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Jay Atkinson

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Go to the Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 page
Go to the Roll for the Galaxy page
Go to the Core Worlds: Galactic Orders  page
Go to the Catan: Seafarers page
Go to the Trains: Rising Sun page
Go to the Sentinels of the Multiverse page
Go to the Memoir '44 page
Go to the Freedom: The Underground Railroad page
Go to the Castles of Mad King Ludwig page
Go to the Star Realms page
10
Go to the Trains: Rising Sun page

Trains: Rising Sun

13 out of 15 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Trains: Rising Sun is a standalone game that builds upon it’s solid predecessor Trains in fantastic way. It’s still a deckbuilder about managing your train network, but adds more cards that enhance gameplay and provides more options that makes network building even more important.

Pros
Plays stand alone
Adds more options to make board play more important (Route Cards)
2 player maps!
More direct interaction in attack cards
Cooler victory point cards
Can mix it with the original Trains!

Cons
None

Gameplay
The overall gameplay of Trains: Rising Sun hasn’t changed from Trains, so I won’t repeat it here. Just please refer to Trains to see my overview. However, Trains: Rising Sun adds so much more that enhances the existing gameplay greatly. The first thing it adds is the Route Bonus cards. This is probably the most important addition to the game. The Route Bonus cards add purpose to building your network between certain cities and enhance the theme of the game. They provide bonus points for connecting target cites on the route and provide a “special power” if you choose to use them after claiming them. The publisher also provides Route Bonus cards for the previous Trains and all the maps they have produced so far… awesome!

Also, attack cards are added that provide more direct interaction instead of just multiplayer solitaire. Most of them mess with other players hands. This could be a con for some, but you don’t have to play with them. The victory point cards have more interesting scoring bonus instead of just straight points on the cards. There are also more ways to manage the waste in your hand, and more trains that combo with other trains.

The last great addition is the two player maps! This makes for tighter and more strategic gameplay for two players, which was missing in the original more “expansive” maps. The resources are tighter as well, since the rules set you up with less stations, cards, and rail tokens. This was a much needed addition to the game.

Conclusion
I originally rated Trains a 10, but given this addition, I’ve had to adjust my score. Rising Sun is what Trains should have been the first time. I love almost everything they’ve added to the game. It improves the original game in just about every facet even the deck cycle problem by providing more scoring options and direct interaction. If you’re looking to get into Trains, you should start here. If you already have Trains and like it, you must get this!

A question you may ask is “If I don’t have Trains, and buy Rising Sun, should I get the original Trains?”. I would say yes if you find yourself liking Rising Sun. If you don’t like Rising Sun, then you probably shouldn’t look into Trains. However, if you didn’t like Trains, you might want to give Rising Sun a chance. It really is better. I heartily recommend this version of Trains!

Gamer Recommendations
Family GamerYES – theme is fine, but kids need to be older
Social Gamer NO – too heavy and thinky for social gaming
Casual GamerYES – Still simple enough to learn, just add routes
Strategy GamerMAYBE – More strategic with route cards
Avid Gamer YES – More options, more variation, more interaction
Power Gamer MAYBE – More goodness that might interest the Power Game who has original

7
Go to the Splendor page

Splendor

20 out of 24 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
In Splendor, 2 to 4 players compete as gem merchants vying to become the most successful business in the trade. The game plays in roughly 30 minutes and is easy to learn. It’s a splendid way to pass the time with friends and family.

Pros
Plays quick
Easy rules
Great components

Cons
A little anti-climactic

Gameplay
Splendor is a simple game to play. Each player gets one of the three following actions: reserve a card and collect a gold token (wildcard), purchase a card, or take either 3 different gem tokens or 2 of the same gem token as long as there is more than 3 of that token available. Each time you purchase a card, it will give you a gem resource that can be used for future purchases which builds your engine. Some the cards will also give you points which are ultimately important, because that’s how you win. If a player collects enough cards of various resources, they can claim a “noble” tile which gives them more bonus points. The first player to 15 points will signal the last round, and whoever has the most points wins.

Conclusion
My gameplay description may not sound like much, but Splendor does have a few subtleties that make it more enjoyable than first appears. There is a a lot of back and forth of denying other player cards and resources when you see what cards are needed to claim noble tiles. For instance, if all the nobles require some diamonds, then sometimes you can mess people over by reserving the diamond cards and building them for yourself or grabbing tokens that can help other players purchase diamonds. This won’t necessarily hurt you either, because you’ll be buying cards yourself to get to your goals. A lot of adjusting of plans as people purchase the card you wanted and as new cards are revealed. It reminds me a bit of Catan or Ticket to Ride where you constantly have to adjust your plans with each claimed card or noble. The only downside is that it feels like it ends too quickly sometimes just as you thought you had your gem engine starting to roll.

Splendor is HUGE HUGE hit with everyone in my family. I have cranked through a lot of games in a couple of months that’s left me a little dizzy. This is probably my wife’s and my niece’s favorite game now. I like it, but I don’t love it myself. It is a good solid and accessible game. Great game to bring out with non-gamers for sure, and makes a solid filler of a game on those long game nights.

Gamer Recommendations
Family GamerYES – well.. a hit with my family at 8 yrs and up!
Social Gamer YES – Light enough for chit-chat amongst friends
Casual GamerYES – Simple to learn and play
Strategy GamerNO – Where’s the deep strategy?
Avid Gamer MAYBE – add to the collection for varied game groups you know
Power Gamer NO – You mean that’s it?

9
Go to the Castles of Mad King Ludwig page

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

16 out of 18 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
In Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players take turns being the master builder for old mad King Ludwig as you compete to build the most favored castle in the kingdom. Sharpen your chisels and prep your brushes, it’s time to go mad in the castle!

Pros
Shines at three to four players
Good components
Lots of variety

Cons
A tad more random with two players
Another analysis paralysis prone game depending on players

Gameplay
In Castles of MKL, players take turns being the Master Builder. The player’s role as Master Builder means determining the price of the next set of castle tiles on the market board. Players then take turns paying the Master Builder for the tile they want to purchase. They then place their tile and score it along with any special connecting bonuses for certain rooms and any “completion rewards” for completing rooms. Usually, players are going to pick tiles that will give them an edge on one of the three King’s Favors which are different each game or that line up with their secret bonus cards which they draw three of at start the game. Now, King’s Favors are important, because if a player places first in the type of room on the King Favor’s list, that player will get 8 points which is huge. Also, completing rooms are important, because they can help you set up scoring combos based on the type of room you are completing like food rooms giving you an extra turn or utility rooms allowing you to draw more bonus cards. As turns complete, the Master Builder goes last and will then purchase his or her tile by paying the bank, place it and score it. Now the Master Builder role then moves on to the next player. This continues until the room card draw pile is empty which ends the game. Players will then tally up who placed among the King Favor’s and add up bonus card points. Whoever scores the most points, wins the game.

Conclusion
Castles is not a deep strategic game, but it does allow you options to plan your castle based on the king’s favors that are in play and the secret bonus cards you possess. I enjoy the “tactical” nature of placing the tiles and figuring out how to price the tiles in the market as Master Builder. If you want to be good at the game, you’ve got to master the paying attention to what your opponents are building, so you can price the tiles during your Master Builder role accordingly. It is quite satisfying when you place a tile out of someone’s financial reach or force them to pay you through the nose to get the tile they want when you’re the Master Builder. It can make the decisions tense, and it keeps everyone engaged.

I really enjoy playing Castles of Mad King Ludwig. It hits on a lot of my buttons from the scoring combos you can perform when laying tiles to the decision making each turn to capitalize on your bonuses and king’s favors. At the end of the game, you have this colorful and wonky castle that makes you feel like you accomplished something cool. My kids and I like to make up stories at to why our castle is so strange like having no bedrooms because the king was an insomniac. However, it is better with more than two players, because you could get hosed by some of the tiles not being in the game from initial setup that you need for bonus scoring (you remove a lot of tiles in 2 player). It’s a really good game, and I think it would make a great game to bring out with family or casual gamer friends and still get that “gamer” satisfaction.

Gamer Recommendations

Family GamerYES – Colorful, puzzly, fun, and cool!
Social Gamer NO – too “thinky” for socializing
Casual GamerYES – not hard at all once you understand the scoring with simple actions
Strategy GamerNO – probably too random with the bonus cards, but does have long term planning
Avid Gamer YES – lots of variety, works with many groups
Power Gamer NO – Not a deep game.

8
Go to the Scoville page

Scoville

15 out of 17 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
In Scoville, you’ve got a job to grow lots of hot peppers and help the town make awesome chili recipes. You score points by fulfilling orders for peppers and making those recipes. Whoever scores the most points doing that wins. Get your overalls ready, it’s time to get spicy in Scoville!

Pros
Great components
Easy to learn
Brilliant cross breeding mechanic
Good player interaction between harvesting and bidding

Cons
Not as good at 2 players
Long with 6 players

Gameplay
Scoville is fairly straight forward and isn’t hard to learn for an average gamer. Each round is easy with players bidding for turn order behind their player screens. Whoever wins the auction, gets to put their turn order token on the turn number. This is important, because the rounds after the auction have 3 phases that are performed in different turn orders. So, a player may want to go last sometimes to first in another phase. The first phase which goes in turn order allows players to pick peppers from the town square for planting first then plant one pepper in the field per player.

Once all peppers are all planted, the players then harvest peppers in reverse turn order by moving their farmer tokens a maximum of three spaces. This is the brilliant part of the game. How you move your farmer between planted peppers determines the type of pepper you harvest. This is important, because there are different “levels” or value of peppers that are important for fulfilling recipes for points. The mix of peppers will a produce a certain pepper for a player to add to their collection.

The last phase is fulfillment which is performed in normal turn order. Here the players take turns either selling their peppers at the Market for money, special peppers, and small amount of points in return or fulfilling hot recipes at the Chili Cookoff for extra bonus points or both.

