Wednesday, September 20, 2017

For Your Eyes Only (Codenames)

Agents, important information has come up.  Traditional contact with the Agency has been compromised, as have multiple forms of our backup.  Our solution is this: Codenames.  All agents are now assigned an innocent, everyday word, listed alongside this message, and it is your job to confirm when a Spymaster comes calling.  But be careful, as there has been at least one assassination attempt on our agents lives.  In addition, there is a rival agency across the pond following the same protocol.  Good luck, and remember your Codenames.  Also, eat this message.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Codenames is a word based games published by Czech Games Edition for 2-8 players.  Players must attempt to find and contact their "Agents" by guessing words correctly.

SET-UP:  Players split into teams of 2.  The "Spymaster" for both teams sit at one end of the table with the rest of the players, or "Agents" on the other side.  Deal out a set of single word cards in a 5 x 5 grid.  The Spymasters place a Key card, the one marked with red, black, white and black squares, so that side faces them and the back faces the Agents.  The key has lights around the grid to determine who goes first.

CLUES:  Each team is either Red or Blue.  During the Spymaster's turn, they give a one word clue that matches word(s) on the board, and a number equal to the number of words that match the clue.  A player may also give 0 or Unlimited as a number.  They cannot say anything else, and must try not to give any other kind of help.  A clue may also not be any word actually on the table.  Spelling the clue, letters, numbers, and parts of compound words that are not on the table are all valid clues.  You may also choose to allow or block proper nouns, acronyms/abbreviations, homonyms, rhymes, etc.

GUESSING:  Once the clues have been given, that team must choose 1 word at a time that matches the clue.  Once a team's Agents have chosen a clue, The Spymaster compares it to the Key, top left to their top left word according to their perspective.  If the Agents guess a word that matches their teams color, the Spymaster places an agent card over that word, and guessing continues until they run out of guesses, or choose either the opposing teams card, an innocent bystander (Grey on the key), or the Assassin (Black).  Agents may also get 1 more guess if they so choose, i.e., in the middle of the game the Spymaster may give 2, but the Agents know a word from a previous clue, so they may have 3 guesses.

END:  A team wins when they have successfully covered all of their words with agent cards. If any player has chosen the Assassin, they lose automatically.

CONCLUSION:  Codenames is a fairly fun, but rather difficult game.  However, the difficulty lies not in the game itself, but rather the players.  The layout is simple, and easy enough to understand so long as you have basic reading comprehension skills.  The difficulty comes more from knowing the clue giver than knowing the words.  Obviously, this is not a game for those where reading is difficult, but it could help those learning to read, and an easy work-around would be to give that team enough people to read off the available clues.  All in all, a pretty solid game with solid mechanics, and it's easy to see why there's a Disney and a Marvel variation, as well as other variations with more rules

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Last Chip Remaining (LCR)

It's the final showdown.  Uncle Jimmy has been sheriff for too long in these here parts, and you're the only one who can take him down a peg or three.  You lock eyes, and your hand hovers above your weapon of choice.  You grab it, and roll.  R, no!  You pass your last chip to Jimmy, and curse the heavens silently how LCR has betrayed you again.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  LCR, or Left Right Center is a simple dice game published by George & Company for 3 or more players.  It is a pure luck game, with the goal to be the only one left with any chips.

SET-UP/GAMEPLAY:  Each player begins with 3 Chips.  The starting player rolls the dice.  If R or L is rolled, the player passes chip(s) to the right or left, respectively, equal to the number of R's or L's rolled.  If C is rolled, it is placed into the center pot.  Dot's rolled have no effect.  Play then passes to the next player.

WINNING:  A player may only roll an amount of dice equal to the number of chips they possess.  A player incapable of rolling may still come back into the game if a player passes a chip to them.  The winner is the last player with any chips left.

CONCLUSION:  LCR is that game you play with your in-laws when they come down for Christmas who play more traditional games, or are too young for complex games.  It's alright if you want to spend a few minutes talking with people as a way to keep your hands busy. Otherwise, this is not a fun game.  It is a time waster, nothing more.  There is no strategy, no skill, nothing to put yourself into the game. If that's what your looking for, this does it well.  Otherwise, you can pass on this without missing on much.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  There are variations of this game.  One is called Last Chip Standing, which plays the exact same but has a cowboy theme.  If you really want this game for a stocking stuffer or an in-law speaking piece, I'd recommend LCS.  There is  Last Chip Standing: Devil's Luck, which I have not played, but has more effects depending on what you roll.  The game doesn't change from being pure luck, but it does seem a little more something like Cthulhu Dice or Zombie Dice.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Math-ominios (Quartile)

You are in for a treat tonight.  Oh, that music you're hearing is just a selection of blues music from the great Fats Domino.  There's pizza in the kitchen, "freshly" delivered from Domino's.  And in the living room, we have the game once the other 2 are here.  That's right, if you couldn't tell from my oh so subtle hints, we're playing...Quartile.  Did that throw you off?  You'll see soon enough, my friend...

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Quartile is a tile based game published by SimplyFun for 2 to 4 players.  Just like most domino based games, the goal is to score high by placing tiles around the board in clever ways.

SET-UP:  Shuffle the tiles in the Quarry, or the pool of tiles, face-down.  Each player draws 4 tiles, and places 1 starting tile in the middle of the table, away from the Quarry face-down.  Each player places 1 tile from their hand face-down, then reveals it.  The player with the lowest number starts.  Flip the starting tile face-up, and return the tiles to the owners hands.

PLACEMENT:  Each turn, a player must play a tile from their hand face-up next to at least 1 tile that is already on the table, and in a way that both pips on the tiles add up to the center number on the tile being laid down.

SCORING:  Once the objectives for placement have been met, the player then scores the number in the center of the recently placed tile times the number of sides that have been fulfilled.  For example, a player will always score the number x1 on the first 2 turns, as there is no way to score multiple sides.  However, if there is a tile played with the pips on the side and top both adding with the tiles they are touching. they will score the center number x2.

WINNING:  Once all tiles have been placed, add up each players total, with the winner being the player who scored the most.

CONCLUSION:  It's a variation on Domino's, pure and simple.  Sure, it's interesting, and different strategy's are used to play better, but it's Domino's.  If you don't like Domino's, you aren't going to like this one.  If you do, then you'll probably like this version.  If you haven't ever played Domino's, the only thing I can say is to give it a try before you play Quartile.  I wish I had some deep profound thing to say, but it's Domino's, and that's it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Tricks, Tips, and Tools of the Game (The Fox in the Forest)

Everyone remember their favourite fairy tales.  Snow White, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, The Turnip Princess.  Oh, that one's not a classic?  It was discovered recently?  You'd never know.  I mean, with how many people tell their kids bedtime stories, stuff like Goodnight Moon might as well be a fairy tale now.  So, I present to you one of my new favourite fairy tales: The Fox in the Forest.  Once Upon a Time...

GAME DESCRIPTION:  The Fox in the Forest is a card game published by Foxtrot Games for 2 players.  Players attempt to take a number of "Tricks" over the course of the game.

SET-UP:  Each player is dealt a hand of 13 cards from the 33 card deck, with the 7 remaining being the Draw pile.  Take the top card of the pile and place it face up as the Decree card.  The player who didn't deal is the Leader, and begins by playing a card from their hand.

TRICKS:  Tricks are when both players have played a card.  The Leader starts by playing any card in their hand, and the following player must play a card that matches the Leader's suit, appropriately called the Lead Suit.  If there is no matching suit, they may play any other card.  The tricks are given first to the player with the highest card that matches the Decree card's suit, then the player with highest number in the Lead Suit if the first rule doesn't apply.

ABILITIES:  All odd numbered cards will have special abilities.  Some, like 3 and 5, are activated immediately after played.  Others, like 1, are activated after the end of the Trick.  And even others, like 7, apply later.  Luckily, the Appendix has rulings in common situations.

SCORING:  Once a Trick has been played, it is placed face-down so that both players may know how many tricks have been played, but not the number played in each Trick.  Players continue playing Tricks until all 13 cards have been played in their hands.  Then, players score according to the number of 7's and the number of Tricks taken.  If a player managed to get 10 or more Tricks, they get 0 points for being too greedy!  If they got 0-3 or 7-9 Tricks, they get the maximum 6 for being humble or victorious!  Any other number of Tricks are scored appropriately, and the player is "defeated".  Once either player score 21 or more points, they win!

