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

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

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

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1. Board Game: Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:338] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Board Game: Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie
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== NEW GAMES ==

Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie - 4 plays
First Published 2004
Board Game: Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie


I've had an unopened copy of this in storage since before I was married, and since my eldest(7) is getting much more interested in games, I decided it was time to give him this for Christmas. He loved it and we had a blast playing it over the Christmas holiday period. We've only played the basic rules so far, but we've had a lot of fun, and I look forward to trying the advanced rules. He's really keen on building his own maps too, and one morning, he and our youngest(5), who loves games and especially jigsaws too, built an epic map all of their own!


Monster Factory - 3 plays
First Published 2012
Board Game: Monster Factory


I picked a copy of this up a few years ago, thinking it would be a good game for our kids when they were old enough. This year it was a present for our youngest(5) who loved it. He played it loads with family and friends over the Christmas period, although he doesn't like being the recipient of the take-that aspect of the game. It's a fun tile placement game, with some elements of take-that, as you try to build and complete your own monster, while messing up everyone else's.
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2. Board Game: Unlock!: Mystery Adventures – The Nautilus' Traps [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:4140]
Board Game: Unlock!: The Nautilus' Traps
Juan Carlos Goyes
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Board Game: Field of Glory: The Card Game

Field of Glory: The Card Game

2017-12-24

Initial Rating: 5.0 (November 2017)

Martin Wallace is one of my favorite game designers, so I always try to buy his stuff, however, I have found I like much more his heavier games than his lighter games. Field of Glory: The Card Game has some decisions in it, but it a light-medium game.

Field of Glory: The Card Game´s rules aren’t very complex, I had to read the rulebook twice about the flanking rules, but once I understood them, I explained the game under 4 minutes. Playtime is around 45 minutes.

I don’t know the parent game and I’m not into wargames in general, so the theme is lost to me. However, it seems it is (mostly) pasted on.

The artwork is very reminiscent of A Few Acres of Snow, it has the same style. I don’t like it very much but it is ok and it serves well its purpose.

Field of Glory: The Card Game´s decisions aren’t very complex. What I liked the most was the beginning of the game in which each player draws cards from his deck and chooses which cards will appear in the game, that´s neat and the decisions aren’t obvious. Then, the gameplay becomes much more straightforward, the decisions still aren’t obvious, but they aren’t very complex either. There are units with special abilities and there are terrain cards than change the combat stats.

Gameplay is (a bit) reminiscent of Schotten-Totten, but this game has harder decisions and is much deeper, I’m not sure this is a plus in this case.

Luck of the draw plays an important part in the game, but I’m still undecided if it bothers me or not.

Bottom line, Field of Glory: The Card Game can be a good game for some people, but it is not for me. I love two player games, but at the end of the day, I prefer to play fun games with more meat (Dungeon Twister) or fun games that are very light (Schotten-Totten) and, Field of Glory: The Card Game, sits in the middle of the spectrum, and due to this I have no desire to play it again. I will sell it ASAP.

Current Rating: 5.0


Board Game: X-Bugs

X-Bugs

2017-12-24

Initial Rating: 5.0 (November 2017)

X-Bugs was one of my oldest unplayed games. I don’t remember why I bought it as my desire to play it was always very low. After playing it, I can say it (is) can be a fun game, but it isn’t for me. In general, I don´t like dexterity games, I would play them gladly and I have fun while I play them, but, I own very few games in this category and I never request them.

X-Bugs´s rules are very easy to learn and teach. You can do it under 2 minutes. The special abilities of each unit takes a lot longer to master, but it isn’t hard to learn. Playtime is around 60 minutes.

The game´s components are better than I expected, however, you have to stick a lot of stickers and that always bother me. My SO usually takes care of this though.

The decisions needed to play the game are rather obvious as you roll from 1-3 dice and they tell you what you can do. The “fun” of the game is to flick the pieces onto the desired spot. It is a lot harder than you would think, but, with a little practice, you can improve a lot in a short time. Still, it is a light game.

Best with 2 players, with more, the downtime would begin to bother me for such a simple game.

In my set, there are two different armies and I know that at last another 2 armies exists. I feel the pull to own them all, but I´m better at resisting those urges this year so instead I will sell this set, but if I liked flicking games, I would buy them all as the idea is very interesting (I also own Micro Mutants, but I haven’t played it so I’m not sure about the differences) .

Bottom line, X-Bugs is a good dexterity game, but it is not for me. I would play again if requested, but I have a low desire to do so. I will sell my copy ASAP. It has too much randomness in it, but it feels different from any other game I have played.

Current Rating: 4.0


Board Game: That's a Question!

That's a Question!

2017-12-24

Initial Rating: 7.0 (December 2017)

Vlaada Chvátil is, by far, my favorite game designer, I will buy anything from him and, after Codenames, I was very keen to try his next party game. After playing it, I can say I will (most likely) keep it and I liked it, but I was expecting something a bit better.

The rules of the game are fun to read and easy to learn and teach. You can teach them under 2 minutes. Playtime is around 60 minutes with 6 players (Due to this I think I prefer to play with 4 players). The game should last around 30-45 minutes to remain fun.

The game´s components are ok although I dislike the hexagonal shape of the cards as it makes it harder to sleeve (I still sleeved them). The art of the game is cute, the graphic design of the board is nice, but sometimes, players went backward instead of advance their squirrels, so there must be an issue there. I really like the cover of the game.

The game is fun for me, in each round all players play (no downtime) as there is one player who is asked a question and the others try to guess his answer, it has a Dixit feel and I like it. The questions are interesting but I feel there are too few of them, that is, I’m not sure if the game has the legs to withstand a lot of plays, time will tell.

Vlaada always presents innovative mechanism in his games, but this time around he didn’t, still, the game delivers and I will keep it in my game collection for now. In this category of games, I still like more Imaginiff.

Bottom line, That's a Question! is a fun party game and my desire to play it again is high. I was expecting a wider reception from players but I have heard next to nothing about this game, which is very weird for a Vlaada game. You need the correct group to play That's a Question!, you need people who explain the rationale of their answers, otherwise, the game would be very boring.

Current Rating: 6.5


Board Game: Unlock!: Mystery Adventures – The Nautilus' Traps

Unlock!: Mystery Adventures – The Nautilus' Traps

2017-12-24

Initial Rating: 7.5 (December 2017)

I´m currently loving the Unlock! Series of games. When they arrive I want to play them right away and that never happens, I have a game system that tells me which game to play next, but the Unlock! games can override it . After playing them, We began going to real escape rooms, we love them.

From the Unlock! Mystery Adventures, I prefer The Tonipal's Treasure over this one (but The Nautilus' Traps is better than The House on the Hill). For me, the issue is the difficulty of the games, even though I LOVE The House on the Hill´s theme, it is disappointingly easy. The Nautilus' Traps difficulty isn’t very high, but it was a fun adventure to play. The fun for me is to solve the puzzles without using any help, so I never ask for hints nor I let my partners to do so (gladly, we all are like this, to me it is very disappointing when a player want to give up in this kind of game.).

The art of the cards continues to be great and I, kind of, liked the theme.

Best with 3 players, with more players I feel it is too easy and all players don’t get to see all the puzzles.

In general, I have a bittersweet feeling about the game, like T.I.M.E Stories, once you played through it, you won’t play it again because you already know the answer so it has zero replay value. At least, in Space Cowboys´ games you don’t physically destroy the game, thus preserving the resale value. That’s the only reason I bought the whole series of games while I can’t buy The Exit series of games. It isn’t about the money though, I was raised in a third world country and I was always taught that you do not waste if you can avoid it so I loathe legacy style games that destroy or permanently modify the game. To me, it is immoral and unethical to create games that are disposable (even more when the designer can easily make them resettable), even if they create a great experience. Kudos to Space Cowboys for not doing this.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

In Unlock! The Nautilus' Traps we were stuck in some parts due to the language, we played the American version of the game, but none of us is American so the obscure words hinder us most than native speakers (I guess), still, I really enjoyed the adventure. I don’t want to write much more to avoid spoilers.


Bottom line, Unlock! The Nautilus' Traps is a good game, it has some interesting puzzles that wasn’t too easy or too hard. The theme is good. I cannot wait to play more Unlock! games.

Current Rating: 7.5


Board Game: V-Wars

V-Wars

2017-12-24

Initial Rating: 4.0 (December 2017)

Jonathan Maberry is one of my favorite authors, I always buy and read his stuff, on the other hand, Rob Daviau is one of my least favorite game designers so I wasn’t expecting much from the game, furthermore, when you see how low ranked it is (currently 8,793). After reading the rules my interest in the game increased a lot, I love hidden identity games, but after playing it, I feel the game is very bad, it feels underdeveloped.

The rules aren´t very complex, but there are some holes in the rulebook. Once you understand them, you can explain them under 5 minutes. Playtime varies a lot with the number of players.

The art of the game is regular as are the game´s components. In my copy of the game, the cards and roles came warped. The graphic design is awful. It doesn’t help gameplay a bit (although I grant it looks kind of cool). In my copy of the game, it says it had additional content for being a firs print edition, but this seems misleading. The game also comes with the first comic of the series but that’s lost on me as I already owned it. The miniatures are ok, but they used only a small quantity of models and you cannot differentiate them quickly. The board is very similar to Pandemic, a game I heavily dislike.

Love the theme.

After reading the rulebook, it seemed like an interesting game, but the game´s decisions are obvious, boring and repetitive. The most interesting mechanism is the one in which you play a card and force a player to do the same, however, the riots aren’t very interesting. The laws work great on paper, but they were a drag on reality. There are lots of decks to manage and that becomes boring pretty quickly. Each player has a power but they don´t have a lot of impact, they aren't exciting abilities. To conclude, the gameplay isn’t fun nor interesting, no player was invested in the results.

From my limited perspective, it seems the game isn’t balanced at all, the vampires win EASILY over the humans, the humans don’t stand a chance. The vampires don’t need to reveal, themselves to win.

I must confess I played it as a 3 player game as a reviewer/explainer claimed it was his preferred configuration, but I think it is better with 5 players.

As I´m a fan of the theme, I bought the game as soon as it became available and it was very expensive, now I see it on clearance everywhere, lol .

Bottom line, I wasn’t expecting much from V-Wars, but it still managed to disappoint me. It seems the game has lot of good ideas but it feels underdeveloped. I will sell it ASAP, my desire to play it again is very low. The game´s components are regular for such an expensive game. If the mood strikes, I would play Battlestar Galactica over this one.

Current Rating: 3,0


Board Game: Unlock!: Escape Adventures – The Elite

Unlock!: Escape Adventures – The Elite

2017-12-24

Initial Rating: 7.0 (September 2017)

I love Unlock! So it is no wonder I also like this promo adventure. It is on the easier side, but I still enjoyed it. I´m very glad BGG offered it through its store, otherwise, I would have never ever printed the cards myself. I hope they do the same for the other promo adventures.

Unlock! The Elite is an easy adventure, but I don’t mind much as it is a promo adventure. I still wish it was harder, but as it is harder than some regular adventures (Unlock! The House on the Hill), it is ok.

Best with 2 players.

The card size is bigger than regular Unlock, not an issue but something I noticed.

In general, I have a bittersweet feeling about the game, like T.I.M.E Stories, once you played through it, you won’t play it again because you already know the answer so it has zero replay value. At least, in Space Cowboys´ games you don’t physically destroy the game, thus preserving the resale value. That’s the only reason I bought the whole series of games while I can’t buy The Exit series of games. It isn’t about the money though, I was raised in a third world country and I was always taught that you do not waste if you can avoid it so I loathe legacy style games that destroy or permanently modify the game. To me, it is immoral and unethical to create games that are disposable (even more when the designer can easily make them resettable), even if they create a great experience. Kudos to Space Cowboys for not doing this.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

We finished the scenario rather easily, but a couple of friends struggled with the color puzzle because they didn’t thought of them in English but in Spanish, it was fun to see them struggle .


Bottom line, Unlock! The Elite is a good introduction of the game system and a good game. I really enjoyed it and I hope I get to play the other promo adventures.

Current Rating: 7.0


Board Game: Junk Art

Junk Art

2017-12-24

Initial Rating: 6.0 (December 2017)

As is usual from me, when I bought Junk Art, I didn’t know anything about it. A friend read the rules and he told me it was a dexterity game so I thought I was going to sell it after playing it, but to my surprise, I really enjoyed it and I will (perhaps) keep it in my collection.

Junk Art´s rules are easy to teach, you can do it under 2 minutes. Playtime is around 50 minutes.

The game´s components are good.

Junk Art is a fun game, I really like that each round is played under a different set of rules (the best feature of the game). In each round you have to try to accomplish the goal to get fans, the player with more fans wins the game. You do this by stacking the pieces as best as you can. All players liked the game, I think I’m the one who liked it the least, but I do like it.

Bottom line, Junk Art is one of the best dexterity games I have played, I wasn’t expecting anything good from it, but it surprised me. Junk Art is an ok game for me. In general, I don’t like dexterity games that much but I want to play Junk Art with my SO to decide if I should keep it or not. Good game for the family.

Current Rating: 6.0

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Board Game: Break the Safe

Break the Safe

2017-12-24

Initial Rating: 4.0 (December 2017)

I don’t know why I bought Break the Safe, I bought it on 2015, hopefully, I think I have become a bit better when I buy games for me. It is clearly not a game I would want to play, but when a friend requested the game I was happy to play it. It is a very light game with lots of luck. It is, definitively, not a game for me.

Break the Safe´s rules are pretty easy to teach, you can do so under 3 minutes. Playtime is around 30 minutes due to the timer.

The theme is kind of nice.

The game´s components are very good for a game this old. As my friend was explaining the rules, I really thought you needed to physically place the keys on the device and I was getting excited, but as it turned out, the electronic device is only a 30 minute timer, nothing else.

Gameplay is very unsatisfying, in each turn you roll the dice to see how much can you move and to see how much the guard and the dog will move. If you manage to reach a room, you can try to pick up the object, sometimes, you need another item to do so. The decisions needed to do all this are almost nonexistent. All the decisions are obvious and luck reigns supreme.

In our play we finished it with lots of time left, but if you lose it is only due to bad luck, however, I’m having a hard time imagining losing this game, there is no challenge here.

Bottom line, Break the Safe is a good children game, but it isn’t a game for me. I would have loved the game as a child, but I already sold it. It has lots of luck and the decisions are obvious. Boring game for adults.

Current Rating: 3.0


Board Game: Shiba Inu House

Shiba Inu House

2017-12-27

Initial Rating: 5.0 (December 2017)

I bought the game because it was Renegade Game Studios game and, lately, they have published some game successes. After playing Shiba Inu House, I can say the game is light, but fun.

The rules are pretty easy to teach, but the rulebook could be a lot better. If you look the rules online, you only find a jpeg instead of a PDF. I think the example of the rules could be better. Still., it is a very simple game and you can teach it under 2 minutes.

The art of the game is cute.

The gameplay is more fun than I initially thought, you have to quickly recognize and build the same pattern as the goal card, if you do it first you earn more VPs, that’s it. It sound very easy, but the patterns can be tricky as they are very similar. After a couple of rounds you can improve a lot.

Bottom line, Shiba Inu House is a good family pattern recognition, speed game , but it is not a game for me. It is way too light for us. I already sold it but I would gladly play again if requested. Pleasant game.

Current Rating: 5.0


Board Game: The Golden City

The Golden City

2017-12-27

Initial Rating: 5.0 (December 2017)

Die Goldene Stadt was one of my oldest unplayed games. I acquired it on July 2013 so it took me more than 4 years to finally play it. When I bought it, I was a different person and I bought it because I liked Coloretto from designer Michael Schacht. In that year I enjoyed his designs, but I have changed in these years and I no longer enjoy light games as much as I used to. After playing Die Goldene Stadt, I can say it can be a good family game, but it is way too light for my current tastes.

The rules of the game aren’t very complex. You can explain the game under 10 minutes. Playtime is around 95 minutes.

The art of the game is pretty good and the game looks gorgeous on the table. The game´s components are ok.

There is no theme, or rather, you don´t feel the theme anywhere in the game.

The gameplay isn’t very complex, but you have to think the best options. The most interesting part of the game is the bidding for the cards, however, as you can only increase the cost in one coin, you never have a way to defend your position. Money can be thigh (furthermore at the beginning), so playing order can decide which player gets which cards. During the game, there wasn’t many bidding wars as both parties lose all the money they bid. After this phase, I feel the game plays (more or less) automatically with easy/obvious decisions.

I also like the scoring system, at the beginning of the round a card is revealed with the goals for the round, sometimes you cannot achieve the scoring condition, no matter what you do, other times you already have the scoring condition from a past round, so you don't need to do anything else to score. There is some luck here, but I’m still undecided if it bothers me or not.

Bottom line, Die Goldene Stadt can be a good family game, but I crave heavier euro games. As it stands, it is harmless. It can be a good game to introduce people to our hobby. There is some luck with the cards, I’m still undecided if it is too much or not. I will sell it as my desire to play it again is low.

Current Rating: 5.0


Board Game: Sushi Go Party!

Sushi Go Party!

2017-12-27

Initial Rating: 6.0 (December 2017)

I had already played Sushi Go, so I was pretty sure what to expect and I was right. Sushi Go Party is a good drafting game, but it is way too light for me. I prefer it over 7 wonders though as they both have the same game considerations, but Sushi Go is very unassuming and a lot faster to play and explain.

