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

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

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1. Board Game: The Battle for Gotham City [Average Rating:5.17 Unranked]
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== NEW GAMES ==

The Battle for Gotham City - 3+ plays -  6 
First Published 2015
From gallery of Grimwold

My wife picked this up as a birthday present for our eldest (7), and it wasn't even in the BGG database, so as well as it being New to Me this month, it was also new to BGG!

It's a roll and move game in which each player is Batman, in a race to be the first to beat a villain on the inner level. You collect resources as you move around the board, that either let you defeat villains, or progress to the next level. The board is pretty lush, made from thick cardboard that constructs a 3d board with a tower in the centre sporting the Bat signal. Our two boys (7 and 4) really enjoyed the game.. as they are both fans of Batman (Lego and Animated series).. for me it was passable, but made more fun by the fact that the kids enjoyed it.
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2. Board Game: Runebound (Third Edition): Unbreakable Bonds [Average Rating:8.23 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.23 Unranked]
Board Game: Runebound (Third Edition): Unbreakable Bonds
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For the month of August, I played 6 new-to-me games and 4 new-to-me expansions! I’ve listed them here with new games first (listed in order of personal rating) followed by new expansions (listed in order of personal rating).

== NEW GAMES ==


Sheep 'n' Sheep - 1 play -  7.8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Sheep 'n' Sheep

* Comments: I’d heard about this game from some fellow Japanese game-loving BGGers and Instagramers a couple of months back. Hisashi Hayashi is kind of hitting it out of the park for me lately and I love the adorable aesthetic, so I was figuring out the best way to import it from Japan when it suddenly popped up in the BGG store. I grabbed it along with Iki.

Sheep ‘n’ Sheep is a petite little card game where players are creating a tableau of sheep cards. On their turns, players can choose to draft two linked cards from the combined drafting pool or play a card to their tableau. Beyond the first card placed in their tableau, there’s two different ways a player can play a card. In either case, they pick a card already in their tableau and then either play a set of cards ascending or descending in sequence from the number on that card OR play a set of cards that match the number on that card. That’s easy enough, but there are several scoring conditions that players will be keeping their eye on. There are several different colored sheep in the deck that want to be grouped in sets adjacent to each other of a specific and exact number. If they fulfill that condition, the player gets points at the end of the game. There’s also three conditions that award bonus points at the end of the game: highest number of adjacent bells on sheep, highest number of sheep with hearts, and highest number of sheep with stars. Trying to satisfy so many different victory point conditions makes creating your tableau a really fun puzzle and the game playing lightning quick.
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This was a real winner for me and Hayashi has done it again. Laying out my tableau reminds me a bit of Arboretum, a game I adore, but with adorable little sheep cards! I’m very pleased I was able to get this game and highly recommend it if you’re looking for a quick, puzzly little tableau-builder.


Dice Forge - 1 play -  7.8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Dice Forge

* Comments: While I’ve seen some people say that they find Dice Forge a little too simple for their tastes, I find it to be completely delightful. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for a light, beautiful, and fun game and Dice Forge definitely fits that bill.
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In Dice Forge, everyone starts with two identical dice with fairly modest faces. At the beginning of every player’s turn, everyone rolls their dice and gains the resources that they roll. In a two-player game, players roll their dice twice at the beginning of every turn. On the active player’s turn, they have a choice to either spend their resources on buying die faces to upgrade their dice or visiting a portal to buy a card. Cards can either give immediate one-time benefits, long-term passive benefits, or VP. After 9 or 10 rounds, depending on the player count, the game ends. Players add up all their VP and whoever has the most points wins.

I love building and customizing my dice as well as purchasing cards that give me little benefits, setting me apart from the other players. It’s also a nice touch that there’s two different sets of cards (standard and advanced) for each portal spot; it adds some variability. It all comes together in a neat little package that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Century: Golem Edition - 2 plays -  7.7 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Century: Golem Edition

* Comments: After seeing a lot of praise for Century: Spice Road on BGG and Instagram (though I’ve certainly seen counterarguments as well), I was waffling about picking it up. When the special Golem Edition was recently announced, my decision was made due to the awesome artwork and gems. I ordered it through Plan B Games and it came during Gen Con weekend while I was in the midst of Gen Can’t. Since Tyler was out of town, it wasn’t until the last few days of the month that we had a chance to play.

As many people have pointed out before, Century is basically about converting cubes (or gems, in this case) from one color to another and then trading them in for point cards. The way this is done is through acquisition, conversion, and upgrade cards, which are drafted from a shared pool on the table. Each player starts with a hand of two starter cards (one allows them to get two yellow gems and one permits two upgrades) and every card drafted will go directly into their hand. After they play a card from their hand, they aren’t able to play it again until they take a Rest action, where they gather all their played cards back into their hand to play once more. This is a mechanism I enjoy, found in some of my Top 50 games like Concordia and Mission: Red Planet.
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It all comes together into a light engine-builder/hand-builder/hand management game that clips along at a quick pace. The last round is triggered once someone builds their 5th (or 6th in a two- or three-player game) golem, at which point everyone adds up the points on their golem cards and figures in points for their bronze/silver coins and excess gems. It’s light while still having definite decisions for you to make (e.g. which cards to recruit, what order to play your cards in, which golems to build, when to rest). I can certainly see the similarities to Splendor, but I wouldn’t call this a Splendor-killer for myself (though it was for Tyler). I’m still interested in seeing how the expansions shake up Splendor and the two games do feel different enough for me. Base games alone, though I do prefer Century to Splendor at the moment. It’s really the hand-building and hand management that makes the difference for me. I see this getting a lot more plays in the future.


Santorini - 3 plays -  7.3 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Santorini

* Comments: Thanks to people discussing it in the Hot Deals forum, I discovered that Target started selling Santorini under a new publisher (Spin Master). I snagged a copy online for $20 and it arrived a week or so later in good condition. For $20, the production quality is pretty good: some slight flaws, but nothing that made me regret picking up a game I’d been considering for a long time at a lower price than I ever thought I’d find.
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We played three games this month, using only the standard rules (two players, no god powers). Component-wise, the pieces are satisfyingly chunky and it’s fun to see the city build up over the course of the game. On the mechanic side of things, Santorini plays super fast and has a similar feeling to a classic abstract. It’s all about balancing moves with countermoves. We both enjoyed the games, and Tyler even said that he thinks this might be his favorite abstract (mine is still Hive, since I absolutely adore it). Since it plays so quick, we’ll definitely play this many more times, likely in the near future. I look forward to playing with god powers next time, which I think will only elevate my rating of this game.

The Shooting Party - 4 plays -  6.5 
First Published 2016
Board Game: The Shooting Party

* Comments: I heard about this game from someone on the WDYPTW weekly geeklist a couple of months back (forgive me, I forget exactly who). It’s a solo game using a standard deck of cards that was submitted to a BGG contest. In Shooting Party, one Joker and cards of values 6-10 are removed from the deck. Thematically, some fancy to-do is having a pheasant-hunting party and you play a bachelor trying to seduce the four wives (the Queens) of the four power couples. The rules also point out you can also easily change it to seducing the four husbands (the Kings), with the roles of the Kings and Queens switched.

In the game, you have a hand of cards that represents the party in a room you’re in. When you draw cards from the deck, you always draw two (people always enter the room in pairs). If you ever draw an Ace, it’s immediately put to the side and a replacement card is drawn. These represent the jewels of the corresponding Queens. You can never have more than 7 cards in your hand at a time and your goal is to whittle your hand down to a single Queen so you can, ahem, score the card. If the Ace card of her suit is already out, you also score it. You discard cards from your hand in either pairs of the same suit, or any number of the same face value at a time (so long as you have at least two). There’s several snarls you’ll have to avoid, though. For example, if you draw a second Queen with one in hand, the first Queen is discarded. If you ever have two Jacks in your hand, your whole hand is discarded. If you have matching King and Queen, they’re immediately discarded unless you also have the matching Jack (then you can instead discard the King and Jack). You get to go through the deck a total of three times and see how many Aces and Queens you can capture.

Shooting Party is a simple game, but it’s pretty clever. Definitely more amusing to me than solitaire, and one I’ll certainly play from time to time when I want a super quick solo game. It’s definitely one I’d use to introduce someone to hand management in a solo setting.


The Lost Expedition - 1 play -  N/A 
First Published 2017
Board Game: The Lost Expedition

* Comments: I haven’t given the Lost Expedition a rating yet since we have only played the introductory game once (makes the game quite a bit easier, but we still lost!). The Lost Expedition has three different modes: solo, co-op, and competitive. Our one play this month was the 2P co-op game where the players are collectively attempting to get a group of three explorers through the treacherous jungle to the lost city. They win if at least one of the explorers survives and makes it to the city.

During the game, players will be managing their own individual hands of cards while they play them to dictate what happens during the expedition. These cards generally contain all sorts of nasty effects and choices that make life harder on the explorers. During the day, cards are rearranged by number as soon as they’re played, whereas during the night, the order of the expedition cards is determined by the order they’re played in. To make matters more interesting, while players can discuss general strategy, they are not allowed to talk about specific cards they have in their hand until after they play them to the table. This part feels very Hanabi-esque to me, as you’re stuck wondering whether someone will understand what you had in mind after you take your turn.
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Players are a bit at the mercy of card draw, but there’s tons of different choices they have to make during the game. This combination makes it seem like it will feel different every time it’s played, since the game feels like a very challenging cooperative puzzle where you and your teammates are working towards a common goal, but can’t collaborate on some of the difficult choices. I like pretty much everything about this game: the artwork, the historical references, and the simple-to-learn but tough-to-master gameplay. Looking forward to playing it again on normal difficulty so I can give this one a proper rating.



== NEW EXPANSIONS ==

Runebound 3rd Edition: Unbreakable Bonds - 1 play -  8.3 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Runebound (Third Edition): Unbreakable Bonds

* Comments: Since my top new-to-me expansion ended up being rated so much higher than my top new-to-me standalone game, I decided to make an expansion my pick for this month! Runebound 3.0 is a game I really enjoy for the sense of adventure it offers. I like how the movement system works, the combat pogs, the skill system, and the varied scenarios. If there were two things I desired from the game, they were a co-op mode and a slightly faster combat system. Unbreakable Bonds, the first big example for Runebound 3.0, offers those exact things, and correspondingly elevates my love for this game even more.

In addition to new cards, new characters, and new co-op scenarios, Unbreakable bonds introduces four new combat boards to go with the co-op/solo mode. Monsters are now divided into one of four groups and whenever you draw a monster, you pull out their corresponding combat board and specific combat pogs. After casting their pogs, you arrange them onto the board which both dictates how they will be using their combat actions and the order in which they’ll be using them. It ends up being the same system, except it flows along a whole lot faster, and enemies feel a bit different from each other as a bonus.
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And then there are the co-op scenarios. The expansion comes with a total of 5 (two new, two that adapt core scenarios, and one that adapts a small expansion scenario) and this month we had the chance to try the Red Death scenario. We played as Jonas the Kind and Eliam. This scenario felt like a co-op Ameritrash version of Pandemic and I enjoyed it a ton. We had to scavenge the land for ingredients for a cure, and then bring them back to the outbreak site to quarantine the city. All this while making sure that the disease didn’t spread like wildfire. We came very close to winning, but we couldn’t quite manage to defeat a boss that was necessary to our objective.

The co-op scenarios keep all the Runebound adventuring goodness of leveling up and traveling the land, while also setting up some goals that the party must figure out how to accomplish. I love this. It’s just what I was looking for to make my Runebound experience even better. Couldn’t be happier with this expansion.

Arkham Horror: the Card Game - Where Doom Awaits - 1 play -  7.6 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Arkham Horror: The Card Game – Where Doom Awaits: Mythos Pack

* Comments: Second to last scenario in the Dunwich Legacy (played with Jenny Barnes and Ashcan Pete). I liked the feeling that we were progressing up a hill, and we continued to see some of our prior decisions making a difference. We did pretty well in this scenario and got what I think was probably the best resolution.







Arkham Horror: the Card Game - Lost in Space and Time - 1 play -  7.8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Arkham Horror: The Card Game – Lost in Time and Space: Mythos Pack

* Comments: Final scenario in the Dunwich Legacy. Jenny Barnes and Ashcan Pete braved the confluence of dimensions. Some cool mechanics here and it felt like the investigators were flitting between different dimensions, picking up clues. We saw some direct results of some of our prior decisions, which was neat. Jenny was marked for certain death (one card left in her deck with the encounter card that does 10 damage when your deck depletes in her play area), but a temporary effect forced her to not be able to draw cards during upkeep! Jenny was a real hero here, gathering a ton the clues necessary for success. She made a final brave stand at the location where she was Searching for Izzie while Ashcan Pete completed the final act. While Jenny didn’t end up making it out, I consider this a triumphant conclusion to the Dunwich Legacy. Pretty neat scenario. Taking on its own (ignoring the stuff that references previous scenarios), probably my second favorite scenario so far.






Elder Sign: Omens of the Deep - 1 play -  7.3 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Elder Sign: Omens of the Deep

* Comments: We picked up the latest Omens of the Deep expansion for Elder Sign earlier this summer and while Tyler was on vacation, I got it to the table for some solo play. I played a two character game with George Barnaby and Zoey Samaras against Hydra (the manual lists him as standard difficulty).

Omens of the Deep has a very similar design as Omens of Ice, which in turn took the much-praised Gates of Arkham redesign and made some final tweaks. This time, the investigators are on a ship with the Ancient Ones’ minions pursuing them. They must manage the ship’s progress to try to avoid wrecking, while at the same time fighting off special monsters who keep respawning on new locations! Their main goal is to collect the lost pieces of an amulet which correspond to a green, yellow, and red die. Once the mission proceeds to stage two, the corresponding die becomes locked for each piece that hasn’t been collected. Taken all together, I liked the rising tension of the monsters becoming more and more numerous and I thought the amulet system was a nice way to incorporate the dice-locking mechanism since it makes it more of something you can plan for.
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Though my play session ended in a resounding defeat, I very much enjoyed this expansion. I’m not sure whether I like Omens of Ice or Omens of the Deep more. Deep certainly felt the least fiddly of the three redesigned expansions, though I may like the theme of Ice a smidge more.



Solid month overall with some very good new-to-me games and one absolutely stellar new-to-me expansion.

Note: Thanks to Grimwold for his New to You Tool which helped me generate my list.
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3. Board Game: Valletta [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1751]
Board Game: Valletta
United States
Davis
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I don't have the time or energy right now to do my usual kind of write-up.

So instead, I'll just give a few bullets:

Valetta. This was an interesting deck building game, but more than any other game in recent memory, I had a really hard time reading the game. Even with two players, there were so many cards, with colors, icons, and special powers, that I really couldn't get my head around the strategic landscape. With three or four players the number of cards would jump up by large increments, making this problem worse. I sold it.

• Kingdomino. A perfectly fine light-weight tile placement game with a clever balance-current-needs-against-turn-order-for-selection-in-the-next-turn mechanism. A decent game night filler that I will probably keep (unless someone in my group wants to buy it).

Keltis (with Neue Wege, Neue Ziele). There are no official English rules for this, and I'm pretty sure there's a problem with the translation we were using. We got into a weird space and the game felt broken. Sold it.

Lisboa. Now we're talking. One two-player outing suggests that this game will be top-shelf. Because I've only played once and don't want to give it short shrift, I'll be writing it up next month (if life cooperates). Absolutely stellar physical production.
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4. Board Game: Eldritch Horror [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:73]
Board Game: Eldritch Horror
Matt Brown
United States
Okemos
Michigan
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Eldritch Horror

Very good. Might settle in as an 8. Likely the best global based/large map adventure based game. Still might be a touch too random for me, but it is expected here.

