Player Avatar
Canada
Z-Man Games fan
I play red
Indie Board & Cards fan

iambfg

gamer level 7
21976 xp
followers
26

Use my invite URL to register (this will give me kudos)
http://boardgaming.com/register/?invited_by=iambfg
profile badges
Asmodee fan
AEG fan
Cryptozoic Entertainment fan
Smash Up: Zombie Faction Fan
recent achievements
Advanced Reviewer
Advanced Reviewer
Review 13 games and receive a total of 980 positive review ratings.
Stone of the Sun
Stone of the Sun
Explore select games by completing a series of exploration actions ...learn more »
Viscount / Viscountess
Viscount / Viscountess
Gain 25 total followers
Champion
Champion
Give 500 hearts (loyalty points) to a single game
Go to the Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naqala page
Go to the Takenoko page
Go to the Splendor page
Go to the Istanbul page
Go to the Lewis and Clark page
Go to the Castles of Mad King Ludwig page
Go to the Terra Mystica page
Go to the 7 Wonders: Duel page
8
Go to the Machi Koro: Harbor Expansion page

Machi Koro: Harbor Expansion

67 out of 70 gamers thought this was helpful

Upon my first couple of plays of Machi Koro, I felt that the game wouldn’t have legs for my game group. Despite the fun artwork, and the new take on Catan, the cards offered very few strategies to win.

So when I heard about an expansion I wasn’t super excited. Would more cards “fix” the game?

Components

Hey it’s another huge box! Besides that there are a few minor quirks. First…the card backs seem “off” in colour, and in some cases size. And again, this is a game that should be sleeved as the cards are thin.

Even with the quirks, the game is playable, and not really a deterrent to having fun.

Set-Up

Here is where the expansion CHANGES the game. Instead of ALL establishments being available, you make a tableau of 10 cards.

This takes the game from a Dominion style deck builder, to more in line with Ascension. This is a HUGE advantage.

Each player also has a new landmark.

One thing to keep in mind is that the new setup has a bigger footprint. So JAWS joke aside, you will legitimately need a bigger table.

Game Play – What’s Changed

The Harbour itself gives a unique twist of being able to increase dice rolls. This allows players to roll numbers higher than 12. Which is great, but has a negative. With this, buying #9 establishments typically becomes a waste of income.

The big change is the establishments come out in a much more random order. This means that there are MANY ways to win, and players are rewarded for trying out the different card combos and new cards.

The Tuna Boat is a personal favourite.

Theme

As I wrote in my review of the main game, theme is not Machi Koro’s strong point. that doesn’t take anything away from the game. You’ll still have fun playing, but if theme is vital to your group, you may want to look elsewhere.

Replay Value

Card games are at their best when they reward skill, but still have an unpredictable nature. This is the same for dice games. So for vanilla Machi Koro to be a card and dice game and lack any sense of unpredictability is a fairly big failure.

Because of that, I can’t stress enough how the Ascension/Legendary style marketplace and new cards open the game up.

There’s more back and forth to the game.

Is there times when people can luck in to great establishments showing up only for them? Sure. That’s the luck of the draw. But there are times when a great engine is lucked in to, and somebody else wins because of the luck of the dice. This really means that while The Harbour Expansion has the same feel as plain Machi Koro, the gameplay is a lot more engaging.

Over All Impression.

This is hard to sum up. The Harbour Expansion is the perfect expansion for Machi Koro. If you liked normal Machi Koro at all, this is a must play. If you own the game? This is a must purchase.

And if you hated Machi Koro? Well…I’d suggest giving the expansion a try, but wouldn’t begrudge those who take a flyer on this one. If you get frustrated with the dice in Catan, the game will still not work great for you. If Deckbuilders feel too swingy, the game will not work for you.

But as somebody who was DONE with vanilla Machi Koro, I will say the expansion made me go from not wanting to play the game ever again, to gladly playing it as a change of pace from more strategic games.

7
Go to the Machi Koro page

Machi Koro

17 out of 17 gamers thought this was helpful

Settlers of Catan (aka Catan) is an ever green, must play, phenomenon of the gaming universe. Dominion is the Grand Daddy of Deck Builders. When folks ask me to describe Machi Koro, I often say it’s like Catan & Dominion has a baby in Japan. Is there more to the game than that? And does Machi Koro suffer from similar issues as those other games?

Components

These are some pretty cards stuffed in to a HUGELY over sized box. And while I understand that it’s to make room for expansions, and to look better on a shelf…the box is way too big. Even with expansions.

As for the cars themselves? This is a game that should likely be sleeved. Playing multiple copies with a fair amount of plays (including my local game cafe) the cards are thin, show wear, and…have colour and sizing issues with expansions.

That’s not to say that the game isn’t playable, or that you’ll notice this a lot when playing. But…this isn’t up to high standards other companies are setting.

Set-Up

Players place their 2 starting Establishments (Wheat Field & Bakery) face-up in front of their play area, and their four Landmark cards face down.

Next, create a marketplace for all of the remaining Establishments. Each Establishment gets it’s own pile, and it’s helpful to place them in order of number.

Each player gets 3 coins with the remaining money making up the bank.

Determine a starting player and begin play.

Game Play – Basics

Players take turns in a clockwise order, performing three actions: Roll Dice; Earn Income; & Construction.

Players roll one or two dice. Once the results are own, players earn income (money from the bank) from and purchased Establishments. Players can them purchase an Establishment from the marketplace OR a landmark. Players can only purchase one item put turn. Once they have purchased or passed, the dice are passed to the next player.

Play continues until one player has constructed all of their landmarks.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

There are 4 types of establishment cards:

1) Restaurants (Red)
2) Secondary Industry (Green)
and Primary Industry (Blue)
3) Major Establishments (Purple)

Red cards take money from another player on their turn. Green earn income ONLY on your turn. Blue earn income on any players turn. Purple cards are special cards that earn income in unique ways on a players turn only.

It’s important to remember that during the income phase, cards are determined by the order of Red, Green, Blue, and Purple. This is important as it means a player can end up having no money to give out from another player’s red card, and then get income from a blue card.

Also of note is that cards have combo abilities. For instance some cards get $5 for ever other card of a similar type you have. This is important as it’s possible to build up an engine that can score $15 or more on a single dice roll.

Theme

If you are looking for theme…you might want to move on. While all the cards look nice (until they suffer from wear and tear), and have names that fit the theme, this isn’t going to shine through when you play the game.

But much like Splendor and other games, that doesn’t take anything away from the game.

Replay Value

Much like Dominion, Machi Koro (without expansions) is a race to build an effective engine faster than your opponents. You still need the dice to come up in your favour, but given the numbers that need to be rolled to activate the 2 most common engines in the game are 6 & 8…luck isn’t that big of a factor.

So the base game has limited replay value.

However, the designers seemed to clue in to this and the first expansion fixes most of these issues by changing more to a Ascension/Legendary style marketplace and with new cards that help avoid the main engines of the base game.

Over All Impression.

When talking about Machi Koro, I have to bring up the the Harbor Expansion is a MUST have for the game. So my final thoughts are in two parts.

Without the expansion Machi Koro will wear out it’s welcome MUCH faster than Catan or Dominion, and isn’t much of a new experience.

With the expansion? It still falls flat in all the same ways Catan does, and Deckbuilders can. The randomness of the dice and cards can be a double edge sword against strategy.

In both cases the game can also suffer from the race taking too long. at it’s best Machi Koro is a 100m race: quick and exciting fun that delivers it’s fun and allows you to move on. If the dice don’t go the right way? Or if the cards don’t show up when playing with the first expansion? The game can drag.

That being said…this is a good game to use as a entry level game, or end of night game. It can also be an effective change of pace after playing a more intense game. And while the game won’t make my personal Top 10 for fans of Catan and Dominion this is going to go over REALLY well.

8
Go to the Russian Railroads page

Russian Railroads

12 out of 12 gamers thought this was helpful

I played Union Pacific. I played Ticket To Ride. So when a friend said he had picked up ANOTHER train game, I was a little worried. But then he told me that this was a worker placement game. I was intrigued. Was my initial fears met? Or was I in for another strong worker placement game? All aboard to find out.

Components

One of my complaints with Union Pacific and Ticket to Ride were the boring looking board, plastic pieces, and (for UP) paper money. Z-Man games gives us something else with Russian Railroads. The both the main board and individual player boards are bright, well laid out, and (in the case of the main board) dual sided for 3/4 players on one side, and for 2 players on the other.

Wooden meeples are always welcome. As were the wooden railroad tracks. The game features engineer cards. As these can be used as player specific placement spots (more on this later) they are made of nice thick cardboard.

The only complaint some might have is that the game does have a slight cartoony look and feel.

Set-Up

Besides the normal stuff (setting up board, players picking a colour, sorting out resources in to their own piles) there are a few unique setup elements for the game.

First, you need to shuffle the 10 End Bonus cards and remove 2 of them. This gives some slight variation to the game. What gives even more variation is the engineer tiles. While there are 15 tiles, only 7 are used. players will select 4 B tiles, and 3 A tiles and place them on the board on the round markers.

Lastly, players will need to select turn order. Something of note…turn order is not always clockwise or counter clockwise. Determine the starting turn order at random. Then shuffle the starting bonus cards and players will select one each in reverse order. This is nice as it provides a catch up mechanic for the player that doesn’t get to go first. As seasoned worker placement players know, going first is a BIG advantage.

Game Play – Basics

Russian Railroads is a worker placement game. At the start of a round once turn order is decided players will take turns in order by placing a meeple on an action spot and performing the action of the tile.

Of note is that players may use MONEY in place of a worker. This allows for additional actions, and in some cases (buying an engineer tile) players can ONLY use money on these action spots.

Once all players have ran out of meeples, money, or passed, the round ends. Players will score any end round points they are entitled to, and all engineers tiles are slide one spot to the right. In the event that the right most engineer has not been purchased, it is discarded from the game. Players remove meeples and money from the board, and the next round begins.

After the 7th round ends, players will complete all normal end round scoring, as well as score and end of game bonuses.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

So what exactly do those wonderful worker placement spots allow you to do?

The first type of action is track extension. Each player’s personal player board depicts 3 railroads, which can be independently extended over the course of the game. Depending on how far each track is extended, players will unlock additional bonuses, points, or extra workers.

On top of their being 3 different tracks, there are 5 colours of rail that can be extended on those tracks. Players start with a back rail on each track and unlock the other colours by extended the black rail on the first track. Of note, the colours must be placed in order (black, grey, brown, beige, and white) and the colours can not be extended past the colour that comes before them. For example if a player has black rail on the 2nd section of the 3rd track, then they can only place the grey rail on the 1st spot of that track.

Next are locomotive action spaces. These allow you to purchase a new locomotive and place it to the left of one of the three tracks. Locomotives are used for two things: to unlock bonuses on the tracks, and to score points. One of the nice elements of the game is when you upgrade an locomotive, you can move the old locomotive to an open track. As you can only have 4 total, eventually you will discard some of the trains from the game.

You will find that the locomotive tiles are double sided. The reason for this is that you can only purchase factory tiles, and place them on the factory track at the bottom of your player board. These can be used to score points and unlock actions and bonuses, depending on how far you extend the factory track marker. The marker is moved by yet another worker placement spot.

There are also some basic resources spots (for player order, to gain money, an extra worker, or upgrade tiles).

