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Eragar

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5
Go to the Dominion page

Dominion

68 out of 90 gamers thought this was helpful

“You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams! You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion! In all directions lie fiefs, freeholds, and feodums. All are small bits of land, controlled by petty lords and verging on anarchy. You will bring civilization to these people, uniting them under your banner.

But wait! It must be something in the air; several other monarchs have had the exact same idea. You must race to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, fending them off along the way. To do this you will hire minions, construct buildings, spruce up your castle, and fill the coffers of your treasury. Your parents wouldn’t be proud, but your grandparents, on your mother’s side, would be delighted.”
~ Back of the box

Dominion is a deck-building game for 2 to 4 players with a theme of the players being budding monarchs trying to raise up an empire for themselves. To set up the game, you take all of the 3 types of Victory cards shown in the picture below and set them on the table.

You also take all of the Treasures and set them on the table.

The other cards are the ones that make the game interesting. There are 25 different Kingdom cards in the box (with 10 of each). After pulling out the Victory cards and the Treasure cards, you will choose 10 of these 25 Kingdom cards (either randomly, or however you like) and add them to the game as well.

Finally, each player is dealt a deck of 7 Coppers and 3 Estates–Representing the land they own and the resources available to them. These 10 cards are shuffled and the game is ready to begin.

Gameplay is fairly straightforward–You start by drawing 5 cards off the top of your deck. When it is your turn, you can play 1 Action card (As noted on the bottom strip of the card), which will have 1 or more special effects. Some Actions–like the Village–will allows you to play more Action cards and utilize their effects.
After you have played all of the Actions that you can or want to play, you go into the Buy Phase. You count up the money you have (If you had 1 Gold and 1 Copper in your hand, you would have 4 coins) and then Buy 1 card with value equal to or less than that. You cannot Buy 2 cards that each cost half of the coins in your hand–Unless, of course, you played an Action that gave you an extra Buy.
Once you’ve bought an cards you can and want to Buy, you discard your hand, draw 5 more cards and end your turn. (If you run out of cards in your deck, you just shuffle your discard. This will happen a lot during the game)

The game immediately ends either when any 3 piles no longer have cards in them (so if the players have collectively bought all of the Villages, Duchies, and Workshops, the game is over), or when all of the Provinces have been bought. The player with the most victory points wins (If there is a tie, it goes to the person who has taken the fewest turns. After that it is just a joint win).

But here’s the tricky bit–Victory cards don’t do anything for you during the game. The more Victory cards you have in your deck, the more likely you are to draw them, the less likely you are to draw something useful, the less likely you are to have the money you need to buy Victory cards, the fewer Victory cards you’ll be able to get, the less likely you are to win the game. Trying to start buying land for your kingdom too soon will only result in you not being able to put your resources to use buying the things you really need.

The Stats

Complexity: 5.75/11
Dominion is really not a difficult game to figure out.

Components: 6/11
Cards: 5/11
Not anywhere near as good as the cards in Smash Up, but still okay. Sort of. The edges tend to fray a bit.

Rulebook: 7/11
The rulebook is actually 2 small booklet things. There is a booklet for the rules, and then a second one that explains all of the cards. Not super-great quality, but okay.

Cost Value: 7/11
$31 for a fairly replayable game with okay component quality. Not bad.

Replayability: 8.25/11
25 different Kingdom cards. Only 10 in each game. 3 268 760 combinations. Granted, most of those are practically the same. Overall it makes for a few hundred unique games. Very nice.

Strategic Elements: 9/11
Dominions is an action-reaction game. If your enemies don’t have Attack cards, a Moat is not a card you should ever pick up. But if they start buying Witches and Militias, you had better pick a couple up.
The other bit of strategy comes with the card synergies you can get. Throne Room and Smithy both out–better pick them up. Don’t get Gardens unless there are cards that give you extra Buys. The strategy here can often be quite deep.
There do seem to be a few cards that you just always want to matter what. Village, Laboratory, Spy, but there aren’t too many of those.

Social Value: 6.417/11
Ease of Teaching: 8.25/11
Easier to teach than Smash Up (I really do compare these 2 games a lot. Hmm). Not a whole lot else to say there.

Discussion During Play: 5/11
Not really much of this, as you’re all building your kingdoms separately, and the things that affect other players affect all other players.

Discussion After Play: 6/11
Not actually much of this either, except for the discussion on why so-and-so won and what the other players could have done to change that.

Thematic Value: 9.5/11
For a game that’s just a bunch of cards, Dominion is surprisingly thematic. I often lay out my deck at the end of the game and see what kind of a kingdom I’ve come up with. Do I rule over lots of Villages that are feeding me peasants to do more things (+2 Actions). Have I started a Mine to make me richer? Do my Spies steal or plant false information that slow down the bureaucracy of my enemies? Have I dug Moats around my castle to keep out enemy Spies and Thieves? Your kingdom is truly unique each game, and you can see how it grew throughout play. It’s honestly really cool.

Rules Clarity: 10/11
As already mentioned, there is a second book that comes with the game that explains every single one of the cards and how they work. This is all the FAQ you will ever need, and is perfectly clear. The rulebook itself has some pictures a diagrams that clear up any questions you would have about turn structure and such.

Balance: 7.25/11
With all of the same cards available to everyone, Dominion is pretty balanced. There are a couple of issues, however. The first player has a slight advantage, as they will get to the cards they bought in rounds 1 and 2 before anyone else. And the players who draw all Copper in their starting hand (or second-turn hand) can have either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the cards that are out. Sometimes that is all the difference it takes to win or lose a game.