Lotus

A solid 6-7 game which comes out every year. Not sure how it stands out, but I would play it again and can see getting a few more in.
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5. Board Game: Tournay [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:1017]
Board Game: Tournay
Eddy Richards
Scotland
Allanton
Duns
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Two new board games for me, both enjoyable.

The first was Tournay, a game similar to Troyes, but different enough to be worth having as well. The first play was enjoyable, though slightly marred by having to look up the cards repeatedly as I didn't find the icons particularly intuitive. However, no doubt this will be unnecessary in the future, both speeding the game up and making it more fun. Still, a good game in there.

Secondly, Le Havre: The Inland Port. Again, this is a version of a game we already enjoy, this time specifically for two players. It worked pretty well and was an interesting experience. I wonder how much replayability it will have as the set up is the same each time; but still, it will be fun to play it until it gets repetitive.

Finally, a new card game: Parang. My nephew brought me this back from Borneo, and we gave it a go - it's quite good fun, if not at all deep. Best of all, it is so obscure that it wasn't in the BGG database, and it's always a thrill to add something!
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6. Board Game: Spirit Island [Average Rating:8.32 Overall Rank:13]
Board Game: Spirit Island
Brian Wiese
United States
Ventura
California
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Not a whole lot of new games this month but they were all awesome. Definitely a month of quality rather than quantity.

Board Game: Spirit Island

Spirit Island

This game came out of freaking nowhere for me. I completely missed the Kickstarter campaign and just hadn't heard it talked about at all until it started popping up in everyone's Twitter feeds as copies were arriving. A little research later and here's a game that is like a cooperative, heavy anti-Catan. Simultaneous actions, multi-use cards, an extremely high level of collaboration, really unique spirits (aka player powers) and tons of variability. Take my money. I've so far only played this solo using 1 and 2 spirits and even that works really well. It was actually a major selling point that is was a strong solo game but that it also plays well with others. The underlying mechanics of the game are really simple for such a heavy game. It definitely has flavors of Pandemic with it's "put out the fires before they get out of control" but it's much better. This is Pandemic on steroids. I look forward to trying this out with 3 or 4 people and really seeing the collaborative aspects shine.


Board Game: Star Wars: Rebellion

Star Wars: Rebellion

I managed to finally try this one out as I had wanted to play this since it's release. The problem is long 2-player games are extremely hard for me to get to the table as I am usually playing in larger groups. No surprise then that I played this as a 2v2 but still playing with 1v1 rules. Each team had an experienced player and a rookie. I'm actually very glad that was my first experience as it meant there was someone who was familiar with the cards and general strategies. We played as the Empire and despite locating the Rebel base twice, we could never wipe it out completely and the Rebels ended up winning a close victory as the Empire fleet was closing in. Yeah, this is a fantastic game. It took me a few rounds to grasp the overall flow of the game but it eventually clicked. Forbidden Stars is one of my favorite games (and sorely underplayed) but that game everyone's forces are relatively equal. It's quite a design coup that FF came up with a game like this were the sides, on the board, are completely mismatched but either side has a legit shot at victory. The theme comes through really well with the cards, ships, and leaders. The mechanic of when a sector has one of your leaders prevents it from moving is quite clever and really makes it difficult to move your forces around. I don't have many negative things to say about this game other than the fact that it's a tad long (our game took 3.5 hours) but I also wasn't bored.


Board Game: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures

This series of games has been hovering in my "want to play" radar for quite some time but I never was super sure I was going to really like the thinky note-taking puzzly nature of this game. Then I recently picked up Watson & Holmes which not only has been a hit with my game group but is easily one of my favorite new games I've played this year. It's SHCD but competitive. Once I realized I liked that style of game, I knew I had to get this into my collection too. I've only played Case 5 so far (and have started Case 6) but it's such a satisfying experience. In some ways this barely even qualifies as a board game as really all you have is a case book filled with clues, a map, and a newspaper. The game then lets you go down whatever path of clues you choose until, hopefully, you come up with a solution. Yeah, there's some point scoring when you finish the case but that's largely irrelevant. The satisfaction comes from knowing you pieced together the clues and figured out the mystery. It has a similar feeling as those choose-your-own-adventure books we all read as kids but with the difficulty rating dialed up a few notches.


Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab

Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab

Another great experience. This also now completes the trifecta of the initially run of three EXIT games as I played Abandoned Cabin and Pharaoh's Tomb last month. Overall, this one was the easiest of the three for our group with only one puzzle really stumping us. AC and PT also each had a couple puzzles that were like "whoa" and while Secret Lab had a few really cool puzzles too I don't think any of them will be particularly memorable in the long run. These are just nitpick criticisms though as our group had a lot of fun getting through this and I would recommended this to anyone that likes these sort of games.


Board Game: Magic Maze

Magic Maze

Our very first go at this game was with 4 people but then we absorbed another group of 4 that just finished their game and played this with 8 people up to Scenario 5. I was a little skeptical that a game like this would handle that many but it does so surprisingly well. The only real challenge is physically getting that many people around the table within arm's reach but we made it work. With that many, each direction has two people that move it while still just having one person per special power. That meant that those with the special powers generally focused on using those while those with just movement focused on that. Despite so many people working "together", you would be surprised how often things stalled out and the giant red button got passed around. Overall a fantastic game that kept all 8 of us entertained for well over an hour. I would think this game is better at 4 since each person has a direction AND power (except one person) making the cognitive load that much higher as well as the stress. Also, this game probably doesn't have a huge amount of replayability as I sense that once you play this a few times and work your way through most of the scenarios you'll mostly be over it. I could be wrong.
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7. Board Game: Word Slam [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:2152] [Average Rating:7.02 Unranked]
Board Game: Word Slam
Peter D
United Kingdom
london
UK
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Board Game: Word Slam



Word Slam – Truly excellent social/party game

The talents of the in-form Inka & Markus Brand seemingly no know limits. With Word Slam they have devised a wonderful party game. Whilst Codenames is undeniably brilliant, it suffers from two problems: there can be much downtime from players thinking too hard to find connections, and also it can make some people feel uncomfortable when they can’t think of any clues, some can feel dumb and embarrassed. Word Slam eliminates all those issues and makes a great interactive team race game from a simple word-based clue mechanic.

Two teams compete to guess the secret word that only one player from each team knows. They are the clue-givers. Simultaneously each clue-giver goes through their identical stack of around 60 word-clue cards and, without speaking or doing any actions, gives clues by showing their respective team relevant single-word clue cards. Each team is shouting out ideas based on their clues, and by doing so are also giving clues to the opposing team. It works fantastically. It is fast, furious and hugely entertaining.

If you like Codenames and want to set a word-based game in the context of a fast game such as say Time's Up!, then definitely look at Word Slam. It has become my family’s new fave party game and has replaced Codenames as our goto social game.



Board Game: Ethnos


Ethnos – Straightforward, if a little bland, area majority game

Ethnos has been heralded as a new Ticket to Ride, an area majority gateway game. It is a little too complex to be a true gateway game, and has a truly dreadful generic fantasy theme which would make any non-gamers I know run a million miles.

(Personal rant time: When will publishers begin to realise that the general public do not like Fantasy? If you want a game to have broad appeal in a wider market use a theme people can relate to. This game could be animals in a forest, nations on a map, groups of people in coffee shops, anything would be better than what is presented here. I know in the world of BGG Fantasy is a popular theme, but believe me, it does not resonate in the wider world.)

The game play is smooth, if rather bland. All the rough edges have been rounded off to the extent that there is not a lot of bite left. The artwork and components are appalling, with cheap plastic bits and an uninspiring map on the board.

Nonetheless it is has much to recommend it: it is short (an hour or so), turns go very quickly so it plays with 6 with little downtime, and there are enough decisions to make it interesting, if ultimately there is too much luck to make it that interesting.




Board Game: Diamonds



Diamonds – Innovative trick-taker

I thought I had seen most of what trick-takers have to offer and then along comes Diamonds into my collection.

Suffice to say this is an excellent simple trick-taker with some lovely components to pique the interest of those to whom these things matter.
Another hit with the family this summer.




Board Game: Fields of Green



Fields of Green – Fiddly spatial puzzle

Whilst complex Euros are my thing, I am not a fan of ones with high accounting/upkeep overheads. This game relies on a lot of that sort of thing. It is what put me off Suburbia. You have to calculate how much each tile produces based on the combos you have made with surrounding tiles. It is a spatial optimisation solitaire puzzle.
If you like that sort of game, and I know many who do, then this could work for you. I sold it on as the effort involved to play it was too much and for little reward.





Board Game: Francis Drake



Francis Drake – Good solid engaging Euro

Francis Drake is a good solid Euro with two parts to the game. Firstly you travel once around a circuit (Plymouth) stopping on action spaces. This feels a little like Glen Moore: should you jump ahead to grab the one you really want? But by doing so you take away the potential to do the actions you jump over...or do you wait and grab more actions but potentially lose the one you really really want? These are the sort of agonising delicious decisions I like in a game. After this part of the game has been done you travel with your ships on the map. You rinse and repeat these two parts of the game three times.

There has been criticism that the three rinse & repeats in Francis Drake are too similar, that there is no progression. I disagree, I found that things change a lot each time you travel through Plymouth as your aims for each of the three voyages are different, and so are your opponents.

A good game and one I would happily play again.



Board Game: Imperial 2030



Imperial 2030 – Highly original Euro with 18xx elements

Imperial 2030 is a rondel-based game from Mac Gerdts, he of Concordia fame. It is a very original design whereby you own ‘shares’ in nations and the largest ‘share-holder’ is the controller of that nation. I am not an 18xx player but apparently it is a similar mechanic in that genre of game.

The downside of this is that there may be rounds where you have nothing to do, if you do not control a nation. But the upside is that you have to think very differently from other Euros. You need to anticipate Nations which will be successful and buy into them early, and may be build up enough power in them to take over control. Or you may bleed a nation you control dry in order to get the money out of it and use that to invest in other nations.

Fascinating and a game that demands a different way of thinking from many other Euros.


Board Game: The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire



The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire – Generic engine-builder which dwindles in interest as the game evolves

There is nothing inherently wrong with Manhattan Project: Energy Empire (other than perhaps the gratuitous branding since the game has no link to The Manhattan Project), but there is nothing great about it either.

To be fair the first half of the game is interesting as you build your engine and seek out card combos to get your machine working well. But then rather than rising to a climax the game peters out and you simply end up attempting to trigger your card combos on rinse and repeat auto-pilot. Nothing is difficult or challenging: pollution is easy to get rid of, events are rather uninteresting in their effect, achievements end up being of similar point value, and resources are not difficult to get hold of.

So it all works fine but no more than that. Just OK and easily forgotten.




Board Game: Kingdomino



Kingdomino – Highly deserving and addictive SDJ winner

Kingdomino surprised me. I did not pick it up in Essen 2016 as it was simply too simple looking. But then it won the SDJ, and generally that German jury get their decisions right so I bought a copy for the family holiday.

And this has been a massive success. I played my first game 2 weeks ago with the family and we have now played it over 25 times. I returned from vacation whilst the family carried on holidaying and they have reported that they have carried on playing it non-stop in my absence. Now, this is unprecedented: games in our household generally only get played when I persuade everyone to sit down and play them. To think of them all getting around the table to play KingDomino without me there delights me enormously.

What is the key to its success? Simple rules, interesting binary decisions, and a quick playing time leave us all asking and wanting more and more and more. We played 8 times in a row one evening.

Designing a game of such addictive simplicity is one of the toughest of assignments. All credit to Bruno Cathala. Amazing.




Board Game: Schwupps



Schwupps – Dreary Math Excersise

Amigo card games are small enough to fit in the Essen suitcase. They are also small enough to get lost at the back of the cupboard. I wish Scwupps had stayed there.

This is a poor game which has few redeeming features apart from providing an environment to work on your mental math abilities. Avoid.







Board Game: Team Play



Team Play – Terrific set-building rummy-style partnership card game

This is a great discovery from Essen 2016. You play with a partner, so 4 or 6 players can play. Cards are numbered and appear in one of two colours. Each person has a task card: this may be to make a run of three, or to make 2 blue pairs, or 4 of the same number, or whatever; and there is a single task card for all players to achieve in the centre. On your turn you draw cards from a central pool of turned up cards and, importantly, you can give two cards from your hand to your partner. You are not allowed to communicate with your partner to say what you require. Therefore you must keep your eye on what your partner is drawing, and attempt to work out what they need. Similarly you watch what your opponents are drawing and attempt to draw cards from the pool to deny them the cards they might require.

The game is very easy to explain and very simple in its structure, yet it is very entertaining to play. My largely light gaming family absolutely loved this game, and there are enough decisions in it to make it feel satisfying. The pièce de résistance is the clever interplay between partners which gives the game a wonderfully interactive and fresh feel.



Board Game: Yokohama



Yokohama – Dry, themeless Euro with a wonderful spatial worker-movement race system

I love a dry Euro and am not too concerned when it is presented with very little theme as is the case here. There is a lot to love about Yokohama. The way you travel around the board building up the power in your actions, racing to get the one-off bonuses, avoiding your opponents, all the time watching the end-game ticking ever closer and inevitably not quite getting the time to do quite what you intended to do.

Yokohama, whilst not offering anything obviously innovative, does what it does in such an interesting way that it feels all fresh and lovely. And the deluxe edition components are just the best.




Board Game: The Colonists



The Colonists – An epic Uwe Rosenberg game, but designed by Tim Puls

I played a 4-era game of The Colonists with four people. It lasted 8 hours and we are all quick players. It is that sort of game. Yes there are ways of setting it up to play just one or two eras but to do the game justice, and to feel the epic arc of the game, you should set a day aside to play.

It could have been designed by Rosenberg, so Rosenberg-like it is in the way workers move around resource-conversion action spaces.
Despite the fact that the game only slowly evolves and has a quietly developing arc, it does not drag at all, which is quite something. Downtime is present but by no means a problem as turns are relatively fast.

Given Rosenberg is probably my all-time fave designer it was no surprise that I enjoyed the game a lot, given that his designs are written all over it. But the downside is the game length, not because it doesn’t warrant that sort of extended playing time, but it is just hard to set aside such a time for playing a game.



Board Game: Fugitive



Fugitive – A quick 2-player game of deduction

I do not enjoy deduction games, I just don’t get them. This is entirely a deduction game. It is fine for the ten minutes it lasts, but it left me not wanting much more.







Board Game: Automobiles



Automobiles – Bag-building race game let down by downtime in the end-game

There are not enough race games published these days, they are few and far between. So it was with some excitement I played Automobiles.

It starts off really well as you build your bag-engine and watch the race develop. The downside is that by the time you get toward the end of the game, a few laps later, each person is pulling many cubes from the bag and the combos which entail mean that turns last a long time, with players moving a long way around the track in a fiddly sequence of movements. Maybe we should have played a couple of laps fewer, that may solve this issue. Whatever, it left me not wanting to play it again.




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



First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express! – Russian Railroads, the card game

Caveat: I have only played the basic module. First Class is a clever Euro game. It shares a little with its cousin Russian Railroads, particularly the way points escalate rapidly in the end-game. And herein lies the issue with it for me: those end turns get rather complex, and with the various paths you can take and triggers you can release, the turns can take a long long time. With four players the downtime in the last round is looooong.

