Player Avatar
I play blue
Football Fan
USA
Advanced Reviewer

coltsfan76

gamer level 9
88391 xp
followers
154

Use my invite URL to register (this will give me kudos)
http://boardgaming.com/register/?invited_by=coltsfan76
profile badges
Guardian Angel
Stone of the Sun
The Gold Heart
Marquis / Marchioness
recent achievements
Professional Advisor
Professional Advisor
Submit 25 game tips, strategies, or house rules and receive a total of 1200 positive ratings.
Senior
Senior
Earn Professor XP to level up by completing Professor Quests!

Guardian Angel
Guardian Angel
Give 2500 hearts (loyalty points) to a single game
Go to the Memoir '44 page
Go to the Sentinels of the Multiverse page
Go to the Android: Netrunner page
Go to the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game Starter Set page
Go to the Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game page
Go to the Carcassonne page
Go to the Dominion page
Go to the The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game page
8
Go to the Love Letter page

Love Letter

94 out of 101 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
The princess has secluded herself in grief. Suitors attempt to woe her with love letters. Those closest to the princess will attempt to pass along these letters.

In this quick game from Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), 2-4 players take on the role of the potential suitors. They play the royal courtesan cards by bluffing, deducing, and gambling their way into the princess’ favor. Play lasts over several rounds until one player finally breaks the princess free from her emotional prison.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
The game includes a deck of 20 cards (including 4 reference cards), 13 wooden cubes, a very small rule booklet, and a nice velvet drawstring bag to store it in. Unfortunately, the cards are a bit thin with reports of a bad batch that are delaminating or otherwise getting marked up. Be sure to sleeve these right away or contact AEG for a replacement deck.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
Game play is very simple. The deck is shuffled with the top card set aside unseen (a total of 4 cards are set aside in the 2-player game). Each player is dealt one of the remaining cards, which they keep hidden from the others. On their turn, a player draws a 2nd card and then must play one of their 2 cards in front of them while resolving the effect. Play passes to the left until only one player remains or the deck of cards is exhausted. The winner of each round takes a token of appreciation. Rounds are played until one person collects enough tokens to win (7 in a 2-player, 5 in 3-player, or 4 in a 4-player).

The intrigue comes from the effects of the cards. The goal is to eliminate the other players or at least hang on until the cards run out. Cards are numbered 1-8 with 8 being the most “powerful” Princess. The lowly Guard, at value 1, has 5 copies. But she has one of the most powerful effects being able to knock out any player, as long as she can guess the card that a single player is holding. You try to take an educated guess based on what cards have been played (discards are always visible), how players have previously played, or by using the power of other cards in previous rounds, such as the Priest (a ‘2’) who can look at any player’s card.

The higher valued cards usually don’t do as much in their effect. The Princess knocks you out of the round if you are ever forced to discard her. The Countess at ‘7’ is the second highest (as the princess’ best friend) but the only effect is she must be discarded if she “sees” the King or one of two Princes. She is forced out in the open if you hold either the ‘6’ or ‘5’ respectively.

The reason you want to hang on to the high cards is that if more than one player remains once the deck is depleted, the person with the highest card wins that round, being closest to the Princess. The Baron, at value 3, can also be played to compare two players straight up, with the lowest getting eliminated. So here the Princess-Baron combo can knock out any player.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
This is a delightful little game as intriguing as it is simple. Rounds are quick and the overall game is very fast as well. There is the right mix of bluffing while logically trying to figure out what others might have. A decent balance of rock-paper-scissor is here as well: high cards are great to have but do a little less for you during the game while low cards are more effective but can get knocked out easier.

The art is wonderful and the theme seems deep enough for such a light game. It is highly portable in its little pouch. It is quick to teach and quicker to play. This is something that works as a nice filler, an early starter to get people thinking, or a decent night cap to close out the night. The price is right to make this a must have in any collection.

As mentioned, the only negative is to get these cards sleeved. Any mark on the back of such a small deck will definitely ruin the experience.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
This game reminded me of a lighter, faster Citadels. The art is similar with its medieval theme. The cards are of course numbered and have varying abilities. What you don’t have is the main goal of collecting gold to build buildings and the potentially drawn out end game. But for those looking for a little more depth, Citadels seems the next logical step.

In addition, AEG is pushing this Tempest setting. The games share nothing more than the characters, I believe. But the short little back story and character development they set up here makes me want to take a look at what else they are putting in this universe. The other games are Courtier, Dominare, and Mercante.

9
Go to the Flash Point: Fire Rescue page

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

232 out of 257 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a cooperative board game for 2-6 players. Players answer the 911 call to battle a raging fire together. The goal is to rescue 7 trapped citizens before the building collapses or too many victims are lost to the flames.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
The game comes with a double sided board representing two different scenarios. There are 6 wooden player pawns (though newer editions come with plastic figures). There are cardboard counters representing Fire/Smoke, Victims and False Alarms, doors, hot spots, and various other tokens. There are also larger tokens representing the Fire Engine and Ambulance. Wooden cubes represent the structural damage. Two dice are include, one d6 and one d8, for locating threats. A deck of cards is split between player aids, identification cards, and 8 Specialist cards.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
Following the winning structure in co-op games, each player does their moves, advances the fire against themselves, and then replenishes the “Points of Interest” (POI) markers aka Victims. Play continues around the table until the win condition is met or one of the fail conditions is triggered.

On a player’s turn, they have 4 actions they can complete. They can do as many of the actions in any order that they choose. They can move orthogonally for 1 Action Point (AP). If they are carrying a Victim, it costs them a total of 2 AP. Also, if they are moving through fire, it also costs 2 AP (a Victim cannot be carried through fire). They can also open or close a door for 1 AP. If they need to make their own path, they can chop through a wall for 2 AP but this places a damage token on the wall. Two damage tokens make an opening but you are spending a lot of AP and risk hastening the collapse.

Fighting the fire is the other set of Actions you will consider. There are two threats: Smoke and Fire. Extinguishing smoke costs 1 AP while turning Fire back into Smoke also costs 1 AP. So for 2 AP you can clear a space of Fire completely. Since Smoke can easily reignite, you’ll want to completely extinguish as much as possible before moving on. You can also fire the deck gun for 4 AP potentially washing out 5 spaces. You can drive the vehicles into position for 2 AP per location.

Each player starts the game as a Specialist that allows them to break the rules in some way. Some lose AP (starting with only 3 instead of 4) but have AP they can spend on specific things – such as moving or fighting fire. The Generalist has no special ability but gets a 5th AP per turn. Players can head to the engine to switch roles for 2 AP. Some of the crew has additional actions that they can take for variable AP costs.

There are a couple free actions. These include flipping over a POI to see if it is an actual Victim or a False Alarm when you are on the same space as that marker. You can also ride in the vehicles for free (as long as the AP is pent to move them). In addition, any unspent AP can be saved for the next round up to a maximum of 4 saved.

After a player completes his Actions, the Fire Advances. Both dice are rolled to determine where new Smoke will be placed. If Smoke is already there, it will be flipped to its Fire side. If Fire is already there, an explosion sends new Fire out in the 4 directions. If an explosion occurs and the travel of the Fire is blocked by a closed door, the door is removed from the game; if blocked by a wall, a damage cube is added. Open doors and walls with 2 damage cubes are open and will allow Fire to travel. Now any Smoke that is adjacent to Fire will itself turn into Fire.

In the advanced game, there is the potential for HazMat tokens to cause another explosion, spreading the fire even further. After that, Hot Spots are resolved. These are super hot locations that will cause you to roll again in addition to the original Advance Fire step. These are triggered when the original roll places you in a space with a Hot Spot. Hitting a Hot Spot will require that a new Hot Spot token be placed at the end of the turn, ratcheting up the difficulty that much more.

While all of this is going on, any fire fighter that finds himself on a space that is now on Fire gets Knocked Down and placed on the Ambulance. Any POI is immediately removed from the game when Fire hits them. False Alarms are simply removed while Victims lost in this way count towards the lose condition.

After this, the board must have 3 POIs. So any Victims that were rescued during the turn or any POIs lost to Fire are replaced. The dice are again rolled to determine the placement of these POIs. If there space has a threat, the little arrows on the board are followed to find a clear space to place them. This will draw them closer to the middle of the board in most cases. In the family game, simply continue to re-roll until a clear space is found.

The crew must save 7 Victims to win. Since there are only 10 real Victims out of 15 potential POIs, losing 4 Victims is an automatic loss. If the supply of 24 damage cubes runs out, the game is also a loss for the firefighters.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
As with most little boys, I always wanted to be a fireman when I grew up but my career path led me away from that. This game gives me the chance to try it out without actually getting burned. And while it doesn’t come with actual heat, you can feel the pressure of working against the clock, getting everyone out before the building collapses. You feel the agony when you just fought through a fire to get to a potential victim and it turns out to be a false alarm. Or worse yet, a cat! Frustration sets in when a room you just cleared flares up again.

Kevin Lanzing seems to have captured the right elements in this design. Going to the Engine to change equipment, based on what the fire needs, is a good mechanic. While the random placement of fire may not be accurate, the way it travels and how it can explode seem a very good abstraction of the real thing. The specialized roles depict what those actual roles can do.

As a game, it scales well. Given the random nature of the fire and starting location of the victims, the replay value is here. Each of the building boards has a different approach. The added difficulty levels correlate well with the chances of success. It is easy to explain and has always been well received, with most players wanting to play again immediately. There is an introductory level that is good for families and non-gamers. But after one play of that, it is best to move along to the “advanced” game.

Really, there isn’t much to complain about in this game. The only negatives I can come up with are a slight reach. They could have included 2 more player aids since it plays up to 6. Also, I am not sure what type of ink Indie Boards & Cards uses but some of my cardboard pieces are smudged after only a few plays. I have noticed this in some of their other games too, particularly Avalon.

I always enjoy a game of this whether we win or lose. It covers a theme that is lacking in my collection but sorely needed. This is one of those games that I will continue to play and support for as long as they make new expansions.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
This game lends itself well to expansions, and they have delivered. There are two expansions currently available with both offering new double-sided maps. Urban Structures offers high rises including an apartment building and a downtown office building with elevators. It also includes a new specialist that can repair structural damage and remove hot spots. 2nd Story splits the two buildings in half and gives you 2 floors on top of each other. No new specialist comes with it, but it does include more tokens to reflect the “ladder” and “window” rules. It also includes some useful tracking tokens that would have been nice in the base game.