Fun Level: 8/11
This last element is a little bit arbitrary. It is my true rating of the game, regardless of averages (I tend to enjoy most of the games I have played). This is just a simple scale to 10 11, with no averages or equations or careful logic. Just about how much I like playing the game.

GRAND TOTAL:
7.935/11

Dominion is a solidly good game, especially when adding in expansions. I would recommend it to most people.

If you enjoyed this review, please check out my others at mathematiciangamer.net

6
Go to the Munchkin page

Munchkin

37 out of 47 gamers thought this was helpful

One of the first games I found to be really enjoyable–and one that I could play at an early age–Munchkin holds a special place in my childhood memories. Killing monsters, getting treasure, killing bigger monsters, getting more treasure. Learning the secrets of wizardry and martial prowess…
Good times.

I don’t enjoy the game as much as I used to, but I will happily pull it out every now and then. It’s still fun.

When playing Munchkin, your turn consists of a few phases. Your ultimate goal is to get to level 10.

Kick Down the Door
You flip over the top card of the Door deck. If it’s a monster, you fight it. If it’s a curse, you are cursed and do what the card says. If the card is anything else, you put it into your hand and either Loot the Room or go Looking for Trouble (more on that in a bit)

Combat
If you drew a monster (or went looking for trouble) you now get to fight it. The monster will have a level. You will add up all of your bonuses (your level, all your equipment, any other things you might have), and if your total value is higher than the level of the monster you kill it, go up a level, and draw as many treasure cards as the monster told you to.
Running Away
If the monster’s level is equal to or higher than your combat value, you have to run away. To do this, you roll a die (d6). On a roll of 5 or 6 you run away, on 1-4 the monster catches you and the Bad Stuff on the card happens. This can range from losing your headgear to losing multiple levels and dying.

Looking for Trouble/Looting the Room
If you didn’t draw a monster when you kicked down the door you have two options–You can Look for Trouble by playing a monster out of your hand and fighting it. Or you can Loot the Room by drawing the next card on the Door deck and putting it into your hand.

Throughout your turn you can also play cards (some cards you can’t play during combat, others you can play at any time). You continue playing until someone reaches level 10, at which point the game immediately ends and that person wins. It’s all pretty simple.

Now The Stats

Complexity: 5/11
Munchkin, like most games, is a little bit overwhelming at first. It’s actually quite simple–Fight monsters, do some addition to see if you win, keep fighting monsters until you get to level 10.

Components: 6.375/11
Box: 5.75/11
Picture. Words. Short saying on what the game is about.
Cards: 6.25/11
Not too stiff, not too flimsy. Artwork isn’t the best, but it fits the theme very well.
Artwork: 8/11
Like I just said, the artwork is kind of meh–but it fits incredibly well, and so I have to give it an above average rating.
Rulebook: 6.5/11
Made of slightly thicker material than most rulebooks. Nicely colored like everything else.

Cost Value: 7/11
I bought the game for between $20 and $25. It comes out every now and then, especially with my younger siblings. I like it.

Replayability: 6.5/11
There are lots of cards (especially if you are playing with expansions). This means that not the same people will get the same cards. You don’t always have the chance to be an Elf Warrior. Sometimes you are a Dwarf Cleric or just a Classless Human throughout the game.

Strategic Elements: 7/11
Classes and Races: 7/11
You can choose to drop or change your class and race at any time. This allows some strategy. Do you keep being a Wizard while you fight the monster that has +5 against wizards? Do you become a Thief so you can steal that bow? Choices come up sometimes, and you have to decide.
Curses: 8/11
Curses throw a great wrench into people’s plans. They can be played at any time–even during combat. This means that dropping a really nasty one on someone can completely screw them up while they’re fighting and result in some terrible Bad Stuff happening to them.
Monster Enhancers: 7.5/11
This is the other thing that can be dropped on monsters during combat to make them stronger (or weaker), but it is more anticipated and more easily countered. It also has the problem of giving your opponent more treasure if they win the combat (although you can play Monster Enhancers on your own combats to get more treasures yourself, and that isn’t a problem).
Miscellaneous: 5.5/11
Besides the above, there isn’t much else with strategy. Just simple tactics on what is the best thing to do at the moment.

Social Value: 8.083/11
Ease of Teaching: 9/11
The game is simple, and simple is easy to teach and to learn. Kick Down the Door, do some addition, resolve combat. Get to level 10 to win.
Discussion During Play: 8.5/11
Player 1: “Hey, will you help me kill this monster? I’ll give you 2 treasures of your choice.”
Player 2: “Okay, I’ll help you.”
Player 3: “No! Don’t help him. If you help him, I’ll curse you.”
P 1: “Don’t worry about the curse. If you help me, I’ll use my Wishing Ring to get rid of it.”
Player helps and gets cursed.
P 1: “I’m going to save my Wishing Ring for later.”
P 2: “But you said–”
P 1: “Yes, I did. And you believed me.”
P 3: “I told you not to help him…”
Discussion After Play: 6.75/11
There isn’t much to talk about with Munchkin, just like most games, but there can be some funny stories–the first time there was a shared victory because my 9th level elf offered to help another level 9 player. The times someone is level 9 and has a combat value of 30+ and they’re about to win, but then the monster becomes Ancient and Enraged and Humongous… And has a Mate! And so that person loses and the Bad Stuff sends them back to level 1 (and then they end up winning the game anyway).