CONCLUSION:  The Fox in the Forest is a fun, quirky, Hearts-light game that can help pass by the time if you can find only one other player who likes games like Hearts and Pinochle.  The problem is that usually, whenever I can find 1 player, I can generally find 2 more who would enjoy, or at least be willing, trick taking games.  Still, the fairy-tale theme is nice, the scoring system is great for punishing players who would generally play "Shoot the Moon" style tactics, and the abilities are an interesting way to change the game.  This is a somewhat niche game, as I'm sure a fair amount are people aren't going to enjoy this game that enjoy games like Spades.  Still, if there's a chance you do, the Fox in the Forest may be a nice, different game for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

It's Still Good, It's Still Good (5 Second Rule)

It's your turn in the Hot Seat, Brian.  The crowd is all looking at you, and the clock is ticking.  How could 5 seconds take this long?  You can't name 3 types of pasta.  Sure, Spaghetti was easy, and you just ate Penne last night, so that was nice.  3 seconds, you're stuck.  2, and you decide to go for the big biscuit risk.  1, and you shout out "Macaroni!"  And THUNK, time is up.'s good!  You have successfully scored a point in 5 Second Rule!  If only this was a game show.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  5 Second Rule is a high speed card game published by  Broadway Toys LTD for 3 or more players.  Players take turns trying to list a certain amount of objects before time runs out.

SET-UP:  Set the 5 Second timer in the middle, next to the card box in easy reach of everyone.  Determine the amount of rounds each player gets.  For larger groups, the recommendation is 2 or 3 rounds for each player, but you may go longer.

HOT SEAT:  The first player in the "Hot Seat", which is generally the owner, begins the game.  The player left of the Hot Seat reads the card. All cards require the Hot Seat player to name 3 specific types of things, like Soups or Months.  Once the card is read, flip the timer, and the Hot Seat player begins to list things.  Wrong or false answers cost nothing but time, so it's good to make sure you're right.  Any unsure answers are determined by all the players.

SCORING:  If the player manages to guess 3 things correctly, they are given 1 point, indicated by placing the card in front of the player. The player to the right is in the Hot Seat.  However, if they guess wrong, the next player has that same category, but cannot use any words the previous player(s) have already said.  If every player has attempted the clue, and it returns to the original Hot Seat player, they automatically get the point, and a new clue is read to the next player.

WINNING:  Once all the players have gone through the rounds, the player with the highest score wins.  In the event of a tie, all tied players have one more round, with the oldest being the first player in the Hot Seat.  The first player to score that point wins.

CONCLUSION:  5 Second Rule's name is indicative of the style of game you're going to expect; it's loud, it's quick, and it's deceptively difficult.  It can be a lot harder to name 3 kinds of picnic foods than you'd expect, and famous people with specific names?  Good luck with that one.  Such as Snake Oil or Last Word, this is more of an ice-breaker game, or a party game with a group you don't know well, or just something to chill with in between more complex games.  Still, it has it's charm, and can still be fun not knowing how other people are going to guess.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Based on a Fake Product (Snake Oil)

Say, son, you look mighty down in the dumps.  Well, Doc Connor can cure what ails ya.  If you be pirate, caveman, or ninja, look no further than Doc Connor Miracle Snake Oil.  Don't you believe those naysayers, this Snake Oil is top of the line, honest-to-goodness guaranteed to bring your mood from down in the dumps to up to cloud nine.  Buy 2, get 1 free!  It's Doc Connor's Miracle Snake Oil, good to last 50 years on your shelf, but you'll never see it there that long!

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Snake Oil is a card game published by Hasbro and Snake Oil, LLC. for 3 to 10 players.  The game consists of pitching "real" products to various players and attempting for their product to be the most convincing to buy.

SET-UP:  Each player is dealt a hand of 6 cards.  Then, select a player to be the customer this round.  That player draws a green Customer card, and chooses from the front or back which character they are playing this turn.

SELLING:  Once the Customer has been chosen, players take 2 words from their hand to make a product that the Customer would find helpful or compelling to buy.  Players may pitch in any order, but all players must pitch something.  If any pitch takes longer than 30 seconds, the Customer may cut them short.

WINNING:  Once all pitches are made, the Customer chooses the best product, and gives the winning player the Customer card.  The next player to the left of the first Customer becomes the Customer for the next round, and game continues until everyone has become the Customer once.  The winner is the player with the most Customer cards.  In case of a tie, a non-tied player is the Customer, and only the tied players play one more round.

CONCLUSION:  Snake Oil is a party game like Apples to Apples, Joking Hazard, or Cards Against Humanity.  The biggest difference for Snake Oil is that the players always know who the other players are.  This, however, never proves to be a problem unlike the other games, as personality and wit are just as important here as in the other games, they're just used differently.  If your group tends to be the kind that plays "optimally", with every person scoring evenly and fairly, this might be a pass.  But, if you are someone who loves these types of games, Snake Oil definitely has the right charm for you. Just, maybe play longer than one round with a small group.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Earth, the Final Frontier (Naturally Disastrous)

Game provided free by publisher
For years, man has attempted to contact the stars, to see if there was truly life on others planets.  Well, no one figured that life would be so far away, nor that when we could reach them, we'd have wrecked our own planet, allowing those from other worlds to scavenge our planet.  It's more than a natural disaster or alien invasion we need to contend with, it's both.  Time runs out, and it becomes Naturally Disastrous. 

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Naturally Disastrous is a tile based board game published by Silver Lake Games for 1-6 players.  Players are aliens who have crash landed on a disaster riddled earth, and must attempt to contact their mother ship.

SET-UP:  Shuffle the large map tiles, arranged 3 by 3.  Take the 4 Communicator Arrays and shuffle them face-down with 11 of the Discoverable Item tokens.  Starting with the owner, each player takes 1 alien, and rolls the 10 & 8 sided die, or D10 & D8, to place all the Item tokens face-down, and their alien character figures.   The "Natives", (Guard, Secret Agent, Mad Scientist, and Sniper) go into their appropriate places.  Then, choose a player to start.

DISASTERS:  The players turn begins with a Naturally Disasterous action.  The player rolls the D10, then applies the appropriate effect.  These can be anything from flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes, to giving any character a movement, to being moved or potentially taking damage.  Note that no player may ever move onto a tile with an Earthquake counter.

NATIVES:  Once the Disasters apply, the Natives then apply their Aggressive Action, their Move, or Rest if they are Knocked Out, or KO.  All Natives are KO if they take any damage.

  • The Sniper shoots and deals 1 wound to any Alien 2 non-diagonal spaces away.  If there are no Aliens to shoot, he moves to the nearest Alien.
  • The Secret Agent moves to the nearest Item Token, and moves with it to the Vault. 
  • The Mad Scientist moves to the nearest Alien, and suffers 1 wound when on a space with an Alien.  When he is on a space with a Alien that was KO for any reason, that player flips their board over and is now Mutated. 
  • The Guard does not move, but remains on the Vault.  Instead, if an Alien lands on the Vault, they must skirmish with all Natives or Mutated Aliens there, with the Guard being last.  If the Guard is KO, he doesn't recover until all Aliens are off or a Native lands onto the Vault, in which case he recovers immediately. 
MUTATION:  When a player becomes Mutated, their goals change.  They now lose their regular turn, and only gain one Action immediately either before or after the Mad Scientist does.  They may now Skirmish, i.e. attack any Alien, and conduct their action according to their card.

ALIEN:  After the Disasters and the Natives move, the player may take their turn.  The Alien may conduct up to 3 actions per turn, and may follow any action according to their card.  These actions allow the Alien to move, attack, reveal or pick up items beneath them, rest to heal 1 wound or recover from being KO, or conduct their special action.  If an Alien is KO, they must Rest to heal 1 wound.

SKIRMISH:  Whenever an Alien lands on a space with either a Native or a Mutated Alien, a Skirmish occurs.  The player to the right conducts the Skirmish for Natives.  Roll the D8 for Aliens, and the D10 for Mutated Aliens and Natives.  If the Alien landed on the space, they get +3 to their roll, otherwise the results are shown on the die.  The lowest number suffers 1 wound, and a tie inflicts 1 wound to both parties.  Then, after the Alien has inflicted or suffered 1 wound, and is not KO, they may fight again, or retreat to an adjacent square.