First Class is a game which is clever, and I appreciate the clever design, but I really do not love it. It feels a little soulless.




Board Game: Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire in Turmoil, 235-284 AD


Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire in Turmoil, 235-284 AD – Dominion and Risk have a complicated child

I am no war gamer and I dislike dice rolling to determine outcomes. But Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire in Turmoil, 235-284 AD intrigued me as it is, at heart, a deck builder.
Just maybe, I thought, it is a Euro in War Game clothing? But even though you are building a deck, the game still has the confrontation of a war game, something which I don’t enjoy, and it has the resolution of confrontation with dice, another problem for me. This, it turns out, is a war game in Euro clothing. It is a little like a Martin Wallace deck-building war game (A Few Acres of Snow, Mythotopia) with dice chucked in.

The game works and you do get a feel for the political chaos and upheaval during the Fall of the Roman Empire. But that is not quite enough to make up for the destructive random battles which ensue.
I am glad I played it, and I enjoyed the game, and it reminded me that, however much Euro-baggage you add on to a war-game, a war game is still a war game.




Board Game: Mythotopia



Mythotopia – Good multi-player version of A Few Acres of Snow with an unsatisfying end-game

Mythotopia is a great game, right up till the last round. Then Martin Wallace appears to have rushed the game out before he had found a resolution to end the game. As it is in the rules it does not work as it could yield a situation where the game just goes on and on, as you have to be winning at the start of your turn for the game-end to be triggered, and everyone will work to prevent that during the round. But ways of overcoming this don’t work either, and clearly Mr.Wallace found this too, so the rules as written were better than any of the other options he had.

But that aside, the game is excellent and really takes deck building to a new level in multi-player, as did A Few Acres of Snow for 2 player. I understand that A Handful of Stars takes the essence of this game and creates a better end-game experience. I have the game but have not yet played it.


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8. Board Game: Dice Stars [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:2366]
Board Game: Dice Stars
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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I played 5 new-to-me games, and Dice Stars was the easy winner of the month. My wife went to a FLGS going out of business sale and bought these 3 games: Zip-It, Colorio, and Find It Deluxe Edition, which I thought the first two merely OK and the last one stunk, and I also played Coffee Roaster, which I didn't care for.
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9. Board Game: Professor Evil and The Citadel of Time [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:2538]
Board Game: Professor Evil and The Citadel of Time
Jeff Wolfe
United States
Columbus
Ohio
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Seems like I've played a disproportionate number of new games in recent months. One might seek to blame August on GenCon, but of the 9 new to me games, less than half (4) were at GenCon.

Go Nuts for Donuts - 1 play
First Published 2017
Cute little filler. I suppose I'll play it if someone brings it out.

Onitama - 1 play
First Published 2014
I remember checking this in when it was added to the Board Room library at Origins. My play was an entirely unrelated copy in an entirely unrelated circumstance. The mechanism for legal moves is interesting, but the game ultimately is too chess-like for me. The box is clever but annoying to manage.

Dragonwood - 1 play
First Published 2015
Reasonably fun. The luck of the draw seems to be a significant factor.

Jaipur - 1 play
First Published 2009
A game that's been around a while that I've somehow never played. Collect cards and trade them in for points. Two player. I would happily play it again if you want.

Heimlich & Co. - 1 play
First Published 1984
I went to log a play of "Top Secret Spies" and apparently it's a retheme of this old SdJ winner. Meh. Not a fan of the take-that mechanic.

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc - 1 play
First Published 2018
Played in prototype form in the GenCon exhibit hall. We played a Werewolves vs. Knight/Priest scenario. I was wearing a wolf t-shirt (also note my name) so we switched it up so I could be the wolves. Went down to the final battle with the werewolf in the church crypt. Sort of that light wargame genre that don't play much but tend to enjoy in retrospect.

Cobra Paw - 1 play
First Published 2017
One of those super light games you can jump into in the middle. I wandered by this being demoed in the GenCon exhibit hall. I got a thing, then I rolled the dice, then I lost my thing then someone won. Maybe too much like Set for me but there are worse things to do if you've got 5 or 10 minutes to kill.

Magic Maze - 1 play
First Published 2017
A pretty co-opy co-op. You're trying to move pawns around the board, and each person can move in a different direction. Timed. Generally, no talking. You just have this pawn that you can move in front of someone to say, "Hey, dummy, you have an important move to make but I can't tell you what it is." I could see it being good with the right group and extremely frustrating with someone who isn't good at it.

Professor Evil and The Citadel of Time - 1 play
First Published 2017
I wanted to demo this in the exhibit hall Saturday, but got distracted by a Splendor demo. I had seen it earlier and it seemed interesting. It turns out that I'm a fan of co-ops. Fortunately, I was able to play the game later that night with a copy purchased by a friend. Fun times. Looks to have some replayability.
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10. Board Game: Unlock!: Escape Adventures – The Formula [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:1050]
Board Game: Unlock! The Formula
The Witcherlorian
Australia
KILLARA
VIC
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A better month of New Games this August, which tend to fall more of the light-family side of the ledger.

New to Me

d10-1 Unlock! The Formula

The Formula was our first foray into the Unlock! series of Escape Room games now flooding the market, after having played Escape Room: The Game.

This felt less deep overall of the two but no less thematically engaging. What does that mean? I have no idea. I found the puzzles here quite clever in how they were executed and the free App that ties the game play together was very well done.

So from a design standpoint I rate them about the same. The Formula was still a tense experience and that time-clock pressure is always awesome.

For me though I think I liked Escape Room experience a little more, but this was still very enjoyable. Why? Perhaps I liked having more physical stuff to play around with and explore. Annie though preferred Unlock! as a gaming experience, finding the way they used 'a deck of cards' and the App to be rather ingenious. She appreciated the simplified elegance of the delivery mechanism I suppose.

I highly recommend any puzzle solving and/or co-op fans give the Unlock! series a go. We also found the game to be fine with 4 players (ourselves and another gaming friend couple).



d10-2 Oceanos
Board Game: Oceanos


I had been looking forward to this one for a while and finally got it for my birthday. Did it live up to those expectations?...well somewhat. I am something of a Antoine Bauza fan so I should have expected something on the lighter side of the scale, which Oceanos is. The game is gorgeous to look at, possibly falling into the 'overproduced' category, but really, who doesn't want a lovely looking game.

The jury is still somewhat out on this one for me after only one play. It does fall into the Family Game side of the Euro equation for sure, but there is an elegance to the play and scoring mechanisms as well that makes it very easy to grasp when learning.

Essentially the game requires its players to upgrade their submarine in various ways in order to better explore the depths of the ocean as you look to uncover treasures, observe different animal species and discover beds of coral reef.

The game is super tight and can never be accused of overstaying its welcome and there is a light card drafting mechanism that makes the players consider what they are keeping and what they are passing on.

I would always be happy to play Oceanos when others ask for it but at this point it wouldn't be a game I would reach for ahead of slightly deeper medium-level games. That sad Annie and Sally loved the heck out of this as a really accessible gateway game.

I look forward to seeing how it plays with 2-players.



d10-3 Bohnanza: The Duell
Board Game: Bohnanza: The Duel


It's rare for me to not have strong opinions on a game after an initial play but Bohnanza: The Duell is the second title this month that has me on the fence.

I am in the minority, I suspect, when I say that I really didn't mind the original game's rules for 2-players and have played it many times that way. That said Bohnanza has been crying out for a dedicated 2-player format for a long time.

After one play I'm not so sure this is what I'd hoped for, but it may grow on me yet. In this incarnation of the 'great bean game' the players are able to plant fields that have different varieties of beans and in doing so they hope to fulfill bonus cards to earn additional gold. The game also allows your opponent to offer up bean cards to try and foul up your plans.

This may well take half a dozen plays to settle on my final feelings but it hasn't blown me away just yet and multi-player Bohnanza is still where it is at for me.



d10-4 Unlock! Squeek and Sausage
Board Game: Unlock!: Escape Adventures – Squeek & Sausage


I'll leave my general comments on the approach of the Unlock! series above under 'The Formula'.

This one drops in rating simply because it was our second game in the series and therefore the core mechanisms were not as new and fresh, offering up much the same challenge, albeit with a thematic and visual new varnish.

It was still enjoyable, although perhaps a little easier (probably because we were now more comfortable with how things worked). The theme and artwork really reminded me of a Day of the Tentacle or Sam and Max production, sadly without the humour of those games.

I enjoyed this although one puzzle really had us stumped towards the end and almost felt...cheaty...in a way. But you have to appreciate the humour in that particular puzzle's execution and it did have us saying, 'Right...dammit...the gloves are off. We now know that anything goes in this series'. And that was a good thing.

Next up is the final game in the original trilogy 'The Island of Doctor Gorse'.

Again this was fine with 4 players. One thing that will always be debated amongst gamers is if the game is worth $25 (In Australia anyway) for a 1-play experience. For me the answer is yes, provided you enjoy such experiences, but I intend to get more bang for my by inviting other gaming family and friends to play the game while we watch on with popcorn to see how they fare. I expect to get at least 3-4 plays out of the game in this way and then I can decide if I keep it to play in 10 years time or trade the series out.



d10-5 Tem-Purr-A
Board Game: Tem-Purr-A


IELLO has fast become a publisher that my gaming group is liking. This is largely due to the polished visual productions they are producing and the fact that they are oftentimes aiming for the gateway and light-medium gaming market.

So it was that Annie saw cute cats on a lovely white IELLO mini-box and before you knew it we had this one in the collection.

Ok so this is no Kanagawa, instead it is a filler\party game that plays in 10 minutes and utilises a push-your-luck theme.

For me this is a pass. There are much better games in the P-Y-L style and this one can even break down a little if players mindlessly add more Indigestion Cards to the deck when it is low on cards, which takes away the tension.

As a drinking game it might work better and this could be good for playing with children or non-gaming family members. Gamers should steer clear of this one though.

For those wanting a little more depth on this one - check out my review here -

Tem-Purr-A - A Light Review



New to Me - Expansions

d10-6 Star Wars: Imperial Assault - Chewbacca Ally Pack
Board Game: Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Chewbacca Ally Pack


It can be really hard to rate these expansion packs as they offer up content that is used in different forms of the game. On the whole though, Fantasy Flight does a great job in making these worth the investment.

My first use of this pack came via the included Side Mission, which sees the band of Rebel heroes trying to help Chewwie stop the Empire from enslaving Wookies. It was a well balanced mission that came right down to the last roll of the dice for our group.
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11. Board Game: Vast: The Crystal Caverns [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:576] [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked]
Board Game: Vast: The Crystal Caverns
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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This month, I've been fortunate enough to play 3 new games and 1 new expansion. As is my custom, I'll list them in decreasing order of my current enthusiasm, and with games before expansion.


Vast: The Crystal Caverns -- (2 plays) _7⅓_
Board Game: Vast: The Crystal Caverns
Board Game: Vast: The Crystal Caverns
(images by hglcky & A Quiet Bump)

This seems a charmingly old-school game in some respects. It's not designed for a modern "I'll give it one shot" sensibility: instead, I expect it's a game that needs to be played a bunch of times before it shines. My two games give a bit of that gradient: the number of rules lookups in the first game were many multiples of the second game; and the latter third of the second game much faster than the first third.

And it's not simply about playing correctly: there's also that glorious multiplayer balance point (where each character has the ability to manipulate a few - but not all - of the others. And getting that right will take practice, too. I wouldn't be surprised if it would take us a dozen plays to be any good at it.

So the question is: will we persist at it? Or will we just give up? For my part, I'm finding it increasingly amusing: it wouldn't surprise me to see twenty plays in the next year (and a much-improved rating); nor would it surprise me to see a few plays (and a relatively-unmoved rating.) No idea which will win out.


Greener -- (2 plays) _7_
Board Game: Greener
Board Game: Greener
(both images by nestorgames)

I think I like the 3p game Green better; though this is still quite amusing. It offers a DVONN-lite feel (an imperfect metaphor at best: the games are only vaguely similar); which isn't at all bad. Quite possible it could grow in my estimation with more practice.


Honshū -- (1 play) _6⅔_
Board Game: Honshū
Board Game: Honshū
(images by Camdin & mpalframan)

It's attractive in play; quite clever; and a tiny bit reminiscent of 江戸屋敷 (for the card aesthetics); Patchistory for the mechanism of mutating one's tableau; and a bit more of a Feld-ian "score points in the following ninety-three ways" than I probably wanted.

I'd likely be happy to play again (I couldn't do much worse than my first shot at it; so there's the possibility of some modest redemption there); but I don't expect it's something I'd buy.


Hansa Teutonica: Britannia -- (1 play) _7⅔_
Board Game: Hansa Teutonica: Britannia
Board Game: Hansa Teutonica: Britannia
(images by W Eric Martin & milenaguberinic)

Ok; I liked this play better than any of the other New Things this month. So why is it last?

Tradition!

Or a conviction that - in general - expansions aren't really a good thing. I've damaged too many games by adding expansions that give too many options for how to play. And many expansions are at their best when one has developed sufficient expertise with the base game that things need to be changed up. My normal opponents prefer to play very many games a few times each in any given year: so we don't develop the facility with anything to be able to use many expansions well.

This one has some merit: the game was tight and interesting with it in play. There was a small additional-rules load (so my colleages for this play - both who had played the base map with me in the preceding couple weeks - didn't have much trouble coming to grips with the mutations.) It was absolutely interesting.

And much of that, I fear, is as much of the fault of the base game. Which is yet another reason for it to be consigned to the end of my list. Even if it was cool (it was!) and likely an improvement on a fine base game (yes, again) the magnitude and significance of that "improvement" is still pretty small.


Thanks again to my youngsters, the BAP attenders, the Lunch@Work folk, and the Wednesday Night gang for some great game experiences.
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12. Board Game: The Fox in the Forest [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:414]
Board Game: The Fox in the Forest
Will Plante
United States
Greenville
Rhode Island
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I played a ton of games in August (over 100), but thankfully most of those plays were games I already know and enjoy. The highlight of the month was definitely The Manhattan Project. I'm continuing to struggle with constantly playing new games, especially at meet ups. I understand people get new games and want to play them, I do the same thing, but I am trying to find a balance so that games keep getting repeated play.



My favorite game of the month

Board Game: The Fox in the Forest
The Fox in the Forest -> 5 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

The Fox in the Forest is an excellent 2p trick taking game that follows the basic structure of classic trick takers. The designer did an excellent job of coming up with enough twists to create a deeply strategic trick taker for only two players. In the game there are three suits which are numbered 1 - 11 and all of the odd numbered cards have a special ability that triggers when the card is played. While the abilities are straight forward i.e. playing a 3 allows you to change the trump suit), they create a lot of opportunity for clever play. All of the abilities are directly tied to the normal game play features found in classic trick takers and not a collection of random rules that would leave you wondering if the game is a trick taker at all. Even for experienced card players it'll take a few plays to wrap your head around the game and newbies will be at a serious disadvantage; which is a testament to the amount of depth to be uncovered through repeated play.

The way scoring works each round will eliminate any complaint of the random card deal. To score the optimal number of points (6) you either want to take 0-3 or 7-9 out of 13 tricks. Take 10+ tricks and you score 0. IF you score between 4-6 tricks you'll get a few points, more the closer you get to 7. Each round you need to evaluate your hand and decide whether the strength of your hand is taking or passing tricks, which forms the basis of your strategy for the round.

