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Grant Rodiek

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Go to the Ascending Empires page
Go to the Memoir '44 page
Go to the Summoner Wars Master Set page
Go to the King of Tokyo page
Go to the Dixit page
Go to the Friday page
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10
Go to the Friday page

Friday

101 out of 114 gamers thought this was helpful

I bought Friday initially for inspiration. I was trying to design a cooperative game and Friday provides push back and goals that a player must overcome, so I thought it would make good inspiration. I didn’t expect to like it, let alone love it, but here we are! Now, Friday is always in my backpack.

Friday is a beautifully smooth, elegant experience. You draw 2 challenges and pick one. The other is placed in a discard. Depending on the phase (there are 3, green/yellow/red) you must equal or exceed a difficulty number. You get a set number (based on the challenge) of free cards. If your cards equal or exceed the number, you win and you add the challenge card to your deck. If you fail, you lose health, but you can also trash (i.e. permanently remove from game) bad cards from your deck.

This is the fundamental strategy: do you work and sacrifice to win the challenge? Or do you lose, at the expense of life, to get rid of bad cards? After three runs through the challenge deck (i.e. 3 phases), you must fight the pirates. At this point, your deck better be good enough or the pirates will defeat you! The challenge cards not only give you better numbers with which to defeat challenges, but they give you simple abilities to mitigate bad things, move through your deck, and more.

Friday is a very difficult game, but your choices matter far more than luck and randomness. This is such a tight, smooth game that you’ll spend very little time counting and tallying numbers, which is something other solo games tend to have.

The game travels well, has great components, plays quickly, and again, is so smooth and elegant. This game is about $20 in your FLGS and $15 on Amazon. If you have any interest in a game solo, get this one. It’s great.

 
Go to the Farmageddon page

Farmageddon

148 out of 158 gamers thought this was helpful

I just want to get out of the way that this is a very biased review. I designed Farmageddon. As such, it’s not really appropriate for me to rate this game (I won’t) or be critical of it. I will, however, try to provide more information on the game.

Farmageddon is fundamentally a game about risk taking and hand management. It is a game designed for casual gamers, family gamers, and younger players. Ultimately, it’s a filler, a game designed to be played over lunch or after Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Or, perhaps in the interim while you’re waiting for a friend to setup Eclipse.

You win the game by having the most valuable harvest. On your turn you can plant Crop cards in the three planting fields. These are shared by all players, so if the field is occupied, you can’t use it! (Controlling the fields is a subtle strategy). Crop cards can be used to Plant OR you can use them (face down) as fertilizer. Every plant requires a certain amount of fertilizer before it can be harvested. Once harvested, you place it in your harvest pile where it adds to your final score.

Two twists! You cannot harvest a crop the turn it’s planted. This means it must make it around (or you must use Action cards to disrupt things). Secondly, you must fertilize once each turn if able. This keeps the game moving and forces you to take risk.

On top of this, players may play up to 2 Action cards every turn. There are 12 Action cards total (in a deck of 45) and players draw 2 automatically at the END of every turn. All Action cards are powerful and you should always use them. Action cards let you protect yourself, steal from others, destroy crops to clear fields, increase or decrease the value, and more. You will always have a choice to make on what to do with your cards. The small combos and opportunistic are what make the game interesting and strategic.

There is luck involved and the game is definitely light. BUT, the better players tend to win and typically due to managing their crop supply and timing their Action cards well.

As a side note, the art is amazing. It was done by Brett Bean and Erin Fusco and they did a killer job. Thanks for reading, I hope this helps!

9
Go to the Summoner Wars page

Summoner Wars

46 out of 52 gamers thought this was helpful

Ascension used to be my favorite iOS game, but Summoner Wars now has the throne. It should be noted that Playdek coded both this and Ascension and their expertise shows.

This review will quickly cover Summoner Wars as a game as well as the quality of the iOS implementation.

iOS –
This is a very solid iOS game. It’s free to download and try, which means you cannot play multiplayer, but you can get a feel for things and try it before investing in it. Any purchase unlocks multiplayer. Through the app you can buy any of the factions individually or in bundles.

I immediately purchased the $7.99 bundle that includes every faction and the mercenaries. I love the variety of the factions and this was the right choice for me.

If you use GameCenter, and you should, it is very easy to begin games with friends. You can quickly send an invite to play with your friends. Very simple. You can also play randomly with folks if you choose.

The game tracks stats on a per faction basis, which is very handy. You can also see faction stats for everyone, which is also fun.

The game is almost a perfect asynchronous implementation, which means I can login, take my turn, log off, let my friend take his turn, and so forth. There are a few cards that require your opponent make a decision before you can continue. By and large, I don’t play with these. My friends and I have “house ruled” them out.

There is some fuzzy UI implementation. The special abilities for many units are on the right side of the *tiny* cards. You will often mis-tap and mis-use them as you first get used to things. I recommend you zoom in and use the larger image as you get used to things. There’s also an “order of operations” component. For example, if a Unit says “You can move X spaces with this Unit if only she moves.” Well, don’t use her first, because it assumes you don’t want to use anyone else.

These quirks are consistent and can be learned, but they will be frustrating initially, especially as you can’t redo things. If you’re really concerned, figure it out offline against the AI.

The game doesn’t have a perfect tutorial. This is best for people who already know how to play Summoner Wars. The information is all there, but it’s not perfectly presented. I had played one game of Summoner Wars previously months before, so I had to use the tutorial to catch up. Here, it succeeded, but for completely new people it may be lacking.

The Game Itself –
Summoner Wars is an outstanding 2 player tactical board game. Some people have compared it to chess. I greatly prefer Summoner Wars to chess.

The game is greatly distilled and streamlined. On your turn you draw up to your hand size. You can then spend magic to summon any number of units. Then, you can play ability cards, which DON’T require magic (typically). You can the move any 3 Units. You can then attack with any 3 units. Finally, you may discard cards from your hand to increase your magic pool.

