game. The rules aren’t complicated, but they give you a whole lot more to consider. It also doesn’t hurt that the board is simply beautiful.



Well, I originally thought that I hadn’t played too much new this month (my schedule this month was really crazy), but it looks like I was completely wrong. Solid month with a lot of games getting to the table that had been sitting neglected for too long. And an excellent month for new expansions played for sure.

Note: Thanks to Grimwold for his New to You Tool which helped me generate my list.
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25. Board Game: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:90] [Average Rating:7.75 Unranked]
Board Game: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases
chearns
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Québec
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Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective - 1 play -  8 
First Published 1981

While I had doubts that this game could possibly be any fun, when I saw the original box edition for a buck fifty at the local thrift shop, I figured why not? My partner, as it turns out was equally sceptical and asked me, why would you play this with more than one person? I couldn't answer her.

However, play it with two we did and we had a lot of fun. It is a long game, we spread it out over three nights to solve one case, took twenty more clues than Sherlock, but we had fun. It was a bit like playing lateral thinking puzzles in teams. And, there's no way I would ever play this solo as my partner took all the notes.

Samarkand: Routes to Riches - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2010
Board Game: Samarkand: Routes to Riches


It is a very well camouflaged train game. It includes competition, coöperation/collusion, unspoken offers, and a player choosing when the game should end.

Metropolis - 1 play -  6 
First Published 1984
Board Game: Metropolis


A fun tactile experience, laying out the plastic city. However, the game, for three players, doesn't create enough incentive to trade as most of the time you can go it alone. I suspect it is at it's best with five players as people would be forced to negotiate more often. In the end, with three players, there wasn't all that much game there. You were mostly just doing whatever you could to score points.

Imhotep - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Imhotep


Like many point salads, I feel like my actions hardly matter. That I may as well just spam the boats, because nine times out of ten, it doesn't matter which area my cubes end up in, it'll result in pretty much the same number of points.

Oh Quay - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2010
Board Game: Oh Quay


Nate Straight nailed it when he said that Oh Quay is okay. The problem is two part for me. One, it is awkward with my tiny hands to hold the cards the way you are meant to when playing. Two, while I don't deny there are decisions, they feel pretty obvious. If the card I see in front of me isn't good, take the card I can't see. Place it where it will give me the most points. On the plus side, it's quick and not taxing mentally, if you are into a casual shoot the shit kind of game, it might work.
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