I've only played The Fox in the Forest five times, but it is definitely a game I want keep playing to uncover the different strategies. I truly appreciate designers that can achieve so much with so little; who knew that you only needed three suits and thirty three cards to make an excellent 2p trick taking game?!



Board Game: Valeria: Card Kingdoms – Flames & Frost
Valeria: Card Kingdoms – Flames & Frost Expansion -> 5 plays with the expansion

Initial thoughts and rating (10):

Valeria: Card Kingdoms - Flames and Frost expands the base game by adding more of everything, which in my opinion is the perfect expansion for this type of game. The expansion includes one new set of citizens for each number, five monster decks and a bunch of dukes and domains.

Overall most of the characters/dukes have add new twist based on the powers/scoring of the previous citizens/dukes. A few more of the dukes now give points based on defeating monsters, a couple of them give points for killing certain types of monsters (the symbols on the monsters are now important). The domains add some new take that abilities which either flip cards over so you no longer benefit from that card or removing a card from play. If you don't like the domains that feature the take that element you can easily take them out of the deck and still have plenty of new domains to mix in.

The new monsters are by far my favorite part of the expansion; they ratcheted up the difficulty of the monsters significantly. This makes it much harder to rush the end game if you play with the tougher monsters. Most of the new monster decks have creatures that require a lot more magic than in the previous set making magic a much more needed commodity.

If you add in The Expansion Pack #5 - Monster Reinforcements the monsters decks get even more difficult to fight through. There is a sub boss for each monster deck (including the one's from the base game and Undead Samurai) which get placed into each monster deck right before the boss. These monsters add another tough monster to each deck and offer some really good rewards. In the original game we usually played with the same monster decks because we found some of them to be too weak and easy to defeat making games end too quickly for our taste. Between the added sub bosses for each deck and the new monster decks you can create a really hard challenge for those players looking to slay monsters as their main source of VPs.

I couldn't be happier with this expansion, it adds adds a lot more variety to an already excellent game. Valeria Card Kingdoms has become one of the most played games in my house, in the last five months we've already played 27 times. This is a must buy expansion if you are a fan of Valeria Card Kingdoms and if you haven't played I'd recommend checking it out. This is by far the best game in the Valeria series and the only one that's still in my collection.



Board Game: The Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

I'd never had an opportunity to play Manhattan Project and after playing was completely surprised to find out it is a tableau/engine building game that introduces an interesting twist to the worker placement genre.

In an nutshell you are using three types of workers to buy/build buildings and then use those buildings to carry out various actions (hiring more workers, mining yellow cake, converting yellow cake into Uranium or Plutonium) which all leads to building atomic bombs which is how you score points and win the game. There is a lot more nuance to the game, but I want to focus on what sets The Manhattan Project apart from other WP games and that is how workers are deployed and returned to your supply.

On your turn you can take one of two actions. First you can place a worker to the main board and take the associated action. Once you take that action you are free to activate as many of the buildings as you have built in your own tableau. This becomes the crux of the game as you are trying to build the best buildings to help create an efficient engine that you can keep running. The second thing you can do on your turn is recall all of your workers, with from the main board and your tableau of buildings. The decision to recall workers is extremely important because that is all you do on that turn and you have now opened up all of those buildings for other players to use; they can even use your buildings via the espionage action.

The only other mechanic I want to touch on is the fighter/bomber mechanic. You can attack other players via the air raid action during which you can destroy other fighters with your fighters or use bombers to damage your opponents building(s). The damaged building becomes unusable until they take an action and spend money to repair it. This may sound harsh, but similar to a cold war, the threat of retaliation is always looming over you once you spend your resources in an attack. No one got bombed in our game although it should have happened since this is the only way to slow down someone who has built a superior engine and needs to be brought back to the pack. This will definitely be the most divisive aspect of the game for some players, personally it didn't bother me.

Your enjoyment of The Manhattan project will largely depend on whether or not you enjoy tableau/engine building games that have an inherent race element to them. I really enjoyed my play and also went out and bought a copy, but then I found out about The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire which eliminates the take that part of the game and appears to offer a deeper game play experience. I would still recommend trying out Manhattan Project if you haven't played before; I'm looking forward to playing again.



Board Game: Slapshot
Slapshot -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

I had heard a lot about Slapshot from a buddy (Mat), specifically the tournament at the WBC (in which he came in 3rd place this year). When Mat had some folks over for his birthday he ended up busting this out, who could unseat the champ?

The artwork is great, each hockey player is a parody of a different character, mostly from movies and comics. The game play is simple, imagine the card game war with the ability to trade cards from your hand. Therefore any fun you will have playing the game will be completely dependent on the people you play with. Slapshot serves as the perfect vehicle to have some laughs and bust your friends chops. Needless to say we had a blast, and in the end I was able to emerge victorious after Mat's wife and I battled for the cup!

Where does that leave the game for me? I could see playing this with my family at holidays and having a lot of fun, but I think it would tank at a meet up unless folks at the table embraced the silliness. Slapshot is definitely a game worth experiencing at least once and one I'd recommend for family get togethers.



Board Game: Go Nuts for Donuts
Go Nuts for Donuts -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

I was really excited to play Go Nuts for Donuts, but I had missed out on the Kickstarter. Once I heard Gamewright picked up publishing rights I decided to wait till it came out in stores to pick it up. Fortunately I got to play this a buddy's house and came to realize that it isn't nearly as much fun as I thought it'd be.

Comparisons will be made to Sushi Go/Sushi Go Party and while they are warranted there are some big differences between the two games. The similarities are the cute theme/art work (I actually prefer the art in Sushi Go), both are very light gateway games and in each game you are collecting sets of cards that will score points in a variety of ways.

On to the differences; while Sushi Go Party is a standard draft format in GNfD each person has a set of bidding cards. The bidding cards correspond to the numbered tiles set up on the table. Each round every numbered tile gets a donut card placed under it. Each player then selects a numbered selection card from their hand, then those cards are revealed simultaneously in the row. If you are the only person to play that number you take the donut card associated with that number; if multiple people play the same number you discard the donut card and folks that played that card get nothing!

During our 5p game there were a lot of cards discarded; one person ended the game with 6 cards to her name (the highest total was 14). There is potentially some strategy to choosing your bidding card, except the donut card abilities are sometimes useless so no one wants to select them which therefore narrows the pool of cards you can choose from. The different card powers are where this game falls apart for me, they just aren't anywhere near as interesting as Sushi Go Party.

I'd also argue that Go Nuts for Donuts is probably the more difficult game to teach as well, which for me is the final nail in the coffin. When considering how light both Go Nuts for Donuts and Sushi Go are, Sushi Go manages to have much more variety in card abilities and more depth to the decisions. I also much prefer the card draft in Sushi Go. I do think a lot of folks will be attracted to game because of the theme and artwork, so Gamewright probably has another hit on their hands. And while I would play again it's no longer a game I am interested in adding to to our collection.



Board Game: The Golden Sails
The Golden Sails -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

This was a pretty good drafting game that I think would be much better with more players. There is definitely room for screwing your opponent(s) as long as you are paying attention to what they want and which types of cards they can still claim. I also appreciate how each game will have different rules regarding how certain symbols will score. I'd definitely play again, but still much prefer 7 Wonders which I would say is comparable in terms of weight and game length.



Board Game: Portal of Heroes
Portal of Heroes + Portal of Heroes: Diamonds -> 2 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

Portal of Heroes is a set collection card game reminiscent of Splendor (albeit much lighter); you are collecting one resource (jewels numbered 1 - 8) in order to buy cards that will grant you points and/or special abilities. Portal of Heroes is a good game to play with kids; all of the cards you are trying to collect are characters from fairy tales and movies (like LotR), the supporting artwork is great, the rules are straight forward and easy to learn and the game moves along at a quick pace.

In Portal of Heroes you are racing to get 12+ points in hero cards, so hand management/card efficiency is key. At most you can have two heroes in your tableau that you are trying to build by collecting the right combination/sequence of numbers. And as you build cards they may grant special abilities which can also influence how you play. There is opportunity for hate drafting since once a card is claimed your opponent can't steal it, so paying attention to the jewel cards your opponent is collecting is important. Some hero cards will also grant you diamonds (the jewel cards have diamonds on the back) which can be used to manipulate the numbers on your jewel cards to help you complete hero cards.

Again; there isn't anything complex happening in Portal of Heroes, everything makes sense and the rules are quite intuitive. However; that doesn't mean this is a great game, to be honest I've found it to be kind of boring.
There just isn't enough interaction to make the game feel like anything but a solitaire puzzle that you are racing to finish against some other folks. Most of the heroes award points and the special abilities aren't all that exciting. Once in a while you may be able to combo a few moves together, but it is in large part determined by whether or not the few cards that offer some mildly interesting mechanics come out. So would I recommend this game? Maybe for families looking for some next step games beyond children's games. If you like Splendor and have kids then this is a no brainer; part of my indifference towards the game is that I'm not a fan of pure efficiency/race games.

As an aside I definitely prefer it over Splendor, which I'll admit is the more thought provoking game but is also so dry that I don't have any desire to play it.

Portal of Heroes: Diamonds Promo:

This is simply a bunch of diamond tokens that you can choose to take when you would normally receive a diamond card. Besides using them to manipulate the number values of jewels they each have a jewel number or special ability on the back. The problem is that out of twenty, sixteen are just a jewel with a number that may or may not be helpful, the other four can be used to take an extra action which is helpful. If all of the tokens had some different special abilities this would be a must buy and make the base game better, as it stands Portal of Heroes: Diamonds is a pass for me.



Board Game: Avalanche at Yeti Mountain
Avalanche at Yeti Mountain -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (4):

Avalanche at Yeti Mountain is a push your luck game that uses a race track to keep score. There really wasn't much to the game; your choices are limited by the few cards you could play from your hand. The higher the number the further you go with the caveat being if all the values of the cards play exceeds the speed limit the person(s) playing the highest number only move forward one. There were plenty of times I only had low cards so there wasn't much for me to do and surprisingly we only exceeded the speed limit a couple of times making the race relatively anti climactic. The Yeti is controlled by the person in last place, but it really didn't seem to balance the game. My daughter was in last place through out the game and controlling the yeti didn't help her.

Game play is extremely light and could easily be played by kids; in fact I think this would be best to play with younger kids. There really wasn't enough going on for me to want to play it with other folks, including my older kids. I have a lot of other card games I'd much rather play that have more depth and are still quick to play that my youngest can also play (Coloretto comes to mind as a very different, but much better card game). I'm sure some folks will really enjoy what it offers, but it is a pass for me.



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 to simplify things for me. 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 use a split rating, I use the lower number in the BGG database.

10 -> A classic that defines a genre.
8 -> The evergreens, games I always enjoy playing.
6 -> Not a poor rating, just an average one.
4 -> A game I don't enjoy playing and/or has a theme I really don't like.
2 -> A game I really dislike and will not play again.
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13. Board Game: Bärenpark [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:285]
Board Game: Bärenpark
David B
United States
Virginia
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Board Game: Bärenpark

Bärenpark
Another game where you cover your boards with tetris style pieces. This one is much more fun and interesting to me than AFfO (see below). It is simple, but it is a much more focused game. The randomly drawn goals are nearly essential. I'm not sure how much replay value it has in the end; I think Patchwork actually has more replay value. I'm also a bit disappointed with how tedious the set up is. Regardless, this is a game I could see being played several times a year.


Board Game: A Feast for Odin

A Feast for Odin
I had an enjoyable evening playing this game, but that was due more to the company than the game. As to the game itself, I don't understand all the salivating over it. It has basically the same goal as Patchwork or Cottage Garden: cover your player board(s) with pieces of various shapes and sizes as efficiently as you can. Except here, there is just too much stuff on the table. There is a horrendously ugly and crowded action space board in the middle of the table with all the worker placement/action spots. The spaces are organized by type, but I still feel like there are just too many spaces available. There is a minor twist to the worker placement mechanic in that some spaces require more workers to activate. But we have seen this twist before and, IMO, better done. Hence I think the entire worker placement mechanism in this game is tired, bloated, and bland. Patchwork was brilliant; this game is simply overwrought.




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

First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express!
Liked it quite a bit better than Russian Railroads and look forward to playing it again. The graphic design on the cards could have been more clear. And I am also sad to see ZMAN is the US distributor for this game which means it will be OOP possibly forever very soon.
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14. Board Game: W1815 [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:2378]
Board Game: W1815
Tiago Perretto
Brazil
Curitiba
Parana
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A good amount of new to me games!



Board Game: W1815
W1815

Oh, boy, did I got surprised by W1815! It is a truly simple wargame: each side does a single action, whose result usually is resolved by a single die roll - and this normally do casualties or lower the moral for one or both sides. Play goes like this until the lost of troops lead to an automatic retreat of an army, or when the moral roll for one side fails, also leading to retreat of an army. Yet, this gives doesn't give the winner (of the battle, sure, but, say, not of the war).

And the mechanics, in spite of being highly efficient in producing a dynamic play environment, fun and interactive, that allows for decisions each turn, aren't what impressed me the most. This feat goes to the thematic care that I saw: the great simplicity of the game didn't came at the expense of making it mostly abstract or absurd towards its theme. Some compromises had to be taken, yes, but, overall, the direct and short rules actually works to bring the theme to the forefront: from the late arrival of the prussian army; passing by almost personal dispute between some corps of the opposing armies; the envolviment of three key locations - La Haye Sainte, Hougoumont and Plancenoit; the reactions of some parts of the army due to the actions of others (such as the 1st Corp, under Orange's command, forming a square and giving advantage to D'Erlon); and other delicious tidbits of historical theme. Even the way scoring works has thematic reasoning.

Overall, W1815 was a sensational find - from opening, to playing and putting it away, it will take around 20-25 minutes, while giving varied options for both side throughout the play. Yes, it has low complexity and luck in the die rolls - still I see these more like a feature, in order to keep the game light, agile and without worries, just plain fun. Highly recommended!

Rate: 8 / 10



Board Game: Coal Baron
COAL BARON

Coal Baron is a work placement game, and is filled with good ideas: the mechanics for placement and the varied effects of spots, specially the lift and the possibility of using a space already occupied by paying more workers, used to the gather resources, work very well, provinding opportunities, indirect interaction (non agressive; mainly blocking or raising costs), and different strategies.

Even when allowing for several paths to victory and a good amount of decisions, the pacing of the gameplay is agile: each player only makes one action at a time, and the play itself last for a quite intense three rounds - the room for mistakes and delays is narrow, and there isn't catch up mechanism to help someone that lag behind. Coal Baron isn't a punitive game, but won't help you get out of a hole.

Overall, Coal Baron is nicely efficient, providing space for different strategies to take place, interaction in the right dose, fast turns making for a speedy play, and little room for blunders - not all plans will work and adjustments must be made quickly. Coal Baron has inteligent and effective mechanisms, and goes well recommended.

Rate: 7.5 / 10



Board Game: Keltis
KELTIS

About Keltis:

1) What is it?
Keltis is a set collection and push your luck board game, basically going one step further than that of Lost Cities , not only in options, but also in number of players: now up to four. The goal changed: from the cards themselves earning points, to using cards to advance on tracks and gaining points from bonuses along the path and due to the place the player's markers are and the end of the play.

In Keltis players have more control over their destiny, still needing some luck in the draw of cards, but spots that allow for a free advancement, the possibility of starting a path with high cards and going down and the having two cards of each number, counter the randomness to a point.