Combat is very straightforward. Units are melee (adjacent) or ranged (up to 3 spaces in a straight line). Units all have an attack power, which indicates how many d6 to roll. Roll a 3 or greater to have a hit. Most units have just 1 or 2 life, so life is easily tracked. Units you defeat are added to your magic pile to use to summon more units.

The game is won when a player defeats his opponent’s summoner, which is a very powerful Unit.

The game includes several factions which play very differently. Learning to play the different factions is a real treat. Furthermore, you can modify your deck slightly with “reinforcement cards,” so over time you can customize your faction a little. I highly recommend this as you move beyond novice level. This isn’t nearly as complicated as Magic: The Gathering, but it is a lot of fun and makes you feel satisfied when your deck’s strategy pays off.

I should note the UI for customizing decks isn’t great.

Overall, I loved this game so much I invested in a physical version of the Summoner Wars Master Set to play with friends face to face. It has 6 different factions! Plus, I can buy the ones on the iPhone to use as well. This is a great game and well worth a try.

9
Go to the Morels page

Morels

152 out of 177 gamers thought this was helpful

Morels is a lovingly crafted and designed game through and through. Your first interaction with the game will be its colorful, almost storybook like art of the woods. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll see the awesome handcrafted wooden pieces because you paid a few bucks extra. Then, you’ll read the rules, which are concise, clear, and just playful enough to make it entertaining.

The game is a quick walk through the woods. Every turn, more cards will pass into the “decay,” which means the game ends (when the deck empties). You take one action every turn and you never quite feel like you have enough actions to do everything. Should you cook? Grab that mushroom? Sell? Play a pan to stall? Gah!

The game plays a little differently every time based on how defensively your opponent plays and the order of the cards.

This is a light game, a quick game, but one full of variety and good, sound strategy. This has been very well received by my friends and I’m very glad to have it in my collection. If you enjoy 2 player games with a novel theme, give this a look.

8
Go to the Timeline: Inventions page
28 out of 34 gamers thought this was helpful

This is an outstanding and cheap party game to add to your collection. If you enjoy party games to play with friends while drinking and/or laughing, or want a neat way to teach historical trivia to a young child, this is a great solution.

The game is quite simple. Give every player a hand of cards, each with an invention on one side and its date of invention on the other. You don’t get to look at the date! Then, place one invention in the center of the table.

The first player must play one invention from his hand and decide whether it was invented before or after the invention in the center. If he’s right, he has one less card. The first player to get rid of all cards wins. If you are wrong, however, you place your card and draw a new one.

Now, the new player must decide which invention to play from his hand and whether it goes before the first invention, after the last one, or between the two. The timeline continues to grow more complex with every play and play continues until one player is out of all cards.

I love history, so this game was an immediate “win” for me. It’s *so* simple to teach and play and we were all laughing and smiling throughout. I would even think the game would be fun if I were a small child just flipping through the cards and guessing.

If you enjoy party games, definitely check this out.

6
Go to the Batt'l Kha'os page

Batt'l Kha'os

20 out of 23 gamers thought this was helpful

I received this game in a trade. I was surprised that I enjoyed it, but overall, it’s not an amazing game. It’s solid, but didn’t really excite me.

On each turn you place a tile from your hand or a tower tile.

Tiles typically have orcs or humans in the corners. Once all four corners are completed, you tally up to see who has the most units. For example, if 2 of the corners have 4 Orcs and the other 2 have 2 humans, the orcs win. Therefore, the orcs place a flag. Once all four corners are determined around a tower, you see who wins the tower, with ties going to the color of the tower.

The other twist is that every player has 5 special, one-time-use tiles that modify the other tiles. For example, one gives you +2 units of your type.

The first player to win a certain number of points worth of towers wins. Success usually goes to the player who times the placement of his special tiles the best.

The game also comes with advanced variants, where you can play with 5 other, more complicated special tiles. There are also special tiles in addition to that to change the game further. There’s quite a bit of variety and the game plays in about 10-20 minutes.

If you enjoy tile laying, abstracts, and a battle theme, and can get this cheaply, consider it. Otherwise, I don’t think it’ll knock your socks off.

10
Go to the King of Tokyo page

King of Tokyo

172 out of 191 gamers thought this was helpful

I’ve only owned King of Tokyo for a week, but I’ve already played it TEN times with a wide variety of friends. I even got my girlfriend to play (and enjoy!) two games. This almost never happens.

The first print run of King of Tokyo sold out very quickly, and for good reason. This is a Richard Garfield (i.e. Magic: The Gathering) design and for me it absolutely lives up to the hype. I’ll walk you through this in gentle monster steps.

The components are top notch and outstanding. Big, hefty six-sided dice with the symbols notched into the sides (not stamped on, like the first edition). Beautiful, awesome cut outs for each monster, as well as super nifty, thick score/health trackers with the little dials. Beautiful cards with outstanding art. Even the box is nice, with a mold that holds all the pieces and cards so that noting flies around. This is how great games should look!

The game is ridiculously easy to learn. Essentially, the game is King of the Hill. The first player to 20 points, or the last player standing, wins. On each turn you roll a set of 6 dice 3 times. You ultimately take what you roll the third time. On your turn you’ll smack your opponents, heal, score points, or earn energy cubes, which you will spend on cards. Cards are either one-time use (i.e. gain 5 points, take Tokyo, heal for 2 points) or permanent additions that give you interesting abilities (do extra damage, reduce the number of dice an opponent rolls, change a die roll, etc.).

The result, is that the choices of the players, the randomness of the dice, and the abilities of the cards (which will take MANY plays to see everything) make for a game that’s full of luck, laughs, and variety.

The game is fun with 2-6 players and plays in about 20-45 minutes. Some games are incredibly tense back and forth matches. Other games end quickly when a player has a mega good turn. The game really changes based on the number of players, but I’ve yet to find a variant that wasn’t fun.

