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Art of War

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Review 3 games and receive a total of 40 positive review ratings.
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9
Go to the Runewars page

Runewars

55 out of 56 gamers thought this was helpful

Runewars is not what I expected it to be. Maybe fooled by the title, I was kind of hoping it was a wargame, or, at least a more conventional wargame.

Well, it is, actually, a game of accumulating runes and although some of them you will win by getting your hands dirty, it is quite possible to win the game without winning a single battle against another player.

In fact, it is quite common to go through the first half of the game without any significant conflict among the players. The map is big, and unless the setup was really bad, you can easily get by with the resources around you, but I’m ahead of myself here, let’s talk a little bit about the game in some detail.

Components:
Everything in the box is FFG quality. The miniatures are definitely smaller than other offers from the publisher, but they are nice enough and the small scale makes it easier to find a table in which the game can actually be played.

Make no mistake, when everything is set up it still will occupy a lot of space, but this is no World of Warcraft – The Board Game for sure.

Rules and rulebook:
Well, the rules are online so I won’t get into details here. But basically, each player controls a race in the Runebound universe (Humans, Elfs, Undead and Demons). The rulebook is much better than other FFG products, and although the rules have a lot of details, it is quite easy to find everything.

However, this is the kind of game that will make you go back to the rulebook while playing, especially on the first sessions. And from time to time, you can expect to find yourself browsing a faq or BGG looking for some clarification.

The fate deck:
Everything in the game revolves around the fate deck – a bunch of cards that determines: combat results, diplomacy and hero quests.

I like the system, but it generates some drawbacks:

1. The combat is less intuitive: if you know your unit only hits on a 6 when rolling a die, you intuitively know the odds you are facing, and you can make quick decisions with that information. With the fate cards, you have to learn the odds before making quick, but sound tactical decisions. Not a dealbraker, but the game is not short, and these little time eaters might add up.

Also, I’ve seen a bunch of players relying too much on turtling, taking the easy way out and avoiding making odds assessment, but just venturing forth after making sure they have an army as big s possible, which also drags the game a little.

2. Diplomacy is limited: Diplomacy is really useful to make monsters run. The odds to make an alliance with the monsters are too low and the amount of influence you usually have to spend are almost always better used elsewhere.

Counting the cards on the deck works to a certain extent and it is quick if you are looking for just the four successes, but I guess it is more useful in the Hero quests, since most of them will be successful if you get a neutral result as well.

3. It is not as quick as rolling dice.

The gameplay:
When it works, it works beautifully. In fact, I think the whole system is quite neat with a lot of borrowed things from Twilight Imperium and Nexus Ops, but it will sometimes fail to feel epic, because:

1. Someone might win before any significant battle happens. It is not that common, but it can happen, and it is frustrating to see all those units prepared to fight coming back to the box, without a scratch on them.

The map offers a lot of space for the factions and most of those spaces are not really worth to fight for until later in the game. The cities offer nice bonuses, but if every player has one (which is often the case) the motivation to conquer another diminishes. After all, you don’t want to be unprepared when those runes start to show up.

Also, I just think the board has too many mountains and rivers/lakes, which further delays battle, making terrain hard to navigate.
Neutral units are a nice idea, but fighting them is almost all the time very easy. The idea of having them in your army is also great, but it rarely happens and, guess what: they also delay the fight among the players.

Heroes are OK. I like the way they are implemented (specially when using the exploration tokens), but they are yet another excuse to not get into a fight, as you can invest on them to get some runes without losing troops.

No wonder the Elves are so popular, as they have the means to grow quickly on the influence run, although they are not that good in direct confrontation.

This makes Runewars look like a bad game, but it is far from the truth. You see, all those things are random and may or may not happen considering the initial setup, group thinking, experience with the game, etc. So chances are, the more you play the game, the better you will enjoy it.

Runewars is not too complex, but will certainly benefit from the players experience, because I think the right mindset is key to enjoy it. Battle between the players won’t always be the focus of the experience, but once you are passed that, you will find a game that offers some nice tactical and strategic choices to make.