Finally, I want to mention the scoring. Round scoring is based on your how far your tracks are extended (both rail and the factory track), as well as the colour of the rails on those tracks. Additionally rail tracks score depending on the locomotive connected to the track. What this means is that scoring starts slow (think 2-5 points for round 1) and EXPLODES. Some may not like the super high scores you can get in this game (400+), but it’s great to see the engine you’ve built come in to play.

There is also end game scoring for most engineers, and bonus cards.

Theme

Let’s be honest…this is an abstract cube pusher with a gorgeous skin. Sure the fact that it’s railways makes sliding a cube (shaped like a railroad track) up a line a little thematic, but this game is not for those who require heavy theme.

For most euro gamers, this won’t be an issue. For others…the high end components and artwork should be enough for the worker placement goodness to come in to play.

Replay Value

This is tricky. Because there are only a limited number of types of actions, the engineers don’t add a lot of variability from one game to the next. Plus there is only 1 factory and 3 different rail tracks to master. But the more you play the more you realize that if you can combo two of those tracks together, you can end up with some huge scores.

Still after 10+ plays the game can become a little stagnant and you may not rush to get it to the table. Still, 10+ plays is a solid amount of game.

And Z-Man has seemingly addressed some of those concerns with an expansion giving new player boards with customizable tracks.

Over All Impression.

For the most part this comes down to if you like worker placement, and how important theme is to you.

If you need a rich experience ala Imperial Assault or Betrayal At The House On The Hill, this game is not for you. If you like SOME theme, and prefer it not come across as pasted on, this will be a solid choice.

For worker placement fans this hits a nice complexity/time spot. It’s not as basic as something like Stone Age, but it’s not as dense as something like Caverna.

Russian Railroads also scales very well thanks to the dual sided main board. This is nice for me as I’ve played a lot of two player games of Russian, and the 3-4 player games feels like a fresh experience.

Should you get the game? For most I’d say yes. Again, depending on how much theme means to you, you may want to try before you buy. For others there’s enough game to make your time at the table fun, with just the right amount of worker placement induced tension.

6
Go to the Ninjato page

Ninjato

96 out of 103 gamers thought this was helpful

Who doesn’t love ninjas? Well game designers it would seem. Because oddly enough, there isn’t a huge amount of games featuring the stealthy assassins. Ninjato promises a lot of the elements found in some classic kung ** movies: feuding clans, an evil Emperor, chaos, raids, and subtle intrigue. But does it deliver on that promise? Is it just another Euro with a pasted on theme? And most importantly…is the game any good?

Components

Wooden freaking Shuriken (Throwing Stars)…for some folks I can stop reviewing the game. You are sold. And they are cool. As for the rest of the parts? The quality is mostly good, although they do have the common issue with a lot of games that are a couple of years older…thin card stock. I’m sure the cards will hold up over multiple plays, but it is a negative.

As for the artwork? It’s mostly consistent, although the token artwork is slightly off. This is done to have clear icons though, so it is forgiveable.

All together you get a board, 15 Clan tokens, 19 Sensei Skill tiles, 90 Treasure tokens, 30 Rumor cards, 1 Bag, 1 Round marker, the previously mentioned awesome 12 Shuriken, 3 markers, 52 Dojo cards, 21 Envoy cards, and finally 40 Guard and 20 Elite Guard cards.

Overall the game does look nice when setup on a table, and will draw some players in on looks alone.

Set-Up

Ninjato’s setup is simply, but also ongoing and does involve a lot of end of round clean up. Players take player sets of their chosen colour (I play red) and place the round marker, round order, and score tokens in their proper place.

Next comes the shuffle and place portion. Shuffle the Envoy Cards and place 4 face up on the Palace, placing the remaining envoys in a face down stack near the board. The same thing is done with the Rumour cards. Separate the 3 Disguise Skill Tiles from the rest, shuffle them, and place them in a face down stack next to the Sensei area. The rest will go in a separate pile. Draw a number of skill tiles from this pile equal to the number of players and place them face up in the Sensei area.

And now for more shuffling! The last part of the setup is the Clan houses. Take a 2 and a 4 red clan token and place them on different Clan Houses. Do the same for the blue clan. Place the 6 green token on the last house. Draw and place 1 guard card face up on each house 5 as the sentry protecting the house.

You are ready to play.

Game Play – Basics

In simple terms, Ninjato is a worker placement game, where players trade resources to gain control of areas, or to collect other resources. Instead of meeples or tokens, players use the awesome Shuriken to visit one of five locations, and perform the action assoicated with the location.

THE DOJO: Take some dojo cards.
THE SENSEI: Learn a skill to use in invading houses.
THE CLAN HOUSES: Play dojo cards to defeat guards and take treasure.
THE PALACE: Discard and score treasure to take 1 envoy.
THE PAVILION: Discard and score treasure to take 1 rumor card.

One all players have placed their 3 Shuriken, the round is over. The game lasts 7 rounds, with the player with the most points wining the game.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

The advanced tactics on Ninjato are all in how you score. The first way to get points is to trade treasure tokens in for a Envoy or Rumor card. The points are based on the type of goods you trade in. A lot of fans of worker placement games will find this similar to buying a hut in Stone Age.

The next way to score points is end of round scoring. This is done after rounds 3, 5, and 7 as part of the favour phase. After each of these rounds, players will compare Envoy cards to see who has the most influence over each of the clans. Based on the clan (red/blue/green) order listed on the round tracker, the player with the most envoy influence in a clan has a choice:

Score the total honour on the clan’s houses

OR

Get a free Rumor card from the Pavilion.

The player with the next highest amount of influence over a clan gets whatever favour the first player did not choose.

The final scoring mechanic is end of game scoring. Players will score Rumour cards. Based on the number of cards they have from one of the 4 sets of rumour cards, players will get a multiplier bonus. The 4 sets give points for having the most elite guard cards, the amount of rumour cards a player has, the amount of envoy cards a player has or the number of skill tiles a player has.

Theme

The theme of Ninjato is present in the artwork…and somewhat there in the game play. When going a clan house, the players will engage in combat. Each guard has a fighting and stealth rating. Using cards obtained from the dojo, players will defeat a guard by playing a card that is either higher than a guard’s fighting ranking…or lower than it’s stealth. Their is a real disconnect here as why your ninja’s skill change so dramatically makes no sense. Additionally, if a player successfully raids a house, he gets to change which faction controls the house. Add this to the treasure rewarded for defeating a guard being random…and the theme is officially out the door and you are just playing a Euro game.

The theme does come back a little when trading treasure to bribe an Envoy or start a rumour makes sense…but there’s no connection of why you need certain resources to get certain cards.

Replay Value

I often tell people that I love games with variable setup. Because I do. But there’s a difference between a game being variable, and relying on luck. The combat of Ninjato is very much a basic push your luck mechanic. And the thing is, push your luck games like King Of Tokyo and Bang! The Dice Game are really fun. But they are also, light social games. They simply don’t require the same type of thought and strategy of a Euro game. Ninjato tries to combine the lightness of a push your luck game with the Euroness of a worker placement game…and the results are mixed.

Add in the randomness to the treasures and it’s hard to determine if you did well or poorly because of well timed tactics…or becasue of luck. And that feeling changes from game to game. Which to mean is an incredibly frustrating element as you can’t take what you learn from one game to the next. If you have any experience with worker placement, set collection, or area control you will likely get as much out of a single game of Ninjato as you will five.

Their is some replay value in playing different numbers as the amount of interaction changes in a a 2 player game, but not enough to over come the other faults of the game.

Over All Impression.

I like the look. I love the wood Shuriken. But as a game Ninjato fails. Worker placement is a really solid mechanic. Games like Stone Age, Lords Of Waterdeep, Russian Railroad, and Caverna all manage to feel different despite being games where you place workers to get resources and use those resources to score points.

Ninjato tries to make itself different with the push your luck combat system, and the game falls flat. People who dislike the dice rolling of Stone Age will dislike the combat even more. Players who like push your luck games will be thrown off by the Euro elements of Ninjato.

And avid gamers? They will quickly learn that there’s more fun in playing a game that does some of the things Ninjato TRIES to do better.

8
Go to the Istanbul page

Istanbul

104 out of 116 gamers thought this was helpful

To many, Istanbul is JUST another Euro. The odd older guy with a beard on the box. The overtly elaborate reasoning for collecting resources. Lots of icons and colours, and little to no text. It is also the 2014 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner. So what made this the “gamer Game of the Year”? And does it live up to the hype?

Components

Remember how I mentioned the box with the odd guy with a beard? Like many euro games the box artwork and the game artwork does not match, but the style does. Here’s what’s in the box:

5 sets of players pieces (1 Merchant, 5 Assistants, 1 Family member, & 4 Goods indicators per player); Governor (purple) and Smuggler (black) characters; 16 Places tiles; 5 Wheelbarrows (player boards); 15 Wheelbarrow extensions; 32 Rubies; 2 Dice; 4 Mail indicators; 55 Coins (30 $1 coins, 15 $5 coins, and 10 $10 coins); 26 Bonus cards; 16 Mosque tiles; 10 Demand tiles; 5 Overviews cards; and a starting player marker.

The style is some what typical of many Euro games: lots of brown, but everything is clean. This makes things easy enough to distinguish, and it gets easier the more you play and become familiar with the different icons. But even the little plastic gems don’t make the game pop on the table. This is a game that design wise uses good quality components, good artwork and colours…but doesn’t stand out when you set it up on the table the way Castles Of Mad King Ludwig or Five Tribes does.

One thing I do want to point out…the rule book is AMAZING. There are a lot of symbols and little things to learn when you first setup and play the game. The rule book is a great help and is layed out in a clean and logical manner. This makes it REALLY easy to find information when a rule dispute/question occurs.

Set-Up

The first part of the setup is the first time we see one of my favourite gaming mechanics: a variable board. In Istanbul the board is made up of the 16 places. These can be setup in any manner, but the games does offer some set ways to set them up if you are first starting out. It also recommends that if you do a random setup to have two conditions in place

*The Fountain as one of the Places in the middle of the grid.
*The Black Market and the Tea House should be separated by 3 tiles.

Once the board is setup, you will need to place the Mosque tiles, Wheelbarrow expansions, Mail indicators, Demand tiles, Bonus cards, Governor and the Smuggler pieces, and assign player pieces to each pieces. This can be slightly tricky the first play, but on repeat plays it becomes almost automatic.

Next, you will need to place some rubies on some of the Place tiles based on the number of players. Determine turn over however you see fit (rolling 20 sided dice is my groups method of choice), and give out 2 Lira to the starting player. In clockwise order, each other player gets 1 more Lira than the player to his right. Then each player draws a Bonus card from the top of the stack.

You are now ready to play.

Game Play – Basics

A turn consists of 3 possible phases Movement and Action, and Encounters.

Movement – Move your Merchant and any Assistants under him by 1 or 2 Places. You may not move diagonally and you must end up on a different Place than you started at. If there is already one of your Assistants at that Place you end your movement on, place your stack on top of this Assistant. If there is none of your Assistants at the Place where your movement ends, remove an Assistant from the bottom of your stack and place him next to the stack. If you run out of assistants but still want to move, you can but turn ends immediately.

Action – If you end your movement with picking up or dropping off an Assistant, you will be able to perform that Place tile’s Action. This can involve collecting coins, resources, cards, or rubies.