There is one downside, which is that some of the cards can lead to a little interpretation. The rules don’t explain every single card in the game, so in some cases you’ll just need to use your best judgement. I will say, that after 10 games with a lot of hardcore people, we’ve always quickly agreed upon an interpretation that was fair and consistent. But, some people may not care for this.

The other issue is that there is player elimination. Typically, I avoid games with player elimination. However, King of Tokyo is so fun and by the time players get eliminated the game is about to end. You won’t be sitting idly for 20 minutes.

I think the brilliance of King of Tokyo is that it’s a brutal take that game of probability. However, all information is always available. You always know what 3 cards can be bought, what your opponents have, and what their chances are on their turn. You’re never surprised by a really cheap card that undermines all of your work.

I love this game. It’s just outstanding and I’m so glad there is a second edition. If you enjoy dice, beautiful components, and well-crafted experiences, this is a good game to consider.

10
Go to the Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer page
46 out of 53 gamers thought this was helpful

I have played almost 500 games of Ascension on my iPhone. To say it’s one of my favorite games or that I love it is, perhaps, an understatement. I also love Dominion, but they are very different games.

For this review, I’m going to discuss both the game of Ascension and the app.

Ascension is a deckbuilding game. There is a large deck of cards, many of which are unique. At all times there are 6 cards from this deck available for “purchase” between both players. Players purchase these cards with one of two currencies. There are cards that provide new abilities and monsters, which typically just provide points and a one-time behavior (i.e. steal a card, banish a card from your hand, etc.). So, in addition to the 6 randomly generated cards in the center, players can always buy the currency cards to more efficiently obtain cards or banish monsters.

Some people will knock Ascension for being too random, and it IS random. Especially compared to Dominion, where the 10 piles of cards are constant for the entire game. However, as you learn the game and its cards you’ll find there is a rhythm and a pulse to it. You’ll begin to learn the probability of monsters or other cards coming out. You’ll see the combinations. I should note that I play the game almost exclusively in 2 player games. With 3 or 4 players the game gets a bit too chaotic and it’s too difficult to make meaningful decisions.

One thing I love about Ascension are the Constructs. These cards are both worth a great deal of points at the end, but when you play them they remain in front of you semi-permanently (some cards and force you to discard them). At first glance, their abilities are meaningless. However, veteran players will quickly show you just how powerful a well-built set of Constructs can be!

Yes, sometimes your opponent will get all the best draws. It happens. But, two experienced players can finish a game of Ascension in under 10 minutes. If you get a bad draw, just play again!

Now, some specifics on the App.

The app is very stable and never crashes on my iPhone 4. The game uses Gamecenter to find friends against whom to play, and I’ve found it’s one of the better board game apps because of it. It is very easy to setup games and navigate through them. Playdek (the developer) has made good improvements throughout the app’s life cycle, including fixing bugs and exploits, improving the UI (Next Game button!) and adding the game’s expansions. You can now buy the Return of the Fallen and Storm of Souls expansions, plus the promo cards.

The UI is generally very clean and easy to use. The hardest part of Ascension is learning the cards, which just takes time.

This is a great app and well worth the money. I love the app so much that I intend to buy the physical game. Great job on both the developers of the game and the app.

9
Go to the Brass page

Brass

96 out of 106 gamers thought this was helpful

Brass is an incredibly well-designed game that is absolutely packed with choices and long term decisions. This is a game that has multiple strategies and will take many many plays to master. If you like to think and plan and scheme, this is a game to look into.

In Brass, each player is an industrial tycoon in pre/post Industrial England. There are towns throughout the board that are connected by routes and have slots to produce coal, cotton, provide shipyards, ports, etc.

Each player has a hand of 8 cards. On your turn, you play one card from your hand, then refill it. The round (there are two rounds total) ends when all cards are played.

There are two types of cards: One that specifies a type of building (i.e. Coal). It can be played on ANY town with a coal plant to which you already have an adjacent building. The other card type specifies a town. You can build ANY building in this town that the town supports.

Placing a building cost money and provides you with some of the resources. For example, buying a coal building provides a few cubes of coal, which can be used to build other buildings. Once all the coal on the coal building is used, you flip it over for points. The other fun thing is that other players can use your coal, which is just fine as it means THEY are giving YOU points.

You have limited stacks of each building in multiple levels. The higher level ones cost more (coins and resources), but provide more points. On your turn, you can also play a card to build canals/railroad (depending on the phase) OR you can develop, which means you discard buildings. You might discard a building to instead get to the more valuable buildings more quickly. This is a KEY advanced strategy.

Finally, you can use your turn to take a loan.

This is a game that requires so much thought! Your opponents will build the building you wanted to build, or they’ll place a building to block you (remember, adjacency is important). Or, they’ll buy the coal you were hoping to use. You’ll see one player sprinting to build the incredibly valuable shipyards…can you block him in time?

Over the course of the two rounds much thought will be had.

I have two problems with the game, which may not be problems for some. For one, the game takes at least 2 hours to play, which means it’s difficult to get to the table. Secondly, the canal phase seems a bit…unnecessary. What I mean is that I feel the game could have been streamlined into a single phase, which is apparently what the designer did with another game.

Overall, this is a beautiful, incredibly well-designed game. It’s one of the few really difficult, brain-burny games I enjoy and I think it deserves a spot in your collection if you have any interest in such a game.

9
Go to the Memoir '44 page

Memoir '44

80 out of 87 gamers thought this was helpful

Memoir ’44 is an excellent game and one of the gems of my collection. It does many things that I love in a game:

-Simple, accessible rules so it’s easy to learn and explain.
-Great components! Hefty, custom wooden dice, great little tank and infantry figures, barbed wire, titles for terrain. It’s a beautiful game and it feels great.
-A little bit of thinking required and a little bit of luck. It’s a great combination.
-Lots of variety with 15 scenarios in the base game (and let’s not mention expansions).

