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Dr. Wildcat

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Go to the Trajan page
Go to the Escape: The Curse of the Temple page
Go to the Defenders of the Realm page
Go to the Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 page
Go to the Space Alert page
Go to the Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game page
Go to the Bora Bora page
Go to the Railways of the World page
9
Go to the Pandemic: The Cure page
132 out of 142 gamers thought this was helpful

Dice versions of the most popular games has become quite a rage, but the most successful to my knowledge is Pandemic: The Cure.

In Pandemic, players co-operate to stop the spread of four diseases across the world. This idea is abstracted out into the playing of cards and the placing of disease cubes. In Pandemic: The Cure this same idea is abstracted into dice.

Gameplay:

Dice in the game are rolled both to see what options are available for each player to take and to represent the spread of disease across the continents. Careful tactical planning will have to be utilized in order to win.

Each player is assigned a different role which gives them certain strengths in fighting the spread of the four diseases and you really do get the sense that you have a different job to do. The variability in roles provides for a lot of replayability.

With dice rolling there is obviously a lot of luck involved but thoughtful decision making definitely makes a difference. The game plays quickly (probably 30-45 minutes) and most often seems to generate multiple plays (particularly after a loss).

Components:

The dice are of high quality and the cards are fine. The box is overly big and you can easily take the parts out for a great game to pack when travelling.

Overall:

If you like co-ops and/or dice rolling this game is a must have. It is easy to introduce to new players and non-gamers. It is more abstract than Pandemic but frankly it has nevertheless replaced Pandemic (a former favorite) for me and my family. This is my most played game from 2014 and I think is an under-appreciated gem.

10
Go to the Bora Bora page

Bora Bora

129 out of 137 gamers thought this was helpful

First off, let me apologize for my title. I should have resisted but failed.

Second, let me admit that I am a huge fan of Stefan Feld so many might consider my thoughts too biased (although I do not like every one of his titles).

Third, let me direct you to Outlier Joe and X-hawk for detailed descriptions of game play. I don’t think repeating their detail is particularly useful for you so I will refrain.

Fourth, let me finally get to the review.

REVIEW

Stefan Feld is a master of taking a game mechanic and then developing it in a unique way to make a masterful game. In Bora Bora he does this with dice worker placement.

In Bora Bora you are developing your tribe attempting to be the dominant one by the end of the game (competing against one to three more tribes). In order to do this you claim territory, settle islands, recruit members, trade/purchase items, and develop religion. In order to do any of these things you roll dice that will be placed on your desired action. The brilliant trick is that once you place one of your die on one of the action spaces no one else can go there (including yourself) unless they have a dice number lower than the one you placed. This ultimately means that for a fantastic Euro there is a lot of interaction and blocking done to other players.

For better or worse (and in my mind it is for the better), Bora Bora definitely falls into Feld’s “point salad” reputation. All actions earn you points, the trick is spotting opportunities, working efficiently, and dealing with setbacks. There are definitely multiple paths to victory and you have the ability to make up a lot of ground on leaders.

Components

The component quality is high and the board and color are much more vibrant than your typical Euro. The player boards are arguably too busy but carry a lot of helpful information. There are a lot of bits to keep track of to be sure so set up is a little bit of a chore.

Conclusion

Simply put, Bora Bora is my favorite Feld (beating out Trajan which is probably his most impressive design). The replayability is off the charts and though there is a lot to explain initially, new players can pick it up quickly and be competitive. Interaction is high but not really mean and the need to make challenging decisions abounds.

Bora Bora is Eurogaming at its best.

10
Go to the Amerigo page

Amerigo

114 out of 128 gamers thought this was helpful

Previous reviewers have covered well the mechanics of the game. In a nutshell, a cube tower will randomize for you which actions you may take each turn and how powerful that action will be.

The key takeaway from the mechanics is twofold: one, using the cube tower is a tactile delight. Sure, everyone loves to roll dice but this rather unique randomizer is a welcome change (as long as you double-check the tower to make sure it is working well…see the tips section).

Second, and even more important, is the fact that being limited in your actions to what the cube tower provides creates a game revolving around tactics as opposed to strategy. This fact will likely make or break the game for you. If you are insistent that your Eurogame offer a variety of strategies and that you have the freedom to maximize the efficiency of your chosen strategy and thereby measure it against other maximized strategies then this game is NOT for you. However, if you prefer (or are looking for a change of pace) a game where you see how well you can adjust to ever changing options then this is the game for you. Amerigo’s true strength is the realization that though it incorporates so much randomness this randomness is uniformly applied to each player. Thereby, the winner is going to be the one who best adapts to the presented conditions and therefore the loser knows more than in most games that they lost due to poor choices because everyone dealt with essentially the exact same options (there can be no claims that somewhat had better rolls or better luck).