Sushi Go Party! can be explained under 7 minutes and played under 30 minutes.

The art of the cards is pretty good.

I dislike the theme, but you don’t feel it through the game.

I´m not sure how many cards adds this edition of Sushi Go, but it has a lot more cards than the previous edition of the game (so the replay factor increased a lot). It also comes with a board to keep score and some preset sets to play, good additions.

Gameplay is very simple, but it is also fun. In each round you have to choose a card and play it and then you pass the other cards around. That’s it! Choosing the best card for you isn't very complex and luck often play a role in the game as well, but as it is a very short game, I don’t mind the luck factor.

Sushi Go Party is pretty cheap to buy.

On the bad side, if you sleeve the cards you cannot keep them in the tin (or the sleeves get wrinkled corners), and that’s too bad because the tin is big enough to hold all the sleeved cards, so the publisher could have allowed for the sleeved cards easily.

Bottom line, Sushi Go Party! is an excellent family game, but it is way too light for me. It can be also a great game to introduce to new gamers. I think it is one of the best drafting games out there. I already sold my copy of the game, but I would gladly play again if requested.

Current Rating: 6.0


Board Game: Unlock!: Mystery Adventures – The House on the Hill

Unlock!: Mystery Adventures – The House on the Hill

2017-12-27

Initial Rating: 7.0 (December 2017)

I´m currently loving the Unlock! series of games. When they arrive I want to play them right away and that never happens, I have a game system that tells me which game to play next, but the Unlock! games can override it .

Unlock! The House on the Hill has been my least liked Unlock game and I LOVE the theme. The reason, it is way too easy. These games are supposed to offer a challenge, but in this one, we weren’t stuck in a single puzzle and we were two players. The fun for me, is to solve the puzzles without using any help, so I never ask for hints nor I let me partners to do so (but in this game there wasn’t any need to enforce this :/).

Best with two players due to the low difficulty.

The art is amazingly good, I love it.

In general, I have a bittersweet feeling about the game, like T.I.M.E Stories, once you played through it, you won’t play it again because you already know the answer so it has zero replay value. At least, in Space Cowboys´ games you don’t physically destroy the game, thus preserving the resale value. That’s the only reason I bought the whole series of games while I can’t buy The Exit series of games. It isn’t about the money though, I was raised in a third world country and I was always taught that you do not waste if you can avoid it so I loathe legacy style games that destroy or permanently modify the game. To me, it is immoral and unethical to create games that are disposable (even more when the designer can easily make them resettable), even if they create a great experience. Kudos to Space Cowboys for not doing this.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

Unlock! The House on the Hill´s puzzles are very easy and that’s a shame. This iteration of the game offers some of the hardest to see hidden objects, but my SO always check every card for those so they don’t offer a hard challenge for us (her). For my part, I can say I really like hidden objects and I don’t understand why so many people complain about them. They offer a challenge and you use a skill (observation) to solve them. The hardest part for us was deciding when to use a hammer to break a glass (I didn’t want to use brute force). I though that was too obvious and I didn’t want to get a penalty, but my SO was right and after she talked me into it we saw that was the right move .


Bottom line, Unlock! The House on the Hill is my least favorite in the whole series, but it is still good game. I wish it was a lot harder, the puzzles here are pretty easy to solve. I love the theme and I hope the next series of Unlock! games arrive soon (hopefully they will be a lot harder). This is the best scenario to introduce new gamers to the series.

Current Rating: 7.0


Board Game: Kingdomino

Kingdomino

2017-12-29

Initial Rating: 5.0 (December 2017)

As winner of the 2017 Spiel des Jahres prize, I was extremely skeptical about the game. I also (generally) don’t enjoy most Bruno Cathala´s designs so my desire to play the game was extremely low. The opportunity to play it arose this month and I was right. The game is pleasant enough, but it is very simple and very light.

Kingdomino´s rules are very easy to teach, you can do it under 2 minutes. Playtime is around the 20 minute mark.

The art of the game is pretty good, the components are ok.

Gameplay is very light and obvious. There is a lot of luck with the tiles and I guess you can mitigate it a little bit if you know the tiles beforehand, still, it is mostly a tactical endeavor. The best play is obvious all the time. Perhaps it can be a little deeper with 2 players, but I’m not 100% sure this is the case, luck could increase a lot in that configuration.

Bottom line, I recognize that Kingdomino is a great game for families, casual gamers or new gamers, but it is way too light for my current tastes. I could play again if requested but only because it plays so fast. I already sold my copy of the game. Boring game with lots of luck.

Current Rating: 4.0


Board Game: Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis

2017-12-29

Initial Rating: 6.0 (December 2017)

Photosysntesis has had a lot of hype these days, that coupled by the publisher (Blue Orange who does family games) was enough for me to expect little from it, after I played it, I can say it surprised me. Photosynthesis is better than I was expecting but still not good enough for me to keep it.

Photosysntesis´ rules are easy to teach. You can do it under 8 minutes. Playtime is longer than I wished it was, around 90 minutes with 4 players.

The game´s components are very nice and they look great on the table. Un-punching the game was a mayor pain, it comes with many cardboard trees to un-punch and assemble, but after that, the trees look amazing. The art is very good as well.

The theme is cool and the game´s mechanism do support it very well, this is a rarity in an Euro game.

Gameplay is better than I was expecting but it becomes very repetitive soon. The decisions needed to play the game aren’t obvious, at first they are very interesting but after a while you do the same every round. In your turn you must decide where to seed and which tree to grow, the idea is to grow the trees as fast as possible to convert them into VPs, but you also need the trees to get sun tokens, It is an interesting puzzle to solve and there are a lot strategy to it. In every round, the sun will be going around the board, so the sun that each tree gets will vary, also, you can block or be blocked by your opponent’s trees. I really like the game and the idea behind it, however, I found the game to be very repetitive and too long. I would have liked the game better if it was one round shorter, at the end I was bored by it.

Best with 3 players, with 4 players the downtime is excessive and the game time can increase a lot. I think it can be a pretty good 2 player game.

The replay value seems low.

Bottom line, Photosynthesis is a family level game, but it is much more deep than I initially thought it would be. It is also much better than I was expecting but by the end of the game I was bored by the repetitive actions, it is way too long for what it offers. Downtime could be an issue for me. I could play again if requested, but I already sold my copy of the game, not fun enough to keep.

Current Rating: 5.0


Board Game: Pantheon

Pantheon

2017-12-29

Initial Rating: 6.0 (December 2017)

Pantheon was one of my oldest unplayed games. I bought it on July 2013!. My desire to play it was low but its name appeared on my game system so I had to play it. After having played it, I can say it really surprised me. It was much better than expected and I enjoyed it.

My copy of the game was new, but it came with some missing pieces. I was going to see if I could get them from Rio Grande Games, but then I sold the game as it was.

Phanteon´s rules can be taught under 12 minutes. Playtime is around 100 minutes.

The game´s components are ok and they look great on the board. The art of the game is ok.

I love the theme.

The game´s decisions aren’t very complex, however they aren’t obvious either. It has a light-medium weight. There are many ways to earn VPs. On your turn you can draw cards, move (which open the movement option to all players), purchase cards and/or tiles, make an offering to get one time or permanent effects. There are lots of moving parts. Every age you play under the regime of a new civilization which different setup rules and that keeps the game fresh (I love this feature). The rounds can be played very quickly or very slowly, gauging this isn’t obvious and if you miscalculate you can lose a lot of VPs.

Luck plays a part in the game, but I feel you can mitigate it with good play. The order in which the god cards appear cannot be controlled and some of them seem very powerful.

I would have loved it a couple of years ago, as it is, I enjoy it but I had to let it go. If I’m completely honest, I´m a bit sad I had to sell it, but I need to be ruthless if I’m going to get my collection under control.

Bottom line, I was surprised by Pantheon. It is a decent Euro game. I liked it much more that I thought I would. It is an ok game for me but I would gladly play it again. I already sold it, but I sold it to a friend, so hopefully, I can play it whenever I want. The game is not very complex so it can be a good family game.

Current Rating: 6.0


Board Game: Railways Express

Railways Express

2017-12-30

Initial Rating: 4.0 (December 2017)

Railways Express reimplements Railways of the World, a game I don’t like very much but, as it is a variant of Age of Steam (a game I love), I was interested in seeing this new game. My expectation was VERY low because Railways Express is low ranked here on BGG, currently it is the game number 14080 in the ranking. After I played the game, I can say it is better than expected, but still a weak game that doesn’t have anything in common with its parent games other than the theme and the components.

Railways Express´s rules are very easy to teach, you can do it under 3 minutes. Playtime is around 75 minutes (which ids way too long for what the game offers).

The game comes in a big box and the components are very well done. The game board is big and beautiful, when the game ends the board look gorgeous.

The goal of the game is to connect all the cities in your color (reminiscent of Transamerica, a game I dislike). Gameplay is disappointing, but I confess I had some fun playing it. 99% of the game´s decision comes from a pair of dice, so they are random and out of your hands, sometimes you can reroll a die, but you are never assured to get the result you want. The dice tell you which track you can build and where. The cards also appear at random and some of them are very powerful (they can stop you opponent for a whole turn). In our game all players were within one turn of wining so perhaps the luck averages out, but I don’t think so. so it bothers me. To summarize, the game has obvious decisions and the luck factor is very high.

Best with 3 fast players, with 4 players downtime is unacceptable.

Bottom line, Railways Express is not a game for me. It has obvious decisions and uncontrollable luck. I will sell it ASAP.

Current Rating: 3.0


Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse: Shattered Timelines

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Shattered Timelines

2013-08-26

Initial Rating :N/A

We were going to play with this, but more players arrived so at the end we left the game unfinished, however I really like the idea of an alternate timeline, I was playing with Onmicron X, a villain of previous sets.

I expect to like this expansion, but I won’t rate it until I have played at least one complete game.

I hope that happens soon.

Current Rating: N/A


2017-12-30

Initial Rating: 7.5 (August 2013)

Sentinels of the Multiverse is a game that has improved for me with time. I´m currently loving it so I’m very glad I got to play this expansion. The idea behind the expansion sounds great, I have only played against Kismet in The Block (and it was easy to defeat her), but I really want to play against Iron Legacy!

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Shattered Timelines expand the game in every way that matters, it adds new cards for everything and the art continues to be very good.

Kismet is a fun villain, but it was easy to defeat her because she never had much ongoing cards in play. I need to play more times against her, but I feel she is very to defeat.

From the heroes, I have only played with Chrono-Ranger and he is awesome with his bounty cards and very powerful! I need to pay more times before commenting further.

The Block is an ok environment, the heroes can get some help from it. Not too hard to fight here but I’m glad I can do it .

Bottom line, I love Sentinels of the Multiverse: Shattered Timelines and the idea behind it is very exciting (Legacy became a bad guy and Omnitron X redeemed itself). I will play more with this expansion soon. I particularly want to fight against Iron Legacy. A must have for fans of the game.

Current Rating: 7.5


Board Game: Codenames: Marvel

Codenames: Marvel

2017-12-31

Initial Rating: 7.0 (December 2017)

I love Codenames, it was the best game of year 2015 for me, so I had to buy all its iterations. I haven’t read the rules of the game, but after playing it, I saw it is very similar to Codenames: Pictures.

Love the theme .

This edition of the game continues to be very simple to explain (you can do it in less than 4 minutes. Playtime was higher for us because the topic made the game a lot harder (at least for us). There are many Marvel characters I have never seen before. I like the Marvel universe, but I have only seen the movies, I have never been a comic enthusiast. Still, it is a bit easier than the Disney edition because 1. I know more about this topic and 2. Unlike the Disney version of the game, a lot of cards in Codenames: Marvel depict scenes different from characters (fight, punch etc.) so you can still be a bit creative about them.

It seems the game has a lower quality than others Codenames. The plastic stand actually marked the key cards, this is very bad, I don’t know if the Disney edition have the same issue. CGE editions of the game don’t have this issue for sure. The game comes with a gauntlet card and I don’t know its purpose, I will read the rulebook soon to find out.

The art is gorgeous, I think they are from comic books but I don’t know for sure. The cards have an illustration on one side and the name of the character/action/noun in the other, this limits replayability (as they offer half the usual content) AND it makes the game very hard to play with the word side if I don’t know the name of a character (this is very likely), with the pictures you at least can look for other ways to link the cards together. If the word is an action or a noun the game retain its usual difficulty.

Bottom line, Codenames: Marvel is a good party game and a keeper for me. This version of Codenames is harder than regular Codenames due to the topic. As all the cards share the theme, it Is much harder to make relevant links between the cards, due to this, the game does detract a bit from the creativity that other versions allowed. I think the game will be great to Marvel aficionados. I like the game a lot and I will keep it in my game collection for sure, but I prefer the non-themed versions of Codenames. The art is very good. I will probably mix this set with the Disney one.

Current Rating: 7.0


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

Exit: The Game – The Pharaoh's Tomb

2017-12-31

Initial Rating: 7.0 (December 2017)

Due to the Unlock! series of games, I have become a big fan of escape rooms. Before playing the game I never considered going to one, but now I have played all the Unlock! Games (I love them all) and I went to two real life escape rooms. I love this genre and I was very excited to play any Exit game until I found out you have to destroy the components, due to this, I decided I was never going to buy any of the Exit games. This month, a friend came with the game and we played it, and I can say it was a lot of fun!

However, not all things are good. In general, I have a bittersweet feeling about the game, like T.I.M.E Stories, once you played through it, you won’t play it again because you already know the answer so it has zero replay value. And to make things worse, you have to physically destroy the game while you play it, so any resale value is lost. It isn’t about the money though, I was raised in a third world country and I was always taught that you do not waste if you can avoid it so I loathe legacy style games that destroy or permanently modify the game. To me, it is immoral and unethical to create games that are disposable (even more when the designer can easily make them resettable), even if they create a great experience.

After playing Exit: The Game – The Pharaoh's Tomb, I can confirm that it is possible to play the game without destroying or modifying anything (you need a little patience and creativity. but it is possible) and we played it this way. The copy of my friend can be enjoyed by another group of players.

Cool theme although a bit illogical (I don’t care much about this).

The game system is very clever, you need to solve some puzzles logically and if you can’t, there are help cards that tell you the answer. Before we began playing the game with my friends, we agreed we wouldn’t use the aid cards no matter what and we didn’t. Due to this, one of my friends got tired and he fell asleep during the game (we were stuck for a while) so we were two players trying to solve it. To me, it is very important to solve the puzzle without any external help, due to this, it took us 5 hour to finish it , but we did it. I think these hard games are best played with 4 players. We were stuck many times during the game, but we persisted and we managed to finish it.

The puzzles found in Exit: The Game – The Pharaoh's Tomb are much harder than most regular Unlock! games. In this regard, they are only compared to Unlock! The Island of Doctor Goorse which has been the hardest Unlock! game to date. This is A BIG positive for me.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

There were some puzzles that I was able to solve only because I solved very similar puzzles in the Unlock! games.

The first puzzle about the mirror is very similar to the Walkie-Talkie puzzle in Unlock! The Island of Doctor Goorse and both puzzles that included the game box had some similarities to the final puzzle in Unlock! Squeek & Sausage.

I have noticed I have become a lot better at solving puzzles since I began playing these kind of games .


After playing the game, I see no reason for the game to be truly disposable. The designers could have easily made the game resettable, this is a big issue for me. If I do play any other Exit game I will do my utmost effort to not damage it.

Bottom line, Exit: The Game – The Pharaoh's Tomb is a great escape room game. I LOVE it has a high difficulty rating (which I crave, I dislike easy games). My desire to play all the Exit series of games is very high, but I won’t buy the games due to their disposable nature (an unsurmountable obstacle for me) . I can perhaps play them with the same friend who introduced me to Exit: The Game – The Pharaoh's Tomb. After playing it, I can say I prefer the Unlock! series of games, I really prefer the flexibility an app brings to the table and you don’t have to destroy the game while you play it. I really hope all the Exit games retain this level of difficulty. I would normally rate the game a 7.0 or higher, but I can’t, in good conscience, rate a disposable game that high.

Current Rating: 6.0
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3. Board Game: Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:111] [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked]
Board Game: Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
The Witcherlorian
Australia
KILLARA
VIC
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What was looking like a very poor month for new titles was saved in the final week with a couple of great games.

New to Me

d10-1 Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck-Building Game

This was a really great time. We played twice taking on the first movie storyline, getting smashed in the first and taking the win in the second.

As a deck-builder this one has a few things that take it above some of the competition. First is the fact that the storyline's from each film (which make for different scenarios) is really cool and adds something extra to the experience. Having to blast that mother after getting it into the airlock is really cool.

Then there is the nature of the threats that travel through the Complex and hope to get into an attacking position that is really neat. Needing to scan potential enemies first is cool and the inclusion of a concept called co-ordinate to acquire cards to your deck and deal damage to bigger Alien threats is excellent.

The use of Strike Cards to deal damage, meaning the players are never quite sure how hard they will be hit is neat too.