This is on par with Pandemic in terms of “complexity” and that would be a decent next step. While not yet released, the upcoming Police Precinct by Common Man Games will probably have a similar feel as well. Though different designers, you are moving from the fire department to the police department. It even features the same artist so the graphic presentation will be familiar.

* Title ripped from my favorite of the Coed Naked … series of T-shirts: Coed Naked Firefighting!

8
Go to the Sentinels of the Multiverse page

Sentinels of the Multiverse

204 out of 216 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
Sentinels of the Multiverse (SotM) is a cooperative card game for 3 to 5 players. Each player takes on the role of a unique hero and must defeat a super villain and his particular minions. It is a fight to the death from Jurassic jungles to bases in outer space.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
As with any solid card game, there are over 500 cards in the box. This is broken down into 10 hero decks of 40 cards plus 1 character card; 4 villain decks of 25 cards plus 2 character cards; and 4 environment decks of 15 cards each.

There are round hit point (HP) tokens along with rectangular tracking tokens to keep all the game changing effects straight. The box has plenty of space to hold two expansions and various promotional material. To help keep everything organized, dividers are given for each deck.

The enhanced edition of the game is the current edition that is available. The original version lacked tokens, card dividers and the larger box to store everything. The rules were also updated with more clarifications in the enhanced edition though some important rules were inadvertently left out.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
As with most cooperative games, each player gets a turn and then the game plays against everyone making life difficult. SotM accomplished this by allowing the Villain to go first, followed by each player in a fixed order, and then capped off by the Environment deck also mixing in some chaos. For each of these turns, the order of play is typically resolve any on going “start of turn” effects, play a card (from the top of the deck for Villains and Environments; from the hand for Heroes), then resolve any on going “end of turn” effects. Heroes get two more steps by using a “power” and drawing a card to their hand.

Cards that are played are either “one-shot” events that do something and are discarded or “on-going” cards that remain in play such as equipment, relics, minions, etc. Any card with an HP value can be a target. Most of the cards result in someone taking damage, which is tracked by the tokens (or any other preferred means). Damage is usually not blocked unless a card can prevent or reduce it so it becomes a matter of whichever side staying alive the longest wins. Heroes have around 30 HP, while most Villains are upwards of 80 HP. Minions and other incidental targets are usually under 10 HP and more typically only a few HP total.

Most of the Hero cards that remain In play, including their starting character card, grant some Power: an ability that can be used once per round. This is typically the main way that they can attack the Villain or his forces. But other Powers include drawing more cards, healing others, and even granting more Powers during the turn.

Villains all have a “flip side” which is triggered at a certain point, changing the way they behave. Some flip back and forth endlessly, such as Omnitron, while others are a one-time flip. Their effects can be very damaging especially depending on the team fighting against them. A hero, like Wraith, that is dependent on equipment will find equipment-destroying Villains particularly difficult. Each Villain is (or will be as some are still unseen) paired against a Hero as arch-nemesis doing an extra point of damage each time they battle.

The Environment deck affects everyone about the same and the Villain can find himself the target almost as much as the Heroes. The main benefit of the Environments is another multiplier in the vast number of ways to replay the game.

The game is over when one side or the other is defeated (HP reduced to zero). While a player’s hero can be eliminated, his hero’s character card is simply flipped over and grants the surviving members of the team 1 of 3 actions. This is thematic represented as the standing heroes fighting harder in memory of their fallen brethren.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
Setting the game play aside for a moment, I am absolutely in love with the universe that this Christopher Badell and the design team created. At first, I was put off by the idea of generic super heroes. But the depth of backstory they have given has the edge of Image Comics and the richness of the Marvel or DC universes. Legacy is the archetypical leader embodying the strength of Superman, the patriotism of Captain America, and the family history of Green Lantern. The previously mentioned Wraith is the female version of the Dark Knight: the rich socialite with the array of wonderful toys. Each card has a quote from an “issue” the character appeared in developing the ongoing story. Art previews future Heroes and Villains giving that “aha” moment when new material is released. The art is just tremendous, especially given that it is all done by one artist, Adam Rebottaro. I find myself immersed in the game before I even start to play it.

The game itself is strong. With the enhanced edition, they introduced the “H-factor” – a means to more easily balance the game. And given this sliding scale, it is easy to accommodate players outside the recommended 3-5 with very minor tweaks. On top of that, Villains are given difficulty ratings so beginners can start with the easier bad guys and work their way up. They even rate the Heroes on levels of complexity so new players can take the straightforward characters. As with most co-ops, this can be played solo though a player will want to control a team of at least 3 Heroes. And given the structure of the game turns, this is very manageable.

The replayability is tremendous. Using 1 out of 4 of both the Environments and Villains and typically 4 out of 10 Heroes makes more quite a few possibilities. Each of the decks play so differently that it goes beyond “more of the same” with just a different theme. Tachyon, the speedster, plays off her discard pile giving her more strength as the game goes on. Absolute Zero tries to damage himself to channel a burst of energy against the Villain. Even the Villains play so differently from one another that each game truly feels unique.

The only negative of this game is some of the production. When the first expansion came out, the cards were wider than the original and a more sturdy thickness. With the enhanced edition, they went back to the original size and switched to the heftier cards. But they made a mistake by now making the cards too long. The good thing is that since each deck is independent, it really doesn’t matter. But for an otherwise excellent offering, this is a disappointment none the less.

Overall, this is one of the freshest games I have played in a long time. Not only is the game play rewarding itself, the universe runs through my head frequently between sessions. I look forward to playing this one many years down the road.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
As hinted at by the title, this is a multiverse with many more places to explore and an endless cast of characters. Two expansions have already been published: Rook City and Infernal Relics each introducing 2 new Heroes, 2 new Environments, and 4 new Villains. At the time of this review, a successful Kickstarter campaign just funded 2 more expansions: Shattered Timelines following the same pattern of new material, and Vengeance introducing some Villains as playable characters in team play.

Of course, what would a comic book be without promos and alternate realities? There are a handful of promotional Heroes, Villains, and soon to be Environments available through Greater Than Games website. There are also many alternate Hero and Villain cards to further change up the way you attack any given set up.

As far as other cooperative card games that have a similar feel, I find Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game is the closest. Both have the fantasy setting allowing players to contribute different ways to win. Both games are driven by a villainous deck working against you. Each have their own form of environments creating a good deal of replayability. The major difference besides theme is LotR:LCG requires building a deck before play while SotM is fixed deck.

8
Go to the Forbidden Island page

Forbidden Island

214 out of 225 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
Forbidden Island is a cooperative game for 2-4 adventurers attempting to capture four treasures. The island is sinking so you must work together quickly. Once collected, your team must escape the island before it is too late!

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
The components are of good quality and very colorful. Player are represented by wooden pawns while the treasures are molded plastic pieces. The board is modular and made up of 24 square tiles. A deck of cards is divided up into Treasure cards (collected to find the treasures), Flood cards (used to see which spaces are in danger), and Adventurer cards (describing each players special ability). There is also a Water level meter keeping track of the overall danger to the island (another game losing trigger) that can be set at variable difficulties. All of this comes in a nice tin box with a decent insert to organize everything.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
Each player takes a simple turn consisting of up to 3 Actions, drawing 2 Treasure cards, and then resolving the Flood. A player can take as many of the allotted Actions during his turn. Those Actions are to move one space orthogonally, shore up a tile (flip it from its flooded to normal side), pass a Treasure card to another player on the same tile, or turn in 4 matching Treasure cards on 1 of the 2 matching Treasure tiles to gain that Treasure. During the Action phase, each player represents a specific character that can break a rule in some way, such as the Explorer who can also move diagonally or the Messenger who can give a Treasure card to another player regardless where they are on the island.

After that, a player draws 2 Treasure cards and discards down to 5 cards The goal is to collect a set of 4 in order to claim that Treasure. As this is a cooperative game, you also want to keep cards that could help the other players get to a set of 4 quickly. Cards that match Treasures already collected can be easily discarded as they have no other game effect. There are a few special cards in this deck along with the “Waters Rise!” card (explained below).

At the end of the player turn, he draws a number of Flood cards equal to the current water level. This deck of cards matches each tile of the island. When that tile is drawn, it is flipped to its flooded side. In order to save this tile, it needs to be shored up (one of the player Actions). If a tile is drawn while flooded, it is permanently washed away by removing it from the board. If both tiles associated with any Treasure are washed away before that Treasure is collected, the game ends in defeat. The number of cards drawn are between 2-5 depending on the current water level.

The main antagonist is the “Waters Rise!” mechanic. When one of these cards are drawn during the Draw Treasure Cards phase, a couple of things happen. First the water level goes up, potentially forcing more cards to be drawn during the Draw Flood Cards phase. Second, all of the discarded Flood cards are reshuffled and placed on top of the deck. This ensures that the same tiles that have already flooded will be more likely to flood again, getting washed away.

The game ends when all 4 Treasures have been collected and all players managed to fly off the island. While there is only one way to win, there are several ways to lose. This includes losing the Treasure tiles before treasures are collected, losing the helicopter tile, losing any player to the sea, and letting the water level get too high.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
This game is Pandemic-lite, Matt Leacock’s second foray into the cooperative scene. The same basic mechanics are present but the game play has been streamlined and given a more family-friendly theme. The game is also considerably shorter.

While I eventually was turned off of Pandemic’s extreme luck of the draw (being able to lose on the first round and little correlation between difficulty and success), I find Forbidden Island hits the spot. The luck is still present but given the playing time, it feels less disappointing when it stacks against you.

What I like is that it is fast to setup, fast to teach, and fast to play. You don’t have to juggle as much worrying about the slightly more involved “outbreak” conditions in the first game. The water level creates the same sort of tension, without the fear of a really hot spot that you need to focus all efforts on. The board is smaller and movement is much more simple to grasp for new players.

To put it simply, it takes everything I liked about Pandemic, cut all the things I didn’t like, and made a tense and rewarding game experience in a very short time.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
As already mentioned, Pandemic was the forerunner to this game and good next step for someone wanting more complexity with this game platform.

