Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Where Everybody Knows Your Name (The Red Dragon Inn)

Oh, lad, it's good to see you.  Step inside and join the party, all your friends are here.  The drinking is just getting started, and the night promises to be full of surprises, and humour, at least to me and the barmaid.  Who knows what might happen in the Red Dragon Inn?

GAME DESCRIPTION:  The Red Dragon Inn is a card game for 2 to 4 players (with additional players depending on expansions) published by SlugFest Games.

SET-UP:  Each player takes a board, and 1 red and 1 clear token.  Place the Red token on the 20, which represents your Fortitude, or health.  The clear is placed on the 0, and represents your Alcohol level.  Each player takes a character deck, and places it in the deck area, and draws 7 cards.  Shuffle the Drink deck and place it in the middle, and give each player 10 gold coins.

TURNS:  Each player follows the turn order on the board.  First, the player may discard any cards from their hand, and draw back up to 7.  Then, the player may play 1 action during the Action phase.  The player then goes to the Order Drinks, and gives any other player a Drink card from the deck face-down without looking at it into their Drink Me! pile.  Finally, the player Drinks the top card from their Drink Me! pile.

TYPES:  There are several types of cards in this game, all located at the top.  The first is Action, and only one can be played by the current player on their turn per turn.  Anytime cards can be played...well, anytime, and Sometimes cards can only be played in response to an appropriate effect. 

GAMBLING:  "Gambling? I'm In" cards are also a standard action.  Gambling is a mini-game where each player tosses in a coin into the "pot" for the ante, and the current player is in control.  The next player may play any Gambling or Cheat card in their hand, and control passes to them.  If a player cannot or chooses not to play a card, they "pass".  If a round goes where all players pass and it goes back to the player who was in control, they win the pot.

DRINKS:  There are several types of drinks.  Most either raise the players Alcohol level, or lower their Fortitude.  Some are events, where players are forced to follow an effect on the card, and the cards involved are usually drawn from Drink deck.  Chasers, or drinks with a plus next to the number, force the player to draw the next drink from their Drink Me! pile, or ignore if there are none.  If, however, there are no drinks during the Drink phase, the player starts to sober up and loses 1 Alcohol level.

KICKED OUT:  If a player has run out of gold either at the end of a gambling session, or during normal play, they are eliminated, and kicked out of the Inn.  If a players Fortitude and Alcohol level ever match or pass, they become too drunk and are kicked out.  Half that player's gold is distributed among the rest of the players, and the other half, and any remainder, is given to the inn.  The last remaining player wins.  If there are none, everyone loses.

CONCLUSION:  Red Dragon Inn is a competitive, back stabbing, revenge seeking kind of game.  It's a great laugh with a solid theme.  The first set might not seem like much, as the cards don't differ much between characters, but the later editions add much more chaos to the game.  This is an Expandalone, or a game that can stand on its own, or be added into other versions of itself, like Munchkin.  This is the kind of game that can be easily frustrating if you allow it, or a lot of fun if you can get past that initial barrier.  The fun comes from the vindictive nature of the game, and plotting who should get out first.  Just make sure when you start, you don't make enemies too quickly.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  The one thing that I will not do, but has been mentioned, is a real drinking game.  A couple of my friends are going to attempt it, and it seems like there's some real thought being put into the game.  If this strikes your fancy, go ahead, it appears to be just the thing to make the game just that more crazy.  Remember: Drink Responsibly, don't drink and drive, and be safe.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All Magic Comes With a Price (Once Upon a Time)

Once upon a time, 6 young adults played a card game.  But it was not just any card game, this was a game filled with danger, horror, and a girl who had no idea what she was doing.  In a land where anything could happen, a story was crafted.  True, no one would remember the story months later, and no one would want to hear it again, but it was a story they enjoyed making.  And all that came from 4 classic words:  Once Upon a Time.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Once Upon a Time is a storytelling card game published by Atlas Games for 2-6 players.  Players craft a story over a period of time using cards, attempting to "de-rail" the story in their favor.

SET-UP: Each player is dealt a hand of cards, the number depending on the number of players, and 1 Happy Ever After card.  All players determine who starts.

STORY:  Each player has a set of story-telling cards.  The first player starts telling a story.  Anytime something important to the story is said, the player may lay down that kind of card.  If, however, it's just a minor detail mentioned in a list, or a throwaway line, the player cannot play a matching card.  If a player wishes to no longer keep the story going, they may pass.  They then draw a card, and may discard one, and the story passes to the left.

