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Preview: Board Game Reviews by Josh

Board Game Reviews by Josh

This is my blog where I "review" (ramble about) board games that I play. Then, at the end, I put a highly subjective number which most of you will probably disagree with. In fact, I won't necessarily agree with my own number a week or two later. Focus

Last Build Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 10:19:56 +0000


Ice Cool Review

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 12:39:00 +0000

Every now and again, a new game comes along that looks a bit different and draws me back in to say a few words about it.  Most recently, that game was Ice Cool.In Ice Cool, players take charge of a penguin in a game of tag.  Each round, one player plays the role of "catcher" and the other players are "runners."  The catcher's goal is to hit each of the other players' penguins.  The runners, meanwhile, are trying to successfully collect 3 fish by going through 3 doorframes on the board (and they collect a fish card every time they successfully go through a doorframe with one of their fish on it).  Once the catcher has hit all of his opponents' penguins, or a runner has caught all 3 of their own fish, the round is over.  At this point, the catcher takes a fish card for every runner that he successfully ran in to, plus one for being the catcher.  Then, a new round is started with another player taking the role of catcher.  Whoever has the most points worth of fish cards (each card ranges from one to three) at the end of the game wins.The penguins are weighted on the bottomClearly, the best part of Ice Cool is the wonky penguins.  The penguins aren't weighted like a "normal" flicking thing.  I've played PitchCar, Catacombs, Crokinole, Bisikle, and basically every other flicking game that I can get my hands on, and this is the biggest difference between Ice Cool and those games - the penguins are not symmetrical.  What this means is that you can (try to) intentionally make the penguin do odd things - like jump over a part of the board, or make an arced shot to go around obstacles.  Now, I am not very good at this, but I have done it often enough to envision someone getting very good with these trick shots.The next pro that I have for Ice Cool (aside from it being a dexterity game, and thus great fun by default) is that the one-point fish cards aren't complete disappointments.  In most games where you get a random score card for doing well, the lowest card sucks, and you just stare at it in irritation when you collect it.  In Ice Cool, there's a minor bonus prize for collecting ones - at the end of your turn, you can flip over two cards of value one to get another flick.  (You don't lose the points, either.)  I'd still rather collect three point cards, but the extra flick can definitely be very valuable.  (Though, it's still annoying when you collect them as the catcher at the end of the final round.)Box in a Box pictureI would have to say that my biggest complaint with Ice Cool is something that only ever existed in my mind.  When I heard about the game, and saw pictures of it, one of the pictures I saw was the "Box in a Box" picture.  Now, what this picture is trying to communicate is that inside the box, there are several sub-pieces that fit together.  (In fact, you take these out and form the playing area, with walls and such.)  However, in my mind, I saw the picture and thought, "oh my gosh - how awesome is that!  A flicking game where the playing surface isn't completely flat, but has different angles and stuff!"  That's not a thing - the playing surface is flat.  So, whereas I was horribly disappointed with this, it's not likely something that will bother anyone else!Does my personally being very bad at making jump shots land where I want count as a con?  No?  Oh.Overall, I give Ice Cool a 8.0/10.  It's not going to replace PitchCar for me, but it does have enough of a difference to it that I can see myself coming back to it (not to mention that it's much lighter and faster to set up).I would like to thank Brain Games for providing me with a review copy of Ice Cool.[...]

Imperial Settlers Solo Campaign Review

Tue, 08 Mar 2016 13:55:00 +0000

I've started playing solo games a bit more regularly lately.  So, when I first heard people talking about Imperial Settlers, I heard that it had a solo mode - but also a solo campaign mode (note that the link is to Portal Games' dropbox where they uploaded the rules for the campaign).  I was intrigued, so I went to check it out.  This review will focus on that mode of play, and is going to completely ignore the multiplayer (normal) mode.(If you've never played Imperial Settlers, read this paragraph, otherwise, you can skip to the next one.)  In Imperial Settlers, you play over a series of rounds in order to get the most victory points.  You gain these in a few different ways - but typically by building buildings.  You start the game with a few cards - some specific to your faction, and some common.  Each round, you gain more cards in the Lookout phase, you collect resources in the Production phase, you "do stuff" in the Action phase, and then you discard any excess resources and reset your buildings in the Cleanup Phase.  Most of the "doing stuff" consists of playing or activating cards.  With most cards, you can play them in a few different ways - as buildings, as "Deals," or you can "Raze" them.  There are good and bad aspects, strategically, of each way to play a card, and you balance this as you play the game.  That's really where the strategy lies.  After a few rounds, if you have enough victory points, you win the game!Tracking the solo campaignSo, the solo game of Imperial Settlers adds a "Virtual Player Attack" after the Cleanup Phase.  This is done by flipping cards from a special deck, and matching the Raze icons on your buildings - if a building matches, then it is destroyed.  At the end of the set number of rounds, if you have built more buildings than the Virtual Player (who gets everything they Raze, along with some in the Lookout Phase), then you win.  The campaign strings together several of these games (and makes them shorter - you play 4 rounds in the campaign instead of 5).  To start each game (after the first), you have an Event occur.  The Events typically shift some of the rules of the game - emphasizing Production buildings, making Food more scarce, punishing you for using Raze tokens, etc.  If you win a game, you add a Province to your kingdom.  This Province typically gives you a bonus, but also requires you to pay for it in goods during the game, as well as with victory points after the game.  Finally, the solo campaign mode adds Achievements - these allow you to get permanent bonuses to help offset the Events and the cost of your Provinces.  There is no "end goal" for the campaign - you simply build your empire and see how well you can do.The first thing that I like about the solo campaign is that it makes your victory points matter.  In most solo games that I play, typically once I beat it, there's no real reason to play again.  And, for that matter, if I just played the basic solo rules for Imperial Settlers, it would fall into this same category (well, you might play solo with each faction, but that's about it).  However, with the campaign, it suddenly is different if I win with 10 VPs instead of winning with 95.  With 95 VPs, I can buy some nice Achievements - whereas with 10 VPs, I might not even be able to pay the Control Cost of my Provinces.  This has changed the game for me - instead of "phoning it in" late in the game, since I know I've already won, I am trying to maximize my VP output until the very last play.The next pro that I have for the solo campaign can probably be said for Imperial Settlers as a whole - the factions play very differently.  As an example, the first campaign I started was with the Barbarians.  They are very straightforward - they get VPs primarily by building tons of buildings, but they can also activate some buildings to trade goods for points.  The next campaign I played was with [...]

Between Two Cities Review

Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:07:00 +0000

So, as you may have noticed, I haven't really written many reviews recently.  Yet, after trying Between Two Cities, I decided that I wanted to explore the game some more - including fleshing out my thoughts in writing.  (So, here we are!)In Between Two Cities, you create two (4x4) cities - one with the player on your left, and another with the player on your right.  The game is played in three rounds - the first and third round are drafting, and the middle round is simply picking a (larger) tile.  Each time that you select a tile, you select two tiles, and everyone reveals their tiles at the same time.  Once revealed, you can place either of your tiles in either one of your cities (but one tile must go in each city).  Each type of tile has certain ways of maximizing its score, and at the end of the game, your total score is the point value of your lower scoring city.  So, the challenge of the game is to balance your two cities so that they both do well - even if it means preventing one of your cities from becoming amazing, in order to allow them both to be great.The first thing that I like about Between Two Cities is the partnership element of the game.  It really has a very unique feel in that you are working with other players all game.  (You don't have your own city.)  However, this is a double-edged sword.  Because, though you're working with two people, each of those players is also working with someone else, and there will be times when they will make a decision that hurts your city, because they feel like it is more important to help their other city.  This causes a very strange balance in the game - especially since you are drafting tiles and passing the remaining tiles to one of your partners.  Since you know what they are receiving, you can select and place accordingly.  But, just because they take the tile that you want them to draft does not mean that they'll actually place it in the city that you both share!Placement in the second round is a bit more constrainedThe next pro that I've found for Between Two Cities is that the simultaneous play keeps the game very engaging.  Many games scale linearly in time with the number of players - which often translates into sitting around waiting while other players take their turns.  However, in Between Two Cities, you are selecting and placing your tiles at the same time.  Yes, there will be times when one player takes longer than the others, but ultimately, there is very little down time in the game.  You truly feel like you're participating the entire time.The third thing that I really enjoyed about Between Two Cities was eluded to earlier - I like that when drafting, you are passing your unselected tiles to one of your partners.  This knowledge (and foreknowledge) of what tiles are available and can be selected really makes the decision of what to select a bit more intriguing.  Obviously, this is still only limited knowledge, in that you don't know what you will draw in future rounds, or what tiles will be passed to you.  Yet, this small bit of additional knowledge makes the game feel more strategic.One thing that I will point out about Between Two Cities that's a bit different from other drafting games is that there isn't really any "hate drafting."  What I mean is that there aren't really opportunities to select tiles simply to prevent other people from getting them.  There are a couple reasons for this.  First, everything that you draft has to go in your city; so if you draft something that's not useful, you're hurting yourself more than your opponent.  Secondly, you only select three times in each of the drafting rounds, so the tiles simply don't go that far around the table.  It is drafting, but is a much more abbreviated draft than in a game like 7 Wonders.Factories make you want more factories!The main "con" that I have for Between Two Cities I go back and forth with my feeling[...]

