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Go to the Zombicide: Black Plague page
Brett {Avid Gamer} Feb 20th, 2017
“Waves of Zombies (and fun)”

I missed the KS for this one, but managed to pick it up via a trade and I’m glad I did!

The game is PACKED with minis and provides 6 heroes in the base game. The rulebook is well laid out and provides answers to most questions that would pop up during a game. Gameplay is fairly standard – take 1 of 6 actions (you get 3 total on your turn) and then roll dice to open doors or fight zombies. Enemies start to accumulate as the game goes on and makes completing your objectives harder and harder.

The player boards are excellent and keep everything neatly organized during gameplay. I enjoyed the visual of seeing what was in your hand and in your backpack while playing.

Right now I am through a few of the quests and see that I will get many hours’ worth of entertainment from the quests in the book. If you are fan of dungeon crawls, zombies, or minis, then you will not be disappointed by this one.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
5 out of 6 gamers thought this review was helpful
Player Avatar
I play blue
El Dorado
Go to the Blackbeard page
Stargazer1 {Avid Gamer} Feb 19th, 2017
“Rrrrrrrgh! A Pirate's Life for Me”

Blackbeard is a card driven game which allows players to recreate the “Golden Age of Piracy” in the 17th and 18th centuries. Blackbeard attempts to simulate the life of a pirate with actual happenstances such as raiding merchant ships and ports, hostage taking, fighting warships, duels, & mutinies. Players maneuver their pirates around a map collecting booty and gaining notoriety. The player who retires the richest and most notorious pirates wins. Blackbeard is for up to 5 players ages 12 and up and plays in about 2 hours. Blackbeard is at its best with either 2 or 3 players and also has a very good solo variant.

The components are a mixed bag. The cardstock map is better than the standard GMT paper map. And the artwork on the map really sets the theme of the game. I really like the map. There are thick cardboard tokens and plastic dice. The tokens could be better in terms of game functionality. The ship boards are also cardstock quality, have minimal artwork and could be functionally better. The standard size cards are durable and have a glossy finish. The artwork on the cards is small and in black & white, but sets the theme nicely. There are also two cardstock player aids which are helpful but have a few typo errors. The rulebook is well organized but not well written. Many rules are unclear. I strongly suggest downloading the Living Rules from GMT’s website if you purchase this game. The Living Rules help clarify many rules. There is a whole lot of goodness in the box, and getting it back in is a challenge. Owners will probably want to throw away the insert. Overall the components could have been better.

Set-up for Blackbeard takes a moment. Each player is dealt a number of pirates depending on the number of players. A ship board must be set-up for each pirate the player deploys on the map. Eight merchant ships and the 16 Anti-Pirate Governors must be randomly placed on the map. The Must Play Immediately cards are removed from the Event deck. The Event deck is shuffled and four cards are dealt to each player. Then the Must Play Immediately cards are reshuffled into the Event deck. All ready to begin!

Each player in clockwise order becomes the Pirate Player. The Pirate Player’s turn consists of the following three phases:
1. Event Card Draw
2. Replenish Merchant Ships
3. Action

The Pirate Player draws Event cards one at a time until he has four cards in his hand. Any Must Play Immediately cards are resolved and another card drawn.

If there are less than five merchant ships on the map, then the Pirate Player randomly places merchant ships until there are six on the map.

The Pirate Player may play any number of cards for the event and ONE card for Action Points (APs) listed on the card. The APs can be used for the following actions:
A. Move: Move a ship from sea area to an adjacent sea area or port.
B. Find Merchant Ship: Search for a merchant ship in a sea area with a merchant token.
C. Loot Merchant Ship: Seize the cargo and determine its value in Doubloons. Gain notoriety equal to the value of the merchant ship. Take a hostage and decide to hold for ransom or torture. Convert the merchant ship to a pirate ship. Decide to declare voluntary Debauchery & Revelry.
D. In-Port Activities: Ransom hostage. Convert all Booty to Net Worth. The conversation rate depends on which type of port the Active Pirate is located. Repair damage to the ship. Purchase Safe Haven status by bribing the governor. Decide to declare voluntary Debauchery & Revelry.
E. Booty Grab: Attack another player’s pirate under Debauchery & Revelry and in the same port in an attempt to steal his cargo.
F. Debauchery & Revelry Recovery: Once in a port, spend 1 AP to remove voluntary D&R or spend 2 AP to remove involuntary D&R.
G. Attack Port: Attack any port within the Active Pirate’s sea area. If successful, then determine booty value in doubloons, gain notoriety equal to two times the port value, increase crew loyalty, and apply ship damage.
H. Sack Port: Sack a port that was successfully attacked and destroy it. If successful, then the port is out of the game, increase crew loyalty, gain notoriety equal to two times the port value and crew undergoes involuntary Debauchery & Revelry.
I. Retire Voluntarily: Retire a pirate if he is in a Safe Haven or has a Letter of Marque. The pirate’s Net Worth is converted to Victory points (VPs).
J. Draw and Deploy New Pirate: Draw and deploy the pirate drawn or any other pirate in the player’s hand.