Thematic Value: 9/11
Pseudo RPG-ness: 9/11
While playing Munchkin, you feel like you are pretending to play D&D. The class and race cards match what you would expect in a role-playing game. You get excited when you go up a level or when you get a really cool weapon.
Artwork: 9/11
The art fits the tongue-in-cheek this-isn’t-really-D&D-but-we-pretend-it-is. Oversized armor, weapons with absurd names, and random references you won’t get if you haven’t played some Dungeons and Dragons.

Rules Clarity: 8.917/11
Clarity of Writing: 8/11
Everything is written down in the rulebook somewhere. Death, trading, curses; it’s all there. There is also no flavor text, which hurts the theme slightly (or would, if the theme were serious), but also means that there isn’t much room at all for confusion. Everything is short and to the point.
Pictures/Diagrams: –/11
There aren’t any. Interestingly, this doesn’t detract from the clarity of the rules, so I won’t give it a low score.
Text on Cards: 9/11
Again, everything is there, and it is self-explanatory.
Miscellaneous: 9.75/11
There are some minor things that aren’t spelled out, but they are very easy to work out yourself. In the case of a disagreement, the rules tell you to argue about it until it’s worked out (or until someone gives up arguing and just does what they’re trying to do).

Balance: 7/11
HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! This is Munchkin! There is no balance!

Actually, seriously, there is balance. But the game loves to pretend there isn’t.
Classes: 8/11
Unlike the races, these are fairly well balanced. Each is different, but they all work. All of them require you to discard cards.
Races: 4/11
Dwarves can hold an extra card and use multiple big items. Meh. Halflings can sell one item at double. Slightly better. Elves bet +1 to run away and also gain a level when they help someone. That’s pretty good.
Equipment: 9/11
The items and cards you draw are actually quite balanced–with a few exceptions (read: Knee Pads of Allure).

Fun Level: 7.5/11
This last element is a little bit arbitrary. It is my true rating of the game, regardless of averages (I tend to enjoy most of the games I have played). This is just a simple scale to 10 11, with no averages or equations or careful logic. Just about how much I like playing the game.
I honestly like this game. It isn’t my favorite, but I like it, and I would recommend it to most anyone. I’m glad I have it.

GRAND TOTAL:
7.486/11

If you enjoyed this review, I would love it if you would head over to my blog at mathematiciangamer.net and check out the other stuff I’ve done.

8
Go to the Galaxy Trucker page

Galaxy Trucker

59 out of 67 gamers thought this was helpful

“Corporation Incorporated is an interplanetary construction firm that builds sewer systems and low-income housing on the less-developed planets of the Galaxy. For years, Corp Inc. has tottered on the brink of bankruptcy: transporting building materials to the edge of the Galaxy, where the need for their services is greatest, is a risky business.
The company was saved by a few visionaries on the board of directors. Instead
of shipping materials to the Periphery, they reasoned, why not build the materials into spacecraft and let them ship themselves? Furthermore, why hire pilots if there are nut-cases who will do it for free?
That’s where you come in. Just sign the contract, and you gain unrestricted access to a Corp Inc. Warehouse. Build your own space ship from the available prefabricated components, and fly it to the Periphery. Of course, you may have to eat a loss, but any profi ts you make along the way are yours to keep, and Corporation Incorporated will pay you a bonus for quick delivery.
It’s possible that you will end up with an insurmountable debt and finish your days panhandling on the streets of Deneb III, but if Lady Luck should smile upon you, you just might find yourself among the 10 billion richest people in the Galaxy!”

Yup! You get to build a spaceship out of sewer pipes, and then fly it across the most dangerous reaches of the galaxy, risking life and limb, to possibly become very rich. Or, as is more likely–To end in a deep well of debt–If you don’t get killed by meteor swarms or kidnapped by slavers.

Galaxy Trucker plays in two phases. In the fist phase you build your spaceship–placing things like cannons, engines, and cargo holds on a ship mat.

Then, you fly that ship through a series of adventure cards, picking up goods, dodging fire from pirates, and looting derelict space stations on your way to whatever backwater planet you’re going to.

Then, you do it again with a bigger spaceship.

And again, with an even bigger spaceship.

Whoever has the most money at the end of the game wins.

Building Your Spaceship

This bit is where all of the players are hanging out at one of Corporation Incorporated’s warehouses, filled to overflowing with sewer parts that have been modified into spaceship parts. All at the same time (no turns here, folks. It’s like Black Friday with spaceships, and without the trampling and pepper spray) you will flip over component tiles, find the ones you want, and put them on your board. During this time you can also get an idea of what you’ll be facing–adventure cards are divided into 4 piles before building starts. After you place at least one piece on your ship you can look at 3 of those piles. Keep in mind that you only have a few minutes to find everything–you have a schedule to keep.

You have to follow rules, of course. Components can only connect to each other if they have the same kind of connector, engines can only point backward and can’t have anything directly behind them. Cannons can point any direction, but can’t have anything directly in front of them. You can have exposed connectors, though–bits of pipe just hanging off the side of your ship is okay, it just makes it more likely for your ship to fall apart.

When you decide that your ship is done (or the timer runs out) you grab one of the player order tokens, buckle up, place all your crew and battery tokens, and leave Atmo in a blaze of blazing afterburner fuel.

“Most space craft are protected from meteors by
autotargeting gun turrets, self-guided missiles, or
disintegration fields. Yours is protected by cannons
made from sewer drills.”