9
Go to the Dominion: Cornucopia page
24 out of 26 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Expansion
The fifth Dominion expansion, Cornucopia reaps a bounty of cards. The focus of this set is to have a wide variety of cards. A new card type is also introduced: the Prize card.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
Alternating back to the smaller expansion box, 150 cards are included, offering only 13 Kingdom cards but no new Supply cards. As a dependent expansion, it will need the basic cards (Victory, Coins, Curses, and Trash) of a base set.

What Does it Add? – Impacts to the Base Game
The main theme is to get as many different cards as you can. Up to this point, efficient decks consisted of only a couple of different cards and only focusing on enough copies of those cards to make your engine run. With Cornucopia, you are rewarded for variety: extra VPs at the end of the game, drawing more cards, and earning more Coins for Buys.

The new card type is Prizes and is linked to the specific Kingdom card Tournament. This is a set of 5 unique cards that are not a part of the Supply. They cost 0-Coin for cards that care about cost but cannot be purchased or gained in any way except through successfully “jousting.” Prizes are added to the top of your deck when gained and have a second card type so they can be played as Actions, Treasure, or Attack cards, as listed on each.

As always, the set is balanced out with a few new Attack cards, and one each of a Reaction, Treasure, and Victory cards. Revealing and discarding play a role in this set. As with Prosperity, there is a cycling of the cards, offsetting some of the inefficiency of the bloated deck.

What Is the Target Audience? – Who Should Get This
This is a set designed specifically for those that like to sample all that the Kingdom has to offer. These players like to look at how much Coin they generated and buy something unique in their cost range, not necessarily having a long-term engine planned out.

Those that like lean decks won’t be impressed with the overall set though may find certain cards suit their tastes. Those that really like the big money strategy will most likely pass up most of the cards here.

As with Prosperity, I would caution including it in games with new players. While nothing is terribly difficult to grasp in this set, it may reinforce loose discipline in deck-building and set them up for big losses in non-Cornucopia games.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
I really enjoy this set and would almost call it a “must buy” expansion. My only hesitation is that it can be contrary to a lot of people’s play style in that you get your most mileage by traveling far and wide with the cards you pick up.

I really enjoy specific cards from this set, my favorite being Hunting Party which allows you to draw two cards, one of which will be unique to your hand. This can be a great way to cycle through your deck when you have an Estate or Copper in hand already.

Young Witch, while not a terribly interesting card on its own, impacts the game in a subtle way. It adds a cheap (2- or 3-Coin cost) Kingdom card to the mix bringing the total number of sets to 11 (instead of 10). This can impact cards that are looking for more Victory cards, for example, increasing the chances those will be in play. It also gets a cheap card on the table for the early game.

I absolutely adore the Prize concept and train hard to get as many prizes as I can, usually at the cost of the victory! These cards are only in play with Tournament. You must have that card in play and a Province in hand to gain one Prize. If no other player can “joust” with you (by revealing a Province in their hand), you’ll be able to draw and play this card this turn as well. It really is an interesting mechanic that breaks from the long established play in Dominion.

The disadvantage with the smaller boxes is that they must be mixed with other sets. Having only 13 Kingdom cards, in all-Cornucopia games (something I play on my Android), the variety is a bit limiting. But this set seems to mix well with Prosperity and should be considered as a joint purchase.

In the greater hierarchy, I would place this fourth of all expansions (Just ahead of Intrigue and just behind Seaside). I am that player that enjoys sampling all the Kingdom cards and trying to find new combos as opposed to making super-efficient decks. Given that the expansion is so small, it drops behind most of the larger expansions.

What Else? – Other Expansion Reviews
Dominion (base game)
Intrigue
Seaside
Alchemy
Prosperity

10
Go to the Dominion: Prosperity page
74 out of 81 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Expansion
The fourth Dominion expansion, Prosperity invests in a wide portfolio of Treasure cards. The twist here is that the Treasure cards actually do something when in play, besides just giving Coin.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
Returning to the larger expansion box, 300 cards are included, making up the typical 25 unique Kingdom cards but also adding new basic cards: Platinum and Colony, 12 of each. As a dependent expansion, it will need the basic cards (Victory, Coins, Curses, and Trash) of a base set.

Similar to Seaside, this expansion includes cardboard play mats to help organize the collection of metal coins and the newly introduced metal victory tokens. These tokens are VPs that you collect without bogging down your deck. They are in denominations of 1 and 5 VP.

What Does it Add? – Impacts to the Base Game
The focus is on Treasures with nearly 1/3 of the sets devoted to this card type. A handful of the Actions cards also support the use of the Treasures or generate more Coin. The sub-theme is gaining more Victory Points, but not through adding cards to your deck. So your score goes up without sacrificing efficiency.

With most of the Treasures now doing something, the game adds another level. Instead of simply counting money, certain things can be done, such as – gaining extra cards, getting them for a discount, putting the gained cards on top of your deck, revealing more treasure from your deck, etc. The basic effect is either a “cheap Gold” that is less than 6-Coin to buy but still generates 3-Coin with some penalty. Or an “expensive Copper / Silver” that costs more than 0- or 3-Coin to buy, but generates the standard 1- or 2-Coin now with an added bonus.

Two new basic cards are added, incrementally upping the ante on both Treasures and Victory cards. There is a 9-Coin Platinum that generates 5 Coin and an 11-Coin Colony that gains 10 VP at game end. They are added to the game randomly when Prosperity cards are used. The only change is that depleting the Colony deck will end the game in addition to Provinces running out.

The balance of the cards is the standard mix of Action cards, a few new Attack cards, and a new Reaction card. Trashing and discarding play a minor role in this set. Revealing cards from your deck is also strongly present. Since these cards are looking for specific things, there is a greater cycling of the cards, making bloated decks less ineffective.

What Is the Target Audience? – Who Should Get This
For those who like to buy and buy often, this is their expansion. This gives “Big Money” a new meaning as Coin generated per turn can be upwards of 20 or 30 coins. This is also an expansion for those who hate the dreaded “Dominion 7” – those times you end up with 7 Coin in a turn and can’t afford a Province, but don’t want to “waste” the purchase on another Gold – there are four 7-Coin cards just begging to be purchased!

While this is a must buy for any Dominion player, it is advisable to not include it in games with brand new players. They may walk away with the wrong impression that money is plentiful and be let down with “normal” games that don’t include a Prosperity mix, especially with Colonies and Platinum missing.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
This is my favorite expansion as it tends to make everything more epic. Things cost more but much more Coin is produced. King’s Court is a beefed up Throne Room. Gold and Provinces can be upgraded to even more useful cards. No longer is the “Dominion 7” an unfortunate thing.

Venture and Vault are fun ways to get more money on the table. Counting House makes Copper-heavy decks even more attractive as it pulls all of your discard Coppers back into play once more. If you have a Counting House coming up, spend extra buys stocking your discard pile with pennies. Quarry and Talisman pair nicely with each other. The former discounts all Action cards by 2-Coin while the latter lets you get a 2nd copy of a purchased Action or Treasure if it costs 4-Coin or less. So quarry the costs down and get an extra copy of an expensive Action card. City is an expensive Village at 5-coin for the same basic +1 Card and +2 Actions. But it grows into an additional +1 Card once a Kingdom set is empty and then a +1 Coin and +1 Buy when a 2nd set is emptied. At that point it is a more-powerful version of Market for the same price.

In the greater hierarchy, I would obviously place this first of all expansions (ahead of Hinterlands). More than any other expansion, this set really opens up the field. There is more money, more buys, more cards and a lot more fun. Even when I am losing, I am just happy to see all the Coins getting played to the table. It is very satisfying to buy 2 or 3 Colonies in one turn; it is even more satisfying to do that with all Coppers!

For those familiar with the game but not owning it yet, I would even consider just getting this expansion and the Base Cards set that turns any expansion into a stand alone game.

What Else? – Other Expansion Reviews
Dominion (base game)
Intrigue
Seaside
Alchemy
Cornucopia

8
Go to the Dominion: Alchemy page

Dominion: Alchemy

43 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Expansion
The third Dominion expansion, Alchemy conjures up a more mystical aura to your expanding kingdom. This set introduces a new Treasure type, the Potion, that is a secondary cost for the cards and is added to the basic set-up.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
As the smallest set, only 150 cards are included, making up only 12 unique Kingdom cards and 16 Potions. As a dependent expansion, it will need the basic cards (Victory, Coins, Curses, and Trash) of a base set. This is the first of the expansions to be in a smaller box.

What Does it Add? – Impacts to the Base Game
In one of the more dramatic changes to the core mechanics, Potions add a new cost structure. Ten of the 12 new Kingdom sets include a Potion cost, along with the standard Coin cost. In order to buy these cards, a Potion must be played alongside the standard coin Treasure cards. Since the starting decks are not altered, a Potion must be gained before any cards with a Potion in the cost can be purchased. And a card with a Potion cannot be the target of an Remodel or an Upgrade unless the Trashed card also has a Potion in its cost. Likewise, a Feast will not bring any card with a Potion into your deck, even if the card is well under a 5-Coin cost.

The balance of the cards are the standard mix of a couple new Attack cards, a new Victory card, and another Treasure card (this one giving Coins). A sub-theme of the expansion is revealing cards and looking for Action cards. Golem allows you to reveal the first 2 Action cards from your deck and play them in any order. Vineyard, similar to Gardens, awards VPs for the number of Action cards in your deck at the end of the game.

What Is the Target Audience? – Who Should Get This
This expansion is for those wanting a little more magic in their basic game; for those that want to change up the game with even more complexity, exploring cards that are a little more involved. Completists will of course want it in their collection, though may consider it as a lower priority over other expansions.

The casual gamer might want to avoid this given the added layer of needing Potions in the Treasure mix. It also makes a random mix a little more complex during set up, looking for a decent ratio of Potion to non-Potion costed cards.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
On the one hand, I enjoy some of the cards more than other expansions. Philosopher’s Stone is an amazing coin generator, especially as your deck gets clogged with Victory cards. But on the other hand, the practicality of counting your discard and deck becomes cumbersome. Possession is one of the most interactive cards literally allowing you to control your opponent. But given the method it is implemented, makes it one of the most complicated cards.

The Potion price of the cards makes it difficult to mix in with many expansions. Purchasing these cards can slow you down and get a bit gimmicky. Certain combinations seem to gum up the works and make a simple “Big Money” strategy more effective at being a dominant strategy. This set also lacks many +Buy cards. Only Herbalist and (by extension of an extra turn) Possession give the ability to get a second buy, which leaves a lot of cards on the table turn after turn.

