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7
Go to the Glory to Rome page

Glory to Rome

53 out of 63 gamers thought this was helpful

Glory to Rome, the cartoony illustrated cardgame of Roman reconstruction. While a Kickstarter with questionable fulfillment brought updated artwork, I still find the game is most known for the brightly colored cartoon depictions of people and places, all sealed in clear plastic clamshell packaging. If you don’t mind the look (it doesn’t bother me, but I am admittedly artistically unsophisticated) and box, there is a quite enjoyable, if chaotic, game within.

Goal of Gaining Glory

Glory to Rome is a card based game, where each card depicts different options for use which must be managed as you play. You’ll use the cards to provide the roles, people, building types, building materials, and money needed to gain victory and restore glory to Rome. At its heart, Glory to Rome is a card management game. You’ll have many options of how to use a single card, whether to build for the future, increase your clientele, follow an opponent’s lead, or storing points in your vault. In the end, your score is determined by your influence, vaulted value, and any bonuses.

General Play

As I mention below, Glory to Rome isn’t the easiest game to teach, it’s easier to see the game in action. As such, I won’t go into deep detail here. Please note when looking at the linked rulebook, pay close attention to the page numbers at the bottom. They alternate from left of the page, to right of the page, and back. For instance, page 7 and page 16 are side by side, and page 7 is directly above page 15, while page 16 is above page 8.

Each player will have a player board which reminds you of action types, and is where you’ll play your cards. Unlike many boards, you don’t play your cards on the player board, but under it, with a given edge showing, depending on how you are using the card. At the left are Clientele, all cards of a given color have the same Clientele. Cards here will increase later actions of that color (for instance, having two Laborer Clientele will allow you to take two extra resources when using the Laborer action). At the bottom is the stockpile, where building materials will be stored. On the right is the Vault, where cards may be placed to score points at the end of the game. At the top is Influence, which both scores points, and shows how many Clientele you may have.

The basic turn structure isn’t overly complicated. There are six actions that can be taken, one for each color. The active player chooses (leads) an action (color), and other players may play the same type of card to follow and also perform that action. Instead of following, any other player may draw cards instead (think). The leader is not required to lead a role, and may choose to draw cards themselves.

Purple – Hire Clients
Yellow – Gather Materials (put cards from central pool to Stockpile)
Grey – Lay Foundation or Build Structure (using cards from Stockpile)
Brown – Lay Foundation or Build Structure (using cards from Hand)
Red – Demand Materials (steal from Opponents)
Blue – Sell (move from Stockpile to Vault)

Along with playing actions, as seen in the Grey and Brown cards, players will be putting down foundations and building structures. Each card color is also a type of building material, and there are a set number of foundations for each color. Players can put down foundations and start building cards, allowing use their abilities during the game (the buildings are the central parts of the cards). When a building is complete, the foundation is placed under the top of the player board, increasing influence.

The game will continue with players following roles, or drawing cards, until the deck runs out or the foundations of one type are gone (or a few other immediate end of game conditions are met; one card will end the game when built). Then you’ll score your Influence, Vault, and any bonuses and determine the winner who brought the most glory to Rome!

My Thoughts

While the cartoony art may imply light gameplay, one should not expect this to be the case. Once learned, how to play the game is not overly complicated, but it can be difficult to teach and grasp initially. The rules specifically suggest you not try to jump into the game; and I emphatically agree that talking through the different areas of the game, and showing sample turns is the way to go.

There are many different types of card powers in the game, and they are not all created equal. There are card powers that, by themselves, are just plain better than other cards. A key to Glory to Rome is that single cards aren’t likely to get you very far. Setting up combinations and synergies between cards are very important, something that you may luck upon in an early game, but will generally require multiple plays. Glory to Rome is not a game where a single play will give a great idea of the strategies of the game.

I like games where it feels like my decisions matter during play, and this is certainly the case with Glory to Rome. With so many uses for an individual card, it can be agonizing to decide if you should hold the card back for its ability later, or use it for its client now. You need to get an engine going, but the cards that make up that engine may need to be used in another way to get the other cards to set it up.

If you’re interested in trying Glory to Rome, try to find someone who has played it to teach it to you. Then, I recommend aiming to play two or three games in a row so you can start to see strategies emerge, and get a feel for the ebb and flow of the game. I would generally advise family and social gamers to look elsewhere, as there is a steep learning curve and can be confusion given how many different ways a card can be played. Glory to Rome is probably only for the most ardent casual players (which may well be a contradiction). Avid gamers will enjoy the multiple uses of cards, while many strategy gamers will enjoy building various combinations and efficient engines. Some power gamers will enjoy the game, but I find it will be hit or miss, it is a cardgame after all.

Ultimately, I enjoy playing Glory to Rome and wish I could play it more. It’s not the easiest game to teach/learn, and generally requires a pretty substantial rules refresher for people who have played before. Adding in that I strongly feel one game at a time doesn’t work all that well for Glory to Rome, it’s a game I’d recommend trying, but know it may miss the mark, depending on the crowd.

7
Go to the Blueprints page

Blueprints

85 out of 92 gamers thought this was helpful

You’re rolling and stacking dice? Is this a dexterity game, or made for kids? These are some of the comments that have come up while playing Blueprints, and I can’t say I didn’t initially feel the same way. Blueprints, from just looking at the components (some cards, folded screens, a score track that doesn’t count your score, and dice) was completely off my radar. I’m very pleased that I got pulled into a game at a convention, and have had the chance to play more since!

Goal of the Game

Over three rounds, you want to build the most valuable buildings using randomly assigned building cards (blueprints), and four types of resources: wood, glass, stone, and recycle material represented by the differently colored dice. You are not required to follow your blueprint, but there is a bonus if you do. Each turn the buildings will be scored, with medals awarded to the most valuable. There are some bonus prizes that are also awarded if you meet certain requirements based on dice quantities, types, or arrangements.

Surprising to many I’ve played with, it is not the value of your buildings that will bring victory, but the medals and bonus cards, which are the only victory points in the game.

How to Build Your Way to Victory

In each of the three rounds, play will pass around the table six times. On your turn, you’ll take one die from the face up pool of your choice and place it on your blueprint card. The color of die (type of resource) will determine how that die will score at the end of the round. You place your chosen die on your blueprint card, which will have open spaces to show where you may build. These blueprints call for multiple levels, requiring dice to be stacked on top of previous dice. To do so, the new die must be of equal or greater value to that below it.

Once you’ve taken and placed your die (hidden on your blueprint behind your screen) you’ll draw a die and roll it, adding it to the central pool, starting the next player’s turn. In this way, each player will ultimately add six dice to their blueprint, and then it’s time to score.

How to Score Your Way to Victory

Each color of die is scored in a different way, which brings the major tactics and variation to the game. A wood die (brown) scores more for the number of other dice it’s touching. Recycled material (green) score points based on how many total dice of that type are in your building. Glass (clear) score their rolled value, while stone (black) are worth more the higher the level upon which they sit.

Points are tallied on the score track for each resource type, with a six point bonus given to those that followed their blueprint exactly. Then, the player with most points gets a gold medal, with other medals given out based on points and player count. After scoring, there are four bonus prizes available each round. These are based on the rolled values of the dice you used. Having four-of-a-kind, and/or five of the same dice type, and/or having a straight (one to six) and/or having a building that is a tower six dice high may earn you the prize (only one of each is given out each round, there is a tiebreaker mechanic based on a dice value drawn at the beginning of the round).

These medals and bonus prizes give the victory points with which you’ll win the game. The score you achieved to earn the medal or prize is ultimately meaningless, and forgotten to time.

After three rounds you’ll count up your victory points, and celebrate the victory the winner has built.

My Thoughts

Blueprints is a straightforward game that is easy and quick to play. I recommend teaching this game by showing a round instead of teaching in words, since the scoring to get medals throws some people until they see it. As other reviews point out, Blueprints fits into the filler game niche. Gamers likely won’t be “building” a game night around it, but it is a solid option for people who are waiting for another table to finish up, or for more people to arrive.

As with any dice game there will be randomness, but the pool of dice in the center, and the use of four different dice types make luck a smaller factor than is often the case for a dice based game. There will be times that someone will keep pulling the same die type, or rolling just what the next person needs, but I rarely feel this decides the game.

The choice to either go for your blueprint, or go freestyle, gives an early bit of strategy, or at least thinking, to the game. You may decide to go after the medals in a round, or try to build a straight into a six-high tower for the bonus prizes, hoping an opponent isn’t doing the same. The buildings themselves are hidden from view, but with only six dice per round, it’s not hard to people to keep track of at least the resource types their opponents are going for.

In the end, I’m very pleased to have learned about this game that for a number of months I shunned. I was wrong to have avoided this dice filled filler, and encourage social, family, casual, and avid gamers to give it a try. It’s easy enough that you can still have casual conversations while playing, yet most turns feel like the decision you’re making are important. Power and strategy gamers aren’t likely to get a lot out of the game, and may be better off with something like For Sale to fill their filler needs.

Try out a copy, and build Blueprints into an upcoming evening of gaming!

8
Go to the Killer Bunnies: Quest - Blue Starter Deck page
37 out of 42 gamers thought this was helpful

Killer Bunnies is not a game I am supposed to like. There aren’t any cubes to push around, dice rolls can sink your turn, the person who plays the best game can easily lose, and the cabbage/water/carrot market isn’t located in the Mediterranean. How am I supposed to take a game seriously when clearly the game doesn’t even do that for itself? I’m not supposed to like Killer Bunnies. Yet it has led to some of my favorite gaming memories.

Killer Bunnies isn’t for everyone, but for those looking for a light-hearted social experience, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Game Play

You’re using your army of bunnies to collect carrots. Well, in truth, you’re trying to collect a specific carrot. One carrot (secretly selected of eight in the base (Blue) game, twelve including the Yellow booster, and ultimately expanded to twenty through other expansions) will be the winner. If you have it at the end (and at least one bunny) you win. It doesn’t matter how many carrots you have, as long as you have the winning carrot.

The main mechanic for getting cards into play I feel deserves more credit for game design than this game is often given. You in essence need to set your cards two turns in advance, and ‘run’ them through to play them. You’ll have two cards in front of you, one above the other. The top card was set two turns before and is now ready to be played. Most of your permanent cards (mainly bunnies) attacks, and enhancements will be run through. You can also instead play some one time effects (Special and Very Special) from your hand.

The game is cartoony, the items depicted on the cards ridiculous, filled with pop culture jokes and puns. Also of note, the cards are clearly not balanced. You draw a card each turn, and you may pull a nearly useless weapon while an opponent may have the ability to choose two carrots, or enough bunnies to play two cards each round.

Once all of the carrots are taken, the winning carrot is revealed, and the player holding it will win, assuming they have a bunny. If the game ended with any player(s) lacking a surviving bunny, their carrots are lost to opponents. Apparently you need ‘somebunny’ to celebrate your victory.

The Cards

Many cards, especially offensive and carrot acquisition cards will require you to have a bunny. There can be an issue with not having a bunny; rendering many cards you could have played useless. Trading, or beginning of play house rules can alleviate this a bit, but I will readily grant it is an issue with the game.

Attacks include goofy weapons (from kitchen whisks, to ebola and nuclear warheads – your bunnies have a wide variety they may draw) and requirements for others to feed their bunnies cabbage and/or water. Alien abductions and rolling dice for poker all make an appearance. Dice are twelve sided in multiple colors, with cards showing at the right of the picture which dice you need to roll.

I have not had any issues with the cardstock used, the cards have held up to heavy play without sleeves for our group. The backs of the cards are the color of the deck (booster expansion) they are from making cleanup and post game sorting easy. Having different colored backs means you know which set the card you are drawing comes from. If anything, I’ve seen this lead to excitement as new boosters are added and people get new cards.

Final Thoughts

The random nature of the winning carrot is one of the most often cited problems with the game. You can have all but one carrot and still lose (I know, I’ve done it twice). If winning a game is the biggest factor for whether you had a good time, Killer Bunnies probably isn’t for you.

Killer Bunnies is a game one should play for the experience, not to win. Not everyone will enjoy the game, but with the right group, much fun and many great memories can be made. As with games like Pit, Telestrations, or even to an extent Bunny Bunny Moose Moose, if you’re not willing to throw yourself into the experience, you’ll likely hate the game. If you’re ready to take your aggression out on some unsuspecting Sinister bunnies with some Green Gelatin (with the requisite evil pineapple chunks) and collect some carrots knowing most likely they’re useless, Killer Bunnies could see your evening ending with the group pulling out their calendars to determine when they can do it again.

Killer Bunnies is geared for social and casual gamers. Families may like it, though there is a strong theme of killing the bunnies of others with weird weapons, which may turn off some parents. As an avid gamer, I enjoy it with the right group, but find it to be a terrible slog with the wrong group who only care about strategy and winning. Power and strategy gamers should probably steer clear as they would with Munchkin.

Killer Bunnies is many things I don’t like, but manages, in the right setting, to be a fantastic experience. I hope everyone manages to find a game that brings them as much enjoyment as Killer Bunnies has brought me, regardless of what that game may be.

7
Go to the Infiltration page

Infiltration

92 out of 99 gamers thought this was helpful

In Infiltration, you try your hand at data hacking, breaking into a major corporation’s production facility. Your goal is to steal more data than your fellow hackers, and to get out before the cops (Mercs) arrive.

Game Play

Infiltration sees up to six players enter a facility, portrayed by cards in a V shape. Each card, representing different types of rooms with various abilities, starts face down. As the players move through the facility, the cards will be turned up, often offering data for the taking.

Each round, played over four phases (Selection, Resolution, NPC, and Security), will give each player the ability to move around, play items, download data, and stress out about whether to continue moving forward, or make their way for the exit.

Why run for the exit, especially when there may be rooms left to explore? Infiltration includes a ‘timer’, which will count up throughout the game, though not necessarily at a standard rate. Once the timer hits 99, the game ends with anyone still in the facility arrested, losing the game. The player that has managed to download the most data and make it out before the Mercs arrive wins.

My Thoughts

I really enjoy push you luck games, and was excited to try Infiltration. It does a good job of giving tension in your decisions to continue on, or start trying to flee. It gives people that may not have the best luck collecting data a chance to win by getting out while the greedy amass their fortunes. I find this a very good thing, as most of my plays of Infiltration are lopsided in who collects the most data.

There seems to be a large benefit to getting ahead of the rest of the group, especially since many rooms have only one or two shots to gain data. Additionally, some items feel greatly overpowered, and most items you’ll see are randomly assigned before the game.

The other issue I generally see when playing, especially for new players, is that by the time you decide you need to leave, it may be too late to actually escape. While I like this timing aspect to the game, the end can come very quickly, sometimes leaving half of the rooms unexplored. There is something slightly unsatisfying about playing through a game and knowing you never saw much of what existed. This also compounds the problem with an early leader. If you need to catch up in data, you’ll need to push beyond where they went, making it less likely you’ll escape.

With those points said, I still enjoy pulling out the game, and find it plays quickly enough that we’ll normally get two or more plays in. The ability to play a second game immediately after the first helps alleviate the problem of a new player having no idea how quickly the timer can run out.

Recomendations

Infiltration doesn’t strike me as a game with across the board appeal (contrast this with Donald X. Vaccarino’s more well-known Dominion and Kingdom Builder which each attract a broad range of gamers). It is easy enough for most Family gamers, and the playtime is right. I’ve found Casual gamers enjoy it, but I don’t see it being overly Social, and would be hesitant to recommend it for that group. Avid gamers will likely enjoy the time restriction and push your luck element, but I doubt there is enough there for Power or Strategy gamers to really sink their teeth into and want to play more than once.

I’m glad I have Infiltration, but it doesn’t get played as often as Incan Gold or Can’t Stop, my two favorite push your luck games. The latter are each a bit easier to teach/learn, and give a better feeling that you are in charge of your fate, less often encountering a run-away leader issue. I’d recommend giving Infiltration a try, but expect to find an accessory game, not something you’re likely to build an evening around.

9
Go to the Loopin' Louie page

Loopin' Louie

14 out of 15 gamers thought this was helpful

A plastic airplane whirls around trying to knock out plastic coin-shaped chickens (I thought the joke was about ‘spherical chickens’???) Loopin’ Louie is a game that has a massive difference in opinions, often split between those who have played it, and those who have not. Watching the game played will generally leave people unimpressed, but there is something very engaging about actually sitting down and protecting your coin chickens.

Overview/Game Play
A battery powered plastic airplane on a moveable arm rotates around the board. Each player has a catapult (plastic lever) in front of a line of coin chickens. You want to use the catapult to launch the airplane away from your coin chickens. If the plane hits your coin chickens, it’ll normally knock them down. You want to be the last person with coin chickens left.

This game is about as simple to teach and play as one can imagine. It can be taught in 10 seconds, and amazingly, enjoyed for hours.

My Thoughts
When I normally see someone pull Loopin’ Louie out, there are a number of gamers that will groan, and complain about how lame the game looks. The hardest part of this game is often to get someone to sit down and try it. Almost everyone I’ve gotten into a seat to play not only becomes a fan; they finish multiple games before looking up where they can get a copy.

It’s easy and yet engaging. You want to keep knocking the plane away from your coin chickens to protect them. With a full complement of four people playing, it can get intense as everyone is focused on keeping the plane away. After a few whacks at the plane, people will start trying to time their hits, and modulate the force they use, to turn from protecting their area to better attacking others.

There will be times where someone hits Louie just right and you have no chance to protect one of your coin chickens. There will be times where hit Louie just right that he comes right back to your area. There will be times where you find yourself playing five consecutive games, and enjoying the entire experience.

The biggest downside I’ve found with Loopin’ Louie is that it can be difficult to find a copy. The game is absolutely repetitive, and is very light hearted. Normally I would say, “you’ll know if this is the type of game you’ll like”, but I’ve seen many gamers claim it’s the dumbest game they’ve ever seen, and after one play become a fan.

I highly recommend giving Loopin’ Louie a try. It works for nearly any age (the box states 4+) and takes a few minutes for a single play. It is silly fun that is bound to be a hit with family, casual and social gamers, but tends to entertain other gamers as well. It’s amazing how addictive fighting off a plastic airplane can be!

8
Go to the Libertalia page

Libertalia

66 out of 73 gamers thought this was helpful

Libertalia allows the internal politics of a pirate crew to play out over three rounds of careful card play. With 30 different crew members, each interacting in different ways, Libertalia looks to find who is best at managing the varying desires and personalities of their cards (errr… crew).

Game Play

Once the game play is understood, the mechanics of Libertalia are quite simple. All players play a card (numbered 1 – 30) from their hand face down. Cards are then placed in ascending order onto the pirate ship. From lowest to highest, take the day action on the card. Then from highest to lowest, take a treasure token. Finally, check your collected characters for night actions, and take any that are appropriate.

This happens for six turns (days) per round, then any end of week (one time scoring) actions occur and points are awarded. After three rounds, the person with the most points wins.

It’s in the card interactions and timing of when you play them that Libertalia starts to shine.

Card Roles

The key to Libertalia, and what makes it stand out from other games are the crew cards. Everyone gets a deck of 30 that are identical (other than tie breaker numbers for different cards). Everyone will start the game with the same cards as everyone else (fight the urge to shuffle!!!).

You start with nine cards, but will play six over the first round. After this, six more cards (the same for each person) are drawn and added to your remaining cards. Since you choose which cards to play each turn, you may have set yourself up with a different hand than your opponents. This continues into the third round, giving opportunities for shrewd play, holding back cards others played quickly, or jumping on an opportunity while others wait in hopes of better combinations.

For those concerned about replayability, don’t worry, while everyone starts with the same nine cards as each other, those nine cards are randomly selected each game.

Pirate Booty

Pirate games need treasure, and Libertalia gives treasure collection its own phase. Your crew’s abilities will be played from lowest value to highest (typically higher numbers have stronger effects), but you collect booty from highest to lowest (assuming your crew survived the day).

There will be one booty tile per player, which you’ll see in advance. Many are good (positive points), while some are cursed (negative points), and others allow you to discard crew, either yours or your neighbors’. There are also maps that are worthless alone, but worth a lot (12 points) if you get three. This treasure collection adds to the strategy of card play. Do you use your high card to try and grab treasure now, or wait until later when it may be more lucrative?

My Thoughts

Libertalia gives everyone the same starting cards each round, and yet still allows people to end up with different hands during different rounds. I find this to be the greatest strength of the game, and where the replayability lies. Once you begin to know what different cards in the deck do, and what cards combine well with others, you can start planning out your strategy of carrying over cards for later, or playing them out this turn. It’s always a great shock to see that card from the first round show up at the end of the game to win the day!

I agree with Ramenhotep that there are more components than are necessary to play the game, but it does lead to a very attractive game that catches the eye of people walking by. They also add a feeling of “weight” to a game that is, at its heart, a card game. I would have preferred the scoreboard be integrated around the central shipboard; the existing scoreboard is a bit hard to read as it spirals inward, but gets the job done.

I’ve played Libertalia with casual, social, and avid gamers, and all have enjoyed it and wanted to play again. As long as the theme is acceptable, family gamers should enjoy the game, while it may leave power and strategy gamers looking for a bit more.

Overall, I would recommend giving Libertalia a try, it keeps the theme of interactions between pirates on a ship, while also giving some interesting decisions along the way!

10
Go to the For Sale page

For Sale

100 out of 112 gamers thought this was helpful

For those that don’t know, a “filler” game is generally a relatively short game that can be played in between other games, filling in the time.

What Makes A Good Filler?

For me, a filler should be a few things.
– Fast playing (15-20 minutes or less)
– Easy to teach/learn
– Allow a good number of players
– Fun

What about For Sale?

I point out the finer points of fillers because For Sale is one of the gold standards of fillers that I have played. It manages to embody everything I feel a filler should be, while also being a very engaging game with depth and strategy on repeated plays.

Game Play

For Sale has two parts to the game. First, you’re buying up properties in an auction. Then, you’re selling those properties using a blind bid to gain points. The person with the most points wins (surprise!)

In part one; each player will start with an equal amount of money tokens. A deck numbered 1-30 with whimsical representations of properties that increase in desirability with value is shuffled (some cards may be removed based on player count). One card per player is played out face up. The players will bid on these cards in an auction. Each player will end up with one card. The first person to drop out will pay half of their bid (either rounded up or down depending on your version of the game – see the Tip section for more info.) and take the lowest valued card. As more players drop out, they continue to pay half of their bid and take the lowest remaining card. The final player gets the remaining card (the highest value of the round) but pays their full bid.

Rounds continue in this way until the property deck is exhausted.

In part two; the purchased cards will be sold for checks. The checks are numbered 0-15, there are two of each integer, except there is no one. One check per player is randomly turned up. Each player selects one of their properties from part one, and simultaneously reveal them. The checks are given out based on the value of the property played (the highest value property gets the highest valued check).

Rounds continue in this way until the check deck is exhausted.

The sum of the checks and any remaining money from part one gives you your score and determines the winner.

Why is For Sale a Great Filler?

It’s fast paced. An entire game of For Sale will generally take 15 minutes or less. The players are fully engaged throughout the entire game.

Players can learn the game in a minute or two. For Sale can readily be taught by showing a sample round. There is no need to explain the game; you can just show the players what will happen.

For Sale plays up to six players, and in my opinion plays just as well from four to six players, making it quite versatile.

The biggest point in For Sale‘s favor is that is it fun to play. With two distinct parts to the game, you almost feel like you’re playing two different games. If a player likes auctions, For Sale has that, if they don’t like auctions, the second part of the game with blind bid keeps the game from being solely a one-trick-pony.

The auction is where the game really shines. Everyone is going to get a card each round, but the spread of values changes each time. Some rounds, a mid-range card could go for seven, while in others the highest value card in the game may go for four. Each round plays differently, allowing for repeated playing to reveal to interested players a great deal of strategy in bidding.

Final Thoughts

For Sale is one of the go-to-games in my collection for non-gamers, and still works great for avid gamers who are looking for a quick game while another table is wrapping up. Even players that don’t want to get caught up in the strategy of bidding have a good time due to the easy rules set, and great detail put into each of the property illustrations.

If you’re looking for a filler to add to your collection, I strongly recommend For Sale for all gamer types, you won’t regret it!

8
Go to the Can't Stop page

Can't Stop

23 out of 25 gamers thought this was helpful

For me, the ideal board game app will give the same feel when playing as you get when playing the actual game. While the iOS version of Can’t Stop has you hitting a “roll” button instead of physically tossing the dice, it keeps the tension and push-your-luck feel of the analog version.