Now you get to see whether or not your ship is any good. In the first round there are 8 adventure cards to go through. Some of these, like the enemies pictured above, and bad. Others, such as abandoned ships and fruitful planets, are good. If your ship is good enough, all* of the cards are good (you get money and such for shooting down pirates).

*Okay, not all of them. Meteors and Epidemics are still bad, but maybe they won’t hurt you.

You shuffle all 4 piles of cards together and then flip them over one at a time, doing what they say before flipping the next one. After all 8 cards are gone through, players get extra money depending on how they placed (Corp. Inc. discovered that making it a race is a great way to get their goods to arrive on schedule, and so you get more money if you get there before anyone else). The player with the best-looking ship (the one with the fewest exposed connectors) also gets a bonus. After that, everyone sells the goods that they picked up from planets, defeated smugglers and abandoned stations, and you start round 2 with a bigger ship.

After 3 rounds (or more, if you want to play with both a Class III ship and a Class III A ship ((Or more, if you have expansions (((Classes I A, I C, II A, II B, II C, III B, III C, IV, and IV A are the ones that currently exist))) )) ) the game is over. Everyone counts up how much money they have, and the person with the most money wins.

The Stats

Complexity: 5.5/11
3 types of connectors. Pieces with green on them require batteries. Engines go backward. If there’s a tie, the stuff happens to the player in front first.
It’s still a lot to remember, especially for young players–9 someodd types of components, 8 types of adventure cards, cannons pointing sideways only count as half as strong… But you get used to it all after a few plays and it just becomes second nature.

Components: 7/11
Cards: 5.75/11
Galaxy Trucker cards are actually not the best. They look fine and work fine, but they feel a little thin. That said, my cards are still in great condition and I don’t expect them to wear out any time soon.
Plastic Pieces: 7.25/11
Little aliens with no faces. Little astronaut dudes with no faces. Blocks of goods. Even though there isn’t much detail, the pieces are still solid. The only ones I am really ever worried about are the batteries–I keep being afraid I’m going to loose them.
Rulebook: 8/11
Vladda Chvatil has pretty amazing rulebooks. Humorous flavortext spread throughout (My two quotes both come from Galaxy Trucker’s rulebook), and examples, diagrams and explanations that cover every single possible question. This is a nice rulebook.

Cost Value: 7/11
$50 for one of my most played games. That’s pretty good.

Replayability: 7.25/11
Ship Building: 8/11
Your strategy is largely the same every game you play: try to build a well-rounded ship that won’t fall apart. The time limit and other players are what makes that difficult. For a class I ship you have 17 spaces to place components and 144 components through which to dig to find the pieces you want, with a minimum time of 3 minutes (the last 90 seconds only starts once someone has finished their ship, so if no one has finished yet, you have more time). Add to this the fact that 17 spaces is not enough to get everything you need on your ship (for example: 6.5 cannon strength to fend off the pirates ((and cannons pointing every direction to destroy meteors)), 2 shields, enough cargo to carry all the goods you’ll pick up, enough crew to loot abandoned stations and pilot home abandoned ships, and more engines than everyone else. 17 spaces. Good luck). Also, the other players are taking the pieces you want.
Adventure Cards: 6.5/11
8 types of cards, but each individual card is different than the others of it’s type. 60 cards total, with 20 for each round.

Strategic Elements: 5.75/11
Build a well-rounded ship. There is some strategy in when to use your batteries, but not a whole lot. Galaxy Trucker becomes much more strategic when you add in the expansions.

Social Value: 7.167/11
Ease of Teaching: 6.5/11
The easiest (read: only) way to teach this game is to play it and watch the people who are learning die. There is simply more to building a good spaceship than most people can grasp by reading the rules. Other than that, it’s pretty simple.
Discussion During Play: 9.25/11
Not much, except to laugh when other peoples’ ships get blown apart. Still, this leads to a pretty easy social environment. I would say that Galaxy Trucker is one of the more social games I own.
Discussion After Play: 6/11
Galaxy Trucker stories are sometimes fun to tell, but every story is the same, so it gets a little repetitive.

Thematic Value: 7.875/11
Implementation of Theme in Mechanics: 6.75/11
You play as nutcases flying through the most dangerous sectors of the galaxy in a spaceship made of sewer parts and cheap housing. If you build you ship well, it doesn’t feel too much like that; but a ship that is not built well definitely feels like that.
General Theme-iness: 9/11
Building your own spaceship very much puts you into the science fiction theme. I might even say that it is my favorite part about Galaxy Trucker. I have yet to find any other game that really lets you build a spaceship.

Rules Clarity: 10/11
I’m not even going to both breaking this up like I usually do. The rules are fantastic. Every possible question is answered. The layout is wonderful.

Balance: 6.5/11
Every player is doing the same thing, from the same pool of components. There is a strong advantage to experienced players however, and without expansions I haven’t found an easy way to get rid of that (you can do away with the time limit, but that doesn’t help enough).

Fun Level: 9.5/11
This last element is a little bit arbitrary. It is my true rating of the game, regardless of averages (I tend to enjoy most of the games I have played). This is just a simple scale to 10 11, with no averages or equations or careful logic. Just about how much I like playing the game.

GRAND TOTAL:
7.56/11

Galaxy Trucker is a fine game, and one that I would recommend to most people. If you don’t like it, I will buy your copy from you and make an entire fleet of spaceships*.

*This is not a legally binding statement.