In the greater hierarchy, I would place this last of all expansions (behind Intrigue). This set contains some very unique cards, that I really enjoy. Unfortunately, the drawback is that it just doesn’t play nicely in the overall system. Mix too few Alchemy cards and the Potion becomes a relatively expensive card. Mix too many and the card interactions may not work. For example, in a mostly Alchemy mix, the University is only ever able to pick up the Apprentice (or overpay for Herbalist). But in an expensive setup, it can bring in a lot of high-powered cards that cost only Coins. It was an interesting idea that I want to work but falls short.

What Else? – Other Expansion Reviews
Dominion (base game)
Intrigue
Seaside
Prosperity
Cornucopia

10
Go to the Dominion: Seaside page

Dominion: Seaside

83 out of 90 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Expansion
The first of the dependent expansions, Seaside heads to the dockyards painting a picture of exploration and hijinks on the high seas. This set introduces a new card type: the Duration card. It also has a healthy dose of Attack cards. Seaside also delivers new components: metal tokens and card board mats as the game takes a step up in complexity.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
With only 300 cards, this set manages to add 26 new Kingdom cards that can be played amongst themselves or mixed with the base game or Intrigue. As a dependent expansion, it will need the basic cards (Victory, Treasures, Curses, and Trash) of either of the previous releases. Breaking from cards only, the game also includes metal coin markers and metal embargo tokens. In addition, it has 3 different player mats linked to three different kingdom cards. There are enough mats for up to 6 players (as introduced in Intrigue).

What Does it Add? – Impacts to the Base Game
Though it has less overall cards, this expansion adds more Kingdom cards than any other expansion (with the exception of Hinterlands and Dark Ages). The new gimmick is cards that last more than one turn. A Duration card, offset by its orange border, allows you to plan an Action as normal, but the card will remain in play for one additional turn, again offering some form of its Action before being cleaned-up.

The game also tracks more information and so includes nice metal tokens. With Embargo, you can now mark a deck and pass out a Curse card when any player buys a card from that deck. Once again, we see the non-Attack interactive card that slows down your opponents without being blocked. Pirate Ship is a new attack card that tracks how many times you have trashed your opponents’ coins during the turn and uses this as a Coin generator for future buys.

This is tracked on the new cardboard mat, along with mats that pull cards out of play either temporarily (Native Village) or permanently (Island). This helps trim down your deck while still giving you any VPs that might be on the set aside cards.

What Is the Target Audience? – Who Should Get This
Seaside targets those that again want the next step in complexity in Dominion cards. For those wanting something to linger after their clean-up phase, this is the set for you. It adds more Kingdom cards than either base set and is the first to offer non-card components.

The only draw back is that MSRP is in line with all the other Big Box expansions/base games but includes less cards. So you are paying a premium for those mats and tokens, which could have been presented as cheaper cardboard options. But the clink of coins on your Pirate Ship, is a rewarding sound!

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
One of the things most new deck-builders change up from Dominion, is allowing cards to stay in play. If Dominion gets any knock, it is this lack of lasting cards from round to round. Having these Duration cards is a great addition to the game. Not only does it give you a sense of building a slightly more lasting dominion, it also adds features while freeing up your hand. In effect, getting a larger hand size for the next turn. I only wish they continued to add more Durations in future expansions. But with 1/3 of the cards this new mechanic, it offers up a decent amount of variety.

I love the ability of the Pirate Ship that can attack while building up a coin generator. This is also an effective attack against cards that trash or discard coins, such as the new Cutpurse attack card. Some cards blend well together like the Fishing Village that gives you more Actions and a Coin and the Wharf that gives you more Card draws and an additional Buy. For 2-Coin, you can purchase a Lighthouse that is a lasting Moat, which is needed against the evil Ghost Ship (which is not a Duration card but a very annoying Attack card).

In the greater hierarchy, I would place this third of all expansions (Just ahead of Cornucopia and just behind Hinterlands). This set contains some of my favorite cards and adds the next layer of complexity to the ever expanding system. Seaside is one of the must-buy expansions for its interesting cards, and new mechanic. Plus there is something pleasing about the new orange splashed amongst the gray boarded cards.

What Else? – Other Expansion Reviews
Dominion (base game)
Intrigue
Alchemy
Prosperity
Cornucopia

9
Go to the Village page

Village

131 out of 140 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
Village chronicles the lives of multiple generations in your little medieval village. You hope the family legacy will be spoken about for years to come. There’s grandfather Miller who made a name for himself in crafting goods. Crazy uncle James who traveled far and wide. Some of the family just worked hard and bought the farm but others were pioneers in their field. Players try to earn the most prestige points employed in various areas before either the cemetery or the chronicles fill up.

Village won the prestigious 2012 Spiel des Jahres Kennerspiel (German Game of the Year in the “Connoisseur” Category). The game plays from 2 to 4 players in about an hour and half to two hours.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
The game comes with a nicely illustrated board showcasing the different aspects of village life, from the church, to the town hall, to the market place, to the city gates leading to faraway lands. These areas represent the different actions available during the round. Each player also gets their own player board in their color to organize and collect resources.

All the coins, grain, goods tiles, market tiles, and miscellaneous start tokens are on quality card board. There are also reference charts for player count and a reminder of the sequence during the end of round mass.

The wooden bits consist of wooden action cubes, scoring discs, and family members in each player color. A sheet of stickers is also supplied to distinguish the different generations. Two cloth bags round out the component list and help to randomize items during the game.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
The game is a mixture of worker placement and action selection. Players start with only their first generation (marked with a 1) of meeples and a single coin. The board is seeded each round according to the number of players. The action cubes are drawn from one of the bags and placed at each area.

On a player’s turn, they will select one action cube on the board and may carry out the associated action. They keep the cube as a form of currency to be used in other actions. Fulfilling an action typically requires the placement of a worker, and/or spending collected action cubes/goods/coins, and/or spending time. Players track their individual time spent on the river that runs around their farm. When the time marker passes under the bridge, the player must kill off one of his workers. The meeples will be placed in the Village Chronicles if he was among the first to make a name for himself in his chosen profession or if he misses the book, he is buried in the church cemetery.

Players continue taking one action cube and optionally performing the action one at a time in clock wise order around the table. Once all action cubes are gone, the end of round mass takes place. Players then reseed the board with more action cubes and a new round takes place. As meeples die off, the chronicles or the cemetery will fill up. The game ends as soon as one of these events takes place. A final mass is said, bonus victory points are tabulated and the player with the most prestige points win.

Action Areas
At the wagon space in the middle of the village, you can harvest grain as long as at least one meeple remains in your farmyard. You can harvest more grain if you have a plow and either a horse or ox. Grain will need to be donated to the church to advance the ecclesiastical studies or sold at market for points or turned into profit at the crafts.

Outside the church, you can marry and have kids. This action allows you to take the next available (lowest-numbered) family member from the supply to your farm. They can now be placed in the village to help activate other actions.

In the crafts area, you can either purchase the goods you need (from collected action cubes) or place your family member in an apprenticeship and spend time training them to get you those same goods. These goods can be brought back to your farm (plows/horses/oxen) to make you more efficient or used at the various other locations (wagons for travel, scrolls to get you into government). Any goods you don’t need for yourself might be sold at market, which is another action area.

The market acts a little different in that if this action is selected, it must be taken (you can’t simply pass) and all players may sell to one customer at a time until all customers are satisfied or supply runs out. Customer tokens collected here are scored at game end.

Another means of action is traveling to distant cities. It requires a wagon (produced at the crafts section), time and some form of action cubes to travel to the next city. The more cities that are visited, the more bonus points are awarded at game end.

The town hall requires time and scrolls to advance you up the ranks. Working the system here grants you special privileges like taking the first player marker for the next round or gaining the cubes and goods of your choice. You can also convert money into prestige points towards game end.

What would a medieval village be without a church? You can send your children to the monastery and pay for their way with grain donations. At the end of each round, only 4 new brothers or sisters will enter the covenant. You can bribe the prior to ensure your family is represented or let providence take control. The farther your family makes it up the ranks, the more points they can score.

Finally, there is a wishing well that allows you to turn in 3 of a kind on action cubes to perform any action (even if there are no cubes left in front of that action).

Not all action cubes are beneficial. Mixed in to the bag each round are black plague cubes. They still function for selecting and activating an action. But these are not collected like the other action cubes. Instead, they go back to the supply immediately and cost you 2 units of time, potentially hastening the passing of another meeple.

As meeples pass away in each area, they have the potential to move into the history books. Each section has only so many spots available based on the number of players. You must get at least 3 in the book to score any points and at least 5 meeples need to be in the book to score the most points.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
This is a game we have really come to enjoy. The prospect of killing of your meeples may sound a bit grim but in reality it is just the natural passing of time. The goal is to make a name for yourself and your family, hoping each generation can do a bit more with all respect going back to the generations that have passed.

The action selection process is unique and the main engine of the game. Tense decisions are made between going for the action you need versus the color of the action cube you might need for a different action. Do you grab that last orange cube at the church even though you don’t want to send another meeple to do the good Lord’s work? Or do you grab the last harvest action because you are running low on grain?

There is also a sense of timing that needs to be balanced. You want your meeples to die so they can get the bonus points in the book. But if you kill them off too early, you’ll need to replace them with the next generation to complete their work. Plague cubes are usually the last action cubes taken since they have seemingly negative benefits, but advancing up 2 time may allow you to get in the book before someone else saw it coming. You can also control the pace of the game by filling the chronicles or the cemetery.

The game has scaled extremely well for each player count. Typically 2-player worker placement games feel wide open. But given the time factor that is driving the end game, you still can’t accomplish everything that you wanted to before the round ends. The adjustments for the number of players are how many action cubes go into the bag and get pulled from the bag (capping the number of actions available). Certain spaces in the book and graveyard are also closed off with less than 4 players.

This was a game I was expecting to be a bit ho-hum. But the buzz generated in Europe made me jump at the chance when Tasty Minstrel Games began distributing the English version. This has been a wife-friendly game and is easy enough to introduce to new players.

The only drawbacks are that it does take a couple rounds for new players to see how it all comes together. Trying to figure out why they need certain actions or why they need to pick up certain colored action cubes usually clicks about the middle of the first round.