These phases continue until a certain number of cards in the Market or Chili Cookoff is less than the number of players. Then normally a final round is performed to end the game. Players then total their points to see how is the victor!

Conclusion
The first time I played Scoville, I played with six players. It was long… like 2+ hours long. However, I still enjoyed myself which to me is a mark of a good game. I probably will not play six again, but I definitely do want to play it again and it is on my wishlist. I’m not sure about a two player game, since the strategic values of auctions seem more diminished.

The game is very well produced. The cardboard bits are nice and thick. The artwork is great and very colorful. The pepper tokens are sturdy and have colors that pop. I also like how the pepper tokens have different heights based on their value and not just color. This adds a nice visual and tactile addition to the game.

The player interaction is pretty good in Scoville between players bidding for turn order and blocking each other in the pepper fields. In fact, some might consider the blocking to be a little mean, because you can strategically place your worker to prevent someone from getting a pepper you know they want. I like!

Overall, this is a really fun game! It provides really interesting decisions in the placement of both your peppers and your farmer. It allows for some long term planning, since everyone can see the market order cards and chili cookoff cards from the start of the game. It has some great player interaction. It’s just well put together!

If you any of this sounds interesting to you… go get it!

Gamer Recommendations

Family GamerYES – when the kids are little older. Colorful and fun.
Social Gamer NO – too heavy for socializing
Casual GamerNO – a tad too heavy to bring out and can be long
Strategy GamerMAYBE – does allow for long term planning by being able to see the available recipes, but has some random elements.
Avid Gamer YES – it’s just a fun game. Works well with different range of players.
Power Gamer MAYBE – not super deep, but may have enough interesting choices to involve a power gamer.

8
Go to the King of New York page

King of New York

11 out of 12 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
King of New York is the sequel to the popular King of Tokyo (KoT) game that brings some refreshing changes without spoiling the fun. The Big Apple is under attack from a whole new slew of monsters. Everybody was “kaiju” fighting…it was so exciting!

Pros
More thematic
More interesting decisions
Lots of conflict, less “turtling”

Cons
A little less accessible than KoT
KoT: Power up expansion not compatible with KoNY

Gameplay

For those who have played King of Tokyo, the gameplay will be very familiar. You roll six dice up to three times for the results you want much like Yahtzee. You’ll still find energy for purchasing cards, hearts for healing, and claws for attacking. There are few tweaks such as your monsters staying in boroughs of New York which is not always safe. The main borough to score points is Manhattan, and it has different scoring stages the longer you stay in it. The biggest difference is that there are no numbers on the dice, but those have been replaced with “stars”. If you role enough stars, you get the “superstar” card which nets you more points when rolling stars. This card can be taken from you if someone else rolls the right amount of starts. There are also “building” icons on the dice which allow you to destroy buildings in boroughs for bonus health, points, or energy. Those building that are destroyed turn into military vehicles which act like the humans fighting back. They do fight back when you roll skulls, and depending on how many skulls you roll, the attacks could potentially not just affect you but every monster in New York. Those same military vehicles can be destroyed by the building icons on the dice as well.

Now, all these changes leads to a lot more damage flying around the city, so there will be a lot less camping outside the main area to heal up. This is particularly true once a few military vehicles are in the area. Very few games will end in someone winning by the normal 20 victory points. Most likely, the surviving monster will be the winner.

Conclusion

Given this, I think I like King of New York much better than it’s big brother, King of Tokyo. I find the decisions in the game more interesting. Decisions like should I attack this building to get a benefit, knowing that military vehicles will show up or should I attempt roll more skulls so that I can damage everyone’s monster as well as my own hoping to take someone out. That’s just to name a couple. I like the addition of being able to destroy buildings and have military fight back. This feels more thematic and seemed lacking in King of Tokyo. The cards seem a lot more interesting, and some of them work really well together if you can get them to combine. There is still a lot of luck, because there is dice and cards. However, there are many cards if they come up and you can purchase them that help mitigate the luck of the dice. You can use your monsters from KoT, but you will not be able to use the Power Up expansion cards with the game, since the dice have changed. Also, since there is a lot more damage, there is less people turtling to heal up, and it makes the game go faster.

If you like King of Tokyo, you should really give this one a shot. I think it might be a better version in my book. However, if you don’t like KoT, I doubt there is much more for you to like unless you were wanting a more “in your face” experience with better decisions. Also, if you like KoT, but still struggle with the conflict and player elimination some, then KoNY is probably not for you.

It’s a good game and fun to play.

Gamer Recommendations

Family GamerMAYBE – I don’t see any problems with kids playing if they’re okay with direct conflict and player elimination
Social Gamer MAYBE – If your idea of socializing is trash talking with your buddies.
Casual GamerMAYBE – a few more rules, but still not heavy
Strategy GamerNO – not much long term strategy
Avid Gamer YES – Lots of fun
Power GamerNO – Not a lot of depth.

8
Go to the Galaxy Defenders  page

Galaxy Defenders

16 out of 18 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Galaxy Defenders is a cooperative sci-fi tactical combat game from 1 to 5 players. It’s your team’s mission to fight off the alien invasion to save earth from total domination. Are you ready to take on the challenge?

Pros
Streamlined tactical combat system
Quality components – thick cardboard & solid plastic
Thematic
Good storyline
Campaign mode
Characters can level up
Rulebook laid out fairly well.
Solid enemy A.I.
Each agent plays very differently.

Cons
Very fiddly – lots of bits
Takes a few plays to really learn the game
Some setup time involved to place bits and setup decks
Can get quite long with 5 agents on some missions.

Gameplay

I won’t go into deep detail of the rules, because it wouldn’t be a review. However, I’ll hit the highlights of the core gameplay which really isn’t too daunting. Basically, once you get your mission setup the way the scenario book describes, players will choose which agents they want to play and the “alpha-agent” who is both leader and starting player for the round (alpha agent can change from round to round at player’s discretion). Each agent has different strengths and weaknesses which helps you form a solid team to tackle the mission.

Each round is broken up into phases:

Refresh phase – this is for items and skills that get refreshed at the beginning of the round
Strategy phase – players pick who is alpha agent, roll for possible promotions/upgrades, call in for equipment upgrades, and check for victory conditions
Battle phase – Starting with alpha agent, alternate turns between players and aliens. Each player gets to perform combat, movement, and a action in any order they choose. Then the active player draws a close encounter card to perform the aliens turn. After that is complete, the next player takes their turn.
Event phase after battle is complete, alpha agent draws the next event card and resolves its effects. The effects range between new aliens teleporting onto the battle field, weather effects that can hinder agents, losing ammo, taking wounds, or special events to name a few. Once resolved, the round is over and players start the phases all over again until mission is success or failure.

Let me take a second to talk about combat, since it’s a key part of the overall gameplay The combat is pretty straightforward and easy. When you attack, you look at how many and what color dice you roll as listed on the weapon you use in combat. After you roll the dice, count up the hit icons, and that is the number of defensive dice the defender rolls (plus or minus any special modifiers on top of that). The defender rolls that number of dice and is looking for “shields” to block the hits. Count up the shields and subtract them from the number of hit icons and that is how many wounds the defender takes. It works very well.

The game can be played in either single mission mode or campaign mode. Single mission mode simply means you just pick a mission out of the “storybook” or scenario guide and play it straight up. You can level up as much as you want during the Strategy phase, so long as you kill an alien previous round and get the appropriate rolls. In campaign mode, you start with the first mission and work your way through to the last mission (12 missions total). Each agent gets to keep their skills and ranks throughout the game, but they are limited to only one upgrade per mission. If an agent dies, they lose their “promotions” and start from scratch again during the campaign (new rookie).

Conclusion
So far, I’m very impressed with Galaxy Defenders. I still need some more plays to master all the details, so that is one of my “cons” if you call it that. I don’t find the rules difficult, but there are quite a few to remember. Thankfully, the agent profiles, devices/weapons, and alien cards keep most of those rules contained on them for reference along with quick reference guides that come in the game. The components are top notch with their thick chunky cardboard pieces and very sturdy plastic miniatures for the agents and aliens. Of course, it’s a lot of pieces in this game, so it takes a while to setup the game.

This is what a I really like about the game. The combat is not hard at all. The alien artificial intelligence (A.I.) decks are very well done and smooth when performing alien actions. It’s a co-op, so my son and I tackle the evil alien forces together whereas other games we’re against each other with me winning most of the time. The agents all play very differently. The fact that it has a campaign mode where your agents can “level-up” is a huge plus in my book and makes the game more immersive. It just a really solid squad co-op game!

Also, I know that there is a now an “X-COM: The Board game”, but it’s my understanding that game doesn’t really model the tactical squad combat of the video game very well at all. Galaxy Defenders does this in spades! When I think of X-COM, I think of squad level combat and Galaxy Defenders is it!

If you looking for something like X-COM or a cooperative tactical squad combat game, get this! NOW!

Gamer Recommendations

Family GamerNO – Too much combat and too many rules
Social Gamer NO – To heavy a game for socializing
Casual GamerNO – Too many rules for casual gamer and long setup time
Strategy GamerMAYBE – Highly tactical and lots of die rolling. You can come up with a game plan though for the mission and try to execute on it.
Avid Gamer YES – should you even ask? dripping with theme and cool bits
Power GamerYES – right up their alley.

9
Go to the Freedom: The Underground Railroad page
14 out of 16 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Freedom: The Underground Railroad is a cooperative game for 1 to 4 players where players take on special roles to help slaves escape from the land o’ cotton (that’s the Southern U.S.) into Canada during the 1800’s. Based on the number of players, the play time will be 1 to 2 hours. Get your knapsack ready, clean out your cellar, and make sure you have plenty of supplies as you get ready help your fellow man out of the chains of slavery.

