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Went to Gen Con 2012
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Corey Young

gamer level 8
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Go to the Gravwell page
Go to the Carcassonne page
Go to the Survive: Escape from Atlantis! page
Go to the RoboRally page
Go to the Macao page
Go to the 7 Wonders: Leaders page
Go to the Small World page
Go to the 7 Wonders page
Go to the 7 Wonders: Cities page
10
Go to the Farmageddon page

Farmageddon

111 out of 149 gamers thought this was helpful

We’ve been having a great time with Farmageddon. It’s become our new ice-breaker on game night.

The premise is simple – plant and grow your crops, then harvest them for points. Meanwhile, you’ll be sabotaging your neighbors’ farms with Gophers, Genetic Superworms and Foreclosures. Of course, they’ll be doing the same to you.

Play is quick, but not rushed. I like a game we can talk over.

The cards are balanced. I like that they are multipurpose as well, so you’ll always have something to do during your turn. I also like the high level of player interaction. Three players seems to be the sweet spot.

The game is well-produced, with very clever art. I highly recommend it.

10
Go to the 7 Wonders: Cities page

7 Wonders: Cities

36 out of 51 gamers thought this was helpful

The kids at Asmodee and Repos really know how to make an expansion. The trick is to add new color and variety to a game, without changing the core rules or bogging the game down. 7 Wonders: Cities does this very well.

Pros —
* Allows up to 8 players, without slowing play
* Each player gets an additional card each age (you’re dealt 8 and play 7)
* Dovetails flawlessly with core game and Leaders
* Same high standard for the artwork and production value
* New feature: Debt. Many of the new cards make your opponents lose money. If you don’t have enough to pay the bank, you take debt tokens in the amount owed. The big drawback? You can’t pay the debt off AND each debt point is a negative VP. That’s right – it’s effectively 200% interest with no chance of paying it off. Yikes?
* New feature: Diplomacy. Several cards and board features provide the player with a diplomatic token. This token remains on your board until the end of the next military conflict. If you have a diplomacy token, you don’t take part in the conflict. Your neighbors to the left and right fight one another as if you aren’t there. Handy!

Cons —
* It does increase the time needed for setup and clean up.
* Some of the balance may be off. One card lets you build Wonder levels without the required resources. Yikes.
* We find that it does increase the pondering time a bit each hand, but that’s to be expected.

4
Go to the Small World: Tales and Legends page
71 out of 78 gamers thought this was helpful

Tales and Legends maintains the great quality found in the rest of the Small World line. The art is fun and clever, and the cards are of good quality.

Aaaand, I just don’t care for it much. I had really hoped to like it, but it just adds way more chaos and bookkeeping than I’d expected.

The cards introduce a new, overarching rule for each round of play. On top of managing your race and its powers, and your in-decline race, and watching your opponents’ races and powers, you now have to keep track of the special rule for each round of play. It doesn’t seem like it would be that much of a difference, but it really is.

We often forget to change the card, or we forget to apply its bonuses until it’s too late. Some of the cards require a small, simple auction. Some people love auctions – some hate them. It seems to me that tweenagers, who seem to be the ideal age for most of the game, just don’t get into them.

We will continue to play the other SW expansions, but this one won’t be in the mix very often.

8
Go to the Zombie Dice page

Zombie Dice

18 out of 39 gamers thought this was helpful

Okay, not all of us are fans of zombie games. I’m not judging. Tastes differ.

Zombie Dice is a straightforward, push-your-luck dice game. It doesn’t try to be more than it is. You don’t get together for an evening of Zombie Dice, unless you’re playing the drinking version. (Whenever you’re shot 3x, you take a drink.) You play it while you’re waiting for more players to show up or between heavier games.

It plays much faster and is much easier than Cosmic Wimpout, a comparable push-your-luck dice game. It would work well as the game you play to determine the first player for another game.

10
Go to the Wiz-War page

Wiz-War

48 out of 57 gamers thought this was helpful

I used to play the old-school version of Wiz-War. I recall bashing and zapping my friends’ wizards and running around grabbing their treasures while defending my own. I’m sure I played it over 30 times, back in the day.