Any players not currently taking a turn become an Anti-Pirate Player. During the Pirate Player’s turn an Anti-Pirate Player may perform ONE Anti-Pirate Action. No Anti-Pirate Action can be repeated on the same Pirate Action, but can be repeated on a different Pirate Action of the same turn. Anti-Pirate Actions include the following:
I. Attempt to Deploy a King’s Commissioner: Roll 3D6, if less than the Active Pirate’s notoriety, then deploy a King’s Commissioner (KC) in the sea area with the Active Pirate. The player who deploys the KC controls it. Each player may have ONE KC in play at a time.
II. Use On-Station Warship: A warship already in play in the same sea area as the Active Pirate may be used to attack the Active Pirate. Warships can only be used when an Active Pirate is performing a Find Merchant Ship, Loot Merchant Ship or Attack Port Action. The Pirate Player decides whether to fight the warship or attempt to flee.
III. Use Existing King’s Commissioner: A KC may either Move, Attack a Pirate Port, or attempt to Oust Pirates from a Port.
IV. Play Card for Anti-Pirate Event: Play a card type for its Anti-Pirate Event only if it has not been played during the Pirate Player’s action already.

Players continue to take turns until the General Pardon card is drawn the third time. The game immediately ends and players convert the notoriety of any pirates left on the map to VPs. The player with the most VPs wins.

Blackbeard has a moderate learning curve and will take a couple of plays to get the mechanics straight and develop strategies. This is a fairly complex game which I would only recommend to Avid and power gamers.
Blackbeard is heavily steeped in theme. Everything about this game screams pirate theme. Players get to play historical pirates, each with their own set of characteristics. The card events, the pirate actions and even the anti-pirate actions contribute to making Blackbeard the most authentic pirate game on the market.

Player interaction is featured in this game. If you like player interaction then this is a game for you. Even when it’s not your turn, you have things you can do to influence the outcome of the current turn! Downtime? Nope, none in this game!

OK, there are some downsides to Blackbeard. First, this game is fiddly by any standards. There are a lot of tokens and a lot going on during any given turn. Things are constantly changing. In addition many cards require certain situations in which they can be played and many rules are complicated. Both of these will require moderate rulebook referencing. Second, Blackbeard does not scale well, which is why I recommend three players maximum. A player doesn’t get many actions on his turn, and to have 3 or 4 players throwing cards or doing some other anti-pirate action to negate your actions means you won’t get much accomplished. This game can be frustrating when there are a lot of players. Lastly, luck is a big factor in this game. Just about every action requires a die roll. Everything from the size of the merchant ship cargo, size of the ransom, cost of the bribe, combat and other events is dependent on a die roll in some form or another. Each pirate has Cunning, which allows for die rerolls, to mitigate luck to some extent, but luck will rear its ugly head.

