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Atticus653

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Review 3 games and receive a total of 40 positive review ratings.
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Go to the King of Tokyo page
Go to the Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game page
Go to the Splendor page
Go to the Say Anything page
Go to the Mice and Mystics page
Go to the Pandemic page
9
Go to the Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game page
78 out of 86 gamers thought this was helpful

In terms of theme and immersive gameplay, Dead of Winter is second to none.

This can be attributed to the components of the game, including the grimy, snow-covered artwork and the high-quality components.

It can also be attributed to the Crossroads system, which adds a wonderful story-driven element to every turn. At the beginning of a player’s turn, the player next to them will draw a Crossroads card and, depending on the circumstances, will read a snippet of story that enhances the dire conditions they are faced with. These cards also offer a choice to the player, and whatever decision they make will often have an impact on the rest of the game.

In our last game, a Crossroads card was drawn for me that *SPOILER* gave me the option of saving a horse from certain death. If I chose to save the horse, we would have to feed it, sacrificing precious food. In return, the horse would give me the ability to more easily travel between locations. I could also choose to let the horse die, in which case I would harvest its body for meat, supplying our colony with extra food for that round.

These decisions, and the flavor they lend the gameplay, are part of what makes Dead of Winter such a fun and immersive game. The other major element, of course, is the possibility of a traitor lurking within the group of survivors. This has been one of the biggest selling points of the game, and it adds so much delicious tension to the experience. On top of that, each survivor has a secret objective that he or she must complete. These secret objectives can be as innocent as needing to have a certain number of cards in your hand by the end of the game, or they can involve much darker motivations.

Every game of Dead of Winter has been a different experience for our group, thanks to the Crossroads cards and the random secret objectives. Plus, there are so many fun survivors to take control of that each game feels fresh and compelling.

The one aspect that keeps Dead of Winter from being a ’10’ for me, and the one that others have been critical of as well, is the fact that a traitor can sometimes too easily affect the endgame. Some might argue that this is thematically ok, but it throws off the balance of the game a bit. Basically, a traitor can do nothing to give himself away until the very last turn, allowing himself to sabotage the game without the other players having enough time to recover. The saving grace is the simple fact that this game is so fun to play even when you lose.

7
Go to the Arboretum page

Arboretum

54 out of 61 gamers thought this was helpful

Arboretum is a gorgeous little card game where players take turns drawing cards and adding trees to their very own arboretum.

PROS:

– Beautiful, appealing artwork and high-quality cards. This game looks great on the table as players create their respective arboretums.

– Scales nicely depending on the number of players (although playing with three or four players provides more inherent tension during a session).

– Lots of hidden depth. On the surface, players are simply building paths of trees using cards of ascending value. It doesn’t take long before a pleasing “brain burn” sets in, however, as numerous options open up to the players. Do you discard a maple tree and risk letting an opponent pick it up on their next turn? Do you hold on to a lilac tree worth 7 points in order to use it at the end of the game to prevent an opponent from scoring their lilac path? What if that lilac card takes up room in your hand that you would rather use for building out your willow tree path? You need to play a card, but you want to save your cassia trees, so that means you have to waste this jacaranda card worth 6 points… You get the idea.

CONS:

– Scoring is unique and a bit fussy to learn.

– Can be too complex to use as a quick and dirty filler. I’ve seen eyes glaze over as I try to explain the endgame scoring methods.

– Requires a fair amount of room (building out your arboretums can take up a lot of table space with four players), so playing it on a plane or in the car on road trips is difficult/impossible.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Arboretum has some of the most beautiful artwork I’ve ever seen in a card game, and the cards themselves are a pleasure to hold. Once you get past the unique way to score, gameplay is a pleasingly crunchy mix of playing and discarding the right cards at the right time, along with holding onto cards that will come in handy only when the game ends. Just don’t expect this to be a light filler you can throw on the table between heavier games. It holds its own with surprisingly rich and satisfying gameplay.

10
Go to the King of Tokyo: Power Up! page
53 out of 59 gamers thought this was helpful

In my opinion, the value of an expansion comes down to one very important question: do I have more fun playing with the expansion than when I don’t? In the case of King of Tokyo, I think the base game is greatly improved by this Power Up! expansion, and the fun factor goes down when not playing with it.

The primary reason? The Evolution cards included in Power Up! add a level of unique variability to the monsters that is absent from the base game. In the base game, all monsters function in the exact same way. Yes, you may purchase cards that add different effects, but all monsters inherently play the same way, with no unique abilities or strengths. The expansion changes that, making playing each monster a different experience. Choosing a monster is no longer an arbitrary decision. Players in my group already have favorite monsters now based on powers they like using, and that was definitely missing from the base game.

