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Steve

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Review 3 games and receive a total of 40 positive review ratings.
Go to the Carcassonne page
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9
Go to the Pandemic: The Cure page

Pandemic: The Cure

7 out of 7 gamers thought this was helpful

Pandemic has long been near the top of many gamers’ cooperative lists, as it makes a wonderful entry level game and there’s not fighting. There’s also no dice in the game. It also does require quite a bit of space and time to play Pandemic. So what’s a gamer to do if they don’t have a lot of space or time? Zman answered this by making Pandemic the Cure. So what’s the difference between it and the original; and is it worth buying?

The first difference is that there’s no board so to speak in this game. I mean, there’s a ring that you track the infection rate and epidemics on, and there are circles representing the continents, but it’s not a map board like the original. The good thing about this is that it results in saving lots of space to play the game. It’s a nice tight circle that you can put the continents quite close to the fairly small ring, and so you don’t need much space to play. There’s also not a lot of cards. There are the event cards you can choose, but this game is largely determined by the dice, most of which are in a bag. This is one of the other good points. This game is very quick to set up. All the parts are easy to place out, pull some dice, and while the rind does split into two pieces, you can actually put the ring back in the box in one piece if you so choose. Obviously, it may come apart in transport, but you can in theory.

Gameplay is fairly simple, though by no means is this game easy. As in the original, you have several different roles, which have different specialties. Each has their advantages and uses, pretty similar to what they did in the original. They have custom dice they roll to determine what they can do, reflecting their roles. As the continents are set up in a circle, moving between them is moving between adjacent circles, unless you can fly, in which case you can move to any location. To determine where the infection spreads, it’s not always concentrated in areas that are already infected. To put diseases out, you roll dice and that’s where the diseases go. The dice color corresponds to the various continents, like the original, so you’ve got a rough idea of where these diseases are going to land, but they can land in any location that matches their color. These disease dice aren’t all bad, however. If you roll a cross on them, then instead of spreading disease they give you the ability to buy the cards to help you. This, unfortunately, is quite random, as I’ve played games where we were overflowing with crosses, and there were others where they just never came up. You can probably guess the times we won and when we lost. The other problem this causes is that instead of several cities across a continent to absorb the disease, there are SIX locations; so where you could use the cities to have lots of diseases in the original, here they add up FAST! More than once this has led to epidemics adding up VERY quickly. For this reason, I find this game much easier with 3-4 players. Having the extra roles out there, and players to move around, makes things much easier. When I’ve played with only myself and one other, we lost almost every time. We didn’t win every time with 3-4, but then I felt I could play to win, as opposed to how close would we get to winning. One nice thing is that with either player setup, it’s quite fast to play…just with a different usual outcome. It’s definitely quick enough that if I lose, I’m not feeling tired of it, and am willing to immediately give it another go.

Regarding the components, they are for the most part good. The dice are of excellent quality and easy to read, and the hard plastic will stand up to repeated use. The cards have a good feel to them. My main complaint on this front is the markers for the diseases and epidemics don’t fit too well in the holes. The holes are too tight, and I just feel that I’m going to accidentally snap them one of these times trying to force them in. I definitely like the size of the components. This game is very portable. The box is actually quite a bit larger than it needs to be, and you could carry it in a smaller bag if you had to for portability reasons. That’s another reason to consider this game if you just can’t play Pandemic for whatever reason.

So, should you pick up this game? Yes! I wouldn’t quite call it a filler game (unless the dice really hate you that day), but it’s nice and quick and portable. It’s simple enough to teach to new or non gamers and get them interested, but also enough to hold the interest of veteran gamers. For those who want quick setup and teardown in a Pandemic game, and love to chuck dice, this is for them! I know I’ve never turned it down!

9
Go to the Tiny Epic Quest page

Tiny Epic Quest

13 out of 14 gamers thought this was helpful

Tiny Epic…an oxymoron if there ever was one. I’ve played Galaxies, and Defender, and Kingdoms. I’ve liked them each to varying degrees, but the sheer concept of a game that’s not just a filler game being able to fit inside a small box is intriguing to me on the face of it. It’s nice being able to carry several big games at once, and there are definitely some games in my collection big enough that I ask if anyone wants to play it before taking it out of the car. So, how was this one?