All of this means that Amerigo offers an extremely satisfying game experience. Though certainly not dripping with theme, it is delightful to look at and fun to toss cubes into the tower and anticipate what might come out. The decision making is top notch as you get to watch other players make very different decisions when provided with the same options. The game does have a large footprint and the box will take up significant shelf space but to my mind it earns both. It is an excellent euro full of great decision making that’s relatively short playtime ensures it does not overstay its welcome. It serves as a worthy addition to any collector of Stefan Feld titles or as a solid introduction to this celebrated designer’s work.

8
Go to the Castle Panic page

Castle Panic

207 out of 223 gamers thought this was helpful

Castle Panic is a simple little co-op that is an outstanding selection for families or a group with young or new gamers.

Castle Panic is one of the first games to get my family into boardgaming so I’m loathe to say anything negative. However, while it can work well with a group of adults of a casual mindset, it just isn’t going to satisfy those who take their gaming seriously. I do hurry to add however that my understanding is that the expansion to the game makes it quite a challenge and a more meaty experience for serious gamers.

The Play:

Simple. Straightforward. Fun. Each player on their turn draws up to the correct number of cards for their hand. You have the opportunity to chuck one and draw another and trade one to a teammate. Then, you utilize all the cards you can and play passes. The goal is to destroy the oncoming monsters before they destroy your castle by running into it. Monsters are in one of three colored parts of the board and at one of three levels. To hit them, you must have a card of the correct color and level. Monsters have up to three hit points. Each turn you also draw two new monster tiles to replenish the board (some of these tiles can chain together to bring out an army of monsters) and all monsters present move forward one level.

As the monsters march inevitably forward legitimate tension is generated as you fear for your castle and laughter frequently follows someone’s inevitable bad draw that puts lots of monsters out to fight just as the team thought they had the situation under control.

Components:

Castle Panic is a fine looking game. The easily built castle in the center is nothing to write home about but serves its function well. Importantly, is does give a sickening feeling when you are seeing it destroyed. The cards are high quality with nice cartoonish drawings appropriate for any age. The monster chips are also of good stock with the same fun artistic style. I do wish they had included a bag in which to draw the tiles but it is a minor quibble (and one is included in the expansion).

Final Thoughts:

At the end of the day, you win Castle Panic far more than you lose. Winning is fun but is the reason why Castle Panic gets a reputation for being for younger gamers (along with its simplicity of play). Still, Castle Panic provides a very nice entry into the cooperative game genre for young and old alike. The theme is fun and accessible even for folks who don’t like fantasy due to its cartoon approach; the theme also makes sense even for those who come to a game assuming it has to be every man for themselves.

For those steeped in fantasy or cooperative gaming, Castle Panic will be pleasant but will ultimately be considered a regression from other more “serious” fare. Therefore, Castle Panic is a great place to start for those new to the hobby and/or for those with young children but is not probably worth the investment for others.

9
Go to the King of Tokyo page

King of Tokyo

159 out of 177 gamers thought this was helpful

King of Tokyo is an excellent, light, dice-rolling game of pushing your luck that is fun for all ages.

In it, you play a monster competing with up to five other monsters for control of Tokyo. The first monster to kill off the others or reach twenty victory points wins the game.

On your turn you roll six dice three times keeping the results you want along the way (in other words it is Yahtzee). At the conclusion of the three rolls you take the actions the dice you kept (and ended up with) demand. Sets of numbers (either ones, twos, or threes) give you points, lightening bolts give you “money” to spend, hearts allow you to heal, and claws attack your opponents.

Two crucial elements are moving in and out of Tokyo with the claw attacks. When in Tokyo you are able to damage all other monsters at the same time but their attacks all damage you (and you are not allowed to heal). Thereby, you have to jump in and out strategically to stay alive. Also, as you accumulate the lightening bolt points/”money” you have to decide what special abilities and events to purchase. Only three are available at any one time and some are very powerful such as giving you an extra head (an extra dice), various abilities that allow you to do more damage or absorb more, and ways to score more points.

As already noted, the first monster to score 20 points or to eliminate all the other monsters (the far more common outcome in my experience) wins.

Components:

The components are excellent. The artwork is fantastic on the cards and for the monster boards. The Tokyo board is small and some people don’t like that the monsters are cardboard stands but I think they look just fine on the table. The dice are big and satisfying to roll. The cubes that mark the lightening point money are adequate as are the tokens that mark some of the cards abilities. The number of ability cards you receive is extensive and this is crucial in offering lots of replayablity.

Conclusion:

King of Tokyo could be considered tough to rate because if compared to all other games it is pretty light and simple. It isn’t going to scratch your itch for a brain-burning marathon of difficult decisions and strategy. However, if you judge it on its own goals, it more than deserves high or even perfect marks. Bottom line the game is just fun and provides plenty of laughs for people of all ages. The cards and abilities provide lots of replayability and you will find yourself constantly calling for “just one more game.” This is a great, quick, and fun game of dice rolling, trash talking, and pushing your luck that belongs on most gamers’ shelves.