INTERRUPT:  A player may interrupt and take control of the story in 2 ways.  If a player mentions something, and another player has a card that matches, they may play it immediately.  The second way is that some cards have Interrupt on them, which allow them to play them to interrupt a matching types of card (Place, Character, Item, Event, Aspect).  In both cases, the previous story-teller must draw a card, and the other player continues the story with that card.  Players may also lose the story to the player to the left if the player starts rambling or pauses too long.

WINNING:  Once a player has played all their cards, they may not add any new elements to the story, and they may close the story by revealing and reading their Happily Ever After to win.  If all players agree it does not match the story, that player must draw a new Happily Ever After card, and a new Story card, and the story passes to the left.

CONCLUSION:  Once Upon a Time is a pretty fun improvisational-style game.  This is a game that most people can play, and is a stronger game then something like Aye, Dark Overlord, being open enough for players to allow their creative juices flow, but structured enough to avoid giving players choice fatigue.  A pretty solid game for all ages, and enough for most to get a good experience out of it.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It's the Sex Bob-ombs! (Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Card Game)

Welcome to the final week of VG Month, a look into Video Games as Tabletop games.  This week, we close off by traveling to the rich, drama filled world of Scott Pilgrim.  But with a successful comic, a well received movie, and a solid actual video game, is there a place in the Pilgrim verse for a physical game?  This is Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Card Game. 

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Card Game is a deckbuilder published by Renegade Game Studios for 1-4 players.  Players take on the role of Scott and his friends to defeat the Evil Exes.

SET-UP:  Scott Pilgrim is odd in that all the cards are double sided, and players are able to look at both sides of the card in their hand.  In order to set up, each player places their character card and all cards with the characters face in the top right in front of them, shuffling and keeping it face-down to prevent peeking.  Shuffle the remaining cards and place them in two separate piles.  Take 1 Evil Ex and place it between the two decks, applying any effects to all cards.

PLOTLINE:  Now, place the top card from both decks and place them in a column, making 2 rows called the Plotline.  The first player then adds 1 card from the top of either deck to the right of any card, and may also Eliminate, or remove from the game completely, 1 card from the top of the deck.  The next player then does the same, until there are 2 rows of cards equal to the number of players.  Players may not look at the opposite side of any card in the Plotline.  The first player draws 4 cards to begin, while other players draw 5.

ACQUISITION:  Before the first phase, the current player may Eliminate the top of either or both Plotline decks.  Then, the player may play any cards from their hand.  Each blue Story card generates 1 of 3 resources, indicated the top left of all blue Story cards, on the opposite side of Combat.  Cards with the 3 arrows generate any type of resources.  Any card that generates multiple resources can only be used for 1 resource.  These resources are used to buy cards in the Plotline, with their buying price in the top right.  Any card except Challenges can be bought, with Power Up! cards going in front, and any other being discarded.  Once the player chooses not to buy anymore, they discard their hand and may either continue to the fight phase, or skip it and draw 6 cards.

FIGHT:  Players choosing to fight first declare which Challenge card they are fighting and draw 5 cards, using the Combat side.  If the card has a VS Draw, the player to the right draws the number indicated, and places them next to the Challenge, with any Drama cards drawn giving the challenge the indicated bonus.  The player may then exchange any 1 card from their hand with any drawn card. 

COMBO:  On the back of each card is a list of "Combo's", which is given when you play a particular set of cards in a certain order, with the "Button" hit indicated on the top left.  These will give you a specific amount of points against the Challenge when played in the right order.  Then, when a Combo is shown, players may play another Combo below it.  If no Combo's can be played, the player "Button Mashes" by just playing cards, each one with 1 point against the Challenge.  Any cards requiring a specific card must be played before the required card, not after.  If a player Succeeds in matching or beating the number, or Fails by not matching the number, the player follows the effect on the card.

DRAMA:  Each deck starts with a set amount of Drama.  Drama is used only in VS Draw and cards that require Matching Drama, which is when you play that card, you play a Drama with it.

WINNING:  Players win by gathering Victory Points, indicated by the Black Star of certain cards. the player who gathers the Victory Points indicated on the Evil Ex card in the small star wins, or if another victory condition is indicated by an Evil Ex.