Last night, I opened the new Fantasy Flight version. I can’t say enough positive things about the component quality. And quantity. I don’t remember there being so many parts. The game comes with a few zip-lock bags, but you’ll want to get more to speed the setup. The art is clear, colorful and appropriate. The sculpted figures are interesting and well-cast enough to use as character figures in a roleplaying game.

My only complaint about the components are the warp doors, and this is pretty minor. There are two sets of matched doors which act as warp portals, taking you to the other side of the board. Two of the doors are blue and two are purple. For those of us who are colorblind, all four are identical. To be fair, there are tiny symbols above each door which differentiate them as well, but these are too subtle to be of much help.

The rules. (Sigh)

There are more rules than this game probably needs. At 20 pages, I’d say the rules are about twice as long as they aught to be. Rules are repeated in several places, not because the editors weren’t careful, but because they seemed to want to present them in context throughout. The bigger problem is that they front load wordy descriptions of every component, which results in the actual rules of play not beginning until page 6. The additional rules begin on page 14 (!?!).

All those rules and components, but for some reason, there are no turn summary cards. The turns are not horribly complicated, but a reminder card would certainly help beginning players.

The game play is pretty much as I remember. A lot of bashing and zapping. I guess I’ve played so many other boardgames in the gap between the original and this version, I’ve come to expect a bit more.

One of the big problems with Wiz-War is that players can be eliminated. In a four player game, that could happen quickly to one player. I liken Wiz-War to Frag in most respects, and Frag handles this better. There, player’s respawn.

The box lists the playing time as 30-60 minutes. That’s a big enough window, but we find that it’s actually more like 15-75. Not a good thing in a lighter game.

I was really hoping to give a more positive review of the game. I’m nostalgic about it, and hoped I’d pass the enjoyment of the game on to my kids. I just feel crestfallen that my boys (12 and 16) gave it a resounding… meh.

10
Go to the Macao page

Macao

41 out of 47 gamers thought this was helpful

I’ve never been a guy who enjoyed games involving resources. It just wasn’t my thing. Didn’t care if it was money, wood, prestige, followers, sheep or cucumbers – I didn’t want to find it, mine it, trade it, sell it or anything of the like. For whatever reason, that kind of play just didn’t trigger anything in me.

So then why do I love Macao? It’s all about resources. It even has the ultimate in resource cliches – little wooden cubes.

The theme, shipping stuff around the Mediterranean sea, is standard fare. (Side note: Holy distorted map there kiddies.) No, that didn’t make the difference.

What makes the difference, I suspect, is that Macao uses an outstanding game mechanic for determining which resources are available, how much of them is available and most critically, when they will be available. All players have equal access to the cubes. Dice are rolled each round, but the rolls impact all the players equally. The aspects that I like least about resource games, hoarding and haggling, are not in play.

This lets me concentrate on the miriad other decisions. Do I take that person, or build that building. Do I buy porcelain in that quarter (because delivering it would be easy), or jade over there (because it extends my chain of properties)? Do I move up the wall so that I’ll have first choice next round, or move my ship out of harbor to get a head start on my deliveries.

The learning curve is steep on this game, but it only takes one time through to understand it all. There are many choices to be made during your turn, but those choices are broken up into manageable chunks. The care the designer took to balance the cards really shows.

I highly recommend it, even to those of you, like me, who don’t think of yourself as a resource gamer.

9
Go to the Dragon Parade page

Dragon Parade

16 out of 33 gamers thought this was helpful

I’m glad that my 12-year-old likes this game. He often coaxes his cousins and friends to give it a go. The mechanics of placing your vendors (fancy meeples) and moving the dragon are easy enough to get the hang of in a few minutes. The tactics (I won’t go so far as to call it strategy) of doing so effectively takes a few rounds to grasp.

It’s a light game, but it has the right level of depth for younger gamers-in-training. It’s also a good game for showing less-experienced players what Euro games are like, in comparison to the games we grew up on in America.