Richard Garfield is part of game design royalty and with King of Tokyo he has produced a prince of a game.

7
Go to the Revolver: The Wild West Gunfighting Game page
29 out of 30 gamers thought this was helpful

Revolver is a two player card game produced by Stronghold Games. In it, you play either the forces of law and order led by Colonel Jack McReady or the bank robbing, evil gang of Jack “The Crow” Colty. Each player gets their own deck of cards which they will play on a shared battlefields as The Crow and his gang attempt to escape on the 3:15 train or to Mexico. In addition to their deck, the player controlling The Crow also has 16 cards laid out in front of him representing Jack Colty and each member of his villainous gang (including his dog bullet). As play proceeds, the forces of law order methodically eliminate the gang while Jack Colty attempts to stay alive long enough to escape. If Colonel Jack McReady eliminates the gang before Colty escapes, he wins, but if not, the Crow flies off with the loot and victory.

Pros:

1) Absolutely dripping with a great theme.

2) Real tension is generated for both players as they attempt to accomplish their goal despite the best efforts of their opponent. Games are truly not determined until the end as each games typically comes with enjoyable swings of momentum.

3) The play is pretty intuitive and quick. Games are typically under a half of an hour allowing you to play multiple games or squeeze in a game with limited time.

4) The asymmetrical play decks are extremely well designed and balanced and provide high replayability especially since the winning conditions and style of the decks are different.

5) Quality of the components is high. Cards are of nice stock and the artwork is fantastic. Game comes in a well organized tin.

Cons:

1) For a simple game the rulebook is heinous and the FAQ document available on line is not much better. Some of the explanations I have seen on line from the designer seem like he is making it up as he goes. As it turns out, a key rule in the instructions was simply printed incorrectly. The explanations of the iconography and how the cards are used is byzantine at best.

2) The biographies printed in the rulebook of the various characters in the game could not be worse. I wish I had never read that section and try to forget what I saw. The art for the theme is fantastic but the write-ups for the characters totally undermines it. You are much better off just making up your own story to fit with the drawing of the characters. The biographies provided basically just say the bad guys are actually good and the good guys are actually bad. Please.

3) A strong argument can and has been made that the game is playing you rather than you playing the game. In other words, while the decks are balanced it does make quite a bit of difference which cards you draw in the game (and you are not going to draw all of the cards in your deck). Both decks have powerful cards, but if one side draws them and one side doesn’t, the game may seem determined by luck rather than skill. Now, many card games are determined by draws, but since in Revolver you are not actually constructing your own deck it will frustrate some. Is there skill involved and significant choices to be made as to which cards to play and when? I would argue yes, so this problem is certainly mitigated. Nevertheless, it is going to bother some folks.

Conclusion:

Revolver is somewhat difficult to assign a fair grade to as there are real positives and real negatives to the game. Ultimately, the majority of the negatives can be easily overcome (you can find explanations on the rules and if you avoid reading the biographies you will be set with theme). If you are not one that is insistent on designing your own deck, you are going to enjoy this game. It ultimately is a lot of light fun with plenty of action that begs for hamming up the results as you perpetually gun down your opponent. Therefore, despite its flaws, Revolver is a great game for two when something fast, easy, and entertaining is called for.

8
Go to the 7 Wonders: Cities page

7 Wonders: Cities

52 out of 55 gamers thought this was helpful

“Cities” is the second expansion for 7 Wonders and should ultimately rank as an immediate purchase for any fan of the game. Like most great expansions, “Cities” does not alter a winning formula; instead, it offers more of the same and thereby helps to refresh a game that for many may have grown a bit stale due to the number of times it has been played.

What do you get? Plenty:

1) More of the Same:

a) Two new Wonder board representing Byzantium (rewards diplomacy over warring) and Petra (rewards money collectors).

b) New “black” cards that will mean you ultimately pass and play 8 cards rather than 7 in all three rounds. These black cards do represent some power creep as they are generally more potent than other cards of the age but they do not ultimately throw anything out of balance.

c) Some additional Leaders that can be added to your leader selection. Many of the new Leaders play off of the new “black” cards.

d) This expansion allows playing 7 Wonders with 8 players (although with 8 the intention is for you play as teams – see below for details).

e) Works seamlessly with both 7 Wonders and 7 Wonders Leaders without really making the game any longer (although set-up and tear-down is increased as the “black” cards are put in the decks the same way the purple guild cards are)

2) Some things new:

a) Diplomacy Achievements: When awarded a diplomacy marker you skip out of the battle phase for that age leaving your two neighbors to duke it out as if you were not there. This can lead to some interesting situations as two players who did not think they had to worry about each other suddenly do.

b) Many of the black cards force all of your opponents to pay money to the bank or suffer a victory point penalty if they cannot. This is a nice feature as it forces players to be a little more thoughtful with their cash.

c) As indicated by “a” and “b,” “Cities” allows for more interaction with players. Things still can’t be considered truly aggressive, but you do have to be more aware of what your neighbors (and occasionally others) are doing. In addition to diplomacy and forced payments, there are also cards that allow you to spy on the technology cards of your neighbors giving you access to their scientific symbols.

d) Team Play: When playing with 4, 6, or 8 players you can now play as allies. You get to see each others cards and while you cannot share them you can strategize as to what to select and to pass in order to maximize each of your city’s points. This is an outstanding way to teach new players the game without boring veterans.

