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Go to the 7 Wonders page
Go to the The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game page
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7
Go to the The Undercity page

The Undercity

8 out of 9 gamers thought this was helpful

Since Artem and I played this together, we thought it would be interesting to write back-to-back reviews of our experiences with Undercity.

I could save everyone the pain of reading through a long post simply by agreeing with everything Artem says. And I do pretty much agree with him.

But let’s not stop there. I do have few supplemental points to make.

First, Undercity is good but it’s not great. In addition to all of the minuses enumerated by Artem, I didn’t really feel the theme as much as I wanted to. The bad guys felt like a nuisance rather than a creepy threat (didn’t help that Artem and I misread the rules and played on nightmare mode for most scenarios – that is, the bosses activated far more often than they were supposed to) and there were times when spawning felt unfair (because we had just completed a task) or meaningless (because spawning more foul beasts didn’t fit the story).

Second, the story was convoluted at times and I forgot the whole point of the scenario. “Beat bad guys” seems tedious for a story-based game.

Third, if the occasional humdrum elements of the story weren’t enough, I concur with Artem that we could never spice things up with a side quest because the chaos of the main quest kept us far too busy.

I realize at this point it sounds like I didn’t enjoy Undercity. Despite what I’ve written, I actually did look forward to getting this to the table, but it all had to do with whom I was playing. If your team-mates don’t take this game too seriously, if you strategize well together, if no one feels the need to be the game alpha this can make for an entertaining evening.

Enjoyed this review? Please visit Altema Games website for more neat board game materials.

8
Go to the Patchwork page

Patchwork

15 out of 15 gamers thought this was helpful

In this two-player game, you make a quilt…zzzzz….sorry, I must have nodded off there.

Yes, the premise, when explained like that, seems about as exciting as, well, quilting.

But this tiny package of a game is ******** with strategy, Tetris-esque spatial thinking, and button income!

The game-play is elegantly simple. Lay out the aforementioned Tetris-like tiles (aka quilt patches) in a circle around the time track. Place the wooden marker next to the smallest tile (ie covers two spaces). Each player (this is a two-player game) gets five buttons, which are used to purchase tiles/patches, and a-quilting we will go.

Turns are taken by whomever is behind the leader. Like Tokaido, it’s possible to take more than one turn until you pass the leader.

Any one of the three tiles/patches clockwise to the wooden marker can be chosen as long as you have the button income available. When you place the tile, you pay the button fee and move your marker on the time track equal to the “time” it took you to “sew” the funky patch on your patchwork Franken-quilt. Thus, if a tile has “3 BUTTON ICON” and “2 SAND-TIMER ICON” on it, it will cost you three buttons to purchase and require you to move your player token 2 spaces on the time track.

If you’re out of button loot, thereby making pretty much all tiles/patches unaffordable, move your player marker on the time track and gather up buttons equal to the distance covered between your marker and the space right in front of the leader’s marker. A great option to gather much-needed buttons.

Finally, whenever you pass a button icon on the time track, you pull from the button bank as many buttons as found on your tiles/patches. For example, if you have a total of 12 button icons on your tiles/patches on your 9×9 game board, you will collect 12 buttons from the bank.

At the end of the game, whomever has the most buttons, wins! Buttons are deducted for every empty space multiplied by 2. So, patch that quilt dear Liza! (I know Henry and Liza are in charge of bucket-mending, but I can’t think of a quilting-based folk tune).
Pros:

A simple, elegant, well-crafted game. It will delight gamers and non-gamers alike.
High-quality components.
Much strategic and spatial thinking – I recommend highly for kids to foster these skills.
Button income!

Cons:

At first blush, the theme seems about as exciting as dishwasher repair, but it ain’t the theme that holds this game together. The brain’s reward centres get a boost when you fit a tile, rake in button income, and fill up your player board.
Due to the two-player limit, not a game to haul out when friends are over for game night. Having said that, this isn’t really a con. A glass of Merlot, some Miles Davis on the hi-fi, and an evening playing Patchwork with my wife, turns this into a solid pro.

Verdict:

I have absolutely nothing critical to say about Patchwork. It’s a wonderful, clever, challenging, strategic, entertaining game. It plays in about 30 minutes and everyone I’ve introduced it to has purchased a copy. Indeed, Artem Safarov brought it over to my house, we had a blast, cheered whenever we got to say “button income” and I promptly bought a copy.

My kids enjoy this game too, so I would recommend this for the family gamer.

In all, a must-have for any gamer’s library.

7
Go to the Machi Koro page

Machi Koro

61 out of 68 gamers thought this was helpful

I first saw this game in the back of a My Little Pony comic I was reading to my kids. I admit the game didn’t appeal to me, likely because of where it was advertised. Snobbish of me? Yes and I was foolish to be so.