I'm keen to play more of this for sure. The artwork is a little hit and miss and the overall longevity of the game with the 4 storyline\scenarios could be an issue. But I think by then you will have received your money's worth.



d10-2 Sid Meier's Civilisation: The Board Game
Board Game: Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game


This is the original FFG edition and I have been daunted by it for a while. Turns out I really shouldn't have been and I could have been playing this for years before now. Silly boy.

I really enjoyed this, despite it being a 2.5 hour learning game that we killed in favour of clarifying a few things and getting it right next time.

I really like how no one aspect of the game is all that hard to achieve or understand but that one decision really comes at the cost of something else. This has all of the elements I look for in a civ game.

Of course the time frame is the main issue with this one but I think we could knock it over in 3 hours once we have 3-5 plays under our belt.

Given what is on offer and the story that unfolds as you build up your civ, I think the playing time is worth the journey.

Very keen to play more of this over the next few months and get a few different people in my gaming group up to speed so I can try the expansions out.



d10-3 Ticket to Ride: Germany


Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Germany
This stand alone edition of TTR utilises the city and country system used in many of the maps now. The twist up here is that the cities are seeded with Passenger Meeple and when the players connect two cities, they can take a Passenger from each city they connected (unless there are none present).

The Passengers come in 5 colours and the players are trying to collect the most or second most in each of the Passenger colours in order to score 20 and 10 points respectively at the end of the game. In this way they players are trying to juggle an extra ball as they juggle their Tickets to complete, avoid being blocked and collecting Passengers and paying attention to the colour totals of everyone in play.

I really liked this one. It is definitely superior to Marklin and the set-up of the Passenger Meeple is not too painful (nowhere near as bad as the tokens in Marklin). Other than that the game plays fairly smoothly.



New to Me - Expansions
Board Game: Go Nuts for Donuts: Bacon


d10-4 Bacon Promo: Go Nuts for Donuts
It hardly counts but here it is. Bacon is worth 1 point for Maple-based cards. It an be a little extra earner if you're a Maple nut.
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4. Board Game: Rajas of the Ganges [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:164]
Board Game: Rajas of the Ganges
Jim Jamieson
United States
Purcellville
Virginia
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11 new games this month bringing my total for the year to 102 new to me games for the year with 264 total plays. I'm thrilled I have been able to play so much this year. I am down to only 24 unplayed games in my collection, which is great and will hope to finish off that list very soon.

== NEW GAMES ==

Rajas of the Ganges - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Rajas of the Ganges


A solid worker placement game with a unique twist of trying to get your score and money to cross on tracks running in opposite directions by using 4 different colored dice that determine the strength of each action. Unlike in Stone Age where you place your workers before you roll the dice, here you know the values of the dice and can plan how to use them for the exact value you have. The board looks busy but there are really only 4 main areas to look at with the quarry, market, river, and palace. The quarry scores you points and gains you money plus allows you to achieve bonuses by placing tiles on your player board, the river gives small bonus actions, the market allows you to gain money based on the 3 types of goods, and the palace is primarily a way to manipulate your dice. It all comes together very well and plays quickly. We knocked out a 2-player game in 60 minutes, which was great. The game also comes with some additional advanced variants that will only extend the variability of this game. Another hit from the Brands for me!

Stone Age - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2008
Board Game: Stone Age


Gateway worker placement, place workers and roll dice to determine how many of each resource you get. It's very easy to explain and the concepts are simple to grasp. You need to balance getting food to feed your people each round and resources to buy either huts or civilization cards which score you points. In our 2-player game we seemed to alternate a lot between increasing our food and going to the love shack so the first few rounds felt a little scripted because of that, however once we had plenty of people we were able to move the game along rather quickly. I ended up getting a number of brown civilization cards scoring 105 points in end game scoring to win. The downsides to me are the fact that you can really strike out in getting resources if you roll poorly and not knowing what huts are coming up beyond the few displayed means it may be tough to gauge what resources you should go after on your turn to prepare for future rounds. I would always be happy to play this, I just wish there was a little bit more to it or a little less luck.

Heaven & Ale - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Heaven & Ale


I found this to be a unique game that played well with 2. A rondel board where you are collecting resources, monks to activate your resources, in game scoring, or end game scoring opportunities. Depending on what side of the board you play your resource hexes when activated they will either earn you money or advance your resources along the scoring track. This game comes together surprisingly well, explains quickly, and moves at a great pace. I'm really happy I picked this one up as Kiesling has really done well this year with this and Azul. So far this has been my favorite of the Spiel 17 games I have played.

Bärenpark - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Bärenpark


Solid gateway game with a great theme and may be my tetris piece game of choice besides Patchwork. Very simple to explain and plays pretty quick. Place a tile and get the bonuses from the spots you cover. First to complete 4 boards ends the game and you add up your points to determine the winner. There is also an advanced variant with different objectives that can add to your scores. The game takes a bit to setup and tear down since some tiles have to be stacked in numerical order, but the game is so smooth playing and in my mind doesn't outstay its welcome. I'd like to play it again with the objectives just to add a little more challenge, which I think the game needs if you are going to play it frequently.

Queendomino - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Queendomino


A more advanced version of Kingdomino that adds in an entire economy with knights to gain money when you tax a contiguous area, which is then spent on building buildings which offer some immediate benefits and more end game scoring objectives. It is still fairly fast playing but it definitely feels more gamey than Kingdomino and for that reason it doesn't rate as high for me. The core puzzle of Kingdomino is still there but in this case the added elements take a little bit away for me as opposed to add. For a half hour puzzle game at this weight I would almost always reach for something like Azul. I want to try this again with 4 players to see if it's any better than with 2 before making my final decision.

Agricola (revised edition) - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Agricola (Revised Edition)


Finally got a chance to play this classic and I can see why so many people enjoy it and I enjoy it a lot too. The combination of nowhere near enough turns to do what you want, the constant feeling of not being able to feed your farmers, and the variability with the cards make for a challenging game that really has you thinking throughout. For me I enjoy this better than Feast for Odin because Agricola does have those constraints and forces you to puzzle it out instead of doing whatever you want, but it still suffers from the constant upkeep phase round over round. I want to try this again to see how much the cards really do change my strategy because I do worry about the category scoring requiring you to still diversify as much as you can in order to do well.

Majesty: For the Realm - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Majesty: For the Realm


Another fast playing micro game from the designer of Splendor. It feels like a combination of Splendor and Century. Its simpler than both of those as you're simply drafting 12 cards and then the game ends. While drafting more cards of the same type scores you more points during the game as the effect is multiplied, you'll score less at the end of the game due to the variety scoring in place. For these reasons it's hard to say that you are building an engine in this one like Century or Splendor, which I think hurts it a little bit. It's also odd to me that with the game taking 12 rounds there's no round marker other than counting the cards in your display. I'd be curious to try this with more than two to see if some of the card powers become more valuable, but if it doesn't I fear it may always be overlooked in favor of the other two games I have mentioned.

Run for your Life, Candyman! - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2005
Board Game: Run for Your Life, Candyman!


A silly game that is like a reverse Candyland. Try to get your gingerbread man to the end, but all the way you're beating up your opponents and trying to take their limbs away as trophies. Either make it to the end or once everyone dies the person with the most trophies wins. Very silly and great for a laugh amongst friends as no thought is needed to play this one. It may run a bit long for what it is, but with the right group this game can be great.

Memoarrr! - 6 plays -  6 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Memoarrr!


A memory game that I got to play with my 6-year old daughter and it was good that we played it twice in one night as I think by the second play she got it down. In this game you either have to match the animal or color of the card and with only knowing 3 of the 24 cards at the start it can move quick. With most memory games 2 player is not the best since rounds can go so quick, and I am sure it is better with more. There is also an advanced variant where each animal has a special power when you reveal it, but I think this needs a few more plays before we try that. I'll be interested to see if my daughter wants to play this or Chicken Cha Cha Cha when she wants to play a memory game next time.

Pulsar 2849 - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Pulsar 2849


Dice drafting point salad game that if the designer wasn't on the cover you would swear it could be from Feld. Everything you do scores you points in this one and it's a lot to take in. From explaining the dice drafting and how it impacts turn order, to the actions you can take with your 2 or 3 dice each round, to round scoring there are just so many choices, and unfortunately that leads to a really long explanation. We didn't have much AP in our 2-player game but I can easily see this happening for some people because there are so many paths to explore you'll always min/max each turn. This makes me feel like experienced players will always trounce new ones given the amount of choices you have with your dice and will be better suited to get a bonus die each round which is extremely powerful. I'm torn on Pulsar 2849 because while I liked my play of it and would play it again, I have a hard time mustering up the energy to teach it.

A Feast for Odin - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2016
Board Game: A Feast for Odin


I figured this game was too heavy for me and it definitely is. I enjoy resource conversion games, but for me this is too many resources. Combine that with too many options and paths to pursue that lead to suboptimal play and frustration in finding a strategy. Between the dice rolls not going my way and cards not comboing well together I felt behind from the second round and really struggled to find a way forward to be productive. I ended up with over 30 negative points from my board alone. Maybe that is the benefit of the longer game, but man this game is complete overkill for me. I'd consider trying it again if someone suggested, but certainly not one I would ever suggest.






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5. Board Game: The Golden Ages [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:932]
Board Game: The Golden Ages
Joerg Schaefer
Germany
Frankfurt
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9 new games and 1 new expansion. New games were a mixed bag this month with a few games I don't need to play again but also a few nice surprises by games I didn't expect too much from.

GAME OF THE MONTH

The Golden Ages: d10-8 (1 play)
Board Game: The Golden Ages

Successful blend of civ game and euro. The game is played through four eras. At the start of the game the player gets dealt one civ card with a special ability for each era. The ability is not game-breaking but either provides a boost to efficiency if utilized or grants a one-off benefit. Players can develop their civ in four tech trees, each consisting of four consecutive technologies. The final technology in each tech tree grants a VP bonus based on the board presence. Planning for these techs is a main source for VPs. Others are wonders and the scoring cards which are open from the beginning but only one is selected per era by the player who passes first.

While explanation of the many individual techs and cards needs some time, gameplay is smooth and quick without serious downtime. On their turn, players choose one out of eight actions. Half of them need a settler (out of three per player) limiting the number of turns. There’s one aggressive action with a random reward but it fits in thematically and can in parts be prepared for. Most eurogamers should be fine with it. The tech trees combined with the special ability and the different scoring cards for the game ask for strategic planning. Player approaches will be different, replayability is a given. A good, potentially really good game.


GOOD GAMES

Imhotep: d10-7 (1 play)
Board Game: Imhotep

Imhotep is suitable for playing with the family as well as with gamers. The material is appealing, the rules are easy to explain, the decisions are interesting, replayability is given as a good part of gameplay is in the player interaction.

Depending on the group, Imhotep will shine or suffer. Seat order is a major influence. Players have to keep an eye on the options of the next player. Some options can be so strong that they have to be denied by launching a ship to a destination not intended by the owner of the cubes on it. As launching a ship hinders a player to further his own interest, this decision is double-edged. The end result of a player is directly dependent on the play style of the player in front of him. In all-casual or all-experienced groups, this shouldn't matter or balance out.

A pleasant constructive game in a casual group, potentially a mean affair with core gamers. The sweet spot is probably three players as a good compromise between control and competition for majorities.


Ethnos: d10-7 (1 play)
Board Game: Ethnos

How can a new game look so old-fashioned in 2017? Every average Kickstarter game looks far better than this release. The gory illustrations by John Howe are a huge mismatch to the drab gameboard and the otherwise functional graphics.

Once beyond these stumbling blocks, Ethnos is a solid eurogame; a smooth mix of set collection, push-your-luck and area majority. Players try to collect sets in rummy-style. The trick is that they are allowed to collect a maximum of ten cards before having to play a set and then discarding the rest of their hand to the center display. This display is quickly emptied and not refilled from the draw stack. Thus, drawing blind and hoping for a matching card is a big part of the game. Gamble high unsuccessfully and the game can be lost early on.

With the played set, players can place one army to the board with each consecutive army in the same area being more expensive. The leader of the set played grants a special effect depending on his suit. Only six of the twelve suits are in each single game ensuring variance between plays. A good game for a higher player count if played reasonably quickly.


Clank! In! Space!: A Deck-Building Adventure: d10-7 (1 play)
Board Game: Clank! In! Space!: A Deck-Building Adventure

The best purpose for building a deck so far. Trains was the first game to link deck-building with movement on a board but Clank! In! Space! does it far more convincing and fun. Clank! In! Spaces! obliterates Trains if this hadn't been the case already before. Part of it is the Ascension / Star Realms principle of acquiring cards which I like better than the classic Dominion / Thunderstone approach. The other part is the narrative arch of exploring a spaceship with random loot and the push-your luck element through the danger of being caught when causing too much noise.

The easier alternative to Clank! In! Space! is The Quest for El Dorado which packs the principle into a family-friendly package. While Clank! In! Space! is more thematic and has a broader scope, El Dorado scores with its focused design and shorter length while still offering challenging gameplay. I can't draw the obvious comparison to its predecessor Clank! but the common opinion seems to be that it's an improvement. So no reason to seek out Clank!


OK GAMES

The Pursuit of Happiness: d10-6 (3 plays)
Board Game: The Pursuit of Happiness

Pursuit of Happiness is a typical thematic game with mechanisms and depth taking a backseat to theme. While appropriate for a game of life, the resulting gameplay doesn't manage to keep me fully engaged across the length of at least 90 minutes it takes. The theme wears thin and the creaking cogs and wheels grind through it.

The worker placement lacks tension as spots aren't blocked. Except for a few far too rare cards with hearts that grant a stress reduction across section borders, it usually doesn't hurt much when another player takes away a card. Enough alternatives available. Managing the stress level in practice isn't as interesting as it promises. Getting one extra action at the cost of losing another action each following round relegates stress to a limitation rather than a decision space. The same is in part true for exceeding the limit of three for partners, projects and jobs which is only feasible as long as no new section on the stress scale is reached.

In later rounds repetitiveness sets in. Even if theoretically different, the process for acquiring and developing projects, jobs, items or relations is similar. The game develops into a tactical optimization exercise of squeaking out a few points more once the general direction (i.e. job & relationship status) is set. When the thematic decision of upgrading your relationship to a family is equated with a plain VP generation method, the enjoyment of the game nosedives.

While this sounds overly negative, the game has its shiny moments. When your high profile job and your wife keeps you busy and leaves you with a single action while the yoga dude without a steady relationship and an odd job is all over the board with his six actions, you start to think about life. The secret is to ignore the mechanisms and focus on the story. Stays in the collection for now due to this.


Adventure Land: d10-6 (1 play)
Board Game: Adventure Land

Adventure Land is an odd bird. The game is simple to an extent of feeling played more than taking meaningful decisions. Often, the turns of a player are simply decided by what is revealed on the board by the cards drawn. Getting lucky is a relevant part of the game. Rolling high in battles against fog creatures is decisive as each pip less can be equated with losing a VP. Our scores were so close that the winner can be decided by a single lucky or unlucky outcome.

Having said that, a better focus on the VP conditions and the game end could - and should - have changed some of my decisions. These two factors are reminiscent of Palaces of Carrara. The chosen scenario determines what is worth VPs and can introduce new minor rules. The variable game end has to be taken into account to switch from collecting resources to fighting the fog creatures. Is there more than meets the eye?


AVERAGE GAMES

Rifugio: d10-5 (1 play)
Board Game: Rifugio

Rifugio is an anachronism. Probably one of the last self-published games not using a crowdfunding platform and the quality of arts design and material show. In the best case, it can be called quirky and having a unique charm. It’s still functional but not up to today’s standards.

Gameplay is ok but left me wondering why I’m not playing Carcassonne instead. While Rifugio fits a similar niche with its principle of laying a tile and doing something with a meeple, the choices are less meaningful. I never felt as involved as I am when playing Carcassonne. There’s not much hindering you to visit all the same sites as the other players. It just might be a bit more expensive which is in good part due to luck of the draw. What remains as the most unique feature is the anachronistic way of publishing with its attending ills.


Fairytale Gloom: d10-5 (1 play)
Board Game: Fairytale Gloom

The transparent stacking cards of Gloom are a unique gimmick and one of the main reasons to play this. Otherwise, it's a run-of-the-mill take-that card game that needs a surprising amount of concentration to get all rules right and remember all effects.

Beside the new theme, Fairytale Gloom introduces stories that can be claimed by players who fulfil the respective prerequisite. That I would play it again is already praise for this genre of game.


BAD GAMES

Fast Forward: FLEE: d10-4 (1 play)
Board Game: Fast Forward: FLEE

Flee is the second Fast Forward game after Fear that I have played. It's cooperative and more complicated than Fear. The rules border on the limit of what is feasible with the concept of learning them on the fly whenever a new rules card is revealed. Repeatedly, we had to look through the rules again when we had different recollections of them.

The game itself is a puzzle of how to solve the task on hand. One of the four actors has a monster card. If it is ever his turn while holding the monster, the players lose. Other cards allow manipulating the turn order, exchanging cards etc. As the card order is fixed, the game is solvable. Except for the challenge to keep all rules in mind as a single player, there's few to be gained by involving more players in solving the puzzle.

With the novelty of discovering new rules and the goal of the game gone, I have no interest to play this again although we have lost our game with the last card. Better puzzles to be solved.