In four words, Zelda in a box. I know, I know, pretty much [b]EVERY OTHER[/b] reviewer has made this comparison, but only because it’s true…to a fault. Even the icons and symbols and characters. The artwork is great, but it does seem like they tried to get themselves as close as possible to Zelda without getting sued by Nintendo.

What about the game itself? Even that reinforces the theme. The day and night phase are nicely divided into moving and questing. The random board set up increases the replay value infinitely, and prevents any one super strategy from taking hold to allow one experienced player from being able to automatically win almost every game. It may just be difficult for one player to reach something, meaning they’re better off just foregoing that route this game. I’ve played plenty of other games with the lead and follow mechanism, and it’s a nice challenge that a player may not be able to do something this round simply because the combo move they need to make to get to a spot either doesn’t get picked at all, or at least not in the right order. That leaves some nice decision making as one has to decide “do I focus on this objective this turn, knowing I may not make it, thus wasting a whole turn?” Plus, the follow mechanism keeps everyone engaged, in both planning one’s moves and actually following the card when their move comes around. Having quests based on movement also gives players something else to shoot for if all the temples they need are occupied to capacity. It’s also nice to get the quick boost from them. The only problem there is that the movement quests are useless in round one since you’re already topped off for energy and life.

The night phase is when things get really interesting. It’s nice to have a number of methods of scoring points so that everyone isn’t going for the same thing at the same time. Some others have said they don’t like having negative points in the track, but I like this method of forcing players to diversify. Obviously, the goblin killing is the most points, but the other methods are necessary. The various quests give other advantages to your meeples which carry over to the spells, movement, replenishing stats, or combat, so those are attractive options. And the mechanic of passing the damage again involves you at all stages. It also means that it’s not super devastating to roll lots of goblin heads, but that can also come back and bite you when the player before you is well powered and you’re near death, it’s no skin off their nose to keep pressing the die rolls, but that could be the end of you, although most of the time it seems everyone finishes their tasks at the same time. Also, everyone is kept involved because [b]everyone[/b] gets to use the scrolls, torches, and fists to complete their quests. The lack of downtime is excellent! And the temples are thematic! With several different temples, there’s always something for a player to chase, whether it be a quest, or their Legendary equipment. That being said, this is one of the few sore points to be had. I have seen games where the scrolls and torches just don’t come up, and so several turns are wasted in a temple, and there are only 5 turns. It’s also incredibly frustrating to take a shot at a temple and someone else beats you to the end and so you have nothing to show for it, and I’ve seen in the forums here that lots of people are frustrated that having to cycle quests out to have at least 1 of each quest type has resulted in a quest someone has been working a couple of turns for just disappears!

Of course, no discussion of this game would be complete without talking about the components of the game, and the star component is the Item meeples! Yes, they’re awesome! It’s fun sticking the little items into the holes on them! They could have very easily just had us use the quest card for reference, or had us put the plastic pieces on our player board, but this is way cooler! It even draws new players in! I’ve played this quite a bit at the local shop, and two of the regulars love to play this game just because of those little pieces, and they kind of go “SQUEE!” when they hear I have the game with me. I love how Gamelyn Games has said this is just the beginning, with possible back mounts and head mounts on future versions. Indeed, while I feel this is a great game in its own right, this one component has been a huge part of the game’s success!

Regarding the rest of the components, they’re all pretty good. The map cards are excellent, with the texture having a nice feel and seems like it can stand up to quite a bit of use. Having two sides is awesome, and allows for a bigger challenge once one feels ready for it. I also like the inclusion of the first expansion in the box to add some more flavor and variety. The rest of the cards are of normal quality as well. Some of the chits feel a little fiddly, and it is a chore at times making sure not to drop them. I like having a designated area to roll the dice so you don’t have to risk the board or find an area. It’s also nice having the order of resolution [b]everywhere[/b], although by the end of one round I had it down pretty good. My only major complaint about components is the item rack. It’s cute, but not really practical. I’ve gotten pretty good at setting it up fast, and I really don’t feel like wasting the time putting them in it. One time when I played, another player decided to put them all in, and then when he had to get an item out, it was a blast crawling around on the floor when it got fumbled. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could store the items in the box in the tray, but to be able to properly close the items have to come out. I’ve also heard in other places that if the item rack is used regularly, they become loose in the holes pretty quick. I didn’t throw out my item rack, but if I lost it I wouldn’t be too upset.