Game Play

This section is for those unfamiliar with Can’t Stop. If you know the game and are interested in my thoughts on the iOS implementation, skip to the next section.

Your ultimate goal is to complete three columns on the game board. Each column corresponds to the result of two six-sided dice (2-12). The more likely a number is to be rolled, the more spaces in that column. The first person to complete the column claims it, and no one will be able to use that number for the rest of the game.

You have three “runners” you may play each round. On your turn, you roll four six-sided dice. You have to make two pairs of dice. If you haven’t placed a runner, you place runners based on the values of the pairs. If you have placed a runner on a number, you advance them if you roll that number.

You continue rolling as long as you like, placing or advancing one or two runners each time, depending on the outcome of the dice. If you ever have a roll whether neither result allows you to advance or place a runner, your turn ends, and you gain nothing for that round (runners are removed and any pieces from previous rounds stay where they are). If you choose to stop rolling, you replace any runners with your pieces. Your pieces show where runners would start from on future turns. If you get a runner to the top of a column and end your turn, you claim the column.

iOS Implementation

The app feels quite close to the real game, which I was very pleased with. The fun of Can’t Stop for me is in the push-your-luck aspect of the game. I want to feel like my decision to keep rolling or stop is important, and that carries through for this version. You’re still racing against your opponents to claim the columns, and now you can do so against two levels of AI, and in a solo mode.

The graphics are pretty to look at, but my focus is typically at the bottom of the screen where the dice rolls are shown. I can’t comment on the music as I play without volume. I have heard some people are annoyed at the 3D animations, and circling lights (you can see these on the pictures above on the boardgaming.com game page). I don’t have a problem with them, though I wouldn’t mind being able to turn off the animation after a player claims a column. The piece will continue to jump up and down and do flips throughout the game, which is a touch annoying. Settings allow you to turn off music/sound, but not animations. In the end, I don’t really notice them, and I don’t feel they factor into my enjoyment of the game one way or the other.

Positives

– Solo (Time Attack) mode is fun. You see how quickly you can complete three columns.

– Two levels of AI, easy and hard, which do a good job of approximating opponents.

– Consecutive roll achievements. After all of your runners are placed, the game tracks how many successful rolls you’ve had. It’s great to see how many rolls you’ve had, and amazing to think you can potentially get to 33 (I think I’ve only reach 29).

Wish List

– I really miss rules enforcement for the variant game rules that come with analog game (you only get the base rules). Against humans, you can all just play how you want, but the AI won’t be governed by these rules. My favorite variant is where you can’t stop if your runner occupies the same spot as an opponent. There is no way to get the AI to do this.

– While you can play against three AI, they all have to be the same difficulty; you can’t have 1 easy and 2 hard, which seems odd to me.

– While Time Attack is a lot of fun, the game does not keep track of your best times, which surprises me.

Final Thoughts

Can’t Stop is easily one of my most played iOS games for my iPod Touch. It’s quick, easy to teach, and can be played when waiting at a restaurant, on the train, or wherever you have a few minutes to fill. The solo Time Attack is great, and addictive. The consecutive roll achievements will have you coming back for more.

When going back to the analog version, there is a little bit of a mental hurdle as you’ll have to start pairing your dice by yourself again. It’s really easy to get used to the game showing what your roll options are, so much so that you really don’t even notice the faces of the dice while playing, you just focus on your results.

Can’t Stop has been one of the best $0.99 I’ve spent for gaming (up there with Ticket to Ride: Pocket); so much so that I wasn’t upset when the game was free within a month of my buying it. If you enjoy push-your-luck games and are looking for a time filler on your iOS device, you should definitely give Can’t Stop a try.

9
Go to the Toc Toc Woodman page

Toc Toc Woodman

27 out of 31 gamers thought this was helpful

While most games have you building something up (a civilization, resource pile, or those ubiquitous victory points), Toc Toc Woodman gives your inner child a chance to break out and knock things over. Taking on the role of a lumberjack, you’re tasked with skillfully knocking bark from a tree with your oversized axe, while leaving the core in place.

Game Play

Take axe. Hit tree. Hit tree again. Cheer or groan based on results. Pass axe. Anxiously await next turn.

Rules

The above section covers the basics of the game. Each turn you’ll hit a plastic tree with a plastic axe with the goal of knocking off bark sections. Each piece of bark (there are 4 per section, loosely attached to a larger core piece) is worth 1 point. If you knock off a core piece it gives negative 5 points.

Once all of the bark is off the tree, whoever has the most points, wins.

My Thoughts,

I am extremely pleased to have added Toc Toc Woodman to my collection. The rules are extremely simple, resulting in the 5+ age suggestion. The game looks great on the table, and people are drawn over to watch the game in action. Toc Toc Woodman is great for getting even the most hesitant person to play a game. Plus, it’s harder than it looks to knock the bark off while leaving the core. While people care about the score, it’s quickly forgotten who won the last round as everyone chips in to help set the tree up for the next round.

Distinctive, easy to learn, quick to play (under 10 minute play time), and regularly resulting in requests for multiple plays, Toc Toc Woodman is great as a game for kids, party game, or filler for between those meaty Euro games. Toc Toc Woodman is a fantastic game that everyone should try at least once.

9
Go to the Hanabi page

Hanabi

236 out of 255 gamers thought this was helpful

The title of this review may not mean much, as I believe Hanabi to be the only cooperative firework making game on the market. Hanabi does not only define its genre, the immersive experience one feels when playing it stands alone in board/card gaming.

Goals

In Hanabi, the players cooperate to complete firework displays. This is achieved by playing, as a group, cards in sequence from 1 to 5 in different colors. This must be achieved without being able to see your own cards. If your team can complete the 1-5 sequence for all colors, or make it entirely through the deck (plus one turn) before having three failures, they win. Summing the highest value successfully played on each color gives your final score. The higher your score, the better you performed.

Game Play

Hanabi’s rules are quite simple. Each player has a hand of cards. During the game, you may not look at your cards, but see everyone else’s cards.

Each card depicts a color and a number. Each color has ten cards, three 1s, two each of 2, 3, and 4, and one 5.

On your turn, you can do one of three things:

1) Play a card from your hand onto a pile (if wrong, take a red token)
2) Give a clue to a teammate (using a clue)
3) Discard a card from your hand (gaining a clue)

When giving clues, you may only give specific information:

– Tell someone the number of a card. If they have multiple cards with that number, you must tell them each card that has that number.

– Tell someone the color of a card. If they have multiple cards with that color, you must tell them each card that has that color

There will be a number of clue tokens the group has available. You must remove a clue token if you give a clue (if there are no clue tokens, you can’t give clues). Discarding a card from your hand gains the team a clue. No other information should be given during the game.

If you play a card, and it is not the next number in sequence for that color, you take a red token. If you ever get three of these as a team, the game ends and you lose. Make it through all of the cards, or play 1-5 of each color, and you’ll win!

My Thoughts

Hanabi has been one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in boardgaming in the last few years. With a simple premise, minimal rules, and unspectacular components, Hanabi shows that a great game doesn’t need to flash and sparkle to light up an evening of gaming.

Hanabi will be group dependent, leaning more towards gamers who are willing to take their time and focus on what goes into a decision, as opposed to the play itself. Instead of simply focusing on winning, the game allows for a group to aim for improving their score to become more successful. It’s not difficult to survive the game, but even a group that has always made it through the game will have a reason to come back for more. Hanabi may appeal more to players that make it through their first game, as the scoring system gives them something more to shoot for.

While the rules state you may only give the types of hints above, different groups I’ve played with have allowed for different levels of table talk. Some games, people will want no other words exchanged, some will allow a person to state what they believe they have been told before. Another option has been players stating whether they are confident that they know what they will (or should) do on their turn. This ability to tailor the game to your group is a fantastic aspect of Hanabi, and can evolve over time. This keeps the game challenging but still fun. If you find your level of table talk is making the game too easy, put an additional restriction on yourselves and play again. We’ve found that, though you’re playing the same game, small changes like this can greatly change the feel of the experience.

Watching a game of Hanabi from the sidelines can’t give a good feel for the tension, decision making, and ultimately the pleasure one feels while playing. This game could be described as becoming more of an experience than a game. You can know the rules and understand the strategies, but until you’re sitting there staring at the backs of the cards in your hand, you can’t grasp the immersion you feel while playing.

I highly recommend giving Hanabi a try for nearly all types of gamers. Family gamers with younger children may have some trouble with the clues and not being able to see your own cards. While Casual and Social groups may be the core audience, there is much for Avid, Strategy and even Power gamers to enjoy. I can’t guarantee it’ll be your favorite game, but it’ll very likely introduce you to a new gaming experience!

8
Go to the Can't Stop page

Can't Stop

73 out of 80 gamers thought this was helpful

Can you stop? Sure, everyone thinks they can stop, until the time comes for the actual stopping to happen. You want to stop, but the allure of throwing the dice one more time is too much…

Such is life when playing Can’t Stop, which, along with Incan Gold, is one of the best relatively quick playing push your luck games, appealing to a wide audience.

Game Play

When sitting down to the Gryphon Games version, you’ll see a good sized red stop sign board in front of you, with 11 columns, numbered from 2-12. The columns have different numbers of spaces, more for the numbers in the middle, fewer as you move towards the outside. This arrangement corresponds to the roll of two dice, whose probability peaks at 7, and decreases symmetrically towards 2 and 12.

On your turn, you’ll roll 4 dice, and make two pairs of the results. These numbers correspond to the columns on the board. You have three runners, represented by white cones. Each time you roll, you must place a runner on the column of the corresponding number you rolled, or move a runner placed earlier in the turn. In this way, you will have three “safe” numbers you can roll on that turn. If you ever have a roll where you can’t place or move one of your runners, your turn ends, and you remove the runners, gaining nothing this turn.

If you choose to stop rolling, you place one of your colored cones at the spot(s) the runner(s) ended. On subsequent turns, if you place a runner in a column where you already have a cone, you start at the next space above that cone.

If your runner has made it to the top of the board (covering one of the numbers) when you stop, you claim that column. Other cones are removed from the column, and no one (including you) can play that number any longer.

The first player to claim 3 columns is the winner!

My Thoughts

Can’t Stop is, at its core, a statistics/probability game masquerading as push your luck fun. On your turn, you’re constantly faced with the question, should I stop (hence the name), or keep going? Since you’re fighting for a finite number of columns, and there are fewer options once numbers become claimed, games can become quite tense.

One great aspect of Can’t Stop is that, while there is little need for planning out your turn, players remain engaged on other players’ turns. Can’t Stop even works well for spectators, as everyone can constantly evaluate what they would do, were they in the active player’s positions. The game keeps you engaged for the full playtime, either hoping the opponent fails a roll, in essence costing them their turn, or stressing yourself out over which numbers you’ll be “trying” to roll on your next turn.

On most turns, you’ll be faced with the dilemma of stopping and taking what you’ve already rolled, or pushing your luck in hopes of moving up farther. It becomes especially tense on turns where you’ve moved one spot away from claiming a number. Should you stop and hope no one jumps past you, or keep going and grab the number now, assuming the dice cooperate.

While most turns play pretty quickly, I do find Can’t Stop tends to take a bit longer than it feels like it should. The 30 minute timeframe reported by this site has been accurate in my experience, but I’d be thrilled if it were 5-10 minutes quicker. This isn’t to say the game always feels like it is running long, but it’s just a bit beyond filler length, and long enough that I don’t often see people immediately want to play again. Contrast this with Incan Gold, which generally plays in 20 minutes and is also a straightforward push your luck experience. Most times I’ve taught Incan Gold, we’ll go directly into a 2nd game. Most often, people will express a desire to play Can’t Stop again, “sometime”, but not right away.

Gamer Type Suggestions

Casual, Family, and Social gamers should definitely give Can’t Stop a try. The rules are pretty easy to learn, especially after watching a round of the game. It doesn’t take all night to play, people remain engaged on other players’ turns, and there is often lively discussion of what others would do if it were them rolling the dice. Avid games will enjoy the ease of teaching and bringing others into the game, and there are enough tough decisions to keep them entertained.

Strategy and Power gamers will likely be left wanting when playing Can’t Stop. For a 30 minute game it’s not bad, but it is clearly dependent on dice, with luck playing a major roll. While you have the decision of stopping or continuing, there’s no way to say for certain if the decision was right or not. You can play probabilities, but as in poker, that is no guarantee things will come out in your favor in the short run. I have trouble seeing gamers that rely heavily on probabilities playing enough times to experience the benefits of “winning in the long run”.

Closing Thoughts

Can’t Stop has been entertaining gamers for over 30 years for good reason. It has tension, ease of play, and straightforward premise. Luck is heavily present, but the experience is normally quite satisfying, even for those that lose. It holds its own against more modern push your luck games like Infiltration (and has a much quicker setup). While I personally slightly prefer Incan Gold, for a dice rolling diversion Can’t Stop is a great addition to any gaming library.

*Apologies for this review’s title, I just Can’t Stop myself from using it

7
Go to the Escape: The Curse of the Temple page

Escape: The Curse of the Temple

97 out of 107 gamers thought this was helpful

You must activate the magic gems in the temple chambers in order to banish the curse, and you have only ten minutes to do so before the temple collapses. Don‘t sit still for a second – start running now and you might just escape!

So starts the introduction to the rulebook. It’s a good two sentence overview of the game, but it doesn’t really answer what’s so bad about the curse, how your team found themselves in the temple, where you learned what to do when you hear a gong, or how 5 dice ended up in your hand. None of this really matters at the moment, you’ve just heard a disembodied voice implore you to ESCAPE, and you feel certain your team better do so within 10 minutes, or else!

Game Play

You’re on a team of adventurers (one presumes). You’ve found your way to a cursed temple, and now you need to get out. To do this, you need to explore the temple, activate gems (thus releasing the curse), take shelter in a safe room while the temple collapses around you, and ultimately escape.

This is attempted while a CD plays in the background, acting as the 10 minute timer, and at a few points giving a signal (ringing gong) that you need to make it back to the start room before a counter runs out (the sound of a slamming door). Make it, and you can continue unharmed, miss it and you lose one of your five dice.

During your adventure, you’ll be rolling your dice, and taking actions based on the results. All rolls are done simultaneously with the other players, and you can immediately re-roll if you desire (except for dice with black masks which are only re-rolled when cancelled by a gold mask). The dice have 5 different symbols that can come up.

Green Running Man (x2)
Red Torch
Blue Key
Black Mask
Gold Mask

To place a new room tile from the stack, you need to roll 2 Green Running Men. You spend these dice (which in this game just means that you’ll have to re-roll them) to draw and place the tile. Each tile will have two symbols outlined in a red box. These symbols show what dice results are required to enter the room. Additionally, some rooms will have 1 or more large gem icons with a required dice roll next to it (often 4 torches or 4 keys). If your dice show at least this result, you can take a gem from the “gem depot” and place it in the room, this counts as having “activated” this gem. Some rooms have multiple gems that can be activated if enough symbols are rolled, which will require a teammate to be in the room with you, sharing dice results.

Your goal is to activate gems throughout the temple. Eventually, you will find the exit tile (in 3+ player games seeded in the bottom 5 tiles of the draw stack). To exit, each player will need to make it to this room and roll a number of keys equal to the gems left in the gem depot, plus 1. This all needs to be achieved within the 10 minute (real time) countdown, and while rushing back to the entrance when you hear the gong. If everyone escapes, you win, if anyone does not escape, you all lose.

My Thoughts

Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a high energy dice rolling game with cooperative elements. I can’t say that I really feel like I’m on a team when I’m playing the game, I’m too focused on what I’m trying to do, and rolling and re-rolling (and re-rolling) dice to get the results I need to move forward. While I find it helps to move around with a partner, I don’t get the feeling of teamwork I get from other cooperative games like Pandemic, Space Alert, or even Defenders of the Realm. This does have the benefit that you won’t be bossed around by someone, telling you what you should do; instead each team member is responsible to get as much done as they can, quickly.

I like that the difficulty of leaving the temple is based on how well you played the game, the more gems you found and activated, the easier it is to leave. Once one player escapes, they can give 1 die to another player, which is a nice bonus. They also made a good balance of requiring the team to get back to the entrance twice throughout the game. You can’t explore too far, or get too focused on what you’re doing. The loss of a die if you don’t make it can be brutal for a player, but a fair penalty to ensure people at least try to make it back.

The 10 minute timeframe immediately brings to mind Space Alert, another timed coop. Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a much lighter, more casual game than Space Alert. You can have the game setup, rules explained, and game started in under 10 minutes (often Space Alert requires that just to get the board arranged). As one would expect, this ease of learning/play means Escape: The Curse of the Temple doesn’t grab you quite the same way. I don’t feel nearly as much tension, and there isn’t as great of a need to communicate. This doesn’t mean Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a bad game or should be avoided, it’s just lighter, and thus more accessible.

This game would work very well for family, casual, and social gamers. It’s easy to learn, quick to play, and when things go wrong, you tend to blame the dice as opposed to your fellow players. Avid gamers will like how easy it is to get fellow players for the game. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of strategy to the game. I think it is well worth any strategy or power gamer at least giving it a try. The real time aspect of the game ensures that if you don’t like it, you’ve spent little time on it, and you could find the game a great outlet for any dice chucking tendencies.

Escape: The Curse of the Temple gets bonus points for including two expansions with the base game. The game plays perfectly well without them (and this is how I would guess most people will play it), but it’s great to have a built-in ability to up the difficulty when the time comes.

In total, I expect Escape: The Curse of the Temple to be a big hit with more casual game groups, and won’t be surprised if it garners a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres award in the future. It should be making the rounds at conventions and game groups in the coming months, and is well worth your time to check out!

6
Go to the Castle Panic page

Castle Panic

247 out of 265 gamers thought this was helpful

As the enemies approach your fortifications, you and your band of gamers work to keep your castle standing (or at least part of it). Up to 6 players trade in the typical adventure game of taking their fight to the enemy, sitting back to keep a watch on the forest to see what emerges. Once the rain of enemies ends, the victory celebration begins!

Game Play

Castle Panic is a straightforward cooperative game, following in the general vein of other coops like Shadows Over Camelot or Pandemic where the players perform actions to help their team (typically fighting back the advancing enemy horde), and then doing things to progress the wave of evil.

The board consists of concentric circles split into six 60 degree regions (2 x red, 2 x blue, and 2 x green). The annular spaces are named for types of fighters (swordsman, knights, and archers), depicting who can typically damage enemies in that zone. At the center stands your castle, made up of 6 walls and 6 towers (1 of each for each region).

On your turn, you will draw and play cards to stem the tide of enemies that are advancing towards your castle. Typically these cards will denote a color and a fighter type, allowing you to do damage to enemies in that section of the board (for instance, Green Swordsman). You can trade cards with your allies to attempt to optimize your defense.

After your play, surviving monsters will move along their trajectory towards the castle, and additional monsters will join the fray. Of course, not all monsters are created the same, and the enemy may have some tricks up their sleeve to help in laying siege to your fortress. If a monster reaches a fortress wall or tower before they are killed, they will destroy that section. If all of your towers are destroyed before all of the monster tokens are killed, you lose. If at least one section of your castle’s towers remain when the enemies attack is ended (all monsters are killed) your team is victorious!

My Thoughts

Castle Panic is a strong entry for a beginner’s cooperative game. The goal is clear, your castle sits in the middle of the board, and you need to protect it. Monsters are generally pretty basic, they appear in the forest and move one space, and have some number of hit points. This allows the players to plan out (for the most part) where enemies will be, and how they can address the problems. Boss monsters add to the tension somewhat, and the extra tactics, such as the rolling boulder, keep the party on their toes.

I don’t see this game as having grand strategy, it’s normally pretty clear what needs to be done, and what is the biggest current threat. Towards the middle and end of the game there tends to be a good deal of tension as you need to start deciding how much of your castle you can stand to lose to the invading forces, and when you need to go all out to prevent an attack.

I would put this as being a small step up from Forbidden Island, but not on the level of Flash Point, or Pandemic. It is a very good first cooperative game for a family gamer, and would work well in both casual and social settings, as it encourages teamwork and cooperation, without needing intense focus.

I wouldn’t put this high on a list for strategy or power gamers, as I don’t think there are enough decisions to keep them satisfied. That said, it works well if you want to help encourage people to try games, or as a stepping stone to more advanced cooperative games.

The game can suffer from the “alpha-bully” problem, where one player starts telling everyone else what to do. There is a buffer to this since cards are typically kept in hand (though discussion and trading is allowed). The alpha-bully thus depends on others telling them what cards they possess, generally leaving them to simply say they need this card or that to do what they want. In the end, I’d give this a “moderate” score for alpha-bully issues, with it not being as bad as a game like Pandemic or Elder Sign.

If you’re into defending the castle scenarios, or want to add some fantasy teamwork to a family or casual game night, Castle Panic could fit the bill. If you’re looking for some meaty decisions, you will likely want to look elsewhere to scratch the teamwork itch.

7
Go to the Space Alert page

Space Alert

391 out of 416 gamers thought this was helpful

You’re on a ship, charting an unknown region. You only need to survive 10 minutes. There’s a good chance your team doesn’t make it, unless you can work together. Not only do I feel Space Alert is a great cooperative game, it’s one of the best board gaming experiences out there.

General Game Overview

Space Alert is a fully cooperative game (no traitors or hidden agendas) where everyone wins as a team. Gameplay takes only 10 minutes, enforced by an audio file that is played along with the game. During these very tense 10 minutes, the group will attempt to repel attacks and protect the ship. Players move around and interact with the game through cards, playing one per phase (12 total). Unlike most games, you don’t move your character around and take actions one at a time, instead, you set all of your actions over the 10 minutes of playtime, and then go through a Resolution Round to find out what happened. If you’ve limited damage to the ship, the team will win. Even when you lose, the experience can be very enjoyable.

Learning the Game

As with many of Vlaada Chvatil’s games (Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Lords, Dungeon Petz, Mage Knight: The Board Game, and others) Space Alert has different levels of play, helping your learn the game in steps. It is difficult to jump into a full game with new players as the basics of playing the game, while not difficult, are better experienced than simply explained. As a training mission only takes 7 minutes, it’s often quicker to play through an entire round, showing how the game works, than it is to try and explain all of the rules. For a recommendation on what rules to introduce when, check out the “Game Tips” tab.

Game Play

NOTE: Space Alert generally requires a bit more pre-planning than other games, due to the need to play an audio CD. There are cards that can be used instead with someone reading prompts, but I wouldn’t recommend this method. Smartphone versions also exist.

At the start of a game the players will sit around a board depicting your ship. This ship is split into 6 sections (an upper and lower level each having three section, Red, White, and Blue). Each player will be dealt cards that will be used to denote their actions. These cards have a movement on the top, and an action on the bottom. When playing a card, the orientation you use shows whether you’ll be using it for its movement or action half. There will be 12 total actions taken per player (fewer in training missions). The set of actions are straightforward, movement is up/down/left/right, and actions are generally letters, A, B, and C (for the full game, some cards also show battlebots).

Each playing consists of two rounds, the Action Round, and the Resolution Round. The CD portion is the Action Round, where cards (and in essence, the game) will be played. Once these 10 minutes are up, you’re locked in, and the Resolution Round is used to find out how you did, no new decisions are made.

As the CD plays in the Action Round, threats will be announced as “T plus X” where X is from 1 to 8. This number tells you the phase in which that threat will appear. Generally, threats attack a given colored section of the ship (they come in on the left, middle, or right). The players will be playing their cards to attempt to deal with these threats. Much of the replayability of the game comes from these threats. They are drawn from a deck of cards, and varying difficulties can be chosen (External and Internal, Common and Serious).

Different sections of the ship have different abilities, based on which action letter is played. In general:

A = weapons
B = energy/shields
C = specialty action

To use most of the weapons (especially along the top level), energy will be needed. Energy is drawn from reactors on the lower level. If at any time a card is played that requires energy, and no energy is available, the action does not occur.

The lower level is primarily concerned with energy management. The lower-middle section has a reactor that can produce energy by feeding in fuel rods, though only a limited number exist. The left and right sections can then have energy drawn to them (by playing the B action in those sections).

This is where the teamwork aspect is vitally important in Space Alert. There are 6 sections. Energy needs to be moved around, weapons need to be fired, shields need to be charged, and since actions happen as specific times, everyone needs to stay in sync with each other. For instance, if one player wants to fire a laser cannon in Phase 4, but energy won’t be available until Phase 5, nothing will happen. In this way, the game plays out in real time.