9
Go to the Munchkin page

Munchkin

45 out of 52 gamers thought this was helpful

A- What is Munchkin ?
Munchkin is a card game simulating an RPG campaign … with players missing totally what ‘RP’ stands for.
Forget about Roleplay, scenario, relations between characters and NPC … naw, for a munckin, the only purpose of an RPG is to be the strongest most powerful than Gods of all the players. If it requires a little cheating, a little (discreet) change on the character sheet during the game, it’s not a problem.
So each player will begin as a level 1 basic character whose purpose is to become the first to gain the mythic level 10.

B- The components
Each Munchkin base games contains the same items : One D6 and two decks of cards.
One of the deck is the ‘Door Deck’ : It’s where all the monsters and traps are. But it contains too friendlier cards for players, such as Class and/or Race (Hey, what do you prefer, to be a lame basic human, or to be a mighty Dwarf Warrior ?) that improves player’s capacity and even ‘Cheat’ cards that legally allow you to cheat ! Some other cards are here either to help you, or hinder other player on their turn.
The other deck is the ‘Treasure Deck’ : Basically it represents the equipments your character can gain (Such as armor, sword, magic ring, potion …). With this you get some ‘Level Up’ card (like its name said : You get a free level) and some event to mess with other players.
The dice is used for some cards effect and to flee before monsters (more on that on the next section).
All in all, cards are good in quality … A little too small for my taste but nothing terrible.

C- The rules
You don’t need an IQ for 150 to play the game. The (very summarized) rules are :
– You open a door (Draw a Door card face-up) : If it’s a trap, you suffer the bad effect. If it’s a monster you have to fight it, otherwise the card goes in your hand.
– If you didn’t fight a monster, you can either loot the room (draw a Door card face down) or choose a monster card from your hand and fight it.
– After this if you have too much cards in hand, you give some of them to the player with the lowest level or discard them if you have the lowest level.
– Repeat with the next player.

The game end when you get the level 10 after killing a monster.

Combats are really simple :
Each monster has a level, a number of treasure and a bad stuff.
To win, your level and all you bonus must exceed the level and bonus of the monster. You can play almost every card of your hand to do this.
For example you are a level 1 Cleric and you fight a level 7 monster with ‘-2 against warrior’ written on it.
If you have a ‘Warrior’ class in your hand, you can change your class, so you become a level 1 Warrior fighting a level 3 monster.
You got a +2 Armor and a +3 sword in hand, you put it into play and now your Warrior has a fight value of (1+2+3) 6 against a level 5 monster … you win ! Except of course if another player backstabs you and give some bonus to the monster or even add a new one.
If the player wins, he gets 1 level and draws a number of Treasure cards as indicated on the monster card. If he loses he must flee and roll 1D6 : on 5 or 6 he flees, otherwise the monster catch him and the player suffers the ‘Bad stuff’ written on the card (Such as lose an item, a level … or die).
Sometimes, the monster will be really too tough for a single player. In that case he can ask another player help. Of course the other won’t help him like that but can bargain to get his share of the treasures given by the monster or even ask for some piece of his temporary ally’s gear. Once both players has settled an accord, the second join the fight and add his level and bonus too … Of course, if the monster is still winning, both players has to flee.

Well it’s not ALL the rules, but with this you get 85% of it.

D- Why people don’t like this game ?
For a lot of good reasons.
Yes, Munchkin is one of my favorite games, but I know it lacks some stuff.

First, strategies involved are really basic : To get the highest score to be able to kill alone any monster, and the luck factor is very important.
Simple strategies is linked with simple rules … Munchkin isn’t ‘chutes and ladders’ but it’s far away from Descent, Small World and Co. You get the rules in five minutes, you get the strategies in ten and the cards in thirty … and that’s all …
More than that it’s the kind of game where you must not win. If a player is unlucky enough to put himself in good position, every other player will try to screw him. The winner isn’t the best skilled. The winner is the one who put himself in position to win only when opponents had wasted their cards on them to prevent each other to win.
But the opposite isn’t impossible too : with some good draw a player can take so much advance that other can absolutely do nothing to stop him.
And worse, despite its simple rules, Munchkin game can be very lengthy … way to much lengthy … especially with 5 or more players.

E- Ewwww ! This game sucks. Why do your group like it ?