The other slightly annoying thing was that the meeples are not pre-numbered. You must apply the stickers yourself. Typically this is not a big deal and there aren’t that many of them. However the stickers are mostly clear and hard to see. And while they are small, they don’t have much wiggle room on the meeples themselves. In addition, you must put the completely clear stickers on the black neutral monk meeples (so that you can’t feel a difference when drawing them out for the church).

This is a game I would recommend for families looking for another game to add to their collection. But there is also enough depth for those that enjoy planning out the win. There are a enough paths to victory to make the game interesting each time.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
The husband and wife designers, Markus and Inka Brand, have made a few other games. Two of the more popular ones are A Castle for All Seasons (another worker placement game) and Guatemala Café.

Being of the worker placement genre, any of those, such as Stone Age or Caylus are games to try out. From the action selection mechanic, especially using the cubes themselves to further accomplish goals in the game, this reminded me of Stefen Feld’s Macao and Trajan.

8
Go to the Dominion: Intrigue page

Dominion: Intrigue

80 out of 88 gamers thought this was helpful

While this is a stand-alone game, this review of Intrigue is mainly focused on its contribution to the Dominion series as an expansion. For my review of Dominion, please click here.

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Expansion
As an “alternate” base game, this set is standalone. But it is not just a remix as it introduces a new concept of “dual-type” cards. The theme is reflecting of the name, allowing for a bit more interaction among players with new attack cards, and non-attack interactive cards.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
With 500 cards, this set includes the full collection of Victory cards, Treasure cards, and miscellaneous items, like Curses and the Trash card to be able to play without the Dominion base game (making up almost half the cards in the box). But at its core, it adds 25 new Kingdom cards that can be played amongst themselves or mixed with the base game.

What Does it Add? – Impacts to the Base Game
In its basic form, this expansion can completely replace the base game. However, it is best used as additional cards to add to the mix. Games still only use 10 kingdom cards per setting, but this ratchets up the replay value by doubling the available stock during setup.

The interactivity becomes more prevalent with the especially vicious Saboteur card (which trashes opponents’ cards in their deck worth 3 or more coin). Intrigue also introduces the passive-aggressive attack cards like Masquerade: attack cards disguised as regular cards so Reaction cards can’t react to them.

The most interesting card type is the new dual-type cards. Great Hall, for example, is both a Victory card and an Action card. This pairs well with other cards, such as Ironworks and Tribute, that care about card type. Since these count as both card types, one card triggers two effects. The Ironworks / Great Hall combo is a great means to add more cards and actions to your early turns. It doesn’t clog your hand since this is a Victory card that replaces itself during play and continues to give you VP while doing so.

Though not recommended (even by the design team!), there is the ability to combine all the basic cards from Intrigue and Dominion to include up to 6 players. The basic rules remain the same with a couple of exceptions. During set-up, Estates and Duchies stay at 12 cards, but Provinces increase by 3 for each player above 4. In addition, Curses continue to add 10 per player after the first. The game end condition is still running out the now increased Province deck -OR- running out 4 (as opposed to 3) regular supply piles. The warning comes from the amount of downtime that is caused with more players.

What Is the Target Audience? – Who Should Get This
Intrigue targets those that want the next step in complexity in Dominion cards. It is also a more interactive game for those that feel the basic game was multi-player solitaire. For those new to Dominion, they might consider the more basic Dominion as their starting point. But if they have played the game, they may want to start with this set as an alternate starting point.

Those that are addicted to the base game will want to take a look at this set just for the added variety. There are enough memorable cards to make it worth it. The additional set of basic cards may be cost prohibitive for some but it does grant the occasional game when you need to squeeze one or two more and can accommodate two tables of the game with even more players. It also provides a back up set for those that have worn out the original.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
This is the butter pecan to Dominion’s vanilla game style. It adds a bit more flavor that not everyone will like. Many were taken aback by the “less useful” Secret Chamber thinking that all reaction cards would cancel attacks like the basic Moat. However, this blue card is well-suited to handle the aggressive Saboteur by (hopefully) offering up Silver bribes to stay away from your more expensive cards. Saboteur itself is arguably the most vilified card in all of Dominion. Ignoring it is usually the best defense, though it is frustrating in every game that it appears.

In the greater hierarchy, I would place this second to last of all expansions (Just ahead of Alchemy and just behind Cornucopia). While some cards are great, the overall expansion is ho-hum. With the newly released “Base Cards” set, any expansion can be the stand-alone game replacing this as the only other base alternative. Of all the expansions, this seems to offer “more of the same” and even its creative spark (dual-types and non-attack interactive cards) are present in other expansions.

When it first came out, it was the natural next step, adding just a little more complexity to framework. Having almost all the other expansions to choose from, this is one that can wait until later if you are trying to complete your collection.

What Else? – Other Expansion Reviews
Dominion (base game)
Seaside
Alchemy
Prosperity
Cornucopia

10
Go to the Dominion page

Dominion

119 out of 126 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
Dominion is the patriarch of the deck-building genre, moving what was once “preparation” of modern card games into the game itself. From humble beginnings of a few estates and a pocketful of copper coins, you build your great Dominion.

The game is played from 2 to 4 players. Players take turns playing cards from their hands for actions and money to purchase more cards from a common supply. The game ends when 3 supply decks or the Province supply deck are exhausted. The player with the most VPs in their deck wins.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
Opening the box may come as a surprise since it is a standard 12” x 12” game box but contains only 500 cards. However, the plastic insert is perfectly designed to organize and hold all the cards by type. Even sleeved cards, with some slight rearranging, can fit in the insert with little problem.

Cards are divided into the “basic supply” of coins, victory point cards, curses, and the trash indicator. These are used in every game. The “kingdom cards” make up most of the balance of the cards and are divided into 25 sets. In any given game, only 10 of these sets will be used. Sets can be selected randomly or with a pre-determined “scenarios” that highlight certain combos. The remaining cards are “randomizers” that can be used in selecting the sets. Be careful though: they look exactly like the real cards but have a slight change of color on their back.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
The game is extremely simple in terms of sequence of play. Easy as ABC! Players start with a hand of 5 cards. They may play one card for their Action. The Action is then fully resolved. They may then play as many Treasure cards from their hand to generate purchasing power for the Buy phase. Again, they may Buy 1 card up to their Treasure amount, placing it in their discard. Finally, they Clean-up there play area by placing all cards played (including any remaining cards in hand) into their discard pile. They finish their turn by drawing 5 new cards, reshuffling their discard to replenish their deck if needing to draw more cards. Play then continues to the player on your left.

The complexity comes from using the Action cards to generate more Actions, more Buys, more Coins, more Draws from their deck, or the “Event” on their cards that allows something to happen. The goal should be to build an efficient engine of card combos that lets you build up to the expensive Province card (8 coins) and drive the game to its conclusion.

The disadvantage of buying Victory cards is that they offer no Action and no Coin. In other words, they clog your deck and prevent your hand from having lots of options. A balance must be found when to switch from building your engine to buying your points. The game will end at the end of any player’s turn when the Province supply (8 cards in games with 2 players or 12 cards with 3-4) is exhausted or any three other supplies are exhausted. Victory cards are counted whether in hand, in your deck, or in your discard pile. The player with the most VPs wins.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
As a former crack addict (and by crack, I mean the cardboard kind), I have wanted a good card game that wouldn’t drain my wallet with a rarity structure. Dominion has scratched that itch. The variety of combinations of Kingdom cards is vast with only 10 of 25 being used in any game.

The game plays very quick and is fairly easy to teach. The cards are text heavy though use standardized phrases to keep it as simple as possible. It is easy to introduce to new players, though it will take them some time to get familiar with all the cards. Games with experienced players go very fast as they know what they want and can play their turn lightening fast.

This game has held up for me, having first played it in 2008. I continue to play it daily on my Droid, getting anywhere from 3-5 plays in a day.

The only drawback with just the base set is that it can lack a lot of interaction between players. There are only 4 Action cards that allow direct conflict with other players and so if these are missing, it is just a race to the finish. However, there is always the possibility of buying a card away from someone before they have a chance to get it themselves before the game ends. This is mostly addressed with the expansions.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
Though not a collectible game, the expansions for this game continue to churn out at a decent clip. The most recent expansion, Dark Ages, is slated to be the penultimate addition to the game. Each of the expansions offers “more of the same” giving even more kingdom cards (almost to 200) making the combinations near limitless. However, each introduces one or more new mechanics that spices up the game without changing the fundamentals. I would rank the expansions as follows (click on the titles to see my review of those expansions):

Prosperity – Expands the game with bigger money (that does stuff) and bigger victory cards.
Hinterlands – Allowing you to do stuff when you gain the card.
Seaside – Introducing duration cards that last for two rounds, effectively increasing your hand size.
Cornucopia – Rewarding diverse decks over efficient ones.
Intrigue – A second version of the base game offering more interaction between players.
Alchemy – This is a strange bird that is more a standalone expansion given its dependence on a special Treasure (the Potion) but includes some very unique and powerful cards.
Dark Ages – TBD! This expansion offers more Kingdom cards than any other expansion and introduces quite a few new mechanics. This looks like a promising addition that will eventually top the list.

9
Go to the Trajan page

Trajan

102 out of 112 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
In Trajan, you are working towards making Rome great and get the approval of the people. This is accomplished through construction projects, subjugating lands within the Empire, and meeting the people’s demands. You must also skillfully progress through the Senate in hopes of becoming consul while dealing with the Forum and shipping goods out to your trade partners.

The game plays 2-4 in about ½ hour each player (and even less with experience). The main mechanic is similar to Mancala, an ancient game of “harvesting and sowing” into pits. This is how actions are selected on your turn and some bonuses awarded.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
This game is loaded with cardboard tokens and wooden pieces. Players each get painted wooden cylinders to mark their Mancala pits, wooden meeples and a Leader, along with scoring discs and a wooden arch. Each player gets their own player board to organize all of their components. There is a single time track marker also made of wood that is placed on a track that matches the number of players (the more players, the longer the track).

A central board outlines the actions. It is well organized to keep the game flowing. On this board are placed most of the cardboard tokens (until they are taken by the players). This includes the forum/province tiles, the construction projects, the Trajan tiles and ship tiles. A few other tokens are kept off the board like the demand tokens, season tokens, bonus tiles, and +2 action markers.