While the players are setting their cards, enemies will advance. Most enemies (denoted by cards) have a speed that they will move with each phase. Tracks of varying number of spaces are setup at the start of each game, one for each colored section of the ship. When an enemy arrives, they start at the far end of this track, and move towards the ship. The tracks also have letters (X, Y, Z) at different distances. When an enemy passes one of these letters, they will attack based on their special abilities for that letter. Sometimes they do damage to a section, other times they change tactics. It’s yet another variable the players will need to keep track of, knowing when and where an enemy will exist.

Following the Action Round, player’s blood pressure returns to normal, while the cards are resolved one at a time. Enemies appear and move as indicated by their abilities, and players move their pieces around the board, and take the actions depicted on their cards. Again, you make no decisions at this point, you are simply finding how things actually played out.

If, at the end of the Resolution Round, no single section has taken more than 6 points of damage, you have survived the round. If a section takes more than 6 points, the ship is considered destroyed. A score can be determined based on enemies faced and damage taken.

My Thoughts

I don’t think a block of text describing the game play can adequately get across the “feel” of this game. It is unlike any other game I’ve played. What Vlaada has managed is a game where cooperation is absolutely key to the players winning. With 6 sections to interact with (and at most 5 players), players must communicate to win. The real time aspect of the game will ensure players can’t go off on their own and expect positive results.

Each action in the game depends on other actions having previously been taken. In some ways, this game is very unforgiving as one misstep can doom a mission. Players must be able to think and act quickly and decisively. The entire game will play out over 10 minutes; it is not possible for a player to take 5 minutes thinking through their move. It is amazing how quickly it feels those 10 minutes have passed.

8
Go to the Timeline: Inventions page
32 out of 35 gamers thought this was helpful

I’m a big fan of games that can be taught quickly, play quickly, and can handle a large number of players. Timeline: Inventions not only offers these attributes, but you may learn something in the process. Wrapped together, Timeline: Inventions has become a surprise favorite at my gaming table.

The Cards

Timeline: Inventions is made up of small cards (roughly the size of those in Ticket to Ride, or Fantasy Flight Games’ offerings) showing an invention (or other event) in history. Nice enough pictures accompany the card, with a date showing on the opposite side. The cardstock works fine for me, and thus far I have not felt the need to sleeve them (though frequent readers of my reviews will note I’m not big into sleeving in general).

Game Play

As the name suggests, you’ll be building a timeline throughout the game. You’ll start with a single card in the middle of the table, flipped to show the year. Cards will be played into the timeline, with the goal of a card being placed so it is chronologically correct.

Each player (up to 8!) starts with a number of cards dealt to them, with the invention’s name face up, and the date side facing down. On your turn, you choose any one of your cards, and then select a spot on the timeline (either between two cards, or at one of the ends). If the year of your card is correctly placed on the timeline, it stays, if it isn’t, the card is discarded and a replacement drawn. The first player to empty their hand is the winner.

My Thoughts

Requiring only 1 minute to teach, Timeline: Inventions is an easy game to fit into family gatherings, or out at a restaurant waiting for food. While having a good sense of history (or at least trivia around discoveries and inventions) will aid in winning, it is not necessary. Spanning thousands of years (with most cards falling in the last 2000), there are plenty of items to muse over and learn about.

I like that the cards are relatively small for this game (even though I greatly dislike this size of card for Ticket to Ride). This is because you only have to shuffle at the beginning of the game, and the timeline can become quite long as the game proceeds; larger cards would simply take up too much room. I have yet to play with anyone that has not been able to make out what was on their card, leading me to believe the size choice was correct.

Each time I’ve played, players have expressed concerns about long-term replayability of the game, due to the set dates of inventions. I have not seen this become a problem. I also think it’s worth noting that the game is a filler, not a game that will have a night centered around it, reducing the potential animosity towards someone who memorizes the cards. I wouldn’t recommend sitting at home playing the game solo as a means to allow you to show off your superior knowledge at a game night, but I’m guessing people who do that are going to be blacklisted from gaming for other reasons. It should also be noted that there are a number of expansions already out (and others to be released). For players that really get into the game, replayability will be addressed in that way.

Timeline: Inventions has been a big success with family, and during casual and social game nights. It’s a game that you aren’t really penalized for only paying attention to on your turn. Each player’s turn will take ~10-20 seconds while they think about where to play, allowing them to focus on other things alongside the game.

If you’re looking for a fun game to add to a social situation, Timeline: Inventions could easily fit the bill. You won’t be playing it for hours on end, but don’t be surprised if your opponents request an immediate second playing!

5
Go to the Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game page
140 out of 156 gamers thought this was helpful

How would you react if you were part of a team, working toward a common goal, and you had the inkling one of your “teammates” was a spy working against you? Would you try to limit their abilities to have a say in decisions? Would you keep them away from any sensitive responsibilities?

Now, what if you were absolutely certain that there was a spy on your team, but you weren’t sure who? Could you balance getting things done against tracking down this/these nefarious individual(s)? Do you unmask such a villain if doing so could make their impact even worse? What if you eventually received information that compelled you to work against your colleagues, regardless of whether you wanted to or not?

These are the types of questions a game of Battlestar Galactica will make you face. Your ability to work towards completion of the game while constantly keeping one eye on everyone else will be tested. For some groups, this leads to a fantastic time with tons of replay value, while other groups will grind to a halt, turning a gaming session into a tedious affair that you’ll hope you never have to go through again. Unfortunately, you will often not know which type of group you’re in until it’s too late.

Gameplay

At its core, Battlestar Galactica is a cooperative game, with one or more guaranteed traitors. You’re trying to get your fleet to Earth, but you don’t know where Earth is, exactly. Along the way, you’ll face different crises, working as a team to be successful (or sabotaging to decimate the humans).

Each player represents a specific character with different specialties. Additionally, each player is given a loyalty card, either telling them they are a human, or a cylon. Part way through the game, more loyalty cards will be dealt, which could cause someone that was a human to suddenly realize they are a cylon. For those not familiar with the TV show – human=good, cylon=bad.

A turn consists of 6 steps:

Receive Skill Cards

Each character has certain skills, which determine the color of cards they draw. These cards will be used during crises for skill checks, some colors will count positively towards the objective, others will count negatively. These cards and hidden, and clever play (with a bit of luck) will allow cylons to cause a crisis check to be failed while not revealing who caused the failure.

Movement

Characters can move about the ship to different locations, or to different ships. The locations have different abilities.

Actions

Each player gets one action. These can come from locations, from their character ability, or from their skill cards.

Crises

This is where a lot of the action of the game happens. There are different types of crises you may face, cylon attacks, skill checks, and events. The way a skill check works is one of the more interesting parts of the game. A skill check will have certain colored cards that count towards the total value you’re trying to reach, and the other colors count against the total. Each player can play cards towards the skill check, and do so face down, so no one knows what colored cards they played. In addition, two cards are played from the “Destiny Deck”, which are in essence a random draw and may be good or bad. The existence of the Destiny Deck is what can help cover for a cylon, as many times, negative cards could be brushed off as being “destiny”, instead of being a ploy from the cylons to force a check to fail. Depending on the final total played, different results can occur.

Activate Cylon Ships

Ships (if any) attack, based on the card in play.

Prepare for Jump

If the crisis card has the jump icon, the jump token advances on its track. If it reached the end, a jump in made (you can also choose to take a more risky jump earlier than the end of the track). These jumps take you closer to your final objective. Ultimately, you want to get 8 units or more of jump distance (each selected jump with have a certain unit of distance). After this, one successful final jump will win the humans the game.

Game End

If the final jump is made and the four resources (food, fuel, morale, population) are all above zero, the humans win. If at least one dial goes to zero or below at the end the players turn, the cylons win. Cylons also have the ability to destroy the Galactica (damage 6 or more ship sections) or invade via their Boarding Party track.

My Thoughts

I have friends that consider this one of their favorite games, and I admit to being a bit jealous because my plays have been very tedious. Games can take over 3 hours, with a good deal of time added for people to accuse each other of being cylons (not in-game accusations, just general banter back and forth, which can get old after the 50th or so repetition), and almost becoming paralyzed from doing anything because they are so caught up in unmasking the traitors. Players can be voted into the brig, in essence stripping them of much of the gameplay, even if the accusations that got them put there are wrong. Having to sit through a game that is already going long without much ability to do anything should have been one of the punishments of Dante’s circles of ****.

There are some interesting concepts the game introduces, especially the skill checks where the Destiny Deck can either help cover for, or out, the traitors. The Destiny Deck starts with two of each color card, so you can try to track what you “think” has come from the Destiny Deck, versus what players may have played. The addition of more loyalty cards partway through the game keeps suspicion high, and ensures there will always be at least one cylon. Unfortunately, this ups the chances of people focusing on the traitor aspect of the game and forgetting to work towards actually completing the game. (This is a game that would benefit from Antiquity‘s strategy suggestion from the rulebook of not forgetting to try to get something done).

One plus for the game that should certainly be mentioned, I fully believe you need not have watched the show to get the full game experience. You may miss out on some of the side chatter, but the game itself is solidly built, not requiring external knowledge.

If you feel your group can handle a game with a guaranteed traitor without becoming completely derailed (or are ok with 1+ hours added due to this aspect of the game), Battlestar Galactica could well be a hit for your group. If you’ve had bad experiences with the traitor mechanic of Shadows Over Camelot, steering clear may be a good idea, as those issues will be magnified in Battlestar Galactica.

This game is fairly rules heavy, requiring a lengthy explanation and a good attention span. As such, social/casual/family gamers my find this game overly trying. Strategy/Avid/Power gamers may all really enjoy this game, though the game can easily see the playtime explode without much “fun” being added.

Fans of the show and groups that revel in backstabbing should add Battlestar Galactica to their list of games. Others may want to take time to analyze the gaming group(s) they would play the game with and determine whether those personalities will lead to a fun experience, or one to be avoided at all costs.

7
Go to the Flash Point: Fire Rescue page

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

326 out of 339 gamers thought this was helpful

Some popular cooperative games have you fighting the forces of evil (Shadows Over Camelot), evil toasters (Battlestar Galactica), evil “forces” (Yggdrasil, Defenders of the Realm), and evil diseases (Pandemic). Now, you can assemble your team to fight a less evil, yet still deadly, force of nature – fire.

In Flash Point: Fire Rescue, you’re taking on the role of modern day (and real) heroes, fighting a house fire while trying to save the inhabitants. Rooted more in reality (said with apologies to those that believe cylons walk among us), Flash Point is easier to immerse yourself in the theme and put yourself in the shoes (boots?) of your character, allowing players to make decisions more based on experience, or how they would react to situations. It’s possible this detachment from fantasy could put some players that use games as an escape off of the Flash Point, but for those not bothered by the theme, the game often does a good job of grabbing and holding one’s attention.

Game Play

Players take on the role of emergency responders (firefighters and paramedics) responding to a house fire. Working as a team (fully cooperative), the goal is to save 7 victims before the house collapses, or 4 victims are lost. This is done using an action point allocation system, with a player getting 4 actions per turn. These actions can be used for straightforward activities, such as moving around, extinguishing smoke/fire, opening/closing doors, cutting holes through walls, and carrying victims.

Each player starts with a character that has a special role. The majority of actions for each character are the same, but each has a strength (and sometimes a weakness) that allows each character to play somewhat differently, without needing to stray far from the basic rules.

In a given turn, the firefighters will each spend their action points as they choose (possibly banking extra actions for later turns). Then the fire will spread through the rolling of dice, which will randomly select squares of the house. Each roll will place a smoke icon. Any smoke next to fire becomes fire, and a roll that would place smoke in a location that is already on fire will cause an explosion. Explosions not only spread the fire, but will cause damage to walls (shown as black cubes). If all of the damage markers are on the board, the game will end in failure.

While fighting fires is a major part of the game, the goal is to get to, and save, victims. The game uses Points of Interest (POIs), which are blue circular tiles. A player will need to move their character to a POI to determine if it is a victim, or a “false alarm” (blank). Victims will need to be carried out of the house and to an ambulance, while false alarms are left in search of victims. Once 7 victims are saved, the game is won, even if the house is barely standing.

My Thoughts

Flash Point is a well-designed game, allowing for multiple levels of difficulty – determined by how many initial explosions and hazard materials the board is initially seeded with. Advancing past the family game, teamwork will be needed to successfully search the house and pull out victims. While fighting fires is not the overall goal, it is necessary to keep the house standing and give free space for rescuers to get to victims. Many times throughout the game, decisions will need to be made on whether to make a run at a victim, or fight some of the fire help future players.

The different roles (specialists), in my opinion make the game. They aren’t extremely different, but they each carry a flavor that makes sense, and allow for more strategy. Additionally, unlike most games, you have the option of changing your role during the game (at the cost of 2 action points and starting your turn with the fire engine). It’s a great touch that there is a fire engine and ambulance that also need to be balanced. The deck gun of the fire engine will be a major part of your firefighting (though it does tend to keep one player assigned to the engine, making the game a bit repetitive for them).

I would advise avoiding this game if all players are new to the game, and not experienced gamers. While I don’t find the game all that tough to get the hang of once you play a few turns, there is a lot of information that needs to be explained at the beginning. There are a number of different ways you can spend your actions, and not all actions take the same number of action points. Additionally, the spread of the fire (and even the beginning seeding of the board) is best left to an experienced hand. Again, there is nothing overly difficult about dealing with fire, but expect the first play through to require a number of times flipping through the rulebook. Of particular note are the “hotspots”, not fire themselves, and not something you can put out, but they cause smoke to immediately turn to fire, and spawn more hotspots. I recall our first couple of games leading to much confusion over how they work from new players.

In the end, I find Flash Point to be different enough from the co-ops listed at the top to be worth giving a try. I’m not sure that a gamer already owning a few from that list will feel a strong need to add Flash Point to their collection (unless they decide they prefer it and trade/sell one of the others). Easy enough to grasp for casual gamers (if given good rules guidance) with enough difficulty for the avid/power games, Flash Point is a good addition to the co-op lineup, though may not be different enough to play in series is with games like Pandemic, Forbidden Island, or Yggdrasil.

8
Go to the Pandemic page

Pandemic

120 out of 128 gamers thought this was helpful

Cubes, the Eurogamer’s go to object for all things gaming (scoring track markers, resources, workers, resources that you convert other resources into, space factories, resources that you convert other resources that you converted other resources into into, railroad shipments, etc.) take on a new challenge – diseases spreading around the globe. Your task (using an oversized pawn as your avatar) is to team up with your fellow gamers to fight against these advancing outbreaks, and discover the cardboard cures that will allow the abstracted gaming denizens to sleep soundly with their linen finished cards at night.

Pandemic is a pure cooperative game, all the players win and lose as a team. It’s a co-op where teamwork is vital, which can either lead to a wonderful gaming experience, or terrible one, depending on the personalities/leadership qualities of your group.

Gameplay

Pandemic uses the “players vs. the board” idea that really gained popularity after the success of Shadows Over Camelot, where players take their turn to do something “good” or beneficial, and then follow a predetermined script to play the role of the opposing side (here, the “infector”) making things worse. Difficulty can be increased or decreased based on player taste and experience.

Objective

The goal of the game is to work together to discover four cures (one for each disease). To win, these cures must be discovered before a certain number of outbreaks occur, one disease has overrun the board (more disease is needed than cubes available), or the draw deck has been exhausted. With many ways to lose, and one way to win, the game keeps a high level of tension as you battle many forces.

Player’s Turns – Play goes in clockwise order with each player performing four actions, followed by drawing cards and playing the infector (drawing cities that will gain disease cubes).

There are a number of actions available on a turn, with the most common involving movement across the map. Adjacent cities require one action to move between, while it’s possible to move farther if you discard the card of the city you’re standing on, or moving to. You can also setup research stations that can be moved between for an action, with one initially available on your start space, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

The other most common action is to remove disease cubes from the board. You can remove one cube in your current city for an action, and can take this (and any of the other actions) as many times per turn as your total actions allow.

The action you most want to use, but also the hardest to achieve, is to develop a cure by discarding five cards of the same color at a research station. If you accomplish this four times (one for each colored disease) your team will win the game.

In addition, your specific character’s role (each player gets one) may have a special ability, or increases the power of a normal action. Trading is also possible on a limited basis, really requiring teamwork to make work.

Player Cards

Each player will have cards in their hand, and will draw two more after their actions each turn. These cards come in three types, basic location, helpful items, and Epidemic cards (you are always hoping you won’t draw the latter).

Location cards have a color and a city (which match the colors on the board). There is one card for each city, and they can be used, as mentioned above, to help with movement, or towards a cure for disease. The game has a fine balance between using cards to get around the board, and using them for cures. Since the draw pile running out is an end-game (losing) condition, you need to be judicious in their use.

The helpful items are, well… helpful. They’ll tell you what they do, normally making your life easier, for a brief time.

The bane of a Pandemic player’s existence are the Epidemic cards. When these come out, you’ll make each subsequent infector step worse, and add disease to another city. These cards are seeded throughout the deck at the beginning (DON’T miss the rules on how to correctly seed them, doing so can lead to games ending before one player gets their 2nd turn – and said player never playing again). The number of Epidemic card in the deck determines the difficulty (more = harder).

Infector Step

After a player does their bit of good to save the world, things become more bleak and more disease enters the game. A second deck of cards exists, including a card for each city. During this step, a number of cards are drawn from the top of the deck equal to the Infection Rate (tracked on the map across Asia). A single cube is added to that city, which doesn’t sound scary, and often isn’t (remember, we like cubes in our Eurogames!).

The problem comes when four cubes of the same color exist in a city at the same time. When this happens, an outbreak occurs and a cube of that color is added to every adjacent city (too much of a good things truly is bad). Worse yet, an outbreak can cause the adjacent cities to outbreak if it adds the fourth cube. Each outbreak is tracked on the “Outbreaks” track on the left side of the board. If the marker hits the skull and crossbones, the games over and the cubes (err… diseases) have won.

Intensification

Remember those Epidemic cards that you’re hoping you’ll never see? They lead to one of the most interesting ideas in Pandemic. Not only do they bump up the Infection Rate, they also Intensify infection. To do this, they take the discard pile for the Infection cards, shuffle it, and put it back on top of the deck. This means that cities that already have had cubes added to them are now going to be drawn again (cubes really like having their friends over to visit). It’s a very clever (translation – evil) idea that ups the tension even more.

My Thoughts

With all joking about cubes a-“side” (all six of them), Pandemic is one of the go-to cooperative games in my collection. The cooperative nature allows it to be used as a gateway game even though there is more going on than in Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and the like. Since you’re working as a team, if a player gets lost or is overwhelmed by choices, the more experienced players can help guide them.

Unfortunately, it’s this “guiding” that can lead to the biggest issue with the game, the know-it-all-order-people-around-bully-gamer. Some gamers have a tendency to dominate such games and tell everyone what to do. This sucks the fun out of the game very quickly. There is a relatively fine line between helpful, and overbearing. Chances are, you know if a person in your group would fit this description. If so, it may be best to choose another game, as you’ll definitely wish you had halfway through after they move your pawn for you and turn the game into their personal solitaire adventure while you watch.

In a group that plays as a team, there can be a real sense of accomplishment when things go well, and tension as outbreaks are on the horizon. The shuffling of the infection discard deck is a fantastic mechanism that will keep gamers on the edge of their seat. The different roles are different enough to be meaningful without completely locking you into one strategy.

For casual, family, and enthusiastic gamers that play for fun, Pandemic can be a great time with a good amount of strategy and replay value. For the specific power gamers that need to be in control, looking elsewhere may be the way to go. Give Pandemic a try and keep those cubes from taking over the world.

8
Go to the Carcassonne page

Carcassonne

123 out of 130 gamers thought this was helpful

Carcassonne (remember spellers, double the ‘s’ and double the ‘n’) is often highly ranked on lists of best “gateway games”, and I feel this is for good reason. With a lower entry price compared to some of its highly ranked brethren (Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride), Carcassonne is an easy game to teach and play. It has two major decisions a player needs to make each turn, with the first being very intuitive (drawing and placing a tile), and the second allowing for some strategy, while not overwhelming a new player with too many options.

Gameplay

Each player’s turn consists of three actions:

1) Draw and place a tile (required)
In a sense, you’re building a giant puzzle, but the pattern has not been predetermined. Each turn, a player will draw a tile (see the House Rules section of the site for variations on this) and place it into the growing landscape. Like a puzzle, a piece may only be placed where it “fits”, but instead of odd shapes allowing a piece to physically fit, you’re matching the edges. Cities attach to cities, roads to roads, and open land to open land.

2) Place a follower/meeple (optional)
On the tile you just placed, you may put one of your followers (a little wooden person known as a meeple). While your meeples are identical, they can be used in different ways, depending on what geographical feature you’re placing them on. They can be placed on roads, cities, farms, or cloisters with the game calling them thieves, knights, farmers, or monks respectively (I find it easier to just ignore the titles as it really doesn’t do anything for the game, they’re just meeples). Meeples are very polite and will only go on a feature if no other meeple has previously claimed it; no matter how many tiles away, if it’s connected and has a meeple on it, you can’t play your meeple on it.

3) Score completed features (when possible)
Roads, cities, and cloisters will score when they are completed. A road is completed when both sides have come to an end, or a loop has been made. A city is complete when it is completely surrounded by walls. A cloister is complete when its tile is completely surrounded by other tiles (all eight possible orthogonally and diagonally adjacent spots have tiles placed in them).

For these three features, whoever now has ownership will take back their meeple(s) and score points (1 per road segment, 2 per city segment, 9 points for completed cloister).

Farms are different as they are only scored at the end of the game. Depending on your game’s edition there are different scoring rules for farmers. In general, the idea is that the player with the most meeples in their color farming a city will gain points.

Game End

Play passes around with the next player taking their turn until all tiles are played. At the end of the game, points are awarded for uncompleted features, the farmers are scored, and the player with the most points wins.

My Thoughts

Carcassonne is a great game for introducing new players to modern boardgaming. There are primarily two things a player does on each turn, draw/place a tile, and decide whether to put a meeple on it. While there is some strategy to where you place your tile, the rules are very intuitive, and hardly seem like rules that need to be learned. By thinking of the game as building a puzzle, half of your rules are taken care of for you. In general I find having fewer rules a person has to “learn” makes a game more accessible and enjoyable (this is why later teaching a game with similar mechanics is easier – the player has already learned the basics of the mechanic, and just needs to understand how that mechanic relates to the new game).

By limiting the ability to place a meeple to only the tile just played, a gamer is not overwhelmed by multiple options. If a player were free to place a meeple on any tile on their turn, the game could easily double in length, especially with new players as they analyze every option. It’s worth noting that it wouldn’t be all that beneficial to go back to previous tiles and place anyway, so you’re not losing too many strategic options.

The difficulty in teaching/playing the game the first time is in the farmers. Having a piece that you play once and never get back, while hoping for points later, can be difficult for players to grasp. Without having a board setup in advance, it’s tough to illustrate how farmer scoring will work. The rulebook seems to have gotten better over time with illustrations, and unless you have a fully assembled board from a previous game, showing the figures in the rulebook is probably the best way to go.

There are those that recommend skipping farmers the first game. I personally like making all of the rules available to a player, but if you have younger players or people that are really having problems grasping the farmer rule, skipping farmers the first time may be beneficial. If you do this, I highly recommend, after final scoring, putting farmers down and showing exactly how they work on the completed board. It should only add a couple of minutes, and will make the rule more concrete for people who may play again in the future.

It generally takes some time for players to start seeing how multiple meeples can occupy the same road/city/farm. I enjoy seeing the delight people take in attempting to fight their way into a city, while another player desperately tries to shut everyone else out. Often such play doesn’t lead to optimal strategy, but you see people having fun, and looking ahead to future turns, which is a fantastic moment in any game. The rules give full points to all players that are tied when a feature scores, making it less likely a player will spend a quarter of their game going after something to find themselves completely shut out.

Carcassonne is a fairly simple game with quick enough play, easily grasped rules, and a hint of strategy that makes it one of my go to games for non-gamers. The ever growing countryside that appears on your table gives a shared sense of building something, while everyone can enjoy their turns without spending minutes agonizing over what to do. I highly recommend giving Carcassonne a try with younger gamers, or friends that have expressed an interest in learning about boardgaming.

And, if it ever gets stale for you, there are plenty of expansions to put the spice back into the game! Grab your meeple army and populate the countryside of Carcassonne!