If you liked this review and want to see more like it, please check out my blog at mathematiciangamer.net

5
Go to the Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game page
33 out of 39 gamers thought this was helpful

Once Upon a Time there was a young woman named Susan. She had grown up and moved out of her father’s house (her mother had died several years back) and she was now living on her own in a city a little way away.
One day she got a letter from her father saying that he had gotten re-married and asking her to come and meet her Stepmother. She quickly agreed and began preparations. Soon she was on her Journey to the town where her father lived.
When Susan arrived, she took an immediate disliking of her Stepmother, who was an Evil and insidious woman. That very night Susan’s Stepmother came into her room and Hurt her, cutting her arm with a knife and demanding that she leave. Crying in fear and pain, Susan fled to the nearby Forest and did her best to survive there.
After about a week in the Forest, Susan found a campsite. The camp belonged to a Witch, who upon seeing Susan, issued forth a Curse that whoever had Hurt the girl would turn into a Wolf. After sharing a meal with the Witch (who was really a rather nice lady), Susan returned home to find that several things had happened.
First, her Stepmother had vanished, and no one knew where she had gone. Secondly, a large Wolf–bigger than anyone had ever before seen–had been attacking the flocks of the townsfolk. Everyone was afraid of the Wolf, but knew that they had to kill it before it started hurting people.
So they came up with a Plan. There were some old Ruins nearby that they would drive the Wolf to, then use a net to Trap it.
They put their Plan into action, and it worked perfectly. Soon the Wolf was dead and the people prepared a great feast to celebrate.
They cooked the Wolf and they ate it at the feast and it was delicious.

Once Upon A Time is a storytelling game. Each player starts with one Ending card and a number of other cards that describe things, like Town–Night–Beautiful–or A Chase. Starting with the player who looks most like a storyteller, you will begin telling a story–but you must tell your story using the cards in your hand. You don’t only have to use the cards in your hand, however. You can talk about Mountains and Oceans even if you don’t have cards for them, but you must use all of your cards as well. If you have a card that is a Pitchfork, your story must have a Pitchfork in it, and the Pitchfork must have some importance.

After you have used all of your description cards, you have one paragraph with which to wrap up your story and use your Ending card. The first player to use their Ending is the winner.

Of course, there’s a catch.

If you describe something that another player has a card for (or a sufficiently similar description–i.e. Town and Village are practically the same, so there is only one card to describe a city-like place), then that player can Interrupt you. When this happens you draw an extra card from the top of the deck, and they continue the story.

The same story.

This is what makes the game interesting. You are all telling the same story, trying to twist it towards your ending while also trying to pull it away from where the other players are taking it.
This makes the game highly interactive, and leads to some amusing moments when you kill off the main character and introduce a new one.

The game is also extremely simple. Moreso than most of the games that I say are simple. Anyone who can read and comprehend single words and short phrases–rather than needing to read entire sentences–can play.

There is one other rule. There are Interrupt cards.

Interrupt cards are the same as normal cards–they have a description word and can be played normally. But they are also colored, and when someone else plays a card of the same type (all description cards are of one type or another. Places, Characters, Aspects, etc.), you can play your Interrupt card to take over the story.

So you try to finish the story with your Ending, taking over the story from other people by playing cards when they describe what is on that card, or by playing Interrupt cards when they play a card that shares its type with the Interrupt. That’s pretty much it.

Once Upon A Time is simple enough that there isn’t really anything else to say, and so I will skip straight to:

The Stats

Complexity: 3/11
As I’m sure you’ve figured, this is a very easy game. You play cards and other people play cards. Disputes are settled by group vote. All done.

Components: 5.666/11
Cards: 6/11
The cards aren’t actually all that great, but they also aren’t bad. Meh.
Box: 5.5/11
The box is actually kind of wimpy. Mine has scratches and small rips and such.
Rulebook: 5.5/11
Also entirely unremarkable. It explains how things work, but doesn’t do anything else. Slightly below-average quality material.

Cost Value: 6/11
$17 is cheap, but I also don’t play the game much. I would call that price fair.

Replayability: 8.5/11
Once Upon A Time is a social game, and social games are inherently more replayable than non-social games. People change more than games do, and so when you play to be with the people, the experience is less likely to become repetitive and dull. There are plenty of Description cards to make sure you aren’t telling the same story, and even more Endings (not by straight-up numbers, but by ratio of usage. You will use several Description cards in one game, but only one Ending).

Strategic Elements: 4/11
Although there is some strategy–killing off someone else’s main character or the like–there really isn’t much. This is not a strategy game.

Social Value: 8.5/11
This is, however, a social game.
Ease of Teaching: 9/11
A low-complexity game is an easy game to teach.
Discussion During Play: 10.75/11
Again, social game. You talk to each other. That’s what this is.
Discussion After Play: 5.75/11
A little bit surprisingly, there is less of this. At least in my experience. I guess you don’t need to talk about a game after the fact if you talk about it during the fact.

Thematic Value: –/11
This game does not have theme. You are not flying a spaceship through the outer rims of the galaxy. Nor are you holding off an alien invasion or trying to keep a house from burning down. You do not have a character or a role. You are just telling a story.
This isn’t a bad thing, but it does make this area non-applicable.

Rules Clarity: 7/11
As I said before, there is not much complexity. People do seem to have questions lots of the time, but that is not the fault of the rulebook.