AquaSphere Review

Wed, 13 May 2015 13:10:00 +0000

AquaSphere - mid playThanks to my friend Kurt for this guest review of AquaSphere.  If you like Kurt's opinions, check out his new video series on solo games.First off, let me come clean with this -- I’m not a fan of Stefan Feld games in general. Even if I like a game of his, they don’t leave me thinking about them afterwards in terms of what I learned and want to do next time. But I played AquaSphere at the same convention where I tried a bunch of other new games and was surprised to find myself … thinking about it afterwards. In fact, I ended up getting a copy because my gut told me there were several plays here, and I’m glad I did. I mention this context as emphasis that this review is an endorsement of a Feld game from someone who’s usually not a Feld fan, so take that for what it’s worth.AquaSphere is mechanically well designed and thematically disconnected, but that’s pretty much par for the course with Feld, isn’t it? The multiple ways to get points but limited actions gives it some heft without being too much of a brain burner. It’s really quite simple once you get past your first learning game as there’s an illusion of abundance of choice due to the two interrelated boards and all the actions, but you can really only program three (or so) actions a turn, so for some people the first play may be a “head wrapper” but the light should go on pretty quickly especially with an adept teacher. And I don’t mind the lame thematic connection to my actions. I know when I’m playing a Feld game it’s about the mechanisms, and I find them engaging enough here to not care why octopods are invading and why I should want to “clean” them.I’m clearly entertained by games where you chain actions together in ways that pay off relative to what other players are doing. This one reminds me of two other action chaining games I quite like, Kanban and Tzolkin: the Mayan Calendar, for how you coordinate your actions against the pull of not just “what’s good” but “when’s good.” You're working on your own priorities in a shared space with others to beat them to bonus thingies and also time your actions in such a way that you bump their pieces out and end up with your pieces in the right spots at the end of the round. It’s a quintessential action puzzle game.The thrust of the play is programming versus acting. You have two separate boards (that appear garish to the neophyte) that work interrelatedly. On the Headquarters board, you will move your scientist pawn to program your bots with certain actions from the seven available. Then you move your scientist dude on the Lab board using “time” to get around and poop, er, drop a bot to then instantly take the action it was programmed for. So, 1) program bot, 2) move scientist (or not), 2a) take action with programmed bot. Repeat until you have to pass. It’s actually pretty simple.Headquarters boardOf course, since this is a Feld game, this aforementioned process is put in a blender. The seven actions available in the game are randomly aligned each turn on the Headquarters board in such a way that you can only move to (and thus program) any three of them, and they’re on sort of a track such that some are on one side or the other and you have to commit to one side at some point meaning you can’t necessarily do what you want in order. You might want to do A-B-C (in that order) but can only get to C-A-D/E (in that order) or some such other suboptimal configuration. What’s the best puzzle you can configure for this turn?You essentially have a load-then-fire process which provides a surprising amount of player interaction via the signaling of everyone’s motives in the form of their programmed actions. If I can see you have a bot ready to do something that I want to do, I will have to consider my turn carefully. What’s the point of programming something that you’re about to do on your turn anyway? More player interaction happens in the placing of bots on[...]

Coconuts Review

Fri, 13 Feb 2015 13:35:00 +0000

So, I heard that there was a game where you each have a monkey catapult and you shoot coconuts.  I was sold.  I thought about that being the extent of my review, but since I was given a copy from the publisher, I figured I should say a few more things about the game.In Coconuts, each player is given two cards, a pile of rubber coconuts, and a plastic monkey catapult.  At the start of any player's turn, someone can play one of the cards from their hand (but once a card is played, it's out of the game).  When it is your turn, you take a coconut and attempt to shoot it into one of the cups on the table.  If you make it in a cup (that you hadn't already claimed), then you get to take that cup and place it in front of you.  If you claim a red cup, you get to take another shot.  Once a player has six cups in front of him, he is the winner.  Alternately, if the players run out of coconuts by shooting them all into cups (after you shoot your initial pile of coconuts, you can use any of the ones still in play), then the player who has the most coconuts in the cups that they control wins.The awesome monkey catapultSo, if this isn't your first one of my reviews to read, you're probably aware that I'm in love with dexterity games.  But, what makes a good dexterity game is generally that it is ridiculous.  Coconuts knocks that criteria out of the park.  Not only do you have monkey catapults (yes, I've legitimately used that phrase twice in this review now), but you also have odd shaped rubber coconuts (that look very similar to peanut M&M's).  The coconuts themselves add a lot to the game, as they are not all the exact same size, and they're also not round.  They are shaped like coconuts, so one side goes to a bit of a point while the other side is round.  This causes them to fly strangely and to bounce oddly.  It also helps balance the playing field between a person who has played several games and a beginning player.  The person who has played a lot will probably be a little bit better, but the new player will still feel like they have a chance to win.Another necessity for a good dexterity game is that the components are high quality and will last, as these games get a lot more wear than a standard board game would.  (After all, you're hurtling some of the components through the air.)  I can't speak to the longevity of the components, as I haven't stress tested them, but everything in Coconuts seems very well constructed.  The cups are a thick plastic, the coconuts are a high quality rubber (or plastic - but it feels rubbery), and the monkeys also seem sturdy.  The only piece that I can envision breaking is the spring in the monkey (that makes it a catapult).  But even with that, I haven't had any problems whatsoever with my copy of the game, and I think that it would last for quite a long time.Those coconuts will be lost... it's just a matter of time.There are a couple of (incredibly minor) things that I will list as cons for Coconuts.  First, the cards are basically useless.  At least half of the time that I play the game, I don't bother with them.  Since they are each one use, they can basically be used to increase the chances that a player will miss their shot.  But, in my experience, there's a really good chance they were going to miss that shot anyway.  And some of the cards, like the one that lets you blow on their coconut as their shot is in the air, are even more useless.  The cards don't detract from the game, but they seem to be an unnecessary addition just to make the game have "more" to it.The second "con" is that you're going to lose coconuts.  Be ready to play backstop when you're playing this game, as you'll need to make sure that you catch all of the flying coconuts that your opponents shoot.  Also, they'll wind up rolling under tables, bookshelves, etc.  [...]