A few months ago, my kids and I were in a board game café, they recognized the game from the MLP comic, so we gave it a whirl.
I was immediately enchanted by the game’s simplicity and its clean, cartoonish art.

The game is exceedingly simple:

Everyone starts with four undeveloped “landmarks” (train station, shopping mall, amusement park, radio tower) and two resources (wheat field and bakery).

All of the supply cards, numbered 1 through 12 (some have more than one number, such as the bakery, which carries “2-3”) are sorted in their respective numerical stacks. So all of the 1’s together, 5’s together, etc.

Everyone gets three coins and away we go.

Until you develop the train station, which allows you to roll two dice, you will roll a die on your turn. If the die face matches a card, resolve the effect and see if you earn or lose income. Then determine if you have the loot and want to buy a card from the supply (good idea to buy cards…maximize your chances to build up your coins and take coins from others).

The first person to build all four landmarks wins.

The supply cards come in four colours: blue earns income on anyone’s turn (eg if you roll a 1, everyone will earn a coin from their respective wheat fields); red takes coins from whoever rolled the die or dice; green earns you income on your turn only; purple scores you income from your opponents but only on your turn.

That’s all there is to it. You can teach it in minutes. In fact, it can be taught faster than you can set it up.

Obviously the die and dice rolling add randomness but I enjoy how benefits/losses are spread around: you can earn on your turn, everyone can earn on your turn, you can lose money on someone else’s turn, others can lose money on your turn.

The strategy comes into play when deciding which supply cards you wish to purchase. You’ll be rolling a single die until you can afford to develop the train station (costing a mere 4 coins), but the other landmark cards have interesting benefits as well. Which to choose first? Do you go with your usual play-style or get a read of the table and see how your opponents are playing?

Do you pick supply cards based on the probability of oft-appearing dice values (for those Catan players, remembering the probability pips on the dice rolls chips may help you) or which cards will earn bigger bucks? Do you play a defensive game and focus on your play area or pick up a bunch of red and purple cards so you can put a dent in your opponents’ cash piles?

Lots of options.

And with the Harbor and Millionaire’s Row expansions, you get new landmark cards, new supply cards, and a new way to lay out the supply cards that randomizes what’s on the table.

Now to the pros and cons:

Pros:

• A fast and simple game that can either be an appetizer for the main event or multiple games over the evening.
• Kids love it. Cozy pictures, fast game-play (could be some AP though. See below), straightforward rules, not a ton of literacy or numeracy needed so the wee ones can join in. My 6-year-old son adores this game. When he says “Dad can we play Machi Koro?”, how can I refuse?
• Chance figures significantly in this game, but there is a good amount of strategy when deciding what to buy when.

Cons:

• Some may feel the replay-factor of the base game is limited. But this is overcome with the expansions. I bought the nifty deluxe tin. Has everything and looks cool. I like shiny things. Squirrel!
• Power gamers may feel a touch bored. But maybe not. I went down this hobby rabbit hole quite some time ago and I adore the simplicity of this game. As with all games though, à chacun son goût.
• Depending on who is playing, there will be those who agonize over what to purchase from the supply. You can either hustle things along verbally (as my family is wont to do) or go with the flow until everyone gets comfortable with the cards.
• When someone is on a roll, the cash that person can amass can make the game feel lopsided. A good option is to snap up a few red and purple cards and see if you can put a dent in his wallet.

Verdict:

A fun, engaging, simple game that is well worth the low sticker price. This will appeal to a variety of gamers and I recommend it especially for the family gamer’s shelf.

8
Go to the Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men page
73 out of 80 gamers thought this was helpful

Magic the Gathering is a game I enjoy casually. I find how terrible I am at it when I play those who take it as seriously as some embrace chess.

How do I handle that 8/8 humungoid when I have a dwindling cadre of creatures and the big daddy attacks me every turn?

What I like about Dice Masters (I’ve played Uncanny, Avengers vs X-Men and D&D) is that once one successfully attacks, the attacker heads to the used pile. It demands that players think carefully about who attacks and who should be left behind as a defender. Further, character card effects can not only lead to potent offensive or defensive strategies, WizKids has done a brilliant job ensuring those effects are specific to the character. That Kitty/Ariel/Shadowcat/Sprite can’t be blocked by Sidekicks (pawn image on white dice) is a great expression of her phasing powers.

I won’t go into the rules here as Boardgaming.com nicely handles how one plays the game. I can say that the thematic feel Dice Masters brings using relatively simple mechanics with a blend of strategy and luck, make this game a worthy addition to a gamer’s collection.

Pros:

Relatively easy to learn and play (some finicky rules at first, but things fall into place eventually. There are also some great how-to-play videos, specifically Watch it Played).

Nice balance of luck (rolling dice, and re-rolling dice) and strategy (who to recruit, who to field, who will attack, who will defend).