6
Go to the The Settlers of Catan page
177 out of 184 gamers thought this was helpful

Settlers of Catan has converted many into gamers over the years. Going to any convention (or boardgaming website!) and you’ll run into people that trace their modern gaming roots to a game of Settlers of Catan. It has become one of the handful of great “gateway” games, and will continue doing so for many years to come.

One of the things that makes Settlers of Catan such a great introduction to boardgaming is that it uses many of the items people are already familiar with in gaming, but in different ways than they are used to.

Game Components/Mechanics

Viewing a game of Settlers of Catan in progress looks very different from the standard mainstream boardgames, but there are similarities that make approaching and learning the game easier. Having these similarities makes the game feel more accessible.

Board Layout – The tiles make a map, with the vertexes/sides of the hexagons making it clear where paths will go. Different colored tiles easily show that different locations will do different things.

Dice – One of the staples of traditional boardgaming, but here instead of moving a pawn the number of spaces rolled, you’re using the dice to gain resources. You’re still starting your turn by rolling dice – as in many games – and once you see how resources are distributed, it all makes sense.

Resource Cards – These are very much like currency in other games, coming in colors (or goods types) instead of cash. The cards’ color matches the hexagons on the board, easily showing the link between them.

Trading – Other games allow trading, but often the rules around trading are not well defined. Settlers of Catan tells you what resources are worth for trading with the board (4:1, with the possibility of getting 3:1 or 2:1 on ports). If you don’t like these rates, see what an opponent will give you. For players that don’t like to trade with opponents, they still have an option available to them, and they’ll quickly learn that those that trade are building a lot more on the board.

Robber – Ah, there’s the pawn we’re used to in most games, but it’s not owned by any one player. Rolling a 7 lets you move it once, and thematically it makes sense that having a robber on a hexagon limits the resources it produces, and steals from someone near its location.

Building – When you’re aiming to show advancement in a game, what better way than to give more houses which can be upgraded to cities (similar to Monopoly‘s house/hotel structure). Once you build a settlement (house), you gain resources from it when its number is rolled (akin to someone landing on your property and paying you).

Victory Points – The end of the game is very well defined. Once someone can get 10 points, they win. At pretty much all times, players can see how many points any player has (except for hidden victory point cards). You can look at a game state, see who has how many points, and have a good idea how much longer the game is going to take. Compared to games like Monopoly, Risk, or Clue this can be a great thing, especially with people who have tighter schedules.

My Thoughts

I am one of the people that experienced Settlers of Catan as my first modern boardgame. I had been a collectable card game (CCG) player for many years, and the concept of a one-time purchase that didn’t require everyone to have their own cards was very appealing. Settlers of Catan is a straightforward game, once you see how everything works. There are many small rules that are easily forgotten, or could be confusing to a new player learning the game on their own, so having an experienced person teaching the game is important. More is going on during a game of Settlers of Catan than in other gateway games like Ticket to Ride, making it harder to learn on your own.

I’ve noticed that when used as a “gateway” game, people that respond positively to Settlers of Catan are more likely to move on to other more involved games than people taught with Ticket to Ride, Alhambra, or Carcassonne. While I’ve seen my share of people that will continue playing just Settlers of Catan it seems to be a great jumping off point for other games, making it more of a stepping stone. The other games I’ve noted seem to have a larger percentage of people that like the game, and are happy to keep playing it over and over with little interest to move to other games, which make them less of gateways, and more of landing points. People that like Settlers of Catan seem to be looking for more of a challenge, and want to see what more it out there. They’ve seen what can be done with components they are used to, but utilized in different ways, and they want more.

Settlers of Catan will remain one of my go-to-games for introducing more strategically minded people to boardgaming. With that said, I am very hesitant to suggest someone I’ve never gamed with pick up a copy at one of the mainstream stores that have started carrying it and learn it on their own. The rules can look scary to someone not used to such things, but when explained by someone with experience, Settlers of Catan will continue to light the spark in future gamers!

9
Go to the Ticket to Ride Pocket page
110 out of 117 gamers thought this was helpful

I am, admittedly, behind on the technology revolution. I do not carry a smartphone (I’m far too cheap for a data plan), and am tempted to drop my old flip cellphone – until I’m reminded I don’t have a house phone. It’s likely I’m far from the targeted user for most apps, though I have received an iPod Touch as a gift, and I do like boardgames,

And, I do like Ticket to Ride: Pocket.

Being relatively new to using the iPod Touch, I was highly skeptical of how well a boardgame would work on it. When I first tried it, I had heard of great boardgaming apps, but normally the stories at the time were primarily based on iPad games. I’ve had countless (well, countless by me, I’m sure the iPod probably tracks it somewhere…) hours of fun (and a little frustration going after some Achievements) with Ticket to Ride: Pocket.

Game Play

Ticket to Ride: Pocket is exactly as its name implies, a version of the Ticket to Ride boardgame that you can carry around (with your iPhone/iPod Touch). All of the expected gameplay is there, with no rules tweaks to confuse the gaming veterans.

You’re still drawing the same train cards to complete the same routes, with the same board, but with no shuffling needed (which is great as they managed to make the cards even smaller than the cardboard version!)

The tutorial will get people new to the game ready to go quickly, no need to open the (small) rulebook.

My Thoughts

I’m still amazed how playable Ticket to Ride, with its large board, is on an iPod Touch. The graphics are sharp, and the layout very readable. I assumed that I would spend much of the game zooming in and out (a feature that exists – and Le Havre sorely lacks), but in reality I almost never need to. The card display and routes are well designed, allowing play without any worries of the small screen.

In fact, there are two regular gameplay features I really like in Ticket to Ride: Pocket that I miss in face-to-face games.

1) Highlighting of destination cities – During your turn, the cities you have destination cards for are highlighted, allowing you to see at a glance how far you are from completing everything. There’s no need to keep looking back at your tickets.

The lack of need to look at tickets is a good thing, as I find scrolling through the destinations I already have to be more of a pain than I would like. This is a spot where the limited screen space comes into play. Thankfully, the highlighted city endpoints make up for this more difficult usability.

2) Opponents last action/cards taken shown – There are small sections at the top of the screen showing each opponent with a good deal of information (cards in hand, trains remaining, destination tickets held). One great thing is the display of what a player did on their last turn. If they took cards, which cards they took are shown (face up cards’ color are shown, face down cards are shown as face down). If they claimed a route, an icon shows this and the trains on that route are animated, and getting new tickets is also identified.

I’m also a fan of the Achievements. When I play video games, especially RPGs, I tend towards trying to complete everything. The Achievements give me this feel (though the numbers for Games Played Achievements are a little ridiculous). The Achievements give you something to shoot for, and keep the game interesting as they can force you out of your typical play style.

The AI is good enough to keep you interested. Four different versions are nice, ranging from nearly incompetent to strong enough that if you don’t pay attention, they can grab victory. The AI levels are not only based on difficulty, but the play style changes as well, making it feel like you’re against different types of opponents.

For the price, I’d highly recommend anyone with a device that will play this app to give it a try. From time to time it will drop to $0.99, or even free, so if you track apps, add this one to your list. Whether using the Pass-and-Play at the airport or on the train, or filling 10 minutes while waiting in line, Ticket to Ride: Pocket has proven itself a great use of $2.

6
Go to the Pit page

Pit

48 out of 53 gamers thought this was helpful

Pit is a game that completely surprised me when I first played it. I had heard about it, and the description did not sound like very much fun. But then after playing it, I definitely saw why many people enjoy it, and why it has its detractors.

Game Play

The game play of Pit is straightforward. Each player is dealt a hand of commodity cards. The goal is to be the first person to have the entire set of a single commodity (every card in their hand the same). To do this, you’re trading with other players, but not for specific cards, but for sets of cards (trading some number of the same card type for that same number of a different card type with neither player knowing what the cards are they are receiving). This results in a loud and raucous trading pit, with cards flying back and forth as players attempt to monopolize a commodity and win the game.

My Thoughts

In the end, I find Pit difficult to correctly classify. From my experience, the game works well for larger groups that like gaming for social aspects; a chance to spend time with friends and enjoy their company. Yet, when playing Pit, you’re not really able to socialize, as you’re frantically attempting to trade into a winning hand, with little regard for who you’re trading with. There is a sense of exhilaration as a game comes to the end, resulting from the near complete immersion a player experiences as they fight with each other to make their trades.

In this way, Pit shares a bit of its feel with a playing of Space Alert (while lacking its chrome, polish, and feeling of dread). Not the team aspect of Space Alert, but the experience of acutely focusing your attention into a short burst of barely controlled chaos. (These games would also appear together on a list of “Games I Hope the Table Next to Me Is NOT Playing”).

Other games I’ve found groups that enjoy Pit will also like are: Apples to Apples, Dixit, Telestrations, Incan Gold, and Cranium. I don’t think it is an accident that all of these games have simple rules. A major difference in my mind is Pit doesn’t allow for socializing during the game, but allows it after, while people are calming down from the adrenaline high.

People that I’ve found don’t like Pit seem to have a hard time allowing themselves to fully get into the craziness of the game. Strategy and tactics take a backseat to full out enthusiasm and energy. Inability, or lack of desire to “go all-in” on the game will result in the gaming experience being less than enjoyable.

Pit is far from my favorite game, but is fun to pull out once or twice a year (with the right group) to liven up an evening and get people interacting. It’s the final part that still surprises me, a game that doesn’t allow for socializing while playing yet still brings people together and becomes a social activity.

8
Go to the Dungeon Petz page

Dungeon Petz

134 out of 146 gamers thought this was helpful

Vlaada Chvatil is back with another game to help those misunderstood dungeon lords protect their investments from those pesky adventurers. While Dungeon Petz takes place in the same world as the previously released Dungeon Lords, don’t feel that you need to have played Dungeon Lords to jump into, and enjoy, Dungeon Petz.

In Dungeon Petz, your imps have opened a pet selling business. Throughout the game, you’ll be sending out imps to get different items – using a worker placement mechanic – that are needed to raise pets. Outside of this phase, the main focus is raising your pets, which will have specific needs that need to be met each turn. Once those are dealt with (I discuss how that works below), all rounds but the first (there are six total) will have an exhibition that you can plan for. These exhibitions allow you to gain reputation points (this game’s name for VPs needed to win). Each exhibition will be scored based on the need cards you played on your pets, allowing you to (try to) plan ahead of time what type of needs your pet should have.

As you’re in the pet selling business, you will then have the option of selling your pets to customers. Each customer wants a certain type of pet and will give more points if they have certain need cards played on them, and fewer points for other types of cards. Customers are known a few rounds in advance, so you can attempt to plan for them.

In the end, there is a final scoring using the exhibition model, after which you can finally relax and think of how you’ll do things differently the next time you play.

Dungeon Petz is fairly involved, so I’ll spend a good amount of time talking through what you’ll be doing. If you’re primarily interested in my thoughts on the game, please jump past the following section).

Game Play
The game will play over 5 rounds (with a final scoring following). Each round has 6 phases. The rules for each phase aren’t overly difficult, but put together there are a lot of little rules. Once you know the rules, the iconography of the player aid that is part of your player board makes sense (but is very cryptic until you know those rules).

Phase 1 – Here you’re primarily setting up the board (making new item available), and getting income. New pets, cages, food, add-ons, and artifacts are put out for the round. You’ll also get 2 gold (1 if you’re the start player).

Phase 2 – Worker placement phase (shopping). Each player will secretly put their imps in groups (you start with 6). Each group can also include any amount of gold (but a group must have at least one imp). Once you reveal your groups, the player with the largest group (determined by the sum of imps + gold in a group) places that group first (ties broken by start player, and clockwise from them). The largest groups go first, taking the item they want once placed. This mechanic is a nice twist on worker placement, as you’re secretly “bidding” in hopes of getting the spaces you want. When it is your turn to place a group, you always have the choice to not send them out, holding them back for later.

Phase 3 – Assign the locations of cages, add-ons, and pets (you could potentially have up to four of each). This is the phase where you will assign need cards to your pets. Each pet will have on it icons representing how many cards they need, and what color they are. As pets age, they grow and require more cards. You draw cards of the appropriate colors as shown on each of your pets. These are added to your hand of cards that has one card of each of the four colors. Now, you’ll need to assign one need card of the correct color for each icon on the pet (in essence, you’ll be playing a number of cards equal to what you just drew). This is the main puzzle part of the game, and where a large amount of your time will be spent. The following rounds, as well as the continued health of your pet, will depend on how you play the cards.

Each card will have a need on it. The four colors each have a need that shows up on half of its cards, and the other half will have an assortment of needs (the player aid on your board shows the distribution). This means that if your animal has a lot of green cards, you’re most likely to have to feed it, but it’s not guaranteed that will be the cards you draw (red is most often anger, yellow is most often play, and purple is most often magic).

Phase 4 – Here you’ll address the need cards you just played on your pets, and enter the exhibition. Need cards are done in a particular order (again shown on the player aid). In general, if you have assigned a need but aren’t able to meet is (such as feeding, or playing), your animal receives a suffering token. Imps you held back in Phase 2 can be used to meet play needs. Additionally, you’ll compare the anger needs to the cage strength (red). If the anger is greater than the strength, you’ll have to assign held back imps to make up the difference (which go to the hospital) or the animal breaks out and runs away. Similarly, you’ll compare magic needs to the magic strength of the cage. If the magic needs are too great, your pet will mutate. If you ever have two mutation counters, the pet disappears. You’ll also have to deal with poop and sickness.

Once all of these needs are taken care of, you’ll enter the exhibition. The exhibition tile will have been seen ahead of time. Some are single pet, others are all pets. The exhibition will give positive points for certain needs, and negative points for needs/items (suffering, sickness, mutations, and poop may all be bad). The points you gain are compared to the opponents, and you’ll score reputation points based on your order of finish.

Phase 5 – In this phase, you’ll get to do what you had i mind when you started a pet business; you can sell a pet to a customer. Somewhat akin to the exhibition, a customer will want certain things (need cards) from a pet, and give more match points, and will give fewer points for other things (e.g. some like hunger, others don’t). You’ll get reputation points equal to either 2x or 3x the match points, depending on whether you sell from the black market (2x) or from an imp placed on the platform (3x) during the worker placement phase. You’ll also get money based on the pet’s sale value. There is also a “clean-up phase” where you can use extra imps to clean poop or gain gold.

Phase 6 – Not much to do here, it’s more of a maintenance phase. Pets grow (gain more needs), excess food may start to/finish spoil(ing), and you get your imps back for the next round.

There are a few other things not directly mentioned here (gaining new imps, judging in the competition, going to the hospital) that exist, but you’ll pick those up once you start to play, they’re not the focus of the game like keeping up and selling your pets, and doing exhibitions.

My Thoughts

I find Dungeon Petz to be a slightly more accessible and quicker playing game than its predecessor. There is definitely overlap in the theme, but you don’t have to have played the first game to figure out what’s going on here (you may just miss a few of the jokes in the rulebook). In Dungeon Lords there are two very different phases (building up the dungeon, and then defending from the adventurers). The phases flow a bit better into each other in Dungeon Petz. It’s not as deep of a game because of this, allowing for a wider audience than Dungeon Lords.

Similar to Dungeon Lords, Dungeon Petz initially sounds like a lot of rules, but once you play a couple of rounds, everything comes together and makes sense. There is nothing really difficult rules-wise here, just a lot of moving pieces to keep track of. Thankfully, the player aid that is incorporated into the player board is very well done (once you know how to read it), and keeps the game moving along.

A moment needs to be taken to mention the art and theme of the game, which will likely be a main selling point. The same artist from Dungeon Lords is back, and the art is fantastic. All over the board are images of imps (even going out onto the VP track). The pets themselves will be enough to sell the game to many people. They are very whimsical, and all have a cute backstory (as do the customers). You’ll notice immediately when reading the rules that a thematic element has been added to everything you do (which will also help you remember the rules).

The components are well done. The pets will be the main point of interest. They require assembly, which takes ~10 seconds each, after which no extra work is needed. They are egg shaped, and consist of two pieces connected by a fastener. The top piece shows the animal and type of food they eat. The main information is on the bottom piece, which shows the need cards for different ages, how much a pet grows in a round, and its sale value. It is clear that the pet setup has been well thought through, and the needed information is very clearly shown. Overall, they are very well done, down to the selection of fasteners that allow them to stay in place, yet still rotate easily.

Dungeon Petz isn’t quite the brain burner that Dungeon Lords was, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t strategy aplenty. The worker placement phase seems new and interesting, allowing a player to choose what size groups to use, and getting to place them based on that size. You won’t run into the problem of Dungeon Lords where you may select an action and have it not be there. That doesn’t mean you’ll get the actions you want in Dungeon Petz, but when it is your turn to play, you’ll at least know immediately what is available to you. If you really needed an action in Dungeon Lords turn order may have stopped you from getting to it before your opponents. In Dungeon Petz if you really need that action, all you need to do is form a group larger than what your opponents put together (of course, you don’t know what size groups they’ll be putting together).

I really get the feel, as the pets age, that an older pet needs more attention. There will come a time where you are happy to sell it off so you no longer have to deal with it. The planning for exhibitions and customers are well done. That said, you’ll quickly find that Dungeon Petz is a game of minimizing bad things happening, possibly more so than optimizing good things. You’ll always wish you had more actions, or different need cards, but you do the best you can, and try to keep the damage to a minimum.

I’m finding I enjoy Dungeon Petz a little more than Dungeon Lords, in large part because it is more accessible than Dungeon Lords thus giving you more potential opponents. If the theme of raising pets appeals to you, give Dungeon Petz a try, it’s well worth your time!

9
Go to the Dixit 2 page

Dixit 2

54 out of 64 gamers thought this was helpful

If you’re already a fan of Dixit, this expansion will be perfect for you. While many expansions attempt to alter the base game, or enhance it, Dixit 2 stays true to the original game. With this expansion, you get 84 additional cards; no changes in rules or pieces complicate the already simple game design.

My Thoughts

There is not a lot one can say to convince someone to get this expansion. If you like Dixit, it’s very likely you’re going to enjoy Dixit 2. The extra cards will allow for fresh games if your group has played the base game so often that clues are being reused.

Dixit 2 can be played as a deck by itself, partially mixed into the main deck, or fully integrated for a longer game experience. My groups tend to want to make the game go longer, so adding the cards to the main stack is the primary way we play.

I would recommend waiting to add Dixit 2 until you have played Dixit a number of times. This is not because the expansion makes things more difficult, but I believe you’ll lose some of the enjoyment the base cards can bring if you move on quickly. Adding Dixit 2 can bring a sense of excitement and ‘newness’ to the game that I think is missed if you start playing with it too soon.

The artwork is going to be familiar to what you’re used to from Dixit. I personally prefer the first set’s art (if you’re only going to have one, I’d go with the base game), but I know others that disagree, and adore the new cards.

Overall, if you like Dixit, pick up Dixit 2 and keep the fun and stories going!

5
Go to the Apples to Apples page

Apples to Apples

68 out of 75 gamers thought this was helpful

I find that often, people who consider themselves gamers (a group I certainly feel I am a member) have a tough time relating to others that don’t share our feelings about gaming. It’s easy to forget that not everyone finds optimizing positions, maximizing resources, and manipulating wooden cubes to be “fun”. While these are the games I am drawn to, I have learned the hard way that assuming that because I like a game – everyone will like it – can lead to unhappy gaming experiences. Many want a game to be a social activity that is relaxing and takes little brain power. Apples to Apples tends to be a great game to fit that bill.

Game Play
Apples to Apples, mechanically, is a very simple game to learn and teach. Each player will be given a hand of red cards that each has a word or short phrase on it (generally along with some quick blurb of information on it). Each round, it will be one player’s ‘turn’ to flip over a green card that will have a word on it (often an adjective, or description). Each other player will choose a red card from their hand and play it to a middle pile face down. The player whose turn it is will then shuffle these cards and lay them each out. Then, they will pick the red card that they think most fits the green card that was turned up. It is up to the player to decide how to ‘judge’ which the best fit is. Sometimes it will be the most closely related, others it will be the one they find most humorous. The player that played the chosen red card will be awarded the green card to show they won that round.

Play continues until one player has reached a predetermined number of green cards, at which time that player will be named the winner.

My Thoughts
In Apples to Apples, players aren’t necessarily trying to beat their opponents through optimal play or shrewd tactics. Instead, it allows people to share laughs and try to play to what they think an opponent will like. Often, knowing the person you’re playing with is far more important than how you are at making relationships between cards.

I’ve played many times where multiple games are played. In one game, a player may win handily, while in the immediate following game, they don’t score at all. Generally, in groups of people that enjoy Apples to Apples no one really cares who the winner is. This is a game that is not played for victory, but for the experience. Many people find this sort of game tedious as there is little use for strategy. Different people will look at the cards that were played and choose different ‘best’ answers.

In my experience, people that enjoy Dixit will enjoy Apples to Apples as they both contain easy rules, quick gameplay, and reward creativity over knowledge and analysis. It is not uncommon for people who enjoy Apples to Apples to not be overly interested in “moving on” to other more advanced games. Apples to Apples is often the type of game that a group that enjoys it will be willing to play over and over without a need to graduate to other games.

If you’re idea of a fun game involves cubes, resource management, and a good brain workout, there are many other games that will likely interest you more. I personally enjoy Apples to Apples from time to time as a way to catch up with friends and enjoy a game with non-gamers, but it is not something I will seek out on a normal “Eurogame” night. Apples to Apples has earned its spot on my game shelf, even if it doesn’t fit in with many of my more preferred games. If you’re looking for a social game that focuses more on the joy of interacting with a group over tactics and strategy, Apples to Apples could well be for you.

9
Go to the King of Tokyo page

King of Tokyo

126 out of 139 gamers thought this was helpful

King of Tokyo has quickly become one of my favorite games of the last year. With easy to learn rules, and simple gameplay, it can be picked up quickly and enjoyed by gamers of all ages. While the youngest gamers may have trouble with some of the text, they can still enjoy the game with the help of adults.

You take control of a monster that is attempting to attack Tokyo. Unfortunately, as games like this go, other monsters have gotten the same idea, at the same time. You’ll spend the game attacking the monster(s) in Tokyo when you’re on the outside, and attacking the other players from within Tokyo. This is accomplished by rolling dice with gameplay that will seem familiar to those that have played Yahtzee. Thankfully, there is a lot more to the game than Yahtzee, with a fun theme and colorful characters.

As the game goes on, you’ll collect energy, which can be used to buy power-up cards that do a great job of carrying the theme of the game. To win, you either need to be the last monster standing, or the first to gain 20 stars (victory points).

Game Play

On your turn, you will roll 6 dice, each identical with 6 different faces showing:
-Heart
-Claw
-Lightning Bolt
-1
-2
-3

You can save any or all of the dice on the face they are showing, and re-roll the rest. You have three total rolls, after which, you get benefits based on your rolls.

Hearts give extra life (you can have up to 10 life, which is the starting value). Lightning Bolts give an energy cube which can be spent to buy power-up cards. Three of the same number (three 1s, 2s, or 3s) give that many points (three 1s give 1 point, three 3s give 3 points). You get an extra point for each extra die of a set.

Claws are where the main interaction of the game come in. If you are standing outside of Tokyo (only one player can be in Tokyo at a time (two if 5-6 players) you do one damage to the player(s) in Tokyo for each claw. If you are in Tokyo, you’ll do 1 damage to each player outside of Tokyo. If a player damaged in this way chooses to leave Tokyo (or there are no players currently in Tokyo), the attacking player must move in.

Moving into Tokyo gives 1 star. Starting your turn in Tokyo gives 2 stars. The game continues until a player gets 20 stars, or only one player is still alive.

After resolving the dice, you can buy power-up cards if you have enough energy cubes. There are three out a time, of differing powers and costs. You can also spend 2 cubes to clear the row and see 3 new cards. Some cards will be kept, others have an immediate effect and are discarded. These cards tend to have a big effect on the game, and add a lot of variability to the game.

My Thoughts

As I stated at the top, I’ve really come to enjoy this game. It’s simple, yet addictive. It can play quite quickly (I’ve had a 6-player game end in 10 minutes, though 30 minutes is probably a better average). While there is player elimination possible, the quick play time lessens concerns. The game tends to be more fun to observe than most games, which also helps.

The six characters are quite colorful, though they don’t have any different abilities. (One could imagine this is a likely avenue for an expansion, assuming six player powers can be balanced). The components are sturdy, though not really necessary. The Tokyo board serves to keep track of the player(s) in Tokyo, but has no other major purpose. The characters representing the players are quite impressive and really help the theme of giant monsters attacking Tokyo.