In closing, I’m not even going to pose this as a question…I love this game! To me, it’s easily the best and deepest of the Tiny Epic series. While I’ve been happy with all the games, it does feel on some others that they have to shrink down some gameplay to be able to fit the game into a small box. This game is different. While there are other games that cover this type of theme more in depth in bigger boxes, this is the first game where they didn’t seem to”miniaturize” the gameplay itself to make it Tiny Epic, or at least not noticeably so, if that makes sense to anyone. The modular board also increases the replayability, meaning one should get plenty of plays out of this game! Check it out!

7
Go to the Monty Python Fluxx page

Monty Python Fluxx

9 out of 9 gamers thought this was helpful

Monty Python and Fluxx. There are very few seemingly unrelated things that go together so well as these two things. As a long time Monty Python watcher and some time Fluxx player, I find the insanity of both is a perfect fit. Almost all of their material is represented in this set…especially their perhaps most famous movie, Holy Grail. It even included stuff from their skits, such as the Dead Parrot, and the Spanish Inquisition, and they manage to bring different aspects of their material together, such as the Things No One Expects card, or the Rabbits of Doom card. The bonuses added by quoting and singing Monty Python only adds even more flavor to the game. Hey, me and my friends already quote them at the drop of a hat…might as well have a game that gives us points for doing so.

The card quality is up to snuff. Not high-quality linen finish, but they are of decent quality, and not the garbage that they could have put out. The box was a little odd. They could have put this in a deck box, but then I suppose they couldn’t have put nice art work on it, or as much artwork. I just enjoy tuck boxes for games that are just a deck of cards as this one is. It makes them easier to transport and less likely to spill out if the box gets dropped.

My only problems with the game are that it didn’t have quite everything, and I suppose might be asking too much given how long they’ve been around. I missed the Machine That Goes Bing, or maybe I just didn’t see it. Overall, this does seem to lean VERY heavily on Holy Grail, and while I LOVE that movie, and it’s easily their most famous movie, they have lots of other material that I would have liked to see in it. I don’t recall seeing much from Life of Brian in here, and there’s so many gags and jokes that could have been thrown in. I was just a little disappointed that it seems to be Holy Grail and Some Other Stuff Thrown In. The other problem is that this relies very heavily on being in on the jokes, and having seen their movies is almost required. I actually played it with a couple of people who had either never seen Monty Python or didn’t get the humor, and so it was lost for them to quote and sing lines. By the way, yes, we immediately revoked both of their geek cards. Somehow, I had less fun hearing fewer jokes, even if it did give me a distinct advantage. One can certainly try it with non-Python fans, but I would caution them, and maybe pick a different version of Fluxx until they have some familiarity with them, or if they just don’t get them.

Overall, a home run for me, but I’m biased because I’m a big Python fan. However, it has the normal problem for those who like structure and order in their games with the ever changing rules. If you don’t like Fluxx, well, this is Fluxx in spades. If you like Fluxx, but don’t know or don’t like Monty Python…well what’s wrong with you first…but you should pick a different version of Fluxx.

9
Go to the Eminent Domain page

Eminent Domain

4 out of 5 gamers thought this was helpful

Eminent Domain was a term that I first remember from Social Studies in grade school referring to the government’s ability to buy land from someone whether they wanted to sell it or not. So when I came across this title on the shelf of my FLGS, I was curious, particularly because it appeared to be a spacescape across the box. No ships, just what looked like a giant gas nebula. So I turned the box over and saw little ships on the box, and “Empire Builder.” I was immediately intrigued. I was fairly new to the hobby at the time, and while I had played Dominion before, I hadn’t grasped how big the genre was, and someone wasn’t able to grasp that this was one. So what happened once I opened it up?

Well, obviously, I was able to quickly deduce that it was a card based game. I had kind of expected some kind of map to fight over. The rest of it, unfortunately, was a slog to learn. The rule book was poor to say the least. All I can think is that it was written by someone who was too familiar with the game and forgot that it might be played by someone who was (like me at the time) new to gaming, and didn’t know the lead/follow mechanism. Even after going through the rule book, I saw “Game End” in the book, had been told how to choose cards, but hadn’t yet been told how to use those cards once we had them.