Art by Gil Geolingo

ENDING:  Players win when all 4 Communicator Arrays are discovered and placed face-up on the 4 farthest corners of the map.  Players can also lose by not being able to place anymore of any kind of Disaster Tokens, or if the Vault contains more than half of the Discoverable Items.  If a player is Mutated, the Mutated Aliens win when everyone else loses, and loses when everyone else wins.

CONCLUSION:  Naturally Disastrous is a good indicator of the level of difficulty you will experience.  Yet, just like in Forbidden Island, this can be a good thing.  As a co-operative game, you want to have a level of challenge from the game.  Too easy, and it's boring.  Too hard, and it's frustrating and not compelling to come back to.  I can say that Naturally Disastrous never felt like my losses were unfair or unbalanced, they generally felt like my fault.  The Aliens could be a little more memorable in their design, but the art for the rest of the game is pretty good.  If you like a good challenge and a perchance for Player vs the Game, you may want to keep this one in mind.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  Now, normally I don't like to review the physical aspects of a game, but this does bear mentioning.  First off, the instructions.  While the instructions themselves are well thought out and explained, there are two problems I have with them.  First, the formatting makes it hard to read through and pick out what I need when I need it immediately.  Second, the Lightning Storm and Gas Pocket Disaster are flipped then what is indicated on the board.  My advice, follow the rules.
The second thing is that my review copy did come incorrect.  I received a copy to review along with my local game store.  I did not receive Natives, but instead different characters, while he received his store copies correctly.  Fortunately, I was able to contact the creator and get it fixed immediately.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

See? Saw! (Kilter)

Ah, to be a child again.  Climbing on the jungle gym, swinging on the aptly named swing sets, and sliding for hours on end at the school's playground.  There was nothing quite like it.  The best, however, was the seesaw.  Up, and down.  It fascinated the little mind, how could just a simple piece of wood and a block on the bottom make such a neat toy?  But, as you got bigger, it became simpler, easier to understand, and age threw life into a Kilter, one most struggle to overcome.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Kilter, also known as KIPP X outside of the US, is a dexterity based game for 2-4 players published by SimplyFun. Players attempt to place cubes of various sizes onto a 4 armed seesaw without knocking any others off.

SET-UP:  If there are 3 or 4 players, each player gets 3 large Red Cubes, 4 Blue Cubes, 5 Yellow Cubes, and 6 small Green Cubes. If there are only 2 players, both players get 4 Red Cubes, 6 Blue Cubes, 8 Yellow Cubes, and 10 Green Cubes.  Place the Seesaw in the center, where everyone can reach.

PLACEMENT:  Each turn, a players places Cubes onto any arm of the Seesaw that is not touching the ground.  Players may only place 1 Cube at a time, but they continue placing cubes on their turn until either that arm falls to the ground, or any amount of Cubes are knocked off.  That player then takes any Cubes not on the seesaw, and the next player goes.  Cubes may be stacked on top of any other Cubes.

WINNING:  Once a player has finished placing all of their Cubes both from their starting pile, and any knocked over, that person is wins.

CONCLUSION:  Kilter is pretty unique in the tabletop and board game world.  With most games relying on pawns or dice or cards, Kilter has you rely on your dexterity and placement skills.  The most obvious comparison would be something like Jenga, and it's pretty clear why.  This is a solid game, with clean, simple rules and ease of access to understand.  Anyone can pick it up and learn it, and most people should.  Kilter is simply fun.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Don't Lose Your Head (Guillotine)

The French Revolution was a huge, life-changing event for the people of Paris, and beyond.  In fact, it became such a significant event, that it has been a part of some famous works.  A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and all the way down to Assassins Creed!  Though not Les Miserable, wrong century.  Still, with movies, books, and even video games using the F.R. as a theme, it was only a matter of time that the Guillotine would drop, and a tabletop game would get the treatment.

GAME DESCRIPTION: Guillotine is a card game for 2-5 players, and was originally published by Wizards of the Coast.  Taking place during the French Revolution, players slowly kill off French nobles and others.

SET-UP: Shuffle and deal 5 Action each player, then shuffle and lay out 12 of the Noble cards in a line.  The far right one is considered the first, or front of the line.  Finally, randomly decide the first player.

EXECUTION:  Each turn consists of 3 phases.  First, the turn player may play 1 action card, or skip this step.  Action cards can alter the Noble line order, increase points, or even end the day.  Then, the player collects the Noble card at the front of the line.   Finally, if an action card was played, the player draws up to 5 cards to end their turn.

WINNING:  Once the day ends, by either killing all the Nobles in the line or by playing an Action like the Scarlet Pimpernel, players put all their dead Nobles off together, draw back up to 5 cards, and deal 12 new Nobles.  The game ends after 3 rounds, and players tally up their score.  The winner is the one who scored the most.

CONCLUSION:  Guillotine is a simple game to understand how to play, but surprisingly deep in its mechanics.  It's a fun game you can pull out and just get into with most people.  However, it can take up a decent amount of room, if the Action cards go that way.  That being said, it's a fine game with a strong theme for its mechanics, and a fairly straightforward play.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

They'll Never Stop The Simpsons (The Simpsons: Loser Takes All)

The Simpsons, a brief history:  The series began on a small, budding channel called Fox.  The Tracey Ulman show wanted short animated sketches between commercials and the actual show, so after finding Matt Groenings work, they hired him.  The rest, as they say, is history. As of this review, 630 episodes aired or plan to air, with more likely coming.  With several Bart based Video games, and merchandise to fill the Grand Canyon, The Simpsons have become a legacy in our time.  But this week: LOSER Takes All!

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Loser Takes All is a game published by RoseArt for 2-6 players.  The objective is to end the game with the lowest score possible, giving away tokens and money to ensure you are the "loser".

SET-UP:  Each player starts with 10 Junk Food tokens 20 Simpsons Money.  Each player takes a Simpsons token and the 5 Character cards associated with that token.  Place your Character cards face-up in front of you, and place your token anywhere on the board.  The youngest player begins.

MOVING:  During their turn, the player spins the spinner and moves according to the directions.  If a number is rolled, the player may move any combination vertically and horizontally, but they may only make one direction change per turn, and they may NOT backtrack onto any previous space.

SPACES:  There ares several different kinds of spaces, including:

  • Event:  Follow the instructions on the board.
  • Hazard:  Marked with a Radiation symbol, these are generally negative.
  • Question:  May also be marked with a Question Mark.
QUESTIONS:  When a player lands on a Question space, they draw a Question List card and choose a player.  The turn player reads either the first or next question in the List out loud, and writes their answer down on a piece of paper, then the chosen player responds with the answer they think the turn player wrote down.  If the answers are closely matching, the chosen player flips 1 of their Character cards face-down.  If the answers are different, the turn player flips their Character card face-down.  The turn then ends.

WINNING:  Once a player has flipped all 5 of their Character cards face-down, the game ends.  Each player scores 1 point for each Simpsons Money bill and Junk Food token they collected, 3 points for each of that players character-card still face up, and if any player is located anywhere in the bottom row of the board at the end of the game, they add 5 points to their final score.  The player with the lowest score wins!

CONCLUSION:  Loser Takes All is a pretty mediocre game, very cut and dry, simple, by the books board game for the most part.  It takes no risks and no solid mechanics from its theme.  There are 2 things which really stand out, however.  Being able to move any direction on the board is intriguing, and makes for some possibly interesting strategy, if there was any real strategy here.  The other is the questions.  This could be a decent ice-breaker game at a Con or a get together with a new group.  But these alone can't save the game from being a pretty generic, non-Simpsony Simpsons game.  Try it out if you'd like, but there are more interesting Ice-Breaker games, and more interesting games in general.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tic Tac Chess (Tak: A Beautiful Game)

Chess, Shogi, Go, Stratego, all games that predate the 20th century, and have established their place in the world as strong, deep games with long lasting replayability.  However, what would require a new game like these to come into this world, one that makes people stop and think, "This game is a lot more complex than I first thought"?  We will find out the answer to this question together in Tak: A Beautiful Game.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Tak is a 2 player board game published by Cheapass Games, originally concieved by Pat Rothfuss in "The Wise Man's Fear", and created by James Earnest.  Players take turns creating roads and walls using simple pieces.