PRO
* Nice artwork, in keeping with the theme
* Good production, with large wooden bits
* Quick to pick up – not a huge investment to try it out

CON
* Very light for more serious players

 
Go to the Frag Gold Edition page

Frag Gold Edition

63 out of 82 gamers thought this was helpful

Frag is one of those fun games that doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. Its tagline, “The first person shooter, without the compute” sums up the play nicely. Each player takes the role of an in-game soldier. Your goal is to rack up as many frags (killing other players’ soldiers) as you can. Note that BEING fragged does not count against you, just like in the games. It’ll set you back a little, but respawning is just part of the game.

You’re actually working at a bit of a meta-level above the game too. In the game, you can collect extra weapons and equipment, but it is also possible to get game hacks and better video-game hardware. My sons liked this aspect of the game as much as the weapons.

10
Go to the Scrabble page

Scrabble

62 out of 69 gamers thought this was helpful

Scrabble still hits our kitchen table about once a month. It’s up against much flashier and newer games, but there it is, a friendly old uncle, winking at me – knowing I’d rather spend an hour with him.

I won’t go over the rules of Scrabble, or how it’s played. You either already know, or you can find the rules online. I know how the engine in a Ferrari works, but that tells me little about what it’s like to drive one. Okay, I suppose I should have said a Studebaker.

I play Scrabble with my kids. I don’t do it to enhance their education, though I suppose it does. We play because they enjoy it. The kids often disagree on which game we’ll play, but if I settle the argument with Scrabble, nobody moans. (Scattergories is another winner.)

I play Scrabble with my parents when they come to visit. They play 2 or 3 evenings a week. They’re always discovering new short words that beg to be challenged. I have to watch their faces to see if they’re bluffing. We actually rarely use the formal challenge rules – I mean c’mon, it’s family. Some nights we play very loose, passing a dictionary around as we play. I’m not sure the sand timer that came with our game works. It’s Schrodinger’s cat – never been out of the box.

My favorite Scrabble games are those I played on the evenings while our kids were falling asleep. My wife and I would play while enjoying a pot of tea and talking about the day.

If I can suggest one thing, it would be that you give a high-end edition of Scrabble as a wedding gift. It’ll be appreciated.

9
Go to the Hisss page

Hisss

36 out of 41 gamers thought this was helpful

We love this game on game nights because it gives our younger kids a chance to play a game with their older siblings. Unlike so many games designed for younger kids (e.g. Chutes & Ladders, Candyland, and Mousetrap), Hisss allows the players to make decisions. Which snake should I extend? Where should I play this rainbow card?

It also helps with counting and color recognition.

The cards are beautifully illustrated and made to last. Perfect for kids under 6.

We also like how quickly the game plays. We can play it a few times at the start of the evening, let the younger kids play it among themselves while we older folks play something else, and get in a few more games during our intermissions.

10
Go to the Wits & Wagers page

Wits & Wagers

45 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

Wits and Wagers is primarily a trivia game, but the obscurity of the questions levels the playing field for those of us who don’t qualify as Jeopardy contestants.

All of the questions have numeric answers. Each player writes his or her guess, errr “informed response”, secretly on a dry-erase card. All players’ answers are revealed simultaneously, then sorted. The answers are placed on the large rectangles on the playing mat, low-to-high. Players then wager on which answer they think is closest, without going over.

The payouts are higher for answers that are at the extremes. The middle (mean) answer pays 2:1. Answers to the right or left of the middle pay 3:1, and so on. The highest payout is 5:1 for the “All Answers Too High” space.

This has a nice leveling effect because you don’t have to know the actual answer. You can go with the crowd, or bet big against them.

Be sure to get the family edition if you want to play with the kids.

10
Go to the 7 Wonders: Leaders page

7 Wonders: Leaders

57 out of 61 gamers thought this was helpful

What a treat! We’ve been playing 7 Wonders with the Leaders expansion for a few days now and we all agree that it’s among the best expansions ever produced. It doesn’t step on the rest of the game, and adds some great new decisions early on. It does add just a bit more complexity to the game, so I recommend not using the Leaders when introducing new players to 7 Wonders.

The expansion introduces a new Wonder, Roma, which relies heavily on the new Leader cards. Because of this link to the new mechanic/rules/feature, I recommend not using the Roma Wonder until you’ve played with the leaders for a game or two.