Balance: 10/11
This game is quite well balanced, as is any other game where everyone has the same resources. With the only limit to how and when you can use your cards being your own imagination and the other players possibly vetoing, I would almost say this game is almost perfectly balanced.

Fun Level: 6.5/11
This last element is a little bit arbitrary. It is my true rating of the game, regardless of averages (I tend to enjoy most of the games I have played). This is just a simple scale to 10 11, with no averages or equations or careful logic. Just about how much I like playing the game.

GRAND TOTAL:
7.02/11

If you are a social gamer, then I would definitely recommend Once Upon A Time. If you are not a social gamer, I would still recommend it if you can get it cheap and think you will play it on occasion.

If you liked this review and want to see more like it, head over to my blog at mathematiciangamer.net

9
Go to the XCOM: The Board Game page

XCOM: The Board Game

28 out of 35 gamers thought this was helpful

So. Much. Fun!

I finally received my copy of XCOM a few weeks ago, and so far I’ve played about 25 times. The game is wonderful.

The very first thing you need to do to play XCOM: The Board Game, is to download the free app on your phone/tablet/thing-device/computer. Here’s a link.

Then each player will choose their role(s). This will dictate their responsibilities during the game. Each is completely unique. Each is completely essential.

Each player chooses 1 (or more, if you have fewer than 4 players) of the roles at the start of the game. The Commander, Chief Scientist, Central Officer, or Squad Leader

Now it’s time to start. Following the directions given to you by the app, you will set up the scenario.

The app will lead through setup, telling you which Invasion Plan the enemy is using, which different aliens you will encounter, where your Headquarters are located, and what starting panic is.

The game itself happens in 2 phases. First is the Timed Phase–a frantic, timed, rush to prepare what you are going to do this round while UFO’s are coming into orbit and Enemies are attacking your Base.

Next is the Resolution Phase. This is slower than the Timed Phase, as you aren’t on the clock. Here you will do all of your die rolling to complete the various Tasks–Researching new Technology, defeating Enemies and completing Missions, or shooting down the UFO’s filling your skies.

During the Timed Phase, the App will give you instructions on what things to do–when New Technology Available, the size of your Budget, UFO sightings, Enemies in your base, when to send Soldiers on a Mission, Deploying Satellites, and so on. Every unit you place on the board costs 1 Credit, so watch your Budget!
Except for the first 2 of these, the order they come in is variable, meaning that you can’t sit back and wait for your turn to do stuff–You have to be prepared.
Sometimes, your intel will be obscured. You’ll be told to Deploy Interceptors before you know where the UFO’s are, or you’ll have to Assign Soldiers to Defend the Base before knowing which Enemies will attack. Nasty stuff.

After that comes the Resolution Phase–14 things that always happen in the same order. First you Audit your Budget–Count up the money you spent compared with the money you had. If you have more Credits than you spent, you can use the leftovers to Recruit more Soldiers and Build more Interceptors.
If you spent more Credits than you had, well… You will increase Panic in the Continent that is already the most Panicked.

Then you’ll Resolve Research. For every unit Assigned (in this case, Scientists) you will roll 1 die. Each die has 2 Success markers and 4 blank spaces. If you roll enough Successes, you get the Tech card.
But you also roll the Enemy die. This is just a standard d8. If you roll a 1 on this Enemy die, you lose your people.
It is possible to Succeed and Fail at the same time–Maybe your Interceptor shoots down the UFO’s, but doesn’t have enough fuel to get back home.
If you don’t succeed or fail, you save the successes that you got, and then you have the option to roll again–But this time you fail on a roll of a 1 or on the roll of a 2.
If you still don’t succeed or fail, you can roll again–And fail on a 3 or less.

You get to roll 1 XCOM die for each Scientist you assign to a research task.

The maximum Threat–The chance of failing–Is 5. You will always be safe rolling a 6, 7 or 8 on the Enemy die.
When you stop rolling for a Task, the Threat resets and you start the next Task.

Next you do something very similar with Orbital Defense–Roll 1 die for each Satellite you have, destroying 1 UFO for each success. You can keep rolling if you haven’t killed all of the UFO’s, but you risk losing your Satellites. Each UFO remaining will increase Panic.
And the same for Global Defense with your Interceptors, again increasing Panic for each UFO you didn’t destroy.

The last 2 Tasks to complete are to Defend the Base and attempt to complete the Mission. These are a little bit more complicated than the first 3 types.

Each Soldier has 2 Icons, 1 of which will have a gold border. Each Mission Task or Enemy also has between 1 and 3 Icons, which may or may not have gold borders.

To Assign a Soldier to a Task, the Task’s Icon must match 1 of the 2 Icons on the Soldier. Like everything else, a Soldier Assigned to a Task allows you to roll 1 die.
But if the Icon on the Soldier has a gold border and the Icon on the Task also has a gold border, you get to roll an extra die. Non-Enemy Tasks always require 1 Success, while Enemies will need between 1 and 3.

After that you input some final information. Was the Base destroyed, did you complete a Mission, what Panic look like, and how many UFO’s are in Orbit. Then you begin the next round.

After completing a certain number or rounds, the App will tell you that you can attempt the Final Mission, which is more difficult than regular Missions. If you complete the Final Mission, and your Base isn’t destroyed and 2 Continents aren’t in total Panic, then you win.