Pros
For such a controversial theme – very well done!
Very good components (cards & boards).
Rich historical content
Challenging game
Lots of replayability in the opposition cards and slave market cards.
Plays great solo

Cons
Can get long with four AP prone players

Gameplay

In Freedom, each player gets a separate role card that grants them special benefits each turn and a single one-shot special ability. Each round is broken up into five phases: Slave Catcher phase, Planning Phase, Action Phase, Slave Market Phase, and Lantern Phase. There are three decks in the game broken up across three time periods from 1800 to 1865. To advance to the next deck, players must purchase all the support tokens of a given time period (not cheap).

I won’t go into complete detail of the rules, but basically each player will be taking their turns during the planning phase which entails buying up to two tokens for fundraising, moving slaves, and support tokens and the action phase where all the “action” is (see what I did there?). The action phase is where players will use their tokens, abilities (mostly), and use abolitionist cards from the abolitionist queue. The other phases are basically the “game” taking it’s turn and the last phase is clean up the abolitionist queue (sometimes where opposition cards are resolved).

Players win by helping a predetermined number (based on victory card) of slaves into Canada and buying all the support tokens in the game. They lose if they have lost too many slaves during the game which they keep track of on their victory card or the players run out of slave market cards (8) before accomplishing your objectives.

Conclusion

This tough game is full of hard hard choices! Money is tight tight tight! Those opposition cards can be NASTY! Never have I cared so much for each little wooden token (slave), because you don’t want to lose any freed slaves! Unfortunately, it can make for a bittersweet victory (if you can win that is!) when you look over and see that you have lost more slaves then you got into Canada. I feel myself almost sweating as I draw the next abolitionist card waiting for the dreaded reddish orange of an opposition card appearing or when I roll the slave catcher dice hoping for the knapsack carrying slave to appear(i.e. slave catchers don’t move). However, nothing is more heart-wrenching then the first time you decide to lose slaves as a “calculated risk” in the game.

I love the replayability of this game, because it is random how many opposition cards are placed in the abolitionist decks as well how differently they are distributed across the three decks (time periods). So you never know which opposition cards will be in the game or what time period they’ll pop up. Also, the slave market cards are shuffled before each game, so the distribution of new slaves arriving each round is different and keeps me on my toes. This affects how many plantation spaces I need to free up for the incoming slaves, so I don’t lose any.

I love the historical flavor text of each card and how it connects the theme of the cards to the mechanics! This makes it even more immersive!

Now, slavery is definitely a black spot in our history and unfortunately it still goes on today in some parts of the world. So, this may sound like a bad theme for a board game, but I believe the designer and Academy Games did everything right in that the players are trying to help slaves gain their freedom. I appreciate the “honesty” of the game in at least showing not just the those opposed to slavery, but using the opposition cards to show those who supported slavery and how they affected the times. When the bad happens, the abolitionists had to rethink their plans for helping the slaves.

I can only think of a small handful of games that have really gotten me immersed into it’s theme, and this is probably the first game that makes me me care about how well I win or lose. So far, I have only won one time out the four times I’ve played (3 solo and 1 three players), and that was on the “easy” level. This game is on the verge of replacing my favorite co-op with great theme: Pandemic. This is an absolutely brilliant cooperative game, and it’s a must buy if you’re into cooperative games and rich historical themed games.

Gamer Recommendations

Family GamerYES – Older kids who’ve studied 1800’s, great theme and great educational value – not younger kids with short attention span and no understanding of the history
Social GamerNO – To heavy a game for socializing
Casual GamerNO – Too heavy a co-op for casual players
Strategy GamerYES – Lots of strategic options
Avid Gamer YES – Full of replayability and tough choices
Power GamerYES – heavy co-op that power gamers may like

9
Go to the Star Realms page

Star Realms

95 out of 102 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview

Star Realms is a sci-fi deck building card game for two players that comes in an inexpensive portable box. Players compete head-to-head to knock each other out while crafting their deck or star fleet to complete the job. You can play more players by buying more of the same starter deck, but this review focuses on two players only.

Pros

Inexpensive!
Expandable to more players with more decks (up to 6)
Awesome artwork
Plays quick!

Cons
Cards start to show wear after a few dozen plays.

Gameplay

Star Realms gameplay is pretty straightforward. Each player starts with 8 money or trade cards (Scouts) and 2 combat cards (Vipers) in their personal play deck and 50 authority points (think health). Five cards from the the main deck (not player decks) are dealt out into a trade row for purchase along with ten explorer cards next to the five in a pile. The explorer cards are special purpose money cards with potential combat bonus if scrapped. The rest of the cards are then set next to the trade row face down and are only drawn to replace one of the five if purchased by a player. There is also a “scrap” pile for cards removed from the game by “trash” actions or cards that let you scrap. The only exception is that the explorer cards go back to their starting pile if scrapped or trashed.

Each player will take turns drawing five cards into their hand from their personal player decks, and then play their cards. Each card has primary abilities that are activated right away such as “trade”, “combat”, or “authority” (think heal by adding to your own authority point pool). There can be other abilities on the primary side also like “draw a card” for instance. Also, some cards have “secondary” abilities besides the primary that can either be activated by having other cards of the same color in play (allies) or using a “trash” icon to scrap the card from the game.

The “trade” and “combat” go into a pool for each to be used by the player during their turn. Trade is used to purchase cards from the trade row or explorer pile. Purchased cards go straight to the player’s discard pile. Combat can be distributed to the opponent (including the target player!) based on how the player wants to target starting with the opponent’s outpost cards first, then to other parts once all outposts are dealt with if any at all. So, outposts are important cards to have to slow your opponents attack down, since they must be destroyed first before hitting the opponents authority point pool or other cards like bases.

Once a player finishes their turn, they discard any remaining cards and any left over trade or combat goes to zero. They then draw up another five cards, and the next player performs their turn. This proceeds until a player’s authority is reduced to zero points which means that player loses.

Strategic Analysis

The deck is composed of four factions: Trade Federation (blue), Blobs (green), Machine Cult (red), and Star Empire (yellow). Each have their strength and weaknesses, and some play together real well. I’ve played this game at least 20 times, but mostly on the digital form. I have yet to master it, but here’s a rough synopsis of each faction.

Trade Federation: Great for getting trade (money) and healing (authority), and multiple trade federation cards combo very well against each other. This faction is more about surviving attacks after your opponent has unloaded on you when sometimes it may be better to prevent the damage. A few ships have some decent combat (one really great one), once you get your money up to afford them. However, you really need to supplement it with another faction to get some heavy damage against your opponent. I’d recommend red faction to help thin weak cards out of your deck and still add damage, but the other two also have more damage.

Machine Cult: This robotic faction is all about thinning your deck into an efficient machine. Most of their cards allow you to scrap cards out of your deck and have a balance between combat and trade. They also have some very nice outposts that are medium to high in cost, but have nice benefits like Mech World, Brain World, and Machine Base. Their supply bots and trade bots make good replacements for explorers and scouts. Because of their scrap ability, they usually complement any faction, so you can fine tune your deck to get to the high-powered cards more often.

The Blobs: This strange alien green faction is all about cheap combat in the early game and rush your opponent towards the end game. They have the best combat per cost ratio of all the factions. If you can streamline your deck into mostly green, you will deal out some major damage by end game. Their bases (no outposts) just help heap on the damage. This faction can be dangerous paired with yellow, since yellow can draw up more cards like more green and yellow and deal out more damage with yellow. Cap it with a Blob World and watch your enemies burn.

Star Empire: This yellow faction also deals out the damage, but its main focus is on card denial by making opponents discard and drawing up more cards to strengthen its attack and cycle the deck. The Recycling Station base is brutal by allowing you to draw up two more cards to play. Most of the fighters increase damage when more fellow yellow come out while making your opponent discard down to nothing on their next turn.

All the factions seemed well balanced. You can’t always decide which faction you want to use before you start the game, because there is luck in what shows up in the trade row. You have to be somewhat opportunistic based on what is showing up in the trade row and what your opponent is buying. You’ll need to know not just how to counter your opponents strategy, but also learn how to deny your opponent cards they may need.

Conclusion

You may have guessed that I’m enamored with this game. This is probably becoming my “go to” two player card game. It plays fairly quick and has decent amount of depth for such a quick game. It comes in small box that is easily portable and setups up quickly. Although, I haven’t tried it yet, you can buy more decks to add more players to the game (up to 6). My kids really enjoy it too. There’s a lot more intensity in this deckbuilder compared to some of the more “multiplayer solitaire” versions out there, since you’re going head-to-head with your opponent. I would definitely use this as the game to introduce someone to the deckbuilding mechanic family of games.

If you’re looking for a pure deckbuilder that plays quick yet has some depth, you should pick this one up! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Gamer Recommendations

Family GamerYES – Who doesn’t like space? Both 9 and 11 year old picked it up quick and love it. The use of authority as way to track player life may be a little less offensive than saying it is health.
Social GamerNO – .Doesn’t strike me as social.
Casual GamerYES – Probably the easiest deckbuilder to introduce to a casual gamer
Strategy GamerNO – may be too tactical in nature for long term strategists
Avid Gamer YES – Full of options and variety, plays quick to fill a niche in their collection.
Power GamerNO – This is not a what I consider a power gamer’s deckbuilder like the many expansions of Dominion

9
Go to the Caverna: The Cave Farmers page

Caverna: The Cave Farmers

93 out of 100 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview

Caverna: The Cave Farmers is a game based on the successful euro game Agricola by designer Uwe Rosenberg. It’s a game about becoming the most wealthy dwarf as you tame the wilds and carve out your cavern.