However, eventually, by watching some tutorial videos, I was able to figure out how to play the game. Once I was able to do this, and actually start playing the game, I found it quite enjoyable. Mind you, it was different from what I expected, but I enjoyed it. I found the mechanism of everyone just picking the card from the central display, without having to pay for it intriguing. And um, I was, before looking through each stack, shuffling them…um…anyway, this was my first exposure to the follow mechanism, since replicated in many games. I found I enjoyed it.

I also found I enjoyed having two different paths to choose from to gain points. I could either go the military route, and collect ships to conquer planets, or I could go the colonization path, and pick those cards. It was interesting seeing which method worked better, particularly depending on which planets came out. I’ve seen people succeed with both methods, and it’s fun to see players racing to try using opposite strategies. It’s even more fun to see players choose the same path to victory and race for the same planets since the planets that are good colonization targets normally aren’t good military targets. The tech cards, once we started using them, added some nice flavor to the game, and gave some direction to a strategy, rather than just move faster than your opponent. It allows the player to get an engine going to fuel their deck as they conquer planets. It was different in that you’re not trying to strip cards out of your deck like most deck builders. Instead, if anything, you want to beef your deck up with one particular strategy, so by the end, you’re able to conquer a planet in one quick shot. I’ve even seen games where by the end players were even flipping over two planet cards.

So what were the parts that disappointed me? Well, seeing different ship molds, I was expecting combat. I expected something to fight my opponent’s fleet or something to take planets from them. I was even more disappointed when the different ship molds didn’t mean anything. My understanding is that this was fixed in the expansions, but it didn’t matter whether I took a big ship piece or the tiny one. After a time it seemed to suffer from being multiplayer solitaire. It would have been nice to have some interaction, and that could have made the game a whole lot more strategic and thematic, having to worry about how is my opponent going to disrupt my plans. I also didn’t care for the method of ending the game. Running out piles seemed to end the game too quickly, especially since either the Colonize or Warfare cards seemed to be the way to go. Too many of my times with this game it seemed like we were just getting an engine going when it was forced to end. Yes, this is a common complaint about engine building games, but it somehow seemed more acute in this game.

The components were surprisingly good. The cards had a nice feel and finish to them, and are more durable than most cards in games. The ship minis were surprisingly detailed for the price point of the game. The only problem, lots of people like to paint minis, and the black plastic could have made it difficult. I can also see how the Central Display piece could easily become frayed and could break in two fairly quickly if the game gets played a lot; quicker than the folding points of many boards that I can think of. I did like the artwork of the game, and perhaps the fact that it didn’t evoke any particular sci-fi universe in my mind, as many generic sci-fi games seem to try to do with their art style, allows me to see the game on its own.

So what did I think overall? Well, despite the long list of complaints, and the lousy rulebook, I actually enjoyed it. For its price, and what it was, I found it enjoyable. Now, I am kind of a sucker for deck-builders, so I wasn’t too disappointed when building an empire didn’t mean conquering your enemy; but that lack of interaction does mean I get to this game in spurts. Eventually, after a few games of this, I just want something where I get to throw a bunch of space ships at my opponent and fight it out. If you’re looking for a simple deck builder that’s not gonna cause a fight, check this out.

9
Go to the Carcassonne: Traders and Builders page
3 out of 5 gamers thought this was helpful

Carcassonne is the granddaddy of tile laying games. Chances are most of us here have played it at some point, either way back in the ethers of time if we’re long time gamers, or more recently if we’re new to the hobby. It’s one of those games that we use to trick our friends into joining us in this lifestyle of ours. And there are indeed longtime gamers who love this game, now almost 20 years old and still in print, and still pull it out regularly, along with newer, more complex, and highly produced games. No mean feat in the time of the cult of the new. That being said, it can at times be a little repetitive, and any means to spice it up and throw new mechanics into the game are welcome. So how does this expansion stack up?