At first glance, it seems horribly random with luck mattering more than skill, but at second glance it isn’t so.
The cards are very fun and strategies are not that shallow.
The fact that you could ask for help add a lot to the game : Interactions between players isn’t only with cards, but with fast talk, treachery and lies … What can I say : For us, each munchkin game is a very cartoonish diplomacy game …
The cards are very unbalanced, but since everyone draw from the same deck we got a funny thing : ‘Cards are so unbalanced that the game is balanced !’. It’s very rare when someone is under lvl 7 when another player wins.
Serious player always seems to think the best way to win is to help nobody and keep his cards to screw someone who will win, which of course lead to a boring game (cf above), but once you learn that helping will give you very good cards (if you bargained well) and that screwing other players almost kill the ‘runaway player’, you get a dynamic fun game for an average time of an hour/an hour and half …
Cards are only half of the game, the other is brought by players … it’s their ability to deceive others.

I know I’ll probably the only one to like it but … The game is SO random, the numbers of cards are SO large (with some expansions) that every game you just don’t know what you will get and how the game will be played.

F- Is Munchkin a good game ?
With the right group of players, yes.
I will make a parallel with AD&D alignment.
You can be a lawful player, a chaotic player.

The lawful player hates random. Games like Chess and Agricola are for him.
The chaotic player love random. Drawing a card, flipping a coin, roll a dice …
Disclaimer : I know there isn’t only ‘I hate random’ or ‘I want only random’ type of players. If fact, this are extrems : and most players only tend towards of this types and can like games from the other types.
I think my group is a very ‘chaotic player’ one, and Munchkin is extremely random, so it has a very fertile ground to grow.
We discovered it about two years ago, and we haven’t done playing with it yet.

We love to lie, betray, tease, manipulate each other s(in game only), and Munchkin is the perfect tool to do this : A very simple mechanics that give lots of options.

9
Go to the Puerto Rico page

Puerto Rico

80 out of 87 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
All of the players have one single purpose in Puerto Rico; and that is to build a thriving colony. It will start out as a simple place, most likely with only a single crop and no colonists, but if you make shrewd decisions, you might be running a thriving colony with quite the collection of buildings and a very profitable crop yield. But this will only happen if you can perform your job well, whatever your role might be.

Game Materials
The materials for this box are all either hard cardboard cutouts or small wooden pieces. They are very durable and have stood up to the test of time since I got the game years ago, and this is despite the fact that this is one of the more popular games in my collection. The only damage or wear-and-tear I have seen is from when my cat managed to retrieve one of the tokens and chewed it. That being said, the materials are very simple and won’t win any awards for artistic representation. They are functional and durable, but that is all.

Play Summary
The game is played in a series of turns. Each turn one person is the governor. This is decided randomly at first and then rotates around the table. The governor gets to go first and picks a job. After the governor picks a job, each player performs the action associated with that job. Once it goes all the way around and everyone has had a chance to do something, the next person around the table picks one of the remaining jobs. Everyone gets a chance to perform the action associated with this second job, starting with the player who picked it. Play continues like this until everyone has picked a job and all players have had a chance to perform any actions.

At this point, three jobs will be unclaimed. Each of these jobs get one doubloon placed on it as a type of incentive. If a player picks a job with any number of doubloons on it, that player gets that money in addition to being able to gain the benefits of picking the job. After placing one doubloon on each remaining job, all of the jobs are returned, the governor position is rotated, and another turn begins.

If at any point in the game one of the ending conditions is met, play continues until that turn is over. This means that even if the ending conditions are met after the governor picks a job, each other player will still have a chance to pick a job before the game is over. When the game is over, the players count up victory points and whoever has the most is the winner.

This seems very simple on the surface, but there is a significant amount more to explain. First of all, whenever someone picks a job, that player gets a bonus ability. Each of the jobs has some type of bonus associated with it. For example, consider the Builder. This job enables each player to build one building as long as they pay the associated cost. Whoever picked the job gets the special bonus of needing to pay one less to build a building. It is convenient, and a good design decision, that each of the colony boards has all of the jobs listed on it as well as the special abilities.