Memoir ’44 throws away much of the tedium that causes so many board games to be so overwhelming, tedious, and time consuming. Terrain variations are largely consistent, so you don’t need to learn the 15 rules that vary hedgerows from forests. This philosophy permeates the entire design — streamline away the tedium and focus on the fun.

On his turn, the active player chooses one card from his hand. This card will dictate which flank the player can command (left, center, right, or multiple fronts), which type of units, or how many units. Of course, some cards have special functionality.

The player then chooses which units to use on the flank dictated by the card. Do I move my infantry into position to attack? DO I wait for the enemy and maintain my current position? There are many choices and you’ll need to play your cards well to maximize your chances of emerging victoriously.

The base 15 scenarios provide varied terrain, units (tanks, infantry, artillery, all combined), special forces, and a variety of objectives (capture the town, hold for a certain amount of time, etc.).

This is an outstanding game and it’s one I love to play with my friends on afternoons. Give it a look as you won’t be disappointed.

9
Go to the Heroscape: Game System Master Set page
94 out of 103 gamers thought this was helpful

Heroscape took my social group by storm in college. We loved this game and played it constantly. The premise of the game is that you’re in Valhalla, the Norse afterlife for heroes, and all of warriors from history (WWII paratroopers or Samurai), other dimensions (aliens), and the future (cyborg bots) are fighting.

Awesome.

In Heroscape, you use plastic hex tiles and pieces to build game boards with elevation and structures. Game boards might be arenas where teams fight to the death, or perhaps objective based (king of the hill or capture the flag). The game provided several pre-designed scenarios, but it’s really easy to create your own or combine sets to make really elaborate settings.

Then, players form teams (we usually played 2 vs. 2) and pick their armies. Each player has a certain number of points to spend on units. Really good units cost a great deal of points, which means you may get just them. Or, you can buy several weaker units. The units are really great, nice plastic miniatures. No painting! Also, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to field an army.

Units in Heroscape are incredibly streamlined. They detail their movement and attack range, attack power (number of dice you roll) and defense power (number of dice you roll). And health. It’s really easy to see what a unit does, approximately how good they are, and play. Some units have special abilities which are written in text.

Then, players use little numbered tokens to denote their first, second, and third movement. In order, players take their first unit’s turn, then second, etc. This is a bit of a bluffing mechanic, but also, it’s a fun choice as you HOPE to use the unit when you want to use them, but things change.

Due to the vast scenarios, units, and streamlined rules, I really recommend this game if you can find it. There are also tons of add ons to buy if you want to expand the game further. This was really fun and I’m glad Hasbro made this game.

6
Go to the Bananagrams page

Bananagrams

55 out of 70 gamers thought this was helpful

This is a really simple, incredibly quick word game that plays with a large number of people.

You have a limited set of letters and must build off words played by others using your letters, or you can draw new letters. The game ends when a player uses all of their letters and if you’re playing with 6 or more people, the game can end in seconds.

It’s a bit stressful and a bit too short to really be something I want to pull out often. I’d rather play Scrabble (which takes forever, I know) or Boggle, which is quick, but doesn’t feel as frantic.

This is a neat game and worth the price, just not a favorite of mine.

9
Go to the Eminent Domain page

Eminent Domain

108 out of 116 gamers thought this was helpful

In Eminent Domain you’re adding planets to your empire, which allows you to produce and trade more goods, research exciting technology, and earn points for having the planets.

There are 5 base card types in the game: Warfare, Colonization, Survey, Research, and Trade/Produce. There are also powerful research cards you can obtain. On each turn you may choose to play one card for its Action. Then, you choose a role, which means you take one of the 5 cards above. Then, you may play as many cards from your hand as you’d like to go with that role.

For example, if I take the Survey role, which allows me to find new planets, I can play 3 other Survey cards from my hand to increase my chances of finding a planet I like. Or, I can take the research role, then play 4 other Research cards from my hand to access Tier 2 research cards.

The other twist is that your opponents may copy the role you take with their own cards, or dissent, which means they get to draw 1 card.

The game is about focus. It’s key to pick a primary strategy paired with a secondary (usually) and execute it really well. So, Capture a few planets, setup a trade engine, and earn points through trade. Or, Capture tons of planets for points using really high level technology.

It’s key to maximize your turns and take advantage of follow opportunities as the game can end really quickly (some say too quickly, but overall I find it’s about right). Research cards can be very powerful, so taking advantage of them is also key.

I’ve played Eminent Domain at least 10 times now, and though I enjoy it, the game definitely seems to be wearing a little thin. The game almost entirely lacks randomness and there isn’t a great deal of player interaction, so every play feels very similar and I feel like I’m simply refining the same strategy. I don’t feel I can play it as often as Dominion or Ascension.

The 9 I gave it a while back was premature, but unfortunately I cannot change that. I’d probably adjust that to a 7/10 now. This is a good game, but it lacks legs.

5
Go to the Risk page

Risk

32 out of 40 gamers thought this was helpful

Risk is a game that will always provide strong feelings of nostalgia. I played it often as a child and stayed up late, too late, playing with friends to conquer the world.

As I’ve grown older, ventured deeper into the board game hobby, and found that I have less time, Risk just doesn’t fit the bill anymore.

Risk is incredibly simple and elegant, which is outstanding. Unfortunately, 20 units can and will lose against 2 units when the fickle dice decide so.

Furthermore, the game is a series of escalation as players cash in cards to reinforce with more in more units until it reaches an absurd degree.

That being said, Risk has some really strong elements. The human element of shaky alliances and pacts is an outstanding element. Choosing your initial setup is fun and can largely determine the game. And fighting for your favorite country (admit it, you have one) is always a pleasure.