Conclusion:

If you are going to buy only one expansion for 7 Wonders I would go with “Leaders” over “Cities” but ultimately I recommend buying both. “Leaders” adds more depth to the game than does “Cities” but “Cities” refreshes all areas of the game with new cards, new boards, and it facilitates team play which is ideal for teaching new players. It provides a lot of bang for the buck while maintaining what you already love about 7 Wonders.

8
Go to the Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin page
88 out of 95 gamers thought this was helpful

Though experiencing some unavoidable backlash after years of “hotness,” deck-builders continue to generate plenty of interest in the boardgaming community. While Dominion is the dominant player in the market, AEG’s Thunderstone is perhaps the second most popular in this genre. Thunderstone Advance is the latest expansion of this franchise and more importantly is really a re-launch of the title. If you are new to Thunderstone, this is the place to start.

I am not the most experienced with the deck-builders but the important facts are not disputed with Thunderstone Advance. With this re-launch AEG fixed some of the minor quibbles people had with the earlier Thunderstone which included standardizing keywords and improving some iconography as well as adding a few features like familiars. Importantly, Thunderstone Advance now comes with a high-quality two sided board to organize your gameplay.

The Advance cards are usable with old sets but again if you are starting new, start here and it probably isn’t going to be worth trying to translate old cards into this new and improved format. Not to worry though, Thunderstone is a cornerstone franchise of AEG and expansions for Thunderstone Advance are on the way.

The Game:

The premise is simple but engrossing. Starting with a deck of twelve basic cards representing a new party of adventurers you draw up a hand of six cards and then choose to either 1) Go to the village to purchase improvements for your party; 2) Attack into the dungeon; 3) Rest (i.e. permanently discard a card you don’t want in your deck); or 4) Prepare (keep a few cards in your hand while discarding the rest so that you can draw up a monster hand to accomplish your current goal). Each turn you draw a new six cards and decide which of these you want to do before you discard the lot of them. Through this process, you steadily improve the power of your deck while your opponents all do the same thing. The dungeon is housing progressively challenging villains and when the Thunderstone Bearer appears and is defeated the game ends. At game end, each player tallies up the victory points he has earned which come from the possession of certain cards (primarily monsters that you have defeated along with high-powered adventurers you have leveled up or hired) and the person with the highest score wins.

The mechanics of the game are ultimately very similar to Dominion so if you have a strong opinion of Dominion it will probably carry over. My understanding is that the number one complaint against Dominion is a lack of theme so here Thunderstone really shines. The theme drips from this game and the components are fantastic with tremendous artwork for all the cards.

The theme is what drew me to this game but while I wanted to love this game I was surprised to find I just didn’t. While I liked it, I did unfortunately find it a bit of multi-player solitaire, the choices of cards to put in the deck seemed limited, and the game goes on for a LONG time. However, this game was saved for me by trying the “epic” variant designed by Richard Launius and Tom Vasel. In this version, instead of using just a few groups of cards, all the cards are played with in each game by mixing them in large stacks. Thereby, variety rules the day and you really get the sense you are constructing a party giving your deck a unique feel. In addition, because you don’t know what is going to pop up for sale in the village, you have to monitor what your opponents are doing and what is available to them as you may want to block their efforts. This adds a level of interaction and strategy missing from the standard rules and ends that sense of multi-player solitaire. The game still takes a surprisingly long time to complete but I think this can easily be adjusted by tinkering with how many monsters one puts in the dungeon. Regardless, there is always plenty going on so it isn’t like you are sitting with nothing to do.

Especially with the epic variant addressing my only complaints (and the rules for the variant are included with the game), I don’t hesitate to say that if you are looking to delve into the deck-building genre (or add another option to your library of deck-builders) and you like the fantasy theme this is THE place to go.

Summary:

Pros:
Components – Artwork & Great Two-sided Board
Theme
Refined version of a top-selling game
Epic Variant to put it over the top!

Cons:
A bit long for what it is
I hope you like to shuffle

Recommendation:

If you are looking for a deck-builder and/or love fantasy themed games, Thunderstone Advance is lightening in a bottle…er…box.