Pros

Awesome components
Lots of choices
Still very replayable

Cons

Long setup time with the furnishing tiles
Can get long with AP prone players

Gameplay

Each player begins with two dwarves (workers) and an empty playmat for building their estate. Each round, a new action card will be revealed, then resources are added to each necessary place, and each player will alternate turns placing their workers on an action space to perform that action. These actions involve collecting resources to build items or animals, building items, having babies (more workers), and performing expeditions if their dwarves are armed. All these are done to expand a players estate which all amount to points. At the end of certain rounds, harvest events occur (some are random) that involve players harvesting their fields, feeding their family members (usually 2 food per worker), and then breeding any animals they may have except dogs. This proceeds for 10 rounds, and then the game ends. Players will total their points to see who will claim victory.

There are many options to obtain victory points in this game. Players score points for each animal they have. They score points for rubies and gold coins. Any mines or fields they possess can be between 2 to 4 points. Each worker scores points. Each dwelling (houses workers) usually score points. Finally, almost all furnishings which are bonus tiles will score points either listed on the tile or based on certain criteria you meet. There are penalties like begging tokens (-3) for not feeding your workers, any open spaces (-1), and any farm animal type you do not have (-2). However, a lot these can be made up depending on how well you build out your sections.

Comparisons to Agricola

I look at Caverna, and I do see a lot of similarities to Agricola. The basic overall gameplay is the same of placing workers to take actions and completing harvests after certain rounds to feed your family and breed your animals. However, Caverna does quite a few things differently than Agricola. For instance, the cards that Agricola has are gone in Caverna which factored into Agricola’s heavy replayability. However, you could argue that Caverna really takes the cards of Agricola and converted them into “furnishing tiles” that players can draft throughout the game. Even though Agricola comes with a ton of cards, the furnishing tiles are more limited in Caverna which reduces replayability some in comparison. This an area of the game that is ripe for expansion!

The next big thing added to Caverna that is not found in Agricola is the weapon forging and expeditions. The expeditions are basically a way for players to perform extra actions or obtain resources that otherwise may have been taken by other opponents. This opens up the decision space of the game and can cause the game to slow some while players try to figure out what they want to do on their expedition particularly if they get to choose three or four times. Thankfully, the expeditions aren’t all powerful, because what you get is based on the strength of your weapons, and there are furnishing tiles to support the no weapons strategy.

Also, Caverna introduces “rubies” which are a wild card resource that can either score you points or help you obtain resources at any time in the game that you may be lacking like food. This eases some of the tension found in Agricola that some people complain about when not able to feed their family. Caverna also provides more paths to victory. This way the game kind of becomes a race to build the best farm without being too punishing like Agricola which forces you to cover everything.

Last, it’s literally a “heavier” game than Agricola, since it has tons more cardboard and wooden tokens that are nicer than Agricola’s wooden tokens. I feel like I need a forklift to get it up on the shelf:-) Many trees died to bring you this game of dwarven fun.

Conclusion

One word .. wow! I really liked Agricola for it’s brain burning intensity and tension, but something about Caverna that just seems more fun! I can’t explain it fully, but I’d rather pull this hefty game off the shelf before I would grab Agricola now. I don’t know if it’s partly the theme or the new expeditions add to the game which gives you more options or if it’s the cooler components with dogs and donkeys and mines and rubies! I just had a blast. The most shocking was how well my kids loved it. Even though they did complain about the long play time (we were just learning), but they all said they would play this over Agricola any day. My son, who can’t stand Agricola, wanted to play it again, and he did the next day all by himself with solo rules and once with his older sister. He really likes the weapon forging and going on expedition. It’s a big hit with my family of little gamers.

If you like Agricola, there’s a good chance you’ll really like Caverna. You may not like it better.

If you don’t like Agricola, you should give Caverna a shot.

Gamer Recommendations

Family GamerYES – Older kids, cool theme, great fun.
Social GamerNO – Too much brain burning at times for socializing – too long.
Casual GamerNO – Way too complicated
Strategy GamerYES – Lots of strategic options
Avid Gamer YES – Full of options and variety
Power GamerYES – Power gamers will gravitate to the “heaviness” of this euro

8
Go to the Alien Frontiers page

Alien Frontiers

24 out of 28 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview

No muppets about it, this is a sweet worker placement game that flows well. You take the role of colonists trying to build the best set of colonies on this new alien planet while harvesting alien technology to your advantage. The goal is to control enough territory to give you the victory.

Pros

Awesome components (4th edition)
Strong gameplay
Lots of interesting decisions
Components, board, and graphic design are very thematic.
Lots of interaction
Good options for dice roll manipulation

Cons

Can be Analysis Paralysis prone depending on players slowing the game down.

Gameplay

Players begin with 3 dice (or ships) and one alien tech card. Each player takes their turn by rolling their dice once, and then determining where to place their dice on the board’s “orbital facilities” to gain resources, build ships, take items from opponents, draw alien tech cards, or place colonies on the planet. Each orbital facility details what rolls a player needs to obtain the facility bonus. During their a turn, a player can also use their alien tech cards to provide extra bonuses or resources depending on the card. Once a player is finished, they will leave their dice on the board until their next turn, and then collect them to perform their next turn. This makes the game very interesting, because your opponents dice may be occupying a spot you really need. Can we say “plasma cannon”?

Basically, you’re trying to get your colonies on the planet. This requires you obtaining solar energy tokens and lunar ore to build colonies. As you place each colony on the planet, you get a point for each colony. Some tech cards also give you points as long as you can continue to possess them. The planet is also broken up into “territories” that grant the player controlling the territory with a bonus power that helps you in the game. Each planet territory, except the middle territory, is connected to an orbital facility, and the power is related to an advantage at that facility.

There is also another element that lets you mess with other players territories by manipulating the field generators through alien tech cards. The positron field will grant a player an extra point. The repulsor field will prevent players from adding colonies or moving colonies to and from that territory, and the isolation field nullfies a territory’s bonus. These generators can also be stacked on the same territory to really hose someone over.

Play continues until someone places all their colonies on the planet. Once that is done, everyone will total their points, and whoever has the most points will win the game.

Conclusion

I really enjoy Alien Frontiers, and I’m glad I finally got my hands on a copy. This was definitely worth the hype and wait, although I wish Game Salute would sell this through other channels. The fourth edition is definitely a step up over the first edition components. The colony tokens are very thematic. The game provides lots of interesting decisions each round and has some nice player interaction capabilities through tech cards and raider’s outpost. I like how there are basically three ways to get colonies on the planet, and each of those ways require differing levels of higher cost based on how quickly you can put the colony down.

However, because it has a decent size decision space, players who are analysis paralysis prone can really slow the game down. That’s why I’ll probably never play five players if I ever get the “Factions” expansion. Four players is really the maximum for this game, and I would almost say three players may be the sweet spot.

My two older kids liked the game as well. My youngest is just learning to read and doesn’t like to wait around between turns, so your kids need to be comfortable reading and waiting for playing. It does make a good family game given that caveat. All in all, Alien Frontiers is a great game worthy of your collection.

Gamer Recommendations

Family GamerYES – Given the age of kids, nothing offensive, and good strategy.
Social GamerNO – .Not a lot of socializing in this game, but a lot of thinking
Casual GamerNO – Probably too complicated
Strategy GamerMaybe – dice may be a turn off, but game has luck mitigation
Avid Gamer YES – Full of options and variety
Power GamerMaybe – Power game will like the choices, may want expansions

7
Go to the For Sale page

For Sale

79 out of 90 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview

For Sale has become one of those “classic” filler games that everyone should add to their collection. The game is about bidding on real estate properties, selling those properties, and collecting the most money to win the game. Plays in about 15 to 20 minutes.

Pros
Fast play
Easy rules
Scales well based on number of players.

Cons
Card quality not the greatest

Gameplay

For sale is a very simple game played in two rounds. Players start with two decks: property deck and money deck. These decks are setup at the beginning game with certain random cards removed based on the number of players. This setup makes the game more replayable and less predictable. Also, each player gets a certain amount of money tokens based on the number of players at setup as well. This money will be used to make the initial bids on the properties.

During the first round, someone turns up a property card for each player playing for everyone to see. This will be the cards that players bid to obtain. Each property card will have a number associated with it with higher numbers being more valuable. Each player takes a turn bidding an amount of money to win the highest property card. If anyone passes, they automatically get the lowest point property card available and potentially lose half of their already bid money rounded up, and they can longer bid that round. Once the highest bid is established, the winning bidder gets the high card. After that a new set of cards are drawn, and the next player in turn order starts the next bidding round. This is repeated until the property card deck is empty. This ends the first round and players proceed to round two. Any money tokens left over from this round are kept by the players for final scoring.

In the second and last round, players will begin bidding on the money decks by again drawing and revealing money cards based on the number of players. Players again bid, but they don’t use money. Each player will select a one of their property cards at the same time. Once everyone has selected a card, everyone will reveal their cards at the same time. Players will then distribute the money cards based on their property card rankings. So, the highest property played gets the highest money card and so on and so forth. This is repeated every round until the money card deck runs out. Once all the cards are played, the players will total up all their money cards and any left over money tokens to come up with a total. Whoever has the most money is the winner.

Conclusion

For Sale is just a real easy going real estate auction card game. It is very accessible and plays great with the family. The artwork is very playful and not offensive. Some of the lower property value cards are quite humorous looking. This game makes for a great change of pace between heaving gaming sessions. Also it is so easy teach that it is a great way to start getting people interested in the hobby. I find that the game scales well based on the number of players, and it still plays fairly quickly at the maximum player count.

For Sale is really solid game worthy of your collection.

Gamer Recommendations
Family Gamer – YES – easy rules, easy math
Social Gamer – YES – easy rules, easy to chat while playing
Casual Gamer – YES – easy rules, nothing heavy at all in it
Strategy Gamer – NO – no deep strategy
Avid Gamer – MAYBE – good to add to collection for filling in between bigger and meatier games
Power Gamer – NO – no complexity, not deep, no expansions.