The production value is OK: the board, tokens and cards are serviciable - nothing really stands out, for bad or for good. Replay value is high: the randomness of the draw deck and the random set up for the bonuses and stones make for a fine amount of variation between plays.

2) How do you play?
There are five tracks, each of a color. In each some tokens are randomly added - the tokens are of three types: extra advancement, luck stone and bonus points. After the set up, each player receives 8 cards. Every player have 4 small markers and one big marker.

To advance in a track the player simply plays a card of the corresponding color. To start in a track, any color will do, but afterwards, the player must either go up in number, down or be the same. Once a direction (up or down) is definied, the player must always follow it - therefore, with the progression of the game, some cards won't be able to be added to your set of cards.

Instead of using a card to advance in a track, the player can discard a card from hand. This card will be available to the other players to draw, instead of drawing from the deck. After the player either played or discarded a card, she can draw from the deck or one discarded card - then her turn is over.

If a player reaches a token in a track, she gains its ability immediately - the extra advancement and the bonus points tokens remain in the board; the luck stones are taken by the players and will be worth points at the end of the game.

The first three spots in each track are worth negative points.

Play ends as soon as a number of markers pass a scoring frontier. Each small marker will give the points equal to the place they are in (which can be negative) - the big marker will earn double the points. Sets of luck stones will also be worth points - and player without them or too few, will lose points instead.

The player with the most points will be the winner!

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
- Which track to risk. This takes into consideration not only the cards in hand (not onyl, but mostly), but also what the track itself has: the tokens it has and what positions. Later in the game is also possible to see what cards the other player already used and what are your chances of going in the distance in a given track;
- When and what card to discard. In order to give yourself more room to grow, discard a card instead of playing one can be the right choice. Still, giving an open card to someone else, more than in Lost Cities, can give and important edge - therefore, one must choose carefully;
- Where to advance. The token that allows for an extra advancement does its thing in any track, meaning is possible to estimate the possibilities of going better or worse in a given track, using the bonus advancement to prevent negative points, to reach a luck stone, etc.

The decisions, on themselves, aren't hard to make, but the push your luck aspect and the uncertainty of getting the needed cards, add some extra tension to them.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Easy to teach and to play;
- Language independent;
- Escales well from 2 to 4 players;
- Works both for family and with board gamers;
- Downtime normally isn't an issue, even when playing with 4.

5) Which are the bad news?
- Luck of the draw can decide the winner;
- Some frustration may be in order, when luck (and your plans) fails you.

6) How do you feel while playing?
Like in a contest of how many times can you play a card, draw a card that now you can't play and that you could use instead of the one you just did, and not curse out loud. It is truly harder than it seems. Not everyone can handle well this exercize in frustration and, if you don't, avoid Keltis might be the way to go.

Overall, Keltis is an easy going game, with a racing aspect to get the luck stones, and loads of pushing your luck around - not every plan will find its mark nor every risk decision will fail. Still, the pacing is good, there are choices to be made and all inside a short playing time frame. If you like Lost Cities, there is little chance with going wrong with Keltis.

Rate: 7 / 10



Board Game: 51st State: Master Set
51ST STATE: MASTER SET

51st State: Master Set is a game in which players use cards in varied ways in order to build locations, raze places and make deals (not among themselves). The purpose is to achieve points, since the person with the most of them at the end will be the winner.

The main positive point in 51st State: Master Set is the three distinct ways players can use the cards: to build places (which can be for product, feature or action), to turn them into deals (generating a smaller, but safe and constant production), or to raze the place (gaining a one-shot of several resources). This allows for a wealth of options each turn, with many possibilities and choices. Few are the cards that are without use, even when considering the unique paths players are going for.

The interaction in the game comes in two forms: a friendly one, when a person uses an "open production" building of someone else, which earns the owner one worker, and gives the production of the card to the one activating. And one destructive, with direct attacks on locations of others - is basically the raze action, just not in a card in hand, but, instead, in a card in play. This affects the player attacked in two ways: the lost of whatever the building did and the loss of 1 point (active locations at the end of the game are worth 1 point each). Yet, the place razed turns into a fundation, making it easier to build another one on its place - and doing this is worth 1 point, which basically nullifies the second problem of receiving an attack. Of course, when considering direct attacks, there is the possibility of bashing a leader (and the points someone has is clearly evident), and of some kingmaking. Still, is valid to mention that attacks to other players are costly and can't be done often due to this - also, there are ways to protect further a place, by increasing its defence, and when a player passes and ends her turn, her buildings are immune to attacks. All of this makes the timming of using some locations, cards and actions pretty relevant, which is a big plus.

A play lasts until a player reaches 25 points, which triggers the final round - this can make the time of play be diversed, still, it will, normally, be around 45 to 60 minutes, or less, with 2 players. The pacing is fast, as the actions are simple, clear and quick to be done, without big combos that can lead to long turns.

Overall, 51st State: Master Set is a well knitted game: rich in decisions and in spite of having variable players powers (with the different factions), which can induce to the risk of conducting the play in order to take better advantage of the best aspects of a faction, 51st State: Master Set counts with several paths to victory, mixing strategy and, even more, tatical decisions. 51st State: Master Set is made to have a lively pace, with short downtime, in a struggle for expansion, rebuild and survival, with threats coming from everywhere (you aren't a saint in this future either, mind you). In the end, I enjoyed the flow, the choices and possibilities of 51st State: Master Set. I will definitely play again.

Rate: 7 / 10



Board Game: Legend of Zagor
LEGEND OF ZAGOR

From Legend of Zagor I was expecting bad things: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, in spite of it living in my heart, is a pretty weak game: is a roll and move with loads of luck in combat, the possibility of having to start over (and weaker), in a game that can last quite some time (2+ hours) and, when there are combats, with big downtime, when all you will do, after the wait, is to roll 1 to move and reach nothing, finishing your turn. Is a defective game that shows its age and also how much the renaissance of boards improved the quality of them.

And with Legend of Zagor coming from the same "place", though made by Ian Livingstone instead of Steve Jackson, which explains why it is more videogame than its predecessor, with the eletronic voice of Zagor and the 40k computer controlling random events, the stats of monsters and the attacks of them. When reading the manual I was ready for a bad and boring play, but, once I played it, I saw that, even if Ian does write worst than Steve, he made a better board game.

Legend of Zagor has the movement determined by the player, which moves her pc 1 or 2 spaces. The combat is still dependent on luck, but a little less, due to the way the heroes can prepare themselves (and this is the main difference between them, as the cost of equipament is different depending on the role of the pc) and the smaller variation in the combat power of the creatures. There is also luck spread everywhere: in the encounters in the corridors, in the monsters faced, in the rolls to hit (and be hit), in the random events. Yet, Legend of Zagor is quicker to be resolved: the advancement is faster and the combat, also. And is quicker to collect treasures than to unlock the chest in WoFM. The biggest time-waster is Zagor himself, with his pre-determined descriptions of the monsters before the combat starts.

The main problem with Legend of Zagor is, curiously, an external one: the huge box. This happens because of the (bad) choice of using 3D terrain to make the map (instead of a normal folding board, as used in WoFM), and the inclusion of several miniatures that, amazingly, almost do nothing: they don't move nor serve to indicate the type of creature the hero is facing. They are simply glorified markers to indicate where there are still monsters to be battled and where they were already defeated - humble cardboard markers would do the same job. And there are other megalomaniac parts (such as a bridge, connecting the second level to the third level) and big ornaments (the Portal of Doom and the Skull Hall) without function except adding to the mood and theme (ok, this is relevant, but could be achieved by other, less expensive and smaller means). What is truly essential, considering a normal board instead of the 3D ones, could fit a box 1/3 or 1/4 smaller - maybe even less.

But yes, the miniatures are really well done, with a strong and great classic style. Martin McKenna's art is also awesome and complements the theme beautifully.

Overall, Legend of Zagor is a game with problems, highly luck dependent and unbalanced. Yet, it has a quick resolution, which makes the issues more acceptable. The rulebook even provides two scenarios, in order to allow different objectives, changing the play style and adding replay value.

In the end, Legend of Zagor was unexpectedly satisfying.

Rate: 6.5 / 10



Board Game: Auf Achse
AUF ACHSE

About Auf Achse:

1) What is it?
Auf Achse is a very simple pick and deliver game, also having auctions for the contracts and roll and move.

Its rules can be taught in few minutes and there is little depth to it: simply make the best possible use of your route, usually to start new contracts in the way to a deliver or very near a city were you are already going. The auction even limits the possible bids.

The production value of the brazilian edition is poor - but it is an old game and the standards were different back then; but the mini trucks are nice enough at least.

2) How do you play?
Important: this is based on the new rules of the game, as I was taught them. Players starts with some money and two contracts, and each person decides a city to put the truck. After this, to go around, the player roll two dice and chooses one to use as movement. Numbers can always be used for less - if I roll a 4 I can move only 2. If the player picks a die showing a 1, she can also put a road block in a road, anywhere on the board.

If the truck of a player reaches a city, any city, with the exact number needed in a movement, an auction might take place. The person either chooses one contract to start an auction for it, or discard the first card in the queue. If an auction occurs, the person to the left of the current player starts the bid. Everyone can give only one bid, and the amount to give are fixed on the contract card. Once the round of bidding reaches the current player, she can either don't bid (the person that gave the highest bid wins) or match the highest bid given (the current player wins).

Contracts have three other information: the route (the starting city and the place to deliver), the size of the cargo (usually from 2 to 5; the trucks, without add-ons, can hold a maximum of 6 cargoes), and the amount that will be paid once the contract is done. There are no limit the the amount of contracts a player can have in hand, but open contracts are limited to the capacity of the truck.

During the route, players can end their movement in some special places which activate events. These are resolved immediately - and some are good, and some are bad.

The game ends when there isn't more new contracts to be taken and one player finishes all her contracts. Then the person with the most points will be the winner!

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
There are a few, and all are simple:
- Which dice to use for movement (both to go to places and to trigger events and/or to put a road block);
- Which contract to put to auction (or if to discard a contract);
- How to make the best use of the routes taken (to deliver faster and to be able to start new contracts);
- Which order to start and fulfill the contracts;
- What (and if) to bid in contracts.

As is possible to see the game offers a good range of decisions: they simply aren't hard to make most of the time: the most difficult one is how much to bid, both to put pressure and make others spend more, while also gaining contracts paying as little as possible.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Easy to teach and to play;
- Offers a decent number of decision points, while keeping itself light enough to work as a family game;
- Downtime is lessened by the auctions and, in the late game, without auctions, the pace tends to be fast.

5) Which are the bad news?
- A good amount of randomness coming from the dice to move and event cards;
- Some take that, but not all that much, nor they are crippling;
- Poor production value (for the brazilian edition);
- There are imbalance in the value of the contract to the route and number of goods, but that is why there are auctions for most of them (but not for the starting ones nor some that can be taken by events).

6) How do you feel while playing?
Noticing that pick and deliver have traveled a long way since 1987 and are delivering more nowadays. However, most are of a different weight than Auf Achse, usually being on the high end. But we do have games like Black Fleet and The Great Heartland Hauling Co., that manage to be light and, well, better.

Still, Auf Achse works well as an introduction to pick and deliver games, both in a family environment (the take that isn't too mean) and for gamers groups, as it is so simple, easy to set up, play and tear everything down, alongside a relaxing time with constant (but not hard) decisions. While Auf Achse isn't all that good, and it does feel a little outdated, you could get a lot worst.

Rate: 6 / 10



Board Game: Panamax
PANAMAX

Panamax is an economic and strategic game that uses pick and deliver, worker placement (dice), a companies from which you can buy shares, control investments and pay dividends. As its description mentions, Panamax has a dice (action) selection table, pickup-and-deliver along a single bi-directional route, a chain reaction movement system -“pushing” ships to make room throughout the Canal and player interaction that is part self-interest, part mutual advantage.

It seems rather daunting with all its moving parts and possibilities, yet, when the game is going, the flow is rather steady and easy to grasp - it is the strategic demands and choices with folding effects that make for the depth and challenge of the game.

Panamax has a steep learning curve, as it mixes a strong timming for decisions - when to take a certain dice, when to move a ship, in which order, when to put a cargo on someone else's ship, in which part of the world to put a new ship, or to start an contract, when buy a stock, and so on. There is a lot to think about, and, oh, so little time to do it - the play briskly passes on, giving too few actions for anyone to really feel confortable about what they are doing - there is this constant feeling of dread that the plans won't work, that something will fall short. And the fees for doing things wrong can be huge!

The decision-making process isn't always clear, due to the timming concerns and the fact that everyone takes actions from the same pool of dice, which brings tension to the choices and the importance of prioritizing.

Overall, Panamax gives a lot to think about, even though is malevolent enough to only give a tiny amount of actions to be made during the briskly paced playing time of around 2 hours. For my tastes, I prefer Nippon and Madeira to Panamax, yet this one is also well done, clever and have some unique mechanisms.

Rate: 6 / 10



Board Game: Netrunner
NETRUNNER

Netrunner seemed, to me, a lot like Android: Netrunner. I know that if playing more, much more, there is likely billions of trillions of chances, from texts to card effects, to use of tags, razz, characters and types of Corps in order to give name and special abilities to the sides, and whatnot. Yet, to me, a casual player, it seems almost like a stretch to give A:N the status of a new and separated game.

The relevant core of everything is here: the way to play the cards - the Corps hidding their actions and walls, protecting their areas (R&D, HQ, serves, etc), paying when they are revealed, trying to block, trap or simply give meat of net damage to the Runner, advancing agendas, and so on. With the Runner scrapping for money, activating keys and ice breakers, doing runs in order to razze cards or access agendas. The 3 clicks for Corp actions and the 4 clicks for Runners - with the possibilities being drawing cards, getting credit (money), using cards or actions in cards. I really thought there would be bigger chances in the main mechanisms.

I can't attest to balance of cards and sides, just that the asymmetry is still very present here, allowing different play styles even in the same side (but less than in A:N, with the inclusion of characters and special abilities).

Overall, Netrunner is not only the root of A:N, is the root, trunk and branches, with A:N mainly being a different bark and having more leaves (I'm commited with the tree analogy). Sure, they are, now, in highly different levels of options, complexity and deck customization. Still, for the casual player, Netrunner will scratch the same itch.

Rate: 5.5 / 10



Board Game: Micro Robots
MICRO ROBOTS

Micro Robots has the same idea than that of Ricochet Robots: taking the robot from one place to the other. The positive differences are: the shorter playing time, as the solutions are easier to see, there are no barriers or different robots, and the game game ends when someone reaches 5 points; it is also much more portable, as the box is small. Yet, overall, this version is worst than the original: in here, only the first solution proposed is accepted - if the person isn't able to solve in the amount of moves called, she loses a point to the player with least points. I consider this awful. I don't like a mechanism that gives free points to people that didn't earn them, but without a "line" of solutions, as there is in Ricochet Robots, a better solution would be playing a new round without the person that made the mistake, as it would work just as losing a point, but the other players would still need to earn the point.

Yet, in the end, Micro Robots delivers what it promises, but it also a miniature version of the quality of the original (which I also don't particularly like, due to being constantly furstrated by it; but I admire the elegance and intelligence of it). The main positive is the reduced playing time; the worst is how points are given when someone makes a mistake. As the game is, I would try (without too much effort, though) to avoid; but with a difference take on the points, chances are I would prefer this over its big brother.