Captains of Industry Review

Thu, 29 Jan 2015 13:43:00 +0000

After really enjoying a different TMG title designed by Michael Keller, I decided that I should check out his other TMG title - Captains of Industry.In Captains of Industry, the players manipulate the supply, demand, and price of various goods in order to gain the most Market Share (Victory Points).  There are a few actions that you can perform: build a facility, expand a facility, run a facility, perform research, draw Captain cards, and build real estate.  Building, expanding, or running a facility all produce goods of a certain type, and allow you to adjust the price of your goods of that type.  Building real estate adds demand for a couple of types (you get to choose which) and increases your income.  Researching can help in a variety of ways, and any time that you research or buy a Captain card, you can adjust all of your prices in the markets.  At the end of a variable number of rounds, an Age will end, and then the game purchases enough resources to match it's demand (if they are available), and the rest of the resources go to waste.  At the end of the third Age, the person with the most Market Share (from selling goods) is the winner.The first pro that I have for Captains of Industry is that I think it's very interesting that you are both making the demand and fulfilling it.  (Specifically, you have the option of making demand - you can also focus on manufacturing, and hope that you're able to make the right kind of goods.)  Any time that you build real estate, you get to place a demand card.  These demand cards, and their placement, determine the importance of each resource.  So, in order to play Captains of Industry well, you have to ensure that you are able to produce goods efficiently, but also you have to make sure that you build places to sell them.  After all, if you are able to produce 10 corn on a turn, but there is no demand for corn, then you have not only wasted your current turn, but you've also wasted all of the previous turns that you spent building up your corn factory (or "Farm" if you will).An ever changing consumables marketA couple of other pros that I have for the game are that I enjoyed how interactive the game was between the players, and also how different the game can play based on the group that you play with.  It seems like there can be quite a bit of "group think" in this game.  For example, one of the games I played viewed Research as critical.  Because of this, everyone produced a lot of Research, which caused the market to be flooded with very inexpensive Research.  Obviously, this meant that everyone had any of the technologies on the tech tree that they wanted.  In another game, most players didn't produce Research, and it made it so that Research was very scarce, and whenever a player did produce Research, it was purchased immediately at almost any price.  (Which was great for the player producing it, as you get a Market Share (VP) for each of your goods that is purchased by either another player or the bank.)  I enjoyed that the game gave me very different experiences, and I also liked the interactions that can be caused by players being interdependent - you most likely are depending on other players to produce some of the resources you need, so that you can do what you want on your turn.  (After all, even if you are able to produce everything you need, it will take several turns of production to produce everything you want, and other players may buy those goods from you in the meantime.)  As someone who can produce goods, you sometimes have to decide if you want to produce goods that you know will get bought, thus giving you money and victory points but helping another player, or if you want to do something else.Something interesting that I found for the game, that I'm not sure about my feelings on, is how drastic pricing could be util[...]

Good Cop Bad Cop: Bombers and Traitors Preview

Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:47:00 +0000

This post is not a review, but a preview for a game currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. Final art, components, and rules are all subject to change.Good Cop Bad Cop is a social deduction game that pits straight officers against crooked cops in a battle of bluffing and wits.To begin the game, each player is given 3 Integrity Cards. These cards will be one of 4 things:An Honest copA Crooked copThe AgentThe KingpinIf you have a leader card (either the Agent or the Kingpin), you are automatically a member of that faction. If you don't have a leader, then you are a member of the faction that you have two or more of.Once the Integrity cards have been distributed, the game can begin. One a player's turn, they have a few options.They can Investigate, by peeking at any one face-down Integrity card.They can Equip by drawing an Equipment card and also turning one of their own Integrity cards face-up.They can Arm, by picking up one of the available Gun cards and also flipping one of their Integrity cards face-up.The last option a player has on her turn is to fire a Gun card she is holding.Then, after a player takes one of the preceding actions, she can aim her Gun card at another player if she has one.If a player is shot and she is not the Agent or the Kingpin, they must flip up all of their Integrity cards and they are eliminated from the game. The first time an Agent or Kingpin is shot, they must take a wounded token and draw an equipment card. If an Agent or Kingpin has a Wounded token and are shot, the game ends and the opposing team wins.Those are the rules for the base game. Good Cop Bad Cop is an eminently simple game, that is one of the best conduits for emergent game play and story telling I have ever seen. The framework is so simple, that it simultaneously stays out of the players' way while also facilitating a supremely fun game experience.What the Traitors and Bombers expansion adds to the game are...Traitors and Bombers. In the corner of many of the cop cards are either knife icons, bomb icons, or both. If a player ever has a hand made up of all 3 bombs or all 3 knives, they are either a bomber or a traitor, respectively.'Bombers will win if they either get shot or shoot either the Agent or the Kingpin, while Traitors will win if they survive the death of either the Agent or Kingpin.The Bombers and Traitors expansion definitely keeps with the base game's philosophy "less is more," and is a fantastic addition to the game.I strongly recommend backing this campaign, as it is a great way to not only support a small publisher, but also to get your hands on a great game that has been harder to get a hold of!Go back it now![...]

Paperback Review

Fri, 09 Jan 2015 14:40:00 +0000

A little while back, I heard about a new word game that was also a deck builder.  This definitely piqued my interest (though I often don't like word games).  That game is Paperback.In Paperback, each player starts with a deck of 10 cards.  Five of the cards are wilds (worth Fame points, but no money for buying other cards), and the other five are the letters R, S, T, L, and N.  Each turn, a player uses their cards to form a word.  (There is also a "Common" card that they can include in their word.)  Each card used in the word is worth a certain amount of money, and the active player can use that money to buy more card(s) - like any deck builder.  The more expensive cards tend to be less common letters (like X, Q, B, etc.), but are worth more when played, and often have neat abilities.  Additionally, if the word that you play is long enough, then you will earn the displayed Common card, which is worth five Fame points.  Once two Fame card piles have run out, or the Common card pile is exhausted, the game is over and the player with the most Fame wins.Basic setup - J and K are very expensiveThe first pro that I have for Paperback is that I really enjoy the breakdown of the cards that are available for purchase.  The less expensive cards are often double letters - like "ER" (which have to be used together in your word), or common letters that are easy to play but worth a smidge more money than your basic letters.  The more expensive cards generally are much harder to play, but they give you enough money that it is worth including them in a word, even if that word will be much shorter.  And, since they are more expensive, you will have less of them in your deck.  Thus your deck will naturally have a breakdown of a few hard letters and many more common ones.  This makes the game play very smoothly, and keeps you from spending too much time trying to come up with a lot of words that include both a J and an F in them.The second pro that I have for Paperback is that I really enjoy the double letters.  Whereas this is a very simple addition to the genre (and, for that matter, this might not be the first word game to include this), I think that it's a nice little twist.  These cards are especially good if you're strategy is to make very long words in order to claim the Common cards.  However, they also severely limit your ability to make words, as you will be amazed at how often you will want to split those letters apart - even when they are letters that you initially thought would always go well together, like "NG" and "ER."  Conversely, Fame cards give you a lot more freedom, since they are wilds - which I think is another nice touch.  They don't contribute towards the total value of your word, so in that way you are "cluttering" up your deck with them, but ultimately, your deck will need more vowels, and the Fame cards will save you.Spelling Paperback can be very valuableThe final pro that I will mention for Paperback is that I appreciate how many variants there are.  For example, one of the variant Common cards is a spacebar - thus it lets you play two words instead of one.  There are also variants that are theme based - so whoever plays a card with that theme (such as Pirates) gets to take the theme card, which is a five Fame bonus.  But, if another person plays a themed word after you, then they will steal it.  However, my favorite variant is the co-operative (or solo) mode.  In co-op, the Fame cards are set up in a pyramid, and you can only buy the cards that are showing.  Each turn that you don't buy a Fame card, you put a marker on one of the exposed cards.  If a card ever gets 5 tokens on it, then you all lose.Assuming that you don't have an aversion to word games, then there is only one real con tha[...]

Jim's 10 Favorite Board Games of All Time!!! (and a giveaway!!)