Encounters – there are 4 different encounters you can have. If there are any other Merchants at the Target Place, you have to pay each of them 2 Lira. Your turn ends immediately if you cannot or do not want to pay. If you end your turn on a tile with another player’s Family Member, you must catch them and send them all to the Police Station tile. As a reward, you may take 1 Bonus card or 3 Lira per Family member. Finally you can Encounter either the Governor or the Smuggler. If you encounter the Governor, you may draw a Bonus card from the face-down stack and put it into your hand. If you do, either pay two Lira or discard a Bonus card from your hand. If you encounter the Smuggler you may gain 1 good of your choice. If you do, either pay two Lira or a good.

The first player to collect 5 Rubies wins the game.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

Most of the Advanced Tactics of Istanbul come down to the special actions of the tiles, and the bonus cards. The bonus cards are one shot resources or rule modifiers.

The Fountain place tile is kinda like free parking. You do not need to leave an assistant at the fountain, and you can still perform the the Fountain Action even if you have no Assistants with you. Additionally, you don’t have to pay other Merchants at the Fountain but can have all other Encounters.

The Wainwright allows you to expand your Wheelbarrow. If you expand your Wheelbarrow to maximum capacity, you collect a ruby.

The Warehouse tiles allow your to fill your Wheelbarrow with as much of the matching resources as you can hold.

The Post Office gives your 4 resources. This changes each time a player lands on the tile using the Mail indicators.

The Caravansery allows your to draw two bonus cards from the top of either the stack or discard pile. If you do, you will have to discard one card from your hand.

The Black Marcket gives you one of the 3 main resources, plus you roll the two dice to see if you get any of the blue resource. Or blue good as the rulebook put it…like I said, the rule book is very good and using player friendly terms over forcing in theme when explaining rules is a welcome element.

The Tea House allows you to guess and number between 3 and 12. Roll both dice and if you roll that number, you get that amount of Lira! Guess wrong, and you get two lira.

The Small/Large Markets allow you to exchange good from your Wheelbarrow for Lira. The more your trade, the more you gain.

The Police Station allows you to send out your family member to any other tile, with no movement or encounter rules. If your family member is not at the Police Station, you can not perform this action.

The Small/Great Mosque allows you to purchase Mosque tiles that give you ongoing advantages. If you collect each of the two colours from either the Small or Great Mosque, you collect a ruby.

The Sultan’s Palace allows you to exchange good for a ruby.

The Gemstone Dealer allows you to exchange coins for a ruby.

Theme

The artwork and Place tiles all have a middle eastern look to them that is neither cartoonish, or too boring. But at the end of the day, this really is a typical collect and trade resources Euro game. If you need theme to enjoy the game, there is some here…but it is really light.

Replay Value

16 tiles doesn’t seem like a lot to give a great amount of variation. But it does. The game is all about finding paths that result in you having the money or resources to get a ruby. But because the cost of everything goes up, players can not use the same path over and over for a game if they want to win. And because the paths are different from game to game, how you approach things will change as well.

In addition to this, the Encounters really do a good job of making tiles worth go up or down. Maybe you don’t really need to max out your red resources, but you really could use a bonus card and the Governor is sitting there for the taking. Maybe you could use some coins, but another player’s Merchant is on the Tea House blocking you from going there.

The basic mechanics are really simple, but they require you to constantly keep track of the board and what the other players are doing.

The last thing that really adds to the replay value of Istanbul is how well it works with different amounts of players. It’s a fun two player game, but doesn’t suffer when you go up to three, and doesn’t get bogged down with four. It actually plays up to five which is rare for a lot of Euros, but I can’t personally say how well that works.

Over All Impression.

If people asked me for a list of my favourite games of 2014, I’d list of some of my all time favourite games: Fives Tribes, Castles, Splendor, and Star Realms without breaking a sweat. And then I’d mention some games that I really enjoyed, but am not sure I love like Dead of Winter and Imperial Assault. Eventually though, I’d remember Istanbul and add that to the list.

This game is good…really good. As mentioned above, the games plays well with multiple player counts, and actively feels different when you change up the number of player. The variation is great, and the player interaction stops it from just becoming a race to see who can do the same moves enough to win.

The only thing lacking from Istanbul is the “WOW” factor. There’s nothing about it that screams “PLAY ME!!!” when it is sitting on the shelf. Which is odd because I’ve enjoyed every game I’ve played, and have yet to show the game to anybody that didn’t like it. I’m not sure I can think of another game that I think of as REALLY good, but that I forget about being as good as it is.

In that sense, I’m really glad it got the Kennerspiel des Jahres. This is an amazing game that needs more people talking about it. With the 2015 Kennerspiel coming up, maybe some folks will be reminded of the 2014 winner and give Istanbul another look.

8
Go to the AquaSphere page

AquaSphere

34 out of 38 gamers thought this was helpful

In AquaSphere, you and 1 to 3 friends are scientists in an underwater research station. Your task is to recover and analyse a novel kind of crystal, as well as to conduct further research. AquaSphere is a 2-4 player game from Stefan Feld, where you try and score the most points over 4 rounds.

Which is the most accurate description of the experience? And does it matter?

Components

To be honest, I’m not sure if this is my first experience with a game from Tasty Minstrel Games or not. I’ve seen games with good and merely OK parts from Stefan Feld, so I really had no preset notion of how good or bad to expect the components to be. The first thing that intrigued me about the game was the box art. It’s pretty freaking awesome. So my hopes were raised. Once the game was setup…I’m not sure my hopes were met.

The game contains 1 Research Station; 1 Headquarters; 4 Player Boards; 6 Center Tiles; 6 Base Labs; 30 Lab Expansions; 38 Time Markers; 41 Research Cards; 3 Setup Overviews; 7 Program Cards; 7 Programming Tiles; 4 sets of player pieces (1 Engineer, 1 Scientist, 6 Submarines, 16 Bots, and 2 Counters); 20 Crystals; and 15 Octopods. Partridge in a pear tree not included.

The cardboard is thick, the player pieces and Octopods are made of wood, and the Crystals are a nice thick plastic. The player boards are REALLY thin and feel kind of cheap. Which sucks as personal player boards are always cool.

The artwork and colour scheme? The game is incredibly colourful, but nothing about it really pops on the table. The shades of red, blue, and green are all on the darker side. And the box cover style really doesn’t translate to any of the cards or boards. In fact, the board itself is a little cluttered. Which is a shame. It is nice that the board (the Research Station) is made up of 6 different pieces to make sure each play feels unique, but it could have been a little bigger. Black outlines that better separated each of the pods may have helped as well. A few times when playing the game players (myself included) have had to confirm symbols with others to ensure they were making the move they thought they were.

Set-Up

Two of my favourite words when it comes to games are “variable setup”, and AquaSphere has a lot of that.

To start you’ll want to give each player a player board and matching player pieces. Next each player will get a random Base Lab. Next you’ll randomly put the Research Station (main game board) together and surround each sector with a Lab Expansion and Research Card.

The next act adding to the variable setup, is the Program Cards. Only 4 of them are selected and they determine the setup of the Headquarters. Using the first of these cards, players will place the 7 Programming Tiles as depicted on the card.

Players will then place their Scientist in the pod that matched the letter on their Base lab, and will place one of their subs in the same pod. Based on the pod that each player starts in, they will program one of their bots on their player board. Next, players will get either 3 (if they are starting in a pod with a zero time cost door) or 4 Time Markers (if they are not starting in a pod with a zero time cost door).

Finally, select 4 center tile cards based on the player count, and add any subs, crystals, or Octopods as indicated on the tile. Once that is done, remove the top tile from the pile.

Determine a starting player and you are ready to begin.

Game Play – Basics

AquaSphere gives players four possible tasks on theirs turn: program an action, unprogram an action, take an action, or pass and take the first spot available for player order.

There are a 3 ways to program an action. The first is by moving Engineer up the Headquarters and programming the action as listed in the corresponding spot on the Headquarters board. Players may also pay 3 Time once per round to program any action. And finally if a player has previously programmed the PROGRAM A BOT action, they can program by performing that action. Players program an action by taking the player Bot with the smallest value on their player board and moving it to appropriate programing symbol on their player board. Players may have a maximum of 2 actions programmed.

If a player chooses to unprogram a Bot, they move the Bot to the lower Bot section of the player board and take two Time from the general supply.

To take an action the player will first move their Scientist to the pod of the Research Station they want to perform the action (paying any Time cost as indicated on the doors of the pods) and then move the bot that is programmed to perform the action in to the center of the selected pod. The player will then perform the actual action.

If a player passes, they move their Engineer to the first turn order slot on the Headquarters board.

The player who scores the most point after 4 rounds wins the game.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

The game really comes down to take an action and program an action.

The 7 actions that can be programed are:

EXPAND THE LAB (Green): Expand your lab by taking a piece from the lab section and adding it to your own lab. This usually gives you extra storage capacity, and helps you earn a lab bonus at the end.

Take Time (Yellow): Pick up time tokens. Time is the currency used for moving around the board, launching submarines, and (once per round) programming another robot.

Take Crystals (Black): Obtain crystals. To advance past parts of the scoring track, you will need to spend crystals. You also gets points at the end of the round for having extra crystals.

Catch Octopods (Purple): Blast octopods off of the station. You’ll score points based on the number of ‘pods you’ve blasted. Octopods left behind in sections you control will cost you points at the end.

Place A Sub (Blue): Launch a submarine. This costs time, but gives you points that depend on the round (early on you only get 2, but in the last round you’ll get 5). Subs also let you get bonus time between rounds, and help you score more from your Bots.

Take A Research Card (Red): Obtain a special power, and some points (just like subs). There are many special powers, from one-time boosts, to bonuses for carrying out certain actions, or the ability to program extra bots between rounds.

Program A Bot (White): Program a wild-card bot. The white action lets you program another ‘bot, depending on the station you’re in. Each section has a different colour of program on it.

Upon multiple playing there are two big things when it comes to victory: you can never have enough time, and you need to build a full research lab. The add-on tiles for the research lab can expand the amount of Octopods you can capture, Time you can collect, Crystals you can hold, and cards you can have. Which is nice…but they also have numbers from A-F. These have 2 functions: 1) they let you take control of the pod with the matching number 2) you get 21 bonus points if you have all six letters. Considering controlling the majority most pods in the Research center is worth 6 points at the end of each round, taking Time and building your Lab are actions you simply MUST do.

Another aspect of the area control is what happens when another player takes over an area you are controlling. When that occurs your Bot goes to a storage locker of the corresponding pod. These lockers can hold a variable amount of Bots depending on the number of players. If you manage things right and get a lot of subs and Bots on the board, you can rack up a lot of points.

The research cards are one part of the game I need to focus more on. Not only do you score points for grabbing one, but you also can get bonus points from using the cards. If you can grab two cards in the early rounds that match up, it leads you to a certain strategy you may not have planned to do.

Theme

Did I ever feel like I was leading a research team in an underwater research facility? No. In fact I’ve heard other players can the Octopods aliens. Is there any reason why going through the door on my left takes no time, but it takes two to go through the door on my right? No. Does this really matter?

Not really, unless you are playing with people who need role-playing and to get in to character there’s enough of a puzzle to keep you engaged.