Now The Stats

Complexity: 7.25/11
Playing as the Squad Leader is the most complex. If you avoid that, anyone over the age of 13 shouldn’t have too much difficulty with XCOM

Components: 7.5/11
Box: 6/11
Big picture on the front. Smaller picture of a game in progress on the back with a bit of writing describing the theme and some of how the game works. Exactly what I’m looking for.
Board: 6.5/11
Each player has a side of the board where all of their things are, which is a really nice idea. In practice, it isn’t quite so convenient. Most tables are too big to comfortably seat 1 person on each side. This can be fixed by turning the board 45° so that it makes a diamond shape on the table.
On the other had, the artwork is very nice, and the spaces where things go are plenty large enough to fit everything.
Miniatures: 9/11
Fantasy Flight is renowned for their miniature quality, and XCOM is no exception. You can see the laces on all of the Solder’s boots and the hair on their heads. The UFO’s are slightly lower quality, but that’s so that you can stack them up easily.
Tokens: 9/11
Most cardboard tokens are rather mediocre. They don’t fall apart, but they don’t feel nice either. That isn’t the case here. The tokens are solid and thick and feel nice to touch.
Rulebook: 7/11
The rulebook for XCOM is all in the App, and is just a list of linked sections that explain things like Global Defense or Panic. Many people of complained that this makes it more difficult for them to learn the rules, but I disagree. Most sections have nice diagrams that explain things, and all of them have links to related sections. You can access the rulebook at any time during the game by clicking on the action you want to know more about, and don’t have to go flipping through trying to find what you want. I really like it.

Cost Value: 8.5/11
$41 is a very good price for the amount of stuff you get. Not a really, really great price, but a good one.

Replayability: 8.833/11
Change in Board Setup and Gameplay: 7.5/11
4 Difficulty levels. 5 Invasion Plans. 6 possible starting Continents. 9 types of Enemies. This won’t always be a different game, but there are lots of things to make it change.
Different Roles: 10/11
Never, in ay game, have I seen such completely different roles. Someone fights Enemies, someone else does Research while another decides which Crises is more important to avoid. It’s fantastic.
Varying Difficulty Levels: 9/11
So far I’ve only played on Easy and Normal (and 1 game on Hard, which we lost terribly). The range of difficulty is wonderful, and it would be very easy to change things slightly more to fit your exact skill level–start with 11 Credits on Emergency Funding instead of 10, start with 1 UFO in Orbit, choose 2 of the Continent bonuses instead of 1, only use 6 Scientists instead of 8… This is so customizable it’s insane. You won’t ever feel that the game is too easy or too hard.

Strategic Elements: 6.333/11
Planning Ahead: 5.5/11
There isn’t a whole lot of this in XCOM. You are primarily reacting to the aliens and trying to stop them from taking over the world. You don’t have the luxury of planning ahead.
Luck (Value of Score Inverted): 5.5/11
The dice can be really mean to you sometimes, which can ruin your game. That’s part of the tension. But, if you have a solid strategy and plan for some poor rolls, you’ll still be able to manage.
Miscellaneous: 8/11
Deciding whether to get a new Soldier or a new Interceptor, which Crisis is worse, which Technology to get, and whether to keep pushing the Mission or wait for another round… XCOM is rich with decision-making that is never perfectly clear.

Social Value: 6.125/11
Ease of Teaching: 5/11
XCOM isn’t really easy to teach. The rolling mechanic doesn’t make much sense when you try to explain it to people, and it’s difficult to grasp everything that’s going on. The best way to teach this game is to dive in and explain things as they come up.
Discussion During Play: 4.5/11
There is some of this, but only 10-30 seconds worth at a time.
Discussion After Play: 7/11
There is more of this. Lots of opportunity to talk about what your team did wrong and what they did right.
Miscellaneous: 8/11
There is something unique about each player having a completely different role, but all of those roles helping each other out. The Central Officer and Commander will receive Tech that are only useful for the Squad Leader–who, in turn, gets Tech to help the Chief Scientist–Who is the one giving out all of this in the first place. It really builds a sense of teamwork and camaraderie that I haven’t found anywhere else.

Thematic Value: 10/11
Implementation of Theme in Mechanics: 10/11
Asia is falling! That Sectoid just ripped my Assault Soldier apart! We don’t have enough money do get rid of these UFO’s, and even if we did have the money we don’t have time! ****! ****! ****!
XCOM simulates an alien invasion where we are badly outmatched. You feel the terror when the people of the world start to Panic–and the pain as they stop funding you because they need the money elsewhere. You feel so accomplished when you finally get those Plasma Rifles and use them to bust some aliens. The theme here is wonderful and fantastic and amazing.

Rules Clarity: 7.167/11
Clarity of Writing: 6.5/11
Most possible situations are covered. This is a good rulebook.
Pictures/Diagrams: 7.25/11
Like I said, these are in most of the sections of the rules.
FAQ: 7.75/11
The FAQ is actually useful. It isn’t complete, but it covers most of the questions that the rulebook itself doesn’t answer.

Balance: 7.75/11
Character Powers Relative to Each Other: 7.75/11
Despite each role being so different, they are all essential, and they all feel pretty essential. The only one lacking is the Central Officer, who kind of feels like all they’re doing is telling everyone else when to do things.

Fun Level: 8.75/11
This last element is a little bit arbitrary. It is my true rating of the game, regardless of averages (I tend to enjoy most of the games I have played). This is just a simple scale to 10 11, with no averages or equations or careful logic. Just about how much I like playing the game.

GRAND TOTAL:
7.884/11

That is XCOM: The Board Game. It isn’t the greatest game I have ever played, but it has so much potential. And knowing Fantasy Flight, that potential will be realized.

