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Hugin

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9
Go to the Railways of the World page
154 out of 166 gamers thought this was helpful

Railways of the World has been one of those games that everyone I have introduced it to has enjoyed. Perhaps a slight step up from a gateway game (depending on the person), this is easily taught and grasped by new players, yet has enough depth and interaction for most gamers.

One of my favourite things is to watch people’s reaction when I tell them they start with no money at all. That’s right, you want to get things going, you better accept those investor dollars and go into debt. (The ‘debt’ in this game is really a hybrid of a stock and a bond. Like a bond, you pay out interest regularly, but like a stock, you don’t repay it back during the game.)

Much of the game involves “position”; there are auctions for player order; competition for track laying into certain cities to have access to the right types of goods; being able to build tracks along the cheapest route possible before another player utilizes it; being first to deliver goods or connect certain cities; having locomotives capable of delivering goods as far as you need them to; completing the objectives stated on your Baron Card.

The main board is large, and I mean large! It is a grid map of the Eastern US and it’s size makes it best for games of 4 to 6 players. There is also a smaller one of Mexico which is great for 2 or 3 player games. To add to the variance to the static map are the card decks. The cards provide other goals, bonuses, and abilities that can alter your plans or make them more efficient.

Yet throughout the game you must balance your railway’s debt (needed to grow your railroad) with the amount of income your railway receives. It is this struggle, along with the interactions between players on map, that creates such a great gaming experience. And the fact that all this is accomplished with rules that are not much more complex than say, Settlers of Catan, makes it a great game for even inexperienced games. Hey, even my mother-in-law really likes this game.

However, the price of this game is higher than most, and so may deter some people from purchasing it. All I can say is that it is worth it in my opinion, as it is often requested.

7
Go to the Catan: Traders & Barbarians page
62 out of 69 gamers thought this was helpful

This expansion set for Settlers of Catan can be summed up in the word – value. It doesn’t merely do one thing to the game, or change it once and that’s the extent it. Instead, it includes five different scenarios that each play quite different from each other. They are presented in the rule book in order from least complex to most, and I’ll do the same here.

The Fishermen of Catan replaces the desert with a lake inhabited with fish, as well as coastal areas that are ‘good fishing spots’. What I like about this scenario is that it curbs the feeling of “I have to be in the middle of the island or I lose”. Add in the Harbor Master variant included with this expansion and the highly contested areas of the island could be found anywhere.

While the fish are not a resource in the same sense as wood, sheep, wheat, etc., they can be used for a variety of purposes depending on how many you spend, even to ‘buy’ a resource of your choice. Finally, this is an absolutely fantastic way to play Settlers of Catan two-player. So, while this set includes rules for a two-player version, I highly recommend using this instead.

The Rivers of Catan adds an element of gaining wealth along rivers as a way to (hopefully) achieve victory points. Just don’t be the poorest and lose a point. There is the added layer of decision-making as to whether or not some coins should be spent for resources. It’s a nice scenario but only play it now and then.

The Caravans introduce a voting and political negotiation element to Settlers of Catan that can be quite intriguing. This is one scenario that plays better when using the 5-6 player expansion for Catan: Traders & Barbarians. Controlling the route that the caravans take can be lucrative but the cost of wool and grain to get the votes must be considered.

Barbarian Attack provides an arena in which players cooperate against a common foe in the form of the barbarians, while still vying for individual victory. This can be a very fun scenario but has just a little bit more randomness than normal (where the barbarians attack and whose knights fall in battle).

Traders & Barbarians is the most complex of the scenarios but that’s not to say the it is difficult to teach or learn. Anyone with Settlers experience will catch on quickly enough. It adds travel to the island whereby each wagon moves around the landscape picking up building materials for the castle. Upgrade your wagon to move around quicker and even possibly defend against bandits.

Beyond the five scenarios, Catan: Traders & Barbarians also provides several variants to be added to the base Settler game or to scenarios. The most commonly used one (we always play with it when playing Settlers) is the Harbor Master which acts similar to Largest Army and Longest Road in that it awards 2 Victory Points if you own it. It is awarded to the player with the most “Harbor Points”, i.e. Victory points from settlements and cities which are on harbors (minimum of three points on harbors). Highly recommended for use in any Settlers game.