7
Go to the Defenders of the Realm: Hero Expansion #1 page
31 out of 32 gamers thought this was helpful

Defenders of the Realm is an absolutely fantastic game that has been well supported with both free and purchasable expansions. Here, is the first of three purchasable character expansion boxes. In addition to the characters you will receive, a new Paladin figure that is better scaled to the other characters (you do not receive a new card). You will get some random general condition cards that are added to the Darkness Spread deck. These cards set certain conditions into place until another card of that type replaces it. These cards are a mix of storylines that might hurt or help your chances and add a nice flavor to the game. Finally, and most importantly, you get four new characters – the Chaos Wizard, the Adventurer, the Assassin, and the Captain of the Guard – that you can play in the game. The detailed descriptions of these are just below…

Character Specifics (all of them have 5 actions per turn):

Chaos Wizard:

Swiftness Spell – Discard a hero card and move to any location matching the color of the card.
Untamed Magic – Draw a location card and attack any player or minion there and hit with 2+
Chaos Manna – When fighting on a tainted site you can add +1 to the roll but any hero there (including you) are hit with a natural one roll.

Adventurer:

Friends in Low Places: Draw an extra card when ending a turn in an Inn plus choose 2 colors in an Inn rather than just one.
Dungeon Delver: Add 1 extra dice to Quest rolls.
Minor Quests: When the Adventurer ends her turn on a location with a Treasure Chest icon you roll 3 dice and gain 1 Hero Card for each 5 or 6.
Magic Pouch: Keep up to 14 cards in your hand

Assassin:

Sneak Attack: Discard one minion on first attack in a space.
Deathblow: Bonus die roll at +1 against a General with only one life left
Shadow Walk: Use last action to disappear and at the start of her next turn you appear up to three spaces away.

Captain of the Guard:

Battle Steed: Travel two spaces with one action and roll 1 extra die in combat on the first attack at each location.
Military Strategist: Call a color when you draw a darkness spread card and only add one minion maximum from that color.
Command: You may give actions to other heroes that they use on their next turn.

Evaluation:

Generally, the expansion characters are slightly more powerful than the original characters but nothing that throws the game out of balance and not to the degree that you would refuse to go back to original ones. Specifically…

The Chaos Wizard: Can move rapidly which is crucial in the game. The Untamed magic ensures that you have no wasted actions but it is dangerous and not reliably effective.

Adventurer: Good theme comes through and having extra cards to manipulate is good fun but you have to know what you want to do with them.

Assassin: Very powerful character that fittingly is deadly with the automatic hit in first attack. Disappearing allows for rapid movement if you plan ahead.

Captain of the Guard: Another very powerful character that can move and attack with ferocity. Command ability is fantastic in ensuring there is always a valuable action to take. Even the Military Strategy is regularly powerful by limiting the orcs’ and demons’ ability to hit the realm.

Overall: While certainly not essential, if you love Defenders of the Realm you are going to enjoy these characters and cards. The expansion is a bit expensive but the quality of the components is high and augments a fantastic game. This expansion gives you just what you would expect and it is hard to imagine someone who was interested in it being disappointed with this solid addition.

9
Go to the 7 Wonders: Leaders page

7 Wonders: Leaders

45 out of 49 gamers thought this was helpful

Few games have made the popular splash that 7 Wonders deservedly has. Its first expansion, entitled “Leaders,” promises to add to the fun by providing leaders for your civilization.

The gameplay is very straightforward and fits extremely well with the base game. Four of the aforementioned leaders are drafted in the same “pick a card and pass” manner as the ages and this is done before the traditional rounds begin. They are then added to your civilization once before each of the traditional rounds (you may purchase one, use the card to complete a wonder level if you can fulfill the requirements, or discard a leader for gold). The leaders contribute to your victory point total in both straightforward (it gives you another tablet, provides gold, gives you additional shields, etc.) and clever ways (it sends your -1 military defeat tokens to your neighbor, it gives you bonus points for having a card from every color in your civilization, etc.). Overall, the leaders will give more focus to your civilization from the outset allowing you to know what strategy you want to pursue from the beginning. However, since you do not immediately reveal all of the leaders you have, your opponents will not be tipped off to your intentions too early.

As a historian, I cannot help but note the terribly anachronistic nature of the expansion. Now, it depends on your personality how you will react to this. In other words, seeing Nebuchadnezzar commanding Roman Legions, Aristotle building the pyramids, and Julius Caesar admiring gardens in Babylon will either drive your creative juices to wonder what the world would have been like if that had happened or drive you insane by killing any joy you received from the historical flavor of the game. Of course, the vast majority of 7 Wonders players probably won’t care one way or the other and will just be happy to have a few more cards to play.

As long as I’ve noted one historiographical issue with the game, I might as well go for broke and list one more that I find rather comical. It’s hard not to note that the game designers attempted to score points with the politically correct crowd by scouring the annals of the ancient world for any female “leaders” they could find. Consequently, the game comes with some howlingly obscure female leads. The laughable irony however is that any goodwill won through inclusivity was immediately lost by the artwork, which portrays every single one of these ladies as scantily clad, buxom seductresses. Surely this is ancient history as only a hormone ravaged Junior High boy would picture it!