SET-UP:  First, determine the size of the board used, from 3x3 to 6x6, and 8x8.  Take the appropriate number of pieces, or Stones. Capstones are used only in boards 5x5 or larger.  Finally, choose a player to start at random.  That player takes 1 of their opponents pieces and places it.  The 2nd player does the same to the 1st player.

STONES:  The object of the game is to create a road from one side of the board to the other.  Players take turns doing one of two actions: Place or Move.  A player may place any Stone on any empty location on the board.  If the Stone is flat, it is part of a road.  If it is standing, it is a Wall.  Walls cannot be stacked on, do not count as part of a road, but may move.

MOVE:  Instead of placing, a player may instead move any Stone or stack of Stones 1 row horizontally or vertically onto a flat stone or an empty space, and continue moving down that row as long as the player leaves at least one stone along each space.  There is no limit to how tall the stack may be, but a player may only move a stack if their colored stone is on top, and only up to a number of pieces equal to the size of the board (in a 3x3 game, a player may move 3 stones maximum).

CAPSTONES:  In larger games, Capstones may also be used.  Capstones may be placed onto any empty space, just like ordinary stones. They may count as part of the road, and may not be stacked on.  A Capstone may move onto a Wall, and turn that Wall into a Road.  However, the Capstone must move alone to convert a Wall into a Road.

WINNING:  There are two ways to end a game.  The first is if either player creates an unbroken path using no diagonals from any end of the board to the other, that player wins.  The second ending is if either players run out of pieces, in which case the last player who played ends their turn, and the other player wins.

CONCLUSION:  As many might be aware, Tak was adapted from a novel, The Wise Man's Fear, as an equivalent to older games like Chess and Go.  It is my opinion that this game surpasses that expectation.  It feels like a game that would be re-discovered in modern times.  But as a game, it is simple in theory, deeply complex in practice.  Every move has you thinking about varying possibilities.  Honestly, I would love to see technology advance to a point where computers can play this exceptionally well.  If you love games like Chess, but maybe found it a bit hard to remember all the pieces movements, or you just want a change, I recommend this game heartily.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  2 Afterthoughts this week.  First, I was introduced to this game by my neighbor, and it would go amiss if I did not properly cite him.  Thank you Steve Johnson.  And if you are ever passing through Cedar City, Utah, feel free to check out his new store Noggin Games.  2nd, thank you to @robespierrette for a pointing out a couple rules I got wrong or failed to notice.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sleepin' With the Fishes (Family Business)

So, ya wanna join our family, eh?  It's gonna take a lot more than a nice suit and a tough-guy attitude.  Ya gotta trim the fat, let go of those who can't support the family.  But ya gotta protect the Family's reputation, and make sure none of 'em go down.  It's just Family Business, see?

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Family Business is a card game published by Mayfair Games for 2-6 players.  Each player controls a Mafia Family using their influence in the law in order to keep their Family alive while eliminating the other families.

SET-UP:  Each player places their Family cards face-up in front, and is dealt 5 cards face-down for their hand, and must keep 5 cards in their hand.  Leave the box lid face-up, an empty space next to it at least 5 cards long.  Dealer starts the game.

TURNS:  On their turn, a player first draws a card, and either plays a card or discards by announcing "Pass".  There are 3 cards you can play.  An Attack card has a red border, and can be used to either place a Family Member card in the Hit List, or start a Mob War.  Green bordered Rescue cards can be used to remove or replace a Family Member from the Hit List back to the player, or end a Mob War.  Blue border cards are Counters, and can be used to prevent various cards.  If a Counter card is played, the player then takes the next turn.

MOB WAR:  If there are ever 6 or more Family Members in the list, or 6 or fewer Family Members in play, a Mob War starts.  At the end of each turn during a Mob War, Kill the Family Member at the front of the list, closest to the lid, by placing them in the lid to the RIP side.

WINNING:  Once all of a players' Family Members are Killed, the player is eliminated, and discards all their cards. Once only 1 player has a Family Member left in play, either in the Hit List or in front of the player, that player wins.

CONCLUSION:  Family Business is a lot of fun, and plays in a simple, easy to learn way.  However, it is just as cutthroat as you would expect from a Mafia game.  This is a game you'll want to play with close friends, or are willing to just accept defeat from other players. There's not much to say other than it's simple, pretty quick, and a lot of fun.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Arabian Nights, like Arabian Days (Shahrazad)

One more night, one more day to live.  Shahrazad crafts her stories so well, just to keep the king wanting to know more.  The stories live on, and continue to keep her alive.  However, who knows how much the king will like the next story?  Time will tell, and so will Shahrazad.

GAME DESCRIPTION: Shahrazad is a tile game published by Osprey Games for 1-2 players.  The goal is to play matching tiles to score points, either solo or cooperatively.

SET-UP:  Shuffle the tiles and place them face-down.  The player or players are dealt 2 tiles, and 1 is place face-up in the middle.  If playing with 2 Players, keep your hand secret, but you may discuss what is in your hand without revealing it.

TURNS:  A turn consists of drawing 1 tile from the deck, and placing it face-up directly above or below a tile, or in the next row to the left or right touching the tile and offset half-way up or down the tile.  Alternatively, a player may swap a tile from their hand instead of playing a tile, but they must play 2 tiles next turn, and cannot swap that turn.  In a single player game, columns have a max limit of 4, whereas with 2 players the max limit is 3.

SCORING:  Each tile is 1 of 4 colors: red, black, yellow, and blue.  Each tile also has a number in the top corners, and the goal is to play the numbers left to right from lowest to highest.  If there is a tile that has a lower number to its right, flip over the higher number.  Then, follow the tiles from left to right as a path.  Any tile that does not make from the far left tile(s) to the far right tile(s) is flipped, and gaps and flipped over tiles do not count.  If an entire column is flipped, score 0 points for that round.  Finally, count how many tiles of matching colors there are for each color, and score once for each color, and the highest amount of matching tiles of that color.

POINTS:  Once you have scored, remove any face-down tiles for the rest of the game, shuffle and re-deal.  Once you have played and scored 2 rounds, the game is over.  Add up both sets of points to determine your final score.

CONCLUSION:  Shahrazad is a score attack game, where the object is less about winning and more about personal challenge.  This game is going to appeal to a very small demographic, especially since games like Solitaire exist, making it easier to play with a standard deck instead of having to buy a whole new game.  This game is also designed to be played with 1 player more than it is with a friend.  The restriction of 3 tiles per column just adds to the difficulty, even if you now have twice as many tiles as before.  Shahrazad is a niche game, but I can see the appeal, if only for solo players.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How to Steal Their Dragon (Dragonology)

Good morning, intrepid adventure!  How would you like to travel to exotic lands, meet fantastical creatures far beyond your imagination, and perhaps even discover untold riches, hmmm?  That's right, this can all be yours, if you act now!  Just grab your Journal, and come join fellow thrill-seekers like yourself in Dragonology!

GAME DESCRIPTION: Dragonology is a Board Game published by Sababa Toys, and based on the fictional encyclopedic book Dragonology book.  The object of the game is to search the globe for information on Dragons to become the Master Dragonologist.

SET-UP:  Each Dragon is placed on the board in its specific location.  Each player is dealt 1 red Bit of Knowledge card and 3 Transportation Tickets.  The rest are placed face-down on the board.  Each player reveals their Bit of Knowledge card and places their figure in the City indicated on the card.  Then, each player rolls the Dragon Die.  The player with the highest roll goes first, with the Dragon's Eye being the highest number.

MOVEMENT:  To move, the player may either roll the die, or discard 1 Transportation Ticket.  If the die is rolled, the player moves that many spaces, or to any Dragon's home city if the Dragon's Eye is rolled.  If the player discards a Ticket, they may move according to the Ticket used:
  • Air (Hot Air Balloon & Airplane):  The player may move to any space on the board.
  • Sea (Steamboat):  The player may move from one Port, indicated by an anchor symbol, to any connecting Port over any blue Ocean/Sea spaces
  • Land (Locomotive, Camel, Elephant, & Stagecoach):  The player may move to any space in that continent.
SPACES:  When landing on a space, there are 4 actions that can happen.  Landing on a blank does nothing.  Landing on a Port, City, or Dragon's Home allows the player to draw a Bit of Knowledge or Transportation Ticket.  If a player lands on a "B", they draw a Bit of Knowledge card, and if they land on a "T", they draw a Ticket.