NEW EXPANSIONS

Scythe: Invaders from Afar: d10-8 (2 plays)
Board Game: Scythe: Invaders from Afar

As is obvious from the board, this expansion is an integral part of the base game since the start. To release it separately, can positively interpreted as a way to keep the cost and content of the base game in check. Sharp tongues would call it a cash grab.

The two new factions and the player boards integrate seamlessly. The factions are slightly more complex. I haven't played one of the new boards but as with all other boards they should blend nicely with some factions while being a challenge with others. I played the Togawa faction and liked it. Although I can see that it can be a pain in the ass for its neighbours. I wouldn't want to play Crimea with both Togawa and the Saxony empire in the game.
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6. Board Game: Patchwork [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:82]
Board Game: Patchwork
Eddy Richards
Scotland
Allanton
Duns
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I played this in a games cafe in Hamburg, and enjoyed it a lot; another good one we played was Azul - seemingly simple but with, I suspect, hidden depths. Finally there was The Golden Ages which is a solid civ builder - not spectacular, but interesting enough to be worth a few plays.
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7. Board Game: Krakatoa [Average Rating:5.47 Overall Rank:17390]
Board Game: Krakatoa
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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I've played a bunch of Joli Quentin Kansil's wacky designs from the 70s and 80s this year and enjoyed all of them. He's like Sid Sackson from a parallel, weirder, universe. Krakatoa is a dice game with a dexterity element - with each roll, you have to move at least one of the dice on the table. The dice combinations are all named for the volcanic theme and the scoring works a little like ten-pin bowling. Odd but fun.

Qwinto feels like Qwixx with more freedom (and therefore more difficult decisions). One of the better roll & writes I've played.

Avenue is almost a roll and write but instead of rolling you draw (a card) and instead of writing you draw (a map). Harmless but not particularly compelling.

Bridgette is another Kansil design - a two-player take on Bridge. We didn't play enough to really dig into it.

Squirrel or Die is a fairly pointless (but mercifully short) memory exercise.

Cranium Junior and Monopoly Junior have the significant advantage of being over much quicker than their parent games...
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8. Board Game: Scythe: The Wind Gambit [Average Rating:7.93 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.93 Unranked]
Board Game: Scythe: The Wind Gambit
Tally C
United States
New York City
New York
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meeple HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE! meeple

December 2017 was a good month of new games to me, closing out a really good year for me regarding new-to-me games! Top spot this month has to go to an expansion, since I loved the two new-to-me expansions I played this month so much.

== NEW GAMES ==


Fantasy Realms - 4 plays -  8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Fantasy Realms

Comments: Fantasy Realms is a quick little card game that reminds me a bit of two of my favorite card games: Arboretum and Fairy Tale. In the 2P variant, players take turns either drawing two cards and discarding one from the deck or taking a card from the discard pile to put into their hand. They continue doing this until each player has 7 cards in their hand. From there, they can either draw one card from the deck and discard one from their hand or take a card from the discard pile and discard one from their hand. The game ends when each player has 7 cards in their hand AND there are 12 cards in the discard pile. Players reveal the cards in their hand and add up their scores.

Like Arboretum, players are trying to build a strong hand while also trying to ensure they don’t let their opponent get cards that strongly benefit their hand (or at least, not too early to build a hand around). Each card as a base strength (which converts to points), but most cards also have bonuses (+ points) or penalties (- points) when in a hand with other specific cards or specific suits of cards. There are also cards that allow copying of card names, blanking of all card text except card name, and clearing of penalties. This card synergy reminds me a lot of Fairy Tale.

Fantasy Realms is exactly the type of card game I love: a game that plays quickly, but has very interesting tactical choices. The card art is good, the abilities and scoring is very clear overall, and WizKids certainly didn’t skimp on that scorepad (it’s HUGE!).

Path of Light and Shadow - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Path of Light and Shadow

Comments: At its core, PoLaS is a deckbuilder with a board; however, it adds in a lot of fresh mechanics that make it feel really unique. The game plays over a series of 12 rounds, with scoring happening at the end of rounds 4, 8, and 12. Each player starts the game with an identical set of seven cards, plus one randomized unique advisor card, plus two cards drawn from the realm deck that matches the starting location of their leader miniature.

On a player's turn, they can perform any of the game's actions as many times as they want (except for moving their leader to an adjacent province - this can only be done once per turn). These actions include upgrading a card from their hand or discard pile, constructing a building on their tech tree, culling cards from their hand (moves them up on the Cruelty track), and attacking a province. Most actions require that the player use cards from their hand to pay a cost (in either Labor, Strength, or a combination). At the end of a player's turn, they draw one or two cards from the realm deck matching the current location of their leader (drawing two moves them up 1 Mercy), decide if they want to discard any cards still left in their hand, and draw back up to five cards.
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The scoring that happens at the ends of rounds 4, 8, and 12 ties into the fortresses located on the map. Players gain points for the total strength of all fortresses they control. Also, if they control at least two provinces belonging to the same realm, they get a realm influence bonus, giving them either 4, 8, or 12 bonus points depending on the round. Due to this, controlling fortresses is quite important, but attacking a fortress can inflict Ruin. For each Ruin symbol an attacker rolls on a die, one fortress strength is taken away from the fortress at the battle's conclusion. This leads to some interesting choices, since often bringing high strength to a battle runs a higher risk of inflicting ruin, meaning that the fortress will score your less points during scoring.

After round 12 scoring is concluded, end game scoring triggers. Players get bonus points for the number of buildings they constructed, special bonuses for each Tier 4 building they constructed, points for any Allies they collected during the game, and points for all cards they upgraded during the course of the game. Most points wins, of course!

As fans of deckbuilders with maps, Tyler and I knew this one would do well with us, but we loved it even more than we expected. First off, the game is really streamlined; the actions are intuitive, so once we learned the game, we hardly had to consult the rulebook at all. Second, I love when deckbuilders have a card upgrade system. Third, the innovative mechanics (e.g. Cruelty vs. Mercy, fortress ruin system, drawing from specific realm decks at the end of your turn) really enhance the game. And finally (the factor that drew me to the game in the first place) the art is stunning. I love the amount of diversity in the people depicted on the cards. I'm really looking forward to playing again.


Charterstone - 12 plays -  8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Charterstone

Comments: This month we played through the entire legacy campaign of Charterstone, Stonemaier’s new Legacy game. All games were played 2P, but one Automa player was incorporated from Game 2 onward. I won’t be talking about any spoilers in this post.

Charterstone is a bit difficult for me to score, but for now I’ll give it an 8. As we were playing the campaign, we were eager to see how the game would continue to grow and change. We’re pleased that the game is playable post-campaign, but we’re unsure how often we’ll come back to it now that the game is mostly static. So the “8” rating is mostly a reflection of the campaign play - it may go stay constant or go down after we play a couple post-campaign plays. Overall, we’ve very glad to have played it. In comparison to other legacy games, I liked it quite a bit less than Pandemic Legacy: Season 2, a little less than Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, but a good deal more than Risk Legacy. It’s a solid entry to the group of Legacy titles.


T.I.M.E Stories - 2 plays -  7.8 
First Published 2015
Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories

Comments: This month, I played my first two games of T.I.M.E Stories (the Asylum scenario) with Tyler and our friend who lives in Iowa. We set up our respective copies at the game at two locations and used speaker phone to communicate. It worked extremely well; we just had to be clear about where everyone's pawns were moving, when the time captain was moving the TU marker, and what was going on in terms of attribute tests. It was a ton of fun, though we failed both of our attempts. We’re planning to do our third attempt as soon as we’re all able to, but so far times haven’t really lined up. I’m sure they will soon, though, and I can’t wait.

I'm really pleased I thought to try out this long-distance type of play - T.I.M.E Stories is perfectly suited for it!



Azul - 4 plays -  7.8 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Azul

Comments: In Azul, players take turns drafting tiles of the same pattern/color from various supplies depots. Any remaining tiles on a supply get pulled into the middle of the table (where players can also draft from using the same rules, but the first player will have to take the First Player tile). Players use these tiles to fill up queues of different lengths on their boards. At the end of the round (once all tiles have been claimed), players tile their mosaic, moving one tile from any full queue to the large pattern on the right-hand side. They score points based on how many other tiles their scoring tile touches.They receive negative points for any tiles that they were not able to place in their queue during the drafting phase.
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Azul was as smart and beautiful as I had hoped, but Tyler absolutely wrecked me all four times we played! He's much better at it than me, but I'm looking forward to improving my strategy (I think I already have a bit). I also got the Joker Tiles for Tyler as a Christmas gift, so we’re looking forward to throwing those into some future games to see how they shake things up. Kiesling is really a master designer and I'm also looking forward to getting our preordered copy of Heaven & Ale early next year.


Okey Dokey - 3 plays -  7.5 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Okey Dokey

Comments: Okey Dokey is a nice little game by a designer that I really like (Hisashi Hayashi). I've heard it's a bit like The Game, but I can't verify that, having never played the latter. In Okey Dokey, players are trying to cooperatively build a huge tableau of cards in a 5 x 10 grid. Thematically they're organizing a concert. Each line corresponds to one color/instrument and the numbers can only ascend in each line, though two Reset cards will be played in each row, allowing low numbers to be played again. There are up to three wild (or "equal") cards that can be included in the deck to create varying levels of difficulty. Players take turns playing cards into the tableau from their hands, and while they will have to communicate, they are not able to reveal the exact contents of their hand to each other.

We played three games of Okey Dokey, winning the first two on Amateur (three Equal cards) and Standard (two Equal cards) difficulty. We lost the last game on Maestro (no Equal cards) difficulty with 49 out of 50 cards placed. It's quite an enjoyable little co-op game and so colorful!
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Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab - 1 play -  6.5 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab

Comments: This month we played our first EXIT game, though we have played Unlock! The Elite (which is a small tutorial of the Unlock! games) before. We've never done a real escape room. I was really looking forward to trying out this KdJ winner, not only because it won the award, but also because I've been discovering an interest in Inka and Markus Brand's designs.

We beat the game, but did not do amazingly well. It took us well over 2 hours and we used 4 hint cards, which gave us a 4-star score (out of 10 stars). I enjoyed playing the game, but was not very good at the puzzles. Both Tyler and I kept overthinking things and ended up taking the puzzle in a completely wrong direction. I'd say it might be more fun with more players (because that would offer more perspectives, so maybe less of a chance of getting stuck), but there were times even with two players one of us didn't have much to do except think things over while the other was looking through the materials for the current puzzle.

I'd be interested in playing some of the other EXIT games down the road, but I think between the two, I might possibly prefer the Unlock! system. It seemed to suit my puzzle-solving strengths a bit better and I like that once you beat it, you can pass it on to a friend to play. With some work, you can do the same thing with EXIT, but you'd have to make photocopies of certain materials, which we didn't end up doing (we also don't have a color photocopier and a couple of the materials would have required they be in color).

I'm glad I got it, pleased that we played it, but will probably prefer to try another Unlock! game next if we play another game of this type anytime soon. I'm starting to think that maybe Escape Room genre games just aren't 100% up my alley. I do really appreciate how well put together the puzzles in them are, though.

== NEW EXPANSIONS ==


Scythe: The Wind Gambit - 3 plays -  8.5 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Scythe: The Wind Gambit

Comments: It was a close pick between this expansion and the next entry on this list for new-to-me game of the month, but in the end, I settled on the Wind Gambit because it added a bit more to the game. The Wind Gambit (Scythe’s second expansion) adds in two modules: Airships (with interchangeable aggressive and passive abilities) and Resolutions (new ways to end the game). This month, we played three games with the Wind Gambit using different aggressive and passive airship abilities as well as different resolutions. The aggressive abilities we’ve used are Toll, Blitzkrieg, and War Correspondent. The passive Airship abilities we’ve used are Craft, Safe Haven, and Drill. The Resolutions we’ve used are Factory Explosion, Mission Possible, and Doomsday Clock.

I haven’t disliked any of the Airship abilities or Resolutions we’ve used so far. Both the Airships and the Resolutions force you to think about the game slightly differently, which I like. Doomsday Clock, for example, really made us try to be as efficient as possible within twenty turns. It seems like in a 2P game, the aggressive airship abilities don’t come into play as much as they would in a game with a larger player count (I don’t think we ended up using our aggressive abilities in any of our games), but the threat of them still made an impact. The expansion really lived up to my expectations. I don't know whether I was more excited about the airships or the new ways to end the game, but they were both great.
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Overall, the expansion gives players more choices and more things to consider, which I really like. It doesn't radically change the game, though, just offers little variations of it - which I think is perfect. I think The Wind Gambit is a great expansion for fans of Scythe who want a little more variation in their games. It tops Invaders from Afar for me (and I really loved adding two new factions to the game).

Mansions of Madness: Beyond the Threshold - 1 play -  8.5 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Mansions of Madness: Second Edition – Beyond the Threshold: Expansion

Comments: A Christmas present from Tyler, we got this expansion to the table the same day. Mansions of Madness 2.0. Is one of my very favorite games and I couldn’t wait to dive into its content. Though it’s a relatively small expansion (adding in two heroes, one monster type, some new player cards, and a variety of map tiles and game tokens), it expands the game to include two new scenarios. We played the shorter one: Vengeful Impulses. This felt like a classic murder mystery in a mansion and we had a ton of fun with it (despite our investigators somewhat botching the case!).


And that was it for December and 2017! I’m looking forward to getting a bunch of new-to-me games to the table in the next couple of months that I received as Christmas gifts. Here's to another great year of new-to-me games.
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9. Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 [Average Rating:8.18 Overall Rank:33]
Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
BEST GAME


Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 2

Pandemic Legacy: Season 2

3 plays into the game... looks like it's going to be amazing! A lot tougher than season 1 too!

REALLY GOOD GAME

Board Game: Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations

Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations

3 plays of this and I'm enjoying it. I already own Thunderbolt Apache Leader, and this has some twists and tweaks to keep it interesting.

PRETTY DECENT GAME - NOT GREAT

Board Game: First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet

First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet

6 plays so far. It's got issues, but I'm liking it so far. Really hard and beats you down. Super fiddly! App is nice but could be far better and help out more.

GREAT EXPANSION

Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition

Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition

After one play, I can't imagine playing without it.
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10. Board Game: Codenames: Disney Family Edition [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:1945] [Average Rating:6.71 Unranked]
Board Game: Codenames: Disney Family Edition
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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I played 4 new to me games in December, and Codenames: Disney Family Edition is my choice for the best. I also played and enjoyed Maze Racers, Underlings of Underwing, and Escalation!, and I would play any of the four of them again, but none of them will crack my new-to-me top tep for the year.
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11. Board Game: Hive Pocket [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
Board Game: Hive Pocket
john newman
United States
Lafayette
Louisiana
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Board Game: Hive Pocket


Rating: 8.5
Number of Plays: 13

In general, I am not a big fan of abstracts, so I had intentionally stayed away from Hive for years. This December, I decided to give it a shot. I loved it. With the mosquito, its even more amazing. Looking forward to trying out the Pillbug. Great game. Currently my favorite abstract and on my top 5 for two-player games.

Board Game: Azul


Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 1

Yes, another abstract. I wasn't too interested in Azul but someone brought it to game night, so I thought I'd give it a try. And yes, it is as good as they say. Azul has replaced Sagrada for me at all player counts. My wife likes, Sagrada, so it will still have a place in my collection.

Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar


Unrated
Number of Plays: 1

Another game I had been intentionally avoiding. My brother-in-law brought it over and I gave it a try. I had initially thought the gears were a cheap marketing gimmick. As it turns out, the gears make this a deep worker placement game. After my initial play, I am tempted to give Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar an 8, but I want to get a few more plays under my belt to see if it holds up over multiple plays. Looking forward to playing this one again soon.

Board Game: Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh


Unrated
Number of Plays: 1

Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh does add some interesting elements to Istanbul. My wife did not enjoy it, so that colors my feelings for this expansion. It is definitely not a bad expansion, I am just not entirely sure it makes the game better. I am going to have to give this another try in a different setting.



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12. Board Game: Kepler-3042 [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:1612]
Board Game: Kepler-3042
Jake Blomquist
United States
Vestal
New York
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One of the better months this year, I think this is only the fifth month where I played a game good enough to own, the last time I did that being August.

Kepler-3042 - 8.5/10

Board Game: Kepler-3042


For the third year in a row I've received a game from my father for Christmas, but for the first time I gave him some guidance and he got me the Renegade reprint of this game. And for the third year in a row I'm really happy with my gift. I've gotten two plays in, and I'm definitely still really excited for more.

It seems like there are a lot of different ways to play the game, and a lot of interesting systems that play off of each other. The best part to me is how you're really incentivised to plan a number of movies ahead, but at the same time there are enough variable factors that sometimes a tactical adjustment is necessary. To me it strikes the ideal balance in that regard.

The limited pool of resources, with the option to remove some from the pool and decrease the amount available in order to get some nice bonuses is a really cool balancing act. And the tech tree gives players the opportunity to focus on different things. I'm excited about the idea of trying a game where I focus on different techs and see what different strategies are possible.

And I'm really enjoying the theme. I don't usually go for sci-fi games, but I like how this one feels more grounded. Generally my favorite games have a real world historical theme, but this is showing me that I'm equally happy with a more grounded/real world speculative future game.

There was some small concern before I'd bought the game that it would quickly become samey, but after having played it, the round bonuses and secret goals and especially the way that the planets get laid out all give a good amount of variability, in addition to the variability of players just wanting to try something different.