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:00:00 +0000

Jim's Top Ten Games of all Time!!!I love lists AND I love ranking things, so it was only a matter of time until I got to work on this post. One thing I do want to make clear is that these are not what I think are the best games of all time, but rather my personal favorite games of all time. This distinction may be small, but I think worth mentioning.Without further ado, please enjoy this list of my favorite games! (Followed by a game giveaway!!)10. LondonThis was one of the first games I played that involved building up a tableau and I fell in love with it almost immediately. I really enjoy having to balance building up on the board, with building up your tableau, with not taking too many poverty tokens. Knowing how many piles of cards to have in your tableau and when its OK to build over a card are awesome decision points.9. Pandemic: The CureThis is the newest game on the list by a couple years. If you read my recent review of this game, you'll know already that the original Pandemic has a very special place in my gamer heart, as the first modern game to really captivate me. Pandemic: The Cure has all the fun, puzzlyness, cooperation, and heartache of the original - but it adds dice! If I had to only keep one of the two games, I think I would choose The Cure over original Pandemic. But only if you forced me to choose. =)8. NavegadorOne of my favorite designers is definitely Mac Gerdts. I haven't played everything he has put out, but everything I have tried, I have really really enjoyed. Navegador was the first of his that I've played. I really enjoy working within the confines of Mac's evil/glorious rondel - doing what I can to bend its inflexibility to my will better than my opponents. I like that there are several directions for players to go in pursuit of victory, and I like even more that those different paths to victory not only feel different, but are all pretty viable.7. Lords of VegasJust like many of the games on this list, I don't get to play Lords of Vegas as much as I would like (in fact, I own the expansion, Up!, and haven't gotten to play it yet!). This is even more true for Lords of Vegas, since it really isn't worth playing with only 2 players (which is how I play most of my games). Lords of Vegas has a lot that I really like about board games. I really like the stock market aspect, as well as the acquisition of property. The risk/reward present in Lords of Vegas is so much fun, going for hostile takeovers and paying double to develop properties that might just go to someone else when the card comes up. There are things in Lords of Vegas I don't like, but I always have a great time when playing it.6. Lord of the Rings: The ConfrontationStratego was one of those "classic" games that I played when I was younger that I remember really enjoying. The concept of having your units be secret from your opponent was just so great. I really like the Lord of the Rings movies, so The Confrontation is a perfect fit for me. The game is pretty abstract, but still feels pretty thematic. One of my favorite things in games is when the "Vizzini effect" comes into play. I know that you know I  might play this card, but you know that I know that you know that, so maybe I should play this card...etc. Many games can create similar situations, but none do it better than Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation.5. Airlines EuropeThis is definitely my favorite "gateway game." I like Ticket to Ride, but I find this one just so much more interesting (and really not nearly as mean as TtR can be). I really like games with stock market mechanisms, and Airlines Europe implements a stock market-ish system really well, and is really simple to play and teach. 4. Star Wars: The Card GameI love Star Wars. When I heard that FFG got the license for Star Wars card and RPG games I immediately got very excited. I love t[...]

Pandemic: Contagion and Pandemic: The Cure Reviews

Thu, 04 Dec 2014 12:55:00 +0000

Today, dear readers, you are in for a treat! Not one, but TWO reviews for the price of one! (Still free.) I'm going to take a look at two new games in the "Pandemic-verse," - Pandemic: Contagion and Pandemic: The Cure.Pandemic has a special place in my gamer heart. It is the first modern board game I played (I had already tried Carcassonne and Catan at this point) that really captured my imagination and made me think, "Wow - we can do this with a board game?? What else is out there??"Pandemic is the game that is responsible for me doing new things with old friends, meeting great new friends, having an owned games list over 200 (and a previously owned game list approaching 1000), and for writing these silly game reviews.When I heard on the Dice Tower that a Pandemic dice game was in the works, I was definitely interested. I obviously love Pandemic, but I also really enjoy cooperative games and dice games in general. I was also excited when I heard about Pandemic: Contagion - the idea of playing as diseases sounded neat, and I wanted to see what Z-Man would do with that concept.The first thing I should mention about Pandemic: Contagion is that it is a stand-alone competitive game. It has Pandemic branding, but aesthetics is pretty much where the similarities end. In fact, Contagion is not designed by Pandemic's designer, Matt Leacock. Contagion was designed by Carey Grayson. As I mentioned, in Pandemic: Contagion, players are diseases, trying to infect and kill off as much of humanity as possible. Countries are represented by cards, which players will be placing their cubes onto - each cube represents that disease infecting 1,000,000 of that location's population.On a turn, a player will have two actions available. Players can draw cards (Incubate), infect a location card, or mutate their disease. Cards are the currency of the game, and come in 6 suits - one matching each continent in the game. In order to infect a new city, a player must discard two cards matching the color of the city, but to spread an infection where a player already has her disease present only costs 1 matching card.Mutating your disease means discarding cards in order to move up on 1 of 3 tracks. The first two tracks dictate how many cards a player draws and how many cubes she places each time she takes an Incubate or Infect action, respectively. The last track, the Resistance track, symbolizes how resistant a player's disease is to the effects of humanity's medical and epidemiology communities. Each round, a new event card will be revealed. If the effect is negative, being higher up on the resistance track means a disease will be less affected by the event.Players will score points by having the most or second most disease cubes in a city when the total number of disease cubes meets or exceeds the total population of the city.Play continues in this way until either the event deck runs out or when there are only two city cards left. All remaining cities are scored and the player with the most points wins!Pandemic: Contagion is not a bad game. It is also, unfortunately, not a good game. I really like when games have upgrade tracks that each player can move up to individualize how they will play the game. I was hoping that this is where the interesting decisions in Contagion would be. Unfortunately, Pandemic: Contagion does not have anything interesting here. Not much changes from game to game, and although I haven't played the game over 10 times, I would feel pretty confident in saying players should always upgrade their Incubation ability, then their Infection rate, and then their Resistance level, if they feel like it. In all of the games of this I've played, the first few rounds consisted of everyone taking the same exact turn - Incubation action then grade Incubation track.The game starts to get interesting[...]

Cahoots! Proceeds Going to Charity

Thu, 27 Nov 2014 15:14:00 +0000

In honor of the holidays, all of the proceeds I earn from Cahoots! sales through the end of the year will go towards clean water projects via Compassion International.  (Obviously, this only includes proceeds I earn - not the share that Apple takes, nor the share due to the game's designer.)  So, please take this opportunity to check out a game that I think is great, and support a great cause!

Pyramix Review

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:38:00 +0000

Gamewright isn't exactly known for strategy games. They make wonderful, family friendly games with fun themes and simple but entertaining gameplay. Pyramix keeps with the Gamewright tradition of beautiful components with simple, family friendly gameplay.Pyramix is an abstract strategy game with a light Egyptian theme. Gameplay starts with the cubes being randomly set up on the board in the shape of a pyramid. A player's turn consists only of selecting a cube from the pyramid and adding it to her collection. Cubes can only be taken from the pyramid if they have at least two sides showing, are not touching a serpent cube, and taking the cube will not result in the board being exposed.The game ends when there are not legal moves left - usually when there is a single layer of cubes laying on top of the board. Players score 1 point for each ankh, 2 points for each crane, 3 points for each Eye of Horus, and 0 points for each serpent. Additionally, if a player has the most ankhs in a color, they will receive all of the remaining cubes that math their color and score those as well.In this situation, if any player takes the teal crane of ankh, the next player will be able to take the orange Eye.The one thing that I don't love about the game is the "dots" feeling that can develop. There will be many times, especially in a two player game, where there is a cube that is two moves away from being able to get taken, so it is in no player's interest to make that first move. The interesting thing about this is because the game happens in 3 dimensions, players will have to keep all of these moves in mind as they spin the board and look for moves that won't set up the next player.As I said in my introduction, Pyramix is a very simple game. But subtle and interesting strategies present themselves as you play the game. As the game progresses it may become clear to you which color you will have the most ankhs in. This could mean that you might want to take cubes so that other cubes of that color do reach the bottom of the board. If this happens, you'll receive the cube anyhow, so you might as well get a different cube and secure the first cube as well!Pyramix is a great abstract game. Gamewright has put out another quality product that is attractive, fun, and quite thinky! And with a $20 price point, I think picking up a copy of Pyramix is a no brainer. There is randomness, and this isn't the next chess, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of depth I found in Pyramix. I'd rate it a solid 7.5/10.[...]