That being said I do tend to enjoy Euros where the theme makes the game look good when setup on the table. I don’t get the same amount of joy seeing AquaSphere as I do Five Tribes, Castels, or Terra Mystica. Even the overly brown Bruges from Feld has a more appealing look.

Replay Value
There is a lot of variation from each game to the next. Or at least there is in the setup. The strategy? I’m not so sure. Because some actions feel more important than others, the games I’ve played haven’t vaired that much. The game may get better with more plays. It’s possible that the Headquarters setup combined with Research Cards could lead you to prioritizing an action besides Time or Lab expansion.

But I’m not sure of the abstract puzzle you are given is engaging enough.

Over All Impression.

After multiple plays, the best way to sum up AquaSphere is that it is a 2-4 player game from Stefan Feld, where you try and score the most points over 4 rounds. If you are a big fan of Feld, I think you are going to enjoy this game a lot. As for me, without an “A-HA!” moment I’m not sure when I’ll be asking for AquaSphere to hit the table again. At the same time…I wouldn’t turn down the chance to play it again.

The game can go long, and there is a bit of a learning curve to it. But there is a lot that works. Is it a good game? Yes. The rules and mechanics make sense, and does deliver some a nice Euro experience. But it’s not a great game, and it’s not something I feel like other players NEED to play. In fact, if I could give 1/2 points in my rating of the game, AquaSphere would be a 7.7 and not an 8.

In like the idea of worker placement with a variable board and different costs associated with where you can place your workers. But I never feel like I was building an engine like in Caverna or Russian Railroads. The area control aspects REALLY change the feel of the game from the traditional worker placement, and I’m not sure if it works.

And after multiple plays that’s a weird place to be in.

6
Go to the Zombies!!! (2ed) page

Zombies!!! (2ed)

15 out of 16 gamers thought this was helpful

MMMMMM…brains. There was a time when zombies were silly monsters in movies with bad visual effects, worse plots, and even worse acting. But times have changed, and zombies are cool. But what about Zombies!!! the game? Is it cool, or has time not been kind to one of the first true zombie games?

Components

In the box you will find 30 Map Tiles; 50 Card Event Deck; 100 Plastic Zombies; 6 Plastic Shotgun Guys (pawns); 30 Life Tokens; 60 Bullet Tokens; 2 Dice; and instructions.

This game came out in 2001. It’s important to keep that in mind when looking at the pieces. The tiles are thin, and slick, and less than ideal for this type of game. The cards once again are thin. Better, thicker stock with less gloss would be welcomed if the folks behind the game do a 3rd edition. That being said the artwork on both are really good and fit the theme well.

The tokens are not good. They are small, oddly shaped with generic icons. This is another place where an update would be welcome, as personal player boards ala King of Tokyo or D-Day Dice would keep things much cleaner.

What about the zombies then? These are fun little miniatures. Not much has changed in production quality of little plastic guys over the years, and these hold up very well. In fact, I know people who use bags of Zombies!!! zombies for other games.

Overall, a mixed bag based on modern games.

Set-Up

The setup of the game is fairly basic. One player plays dealer and shuffles the event deck and gives out 3 cards to each player. The Town Square tile is placed in the center of the table. The Helipad tile is kept separate as the dealer shuffles the remaining tiles and randomly places the Helipad tile in the lower half of the deck.

Each player takes a pawn (Shotgun guy) and 3 life and bullet tokens.

Finally, each player places their shotgun guy on the Town Square tile.

You are now ready to play.

Game Play – Basics

On a player’s turn they first draw a tile from the map deck and add it to the city. Tiles may be rotated in any direction but must be placed so that all roads are connected. If a player starts his turn on a spot with a zombie, he must engage in combat.

Once any start of turn combat is resolved, the player will draw back up to three event cards, if you have less than three.

Next, the player will make a movement roll. For each pip on the die, players can move that many squares. No diagonal movement is allowed. While the player may move up to the number of spaces indicated by the movement roll, they must stop and resolve combat on any space occupied by a zombie. The player may continue moving until they have moved the number of tiles allowed based on the movement roll.

After moving, roll a six-sided die. The active player must must move that number of zombies, one space each, if able.

The game ends when either a player has reached the center tile of the“Helipad” tile & killed any zombies there.

Alternately, a player can also win if he is the first to collect kill 25 zombies.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

Here’s where I’d like to talk about the combat system of Zombies! because, it’s really simple, and really good.

Combat is resolved by rolling a six-sided die. If you roll a four, five or six, you win. The player will collect the zombie miniature to indicate a successful kill

If you roll a one, two or three, you lose
and must either, forfeit a life token or spend enough bullet tokens to raise the roll enough to make it successful. For example, if you rolled a two, you could discard a life token and roll again or spend two bullet tokens to raise the total from two to four.

You can also use event cards that add more flavour to the game.

This combat system is super simple and smart players will be able to use their bullet tokens wisely to mitigate most zombie encounters.

The way to make other players play is the movement of the zombies. One or two zombies may not be a big deal. 5 or 6? Now a player has to think where they want to go.

Theme

In 2001 it would have been easy to say that this is the best example of a zombie movie made in tabletop form. But in 2015? It’s good, but there are better games that do the same thing.

In fact the theme has been done to death at this point. So unless you know people who love zombies, and have to play EVERY zombie game, the theme may actually hurt you when trying to get the game to the table.

Replay Value

The game plays long. For a pretty simple game that can be a negative. The game also offers up limited strategies for victory. And because many of the Event cards only activate on certain tiles, you may end up discarding a cool card after 15 minutes when you realize there is no way you’ll be able to use it.

Over All Impression.

Zombies! has a really fun and simple combat system that deserves a better overall game.The problem is…is there really a market for a 3rd edition of Zombies! when we all ready have Zombicide and Dead of Winter? Would it compete with Last Night on Earth for counter space at you LGS? Or maybe the system should be re-purposed by and skinned with a Walking Dead theme.

I really wish I had a game like Zombies! a long time ago. It would have been fun and different. But age has not been kind to this game, as your time and money can be spent on better games that deliver an even better zombie experience.

9
Go to the Castles of Mad King Ludwig page

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

123 out of 131 gamers thought this was helpful

A couple of years ago Ted Alspach designed a tile laying, city building game called Suburbia. In it players purchased and placed zoning tiles to max a honey comb shaped city. It was a well designed and intriguing game, but lacked a hook. Two expansion and one off shoot later, the game was popular, but still felt lacking.

In 2014 the same team was working on the next version. Kinda. Instead of building a city players would now be tasked with building a castle. But not just any type of castle, no, these would be Neuschwanstein style castles of pure awesome.

It sounded great…but could the game live up to the concept.

Components

Cardboard. Lots of cardboard. Really, when you open the box for the first time, that’s what you are going to see. Just sheets of cardboard tiles to punch out, and a few cards, and a couple of markers.

The cards are of decent stock, and are smaller than a standard deck of cards.

The markers are round tabs like you’d find in other games.

The game board isn’t one solid board, but instead some thin cardboard pieces that you lay together…to form a castle. And this is where the components value becomes hard to rate. On the one hand the design is superb. On the other hand what artwork is on the tiles is limited and the tiles themselves are not made out of the best cardboard.

But after the game hitting the table on multiple game nights, I can say the parts are durable. But at the same time…I’d likely pre-order a deluxe version of the game with higher quality parts.

Set-Up

Once the game board is assembled, players will shuffle the room cards deck and place 11 room cards per player on the game board, discarding the rest. Next, shuffle the bonus cards and deal out two to each player placing the remaining cards on the board. Each player will select one bonus card to keep, and will discard the other bonus card to the bottom of the bonus card deck.

Next you will place the stair and hallway tiles on the game board, discarding 1 stair tile and 2 hallways for a 3 player game, and 2 stairs and 4 hallways for a 2 player game. Next, shuffle the small and large room tiles and place them on the their corresponding spots on the game board. In a 3 player game you will remove 1 tile from each of the large room stacks and 2 tiles from each of the small room stacks. For a 2 player game remove 2 large and 4 small room tiles.

Randomly select favour tiles and place them on the middle section of the board in each corresponding spot. This board is double sided with 4 spots for a 4 player game, and 3 spots for a 2 or 3 player game.

Each player will then take 15,000 work of coins.

Select a starting player and place their scoring marker at 0, and the next players marker at 1. Continue to place the markers on the next spot on the scoring track until all players tokens are on the board. Select the proper number of room cards (7 for a 4 player game, 6 for a 3 player, and 5 for a 2 player game) and you are ready to start.

Game Play – Basics

Castles of Mad King Ludwig is played over multiple rounds made of up three phases.
In the first phase the master builder will place the room tiles in any order he wishes. If there are not enough room tiles to fill up each slot, the master builder will draw cards from the top of the room cards deck until he has enough rooms. Once he has finished setting the price of the available rooms, play will proceed to the player phase starting with the player to the left of the master builder.

On the player phase the player may do one of the following actions:

take 5000 coins
buy a stair tile or hallway tile for 3000 coins
buy a room tile for the price set by the master builder

During this phase, and coins used to purchase tiles goes to the master builder. The exception is any coins used to purchase tiles by the master builder are returned to the general pool. Players may only buy a tile they can legally play. When playing a tile players will immediately score the rooms points, and any bonus points for connecting the room to a preferred room (preferred room type is listed on the center of each tile and varies from tile to tile).

Once all players (including the master builder) have take a turn, play proceed to the clean up phase. Any tiles that were not purchased get a 1000 coin placed on it. And finally the master builder token is passed to the left.

The game ends when there are no more room cards left in the room deck.

The player with the most victory points wins.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

The game really comes down to two things…the auction phase and the building of your castle. While you can set the price of tiles in any order, and purchase any tile you want, there are some basic elements that will determine which tiles you may want to over charge for, and which tiles you will want to use to make up your castle.

The first thing is the King’s Favour tiles on the game board. Players can score additional end game points by having the most of a room type, the most square feet of a room type, or other goals. These goals are the same for all players, so the competition for tiles required to score these points can be fierce.

The next thing to consider is the bonus cards. Each player starts with one card that gives them end game points for completing certain task or building certain rooms. Players can gain additional cards by completing one of the orange “Utility” rooms.

That leads to the next tactic: completing rooms. Each room will has a corresponding room type. Players complete rooms by connecting any room openings of a room to other room openings. Once completed the player will get a reward:

Living Rooms (purple tiles) rescore the room points
Activity Rooms (brown tiles) score five points
Sleeping Rooms (blue tiles) add up to two tile from any one stack to the top of the room deck
Outdoor Rooms (green tiles) take 10000 coins from the general pool
Utility Rooms (orange tiles) take two bonus cards from the deck (keep one, discard one)
Food Rooms (yellow tiles)take another turn immediately
Corridor Rooms (grey tiles) take a hallway or stair tile and play it immediately
Downstairs Rooms (black tiles) the player picks one of the other 7 rewards for every other completed Downstairs room

Because of these certain room types, or room sizes may be worth more to one player. Paying 10000 coins for a room is costly…but if the room is a single entrance Utility room and can connect to an Outdoor room (and complete the green tile) the player gets a bonus card for no negative cost.

What all the ways to score points accomplishes is taking a simple game mechanic (tile laying) and give it a strong mathematical element.