DRAGONS:  Once a player has collected 3 matching Bit of Knowledge cards about a specific dragon, they then must either use a Ticket, or roll exactly to land on that Dragon's home.  Then, they discard those Bit of Knowledge cards and collect, or Master, the Dragon figure.

KNOWLEDGE:  If a player lands on a space with another player, they may trade cards, or Bump them.  A Bump Challenge is conducted by the challenging player wagering any number of Cards OR Tickets in Rock, Paper, Scissors.  The winner takes all wagered cards.  In addition to Dragon Bit of Knowledge cards, there are special Spells and Charms Bit of Knowledge cards that have various effects:
  • Wild:  This card may be used as any third Dragon Bit of Knowledge card.
  • Snatch:  Steal a random Bit of Knowledge from any player.
  • Hypnotize:  The player may request a specific Dragon's Bit of Knowledge card from any one player.  If they have it, the player gives 
  • Master Claw:  If a player lands on a Dragon's home that has already been collected, they may steal the Dragon from the player.
  • Déjà vu: Take another turn.
  • Confusion:  Take all others players Bit of Knowledge cards, shuffle them and deal them out, not including yourself, 
  • Swoop:  Move another players piece to any space.  This may only be played if the player has collected any of the following dragons: American Ampithere, Cockatrice, European Dragon, Frost Dragon, Gargouille, Marsupial Dragon, or Wyvern.
  • Shield:  This protects a player from Bump Challenges, Snatch, or Hypnotize.  This effect can only protect against one card per Shield.

DRAGON'S EYE:  Once a player has collected 3 Dragons, they can then advance to the Island of Winged Serpents.  If a player rolls the die to land there, they must roll the exact number to land of the Island.  Once a player has landed on the Island, they are immune to all Spells and Charms.  Then, during their turn, if the player rolls the exact number of spaces or a Dragon's Eye, they reach the Dragon's Eye on the board.  If they roll lower, they advance that many spaces, and must wait until their next turn to attempt to reach the Eye.  If they roll higher, the player stays there, and attempts to roll the next turn.  The player that manages to reach the Dragon's Eye on the board with 3 or more Dragons wins, and signs their name on the Record Sheet, stored in the Secret Envelope.

CONCLUSION:  Dragonology is a beautiful game, with cards reflecting its theme well, a gorgeous board, and detailed figurines that are better than some Mini-figs I've seen.  The problem comes down to its gameplay: It feels like every bland board game ever created.  For how pretty the game looks, the generic gameplay kills it.  Now, this wouldn't be so bad if the gameplay was shorter, but games tend to last at least an hour or so.  If you have kids who are interested in dragons, it's worth playing once or twice.  Otherwise, the only way I can recommend it is if you can find it at a thrift store for cheap, and only for the figurines.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"I know what it's like to be Hilter!" (Secret Hitler)

There is a man, wandering the streets of Munich, observing the Regime.  The man pulls his cap a little lower, and tightens his coat against the cold.  The man smiles at the quality of Polizei, his little mustache twitching.  This is the ultimate Undercover Boss, for this man is Secret Hitler.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Secret Hitler is a Social Deduction game published by Goat Wolf & Cabbage for 5-10 players.  Each player is either a Fascist, a Liberal, or Hitler.  The Fascists and Hitler attempt to establish Fascist Polices before the Liberals establish their Policies.

SET-UP:  Place the Fascist track that corresponds to the number of players and place it next to the
Liberal track.  Then each player is dealt an envelope containing a Ja! (Yes) and Nein (No) card, and 1 randomly dealt Party Membership Card, according to the number of players.
For 5-6 Players:  All players then close their eyes, and the Fascists and Hitler open their eyes and reveal themselves to one another.
For 7-10 players:  All players then close their eyes, and the Fascists open their eyes and reveal themselves to one another. Hitler keeps his eyes closed, but raises his hand so the fascists can see who he is.

ELECTION:  At the beginning of each round, the President placard moves clockwise to the next player, who is now the new Presidential Candidate.  That player then chooses the next Chancellor by passing the Chancellor placard to any other player who was not elected President or Chancellor last round.  Then, all players vote on the proposed Presidency and Chancellorship.  Each player takes either a Ja or Nein card and places it face-down.  If there is a tie or the majority chooses Nein, the next player is President Elect, and the Election Tracker is moved forward one.  If the majority chooses Ja, the President and Chancellor are now elected.

TRACKER:  The Tracker gets reset once any Policy is enacted.  If the Tracker is moved 3 times, so that the players reject 3 Presidents/Chancellors in a row, reveal the top Policy and enact it.  Any power normally given is ignored, but all players are now eligible to be President or Chancellor.

LEGISLATION:  If a President and Chancellor are chosen, then the Legislation round begins.  The President draws 3 cards from the Policy deck.  The President then discards 1 face-down, and passes the remaining 2 to the Chancellor.  The Chancellor then discards 1 of them face-down, and places the last one to the appropriate board to enact it.  If at any time there are less than 3 Policy cards, shuffle the deck with the previously discarded Policies to create a new deck.

EXECUTIVE ACTION:  At various points, when a Policy is enacted and placed on the board, the President gets a power that triggers immediately, and must be used to begin the next round.  These powers are:

  • Investigate Loyalty:  The chosen selected player passes their Party Membership card (not Secret Role card!) to the President.
  • Call Special Election:  The President chooses the next President.  Once that Presidency is over with, pass it back to the player who would have been President (If that player was the President, they are President again).
  • Policy Peek:  The President secretly looks at the top three tiles in the Policy deck and then returns them to the top of the deck without changing the order.
  • Execution:  One player is selected and killed.  They cannot speak about or participate in the game.  The player must announce truthfully if they are or are not Hitler.  No other information is given.

WINNING:  The Fascists win once either Hitler is elected Chancellor after three Fascist Policies
have been enacted or 6 Fascist Policies have been enacted.  The Liberals win once 5 Liberal Polices have been enacted, or Hitler is ever killed.

CONCLUSION:  This is one of the best hidden role games I've ever played, bar none.  This is the game that made me want to review tabletop games.  It has a strong theme and solid mechanics.  There is always something going on, it never feels like there's much slowdown, which is rare for these types of games.  There's always a goal, and a push to drive towards that goal.  But there's also that feeling of freedom that you might be able to get away with it if you're just clever enough, just sneaky enough not to give anything away. And that feeling exists on the other side, that if you can just read the signs well enough, you can unmask Hitler.  Obviously, those who struggle reading people and don't enjoy these types of games should stay away.  However, if you do enjoy Mafia, Are You A Werewolf, and other games like them, then this is a strong contender.  Just, good luck finding enough people to play it.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  Secret Hitler is available for purchase or Print and Play by following the link here.  Thank you to Totalbiscuit and the Co-optional Lounge (link here) for getting me started on doing tabletop game reviews.  Also a big thanks to Jesse Cox for the title.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Don't Go Bacon My Heart (Pass the Pigs)

Don't be dis-gruntled by all these puns, just enjoy the game.  But be careful, there may be Truffle ahead.  Expect a twist in the tale.  And when it's time to Pass the Pigs, don't do it so ham-fisted.  After all, we don't need Pulled Pork.  

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Pass the Pig is a "Dice" game published by David Moffat Enterprises for 2 or more players.  Players attempt to gather points by rolling the Pigs.

PIGS:  The game contains a scorepad, pencils, and 2 small plastic Pigs.  Each turn, one player rolls the pigs onto a flat surface.  The player gains points depending on the position of the pigs.  If a pig is on its side, it gives the player 0 points.  If it's on its back, or standing up, it gives the player 5 points.  If on its snout, 10 points.  If its on both snout and ear, 15 points.

COMBOS:  In addition, if both Pigs are rolled in a specific pattern, the player will get more points.  For example, if both Pigs are lying on their back, then the player gets 20 points instead of just 10.  However, if the Pigs land touching each other, or if one is lying on its left side, and the other on the right, that player loses all points gained that round and the Pigs are passed to the next player.