The first part of this expansion is the 24 new tiles. For the most part, it has the standard terrain of farms, roads, cities, and monasteries. Many of them, however, are in weird shapes. VERY weird shapes. Many times playing with this set a player holding some of these tiles have been left wracking their brains trying to fit them into their pre-existing cities. This isn’t necessarily a bad that, as the game needs something to be just more of the same tiles that come in the base box. In fact, I actually consider this a good challenge to throw into the game, instead of making it easy to fit any tile almost anywhere on the table.

Many of the city tiles that come in the new set have goods on them. The three goods are cloth, wine, and wheat. The advantage of these tiles is that it gives players a reason to place city tiles and finish cities that they don’t have a meeple/knight in. In the base game, once one person has a meeple in a city, they get all the points, unless someone is lucky enough to be able to join their city with someone else’s. The only reason someone might add to another person’s city is to prevent them from growing too big and zooming ahead in points. Now, with the trade goods, there’s a reason to finish cities that you have no other point stake in. And don’t knock it. I’ve seen plenty of games that turned on those goods tokens. Players have been distant seconds and jumped out to win the game handily once we counted the goods.

The other big pieces are the builder and the pig. The builder is one of the most useful pieces one can have. The ability to place two tiles at a time is invaluable and allows that player to place more tiles than others, which obviously means more points. It gives you a little edge in using it, and a different piece to place, besides just another standard meeple, adding to the strategy. Do I claim this tile I just placed to claim it or put the builder for a possible payoff next turn? The downside is that if he gets put in a city that ends up being unfinishable, then you lose him for the game.

The pig is another augmentation piece. Now, most of the times I’ve played Carcassonne, both the base game and with any number of expansions, farmers aren’t that popular. People aren’t that keen on losing a piece for the whole game, especially when any given city may or may not be finished by the end of the game. However, the last game I played with this expansion someone decided to give it a shot, and the field with the pig in it went from 12 to 16 points! Needless to say, that person is a convert to using farmers in the game!

Bottom line, this is an excellent addition to the base game. Carcassonne is always fun when I just want to play a hobby game that doesn’t require too much thinking. This expansion adds a little bit of flavor to the base game to make you think a bit and keeps it from being too repetitive. I recommend this to anyone who owns the game.

10
Go to the Small World page

Small World

6 out of 6 gamers thought this was helpful

Area control is one of the oldest mechanics in board games. Every war game, and especially the classic game Risk operate on this principle. Plenty of other more complex games have come along since Small World, but for my money, this is the best entry level area control game.

The game comes with a slew of the standard fantasy races, such as giants, elves, dwarves, etc. But, they go beyond the stereotypes of each race. It’s always amusing when someone gets Diplomatic Orcs or Mounted Dwarves. The combination of powers with these races gives this part of the game endless replayability. Obviously, some powers combo with some races better than others, such as Pillaging Orcs, and others not so much, but they make for amusement, like the ones mentioned above. You have to replay the game many times before you’ll normally see the same combinations of races and powers. Even within the same game, you won’t see the same combination twice, because there are more powers than races; so if the Wealthy Elves cycle through, the next times the Elves come out, they’ll be paired with a different power. It’s fun seeing the tension of do I go into decline now to play that great combo next round or do I hold off and risk someone else getting it first.

That mechanic of going into decline is one of the other strong points of the game. Most other games would have the player pick one race through the whole game, and it would be one of four or five races that are in every game. The fact that they force you to discard a race mid way through the game, and in many games, you’ll have to switch a second time, forces players to change their strategy several times through the game, both to adapt their own race to the situation, and to adapt to their opponents’ races. This is a great mechanic that few other games to my knowledge use.

The maps were very well done. They are well suited for the player counts so that it’s inevitable that you will come into conflict with your opponents. There is no way to play a “nice” game where I keep to my side and you keep to yours. The map(s), however, is one of my few complaints about the game. Maybe it’s not fair to expect some kind of modular board from the time, but unless you bend the rules, you always know that if you have x number of players you will be playing on this map. There’s no variation on that. Again, perhaps that’s unfair given when it was released, and it’s minor, but hey. I suppose one could make a house rule to put more Native tokens on the board or change their placement to change things up. I’ve heard that the expansions kind of fix this problem, and make replayability near infinite, but I haven’t played with them and so can’t attest to it personally.

The combat system, as it exists, is perfect for entry level games of this type. No dice (except at the end), modifiers, tables, or [b]complicated[/b] special rules. A simple case of attacker wins. This again, makes the game simple to teach. Obviously, the various races have different powers, along with the powers that affect combat, but it’s not like it’s a brain burner to do this math.