Thematically wonderful. Each character’s powers resolve as one would think.

Mix and match. Want Superman to battle alongside Magneto? Sure. All of the Dice Master sets can blend.

Affordability. About $15 for an ample starter set and a buck for booster packs, which come with two cards and their attendant dice.

Cons:

Wallet annihilator. If you’re a completionist, this game will hurt your bank account.

Some won’t like the randomness of dice rolling. I personally think this is what makes the game exciting (like when all I had to do was roll a character die with an attack of 1 and I would have won the game and instead on my roll and re-roll it was all energy that I couldn’t use. And I lost) but not for everyone.

Theme could be a deterrent. If you think comic book characters (Uncanny, AvX, DC’s set) are of little interest, this game may not have the same appeal. I grew up with Marvel characters and still read a number of titles, so Marvel Dice Masters is right up my alley.

Verdict:

I love Marvel and I really enjoy the huge fun factor this game offers without feeling as soul-crushing as Magic the Gathering (which I do enjoy, but it makes me sad from time to time). Excelsior!

6
Go to the Cave Troll page

Cave Troll

48 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

While at a board game cafe a few days ago, my wife and I found the first Fantasy Flight Games edition of Cave Troll.

Similar to the spruced up current edition, Cave Troll v.1.0 (2002) is quite simple with respect to artwork, components, and the board’s design.

The board features four entrances where one places heroes and a Pit in the centre where one spawns bad guys.

Players randomly flip over a token and place it at an entrance if it’s a hero, in the Pit if a monster, or resolve if an event. Events include treasure, artifacts, or immediately score the room.

When scoring the room happens, players count up the gold coin icons in the rooms occupied by a majority of their hero tokens and then move their respective counters on the point track.

Each of the heroes and monsters have abilities (okay, except the adventurer, she simply contributes toward you claiming a room) that you must use wisely. I did not use them wisely. And I lost. Badly. Then again, my wife is vastly better than I am at spatial conceptualization.

Players have 20 tokens and when the last token is flipped and placed or resolved, the game ends and everyone counts their gold as described above. Any unused artifact items are worth points, depending on the item.

There are a few more bits and pieces to the rules, but this is basically how one plays the game. And the 2002 game play isn’t all that different from FFG’s second edition.

Pros:

Trolls?! Dwarves?! ‘Nuff said.
A simple game to teach and play. The complexity and strategy are found in the decisions you make with respect to placement of heroes and monsters and how you maximise your treasure.
A decent family game that demands planning ahead. Teaching children with fantasy-themed tools is always a good thing.

Cons:

The 2002 version was not aesthetically stunning. But this was from FFG’s early days before they became a company known for gorgeous artwork and high-quality components.
If one of the players is light years ahead of others, it can quickly become apparent who will win the game. Blech.
At times, I felt it mechanical and dry; that I was merely pushing tokens around a board.

Verdict:

Not my favourite game and lacks the promise of a fantasy theme (hence the mediocre grade I’ve given it), but it’s simple enough in design and execution to give it life as a family boardgame.

7
Go to the Zombies!!! (2ed) page

Zombies!!! (2ed)

50 out of 56 gamers thought this was helpful

There is no shortage of zombie board games. Some are thematically entertaining, like Zombicide, and some are pretty much Yahtzee featuring the undead. But as with most things, different strokes for different folks.

The other day, my wife and I checked out a newly-opened sci-fi themed cafe in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood. It’s called See-Scape and worth a visit. For five bucks a person we could play board games all-day from their growing catalogue.

I’ll post reviews of the other games over the next few days, but for now, this one is on Zombies!!! (with the superfluous three exclamation marks).

This is a simple game to teach and learn.

You start with three cards that either boost your chances of winning or ruin someone else’s shot at victory. For example, my wife seemed to have an unusual surfeit of “tie your shoelaces” cards she threw at me, which prevented me from smiting walkers.

Because slaying zombies is a goal.

They spawn like mad and the first person to either wipe out 25 or take off at the zombie-free helipad can dream of one day being lazy and generally unprepared in a walled community.

Players also start with bullet tokens which can be used to boost your rolls (I need those the most because the dice gods hate me) and heart tokens which give you re-rolls.

On your turn, you’ll flip a map tile, place it Carcassonne style, play cards if you want/can, roll to move, hope to encounter zombies, roll to slay them, and pick up additional bullets and hearts.

Rinse and repeat until you meet the victory conditions.

Pros:

A compact and speedy game that can be taught in minutes
Miniatures aren’t CoolMiniOrNot quality but there’s a massive pile of them and it’s fun to have them shambling around the map tiles
Lots of options with cards that benefit you or Munchkinize your opponents

Cons:

Not particularly deep or heavy on strategy, but it is what it is
Relatively luck-based so if you roll terribly, things fall apart
For some, this will feel unnecessarily long – rolling to move, rolling to slay, rolling to move, rolling to slay, play a card, flip a tile, rolling to…Know thy gamers and adjust the victory conditions accordingly (e.g. be the first to dispense with 12 or 15 zombies and not 25).