Theme

From the rules:

“In the tile-laying game Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players are tasked with building an amazing, extravagant castle for King Ludwig II of Bavaria…one room at a time. You see, the King loves castles, having built Neuschwanstein (the castle that inspired the Disney theme park castles) and others, but now he’s commissioned you to build the biggest, best castle ever — subject, of course, to his ever-changing whims. Each player acts as a building contractor who is adding rooms to the castle he’s building while also selling his services to other players. ”

And really…that is the game. You are trying to build a castle that the King will prefer. Add in the fact that the player board itself is a castle and the games theme is incredible strong for a Euro style game.

Replay Value

Often it’s easy to point that games that rely on cards and tiles and variable and never play the same way twice. And that’s true here. But really, the main thing with this game is that it’s fun. Anybody who has played Suburbia will be familiar with the basic game elements, but the theme just adds another layer of fun.

Honestly, I’ve yet to play a game where a player hasn’t commented how much fun it is to just build the castle itself, regardless of the points.

Additionally, there’s a lot of social interaction in the game. Often it is in a player’s best interest to try and manipulate the master builder to ensure that other player’s have to pay through the nose to get the tiles they need.

But the best thing I can say about the replay value of this game is that after playing the game once, multiple other members of my game group bought their own copy…and the game still gets requested at game nights I host.

Over All Impression.

I love this game.

There is a lot to consider as the master builder, or deciding which player actions to take. A lot of Euro can break down in to a group of silent folks looking angry at cardboard. And that happens here…but than gets tossed out the window when the master builder curses himself for not setting the price of a tile just a little higher. I haven’t found that many meatier games that still have a social element as stong as Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

Add in the variable play and this game just works.

Do I wish the cardboard was a heavier stock? Sure. But as I said, this is a game that I will gladly pre-order a deluxe version if it becomes available.

Highly recommended for people who like Euro games…and even more so for people who want to play Euro games, but want a little more social interaction that the typical Euro.

9
Go to the Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naqala page

Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naqala

93 out of 102 gamers thought this was helpful

Last year the buzz was all about a game from Bruno Cathala, and published by Days of Wonder. The game would be gorgeous and fun…but meaty. How meaty? Well how about point salad using almost every game mechanic you can think of while bring out some major cases of analysis paralysis.

I was puzzled. How does a game that fits that description also get described as…fun?

Components

In the box you will find 5 Turn Order and Djinns Summary Sheets; A Pad of Scoring Sheets; 2 Player sets of 8 Camels and 1 Player’s Turn marker each (orange and black); 2 Player sets of 11 Camels and 2 Player’s Turn markers each (blue and pink); 1 Bid Order Track & 1 Turn Order Track…

Oh you think we are done? Nope…you’ll also find 30 Tiles (12 Blue valued Tiles, 18 Red valued Tiles); 22 Djinn cards; 96 Gold Coins (48 worth “5” and 48 worth “1” ) ; 54 Resource cards; 36 Merchandise and 18 Fakirs…and 90 Wooden Tribe Meeples; A Meeples bag; 12 Palm Trees and 10 Palaces…and a rules sheet too.

One thing I should mention…the Fakirs in the game were original slaves. And while this fits thematically with the game, I get how it can be off putting to some. Good on Days Of Wonder for switching this up. That being said, my copy of the game is version 1.0 and I’ve yet to run in to any problems there, even playing with folks of different races. Just something to keep in mind depending on your game group.

With that being said…this is a Days of Wonder game. Everything is just top notch and durable. The colours are bright and having the 90 meeples on the board at the start of the game really pops out. The Djinn cards feature fantastic artwork. And the modular board pieces are clean and easy to read even when they are filled up with a camel, palm tree, and meeples. Which is good, because you will spend a lot of time staring at the board.

Set-Up

In 3/4 player games, each player takes 8 Camels and 1 Turn marker of the colour of his choice. In a 2 player game, one player takes all 11 Pink Camels and 2 pink turn markers, and the other all 11 Blue Camels and 2 blue turn markers.

Next, give each player 50 Gold Coins.

Mix all 30 Tiles and place them randomly face up, to form a rectangle of 5 x 6 tiles. Place the meeples in the bag, then grab and drop 3 meeples on to each tile. This will be the game board for the game.

Shuffle all Resource cards to form a draw pile face down, then draw the top 9 cards and lay them face up in a row. Shuffle the Djinn cards creating a seperate draw pile, then draw the top 3 and lay them face.

Place the remaining gold coins, palm trees, palces, and the turn and bid order tracks in reach of players. Randomly place the turn markers on the bid order track. You are now ready to play.

Of note for a 2 player game, each player takes two turn markers instead of one. This means that each player will play two times per turn.

Game Play – Basics

Five Tribes is played over multiple rounds made of up three phases.

The first phase is the bid phase. Based on the order of turn markers on the turn track players will bid in an attempt to go first. Once all players have placed their turn marker on the bid order board, play proceeds to the next phase.

The 2nd phase in the game is the player turn phase. Starting with the player who bod the most, players will:

*move meeples
*check for tile control
*perform the tribe action of the remaining tribe in the players hand
*perform tile actions
*use the special powers of any Djinn you control
*sell merchandise cards

The final phase of the game involves board clean up. Shift any resource card that may still be face up to the front of the row and draw new ones to make a total of 9 face up available. Do the same with the Djinn cards to ensure there are 3 cards available for the next round.

The game ends one of two ways. If a player places his final camel on the board, the round will finish and then final points will be awarded. The other way the game can end, is if it is no longer possible for a player to move meeples as there are no legal moves left.

The player with the most victory points wins.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

Normally when I do a review I’ll go in to detail of the rules and tactics to use. Here, I’m going give advice on how to learn the game and tech the game…because this is not an easy game to pick up right away, or to reach to others. So with that in mind…

Use the Turn Order and Djinns Summary Sheets.

These are fantastic and feature images and descriptions to truly help you understand what legal moves with the meeples you can make, how the different colours of meeples work, how the Djinns work, and how much sets of merchandise cards are worth. It will take time to read the sheet to a player, and even longer to understand how to utilize everything, but knowing these sheets will make playing the game so much easier and more enjoyable.

Other than that I’ll point out that the coins you use to bid are actually victory points. This is important as you may see a move that will easily score you a lot of points…but bidding too high will negate that and actually leave you trailing your opponents. Be careful that you don’t bid too much…but also know when to strike. Some merchandise cards show up less frequently and a turn that will net you one of the rarer cards is worth the hit. Same with Djinn. It’s important to carefully look at which Djinn cards are available as some of them have some high scoring long term strategies you may want to focus on.

Theme

From the game:

“Crossing into the Land of 1001 Nights, your caravan arrives at the fabled Sultanate of Naqala. The old sultan just died and control of Naqala is up for grabs! The oracles foretold of strangers who would maneuver the Five Tribes to gain influence over the legendary city-state. Will you fulfill the prophecy? Invoke the old Djinns, move the Tribes into position at the right time and the Sultanate may become yours!”

Does any of this come across in the game? Yes and no. Some of the tribes (the Assassins) are more thematic than others. The camels, palm trees, and Djinn do give a middle-East, Aladdin style setting. But this is mostly an abstract Euro game all about scoring points.

Replay Value

There is a lot going on with this game. Do you have a favourite game mechanic? Area/Territory Control? That’s here. A fan of Auction/Bidding systems? A really good risk/reward one is included? Card Drafting/Set Management? Oh yeah, that’s part of the game. Worker placement? There are 90 meeples to be moved around the board.

But the biggest asset to Five Tribes replay value is just how unique each game is.

The variable game board, with over 30 tiles and 90 meeples, just makes each game different. The odds of two games of Five Tribes starting off the same are very unlikely. Additionally because only 3 of the 22 Djinn cards are out at the start of the game, there’s many possibly starting strategies. I’ve seen people win by collecting the most merchandise cards, I’ve seen people will by grabbing two Djinn’s that combo together early on.

There is a lot going on here.

Over All Impression.

So, great parts, varied game mechanics, and lots of replay value. Sounds like a game everybody should get right?

Well yes…and no.

Because of how much is going on this game suffers from analysis paralysis like few other games I have played. If you were to come across a table of Five Tribes being played you’d likely describe the scene as 4 silent, angry people staring at cardboard. For social gamers, or people who like games to be quick and snappy…this game will drive you crazy.

However…if you like games with meat and are ok with studying and plotting in silence there is just so much to sink your teeth in to. Like a lot of Euro games this is a game that your score really does come down to what you do and how you react to the moves made by other players. You need to make sure you execute your plan, but have to be flexible. You need to make sure you score as many points as you can, but at the same time need to avoid setting up the board for others to score. Does the game suffer from AP? Yes. But the moves and actions that break the silence are some of the best moments I’ve had in gaming.

Again, this is not a game for everyone, but if you are looking for a Euro flavoured offering with top notch components and unique gameplay, it is hard to beat Five Tribes.

9
Go to the Splendor page

Splendor

65 out of 72 gamers thought this was helpful

Dead of Winter. Panamax. Munchkin. These games are dripping with theme. For some it’s the most important part of a game. And in most cases it helps the experience. So with that said, how good can a game be with no theme? How about the best game of 2014.

Components

In the box you will find 40 clay tokens (poker chips), 10 Noble tiles, 90 cards (40 level 1, 30 level 2, and 20 level 3), and instructions on how to play. It may not seem like a lot, but at $30-$40 the quality is top notch.

There are many games that use tokens or poker chips. And for most of those games, it would be great if they were of the same the quality that Asmodee is supplying here. The first thing you will notice is the nice, weighted, clay chips that come with the game. And seeing how much they are used, this is a great thing. These are built to last and are simply top notch.

The cards? Good stock with interesting artwork. Pretty much what you would expect a game with cards to be. The cards list the cost on the bottom section. Any gem (colour indicator) with a number beside it represents that the player must have that number of the resource. The top of the card list the bonus gem the card represents, and any victory points the card is worth.

The box? Well designed with spots for all the chips, and built in dividers to keep the different types of cards separated. Again, the care that went in to this is great.

Set-Up

Shuffle each level of card deck separately, and then place them in a column in the middle of the table in increasing order, placing level 1 cards at the bottom and level 3 at the top. Reveal the top 4 cards from each level. Next, shuffle the noble tiles and reveal an equal amount of tiles per players, plus one extra tile (ie reveal 4 in a 3 player game). Finally, place the poker chips in 6 distinct piles (sorted by color) within reach of the players. You will use all the chips in a 4 player game. For a 3 player game remove 2 of each (except from the yellow pile) and for a 2 player game, remove 3 of each (once again taken 0 from the yellow pile).

Game Play – Basics

On a player’s turn they will perform one of the following four actions:

*Take 3 chips of a different colours.
*Take 2 chips of the same colour (there MUST be 4 tokens or more to complete this action)
*Reserve 1 development card and take 1 yellow chip (yellow chips are “wild” and act as any colour). Players may have up to 3 cards in reserve.
*Purchase 1 face-up development card from any of the 3 levels.

A few notes: player’s may have a maximum of 10 chips in their possession. The cost of purchasing a card is indicating by the “gems” on the card. As an example, a card with one blue, green, and black gems on the bottom will cost 3 chips. If there was a 2 beside the black gem, the player would need to pay one additional black gem.

Play continues until one player has scored 15 victory points.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

There’s a few advance tactics involved in the game.

The first is the bonus gems you get when you purchase a card. On the top the card will have one of the 5 different colours. This gem is permanently in a player’s possession once purchased and can be used to purchase additional cards.