The event deck is a great variant when you just don’t want to use the dice. This helps to even out the odds of numbers producing but does not guarantee the odds. It reduces luck but not eliminate it. There are also events on some of the cards that can make the unexpected benefit or untimely bane occur.

The Friendly Robber aims to allow players the change to get things going before being subject to the robber. The two-player variant, in my opinion, is entirely unnecessary thanks to the Fishermen scenario, and isn’t as fun.

So, overall, this expansion set is well worth the purchase if you play Settlers of Catan at all.

6
Go to the Conflict at the Carrock Adventure Pack page
89 out of 96 gamers thought this was helpful

Here’s a quest for those that love a good old-fashioned brutal fight. This is a tough quest, rated as a Difficulty Level of 7 which is the same as the Escape from Dol Guldur quest found in the base set, and so is not for the faint of heart.

Additionally, this quest will be even more difficult with less players since there are four trolls regardless of the number of players. What makes this dangerous to a solo player especially is that the trolls all have the same Engagement Cost; get to that threat number and they all engage you at once. Not only that but each troll also augments the strength of all the trolls in play, making them all even tougher. (Therefore, I recommend that if playing solo, play ‘two-handed’ and/or randomly select only two or three of the trolls to be used in the game.)

The Conflict at the Carrock Adventure Pack also includes some player cards and a new Spirit Hero – Frodo Baggins. The player cards consist of two new cards for each Sphere (3 copies of each card) as well as the neutral card Song of Wisdom. That neutral card will only be of use to those who use multi-sphere decks, but overall, the new cards are quite useful and worth getting.

Your threat count will be a very important element to maintain at a low level in this quest. Thus, using Frodo Baggins can be helpful in starting off with a lower threat level since he contributes only seven to the total. As an additional side-note, Frodo Baggins is also a great hero to use with the The Hunt for Gollum quest for those who get frustrated with being sent back to the second stage from the third one (he allows you to transfer damage to your threat counter).

So, this is a very good addition to the game overall, supplying a tough yet fun quest and along with a good assortment of useful new player cards.

8
Go to the Alhambra: Big Box page

Alhambra: Big Box

45 out of 51 gamers thought this was helpful

There is little debate that this is a gateway game, but with the Alhambra: Big Box edition, not only do you get the gate, but also the walls, treasure chambers, camps, huts, bazaars, art, power, favour, and even some change! These, and many other expansion modules, are the ones that were released as five separate expansion packs (The Vizier’s Favor, The City Gates, The Thief’s Turn, The Treasure Chamber, and Power of the Sultan) which had four individual modules in each. The Big Box takes all twenty modules and packs them together with the base game.

What makes this game so nice to have is the fact that you will not be able to play all the combinations possible with the twenty modules included with the base game. You can add one, or two, or three, or whatever you desire. (While I wouldn’t recommend more than three or four in a game, more is possible.) This allows you to progress up from a basic gateway level by small steps so that the level of complexity is entirely in your hands. So while this game still does not become a deep, strategic, brain-burner, it has its role and performs it well.

The twenty expansion modules that the Big Box comes with also vary widely in complexity. Some are extremely simple, and in the case of the Vizier’s Favor module, consist of just a single token per player, yet we always play with this if we have four or more players. Others, such as the Art of the Moors module, are more complex and add completely new facets to the game.

Whether the module modifies existing game elements, adds another layer to them, or introduces a completely new element, the variety found within this package is incredible. There are 1140 different ways to add three modules to the game; 4845 ways to add four modules, and 15504 ways to add five modules! I dare you to try them all!

8
Go to the Shadows over Camelot: Merlin's Company page
57 out of 65 gamers thought this was helpful

The box doesn’t provide a massive amount of physical elements, but it does add a good deal to the gameplay experience. Even though I knew exactly what this expansion came with, I was still somewhat disheartened by how little came in the box, given its size and cost.

However, it was apparent after even a single play with it that what it added to the gameplay itself was far above the mere pieces it added to the game. Be forewarned that Merlin’s Company increases the difficulty of the game, but it also adds some more options that the knights have at their disposal in the form of new white cards, Merlin, and knights with different abilities.

If judged solely on the amount of ‘stuff’ in the box, this expansion is lack-luster. Judged based on its effect on the gameplay experience, the value of Merlin’s Company shines brightly.

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