WINNING:  At any point, a player may stop their roll, and keep the points that they gained that round.  Any player can win when they stop at a predetermined set of points.  However, if a player manages to roll the Pigs so that one Pig lands completely on top of the other, resting all 4 feet on the others back which is also on all 4 feet, then the player is out of the game.

CONCLUSION:  This is a strange game indeed.  It definitely plays similar to games like Zombie Dice.  However, whereas those games are built as dice games, this one feels less balanced.  According to Wikipedia, just landing on the highest points is a less then 1% chance to get it.  Because of that, it seems like there's something a bit too gimmicky.  And yet, I still enjoy it.  Maybe the gimmick is something I like, as a novelty.  I wouldn't recommend playing this weekly, but give it a chance, you might not think it so hogwash.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  Thanks to Lizzy-thelizzard Gaming for the bevvy of Pig puns strewn throughout this review!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Keep Calm and Slay the Intruders (Castle Panic)

So, against better judgement, you've built your castle right in the middle of a monster infested forest.  No, don't give me that look, sire. We both know that if you really wanted, you could have built it anywhere else, instead of being blinded on all sides by thick forest.  But don't panic, this castle will be a lovely monument to your *cough* bravery forever.  That is, if it doesn't get torn down first.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Castle Panic is a co-operative strategy board game published by Fireside Games for 1 to 6 players.  Players work together to defend their castle from jealous enemy monsters. There are 3 modes to play, but this review will only cover Standard.

SET-UP:  The game board contains 5 labeled rings going inward, and is split into 6 numbered segments.  Place 1 Tower into each of the 6 segments, separated into 3 colors, in the Castle Ring, and 1 Wall in between the Castle and Swordsman Ring.  Take 3 Goblin Monster Tokens, 2 Orc Monster Tokens, and 1 Troll Monster Token.  Place only 1 Monster Token in each segment in the Archer Ring, with the highest number on the token facing the castle.  Shuffle the Castle cards, and deal cards face-up to each player, with the number dependent on the number of players.  Place the rest of the deck face-down.  Finally, turn all the Monster Tokens face-down and mix them up.

STARTING:  The turn player starts by drawing back up to your hand limit, which is usually ignored at the first turn.  Then, the player may discard 1 card and draw a replacement in its place, or skip this step.  The 3rd step allows trading between players.  If there are 2 to 5 players, a player can only make one trade per turn.  With 6 players, a player may trade either 2 cards with the same player or trade with 2 different players.

FIGHT:  During this turn, the turn player may play as may cards as they wish and are able.  A player may attack any monsters not in the forest during this turn by playing the card that matches both the color and Ring of the location of the monster.  Rotate the token so the next lowest number is facing the castle to indicate 1 damage taken, unless otherwise stated on the card.

SLAYING:  Once a Monster Token is at 1, and takes damage, it is removed from the board and given to the player who slayed it as a Trophy.  Any Monster that is slayed from a Boulder or other event is not given to any player.

MOVEMENT:  Once the player cannot or chooses not to play anymore cards, every Monster Token advances 1 Ring forward.  Any Monster that gets to a Wall destroys the Wall and takes 1 damage.  If the Wall is fortified, the Fortification token is removed, and the Monster takes 1 damage.  If there is no Wall, the Monster advances into the Castle Ring, and that Castle is destroyed and the monster takes 1 damage.

REINFORCEMENT:  Once the Monsters have moved, the player flips over 2 Monster Tokens and places them into the Forest Ring, the location determined by dice roll.  There are also special tokens, such as Boss Monsters.  Boss Monsters also have special effects detailed in the rules, and can be identified by the gold background behind their damage points.  There are also Plague tokens, which discards the indicated card from everyone's hands.  There are also Tokens that rotate every Monster one number clockwise/counter-clockwise, move Monsters forward in a specific color, or force the player to draw more Monster Tokens.

GIANT BOULDER:  The Giant Boulder rolls down a numbered segment determined by dice roll, and destroys any Monsters it passes until it hits and destroys either a Wall, Tower, or Fortification.  If none of these things are in the way, it continues through to the other side and destroys any other enemies and stops after it hits the next Forest ring.

FINISHING:   If the Monsters manage to destroy all Wall and Castle segments, the players lose.  If the players manage to play and slay all 49 Monsters, the players win.  In that case, each player adds up the highest number on each of their Trophies.  The player with the highest number of points is now the Master Slayer.

CONCLUSION:  I am a sucker for Co-operative games.  This is probably one of the first ones I've ever played, and it plays well.  The game is punishing and difficult, but not terribly so.  Castle Panic has enough randomness and player support to make it work.  However, it is still a strategy game, which means that even though you can have players help and guide you, or just straight up tell you what to do, if you don't enjoy turn based strategy, it won't be fun.  This is the kind of game that changes on a whim, and well laid plans can be swept out from under you in a heartbeat.  Still, with a solid group of friends who understand long term strategy, you should at least attempt it, if only to see if you like strategy games or not.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  There are 2 more variations of play of Castle Panic.  The first, Co-op, just eliminates Trophies, so it might be good to play with younger people who struggle with this game, or players who have a habit of ruining a plan so they can score.  The other version, Overlord, seems to make it more of an asynchronous 1 vs 3-5 game, which might be fascinating to try.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Five Dice, One Winner (Dice City)

Hear ye, hear ye, to the plight of the city!  Queen Statsia, of the Kingdom of Rolldovia, has decreed that there shall now be a new capital, to rival the old one.  Rumors of the old capital being pillaged and desecrated are greatly exaggerated, and as such, should be disregarded. Those who believe their city is the best of the land shall compete in a contest to see who deserves to be the new capital of Rolldovia!

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Dice City is a dice game for 1-4 players created by Vangelis Bagiartakis and published by Artipia Games.  Players roll, move, attack, and gather points to see whose city should become capital.

SET-UP:  Each player takes 1 Player Board, and 1 set of different colored dice (Red, Blue, Black, Yellow, White).  Split the Lumber Mill, Quarry, Mine, and Regular Army cards into 4 separate stacks face-up.  Shuffle the rest of the Location Cards and place them face-down. Next, draw 8 cards and place them together face-up, as the Display.  Place the Bandits Cards and Trade Ships in three separate piles, with each pile being indicated by the number in the bottom right.  Each Bandit pile will only have a number of cards equal to the total number of players, plus 2.

START:  All players roll their dice, and put them in the appropriate number (located on the top of the Player Board) and color (located on the side) location.  The player to have played a game most recently with dice rolling starts.  During their turn, each player has 4 steps to follow in order: Use Dice, Attack, Building & Trading, and End of Turn.

USE DICE:  During the first step, you may use an action by "spending" a die by moving it from the board.  These actions are:

  • Use the location beneath the die and resolve its ability.
  • Move another die to an adjacent space on that die’s row.
  • Reactivate a Deactivated location anywhere in your city.
  • Once per turn, discard four of the Location cards in the display that are available to build and reveal four new ones.
  • Once per turn, pass and gain a Pass Token.
  • Instead of a die, you may spend two Pass Tokens to gain one Resource of your choice, increase your army strength by 1 for the turn, or force all other players to re-roll one die of your choice.
Once all Dice are spent, the turn moves to the Attack step.

ATTACK:  During this turn, any Attack units used (indicated by a sword) increases your Army strength.  You may attack either Bandits, Locations, or Stock.  For Bandit and Location cards, you must spend a strength higher than the cards defense.  Note that not all Locations have a Defense, making them unable to be attacked.  For Bandits, you gain that Bandit card and place it off to the side, until all those Bandits are gone.  For Locations, place a Deactivation Token on the location.  That player cannot use that Locations ability without Reactivating it.  To gain Resources from another player, you must spend 2 times the Resource(s) you want to steal.  Your Army then returns to 0 at the end of the turn.  

BUILDING/TRADING:  Every other non-Bandit card has a cost of Resources, usually located in the top right, or the bottom for Trade Ships. During this step, you may spend your collected Resources to gain one of these cards.  Trade Ships will go off to the side.  Any Lumber Mill, Quarry, Mine, and Location card bought from the Display will go on the Player board.  These cards can be placed anywhere on the board, but will replace the effect underneath it.