7
Go to the Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game page
18 out of 20 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview

Once Upon a Time is a simple card game where players work together to tell an exciting story, but each player tries to steer the story to their specific and secret ending for a win. It’s definitely a game for creative and free thinkers.

Pros

Easy rules.
Lots of replay value.

Cons

Can take some deep thought at time to figure out next move.
Sometimes cards really don’t line up your way.
Really big box for the components.

Gameplay

Once Upon a Time is really not hard at all to play. Each player draws an “ending” card from the “Happy Ever After” deck that tells how the player should end the story, however, these cards are kept secret from everyone else. This way no one knows which way the story will end. Players start with a number of story cards from the “Once Upon a Time” deck based on the number of players. The starting player, who is determined by who looks most similar to a card drawn from the story card deck, begins telling a story using the story cards in their hand.

Normally, a player will tell the story as long as they can with their cards if they can and drive the story to their own ending. If a player can’t continue the story, they “pass” and discard a card, then play proceeds to the next player. However, if a player stalls out or plays a card that doesn’t make sense, the other players can call them out and the player draw a card and have play proceed to the next player. However, a player can be interrupted and have the story flow “stolen” from them by another player either playing an “interrupt” card that matches the color of the last played card or by the storytelling a word that matches another player’s card.

This continues until someone can play all their story cards and bring the story to their ending. If they successfully do that unchallenged, then that player wins the game. If the other players don’t accept the way the story is ending, then the player who tried to win has to draw a new ending card and two new story cards.

Conclusion

This is a really great game if you have the right kind of people. If you’re playing with people who aren’t very creative or are ultra-competitive, you all may struggle through the story together, and they may wind up frustrated. However, with the right kind of people, this game can be a hoot. It really is all about making a fun story first, and winning is second.

Also, this makes a great family game. Kids really enjoy stories and here’s a chance for them to really exercise their creative thinking skills. I play it with my nine and eleven year old. Sometimes, I help out my nine year old with his story, because he needs to work on how to connect plot points together. I find it very educational for this and fun too.

If you enjoy telling a good story and watching it unfold, this is a must buy.

Gamer Recommendations

Family GamerYES – rules easy, kids get into it.
Social GamerYES – especially for creative types.
Casual GamerYES – rules easy, not hard at all.
Strategy GamerNO – no strategy
Avid GamerMaybe – depends on personality and it’s a different experience
Power GamerNO – not deep enough and not competitive enough.

7
Go to the Star Fluxx page

Star Fluxx

79 out of 86 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Star Fluxx is the Fluxx family of games that adds a lot of sci-fi tropes from just about every sci-fi show that many of us all know and love. It plays very similar to other Fluxx titles and adds “creepers” to the game to mix things up.

Pros
Lots of sci-fi humor
Small box and portable

Cons
Can drag out long sometimes

Gameplay
Fluxx is pretty simple game in that you start out with a few rules, then the cards continue to change the rules as you go. That’s really what the game is about … the rules are “flux” throughout the game. Players start out with a hand of cards and can only draw one and play one card on their turn unless they play something that changes the rules. There are six types of cards in Star Fluxx: rules, actions, goals, interrupts, keepers, and creepers.

Rules – allow a player to change the rules, and normally cover up older rules (e.g. draw two cards a turn instead of one).
Actions – allow a player to perform a special action like search the draw pile for card.
Interrupts – allow a player to perform and action on someone else’s turn.
Keepers – let players place these cards in front of them and sometimes grant special abilities
Goals – these cards set the winning conditions for the game.
Creepers – these special cards attach to a one of players keepers cards immediately depending on the creeper type. A player cannot win with a creeper card even if they have certain keeper cards to meet a goal. The only way a player can win with a creeper is if a goal explicit states the winning conditions has that creeper. Multiple creepers will definitely prevent a win.

So the goal of the game is to meet the current goal card’s winning conditions. Players can override goal cards with goal cards they play, because normally, only one goal card can be in play. This where the chaos ensues as players jockey to get the goal card they need, and everyone else disrupts the play with different rules and actions.

Conclusion
Star Fluxx is meant to not be taken seriously. It’s all about having fun and being along for the ride as the game twists and turns to a conclusion. I really enjoy that game when I need a break from heavy brain burning games. Although, it still has a lot of “take that” factor to it.

The only downside besides the randomness is that the game could potentially take a REALLY long time. This doesn’t happen often, because sometimes people are dealt the winning hand on the first turn. Those are rare occasions, but potential buyers should be warned. No one can begin to predict how long a round of Star Fluxx will take.

Just be ready to buckle in your straps and prepare for LUDICROUS SPEED!

Gamer Recommendations
Family GamerYES – rules easy, although jokes may go over kids heads, artwork is appealing
Social GamerYES – lots of interaction and trash talk
Casual GamerYES – rules easy, just a hoot.
Strategy GamerNO – pure chaos
Avid GamerMAYBE – depends on how they like chaos
Power GamerNO – not deep enough.

5
Go to the Memoir '44: Air Pack page
12 out of 14 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Memoir’44 Air Pack brings the power of air forces to this predominantly ground pounding warfare game. This expansion comes with good components in spades, but the added rules make the game suffer.

Pros
WWII miniature planes look great!
Scenario book is SO AWESOME!
Tons of new rules summary cards for helping track rules

Con
Gameplay is clunky and harder to track with air units.
Out of Print (except scenario book)

Gameplay
Where do I begin? I’m not sure I want to do this, because even thinking about “air rules” makes my brain hurt. You get seven new planes in this expansion: P-38 Lightning, F-34 Corsair, P40 Warhawk, Supermarine Spitfire, Messerschmitt ME 109, Mitsubishi Zero, Yak, and the German Storch. Each one has their own separate set of the following abilities:

Strafing – basically, for ever unit a plane flies over, roll one die for attack. Resolve like “Air Power” card.
Ground Interdiction – Any enemy unit next to a plane doing interdiction cannot move nor add die to “air check” roll, but they can still do normal attacks.
Ground Support – negate the terrain effects of all enemy units next to the plane that are being attack in close assault.
Kamikaze (Zero only) – attack a unit for two die ignoring terrain effects, flags, and stars. Remove plane from play and only give a medal to opponent if grenade was rolled.
Recon – draw an extra command card when next to an enemy unit
Rescue – allows you to move ground unit off the field at no medal cost

If the scenario doesn’t designate any planes already on the map (like an airfield), players have to use “Air Power” or “Air Sortie” to bring a plane out onto the board. Admitted, I’m glossing over some of the goofyness of the when and how this happens, but the overall gist is that you have to use one of your ground unit orders and substitute it for your airplane that is now in play. So, to keep the plane going, you constantly have to give it an order each turn, so make sure you get your plane into a region you can order the next turn. If you fail to give that plane an order, it will be removed from play (ran out of gas?).

To further complicates things, you have to roll die every time you activate an air plane for it’s next move. This is called an “air check roll”. Based on the type of unit that is adjacent to the plane and what kind of terrain is below the plane, determines number of die you roll. If you roll a star, the plane is hit and is taken off the board. I guess this is to simulate ground fire and …running out of gas is nothing is around?. I find the air check roll not very thematic and quite strange. To answer a question that maybe in your head by now, no, you cannot attack planes directly with other units (other planes included).

Conclusion
Even though the WWII planes are very cool looking and I’m a huge fan of WWII planes, this expansion really over complicates what makes M44 shine …its simplicity. The play with air rules just feels clunky with how you bring a plane onto the board, how you keep it on the board, and how many die you roll based on your plane’s location. Having to remember what type of actions the plane does based on it’s type is never easy to remember even with the helper cards. It just feels like the designer forgot about what made M44 so great and pandered to more hardcore wargamers. I’m not saying he did, but that’s what it feels like.

If it weren’t for the awesome rules summary cards and scenario book, I would almost not recommend it based on the overall gameplay alone. However, the scenario book is so awesome, because it goes back to the older base game, Pacific Theater, and Eastern Front missions and updates them with Terrain Pack items. Also, having almost all those missions in one book is very sweet. Thankfully, you don’t have to buy the now out of print expansion to get the scenarios, but you can buy a PDF of the scenario book from the Days of Wonder website now.

The downside is that you’ll lose out on all those wonderful cards that come with the expansion that have rules summary for just about everything in the M44 system up to the printing of air pack. This is very handy to have for keeping track of what each unit and soldier type does along with special rules additions in certain scenarios.

Given that you can purchase the scenario book online, I’m going to have to say that you should really only track down this expansion if you must have the rules summary cards or the cool minis! Other than that, pass on it.

Gamer Recommendations
Family Gamer: NO kids like the planes, but don’t…just don’t.
Social Gamer: NO nope
Casual Gamer: NO too hard
Strategy Gamer: NO run away
Avid Gamer: YES brings a new experience, better scenario book
Power Gamer:YES adds more depth

8
Go to the 7 Wonders: Cities page

7 Wonders: Cities

18 out of 20 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
7 Wonders Cities is the second major expansion to 7 Wonders after “Leaders”. This expansion adds new “city” cards that mix up the gameplay a little bit, and allows players to affect other players across the table besides neighbors. Also, it doesn’t really add much to the overall game length either which is a big plus with how tight the base game plays. So get your toga on, and let us explore the cities of the seven wonders!

Pros
Adds 8th player and team play
Doesn’t add much to game length
Adds more interaction with debt and peace.
Compatible with Leaders expansion
Adds little more theme

Cons
None

Gameplay
This won’t cover the gameplay of the base game. Feel free to see reviews on it located here.

In this expansion, “city” cards will be randomly mixed into the appropriate age decks to add an “8th” card of play to the game. The three biggest additions are the cards with “coin”, “dove”, and “mask” icons on them.

Coin icons – when played, everyone must pay that amount of coin to bank or take on debt tokens for each coin not paid. This mechanism affects everyone except the person who played it, and those tokens stick with you to the end of the game and subtract victory points. OUCH!