Verdict:

An entertaining filler, Zombies!!!, is worth playing occasionally. It wouldn’t make numerous appearances at my gaming table, but if I want to play a light, competitive game with people relatively new to the hobby, Zombies!!! fits the bill.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

9
Go to the Cauldron page

Cauldron

53 out of 60 gamers thought this was helpful

The first time I played Cauldron it was in its early conceptual stages; when it was still pouring forth from Artem Safarov’s fertile mind. The moment he explained the concept to me I knew I would adore this board game.

I will play or at least try most board games but my preference is for games heavy on theme, immersive, and strike a balance between luck (because life is random) and strategy. I steer clear from games where the winner is obvious well-before the conclusion of the game. There are a few games out there like this and they leave me deflated and frustrated. I’ve burned through half of my life expectancy and I don’t have time to muck about with games that do not entertain me.

Cauldron is immersive, balanced, thematic, demands a goodly amount of strategy tempered with luck, is replete with amazing art, and all can be in it to win it until the end. And it has a nice balance of focusing on brewing your potions for Magik points (you win by moving your player token to 35 on the Magik track) while messing with other players’ plans. In short, there’s an extensive amount of player interaction.

Treating Magik points like currency is a great game mechanic. Cauldron allows, nay demands, you spend your accumulated Magik to advance your own goals or benefit the group (and that includes you!) by purchasing ingredient-producing tiles (which are gorgeously designed).

You’ll flail and fall behind unless you purchase spells, potions or additional tiles. But you must spend prudently and strategically. Further, each character has unique abilities, which makes character choice matter to gameplay.

The two seasons, harvest and market, allow for plenty of variety and keep you plotting and strategizing. If someone steals that dragon’s egg you had your eye on, you can either re-plan or attempt to steal back that ingredient.

That takes me to some of the more adversarial elements to the game. Some gamers thrive on wickedly foiling opponents’ plans. Cauldron certainly allows for some pretty fierce play, but if you and your friends are more laid-back gamers, nothing compels you to be evil. In other words, there’s so much variety and depth to this game that it can support a number of styles of play.

While most of my gaming is spent with adults, I also play board games with my children. I can see this as a touch advanced for my 5-year-old, but my 8 –year-old could play Cauldron with ease and would derive as much joy from this game as I do. Further, as a Harry Potter fan, I can see her gleefully and impishly brewing up potions and handily beating her dad.

Cauldron will be a treasured and well-played game in my collection

7
Go to the Yggdrasil page

Yggdrasil

65 out of 72 gamers thought this was helpful

Many have seen the Thor movies and if not already familiar with the more popular aspects of Norse mythology, know about Thor, Loki, Odin and the Frost Giants. There’s also the Rainbow Bridge where one finds a pot of gold guarded by the Care Bears. No, wait. I mean the Bifrost Bridge watched by the mead-tippling and not-astigmatic Heimdall/Heimdallr.

And so on. This review isn’t Norse Mythology 101 or “I’ll take guys with an eyepatch for $200, Alex”.

The mighty Yggdrasil, fun to say and is the name of a massive tree that connects 9 worlds.

The game Yggdrasil is a gorgeously-illustrated, punishing co-op that has each player taking the role of a deity. All your favourites are here and many, unless Norse mythology is your jam or your system of belief, you haven’t heard of.

I have a few faves, which I won’t list lest I prejudice your gameplay or out myself as an Yggdrasil incompetent, but it’s fun to choose randomly.

I won’t go over the full how-to here. You can read the rule-book yourself or even better, read Artem Safarov’s review (disclosure: he’s a buddy of mine and we have rarely triumphed over Yggdrasil together). However, I hope my intro piqued your curiosity and you’ll give this game a try.

Pros:

The artwork. Beautiful, inviting and belies the horror that this game will deal to you in the form of repeated losses.
Few words. That’s right – this game is all symbols. Language is no barrier (albeit, there are names on the cards in the Latin alphabet)
Straightforward gameplay. You get three actions, keep the Evil Forces from advancing too far down the track, don’t forget your god’s ability.
Plenty of actions. So much you can do on your turn. The strategic part is knowing what to do when.

Cons:

This is not a cake-walk and there will be more losses than wins. For me, however, that’s a pro.
Rolling a die to fight the baddies. Only one side of the d6 has enough axes to take down a frost giant. For all the others, you’ll need elves and Viking souls to help you. This isn’t a con per se, but a few **** rolls and not enough resources, and the game folds faster than Superman on laundry day.
Can feel a little mechanical at times. Like many action-based games, there’s “I’ll do this, then that, then this. Your turn”. Again, not terrible, but not highly interactive. Having said that, you do need to think about how your actions will affect your teammates, which I think slots this under the pro column.