Risk has paved the way for many new games. And Risk: Legacy is taking the brand into really bold, innovative new territory. For me? I’d rather play Memoir ’44, 1812: The Invasion of Canada, or other outstanding modern war games.

7
Go to the Flash Point: Fire Rescue page
194 out of 203 gamers thought this was helpful

Flash Point is one of the many board games I’ve backed via Kickstarter, but one of the very few to actually live up to my expectations. This is a very good game that should be considered by fans of co-op, firefighters, and all around good group experiences.

The components of the game are top notch. Great art, super thick, sturdy box and board, solid wood meeples, and more. You’ll have fun setting up all the pieces and looking at the board.

The game is cooperative, which means you all win together or lose together. Each player takes control of a firefighter, each of whom have a special ability. The game is very similar to Pandemic and Forbidden Island in this regard, though I must say my friends and I enjoyed the Flash Point roles more. We also liked that you can change your role in the middle of the game, which makes for a fun strategic choice.

In the game, a home has caught fire and you must take advantage of your firefighter’s ability, and those of your friends, to hold back the fire, stabilize the building, and rescue enough people before the building collapses or too many casualties are suffered. The fire spreading mechanic is random and very dangerous, which means every decision counts.

The game features all of the things you might expect from a firefighting game. Volatile household items can explode. The fire might blow out doors or walls, or you as the firefighter might axe these barriers. Smoke is bad, but fire is much, much worse! All in all, the game greatly takes advantage of its theme. Again, I have to give it the nod here versus Forbidden Island or Pandemic.

The only downside is that the game has many things to keep track of. After a game or two it’s not a big deal, but early on you must track things like hot spots, chain reactions, and other things. There are quite a few token types and each one has a slight rule that affects the game. Pandemic and Forbidden Island are a bit more elegant and accessible for this reason.

I’m not a huge fan of co-op, but I’m glad I own Flash Point. It definitely offers something new to the co-op genre and takes great advantage of its thematic premise. The components are great. You will definitely get your money’s worth.

7
Go to the Agricola page

Agricola

85 out of 97 gamers thought this was helpful

Before I go too far, let me note that I think this is a very well designed game. It came highly recommended, which is why I bought it, and while playing it I can see that it’s very good.

It’s just not for me.

Agricola is about building up your farm. Every round, a new card is revealed to give every player one new potential action. Players take turn in the round assigning their family members to the potential actions. Things like fishing to get food, or you get grain, or build a fence, or you get an animal. This is fun, and the variety is neat. I also like how you know what the 14 cards are that are revealed each turn, but you don’t know what will come about when.

After you take all your actions, you must feed your people. Otherwise, you take a penalty. This game can be really harsh, especially for new players.

Agricola takes too long to setup. There are so many components, cards, and pieces that setting it up (then putting it away) actually gets in the way of playing the game.

The game is incredibly broad, which means you need to learn about several animals, the pastures, building your home, improvements, advanced improvements, keeping your people alive, farming, and more. It’s just a lot to take in and there are other Euros I’d rather play first.

My other frustration is that there are so many ways to earn points that you must use this incredibly detailed score pad to tally up points at the end of the game. There’s just so much going on!

Finally, I love that you get 14 new cards at the beginning of each game, but holy smokes this is overwhelming. There are hundreds of cards and reading them all takes time. There’s just so much going on that I feel I’d have to play the game 10 times before I had a lot of fun, and I just don’t think I like it enough to do that.

It’s a good game, just not for me.

9
Go to the Discworld: Ankh-Morpork page

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork

103 out of 110 gamers thought this was helpful

Discworld is a beautifully thematic game that has quickly shot to the top of my favorites list. It has all the elements I love in a game: 2-4 players (equally fun at any number), deep, easy to learn, plays in an hour or less, and well integrated theme.

The game is based on the Discworld novels, which I’ve never read, but now wish to do. The world seems to be a mix of Victorian Steampunk mixed with some fantasy elements. In a way, it reminds me of the underground in*boy.

The premise is that there’s political chaos (and therefore, opportunity) on Discworld. Each player is vying to become the next leader. Here’s where the first cool feature comes into play: Each player has a secret victory condition. This feature works really well and it’s a great layer to distinguish novice players from experienced players. As you play, you’ll get better at making your opponents think you’re trying to win with Variant A when really you’re going for Variant B.

Ultimately, the game is a worker placement/area control game. Each turn, you play at least one card and choose which options you want to do. Options include things like adding a new minion to the board, moving minions, drawing more cards, gaining money, etc. The iconography on the card is beautifully simple and is a great lesson for aspiring designers to note. You choose which options you want to take, which means you have great choices.

You can also buy buildings, which grant you the ability for that region. The best players know how to wield their cards (randomly acquired) and abilities (guaranteed) to hinder their opponents and attain victory.

The game is incredibly easy to learn. The components, including the outstanding art on cards, interesting meeples, and beautifully drawn board, are top notch. The game is great for experienced and new gamers alike.

It has a good mix of strategy and randomness and all of my friends have enjoyed this so far. Give it a look, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

10
Go to the Scrabble page

Scrabble

62 out of 85 gamers thought this was helpful

This is a classic that needs little praise from me. Scrabble is an incredibly accessible, yet deep game that continues to reveal layers as I play it.

Scrabble is a game of vocabulary, i.e. finding the best word using your limited tiles to earn points.

Scrabble is a game of managing probability, i.e. knowing the distribution of letters to best prevent your opponents from scoring big.

Scrabble is a tile laying game of strategy, i.e. setting yourself up to take advantage of powerful bonus tiles while preventing your opponents from having them.

I love this game. It’s wonderful to play with my family, my girlfriend, and one day, my children. This is a must for every collection.

9
Go to the Rory's Story Cubes page

Rory's Story Cubes

70 out of 78 gamers thought this was helpful

Calling Rory’s Story Cubes a game is potentially misleading, but then again, it’s not not a game.