END OF TURN:  If you have any Resources remaining, you may keep one of each kind, with the rest returned to their stock.  All Pass tokens collected remain with the player, however.  The player re-rolls all of the dice and places them back on their Player board.  Then the turn ends, and play passes to the next player.

VP:  Almost every card has a number in a star in the bottom right.  These are Victory Points.  You gain Victory Points from gaining that card, or from a Location's effect.  When you do, you gain VP token(s) equal to the points gained, and place them face-down.  When you attack and Deactivate a Location, gain VP token(s) equal to the deactivated card.

WINNING:  The game ends in one of 3 ways:  Either all three of the bandits piles or two or more of the trade ship piles have run out of cards, the location deck runs out of cards, or any player calls the game over when they have two or more rows on their board filled with built locations, none of which have Deactivation tokens.  The game continues until every player has had the same number of turns.  The player with the most Victory Points wins.

CONCLUSION:  This has always been a hard game for me to review.  There's a little too much down time in a four player game to end as quickly as it does.  I do like that while there is a lot of luck involved, it is aware and does a little to help mitigate it, but not in a way that feels forced.  Also, the single player mode helps to build strategy and see what play styles work for you.  Being able to adjust the difficulty also helps make the game more enjoyable as you see what works and what doesn't.  I would recommend this if you enjoy games like Dominion.  To everyone else, it may be a hard sell, but I would say if you do want to play this, either start with Single Player or limit to three players, as the down time is lessened.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  A quick thanks to Slumpymaster for helping me with the single player part of this review.  You can check his stuff out over on the right.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mini-post: Updates & Patreon

Hey all,

It's time for me to address where this blog is going, and what I'm doing with it.  As many of you may know, there have been ads on the side bar for awhile, along with my social media, and various other people who have supported me.  Well, I've also recently included my Patreon.  This is just another way to help me update and streamline my page, continue to work on my blog, and work on more things.

What kind of things?  Well, I am in production (by production, I mean struggling to figure out how anything works) on at least 1 weekly YouTube series, and another less frequent series.  Also, I am working out some kinks with a fellow gamer on a Podcast on cross topics of board and video games.  And finally, I'm attempting various board game Live Streams via Twitch, YouTube, or some other service.  Now, I can't guarantee any of this will pan out, but here's to trying.

Now that you know, I'm going to address my Patreon.  Right now, as I have basically nothing but this blog, my Patreon is merely $1 for all Patreon access.  If I can offer something more substantial, then I may add more tiers or another way to get those bonuses.  But, if you want to help keep my blog going, and support me to help push these projects, please consider becoming a Patreon for only $1 a month.

And hey, thanks for reading this page, it's meant a lot for me to grow from a school project to something worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Words Man Dare Not Spell (Unspeakable Words)

A is for Azathoth, Ruler of the Gods
B is for Byakhee, Hastur sends them abroad
C is for Cthulhu, you know him well
D is for Dagon, you're under their spell
And while these are only some Unspeakable Words
If you say these to anyone, they'll think you absurd.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Unspeakable Words is a word-based card game published by Playroom.  Players attempt to gather points by spelling words without going insane.

SET-UP:  Each player takes 5 C'thulhu Pawns, and is dealt 7 Letter Cards.  The player who rolls the highest on the 20 sided die, or D20, plays first.

WORDS:  Each turn, a player may spell a word with 3 or more letters.  No player may form acronyms, proper nouns, names, abbreviations, or contractions.  Players may not play a word that was also played, but playing a different tense, or the plural instead of the singular counts (EX:  Pants cannot be played twice, regardless of tense, but Froze can be played if Freeze was, and Cards can be played if Card was).

POINTS:  Score points equal to the amount of points on the card (points are given based on the number of angles on the letter).  Then, the player rolls the D20 for their Sanity Roll, and if they roll less than the points scored, they give up 1 C'thulhu Pawn.  If they rolled equal or higher, they are safe.  A 20 is an automatic success.  The player draws back up to 7 and the turn passes to the left.

WINNING:  Like most C'thulhu based games, there are many ways to lose.  If a player runs out of C'thulhu Pawns, they discard their hand and are eliminated for the rest of the game.  If only 1 player has C'thulhu Pawns left, they win.  If a player manages to score 100 or more points, but fails their Sanity Roll, then they instead score 0 points, in addition to their lost sanity.  But, if they manage to succeed in their Sanity Roll, they win.

CONCLUSION:  This is a very enjoyable game for those who like challenging word games, but play with at least some of the optional rules. The ability to make your own words with only one sanity is fun, and being able to recover sanity helps even out some of the terrible dice rolls you're bound to get one game.  By itself, Unspeakble Words is a cool idea with a decent change of pace from most card based word games (yes, there's a few), but it's really not complete without the added rules.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  This game is no longer in print, but there is a Kickstarter for a deluxe version.  It is also available via Print 'n Play ( and in Tabletop Simulator.

This week's Patreon support comes from Lizzy-thelizzard Gaming

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

You just saw three monkeys go by on a motorcycle, didn't you? (Jumanji)

Running from monkeys, rhinos, and other beasts
are just one of your many feats.
Play the game and become free,
and call out "Jumanji!"
But do not start unless you intend
to see the game through to the end.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Jumanji was Published by Hasbro in 1995 for up to 4 players as a tie-in for the movie.  Players attempt to land in the circle while various disasters affect them.

SET-UP:  Everyone takes a pawn and places it at the appropriate start at the corner of the board.  Place the Danger cards and the Rhino on their locations, and everyone takes a Rescue die, placing the stickers on as needed.  Whoever suggested the game starts.

MOVEMENT:  During your turn, roll the numbered die, and move along the colored path that matches your pawn.  Whenever you land on a space during your turn, follow the instructions, then the turn goes to the next player on the left:
  • WAIT FOR 5 OR 8:  The player to the left rolls the die.  If it's not 5 or 8, move back one space and the next player rolls.  If you go back to the start, you start your next turn their, and both the rolls and your turn ends.  If any of the rolls are 5 or 8, both the rolls and your turn end.
  • RHINO:  You may place the Rhino token in front of any player.  They cannot move, and instead roll the die during their turn.  If it's even, place the Rhino back in its spot.  If it's odd, the Rhino stays and follow the instructions of your space.
  • BLANK:  Draw a Danger card and place it in the middle, and read it out loud.  Flip over the timer, and all other players roll their Rescue die.  If everyone rolls the symbol in the top left of the card, or rolls the Wild symbol (Hourglass) before time is up, then you are safe.  Every other player moves ahead the number in the top right, and the card is discarded.  If any amount of players fail to roll the symbol or Wild once time is up, then the player who landed on the Blank space moves back the number in the top right.  Place the Danger card in the Doomsday Grid, and the turn is now over.
  • JUNGLE:  Draw a Danger card and place it in the middle, and read it out loud.  Flip over the timer, and every player rolls their Rescue die.  If everyone rolls the symbol in the top left of the card, or rolls the Wild symbol (Hourglass) before time is up, every player moves ahead the number in the top right.  If any amount of players fail to roll the symbol or Wild, then place the card in the next Doomsday spot, and reveal a new card.  Continue until a Danger card is successfully completed. 

ENDINGS:  There are 2 ways to finish the game.  If a player manages to roll or move with a Danger card the exact number into the middle, they win.  If a player is at the middle, and rolls or wins a Danger card higher than needed, they do not move.  If the Doomsday board is filled with 10 Danger cards, then the game ends, and is restarted from the beginning.

CONCLUSION:  As is the unfortunate case for many tie-in games, this one does not have any real depth to it.  The board looks amazing, accurate, and is very on theme.  The problem is that the theme is only aesthetically deep.  By committing so much to the games look, there wasn't much they could do to make the game mechanically interesting.  Luckily, it doesn't outstay its welcome too long, taking at most an hour to play.  This is fun for a nostalgia trip or for kids who have just watched the movie, but don't expect to play it much outside of that.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It's dangerous to go alone. Take friends! (Hyrule Fantasy)

Long ago, the Demon King Ganon stole part the Tri-force of Power.  Princess Zelda divided the Tri-force of Wisdom into 8 pieces to keep it from Ganon.  Link, a brave young man, is tasked to gather and re-unite the Tri-force of Wisdom.  Will he succeed and restore Hyrule to its former glory, or will Ganon's minions defeat our hero and keep Hyrule enslaved forever?  Find out in The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Fantasy!