Verdict:

As you can tell, I was really reaching for a cutting, scathing con and I don’t think I succeeded. Like any game, it comes down to a matter of taste. If you don’t like co-ops, you won’t like this game. If you like a win-loss ratio of 80:20, you won’t like this game. But if you enjoy thinking about the moves you need to take and how those will not only help everyone win the game but will support your buddies, then think about trying Yggdrasil. The pros and cons above should give you a sense if this is the game for you.

8
Go to the The Lord of the Rings page
45 out of 51 gamers thought this was helpful

Disclosure: I am sucker for most things related to Lord of the Rings (LOTR). Indeed, my gateway game was not Catan or Caracassonne as seems to be the case for many gamers. For me, it was the LOTR Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games.

I was at a comic-con, strolling past booths when I spied the LOTR: LCG box. Like a moth to a light, I was drawn in. What is an LCG? What treasures were in this box?

Not a particularly impulsive shopper, I went home and did some research. Not only was I blown away with the aesthetics and complexity of the game, but I went down a board-game rabbit hole and was overwhelmed by the depth and variety of games.

I phoned my FLGS, was told they had LOTR: LCG, I picked it up, took it home, opened the box, and was utterly baffled with the rulebook. This was unlike anything I had ever played. I combed through some how-to videos, some helpful blog posts, re-read the rulebook, and I was off.

I was hooked and the board-gaming hobby beckoned to me.

Fast forward a few years and a pile of games purchased and played, and I now know what genres of games float my boat and which leave me cold.

I’ve played a few games by Reiner Knizia. There’s no doubt he’s a prolific designer with legions of followers, but usually his games don’t reel me in. Can’t put my finger on it and perhaps I don’t wish to as I have nothing but the utmost respect for his contributions to the hobby.

So I was hesitant to pick up Lord of the Rings the board game. But reason was trumped by passion, and it tumbled into my shopping basket.

Out of the box, I was struck with the gorgeous artwork (can you really go wrong with a Jerry Seinfeld Frodo?) and the quality FFG puts into its games.

Players work together over the course of a few game boards (Conflict Game Boards), advancing tokens towards the end of main and side activity tracks, with the goal of giving the ring the heave, all while preventing Sauron from getting his evil mitts on our reluctant band of hobbits.

Admittedly, that last run-on sentence doesn’t give you a great feel for the game. But I can assure you the fun is in the teamwork and resource management: you play cards from your hand – no more than one brown and one grey card each – to advance along the game track.
The journey is not a waltz to Mordor, natch. At the start of your turn, you reveal a story tile. These can move you further along the board or deal you a nasty blow.

Finally, you need to ensure you are collecting the three Life Tokens – sun, star and heart – during your journey along each of the conflict boards. If you come up short at the end of each round, you are corrupted and move closer to Sauron.

Should Sauron move in line with or past the ring-bearer, it’s curtains for you and your crew.

There is much more to the game than the measly few rules I describe above and I found that the rule book wasn’t entirely clear on first (and second) read. Perhaps it’s just me, but I needed to put a few notes together to make sense of the beast. A few play-throughs later, however, it came together.

Hopefully, a few impenetrable rules won’t put you off from trying this game, especially if Lord of the Rings is up your alley. And I should note that this game is faithful to the books and not the movies; so Fatty makes an appearance. He’s the hobbit who aids Frodo and friends at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Pros:
Beautiful artwork (I have the most recent edition – this game was first published 2000) and good quality components
Good thematic feel
Excellent co-op
Very difficult to win
Demands prudent resource management

Cons:
Some may regard the game as repetitive
If LOTR is not your thing, each turn will feel mechanical rather than immersive

Overall:
While I find the rules to be an unholy mess in some places, the game itself has given my wife and me hours of entertainment. It definitely won’t be everyone’s cuppa, but for me, it has a cherished place in my collection.

8
Go to the A Few Acres of Snow page

A Few Acres of Snow

76 out of 83 gamers thought this was helpful

Every kid growing up in Canada learns about the Seven Years’ War (or as the Yanks call it, the French and Indian War), which took place between 1754 and 1763 and involved the British colonies and New France.

Many of us even get to visit the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City where the French under Montcalm and the British under Wolfe waged a bloody battle in 1759; consequences of which reverberate through the Canadian and Quebecois psyche today.

I understand that history, never mind Canadian history, can be dull for some. Personally, I love it so much I majored in it, but had I played A Few Acres of Snow as an undergrad, a few dimensions of the Seven Years’ War would have been indelibly imprinted on me.