Overall, Blackbeard provides great historical pirate flavor and is a lot of fun with the right number of players. This game packs in everything from mutinies, duels, back-stabbing, searching for buried treasure, debauchery & revelry and torture. No other pirate game can make this claim. Blackbeard also presents challenging play. My gaming group often gets a laugh when comparing the number of retired pirates to the number killed. Blackbeard is a great pirate game but it’s not for everyone. Give it a try before you buy.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
4 out of 4 gamers thought this review was helpful
Player Avatar
Go to the Forbidden Island page
Rozz {Social Gamer} Feb 18th, 2017
“Great introduction for new board gamers”

I played this with some work colleagues (who are not gamers) as part of a team building exercise. It was incredibly quick to learn and was a great demonstration on how working together can achieve results. The games are also fairly quick so no need to spend hours on setup and resetting. We played in groups of 4 but could have just as easily have been played with 2 players. This is not one of those games that says 2 player but actually means 4 players only.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
1 out of 6 gamers thought this review was helpful
Player Avatar
Professional Reviewer
I play black
Silver Supporter
Go to the The Grizzled page
Artem Safarov {Avid Gamer} Feb 16th, 2017
“The Grizzled review: Cardboard Western Front”

War. War never changes, or so Fallout intros have been telling us for the past twenty years. What about it never changes exactly? Is it the heroics, the explosions, the glorification of sacrifice that brave men and women go through? Or is it the broken lives it leaves behind and the attempts to put these back together through friendship, love and a sense of community? The Grizzled, a title suggesting a scar over a painful wound, lands squarely in the latter category and scores an emphatic victory in doing so.

How it works
The Grizzled is a cooperative game for 2-5 players, playing the roles of French soldiers attempting to survive the horrors of World War I. Each round a certain amount of cards is dealt and the players have to take turns getting rid of these cards, meeting increasingly restrictive conditions. The cards represent either external challenges faced by the soldiers (terrible weather, gas attacks) or trauma and injuries they withstand over the course of the war.

The game places restrictions on how many challenges of the same kind the players can take and how many traumas a soldier can withstand before succumbing, so you have to constantly weigh what cards you can / should play. The more cards you keep, however, the more cards are added to the supply you need to go through for the win. If you manage to get rid of all the cards in the supply without losing any of your soldiers – you win!

Following every round, the players have a chance to “support” one of the soldiers by offering a cup of coffee and a heartfelt talk. This allows getting rid of some of the negative effects, freeing up some of the restrictions for following rounds.

How it plays
A defining characteristic of The Grizzled is that no game-specific communication is allowed, so you can’t give out clues like “hey guys, don’t play any more trench assault symbols” or “let’s all support Jenny because she’s got the most traumas”. This does wonders in getting rid of the “alpha player” problem that makes many co-op games playable by one person who always knows what everyone else should be doing.

The rules with their quirky game flow and the understanding of restrictions can be a bit slippery to grasp. This is not because of complexity but rather an inexplicable feeling of this game being different. This may make the first couple of games confusing, but not make these drag out as most will fit comfortably in a 30-min window.

The game is relatively hard, getting into the “brutally difficult’ territory with higher number of players. It even comes with a “harder” level of challenge that I had zero interest of exploring because the base game is in no danger of being a cakewalk.

The “no game talk” has an interesting side effect of discussing what happens not from a game mechanics perspective but from a storytelling / role-playing angle, which is welcome. It also results in many terrible French accents being deployed as the players bemoan the fate of awkward-looking mustachioed warriors.

How it feels
The note about the terrible French accents might make you think that the game is humorous in a way. It is not. When you look at your soldier, demoralized, wounded and terrified of snow because it reminds him of that terrible first mission – you will not be in the joking mood. The art, disarming in its off-balance sincerity and willingness to depict flaws and shortcomings, only adds to this. It is ridiculous, yes, but poignant in showing that the only way to get through all the horror surrounding these folks is embracing this awkwardness and a cup of coffee passed to you by a friend. It truly nails this poignant depiction of a difficult subject and manages to result in a game that is both uplifting, light-hearted and tragic in the stories it tells.

Is it a good game though? Mechanically – I’d say it’s alright. You are managing risks, you are calculating when to give a stirring speech to help your friends get rid of a particularly troublesome card in their hand. You are trying to strategize whom to support and are rushing to the end of the supply deck before you are overcome by the many dangers of war. It is truly nothing special on its own, but infused with the melancholy of its theme and art it really creates a special experience. Knowing that the illustrator who did the art for this game, Tignous, was one of the victim of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting, steeps the game even further into disarming sadness.