The expansion also includes 4 new Guilds, which dovetail nicely with the existing guilds. These just get shuffled into the other guilds. You still draw the same number, based on the number of players.

The big change is the introduction of the leaders, which are provided as a new deck. Before the first Age, you’ll do a quick draft, selecting 4 leaders using the same kind of passing that the rest of the game employs. The leaders each provide an ongoing benefit. You’ll recruit one new leader at the beginning of each Age, paying gold for them. I’m not sure the balance is exactly right on the costs of each leader – some are real bargains.

I’ll discuss a few of the leaders in a Strategy post about this expansion.

Highly recommended. As always, shop your FLGS first!

10
Go to the Tsuro page

Tsuro

54 out of 86 gamers thought this was helpful

Tsuro is an elegant and simple tile playing game. It is very easy to pick up, suitable for kids 7 and up.

One of the quickest ways to get your head around how the game plays is to harken back to the original Tron movie – specifically the light cycle contest. Your job is to stay alive and not get routed off the game grid. You play tiles in front of your pawn, extending its path.

Of all the games I own, this one has the highest production value. The art is simply gorgeous.

7
Go to the Haggis page

Haggis

81 out of 183 gamers thought this was helpful

If you enjoy trick-taking games and are looking for a good 3-player option, Haggis has you covered.

The game might be a bit tricky to pick up unless you’ve played similar games, like Tichu or Gang of Four.

8
Go to the DungeonQuest page

DungeonQuest

62 out of 97 gamers thought this was helpful

DungeonQuest is a nifty game for introducing younger players to the hack-n-slash aspect of role-playing. They’ll learn that there are certain actions they can take that work better or worse for their type of character. They’ll feel the thrill of knocking off some lightweight enemies, and facing bosses.

DungeonQuest predates any of the modern cooperative play games, so players won’t get the sense of what it’s like to have a party that works together.

Pro
* Nice bits
* Easy to pick up – little setup time
* Fairly balanced

Con
* Not a deep game – won’t hold the attention of experienced gamers

7
Go to the Blokus page

Blokus

34 out of 73 gamers thought this was helpful

I tried. I really did. I busted it out once a month for about 4 months. I don’t know what it is about the game that just didn’t click with my kids.

Sure, it’s abstract.
It’s colorful.
Certainly easy to pick up.

I’m thinking the problem is with my kids. They’ve latched onto a lot of other games, but all of their favorites have some sort of theme.

No, I’m not suggesting Blokus needs a theme.

It pushed my internal Qix button, but that will only mean anything to gamers of a certain age.

8
Go to the Cranium page

Cranium

17 out of 38 gamers thought this was helpful

Cranium is an excellent choice when your group can’t decide if it wants to play a trivia game, charades or Pictionary. It has a pretty good selection of questions and challenges, which should appeal to each type of player.

The trivia questions vary wildly in difficulty.

Not a great choice for those not familiar with American pop culture.

10
Go to the Carcassonne: River I page
48 out of 76 gamers thought this was helpful

The rivers are not as simple to use as the single starting tile. Not as elegant either. And I don’t care.

I like the variety. I also prefer the way the river creates a bit of a skeletal structure across the table, in contrast to the amoebae shape you get with the single starting tile.

10
Go to the Carcassonne: Traders and Builders page
110 out of 147 gamers thought this was helpful

The “goods” feature of this expansion is pretty, ahem, good, but the builder is priceless. The builder lets you take extra turns. How cool is that? Players who take advantage of their builders end up way ahead.

The bag is a nice addition to the game. It’s a lot easier to pass around the bag than to draw from a pile, the box lid or the tower. We now use the tower and the bag for our big games because the number of tiles has expanded beyond what the bag will hold.

The pig? Meh. If you can get it on a huge farm, then it’s fantastic.

8
Go to the Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals page
16 out of 44 gamers thought this was helpful

If you’re buying Carcassonne for a friend and you’d like her to start with a good expansion, this is the one. It adds a bunch a nifty new tile variations. The Inns and Cathedrals in the title are interesting, adding 1pt per tile to cities and roads, but ONLY if you finish them.