I think the theme is one of the things that really makes King of Tokyo stand out (and this is said by someone that normally doesn’t care for theme in a game). This is best shown by the power-up cards that are brilliantly illustrated and named (my personal favorites being a Herbivore and an Urbavore. The cards really remind me of the old arcade and Nintendo classic Rampage. There are far more cards than you can get through in a few games, keeping multiple plays fresh.

It’s not a strategic brainburner, but it’s great for quick play between games, or to start or end a gaming session. King of Tokyo shows what a family game can be, taking a well-known mechanic (Yahtzee) and breathing into it new life. If you’re looking for a great family game that is easy to play, with a push your luck element and excellent theme implementation and multiple paths to victory, I highly recommend giving King of Tokyo a try!

6
Go to the Pastiche page

Pastiche

52 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

Pastiche is a game allowing you to reproduce some of the great pieces of art from throughout history. There are two paintings each from 17 masters. Thankfully (for me!), no artistic ability is required as the paintings are the theme to a set/hand management Euro game where players compete to complete enough victory points worth of paintings.

Game Play

Pastiche takes players through the steps of acquiring the colors needed to complete different paintings throughout history. Each turn starts with a player placing a hexagonal tile that shows a primary color in the center (or sometimes two), and six primary color ‘blots’, one on each corner of the tile. These tiles are placed adjacent to a growing mass of such tiles. Once placed, a player will gain a color card based on the colors that appear next to each other at a vertex, one card for each 2 (secondary) color, or 3 (tertiary) color combination. Alternatively, the player can choose to take a single primary color show at the center of the tile they played.

Next, cards can be traded with opponents, or with the bank. Trading with the bank requires 3 cards of the same color to make any secondary, tertiary, black, or white card. White and black can make gray, and brown and yellow make bisque. Primary colors can only be obtained through tile placement, or by trading a different primary color plus one of anything.

Players can trade one of their two paintings with one from the center (there are 4 available). Paintings in your hand can’t be completed by other players, while the 4 center gallery paintings can be completed by anyone.

The color cards in hand may now be used to complete a painting. Each paining will show the colors needed for completion, as well as the points it is worth. If a painting is completed, a new one is drawn to replace it, and play passes to the next player following a quick check to ensure the player has 8 or fewer cards. Play will continue until one player has enough points to end the game (the number needed depends on players). The winner will be the player with the most points in paintings, with points assigned for having color cards in your hand that your unfinished works would have used. There is also a bonus for having two paintings by the same artist.

My Thoughts

The rules and play for Pastiche are not complex and can be picked up by non-gamers, though I don’t think I would recommend Pastiche for first time gamers (unless they have a specific interest in the theme). Pastiche doesn’t strike me as ideal for a gateway game if you goal is to attract people to gaming in general. I feel the game sits at a place where some experience with non-classic games would benefit a player. You spend much of the game studying your palette hexes, determining how best to place them for what you need. While this can be understood by anyone, I haven’t seen the mechanic be extremely engaging to non-gamers. It can almost feel like work figuring out what colors you can make, and they will work with your hand to trade up to more needed colors. On the plus side, this does give the game something for gamers to sink their teeth into; but it feel s like it isn’t quite enough to keep a groups interest for many plays.

In the end, I think Pastiche is an interesting enough game to make it worth playing, but lacking the depth to keep bringing people back over and over again. Scores tend to be close since each paining it worth the exact value of the sum of the cards that go into making it. This means that often times; winning will be determined by the player who is best at manipulating the color palette tiles. While this will be welcomed by strategic gamers, it can also lead to issues with players who spend a lot of time analyzing a position. Pastiche works well at the 45 minute level, but can be stretched to well over an hour if one or more players are grinding out their turns, and there’s not quite enough game here to allow the other players to make good use of this excess time.

If you like art, or want to introduce friends with artistic tastes to gaming, Pastiche will do a great job of drawing people in. I think art teachers may find this game an interesting teaching aid, potentially getting students to “study” certain paintings while playing a game. The painting tiles are large and pretty, the color palette hexes form an attractive layout as the game progresses. If you’re looking for a 45 minute Euro with art theme, Pastiche may be for you. If this doesn’t sound like you, the game may hold your interest for a few plays, but probably won’t become a weekly favorite.

7
Go to the Mord im Arosa page

Mord im Arosa

55 out of 59 gamers thought this was helpful

Mord im Arosa is a fun quick game that’s different than any other game I’ve played. You’re searching for a murderer, looking for clues while possibly covering up your tracks. When I first heard about it, I thought it would be a deduction game, which is incorrect. It’s not the sort of game where one person is the murderer, knows this fact, and plays accordingly. Instead, the guilty party is unknown, and “who done it” is determined at the end of the game. I’d classify it under the Party Game genre, and as being more enjoyable with more players.

Game Play

Each player has a set of cubes in their color. In the middle of the table sits a (thin) cardboard tower that exists in 8 square segments of differing sizes. Each segment has a square hole in the middle of its upper face (the portion within the tower), allowing cubes to fall through to the next level. This hole does not take up the entire top surface, leaving a shelf where cubes may sit.

As the game goes along, players will have cubes within the tower. As you drop a cube in, you listen in hopes of being able to determine which level a cube lands on. It’s possible for cubes to fall all the way through to the bottom level (the table), though this happens much less often than I would have expected.

Initially, the tower is seeded with cubes, along with 2 victim cubes (red). The first turns will consist of choosing a level, and examining it by pulling off all of the levels above it (the tower is pretty stable and rather easy to take apart to search lower levels).

In Act 1 you’re looking for the victim’s bodies. If a victim is on a given level, the cube is placed on the investigation board. If not, you’ve left behind evidence you were snooping around and drop one of your cubes into the tower. In addition to the red cube being placed on the investigation board, all players who also have cubes there will take cubes from their personal supply and put them on the investigation board. Then, the cubes from the tower are taken and dropped back into the tower. In this way, cubes may be found multiple times.

In Act 2 you can suspect other players, or (try to) cover your own tracks. If suspecting others, choose a floor and any number of colors. If any of the colors you named are there, that player puts cubes on the investigation board (from their personal supply) and drops the cubes from the floor back into the tower. For each color you named that are not on the floor, you must put one of your cubes into the tower.

Instead of suspecting others, you can try to cover your tracks. You look at where you have cubes on the investigation board, and can name a floor to check if your cubes are on. If you find cubes of your color on that floor of the tower, you can remove cubes (1 for 1) from the investigation board. If you’re not there, you add another cube to the tower. Even if you choose correctly, the cubes from the floor go right back into the tower.

Game End

Once one player has 10 cubes on the investigation board, or no cubes left in their supply, the game ends. Your overall goal is to have the fewest points worth of cubes on the investigation board. Cubes from the tower will make their way onto the investigation board as clues of who is the murderer. You want as few of cubes as possible, and to have your cubes as far from the floor with the bodies to be victorious.

Points are given based on where your cubes are on the investigation board compared to where the bodies were. Same floor is 3 points, one floor away is 2 points, and anywhere else is 1. The player with the highest number of suspicion points is the murderer, who loses. The player with the lowest number of points wins.

My Thoughts

I find Mord im Arosa to have an interesting design. Listening in an attempt to determine where each players cubes end up makes for an unique gaming experience. I’m surprised how often you can be wrong, even if you’re certain you know where specific cubes ended up. It’s not a very deep game, and the rules are quick to learn.

I wouldn’t say Mord im Arosa has a great amount of replay value. Each game feel s pretty similar to the last, there isn’t a lot to change it up each time. The novelty wears off after a couple of games, and the random element of dropping cubes in the tower doesn’t allow for great strategy. Since you can’t choose where to put your cubes, you’re at the mercy of how well you can determine where your cubes are, or where to find those of opponents. There is a risk/reward element to how many opponents you choose as suspects. You can play it safe naming one person, ensuring at most you add one cube to the tower. Or, you can guess a number of players, giving many people more points.

The idea of Mord im Arosa is intriguing, and is a game I enjoy playing once or twice and then coming back to it a few months down the line to try again. If viewed as a Party Game, I think it has a spot in a group’s collection, but I wouldn’t recommend viewing it as more. I’d primarily play it in settings where I would play Pit, For Sale, Dixit, or Telestrations. It’s a game that is fun to try casually, but won’t stand up to repeated plays, or to scratch the itch of a deep strategic game. If you’re up for seeing how well you can determine the location of a falling cube’s landing location, Mord im Arosa is a fun diversion worth trying!

6
Go to the The Resistance: 3rd Edition page
59 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

Decent games that can accommodate a large number of players (here up to 10) and play quickly (within a half-hour) are useful to have for group gaming events with multiple tables of games that start and end at different times. While waiting for people to arrive or for a table to finish before starting a new game, The Resistance works well as a high energy filler.

The Resistance shares its roots with Werewolf/Mafia, a card game where players are secretly assigned a role (usually “human” or “werewolf” / “good” or “bad”). Different roles have different winning conditions, usually based on eliminating players with the opposite role type. With the roles being secret, decisions are based on whatever criteria you choose, often involving impassioned speeches based on little to no meaningful data, and resulting in a player being removed from the game.

Thankfully for me (and likely those that also don’t care for Werewolf/Mafia), The Resistance improves upon this shared experience by placing gaming elements on top of this theme. Gone are the player eliminations and long playtime required to repeatedly knock out these other players. The Resistance plays relatively quickly, and can be learned easily. It keeps the need of players interacting and deducing someone’s true nature, but adds missions from which information can be gained.

Game Play

Each player is secretly assigned a role card to start the game, either blue or red. Blue players (Resistance Operatives) compete with red players (Imperial Spies) to be the first to complete 3 missions (thus it is best of 5). The spies will know who each other are (after roles are passed out, everyone closes their eyes with the spies opening their eyes to see each other), the resistance only know their own role.

Each turn, a start player will pass out mission cards to a number of players (this number if based on the total number of players). The earlier missions typically have fewer participants than later. All players vote whether they agree to those chosen being allowed to go on the mission. If more vote “yes”, the mission occurs. If there is a not a majority of “yes” votes, the start player passes to the left, and this player now selects a mission team. This continues until a group is approved. If this type of vote fails 5 times in a row, the game ends with the spies winning.

When a mission occurs, each member who was selected gets a blue and red card. They select one to play (blue players may only select blue, red players may select either color), discarding the other. After shuffling to keep who played which card secret, the cards are revealed. If any are red, the mission fails (some missions may need 2 red to fail depending on player count and round). Failure means red gets 1 of the 3 points needed to win the game. If all are blue, the mission succeeds, and the blue team gets the point.

This continues, with a new team being selected and voted upon. The game ends when one team has taken 3 missions.

My Thoughts

The Resistance takes a card based group experience that I grew weary of long ago (Werewolf / Mafia) and adds a gaming element to it. It plays quicker, doesn’t have player elimination. Heated discussions over a player’s allegiance are still around, but the missions now give information upon which to base accusations.

A spy being able to choose a blue card, allowing a mission to succeed is, in my mind, the key factor in this game that keeps it entertaining and challenging. If spies always had to vote to fail a mission, it would get dull quickly, becoming a straight deduction game. With spies being able to mask their allegiance, they can gain the trust of the players at the table, only to stab them in the back later. As more people are required for later missions, the ability to determine who is on the blue team becomes more important, and more difficult.

I like the mission board that comes with the game. While not a necessary component, it does an excellent job of presenting information that many games make you search the rulebook for each time to find. The number of blue vs. red players are shown for different player counts, as well as how many people must go on each mission. The game is mainly negotiation/deduction based, and does not rely heavily on the components, keeping game costs down.

I find the game as described above to hit a good balance of time/complexity. Somewhat surprisingly in today’s game market, additional cards are included that give players special powers. These are the sorts of cards that I believe most games would leave as expansions for an additional cost. I don’t feel the game needs these extra cards, but they are good for groups that play the game regularly.

Overall, I find this to be a solid filler. While I prefer Incan Gold as a quick playing large group (up to 8, compared to The Resistance’s 10) game, The Resistance scratches the itch of player interaction where you can lie, bluff, or deduce your way to victory. If this sounds like your group’s idea of fun, give The Resistance a try!

7
Go to the Undermining page

Undermining

41 out of 44 gamers thought this was helpful

Undermining was a game that, when I first heard about it, I was not very interested. It didn’t sound to me like there was much going on, or that meaningful decisions would need to be made. I am pleased to be wrong. Undermining is not a deep strategy game, but it is fun, and does a great job of filling a 45 minute game slot.

You’re mining for precious materials, drilling through worthless rock to gather the resources to upgrade your vehicle, or fulfill contracts for starbucks (victory points). As with most games, gaining the most points wins. Of course, if a game is enjoyable enough, just playing it makes everyone a winner!

Game Appearance

The first thing you’ll note is the large, darkly colored board, covered with cylindrical tiles. Rock tiles are randomly distributed with colorful resources and alien technology amid the craggy underground.

Next, you’ll see the player board, thick cardboard depicting your mining vehicle (UMVee) with multiple slots that will eventually hold upgrades. I especially like the long horizontal slot for battery cubes. As you get more, your batteries are charged, and the visual works great. Finally, and certainly not least, the little UMVees, which may be one of my new favorite game pieces. They’re detailed, and fun to move around. Overall (and this is coming from someone that usually doesn’t normally care about components) this game is visually very appealing and incredibly well done.

Game Play

You get three actions on your turn to use wisely. You can spend an action to: drill one space, move two spaces, charge your batteries (gain one cube), or move from one open portal to another. Additionally, if you’re on the single factory space, you can also (for one action) unload goods, build new parts for your UMVee, or fulfill a contract. You may also spend two battery cubes for an action.

For the most part, you’re going to be moving your UMVee around, drilling out rock and grabbing resources. These resources can be turned in at the factory and stored, or used to upgrade or gain victory points by fulfilling specific contracts. Which upgrades to get will be important, and are based on the resources you have. Your UMVee can hold up to five upgrades. You can grab a drill bit to increase your drilling ability, rockets to move farther, an extra cargo bay, or a reactor which gives an extra action.

Full rocks need two drill power, if you only have one, they’re flipped to the other side, showing rubble that only needs one more drilling. Resources and alien technology only need a single drill action to collect.

My Thoughts

This game feels like a race to me. You’re trying to get the most out of each turn, and stay ahead of the competition in the upgrade/contract fulfilling game. You cannot occupy the same spot as another player. If you want to move through them, you have to pay two battery cubes (and the movement points) to do so. This allows for some blocking as you make yourself a nuisance to your opponents.

There are two different sides to the game board, expanding the variability in setup. The vast number of randomly distributed tiles ensures games will be very different, and allow players to explore different board areas.

The best part of the game is deciding when to upgrade (and which upgrade to go after) compared to spending resources to grab victory points through contracts. Contracts fulfilled later are worth fewer points, making the early ones attractive, at the cost of grabbing an upgrade to allow you to be more efficient later in the game. The alien technology cards can be quite strong, but require space on your UMVee to get to the surface.

In the end, Undermining is a relatively quick playing, light optimization/race game. It’s more than a filler, but not quite a main attraction game for the evening. It’s easy to learn and play, requiring some decision making without being mentally taxing. I view it as a change of pace game for more avid game players, with the ability to fit into a more casual gaming group. See what Z-Man games (and Matt Tolman) have dug up and try Undermining for yourself!

7
Go to the Kingdom Builder page

Kingdom Builder

133 out of 140 gamers thought this was helpful

Everything I initially heard about Kingdom Builder came with a heavy dose of “it’s a new game by the guy that made Dominion – Donald X. Vaccarino”. While true, that seemed to also carry with it a suggestion that this game would borrow heavily from the mechanics that made Dominion a success. Now that the game is starting to become more widely available, people will be finding for themselves that this isn’t Dominion, but that doesn’t make it a bad game.

There are a few similarities with Dominion, but these are rather minor, and may even be a stretch to call similarities. Of specific note, there is no deck building (or card selection at all). The closest overlap with Dominion comes from the set of 10 Kingdom Builder cards, of which 3 are used (randomly selected) each game. These cards will define what the bulk of the end game scoring will be, and heavily influence the strategy of the game.

Game Play

Each game of Kingdom Builder will be different, ensured by two different random setup elements each game. The first is the Kingdom Builder cards defining scoring conditions. Then, there is the game board, made up of four random boards (of the 8 total). The game boards are filled with hexes, each depicting different terrain types. Each type of board will have a different type of location, which can give special powers to people who collect them. You have 40 total settlements; once one player is out of settlements the end game is triggered (play until all players have had equal turns).

Each turn, you’ll have a single card (drawn at the end of the previous turn) that shows what terrain type you must play settlements on. You must play 3 settlements on hexes of the terrain type shown on your card. The main placement rule being you need to put a settlement adjacent to one of your existing ones, if possible.

On your turn (before or after playing your single card) you can use any location powers you’ve previously collected. These are gained by placing a settlement adjacent to the location (if there were any left). These may allow movement of settlements already on the board, or placing additional settlements, and can be used once per turn.

Scoring

Scoring only occurs at the end of the game, and uses a Gold Score Track (score tracks are conveniently located on the back of each game board; just use one of the boards not in play for scoring). You’ll get 3 points for being next to a castle, and they you’ll score based on the Kingdom Builder cards in play. That’s it; the winner is the person with the most points (gold).

My Thoughts

Like Dominion, there isn’t much to the setup / rules of the game. At first, I was expecting there to be more to the game. I’ve found I would now classify it in the Gateway Game category, with some strategy elements, but certainly not a brain burner. The game can be taught (and learned) quickly, and it’s set up to have a good deal of replay, with different boards – location abilities – and Kingdom Builder (scoring) cards. Componentwise, you get a lot of wooden settlements, and 8 heavy gameboards.

The Kingdom Builder cards are a great mechanic for this game. Everyone knows from the beginning which 3 are used, and can build their game around them. I find the best games are those where the cards may require opposing strategies. You can get a set where you want to group your settlements together, and where you want many different groups. This is where the bulk of the strategy comes in: how are you going to prioritize scoring. Do you want to focus on one card? Find synergy between two of them while mostly ignoring the third, or try a balanced game working that works with all three cards?

I’m not a big fan of the single card each turn which defines what terrain type you play your settlements. It keeps the game play quick and straightforward, but does add a bit more of a luck element than I would like. You can certainly work around these issues to some extent, and clever placement of your 3 settlements each turn can be beneficial, but I am left wishing for a bit more. I find this most troubling on Kingdom Builder card sets trios that all work together. In this case, it seems more like a race, everyone following the same strategy, and pulling a card that gives you access to a specific location early can be the difference. This single card draw is the main place in the game I see ripe for house rules.

Kingdom Builder is a fun, if different, successor for Dominion. If you go into it expecting Dominion and/or deckbuilding, you may be disappointed (as with most games, if you mistakenly expect one thing, the game won’t be as enjoyable). If you go into Kingdom Builder expecting a relatively light game with a good deal of replayability owing to the excellent varying scoring mechanic, it can be a lot of fun. Keep an eye on those Kingdom Builder scoring cards and location abilities, and grab victory for your kingdom!

8
Go to the Sorry Sliders page

Sorry Sliders

38 out of 42 gamers thought this was helpful

When I first saw this game on a store shelf, I didn’t give it a second look. An updated Sorry game didn’t appeal to me. Thankfully, a member of a game group I attended was smart enough to pick it up and introduce me to it. It’s become one of my favorite games to play with kids and people looking for a quick, fun, dexterity game fix.

Sorry Sliders is NOT Sorry, it’s its own game, using pawns that resemble Sorry, with a scoring mechanic to get your pawns “home”.

Game Play

Sorry Sliders is more like shuffleboard than Crokinole, but involves many of the same ideas. You have four roller pawns (plastic pawns with a ball bearing inside the base that slides along the board). There is a track (about a foot long) that leads into a middle scoring area. On your turn, you push one of your roller pawns, releasing it before the foul line, with a goal of landing it on the scoring section. If your pawn falls over or lands in a corner (a sorry pit), it is removed from the board. Players alternate, pushing one pawn at a time.

Scoring

After all players have played all four pawns, scoring begins. This scoring will be based on the scoring area you’re using (there are four that come with the game). Your overall goal is to get all of your scoring pawns to the Home area. You can only move a given scoring pawn once per turn, and it moves a number of spots equal to one of your roller pawns. You must get to Home exactly. The first person to get all of their pawns Home, wins.

One extra problem, if you have to remove a roller pawn due tt its being knocked off the board/into a sorry pit, one of your scoring pawns that isn’t Home goes back to start.

My Thoughts

Sorry Sliders is a great, quick game to play with kids, while still being fun for adults. I really like that the game comes with four different scoring sections. One has a hole in the center (like Crokinole) that sends one of your scoring pawns to Home for free. Another has that hole send a pawn back to start. There is even a board with danger dots, where if you end up on one, your pawn is removed!

The tracks that pawns are pushed down can be oriented in different ways, giving even more replayability. You can double up these tracks for longer lead-ins, or even put all four together to really test your pushing skills.

The rules are easy to learn, easy to teach, and very quick to go through. You can get a games started within a couple minutes of opening the box. Sorry Sliders even teaches basic strategy to younger kids, as they have to decide which scoring pawn to assign points to each turn.

Of newer “refreshes” of older games, Sorry Sliders, while not really feeling like Sorry, is one of my favorites. If you like dexterity games, and especially if you’re going to be playing with kids, you should definitely give Sorry Sliders a look!

*Subject line with apologies to Ms. Osmond

7
Go to the Forbidden Island page

Forbidden Island

96 out of 103 gamers thought this was helpful

Sometimes I’ll fall into the trap of trying to explain a game by comparing it to another game. This often works well, when the person I’m talking to knows the same games I do. Recently, I described Forbidden Island as many people do, as a light version of Pandemic, and was met with a blank stare. Trying to use Pandemic as a comparison to someone who had never played it (or any cooperative game) was useless.

Below is a review of Forbidden Island for those that are new to cooperative games and have never played Pandemic

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game – all players are on the same team – winning and losing as a group. You’re treasure hunters on an island trying to grab four treasures, but there’s a problem, the island is sinking. Once a tile starts flooding, its likelihood of sinking is increased. If you can collect the four treasures and get all of the players to the Fool’s Landing tile along with a helicopter card, you’ll win the game.

The board is a random layout of 24 well illustrated tiles. One of these tiles is the helicopter pad, Fool’s Landing. The four treasures are shown on two tiles each. There are six roles, each player getting one. The roles will have a special ability for that player; otherwise all players have the same options each turn.

As in many cooperative games, players perform some number of “good” actions (moving closer to winning the game), and then have to perform a “bad” action, in this case, drawing cards from the flood deck. A Water Level card tells you how many to draw. In between these actions you’ll draw Treasure Cards.

If you’d like a rundown of how the game plays, see the next sections, for my thoughts, jump to the final section.

Actions

You have three actions each turn which can be spent to do the following:

Move 1 space – You may only move up, down, left, or right, not diagonally.

Shore up a tile – Turn a flooded tile adjacent to you (not diagonally) to its non-flooded side.

Give a card to a player – The other player must be on your tile.

Get a treasure – discard 4 matching treasure cards when on a tile showing the matching treasure, and take that treasure token.

Draw Two Treasure Cards

Draw two cards. You can only hold 5, so you may have to discard.

Water Rise These cards are responsible for the main interesting mechanic in the game. They are what cause you to flip over more flood cards each turn, making it more likely the tiles will sink. In addition, they take the flood card discard pile, shuffle it, and put it on top of the flood draw pile. This means that tiles that have already been flooded are more likely to flood again. An already flooded tile which comes up from the flood deck is removed from the game.

Draw Flood Cards

Draw cards from the flood deck equal to your flood level. As stated above, if the card for a tile that is already flooded comes up, that tile is removed from the game.

Winning and Losing

Everyone wins or loses together. You win by getting to Fool’s Landing with the four treasures, all players, and a helicopter card. You can lose if Fool’s Landing sinks, OR both tiles showing a given treasure sink before you get that treasure, OR a player is on a tile that sinks and has no where to go, OR the flood meter reaches the top level. The last condition also adds some replayability to the game, as you can start with a higher or lower flood level to make the game easier or harder.

My Thoughts

Forbidden Island is a highly accessible game that can be easily learned and played by all ages. It is a fantastic entry into the cooperative game genre for a family. You don’t need to have played Pandemic, or even another cooperative game, to understand and enjoy Forbidden Island. The decisions aren’t terribly difficult, but the game does require players to work together to be efficient. Understanding which tiles need to be saved, and which can be allowed to sink, is a big part of the game.