One area where the game was truly ahead of its time was with the insert. This game is a breeze to set up and take down. Every component has a spot in the box that is easy to tell and almost impossible to confuse, so I can easily reach into the box and know what is where, and know exactly where the same pieces go back in the box when we’re done. This game almost spoils me, as many other games I’m left using my own Ziploc bags to separate components, and then afterwards have to figure out which plastic bag held which pieces. And obviously, the more I separate pieces for storage, the longer it takes to break down. Not this game. The race pieces tray is perhaps my favorite piece of all in the box, even more than any piece actually used to play the game! They are neatly divided, easy to dispense to the players, and then put away as they go into decline and then clean up. No multiple baggies or endlessly having to separate the pieces for this game! They even nested in the boards nicely, and the rulebook says to use the leftover punch board skeletons to press the insert up against the box lid so you can store the game sideways without the pieces falling out! This was truly ahead of its time, and there are games coming out today that aren’t this easy to set up and store! There are games coming out today that aren’t this easy. They give you a box and that’s it, just supply your own bags or buy an aftermarket organizer that can cost as much as or more than the game itself. I will say the one downside to this wonderful insert is that it makes it near impossible to store expansions with the base game, which most people like to do, meaning if one gets them, they then need multiple boxes for this game.

Overall, this is an excellent game, and while it may not scratch the area control itch of more hardcore gamers, it is an excellent entry level game, both for area control games and for hobby board gaming in general. And if you are an experienced gamer, if you’re looking for something easy, you don’t feel like thinking too much that night, this is a good game to play. It has some unique mechanics that are still pretty rare nine years after its release. This is one of the easiest games I’ve ever had to teach, making it easy to get new players further down the rabbit hole of hobby board games.

8
Go to the Firefly: The Game page
5 out of 5 gamers thought this was helpful

My friends and I are fans of…pretty much EVERYTHING Joss Whedon puts out, especially Buffy and Firefly. Sooooooo, when a couple that I’m friends with found out there was a board game based on the truest example of a Space Western (sorry Star Trek, but I fail to see the Western part there), this was a natural fit for them. They actually bought this as a Christmas gift last year and then, knowing that I was into hobby board gaming, they invited me over to play it. Not knowing of this site, or the large YouTube community out there, they actually plowed through the rules and learned it. Kudos to them, as this is definitely NOT an entry level game, and they aren’t board gamers (yet!).

Well, through several fits and starts, we managed our first game. Quite frankly, we had a blast! This is, quite simply, as the title says, is Firefly in a box! At its heart, it is quite literally a pickup and deliver game. Given what the show was though, the theme fits right in. It’s hard to imagine a true Firefly game without some form of this mechanism. And the combat fits right in. Again, it’s a Western, and Mal is Mal, so naturally, there’s going to be some kind of fighting. Fitting the theme, fighting is important, but not central. In fact, most of the possible fighting you want to avoid, just like rebels, given the high risk in this game. You can’t just call in reinforcements here. If Zoe dies, she’s out of the game, that’s it! You might find another CARD that replaces her somewhat…but it’s Zoe, or Wash, or Kaylee…We’ve actually seen people in our games not do what was probably the best option because it would have risked their favorite character, whereas if it was a random background person they would have taken the chance.

OK, enough on the theme, what about the game and mechanisms? The movement system is innovative. Obviously, you can move 1 space per turn and there’s almost no risk…but then you get nothing done, and you’ll end in dead last. Most of the movement is done by “burning,” which moves you faster, but obviously, there’s danger in that deck of cards. Most of them just tell you to keep flying, but there are Reaver cards, Alliance cards, breakdowns, and even some chances to improve yourself and find loot. Either way, we’re all tense as we flip those cards over, even if we’re not flipping, because each player knows that every Keep Flying card flipped means that more of the remaining cards have bad stuff. They even put in separate decks for Alliance and Rim Space, reflecting the increased danger of flying outside Alliance territory. And the use of fuel to burn is a nice touch to make one judicious in how one uses that fuel. While you’re not stranded because of “moseying”, we’ve said “Oops” plenty of times cause we forgot to buy fuel. And the Reaver ships (they went and bought ALL the expansions, but I’ll try to limit this to the core game) add an extra element of danger. We tend to play “nice,” but boy there are plenty of opportunities to mess with opponents by moving these ships to block where you know they’re going, or even drop them right on them.