Despite these two historical digressions, the bottom line is that lovers of 7 Wonders will most likely love the Leaders expansion. It adds four more cards to your civilization that add flavor and the potential for increasingly high scores while not slowing the game down really in the least. The cards are powerful and do not always seem balanced with each other or the cost required to purchase them. Still, the quibbles here are minor and there do not seem to be any cards that are clearly “broken.”

At the risk of sounding more negative than I wish to, I will in conclusion say that the value you get out of leaders largely depends on your gaming group. In my case, I play 7 Wonders almost exclusively with new players. As such, I don’t include Leaders as it adds too much unneeded complexity when someone is learning the game. If that describes you, I would probably pass on purchasing the expansion. However, if you have been playing 7 Wonders for a while with a set group of gaming veterans, then Leaders is a fantastic way to breathe new life into a great game and I wouldn’t hesitate to highly recommend the purchase.

Too much of a good thing can spoil a pot, but the Leaders expansion ultimately adds just the right amount of new spice to spruce up the tasty 7 Wonders dish.

9
Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: Lords of Waterdeep page
95 out of 102 gamers thought this was helpful

The Lords of Waterdeep by Wizards of the Coast is a traditional worker-placement Euro style game set in the famed Forgotten Realms city of Waterdeep that is more than worthy of being added to your collection.

With Wizards of the Coast not known for Euros and Euros not known for adopting D&D/Fantasy themes, wariness was naturally called for when considering this game. Put your worries aside though as this game delivers fun in spades (and of course wizards, fighters, thieves, and clerics).

At the beginning of the game, you are secretly dealt a Lord of Waterdeep identity that will help direct your focus in Quest selection. Played through eight rounds, you assign agents (the number depends on the number of players) to recruit adventurers, secure gold, purchase buildings, and engage in intrigue among other tasks all to gain you power (read: victory points) in Waterdeep. Claiming quests (by securing a Quest card) and completing them (by fulfilling the requirements of the quest card – usually with a set number of adventurers that you have recruited) is the primary way you win the game. At the end of the eight rounds, you will add points to your score based on your wealth, remaining adventurers, and secret rewards based off of your completed quests and your Lord. These points are significant so winning the Lords of Waterdeep is always something determined at the very end of the game rather than the beginning or middle.

Two particularly nice options for your agent assignments deserve specific explanation. One, is to purchase buildings that immediately create a new place for agents to go. The rewards at these sites are typically very attractive but grant benefits to the owner of the building in a mild way as well. Consequently, purchasing these tiles is an attractive option as it either provides you a great place to go or generates resources for you when your opponent does (see my game tip entitled “Locations, Locations, Locations!”). Second, players can also send their agents to a locale that allows them to play Intrigue cards which do a variety of things to help you win the game (sometimes they help you directly while others thwart your opponent). This location is particularly nice because it allows the agent to be reassigned at the end of the round effectively providing a “two-for-one” move option. These sites both speak to another great facet of the game – you are always picking between places you WANT to go rather than picking between worthless choices. Sure, you are not always going to get to go exactly where you were hoping but the game remains constant fun rather than frustrating because you never feel like your turn has been simply wasted.

Reasonably priced, it is certainly worth noting that this game’s components are gorgeous. The board is striking in appearance and very functional in design. Admittedly, one might quibble with the colored cubes that stand in for wizards, fighters, thieves, and clerics but otherwise all of the parts are top notch and really add to the flavor of the game. Both the Quest and Intrigue cards include dramatic artwork that if examined can draw you into the story. The building tiles are nice and come with corner markers so ownership of the real estate is never in question. Instructions on the cards, tiles, and manual are all very clear and intuitive. Not so incidentally, the insert in the box is quite simply the best that I have ever seen – there is a place for everything and everything fits neatly and securely in its place. Everything is designed to pop up when pressure is applied so there is never frustration with getting out the sizeable number of pieces required to play. I am anticipating expansions for the game and if these come they will not fit in the original box, but otherwise if there is an award for best insert, 2012’s winner has been found.

This game offers tremendous replayablity through the nice collection of Quest and Intrigue cards, the differing emphases provided by the host of different Lords, and a fun mechanic that means choices are always going to be different depending on the opponent (s). Nevertheless, I will say that a Lords of Waterdeep expansion also seems a natural. Additional Quest and Intrigue cards would be an inexpensive and welcome way to expand replayability.

Some have and will complain that the theme is “pasted on.” However, I frankly think of this as a positive not a negative. The “pasted on” nature of the theme allows the many folks who don’t care for the fantasy theme still to fully enjoy this easy to understand strategy Euro. For those, who do love the fantasy theme, the names of the quests and components, the tremendous artwork, and the beautiful board etc. should provide more than enough grist for imagination mills (something fantasy and D&D enthusiasts should have well developed already). In other words, this game is tremendous for it is possible to either ignore the fantasy theme or embrace it depending on your preference.