A deck of commodities rounds out the components used during the game. A drawstring bag is included to help randomize the bonus tiles (since they are double sided). The rule book is full color and very straight forward.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
The main mechanism is the mancala or “action circle” that starts the game with 2 cylinders in each of 6 trays. The 12 cylinders are made up of 6 different colors. On a player’s turn, they must pick up all the cylinders of one tray, announce the number of cylinders, and then “seed” each of the trays in clockwise order one at a time. The last tray to receive a cylinder is the one that is activated this turn. In addition, if the last tray to receive a cube has cylinder colors matching a Trajan tile next to this action, the Trajan tile scores points and is resolved (explained below).

The other players move a time track a number of spaces equal to the number of cylinders picked up. Play then proceeds to the next player who likewise performs an action by reallocating his cylinders and taking an action. If the time marker lands on or crosses the start space, a “quarter season” is up and a new Demand token is revealed. Play continues on. If this is the 4th time that the start space has been reached, no new demand tile is revealed. Instead the end of season occurs. Points are scored (or lost), bonus tiles awarded, and part of the board cleared and reset. A new season takes place, again going 4 rounds. There is a total of 4 seasons (16 “rounds”) and the game is over. Final scoring takes place and the player with the most points win.

Actions
The heart of the game is planning out your redistribution of cylinders to get the right action. Collecting the bonus of a Trajan tile is just that – a Bonus. There are 6 actions.

Seaport Action
While you start the game with 3, this is where you get more commodity cards. When you activate this, you can collect cards or play cards. You have 2 options for collecting cards and 2 options for playing them. At the game start, two cards are placed face up to form 2 discard piles. You may draw 1 of the face up cards. OR draw 2 face down cards, discarding one from your hand (either one you held previously or just drawn). OR you may place cards on the table (but not if you drew cards). You can either place 1 or 2 on the table for potential end game scoring and then drawing as many as you placed (making this a 3rd way to draw cards with this action). OR you can place sets of cards according to the ships to gain immediate points (and also potential end game scoring). For example, one ship allows you to place different pairs of cards with each pair played giving you an additional 5 points. The first person to play to a specific ship gets the full points and then flips the ship over. Any subsequent play gets reduced points (these ships will be reset at the start of each season).
BONUS: Cards you play in front of you may score you 2 or 3 points each if you have the corresponding Bonus Tiles.

Military Action
This option allows you to move meeples from your player board to the military camp, making them legionnaires for the rest of the game. OR it allows you to move your Leader from base camp/province to an adjacent province (collecting a forum tile if available). OR it allows you to “teleport” a legionnaire to the province with your Leader. If you are the first legionnaire there, you get the full VPs of the province. Otherwise, you score the points minus 3 points for each other player’s legionnaire there (to a minimum of zero). Each player is capped at one legionnaire per province.
BONUS: Legionnaires you teleport may score you 1 or 2 points each if you have the corresponding Bonus Tile.

Construction Action
This option allows you to move meeples from your player board to the worker camp, making them workers for the rest of the game. OR it allows you to build a construction tile. If this is your first worker, you can place him anywhere; otherwise you must place the worker orthogonally adjacent to your previously placed worker. You score the points for the tile immediately (between 2-5 VP) and collect it on your board. If this is the first of that specific type to be placed on your board (there are 5 types), you also get to perform an immediate action corresponding to that construction type. The “missing” action is the Construction action so you can’t build to build again in this way.
BONUS: For each set of 3 tiles that are the same, you score 10 points at end game. For a set of 4 matching tiles, you score 20 points. Also, workers who built may score you 1/2 or 1 point each if you have the corresponding Bonus Tile.

Senate Action
The more a player takes this action, the farther along he goes on the senate track. Each step nets him more points (starting at 2 all the way up to 8 points). In addition, at the end of each season, the player farthest along on the track and having the most senate tile points selects one of two available Bonus tokens. The second place player gets the other bonus tile but must flip it to the lower scoring gray side. The track resets at the start of each quarter and two new bonus tiles are drawn.
BONUS: Collecting the yellow side of the Bonus tile awards 2 or 3 points each if you have the corresponding Bonus Tile.

Trajan Action
While you start the game with 3 Trajan tiles, you collect more by taking this action. The wooden arch sits next to one of the 6 actions. When you draw a Trajan tile, you must place it where the Arch currently sits and then advance the Arch to the next open space. In this way, there is a little less control over what you can place and where but with proper planning, you can usually activate the bonus easily. Trajan tiles come in 6 flavors. Some give you all points while the rest give you a mixture of points and certain other bonus (such as moving meeples from your board to either the worker or military camp). One of the more unique ones allows you to gain a “+2” token that in combination with certain Forum tiles can grant you to take the same action up to 3 times in one turn. Some Trajan tiles meet the demand of the people but are not spent (like the corresponding forum tiles). So an early investment in these tiles can be used multiple times.

Forum Action
Placing here allows you to take either one green forum tile or one yellow extra turn tile. The action is simple but there are a variety of tiles. The extra action tiles correspond to the 6 actions on your board. When you take the corresponding action any time during the game, you may spend the extra action token (it is removed from the game) to perform the same action once again. If this particular action has the +2 token under it (from a previously collected Trajan bonus), you can perform this action up to 3 times total. The majority of the tiles correspond to the People’s Demand. You collect these in order to spend them at the end of the season in order to avoid losing points. A handful of tiles are “wild” and help you to complete Construction sets (for end game scoring), match commodity cards for shipping bonuses, or spend an extra action or demand token of your choice. The final set of tiles available in the Forum is the Senate tokens. These must be spent at the end of each season and add to your accumulated Senate Track score to determine the Consul for the next season.
BONUS: Besides using the wild tokens to fill in sets, if you manage to hang on to a People Demand token you can score 6 or 9 points once if you have the corresponding Bonus Tile.

End of Round
As mentioned, once the time marker reaches the start space, a new Demand token is revealed so everyone is aware of what will be needed at the end of the season. The first three rounds of a season each reveal one while the fourth round does not reveal something new but instead calls for the demands to be fulfilled.

End of Season
First, everyone must spend the forum tiles matching the demand token (or show they have the equivalent Trajan tile) and lose points for anything missing. The Consul and 2nd place winners on the Senate track gain their bonus markers and all markers are reset. Then all forum tiles are discarded and refilled. Any provinces that are completely empty (no tokens or meeples) are filled up with new forum tiles as well. And ships on their gray side are reset to the blue side. The season marker advances and the game continues.

End of Game
After the scoring of the 4th season, the game ends. Players score points for all unused items. One point is given for each unused legionnaire still in the camp, for each unused worker still in the camp, for each unplayed commodity card in hand, and for each unresolved Trajan tile on your action circle. Bonus points are scored for sets of 3 or 4 construction tiles. Finally all bonus tiles are scored based on their type. The player with the most points win.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
This game lived up to the hype. Stephen Feld is a very creative designer mixing an eclectic set of themes with an interesting mix of mechanics. Everything is tightly woven together and some nice combos can be forged into one action. Having played several of Feld’s games, I think this is one of his best. There are many paths to victory. You can focus on one area and try to dominate it or you can dabble in many actions and have a healthy score. You can frustrate the plans of others but are never totally blocked from scoring. While the scoring is very fluid and can see one player get to a commanding lead, refocusing your priorities can have you caught up in no time (especially if you focus on the 9 point Trajan tiles).

I have played this game with 2, 3 and 4 players and it scales incredibly well. The only difference in set up is using one less column of forum tiles per player missing making the Peoples Demand mix a little more narrow and unpredictable. Given the layers of depth (not so much complexity), this game is fairly easy to teach and plays extremely fast. Even with 4 new players, this can be finished in less than 2 hours and you felt like you played a nice heavy game.

It is my new favorite game, worthy of the hype it received while a North American print was in the works, and something I highly recommend.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
Stephen Feld has many solid designs under his belt. If you like this game, moving to one of the others is the next logical step. Some of his higher ranked games are Notre Dame, In the Year of the Dragon, and Castles of Burgundy. For an interesting action selection and plotting future turns with colored tokens, Macoa is the most reminiscent of Trajan. For the sheer magnitude of options and interrelating things, I found Luna to be the most similar to this game.

If you like the Roman theme, another set collection semi-worker placement that is great, is Tribune from Fantasy Flight Games, designed by Karl-Heinz Schmiel (considered the grandfather of the Euro-game design movement with his award winning Die Macher). It is a fast paced card collecting game with multiple scoring opportunities that reminded me quite a bit of Trajan.

6
Go to the Operation: Maccabee page

Operation: Maccabee

37 out of 40 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
In Operation: Maccabee, the goal of the game is to accumulate the most liberation points: each player represents one of the Allied nations rescuing prisoners from concentration camps. Movement and combat is resolved through spinning a dreidel as the randomizer. Movement is tracked by tokens on a board while combat is literally trying to knock out the Nazi guards. This can play up to 4 players in about an hour.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
There is a mounted 12” x 12”game board to track movement and objectives. A quick terrain reference guide is printed on it. While the board is static (one scenario), the value of the camps change each game. The tokens are small pieces of cardboard, a bit too small for my tastes but fit the scale of the board. Each player gets a set of 8 commando tokens to track his health. A deck of cards showcases different objects/weapons to help you on your mission.

As far as plastic components, the game comes with two dreidels and nine plastic Nazi guards. The Nazis look exactly like the infantry figures from the Axis & Allies series of games. These guards will be set up in the box top which represents the battlefield. (Note – it is printed in the box top, I spent a long time looking for this as the back of the box makes it look like another game board!)

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
Operation: Maccabee follows the “roll and move” category of games but substitutes a dreidel for dice. As such, you have a 25% chance of any one result. The dreidels have the Hebrew markings on them but they soon become easy to remember. Gimel is the best result you can get followed by Hei. Nun is typically neutral while Shin is usually harmful. I remember this by saying Hei is “half” of Gimel, while Nun usually nets you “none” and Shin sounds like “sin” so that must be bad (or a kick in the shin). In this game, though, they are slightly better than usual as mentioned below.

On your turn, you will spin the dreidel (alternatively, you may “roll” it as well to save time from watching it spin for a long time). If you get a Gimel, you have 4 movement points while Hei gives you 3 movement points. Nun grants you 1 movement point and a card draw. Shin results in an ambush by Nazis giving you no movement points.