Rate: 5 / 10



Board Game: Fruit Salad
FRUIT SALAD

Fruit Salad is a memory game mixed with reaction speed. The rules are straightforward: first two dice are rolled, which will inform the goal for the round (for instance: 6 oranges). Then each player reveals, one at a time, a card from his deck, showing it for everyone while putting it in the middle, forming a stack of cards. Each card has one or more types of fruits and a normally from 1 to 3 of them. When the player thinks the pile already has the required number or more of the fruit, he, quickly, puts his hand above the stack. The game halts and a count is made. If the player is correct, he gains 1 point, keeping one of the cards to mark this, then gives the other cards in the pile in any way he wants to the other players. If the player was wrong, he takes all the cards in the pile, mixing them with his own deck. The winner will be the first to 4 points or the first to play all his cards.

Fruit Salad is, overall, a poor game: the memory aspect demands very little (this can be a positive to some players), giving only some excitement when a card with a minion (which forces one of the two dice to be rolled again, changing the goal of the round) shows up. Normally we all try to reach for the pile at the same time, meaning no one was lost or surprised. The challenge is pretty low. Also, there is a good chance of some good'ol bashing the leader.

The playing time isn't bad - it stays around 15 minutes, which is ideal for a game with basically no decisions.

In the end, Fruit Salad is a kids game, possibly good enough to be used as a tool to exercize memory in an playful environment. Among adults and seasoned gamers, Fruit Salad likely won't be fresh, losing for a mile to other games of similar aspects, like Jungle Speed, SET and Time's Up!. I simply can't recommend this one, but is so short that I wouldn't mind all that much to play other times.

Rate: 4 / 10



Board Game: Dead Men Tell No Tales
DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

Dead Men Tell No Tales has some interesting mechanics - the fatigue track, the actions against the fire and how it works; but, the end result of everything put together is a game to drop dead of boredom: in the game I was in no one was having fun nor there was excitement, as even the event cards are lame: just enemies that enter/move and the chance of increasing fire. These could be exciting, but aren't.

Play lasted for around 90 minutes, but felt like 180. The ending was totally anticlimatic and not thematic - after we took all the treasures we kept fighting the skeletons, over and over and over, as we took some out, more entered - and we couldn't stop battling them because every pirate needed to flee the ship, and we couldn't have a breathing space in order to accomplish this. Thus play went on and we got more and more annoyed. Why lose if a pirate stays behind? What kind of ethic this pirates have? Isn't better to divide the treasure by one less? Even in the moral ground: it is better 5 (or 50, 100) dying than 1 or 2, keeping a ship near other ready to explode? Why in hell should we care, after taking all the treasures out, if Skelit's ship is overrun by skeletons?

The manual, in the brazilian edition, lacks an important part for the set of the game; and it also doesn't have explanations for the pirates abilities - and we struggled in understanting the timming/use of one. The art and graphic design of the components and cards is excellent, though.

In the end, even me, a person that not only likes cooperative games, but enjoy them the most; and the stronger the theme, the better it is; could give a pass to Dead Men Tell No Tales, which is sad, as I kept it for quite a while in my wishlist. Dead Men Tell No Tales was dull beyond belief, and I will avoid it in the future.

Rate: 3.5 / 10


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15. Board Game: Tin Goose [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:3137]
Board Game: Tin Goose
Joe Wyka
United States
Pleasant Hill
California
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Microbadge: I love to pimp my own games!Microbadge: The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.Microbadge: I accepted the Net Zero ChallengeMicrobadge: Golden Board Game CollectorMicrobadge: Coffee drinker
No earth-shattering discoveries this month, but a few games I enjoyed reasonably enough. I had trouble picking a game-of-the-month between my top three. I went with Tin Goose because I think it is the most interesting all by itself. However, what I really hope is that the expansions for Champions of Midgard raise it above and make it the more likely long-term keeper. We will see. I can't give it credit for expansions I haven't played!

In order of preference...



Board Game: Tin Goose

Tin Goose - 7
Looks like a family game, plays with the simplicity of a family game, but is too economically tight and mean to be called a family game. Even so, it's a solid title worth some plays.

I'm surprised to see a game released by Rio Grande over a year ago to have under 400 ratings at this point. I suspect this is because Tin Goose falls between preferences for most people. It looks like a family game set in the developing commercial airline industry of the 1930's and the simple rule set and components support this impression. But once the auctions start, with the strikes, oil shortages and crashes all flushing your hard earned cash down the toilet, you are left having to find creative ways to keep your business expanding that feel nothing like a family game whatsoever. Even for serious economic gamers, however, there may even be a bit too much unpredictability to fully satisfy their needs as well. All of this makes Tin Goose a game in perpetual search of its audience.

That doesn't mean it isn't a good game. As part of set up, players are dealt a hand of 10 cards from 3 eras in quantities of 3, 4, and 3. In the course of the game, players will play 2, 3, and 2 cards from each era respectively, so you know from the very beginning of the game what cards you can play over the course of 7 rounds. Every turn starts with the play of a card, which is either a fleet of planes or a negative event that affects everybody. Fleets are sold off in a once-around auction and events happen immediately. The events cost money and income depending on how much oil your fleets require, how prone to crashes they are, or how many labor chips you have collected to defend against strikes. After playing a card, you get three actions which involve expanding your network or increasing your income or labor chips. You can collect an income at the end of your turn and when you connect to cities that have demand, which is seeded across the board as part of set up. In an original twist, every player starts with 5 negative conditions (do not collect income, oil is expensive, your fleet is more hazardous, and so on) that you can only remove by purchasing new fleets.

At the end of the game, you get bonuses in cash for having connected to big cities and international destinations. Most cash wins. The game is a balancing act between growth and protection against the events. Of course, events are played by the players who have them in hand, so those players have some insight in what to plan for and others can deduce their intent by watching their actions. I can see some frustration in being limited by your initial draw, and the "take that" nature of the events, along with their unpredictability. It won't be to everyone's tastes. That said, there are decent opportunities for planning and good decisions will more often be rewarded. I also discovered there are a couple of fans of the early aircraft industry in my game group, which certainly added to the level of interest around the table. Not a bad game at all, but the combination of simplicity, unpredictability and meanness won't be for everyone.



Board Game: Champions of Midgard

Champions of Midgard - 7
This game is a little too loose compared with other mid-weight worker placement euros, such as Lords of Waterdeep and Viticulture. Hopefully the new expansions will add a bit of needed strategy.

I went in on the KS with the two new expansions not having played the game, but hearing enough about it to make me think this would be a welcome mid-weight worker placement game for the collection. I played the base game without the expansions and was slightly disappointed to be honest. There were a few too many options. I prefer a tighter game, even in the mid-weight range. However, from what I have read about the expansions, especially Valhalla, I suspect they will actually improve the game experience for me. I hope to get that theory tested this month.

Players are wanna-be champions trying to protect their villages from trolls, draugrs, and monsters and in so doing collect enough glory to be crowned THE Champion of Midgard. Players start with 3 workers and draft actions from roughly 20+ action spaces, one of which enables you to purchase a 4th worker. The distinguishing feature of this game is that you collect not only basic resources like wood, food and coin, but you also collect three kinds of warriors - swordsmen, spearmen, and axemen which are dice. You assign the dice to combat actions in order to defeat the various creatures to gain points and other rewards. While this seemingly adds a very chancy element to the worker placement format, you can manage your odds pretty well so that outcomes are rarely much out of keeping with what you expect. The dice are simply the "advanced resource" you need to convert creatures to points. While you can assign dice to fight trolls and draugrs directly, monsters (which are worth more points) require an uncertain sea journey to reach, so they are a bigger investment with bigger risks and rewards. The usual special action and end-game bonus cards are also available.

With so many action spaces there isn't really enough jockeying for position and blocking. I was concerned I'd have more of an issue with the dice but they are not the problem. This makes the game more race-like than strategic and why I like it slightly less than the other games with which it competes. If the expansions don't improve the situation enough, I may not hold onto this one. We will see.



Board Game: One Deck Dungeon

One Deck Dungeon - 7
Challenging little "draw a card and roll dice" solo adventure game that is craftily put together. Worth keeping in my "business travel" game bag.

While I like adventure games in theory, I don't care for the common mechanics of drawing a card, seeing what it is, and defeating it with modified dice rolls. This is the basic format for 4 out of 5 adventure games, it seems, and I usually need something a little more creative than that to keep me engaged. One Deck Dungeon is a "draw and roll" game, but the dice management mechanics and the portability for travel makes this one a keeper for now. I don't have the patience for elaborate solo games, but I do like to keep some portable quickies and this is different enough from the others I own.

The 5 heroes to choose from have three stats - Fighting, Agility, and Magic. These stats determine the basic composition of your dice pool, which can be increased as you defeat creatures. Players pick a hero and work through the adventure deck 3 times and then must defeat the boss selected at the beginning of the game. Players must explore to get four doors face down in front of them and then each turn open a door and decide whether to face what is behind - which can be either a creature or a trap. Traps give you two options, each of which focus on using a single ability to defeat. Creatures always require multiple dice values of at least two abilities to defeat. If you manage to defeat a card, you can use it as an item to increase your dice pools, as a skill to give you a special ability, as experience towards increasing a level (which increases the number of items and skills you can have), or sometimes as a potion with powerful abilities but limited uses. This creates a nice, simple decision space for how to evolve your character in prep for the bigger challenges. Every trap and creature had multiple boxes of specific dice types and values. If you are not killed, you always get the benefit for facing a creature, but for every box you cannot assign dice to, you lose either life or time, which hastens you to the boss fight at the cost of development time.

All of this makes for a straightforward game with a decent enough amount of decisions. I've enjoyed my plays of it this month, but I have yet to win on the "easiest" dungeon. You can also play with two players and when you do, both characters chosen are inherently weaker to keep the game balanced. This is really a solo game, though. As a two-player co-op, I think it falls well short of other games on the market. Rated for solo play only.



Board Game: Cacao

Cacao - 6
Pleasant tile-layer that does nothing wrong, but also nothing all that interesting.

In Cacao, players play worker tiles which have from 0-3 workers on a side in a checkerboard pattern with jungle tiles. Workers activate (0-3 times) the jungle tiles to which they are adjacent. Actions include collecting or selling cacao for points, advancing on the water track (which gives more points the further you advance), getting points directly, setting up temple majorities for end-game scoring, and so on. There is nothing at all unfamiliar in the game.

Basically, on your turn you place a worker tile and then fill in empty spaces adjacent to two worker tiles with one of two face-up jungle tiles. Even though you "sell" cacao, there is no currency - all coins are just points. My wife and I enjoy tile-layers, but we were both pretty indifferent to this one. We have far more interesting options to choose from (like Limes and Akrotiri to name a couple) and Cacao simply doesn't make the cut.



Board Game: Glüx

Glüx - 6
A nifty four-player abstract game that is not without fun, but it's a bit too chaotic to really satisfy.

Each player has a bag of chips of three kinds, each with d6 opposite-face combos (so there are 1/6, 2/5 and 3/4 chips respectively). On your turn you place a chip, either side up, a number of pips distant from a chip that is already on the board. So if you are placing a 1/6 chip off of a "3" chip you had previously placed, you can place it three spaces away orthogonally, with either the 1 or the 6 side up. Any piece between your originating piece and the destination space blocks the placement, including your own pieces. You can also place over each piece once and only once - then the number and owner of that space is locked. At the end of your turn, you draw your piece for your next turn. The object is to have the most or second most pips in each of the designated areas on the board. Points are only counted at the games' end. A majority in the middle area breaks ties.

The game is definitely a brain-burner in a good way. However, there is lots of blocking and it can be frustrating to not draw the numbers you really want. It is not a game to be taken too seriously, but it can cause some serious AP as you go piece to piece sussing out your best moves. I didn't hate it and I'd definitely play it again, but for that I'm just as fine (even more so) playing Blokus for a quick-playing four-player abstract.



Board Game: Coldwater Crown

Coldwater Crown - 3
A game that has you making a single action decision each turn (remove or refill bait), but somehow manages to divide your binary decision into 7 action spaces! I've never seen anything like it, nor do I ever want to again.

I like the originality of the competitive fishing theme...and that's about it. Players have tackle boxes (player boards) with bait of various, randomized colors in four sections. Two colors of bait align with each fishing area - the shore, the river, and the lake. Every turn, a player places their action token on an available color to remove one or more of that color from every section of his tackle box. Then, the player removes an action token from a different space and removes one or more of that color from every section of his tackle box. Alternatively, a player can place or remove an action token from a refill space that allows you to refill one or two of your tackle box sections with randomly drawn bait. You catch the fish in the region that matches the color of the last piece of bait removed in the corresponding section. Yes, this is 90% of the game - constantly removing and adding bait to your tackle box. Forget the rest of the game, if this in itself does not sound like a heck of a good time, then this game is not for you.

Does adding and removing tokens from the same small board for 45 minutes sound like fun? If yes, then read on! There are various trophies around the board that you can win for catching fish of a specific weight (random within a range for each kind of fish), fish with a certain color tag (utterly random), a set of three small breeds, 8 different breeds and 12 total fish, which is also the end game condition. As an alternative to refilling your tackle box, you can also select a "Grandmaster" card, where you can place discarded bait in certain color patterns to get another point and maybe another trophy or two with sets of these cards. You can collect 'tackle' tokens if you clear a certain section, which allows for some small manipulation of choices. I was constantly hoping to find ever more creative ways to clear my tackle box faster so that I could rush the game to its conclusion. There were none.



Expansions...



Board Game: Codenames: Pictures

Codenames: Pictures - 8
Is this really a new game? I've decided to rate this as an expansion. It's good, for sure, but I prefer the word version, I think.

Codenames is an excellent design that I rate a "9". This version has one slight rule change that can be applied to either version. Whereas in Codenames you can only make one more guess than the number spoken, in Pictures you can keep guessing until you hit an enemy spy, an assassin, or until you want to stop. That's it. Associating pictures well actually adds a level of translation from the picture to the word and then to associations with the word. Because the pictures usually blend two or more incongruous items, on that level you'll have multiple words per picture that you can associate - not just the individual items but also as an impression of the picture as a whole. You can really look at it either way, wherever the most associations can be made. I might keep this for a change of pace, or I might get rid of it to reclaim a spot on the shelf. We will see.



Board Game: Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport

Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport - 7
Solid expansion that improves replayability without fundamentally changing the character of the base game.

The Skullport expansion includes 2 modules, which can be played separately or thrown in together. The Undermountain module adds a few more action fields and many new quests, intrigue cards and buildings. There are really no new mechanics, though. The quests have larger requirements and larger rewards in many cases, but other than that, nothing about the base game is all that different.

The Skullport module, however, introduces corruption, which is the bigger change. The actions available in Skullport are powerful, as are the quests, but taking them often gives you one or more corruption tokens. Corruption tokens are worth a variable amount of minus points at the end of the game, depending on how many were taken by all players in total. Every token can be worth from -1 to -9 points each. This can have a huge impact on final scores and players must account for this when using the expansion.

That's all there is to it. I found that adding both modules added about a half hour to the play time, but for that it did not overstay. Another observation was that with the extra three actions provided by each module, it made the buildings a little less needful. If you like Lords of Waterdeep, you'll probably like the expansion, too. If you don't like LoW, Skullport won't change your mind.
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16. Board Game: Magic Maze [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:477]
Board Game: Magic Maze
Dustin Crenshaw
United States
KY
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Magic Maze blew me away. I knew nothing about it, we were playing it until 6am. First Martians was a dud. I bought a pure euro and was disappointment. Midgard expansions disappointed. Mostly a disappointing month, but lots of exciting things coming soon.