CONCLUSION:  Scott Pilgrim's Card Game is a deck builder, complete with deck construction and thinning, Victory Points for winning, battles, and manipulating luck and RNG for your benefit.  If you'd like my opinion on most deckbuilders, go check out my review on DC Deckbuilder.  As for this one, does it stack up against most deck builders, and does it differentiate itself enough?  There are definitely some interesting ideas, such as the combo's, the elimination phase, and the double-sided cards.  The elimination and double-sided provide speed to a genre that, frankly, could use it.  In addition, the ability to solo or play co-operative, while not original to this game, is still a nice variance to this game.  I will say it's kind of a slog to only have 1 boss per game, and getting unlucky still happens in games like these.  But I think it's a simple game with the right theme, and plays pretty smooth, a nice way to round out Video Game Month.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Quake: The Board Game? (Adrenaline)

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the future of sports!  Take your very life into your hands of this show, with bullets flying everywhere and no one is safe, not even the audience!  Find the weapons and show the world who's boss!  It's time, Ladies and Gentlemen, to feel the Adrenaline!

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Adrenaline is a board game for 3-5 players for Cranio Creations.  Players take the role of 1 of 5 characters and attack the other characters with various forms of weaponry and rack up kills.

BOARD SET-UP:  Each player takes the 2 board pieces and lay them out on any side combination.  Place 5 to 8 red plastic skulls on the Kill Fshot track located at the top of the board, depending on the length of the game.  Shuffle the small Power-up (indicated by a lightning bolt on the back) and large Weapon (indicated by a gun) decks.  Draw 9 Weapons into each matching gun space on the board.  Shuffle the Ammo tiles and place 1 onto each space marked with a circle inside a square.

PLAYER SET-UP:  Each player takes a double sided colored board and matching Action Tile, with the side with the 8 and the Action Tile with only a "x2" face-up.  Each player also takes their character and matching blood shaped Wound tokens, and 3 of each different colored Ammo cubes into their personal supply, placing 1 of those 3 onto their portrait, or Ammo Box.  Finally, give the first player the Starting Player marker.

SPAWNING:  Players begin their first turn by drawing 2 Power-up cards, and discarding one.  The colored cube at the bottom of the discarded one indicates in which color the player is spawning.  Players spawn in the spaces with a large circle and smaller square next to it, where no Ammo tiles should be placed.

ACTION: Once a player has Spawned, or during a normal turn, they may take up to 2 of the following actions, in any order, or even taking the same action twice.  At the end of the turn:
  • Movement:  Move up to three spaces.  A player cannot move through walls or diagonally.
  • Grab stuff:  A player may move up to one space and grab something.  Players cannot grab and then move with this action.
  • Shoot:  A player must have a loaded Weapon, indicate by being in the hand.
  • Reload:  This action only takes place at the end of the turn, before reserving any kills.
ITEMS:  If an Ammo token is "grabbed", the grabbing player moves up to that many from their personal supply to their Ammo Box.  If there is less Ammo then indicated in the supply, the player moves all that colored Ammo into their box.  If a Power-Up card is shown, that player draws 1 Power-up card, and puts in their hand to a max of 3 cards.  At the end of the turn, replace any Ammo tokens that were taken.  If there are no more tokens, shuffle the discarded ones.

WEAPONS:  If a grab action is used in a Spawn room, then the player may take 1 of the Weapons next to that spawn room by paying its cost, ignoring the top colored cube, and then move any other required cubes from the Ammo Box back to the personal supply.  Add the paid for weapon to your hand.  If a player has more than 3 Weapons, they must discard 1 into the slot from where it was just purchased.  At the end of the turn, replace any Weapon cards that were taken from the deck.  If the Weapon deck runs out, do not replace it.

SHOOTING:  If a player is using a Weapon to attack, it is placed in front of them, following the rules on the card and in the Weapons manual.  If the Weapon has any special abilities or alternate moves, the player may choose to use the ability by paying the Ammo Cubes indicated next to that ability from their Ammo Box.  Then the Weapon is placed face-up in front of the player, and must be re-loaded using the whole cost indicated at the top from their Ammo box at the end of the turn.  Any re-loaded gun is added to the players hand.

POWER-UPS:  A player may discard a Power-up to add its colored cube at the bottom to any cost required.  Power-ups also have special effects to add more damage, Mark a player, or move a player's figure.