Overall a game that's captured my imagination and that I'm really interested in more plays of. I don't know exactly where it lands among my 8.5/10 games yet, but it's definitely in that tier, among my top games.

No Thanks! - 7/10

Board Game: No Thanks!


I got this as a gift for my parents, as I know they like to play simple little card games with their friends. Last year I got them Red7 and that went over well, this seems to fill a similar niche. I like it, it's just not my favorite type of game. It seems ideal to play while socializing; it has some nice opportunities for real decisions but not so many that you really have to be completely focused on the game. I think this is exactly the kind of thing they're looking for, but for me it's a bit too luck dependent and decision light to become an absolute favorite. But for what it does, I'll always enjoy a game.

Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game - 6/10

Board Game: Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game


This game has a lot of similarities with Ticket to Ride. It's principle advantages over Ticket to Ride are that it's shorter and less luck dependent. But it's still too luck dependent and just not particularly interesting. I think things would improve if you took out the die roll, as that just basically gives everyone a 50% chance of an extra action each turn (normally you get three actions a turn), which makes things very swingy. The art is nice, and the game is inoffensive, but especially since Royals already exists and attaches an interesting game to the central TTR card mechanism, I don't really see the point of this. Still better than TTR but that's a very low bar.

But the fact that this even exists is just incredibly bizarre to me. I mean, I used to love the Joy of Painting, and this surprisingly does a solid job conveying the theme (other than the idea of racing to finish a painting). And the luck factor is probably a plus for the target audience. Maybe I'm being too hard on it? But it's definitely not my kind of game.
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13. Board Game: Azul [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:46] [Average Rating:7.84 Unranked]
Board Game: Azul
Oliver Paul
Iceland
Reykjavik
None
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Lots of new games, mostly played over Christmas break.

Great

Board Game: Azul

Azul

I remember watching a review on this game a few months ago and not being particularly impressed, but more and more people were talking about the game, always in a very positive way, so I picked it up. Very glad that I did, as I absolutely love it!

To me, this feels like a less thinky and more interactive version of Sagrada, another game which I like quite a bit. In Sagrada, you're kinda in your own world, with your nose two inches from your board, min-maxing every single die placement to get the most points. The other players might not even be at the table, as you don't really consider them much at all. In Azul, you definitely want to see what the other players are doing, otherwise you're not going to do very well.

Love the components (other than the scoring markers/tracks). Love that the decisions all feel easy, but you can really puzzle it out if you want. The length of the game is good, taking about 20-30 minutes usually. Super easy to teach, super fun to play, a hit all round!

Board Game: Arkham Horror: The Card Game – The Dunwich Legacy: Expansion

Arkham Horror: The Card Game – The Dunwich Legacy

I'm a big fan of AH:LCG, and this is just more goodness. Only tried the first scenario in the pack, looking forward to the second! Really enjoy how thematic this is. We've started playing on easy, as it feels that we enjoy it more. The game is still plenty hard, but on easy it feels like at least you have a chance, as opposed to just getting beaten down again and again on Standard (or Hard).

Good

Board Game: Automania

Automania

Fun, little game about making cars. I liked taking tiles and putting them on your board to make your cars worth the most. I also liked the decision of when to pass your turn and take a sales office, as they can be a big deal. Also, being behind on points and getting to decide the demand for each market is HUGE, so sometimes you'll want to hang back just to do that.

Game does feel perhaps a bit short. 4 rounds means the game is over in an hour or so, and it feels like your engine is just starting to work well when it's over, which is probably the designers' goal, I guess.

One thing I don't get, why there were a bunch of blank tiles that we're told to keep, don't see the point of them at all. Maybe someone can explain those to me.

Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Forgotten Island
Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Polar Station
Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Forbidden Castle

Exit: The Game - The Forgotten Island, The Polar Station and The Forbidden Castle

Second bunch of three Exit games. Similar to the first three, we found the "hardest" (Forbidden Castle in this case) to be the easiest and the most fun. Lots of fun to be had.

If you liked the system already, getting these is a no-brainer for you.

Board Game: Unlock!: Mystery Adventures

Unlock! Mystery Adventures

Second box of three Unlock scenarios, and these seem a bit harder than the ones in the first box. At one point in the 2nd scenario (Nautilus Traps) I was completely lost, looked at the solution, and still had no idea how they got to that solution.

If you were a fan of the first box, this is a no-brainer (again). I liked the themes, and am looking forward to more Unlock scenarios!

Meh

Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories: Santo Tomás de Aquino

T.I.M.E Stories: Santo Tomás de Aquino

Was hoping this little scenario would be a good intro to the system for new players, and I guess it might work in that regard? I just thought it was dull and a little pointless. I'm definitely cooling on the system as a whole, since the scenarios have been getting steadily worse over the years (Lumen Fidei I liked though).

Bad

Board Game: Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis

Here's the other end of the spectrum from Azul, a game I bought based on positive reviews and just enthusiasm about it from everyone, it seemed. Was expecting to love it, but absolutely hated my one play of it.

To begin with, everything seems to take such a long time to achieve. The game seems to move at such a slow pace. I'm not a big of a fan of having to buy things to then use them on the board. I also didn't feel it was easy to see the board state at a glance. I had a hard time seeing which trees were level 2 and which were level 3. I had a hard time figuring out sun points for the next round, or if I put a tree somewhere, what impact it would have, or whether it would be shadowed 2 turns from now. I didn't enjoy that the scoring tiles are all high numbers, so the different scoring spaces didn't really matter. You just need to score more trees than the others (quantity over quality).

We played a 3p game, and nobody at the table liked it. Sold off after a single play. Thankfully it's very popular, so it was easy to sell.
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14. Board Game: Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition) [Average Rating:8.69 Overall Rank:5]
Board Game: Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition)
We had our inaugural game on the 27th. What can I say that hasn't been said before? If you like TI3, this seems like a natural progression and streamlining, improvement and overhaul of the 3rd Edition. Weak part seemed to be the Agenda phase for us as not many of the agendas were critical to the outcome of the game of even for a victory point even. I love the new ship models, especially the War Suns. Planets having traits is curious and it came up in a couple Action Cards and Public Objectives. We were only able to get a 5p game and I think 6p would have been better. Happy New YEAR Everyone!!

Preliminary rating:
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15. Board Game: Indian Summer [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:1311]
Board Game: Indian Summer
Frederic Heath-Renn
United Kingdom
Islington
London
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A very quiet December to round out the year - a reasonable amount of gaming, just mostly of things I'd played already. Which is a nice way for things to be!

I managed to play a couple of new games once each, though.

Ekö (1 play) - I think I played this very suboptimally, but it also seemed a rather uninteresting push-me-pull-you fest to me; this got played in the regular abstracts slot and it was definitely not up to the usual standard.

Planet Rush (1 play) - Area majority game, only slightly less bog-standard than Ethnos in that category; still, the wrinkles are all things that seem to make it more interesting (our game of it was not a particularly mean one, and I can see that its features are things which would make it more interesting to play viciously). I don't tend to get on too well with area majority games but I'd probably acquiesce to playing this again.

Tokyo Highway (1 play) - It reminded me of Tasso in that it looks like a dexterity game but it's actually more of an abstract but one that happens to use continuous rather than discrete mathematics in its mechanisms. Looks great on the table, of course, and it requires such a different way of thinking from the other games I tend to play that I was rather taken with it.

But the winner, albeit in a not particularly tough month, is Indian Summer (1 play); a charming, very quick-playing, and very beautiful multiplayer tile-layer. I like games that are about racing to a victory condition rather than amassing points, and Indian Summer's way of funnelling everything towards getting pieces down on your board as quickly as possible is very graspable and very simple. In a way it's a shame that the spatial element is a bit less important than it is in Patchwork - grabbing pieces from the path is a lot less fine-tuned and a lot less predictable - but then this is a different game from Patchwork, a kinder one and one more focussed on filling space than economic efficiency (although obviously you do want to be turning out treasures so you can use them to fill space, it's more tactical and less enginey). Perfectly pleasant, especially for its timeframe.
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16. Board Game: Azul [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:46] [Average Rating:7.84 Unranked]
Board Game: Azul
Will Plante
United States
Greenville
Rhode Island
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Another great month of games with my family. With all of our school schedules settling in, we managed to find a lot of time to play some games. Since I'm buying less games there weren't as many new titles played, but I was happy to get a few played that had been sitting on my shelf for a while. Enjoy!



My favorite game of the month


Board Game: Azul
Azul -> 10 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (10):

I can see Azul being played a lot in the coming years; the rules are a breeze to teach and the gameplay is smooth yet packed with both meaningful and difficult decisions. Azul is beautiful game and the tiles are absolutely amazing, just handling the pieces is a satisfying sensory experience. Azul is one of those games where the designer is able to create a very simple set of rules that create a deep game play experience; I am always amazed when a designer is able to create such an elegant game. I'll admit that I didn't think Azul could live up to the hype and praise it had received by my expectations were exceeded. Azul has become my favorite game that was released in 2017.



Board Game: Automobiles
Automobiles -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

Automobiles combines bag building with racing; I was excited to try this since I still haven't played a bag builder I really enjoy. Instead, after playing Automobiles, Orleans and Hyperborea, I'm coming to the realization that I may not like the bag building mechanism all that much. I enjoyed Orleans the most and that was in large part because there were no waste cubes to deal with. I also found it annoying to constantly be referring to the rules cards for each different colored cube.

Aside from that I found the game to be okay; I ended up running away with it because I had a bunch of one color cube that no one else had. Those cubes allowed me two wild movement with each of those cubes; it wasn't a satisfying way to win a game. I also found that in a 3p game there wasn't much jockeying for position, the track felt wide open and didn't have any choke points. As I mentioned before I'm not a fan of deck/bag builders that have some type of "waste" cube/card you need to manage. Having a turn where you pull a bunch of waste and can't do anything of consequence for a round is not fun at all and completely takes you out of the game.

I know I've listed a lot of negatives, but most of them are based on my likes/dislikes of certain game mechanisms. I think there are a lot of folks who would really enjoy Automobiles, but for me there are other race games I much prefer. For a family weight race game I'd choose Flamme Rouge; for car racing I prefer Thunder Alley even though it is heavier and more difficult to learn.



Board Game: Dice Age: The Hunt
Dice Age: The Hunt -> 3 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

I've only played Dice Age: The Hunt a few times (with three and four players) so my opinion is still up in the air. Dice Age shares a lot of similarities with Las Vegas; in both games you roll and place dice on certain cards to gain the majority and claim that card. Points are scored for each card type that you have the majority of and/or collecting sets of each different type of card (there are five in total). Each card is also worth a certain number of points regardless of who has the majority. In Dice Age you also get a pair of generation cards in each age as soon as you place all of your dice. These generation cards will give you one or more bonuses that can alter your strategy as you play the game, this small addition adds some much needed variability to this type of game.

Dice Age is a great family game, it took my 7yo a few plays to fully understand how the scoring worked (which was much less cumbersome to keep track of once I realized there was a scoring track on the back of the board). The main draw back for me is that Dice Age maxes out at four players while Las Vegas plays up to six, but I still prefer Dice Age over Las Vegas. I really enjoy the extra mechanisms in Dice Age that allow you change how you play from game to game. I know many folks like Las Vegas, but I always found the game outstayed its welcome, especially since there was no way to mitigate die rolls. The strength of Las Vegas is that it is definitely easier to teach and the scoring is straightforward.

So far my two girls have really enjoyed playing Dice Age. I'm still on the fence, but the quick playtime and lack of downtime between turns is enough to keep me engaged for now. And as long as my kids enjoy Dice Age I'll keep playing.



Board Game: Dream Home: 156 Sunny Street
Dream Home: 156 Sunny Street -> 3 plays with the expansion

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

I honestly thought the expansion would add more to the game, but I'm still glad I bought it. The expansion adds solo play as well as new cards and components to increase the player count up to six; now my whole family can play together. While the new rooms are basically more of the same there are new decor, helper and tool cards that you swap into the resource deck. The are also new objective cards added to the game. The friends cards are completed during the game, the first person who meets the goal gets to claim the card and score the points. The construction plan cards are dealt to each player and if you can complete one by the end of the game you'll score the points for it.

Again being able to play up to six players is great; drafting games scale well since game length doesn't really increase based on player count. The rest of the expansion is good, having some in and end game objectives helps you focus more on how you build your house. The good news is that even with the expansion this game remains accessible to younger children (my youngest is 7 and she can play on her own no problem). Dream Home has been a hit in my house with my whole family so we're looking forward to some 5p matchups over the holidays. I'd definitely recommend this expansion for fans of the game (especially if you want to play at higher player counts), just be advised that this is still a very light game.



Board Game: Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft
Holmes: Sherlock and Mycroft -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (4):

I was really excited to play Holmes: Sherlock and Mycroft because it combined set collection and worker placement, two game mechanisms I really enjoy. Unfortunately the game was total flop due to the extremely straightforward decisions you make throughout the game. The different character powers are extremely similar and not all that exciting. Holmes: Sherlock and Mycroft has the beginnings of a great game, but fails to create any excitement while playing because it is so simple. On top of that the random draw of characters can really hamper the game; several characters were never used based on when they were revealed and their powers being next to useless or too expensive. And based on how the game works I don't think this would be an isolated event. I don't usually write off a game after one play, especially if it plays quickly and has mechanisms and a theme I typically enjoy, but I can't bring myself to play this again.



Board Game: Nations: The Dice Game – Unrest
Nations: The Dice Game - Unrest -> 3 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

The Nations: TDG - Unrest expansion adds some much needed variety to the base game. The best module are the new starting civilization boards; all eight of them have unique starting set ups. The differences are quite diverse and can really influence how you'll play the game. The expansion would be worth it for these boards alone, but the unrest dice add a great push your luck element to the game. You will either become frustrated by the unrest dice or delighted depending on what you roll (each unrest die has one double resource of each type and an unrest side). There are also some new tiles for each age, additional bonus scoring tiles, bonuses you receive for passing first, etc. and some more difficult end of age famine/war tiles. BAsically the Unrest expansion adds variety to every facet of the game.

I wasn't a huge fan of the base game, but this expansion completely changed my opinion of Nations: TDG. I definitely recommend playing this if you have a chance, even if you didn't care for the base game (which I initially rated a 4). This is probably the best expansion I played in 2017 based on how much it improves the base game.



Board Game: Riverboat
Riverboat-> 5 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

After taking a couple of games to get all the rules right I'm really enjoying Riverboat. Each round you select a role which determines which phase(s) you'll be first player and get the associated bonus. The five phases are: placing workers in the field, draft crop tiles, harvest goods to take riverboats, obtain scoring objective cards and potentially score objectives. During each of the five phases there are ways to mitigate luck/player order because you can always spend a coin to get exactly what you need, but coins are scarce so you need to spend wisely. During your first play everything seems to be a bit disjointed, but as the game progresses you start to see how all the different actions tie together as you begin to formulate a strategy.

The main source of tension, and my favorite part of the game, is the scoring system. You cannot simply score objectives whenever you want, instead at the end of each of the four rounds you can score up to two objectives (three in the last round). The longer you wait to score something the more points you will get, but at the same time you may not end up scoring everything you want if you wait too long. You also need to manage your supply of surveyors, the meeples needed to score objective cards and/or plantation features, because you only start the game with two. Everything in the game is well balanced and requires thoughtful planning. At first blush Riverboat appears to be a point salad game, but in reality you really need to focus on what your strategy is going to be and then execute it. You can't dabble in everything and end up doing well, there is just too much going on. As I mentioned earlier there is very little randomness in the game because you can spend coins to get plantation tiles, riverboats and the objective cards you need making it possible to plan and execute a specific strategy based around certain scoring features.

As of now I'm still undecided on whether Riverboat will have the legs to stick around in my collection because there are only so many paths you can go down. Yet the more I play the more I'm enjoying Riverboat and so far there is enough diversity in the strategies you can explore to keep me engaged. We'll see how things shake out a year from now, but for now I'm happy to have this in our collection.




Board Game: Stockpile: Continuing Corruption
Stockpile: Continuing Corruption -> 4 plays with the expansion

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

Even though I've only played with the new forecast dice I'd consider this an essential expansion for Stockpile. The added uncertainty/variability provided by the dice makes for a much more entertaining game. There are also some other new modules: bonds, commodities & taxes and some new investors. I'm not sure how often I'll get to play with the other modules because Stockpile + the forecast dice is the perfect amount of complexity for my family.

This also meant I finally got to play Stockpile again and update my thoughts on the game.

A year and a half later... thoughts and rating (8 -> 8/10)

I finally got to play Stockpile again, this time my kids and they loved it. I immediately ordered both Stockpile and the Continuing Corruption expansion based on their enjoyment of the game. Stockpile is by far the best family weight stock game I've played; it's much easier to teach than Airlines Europe and more fun and interactive. My two older kids absolutely love it, we'll be playing this on family game nights for a long time to come. If I was making a list of essential family games, Stockpile would make the list.



Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Germany
Ticket to Ride: Germany -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

Another fun map for TTR where the twist is that you're collecting different color passengers as you lay track. You get a set collection bonus for collecting the most or second most passengers of each given color (there are 10 colors). In a lot of ways this map reminded me of a simplified version of the Pennsylvania map. The Germany map is also similar to the original US map because there aren't any special tracks (i.e. ferries, tunnels or mountains).