The planet missions and the Misbehave cards definitely add flavor, and make it more than just “move and do.” Any game could just have us shuttle from one place to another with this or that good, but there are plenty of “trading in the Mediterranean” games out there, and truth be told if that’s something a player wants, stick to lawful missions, although those aren’t nearly as lucrative. For some of the games, you can’t even win without doing illegal missions. The Moral indicator on many of the characters adds further complications, as you might see a great mission to perform, but your Moral crew can’t do it without being disgruntled; or you might really want this one crew member, but you know you can’t use them for most of the missions you’ll be performing, making it a puzzle on the crew you want to construct, some of whom may already be on another player’s ship. Of course, you can always try to buy them from your opponent, adding another wrench into the mix. I’ve had a few games where I was just minding my own business, didn’t think an opponent could reach me, and BAM, they hired someone who wasn’t happy with me. This nice “take that” mechanism is nice, without dominating the game. Searching the planets for the items you need to complete missions, improve the ship itself, and hire a crew, is awesome. After some plays, you learn who is on what planets, and what goods to find where, but there’s still the aspect of what will I get? I know this awesome jump core is on this planet, but so does the other player. Will they get there first? And the missions associated with each person are thematic. I’ve watched the series once the whole way through, my friends have done several times, and the missions fit the episodes, and the people. They fit the general Western theme and the ‘verse theme.

Regarding the components, they’re top notch. It might have been nice to have a couple of different ships, but it’s not too bad. The symbology is easy to understand quickly, and you learn how to read them and assemble a crew and complete missions quickly. Most people don’t seem to like screenshots taken from shows and movies starring their favorite intellectual properties, but I actually prefer it, as it’s more recognizable. The dice have a nice look to them, especially the Firefly in place of the 6. The mechanism of boosting on any 6 rolls is nice and makes having the fancy dice (fancy duds?) worth it. The board is HUGE and does take up a lot of space, but it means that we don’t have to crowd around the board. The cards have held up too, despite repeated playing, and have a nice feel to them.

My complaints…this game is LONG! Longer than what most of the missions state. Towards the end of the game, we find ourselves hoping someone would win, just so we could finish, although this could be because we were playing until 1 or 2 in the morning. Still, the games did run quite a bit longer than stated. I don’t mind long games, but I would like an accurate time frame, to know how much I have to set aside. And this game takes up a LOT of space. A LOT! All the decks of cards associated with the game, and all the counters, they take up space. Now, we’ve been playing with all the expansions for some time now, with the 2 extra boards, but it took up a lot of space even when it was just the base game. I also wish they had included more mission cards. Even with all the cards in all the expansions, it seems like they could have added more. Obviously, players can create their own, and there are probably more online, but it seems like there could be more. Maybe I’m just spoiled, but hey. The other problem is that the rulebook wasn’t clear that you only use 1 die. We actually played with 2 dice the first few times and I wondered why it was so easy to pass many tests, some of which 2 dice meant I didn’t even have to roll. My friends actually found this out after reading closer and kept that from me, figuring I’d force it to be a 1 die game. However, in light of our already long play times, as noted above, I was fine with this house rule, cause I want to get home before the sun comes up. But this could have been a little clearer.

Overall, this is an excellent game! It is perhaps the most thematic game I have played thus far. I mean heck, it was enough to prompt 2 non-gamers to go out and learn a fairly complex game, without the benefit of YouTube, and then go out and buy EVERYTHING for the game! That’s no small feat! If one is a gamer and has even a passing interest in the ‘verse, check this game out. And even if one has never heard of Firefly or Joss Whedon…well first, what rock have you been hiding under…but check this game out for the mechanics. And one YouTube reviewer even said that playing this game caused him to go out and watch Firefly. They fit together seamlessly and fit the theme flawlessly. I couldn’t imagine another IP on this game fitting so well. Check it out!