DAMAGE:  When a player is dealt damage, that player is given Wound tokens from the attacking player equal to the damage given.  It is added to the damage track from left to right.  Once a player has taken 3 Wounds, that player may now move up to 2 spaces and pick up an item as part of their actions, as shown on the board.  If a player has taken 6 Wounds, they may now move 1 and attack as part of their action, again according to the Wound token.  If a player takes 11 Wounds, they take a Kill shot.  Once a player has taken a 12th Wound, they take Overkill, and any other Wounds or Marks are ignored.

MARKS:  Marks are indicated on certain weapons with a double red circle.  For each Mark, add a Wound token to the top of that players board, for a max of 3 from each player at any one time.  The next time that player does damage, add the Mark to the damage track.

DEATH:  Once a player has taken a Kill shot, they are dead.  If a player gets 2 or more Kill shots, they score 1 more point.  Tip the figure over, and the "dead" player may still be able to take Overkill.  At the end of turn, after Reloading, the players score on any players board who received a Kill shot or Overkill.  The first player who shot gains 1 point.  The player who put the most total damage gains 8 points, as shown on the bottom of the damage tracks.  The 2nd most gains 6, etc.  Any tie is broken by giving the highest points to the player closest to the left.  The other tied player(s) get the number next indicated.  Any players not on the Damage Track or have only Marks do not score any points.

SKULLS:  Once a dead player has been scored on, return all Marks and Wounds on the player, and the killed player takes the Wound token from the Killshot space, and puts it in place of the left most Skull on the Killshot track.  Any Overkill is placed on top, and the dead player Marks the player who caused the Overkill.  Take the skull and place it on top of the highest point of the dead player.  Players cannot gain points from any indicator covered by the skull.  The dead player will now only generate 6 points and lower for their highest score on their next death.  The dead player draws a new power-up card, discards a card and respawns there.  Any previous Weapons or Power-ups stay with the player in the position they were previously.

WINNING:  Players are given Point tokens to represent their points, which are placed face-down on the side of the board.  Score the Killshot track from using the points to the left of the track as you would a dead player.  Once all Point tokens are given and counted, the player with the most points wins.

CONCLUSION:  Adrenaline seems like a rather complex and ambitious game, but that isn't exactly true.  While scoring and setting-up seems complicated, it's not hard once you start seeing the patterns.  There's also more modes with Domination, Final Frenzy, and Bot mode.  Each adds more rules to the game that I haven't even touched yet.  However, there is a lot of replay value to this game just with the amount and combination of Weapons it has to offer.  Adrenaline very much feels like if Quake or a multiplayer Doom were made into a board game.  There's plenty of hectic, wild energy that this game provides.  Again, the amount of weapons is great, but most of the weapons feel different, from melee based scythes and chainsaws to chain lightning guns and shotguns.  The abilities add something unique to guns that might feel the same, as do the power-ups.  A solid game that could easily have come from the First Person Shooter video game genre.
Also, the rules have some real character.  Go read them, even if you aren't planning on playing it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Big bad boss! (Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game)

Week 2 of Theme Month: Video Games.  This week we're delving down deep into the dungeons.  We're taking the role of the villain, struggling to survive against the onslaught of heroes meant to kill us all, but we'll show them, with tricks and traps and treasure to tempt even the most Nihilistic of adventures.  We are the one and only Boss Monster!

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Boss Monster is a card game published by Brotherwise Games for 2-4 players.  Players take the role of the Boss Monster of a dungeon, inspired by RPG's from 16 bit games.

SET-UP:  The number of Heroes and Epic Heroes you begin with is changes according to the number of players, indicated on the bottom of the Hero cards, i.e. 3 figures represent a 3 & 4 player game. Shuffle and deal each player 1 Boss card, 5 Room cards, and 2 Spell cards.  Each player reveals their Boss card, discards 2 of the remaining 7 face-down. and keeps the rest hidden in their hand.  The Boss with the highest XP goes first, indicated in the bottom left.  Before a players first turn starts, they may play or build a room by placing it face-down to the left of the Boss

BEGINNING:  Draw 1 Hero for each player and place it next to the deck.  Then, each player draws 1 Room card.  No effect can be activated during this phase.  Once all players have drawn, the Build phase begins.