The tiles are attractive and sturdy, with the treasures being quite impressive for a game in this price range. There is no real need for the treasures to be anything special, but the tokens are large, colorful, and fun to play with. The random layout each game will make each play slightly differently, and there are 10 official variant layouts that can be found online (check my entry in the Tips section on this site for details and a link!)

One word of warning to those new to cooperative games, this game can suffer from a dominant player taking over the game and telling everyone what to do. This can become annoying and take much of the fun out of the game. For middle-aged kids, this could be a good “teaching experience”, to help them learn to play together and listen to everyone’s input, instead of trying to boss other players around. The benefit of this is that the game can be played solo, if you so desire.

Forbidden Island is a great gateway into cooperative games. By the time you find yourself tiring of it, you’ll be ready to take on some of the more strategic relatives, and learn for yourself why people refer to this as Pandemic Light!

7
Go to the Yggdrasil page

Yggdrasil

89 out of 96 gamers thought this was helpful

Yggdrasil is a cooperative game where all players are on the same team (no traitors or opposing sides). The game board integrates various components (“the nine worlds”) of Norse mythology, and gives you the chance to take on the roles of various gods to stop the advance of evil forces. The general turn sequence will be familiar to players of other co-ops such as Shadows Over Camelot, or Pandemic. You’re going to do something bad (flip a card revealing one of the evil forces, moving them forward and triggering their special ability), and then get three actions to do good.

The losing conditions are less varied than many co-ops; there is only one track on the gameboard you need to watch, instead of multiple different ways to lose as in Pandemic or Defenders of the Realm. If 5 enemies end a player’s turn beyond the Wall Of Asgard (moved forward three spaces), or 3 enemies are beyond the Door of Valhalla (forward 5 spaces), or 1 is in Odin’s Residence (forward 7 spaces), you lose. You win if you get through all of the evil cards (generally 42: 7 each of 6 evil forces: Nidhogg, Surt, Jormungand, Fenrir, Hel, and Loki).

One point that differentiates Yggdrasil from many games, the main board is not really a map that you’re moving a piece around. Instead, it shows what actions are available, and the state of play. You don’t move from place to place; you just take the action. In essence, there is no pawn for you to move.

Following is a review of the 9 different actions. For my thoughts on the game, skip to the following section.

Actions

Each turn, you may take 3 actions, but may only take a given action once per turn. The different choices are listed below, with some brief thoughts on when/how often you’ll use them.

Take an Elf – If any are left, you may take an elf token. Elf token’s may be turned in (after die roll) for +1 to combat.

Move Vanir – The Vanir track can give various bonuses, depending on how far along it you’ve moved, the bonus is generally more powerful the farther along you are. Often used when you don’t have anything better to do (which isn’t all that often, especially early).

Push Back Evil – You’ll be doing this one most turns. Look at the column a given evil force is in to determine their power. You then devote some number of vikings (each count as +1), roll a special die (faces show from 0-3), add any bonuses, and possibly turn in elves. If your value equals or exceeds the enemy power, they move back one spot.

Grab an Artifact – Take a card that gives a bonus towards combat with one of the 6 evil forces. You choose what to take. There are +1, +2, and +3 for each evil force, but you must take the +1 first, and can only take a higher number by trading in the next lower one. You may have multiple types of artifacts, and you don’t lose them when used. It’s pretty common to take this action at the beginning of the game, until you’re well equipped.

Search for Vikings – If you’ve played Thebes, this will feel familiar to you. There are 4 different colored bags, corresponding to an island on the board. You can move from one island to an adjacent if you wish, the you grab three tokens from the bag corresponding to the island you’re on. Keep any vikings, put any fire giants back in the bag. The bags of islands farther from your start position have a better ratio of vikings to fire giants. We end up using this action a lot, on more than half of our turns.

Fight Ice Giants – Ice Giants have a power of 3. You can either fight a face up giant (activated by Loki’s power), or attack a face down giant. Beating giants eliminate the effect they have on the game, and give you 1/4th of a rune, which can give a powerful bonus when completed. Some games we kill lots of giants, others we barely go here at all.

Remove Fire Giants – Going here allows you to choose a bag and pull five tokens from it. Any that are fire giants are removed from the bag. Vikings are returned to the bag. You go here when you feel the ratio in a given bag isn’t great. We’ll use this ~5-10 times per game.

Trade Items – You can take, give, or exchange with one other player. This is easily the least used option in our games; often going unpicked the entire game.

Add Extra Vikings to a Bag – Place 5 vikings into a bag of your choice. We use this a bit more often than the remove fire giants actions.

My Thoughts

I’ve been finding myself playing co-ops more often lately, and this game is definitely a solid entry, feeling different than others. You need to be very economical with your actions. I like that the losing conditions are simply laid out, but miss the added tension of having multiple things to manage as in Defenders of the Realm, or Star Trek: Expeditions. To be fair, this game has enough tension as it is and doesn’t need extra losing conditions just for the sake of having them.

While the board is visually very striking and attractive, I’ve found the bold colors detract a bit from gameplay. When first playing, it was a little tough to find each of the nine actions as they blend into the board. The elves in particular can be difficult to determine if there are any left. The icons used for the game make sense once you know what they are, but remind me a bit of Race for the Galaxy; it’s like learning a new language (there are far fewer than in Race, so don’t let that turn you off). The god cards showing your role are nice, but they’re huge, and only show your ability (and a nice picture). I would have liked if they would put three numbered circles denoting your actions, and given you a token or figure to move along for tracking. While you don’t really need something to track three actions, a couple of times a game the question will come up of how many you’ve taken.

One thing that surprised me, for as much work as the designers put into integrating the theme, I don’t feel the theme when playing. I feel like I’m playing a board game, collecting tokens and pushing back enemies. For reference, I also get this feeling when playing Forbidden Island or Star Trek: Expeditions, as opposed to Pandemic, Shadows Over Camelot, or Defenders of the Realm, where I feel I’m more into the theme. As I’m not a stickler for theme in games, this isn’t a problem for me.

Overall, I enjoy the game, especially the sense of tension it adds. Since all information is open, there can be a problem with one player dominating play, or (as in our group) discussion and consensus can be reached. If you have a dominant player in your group, the game specifically has a solo option; you can encourage them to play that! The game will increase in difficulty with more players, adding to replayability.

In the end, Yggdrasil is a “try before you buy” game for me, though I find it enjoyable. For some co-op comparison, I would put Yggdrasil nearly even with Star Trek: Expeditions, but below Defenders of the Realm. If you’re looking for a Norse mythology game, or are a fan of different types of co-ops, give it a try, it’ll be worth your time!

9
Go to the Incan Gold page

Incan Gold

65 out of 69 gamers thought this was helpful

Incan Gold is one of my favorite boardgame designs. It’s plays quickly, both in total time, and time per decision. It accommodates up to 8 players, and plays better with a larger crowd. The rules are extremely easy to learn (and teach!), and best of all, it’s fun. It is (along with For Sale), my go to “filler” game.

You’re an explorer, trying to get as much treasure as you can out of an old temple. During the game, you have only two decisions to make, and you’ll keep making them over an over. Do you stay in the temple, or do you run back to your tent? While this may sound like it’ll wear out its welcome quickly, the risk/reward element of the game keeps is exciting. It doesn’t feel as though you are just playing against the other players, you’re up against the temple itself, dragging as much treasure as you can from its trap-filled halls.

Gameplay

The game is played over five rounds. Each round, a path of cards will be flipped over, one at a time. The card will be a treasure card, a hazard, or an artifact. After each card is revealed players will secretly choose whether they want to continue on, or leave the temple. Once you leave, you are out for that round, but will be back for future rounds. Leaving ensures that all gems you’ve collected this round are “safe”, they are put under your tent and will count towards your final score.

When a treasure card appears (15 total), it will show a number of gems from 1 to 17. You’ll divide the gems as evenly as possible among the players remaining in the temple, leaving any remainder on the card. The collected gems go in front of a player’s tent, not under it. They are at risk, with leaving the temple the only way to ensure you’ll score them at game end. When people choose to leave the temple, they collect any gems left on the trail (dividing evenly if multiple people leave).

There are five types of hazards, with three of each in the deck. If one of a given type comes up, nothing special happens; it just means it is more dangerous to proceed. If a matching hazard is ever drawn, the round ends and anyone remaining in the temple loses all gems they would have collected this turn. The round will also end is all players have chosen to leave the temple.

The final cards are artifacts. Each round, one is added to the deck. If they ever appear, a gem worth 5 is placed on it (15 if it is the 4th or 5th to be seen). An artifact can only be grabbed if you are the only player to run back to your tent in a given turn. If no one gets an artifact before the round ends, it is removed from the game.

Following the fifth round, count all gems under player’s tents. The player with the most gems wins! (If your game is like many of mine, you’ll then reset the game and play again).

Final Thoughts

I am very pleased Incan Gold is in my collection. It fills a spot as a quick filler, a large group game, and a game to use with non-gamers. The easy rules allow anyone to play the game, with the decisions coming from gambling on what the next card to come up will be. While people are interested in the final score (as opposed to Dixit, where I often find players don’t care about who won), they enjoy the game whether they win or lose. It’s slightly easier to teach than For Sale (and quicker to setup), though it doesn’t have quite the same depth.

I have heard from a number of players that the cards used to show whether they are continuing on or leaving for their tent are confusing. I have not run into this problem when playing (the card for leaving shows your tent), but have heard it enough times to find it worth mentioning here. I now stress when teaching the rules that it’s very likely someone will choose the wrong card at some point in the game. Usually with that warning, people pay more attention to which card is which, and it’s less of an issue.

I like the use of cards to make the tents, but I know some players aren’t thrilled with them, thinking they’re too small and look somewhat cheap. I feel the quality and look of the gems more than makes up for any deficiencies posed by your tents, which do a good enough job of keeping scores hidden.

If you’re a fan of risk/reward and push your luck mechanics, or just looking for a quick game that’ll play a large group, Incan Gold could very well be for you. I’m a fan, and I hope you are too!

7
Go to the Ascending Empires page

Ascending Empires

128 out of 135 gamers thought this was helpful

I’m a sucker for dexterity games, whether it’s games like Tumblin-Dice, Hamsterrolle, Crokinole, Bisikle/Roadzters, or my favorite, Pitchcar. I was excited when I heard there was a new dexterity game out, Ascending Empires, where you build up a space civilization, while flicking your ships around. While I think this is a correct way to describe the game, it doesn’t do justice to what this game is.

A friend commented when he heard about this game “I think a 75 min dexterity game may wear out its welcome, but I’m very excited to try it.

Yes, it’s a civilization game with dexterity elements, but the dexterity is just that, an element, it isn’t the main course. And in this game, that’s ok! That same friend, after playing, was interested in playing again.

General Overview

As with most games, you’re aiming for the most Victory Points. A set pool of points at the beginning of the game acts as the game “timer”, once they’re all taken, each other player gets one more turn, and the game ends. You’ll gain points by being the first to increase to new technologies, as well as for mining planets and blowing up other players’ ships. Each player selects one main action to take each turn, keeping the game moving quickly.

Players start on different sections of a large nine piece puzzle board. There are holes in the board where planet/asteroid wooden cylinders are placed face down, with a purplish halo around each, representing an orbit.

The dexterity part comes with the ships. Movement is solely controlled by flicking your ship around the board. If you run into another player’s ship, they ram each other and both are destroyed. If you get multiple ships close enough to an opponent’s ship, you attack and destroy it, gaining points. You can also destroy all pieces on an enemy’s planet by bring more ship firepower than their defense can absorb.

With your one action you’ll be exploring new planets, developing technology, and performing other civilization building activities as shown below. There are four technology tracks (based on the four planet colors) that give greater powers as you progress along them.

You’re only allowed three pieces on any planet at a time, which will greatly impact your decisions, and need to be balanced between defending and getting benefits from the planet.

How to Build Your Civilization

Use your one action per turn on one of the following. Keep in mind the technology tracks may impact/improve these actions.

Recruit Troops – Add 2 troops among planets you occupy. You can instead choose to take any number of troops off the board.

Mine – Remove 2/3 troops from one planet to gain 1/2 Victory Points.

Build Structure – Build a Research Station, Colony, or City on a planet you control. Research Stations require you to remove 2 troops, Colonies remove 1 troop, and Cities remove 1 troop and 1 Colony. Colonies and Cities give defense bonuses to the planet (1 and 2 respectively), and the same number of Victory Points at the end of the game. Troops also have a 1 defense value, while Research Facilities have no defense bonus. Only one planet of yours at any time may have two Research Facilities on it.

Develop Technology – Move up once on one technology track, if you have a number of Research Facilities on planets of that color equal to the level you’re moving to.

Move – You get two movement points to use, with a few choices on which to use them:
– Launch – Pick up a troop from a world you control and put a ship in orbit.
– Navigate – Flick your ship to move it around the board
– Land – Pick up a ship in orbit of an unoccupied planet and place a troop there.

Attacks can happen based on ship location at the end of movement.

Thoughts on the Game

As you can see from the Action choices, only one includes a dexterity element (Move – Navigate), yet this game is generally talked about as a dexterity game. While this type of movement is important to the game, there is a lot more going on than just flicking. While it will help to be an expert at dexterity games, it’s not going to automatically give you the win. Similarly, people who aren’t great at dexterity games have a chance to compete. When you’re trying to flick a ship, it’s more of a risk/reward decision.

I definitely get the feel of exploring and developing an empire while playing the game. With each technology type only able to be increased if you’re on the correct color planet, you’re forced to decide whether to expand, or fortify. Only having 3 pieces on a given planet will also require planning. Do you want to drop a defenseless Research Station, or add a Colony? Do you pull all your troops off to get mining points, leaving the planet up for grabs? You can also block players by leaving one of your ships in orbit around their planet. While there, they can no longer use most actions impacting that planet.

My favorite part of the game is how quickly it seems to play. There is little downtime, largely due to only getting one action per turn, with most actions taking a couple seconds to perform. You will generally decide on a course of action that will take multiple turns, with your opponent’s doing the same. This keeps everyone playing, and the action going. You can feel anticipation building as players expand into the same areas, racing to find the correct color planet to bump up a choice technology.

I have not had problems with my board, which have been reported by others. My board has no warping (I store it in the giant bag with desiccant that comes with the game), and the pieces fit together snugly (sometimes requiring a planet to be placed on a seam and pushed on, to pop everything into place).

In my experience, player’s really race for technology development, with a majority of the victory points given out this way. The two favorite paths seem to be Orange (upgrading ship weapons and giving the extra strength Battleship) or Gray (increases movement, and ultimately lets you take a full move action, and an additional action). Mining has been a much smaller part of the game in our group, but this can be exploited in the right setting.

Little downtime, civilization building, ship flicking action. If this sounds like your idea of a good time, Ascending Empires will deliver for you!

6
Go to the Ticket to Ride page

Ticket to Ride

85 out of 93 gamers thought this was helpful

Ticket to Ride has long been used as an example of a Gateway Game: a game to help get people into the hobby of boardgaming. This review is targeted to people that already enjoy boardgaming, and would like some help in choosing a game that may appeal to their friends, and encourage them to try the newer generation of games.

As boardgamers, we often assume that if anyone will just try a game, they’ll be hooked and see the appeal we all see. While this isn’t always true, there are a handful of games that are able to bring in a good percentage of first time players. What is it about Ticket to Ride that appeals to different people, and what points should you stress when introducing the game?

There are three main features of Ticket to Ride that I see as the main draws of the game: Easy (and quick!) to learn, straightforward objective, and attractive look.

Easy and QUICK to Learn

In my experience, getting through the rules of a new game is one of the main stumbling blocks for bringing people into boardgaming. People know the rules of other games, and can sit down to play. These rules are often learned in childhood. As people age, many don’t want to look like they don’t know what they’re doing, and are comfortable sticking to what they know.

The main rules to Ticket to Ride can be taught in about a minute. You can even easily describe the rules to someone without having the game in front of them.

On your turn, you do one of three things:

1) Draw two cards (face up or top of deck)
2) Claim a route (use cards of same color, or engine)
3) Get new destinations tickets (keep at least one)

While there are a few more special rules (if you take an engine first, you don’t get a second card, or if three engines are in the offer, discard everything and put out new cards) only one player needs to know these. With the three rules above, almost anyone can start playing. You can point out the other rules as the game goes on, when they come up. You can even use your turn as the example of the rule. On your turn, grab an engine and point out you don’t get another card; it’s as easy as that. When a person claims a route, show them how many points they get.

If an experienced person takes care of all point scoring each turn, all the better. Halfway through the game, ask them how many points their route scores. If they’re not getting it yet, walk them through it. Once people see it, they’ll pick it up more quickly then having it explained multiple times during a rules explanation.

Around the halfway point is a good time to remind (or inform) players about the game end conditions (one player has 2 or fewer trains, with everyone getting one final turn).

Straightforward Goal

Many Eurogames convert one resource to another, or you play cards to gain tokens to use for some other purpose. By the end of the rules explanation, people are left asking “So, what am I supposed to be doing”. Not so with Ticket to Ride.

You’re trying to connect the two cities on your card. It doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as your color of trains connect the two cities. If you do, you get the points at the end of the game. Most points wins. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. You don’t have to have played games before to understand the concept.

Attractive Components

Days of Wonder (Ticket to Ride’s Publisher) has a knack for making visually appealing games. If you’re setting up Ticket to Ride, people from across the room will be drawn over. A Ticket to Ride board, mid-game is very colorful, and easy to explain to a passerby.

The plastic trains make for fun items to stack and arrange while it’s not your turn. I’m often surprised how many new players seem to enjoy playing with their train pieces as much as they enjoy the game itself.

I find the cards to be too small, and highly recommend the 1910 expansion which alleviates this problem.

No Dice

I keep this as a separate category. I’ve found many players that really enjoy learning a game that does not include dice. They’ve tired of roll and move, or don’t like the randomness that comes with dice.

On the other hand, I’ve met players that are turned off by Ticket to Ride because there are no dice. In this case, I’ll generally introduce the idea of Settlers of Catan, as a game using dice, but in a new and interesting way.

Final Thoughts

Ticket to Ride allows for social interaction, while playing games. There can be some strategy to it, whether in route blocking or timing your builds. It’s easy to learn, teach, and play.

A few notes when comparing to a few other typical Gateway Games (Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Alhambra).

Ticket to Ride has the easiest rules of the four, and with Carcassonne is generally the most visually appealing. If you’re considering future expansions, Ticket to Ride is probably the least expandable, as you need new boards instead of just new pieces (1910 Expansion notwithstanding). I’ve had luck introducing new gamers to all four games, with Ticket to Ride and Settlers having the highest percentage of people who come back for more.

One final takeaway I’ve found between the games; Ticket to Ride and Settlers are more likely to be what I call Plateau games. These are games where players will feel comfortable and settle in, and be happy to keep playing over and over. In essence, they take the place of Monopoly, Clue, etc. as their “go to boardgame”. While I’ve seen this with Alhambra and Carcassonne, those tend to have a higher percentage of people move on to meatier games.

I’ve found Ticket to Ride to work well as a Gateway Game and recommend it be used, with an emphasis on the three points above, to help you introduce new gamers to these types of boardgames.

6
Go to the The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus page
63 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

The second offering of The Adventurers (The Pyramid of Horus) is my first foray into the series. This review is written for players new to the franchise, as opposed to a comparison with the first game.

You’re an adventurer, looking to grab treasure from Horus’ tomb. The player who successfully leaves the tomb with the most victory points is the winner. Be careful, the more treasure you carry the more encumbered you’ll become, which may give fewer actions each turn. How far will you push your luck? Will you make it out before becoming sealed in the tomb forever?

Gameplay overview

Picking up the general gameplay will be rather straightforward for both gamers and non-gamers, making this an option as a gateway game. The main part of your turn will be to use action points, either to move around the board, or grab cards. Carrying more cards, whether treasure (VPs), equipment (helpful), or wounds (decidedly unhelpful), may slow you down and limit the number of actions you get each turn.

The determination of how many actions a player will get each turn is the toughest part of the game for new players to grasp, but makes sense after a few turns. Five dice will be rolled, and you’ll get an action for each die rolled above a certain value. This value is based on how many cards you’re carrying.

At the end of each turn, a block will fall from the ceiling, covering a tile (and possibly wounding your character). Once a block falls on a spot, that space is now impassible.

Each character has a one-time-use special power, but otherwise play identically.

Gaining Treasure

There are four sections to the gameboard where you can grab treasure. This is typically done by drawing a card. Depending on the area, there may be treasure (VPs), equipment, or an animal waiting to give you a wound. Not all treasure in a given section is worth the same amount, with sections deeper into the board having a higher potential payout.

There are also mummy figures walking in front of sarcophagi. Each sarcophagi has a card face down requiring an action to look at, and another to grab. Each set of five will have one each of a one, two, three, four, and five.

There are also five icons, worth larger points. You will need to roll a specific sequence to pry them out, with re-rolls allowed for extra actions. Each icon you grab is cursed, and for the rest of the game a die of a certain color will no longer give you action points.

Components

Components of a game are not a major factor for me, but I appreciate they can be a big selling point for attracting new gamers. The Adventurers will do well in getting someone’s attention. The board is large, though not overly colorful. The figures are well sculpted, though a flat gray color. The blocks that fall from the ceiling each round are large and make an impressive pile next to the board.

It’s not as eye popping at Ticket to Ride, but I think it would grab attention from across the room at as well or better than Settlers, Carcassonne, or Alhambra.

My Thoughts

The Adventurers has a push your luck element to it, that when coupled with rather straightforward rules, makes it fun for a casual evening of gaming. New gamers will pick it up quickly, and there are enough choices to keep people entertained. It is not a deep strategic game, and the random card draw can really benefit one player over another.

If I were giving a recommendation to the type of group that may like this game, I’d look for people who really enjoy adventure games with treasure hunting. You get the feel you’re digging for treasure, and trying to beat your opponents to the best items (even if you don’t know where they are). The ‘timing’ mechanism in the game (the ceiling falling) is a nice touch, as it can allow a player to be trapped, increasing the tension.

Overall, The Adventurers is for casual groups. The push your luck element is not as good as Incan Gold, but the exploring theme is better. Risking the mummies for better cards, or trying your luck at prying out an icon is fun, and gives a sense of accomplishment when successful. When a player is trapped, it will usually be very near the end of the game so as to keep a player from sitting out long (though I would say the playtime is a little long for someone to not escape, and still enjoy the experience).

I’d give The Adventurers a “try before you buy” rating. Groups that enjoy casual play instead of intense strategy games may really enjoy giving it a home. More avid Euro-gamers may enjoy a play or two, but will likely move on quickly to something else.

7
Go to the Dominant Species page

Dominant Species

142 out of 152 gamers thought this was helpful

As the game is quite involved, this review is long. If you know how the game is played, or are only interested in my opinions, skip the next sections. I give a very brief discussion of my thoughts on what each action ‘means’ in terms of gameplay in the Action Overview section.

Looking for a game where every decision matters? Does the need to adapt to ever changing board positions appeal to you? Do you like heavy player interaction with many different options to account for? Dominant Species offers a four-hour package to deliver all of this, using some aspects that will be familiar to players of Age of Empires III, and El Grande, but packaging them into a unique, fulfilling game experience.

(Moderately) Quick Gameplay Overview

Dominant Species allows up to 6 players to attempt to gain supremacy (most victory points) for their given animal. Each player get has one of six animals (mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, arachnids, or insects). Most actions will be the same regardless or animal, though each has a special ability. Additionally, animals that are higher on the food chain (fixed throughout the game, with the order as listed above) will win ties when scoring tiles for having the most cubes on a hex. The food chain ranking is balanced by having the beginning initiative (player order) reversed from the food chain order.

Each player starts the game with a number of action pawns (APs). Each action pawn will be used to select an action that you will perform in a turn. There are 12 different actions to choose from, (a few of which may not have an effect in a given round). Action selection is similar to Age of Empires III; in initiative order, each player may place one of their action pawns on an empty action space, continuing until all players have played all pawns. Then, each action is performed by the player(s) taking that action, in order (top to bottom, left to right as you look at the game board). There are limited spots available for each action; turn order may be critical if there is a specific action you have to get.