The big win is the big meeple. It’s played like any other meeple, but counts as 2 for purposes of determining who owns a feature.

7
Go to the Carcassonne: The Princess and the Dragon page
52 out of 71 gamers thought this was helpful

My friends always debate whether we should introduce the dragon into our game. Some love it, others don’t. It certainly messes up much of the strategy of the game, since you never know when the dragon will be moved near your valuable, yet incomplete assets, and then whether it will move toward your meeple.

The fairy’s repulsive effect is nice, but it’s “gain one point whenever you start a turn with the fairy” feature is frustrating. Players often forget.

6
Go to the Carcassonne: The Tower page
84 out of 97 gamers thought this was helpful

The Tower expansion introduces the ability to kidnap other players’ meeple. The situation is temporary – you can get your meeple back by kidnapping the other player’s meeple (the swap is automatic) or by ransoming the player by exchanging points.

The big impact is losing whatever the meeple was standing on. Towers also have a tendency to ruin the property value of any features “in their shadow.” Who wants to try to claim a cloister when the monk standing on it could be kidnapped when it’s almost complete?

10
Go to the Carcassonne: Abbey and Mayor page
30 out of 38 gamers thought this was helpful

This expansion adds barns, abbeys and mayors.

Barns are basically uber-farmers. The rules for placing them are a bit complicated, but they make farming more lucrative.

Each player is given one abbey tile, which basically works as a wildcard, completing the things around it. All 4 sides of an empty space must be filled before you can place your abbey tile.

The real win for this expansion is the mayor. It’s a new meeple with a huge bottom. It is placed like any other meeple, but only on cities. On its own, it’s worth no meeple, BUT every shield in the completed city counts as one meeple for the player with a mayor in the city. See my strategy tip for this.

3
Go to the Carcassonne: Catapult page
89 out of 101 gamers thought this was helpful

Every single time we try using the Catapult expansion, we end up scrapping it after one turn. It only adds a silly tiddly-winks aspect to the game. The included spring board / catapult performs poorly, but worse, it slows game play incredibly.

10
Go to the Carcassonne: Wheel of Fortune page
18 out of 33 gamers thought this was helpful

Everything that can be said about Carcassonne can be said about this variation. It’s an alternative core set.

The wheel doesn’t add much to game, but if you like a little more random action, then you might like it. For the most part, it just gives you a few chances to score a few extra points from time to time.

7
Go to the Belfort page

Belfort

90 out of 156 gamers thought this was helpful

This might get me clobbered here, but I have to admit, I’m not much into resource collecting games. It’s just not my thing.

So why do I like Belfort so much? A big part has to be the way in which the different races are intertwined and represented. That part just clicked with me. I had flashbacks to 8-bit adventure games for some reason – cute and logical.

I only got to play a few rounds at Gen Con, but I put this on my wishlist. Maybe it’ll change my mind about the whole game type.

2
Go to the Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game page
30 out of 89 gamers thought this was helpful

I had a bad feeling about this. Sitting at the table with my smirking gamer buddies. They told me that the BSG was a cooperative game, and after the first few rounds, all seemed just fine. Oh, but did they mention the bit about a Cylon in our midst? No. No need mentioning the “advanced” rule to the n00b.

Okay, my first time playing was quite that dramatic, but it certain turned the what I thought was a straightforward coop game into a sci-fi version of Are You a Werewolf. Not a bad twist, and it stands up pretty well to replays.

…assuming you always cheered for the Cylons when you watched the show…

3
Go to the Carcassonne: The Count page
76 out of 108 gamers thought this was helpful

Okay, no, Catapult is still worse. The count adds a lot of kill-stealing to Carcassonne. If you enjoy that sort of thing, it might be right for you.

3
Go to the UNO page

UNO

28 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

I can’t imagine there are too many people in the US who haven’t played UNO. I know many people play it incorrectly, playing a green 7 on a yellow 7, even though they have other yellow cards. Check the rules – unless they’ve revised them, you’re supposed to follow color first, then number.

No matter. House rules. In most cases, house rules make it more interesting, e.g. the Draw 2s Stack rule.