There are three separate ways to get victory points. First of all, you gain victory points for shipping goods back to the motherland. For every barrel of goods that you ship back, you gain one victory point. The second way is by building buildings. Each building has a victory point value associated with it. At the end of the game, these values get added to your victory point tokens to provide you your score. The third and final way to get victory points is through the use of one of five special buildings. There are five buildings that provide bonus victory points at the end of the game based on special conditions. Those descriptions are provided on the buildings.

Buildings and crops by themselves do nothing. In order for a building or a crop to produce anything, it needs to be populated with at least one colonist. Some of the production buildings have multiple openings for colonists and can support more than one colonist at a time. In these cases, the building works once for each colonist working. The concept of production buildings brings up another interesting rule. The only crop that produces something by itself is corn. All of the other crops – indigo, coffee, tobacco, and sugar – require an associated production building in order to produce any goods. That means that you need to get the crop, build the production building, and populate both with one colonist before you will see any return on your investment.

As I said, the game seems simple at first and quickly becomes more complicated.

There are also several supplementary rules that need to be kept in mind, but those go beyond the scope of this review. Also, the description of each of the jobs is also beyond the scope. What I have currently written should give you a good approximation of how the game is played.

Play Experience
One of the things that you may have noticed in the previous section is that there is no dice rolling in this game. There is also very little random card drawing. The only random elements in this game are: who is the governor first; and which crops are currently available to plant. Everything else is determined by the jobs that people pick and what they decide to do on their action. This makes Puerto Rico a very popular game for the more strategy-minded people in our gaming group.

Adding to the popularity for this game is the fact that there are multiple routes to success. There is no one sure-fire way to win where everyone is trying the same strategy. Or if there is, we have not found it yet. In fact, one of the things that seems to work best is to do what no one else is doing. For example, if everyone is growing corn, it is not necessarily to your advantage to grow corn. There is a limit to how many goods can be produced at any time. This is determined by the number of tokens provided with the game. If you are the fifth player to produce corn, it might all be gone by the time it gets to you to claim your goods. Now, if you were producing something no one else was, you will find that you always have access to all of the goods available. This is a very powerful position to be in.

Because of these two elements, you need to pay close attention to what the other players are doing. If you can predict what jobs other people will pick when their turn comes around, you will be doing well. It also pays to consider where governor is. You will be surprised the number of times that knowing you will get to pick your job first NEXT turn is a key element to what you decide in THIS turn.

Picking jobs can sometimes be a tricky endeavor because there is a lot to consider. I often find myself considering what jobs other people will pick behind me, what I will gain out of this job now, what other people will benefit if I pick a certain job, etc. There are also numerous rules that you can use to your advantage, and this is particularly true with the trader or captain job. Both of these jobs have the potential to lock out other players so that you are the only one who can benefit, but you need to be paying attention for those opportunities to take advantage of them. If you get to pick a job and you are the only one who gets money or victory points, it means a lot in the game. Timing is the key.

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into this game, and that is part of the reason for both its popularity and large variance in play time. With respect to the game time, it can happen where a very analytical player spends what feels like an eternity picking which job to take. Other times, every player is on the ball and picks jobs almost immediately as soon as it is permitted to do so. I would say that the majority of our games, when played with experience players, fall around the 75 minute mark.

Notable Praise
The almost complete lack of random elements makes this game extremely fun. If you are completely out of the running for the game, most of the time you have no one to blame but yourself. You need to be able to come up with a strategy, and be flexible with it because one single strategy is not going to always work. This game is too dependent on what other players do to make a single strategy always effective.

Which leads nicely into point two: the game continues to be fun to play because you rarely can play it the exact same way. Sure, you may have your preferred strategy, but it is too easy for other players to interfere with it if they realize what you are attempting. This encourages agile thinking and adds to the replay value.

There is very little dead time in this game. The most time you will spend waiting and doing nothing is while another player is debating which job to pick. Most of the time, those decisions do not last a long time, so there is not a lot of time waiting for it to be your turn. This is nice and helps to keep all of the players around the table.

Notable Gripes
The game can take a while to explain and can be a lot to swallow for someone new to it. Trying to explain all of the rules and all of nuances at once can be a bit overwhelming and make it difficult to get a player going. A lot of players catch on after a turn or two, but by it can still be a while longer before they start to realize an effective way to play in terms of maximizing opportunities. A very frequent question is “What strategy should I use?” or “How should I play?” Neither of these is an easy question to answer, and I would argue neither one has a consistent answer. In my mind, this marks it as a good strategy game because of all of the nuances in it, but it does mean it can have a steep learning curve for new players, especially if they are new gamers.