These actions will allow you to affect what is occurring on the world board. This board is made up of terrain tiles (hexes) of differing types. The type of tile only matters for scoring. More fertile tiles will be worth more points, with points going to the player with the most cubes on the tile when it is scored. Most terrain types have points for second place, with some having points for third and even fourth (similar to El Grande). In addition of terrain tiles, there are also small circles with different elements (six types total). These elements are placed at vertices of terrain tiles. Each player has an animal board showing which elements they have adapted to. As long as a terrain tile has at least one element matching one on a player’s board, that player’s animals can survive there. The more elements you have adapted to, the more likely your animals will survive. If you have cubes on a terrain tile with no matching elements at the end of the turn, those cubes will be eliminated from the game.

The other major function of the elements is to determine who has dominance on a tile. In Dominant Species, you do not have dominance by having the most cubes on a terrain tile. Instead, you must be the player with at least one cube on a terrain tile that has the most matching elements on that tile. Dominance is denoted by putting a cone of your color on the terrain, and matters during the final action of the round, Dominance. When a tile is chosen to be scored, you score based on cube majority. Then, if a player has dominance (regardless of who triggered the scoring), that player will gain a Dominance Card from the card row.

These Dominance Cards will determine how long the game lasts. There are 25 total Dominance Cards with five available at the start of any turn. Any that are taken are replaced at the end of the turn. The game ends at the end of the turn when the last card (always the Ice Age) card is taken. This means the game has the potential of ending in as few as five turns, but may run longer, depending on how quickly people are getting Dominance Cards. These cards all have a one time effect, which, depending on when it comes up, can be extremely powerful, or almost useless. The Dominance Cards are a major factor in the game and must always be kept in mind.

After the final turn, each terrain tile is scored based on cube majority (remember ties are won based on food chain order), and the player with the most victory points is the winner.

Action Overview – With Brief Thoughts

There are 12 actions available each turn. Actions occur in this same order. For those who are interested, below is a brief summary of what each action entails, along with my brief thoughts on how they impact the game:

1. Initiative The player moves up one spot in initiative order and gets to place their action pawn on an empty action space (they’ll perform this action and an additional one this turn. You’ll be able to go earlier in subsequent turns. This does not impact food chain order for breaking ties in tile scoring.

2. Adaptation Select one of the elements present (randomly selected at the beginning of the turn) to add to your animal. Having more elements helps keep your cubes on the board, and makes gaining dominance easier.

3. Regression Each element type present makes all players lose one of that type from their animal. Playing an action pawn here helps protect you from this effect. Elements only get here is they are not taken with Adaptation on previous turn.

4. Abundance Take one of the elements (randomly selected at the beginning of the turn) on any terrain tile corner. May want to do this to place an element you’ve adapted to so you can survive on a tile, or to help you with dominance.

5. Wasteland Remove all elements matching those in the Wasteland box from the tundra. Placing an action pawn allows a player to remove one element from Wasteland box. Can greatly influence tiles you can survive on, as well as dominance. Elements can only get here if not taken with Abundance on previous turn.

6. Depletion Player with an action pawn here may take one element matching that in the Depletion box from any tile. Can greatly influence opponents’ survival as well as dominance. Can be very powerful, but elements can only get here after getting through Wasteland on previous turn.

7. Glaciation Player may place a tundra tile on a tile adjacent to existing tundra. All but one cube of each player is removed from the tile, and the tile now becomes tundra, instead of its previous type. Will only happen once per turn, and can majorly impact the game. Players may place pawns to use Glaciation for upcoming turns, but that pawn is locked up until then. This rarely directly helps the player playing it (other than a few points gained for tundra placement), but can really cause damage to opponents. Often used on high scoring tiles. May be a good action to take to ensure your favored tile(s) are not the target.

8. Speciation The action pawn is placed on a spot for a specific element type. When action taken, choose one element on the board matching the type chosen, and place cubes on all tiles around it. The terrain type will determine how many cubes you place. This is the main way you’ll be getting more cubes onto the board.

9. Wanderlust Allows player to place a new tile on the board. Each turn, three tiles are available (randomly determined). Choose the tile and one of four (randomly determined) elements to put out adjacent to existing tiles. Players then have the option to move cubes from adjacent tiles onto this new tile. This action allows the world to expand. Careful placement (including element choice) can give player majority and dominance of new tile. All players will get a chance to move to the new tile, if they have cubes adjacent to it when placed.

10. Migration Move your cubes to adjacent tiles. How many you can move depends on the slot you select (from 2 to 7). The higher number moves first. You may choose to take a lower number, moving fewer cubes, but doing so after seeing other players’ movements. By this point, you’re near the scoring round, and Migration can greatly impact majority scoring, and even dominance if you move to a tile you weren’t already on.

11. Competition Allows you to kill other cubes. You will be able to kill one cube on each of two terrain types (and also the tundra) where you have a cube. Very good for impacting majority, and picking off cubes aiming to grab lower position points. If a player has dominance with one cube, may be able to take dominance from them.

12. Domination Choose a tile to score. Score based on majority, based on terrain type. Then, if a player has dominance, they choose a Dominance Card. This action is generally very powerful, and highly sought after. Points are generated, and cards which can greatly alter the board both come into play. It’s very possible that one Dominance Card may change majorities, dominance, and even elements on the board.

Animal Abilities

Each of the six animals have a special ability, beyond the previously mentioned food chain (majority scoring tie breaker) and initiative track.

Mammals One cube each turn can survive on a tile without matching element. Recall they also win all majority ties, but go last at the beginning of the game.

Reptiles Act as though they always have an action pawn on the Regression action. This means they’ll be more protected from losing elements from their animal cards. Can be more diverse in adaptations with less care of losing these new elements.

Birds When they take Migration, they can move two tiles instead of one. Can cause a headache for opponents since well spaced Birds can impact majorities of tiles better than other species.

Amphibians Start with three water elements on animal board. Helps with domination (every other animal starts with only two elements. For base setup, they also start on high scoring tiles. Can never lose this third element.

Arachnids Get one free Competition action on one tile each turn. They can kill one cube on any single tile of their choice that they’re on. Makes other players very wary of sharing tiles with arachnids

Insects Get to place one cube during Speciation on any tile. Always get to place a cube on the board, and can put it anywhere. May use to increase presence on a tile, or to swoop in and grab minority place points on far reaching tiles.

My Thoughts

Dominant Species is a great heavy, meaty game. As discussed above, there are many different actions that impact the game that you can try to plan for. The board at the beginning of a turn will likely look drastically different at the end. While you may have a great plan when you’re done placing action pawns, you’ll need to constantly think on your feet (claws? flippers?) to adjust to what everyone else is doing.

The game makes every action count, especially with larger numbers of players. You’re always on the lookout for where competition could be coming from, or how Dominance Cards could spoil your plans. There is very high player interaction in Dominant Species. Everything you do is going to impact another player (and often many other players). There is a chance for this to become a negative for some players. As points are scored throughout the game, there is a tendency for players to gang up on the perceived leader, which is easy to do in Dominant Species. Like in Power Grid, there will often be a benefit to hanging out in a mid position and try to pounce at the right moment to gain victory. A good number of points are scored at the end of the game, allowing players to slow-play in hopes of playing under the radar.

The four hour playing time has been accurate in my experience. There are a lot of actions to learn what they do. Even then, knowing what an action does, and knowing why you would take an action are different things (which is why I added a quick summary of my thoughts above when talking about the actions). You’re trying to control worker placement (action pawns), area control, along with survival, and dominance.

Dominant Species is for a person who wants a heavy, brain encompassing game. This would not be suggested as a gateway game, or even necessarily as a second tier game. You need to be prepared for strategic and tactical decisions. While playing Dominant Species, you will get attacked. Players who do not like high interaction games will likely find themselves miserable for three hours of the game. Different animals have different strengths, which you’ll need to discover and tailor your game to.

Some games that are liked by people in our group who enjoy Dominant Species: Age of Steam, Agricola, Le Havre, Age of Empires III, El Grande.

If you’re ready to find what a true interactive board game experience can be, Dominant Species is waiting for you!

9
Go to the Hansa Teutonica page

Hansa Teutonica

106 out of 115 gamers thought this was helpful

Hansa Teutonica is the type of game I think of when I hear the term “Euro-game”. It’s low-luck, cube pushing excitement emphasizing strategy and tactics over theme, with a touch of player interaction, and multiple paths to victory, all rolled into a great 60-75 minute package. The game scales well with different player numbers, including a dual sided board: 2-3 players on one side, 4-5 players on the other.

You’re attempting to increase your standing as a merchant in the Hanseatic League (or so says the rules), but in typical Euro-game fashion, you’re aiming for the most victory points. You’re going to do this by improving your standing in five abilities. In addition, you’re claiming trade routes, influence (offices) in towns, and getting in the way of your opponents doing the same.

Game Play

Each player has an office board, initially loaded with cubes/disks, showing how advanced you are in five different abilities. Knowing the abilities will help explain what you can do on your turn:

Town Keys – Multiplier for city scoring at end of game

Actions – How many actions you may perform each turn

Privilege – Relates to types of offices you can control in cities

Book – How many of your cubes/disks you can move around the board for one action (loaded with disks instead of cubes)

Money Bag – How many cubes/disks you can move from your general to personal supply for one action

Much of the game will consist of placing cubes/disks on trade paths. Most paths have room for 3 pieces, with some that hold 2 or 4. It takes one action to place a cube/disk. These paths are bounded by cities. If you fill a path with only your cubes/disks, you can spend an action to “score” the path. Generally this will allow you to place a cube/disk in one of the surrounding cities (as an office), if you have a high enough Privilege for the city (denoted by different colors). Having the most offices in a city (or highest ranking if tied) will score a player a point anytime a route adjacent to it is scored.

There are five cites on the board that allow you to, instead of taking an office, increase a specific ability on your player board. You take a cube/disk from the board from the corresponding ability. (A sixth city allows you to exploit your place on the Privilege track to grab end of game points with one of your disks).

Additionally, claiming some routes will give you a Bonus Marker, which allows for extra abilities, depending on marker type. There are three on the board each turn, which remain until taken, and are then replaced.

The bottom of your player board shows what you may use actions for.

-Move a number of pieces from general to personal supply based on Money Bag value.

-Take a spot on a route (place a cube/disk)

-Displace an opponent’s cube/disk from a route, taking the spot for yourself (requires an extra cube, or two if displacing a disk, and allows opponent to move their cube to an adjacent route, along with an extra cube).

-Move a number of your cubes/disks from any routes on the board, to other routes (based on Book value)

-Score a trade route (discussed above)

The game ends immediately once one of three conditions are met:

-One player has scored 20 points
-10 cities have been completely filled with “offices”
-There are no Bonus Markers left to re-fill the board to 3.

Prestige Points

You’re playing the game to have the most points. You’ll be gaining points during the game, primarily through having the majority in a city adjacent to a scored trade route (1 each). You can also gain 7 points by connecting two specific cities with a chain of offices. The cities in the corner of the board also have a single office spot that gives a point to the person that claims it.

After the game ends, you’ll score points based on:

-Fully developed abilities (4 points each)

-Bonus Markers, if you claimed bonus markers, you’ll gain points based on how many you have, with an escalation similar to Coloretto.

-Points for the “sixth” city mentioned above, if you placed a disk during the game.

-2 points for each city you have the majority in (or highest level if tied)

-Points for your longest “chain” of cities. Find your largest chain, count all of your offices in that chain, and multiply by your Keys

My Thoughts

I really enjoy this game. It feels like the definition of a Euro-game. You’re pushing cubes around to gain the most victory points. There are always more things that you want to work on than you have actions for, making each decision meaningful. You want to have a lot of actions, but people tend to block the action path, making it difficult. You also need to determine if spending the actions to get more actions will ultimately be worth it. Many questions will be running through your head:

Do you want to focus on in-game scoring, trying to end the game quickly, or fill in cities hoping for a huge end game score? When do you make your move to fill your Keys multiplier? Do I benefit from blocking an opponent even though I don’t need that spot, gaining extra cubes on the board? Which abilities should I be focusing on? Should I grab that ability increase now, or put my cube in the “office” to score points every time someone goes there to get an ability? And on and on…

The blocking/displacing mechanic is well done in the game. You can never completely ruin an opponent’s game (or have yours ruined) by blocking a spot. The opponent has to decide if it’s worth an extra cube to bump you off. Since you gain an extra cube on the board each time you’re bumped, it’s generally to your advantage to get in your opponents’ way. It doesn’t feel malicious when someone does this, as everyone has an equal ability to return the favor.

I prefer the game with 4 or 5 over 3 (though I have not yet played the 2-player game which adds a few extra rules). The Z-Man edition rulebook clears up many of the confusions that came in the English translations from the earlier Argentum Verlag and 999 Games editions.

There is a great ratio of decision making to play time. There are few games on my shelf that require you to change tactics and adapt as often as Hansa Teutonica, all while playing in under 90 minutes. The rules and possible actions are rather straightforward, once you’ve played a few rounds. Hansa Teutonica is not a deep brain-burner like Age of Steam or Dominant Species tends to be, but still has great depth and replayability. There’s already an expansion map, for those that want to change up their game play.

Hansa Teutonica is great for pure Euro-gaming enthusiasts. I highly recommend giving it a try!

7
Go to the Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game page
59 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

Theme.

If you’re a fan of games oozing theme, especially zombie games, Last Night on Earth is a “must try” for you. Fans of games where the fun is more in the experience, and less in strategizing, will likely enjoy this game. As a more strategic Euro-gamer myself, I can assure you there is fun to be had in this game, even if theme is not a major selling point for you. The game attempts to place the players inside a zombie movie. If your group is willing to embrace the theme, this goal is easily met.

Last Night on Earth pits one zombie player (two if six are playing) against the heroes, who work cooperatively to achieve a goal, which depends on the scenario you’re playing. The game includes a modular board setup, allowing for variety in play.

The heroes (which are based on the typical zombie movie stereotypes) take their turns as a group, choosing in which order the players will go. Players may move, based on a die roll, around the buildings of a rural town, or the fields surrounding it. When in buildings, they can search for items and weapons to use against the hoards of slow-moving zombies, or find the means to escape. All the while, the sun track keeps time. If a certain number of rounds pass, you may win, or lose, based on the scenario. The turn sequence for each hero includes:

1 – Move Action
2 – Exchange Items
3 – Ranged Attack
4 – Fight Zombies

Players will have to cooperate in order to win. I’m a fan of the game allowing the players to choose which order they take their turns. It’s a bit of freedom, not being locked into a turn order, that is not present in many co-ops such as Pandemic, Shadows Over Camelot, or Defenders of the Realm.

On the other side, the zombies are aiming to kill the heroes, and keep them from their victory conditions. They also have cards which help them determine how best to deal with the human scourge. As one expects with zombies, if they get close to the humans, their only option it to attack, even if it means climbing through windows, or up through the floor to get to their prey.

I’m not certain how well balanced the scenarios are, with them often seeming skewed in favor of the zombies. That said, there are many helpful options in the hero card deck that will aid clever heroes to victory. The game is often difficult for the hero players, without being impossible. Teamwork goes a long way in this game, as you may expect from the theme.

The game feels a little rules-dense to me, for what it is. I like the attention to detail, but it makes the game a little difficult for novice games to grasp. It is not a hard game to learn, instead there are a lot of little rules that can overwhelm players. It’s a game that is probably better taught by playing through the rounds, instead of trying to teach all of the rules at once. The general turn sequence is straightforward. By the end of the first game, players will have picked up the important rules.

In my experience, people do not remember games of Last Night on Earth based on whether they won or not. Instead, people are much more likely to bring up that time the sheriff couldn’t shoot anything, or Johnny saved the priest by single handedly clearing out a hoard of zombies. Last Night on Earth is mostly about the experience. If you enjoy embracing the B-movie atmosphere: run, don’t shamble, to get your brain seeking claws on Last Night on Earth.

8
Go to the Coloretto page

Coloretto

93 out of 100 gamers thought this was helpful

If you’re looking for a game that plays quickly (~15 minutes), is easy to teach/learn, and has some decision making, Coloretto should be on your radar.

At its heart, Coloretto is set collection; you’re trying to get multiples of card colors. The more cards of a color you have, the more points each subsequent card will be worth.

1 card – 1 point
2 cards – 3 points
3 cards – 6 points
4 cards – 10 points
5 cards – 15 points
6+ cards – 21 points

But it’s not just collecting every card you can. You only score positive points for your three best colors. For each color beyond three, you lose points, based on the same scheme listed above.

How do you get these cards? This is where the “game” is at. On your turn you get to make one of two choices, either:

(a) draw a card and add it to a row
(b) take a row

Once you’ve taken a row, you’re done for that turn. Each row may hold up to three cards. There is one row available per player. It’s important to note there is never an option to draw a card and immediately take it; if you draw, it MUST be assigned to a row. In addition to colored cards, there are also “wild” cards that may count as any single color of your choice when scoring points. Additionally, there are cards worth two-points.

For the time you put into playing the game, the level of decision making is good. This is not a grand strategy game, and you won’t find yourself agonizing over decisions. Instead, you’ll be faced with decisions of whether to pair up an existing card row with a card you need, or “poison” a row that holds a pair of cards an opponent may want. Should you grab a row with a single card to ensure you won’t be stuck with a row that will give you negative points?

For a quick filler, this game is one of my family’s favorites. We tend to play it at times where we would play games like For Sale, Incan Gold, or Archaeology. It’s a great warm up for a day of gaming, or to use when waiting for people to arrive, or finish a game.

Coloretto fills the filler role in my collection very well. Give it a try and see if it does the same for you!

6
Go to the Colosseum page

Colosseum

116 out of 123 gamers thought this was helpful

Colosseum merges a number of mechanics to give a solid game to keep a Euro-gamer interested throughout. Auctions, set collection, trading, roll-to-move (with a twist), variable starting positions, and upgrades with different powers come together into an enjoyable, colorful game.

Your goal is to put on the grandest show in your colosseum. Your victory points at the end of the game are based on your best scoring show, not the sum of all of your shows. A savvy showman can jump from last to first easily in this game, and the front runner can be tracked down and passed at the end. A solid all-around game will help, but only if you can use it to beat out those building towards one giant show.

The game is played over five rounds. Each round has the following phases:

Invest (buy upgrades)
Acquire Asset Tokens (auction)
Trading
Produce an Event (earn those points!)
Closing Ceremony (clean up phase)

Each of the 3-5 players starts with two (small) shows, which are different from the shows of the other players, and some performers/tokens to use towards shows. Each show needs a different combination of items to perform, with a number of points for putting on the full show, and fewer when missing components. The money you earn each round will depend on the points for the show performed.

Investing allows you to either increase the size of your colosseum (needed for larger shows, and giving more room for dignitaries), buying new events (larger shows with more components for more points), buy season tickets giving more points per show, or an Emperor’s Loge, allowing you two die rolls instead of one for moving dignitaries. Once everyone has invested (one item per turn), you move to the auction.

In the auction, you’re bidding on a set of three tokens. Each player may only buy one set (make it a good one!) Then players may trade tokens with each other.

The main action is putting on your show. First, you roll to move dignitaries. The dignitaries walk around the board, based on the die roll. Each player has a colosseum set up along the way. If a dignitary stops in your colosseum, you’ll get bonus points. Then, you choose which of your shows to put on, and assign your tokens (performers), and gain points (including bonuses for previously completing shows). At the end of the round, you’ll discard one of the tokens used for your show, and the best show will gain a bonus. At the end of the game, the highest single round score wins.

I find Colosseum to be a solid game, playing around 90 minutes. I place it in the tier of games above gateway games. While I have played it with new gamers, it seemed a little too complex in general. Learning the combination of mechanics will come easily to a Euro gaming veteran, but throwing all of them at someone new to boardgaming is a bit much. Colosseum certainly is not a major strategic brain-burner like Brass, Age of Steam, or even Power Grid and Agricola, instead being more of a moderate game. From my experience, it sits at a complexity that few gamers settle at, and acts more as a stepping stone from gateway to meatier games. If you’re looking for a visually appealing game to introduce to someone after they’re already hooked on gateway games, give Colosseum a try!

5
Go to the Zombie Dice page

Zombie Dice

50 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

Zombie Dice is about as much of a niche game as you’ll find. This is primarily because there is very little game. That said, it can still be fun for short periods, in the right setting.

The game consists of three colors of dice, and a dice cup. You’re a zombie, and you’re trying to get the most brains. The dice represent the humans you’re chasing down, some of which are tougher than others.

You draw three dice to at random to start your turn, and roll them. Each die has three possible outcomes: (1) brain (2) shotgun blast (3) run away. After rolling, set aside any brains and shotgun blasts. Now decide if you want to roll again. If you do, take any feet (run away results) into your hand, and then draw from the cup enough dice to bring your hand to three, then roll. You can stop after any roll, with the total number of brains rolled as your score. Or, if ever you have three shotgun blasts, your turn ends with a score of zero.

Green dice are easiest (and there are the most of them). They have three brains and one shotgun.

Yellow dice are moderate, with two brains and two shotguns.

Red dice are the toughest, with one brain and three shotguns.

Zombie Dice is a push your luck game. Do you keep going to get closer to 13 brains, or take what you have for this round? The game plays in under ten minutes (more if there are many players). The maximum number of players is set by how many people you can convince to give it a try.

I’ve had the most luck with this game when playing in a very social environment, where people are primarily sitting around talking. As very little brain power is needed to play (even though brains are needed to win!), Zombie Dice doesn’t detract from conversations. It’s a quick filler that can serve as a warm-up game, or a way to pass the time while waiting for another table to finish scoring on the game their playing.

It’s small, it’s quick, it’s cheap, it’s easy to learn, and has the push your luck element. It won’t entertain you for the night, but it’s usually worth the ten minutes you put into it.

7
Go to the Quarriors! page

Quarriors!

67 out of 74 gamers thought this was helpful

Dominion with dice. That’s what I kept hearing Quarriors! described as. If you’re referring to Dominion as a deck building game, then the comparison holds. It starts to fall apart if you’re looking for a game with similar strategy and balance.

Oh, the dice part? Yes, the game has that covered: five each of ten different creature types, five each of five different spells, and three types of dice used in every game. 130 dice, in 18 different colors, the game is rather striking to see setup.

All players (2-4) start with the same bag of dice, 12 total. Eight are “quiddity” dice, which is the currency of the game, the other four are Assistant dice, which “help” get you going. Throughout the game, you will be gaining “glory”, the victory points of the game, primarily by summoning creatures and having them survive until the beginning of your next turn.

You’ll use seven different creature types and three different spell types each game, represented by cards which are randomly drawn. To add to the variability, there are three different versions of each creature, and four of each spell. The dice for a given creature may be the same, but some of the powers will change from game to game based on the type drawn. There are no worries of playing exactly the same game twice.

On your turn, you get six phases:

1) Score (gain glory for) any creatures you still have alive
2) Draw and roll dice (six per turn)
3) Cast spells / summon creatures (pay their cost/level)
4) ATTACK EVERYONE!
5) Buy ONE new die
6) Cleanup

For creatures, their attack and defense will be shown on the die. This assumes you roll a creature face on the die. Just buying a creature die does not guarantee you’ll be able to summon a creature when you draw its die. You may only get money (or some other ability). Once you roll a creature face, you pay an amount equal to its level to summon it. For spell dice, if you roll the spell face, you “ready” the spell to cast following rules of that spell.

Phase 4 gives this game the player interaction many feel Dominion lacks. Every creature you’ve summoned attacks EACH player, in turn. You add your attack value and each opponent must send creatures (one at a time, if they have any) to block. If you exceed the defense, the defender is discarded. One thing that surprised me (but ends up working) is the fact that defenders do not attack back. They are only there to soak up damage. Also of note, extra damage beyond what creatures can absorb does nothing (you don’t “damage” your opponent). Once you’re done with one player, your creatures attack with their full strength against the next player. This means you should be prepared for your creatures to die.

If you have any creatures still alive at the beginning of your turn (none of your opponents have chewed them up with their attacks) you score them for glory. The amount you get is shown on the card for the given creature. The game ends immediately upon one player gaining a predetermined amount of glory (based on number of players). The game will also end if four different creatures have had all of their dice bought.

As expected with dice, there is a fair bit of randomness, which in my opinion holds this game back from being a “feature” game for a game night, and relegates it to filler status. It’s fun and pretty quick (4-player games tend to end around 30 minutes, once everyone knows the rules). It is prone to wide swings in luck. There is always the chance that one player will get a high money roll and buy a first turn dragon (or other large creature), and dominate the game. Or, someone who gets that early dragon may never get a dragon face when rolling its die.