5
Go to the Munchkin page

Munchkin

23 out of 56 gamers thought this was helpful

Munchkin has great art and many wonderful puns. With the right group of silly, fanboy players, it can be a hoot. If you end up at a table with serious gamers, intentent on winning the game, it’s a grind. Most games result in one player running away with the game after about 5 rounds. If you and your group can look past that, it’s a great way to kill 30 minutes while you’re waiting for more players to show up.

9
Go to the ROOK page

ROOK

64 out of 83 gamers thought this was helpful

Some games are classics because they’ve been around forever, like Monopoly (no comment) or Chutes and Ladders (again, no comment). Rook is a classic because it plays well after hundreds of games, like euchre and cribbage.

The rules can be a bit off-putting because they get muddled with variations. I suggest you just drop the cards below 5 and focus on the basic rules. Also, be sure to play the 4-person rules, with partners.

5
Go to the Tichu page

Tichu

54 out of 144 gamers thought this was helpful

I realize that Gang of Four is based on Tichu, but for my money, Gang of Four is much more fun to play. The decks are very similar, but the rules for Go4 are much simpler and straightforward. Tichu is more complicated, but not in the interesting, adds-to-the-fun way.

10
Go to the RoboRally page

RoboRally

51 out of 62 gamers thought this was helpful

RoboRally is a lighthearted boardgame with a high “bash your opponent” component. Your goal is to help your robot navigate across a hostile manufacturing floor while avoiding pits and the edges of the field, dodging lasers, riding conveyor belts and shoving other players’ bots.

It’s a great tool for teaching basic programing skills to young people because it shows how machines do exactly what they’re programmed to do, regardless of changes to their environment. Players start each round by placing 5 program cards in a specific order. Each card has a simple action on it, like move forward 1, rotate 90 degrees left, or back up 1. Your robot performs these actions in the exact order you placed them. If another player happens to push your robot onto a conveyor belt between steps 2 and 3, so it goes. Your robot will do the actions, but they will take place farther down the line than you expected.

One of the best features of the game is the locking mechanism. Once your robot starts to take damage, some of its memory slots, containing the action cards, start to lock up. If your 5th action is “Back Up 1 Space” and that slot gets locked up, your 5th action for every turn thereafter will be “Back Up 1 Space.”

7
Go to the Dominion page

Dominion

71 out of 91 gamers thought this was helpful

Dominion was the first deck-building game I tried, and remains my favorite. I wasn’t at all clear at first about what the term “deck-building” meant. I assumed it was something like Magic: The Gathering, but I was very wrong.

All players start with a small deck cards made up of money and properties. On your turn, you’ll use some of these cards to buy other cards, which are added to your deck. Your deck will continue to grow, increasing in money, property and special cards which allow you to make more complex actions during your turn.

The basic game allows some bashing of other players, but it is mostly about improving your ability to acquire more stuff.

The rules did not explain play very well, but the included example play was excellent and helped us get our heads around the game very quickly.

10
Go to the Carcassonne page

Carcassonne

56 out of 72 gamers thought this was helpful

If you’re trying to break your kids of dice-centric games, start with Carcassonne. It takes just a few minutes to cover the rules. Skip the bit about Farmers for the first few games, until all players are solid with building cities, roads and cloisters.

The basic game has wonderful replay value. After a while, you’ll start remembering which tiles are still available.

The travel version is the same as the basic game, and worth keeping with your vacation goodies. The Anniversary edition, in the meeple-shaped box, is nice for its scoring track, but you may not like the way its plastic meeple don’t match the wooden parts in all the expansions. The Wheel of Fortune also serves as a complete initial set, but I don’t recommend it for those who haven’t played the basic game. The wheel doesn’t add that much, and it complicates an otherwise elegant core game.

9
Go to the Survive: Escape from Atlantis! page
36 out of 77 gamers thought this was helpful

I loved this game as a kid. Several years ago, I introduced my own kids to my old version, and it became an instant favorite. I was delighted to see the new edition with its MUCH-improved components.
Be sure to grab the 5-6 player expansion with the reprinted mountain pieces. The squid expansion is also great, but might add more complexity than you’d want for younger players.

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