New Bedford Kickstarter Preview

Thu, 13 Nov 2014 02:59:00 +0000

This post is not a review, but a preview for a game that is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. Final art, components, and rules are subject to change.Dice Hate Me Games was one of the first board game publishers to get their start on Kickstarter. They have done quite well for themselves and have a very strong reputation as a great company that puts out consistently great games.Five of the Town action spacesNext up from Chris and company is New Bedford. Designed by Nathaniel Levan at Oakleaf Games, New Bedford is a worker placement game set in the titular Massachusetts city during the time of whaling. Players will use their workers to collect resources, build buildings, and go on whaling expeditions.Play takes place in phases. The first is the Action Phase, where players will take turns placing workers onto the seven starting action spaces, as well as any built buildings, and resolving their effects immediately. Town spaces are not blocked once workers are placed on them, but the player who places on each space first will get a bonus.Light colored buildings can be used for actions, while dark colored buildings are worth points at the end of the game.Players will also be able to build their own buildings. Unlike Town spaces, buildings can only be used once per round. Additionally, the player who builds a building owns it, and can use it on future turns for free, while other players who use the building will have to pay the owner $1. There are also buildings which cannot be used as action spaces, but rather score the owning player points at the end of the gameAfter all players have place their workers, the Movement Phase will begin. All ships at sea will move 1 space up the whaling track towards the Return space. Then, the Whaling phase begins. Whaling tokens are drawn from the bag equal to the number of ships on the board. These tokens are then drafted by the players, with players who have ship farther out to sea choosing first. Whale tokens chosen this way are placed on the player's board, next to the corresponding ship. Any whale or open sea tokens that are leftover will be returned to the bag at the start of next round's whaling phase.When a player's ship returns to port during the Movement phase, players will have to pay a "lay." Each whale token paid for, will earn the player points indicated on the token. Players can also choose to (or they may have to if they can't afford lays for all their whales) sell any whales tokens that return to port. When a player sells a whale token, she receives half of the cost of each sold token from the bank. Then, moving in clockwise order from the seller, each player will have the opportunity to purchase the sold tokens for the full cost. Any amount paid goes to the bank, and if a player cannot or chooses not to purchase whale tokens, the next player clockwise will have the opportunity, and so on.The game continues in this way for 12 rounds. At the end of the game, players receive points for any whale tokens in their possession, any buildings which score points, and for leftover money ($5=1 point).That's New Bedford! It is a very enjoyable game, with a refreshing mix of familiar mechanisms. The worker placement aspect is fun, since it both removes the tension of being locked out of spots, but retains the tension of having to prioritize placement because the bonuses for being first at a Town space are pretty good. The whaling mechanism is always very exciting, especially as the game goes on and the bag really only has a few whales mingling with a mess of worthless open sea tiles. I especially like the choice of having to either pay for your whales or sell a few for some much needed money. Should I sell for some quick cash, but then risk giving my opponent's[...]

Argent: The Consortium Review

Tue, 04 Nov 2014 13:34:00 +0000

Argent: The Consortium is the newest game from Level 99 Games. It was wildly successful on Kickstarter back in January, funding over 450%. In Argent, players use their wizards to earn enough votes from the consortium of a university in order to become the new chancellor.Argent is primarily a worker placement game, but there are elements of card drafting, set collection, and special player powers also integrated as well. One of the best things about Argent is that there are 5 different kinds or workers (wizards) that each have a different ability either before or after they are placed. The red wizards, for instance, have the ability to knock other wizards off of placement spots, take the spot for themselves, and send the injured wizard to the infirmary.Players' turns consist of taking a single action, which can consist of placing a wizard, playing a card, casting a spell, or passing. Worker spaces don't trigger until the end of the round. Once the round ends, the tiles that comprise the board trigger one after the other. All tiles have several spaces for wizards, and while the best ones are at the top of the tile and trigger first at the end of each round, these spots also require a badge - of which players only start with one.There are three types of cards in the game. Spell cards, which players will acquire and then be able to activate once per round for a special ability, supporter cards, which will sometimes grant a special ability, and vault cards, which are a mix - treasures stay in play and can be activated once per round and consumables are played and discarded.As I mentioned above, the goal of the game is to attract the most votes from the members of the consortium. The trick here is that the members of the consortium all start the game face down and secret. Players have to use their wizards to earn marks in order to gain information about what each voter is looking for - some will vote for the player with the most supporters from a certain school of magic or the player with the most money at the end of the game, etc.The game ends after 5 rounds. End the end of the fifth round, the consortium cards are revealed, and rewarded to whoever meets the voters criteria. Argent: The Consortium does a lot of things differently from many worker placement games. First is the fact that players' turns do not always involve placing a worker. Adding card play into the mix changes the normal prioritization of worker placement games - not only do players need to decide which spots they need to take first, they also need to time snatching up those spots with resources or abilities they might need by taking an entire turn to play a card.One thing that fell a little short for me is the hidden scoring conditions. Before my first couple plays, I was really excited about this concept. I really liked acquired marks so that I could get information about final scoring that my opponents didn't have and give me a direction to go in. The problem I have with this part of the game is two fold. First, there are 12 consortium votes available each round - but it was very rare in any of my playthroughs to see any players who had not placed out all or nearly all of their marks. The problem is that there are so many voters available that the variation of which voters are available each game is not very big. For the most part, players will want to try to get the most of everything, and need to find the consortium voters who are looking for specific color spells and supporters. I guess since my expectations for this mechanism were so high, I got to be a little let down after the fifth time I marked the "most gold" voter - not super exciting.Another thing that I didn't love about Argent is the f[...]

Thunder Alley Review

Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:24:00 +0000

I am not a stock car racing fan. I know almost nothing about stock car racing, and have never really given an effort to learning about it. This is what I brought with me before sitting down to play Thunder Alley - my expectations were not super high.In Thunder Alley, players are put in command of a team of stock cars, and will score points according to the place each of their team's cars are in when the race ends (the round after at least 1 car crosses the finish line). Basically, players want as many of their team's cars as close to the front of the pack as possible by the end of the race.The biggest thing I kept hearing about Thunder Alley is that it is a racing game without dice. Indeed, Thunder Alley's action is "driven" (hehe) entirely by cards. Each round, players will be given a hand of cards, and a player's turn consists simply of choosing one of her hand cards, choosing which of their still unactivated cars to use it on, and executing the actions indicated by the numbers and the text.There are 4 basic types of movement in Thunder Alley:Solo movement - a single activated car moves by itselfDraft movement - an activated car and all linked cars in front of and behind it move togetherLead movement - an activated car and all linked cars behind it move togetherPursuit movement - an activated car and all linked cars in front of it move togetherLinks between cars are created when cars are in the same lane, and are immediately adjacent to each other. A link could theoretically exist among all of the cars in a race, if they were all lined up in the same lane and there were no empty spaces separating any of them.The movement cards in Thunder Alley are sometimes simply one of the four movement types listed above with a numerical value, and sometimes they involve a slight twist - like only being able to move towards the outside/inside wall this turn. Most of the cards with higher movement values will also include a damage icon.There are two main types of damage in the game - temporary and permanent. As the names' suggest, temporary wear can be repaired, while permanent wear cannot. After receiving 3 wear tokens of any type, a car will suffer a penalty to its movement. And after taking 6 wear tokens a car will be removed from the race altogether. So managing wear tokens gets more and more important as the race goes on.Players take turns playing cards and executing movement until everyone has activated each of their team's cars. Once all cars have been activated an event card is revealed, which could result in some of the cars receiving extra wear tokens, or a yellow caution flag, or even a premature end of the race due to rain. In between rounds players will have the option of pitting their cars. Doing so will allow the player to remove all temporary wear tokens from the pitting car, but will require the car to not only move back 5 spaces, but will also cause the car to suffer a movement penalty on their next turn.The race will end once at least one car finishes the required number of laps. Any cars that cross the finish line are awarded the highest value trophy token available. After all the cars have been activated, for the round the game will end, and any cars that haven't crossed the finish line will be awarded trophy tokens according to their current place.Thunder Alley has a theme I don't care about, more randomness than I usually care for, and fairly boring (though very nice looking) components. All that being said - I have had a great time playing this game. The strategy of the game is fairly clear - keep your cars on the inside lane and grouped with other cars as much as possible - but playing the game is a lot of fun. The chaos of[...]