Dove icons – when played, a player grabs the dove token and places it in front of his or her play area. At the end of the age the token is placed, that player takes no place in conflicts, but their neighbors fight against each other. So if I’m pursuing peace and my neighbors are not, I can make them fight against each other and skip over me.

Mask icons – when played, a player may choose which science symbol to copy from their neighbor at the end of the game. This is a great way to support the science strategy even if your neighbor is taking most of the science cards.

Also, this expansion allows for up to eight people to play, or to break up into two teams of four. I haven’t tried either of those yet, because I rarely have seven other people to play with me.

Conclusion
I really really like this expansion. It tweaks the base game with enough options to make for some interesting strategic decisions, and it doesn’t really add that much to the overall play time. I like how it adds some interaction with people across the table instead of just your neighbors with the addition of coins, but, it does enhance the interactions even more with your neighbors through the masks and dove symbols. If you want to pursue peace more, you now can do that now with the dove symbols. I also like how the coin cards add a little more theme to the “underbelly” side of a civilization based on the artwork.

If you enjoy 7 Wonders, this is no-brainer of a pick. If you have more eight people who play regularly, then the eighth person won’t be left out anymore. Get it! It’s good!

Gamer Recommendations
Family Gamer YES – If your family is already familiar with the base game.
Social Gamer MAYBE – adds a tad more interaction, but maybe not enough
Casual Gamer MAYBE – only if they already know the base game, don’t introduce it with this expansion.

Strategy Gamer NO – nothing to improve deep and long term strategy here.
Avid Gamer YES – just makes it better.
Power Gamer YES – just makes it better and more variety

7
Go to the Biblios page

Biblios

79 out of 98 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Biblios is an intriguing card game for one to four players. It’s almost like two mini-games smashed into one, because of the two different phases of the game. However, it has this indirect scoring method that will have the grey matter rattling around in the back of your head:-) The goal of the game is to score the most points by winning color categories to claim those points.

Pros
Solid gameplay
Nice components
Fairly portable
Good replayability due to random setup

Cons
Seems like a filler, but maybe a little too heavy.

Components
The artworks is superb. The cards are nice thick card stock, so they should last a good while. Dice are nice and chunky. Box is super cool with the magnetic lid that closes quite well, and it travels well.

Gameplay
Biblios has three kinds of cards: gold (money), church cards, and scroll cards of five colors. At the setup, players will discard a certain amount of the cards based on their number of players. This way they will have incomplete information as to what cards remain in the game making the game very replayable. The remaining cards are shuffled to create a starting deck. The board is then setup with five color dice matching five color suits of cards in the game. The dice all start at the number three which represent the victory points a player can claim at the end of the game.

Players take the starting deck and take turns drawing a number of cards based on the number of players plus two from the deck. The current player must choose one spot to put each card: their hand, the auction pile, or a public space per opponent. They cannot put the same card in a spot more than once. This makes for some tough decisions. Once the current player’s turn is over, the opponents pick which cards to get from the public space in turn order then play proceeds to the next player. This is repeated until the starting deck runs out which ends the first phase. This is called the “gift phase”.

After the first phase is ended, each player then takes turn drawing the top card of the auction pile and begin a round of bidding from cards in their hands. This is called the “auction phase”. If a player passes, they are out that round until the next card is drawn. The highest bidder wins the card and puts it in their hand. Play proceeds until the auction pile runs out.

Special Note: Anytime a church card is claimed (either in auction or gift phases), it must be played immediately. These are the only cards that can manipulate the number on the dice. Depending on the church card, a player can choose one or two die to manipulate the point value up or down. This is critical, because if you think you have the most value in a color, you’ll want to bump the same color die up. If you think your opponent has more of a different color, you’ll want to bump their potential color die down.

Once the auction phase has ended, players will compare how much value they have in a color category. Whoever has the most value will claim the die of the same color. This goes around until all the colors are compared. Then the players will tally up the numbers on the die they possess. Whoever has the most points wins the game.

Conclusion
Biblios seems like it should be a filler-type game, but sometimes I think it’s a little too “thinky” for what I would consider a filler. There are a lot of decisions in the game to be made which can make for a tense game. You have to decide which card to put in your hand versus give to your opponent versus put for auction later. You have to decide if a certain card is worth bidding amount based on either the remaining gold your have or remaining cards you have. You have to decide which die you should manipulate given what colors you think your can take versus what colors you think your opponents can take. This is as “cerebral” a filler type game probably gets. It provides for tension in a different way that I would NOT quite categorize as “push your luck”, but more like “did I really make the right decision”.

Overall, this game provides an interesting experience. I’m reminded of a story where masters of the game “Go” take mental breaks by playing Chess. I can see where this might be the thinking gamer’s filler:-) It’s a solid and well-designed game. I like it very much. So if you’re tired of vapid and mindless fillers, maybe Biblios is the game you’re looking to bring to your next game night!

Gamer Recommendations
Family GamerMAYBE – if your kids are older and are gamers
Social GamerMAYBE – enough interaction to possibly interest social gamers
Casual GamerNO – too complicated
Strategy GamerNO – too tactical and too random, no long-term strategy
Avid GamerYES – neat experience
Power GamerNO – not enough variety and not “deep” enough.

9
Go to the Memoir '44: Eastern Front  page
15 out of 17 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
The M44: Eastern Front expansion adds the Soviet Army into the mix. It comes with a lot more winter tiles for the Winter/Desert board expansion along some new badges and markers. Some of the most famous or infamous battles of WWII happened on the Soviet side. They were the one army that could go toe-to-toe with German’s armored forces that everyone else had trouble figthing.

Pros
Nice figures
MORE TANKS!

Cons
I want more scenarios!
Might need the winter board to make everything look better.

Contents
42 Russian soldiers
24 T-34 tanks
6 ZIS-3 guns
A Political Commissar chip marker
44 double-sided Terrain tiles
10 round markers (mines, medals)
4 obstacles (Dragon’s teeth…)
14 Special Unit badges
8 Historical Scenarios
New Rules in English and French

Gameplay
The main tweak this expansion adds to M44 is the “commissar” rule. When a scenario calls for commissar rules, the soviet player must pick a card for his or her next turn and put the commissar chip on that card, before he or she ends their turn and draws a new card. This is to simulate the concept of how the politicians didn’t trust their military leaders. Everything else plays the same, but that one tweak adds an interesting twist, because you can’t react as easily in the game by planning a card ahead of your opponents turn.

Conclusion
M44: Eastern Front is the army pack to get for those wanting to expand further. A lot more expansions like the Campaign Book Volume 1 add a lot more missions on the Eastern Front side. This is probably the most popular army pack so far of all the M44 expansions. If there is downside to this army pack, it would be that the winter tiles don’t match the base game board sides. For everything to look nice, you really need to spend the money on the Winter/Desert board expansion. However, you can still play without it, but it will look odd having white tiles on a green board.

Overall, it’s a solid add-on to the M44 game system.

6
Go to the Memoir '44: Terrain Pack  page
9 out of 15 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
This will be a short review for a short expansion.

Pros
Good quality tiles

Cons
Not enough missions
Serves only to help future expansion

Conclusion

The Terrain Pack simply exists for adding more terrain tiles, badges, and special components to the M44 game system that other expansions will need! If I remember correctly, Days of Wonder threw in a few missions to go along with it, just to add a little more to the expansion. However there isn’t much you can do with this expansion the day you buy it.

The Army Packs do not require Terrain Pack, but every expansion after this one pretty much does require it. So if you want any of the Campaign Books, the Air Pack, etc., you’ll need this expansion.

My recommendation is that you only buys this if you’re going full bore into the M44 game system.

7
Go to the Love Letter page

Love Letter

58 out of 65 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
In Love Letter, players take on the role of potential suitors for Princess Annette and vie for her hand by trying to get your love letters to her. Whoever receives the most “love” tokens from the princess, wins the game. It may sound a little corny, but there is quite a lot of game in this little package. So, don’t let the theme fool you.

Pros
Plays fast
Easy to learn (hard to master)
Inexpensive

Cons
Cards are a little flimsy (it’s cheap)
More luck involved with just two players

Gameplay
Love letter has a few simple rules where each player starts with one card, draws a card on their turn, and then plays a card on their turn. Each of the 16 cards has “special” abilities. The round ends when all the cards are drawn from the deck. The goal of each round is to either knock everyone out and be the last one standing or have a card with the highest rank at the end of the round. The winner of the round receives a “love” token from the princess, because she received your letter. The person with the most tokens wins the games.

Sounds complicated right? You might think that this isn’t much of a game, but the meat of the game is in the card play. Since there’s only sixteen cards and a reference cards showing you how many of each card is in the deck, this game turns into a deduction and bluffing game based on what you have in your hand. For instance, the countess card must be discarded if you have a king or prince card in hand. However, you can still discard the countess which is the second highest card in the game, to trick people into thinking you have the king or prince even if you don’t. A lot of luck can also come into the game by using the guards to “accuse” or guess what card a player has and knock them out. Quite a few games have been lost on a lucky guess. It makes for a lot of tension.

Conclusion
The game makes a extremely nice filler. It is quick and easy, yet has enough meat on it’s bones to make it worthwhile. It’s certainly not my favorite game, but I certainly will play it if it comes out on the table or someone requests it.

I only have a few of issues with the game. Since the theme is about love and romance, I personally would prefer to play it with older kids in the family. But the theme really isn’t that strongly connected to the game. Also, it definitely plays different with two players compared to more than two. Seems like there’s more luck involved with two players, because lucky guesses using a guard can knock someone out quick. Finally, the cards a really cheap quality, but it really is an inexpensive game.

Overall, Love Letter is really an interesting little game for a change of pace between heavy game sessions. If you run a game group, you should really look into adding this to your collection.