You may then move up to the number of movement points aiming to get to the camps. Different terrain costs different points to enter, such as grassland at 1 and mountains at 3. In order to cross the rivers, you will need a Raft action card. The Boots action card also grants you +4 movement. Secret Map action cards allow you to “teleport” to any Concentration camp. If you land on a concentration camp, you then attempt to liberate it.

In order to liberate the camp, the player sets up 9 Nazi guards in the box top. You will get a number of spins based on the number of commando points still face up in your area (maximum of 8). The goal is with up to 8 spins, you must knock down 9 guards. When spinning, your dreidel must start in the center circle or the spin is forfeited and you “wound” a Command by turning it over (losing that spin until you can heal him again). In addition, to physically knocking them over, the result of the spin may also add more kills: 2 additional kills for Gimel, 1 for Hei and none for Nun and Shin (though Nun allows another card draw and Shin counts as a wound to that Commando). At this time, you may also spend Grenade and Sniper action cards for special attacks. Grenades allow you to “lob” with an underhand toss, the dreidel into the playing area while a Sniper is an overhand toss.

If you knock down all 9, then you get to take the camp token and see its value. If you fail to knock them all down, then you must move off of the camp and any attempt again will again start with 9 guards (exception, if another player is adjacent to the camp, they may attempt to take over where you left off and get full credit for knocking down the remaining guards).

Besides the terrain, there are two other important spaces to look out for. One is the red “Nazi patrol” zones. When you start your turn here, if you spin a Shin, you will have to wound one Commando in addition to not getting any movement points. So with a continuous spin of Shin, you may be trapped here for a long time losing many Commandos.

The other special space is the “resistance camp.” If you land here, on your next turn you skip movement. But you may spin to heal your Commandos: heal 2 for Gimel, 1 for Hei and none for Nun and Shin (though Nun allows another card draw). The First-Aid action card can also be spent at any time to heal one Commando.

While you are competing for liberation points, there is some direct player confrontation. A player can try to take over your hex (as only one unit can be on a space at a time) by having a spin off. The player whose dreidel spins the longest can force the other player to an adjacent hex. He may also steal one of his action cards if he can correctly guess one that he is holding.

After one player has had their movement and possible liberation attempt, play then passes counter-clockwise (as is the Hebrew way!) to the next player. The game is over once all 11 camps have been liberated. Players compare the values of the camps they have collected and the person with the most points wins.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
This is an interesting game that blends a historical situation with a dexterity component. Using dreidels instead of dice for the random factor is fun and refreshing. While the movement and action on the main board is nothing special and a bit basic, the combat zone is the interesting part of the game. And while this is a matter of dexterity, learning not only to spin well but figuring out how to get the dreidel to actually move around gives you something to shoot for. You also need to figure out the best time to use your Grenades and Sniper cards. With a Grenade, sometimes it is just sufficient to let it shake the box to knock over Nazis instead of a direct hit. The Sniper is a bit more precise but better used when one Guard may have gotten pushed away from the main group.

While I would normally go for Memoir ‘44 when I want a WWII game with plastic figures, this is a fun diversion on occasion. The dreidel aspect makes this more interesting than just a standard filler. Using the dreidels for more than just spinning is an interesting twist from the other dreidel games by FlasterVenture LLC.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
As mentioned, FlasterVenture LLC has a series of games involving dreidels. Those are more spin and move and all follow the same basic premise of collecting something for the win. Maccabees is the first and most general of the bunch, good as entry to the series. Matzakoman has a little more layers and better suited for those more experienced gamers. Queen Ester’s Dancing Dreidels is a little more entry level but aimed specifically at girls. The similarity is just in the dreidel, however.

8
Go to the Witch's Brew page

Witch's Brew

32 out of 34 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
Witch’s Brew is a game about Witches collecting the ingredients to brew their favorite potions. Three to five players secretly select five of twelve roles that help them meet this goal. The catch is that if someone after you selects the same role, you risk getting nothing! The game is over once enough ravens are released. The winner is the player with the most brewed points.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
This is from the Alea “small box series” and has their usual high quality components. Each player gets his own deck of cards. Most of the main components (cauldrons, book shelves, and magic spells) are standard euro-sized cards. All of the ingredients (wolf blood, snake venom, and herb juice) are wooden pieces shaped like drops of liquid. The remaining components are the thin cardboard gold nuggets and extra vials. The insert is designed to keep everything snug.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
Each player has his own set of the exact same 12 role cards. At the start of a round, players will select 5 of the roles to help them with their cauldron creations. A player is selected to go first, preferably the most experienced player since this is a disadvantage!

The start player will select a role and place it face up starting a new set, proudly announcing “I am so-and so.” Each player, in turn order, must play the same role card if they selected it. They have one of two options. The least risky option is to declare “So be it!” and guarantee a lesser benefit this turn (called a “favor”). The riskier option is to declare “No! I am so-and-so.” This bumps out any player previously declaring themselves “so-and-so” while those stating “so be it” are safe. The turn continues until all players have had a chance to play this specific role. All players you declared “so be it” now collect their lesser reward while the player who really was “so-and-so” collects the full reward. All of those that were bumped receive nothing!

The player fulfilling this turn’s role, starts the next turn. So going last is a benefit but taking the full action forces you to be the start player in the next set. Sets continue until all roles (anywhere from 5 to all 12) are played out. A new round begins with players again secretly selecting 5 roles (even the one just selected in the previous round) and playing through the sets.

As players fulfill the roles, the will collect cauldrons or books shelves worth points, typically increasing in value as the game is played. On certain cards, a raven is present. If four of these cards are collected, the game ends at the end of the current round. Players then sum up their points, including any vials which are worth 1 point each.

The engine of the game is the roles, which are broken down into 5 categories.

The first group of three are green-bordered and allow you to either collect 3 drops of the corresponding type or just one as a favor. All of the witches have funny names related to what they do. Wolfi collects the wolf blood while Herbie collects the herb juice.

The second group of three are blue-bordered and allow you to brew the top cauldron card by turning in the appropriate drops. You must match the color and quantity of the top card. You can turn in one additional drop of any type for a vial worth 1 point at the end of the game. The favor on each allows you to brew as well but for a cost of 2 gold.

The third group of three are yellow-bordered and the alchemists of the bunch. The allow you to trade drops for gold, gold for drops, or gold for vials. The favors on each of these allow you to still make the exchange but you get less back.

The forth group of two are red-bordered and the beggars of the bunch. They cause everyone else to pay up a fraction of their collected gold or potions. These collected resources are placed on a book shelf and the one executing the role can get access to the book shelf, also worth points. The favor for these cards is to pay one less of your resources due to the community pot.

The fifth and final group consist of one card, gray-bordered Toady. Toady can cast the randomly selected spell for the round. The favor consists of collecting one gold piece.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
This is a unique game that mixes hidden role selection with a push your luck aspect. Do I follow with a “So be it” and get at least something out of it? Or do you go all the way and declare the big prize for myself, only to risk losing it all? When you are last in turn order, you can guarantee a full reward. But is it worth it to have to lead the next set? These are all tasty decisions that go on.

In addition, the game has great social interaction as you bluff and bluster. You have to keep an eye on what you need as well as others so you can guess what roles they may take. It is a great feeling to select different from the group and have several rounds where you play and no one follows!

I really enjoy the game as a hearty filler. But it also serves as a great gateway game since it is so easy to teach. I foresee this one getting played many times. So be it!

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
The biggest problem with this game is availability. The US edition has been out of print for quite some time. However, it can be picked up on the secondary market for a hefty premium. Another option, the one that I selected after playing this a couple months ago, was to purchase a foreign language edition. This saved me from having to duplicate the wooden and cardboard tokens. Scans are available of the English cards, so mock-ups can be made and the entire set of cards sleeved to slide in the text. Or if that sounds like too much work, the card actions are easily memorized after just a play or two (since graphics accommodate the text). The rules are readily downloadable and easily printed.

If you manage to get the game, three expansion modules are included in the Alea Treasure Chest. One expansion adds role cards for a 6th player, including actual Raven tokens to make tracking the game easier. Another allows even more magical abilities. And the final one adds amulets that helps make a game with less players much more interesting.

8
Go to the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game Starter Set page
96 out of 103 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
X-Wing: Miniatures is a miniatures based dog fight for two teams. It brings the space battles in the Star War trilogy to your kitchen table. Players dial up movement for a turn and use templates to standardize those movements. Combat is resolved with dice while damage is tracked with hit cards. The last player flying wins the game.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
The core game of X-Wing comes with a pre-painted X-Wing and two pre-painted TIE fighters. It also includes a set of movement templates, a movement dial for each ship, a range ruler, a deck of hit cards, and three each of the attack and defense dice. The game includes multiple Pilot cards for each ship type and corresponding tokens to place on the plastic ship stands. There is also an upgrade deck ranging from pilot skills to astromech droids to additional weapons. A handful of tokens and other cardboard accessories are included to track information and set up for different scenarios. The game also includes a quick start guide with very simple rules to get families started right away. In the base game, the two named X-Wing pilots are Luke Skywalker and Biggs Darklighter and R2-D2 is one of the named astromechs.

What is lacking is a physical board. A 3’0” x 3’0” play area is suggested so you will need to demarcate your playing area if it is larger than this. Another option is to buy black fabric in this shape to have definitive edges.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
The game is played in four simple phases.
1) Planning Phase – Secretly select your movement
2) Activation Phase – move and perform an action
3) Combat Phase – resolve combat
4) End Phase – clean up

During the planning phase, each player selects the movement for each of his ships. This is done in secret and simultaneously. Ship movement is governed by the movement dial which limits ship classes to certain movements. For example, an X-Wing is much slower than a TIE so it cannot move at 5-speed straight. On the flip side, TIE fighters move so quickly they cannot do the shorter 1-speed straight or bank.

Each pilot has a skill marked as an orange number. The higher the number, the better the pilot. During the movement phase, the pilot with the lowest pilot skill goes first. He reveals his dial and selects the corresponding movement template which reflect speed (distance traveled) and direction. He then places the template in front of his ship (using the plastic guides) and moves his ship along the template, lining up the back of his ship with the end of the template. He immediately takes an action (which is explained below). The next highest pilot resolves his movement and selects an action until all ships have moved.