Peptide Kickstarter Preview

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:07:00 +0000

This post is not a review, but a preview of a game currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.Genius Games is an independent publisher that had recent Kickstarter success with their first title, Linkage. That game was about DNA transcription. The game currently on Kickstarter, Peptide, is about using RNA to build proteins. Sensing a theme here?Peptide is a set collection card game that also combines elements of card drafting and action selection in interesting ways.There are 3 main types of cards in the game. Organelle cards are drafted by players and used to take actions. RNA cards are collected by players through the use of Organelle cards, and are used in order to create the Amino Acid cards (which are worth points). The meat of the game is in the Organelle cards. To start each round, 2 cards per each player is flipped face up in the middle of the table. Then, to start, each player will select one card from the middle of the table for themselves. This will continue until each player has taken 2 cards. After the draft, players will resolve the actions of their chosen Organelle cards. These actions include things like drawing Amino Acid cards, gaining ATP energy tokens, drawing RNA cards, matching RNA cards to an Amino Acid card, scoring completed Amino Acid cards and flipping it over and adding it to the player's Peptide chain.That is pretty much it for gameplay. The game is very simple and flows very well. It has opportunities for some great choices and definitely has educational value! I really like how the different Organelles do different things, and the way the cards are laid out on the table are a great (rough) visual representation of what goes on during this process.Right now, Genius Games reminds me of Academy Games. Their two games are lighter than Academy Games' stuff, but Peptide, just like Linkage, is one of those rare games that is fun, but also sneaks actual learning in as well. If you think Peptide would make a good addition to your collection - or your classroom - go ahead and back it now!![...]

Super Show Preview

Tue, 14 Oct 2014 13:22:00 +0000

The prototype came in a Chinese food takeout boxAs an avid wrestling fan, when I saw The SuperShow on Kickstarter, I was immediately curious!  (Disclaimers: I own several hundred professional wrestling DVDs, and have played several games about pro wrestling, including Wrasslin', WWE Topps Attax, the WCW Nitro card game, and a few others.  I am almost undoubtedly the target audience for this game.)Now that I've gotten the disclaimers out of the way, let's get into the game itself, and try to figure out who would enjoy it.  I think that when considering this game, the first question you should ask yourself is, "Do I enjoy professional wrestling?"  Followed by the second question, "Do the friends that I play games with also enjoy professional wrestling?"  If you answered a resounding no to either of these questions, then this probably isn't the game for you.  However, if you answered, "of course!," then you should definitely keep reading.The game is rather straightforward - in order to defeat your opponent, you must perform your finishing move, and then pin him for the 1-2-3.  (This is modern day pro wrestling - we're not letting you win with a cheap roll-up.)  In SuperShow, there are three types of cards - leads, follow ups, and finishers.  On your turn you draw a card, and then you can play a single card.  There is no requirement to play a lead, but to play a follow up, you must have a lead in play, and to play a finisher, you must have a follow up in play.  ("In play" means you've already hit this move.)  Each of your cards has additional text to go along with the type - some of these let you draw cards or fish them out of your discard pile (these are both really helpful since you'll only have 3 finishers in your deck).  Other cards, however, can be played out of turn as "Stops" - if your opponent tries to hit specific types of moves, then you can Stop them to prevent that move from landing.Now that you know the basic flow of playing cards, there is another concept in the game - where you roll against your opponent.  At the start of the round, both players roll a die to see which stat they compare - and the person with the higher stat starts the round.  (There is a six-sided die that correlates to the six stats on your card.  If you roll "Power," and your Power is 6, then you compare that to what I rolled - say, "Technique," where my Technique might be a 7; and so I would go first.)  This rolling mechanic also occurs after you hit your finishing move.  If I land a finisher, then I roll a die to see how well I executed it (some finishers give you bonuses to certain stats so that this roll will be higher).  Then the person who is pinned (because you pin people after you hit finishers - in the game just like in real life) gets three rolls to equal or exceed the number that their opponent rolled.  If they successfully roll high enough, then they kick out - the board gets cleared, and the "Crowd Meter" goes up by 1 (this number is added to the finisher roll so that as the game progresses, each finisher is more likely to avoid getting kicked out of).  If they don't kick out, then they lost the match!Since this game is still in what I consider prototype form (I don't have the final version, since it is still on Kickstarter), my goal in this preview is to help you understand the gameplay so that you can figure out if you will like it, and also clarify who I think will and will not enjoy it.  Now that we've covered the gameplay, here's some other stuff you should know.The two wrestlers that ca[...]

City Hall Review

Fri, 10 Oct 2014 12:38:00 +0000

As a board game enthusiast, occasionally I get to play prototypes of games.  These can be hit or miss, with most of them still needing to be refined.  But, every now and then the prototype is amazing and you want to play it a lot more.  This is how I initially played City Hall.  And, after two years of waiting for it to be published in its final form, I finally have a copy!!In City Hall, the players are competing to become mayor of New York City.  In order to become mayor, they have to win the most votes - by bringing people into the city, and also making sure they have a high approval rating among the people they bring in.  The game consists of a series of turns, with each turn having all of the players select different roles to be performed.  However, whenever a role is performed, there is an auction of Influence (one of the currencies in the game), and whoever spends the most Influence gets to do the action associated with the role.  And, if the person who selected the role chooses not to perform it himself (chooses not to win the auction), then he gets to keep all of the Influence from the high bid.  These roles allow you to purchase land, build upon your land, run campaigns to increase your approval, bring people into the city, acquire extra Influence or money, and move the turn order.  Whichever roles aren't selected at the end of each turn have an Influence placed on them to incentivize players to select them later.  Play continues turn after turn until a player has maxed out their approval, or until all the players have collectively improved enough land.  Then there is a final turn with all of the roles being activated, one final population check, and then the final vote to see who becomes mayor!  (Note: there is no chance that some guy from Boston that wasn't even playing comes in at the last second and wins the vote - one of the players always wins.  I know, I ruined some of the excitement of the election.  Second Note: that was supposed to be a joke.  I'm pretty sure it failed miserably, though.)The board design is also slick - each role is with what it affectsMy first pro for City Hall is that I like how the role selection works with the auctions.  This mechanic really encourages you to sometimes select roles that you don't even want, just to give you a better chance of getting to perform the roles that you need.  For example, if you can't earn very much money from taxes, but all of your opponents can, and you don't have much Influence, it might be better to select the Tax Assessor than a role that you want to perform.  Hopefully your opponents will all want to perform the Tax Assessor, thus letting you collect quite a few Influence in preparation for whatever role you need.  Conversely, if you have a lot of Influence, getting to select the role that you need can be very powerful - as the person selecting the role, you make the final say over who gets to perform it (such as yourself), and if you have enough Influence to match any bid, then you can guarantee to perform it without accidentally bidding more than you need to (or risking getting outbid).The next pro that I have for City Hall is that I don't feel like there are any bad roles (which is impressive, since there are seven roles).  Now, there are some roles that will be performed more frequently than others.  But the less frequent roles can really make a large impact on the game when they finally are selected.  The roles that I see selected least frequently are the Deputy Mayor (which[...]