So will you enjoy this game? It is unlikely to satisfy those who are looking for a robust strategic experience or a rich social interaction. It is likely to confuse those new to games and looking for a casual experience. It does occupy a unique niche providing a neat balance of heart, brains and courage that few wizards can offer. It is unlikely to become your favourite game but it offers enough consistent charms to warrant a place in a collection. If not to offer a reliably alpha-player-free quirky co-op experience than to remind you that war is good for absolutely nothing.

Enjoyed this review? Consider visiting Altema Games website for more neat board game materials.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
8 out of 8 gamers thought this review was helpful
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United Kingdom
Professional Reviewer
Crab Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
Book Lover
Go to the Codenames page
pookie {Avid Gamer} Feb 13th, 2017
“Battleships wth Words?”

Codenames is the Spiel des Jahres—or ‘Game of the Year—award winner for 2016 and that is probably enough of a recommendation to try it and add it to your games collection. Published by Czech Games Edition, it is an espionage-themed word game that works as a party game and which can be played by between two and eight players. The players are split into two teams and one person on each team takes the role of their team’s ‘Spymaster’. His mission is to communicate the code names of his spies to his fellow team members; it is their task to understand the clues given by the spymaster and identity the spies. It is designed to be played by players aged fourteen and over and a game should last no more than twenty minutes.

Codenames consists of several decks of cards. These are the Codename cards (double-sided with a word like tube, bugle, Jupiter, palm, and so on); sixteen Agent cards in two colours (red and blue, used to identity Codenames by each side); a red/blue Double-Agent card (used to indicate the starting team); seven Innocent Bystander cards (used to indicate non-Agents); one Assassin card (used to indicate the Assassin who lose a team the game if they identify him); forty Key cards (these determine the location of the Agents, Innocent Bystanders, and Assassin on the grid); plus a rulebook and timer.

To set up the game, twenty-five Codenames are randomly drawn and arranged in a five-by-five grid. A Key card is drawn and shared between the two Spymasters. It shows them where their Agents, Innocent Bystanders, and Assassin are on the grid. On a team’s turn, its Spymaster gives a clue to the rest of his turn. This clue consists of one word and one number. The word must be associated with—but not the same as—one or more of the Codename cards in the grid. The number indicates the number of Codename cards that the clue is associated with. So for example, a Spymaster has the following Codenames that need identifying: ‘America’, ‘Cap’, ‘Disease’, ‘Ham’, ‘Horn’, ‘Mail’, ‘Spring’, and ‘Whip’. So the Spymaster decides to give the clue ‘Supersoldier Two’ to indicate ‘America’ and ‘Cap’, hoping that his team knows its superheroes (or movies).

The team now tries to guess the Codenames from this clue. If the team picks an Innocent Bystander instead of a Codename, its turn ends. If the team picks a Codename belonging to the other team, its turn ends. If the team picks the Assassin instead of a Codename, it has lost and the game is over. A team must make one guess on its turn and can choose to make fewer guesses than the number given by its Spymaster. A team that correctly guesses Codenames equal to the number given by its Spymaster can take an extra guess. This is useful if a team wants to return to a clue given in previous turn.

The first team to identify all of its Codenames wins the game.

At the heart of Codenames are two asymmetrical challenges. For the Spymaster, the challenge is, “Can I give clues to my team members that they will understand?”, whilst for the team members the challenge is, “Can we interpret and understand our Spaymaster’s clues?”. This requires no little thought by both sides, hampered of course, by the timer.

On the downside, the game’s theme is a bit too light and if you do not like word games, then Codenames is not something that you will necessarily enjoy. If you do like word games, crossword puzzles, and so on, then Codenames’ simple design is both a delight and challenge. The game is also simple enough to work as a party game, but still be challenging without being overwhelming in its mechanics or appearance. The fact that it is a word game means that it is approachable and accessible to a non-gaming audience, a la Scrabble (yet better). Of course, it also works as a good filler game. The high number of Codename cards and Key cards (the latter for determining Codename location on the grid) means a wide variety of Codenames and grid layouts and thus a high replay value.

My gaming group described Codenames as being ‘Word Battleships’. The fact that there is a hidden grid involved and the game involves finding things on said grid and it easy to see the comparison. That said, Codenames is a light and clever game that will challenge groups large and small again and again.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
6 out of 7 gamers thought this review was helpful

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