BUILD:  Players take turns placing Rooms face-down in their dungeon, left of the most recent room built, or of the Boss. Players may also build over any room, as long as the bottom right Treasure icon matches in both rooms.  Room cards with a gold icon in the top right are upgrades, and can only be played on another room.  Any ability or Spell with a Hammer may be used in this phase only.  If you choose at any point not to build a room, you cannot build any longer.  Once every player passes, flip every Room card and activate any appropriate effects.  Now, the Bait phase begins.

BAIT:  During this phase, players has a chance to bring Heroes into their dungeon.  Compare the Treasure icon of each hero in the top right with the icon in the bottom right.  The player with the most of that icon brings any and all Heroes into their first Room, according to the order revealed, with any ties and 0's causing those Heroes to stay.  Epic Heroes with gold backing come into play after all ordinary heroes are claimed.

ADVENTURE:  During the Adventure Phase, the first player has their first hero go through the Rooms in order.  Rooms first activate any effects, then deal damage according to the bottom left number to the Hero.  Once damage is dealt, players may activate any ability or Spell card with an Axe.  If the Hero takes at least as much damage as they have health, they die, and the player gains the Hero in their score zone face-down, adding it's Soul value to their point value, indicated at the bottom of the back of the card.  If the Hero survives to the Boss room, the player takes the Hero and puts in the score zone face-up, adding its Wound to their count indicated in the bottom right.  Once all Heroes for 1 player have gone, the next player goes.  Once all Heroes have gone, go back to the Beginning phase.

WINNING:  Any player is eliminated if they end their turn with 5 Wounds.  The first player who ends their turn with 10 Souls wins.  In the case of a tie, or if the Hero deck runs out, subtract each player’s Wounds from their Souls collected. The player with the highest number wins.  If this still results in a tie, the player with the lowest XP value wins.

CONCLUSION:  Boss Monster is a cut-throat, dirty, vicious game that successfully manages to capture the difficulty presented in old Super Nintendo games.  It feels long, but that is mainly due to the fact that it is slow and deliberate.  Once players become familiar with the cards, it starts to pick up.  That being said, especially in 4 player games, there is still a fair amount of down time to be expected.  It's a very methodical, competitive game that captures the nostalgia of old video games.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Jump Up, Super Star (Super Mario Bros Power Up)

Welcome back to Flipping the Table: Theme Month.  This month's theme is Video Games.  Over the course of October and the first week of November, I'll look at various games dealing with Video Game themes.  This week we're looking at one of gaming's iconic characters, Mario.  This is Super Mario Bros: Power Up.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Super Mario Bros Power Up is a card game published by USAopoly for 3-8 players.  Each player has a set of lives that they must avoid losing by using Power-ups and the Levels themselves

SET-UP:  Each player starts with 4 Life tokens, 1 Power-up card in their hand, and everyone is dealt 1 Level card face-down.  The player to the left of the dealer begins.

LEVELS:  Each player may look only at their Level card.  Each Level card has either a number from 1 to 12, or a Castle card, which is flipped immediately.  During their turn, each player may either keep their card, or trade it with the next players card.  Castle cards cannot be traded, so if the next player has a Castle, that player may not trade.  The last player is the dealer, and instead of trading, they may discard the card and draw a new card.

LIVES:  Once every player has kept or traded their card, then flip all cards.  Any players with matching numbers draw a Power-Up card, and the player(s) with the lowest number lose 1 Life token.

POWER-UP:  Power-Up cards are represented by the "?" cards.  Each Power-up has a variety of effects, from raising or lowering Levels to trading with any player, to stealing or eliminating a life from any player.  Each card states on the bottom when it can be used.  Players may not stack, or play multiple Power-ups from their hand onto a card.

WINNING:  If a players loses all 4 Life tokens, they are eliminated from the game.  Once all but 1 player has lost all 4 Life tokens, the remaining player wins

CONCLUSION:  Supposedly, this is based on a standard deck card game.  The Mario theme does strike a resonance with the game, especially the coins representing the numbers on the Levels. and the Power-Up cards.  The mechanics, however, are heavily reliant on luck.  If it were just the Level cards, I'd probably say just skip this one.  However, with the Power-ups, there's a tiny bit more bluffing and chicanery involved to consider playing this.  It's a fairly quick game, which can be made quicker or longer by adjusting the life count.  Not a lot of depth, but something to play with kids or family, and has a bit of strategy enough to come back occasionally.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Just Plain Weird (We Didn't Playtest This At All)

I didn't edit this section at all.  My typing has consiberaly slowed down, and the mistatkes are there for all to see.  I chose this game, I chose this life.  This is my decision, and my pants.  Why my pants, dunno, I' didn't edit this in my brain at all.  You get the joke yet?  N~Yes, okay, Here's:
We Didn't Playtest This At All!