Slaughterball Kickstarter Preview

Wed, 08 Oct 2014 01:26:00 +0000

This post is not a review, but a preview for a game currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.Slaughterball is a board game simulating a future blood-filled sport where 2-4 teams battle it out in a pit. In Slaughterball, teams score points not only by scoring goals, but also by attacking and injuring opponents - that and the name Slaughterball, should tell you pretty much all you need to know about this game!Athletes in Slaughterball have stats like accuracy, agility, brawling, speed, and toughness. These stats tell how many dice the athlete will roll when testing certain skills. The interesting thing about this is that there are four different types of athletes, who can each perform any of the available actions, but each of them have specialized stats so they are much better at doing certain things. On a turn, each player will go through Draw, Onslaught, and Cleanup phases. During the Draw phase, players can discard as many cards as they would like, and draw the same number back into their hand.The Onslaught phase is the main phase of a turn. Players will activate a number of their athletes one at a time in order to take actions such as Chop, Move, Pass, and Shoot. The Cleanup phase is where players may be able to return athletes who have previously been sent to either the Penalty Box or the Slaughter Box. The game ends after 6 rounds, and the team with the most points wins! Players can score points being the first to move onto the central Meat Grinder spaces with the ball, by scoring goals, or by knocking down or injuring opposing athletes. Slaughterball certainly invites comparisons to the other big sport-combat game this year, Kaosball. I've played both now, and I have to say that Slaughterball blows Kaosball out of the water. Slaughterball is much more streamlined and intuitive, and more successfully combines the aspects of sports and combat that I think both games aspire to achieve. If you think Slaughterball would make a good addition to your game collection, go ahead and back it now! [...]

Extra Life Charity Event Announcement - Gaming for Good 2014: Sponsored by Z-Man Games

Mon, 06 Oct 2014 11:38:00 +0000

The crowd at last year's event after 10 hours!The open gaming area in Karl's new location is twice this size - let's fill it up!!!For the third consecutive year, I and my friend Karl (owner of the Games Keep in West Chester, PA) are putting together an Extra Life charity board gaming event to benefit Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.Over the past two years we have been able to raise over $2,500 through these events. Each year, we get a bunch of friendly, caring people together, and we play games, give away prizes, and have fun spending time with each other - all while raising money to help sick kids.This year's event is going to be held on Saturday, October 25, 2014, at the Games Keep - 521 East Gay Street, West Chester, PA 19380 - from 11:00 AM Saturday until 1:00 AM Sunday morning.Some Ticket to Ride at last year's event!Admission to the event is $15, which grants the attendee access to the Games Keep's large open gaming area and game library for the duration of the event, 10 free raffle tickets to use on the awesome prizes we'll have up for raffle, snacks and drinks (generously provided by the Downingtown Wegmans), and hopefully some lunch/dinner deals at some of the local restaurants.As was the case for our previous two Gaming for Good events, many generous game publishers have stepped up and made donations to help promote our event.Our Main Sponsor, Z-Man Games, has donated copies of:Russian RailroadsTales of the Arabian NightsProphecy + ExpansionGMT Games, AEG, APE Games, Arcane Wonders, Portal Games, and Stronghold Games have also donated the following titles:Twilight Struggle, Thunder Alley, Thunderstone: Numenara, Maximum Throwdown, Agent Hunter, Cheaty Mages, Love Letter (Boxed Edition), A Matter of Honor, RARRR!!, Mage Wars, Theseus: The Dark Orbit, Little Devils, and Crazy Creature of Dr. Gloom.A Stonemaier Ambassador will be in attendance to demo Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, and then give away the copy of the game to one of the people who sit down for a demo!An AEG Vanguard will also be on hand to demo Thunderstone and Valley of the Kings!Gil Hova, designer of Battle Merchants, will also be attending! He will be giving demos of Battle Merchants, and will also be giving away a copy to someone who sits down for a demo!!Lastly, Karl and I will also be raffling off two $75 gift certificates for the Games Keep - and if you've ever seen the Games Keep's amazing prices and superb selection, you know that is a fantastic prize!!!We really hope you can make it out to our event! But if you can't, and you would still like to help, please share this post on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter!! You can also donate to my Extra Life team here: My Donation Page!If you have any questions about the event, feel free to leave them in the comments, or to contact me at so much - hope to see you there!!"Extra life is where you can spend hours having a blast with fellow board gamers while saving lives."- Khanh Nguyen"I've been to the event every year it's occurred and it's awesome to see it grow each and every year. I get to see familiar faces and make some new friends, all while donating to a great cause. My wife is even joining in on the fun this year!"- Michael Green[...]

All Hands on Deck! Kickstarter Preview

Thu, 02 Oct 2014 11:48:00 +0000

This post is not a review, but a preview of a game currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.

All Hands on Deck! is a family set collection game with a fun, cartoony pirate theme. The game consists of 108 cards made up of 3 different bands of pirates (colored suits) as well as a variety of actions cards. 

(image) The goal of the game is to assemble a team of winning pirates - either 7 consecutive pirates from one crew, or 3 consecutive pirates from all 3 crews. Players go about this by participating in auctions and through clever play of their action cards.

Each round, there will be a card from the deck put up for auction. All players will put up cards from their hand into the blind bid auction. All pirate cards values are added up, and the highest bid wins. Any actions cards that are included in the bid are also resolved in turn order.

Once someone assembled a winning hand, the game ends!

(image) That it pretty much it! The game is great for families - it is easy to understand, has fantastic artwork, and a fun theme. Decisions in the game - like knowing which cards to give up in your bids and which to hold onto as sets (as well as which type of set to shoot for) are simple, but also not so easy as to make the game uninteresting. All Hands on Deck definitely has enough gameplay to be enjoyable for everyone, and definitely doesn't outstay its welcome!

If you think All Hands on Deck will be a good fit for you, go check it out on Kickstarter!

Five Tribes Review

Fri, 26 Sep 2014 11:39:00 +0000

There were a lot of great games released at Gen Con this year. Five Tribes, from Days of Wonder and Bruno Cathala, was one of the most talked about - and hardest to get.Now that the game has finally hit distribution, does it live up to all that hype?No "board" but still takes up a lot of space! Looks good doing it, though.Five Tribes is a part logistics puzzle, part action selection, part point salad game that pits players against one another, each of them trying to best maneuver the five tribes of the "Land of 1001 Nights" in order to become the next Sultan!The game board is made up of 30 individual tiles, which are arranged randomly before each game. Meeples of 5 different colors are placed on these tiles, also randomly. Players will take turns picking up a group of meeples from any tile on the board, and dropping one off at a time, mancala-style, until they drop the last meeple they picked up. One important rule when choosing which tile to end up at - there must already be a meeple on the tile the player ends with that matches the color of the meeple she is placing on the tile.Days of Wonder has included some large, but superb player aids.Once the player finishes distributing the group of meeples she picked up, she performs two actions. First, she picks up all of the meeples on the tile she ended on that match the color of the meeple she placed there (always at least two because of the rule I mentioned above), and executes that tribe's action. If the player was able to pick up all of the meeples on a tile (because they were all the same color of the meeple she placed there) she gets to place one of her camels on the tile, and will score that tile's depicted points at the end of the game. Then, she also gets to perform the action of the tile she ended on.The leftmost tile allows a player to buy 2 goods cards for 6 gold.The actions of the tribes and the tiles are quite varied and give players the opportunity to score points in a variety of different ways. Some allow players to get money right away, which can be used in game, or exchanged 1:1 at the end of the game for points. Some allow players to acquire powerful Djinns which can grant either in-game or end-game bonuses. And others will allow players to go to the market, and attempt to assemble sets of goods card which can be traded in for large amounts of points/money.Gameplay continues until either one player places all of her camels or there are no legal moves left (no groups of meeples can be distributed in such a way that the final meeple to be placed will be the same color as one already on the destination tile).The biggest potential problem for Five Tribes is how many options players are presented with, all at once. Five Tribes is not a game that starts off at a reasonable pace, and then ramps up as the game progresses. For the most part, from when the game begins, the number of choices for the players is gradually decreasing, as more meeples are removed from the board, and more tiles become owned by players. That not only can make the game intimidating and difficult to learn for new players, but it can also lead to a lot of analysis paralysis for experienced players. This can lead to awful amounts of downtime for the rest of the table. This also, however, means that player turns are almost never boring, and each point earned by players really feels like the result of proper planning and execution.One of the most exciting parts of Five Tribes is something I haven't mentioned yet - bid[...]