For under $10 (I bought mine at Target for $6.99), you get a set of 9 six-sided dice. Each side of every die has a unique image on it, which means you have 54 images total. Wow!

To play, you roll the dice, look at the images rolled, and create a story.

You can also use this to help you with writer’s block.

Or to prototype a design.

Or just to roll and see what your imagination creates.

I think this is a wonderful toy. The dice are big and high quality. The images are varied and the breadth of combinations means you’ll always see something new.

I’m a designer, a child at heart, and someone who loves the value of meaningful play. Because of that, Rory’s Story Cubes is a winner.

8
Go to the Apples to Apples page

Apples to Apples

58 out of 65 gamers thought this was helpful

Apples to Apples is one of the simplest games to teach that provides almost endless entertainment value.

The game supports as many players as you want. Each turn, one player draws a green card from the stack which contains an adjective. Let’s say the adjective is Bossy.

Then, every other player plays one red card from their hand. Red cards contain nouns and pronouns, so everything from Circus to Humphrey Bogart. The player who drew the green card shuffles all the red cards and picks the one he or she thinks best fits the adjective.

The player whose card is chosen receives the green card, i.e. one point.

Laughter ensues.

The combination of green cards and red cards multiplied by the people playing means no two games are the same. It also changes the strategy. Some people are quite literal and want serious answers (my father). Some want the most random, bizarre answer (my girlfriend, who is guaranteed to pick “creamed corn.” Some players lack imagination, others have too much, and as a result you must learn to play the cards to the player who is picking.

I love this game. I’ve played it with countless people in so many social situations. I’ve never met someone who didn’t have fun playing it. If you host family gatherings or have friends over for dinner, you must have Apples to Apples. And once people get a feel for it, give Dixit a spin.

9
Go to the Dominion: Intrigue page

Dominion: Intrigue

77 out of 85 gamers thought this was helpful

Dominion: Intrigue is a standalone expansion to the bestselling Dominion. I picked Intrigue as several of my peers suggested it as it’s a more refined variant of Dominion and includes some player interaction elements.

Intrigue is a thoroughly excellent game. I’ve always enjoyed Dominion, but it wasn’t until this weekend where I was able to play 5 games with the same two friends that I really appreciated it. There are a few things I really love about Dominion: Intrigue:

1.) Easy to teach. I played 5 times with 2 friends who have never played and wouldn’t consider myself gamers. They won 3 of the 5 games we played because they were quickly able to learn the game and its mechanics.

2.) Quick to play. You can have an incredibly satisfying game in a half hour. Because it plays so quickly and is so satisfying, it’s all the more enticing to play it a second time (or third, or fifth, as was our case!).

3.) The perfect dose of randomness. You randomly decide which 10 cards to use in a game. I love this. In fact, after having so much fun with Intrigue, I’ve decided to buy my first Dominion expansion. I want more. I also love that you don’t know which cards you’ll draw, but you can improve your chances with a well built deck. Randomness plus strategy is a great combination.

The goal of Intrigue (and Dominion) is to have the most Victory Points. Point cards come in three variants (1, 3, and 6 points) and do nothing for your deck in most cases other than clog up the deck. A key element of Dominion, therefore, is to properly time when to acquire Victory Point cards.

Each turn you play your cards and setup the best opportunity to spend your coins to buy new cards and buy victory points. Each player conceives an “engine” to build, a system of connected cards, to best improve your chances. You could play with the same 10 cards a dozen times and experiment with buying different cards at different times and playing them a different way. The game is oozing with depth that is sometimes easily grasped and sometimes a little more subtle. It’s really excellent.

We had a lot of fun playing this. Again, I love bringing out a game that my non-gamer friends love, understand, and want to play. Highly recommended.

7
Go to the Quarriors! page

Quarriors!

51 out of 58 gamers thought this was helpful

Deckbuilding games are huge. The perfect combination of a little randomness (i.e. which cards will I draw?) and good strategic choice (i.e. which cards do I buy?) make for a really compelling package.

But, what if you make a dice building game? Quarriors! answers that question. Quarriors! is a highly random, very quick playing, and highly entertaining game.

Know this going in. It’s really random.

It’s random. You need to be okay with that (and you should be, it’s fun!).

You start with 12 dice, each custom with sides that give you currency to buy things, the ability to re-roll dice, etc. On your turn you can buy one of a certain number of dice out in front of you. The game works much like Dominion in that the dice available for purchase each game are different. Furthermore, the dice are further modified by having different cards/rules each game. There is a TON of variety in Quarriors!

You can also summon monsters, which you put in front of you. Somewhat like Magic: The Gathering, monsters battle automatically when summoned. Players earn points if their monsters survive an entire round based on the monster.

So, you add the dice you bought into your bag, draw 6 more, roll them, buy stuff, summon monsters. That’s it. It’s really that simple! The act of rolling dice is a lot of fun. Combining deckbuilding with dice and some additional variety on top of that is really entertaining. Plus, the components are outstanding. Great art on the cards and tons of custom dice.

If you want a quick game while setting up the next big Euro, get Quarriors! It’s also a great lunch game, a fun game to play with kids, or just a fun romp to play while enjoying a beverage with friends.

8
Go to the Bohnanza page

Bohnanza

59 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

If you’ve ever played Settlers of Catan, you’ve no doubt been frustrated by the constant “2 brick for wood?” No. “2 sheep for wood?” No. Etc. Etc. The game is highly dependent on trading to succeed, but more often than not, there’s clearly one player who will benefit far more than the rest.

Bohnanza is primarily a trading game that makes trading not only fun, but integral.

Each player has only 2 Bean Fields. At the beginning of his turn, the player MUST plant the first Bean card in his hand (you cannot modify the order of the cards in your hand, which is a cool mechanic). If you only have 2 bean fields, this can be a problem. Then, you draw 2 bean cards from the deck. Guess what? If you cannot trade those away, you must plant them.