Gamer Recommendations
Family Gamer: YES with older kids, good way to teach probabilities and card counting
Social Gamer: YES this is very social
Casual Gamer: YES easy to learn
Strategy Gamer: NO run away
Avid Gamer: YES brings a new experience
Power Gamer:NO not deep enough

7
Go to the Qwirkle page

Qwirkle

48 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Qwirkle is an abstract strategy game that does what Scrabble did for words, but does it for colors and shapes. Players score points placing colorful blocks in certain positions on their turn. Whoever gets the most points of course wins the game. The rules are simple, and the game is very accessible.

Pros
Good components (hefty wooden blocks)
Easy to learn
Hard to master

Cons
Beware analysis paralysis prone players (slows it down)

Gameplay
Qwirkle is really simple. In the game there are six colors and six shapes, and it comes with three sets of those for total of 108 tiles. The basic gist of the game is that you try to make a “qwirkle” which is six of the same color of different shapes or six of the same shape but different colors. When you make a “qwirkle” you get a bonus six points. This is all done by players taking turns putting down either a single tile or multiple tiles in row that does not violate the color and shape rule. Players then score points for every tile in a valid combination (again, extra for a “qwirkle), and then refresh their hands. Play continues until someone plays their last tile for a six point bonus. Player with the most points wins.

Conclusion
This is a really enjoyable game. It’s good change of pace, but might be a tad long for a typical “filler”. The rules are easy enough that even younger kids around six or seven can play unlike say Scrabble where you need to be able to read. This makes for a fun family game. So far almost everyone of my non-gamer family members enjoy it. My wife likes it too, so that’s a plus for me.

The components are very nice and comes with a nice drawstring bag that fits all the chunky blocks in it. My only caveat is that the game can drag for people who like to over analyze everything.

Overall, I heartily recommend this game to round out your collection.

Gamer Recommendations
Family Gamer: YES – no brainer, easy to learn and accessible.
Social Gamer: YES – enough time between turns to chat it up while playing (like dominoes)
Casual Gamer: YES – easy to learn and plays fairly quick
Strategy Gamer: NO – no deep strategy here…move along
Avid Gamer: NO – not a lot of variety or theme
Power Gamer: NO – not a lot of depth for a power gamer

10
Go to the Sentinels of the Multiverse: Shattered Timelines page
19 out of 23 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
SotM: Shattered Timelines introduces “time travel” to this awesomely thematic superhero game. One of the main heroes and one of the main villains are actual time travelers. The rest of the characters except one are from other timelines, and one new environment is all about a “time cataclysm”. If ever there was a theme that makes comic book hero stories exciting, it has always been time travel!

Pros
Further enhances the same elements of the base game.
Adds more variety

Cons
Can’t think of any beyond what’s in the base game.

Gameplay
I won’t go into details of how the game is played, since this an expansion and it doesn’t alter the game.

Heroes
Chrono-Ranger: a time traveling hero from the wild west, and probably the coolest looking hero so far. He doesn’t start out doing a lot of damage, but as you start putting bounty cards out, he starts spreading the hurt around. He has pretty sweet arsenal, once you get it into play.

Omnitron-X: The 10th incarnation of evil Omnitron turned good. This robot can really dish out some punishment not so much in his damage capability, but that fact that you can start “chaining” multiple card combo plays that can make you dizzy. He also has some cool defensive capabilities as well.

Villians

Iron Legacy: One word: Brutal! If you don’t take him out quick, he will pound on everyone! He has a lot of ongoing cards that compound his damage capability and protect him from other types of damage. Making him extremely difficult to take down if you let him get all his cards out. He already starts out with ongoing cards equal to the number of heroes in play.

Dreamer: This villain provides an interesting twist. You’re not supposed to kill her or you lose the game. Since she is really a young version of Visionary the hero, you’re actually trying to save her from herself.

Kismet: She is all about annoying you with her “luck” and psychic damage. She has a lot of card denial plays and annoying damage effects that activate when heroes perform their actions.

La Capitan: A time travelling pirate that wreaks havoc on your team with her henchman and time-travel ship. You’ve got to take out her ship fast, or you’re in a world of hurt as it brings out extra card and refreshes the trash pile back into her deck.

Environments

Time Cataclysm: Introduces all kinds of “time anomalies” to the game that can wreck havoc on friend and foe. The most brutal may be the “Crushing Hallway” which deals four damage to everything and destroys all hero ongoing cards.

The Block: Brings the super villain “prison riot” theme to the game. There are various super villain inmates running around causing trouble with agents trying to stop them. The agents aren’t necessarily friendly to you as well.

Conclusion
Overall, this expansion really shines through in the time travel theme. It adds plenty more variety to the game with it’s new characters and environment. This expansion just really takes the base game and makes it even more fantastic.

If you like Sentinels of the Multiverse, this is a must have expansion.

8
Go to the Aquaretto page

Aquaretto

13 out of 15 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Aquaretto is continuation of the game series starting with Zooloretto by Michael Schacht. It is however a standalone game, so Zooloretto is not required to play the game. In this version, players compete against each other to build the best aquarium theme park using careful placement of their animals and coworkers.

Pros
Standalone game (not just an expansion)
Better tactical choices
Good components
Can also be played with Zooloretto for mega zoo fun.

Cons
Slightly bigger learning curve
Can have a high “screwage” factor

Gameplay

Aquaretto borrows the same core mechanics as Zooloretto. Players will randomly draw animal tiles each turn and place them on trucks, then pick trucks, etc. See Zooloretto reviews for more info on gameplay. Where Aquaretto differs, is that it your aquarium spots have a more “tactical” feel in how you place your animals in the aquarium. There are no “pens” in Aquaretto like Zooloretto, and you can’t place animals of different types next to you each other (only on diagonal). So real estate is a premium in your aquarium area, and players really have to take in consideration how they fill up their spaces. Of course, there are options of expanding and where you place expansions which affects how you grow your park.

Also, Aquaretto introduces “coworkers” into the game which provide different bonus scoring options. Players receive coworkers when they collect a certain number of animal type in their aquarium. When that number is reached, a player can choose to make their coworkers a animal trainer, cashier, keeper, or manager. The animal trainer scores points for “trainable” animals(dolphin, sea lion, or whale) next to the worker at the end of the game. The cashier activates points for the number of coins you have at the end of the game. The keeper activates bonus points for every animal with a “fish” symbol in your park. Finally, the manager is placed by the depot (like the barn of Zooloretto), and cuts the penalty in half for the animal types left in your depot at the end of the game.

There are few other tweaks to the game such as animals going into the depot are now order dependent. This means only the animal on top is accessible for purchase or removal. I should also mention that coins are now gained by the amount of animal types placed in your park at different intervals. However, it still contains a potential high “screwage” factor like Zooloretto with the way you place animals on trucks and force people to pick animals they don’t want which messes up their park.

Conclusion
Just the introduction of the coworkers alone makes this Aquaretto far more interesting then it’s older brother, Zooloretto. It adds a lot of depth to the choices you need to make on how to build your park. Do you maximize the amount of animals you take with “fish” symbols or do I sacrifice space in my aquarium for a trainer and go for trainable animals? Placement is also, such more critical now with an open-ended aquarium compared to walled-off pens. The decisions are deep enough to make the game fun and tense, yet not too overwhelming.

I really enjoy this version of the series much more. There are lot of expansions that come with Zooloretto, and I think it takes more expansions to make Zooloretto as interesting as Aquaretto’s base level of play. So, I would recommend you skip Zooloretto and get Aquaretto instead. If you already have Zooloretto, I still think Aquaretto is a good addition. Plus, you can combine the two together for some grandiose play.

Gamer Recommendations
Family Gamer: Cute animals and easy play – YES
Social Gamer: Not a lot of interation – No
Causal Gamer: Rules aren’t too hard – YES
Strategy Gamer: A little too random and too tactical – NO
Avid Gamer: Not a lot of variety – No
Power Gamer: Not enough depth – No

8
Go to the Hanabi page

Hanabi

96 out of 103 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Hanabi is a co-operative game for two to five players! The goal of the game is build the best fireworks display using the cards to build “runs” from 1 to 5 in each color or suit(5 colors + plus one optional multicolor). Seems simple, but the deduction mechanic is great and challenging, because players cannot look at their own cards!

Pros
Very inexpensive
Small portable box
Cool deduction mechanic

Cons
Not a very deep game
Flimsy card stock

Gameplay
Hanabi has a few simple rules. Once cards are dealt out, players cannot look at their hand, but must hold up their hand so everyone else can see. Players proceed in turn order performing one of three actions. They can either give a clue to another player about their hand if clue tokens are available, discard a card from their hand, or play a card onto the table. The clues that are given can be one of two types. A player tells another person all the cards that in their hand of the same number or of the same color. They cannot just say a number and a color, it has to be one or the other.

When players play a card, it has to go in sequence with other cards of the same suit. For example, you can play a “blue” two if the “blue” one is only blue card in play. However, if you tried to play a “blue” three, and only a “blue” one is in play, your team will take a bomb token. Once all the bomb tokens run out, the game is automatically over and you lose.

Discarding a card is the main way to get clue tokens back after being used. However, you must be careful how many cards you discard, because you could potentially discard a needed card for a firework sequence. There’s one more way to get clue tokens, and that’s when your team successfully plays a “5” onto the board completing a “suit” or firework display of a color.

The game ends when either the bomb tokens are gone thus losing or the draw pile runs out. Players then look into the rule book to see how well they scored.

Conclusion

Hanabi is a fascinating little cooperative deduction game. The fun lies in the player interaction of deciding when to give clues, when to discard, or when to play a card. The game can get really tense sometimes especially when your team runs out of clue tokens. Communication is vital is in the game. The rules are very simple, and make this game highly accessible.

I really enjoy this game. It makes for a great change of pace for a game night. It’s very easy to play and makes a great filler or a lunchtime game at work. The small box makes it very portable, and it’s cheap too! Speaking of which, the cards are really poor quality, but that’s understandable given it’s price.