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Magic Maze

VERDICT -
Wow this game is amazing. It was so much fun, so simple. Passing the red pawn around is hilarious when 2 people are fighting about what to do but can't speak. This might be the best use of realtime to date. You have to constantly think, check the board and try to help others. Yet you are not rushing in the same way other real time games work. Like there are times you get to talk and do nothing, or you can sit and think for sec, and that's ok. I can see once you played it a bunch you will need new stuff for the game. Thankfully, that's already coming. I don't think I would like it at all at higher or lower counts than 4. Just seems made for 4. This is the best game I've played out of gencon.

Fantastic gameplay
Fantastic use of real time
Hilarious and fun
Mix of speaking and not speaking work great
Endlessly expandable

soblue Worse forced, generic fantasy theme in a game of all time
soblue Will need expansions for same groups or heavy play


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Wasteland Express Delivery Service

VERDICT -
Does wasteland have crazy production values? Yes. A great theme? Yes. Is the game good? No, it's great. BUT, I loath pick up and deliver. And sadly it's still that. It's good enough to makes me not hate picking up and delivering in this game. It's way better than other pick up and deliver games I've played. But it was not a keeper either. Pandasaurus refused to sell the pre order promos at gencon, but allowed strangers that never heard of the game pick up the game and get them. Not cool to customers that paid for the game in full last year.

Insane production
Fast moving turns
Clever market
Changing buy/sale makes this better than other similar games
Cool victory conditions
Better with PvP rules
High variety in map set up
Love the dashboard and upgrade graphic design

I don't understand why blue screen of death needs to be in every game

soblue Standees are to big
soblue Each deck could use some more cards
soblue Not really a fan of the artwork on cards
soblue Allies are mostly meh abilities
soblue Sometimes luck plays a big part


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Spirit Island

VERDICT -
I had one big problem with the game, it went on way too long. Like way too long. By the end we were trying to combo like 10 cards together. So, I never ever will play this at 4 again. Other than that, I was pretty impressed. I can see why this game has the hype. It might be the best "put out fires" coop I've played. Mainly due to the spirits being so asymmetrical. So looking forward to my next 3 player play. The score could certainly go up.

Awesome theme
Asymmetrical spirits to play as
Lots of choices in those spirits
Cool card systems

soblue Goes on too long at 4p
soblue Overly long AI phase?
soblue The pretty art side of the board is not functional


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Potion Explosion

VERDICT -
I thought this was gonna be a filler, it was not. It was more power combo-y than I expected. I do think they need to add some special marbles to mix it up. Much like games did to bejeweled. I did feel was a little long for what it was. But not by much. Could be learning at 4p that made it feel longer than it was.

Really nice pieces
Potions have powers, that adds a lot to the game
More thinky than you'd expect

soblue Needs special marbles
soblue Probably better at lower counts for strategy


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Champions of Midgard


I'm not sure how I feel about the expansions. They are certainly not bad, and I can see plenty of people loving them. However they make getting dice easier and everything easier. It sort of feels like buying points now. I still enjoy it and will play it. But not crazy about valhalla.

New dice options are great
New leader dice and powers are wonderful
Resources are not more balanced, all are needed equally

soblue Valhalla makes it too easy to get dice
soblue Game changes from exciting press your luck to boring point buying


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ICECOOL

VERDICT -
The box design of this game is brilliant. Pieces are cool and it plays so easily. Game is pretty simple, but it is fun. Not sure I like how points are scored. It was pretty hilarious in how we all sucked lol.

Great box design
Fun and simple

soblue Not sure about the point system
soblue Shame there wasn't more room layouts or other cool things


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Rick and Morty: Mr. Meeseeks' Box o' Fun Dice and Dares Game

VERDICT -
Much better than expected. The dice game is luck based, and it's nothing special there. However the meeseeks and dare cards make it hilarious. I've never seen players so stressed out about their rolls in a little filler lmao. It's also hilarious to hear players yelling about not being able to do such mundane tasks. This game had us all laughing hard, and it wasn't late at night.

Nails the theme
Hilarious
Actually has a victory point system that works for this type of game
Box is cool with audio

soblue Speaker on the inside
soblue Will greatly not be for most gamers
soblue Some dare cards overly ridiculous. But they are easy to take out.


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Legend of the Five Rings


Very disappointing. I was hoping this would be the crowning game from all of FFG's knowledge. Instead it's 75% A Game of Thrones LCG. It's filled with lots of shenanigans and fiddlyness throughout. The fate mechanic is something I really dislike. It replaces characters dying. So now characters rarely die unless they run out of fate. Combat is boring as AGOT, where you are just adding together a total number against a total number. The whole game has a very non elegant feel to it. I'm willing to try it again, because I so badly would love a competitive game to play. But I'm not too hopeful despite loving the theme and it's gorgeous artwork.

Some of the best artwork in gaming
Fixes some issues from the original
Different factions play differently

soblue Nealy the same combat system as AGOT
soblue Fiddly
soblue Crappy fate mechanic that replaces characters dying


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In the Year of the Dragon


Mechanically sound, and very boring. I hate these types of euro games where you are stacking icons for small bonuses. This does a few things I like better than most, but still nothing I want to play again.

Good mechanics
Event order adds nice variety play to play

soblue Boring
soblue Boring


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Lorenzo il Magnifico

VERDICT -
No doubt this game has great mechanics, and I really like them. But much like so many euros before it, the scoring absolutely sucks. Why in the world isn't their goals or missions to work towards. I'll never understand why anyone enjoys a button they can push that converts a resource into dry points. Repeat over and over. It's not fun, it's not interesting, it's not thematic, it's not clever. I think I'm to the point, games with dry point scoring are just gonna be blacklisted. That is how unfun I find them. But if you like that sort of thing, I think Lorenzo's mechanics are pretty good.

Unique worker placement
Good engine building choices
Wiked pope mechanic that is pretty interesting

soblue Generic scoring
soblue Boring scoring
soblue Dry
soblue No round marker


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Summit: The Board Game

VERDICT -
Sadly a few rules wrong and an unshuffled deck caused some issues. We almost decided to restart the game at a certain point. The rulebook is terrible. There should have been 2 rulebooks, one for coop and one for competitive. Instead there is tons of exceptions and rule changes for both, that it feeds to you at the same time. Truly a mess. Anyways, to the gameplay. Events, weather and player boards all work great. However the gameplay is pretty blah. Place a tile, move your guy. The amount of decisions you actually make seem pretty low. You are pretty much at the mercy of what the dice and event cards give you. And my god, the game length at 5 players is horrendous. DUSTIN, STOP PLAYING GAMES AT 5 PLAYERS!!!

My thoughts are just on the coop version

Good production
Fun event cards
Clever play boards

soblue Low amount of decision making
soblue Awful rulebook
soblue Way way too long
soblue Cubes don't fit in the indentions


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First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet

VERDICT -
Wow, what a horrific rulebook. It took us about 5 hours to get through this one, all robinson crusoe vets. Gameplay was probably like 90 minutes. And while it's pretty, it falls way behind Robinson. Story portion of the game is a huge missed opportunity. I remember us finding a cave and it was like, take 1 damage. WTF? How is that story? At no point, did I feel like I was making a gameplay decision. It was do what we had to do. Which just means the game was playing us not us playing it. After the play we felt we could get through the next play smoothly. Rules are not as hard as the rulebook makes them. Though I can't say I'm looking forward to it.

Good theme
Pretty game

soblue Bad rulebook
soblue Severe lack of story in a game advertise to have lots
soblue Do what you have to, so very little gameplay decisions
soblue Girl names for guys, guy names for girls is annoying not clever


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17. Board Game: Lignum (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:1757]
Board Game: Lignum (Second Edition)
Jake Blomquist
United States
Vestal
New York
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It was a light month for new to me games this month, but all of them were winners so I can't complain.

Lignum (Second Edition) - 8.5/10

Board Game: Lignum (Second Edition)


This game is excellent. Maybe it's a cheat including it since I played the first edition at some point in the past, but since it has its own entry I say it's fair game. Plus it comes with an expansion which I hadn't tried before, so it was a new experience. Anyway, the key word for this game is planning. Even just the logistical puzzle of getting wood from the forest to your wood pile to your camp is great, especially with the multiple ways you can get wood from your wood pile to your camp, but then the tasks and planned work ratchet it up to another level. With the tasks you're voluntarily buying contracts where you have to saw and then dry wood for a certain number of turns before you can put them on the task cards, but fulfilling them is worth huge points at end game. And the planned work is even cooler, where you're choosing some rule breaking power that you get either one, two, or three turns from when you choose it, so they're the kind of thing that you can really set yourself up for and give yourself a huge turn, if you can get everything in place in time.

But it's not just this great long term planning, turn to turn there are also some nice tactical opportunities in the form of the action track. It's sort of a directed worker placement, like Egizia or Francis Drake, and it's mostly for collecting the various resources needed to keep your plans moving, but often enough an opportunity arises that you can weigh diverting a bit to grab some nice extra thing versus having to make sure you get everything you need. Or some turns you might not need much and so you can play more opportunistically. And the best part is that there are potentially good reasons you'd want to make it around to the end of the track early and also good reasons to get in late, and so weighing those in addition to getting what you want to get on the track adds some really nice decisionmaking.

As far as the expansion stuff goes, I enjoyed it and I'm glad I have it, but I wouldn't call it necessary. Just a few more options. But they do provide some nice (if minor) rule breaking effects and so when combined with the right stuff from the base game can be pretty strong.

Also, I'll note that the standard game has a fairly major doublethink aspect, but the game does come with a variant that eliminates this, and for my taste the variant works great. It doesn't take away at all from the heavy planning aspects while also adding a bit more of a reason to finish going through the track in a specific position, which heightens the tactical aspect of the game.

Overall, I think it hits a really nice balance of having a lot of good opportunities to engage in long term planning while also giving you some nice tactical options turn to turn. An excellent game and one I look forward to many more plays of.

Il Vecchio - 8.5/10

Board Game: Il Vecchio


In a lot of ways this looks like one of the most generic possible euros, but it actually felt pretty unique to me playing it. I found it to have some vague similarities to Luna actually, another game that I find to be pretty unique.

The various scoring systems and the way that they overlap and intermix is really interesting, and the powers you can collect, both the one time ones from going to an outside region and the persistent ones you get from sending a guy to the city council add some cool stuff. Plus the way that some of the tiles you're collecting give you special discounts or action efficiencies is always a cool aspect. Because you're very heavily incentivised toward claiming spots as soon as possible it has a very different arc from many euros where there's a lot of buildup before you really start going for point spots, which is a nice change of pace. And the turns are really quick, there's basically no downtime at all playing this game. But I think one of my favorite things is the spatial aspect. Money definitely gets tight and so you really want to be careful about positioning your guys in ways that mean you aren't constantly having to reposition them or move them too far when you do.

The one downside is that the effects of the game round trackers feel a bit too swingy, but there's an official variant in the rulebook that you can just ignore those and I intend to do so from here on. But yeah, this is a cool lighter euro, I don't know why it doesn't get more love.

Chicago Express - 8/10

Board Game: Chicago Express


It's hard to give too concrete an impression of this after just one play, but the one thing I can say is that I'm intrigued to try more. It's definitely a subtle game, and a game where you really need to be paying attention to everything that your opponents are doing. For a game with this much thought it also played surprisingly quickly while still feeling like you got a full arc. It feels like a very distilled shares game, which is really cool. It really does seem to be all about evaluating share value and then using the other actions to make sure that you get what you paid for and that others don't as much. The rating is a bit preliminary as it seems it might take another game to really get it, but I'm really looking forward to trying it again and seeing what kinds of stuff you can pull off. It seems like there are a lot of possibilities.
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18. Board Game: Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:61]
From gallery of Photodump
Ronster Zero
United States
California
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This fits a few of check boxes in gaming for me.

Now, I only have a few games under my belt.
First up is the deck building. This mechanic works for me. It does a good balance between buying, fighting, and movement all of which are viable needs. Mix in special use cards and you get some good combos.

Second, all this card drafting leads to a great board game. A game in which the cards work well in making the board game go.

In a nutshell your trying to loot a dungeon which is guarded by a dragon. Another draw for me. What you don't want to do is make too much noise as you alert the dragon. The more you do, the more chances are you will take damage when the dragon wakes.

Put in a race for treasure and to get out and you get a fun filled game in which every choice seems to make a difference.

This is my top game of the month.
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19. Board Game: Cry Havoc [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:539]
Board Game: Cry Havoc
Jason Vicente

Avon
Connecticut
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== BEST GAME OF THE MONTH ==

Board Game: Cry Havoc
Cry Havoc - Played 1 time - 7.5/10

Patrick and I learned Cry Havoc as part of our Father v. Son Two-Player Board Game Tournament and the The Passionate Knight's 10 X 10 Hardcore Challenge. We learned the game by viewing the Watch It Played "How to Play" and "Game Playthrough" videos. After watching Rodney Smith gat manhandled by his son, Luke Smith, who played the humans, and getting destroyed by my son who also played the humans, I have my doubts about the game's balance. I studied the strategic approach for the machines, but still lost 78 to 22. The game is fun to play and it is interesting to watch the different strategic approaches to this asymmetric game. Nonetheless, more game plays are needed for me to finalize my opinion. Right now it's a slippery 7.5.

= Other New Games for August 2017 =

Board Game: America
America - played 3 times - 7.0/10

In an amazing turn of events, my wife agreed to learn numerous games this month despite a previously stated moratorium. We vacationed in Ottawa, Quebec to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday and to see the Mosaiculture in Gatineau (check it out here - http://www.gatineau2017.ca/mosaicanada-150gatineau-2017/ - trust me, you've never seen anything like it) While at Ottawa, we went to Level One a board game pub with great food (https://www.levelonegamepub.com/). I strongly recommend this pub for any gamer that may find him or herself in Ottawa. During our two meals at Level One my wife learned to play Karuba, Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft, and Santorini. I believe this has opened her up to new board gaming experiences including learning America which we played with the whole family. It is a well thought out trivia game about the United States that is quick and allows for close misses and even lets players choose spots that predicts no one will get the right answer - or even close to the answer. This is an enjoyable family weight/party game. We played the game three times and everyone except my son Patrick took turns winning.
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20. Board Game: Hinguere [Average Rating:6.75 Unranked]
Board Game: Hinguere
Frederic Heath-Renn
United Kingdom
Islington
London
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Only combinatorial abstracts this month.

Less: Like Chess but Less! (7 plays) - not actually much like Chess at all, perhaps unsurprisingly - far more like Quoridor, played on a modular board. I don't think I was particularly convinced - board layouts seemed to unbalance the game in pretty direct fashion, with the first person to occupy a choke point usually seeming to go on to win.

Saikoro (5 plays) - rather dry game of cutting off your opponent's movement on a grid of dice. There's a sort of pleasing nature to the dance-like moves enforced by having to stay within a Manhattan distance of 6 spaces of each other, but the rather opaque and chaotic nature of the game tree was a bit discouraging.