Plus, Pandakai is a fun addition to the selection of monsters!

I’ve often seen the advice that, when teaching new players how to play, it’s better to start with the base game and add the expansion later when players are more comfortable with the gameplay. I’ve personally found, however, that new players can easily grasp the benefits of the Evolution cards and the expansion has greatly enhanced game sessions with new players. They love that their monsters have unique powers and it draws new players into the game.

I can’t fathom ever playing without Power Up!, and that’s the mark of a really great expansion.

10
Go to the Splendor page

Splendor

70 out of 77 gamers thought this was helpful

I’ve got about 20 sessions with Splendor under my belt now, and I feel like I can give a quick and proper review of this instant classic from Marc André.

The title of this review says it all: Splendor is simple to learn, with simple mechanics, but gameplay is surprisingly smooth and rich. Players take turns either choosing gem tokens or reserving and buying development cards which give bonuses and victory points. Each development card requires a certain combination of gem tokens to purchase, and players are drawing from the same limited pool of tokens, thereby creating a fun and challenging balancing act. A successful player will need to monitor not only the remaining supply of tokens, but also his or her opponent’s strategy. A typical train of thought during a turn might go like this:

“I’ve got my eye on that expensive development card up there that would give me 4 victory points and a diamond bonus, but I need two more ruby tokens to buy it and there is only one ruby token in the pool right now. Maybe I should buy this other card down here in the meantime, which would give me an onyx bonus, which would then make it easier to buy that third card that has the ruby bonus, allowing me to finally buy that first card with the 4 victory points I was looking at without even needing another ruby token. But I know Casey is looking at that same card, so maybe I should just reserve the card now, which would also give me a gold token which I can use as a substitute for the ruby token that I don’t have. But, oh man, that onyx bonus would be nice too, because I only need two more onyx bonuses for that noble to come visit me, so I dunno…what should I do…”

On paper, that all probably sounds fussy and a bit confusing, but during actual gameplay, there’s a delightful range of choices open to the players at any given time that is consistently engaging, and with only two basic components (cards and tokens), it’s a game that can be taught and learned in minutes.

Component quality is high, with heavy tokens that feel great in your hand. The box is too big, however, with a lot of wasted space for storing the components; the publisher could have shrunk the box by 30%!

Overall, Splendor is one of those games that I’ll keep coming back to throughout the years, thanks to the simple yet engaging mechanics. It’s a quiet game, where players get lost in thought as they figure out their ever-changing strategies, and games like that never go out of style.

8
Go to the Cranium page

Cranium

42 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

I know Cranium gets a lot of flack from the elite circles of gaming, but I’ve always had a fun and enjoyable time when playing with a group of willing participants.

The key word there is “willing”, because if anyone in the group is shy or reluctant to join in on the fun, it can drag the game down (as with any party game, I’m sure). My father-in-law, for example, is not artistic and doesn’t keep up on pop culture, so whenever we play Cranium, he sits it out.

The game itself is a wonderful combination of Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Charades, and other game types that really add diversity to the playthrough. Some teams tend to focus more on answering trivia, and others like to model the clay or perform in order to move along the track.

Games do tend to run a bit long, and my group generally tends to run out of steam by the end, but the majority of the game is a raucous good time.

9
Go to the King of Tokyo page

King of Tokyo

54 out of 63 gamers thought this was helpful

This was the first game I bought after getting back into tabletop games this year, and it was a perfect icebreaker for me and my family. Simple mechanics with just enough decisions to make, it has been the ideal game to play with my wife and nephew who aren’t as keen on deep strategy or lengthy playtimes.

This is also a perfect game for anyone who loves chucking dice, with the dice controlling attacking, healing, and collecting energy cubes (which come in very handy). Players can also use the dice to decide to take Victory Points (VP), and it’s this decision-making that enables players of all ages and skills to choose their path to winning. Do I focus on attacking and collecting energy cubes so I can buy power cards? Or do I make a straight run at hitting 20 VP’s first?

This game is rich in theme and the artwork is colorful and fun. The components are very nice, although the box didn’t seem to easily accommodate all the components, especially after purchasing the Power Up expansion (which, incidentally, comes with my wife’s favorite character, Pandakai). I bought a wooden organizer from the fine folks at The Broken Token that fits the box perfectly and accomadates all the components.

Ultimately, this is a light, fun and attractive game and we’ll probably be playing this frequently throughout the year.

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