During combat, the pilot with the highest skill resolves first. In order for a ship to select a target, it must be both in his arc of fire and within range. He rolls the number of dice equal to his red Weapon value, possibly modifying the result through actions or abilities. Then the target rolls a number of dice equal to his green Agility number, again possibly modifying the results. Every evade rolled cancels out a single hit. Normal hits are cancelled first, and then critical hits. For every remaining hit, on shield (noted by the blue number) is removed first, with the remaining hits being taken as a face-down damage card. When the hit is critical, the damage card is taken face up and the instructions followed. A ship is destroyed once it accumulates a number of damage cards equal to its yellow hull value. Once this combat is complete, the next lowest pilot resolves his combat until all ships have fired or passed.

There are a few more rules concerning extra dice depending on range. Line of site is not an issue in this game (unless obstacles are involved). There is also an easy means to determine what happens if ships collide. All are simple and make sense in this game, keeping the flow moving.

In the end phase, any “end of phase” actions are resolved and players pull back any unused tokens for the turn. If one side is not eliminated, a new round begins.

Actions and Stress
Actions are at the heart of the movement phase. Each ship class has certain actions that it can perform. X-Wings can acquire a target lock on any ship within range, not counting the firing arc. This allows them to, in a future attack, reroll as many dice as they want one time. TIE fighters have the ability to Evade, granting them one cancelled hit or Barrel Roll, an additional sideways movement that allows them to nudge forward or backward in the process. All ships in the base game also have Focus which allows them to turn the Focus die results to either hits or misses as the situation allows. Upgrades and Pilots also have additional actions that can be used.

In addition to speed and direction, movement is either easy, normal, or challenging represented as green, white, and red arrows, respectively. A red maneuver causes stress to be placed on the ship and it will be unable to perform any action until it removes the stress. Performing a green maneuver allows a stress token to be removed, and once free of stress, immediately select an action again.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
In the interest of full disclosure, I was a blind and beta tester on this product. However, my opinion of the game is not influence by my volunteer status and I receive no compensation based on any review.

I have seen the development of this game from GenCon 2011 to GenCon 2012 and I believe Fantasy Flight Games has published the best Star Wars dog-fighting product it possibly could. The game is easy to teach, and exciting to play. One of the most intriguing aspects of the game is trying to guess at your opponent’s movement and set yours accordingly. The last thing you want to do is fly past him while he still has you in his sights. The decisions associated with the actions are also tense as lesser pilots continue to guess where the better pilots might be. But the best pilot can survey the entire field and make sure his action is the most efficient. Combat is well balanced. While the X-Wing is outnumbered, he effectively has 5 hits to the TIEs 3 hits each and has the better actions available. The Target Lock stays in effect until used so allows you to hold onto it for a turn and couple it with a Focus action to do the most damage possible in a turn. The critical hits make for another interesting moment as you see if it will be the devastating Direct Hit (worth two damage), something you can repair, or something that will annoy you for the rest of the game.

While the game comes with a Quick Start rules sheet, this version of the game is too basic for most gamers. This is intended for families that want to get the kids involved within minutes of opening the box and just letting them get a feel for everything. Experienced gamers will want to dive into the regular rules and experience the full game right away.

The game also has three scenarios that highlight aspects other than just the dog fight. In one, you must escort a senator’s shuttle to safety. In another, you must repair your ship in an asteroid belt before flying to safety. In the final one, you must scan the imperial satellites for the win.

But where the game shines is with an additional copy and building a fleet. Each ship and upgrade has a point value. For standard games, 100 points is given to each side. This will field about 3-4 Rebel ships while the Imperial Fleet will have 4-6 ships. Even more fun is getting to larger battles with 200 points and see full squadrons dodging asteroids and attacking each other.

If there is any complaint to the game, it is that more expansions offer more variability. While a full game in and of itself, there will be the temptation to spend more money for more ships. Most people might consider grabbing a second copy of the game so each side can have their own templates, range rules, and more dice. And speaking of more dice, I do wish it came with one more of each color as often times, 3 is just not enough. But with a second set, this is a non-issue.

I find the game to be very satisfying with its easy rules, easy set-up and fast-paced nature.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
As already alluded to, this game has expansions. Wave 1 was released with the base game and includes single X-Wings and TIEs with new pilots (the X-Wing comes with Wedge Antilles). The TIE Advanced (with Darth Vader) and the Y-Wing are new ships. Each expansion comes with multiple pilot cards and appropriate upgrades. They also include the tokens and movement dial needed for that ship.

Wave 2 was announced at GenCon with the fan favorites Millennium Falcon and Slave 1 joining the A-Wing and TIE Interceptor. There are still more ships in the Star Wars universe so we can expect more waves in the future.

10
Go to the Memoir '44 page

Memoir '44

107 out of 114 gamers thought this was helpful

What Is It About? – An Overview of the Game
Memoir ’44 is a fast-paced two-player World War II themed game. Players alternate playing cards from their hand to activate units on the board. Combat is resolved through rolling dice. The object is to be the first to collect a set number of medals through unit elimination and/or objectives on the board.

What Do I Get? – The Components in the Box
Days of Wonder spared no expense. Each side receives a custom army of Infantry, Armor, and Artillery in a soft plastic. Each army is in a single color (green for Allies, blue-gray for Axis) invoking memories of playing with Plastic Green Army Men.

The board is double-sided depicting a general country side on one side and a beach landing on the flip side. It is a hex pattern separated into three sections. Terrain is modified through hexagon cardboard tiles allowing limitless configurations through forests, hills, rivers, and villages.

The dice are wooden and custom made for battles and to resolve other card effects. A deck of cards is the main driving force of the game. These are nicely illustrated and clearly define the action to be taken.

A few other pieces round out the basic game including card holders, a host of tokens, and plastic miniatures of sandbags, barbed wire, and hedgehogs.

The rulebook is full color and clear to follow. Most importantly, it showcases several scenarios that step through varying game concepts.

What Do I Do? – Playing the Game
Players select a scenario and read over any special rules. The game plays out in five basic steps:
1) PLAY a card
2) Select unit(s) to ORDER
3) Of those unit(s) ordered, select unit(s) to MOVE
4) Of those unit(s) ordered, select unit(s) to BATTLE
5) DRAW a new card.

There are two main types of cards to play: Section or Tactic cards. A Section card is a generic card that allows you to move units of your choice in the indicate sections. Typically this is 1 to 3 units in 1 or 2 sections. Tactic cards are more specialized and allow you to move units from several sections, move specific units, or do some special effect.

All units must be noted as ordered before moving. An easy way to mark this is by placing a single die by each unit as you declare them ordered.

When moving, any ordered unit may move and in any order that you choose. Infantry can move 1 hex and still battle or 2 hexes and not battle. Armor can move up to 3 hexes and battle. Artillery must choose to either move 1 hex or battle, but not both. Terrain restrictions apply and can stop movement early or prevent battle. A unit may move and not battle or not move and still battle. However, all moves must be completed before battle takes place. Some scenarios grant a medal if your unit is occupying a hex at this point.

When battling, any ordered unit may battle and in any order that you choose. Infantry are most effective in close range rolling three dice and decrease their range by 1 die for every hex away (so 1 die at 3 hexes away). Tanks battle with 3 dice up to 3 hexes away. Artillery follows a 3-3-2-2-1-1 pattern of dice based on the distance. Terrain and obstacles can reduce the number of dice. Only the attacker rolls dice. For any result that matches the target (INF for Infantry, ARM for Armor), one figure is remove. A grenade is an automatic hit (the only way to hit Artillery). A flag forces a retreat of one hex each on the target and could result in additional losses due to terrain. A star result is usually a miss but can activate certain effects on Tactics cards. Infantry start with 4 figures and so can absorb 4 hits before being eliminated. However, the Infantry result shows up twice on the d6 so they have a 50% chance of taking a hit on each roll (including the wild grenade result). Armor has 3 figures while Artillery has 2 figures per unit. Special Forces may alter the number of figures per unit. As each unit is eliminated, it counts as a medal for the opponent.

After all combats are resolved individually, a card is drawn to bring your hand back up to the limit. Then the other player takes his turn. Play continues in this way until one person collects the winning medal for the scenario. It is suggested that after 1 game, switch sides and play again in what is known as Match play. This helps balance any historical imbalances in the battle and the winner is the person who collected the most medals over both games.

What Do I Think? – Final Thoughts
Memoir ’44 is my all-time favorite game. It combines enough strategy which the right amount of luck. It is a quick-playing war game that can be played in about 30-45 minutes. The rules are straight-forward and can be taught very quickly. The match play keeps things balanced and with a few minutes to reset the board, another session can quickly be had.

The design of the Command deck is very innovative. As I draw more Right flank cards, for example, there are less in the deck. My opponent is therefore more likely to draw Left flank cards then. Since my right is his left, we are more likely to duke it out in that section instead of each focusing on different sections. The focus centers on trying to out-maneuver and combine fire to get the maximum effect. Because center matches center, there are more Center section cards than either of the corresponding flank cards.

The Tactic cards offer up some variability as well. The Barrage is very powerful card that allows you to target any unit and roll 4 dice. Behind Enemy Lines is a card that allows an Infantry unit to move up to 6 spaces with a battle in between. Their Finest Hour is a great utility card that allows you to potentially order a number of units equal to your command (hand limit), giving each unit an extra die in combat. Ambush is a sneaky little card that allows you to attack when it is not your turn and really disrupt your opponent’s plans!

What is most important to me is the endless replay value of this game. I have played over 200 times and the game is still fresh to me, and this while I have barely scratched the surface. The modular board (through placing terrain tiles) allows many different scenarios to be played. The expansions add infinitely more combinations with new terrain and new rules.

This is a game I expect to play for many decades to come.

What Next? – Other Recommendations for this Game
The basic game is just the beginning for Memoir ’44. There are several expansions that add more armies (Russians, Japanese, British) or alter the board layout (Overlord, Breakthrough). There are also supplementary packs that add new generic figures and rules (Terrain, Air, Equipment ) along with two volumes of campaign play. The Overlord expansion allows two games to be placed side by side. This can accommodate up to 8 players with a unique experience as Commander-in-Chief leading your Field Generals.

If WWII is not to your taste, Richard Borg has several entries in his Commands and Colors line: C&C: Ancients and C&C: Napoleonics (GMT Games), BattleLore (Fantasy Flight Games), Battle Cry (Hasbro) and Samurai Battles (Zvezda). Production and rules change across each title but the same basic game play is present in each.

× Visit Your Profile