So the winner, perhaps more by default than design, is Hinguere (5 plays), a quirky game of growing your territory and restricting your opponent according to idiosyncratic tiles. The tiles, each depicting a grid of surrounding spaces you can either subsequently place on or bar your opponent from, remind me a little of Onitama, and this game shares with that a pleasing feeling of constraints on movement and attempting to dovetail different types of move in order to end up moving in a certain direction overall. Pleasantly thinky without being totally infathomable.
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21. Board Game: The Colonists [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:411]
Board Game: The Colonists
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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For most of the month, we were happily playing Caverna: Cave vs Cave, and that well could have been my answer, if Sam hadn't surprised me with The Colonists a few days ago.
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22. Board Game: Evolution: Climate [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:263]
Board Game: Evolution: Climate
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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Board Game: Evolution: Climate
Evolution: Climate = 1 Play

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This stand alone title (although mine is via the conversion kit) introduces new cards (some of which replace certain cards from the base game) which highlight the effects of weather to the game. The climate board replaces the watering hole and it REALLY changes how Evolution feels and more importantly also turns successful strategies in the base game on its head. This is because you now not only count the number of food but also the number of weather icons during the reveal food step and this could make the climate colder or hotter. This has a HUGE effect as now body size is very important as certain sizes start to lose population depending on whether it is cold or hot and the number of food is also modified. The shifting of climate also can trigger absolutely catastrophic events although you can see those events coming and thus can hopefully prepare for it if they trigger. This makes the game one truly about survival and more species WILL get extinct and going carnivore becomes a more viable strategy especially if things get colder and plant food becomes scarcer and animals larger. The game does offset this a bit by now allowing species to have 4 traits instead of 3 and they will need all the help they can get in order to survive the brutality of the climate board. I REALLY like the changes and only wish you could combine this set with the Evolution: Flight expansion. I suppose you could but the author does not recommend it so I won't...maybe.



Board Game: Ships
Ships = 2 Plays

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Martin Wallace's Brass: Lancashire is one of my top 10 games ever and it is because of that I have been gotten some of his other titles of which this is the latest. I selected the naval theme so that I could try this out and essentially it is a civilization game with disc and cube management as the main mechanics. Discs are used to designate ownership of cities and you remove them from 2 tracks which gives you more space to hold goods and money, which is a mechanic similar to Hansa Teutonica although with that game it improves a player's ability. Merchant cubes are used to pick your actions but also as goods on the board and you will need to retrieve them back at some point in order to continue doing things. Scoring is done whenever someone manages to advance to a higher level ship or gets to place his cubes or discs on the next level area on the map. This abstractly simulates the fact that advances in naval technology were key to world exploration and players can actually get penalized in points for having ships 2 and 3 levels behind the leader. The game definitely has the Wallace feel and a little touch of nastiness which my group likes, the only detriment being it's longish playtime of 2.5 hours.



EXPANSIONS

Board Game: Cacao: Big Market & Golden Temple
Board Game: Cacao: Volcanoes
Cacao: Big Market & Golden Temple + Cacao: Volcanoes = 1 Play

External image


These little expansions just add variety with the Big Market and Temple being more the best version of their type of tile. The volcanoes are different since they add a negative money factor which you can use to "attack" other players, but its addition didn't really change how the game plays. Variety is always good though!

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23. Board Game: Century: Spice Road [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:237] [Average Rating:7.37 Unranked]
Board Game: Century: Spice Road
Dave Roy
Canada
Vancouver
BC
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Dragonflight con was this last weekend, so it's no surprise I have a few more new games than usual. Sadly, not as many as I would have liked.

No bad games in the lot, though some are better than others.

== NEW GAMES ==

Broom Service - 1 play -  N/A 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Broom Service


I love the daring element of this game, where you choose the four cards you're going to play this turn, but when you play you have to decide whether you're going to be cowardly (and make sure you get to do a little something) or brave (where you could do something really cool, but if anybody else plays the same card bravely after you do, then you get to do nothing).

It makes for an interesting game of reading the other players and what they are going to do. Not only that, but since you have to "follow" if somebody else plays a card you have, you may not be able to do things in the right order. Did you plan on getting a potion before delivering it to the Mountain? Too bad. Somebody else is moving to the mountain first and you have to follow suit.

Easy to learn and fairly short, I liked this more than I thought I would.



Covert - 1 play -  N/A 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Covert


I've had this game for months but never got it to the table because I didn't want to try and teach it when I didn't know it other than reading the rules. So when I saw an organized game of it at Dragonflight, I jumped.

The game went much slower than it actually is, so I definitely want to get it to the table again.

Love the mechanic where you have to assign dice to actions but you can only assign dice that are in sequence if somebody else has played a die (so if they've placed a 4 in the "Complete Mission" area, you have to play a 3 or a 5) and the code-breaking makes a nice little sidelight that will also help you complete missions.


Century: Spice Road - 2 plays
First Published 2017
Board Game: Century: Spice Road


My favourite game of the month. I can definitely see why people call it a Splendor-killer. Sure you're just changing one type of cube into another, but for some reason it's a lot of fun. I think partially because it doesn't outstay its welcome. It takes 30-40 minutes even with 5 players. Turns are back to you before you can even blink.



Hanamikoji - 2 plays
First Published 2013
Board Game: Hanamikoji


A small card game with great artwork, this is a game of knowing your opponent. You are trying to gain the favour of 7 geishas by playing cards to them.

The theme is totally tacked on, but if it's an excuse for such exquisite artwork, I'll let that slide.

With four actions during each round, two of them giving something to your opponent, it's a game of tug of war.

It also is very quick, so you can play multiple times in a session if you wish.

It is only 2-player, though.



Orléans - 1 play
First Published 2014
Board Game: Orléans



Long a favourite of a couple of friends of mine, I finally got to sit down and play this and it didn't disappoint. Love how you're drawing workers out of the bag to place them in various spots, the market board where you can set up trading posts and get points that way.

If it wasn't for Century, this would easily have been my favourite of the month.




Harbour - 1 play
First Published 2015
Board Game: Harbour


Something I want to play again because I don't think we were focused enough at the time. A game of buying and selling goods, and acquiring buildings with the goods that you sell.

I do like how you don't have money. You instead have to ship goods on the turn you buy the buildings with the money you earn that turn. You don't keep money at all.

It's a fun little game, but I think I might enjoy it more than I did with a subsequent game.



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24. Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories: Lumen Fidei [Average Rating:7.51 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.51 Unranked]
Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories: Lumen Fidei
Oliver Paul
Iceland
Reykjavik
None
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A few new games in August!

Great

Board Game: Fugitive

Fugitive

Tim Fowers' games are always great-looking. I liked Paperback, but had a few reservations about it (too much AP potential, didn't like that VP cards were also wilds). Burgle Bros is great. Fugitive might even be better.

The two games are so different that it's hard to compare them. BB is a 90 minute heist coop with all sorts of special abilities and stuff and rolling dice, while Fugitive is a quick 15-20 minute deduction game for 2p. Often in these types of games (hidden movement, hide and seek), I get really stressed as the person being hunted, or feel like an absolute moron when I'm the hunter and I can't find my prey. Not so here. Maybe because it's so short and fluffy, that I love both sides. I really enjoy the bluffing involved in the sprint cards. I like the strategy of whether to guess one card or multiple cards. I love the endgame where you have to guess everything right to win.

This is probably my favorite new game in a while.

Board Game: Hero Realms

Hero Realms

It's Star Realms, except fantasy. I really like Star Realms. However, the character decks really elevate it a bit. Not a lot, as in it's not all of a sudden some amazing game just because of them, but I definitely prefer HR over SR because of it. It's still a nice, relaxing game where you don't have to think too much and just buy cards and beat on your opponents for a while.

Really looking to the quest decks, that turn this into a cooperative experience.

Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories: Lumen Fidei

T.I.M.E Stories: Lumen Fidei

No spoilers, don't worry!

Finally, a Time Stories pack that I like! Loved Asylum, liked Marcy, hated Prophecy, Mask and Expedition were both a bit meh. But I absolutely loved my time with this one. It's really weird, since I've seen such conflicting views on it online. A lot of people have it either as 'Really like' or 'Really hate'.

I'd definitely recommend it to folks who felt the same about the previous packs as me.

Good

Board Game: Adventure Time: Love Letter

Adventure Time Love Letter

It's Love Letter, but with an Adventure Time theme. Since I've never seen the show, it did nothing for me. However, I felt that the change in this pack (make someone discard a 5 with a 5, you win!) was so incredibly minor, that it didn't make it its own thing, like some of the other packs do. If you like the show, and like Love Letter, give it a try.

Board Game: Lovecraft Letter

Lovecraft Letter

This is a much bigger change from the base game. This one comes with a whole other set of cards, which are Insanity cards. If you play one of those, you run the risk of going insane on future rounds. The more Insanity cards you play, the more you risk, but the Insanity cards have pretty powerful effects, and you can only use the effects if you're already insane. Very interesting twist.

However, this is one that really needs more people. I usually game with only 2p, and we thought it was just ok. A friend joined us for a few 3p games, and it was noticeably better. Because of that, I'm not sure we're keeping it. Still a good variant of Love Letter.

Meh

Board Game: Caverna: Cave vs Cave

Caverna: Cave vs Cave

Really didn't like my one play of this. I felt the whole 'Build a wall' thing was abstract and kinda stupid, mainly because there was only one tile with that action, and my opponent took it every single round of the game. I always had something more interesting to take when I was first player, so it was kinda my fault, but it pissed me off.

Also, there are like 3 things you can use as food, and you're doing actions to trade in stuff for other stuff to trade for stuff to traaade foooor sttuuuuuuufffff... Not quite exciting.

I'll stick to Agricola All Creatures Big and Small for my 2p Uwe fix. Or maybe just one of the big games.

Board Game: Roll Player

Roll Player

Was expecting more, but this one felt like dull multiplayer solitaire where we had our faces about 6 inches from our player boards at all time to try and min/max every single action. Sold after one play.

Board Game: Rolling Freight

Rolling Freight

I feel like Railways of the World does everything this game does, except twice as well. I thought this was too long, too predictable, too plodding, had shoddy components, felt like I was often at the mercy of whatever I rolled.

Not a fan, sold after one play.

Bad

Board Game: Kalua

Kalua

I paid $1 for this at DTC 2017, and I guess I got my money's worth? Maybe?

There are a bunch of these take-that card games, and none of them seem to be very good. Maybe we just had a bad play, but it felt like you could be mean to the other players, but not a lot, and most of the really mean cards were global cards, which affected everyone equally. One player in our game got out to a bit of a lead in villagers, and there didn't seem to be much that we could do to stop her. We could play some cards to lower her happiness, but that didn't really work.

Not a good game.
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25. Board Game: Word Slam [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:2152] [Average Rating:7.02 Unranked]
Board Game: Word Slam
Don't Panic!
United Kingdom
Sevenoaks
Kent
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August and we had a very brief holiday in Scotland, so played a few family games. We also had a get together hosted by a couple of members of my local gaming group, so that was a good chance to try out some games that I’d not got around to playing. Another good set of games this month.

Word Slam
Board Game: Word Slam
This was suggested at the end of an evening, and something inside me died a little when I saw it was a word game, but then after the rules explanation, it dawned on me that this was a game I’d been looking at with interest about a month ago, and when we started playing, I really enjoyed it.

This wins over Codenames for me because you are trying to guess the word at the same time as the opposing team, and that creates tension and excitement, as well as listening to their guesses and using them with the information you’ve got.

Great fun, and I thought this would work well for the family so ordered a copy the next day – as it turns out they loved it, and I’m sure this will see fairly regular play.

Championship Formula Racing
Board Game: Championship Formula Racing
I enjoy racing games, but find myself quite critical of them. Of all the racing games I’ve played, Thunder Alley is probably the most impressive (except when played with AP prone players). I’ve been on the lookout for a good F1 game for a long time, and although I enjoy F90, there are some issues that have come up when playing that have made others resistant, and the rules overhead is a bind when coming back to the game having not played it for a while. Despite enjoying Thunder Alley, Grand Prix didn’t work out for me – the system is a perfect fit for stock cars, but doesn’t transfer to F1. So where does CFR rate?

The good? The game is solid, and relatively simple, but with some interesting decision making. All you need to do on your turn is play a card to show your speed, and then move 1 space per 20mph. This is made interesting by having acceleration, deceleration, and top speed limits, and also the ability to push outside of these boundaries. Corners have speed limits, made more interesting by racing lines that can be followed, or by the player spending tyre wear to go a little faster to push their luck. Add to this some rolls for accelerating or braking too hard, and overall you have a fun game that recreates F1 really well.

The bad? I found the rulebook to be awful, and couldn’t clearly find answers to a lot of questions that came up. I found the answers in videos and on the rules forum, but these were pretty basic and should have been covered in the rules – I felt like it wanted me to know how to play Speed Circuit already, and I’ve never played it. Also, the tracks are on small boards, and the track spaces are smaller than the cars, as well as all the corner information being printed on the spaces, so we were constantly having to move the cars to check limits (why not put them on the outside of the corners?).

Good wins over bad though, and 6 of us had fun with our 2 lap race around Silverstone.

Madame Ching
Board Game: Madame Ching
This had completely passed me by, and so when we decided to give it a go, I didn’t know what to expect. I liked the idea of making a journey, and the addition of a simple bidding mechanic along with some set collection and added card powers made this one seem quite interesting.

The card art is really nicely done, so there is an immediate visual appeal to the game. I enjoyed my single play of this – there was enough interactivity to keep everyone involved in the game, and traversing the map to collect cards and bonuses was interesting enough for this not to start to feel stale.

The game felt slightly underdeveloped though, like the idea was wedged in to fit, and the winning margin was huge due to one player making it to the far corner of the map, scoring both the bonus card and the highest value mission, but the game was just enjoyable, and I’d play again.

Kingdomino
Board Game: Kingdomino
I played this with 3 non-gamers, and they enjoyed it, but not enough to request it again after. This is a fun but ultimately forgettable lightweight game, and it felt during our single play that winning seemed fairly dependant on being able to pick the tile to give you a good score at the right time. OK, I’m over-simplifying it, but although the game is enjoyable, it hasn’t had the longevity of other lightweight games we’ve seen before, both at home with the family, and also in my gaming group.

I’m glad I picked up a copy, but I’m not expecting to play this very much.

Century: Spice Road
Board Game: Century: Spice Road
I was a little behind on this one – everyone else had already played it. A more developed Splendor that actually had me thinking about how much I enjoy Splendor. I know this has more going on for it, and should therefore be more interesting and appealing, but for some reason I think I prefer Splendor over this.

The game felt entirely dependent on building a good hand of cards to allow the player to upgrade their cubes, but equally there was little point in having a handful of high value cubes if you then don’t get any scoring cards that need them. Maybe I just need to play this more, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was expecting to. Still a good game though.

Quadropolis
Board Game: Quadropolis
I’d heard and read a fair amount on this game and had been considering trying to purchase it, but so far had resisted. We played this as a three in almost complete silence. Pick tiles from a grid, place them out in your ‘city’ and then score them at game end.

The theme really didn’t shine through enough for me – I wasn’t looking at the tiles as residential buildings or parks, or industry, but as ‘the tile that scores x when placed next to y’. Although I enjoyed the game, and would play it again, I don’t feel any need to seek it out, and ultimately it was a little too quiet and too focussed on optimisation for me.

Yamatai
Board Game: Yamataï
Another game that everyone seems to have played in our local group but me, so I was keen to try it after everyone seemed to have enjoyed it. The game looks pleasing when in full flow, with islands and neat little wooden buildings set up.

Sadly although there was little to fault, the game made very little impression on me. My overriding thought during play was that the board state changed constantly making it hard to have any fixed plan in advance of your turn. This is fine, and I get that often games work this way, but this made play quite slow as each player had to figure out how to best use any remaining abilities.

The mechanics were quite abstract, and didn’t really bring the theme to life. As I’ve said, the game looked really nice, especially in late game, but it wasn’t memorable enough for me to want to play it again.
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