Players score points by planting a bean and then placing similar beans on top of it. Your score increases based on the type of bean and the number of beans planted. For example, if you can plant 5 of Bean A, you’ll get 2 Points. If you plant 7, you’ll get 3 points. So, you really want to not have to uproot these fields!

Here’s where trading comes in. It’s to the benefit of all players to trade. Sometimes you give, sometimes you take. Ultimately, playing the probability correctly (which isn’t too hard), being a good (or savvy) bean trader, and knowing when to harvest and when to plant is key.

The game is really simple and plays with up to 7 players in about an hour. With fewer players, the game plays more quickly. I’m a big fan of Bohnanza and think it’s definitely worth a look!

6
Go to the Munchkin page

Munchkin

43 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

Munchkin is the game that got me into the board game hobby as a whole, so I will always be fond of it. It’s not my favorite game and not something I play often, but I found it really entertaining and it was the first non-Risk/non-Monopoly game I played in years.

Munchkin is a really light and highly random RPG that parodies/streamlines the classic Dungeons and Dragons experience. On your turn you must go adventuring, which typically results in a really bad monster appearing. You must use your gear, but more importantly, you must bargain and barter with your opponents to assist you. This is where the game’s real appeal lies.

Munchkin is fun because, for me at least, it’s about us banding together or my girlfriend coming out of left field to see to it that I’m destroyed for some bad comment I made earlier. Munchkin brings out hilarious backstabbing and social situations that really make it rich.

The best part is that it makes everyone laugh.

Munchkin is very random and it’s not terribly deep. Some of its rules can be somewhat fiddly and at times the game takes a really long time. BUT. Munchkin has great player interaction and great emergent, social gameplay. I really recommend you give it a look if only for that reason.

10
Go to the Dixit page

Dixit

42 out of 51 gamers thought this was helpful

Dixit is an absolutely wonderful game. It can be explained in mere minutes and has a mechanic so compelling that I’ve yet to see a player not become immensely engaged by the second turn.

Dixit is a game about storytelling and description. The active player must pick one of the beautifully illustrated, bizarre cards from his/her hand and describe it without showing the picture. The other players must pick a card from their own hand that they think matches the description.

Then, players pick the one they think is the original card.

The brilliance of the game lies in the art. It’s bizarre, imaginative, and like a truly strange children’s book. The game never plays the same because no two players will view the cards differently. You can play it with the same people and the stories will change based on the moods, the cards dealt, and more.

I cannot think of a game that has made me laugh harder than Dixit. Furthermore, on at least 3 occasions I’ve had friends get out their iPhone to buy the game on Amazon before we even finished our first game.

Everyone should own Dixit, at least everyone with an imagination and a wicked sense of humor.

This is truly a game that sparks the imagination and makes you smile.

8
Go to the Ascending Empires page

Ascending Empires

146 out of 159 gamers thought this was helpful

Ascending Empires appeals to me for several reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, the entire game is streamlined and distilled to its most important elements. It plays quickly, even with 4 players. Each player takes ONE action each turn, which means there’s little waiting and downtime. Your actions are all relatively straightforward and well explained on the reference sheet.

The focus is on playing the game!

The dexterity element is clever and not a gimmick. You flick your ships (which are hefty wooden pucks) around the large board to move them. It sounds dumb, but unless you are an absolute oaf you won’t lose this game because of a bad flick. You may have a better turn or a worse turn because of it, but the game won’t hinge upon it. This is why it’s fun, not tacked on!

To be successful one must think just a few turns ahead, especially when conquering planets or researching a difficult technology. This makes conquering planets not trivial affair. A mechanic I love is where you can blockade a planet and prevent your opponent from using it at all merely by being in orbit. This allows you to gum up an opponent’s infrastructure while focusing on a juicy planetary target.

The men as currency system is incredibly elegant. Men power everything, not fiddly money or coins. You use limited men (which you can expand) to land on planets, build colonies, launch fighters, and act as defense. Everything is fueled by them and it’s yet another way by which the game remains streamlined.

Ascending Empires is a big, hefty game without all the clunky weight and baggage. You can enjoy it in an hour instead of the 6 hour slog of some games of it’s type. It features very little luck and little downtime. If you are looking for a good space civ game that doesn’t take forever to play, give this one a look.

8
Go to the The Resistance: 3rd Edition page
32 out of 38 gamers thought this was helpful

I have never played this game with anyone who didn’t have a great time. It’s almost as simple as that.

The game plays with up to ten players, though it’s fun with as few as six. At the beginning of the game a few players are randomly dealt spy cards while the others are randomly dealt resistance cards. It’s a matter of the informed, evil minority versus the uniformed majority.

Each turn, a new player is passed the Leader token. He or she must choose a certain number of people to go along on a mission. But who do you choose? If you pick a spy, they may sabotage the mission. The spies only need to sabotage 3 (out of 5) to win, so picking incorrectly too many times will be the end of your resistance.

There’s only so much information to be had. How have players voted? Who is acting suspiciously? Who has the best poker face?

This game almost always ends up with hilarious, friendly shouting, gesturing, accusations, and pleas of innocence. The game plays anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour and I’ve never had someone not ask to play again (and sometimes again after that!).

The game has great components and is perfect for large parties. You cannot beat the price.

8
Go to the Gubs page

Gubs

65 out of 89 gamers thought this was helpful

Gubs is a game set in a beautiful, colorful fantastic world. The cards are top notch. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more lovely card game for the price.

Gubs is ridiculously random, sometimes fair, but most often unfair. The balancing factor is that the game equally distributes the punches and whirlwinds around the table.

The goal of the game is to have the most Gubs in front of you at the end of the game. The game ends somewhat predictably after all three letter cards are played to spell G-U-B. Each turn, you play cards that let you steal Gubs, kill gubs, trap gubs, and protect gubs, among other things.

However, many times you’ll draw powerful Event cards that set the entire game on its head.