9
Go to the Imperial Settlers page

I was initially hesitant to play a civilization game that was entirely card based, as I’m someone who LOVES maps with lines, and territory, and the sweep of history. I also initially didn’t care for the lack of combat between players, as this is one of the primary ways civilizations have interacted throughout history.

Those fears were soon put to rest as I settled in to play the game. The back and forth between the players, and the fear that your opponent will buy a building out from under you creates plenty of tension. Which strategy do you want to pursue? With the limited number of rounds, you know you won’t get to build everything you want, and so it becomes a game of which path you want to take. Do you focus more on your civilization buildings, which are harder to build but offer more points, or the general buildings which are easier, but are exposed to attacks from opponents? I soon didn’t care that there wasn’t a map in this game, as there was plenty for me to think about just with the cards, as in where on the strip would I put them, would I focus on my own civilization, etc. Even the powers associated with each civilization seemed to fit them thematically, as the Romans definitely conquered a vast empire, and Japan is known for having some of the most beautiful art in the world.

Speaking of artwork, I like the cartoon style of the art. As the game is thinky enough, I like that the lighthearted artwork was used. In fact, I think serious artwork might have been a turnoff, whereas this art drew me in. The components were cute too, with nice wooden pieces that gave it a very tactile feel to it. My only complaint is that some of the chits were cardboard, whereas I would have preferred that all the tokens be wooden. A small thing, but still…

Besides the artwork, the cards were easy to read and understand, and I liked how the faction cards blended with the faction strip, and even the general cards meshed well with all the boards, which was amazing. Indeed, for such a relatively complex game, I found it unusually easy to learn how to play. I’m sure with more play, and with other factions, that there are devastating strategies that each faction can use to mop the floor with any other faction, but the mechanics and rules were relatively easy to learn. The owners of the game had the expansion, and I could easily see plenty of opportunities for more expansions, provided they are able to make them unique enough and yet balanced, especially if as they showed with the Atlanteans they are willing to go into the fictional.

My only complaint with the game…where it claims the play time is 45-90 minutes…that, is, a, LIE! My group played it at the local library beginning at 1PM, and we had until 5PM to play games. We ended up having to settle for a quick filler game after this, finishing around 4:30. Granted, I was learning the game, and I wasn’t the only first timer, but as previously stated, I learned fairly quickly. We did have four players, but even with some learners, that should at MOST double a game’s length. And this wasn’t the only time. A previous time I was at a gaming group and some of us in the game I was playing were wanting to play a game with someone playing Imperial Settlers in the next room. We played some long games, but we were still after several games being told no, they weren’t finished, and we played another game. In my own game, and in the game I observed at a distance, this game seems to be subject to lots of analysis paralysis. Both games seemed to have people (including myself) taking quite some time to analyze their next move. I think this is because until late in the game, it seemed that resources were tight. I always felt even more limited on spending than in most games, which isn’t a bad thing, but then this is the end result. Maybe it was just us, and with experience and learning the different factions, and the game, better, we could reach the point of being able to breeze through turns and finish a game in under two hours.

Final thoughts: An excellent game that has great art and components and makes you think, and yet can be shown to gamers with relatively little experience, although definitely not an entry level game. But again, be prepared to devote quite a bit more time to it than what the box claims.

9
Go to the Among the Stars page

Among the Stars

12 out of 13 gamers thought this was helpful

This is an excellent game, great for anyone. Lots of strategic depth, deciding when you will turn cards in for money, which you will have to do! There are lots of different options and paths to victory. Plenty of races and objectives give endless replay on a board you make yourself. Plenty of available expansions mean there are countless directions to go in. You can focus on one area to get massive points in one area, or spread things out, to get some points in lots of different areas. The only downside, as with any tile laying game, is lots of space is needed for this game. My station was getting very close to encroaching on my neighbor’s by the last round. Also, while the drafting mechanism means that someone can mess with you by taking a card that would benefit you, there is little interaction. Maybe the expansions bring in some, but with the cards I played with, we were three players building our own stations hoping to come out with the most points at the end of the game.

Overall, I would highly recommend this game for anyone. As my only tile laying game up to this point that I can recall are Carcassonne and Isle of Skye, this is a nice next level version, with it mattering even more where in your setup each tile goes, with the interactions between tiles, even 2 spaces away, matter with regards to how many points they will score you, weather its immediate or at the end of the game.

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