The first is the map/game board. It’s not lavishly illustrated but it need not be. It’s functional and aesthetically pleasing and not crowded. The extant British territory and French Canadian areas of control are clearly marked allowing you to consider expansion.

And expand your territory you must.

The French are as you would expect in this battle, under-resourced compared to the British. The red coats start out with more money and more territory. But the French need not be so disadvantaged. For example, the coureur de bois and traders allow the French player to trade in beaver pelts for cash and the money comes in handy.

But let’s get to how one expands territory. A Few Acres uses a fascinating, and at first hard to get the hang of, method of settling villages and towns.

The best way to explain is to offer an example. Let’s say you want to establish a French village in Oswego. First, check if you have a card that connects you to that town. Aha! Montreal will get us there and the French start the game with Montreal under its command. You’ll see Oswego listed on the card as a connected town and an icon will be next to that list illustrating how Montreal makes the connection. In this case, we need a bateaux (ie a large wooden boat). Find a card in your hand that bears the icon of the bateaux in the bottom “parchment” area of the card. Play both cards and you can place one of your blue cubes (that is, a village) in Oswego. It’s now yours and you’re a bit closer to the British front. Once you gain a town, look for the card in your location deck, in this case Oswego, and add it to your discard pile.

So why expand and settle?

First, one gains points assuming a point box is next to your conquered town. These points will be tallied up at the end of the game to declare a winner. Second, is that you can set up a front and fortify it (you can purchase a fortify card that boosts the defences of a settlement) and keep your enemy from successfully laying siege to your settlements. You can also prevent raids.

Raids allow your opponents to swipe a village cube if you can’t defend it. Your cube enters their supply and will count as points at the end of the game. You’ve also just lost a town…

You also want to expand because the location cards of settled towns carry effects such as connections to other towns and resources and/or modes of travel in the parchment area.

How one gains cards and uses them is a delightful mechanic. You start with pre-determined deck and hand of five cards. You may take up to two actions per turn. Once your discard deck is depleted, you shuffle it and it becomes your new draw deck. So, those location cards you picked up, or Empire cards you drafted, or neutral cards you scooped, become part of your draw deck.

In short, it mimics how slowly resources made their way to the generals but things improve as you build up your resources. Since it takes time to get the cards you need, you won’t be laying siege to Boston in the first two turns. This mechanic is used in variety of games, including my beloved Marvel Legendary.

There’s not too much more to the gameplay other than going through the variety of actions you can take on your turn. Better you check out the game instructions online than have me go over those here.

Pros:
Immersive theme
Decent components and good artwork without being over-done
Fun card drafting mechanic
Variety of actions
Historically accurate starting imbalance between French and British

Cons:
Niche game that may not float everyone’s bateaux
Can be fairly long (admit, not a con for me)
Pre-determined starting cards means the game always starts with the same positions in play (again, not a big deal for me)

Verdict:
I love Canadian history and I feel this game brings the Seven Years’ War to life. I enjoy the richness the mechanics offer and have to admit, I favour playing the French side. So much gameplay over, what Voltaire said, was “a few acres of snow”.

9
Go to the Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game page
24 out of 28 gamers thought this was helpful

Superheroes are awesome. Marvel superheroes are more awesome (oh Dark Knight, you’ll always have a place in my heart, but Spidey’s my guy).

My first Marvel game was the RPG from the 1980s. I was about 12 when I got it and it was a perplexing maze of rules. Matters were made worse when none of my friends were interested in playing. So much dust it gathered.But then Upper Deck released Marvel Legendary.

They had me at Marvel. They earned my devotion by making it a dependable solo game and a fun co-op.

The rules aren’t particularly complex. If you’ve played Ascension, you’re set.

In short, you draft heroes into your deck, use heroes to beat on bad guys and stop them from flooding the city, and ultimately take down the super bad guy not once, not twice, but four times. No one stays dead in comics anyway. Occasionally, a Mastermind card is drawn and the Big Bad Boss drops in on the good guys. Sometimes bystanders get captured and you have to exercise great responsibility and try to rescue them.

Hassling your efforts and adding a rich dimension of story to the game is the scheme twist. When scheme twist cards are revealed from the villain deck, terrible things happen. Heroes can be captured, heroes can be knocked out, Howard the Duck returns to the Marvel U…kidding about that last one. Or am I? This game has pumped out a few expansions.

I love the variety of characters. Spider-Man, Thor, Deadpool, Storm, Rogue, Cable, Moon Knight and so on.

The abilities of the cards, heroes and villains, feel appropriate to the characters. Nightcrawler, for example, has a teleport activity that let’s you set him aside from your hand and scoop him up in your next hand. Bamf!

The villains range from easy – Red Skull is a wuss (but I’ll bet Red Onslaught would take you down) – to silly hard like Galactus. You ain’t taking an eater of worlds down with the Scarlet Spider, Bishop, the Punisher and some wisecracks.