I've enjoyed every TTR map I've played and will happily play Germany again. However; I much prefer the Pennsylvania map and would almost always rather play that one since there is more variation among the different stocks.



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

Happy New Year,
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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17. Board Game: Valley of the Kings [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:775] [Average Rating:7.06 Unranked]
Board Game: Valley of the Kings
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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Not much new games as I focused on getting some of my older games out of the dust!

Board Game: Valley of the Kings
Board Game: Valley of the Kings: Afterlife
Board Game: Valley of the Kings: Last Rites
Valley of the Kings + Valley of the Kings: Afterlife + Valley of the Kings: Last Rites = 3 Plays

External image


I had always been intrigued by this game which is a deckbuilder which features a “crumbling” pyramid where you take new cards and also an “entombing” mechanic wherein cards are only worth VPs if you Entomb them underneath your tomb card. This is similar to Elysium in that you must balance the benefit of using the card’s actions or monetary value while it is still in your deck versus taking it out of the deck by entombing it for VPs. Starting cards and artifacts are worth straight VPs as printed on their cards but most other cards are in sets (ie statues, canoptic jars, etc.) with the total VP worth equal to the squared amount of unique cards in the set (ie 4 unique statues = 16 points). The nice thing with the cards are that many actions not only interact with you and the pyramid but may also interact with other players as well. I totally agree with Tom Vasel’s review that this is a small box game (same box size as Love Letter: Batman) which contains a lot of game for its size. The expansions add more sets to the game with the last one having totally new starting cards but even then are basically just more of the same although you can mix and match the sets in different ways and this is something I will try out in the future.



EXPANSIONS

Board Game: Quadropolis: Public Services
Quadropolis: Public Services = 1 Play

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This expansion now makes players have the option to choose named public services buildings which give some form of extra ability or scoring opportunities. This is fine except that this does predispose players to go for this and thus swings the balance heavily towards this.

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18. Board Game: Pandemic: Rising Tide [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:720]
Board Game: Pandemic: Rising Tide
Jerry Schippa
United States
Sun Prairie
Wisconsin
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Pandemic: Rising Tide
4 Plays
8.0 / 10

Pandemic Rising Tide has players running around the Netherlands pumping water and building infrastructure to fight the onslaught of failing dikes and water flowing in. It's similar enough to pandemic to justifiably say its part of the series, but different enough that I'm finding it taking more plays than expected to figure out where the danger's coming from and how to stop it.

In my plays the main point of failure (3 loses, 1 win) has been running out of water cubes. In all of my loses the death blow has always come sudden and with little warning. Because of all the different things you must juggle (especially so with the variable win conditions variant) it feels easier to lose track of what regions will come up in the deck. On top of that there are two cards of each region in the deck which can cause catastrophic turns if you aren't careful.

My initial sense is this game favors the more plodding conservative play over rushing to the end. But it gives me the same excitement as when I first played base Pandemic.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
1 play
8.0 / 10

I'm only basing this off one 2-player game, however, that initial game showed me enough for me to know that this is going to be have a place in the medium weight euro lineup for quite some time to come.

I enjoy the strategy of price setting, the spatial elements of laying out your castle and the way the bonus scoring and completed room bonuses pay out in game and post game (for scoring).

Just feels like a smooth game that is both strategically rewarding and silly fun to play. That's a great balance in my opinion.

13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis
1 play
7.0 / 10

A while ago I bought High Treason: The Trial of Louis Riel to satisfy my urge to have a two player tug of war style quick game. While High Treason is an interesting game that has a unique flow and a good amount of back and forth, I think 13 Days is a better game in this category.

13 Days plays smooth, quick and more tense than High Treason. The component quality is better than the Victory Point quality materials, and the presentation is more appealing.

While i still like High Treason, if I could go back I would probably rather have bought this game.

Primordial Soup
1 play
7.0 / 10

About two thirds through the game I upgraded my critters so they could eat other players critters if there wasn't enough food. The next round I nearly wiped one opponent off the board and took a few from the third player as well. I've never felt so bad in a game than that. Bad in a good way, but i did fear retaliation.

Primordial soup has players moving their little life forms around the board eating cubes and pooping cubes...eating and pooping, eating and pooping. Cant eat? You may die off.

Its simple, its mean, it has some interesting scoring and punishments for being too strong...Not bad for a game 20 years old!

Modern Art
1 play
7.0 / 10

Speaking of older games...played the new version of this 25 year old classic.

An economic game of auctions. Players auction off different artists work to earn profit off their sales and try to gain money off those artists popularity.

I mistakenly thought the name of the game was to buy art and profit off their popularity, but the player who won seemed to have bought very little art and only made money off selling his art when it was his turn. That part seemed a little strange, but I'd like to play it more times to figure this one out. Good game, but I expected to like this more considering auctions and bidding are my favorite game mechanics.


Yardmaster Express
3 plays
6.0 / 10

A simple card drafting game where one hand of cards is passed around the table and players take one card, pass the hand, then draw another card to add to the hand for their next turn. The cards being drawn have two colors and two numbers on each side (types of rail cars). The cards must either match color or number (like Uno), if a player cant place a card the reverse side is grey (wild) with less points.

At the end of the game you add up the total numbers on your train, and the special scoring determined by the caboose card drawn at the beginning of the game.

Good plays seem to be pretty obvious, but in all my games scores have been pretty close. Nice filler.

Smile
1 play
6.0 / 10

This game takes No Thanks! and adds a little bit more to the game while not adding too much to the overall length (20 minutes compared to 10). Cards have numbers and suits, and are laid out in order of smallest to largest equal to the number of players. Players bid on the smallest value card (sometimes negative) then the next largest, and so on in No Thanks! fashion. The player with the most points wins.

The catch is anytime you get two cards of the same suit you lose both of those. Its this mechanic that gives this game the edge over No Thanks! for me. I very much like No Thanks!, but this game might be better if you have just a bit more time on your hands.

The only thing I like more about No Thanks! is their's more chips in the economy so you can milk the other players out of chips easier than in Smile due to the lack of currency in the economy.

Still a good game worth trying. I really enjoyed this.

Dr. Eureka
1 play
Not Rated

Bought this for my wife who really wanted to start building up our kids game section for when our nieces and nephews come over. We played it once together and enjoyed the frantic racing aspect of the game. I haven't rated it yet because we havent had a chance to play it with the kids.

Dual Powers: Revolution 1917
1 Play
Not Rated

Played a prototype of this game which is set to hit Kickstarter in March 2018. The game is a two player tug of war style game set in the Russian Revolution.

After playing 13 Days (see above), I can see a lot of similarities between these two games, but the card play in this one is different enough to be its own game. I'd say check it out later this year if you like games with multi use cards, area control, and bluffing.

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19. Board Game: Lorenzo il Magnifico [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:99]
Board Game: Lorenzo il Magnifico
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Three "new to me" games in December 2017, all of them good, the best being Lorenzo il Magnifico.


Lorenzo il Magnifico - 5 plays -  8 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Lorenzo il Magnifico

Lorenzo il Magnifico is magnificent. So magnificent in fact that it may even creep into my top ten if the replayability holds. I was pretty skeptical of the game before playing as a lot of people say that Grand Austria Hotel is the better game. However, Grand Austria Hotel flopped with my wife and me. Fortunately, Lorenzo il Magnifico shares more with Wallace's London than with other games coming out of Italy by the same group of designers. It's less about dice and more about building an engine with a tableau of cards and running it. And like London, my wife really seems enjoys it.



Expedition: Northwest Passage - 4 plays -  7 
First Published 2010
Board Game: Expedition: Northwest Passage

Though the game is a fairly abstract tile-layer, the theme is remarkably strong. The Arctic is a cold and hostile place and this game is unforgiving (and so should your opponents). And unlike the daddy of tile-layers, Carcassonne, the brutality of the game isn't masked by cutesy artwork. Had I played it with more players (all plays were two-player), I might have rated Expedition: Northwest Passage even higher, because I've heard it's best (and most brutal) with four.



Isaribi - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2014
Board Game: Isaribi

It took me some time to figure out the rules for this one. I still cannot find in the rules how the collaborator cards are accessed; I had to find the answer in the BGG forum. And the distribution of fish (through their cards) doesn't have the clearest of explanations. The game itself is quite light and though it has a rather mundane theme (fishing in Feudal Japan), it's rather nasty as players are fighting for the same limited resources and the same markets. Anticipating the other players is key to winning this one and it's something I'm not that good at.


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20. Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:282]
Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon
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Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon
IN THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON

In the Year of the Dragon was one game I wanted to play for quite a long time - but its OOP status lasted for several years and simply no one I play with had it. Until one did. And now I have opinions.

In the Year of the Dragon is a work placement game from Stefan Feld, before he started his thing on colored dice and giving points for everything. In here you still gain points 16 times or more times during play and one extra final scoring, so there is no shortage of points, as this is Feld, after all, but one meaner and wanting to kill some folk and destroy houses.

The complexity of In the Year of the Dragon doesn't come from mix of mini games or bucket of rules, is placed, instead, in the most proper place: in the decision-making process: there are 8 months with problems (diseases, famine, taxes or attacks), two with extra scoring (the festivities), and you players simply won't be able to prepare for everything. Choices will have to be made, compromises accepted and dealt with. Workers will die/leave/slaved, maybe you will lose floors on your houses, and points will go to others and you will just be able to look and think "ah, I wish it was me".

Playing time, surprisingly, is much more manageable and lean than the informed 75-100 minutes - we normally don't pass the 75 mark with 4, and stay around 60 with 3. Maybe with 5 players taking their time, sure, is possible, and is best to shoot above than bellow in this matter. Still, is important to mention that the pacing is fast, as though there are multiple decisions each turn, they are often done quick.

While I don't like everything Feld has done (Arena: Rome is neat, but too agressive for my taste; and Oracle of Delphi was disappointing; etc), I do enjoy most of them, considering some brilliant games (Macao, Strasbourg, Notre Dame, etc), and In the Year of the Dragon is up there with the best: smart, tense, with interaction (denial, non-destructive), though decisions all around, punitive, yes, but giving points in all turns, to make players feel better, lively pace with small downtime - put all of this together and, sir, you got yourself a classic. Highly recommended.

Rate: 8 / 10



Board Game: Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar
FALLING SKY: THE GALLIC REVOLT AGAINST CESAR

Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar is a game that recreates (somewhat) the events in Gaul and nearby regions around 54 BC. Falling Sky is part of the COIN (Counter Insurgencies) series. In this game players take the role of one of four different factions:
- Rome (government);
- Aedui (the negotiators, friendly towards Rome);
- Arverni (the main rebels/insurgents);
- Belgic tribes (the secondary rebels/insurgents).

All of these factions has unique objectives in the game, and also has different actions (though they are similar). The core of the game is: every turn the Event card will show which will be the order of action in the turn. At first, every faction are available to take action, but only the first two will be able to do something. However, once these two take their actions, they won't be eligible for the next turn - thus they won't to anything in. This makes the decision for when to do something as important as to what to do, because the factions will usually only take one action for every two turns (and, sometimes, only once in three rounds).

Also, the first player to choose an action defines what the next one will be able to do. The table works as follows:
- Faction OP only (do a full normal action) ---> Faction limited OP (a normal action, but limited to only one region);
- Faction OP with special activity (a full normal action plus a special action) ---> Faction limited OP or Event (use the event card);
- Event ---> Faction OP with special activity.

So, if you want that the next faction, no matter which, do only a limited action, you can choose to do only a normal (full) action, it is worst than do the OP with the special activity, but this would open the Event for the next faction to act on it. Therefore, not only is necessary for the first player of the turn to choose which action to take (considering that he won't be able to do anything in the next turn) while also pondering about what he will allow the next player to do.

All the factions play differently - the Arverni, Belgic tribes and Aedui have almost the same main actions (but differ in the special action), but the Events of them, and the objectives set them well apart - which gives a great feel for the game, and makes the replay value higher. Also, Falling Sky brought leaders (Cesar, Ambiorix and Vercingetorix), that boosts to action - usually in battle -; they make deep impact in the game - but can die. To enhance replay value, Falling Sky has different scenarios, which change starting positions and length (amount of cards in the deck) of play.

Is important to mention that in Falling Sky, while there is the necessity of a greater strategy, the main factor is tatical decisions - players must constantly adjust their decisions to answer to what the others are doing and to make best use of the cards and the round order. Winter phase (where victory conditions are checked) comes with the Winter card, and while players have some idea of when the cards can appear (due to the way the deck is built), there is few certainties. Boldness and some luck will help.

The luck aspect is present - although combat is mostly deterministic, allies, forts and legions roll in order to absorb damage. But mainly luck comes from the random order to the cards in the Events deck. The turn order and the sequence of them can make or break some factions (and give some truly long downtime). Yet, usually the mechanics allow for balanced and tense games - but often in the long side, around 5 hours.

Finally, one thing that must be said is that Falling Sky, though a great game, isn't a wargame - from what I take as wargames. Falling Sky has more things in common with El Grande and Dominant Species than with Combat Commander: Europe or Advanced Squad Leader. For me it is a area control / area majority with goals and high level of "in your face" actions. Again, this isn't a negative point, it is just a point of warning to avoid frustrations.

Overall, I truly enjoy the ways of the game, the theme and the way is is handled, the beautiful board, and the tug of war between diplomacy, positioning, and battles, in order to keep friends while knowing only one will win in the end.

Rate: 7.5 / 10



Board Game: Sagrada
SAGRADA

Sagrada is a pretty simple game: each player has a board, with 20 spaces. During play, dice are rolled and used to fill these spaces - some of them required specific numbers or colors, others accept any die - at first, at least, since the rules don't allow two numbers nor two dice of the same color to be place orthogonally from one to another.

Thus, as the game passes, it gets trickier to place the dice. Then comes the tools - these are special cards that any player can use, by paying skill tokens - the first use costs 1 token, from the second use on (no matter the player), it will cost 2 tokens. These tools allow breaking the rules to some extent - usually giving breathing room to allocate the dice.

All of this is done for points - each person starts with a secret objective, always of a color of dice - the dice of the show color will count points equal to the pips on them. Also, three open objectives will be there, and will give points to any player that fulfills their conditions. Open spots on the player board will give 1 negative point. At the end of 10 rounds (players take 2 dice per round), the person with the most points will be the winner!

Simple, elegant, with a good amount of luck but also decisions thrown in. This is basically Sagrada in a nutshell. It is also very pretty - with its translucent dice, and there are plenty of pictures showing its beauty.

The mechanics are sound and reminded me as a better version of Blueprints, as it has more replay value, more options and meat in the bones, while taking basically the same amount of time to finish.

Overall, I was quite pleased with Sagrada - it is a super filler, and it works nicely for 2 and 3 players (with 4 the downtime, while not a major issue, can bother a little, since there is nothing to do on other players turn, not even plan, as is hard to predict what to do when the other persons are still picking dice). Sagrada is pretty, easy and smart - my kind of gir-game.

Rate: 7.5 / 10



Board Game: Great Western Trail
GREAT WESTERN TRAIL

Great Western Trail is an intense mix: hand management, deck building, movement, tile placement. The feel while playing it was a profane match between Caylus (due to the order in which to acctivate the buildings, which demands a lot of planning beforehand) and Egizia (due to, once a place is passed, there is no way to return to it in the same travel).

Yet, it is a mix that works: the mechanics are clever, there is a fine dispute for places in the train track, for positioning the buildings in the path, for hiring workers, etc; though most of it is indirect. The playing time can grow fast, since there is so many ways to go and choices to make, still the pacing of the game gains a lot if players think about what they want to do before is their turn, since the others usually (not always) interfere little with your next move.

Great Western Trail gives a big amount of choices and options to the players, but this comes at a price: the already mentioned playing time (which can get near, of even pass, 3 hours), and the long and tedious explaining of the rules, as there are many details spread over several parts of the game, all with relevant connections with other parts, thus needing explaining. The learning curve is also rather steep.

Great Western Trail offers a multitude of paths to follow (both literally, going on by the buildings on the board; as figurativelly, as in strategies to win), lots of timming concerns, considerations about positioning of buildings, purchases of cattle, advancements on the train track, and so on. It also has a good replay value, due to the random positioning of the starting buildings, the blind draw of hazards and workers, and even the use of the A and B sides of the players buildings.

Overall, Great Western Trail puts itself as a deep and good euro, one that definitely won't fit everyone tastes, considering the high price tag for entering and staying: the rules (specially for those constantly playing with new people needing to learn) and the demands of planning in long term in a long game. Still, by now, you probably know if Great Western Trail is for you or not.

Rate: 7 / 10



Board Game: Dice Stars
DICE STARS

Dice Stars is a quite easy and simple dice game: players add dice to a pool and take either all dice of a given number, all dice of the same color, or all dice showing stars. These are used to score in different ways - how this works is easier to explain in person than in writing, but basically taking several dice make some parts of your scoring sheet be blocked by an X, but others worth the added value of all the dice taken - and the stars are used to double the amount of points given in a line, but if the stars spaces of that line aren't completed until the game ends, that line will be worth 0 point.