The next advanced tactic is the Noble tiles. A player can earn the Noble tile (and it’s bonus points) by collecting sets of cards. Typically this will be two sets of four, or 3 sets of 3. For example if a player has 3 black, 3 red, and 3 white cards in their possession, and a Noble tile list that, the player would gain possession of that Noble tile and it’s victory points.

An additional point to keep in mind with the Noble tiles is that a player can score only 1 per turn. As there is some overlap it is possible a player will qualify for more than one, but will have to choose which to take. The player may score the additional tile on their next turn if nobody else completes the goal.

The last advanced tactic is reserving the top card of one of the decks blind. This can be a risky play as you don’t know what you will get and have limited reserve slots. But, if you get lucky you may get a card one of your opponents badly needs, or a card you can easily complete while picking up a yellow chip.

Theme

On the game’s site they explain the theme like this “As a wealthy Renaissance merchant, acquire mines and transportation, hire artisans and woo the nobility. Create the most fantastic jewelry to become the best-known merchant of them all!” But…let’s be honest. While the artwork is great and the chips are very nice…there’s little to no theme here. Nobody says they are taking two rubies, they say they’ll take two red. If you need theme…you will miss out on a great game.

Replay Value

As this is a card based game, the game is random and no two games will play the exact same way. This helps eliminate a “master tactic” for victory and allows each play to be fun. The game also scales well with 2, 3, or 4 players. And it plays fast. With a group that is familiar with the game, you can easily finish in 20 minutes. With 2 experienced players? As low as 10. Add in the fact that the game is easy to teach, and there’s a lot going on here.

Over All Impression.

This is a great game. While there are still a few games from 2014 that I want to play (new Star Wars and Dead of Winter), right now I’d put this at the top of the list. It’s got great components, plays fast, plays different, and works with a variety of people. And because it scales so well, it has quickly become to go to game to play while waiting on one or two players when getting together for a game night.

Also…the game is one of my favourite 2 payer games. It plays fast, and with a players chips and cards being shown at all time, you can examine what they are doing and really build up counters attacks and defensive moves. Sure the game isn’t heavy even at two players…but it has a really great weight for that quick 2 player game fix.

Sure there’s no theme…but the gameplay is so great that you’ll get over that quickly as you are playing your 3rd round of the night.

10
Go to the Takenoko page

Takenoko

53 out of 60 gamers thought this was helpful

Pandas are cute. Pandas are funny. Pandas are not zombies. They are not elves, or warlocks, witches, or trolls. So what is a Panda doing in a game? And is that game any good?

Components

Oh. My. Really, when watching videos or seeing pictures of the game, you get an idea that this is a game made with care. But actually playing it? This is a top notch game. The cards are great (although a little small for some), the tiles are of heavy stock, and the wooden bamboo pieces are great. And of it is done in a perfect art style. Including a great instruction book.

But the box… that is a good box.

Seriously, I’ve seen too many games where the box is way to big, the pieces don’t fit properly, or you are left breaking out bags to keep everything organized. Not a problem here. Everything has it’s place, the sections to hold items have slots to make taking the items out, and clean up is a snap. Really, this is how it should be.

Seriously, this is one of the nicest looking, best designed games I have ever seen.

Set-Up

To get started, give each player a player card, and matching action tokens. This is another small but awesome design item. Each character card has a symbol that matches one of the sets of action items. Just good stuff.

Next, you will take the fountain tile and place it in the centre of the table. Next, place the gardener and panda character pieces on the fountain tile. Take the rest of the tiles and place them in a stack in reach of all other players. Deal out one panda, tile, and gardener card to each player.

You are now ready to play, with the tallest player going first.

Game Play – Basics

On a player’s turn, they will do two of a possible five actions: Place a tile, take an irrigation stick, move the gardener, move the panda, or take a new card.

When placing a tile, a player will take 3 tiles and place one on the board, returning the other two to the bottom of the tile stack. Tiles must be place either touching the centre fountain tile, or two other tiles. A tile that has a water source (more on this later) will grow one piece of a bamboo stack.

Irrigation sticks are used to link tiles to the centre fountain. Once in your reserve, they can be placed at any point on your turn (placing does not count as an action). A tile that is not touching the fountain, needs a connected irrigation stick along it’s side to be able to grow bamboo. A tile that had no water source does not grow bamboo when getting a water source added, it simply can now grow.

The way you grow bamboo after the initial tile placement is placing the gardener on the tile. The gardener moves in a straight line only. Whichever tile he ends up on will grow one additional piece of bamboo, up to the limit of a 4 on one tile.

The panda moves in the same way as the gardener. But this time, he eats a bamboo piece from the tile he ends up on. Characters ill them take the bamboo piece and place it on the panda section of the player card.

The final action is taking a card. There are 3 types of cards: tile, gardener, and panda. You score points by completing the task on the cards. For tile cards, this means a serious of tiles placed in a set pattern, all of which need a water source. For gardener cards, it means growing a stack of bamboo of a certain colour, or multiple stack of one colour. For the panda, it means eating a certain number of one or more coloured bamboo pieces.

The first player to complete a set number of cards starts the final round. This player also get the emperor card, gaining 2 bonus points. The player with the most points at the end of the final round wins the game.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

If the basic gameplay was all there was, Takenoko would be a good game due to simple gameplay and amazing design. But, there is more. And this makes a simple game go above the light category and gives more advanced games more options.

After the first round, player’s will start their turn by rolling the weather die. This gives them a round bonus of either fire, rain, wind, lightning, clouds, or unknown.

Fire gives the player a 3rd action (use the die to indicate the action you will take on your player card). This allows you to accomplish more in one round, putting your plans in to action before your opponents.

Rain causes bamboo to grow one any one tile. This can help speed up a gardener quest, or give you a piece of bamboo to eat where there once was nonce.

Wind allows you to do two of the same actions. This can be a big thing when you need to repeat an action before the board changes due to others turns.

Fire scares the panda and allows him to move to ANY tile, disregarding normal panda movement rules. Clouds give you a tile icon. There are 3 tile icons: water (provides water source to a single tile), fertilizer (causes 2 bamboo pieces the grow on the tile when the gardener is placed on a tile OR a tile has the rain affect played on it), or a panda fence (the panda can move on to the tile, but can not eat any bamboo on the tile). The icons can be placed on any tile that does not all ready have bamboo growing on it. As an added layer of depth, some of the tile will have one of the three icons placed on it by default. This makes those tiles extra attractive to players. The final aspect of the tiles is the gardener cards. Some of the cards can only be completed on a tile that has a certain icon. Others can only be completed if one or more icons are NOT on the tile.

The icons are great as they really do add what can and can not be done.

The final bonus action is unknown. When the player rolls this option, they get to pick one of the other 5 options available to them.

Theme

The game is cute, inviting, and funny…because pandas. This can be off putting to some people. These people are missing out. The theme is VERY light, and is more there for design then anything else. Yes, there will be panda pooping jokes. Yes, people will make jokes about the gardener wanting to kill the panda for eating his bamboo. But really, the game mechanics are where the fun is.

Replay Value

I’ve played this game more than any other game since joining Boardgaming.com. Not since I’ve bought it, but since I’ve been tacking plays. People love the game. In fact, the first time I played it (2 player), the other player went out and bought his own copy. The happened again after the first 4 player game. And as much as the cuteness may rub some people the wrong way, it makes the game inviting to a large number of players.

So what you get is a game with a decent amount of strategy, that a lot of people will want to play. And they will enjoy playing. Add that up, in this is one of the higher games when it comes to replay value.

Over All Impression.

I love this game. It has fun game mechanics, gorgeous design, and plays in under an hour with most players. And it’s a game people want to game. There’s never been a time when people have said no to Takenoko. It’s never that game where one person in your game group is playing it and just waiting for the next game.

And unlike some games, it’s simple to teach. I typically hand a player the player card and go through the items on it. Once I’ve done that, people are ready to play. It also scales really well. I’ve played 2 player, 3 player, and 4 player games and have had fun with ALL of them.

Yes, it’s not as manly or geeky as other games…but so what. A game that people WILL play that is fun? This is a must for pretty much any gamer.

8
Go to the Shadows over Camelot page

Shadows over Camelot

58 out of 65 gamers thought this was helpful

The story of King Arthur is deeply ingrained in to geek culture. From The Sword In the Stone, to Monty Python, this is a theme that everybody knows, and most love. In Shadow Over Camelot, you and your friends go on quests to defeat the game. But the game has a few tricks up it’s board. One of which may involve one of your own.

Components

If you have never played a game by Days of Wonder, one thing you need to know is they make REALLY nice looking games. And, Shadows Over Camelot does not break this trend. Included in the box are 1 Master game board, 3 Double-sided Quests, 16 Swords of the Round Table, 68 Character/Event/Loyalty cards, and 1 special 8-sided die. Oh, and 30 Miniatures. As much as I love small, bang for your buck games like Avalon, there is something great about a game with gorgeous game boards and miniatures to get you right in to the theme.

Set-Up

Unlike smaller games, there is a little bit more to setting up the game.

First, you’ll need to position the master game board and 3 double sided quest boards in the center of the table. Next, place the miniatures of Excalibur, the Holy Grail and Lancelot’s Armor on their respective spots on these quest boards. Once this is done, give each player a Coat of Arms and it’s matching miniature. You also have the option of giving out a loyalty card to each player. Keep in mind that if you do, one of the player’s MAY end up as a traitor, and will work in secret to defeat the other players. Once this is done, divide the white and black cards in to separate piles and place the piles on the master game board. Next, deal one Merlin card to each player, as well as 5 random white cards to each player.

The last part of the setup is to have each player play a white card face up on the round table. The cards are then dived amongst the players as they see fit.

If any player is playing as King Arthur, then he will start the game. Otherwise, the youngest player will go first.

Game Play – Basics

The game play of Shadows can be summed up very simply. A bad thing happens, and then a good thing happens.

For the bad things, players can choose to either:

– Draw a black card from the black draw pile (and apply its effect)
– Add a Siege Engine around Camelot
– Or Lose a Life point

Keep in mind that the bad things are really bad. Give up too many life points and you will be dead, and out of the game. Fill up the 12 Siege spot, and the game wins. As for the black cards? They have different effects on the game. Some will cause the game to take control of a quest, others will cause all players to take some type of penalty.

Survive the bad stuff, and you get to do the good stuff. The heroic actions available are:

– Move to a new Quest
– Perform an action related to the Quest you are on
– Play a Special White Card
– Heal yourself
– Accuse another Knight of being the traitor

Play continues clock wise until one of the end game conditions is met.

The game (and traitor) win if:

– 12 Siege Engines surrounding Camelot
– 7 or more Black Swords on the Round Table
– All the Loyal Knights are dead

The game also ends if the 12th sword is played on the round table. If this is done, the game wins if the majority of swords are black.

The only way for the forces of good (the players) to win is by having 7 or more white swords on the round table.

And keep in mind, while the game is a co-op game, players must not reveal which white cards they have in their hands. This, plus the threat of a traitor, makes for a fun yet challenging experience.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

One of the great things about Shadows Over Camelot is the Quests themselves.

The Quest are made up of The Black Knight, Lancelot & the Dragon’s Quests; The Quest for Excalibur; The Quest for the Holy Grail; and finally The Saxon and Pict Wars.