Dark City is a punishing expansion that demands players strategize together. If you don’t, your chances of laying the hurt on Mr Sinister (who’ll just re-gen anyways) get slim.

There’s an element of chance as the hand you draw from your own deck is randomized, ’cause you shuffled, right?

But who you recruit and how you use them feels like it matters.

You can also get carried away recruiting heroes because so much awesomeness is to be had. Professor X can gain a defeated villain and turn him into a hero with the villain’s attack value? I need that. But you’re left checking out trees and not seeing the forest of baddies spawning all over poor, benighted quasi-New York.

My wife is my best friend and she’ll play most games with me (including this one) but I’ll admit my love of Marvel heroes is lost on her, so I wanted a solid solo game. Marvel Legendary works as well solo as group co-op. However, I would caution no more than three players. More than three players crowded around the board feels, well, crowded.

Bottom line: it’s plain fun. But if you’re a Marvel fan, it’s a “get yourself lost in the game” game.

Marvel Legendary fans have created all sorts of scenarios and combos that might be worth checking out. I’m still loving the game as is and haven’t gone down the rabbit hole, but there’s a pile of variety out there.

The drawbacks for me aren’t so much about game play but about aesthetics.

In the core game, hero cards used the same artwork… boooring. Marvel has created and curated so much great art over the years. Use it! Upper Deck heard this for the Dark City release and there is different art for each type of hero card.

As the father of a young girl who also plays this game, I’d like to see no objectification of women. The ***** are disproportionately hilarious but do very little for female self-esteem and male perspectives on the female body. Marvel has some of the strongest female superheroes around made even better by writers such as Kelly Sue DeConnick and Kathryn Immonen. The overdone bods aren’t necessary.

All in, a game worth getting; more so if you make yours Marvel.

See more reviews at http://www.altemagames.com

7
Go to the Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion page
10 out of 19 gamers thought this was helpful

I have many obligations as a father. Provide my children with unconditional love, make them feel safe and secure, read to them every day and inspire a love for learning and so on. And also teach them a deep and abiding passion for all things Star Wars.

Thanks to gentle but repeated efforts, my son has joined the dark side, um, joined me in my love for Star Wars.

Star Wars: Empire vs Rebellion is a great way to help my four-year-old boy improve his numeracy. He understands the maximum cards he can play and the maximum total he must remain under. We haven’t added the strategy cards just yet as he’s learning to read, but we can add that next level to the game when he’s ready.

Helping him to count and set foundations for math while spending time with me and the characters from ANH, ESB, RotJ makes this light game a valuable addition to the family collection.

6
Go to the Agricola page

Agricola

33 out of 39 gamers thought this was helpful

So much hype, so highly rated, supported by legions of fans. And I just didn’t like it.

About 10 minutes into the game, I thought it lived up to its reputation. Gorgeous art, solid components.

And then as we we’re getting close to the final rounds, I could see that no matter what I did, there was no bloody way I was going to catch the leader.

I spent the last 20 minutes just playing things out as I didn’t want to concede and be that guy.

Knowing the outcome of a game well-before it’s over is simply no fun at all for me. But maybe I erred. Maybe I need to give this game another chance. However, unless convinced otherwise, I’ll take a pass. So many great games, so little time.

Pros:
Artwork and components are top-notch
Animeeples! ’nuff said
Plenty of variety throughout the game

Cons:
For my game group, we all knew who the winner would be well before the game was over. There was much checking of iPhones
Keeping kids fed, expanding the farm, building stuff! Gah! I listed variety as a pro but it can also be a con when there are just too many things to do.

Verdict:
Not my kind of game. Recognize I’m likely in the minority. I’d be delighted to find out I was playing it wrong…

9
Go to the Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre page
65 out of 72 gamers thought this was helpful

When I saw Wil Wheaton play this on Table Top, I knew Epic Spell Wars would be a hit with my game group. In particular one person who has the most aggressive playing style I’ve ever seen. At times near-Kamikaze.

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt Skullzfyre (ESWotBW:DaMS) is a riot and may even cause one.

So much laughter around the table that I don’t care if I win or lose. And it can get nasty as you can get taken down most of your 20 hit points in one turn.

I love the “Dead Wizard” cards that allow players who have succumbed early to come back the next round a little more powerful. The treasure cards add another layer of spell-slinging goodness.

Be warned though, the art and theme is too mature for the little ones.

Pros:

Amazing art work and card text
Very little feels broken in this game (but, see Dead Wizard comment below)
You will laugh and enjoy meting out damage
You will laugh (sort of) as you are severely damaged. The amount of wreckage that can pile onto you in one turn can be astounding. Last game I played, I was knocked down 17 of my 20 hit points. 17 man!