The other gripe I would have deals more with my OCD than anything else. I have not found a good way to store the game with the plastic holder that it comes with. I just have not found a way to sort the pieces to my satisfaction that makes it quick and easy to set up the game. But, this is a very minor gripe and should not keep anyone from enjoying this game. It is just something that comes to mind every time I put the game away so I felt it warranted mentioning.

Summary
Puerto Rico is an excellent game, and one that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys any type of city-building game. There are very few random elements, and how the play goes is very dependent on other players. This gives the game a high replay value and also keeps all players engaged because there is very little downtime.

10
Go to the Space Hulk page

Space Hulk

86 out of 93 gamers thought this was helpful

First Thoughts
There are quite a few pieces, 80% of we did not use (we only played the first scenario, “Suicide mission”). The modular “board” is pretty thick, but still seems prone to warping especially with the larger rooms, and this is before it’s even been played once. There are a lot of little tokens (not as much as most FF games though!), which again we did not use as they are not used in the first scenario, but they appeared to be pretty standard thickness and durability.

As for the figures, I thought they’d be sturdier. They are a hard plastic (some flexability) and if I owned it…I would be worried the claws, fingers, and other small extension pieces would break off a little too easily. Aside from that, they looked nice and would be even more awesome if they were painted well (they weren’t painted).

Looking at the two booklets (rules and scnarios) I felt that it might take longer to figure out how to play than to actually play. This could easily be fixed in the rule book, but like most games the instructions are full of fluff and take a while to get to the point. The quick help on the back of the rule book attempts to do this, but there are still many things you have to flip back and forth through to find out.

After Thoughts
After two plays (one on each side), the game seemed like it had potential, especially once both players are comfortable in the rules and don’t have to reference anything (or very little) and can strategize a little better.

Marines
In the starter scenario the Marines have to move down some hallways to get to room and then the Marine with the Flamethrower has to “shoot”. Once that’s done the Marines win. The Marines can lose in 3 different ways: 1) The guy with the flamethrower dies, 2) There is no more ammo for the flamethrower, 3) The player using the Marines uses up more Command Points than they are allowed.

I’m not fond of the Command Point system (the Genestealer player keeps track of them), as it just adds an extra step to the game that I find unnecessary.

[Genestealers]
The Genestealers are the meat of the game, and this is completely biased as Aliens is my all time favorite movie. I’m pretty sure the movie was a huge influence on the game, which I’m totally OK with.

The Genestealers start out as “blips” and are fast (6 “action points”). While they’re in “blip” mode they don’t have to worry about turning so it makes things easier. Once the genestealers have surrounded the marines it’s quite enjoyable to send gene after gene at them and watch your opponent get all nervous.

The Genestealers also get an extra dice for attacking, so they definitely have the advantage in combat (close combat, they don’t do ranged).

Other Stuff
The player starts with 5 marines: 3 grunts, 1 commander, and the flamer. They die pretty easily so it can be a little frustrating when you can’t roll dice well (I can’t roll dice to save my life). Which makes the “combat” in the game a little “blah” and “meh” and “oh..I guess I’m dead”. The Genestealers can essentially continue to build up their forces and each one has more more action points than a marine, so this makes them more enjoyable to play (imo).

Space Hulk uses the system where you can only shoot in your front arc. Which normally would be OK, except that it’s hard to tell which way they’re facing since each model is unique and the direction of their feet isn’t necessarily the direction of their head. This combined with when you make everyone face the same direction (this goes for the Genestealers as well) makes the units overlap onto each other and does not look pretty.

Final Thoughts
One thing I liked about the game is that it can be short (to play) or long depending on the scenario, or you can build your own game and play to how you want to (think Heroscape). The models were nice, the game board appearing sturdy (despite warping).

Worse thing about the game is the combat. It’s lackluster at best. The guy with the powersword can’t even USE it to fight and give a bonus, it just allows him to “parry” >.>

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