In short, Dice Stars is a push your luck type of game - you draw dice from the bag (from 1 to 3), roll them and decide the best use for what you have in the pool of dice - what you don't use pass to the next player. Then, accordingly with what you take, you write in your scoring sheet. Play proceeds until someone completes all the normal spaces (there are extras) in his sheet,

Overall, Dice Stars, even with the big role of luck on it, is quite pleasant, since is rather lively, with low downtime, decisions (often easy) and the tension of trying to get lucky in order to double the points with the stars or losing everything. As dice games go, Dice Stars isn't among the best, but is far from worst and I would play it often.

Rate: 7 / 10



Board Game: Mr. Jack Pocket
MR JACK POCKET

Mr. Jack Pocket is, more than a deduction game (in the sense of finding clues and making a case), a game of choosing actions to activate - the deduction falls more in the part of antecipating what actions the other person will pick and what he will do with them. Not what I was expecting, but this isn't bad, as it allows the reading of the board and seek the best advantage point to your side.

The way the game works is neat: in a grid of 9 tiles, each depicting a person, Sherlock, Watson and their dog try to find Jack. Once the round is over, the investigators asks if their investigators are seeing Jack. If they aren't, the persons that the investigators are looking (which can be up to 3, due to connections of streets), are taken out of the suspects and their tiles are flipped. If Jack is being seen, all the persons that the investigators aren't seeing are flipped, and Jack loses one hourglass. The 8 possible actions are: move Sherlock/Watson or the dog (1 or 2 spaces), move any invesigator (1 space), rotate up to 90 degrees a tile (2x), trade places of two tiles (without changing their direction), and, finally, take a suspect piece (if done by the investigator, the tile of the suspect whose piece was taken is flipped, if wasn't already; if by Jack's player, the piece counts their hourglasses to Jack's goal). The investigator wins by finding Jack (be while looking or by simple elimination), and Jack wins by reaching 6 hourglasses.

Mr. Jack Pocket is a quick, tense, easy to teach and to play game, one that has a small footprint - both in the table as in the box, which has a proper and very well done insert. The box does fit in a pocket.

I liked it because, in spite of being light, the choices matter a lot, and even with the tension, it isn't agressive or mean. There is luck in game - mainly in the draw of suspects tiles, but also in the way the 9 tiles are first prepared and in the set of actions available: the 8 actions will always happen in two rounds, yet the sets of 4 in which they come can help a lot one side. Still, in the way the choices work - you pick one, then the other person picks two, and you do the last one -, brings balance to most rounds, regardless of the set formed. A high amount of thinking for its breezy 15-20 minutes of playing time.

In the end, I liked it and recommend it.

Rate: 7 / 10



Board Game: Tiny Epic Galaxies
TINY EPIC GALAXIES

Tiny Epic Galaxies is neat: the dice offer a fine amount of options and decisions. The goal is to advance your technologies and conquer planets, using for this dice, as a way to get energy, movement, culture (to follow the an action done by someone else) and other things, such as activating special abilities, in order to get as much advantage as possible, as there will be a good deal of fighting for planets, since two or more players can want the same one.

There is little direct agression, thus, the difficulty in getting what you want stays on the dice, as many times they might not cooperate, but the mechanics allow for rolling extra times and/or use two dice to get one result of any kind. Therefore, normally players will be able to do what they want, just maybe not precise or fast enough.

In the end, although Tiny Epic Galaxies isn't heavy on strategy, is necessary to be able to prioritize and seize opportunities, since timming counts for a lot in order to not fall behind, or be swindled by the action of other player. Tiny Epic Galaxies isn't sensational - specially in 2 players, where it lacks interaction and tension -, but is pleasant, highly portable, and being easy to teach and play, alonside having a short playing time (around 45 minutes), it naturally becomes a game that can hit tables often.

Rate: 7 / 10



Board Game: Jim Henson's Labyrinth: The Board Game
JIM HENSON'S LABYRINTH

Jim Henson's Labyrinth: The Board Game - from now on, simply Labyrinth - is a cooperative game, in which players are Sarah, Ludo, Sir Didymus and Hoggle, and must adventure through the labyrinth and make their way to the goblin city to save Toby, Sarah's baby brother, from Jareth, the goblin king, in less than 13 hours (rounds). It plays from 1 to 5, but with 5 one player will be Jareth - therefore the game won't be fully cooperative.

Labyrinth is truly a throwback to the 80ies - both due to its theme, reviving the awesome movie experience (going around the labyrinth, encountering the characters, having some of the same problems, trying to not fall in the Bog of Eternal Stench, and so on); but also due to its design, as it is basically a roll and move game, with plenty of luck built in the mechanics. The cooperative feature isn't something from back then, and in the game serves as a way to try to reduce the random element, by travelling together, and, thus, having more chance when rolling dice against the threat.

The way the game works is: each player controls one or more characters, and they all have four stats: Wit, Speed, Brawn and Willpower - their sheets will say what die they use for each of the first three stats, and how much Willpower they have. Players move around the Labyrinth, rolling a movement die. They can slow down (going from, say, a normal d8 movement die to a d4), but must always move the full number rolled, either to the left or to the right. If the spot the character arrives has an enconter card, the effect of it triggers. It usually revolves around beating a test: dice (normally two - one against the other -, but can be more) are rolled and the player must roll equal or higher to beat the test. If the spot is empty, the player draws an encounter and resolves it immediately. Some events stay on the board until beaten, others remain even when beaten. Normally players will lose Willpower if they fail the test, however losing turns, be delayed and things like this can also happen. It is possible to spend Willpower to roll a d20, after the test is failed, in order to try again to beat it (now with a better chance). If a character is out of Willpower, it goes to the Oubliette, where it will recover 1 Willpower - player can keep a character there for longer, in order to heal more. It is also possible to rest (thus not move), in other places, but the player must roll 4 or higher in a d6 in order to properly be able to rest in this place filled with menace.

During play may happen that one character meets other in the same spot. Then players can decide to travel together, always using the lower movement die of the persons involved. When travelling together, everyone rolls their die to beat a challenge, which makes the odds better. Yet, if failure occurs, everyone also receives the penalty.

The initial goal is to find the Entrance to the Goblin City. This is kept in the final third of the encounter deck, so players must hurry in order to draw encounters, as the clock is ticking. Once the entrance is found, players can go there - but the foes in the Goblin City are nasty, specially the Humongous, but the Goblin militia, cavalry and artillery can provide a strong challenge. The final goal is for Sarah to enter the maze in the castle, and beat Jareth in a test of Wit, then calling the spell to end its power and recover the baby. What baby? The baby with the power, of course.

The task is clear, and the way the mechanics work are straightfoward - we only needed a few looks to the manual, normally to check what we the required roll was to rest or to avoid the Bog. Labyrinth is a simple game, clearly made for family play, not gamers - though these can enjoy the carefree nature of the game. There are some decisions here and there (where to move, which test to take), still they are very easy to make, as one option tends to be clearly better than other. Likely when to rest and to band together is the hardest ones to make, and they are also easy. Labyrinth isn't a puzzle, even a light one, like, for instance, Forbidden Island; it is simply a joyful blind exploration of the labyrinth with many dice being rolled during the way there.

The components are top notch, but aren't bad either - the cards are of a weird size and feature pictures of the movie, while the character sheets and board have beautiful drawings (specially the board, which is very pretty). The standees for the goblin military and Humongous are sturdy enough; the miniatures do their job well, and are an invitation for some nice paint job. The box is, sadly, way bigger than it needed to be, considering the components - the board is to blame.

Overall, Labyrinth isn't a failure: it doesn't overstay its welcome - a must have feature in a luck heavy game -, lasting 13 rounds with a good pacing, since the movement and tests are quite fast to be resolved. A play will last around 45 minutes. The gameplay can give some frustration, as is the nature of die rolls - and losing turns and being stuck isn't fun also. Yet, these aren't often and may not even happen. The replay value is there, due to random order of the encounter cards, the placement of them and, of course, the rolls - for movement and tests.

Labyrinth feels like an oddity in our designer's boards community. Heck, I need to search for the name of the designer! I'm used to see it prominently in the cover. There is fun to be had with this game, but the mechanics aren't all that great, nor they bring something new to the table. I liked, yes, but I'm enthralled by the theme, as Labyrinth isn't one of my favorite movies, is the favorite. Still, I wouldn't recommend it for gamers or those that are strange to the theme, since, considering the weak mechanisms, is 75% of the fun of playing it. I will definitely keep my copy and play it from time to time (it is playable solo).

Rate: 6 / 10



Board Game: Gaïa
GAIA

Gaïa is a sort of racing game with tile placement, hand management and area influence. Each players has a number of meeples, and the goal is to put all of them in play. This is done either by fulfilling goals of cards used (terrains and/or actions) - the first to fulfill one puts a meeple on the goal card; or by placing or taking a city - most cities required specific places to be put and demand types of terrain around them (each have four demands, and the player must abide to at least two in order to place it, but a player that is able to fulfill more conditions can take the city) - if two or three demands are met, the player puts one meeple on the city; if all conditions are met, two are added. Yet, even when all 4 conditions are met, actions cards can make big changes and allowing even the safest of cities to be taken. The game ends as soon as a player puts all of her meeples in play.

Gaïa plays well, with a fast pace due to low downtime (players have two actions each turn: draw a card and/or play card - the same action can be done twice). It offers a nice set of decisions in its small playing time.

Yet, much of the game can fall into luck or lack thereof. Though the mechanism provide ways to lessen this impact - cards can be drawn from one of the open ones, or from the draw deck - often the cards drawn blindly can decide a game, as the race towards fulfilling the goals doesn't allow much in term of lost actions.

Overall, Gaïa works well enough for what it purposes: a light filler with constant (albeit normally easy) choices to be made, a medium amount of take that with the action cards, some luck and interaction in the central area. Not brilliant, but pleasant enough for a 30 minute playing time.

Rate: 6 / 10



Board Game: My Village
MY VILLAGE

My Village passes the same core idea of that of Village: actions that use time, and this will eventually cause the death of workers - the first to die might be remembered (giving points) while the later ones will go to oblivion and unmarked graves - sad. Also, the same idea of workers going to the church, to the City Hall, to voyages, to create stuff (animals or tools) in order to fulfill demands of the market, is in here.

While the core is the same, playing is different: now players use dice to make actions - either to take cards of the activate them. Taking cards or using some actions on the personal board are one use only for the dice taken - but the twist of the game is that multiple "white" actions can be activated with the same pair of dice; allowing strong combos after some preparation - is very satisfaying to see the plans coming together. There are some race to gather cards - since many have different effects and/or different numbers to activate. Yet, isn't taking cards first that usually wins the game, but rather using them in better ways.

However, My Village expands the concept, delivering a game about the same weight, but much more fiddly, with several types of decks that should be prepared apart and many small effects of different cards, even in the same type. These add time - the thing that will get you killed. Time to set up all the cards in their places - taking a huge amount of table space in the process. Worst is the time demanded in learning the game: as in order to play you will need to know the different effects of cards (such as the churches, the city halls, the priests, the meeting squares, etc). It took quite a bit of explaining, and I dread the thought of sitting at the table while, already knowing the game, waiting for someone new to it learn it.

Thus, My Village, even with it being a very good game - balanced (even more than the base Village), clever, filled with options, strategies and paths to victory, with the bonus of having an amazing art -, the added time makes me not want to play it again, if not in the correct situation: with everyone already knowing the rules; which is quite rare, considering the size of our group and that often the player vary.

In the end, the elegance of Village beats the mechanically stronger My Village, by also being more friendly and agile. Yet, in the right conditions, My Village will still hit the table.

Rate: 6 / 10



Board Game: Planet Steam
PLANET STEAM

Planet Steam, as per its description, is a board game in which two to five players take the roles of entrepreneurs in a steampunk boomtown, racing to assemble equipment, claim plots of land, extract resources, and accumulate riches. After harvesting resources using tanks and converters, players must buy and sell those resources in a volatile and ever-shifting market. The one who earns the most income will, in the end, be victorious.

Planet Steam is an economic game, with a little of bidding and a good deal of commodity speculation. There is no direct trading between players, which helps bring the time of play down, but does make it more solitaire, as all the interaction, except the initial bidding in the rounds, are indirect, coming from blocking or manipulating prices to hinder others and help you.

I found Planet Steam to be very close in feel to Power Grid - you have the round starting with an auction, then turn order helps persons get Tanks cheaper, increasing prices for the next ones to play, then comes placing Tanks and producing, receiving income/resources. Planet Steam is heavier on the economy side, while Power Grid leans more on timming, still, everyone at the table agreed the overall feel was quite close.

Planet Steam is a nicely done, in which all the parts and mechanisms make sense and give players a lot of choices and possibilities throughout the game. Yet, it isn't the type of game I'm particularly fond of, as is mostly dry, being low on surprises, twists and theme. It works quite well for what it purposes, but I don't see myself going after it for more plays, though eventually it might happen.

Rate: 6 / 10



Board Game: Arctic Survival
ARCTIC SURVIVAL

Arctic Survival is about movement of pieces in order to reach the other side (your igloo) faster than your opponent. To get to the other side, players must pass by the ice floes, which might not have enough strength to hold them - these pieces are hidden and once something moves there, it is revealed - if it has a higher number than the piece above it, the piece stays there - if is the same or lower, the piece is lost and leaves play. The revealed ice floe tile remains open - so now both players know how much it can hold.

This means players often start going into the ice floes with the lighter animals (the penguin - one that lives in the Arctic), the fox or seal, in order to gain information before sending the heavier animals (such as the snow leopard or the polar bear). Most pieces move 1 space orthogonally, but a few (the fox, the wolves and the huski) can move 2, but the second move must always be in a straight line from the first. No two pieces of the same side can occupy the same land or ice floe tile, except for the wolves, as the two pieces can form a pack (with strength 8, instead of 4), but can only move 1 space when in a pack. There are also two human pieces - the huntress and the hunter; both have small values (0 and 1, respectively), but when battling, they roll 2 dice and add the value rolled to their strength - thus one can even bring down the mighty bear (strength 9), and are light enough to travel safely for most ice floes.

In the ice floes, along side the ice, there are icebergs, that halt movement and as unpassable, but can be moved (as any revealed ice floe tiles). In thin ice, the movement must stop (even if is being made by an animal that can move 2), and any piece there have a strength value of 0. Finally, there are two orca whales - one for each side - the orcas can move 1 space, kill any piece they encounter (only and orca can kill the other orca), and don't reveal ice floe tiles.

Fights are quite easy: if a piece moves to the space of another and has a greater or equal value, it eliminates the other.

The goal, as mentioned, is to reach the igloo on the other side with any or your pieces before your opponent.

While Arctic Survival has easy to learn and to teach rules, the game can be rather thinky - since the combat is definitive in most situations (except with the hunters), players tend to ponder a lot about their movements, which means the 30 minutes playing time, while possible, is unlikely to happen, if both sides are serious in their gaming winning business. Also, since pieces can move backwards and sideways, the play can enter in a stalemate situation, where neither side wants to move or open a spot to the other (and adding to the playing time). Rules should be so that both sides needed to advance quickly and forward as most as possible, but this ain't so. Without this, an sort of anti-game can happen, with one player turtling pieces around the opponent's igloo, which, yet again, isn't fun nor makes for a fast play - but is allowed and might even be the best strategy.

The game components are OK at best - the pieces are rather drab looking, with almost amateurish art. Choosing blue and purple as playing colors, considering a good chunk of the central board is dark blue, wasn't wise.

Though much of the play is under player total control, there are a fine amount of luck present, in the ice floe parts - one side can lose pieces simply by pure chance, specially if uncovering the opponent's orca, and have a tough time to find their own. Yet, once most of the ice floes are open information, Arctic Survival have almost an abstract feel, as player's decisions will likely decide the winner.

Overall, if played with the right mindset, Arctic Survival can be rather good (and I recommend ignoring the rule that makes a piece stop at the thin ice around the igloo - as this brings more tension - due to the animals that can move two spaces - and a shorter game) - not nearly the dreadful experience I thought I would have when we look the average rating; yet I can see how Arctic Survival can go south (north?) quickly.

Rate: 5.5 / 10



Board Game: Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne
GAME OF THRONES: THE IRON THRONE

Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne uses many of the mechanisms found in Cosmic Encounter, changing the setting from cosmic to Westeros and including some other differences, mainly to give more thematic flavor and enhance control, as you won't find the crazy (and fun) powers of the aliens, nor cards like the Zap, Flares and such.

However, the changes didn't really accomplished its goal: there is still a lot of luck in the draw (maybe even more), in spite of the numbers going from 0 to 20, instead of 0 to 40. This is due to the character cards, which are, in one hand, a neat addition, since it makes the "planets" into persons, and to get the use of a particular character card, the player must send that individual to the encounter, and this, sometimes, means sending a weaker person, which can raise suspicions and create some tense moments. Yet, on the other hand, these cards are awful to be your main defense or attack, just giving a value of 0 - they are a good complement, but aren't, usually, meant to carry the bulk of the encounter. Thus, a hand filled with character cards can be an awful thing, and hard to recover, since cards are only drawn at the turn of the own player or when helping in a successful defense. And this gets tougher to deal when you already lost one or two family members.

Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne even makes easier to keep facing the same weakened opponent, as the once the player reveals a card of her own family, she can choose what family to face, which may sound good on paper, but in play is just more blood in the water and the vultures surrounding above.