This is a delightful game for children or a group of friends at the park during a barbecue. It’s a game we’ve brought out time and time again because it’s so travel friendly, plays quickly, is easy to teach, and makes everyone laugh.

You may not win, but you’ll have fun.

7
Go to the Elder Sign page

Elder Sign

59 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

I’m not a huge fan of co-op, but I really enjoy Elder Sign. The game is incredibly streamlined, plays quickly with up to 8 players, has beautiful components, is highly thematic, and features a really satisfying dice mechanic.

Your goal is to work alongside your teammates to banish one of many horrible creatures before all **** breaks loose. Each player is given a character card, which features a special ability.

On your turn, you choose to upgrade your equipment or fight monsters on one of the quests available. To do this, you roll a set of fantastic custom dice with symbols on them. You must assign the symbols to the quest to complete it, but beware, you only have a few rolls! Character abilities and equipment help you mitigate and modify the dice rolls. Plus, you can obtain special yellow and red dice that make it a little more likely that you’ll complete the quest.

Completing a quest grants you more equipment and Elder Signs. The game is won after collecting a set number of Elder Signs. However, failing the quest brings on more monsters, hurts your character’s health and sanity, or brings the huge boss demon one step closer to consuming everyone.

The game is tense and difficult, but not TOO difficult. It’s a great balance and it leads to the players chewing on their nails and saying things like “oh man don’t flip over that card!”

One thing I want to note is that the game’s iconography is fantastic! It makes it so easy to learn and explain the game. Just match the dice with the icons. There is very little text used on the game. Just great icons.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Really, you cannot beat it for the price if you’re looking for a good co-op experience.

6
Go to the Eruption page

Eruption

22 out of 24 gamers thought this was helpful

I was drawn to Eruption by its premise — each player owns a village on an island with an exploding volcano. Your goal is to do your best to keep as much of the lava off your village as possible.

On your turn you place a lava tile. This is one of my favorite parts of the game. You must keep the flow going, but you must choose whether to drive the lava into your opponents’ villages or turn the lava approaching your village the other way around.

Then, you play cards and build walls.

The turns flow somewhat awkwardly. As your village heats up, you are able to draw cards, more cards, and have other rule changes. It’s a bit weird to keep track of and isn’t terribly intuitive.

Another problem is that initially you have cards, but don’t get to draw new ones until midway through the game. Cards play a somewhat awkward role because of this. I felt they could have been better integrated.

Many of the cards don’t seem terribly useful, or only useful in very specific situations, so often they are discarded to obtain materials for walls, which is the other use of cards.

As the game progresses and villages heat up, there are some huge, heavy handed catch up mechanics. Because of this, every game I’ve played of Eruption ends with all of us on the maximum heat level. It requires the tie breaker to determine the winner and that isn’t much fun.

Overall, this is a mostly good game with some strange or rough spots. I feel more could have been done with the lava tile laying mechanic and to better integrate the cards.

8
Go to the Forbidden Island page

Forbidden Island

99 out of 118 gamers thought this was helpful

I’ve heard many say that Forbidden Island is just a streamlined Pandemic. I never thought Pandemic was too big or in need of streamlining, but I will say Forbidden Island is my favorite of the two.

Firstly, the game’s components are fantastic. The tin box, little wooden pawns, ornate plastic treasures — this game looks and feels much better than a $15 game should!

I also love that I can setup, explain the rules, and play a 4 player game in 45 minutes or less. Perfect for lunch or quick games for people who aren’t as hardcore.

The game is thrilling and tuned perfectly, especially on the higher difficulty levels. Even though we rarely lose at this point, you always feel as if you might. Occasionally, the island wins out!

The game’s character classes are fun, though some don’t have as much purpose until you play the game on the higher difficulty level (i.e. Diver). The Indiana Jones-esque theme is well done throughout.

As with all co-op, it’s definitely possible to have one player dominate the table and dictate strategy. But, if you play with the right people that shouldn’t be a problem. After several plays, parts of the strategy are fairly predictable and you know the optimal way to do things, but the game remains fun. Definitely check this one out.

9
Go to the Dragonheart page

Dragonheart

110 out of 143 gamers thought this was helpful

I’ve loved this game since the first time I played it. Several plays later it still hasn’t grown old.

Dragonheart is an incredibly simple game and isn’t terribly deep. Each turn you must play at least one card from your hand onto one of the many sets on the board. Most sets connect to another and if the right cards are played, you collect the cards and score them. The key to the game is understanding the probability and trying to set yourself up to score more often than your opponent.

There’s definitely a bit of luck and randomness. Sometimes the cards just aren’t with you. But, the game plays in about 10 minutes or less and is just so much fun to play.

I heartily recommend this game, especially if you find it on sale. It’s probably my favorite “filler” game.

9
Go to the Alien Frontiers page

Alien Frontiers

72 out of 83 gamers thought this was helpful

Alien Frontiers is a space-themed strategy game for 2-4 players. The components are top notch, with beautiful retro art, great wooden chips, and a great box to hold everything.

Alien Frontiers uses a really fun dice mechanic. On your turn, you roll 3 dice (by default, though you can add up to 6 throughout the game). You then assign dice to limited slots to do things like obtain resources, obtain cards, obtain new ships (i.e. dice), or place colonies.

Assigning your dice to spaces that not only further your own ends but deny your opponents is key. Alien Tech cards allow you to modify your dice and strengthen your actions, so the game never gets bogged down with infuriating dice rolls. There is always something for you to do with your dice!

The game plays in about an hour or less, depending on the familiarity of the players. It usually scores very closely and comes down to the very end.

This is a great game for people who don’t have a great deal of time to play games or don’t want to spend hours setting up or re-reading complex rules. I’ve enjoyed this every time I brought it to the table. It isn’t the deepest or most complex game, but that’s fine with me. I look forward to the upcoming expansion, which I backed on Kickstarter.

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