GAME DESCRIPTION: We Didn't Playtest This At All is a card game published by Asmadi Games for 2-10 players.  The goal is simple:  Don't lose.

SET-UP:  Each player is dealt a hand of 2 cards.  Choose the starting player at random.

GAMEPLAY:  That player draws a card, plays a card from their hand, follows the instructions, and passes the turn to the next player.  Cards may consist of playing a round of Ro-Sham-Bo (Rock, Paper, Scissors) or Chopsticks to eliminate a player, getting points, or any other weird combination.

WINNING:  The player who was not eliminated by a card wins.  It is possible for there to be no winner with 2 or more players losing simultaneously.

CONCLUSION:  This is probably the shortest summation I'll do for a game.  WDPTAA is a wacky game, and that's okay.  The "joke", or point of this game is the absolutely ridiculousness games like Fluxx or Joking Hazard bring to the table turned up to eleven.  I have found that most games don't last more than 20 minutes, or 4 rounds, which is perfect for this kind of game.  I have seen players not be able to initially play just because of dumb luck.  I've also seen the laughs and jokes this game produces.  WDPTAA won't appeal to "Hardcore" gamers, or people wanting something with a bit more strategy, but it does have that stupid humor that makes it work.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  Thanks again to Steve and Shannon Johnson at Noggin Games in Cedar City, Utah for showing me this game, and Trevor Forsyth and Liz Stephens for playing it with me.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Three Silly Goats (Gruff)

6 Goats!
2 Shepards!
A Battle for the Ages!
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Shepard's have come together tonight with the strongest goats they could raise.  Neither will back down, neither will surrender.  This, Ladies & Gentlemen, is GRUFF!

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Gruff is a Customizable Card Game published by Studio Woe for 2-4 players.  Players take the role of Shepard's to wage battle with others using their mutated goats, or Gruffs.

SET-UP:  Depending how you draft, each player places 1 Shepard behind a row of their 3 Gruffs.  Take 8 cards from the Gruffs deck (marked by their picture) and shuffle them together into a deck, then draw 5 cards.  Finally, randomly choose the first player.

SHEPARD:  Each Shepard has a life meter, which can be depleted when a Gruff attacks.  They also have a Crazy meter, which determines what cards can be played.

GRUFF:  Each Gruff has 3 stats.  Mean is the attack of the gruff, and contributes to the Damage a Gruff deals when attacking.  Fat is the defensive capacity of the gruff. Fat contributes to the Defense value of a Gruff when attacked.  And Weird is added to your shepherd's Crazy when the Gruff is activated.

ORDER:  Each turn consists of the following:
  1. Clean-up:  Resolve your attack, remove your conditions from play, and if all your Gruffs are exhausted or dead, refresh your team.
  2. Activate:  Turn one of your Gruffs sideways.  Some Gruffs will have abilities activated at this point.
  3. Play:  Each Gruff card has a number in the top left.  You may play any number of cards provided the numbers in the top right added together never exceeds your Shepard's Crazy.
  4. Tactical:  Finally, you may choose to have your active Gruff either Grow to gain 1 point in any stat, Move or change places with any gruff adjacent, Attack by moving the active Gruff in front of any Gruff to attack on Clean-up
ATTACK:  At the beginning of your next turn, deal damage equal to your attacking Gruff's Mean to the Gruff being attacked. If your Damage is equal or greater than the Defense of the opposing gruff, kill that Gruff by flipping it's character card over, but keeping all effects on it and all stats the same. Excess damage is taken from the enemy Shepherd's Life.  If the Damage is less, the Gruff blocks the damage completely.  If there is no Gruff in the defending space, or the Gruff is dead, the Shepard takes all Damage.

WINNING:  Once a Shepard hits 0, that player loses.  The last player with Health left over wins.

CONCLUSION:  Gruff is a card game through and through, with conflicts on rulings and effects that play off each other.  If you like games like Magic the Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh, you'll enjoy the fact that you can just pull this out and play it with anyone else easily.  However, this is not the game that is going to convert any player to the TCG/LCG market.  Take it for what it is, a combat card game with the ability to play with another player without too much effort or money put in.

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.