Each Quest has a different win and lose condition. If the quest is won, all players currently on the quest receive rewards. If the quest is failed, the game gets rewards. This is the main way that players and the game will add swords to the round table.

The Tournament against the Black Knight, the Quest for Lancelot’s Armor and the Dragon’s Quest are Combat Quests. When on one of these quests, a player may play a single white Fight card on any empty card spot on the Knights’ side. The cards you play must eventually form a specific combination (2 pairs of distinct values in the Black Knight’s Tournament, a full house in the Quest for Lancelot, and 3 three-of-a-kinds in the Dragon’s Quest). A Combat Quest ends the moment its last White or Black empty spot is filled. The sum of all White cards played on the Quest is compared to the sum of the Black cards played there. If the White Fight cards have the greater total value, the Quest is won; otherwise it is lost.

To win the Holy Grail, you must cover every single spot on this Quest with a Grail card by playing a single Grail card on the first empty spot closest to the Holy Grail. If all the spots are filled, remove the closest Despair (or possibly Desolation) card instead, and discard both cards. If you lay the 7th Grail card on the last spot on the board, the Quest is won, and rewards are handed out.

To fight the Saxons or Picts, play a Fight card on the first available card spot in that War. The cards must be placed in order from 1 to 5 forming a “straight” of increasing values. Playing the fifth and final Fight card in a War wins that Quest. The quest is lost if four Saxon or Pict figures are placed on the battlefield before you play the fifth white Fight card.

In addition to this, there are other “mini quests” to perform. These include fighting off a Siege Engine, or drawing two white cards. Keep in mind that while these quest may seem mini, they have big repercussions on the game. Allows the field to fill up with Siege Engines will result in losing the game. And, if you don’t have any white cards, you will not be able to defeat the other quests.

There is one final quest you can do. While in Camelot, you may officially accuse a player of being the traitor. Guess right, and the traitor must reveal his identity. Why is this important? Well besides knowing who is trying to screw you over, if the traitor is not known when the 12th sword is played, 2 of the white swords must be flipped over to black. And keep in mind, if there are 7 black sword, evil (the game) wins.

Theme

One basic truth of gaming, is that miniatures add to theme. The artwork and tiny little figures helps create a feeling of place and time. And that holds true for Shadows. And really, the fact that you are playing as either Arthur or a member of the round table is really and easy theme to get in to. Additionally, the special white and black cards read very thematically, creating a great game environment.

One final thought on the theme…the game can get really silly if you or your friends over do the Monty Python jokes. It’s up to you if that is a good or bad thing.

Replay Value

The value of this game really depends on your group. While the game can be played by 3 players, it really does suffer. But, if your group has 4-7 players, this is a game that you will play over and over again. The quests, are varied enough that they never feel repetitive, and the fact that a bad thing happens on every turn really cranks up the tension.

Over All Impression.

Shadows Over Camelot is really a game where the whole is much greater than the parts.

Playing mini poker games would get old fast without the theme and evil actions. And it avoids one of the big traps of most co-op games. Because of the possibility of the traitor, and having to play the game without revealing your hand, you and you alone are in control of your actions. Yes, you need to read the room and pay attention to how others are playing, but the choices you make are your own. That alone creates a unique experience.

Add in the easy to learn game mechanics, gorgeous components, and great theme and this is easily a must play. And if you have have a larger game group, it is a must buy.

Just remember to look up the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow before you play.

8
Go to the The Resistance: Avalon page
72 out of 79 gamers thought this was helpful

The Resistance: Avalon is a social deduction game for 5-10 players set in the world of King Arthur. Players are either Loyal Servants of Arthur (the good guys), or are Minions of Mordred (the bad guys). The first team to complete the required number of quests wins. Most of the time.

Components

Much like other games from Indie Board and Cards, Avalon is a small box that packs big game. Inside you will find 14 Character Cards, 10 Quest Cards, 5 Team Tokens, 20 Vote Tokens, 5 Score Markers, 1 Round Marker, 1 Vote Track Marker, 1 Leader Token, 3 Score Sheets, 2 Loyalty Cards, and 1 Lady of the Lake Token.

The cards are made of good quality material, and the tokens are nice and thick.

And although you won’t spend much time looking at the cards once you have played the game, the artwork is great. For a micro game at a very low cost, the components really are top notch.

Set-Up

To start the game, select the Score Sheet for the number of players and place it it the center of play along with the Score Markers, Team tokens, and Quest cards. Place the Round Marker of the 1st Quest space.

Next, select the appropriate amount of Good and Evil character cards based on the number of players. Next, provide each player is provided a character card face down. Players will look at their card to determine if they are Loyal to Arthur, or on the Mordred. Next, give each player a set of two Vote Tokens.

The last part of the setup allows the evil players to determine who is on their team. This is done by having all players place their fist in front of them. Next, all players will close their eyes. When instructed to, the Minions of Mordred will stick their thumbs up, and them open their eyes. The person providing instructions will allow the Minions enough time to determine their teammates, and then ask them to close their eyes. Before they lower their thumbs however, the instructor will provide one final action that we will review later. Once this last action is done, the Minions will be instructed to lower their thumbs. Once the instructor is confident enough time has passed, he will instruct all players to open their eyes.

At this point it is time to start the first quest.

Game Play – Basics

Avalon is played over several rounds, made up of different phases. Each round starts with a leader being determined. Typically this is done at random to start, and after the is then determined by passing the Leader Token clockwise.

The Team Leader will then attempt to complete the Team Building phase. To do so, he will nominate the required number of players to go on the current quest as determined by the Score Sheet. The Team Leader may nominate him or herself, but is not required to go on the quest. All players will then be asked to vote on if the nominated team should go on the quest or not. This is done using the Vote Tokens. Once all players have selected a Vote token, all players will reveal their vote at the same time. If the majority of players approved the team, the team proceeds to the Quest phase. If however the players rejected the proposed team, a new Team Leader will be selected and will attempt to complete the Team Building phase. If the players fail to build a team 5 times in a given round, then the Evil side wins the game.

Once a team has been assembled, the Team Leader will provide each player going on the quest with a Fail and Succeed Quest card. The players will then select a Quest Card to give to the Team Leader face down. Loyal players MUST select a Succeed Quest card. Minions however may choose EITHER a Success or Fail card. The Quest is completed successfully if all players on the Quest choose a Succeed card. The Quests fails if one or more players chooses a Fail card.

The game ends after 3 successful or failed Quests.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

What separates Avalon from the basic version of The Resistance is the added characters. When handing out character cards the players can choose to play with SEVERAL characters that have special powers. These characters will still play as normal, but during the start of the game, they are provided additional information.
If a player draws Merlin, he will play as a loyal servant of Arthur. After the Minions have revealed themselves to each other, they will be instructed to close their eyes, but keep their thumbs up. Merlin will then be instructed to open his eyes. While this gives the player playing Merlin an advantage, the Merlin character presents another way for the Evil side to win: if they can guess WHO was Merlin at the end of the game, they assassinate Merlin and WIN the game.

Other characters include Percival (loyal, knows who is Merlin); Mordred (evil, identity not known by Merlin); Oberon (evil, does not reveal his identity to the other evil players); and Morgana (evil, reveals herself as Merlin to Percival during the reveal phase).

These added characters really add to the confusion and add a layer of complexity to the basic gameplay of The Resistance.

Theme

The theme of Avalon is the very popular theme of Arthur and Merlin. How much this ties in to the game really depends on your game group and how much they like to role play. Having a person familiar with the game be the instructor during the reveal phrase is a great way to set the mood and encourage role playing.

That being said, the gameplay and deduction of Avalon works regardless if the group wants to get in character or not.

Replay Value

With a variety of characters and ways to play, their is a lot of replay value to be had. Playing on the side of Evil has a completely different feel than playing on the side of good. And once your group starts adding in additional characters, you will find the complexity and depth of the game really goes up.

Add in the fact that it is a social game, and the amount of different groups you can play this game with goes up.

Over All Impression.

For those of you who looked at the score I gave the game before reading the review, it’s obvious that I love this game. With the folks I game with, we find it very easy to get in to heated discussions on who can be trusted, and who is a filthy, untrustworthy, stinking Minion of Mordred. The tension, and humour filled back and forth on who is and isn’t telling the truth creates a great time.

That being said the game can become extremely tense. If your group doesn’t like tense games, this game will not have a lot of replay value. In some situations the tension can cause a game night to end prematurely. You may also have a hard time getting people who can not bluff or read other player’s to play this game.

But in my experience this is a game that will get brought out a lot. In fact, this is a game that my group has to as a group decide not to bring to a game night unless we want to play MULTIPLE games, as we will be drawn in and want to prove our powers of deduction.

For me, Avalon is not just a must play…it is a must buy. And trust me, as a loyal servant of Arthur, I wouldn’t lie.

7
Go to the Munchkin page

Munchkin

40 out of 47 gamers thought this was helpful

Kick down the door. Kill everything you meet. Backstab your friends and steal their stuff. Grab the treasure and run. Each player is trying to find the most stuff and slay the most monsters to level up. The first player to level 10 wins the game.

Components

The basic set of Munchkin comes with a die, rule book, a set of Door cards, and a set of Treasure cards. The box is dived in to four sections, and for expansions and add ons. The cards feature artwork from John Kovalic. The artwork is great and really brings out the humour of the game. They are of decent stock, but you may want to get sleeves for them for frequent plays.

If you don’t like adding parts to your game, get the Deluxe Version. In this version you get 168 cards, 6 pawns, 6 player cards, gameboard, rulesheet, and a six-sided die. Given how close the two versions go for, I highly suggest the Deluxe version.

One thing that is not included with the game that does make the game easier to teach and play is card management sheets. While the game is 100% playable with out them, I recommend downloading and printing some out. They can me found on the official Munchkin site: http://www.worldofmunchkin.com/img/MunchkinCarpetENG.pdf

There is also a variety of expansion and subsets you can purchase. While they can add to the humour, they are not required to play.

Set-Up

Munchkin is playable by three to six can players. Divide the cards into the Door deck and the Treasure deck.
Shuffle both decks. Deal four cards from each deck to each player.

Decide who goes first, and you are ready to go.

Game Play – Basics

A player’s turn is dived up in to 4 basic phases: Kick Open The Door, Look For Trouble, Loot The Room, and Charity.

To Kick Open The Door, a player draws one card from the Door deck. If the card is a monster, combat begins. to resolve conflict, compare the level of the player vs the level of the monster. If the player has the higher level, he defeats the monster and wins the number of treasures on the card. More importantly, the player goes up one level. If the monster has an equal or higher level, the monster wins and the player must run away.The player rolls the 6 sided die. If you roll a 5 or better, you successfully avoid the monster. If not, read the “Bad Stuff” portion of the monster card and apply the penalty.

If the card is a curse, it is applied to you immediately. Any other card type goes in to the player’s hand.

If you do not find a monster, you may Look For Trouble. To Look For Trouble, simply play a monster from your hand.

If you did not find a monster or look for trouble, you may Loot The Room. Take a 2nd card from the the Door deck and add it to your hand.

One all other actions are performed, the active player must either play enough cards to get down to 5 cards in his hand, or give away any extra cards to the player with the lowest level. If the active player has the lowest level, he must discard enough cards to get his hand down to 5.

Play continues until the first player reaches level 10 by defeating a monster.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

Besides the 4 basic actions, there are several other mechanics of the game based on the different Door and Treasure cards.