I’m not normally a fan of the randomness of dice, and yet I enjoy this game, now that I know going in to not take it too seriously. There is enjoyment to be found in rooting for your creature to survive, and the rush of getting multiple creature buys to pay off in the same turn. If everyone at the table is playing to have a good time, Quiddity! can make that happen for you. If players are expecting a strategic game and spending their time complaining about the rules and focusing on how unbalanced the game can be, even the relatively short play time drags. Keep it fun, upbeat, and light and Quiddity! can be an enjoyable addition to your collection.

7
Go to the The Settlers of Catan – 5-6 Player Extension page
46 out of 53 gamers thought this was helpful

When I first started playing Settlers, we would introduce the game to different people, many of whom would want to play more often. Eventually we had more players than the 3-4 the base game can handle wanting to play at one time. We were pleased to discover a 5-6 player expansion existed.

Until we played it.

The expansion itself is not bad, and does just what its name suggests; it allows 5-6 players to play Settlers at once. This is achieved primarily by adding an extra ring of tiles to make more space (and more cards to support the new players).

The general gameplay varies little. There is a phase after each player’s turn where any player can build, since more players mean more chances to gather resources (and get hit by the robber). In practice, the increased time to play due to this phase coupled with more players overwhelms the benefits of getting more people to the table.

I have played this with groups that are more social, and don’t mind spending the evening playing one game. The ability to sit around one table, socialize, and have a good time makes the expansion beneficial. For groups that want to maximize their gaming time, the expansion makes the game take too long. Especially if you have 6 players, you’d be better served playing two 3-player games, if you have the ability. The downtime is enough that, with five people, I prefer to play on someone’s team to allow playing with the base game under 4-player rules.

The 5-6 player expansion has its place, and does what it sets out to do. Unfortunately, groups I’ve played with generally wish they hadn’t gotten their wish of 6-player Settlers, once they’ve experienced it.

7
Go to the Alhambra page

Alhambra

95 out of 102 gamers thought this was helpful

In Alhambra, you’re competing to build the best new palace (Alhambra). To do this, you will buy and position different buildings. The difficulty lies in there being four different types (colors) of currency. A given building (drawn randomly) can be built for a certain type of currency. Throughout the game, you will be managing not only your hand of cards (currency), but also arranging your palace based on the buildings you buy.

On your turn, you may do one of the following:

Buy a tile and place it
Take money
Redesign your Alhambra

If you’re ever able to pay the exact cost for a building, you may take an additional action. There are four buildings to choose from (one for each color of money) at any time.

There are six different types of buildings. When you buy a building, it will have some number of walls (0-3) along its edges. You must place buildings so that the building name is oriented so it can be read. You are also required to always be able to walk from one room to any other, without leaving your palace (all buildings (tiles) must be built so that walls don’t block it off).

There are 3 scoring rounds, the first two of which are seeded in the currency deck, and will come up somewhat randomly. The last is when all the buildings are gone. In the first scoring round, the person with the most of a given type of building in their Alhambra gains points. In subsequent scoring rounds, 2nd (and finally 3rd) place points are also awarded. This means you’ll need to decide during the game which building types to go for. Do you specialize in one or two, or try for fewer points in a number of buildings? There’s also a final bonus for number of consecutive walls around the outside of your Alhambra at the end of the game.

Alhambra is a relatively quick game that I’ve found works well with introducing people to modern boardgaming. It also holds up for more casual gamers who are looking for a little depth, but mainly want to have a good time.

I place Alhambra in the category of games with Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne, and play it with the same groups I play those with. It’s relatively easy to learn (only a few straight forward rules). It allows more players than Settlers or Carcassonne (before expansions) as the base game supports 6 players. Of this group of games, my family prefers Alhambra. Try it and see for yourself why it won the German Game of the Year award (Spiel des Jahres) in 2003 (an award both Settlers and Carcassonne previously won).

8
Go to the Brass page

Brass

84 out of 92 gamers thought this was helpful

Brass is a lot of fun, if you’re looking for a deep game with a lot of strategy, that may leave your head hurting (but in a good way, or at least so say people I’ve played with).

You’re building up a network of industries over two ages in Lancashire, England in the 1700’s. First, the canal period, where cities are connected by waterways to transport the cotton, iron, coal. In the second period, the canals are gone, ready to be replaced by a railroad network, opening up different connections. Scoring occurs twice, at the end of each round.

To build, you are using cards you are dealt or have drawn which either show an industry, or a city. Each round you get two actions. Additionally, you have stacks of different industries (cotton mills, coal, iron, ports, and ships) which have different levels. The higher the level, the more points they’ll score, but they are more expensive and require more resources to get out (resources which you must be linked to via canals/railroads/markets). You don’t get access to your higher level industries until after your lower level ones. You can also pay (iron) to develop away lower level industries, but it takes actions to do so. Turn order is determined by how much money players spent the previous round, lowest spender going first.

On each of your turns, you’re balancing your actions. You can:

Build Industries
Build Canal/Track
Develop away Industries
Take a Loan
Play two cards to do one action
Pass

There are many strategies one can play. Which one(s) you go after will be determined by your hand, what other players are doing, and experience. Brass is not a game that a first-time player should sit down to expecting to win. To understand the nuances, it’ll take experience playing the game.

Brass falls on the heavier end of complexity, with a number of easy to miss rules, and a lot of strategy. I would not recommend Brass for non-gamers. If you’re looking for a challenging and rewarding gaming experience that can be very competitive, Brass may be for you. If you decide to give it a try (and I hope you do!) I’d recommend either reading the rules, or watching video reviews to get an idea of what you’re going into before playing. Bringing along a player aid will help as well. Learning the rules of Brass can be very cumbersome, but in my opinion, the game play makes it worth the effort!

9
Go to the 7 Wonders: Leaders page

7 Wonders: Leaders

51 out of 56 gamers thought this was helpful

7 Wonders: Leaders exemplifies what I feel a good expansion should do, it stays true to the original game, while changing the way I think/feel during play.

The Leaders expansions adds an extra phase, before each age. You draft four leaders at the beginning of the game, and you can play (by paying coins) one leader before each age. Each leader will give some form of benefit, with their cost comeasurite with this benefit. You may get victory points, military strength, a bonus for having a type of card or multiple types of cards. You could gain money, benefits to future leaders, science symbols, or reduced costs for certain card types. (Instead of playing a leader, you can discard one for 3 coins, or use it as a card to build a wonder stage). There are new guilds added in to complement the leaders, and an 8th Wonder – Rome (9th if you have the Manneken Pis promo).

The main gameplay is unchanged, except for the added Leader phase. You are free to play the game exactly as before, but now your choice in leaders may impact the decisions you make. This is what makes the expansion really shine for me. While playing the age, I have in the back of my head which leaders I have coming up, and have to evaluate the risk/reward of any play. For instance, there are leaders that give you a bonus if you have certain color cards out. Is it worth building a card that doesn’t help me as much to try and get the bonus points? Or do I ignore the leader and play as I would have before? I view the game differently, even though the play is the same.

If you are experienced in playing 7 Wonders, the extra rules are very minor and quick to pick up. I would advise against playing with the leaders if you have people new to the game; this is not a complexity issue, but to help new players grasp the game better with fewer choices. The added time to the game is rather minimal, a few minutes at most.

I expect that all games I play with experienced 7 Wonders players will include this expansion going forward. If you like 7 Wonders, it’s well worth giving these leaders a try!

7
Go to the Nuns on the Run page

Nuns on the Run

37 out of 42 gamers thought this was helpful

Nuns on the Run pits novices against the guards. The novices are sneaking around the convent trying to find keys to allow them access to their secret wish. All while avoiding detection by the guards.

This game would likely be boring for an observer to watch as it is being played. The novices do not move pieces around the large board, but instead secretly write their moves down on a pad of paper. They then reveal the speed they are moving at (which gives a range of movement spaces they may have gone). The guards have a chance to hear the novices if a die roll falls in their favor (modified by novice speed). Move slowly and have a better chance of avoiding discovery, but cover less ground.

Only one novice can win, the first to make it back to her room with her secret wish. The guards win if they discover a number of novices equal to the number of players. Being discovered does not end your game, though it slows you down as you are sent back to your room (at least until the guards no longer see you).

I like that the game can play up to 8 players, with different strategies if you’re playing the guards or novices. There also seems to be a good deal of tension, especially during checks to see if a guard hears you.

Unfortunately, the game has a number of downsides. It is a game where novice players really need to understand the rules from the beginning. It is easy to cheat (generally unintentionally) because a rule is not understood or remembered. It is often difficult to ask a question during the game without giving away information concerning your location.

This seems to be a game searching for a specific type of group. I see it as being a little too much rules-wise for a non-gamer. The need to understand many rules, some of which won’t come up until well after rules explanation, could cause problems for beginners. On the other end of the spectrum, it is too light for more competitive gamers. The “wish” you are trying to fulfill may be easier or harder than opponents, and you could be knocked out of the running if the guards go one way versus another.

I would recommend this game to a group of more experienced gamers that tend to play more casually. Groups that are well acquainted with learning rules, but prefer having fun and enjoying the experience over slugging it out and maximizing their position may enjoy this game. If this sounds like your group, you should give Nuns on the Run a try!

8
Go to the Dominion page

Dominion

108 out of 115 gamers thought this was helpful

After first playing Dominion a few years ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about it on the drive home. Or the next day. Or the following. As I think back, this was due to Dominion exciting the part of my brain that was formerly excited by playing a number of different collectible card games (CCGs).

I played Magic from ~’94-’00 and for a few years after off-and-on, much of that time focusing on tournaments. The two main features I enjoyed with Magic were: (1) figuring out how cards worked together, then building and refining a deck, and (2) analyzing in-game positions and adjusting to what your opponents are doing.

Many games currently on the market address the latter for me, but Dominion was the first to non-CCG to address the former.

My friends and I would spend time basing decks around individual cards. We’d typically take cards that others deemed “worthless”, and design a strategy around it. Dominion allows for this sort of thinking.

With 25 kingdom cards in the base set (you use 10 per game), you have many different strategies you can develop, and practice pairing cards together. You’re not only adapting to your opponents, but you’re adapting to what the game makes available as well. While everyone starts with the same 10 cards, by the end, player’s decks can look very different.

This is a place where the popularity of Dominion may currently serve as a detriment. Initially, people were experimenting and trying many combinations. Over time, certain strategies emerged, and through the internet, a base of knowledge was formed. Now, instead of players learning all of this information for themselves, they can go and read what others have found. Instead of trying to “learn” what cards go together through play and testing, they “learn” from what others tell them, often without experimentation and verification.

As the internet became more prevalent in the mid-late ’90s, I saw the same thing happen with Magic, which in part led to my leaving the game.

If you like learning about strategy for yourself, Dominion can be a great game; if you have a like-minded group. Such a person may do well to avoid either highly experienced players that only care about “optimum” play, or groups that want to skip the learning curve and be told what the best/worst cards are (a problem I also see with Puerto Rico).

A major bonus of the game is how easy it is to learn, once you see how the deck building aspect works. From my experience, many newer players have a hard time grasping the concept when explained to them, but as soon as they see two or three mock turns, it makes perfect sense (something I’ve also seen in Killer Bunnies, and 7 Wonders).

I’d recommend initially limiting yourself to the base set until you’ve tried the cards, and then slowly adding one expansion at a time (if you’re looking for more challenge/strategy). In my opinion, trying to jump into a multiple expansion game (or teach a new player this way), while it may work, is more likely to limit your/their enjoyment of the game.

Dominion has become a cheaper (depending on how many expansions you buy!) way to scratch the itch of a former CCG deck builder, while also offering enjoyment to both experienced and novice game players. If you don’t mind the relative lack of interaction with your opponents, Dominion should be on your list of games to try!

8
Go to the Carcassonne: River I page
53 out of 60 gamers thought this was helpful

When I play Carcassonne, I always use the River Expansion, I much prefer it to the single starting tile that comes with the base game.

The River consists of 12 tiles, each depicting, you guessed it, the river. The first tile shows the starting point, and the final tile shows an ending pool, with the other 10 tiles all having a waterway that enters one edge and leaves another. Different tiles will also contain the other Carcassonne features you’ve come to know: fields, roads, cities, and even a cloister!

Playing with The River adds a few simple rules that will be easy for any experienced (or even non-experienced) Carcassonne player to understand.

When starting the game, the river source is placed. Then, players take turns drawing and placing tiles from the river, until it is completed. When you place a tile, as usual, you may play one meeple on one of the tiles features, following all placement rules. There are two placement restrictions: (1) the river must be continuous (you can’t place a field side against a river side) and (2) the river may not double back on itself.

I like using The River because it opens up the game. It takes ~1 minute to have it setup, adding little to the play time, but now gives a larger surface from which to expand on subsequent turns.

One recommendation I would give, if playing with The River, decide as a group how you will count a farm/field going around the inlet of the stream. Some groups play that the field goes around the river source, allowing one farmer to farm both sides. Other groups say the source tile has a field on each side, which are not connected. If you decide at the beginning, you’ll avoid arguments/confusion later.

If you want to add some variety to Carcassonne, and allow players more options of where to build their tiles from early in the game, The River is a great (cheap) addition to your collection!

6
Go to the Puzzle Strike page

Puzzle Strike

42 out of 44 gamers thought this was helpful

A deck building game with pogs (chips) instead of cards. The concept is neat, especially for people who dislike the shuffling involved with standard deck builders (Dominion, Thunderstone, etc). Your chips act the same as cards, giving you all of the information you need.

Another major difference from previous deck building games shows itself at the beginning. Instead of every player starting with the same deck of cards, the players begin with a character who has 3 unique character chips that fit the theme of the character.

You can be a traditional martial arts master, a shapeshifting (dragon) master teacher, a gambling panda, rock golem, aquatic shaman, and more! Each of the ten characters have a play style that fits them best, from extremely defensive, to all out offensive, with risk taking specialists sprinkled in. This asymmetric start will appeal to many, as it increases variety and replayability.

Puzzle chips take the place of kingdom/village cards, and give similar variety to what we’ve come to expect in deck building games. Each player using a different character helps limit the fear of there being one optimum path to victory that everyone rushes for in a given set of chips.

The other major departure from games in this genre is the winning condition. Instead of building up victory points, you’re simulating a puzzle fighting game, attempting to be the last character standing. You are sending (crashing) gems (which also act as money) from your gem pile to an opponent, who in turn is either trying to counter-crash the gems back at you, or send gems from their pile to another opponent. If your pile builds up too high, you’re out of the game. This results in a player elimination game, but the relatively quick end to the game once players start to be eliminated limits player downtime much better than other player elimination games such as Risk.

One downside to the game is the initial balance to the characters. In games where everyone starts with the same cards, the game balances itself. When each person has a different character, extreme care is needed to ensure the characters are balanced. The work done on balancing the characters is both a boon and a curse for this game. Significant work has been done to balance the characters, but it appears that as the game has reached a wider audience, the game has needed some rebalancing. Thankfully, the designer and playtesters have been working to ensure that balance is met. Unfortunately, this means that currently, the chips in the set may not be completely even. There are suggested changes to certain chips and characters to help alleviate this problem. Currently, many games seem to follow a pattern of ignoring many of the puzzle chips and focusing on purple chips, which allow combining and crashing of gems in you gem pile (somewhat analogous to the Big Money strategy in Dominion).

With the work going on to shore up these concerns, and the fun diversion from the typical deck building games, I think Puzzle Strike will definitely stand on its own, it just appears it will take a little more time to get there. If you like deck building games, it is worth giving Puzzle Strike a try, there are interesting changes that are sure to intrigue you!

7
Go to the Cyclades page

Cyclades

102 out of 109 gamers thought this was helpful

I like this game.

The above statement comes as a bit of a surprise to me. In fact, I like this game a lot.

This game has (at least) two big things going for it that I’m normally not drawn to:

(1) it has great pieces/artwork and an overall great look (normally bits and artwork aren’t a big deal to me)

(2) it adds (a little) wargaming to a Eurogame (wargames aren’t typically my favorite genre). What wargaming there is doesn’t overwhelm the game, but adds a little extra element of risk and planning.

The Eurogame portion presents itself more in the auction mechanic, which will be very familiar to fans of Amun-Re. Only one person may win the favor of a god each turn (other than Apollo, which gives money instead of requires it). A person will bid some amount for the god they want the favor of, then the next person choose a god to bid on. If you want the favor of a god that already has a bid, you must outbid that person. If someone is outbid, they must immediately make another bid, which cannot be on the god they were on when outbid. It’s a great bidding system.

Each god gives different favors, and allows you to build different buildings that give you benefits as long as you own them. When you have one of each (of four) buildings, they become a metropolis. Ending a turn with 2 metropolises (3 in a 2-player game) gives you the win.

There is an added element to buildings, you must have a place to put them. The gameboard represents the Cyclades chain of Greek islands, each island only have so much room for buildings. This is where the war portion can come in. You can attack and conquer other islands using Ares, so long as your fleet of ships (granted by Poseidon) can reach the island.

I prefer the game with more players (for instance, I like 5 more than 3). 2-players was also fun (each person bids on two gods per turn) but felt like a different game to me (though following almost all of the same rules).

I’ve found a game takes more than the 60 minutes advertised (90-120), but is well worth it. If there is a downside, it can happen where one player finds themselves in the role of keeping another player from winning. Often, you can see which god someone needs in order to win the game, and players that are behind tend to be the ones jumping in to keep the game going, instead of aggressively following their goals.

This game borrows mechanics from many places, and ends up with an unique experience that keeps me coming back.

8
Go to the Dixit page

Dixit

47 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

When I first heard about Dixit, I wasn’t very impressed. It didn’t sound like it would be fun, and I didn’t see how the scoring would make sense, since “obviously” everyone would choose the card put down by the storyteller.

I am very pleased to have been so very very wrong. This game is a lot of fun. It makes you think in different ways (at least it makes me think differently). Playing with different groups shows how great of a design this game has. I’ve played with half-a-dozen different groups, and have never heard the same clue for the same card. I’m again and again amazed at how people think, and what they pick up on. I’m still noticing things I haven’t seen before.

I have yet to play this with someone who did not want to play again. I’ve given it as a gift a few times now, and it’s always been a hit. What really sold me on this being a great design is that halfway through the game, people don’t care about their score, they just want to play and enjoy it. By the end, it turns out I wasted time trying to keep score, since everyone wants to play again.

This is a great “casual” game that appeals to a wide number of people, especially non-gamers. I play it with groups where I would play Telestrations, or more classical games like Uno, or Pit.

I was wrong; Dixit is very right!

9
Go to the RoboRally page

RoboRally

65 out of 72 gamers thought this was helpful

Robo Rally is a game I really enjoy, as long as I’m in the mood to play it. If I want to play a game with a lot of strategic decisions, a lot of depth, or to maximize my score, I’ll leave Robo Rally on the shelf.

If I’m looking to have a great time, not worry about winning, and enjoy a social game with friends (with substantial trash talking) Robo Rally sits at the top of the list.

Robo Rally can be quite random. It’s chaotic, it’s a blood bath (oil bath?) and it’s awesome!

You’re programming a robot to race around a factory floor, capture-the-flag style. Each turn you get a hand of 9 cards, and must program a five-card sequence. Cards can consist of moving forward (1, 2, or 3 spaces), backing up, turning left, turning right, or U-turning. The cards are randomly dealt; you make the most of what you get. Then, everyone reveals their cards one-at-a-time, and moves their robots around.

Of course, robots have a physical presence and take up space. A simultaneous reveal of cards means you don’t know where you opponents might be. You may push them, they may push you. You may shoot holes into each other, or be moved around a conveyer. Having set your cards ahead of time means you can’t react to changes, your robot follows its program, sometimes into a pit.

Not only are you dealing with other robots, the factory floor has a number of effects (walls, conveyers, pushers, lasers, oil, fire, teleporters, etc). There will be turns where one robot just spins around while another gets pointed the wrong way and drives off to its doom. As you take more damage, you get fewer cards to choose from. Take enough damage and you’ll need to power down for a turn, or deal with “locked registers” where you robot keeps cards from the previous turn as it’s later cards, forcing it to perform those actions.

If you’re in the mood for this sort of game, it’s as good as it gets. If you’re not, it’s a painful experience. (Another game I put in this sort of “mood” category is Killer Bunnies, which can be great with the right group, or abysmal with the wrong one). Once you know what to expect, and everyone is going in with the same mindset, Robo Rally hurts so good!

7
Go to the Star Trek Expeditions page
49 out of 56 gamers thought this was helpful

I’m a Star Trek fan, which caused me to pick this game up without having played it. I was worried when I received it that it may not be a “game” as much as it was trying to cash in on the Star Treak franchise.

I was quite pleased to find I was wrong. There is a game here, and if anything, it doesn’t need the Star Trek theme (which means there’s little surprise it’s a Knizia game). It’s a co-op where you really need to work together, and there are definite benefits to sticking together. Having the starships battling while exploring the planet while being under a time crunch was fun.

It may be the groups I’ve played with, but one thing I really enjoyed was this game had much more conversation between the players, trying to figure out what we should do, and where to go. Many co-ops I’ve played (Shadows over Camelot and Pandemic especially) seem to suffer a bit more (in my experience) from one person running the show. Expeditions seemed to have more discussion. Whether it was deciding how many “clix” to sacrifice from your character, or if it makes sense to run away from an Event, and lose some points, people were engaged.

When first playing, we had a few people that were very familiar with the Star Trek universe, and one who knew almost nothing about it. Everyone wanted to play a second game immediately, with the non-Trek person leading the charge.

I don’t know that it’s my favorite co-op game (I really enjoy Pandemic and Defenders of the Realm, among others), but I’m glad I have this one, and looking forward go playing with it more!

7
Go to the Ticket to Ride: Switzerland page
49 out of 95 gamers thought this was helpful

I’m very happy Ticket to Ride: Switzerland is in my collection. For two players, it’s the way to go for Ticket to Ride. I don’t know that I’ve ever won a game of it, but enjoy the challenge of the tighter map. Fitting visits to different countries is a fun addition, if you’re willing to pry your attention from the middle of the board.

I wonder if the countries are a little too low risk, moderate reward, as you can almost always take them with little worry when you draw them; you only lose the lowest point total printed if you cannot complete the card.

If you’re looking for a two player version of Ticket to Ride, this should be high on your list!

9
Go to the Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 page
55 out of 76 gamers thought this was helpful

Ticket to Ride: 1910 has been a great addition to my Ticket to Ride collection. While keeping the rules almost unchanged, it managed to breathe new life into the game. In addition to increasing the number of routes, as well as adding themed groups of cards like “Big Cities”, and adding a Globetrotter bonus to encourage more tickets instead of just grabbing the long routes, they changed to full sized cards, for both the routes and the trains.

Larger Cards
I didn’t mind the small cards that came with Ticket to Ride until I tried the 1910 expansion. The larger cards work much better for me. They are easier to shuffle, and easier for people to see. They will take up a bit more room on the table, but you can still get the five card selection pile to fit within the width of the game board, so you’re not requiring significantly more gaming real estate.

Cost
It’s also a fairly low cost option that I feel is well worth the cost. Many of my friends already own Ticket to Ride, and always end up happy when they receive this as a gift.

Summary
The new routes are nice, but the big benefit are the larger cards. I’ve yet to meet anyone who prefers the smaller cards. This is definitely worth the price if you play Ticket to Ride/i> regularly; even when playing with basic routes, this expansion is now always included in my Ticket to Ride sessions.

8
Go to the 7 Wonders page

7 Wonders

78 out of 88 gamers thought this was helpful

I’ve been quite pleased with 7 Wonders. Having a game that can play 7 people with some depth to it is great. I’ve found the game ends at the right “time”. One age less, and you wouldn’t feel like you had enough time to do anything, while I think one age more would be too long, as it seems it would be very similar to the a second 3rd age in terms of decisions. Each action counts, without the feeling that one mistake completely ruins your game.

Scores tend to be fairly competitive, with most of the people feeling like they at least had a chance to win towards the end of the game.

The Leaders expansion does a great job of changing your mindset while playing, while keeping the feel of the game. The decisions feel different, without having to learn many new rules.

I’ve found people’s eyes tend to glaze over when the rules are explained the first time, but once they play a turn or two, they have it figured out. I would classify it as easy to play, but perhaps a bit tougher to “learn” from having it explained. I’ve seen people comment during the rules explanation that “this game is too hard”, but after one play call their friends over and tell them how easy it is, and that they should give it a try.

I have been impressed with 7 Wonders, the game manages to play 7 people, with some depth of strategy, and do so in a filler length of time. I would generally play this with groups that previously I would play Citadels or For Sale with, and these people have had a great time.