Cons:

Too graphic and raunchy for some (have to say that I don’t care for the vaguely racist Jung Jung)
While great one can collect Dead Wizard cards if defeated early, there can be too much down-time for some players beaten up towards the start of the round.

Verdict:

Gather your friends, pop a few beers, throw on the Scorpions and Iron Maiden, and get ready to rumble.

5
Go to the My Little Pony Collectible Card Game page
15 out of 21 gamers thought this was helpful

Yes, I know there are bronies and other adults who adore MLP. It is a cute cartoon and in the right writing hands, entertaining. I know this because I have a young daughter who (used to) watch it.

When this CCG was launched, I thought the theme and characters would open my daughter up to playing more CCGs (like Lord of the Rings).

We purchased the pre-release promo starter set, got it home and I spent the next hour figuring how to play the blasted thing. Didn’t help that instructions weren’t included and finding help on-line was a challenge.

After we figured it out, wasn’t actually that hard. But man, was it dull. I’ve asked a few times since we played it if she wanted to bring MLP:CCG back to the table and my daughter said she’d rather play Magic the Gathering. ’nuff said.

Verdict:
Dull, meandering, unnecessarily complex, target audience completely unknown…Unless you are hardcore over all things MLP, don’t waste your nickels.

7
Go to the Catan Junior page

Catan Junior

54 out of 61 gamers thought this was helpful

…teach them Catan.

While a few of the mechanics are the same between Catan and Catan Jr, the latter is a pretty huge leap from the former. They don’t feel anything like each other.

But this doesn’t mean Catan Jr is not an entertaining game to play with children 5 and older. My daughter loved it at age 5. Having said that, this is not something she hauls out on her own (she’s now 8) and plays with friends. Not sure if that’s because she associates the game with me or if it really is a little messy to set up.

As I’ve noted, a good game to play with kids, but if your wee ones veer toward shorter attention spans, I found it hard to keep all engaged. Those little cardboard sabres are just too much fun to play with.

Pros:
Great family game and appropriate for kids 5 and older.
Lovely and sturdy components and board
Pirate theme is an interesting approach to Catan
Decent enough gateway game into the world of more complex games

Cons:
A bit of strategy, lots of luck
Not overly Catan-ish – assuming this is what you’re looking for
For younger children, can feel a bit drawn out and the goal a touch meaningless.

Verdict:
Want your young’uns to love board-gaming as much as you? This is a good start.

4
Go to the Dread Curse page

Dread Curse

101 out of 116 gamers thought this was helpful

I so badly want to find a pirate game that for an hour makes me feel like I’m aboard the Jolly Roger, roguishly plundering coasts throughout the Caribbean. I have yet to find that game (although I hear Merchants and Marauders may be worth playing. Any advice out there?)

I knew this game wasn’t quite going to make me imagine the smell of pitch on the deck, grog, sea salted air, and unwashed pirates, but perhaps a few “arrrrs” and “ye’s” could make this fun.

Now, please take this with a grain of (sea) salt as I played this game once, but I have no desire to go back to it.

Why?

After an hour of uncertain strategy, high-risk play, and amassing gold, it was over for me and another player in a mere split-second. We were left with the game’s two Black Spot tokens.

I get that there can be only one winner and that means everyone else loses. But all that planning and conniving and plotting was sunk to the bottom of the ocean due to one, stupid token.

I felt so ripped off. And let me say, the older I’ve gotten, the better I am at losing and this still felt silly and disappointing.

Not the game for me.

Pros:
Nice art and components
Decent social game
Relatively good pirate theme. I guess?

Cons:
Lots of effort and time and two players will instantly lose because they hold the Black Spot token. That’s it and that’s all. Yer done lad.

9
Go to the Eldritch Horror page

Eldritch Horror

30 out of 34 gamers thought this was helpful

Arkham Horror as a concept and theme has long intrigued me but the scope and scale of the game is daunting. I’ve held the game in my hands, turned it over, felt its heft, then wondered if set-up and play time would leave it a dust-collector.

Along came Eldritch Horror. The semi-Lovecraft, quasi-Gothic horror I wanted in a manageable game.

EH has plenty of depth, a diverse cast of characters with strengths and weaknesses, offers an in-depth solo experience, and scratches the Akrham Horror itch (I guess – I’m presuming here).

A tip: manage the game! Keep monsters and their spawning gates to a minimum. You can get overwhelmed very quickly.

Pros:

Lots and lots of replay value
High quality components and art (I love you FFG)
Can jump into character and play as you think your character would
Difficult but not in an off-putting way
Great solo game

Cons:
Very specific theme that’s not everyone’s cuppa
Some of the big bosses are incredibly difficult to defeat
Losses outweigh wins (not a con for me – I like a difficult game, but I can see some gamers finding this frustrating)
Pivotal points in the game can come down to a dice roll

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