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Hyrule Fantasy was made in 1986 in Japan, and was published by Bandai for 1-4 players.  Players take the role of Link and follow the map from the original Legend of Zelda video game to improve themselves and gather the Tri-force, and ultimately fight and defeat Ganon.

SET-UP:  Each player takes a personal Character Sub-board and places it in front of them.  Then, each player takes a colored Link and places them on the start.  Each player begins with 5 Hearts and a Sword.  Shuffle the Labyrinth, Showdown, and Money Making Cards and put them off to the side.  Finally, each player get's all 8 Tri-force Pieces and places them off to the side.

MOVEMENT:  Players move spaces equal to the number of hearts they currently have, and only along pathways that make sense.  Players cannot climb mountain sides, go through bushes, or climb over boulders.

BATTLE:  If you land on any space that doesn't have text, you can engage in a Battle.  Flip the top Showdown Card, and roll the included die twice.  If your total roll is higher than the enemy's, you win, and if it matches or is lower, you lose.  If the case of winning, you can choose to either gain the indicated Rupees OR heal the indicated number, up to a max of 5 hearts.  If you lose, remove the number of Hearts off your Sub-board as indicated.  Then, shuffle the card back into the deck.

PITFALLS:  Some Showdown Cards don't have battles, but have other effects.  These are known as Pitfall cards.  If a Pitfall card is drawn, apply its effect, then shuffle it back into the deck.  All Pitfall cards are self explanatory except for the Money Making Game.  If you play the Money Making Game, take the Money Making Cards and draw one.  Then, the next player draws a Money Making Card.  If any player draws the Moblin or Old Man, they no longer play the Money Making Game this round.  Once both the Moblin and Old Man are drawn, deal out and take the appropriate Rupees, and shuffle the cards back together.

LABYRINTH:  The objective is for players to land on the Labyrinth tiles (indicated by Level) and get the pieces of Tri-force from there.  Players must land in order, from 1 to 8, to gather the pieces.  Once a player lands on a Labyrinth tile, flip over a Labyrinth Battle card.  Roll the die the number of times indicated on the card.  If you win, take the Tri-force piece that matches the number of the Labyrinth, and place it on the board.  Then, shuffle the Labyrinth Battle card back into the deck, and heal back up to 5 hearts  If you lose, you can spend a Blue Potion, or flip the Red Potion over and stay at the Labyrinth.  Otherwise, return to any Fairy Fountain and keep the Labyrinth Battle card for the next fight.

ITEMS:  There are other Items that can help in your adventure.  Some are required, but all are limited to 1 per player, and can only be obtained on the correct tile.

  • White Sword:  Obtainable only once you have Tri-force 2.  Allows you to enter Dungeon 3.  Place on top of the Sword card.
  • Magical Sword: Obtainable only once you have Tri-force 6.  Allows you to enter Dungeon 7.  Place on top of the White Sword card.
  • Power Bracelet:  Allows you to move from a Warp space to any other Warp space.
  • Letter:  Allows you to buy Potions.
  • Potions:  Can only be bought with the Letter.  Blue Potion (50 Rupees) and Red Potion (100 Rupees) both keep you at the same spot, but the Red Potion can be used twice.
  • Blue Ring:  Gives you +2 Hearts for 250 Rupees.
  • Food:  Buy for 50 Rupees to prevent the Surrounded by Enemies Pitfall card.
  • Magical Shield:  Can be bought for 100 Rupees.  Effective against certain enemies.

GANON:  Once you have the Magical Sword and all 8 Tri-force Pieces, you can enter Death Mountain and fight Ganon.  First, engage in a Battle at the Entrance of Death Mountain.  On the next turn, you can enter Death Mountain and fight Ganon.  Roll the die 4 times.  You win if you roll both the Sword and Silver Arrows.  If you do not roll both of these, return to any Fairy Fountain and head back up to Death Mountain to fight him again.  The first player to defeat Ganon is the True Hero

CONCLUSION:  Hyrule Fantasy starts out as a fascinating game, but tends to drag on towards the end.  It stays with its theme all the way through, but that is also its detriment, with the length of the game hindering it in the end game.  But even though it's long, that doesn't make it complicated.  Anyone can pick up and learn it easily.  This is a game that is meant for fans of The Legend of Zelda, especially the original.  Others, however, are likely to be put off by the games length and fetch quest mechanics.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  A fun feature is that the board for Hyrule Fantasy also acts as a 1:1 map for the original Legend of Zelda for the NES.  Hyrule Fantasy was a Japanese exclusive, but was translated by dedicated fans, and is now available in a Print and Play form <>, or on Tabletop Simulator.  Thanks to Saintscrub for the link, and Alberto Vitali for access to this wonderful, massive project.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Illinois James and the Elemental Treasures (Forbidden Island)

Tell me Sonny Jim, do you like adventure?  Do you like treasure?  Have I got the place for you, full of riches to make men's dreams come true, and danger to get your heart a-thumpin', and how! Don't be put off by the name, you certainly don't run the risk of drowning almost immediately once you land.  You'll be the big cheese once ya find that enormous fortune.  Come on down and purchase your ticket to the Forbidden Island!

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Forbidden Island is a co-operative game published by Gamewright.  Each Player is part of an expedition that is attempting to uncover all the treasures before the island sinks.

SET-UP:  Each player selects a Role card and their matching colored pawn.  Place the 4 different Treasure figures off the side.  Shuffle the Island Tiles and randomly place them face-up according to the design in the rules.  Place each player's colored pawn on their location indicated in the bottom right.  Each player is dealt 2 Treasure cards, which they keep face-up.  If a "Waters Rise!" card is dealt, shuffle them back in the deck and draw a new card.  Finally, reveal 6 Flood cards and flip over the matching Island Tiles, and set the Water Level to the appropriate difficulty.

ACTIONS:  Each player begins with 3 actions they can do each turn:

  • Move to another adjacent tile horizontally or vertically (or diagonally if you're the Explorer, or to any space if you're the Pilot).
  • Give a Treasure to a player if you're both on the same Tile.
  • Shore up a tile, or flip a face-down tile back face-up adjacent to you horizontally or vertically (or diagonally again if you're the Explorer)
  • Discard 4 matching Treasure cards to capture that Treasure, if you are on the matching tile indicated on the bottom right.  You may gather the Treasure if the tile is Flooded, or flipped over. You cannot if the tile is Sunk.
FLOODING/SUNK:  Tiles that are flipped face-down are Flooded.  If a Flooded Tile is drawn, it is Sunk.  You cannot move on the areas with Sunk Tiles (unless you are the Diver).  If a Tile is Sunk with a player on it, they move to any horizontal or vertical adjacent tile (or diagonally if you're the Explorer.

DRAWING:  Once you end your turn, draw 2 Treasure cards.  If you have more than 5 cards, you must discard down to 5.  If a Waters Rise! card is drawn, shuffle the Flood discard pile and place it on top of the deck, and raise the Water Level up one tick mark.  Then, reveal and flip over the Flood cards equal to the current Water Level.  If either the Flood or Treasure deck runs out, reshuffle the appropriate discard pile and place it as the deck.

ENDING:  There are 5 ways this game ends.  If the players manage to gather all 4 treasures and make it to the Fools' Landing, and someone has a Helicopter Lift card in their hand, the players win.  The players will lose if: 
  1. Both of the Tiles you can gather Treasure at are Sunk and no-one has collected that Treasure.
  2. The Fools' Landing Tile is Sunk.
  3. If any player is on a Tile when it is Sunk and they cannot move to an adjacent tile.
  4. If the Water Level reaches the top Skull & Crossbones symbol.
CONCLUSION:  Forbidden Island is hard, plain and simple.  It is always actively trying to kill you and make sure you can't win through luck or mis-plays.  There have been games that have ended on the first turn they began just because of bad luck.  That doesn't mean that the game is bad, just hard.  The really neat thing about this game is the co-operative element.  There are very few tabletop games that are truly co-operative, and even fewer have made it as compelling as Forbidden Island.  Plus, the rules are simple to understand, but allow for deep play with careful planning.  If you plan on playing, make sure it's with a group who can stand to lose over and over, because the victory will be that much sweeter.