The game serves two to five players and appears to scale well with all groups. I have played primarily in a two-person format and have found it very enjoyable. With only two players, many, many quests will be completed but players still have to thoughtfully prioritize their moves. The game allows and encourages player interaction but at the same time, you primarily concentrate on your own efforts so the environment is a fun competitive one rather than hostile. The game moves along quickly and time even faster with the game.

Don’t just stick your toe in, dive right in to The Lords of Waterdeep!

8
Go to the The Resistance: 3rd Edition page
42 out of 48 gamers thought this was helpful

One of the best signs of a great game is that it generates lots of “Remember When…?!? Moments…in other words, times well after the game when you are laughing with friends and family by recounting great moments in your gaming past. And, those moments are the reason you should run not walk to your local gaming store and buy a copy of The Resistance. I personally have not had a game generate more of these moments so quickly.

Gameplay:
The game is quite simple especially for those who are familiar with Mafia or Werewolf. At the beginning of a game everyone is dealt a card face down that identifies them as a member of the Resistance or an evil spy working against the revolution. The number of spies varies depending on the total number of players (the larger number of players, the larger number of spies). These spies get an opportunity to identify themselves to each other and then the missions begin. No matter what, there will never be more than five missions so the game plays in five rounds. Each round a different leader selects who goes on the mission and, if there is consensus on the choice, the mission takes place. Each person on the mission is given a success and fail card and they then secretly submit the card that corresponds with what they want to have happen. Once all cards are submitted, the cards are mixed and then revealed which determines if the mission succeeded or failed (essentially one failure card means that the mission fails). At that point, the accusations will quickly start to fly as a new leader selects members for a new mission, which usually requires taking even more members. The revolutionaries win if three missions succeed while the spies win if three missions fail.

Logistics:
The game supports 5-10 players which is wonderful for large groups. I’ve played with almost every number and have enjoyed it every time although I’ve found the spies are pretty easy to figure out with 5 players while higher numbers makes it very difficult for the loyal members of the resistance to identify all of the spies.

Components:
The components are simple but the artwork on the cards is nice and is themed towards a futuristic world. There is a small board to keep track of the score and wooden pieces for it — all are high quality. I ordered the game from my local game store which didn’t have it in stock and when I showed up to get it I frankly was taken aback by how small the box was and was initially disappointed. However, now I love the small size of the box and components as I realize how convenient this game is to take anywhere and how often I want to take it.

(The game actually includes expansion cards which will shake up the rules and the ability of people to verify their theories and throw people off the trail. I think these cards might help if the game gets stale but since it hasn’t yet, I haven’t used the expansion cards so I can’t speak directly to them.)

Fun:
Accusations, tension, and conspiracy theories are generated almost immediately in the game generating a lot of memorable fun. Players will have to be mature about it as the game requires lying to people’s faces, but most adults can handle it and will beg for more as they try to redeem themselves. The five rounds move quickly and you can be done with the game in 30 minutes (although typically everyone wants to immediately play again). My experience is that gamers and non-gamers alike can’t help but enjoy themselves.

Final:
If you ever have the opportunity or need to play games with a larger number of people this affordable game is a definite buy and definitely has immense replay value (even before considering the included expansion). So, don’t resist, buy this game and start piling up those “Do you remember when….?!?” moments!

10
Go to the Shadows over Camelot: Merlin's Company page
59 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

While Shadows Over Camelot is not be a perfect game (few are), I do think that Merlin’s Company is a perfect expansion for it.

Honestly, I was highly skeptical of obtaining this expansion, but I’ve been won over. Why? What do you get with the Merlin’s Company expansion? Plenty.

1) New versions of all the knights (except King Arthur) – all of which are fun and balanced. (My favorite is one that allows you to roll the siege engine dice BEFORE you lay down cards.

2) A new knight – Again, not a game changer per se but a quality addition who allows you to exchange a white card in your hand for one that you draw.

3) Merlin! He might accompany you on a quest, which allows you to draw a card for free each round while he is there or he can block the placing of siege engines if he is hanging out at a completed quest.

4) Some powerful new good and evil cards. Again, beautifully balanced and easily incorporated.

5) The ability to play with 8 knights instead of 7 and in games with 7-8 an extra traitor! (if there are two traitors they do not know their ally)

6) A new mechanic that requires knights to draw from a new deck when traveling to a quest. This deck sometimes says all is quiet, sometimes moves Merlin into play, and sometimes attacks, hinders, or captures the knight attempting to move.

Most folks say the expansion makes this challenging game even harder. However, my experience (thus far at least) has been quite the opposite. With Merlin frequently allowing extra card draws or stopping the placing of siege engines, I have found the game much more beatable. Regardless, I think this expansion makes the game much more thematic and enjoyable. If it proves to make the game harder, I will like it even more as the sense of satisfaction from beating the game will increase.