Some cards are level cards. These cards allow a player to go up a level for free. They can be used at any time, except to gain level 10.

There are also Race and Class cards. These cards gives you a special ability. Keep in mind that you start the game with no race or class abilities.

The next type of cards are items. These can be one shot, or re-usable and add to your combat score without raising your actual level. Items also have a gold value. Players can sell any combination of items worth more than 1000 gold combines to go up a level.

The are also Curse and Monster enhancement cards. These cards can either lower or raise the combat skill of the player or monster durring combat.

Theme

So now they we’ve gotten through the nuts and bolts, it is time to get to the best part of Munchkin…the game is REALLY funny. It’s a very silly game that takes several RPG tropes and uses them for comedic purposes. Here are a few examples of some of them in action:

“Don the ***** Helmet and the Boots of ***********. Wield the Staff of Napalm . . . or maybe the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment. Start by slaughtering the Potted Plant and the Drooling Slim.”

If you are in to dungeon crawlers, or other RPGs, you’ll likely find something to make you laugh. And if you don’t, there’s likely an expansion that will. Like Ninjas? There’s Munchkin Fu. Like zombies? Well then there’s Munchkin Zombie.

As mentioned previously, the artwork is done by John Kovalic. Kovalic is best known for his Dork Tower comic book, comic strip, and webcomic. If you are still on the fence about the theme, check out Kovalic’s work. If you like it, you’ll enjoy the game. If not…you might want to stay away.

Replay Value

With the number of different monsters and items, there are a variety of ways to win a game of Munchkin. That being said the game is VERY random and the humour can be lessened on repeat plays.

Over All Impression.

Munchkin is a funny, easy to pick up, dungeon crawler without the hassle of a traditional RPG. So why did I not rank it higher? Well the game suffers on the later turns as everybody gangs up on the leader. This slows the game down. On top of that, there is not a lot of variety in the game play. The game can take 2 hours to play. At that point you may not enjoy doing the same thing for the 20th time that night.

That being said, this is a game that everybody should play once. It’s fun, is easy to teach, and will get your gaming group laughing. After the first play? Well then it becomes a matter of your group. If your group likes the game and enjoys it, you’ll likely pick up some of the MANY expansions. If however your group groans at the slow down, it may end up being a game that doesn’t get brought out very often.

8
Go to the Coup page

Coup

73 out of 80 gamers thought this was helpful

A quick search would tell you that a “coup” is the sudden overthrow of a government. And now thanks to the same people who brought us Avalon, Flash Point, and The Resistance it is also a quick playing card game of bluffing, bribery and manipulation for two to six players.

Components

A lot of folks may be put off by the tiny box, and may be even more put off by what they find inside. A simple rule book, 15 character cards (3 each of the 5 characters: The Duke, Assassin, Ambassador, Captain, and Contessa), 6 player cards, and a bag full of tokens.

That’s it.

And this would be an issue if the game was $30 or $50. But it’s not. Most places sell it for $10-$15. And while there is not much in the box, the cards are of good stock, feature nice artwork, and the tokens should be more than durable to hold up to multiple games. Additionally, the player cards give a quick reference of what actions can be made and by who. This is a nice feature when you are playing with newer gamers who feel they can’t generate strategy if they have to constantly ask about a rule.

Also, the minimalist nature of the game makes is super portable and that there is little to no set-up.

Set-Up

To get started, give each player 2 “coins” (the cardboard tokens) and a player card. Next, shuffle the 15 character cards and deal 2 to each character face down. Place the remaining tokens in the center of the table to form the coin pool. You are now ready to play Coup.

Whoever won the last game goes first.

Game Play – Basics

The goal of Coup is to destroy the influence of your rivals and drive them into exile. A players influence is determined by the character cards they have face down in front of them.

Play is done in turns clockwise around the table. On a player’s turn they may perform one of 7 actions.

Income = Take 1 coin from the coin pool
Foreign Aid = Take 2 coins from the coin pool
Coup = Pay 7 coins to the centre of the table and choose a player to lose influence
Tax = Take 3 coins from the coin pool
Assassinate = Pay 3 coins to the centre of the table and choose a player to lose influence
Exchange = Draw 2 new character cards from, and decide if you’d like to replace one of you character cards with one of the new cards
Steal = Take 2 coins from another player

If a players plays an action that causes an opponent to lose influence, the opponent must reveal one of their character cards face up. Play continues until only one player has influence left.

Based on the above, the game would sound really simplistic, with a series of pointless actions. Why would a player try to gain enough coins to perform a coup when they can assassinate a character for less than half as many coins? Here’s where the bluffing, bribery and manipulation.

Only the Income, Foreign Aid, and Coup actions can be performed LEGALLY by ANY of the 5 characters.

The other 4 actions can only be performed LEGALLY by certain characters.

Notice I said legally? Well that’s where the fun begins.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

Of the 7 actions, four of them are character specific.

Tax = Performed by The Duke.
Assassinate = Performed by the Assassin
Exchange = Performed by the Ambassador
Steal = Performed by the Captain.

So why have your character cards face down?

Because you can bluff on your action and pretend to be a character.

Want 3 coins? Say you are The Duke and take them! Want to take influence away but don’t have 7 coins? Assassinate them! But beware, because not only are their character specific actions, there are character specific counteraction!

After a player takes an action, another player may decide to counteract that action.

Block Foreign Aid = Performed by The Duke.
Block stealing = Performed by the Ambassador and the Captain.
Block assassination = Performed by Contessa

Keep in mind though, there is a down side to bluffing…your opponent has the right to call your bluff. If a player challenges your ability to legally perform an action or counter action you must either reveal that you do have the character, or lose one of your influences.

But remember to be cautious of accusing a player of bluffing. If they are not, YOU lose one of your influences.

Theme

Indie Boards & Cards describes their game like this:

“In the not too distant future, the government is run for profit by a new “royal class” of multi-national CEOs. Their greed and absolute control of the economy has reduced all but a privileged few to lives of poverty and desperation.Out of the oppressed masses rose The Resistance, an underground organization focused on overthrowing these powerful rulers. The valiant efforts of The Resistance have created discord, intrigue and weakness in the political courts of the noveau royal, bringing the government to brink of collapse. But for you, a powerful government official, this is your opportunity to manipulate, bribe and bluff your way into absolute power.”

And while that sounds cool…theme is not a strong part of the game. The option is there if your group of gamer’s really gets in to playing characters, but if not don’t expect to be blown away be theme.

Replay Value

The box for Coup suggest a game can be played in 15 minutes. With 4 or more players I’d say this is a fair estimate. With less? You could be in for a VERY short game.

But is that a bad thing? No.

The game places briskly and provides players with enough different actions and counters to keep you entertained through out the game. And because their is value in determining which characters your opponents control, the game does a great job of keeping your attention.

Is this a game you build your game night around? Probably not. But it is a very way to start a game night and get everyone in the right mindset…or as a way to kill time between a larger player elimination game.

Over All Impression.

Indie Boards & Cards seems to understand the value of a lot of game in a little box. Much like Avalaon & The Resistance, this is another fast, social game that creates “light” tension. Player’s who dislike deception games will do well to stay clear of this one, but for anybody who is in to bluffing and deduction this is a great way to get a quick game fix. At the $10-$15 price point, this is a must buy.

8
Go to the Locke & Key: The Game page
88 out of 95 gamers thought this was helpful

Locke & Key is an award winning comic book series from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez. The series is about Locke kids (Tyler, Kinsey and Bode) and their adventures in Keyhouse as they learn about their family’s dark secrets. In the game by Cryptozoic, players will work together to overcome the supernatural challenges of Keyhouse.

Components

Fans of the series will be happy to know the game features Gabriel Rodriquez’s studding artwork on a series 184 cards. The game features a cardboard stand, and start payer cardboard lock. The cards are durable and include 15 foil “Key Cards” that provide special powers.

Set-Up

Starting a game requires very little. Divide the cards in to their 3 different stacks: 150 Strength cards, 19 Challenge cards, and 15 Key cards. Locate the “Game Over” Challenge card and shuffle it along with 6 random Challenge Card. Place these cards at the bottom of the Challenge stack. Next, deal each player 4 random Strength cards. Finally, choose a player to start and assign them the cardboard Lock.

You are now ready to begin.

Game Play – Basics

Game play consist of the players trying to beat one of the 19 Challenge Cards. To start play, flip over the top Challenge Card. Challenges are divided in to 3 colours (Black, Blue, and White). A Challenge is defeated if the sum of all of the on-colour Strength Cards are equal or greater than the Challenge Card.

Starting with the person in control of the Lock, players will choose one of 3 actions:

*Play up to 3 Strength Cards from their hand to contribute to beating the challenge (typically face down)
*Discard 2 Strength Cards for a Key Card
*Draw a card

Once all players have performed an action, any Strength Cards played are revealed, and it is determined if the Challenge was defeated. If it is, the person who contribute the highest total of on-colour Strength Cards scores the Challenge Card. A 2nd place reward is also supplied to the player who contributed the next highest total of on-colour Strength Cards. In the event of a tie, the winner is decided by order of play.

Deal one new Strength Card to each player, and reveal the next Challenge Card to start a new round. Play continues until the Game Over card is turned over. The winner is the player with the highest total of scored Challenge and Strength Cards.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

While the core of the game is a fairly basic trick taking component, there is a series of modifiers that add to the complexity. To start off, some Strength Cards have text modifiers on them that allow for special tactics. Most commonly will be scoring conditions depending on the outcome of the Challenge. Others will allow the player to play additional Strength Cards (either randomly from the Strength Card stack or from other players hands). There are also Strength Cards that allow for special combos by playing a sequence of cards (ie. 1-2-3) or 3 cards of the same value. This adds a bluffing element to the game as when playing Strength Cards a player may choose to play one or more off-colour Strength Cards.

The next Advanced Tactic is the addition of Key Cards. Key Cards are played before scoring a Challenge and can change the outcome of the Challenge. The Key Cards are a combination of single use cards, and ongoing modifiers that can provide their current holder an advantage over other players.

Theme

While the game is an official licensed game of the popular comic book series, the actual game play rarely calls back to this. This may be disappointing for fans of the comics. That being said, the artwork if great even for people who have no interest in reading the books.

Replay Value

Because of the game modifiers, the game is easy to learn, but a little harder to master. Seeing a player masterfully use a Key Card, or Strength Card modifier to take a Challenge away from you motivates you to find other combinations. The games also plays fast. A group of gamers familiar with the game should be able to play 3-4 games in an hour. While the basic simplicity and lack of extended play time may be a turn off to some, it makes for a great 2nd game for a shorter game night. It can also be used to break the tension between longer games if you are having a game day.

Over All Impression.

If you are a fan of the comics, and specifically Gabriel Rodriquez’s art style, this is a must by. The cards are gorgeous and really match the series perfectly. If you are not, their is still a lot of value here. As mention above, the game has a basic co-operative trick taking mechanic that is easy to explain to anyone. This makes it an extremely accessible game. But there is still enough depth to challenge most gamers. Like most card games, knowing when to pounce on a Challenge is the key to winning. Yes, there is the inherent randomness of which card you will be dealt, but as any experience player knows, with skill you can create your own luck.

Based on the quality of components, quick game play, and moderate challenge, I recommend this game for all but the most hard core strategy gamer.

× Visit Your Profile