If you liked this, you can read my other reviews at mathematiciangamer.net

9
Go to the Smash Up page

Smash Up

15 out of 24 gamers thought this was helpful

The idea behind Smash Up is reasonably simple: There are a bunch of groups–Pirates, Zombies, Robots, etc.–trying to take over the world. But they’ve realized that they can’t do it by themselves.

So they’ve teamed up.

That’s right, now Zombie Robots, Alien Pirates, and Dinosaur Ninjas are trying to take over the world.

Yes, you read that right. [i]Wizard Pirates, Ninja Zombies, and Alien Dinosaurs are trying to take over the world![/i]

The game starts with each player taking turns choosing one of the available factions and the twenty cards that make that faction’s deck, and then choosing a second faction to go with that first one.

Once everyone has chosen their factions, players take turns placing Minions on the various bases. When the total power of all Minions (the number in the upper-left corner of the card) is equal to or greater than the base’s breakpoint, it scores. Whichever player had the most power gets the Victory Points for first place, the second place player gets second, and the third gets third. A new base then enters play. Players also play Actions that change how things work and give special abilities.

Each faction is themed differently and plays differently, making 28 entirely unique combinations to play with.

The Stats

Components: 7.583/11

Cost Value: 9.5/11

Replayability: 9/11

Strategic Elements: 8/11

Social Value: 8/11

Thematic Value: 8/11

Rules Clarity: 7.5/11

Balance: 9/11

Fun Level: 9.75/11

GRAND TOTAL: 8.481/11

You can read my full review (as well as get explanations on why I rate things the way I do) on my site: mathematiciangamer.net

9
Go to the Smash Up: The Big Geeky Box page
13 out of 20 gamers thought this was helpful

This is not a game. It is not an expansion to a game. It is a bunch of storage space for a game.
It is fantastic.

There really isn’t much to say here, but i will say the little there is:

I did the math–took a ruler and measured out the space. The Big Geeky Box will hold the base Smash Up game and 25 expansions–24 expansions comfortably.
That’s right: 104 faction decks, plus Geeks, plus bases, plus madness. If Smash Up gets bigger than that, then we have a bigger problem than space to worry about.

9
Go to the Flash Point: Fire Rescue page
73 out of 114 gamers thought this was helpful

Flash Point is a cooperative strategy game where each player takes the role of a firefighter (or multiple firefighters, if you so wish), trying desperately to save people from a burning building before it collapses.
Each turn, a player will use his Action Points (AP) to perform various actions, such as moving, putting out fire, chopping down walls, or dragging victims to safety. After a player has finished using as many AP as they want to use, they will roll the dice (correlating to a grid on the game board) to see where new fire shows up. Play then passes to the left. You win by saving 7 of the 10 victims. You lose if 4 victims die, or if the house burns down.

Complexity: 5/11

Components: 6.458/11

Cost Value: 10/11

Replayability: 7.25/11

Strategic Elements: 7.167

Social Value: 7.125/11

Thematic Value: 7.875/11

Rules Clarity: 7.313

Balance: 6.417

Fun Level: 9.5/11

GRAND TOTAL: 6.961/11

You can read the full review at mathematiciangamer.net

2
Go to the The Walking Dead Board Game page
59 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

A little bit of explanation of my methodology: 6/11 is what I consider average from all the games I have played. 6/11 is, of course, better than average. The total score is the average of all the subscores (excepting complexity level. That is an independent value)
With that out of the way, let’s begin:

COMPLEXITY: 4/11
The game is rather simple. Not many rules to learn, not many cards to become familiar with, but still requires some level of attention to play well.

COST VALUE: 4/11
The $40 I payed for this game were not worth it–There just isn’t that much value in it for me. If you really want the game, I suggest making sure you get a lower price.

COMPONENTS: 4/11
The board–a roll-up mat, is obviously lower quality than most game boards. The cards also don’t feel quite as nice as what I am used to. The figures are flat cardboard tokens rather than the miniatures that most games have. The only things that are really up to par are the ally tokens, the character cards, and the box.

Replayability: 2/11
With so few different items, and so few different enemies, and always the exact same goal, this game gets really old really fast.

Strategic Element: 3/11
There simply isn’t enough variety to allow for different strategies. Being able to choose which direction you move–rather than just going around in a circle–is nice. But that’s the most choice you’ll get. Roll the die. Draw an encounter. Play some cards. Roll the die. Repeat.

Social Value: 4/11
A good social game will bring conversation to the surface. People will laugh and talk about things that are happening in the game. This doesn’t have that. The lack of player interaction drops this even lower.

Thematics: 4/11
For a game based off a TV show, this is quite disappointing. Rolling the same die over and over just doesn’t make me feel like I’m in the middle of the apocalypse. The limited scrounge cards are a nice touch–never enough to go around–but it’s not enough.

Rules Clarity: 6/11
The rulebook is probably the best part. Simple game makes for simple rules, and there isn’t much confusion.

Balance: 5/11
It is difficult not to balance a game with so little complexity. Still, there are a few characters I would pick every time over others, and drawing the wrong encounter at the wrong time will kill you, rather than hurt you but still give you a chance to catch up again.

Fun Level: 4/11
It was kind of fun to pull out the first time and play though a few games, but even in the middle of the first game it got a little bit repetitive.

TOTAL SCORE: 4/11
I don’t like this game. I don’t. I would not suggest this game to anyone. It’s not worth it.

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