I have not heard of any more planned expansions for the game and frankly, it does not need any as the game now feels fully complete. Shadows over Camelot has proven itself a successful co-op game which was one of the first to incorporate a potential element of betrayal which really ramps up the fun. I believe Merlin’s Company to be a perfect expansion of the game for it keeps all the best elements, adds some variety and power, and really ramps up the thematic elements of the game.

If you are a Shadows over Camelot fan, don’t be late in expanding the fun!

9
Go to the Summoner Wars Master Set page
70 out of 77 gamers thought this was helpful

Summoner Wars is simply a great game and many of you already know that so I’ll hold off for a moment on another summary of the game. As a casual gamer I thought I might have one important thing to add though to the many reviews that are out there and that is this: the game is more of a “main course” than some indicate. I most often see this game described as a “fast filler” but that has not been my experience with the game really at all. My wife and I really enjoy playing it but despite the fact that neither of us is prone to “analysis paralysis” our games go pretty long and we are mentally concentrating the whole time so it can be a bit draining. Admittedly, if we played more often we would no longer have to be learning the cards as we plotted our strategy but just the same, I would liken this game more to a fantasy themed, dice rolling chess rather than a fantasy themed, dice rolling checkers. My wife and I like filler games such as Lost Cities and neither of us consider Summoner Wars to fit into that light category. We both think you should get Summoner Wars, but if you are interested in it because you are looking for breezy play, this isn’t the right game. If you are looking for fantasy chess – look no further.

The rest of this review is really only for those unfamiliar with the game though I still will not try to offer the fullest description. Keeping with the “chess” theme though, you play a “summoner” who can bring forth an army and cast spells to defeat the other “summoner” in the game. Once one summoner dies the game ends. You play on a large squared, chess like board and continually move your pieces to attack (you roll dice to see if you are successful) and gain positional advantage. You also are constantly trying to build magic points up (by discarding cards and defeating your enemy in combat) so that you can bring forth more pieces or perform various actions. You have a small deck of cards and will see every card in a game though you will have to make choices on which ones to play and which ones not to. The tide of war can turn quickly in the game which is nice so that you don’t feel eliminated early.

If you are new to Summoner Wars, this set is definitely the one to start with as you get the nice playing board and six different decks to play with. The real strength of Summoner Wars is that the different armies are truly balanced and really do feel very unique from one another. The artwork is fantastic and the personality of the army really shows through in how they fight and maneuver. More decks are available to purchase which you almost invariably will want to do despite the fact that you really don’t need to since the set comes with six great ones.

This is a fantastic two player game that I highly, highly recommend. I just know I had a little bit of a misunderstanding of the game when I purchased it that I’m hoping to help others avoid. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a dense wargame by any means, but at the same time, it isn’t pure “filler” either.

10
Go to the Defenders of the Realm page

Defenders of the Realm

229 out of 243 gamers thought this was helpful

If you are looking for a fantasy themed co-op game board game I really don’t know how you are going to realistically do better than Defenders of the Realm. Other reviewers have summarized the game so I don’t know if it helps to rehash known facts. In sum, the game is a nice balanced challenge that takes around an hour and half to play. You select from a variety of fantasy characters and each really does feel distinct and accurate with artwork that gets you into the role. Strategy is essential for victory but dice rolling ensures that the best laid plans might go astray (and I view it as a plus since that reflects life and the fact that great fighters/strategists do sometimes lose). Excellent components and brilliant design ensures immense replayablity as do the many expansions (much of which are free) for the game. Interest in fantasy stories is a must but as long as that is there the appeal is natural and strong (my wife and six year old son LOVE to play it — yes, he needs some guidance on what strategy to employ next but remains engaged and excited though all our turns, plans, and attacks which I think speaks to the dynamic and engrossing nature of the game).

At the end of the day, the few criticisms I’ve seen of the game tend to be fairly illegitimate as they are complaints about the game not being something that it was not trying to be. If you want a fantasy theme, it has it in spades. If you want a co-op, you certainly must do so to win and interaction flows naturally and continuously. If you want a board game, this gives you great variety, flavor and challenges without becoming a full blown role-playing game or a nine-hour affair. If you want the game self-contained you needn’t buy a single more thing for tremendous replay value yet the game is magnificently supported with both free and purchasable expansions that include game scenarios and new characters for both the forces of light and darkness. If you want to play with friends or family, anyone who is interested in fantasy themed games can jump right in and enjoy immediately. It really does perfectly accomplish what it sets out to do.

It is reasonable of course to be concerned about the rather daunting price (and so reading reviews to see if this game is really worth it is essential and I do hope you won’t rely solely on me!). However, as I noted from the beginning, if you are looking for a fantasy themed, co-op board game for use with friends and/or family, I personally don’t know of a better choice and I am very pleased that I made the investment.

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