Replay value is surprisingly high - even with the fixed deck of card each family has, the order in which they come, chances what you need to do; and each family has 5 members, with one of them being chosen as the leader, and the ability of any of them have impact in the play - it is as if the game came with 25 races.

Theme is present and there is some care to bring it forth. But adding people like Doreah as a key person in the Targaryen family (if you don't even know who she is, that is ok), or allowing Shireen to by the leader of the Baratheon, truly take players out of the immersion in the theme.

In the end, even if Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne has some nice features, as one player properly appointed, Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne brought several of the issues in Cosmic Encounter (luck, bashing) and made them worst, while not adding more fun - the encounters are more predictable, and bad card draws can bury your chances even more than in Cosmic Encounter. While it can run shorter, I much rather have a hearty and longer cosmic affair than a quibble for an iron throne.

Rate: 5 / 10



Board Game: Photosynthesis
PHOTOSYNTHESIS

There are games that simply don't fit you - games that don't have a particular issue in the mechanics, that aren't broken, unbalanced or even lack originality. Photosynthesis is one of those to me.

The production is very pretty and well done, with many nice details spread throughout the board and components. It also has a neat "shadow" mechanic which brings most of the thought and interaction, as small trees in the shadow of one of the same size or bigger don't provide income of light (the currency of the game). While Photosynthesis is mostly abstract, the chosen theme is present and makes sense.

However, with perfect information, the play dwell into an effort to calculate position, growth and blocking in order to maximize every action. This, of course, leads to much analysis and its brother, downtime. With 4 the play took way too long for what it offers, as the considerations remain the same, only with the board becoming more crowded. The plays repeats itself: plant seeds, growth, income and then back again.

I take no joy in waiting and trying to find the perfect calculation/math/position to have the best income possible. And although I like interaction in games, Photosynthesis brings the one that has a grave danger: often is in your best interest to hurt someone already lagging behind, not even because you want to, but simply because that person have trees next to you.

In the end, Photosynthesis, though beautiful, easy to learn, with novel mechanics and smart gameplay, lacks attraction for me, being too long for what it provides, too mathy and low on the fun side. Will likely avoid in the future, specially in 4 players.

Rate: 4.5 / 10



Board Game: Inkognito: The Card Game
INKOGNITO: THE CARD GAME

Inkognito: The Card Game is a light deduction game: the goal is to find the correct combination of numbers to open a safe and what each person is (their identity) - as is also required to be with your partner when attempting to open the safe. With this done, the team wins.

There is plenty of luck involved in the mechanics - something that usually don't go well with deduction (see the hate for the roll and move in Clue). In here, each player has a set of 5 location tiles and select one to be in the given round. If another players chooses the same place, both will trade information by passing two cards for each other - one that must contain a true information (either the identity or the number associated with him) and the other must be false. However, if three or more persons go to the same place, nothing happens. Furthermore, if a player happens to be in the same place as the Ambassador, she can asks directly for a true information (receiving one of the black cards, which informs each player of their identity and number) from someone - no false information is given. And, yes, the Ambassador moves randomly. If the Ambassador is in the same place as two or more players, nothing happens.

Therefore, although the players can choose where to go, there is truly no good way to predict the choices of the other persons, even less for the Ambassador. Thus one needs some luck to find the others in a proper configuration (with just one other player or alone with the Ambassador) - the more the round proceeds, better is the chances of finding someone, as the tiles can be used again until all locations have been used. Still, even with this, is possible for players to lose completely a round, doing nothing besides revealing a location tile and doing nothing else.

This way, the deduction aspect falls to second place - is more important to have luck than keeping good records and following hunches. With luck, one can just encounter the Ambassador a few times and have almost the whole answer without truly deserving or doing any sort of sleuth.

In the end, Inkognito: The Card Game fails in being a good deduction game. It lacks control and the impact of luck leaves a sour taste for those wanting for clues and mental effort. Still, the uncompromised mechanics, short playing time and low demand of Inkognito: The Card Game, do make it acceptable for occasional play.

Rate: 4.5 / 10



Board Game: Perdition's Mouth: Abyssal Rift
PERDITION'S MOUTH: ABYSSAL RIFT

For Perdition's Mouth: Abyssal Rift I recorded my friends comments and my own after the plays - as scenarios based games tend to need a broader scope. I let them marinated and be discussed during several sessions and see if we still remained in the same position or not - than I would write them down.

This is what we got after playing a full campaign of the base game.

Play 1:
The set up took some time - I think a little less than Galaxy Defenders - maybe because it was the first time, as we aren't aware of the pieces and decks. The rules are not all that hard, but isn't simple either, with the many different possibilities regarding the wheel of actions and the unique deck every character has - we didn't stumble in too much problems, but a few conditions and relations between the spot of the action and the what we could do brought some reading of the rules and discussion, taking some of the adventurous fun of playing a dungeon crawler.

The predictable conditions of movement and attack from the different types of creatures, and the blocking of LOS and spaces, also made for a game with an uneven pace: as with Galaxy Defenders, being able to predict and work around the AI of the monsters, in order to obtain the best possible result, meant that every move/action was trying to be max out, and the play went on to last more than it was good for it. The AI could also be explored in a bad way, if the players want (we had a situation in which we could lock up four creatures, neither ever being able to move to its objective) - we went on with the "worst for us" deal, but this isn't required in the rules, nor, with proper AI, it would be necessary.

Plays 2 to 5:
The constant blocking (so. much. blocking.) of LOS and movement, thematic with the small tunnels, remind me a of Space Hulk - not being able to move diagonally meant, as for the AI of the creatures, much talk of positioning - which is, on itself, good, as positioning should be important, however, in Doom not only is important, but is key to the whole thing, and you can move diagonally; objectively, the LOS and blocking rules made for, yet again, debates among the turns, hurting quite a bit the flow of the game - it could be the intention here: making a thinky dungeon crawler, but I miss the romp, the brashness and overconfidence of other dungeon crawlers. And we lost several - too many - doing nothing, due to be behind others, blocked by creatures, without being able to move or attack by lack os LOS. Not fun in the least.

We also had many issues with rules - some corner cases (going full circle in the wheel, teleport concerns, etc) that either we didn't found an answer or did, but it was really hard to find. I won't enter in details, as I wasn't the one reading it, nor looking for answers. The rulebook and the scenarios also are poorly made: lots of typos (Bastian is called Bastion; many mistakes in the set up of scenarios; and others).

Plays 6 to 10:
The scenarios also lack more variety: in all the first five, the goal is simply going from the entrance to the exit. There is nothing to truly do in the scenarios except opening a path to the exit. There are levers in two of them, but is possible to simply break the door or portcullis. Why not add some more features to actually do different things while going to the exit? Unlock something, destroy something, open something, kill someone. No, just going from A to B - in as much as a straight line as possible. It is as if the game tries to not be fun: the same goal in the scenarios, lots of blocking (in the board and in the wheel) - in scenario 4A, for instance, we didn't even used around 75% of it. It was acolyte town, and yes, you can go there to try to prevent them from raising the alarm. But since we started with the alarm at 4 and the maximum is 5, after a couple sounded the bell, we didn't even care what the other 6, 8 of them would do. Is it weird; and this is common around this game.

There are problems with the scalability: the more players, the easier the scenarios are. The only counter to the addition of characters is increasing the alarm, which makes more creatures to enter - this can make a difference, but, in the grand scheme, matters little. We felt a big difference in difficulty when playing with less people.

The involution - is this the right word? - of the characters didn't really worked for us. Perdition's Mouth has a not usual idea: the campaign makes the heroes weaker each time - though some treasures can be found, these don't outweight the injuries that go into the player's decks after taking damage - it can go to a point that many turns are simply lost due to a high amount of injuries going into the player hand of cards. At a point, one hero had more wound cards in his deck than normal cards, and a second one, was almost 50/50. Add this to the amount of blocking and wasted turns, you get a recipe for not a fun time. The idea of involution is bold, and even thematic, still is better on paper than living it.

End game:
The last chapter was more of the same: we walked in the first corridor, than got blocked and barely took an step forward. Elisa was able to teleport, than got killed. Simma was able to open some room in order for him to run. The other ones sacrificed for him to be able to escape. Not a bad ending to tell, sure, but fun was, yet again, limited.

Considering now, with the campaign done, Perdition's Mouth: Abyssal Rift barely works, and I'm not impressed. We didn't even got a closing text for the end - just things are done, flee and, fade to black, as there is no end credits.

The wheel of actions is truly nice and make for difficult decisions, cooperation and interaction between the players. But the AI, movement and blocking rules take much of the life and joy. It took us months to close the campaing, as we simply didn't want to come back.

With the campaign over, we can't wait to pass on to something more lively. There are some very good ideas here, but the feel we had is that there are too many rough spots, and is simply boring in many moments. Perdition's Mouth seems made for solo play, as who will actually be able to do something won't matter as much - with multiplayer, there are just too many lost turns and wasted time.

Overall, Perdition's Mouth is an experience - with many unique and novel ideias -; however is one none of us will ever want to repeat.

Rate: 3 / 10


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21. Board Game: Bohnanza: The Duel [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:1987]
Board Game: Bohnanza: The Duel
Jason Jhacks

Nebraska
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We took a date day at our local gaming cafe.

We wanted to try a few 2 player games. And try some other games that had not been played in my collection later.

We played:

The Rose King: interesting 2 player abstract game. Could see that it would have been better when it came out but I still rather enjoyed the play. Easy game to learn and set up with still a bit of strategy.

Tally Ho!: A game I wanted to try for a while but it failed to live up to my expectations. Somewhat fun but not as good as the other Kosmos games I had played.

Cacao: fun tile laying game. Was a lot of fun and easy to play. Enjoyed the game but am scared that it would seem like the same game fairly quickly.

Kerala: The Way of the Elephant: in a normal month, this would have been my new game of the month. As I have said a few times, it gives me a similar feeling to Kingdom Builder. Fun and enjoyable to play.

Paperback: finally played this deckbuilder. And it was fun! Not a dominion killer. But a good word game and deck builder for someone who has problems with word games.

Kingdomino: finally got a chance to play this one. It is an easy learn with a touch of strategy. We have played it two times with 2 players and once with four. My 3 year old also likes to say Kingdomino.

Bohnanza: The Duel: but this is the winner for this month. Really like the 2 player variant of Bohnanza but this is even better. The cards are not as silly but it is still a lot of fun, especially the trading or gifting of cards which can be hilarious.
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22. Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.45 Overall Rank:6]
Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
Josh Bodah
United States
Jamaica Plain
Massachusetts
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Not many new games for me in December and no real standouts.

Notre Dame

Board Game: Notre Dame: 10th Anniversary


A pretty simple engine building with a nice drafting backbone. It's refreshing to play a substantial game with a drafting mechanism. The game is overall pretty light and I didn't love it with two but it's worth keeping around for now

13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis

Board Game: 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis


Does a solid Twilight Struggle impression with minimal components and under an hour. I would've liked to see this be a little longer/deeper but I think it's achieved a great thing. This is a solid two-player game

Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization

Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization


Takes the cake for best new game but only by a narrow margin. It was a slog to learn this and it goes an hour longer than I'd like it to but there's a lot of meat here if you care to learn the decks. It's engine building non-interaction at its finest, but I do like that the game has an enormous amount of variety and can be predictable allowing for preconceived strategies to play out. I'd like to give it a few more plays before making a final judgement. I've found it to be particularly good on iOS for scratching the engine building itch

The Blood of an Englishman

Board Game: The Blood of an Englishman


While well-designed, we found this to be too dry and not very fun. Felt a bit like playing a two-player version of Spider Solitaire. The balance is very good and I love the asymmetry. The core gameplay didn't catch our interest however so it's off to the trade pile
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23. Board Game: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:283]
Board Game: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Dev Sodagar
United States
Los Altos
CA
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Having been back in California most of the month - there have been other priorities greater than gaming (I know, outrageous). As such - only two new games got played this month.

Spot it! 1,2,3
Board Game: Spot it! 1,2,3

Played to kill some time with a friend who was visiting California while I was. A great little game but fundamentally the same as the original.

Hero Realms
Board Game: Hero Realms

I have played a fair amount of both Cthulhu Realms and the original Star Realms. This provides more of the same. I still think Star is the best but this is a close second.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Board Game: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Not the best game out there but I love the way the theme is applied to the game. Can't wait to play more.

LotR: Assault on Dol Guldur
No photo for this one in BGG at the moment. I had a ton of fun playing this but I'm certainly done with LotR - it just isn't as much fun as it used to be.
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24. Board Game: Flamme Rouge [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:196]
Board Game: Flamme Rouge
Mark Saya
United States
Los Angeles
California
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Three new-to-me's last month (all solo plays):

Flamme Rouge - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Flamme Rouge


Purchased in December, this was my favorite new game of the month– quick, easy to learn, very enjoyable, I predict many more plays ahead!

Finished! - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Finished!


Also acquired last month, I found this game pretty fun but without the appeal and variety of Friday. Definitely more plays to come– need to figure out how to beat it!

Hoplomachus: Rise of Rome - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2013
Board Game: Hoplomachus: Rise of Rome


I've had this one for a while and finally got around to it– feel a bit on the fence after two games. It's colorful and thematic but very dice heavy. Didn't get the rules exactly right; further plays will tell.

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25. Board Game: Gaia Project [Average Rating:8.49 Overall Rank:8]
Board Game: Gaia Project
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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This month, I was fortunate enough to play eight new games. As is my custom, I'll list them in decreasing enthusiasm order: the game for which I'm most excited first, followed by things of lessening interest.


Gaia Project -- (2 plays) _8_
Board Game: Gaia Project
Board Game: Gaia Project
(images by W Eric Martin & henk.rolleman)

I really enjoyed this one. It's enough like Terra Mystica to be familiar, and yet sufficiently different to have the subjective appeal of fourteen new factions.

Momentarily my favourite thing from 2017: I'm definitely looking forward to more play.


18CZ -- (1 play) _7⅔_
Board Game: 18CZ
Board Game: 18CZ
(images by inni & Lowengrin)

I really enjoyed this one too. But it loses out (modestly) for me by taking more than six hours for the play. That puts it into a zone where it's really hard to get to the table: five hour games aren't a problem; but something that will likely go past midnight for a weeknight play is a hard sell.

Other than that, though, I loved the bootstrapping nature of the graduated company sizes and their buyouts. And, in retrospect, the privates (despite their lack of differentiation) were more interesting than I'd expected.


Peak Oil -- (2 plays) _7⅓_
Board Game: Peak Oil
Board Game: Peak Oil
(images by SamRod & SergiNS)

Better than I'd expected, and by a significant margin. I was expecting the draw-from-a-bag thing to dominate the game sense: so that it would be a risk-management game with an investment side game. Instead, it's the other way around - and rather significantly so: I don't think either of these games had the final scores mutated in any way by the bag draws (or, at least, by the things that came out of the bag. If there'd been fewer draws so that the game went longer, things could easily have fallen out differently.)


Star Cartel -- (3 plays) _7⅓_
Board Game: Star Cartel
Board Game: Star Cartel
(both images by richardtempura)

It's cute (if also both chaotic and random.) I'm not convinced it's a great thing; but, equally, it looks (to me) like there are good decisions and poorer; and that the players that indulge in the former do better than not.

Definitely in the fluffy-filler zone; though a bit too long for that with five or six players.


Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game -- (1 play) _6⅔_
Board Game: Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game
Board Game: Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game
(images by W Eric Martin & fritolay)

Amusingly, much better than expected. This is a game we gave son #2 as a gag gift. (Somewhat unaccountably, he's a huge Bob Ross fan.) So we thought to taunt him with a play. He was tremendously dubious, but the remainder of the family was enthusiastic (mostly, I fear, to tease the youngster.)

Then we played. And it wasn't bad at all. It's a bit random; and the invest-or-score-early decision seemed a bit biased toward Invest! on this play. But it was quite close, and decidedly engaging: I'd not complain were it replayed. (And, strangely, neither would son #2!)


Dinosaur Island -- (1 play) _6⅔_
Board Game: Dinosaur Island
Board Game: Dinosaur Island
(images by stooge & heathbarATL)

I both loved the game conceit (Jurassic Park: the Boardgame) and wasn't impressed with the development of the game.

We played a "Short Game": and found that the points from goals (which skewed strongly toward the initial first player) dominated the final accounting. It was oddly unimpressive.

That's not at all to say that the goals are tuned badly for the medium or long games: I've no idea. But I find myself a bit dubious of it nonetheless.


Goths Save The Queen -- (2 plays) __
Board Game: Goths Save The Queen
Board Game: Goths Save The Queen
(both images by ddlhz)

Not terrible, but equally not a game for me. The "guess what your partner might choose" thing just irks me: I find myself wanting to have a chat with my partner before the game to establish some protocol to describe intent more strongly than we achieved organically. And I recognize that's not the game at hand: this one falls into the "I'd rather do something else." zone.


Steal This Game -- (2 plays) _?_
Board Game: Steal This Game
Board Game: Steal This Game
(both images by vice)

It's cute. But we ended up unconvinced that it works. Our first game appeared to be interesting, but in the second, we ended in a position where it appeared that the thief would win regardless of the decisions we made.
2I can accept that as social commentary (or art!); but it wasn't terribly engaging as game.


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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