Knee Jerk Kickstarter Preview

Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:08:00 +0000

This post is not a review, but a preview of a game currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. Final art, rules, and components are subject to change.I don't think there's anything I love more than sitting around with my friends and family and laughing. That is why I love games like Taboo and Balderdash. They don't is not much to those games, but they produce such hilarious and memorable moments that I simply can't get enough of them. Knee Jerk is a game similar to those two in a way. Players need only a deck of cards and about 10 seconds of rules explanation in order to play. The game is dead simple - the active player (host) deals 2 cards to the table, and 3 to her hand. She chooses one from her hand, and lines it up with the other 2 so that the green arrow of the first card points to the blue arrow of the second card, which points to the orange block of the third card (the one she chose from her hand). This orientation of the cards will create a randomized story prompt. After the host player reads the story prompt, the rest of the players begin offering up their versions of how the scene ends. The host then awards the player who answered first a point - in the form of the left-most card on the table. Play then continues with the host placing another card to the right. Knee Jerk is so simple, but so much fun. The crux of the game, however, relies on the players you've gathered together. I think that the rules are simple enough that anyone thinking about bringing this out with a group would already have a pretty good idea of whether or not it would go over well. But because the rules are so simple, it is also fairly easy to implement variants.The game rules also suggest playing where the host awards the point for a story to the first answer given. While this rule certainly fosters a wide range of hilarious answers shouted out without thinking, I also think that having the host choose her favorite story for each round is also a lot of fun. The last game of Knee Jerk I played with a kind of a blend of the two, where the host of the round chose which rule variant she wanted to use. Knee Jerk is one of those party games that I love - it brings out a special kind of silliness in people that is just so much fun to be involved in. And just like the best party games, it is not only a blast to play, but it can also create discussions about where some of these ridiculous stories come from - either real or created. Knee Jerk is great party game - and an absolute steal at $10.If Knee Jerk sounds good to you - go back on Kickstarter now![...]

Dead of Winter Review

Tue, 09 Sep 2014 12:07:00 +0000

Dead of Winter is the latest game from Plaid Hat Games. Despite not being a huge fan of any of Plaid Hat's games (except for Summoner Wars, which I love), I always get very excited about each of their releases. They always have really interesting themes mixed with neat twists on game mechanisms. Does Dead of Winter buck the trend of disappointment? Would I even ask such an obvious rhetorical question is the answer was "no?" Read on to find out!Dead of Winter is a semi-cooperative game that takes place after a zombie apocalypse has ravaged the world. Players take control of survivors in this world, struggling to live in this new world. The survivors need keep the hordes at bay and make sure the colony is safe and fed.In a round, players will roll their action dice. On their turn, players will spend their dice in order to take actions with their survivors. These actions are things like searching locations in order to gain resources or items, fighting zombies, or building barricades. The zombies will keep coming and bad things will keep happening to the colony, until either the survivors complete their shared objective, or the colony's morale falls to 0. Sounds simple enough, except that Plaid Hat and Mr. Gilmour and Mr. Vega have added quite a few interesting little twists and turns to make Dead of Winter quite a unique experience. First is the fact that although the group as a whole has a common objective, each player has a personal objective. Each player's personal objective states what the player needs to accomplish in order to win. These objectives most often have a bulleted list that includes the group completing the common main objective, but also some other conditions that must be met that will likely make the group's completion of the main objective more difficult. Even if the main objective is competed, players can only win if they also completed their individual objectives as well. The great thing about this system is that there are also betrayer objectives. These objectives require that the game end not because the main objective has been completed, but because the colony's morale has fallen to 0. The game also includes the option to exile players from the game if they are suspected of being a betrayer. This adds a lot of tension to the game, and keeps the players from devolving the game into a mess of "well Idecide on a 'm not going to win, so no one is going to win," which, in my opinion, has been the biggest issue with semi-cooperative games in the past.A huge source of tension in the game is the exposure die. It must be rolled every time a survivor either moves around town or fights a zombie. On about half of the sides is nothing - which is what you'll be hoping to see each time you roll that accursed die. On the other half are bad things, which cause either normal wounds, frostbite wounds, or even instant death. The fact that players can lose a survivor with a single roll of the die is a lot of fun. The last twist in the game is the deck of Crossroads cards. At the start of each player's turn, the player to the right of her draws a Crossroads card, and reads the it. Each Crossroads card has a condition on it, which the reader of the card does not reveal to the current player, unless the player fulfills it. These cards contain conditions like, "If the current player controls a survivor at the Police Station, read the following:" and the rest of the card has a bit of story, and[...]

Top Ten Games That I Want to Play More - Summer 2014

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:30:00 +0000

There are all kinds of different Top 10 lists that you can make, but I thought that it might be fun to make a list of the Top 10 that I want to play more.  What could be simpler?  Recently, my biggest struggle in gaming is actually getting playing time - which means that there are a lot of games that I sit around wishing I could actually play.  So, why not write up a list of the games that have been staring at me from my closet!Now, there are multiple reasons these might be on the list - maybe my gaming group doesn't like them, maybe I don't have access to a copy of it for some reason, or maybe it just hasn't worked out for some reason.  Anyway, here's the list of the...Top Ten Games That I Want to Play More 10. Game of Thrones: LCGI am in love with Living Card Games. I think they're amazing. I regularly buy the Lord of the Rings: LCG and Star Wars: LCG. But, I think that the decisions in Game of Thrones are at least as interesting as in either of those. Unfortunately, it hasn't clicked with any of my regular gaming friends. This one has gotten so bad that I've had to put a moratorium on buying any more packs until it actually gets played regularly. (Now, let's see if I can actually stand by that buying ban.) 9. Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building GameSo, with the release of Dark City, Legendary went from being a fun game that I would play occasionally to one of my favorite solo games. In the base game, you basically never lose to the game - but with Dark City mixed in, you can definitely be slaughtered! The main thing keeping this from being higher on the list is that I do get to play it solo regularly enough that I'm not in major withdrawal. 8. Clout FantasyA great little dexterity game that I never got around to reviewing is Clout Fantasy. The biggest downside for Clout was its release method. It is a "collectible throwing game." Aka, you have to buy packs to get the chips that you want. (Blech.  They were significantly overpriced too - like $1 per chip!) However, now that the game is not actively made, prices have dropped, and it's one that I really enjoy. Having to build armies and teach people how to play is what has kept it from being played more often. But, seriously - you get to throw poker chips strategically. How would I not like this? 7. Star Wars: LCGWhat makes Star Wars get rated above Game of Thrones on my want to play more list? Simple - I keep spending money on Star Wars! What motivates you to play a game more than spending money on it? In fact, I have two new force packs that just arrived in the mail making me itch to play it more... (don't worry, right after I finish writing this, I may be tweaking my decks). 6. City HallA year or two ago at WBC I got to play City Hall, and I really liked it. So, why haven't I been playing it more? Well.... it doesn't exist yet! Fortunately, this title got signed by Tasty Minstrel Games, was successfully Kickstarted, and the publishing of it is just about done. So, I'm hoping to finally bring this game to my table! 5. Battlestar GalacticaWhenever people discover that I like board games, they always ask me what my favorite one it. Honestly, I don't have one. But, if I was forced to pick one, then BSG might win. All I know for certain is that if I haven't played BSG in a month, then I'd be up for a game if the right situation came along.  And I haven't played BSG[...]