Gamer Recommendations
Family Gamer – YES
Social Gamer – YES
Casual Gamer – YES
Strategy Gamer – NO
Avid Gamer – NO
Power Gamer – NO

8
Go to the Sentinels of the Multiverse page

Sentinels of the Multiverse

90 out of 97 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Sentinels of the Multiverse or SotM for short is one of the first superhero games that really paved the way for quality superhero fun time. It is a cooperative game where players pick a hero to team up to defeat an evil villain bent on world domination.

Pros
THEME!!!! DRIPPING WITH THEME!!
Each hero and villain play very differently thematically and mechanically
Environment decks provides a lot replay value and theme.
Original heroes and villians

Cons
Hard to keep track of all the effects and damage modifiers late in the game.
Which leads too Analysis Paralysis on player turns
Doesn’t play as well with two unless players play more than one hero.

Gameplay

SotM has surprising fairly straightforward gameplay, so long as you keep in mind how each turn is broken up into phases. Each player picks a hero deck to play their hero, and players decide which villain and environment to play against. The turns for each round go in order starting with the villain, each hero, then the environment. The phases for each turn are the following:

1. Start of Villain Turn
2. Villain draws and plays a card from his or her deck
3. End of Villain Turn
4. Start of Hero number # Turn
5. Hero can play a card or draw extra card in draw phase
6. Hero can use a power or draw extra card in draw phase
7. Hero draws a card (or extras based on which they did not do beforehand)
8. End of hero turn
9. Start of environment turn
10. Draw and play an environment card
11. End environment turn

This is important, because each card will explain their effects based on the start or end of someone’s turn, so you must pay close attention. Each hero starts with a hand of four cards from their deck to play from. Play starts with the villain taking the first turn, the play proceeds until either the heroes pound the evil mastermind into submission by doing damage or they get all get pounded by the villain or environment. Of course, victory and win conditions are not always determined by depleting hit points, because there a few special cards that will state victory conditions on them that players MUST pay attention too. Those cards can be in the villain deck or in the environment deck.

Conclusion
SotM is simply a GREAT superhero game. The designers did an excellent job of connecting the mechanics of hero to theme and making them play very different from each other. The base game comes with A LOT of variety and replayability given that you get 10 heroes, four villains, and four environment decks. The difficulty level can be adjusted based on the villain you want to fight which the rule book defines for each villain, by selecting the environment to play, or the number of heroes to play. So you can really tweak the game to your heart’s content, and I haven’t begun to talk about the cool expansions!

My only beef with the game is the amount of “effects” or “damage modifiers” that you have to keep track of during the game (particularly near end game when lots of cards are in play). It can sometimes give me a headache. The only way to work around this for every player to stay on top of what their hero effects do, then making someone responsible for tracking environment effects and another in charge of villain effects.

Also, some of these villains are almost impossible to take out with two heroes if you’re playing one hero per player. That is why I recommend for two players to pick two heroes to play instead of one.

I should note that I find the addition of an environment deck simply brilliant! If there was no environment deck, this game would really become a set of dull rounds of villain fight then hero fight. The environment deck is what really brings the theme home even stronger! How many times have you read about your favorite superhero who not only has to overcome their archnemesis, but they also have to overcome some strange environment where they are located like the enemy’s base or some hostile alien planet? What’s great is that the environment can either help or hinder your team depending on the current environment card, so sometimes it can be to your advantage.

I could probably go on and on, but I feel like I hit the high and low points adequately. I really enjoy this game. My son really enjoys this game.

Gamer Recommendations
Family GamerMAYBE – may be too difficult to track everything with younger kids less than 9 years old. Artwork is well done and not as graphic or sensual as other comic book imagery.
Causal GamerNO – probably too many rules to keep track of for the casual gamer
Social Gamer MAYBE – Co-ops are social games, so it really depends on the group if they want to dive into this beauty. Lots to keep track in game however.
Strategy GamerNO – this game is probably to tactical and random for a pure strategist
Avid GamerYES – right up their alley with all the combos and player variability. Replay value is so awesome
Power GamerYES – ditto for avid gamer

Time to break out the spandex!

9
Go to the Trains page

Trains

127 out of 134 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Trains is yet another strong entry in the “deckbuilding” genre of games started by the game Dominion. In fact, many say that a lot of mechanics are a direct rip-off of Dominion. Personally, I don’t care, because the theme of Dominion never appealed to me. However, there are some twists to this game that greatly improve upon standard deckbuilder fare.

The goal of the game is to build up your railway empire by connecting to cities and building stations for points.

Pros
Strong replay value
Box is ready for expansions
Good theme
Really easy to learn
Has a map!

Cons
Could use more maps (comes with 2)
Needs a way to better control deck cyclers.

Gameplay

Players start out with the same basic deck of 10 cards and a common pool of cards available for sale by all. The common of pool of cards have a set of standard cards that are always in the game and another set of cards that are randomly drawn at setup. This greatly adds to the replay value of the game, because the set of cards that are drawn at setup time can drastically change the way you approach the game.

Players begin by picking their starting city by placing a token in it. Then start their turn by drawing 5 cards from their deck. Based on their hand, they can then choose to purchase more cards with their “train” cards, build a station in a city in their railroad network with a “station” card, put down more rails with “lay rails” cards, or perform certain actions with “action” cards. A player can perform as many actions as they can afford to do. Once they complete their turn, they discard their cards and put new cards on the discard pile, then draw up another five cards. Play proceeds to the next player. Players continue to do this until either the station tokens run out, a player runs out of railway tokens, or four sets of cards from the common pool have been depleted.

Players score points by building stations in cities, connecting their rails to special “point cities” on the map, or collecting certain cards that score you points (some of those clog up your hand). Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.

Cool things

What is really neat about Trains, is that every time you expand on the board(rails or stations or extra for building on existing opponent territory), you always collect “waste” cards. This makes such a deliciously thematic environmental connection, because you’re going to generate a lot of waste making railroads. These cards serve no purpose but to clog up an efficient deck you’ve been building. This really turns the game on it’s head in a special way, because you have to determine how you are going to manage the waste in your deck especially if there are no cards available to eliminate waste from you deck.

Add to it the fact that victory point cards also clog up your hand. So you really have to balance out how early in the game you start building out your network and take on waste cards versus when to start buying victory point cards before the game ends. Both of these elements can really diminish the playability of your hand, so you really need to consider the cost of your actions.

One Caveat

So far, the only problem, I’ve seen is counteracting people who solely focus on cycling through their deck and hardly build up their railroad network. This strategy is based on getting lots of money, to then start buying up victory point cards. This is really killer with “Tourist Train” in the game, because every time it is played, it scores a point. You can see how cycling through your deck over and over again with Tourist Train can really add up. The only way I know to counteract that is everyone start buying up “Tourist Train” or don’t allow this card in the game when it’s drawn at setup. Also, you’ll be forced to start buying up victory point cards earlier, if someone is intent on cycling through their deck.

Conclusion

I really really like Trains, and so do my two older kids! My son who’s big into “action” games like Sentinels of the Multiverse, thought Trains was going to be boring. However, after playing it, it quickly became his favorite game! I enjoy how streamlined the mechanics are and how fast turns can go for each player. I find the “waste card” mechanic absolutely brilliant. I really enjoy the “train” theme and how you build up your railroad empire. At the end of the game, you can actually see that you accomplished something by looking over your network.

This game is really easy to teach. My 9 and 11 year old picked up on it in no time. So, I think this game easily qualifies for “Family Gamer”. Besides, the theme is pretty cool.

“Casual Gamers” might find this enjoyable if they’re willing to learn a few rules, but it’s really not that hard to pick up.

This game has subtle enough strategies that I think it would appeal to “Strategy Gamers” and “Avid Gamers”. With the another expansion having been announced, I’m sure this would make it even more appealing.

“Power Gamers” may be more interested in Dominion with it’s enormous amounts of expansions instead of Trains until more is available.

Overall, if you’re fan of deckbuilders, I recommend it. If you’ve thought about Dominion, but weren’t really intrigued by it’s dry theme, you should really give Trains a shot.

9
Go to the Space Cadets: Dice Duel  page
23 out of 25 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Space Cadets: Dice Duel is a frantic die-rolling space combat game of teamwork and intensity. This game is the little brother of Space Cadets the co-op game, but plays fast and furious. Teams pit each others skills at manning space ship stations while attempting to pulverize their opponents space ship.

Pros
Plays in about 20-30 minutes.
Good components
Rules laid out well.

Strong theme

Cons
Sometimes need a break after a game to calm down:-)
Really need at least six people to play (harder at the minimum)

Gameplay
In Space Cadets: Dice Duel, players break up into teams to go head-to-head as they commandeer space ships to take each other out. The goal is to damage the other teams ship at least four times to attain victory. This is all accomplished simultaneously in “real-time”, because there are no turns in Dice Duel. On each team, each player will get a set of “stations” to man just like the game “Space Cadets”. However, the stations in “SS:Dice Duel” are different from “Space Cadets”, in that they require dice to activate certain functions. The most important station is the “Engineering” station which powers the other stations. The engineers job is to roll the dice that activate other people’s station, by handing off to the people manning the other stations. The people receiving the engineering die will begin rolling their own set of colored dice to activate certain functions of the ship whether that is “shields”, “weapons”, “helm”, “tractor beams”, or “sensors”. Once a station has placed it die, the engineering die is returned to the engineering station. Now keep in mind, that rolling dice in this game is NOT like Yahtzee or King of Tokyo. Players can roll as many times as they want until they get their desired result. The only limitation is that stations can only roll as many of their dice as they have engineering dice from the engineering station. The engineering station only has limitation on the number of dice based on the amount of ship damage they have taken.

Now the game doesn’t just do die rolling. Each team’s ship is on a grid map that has randomly placed asteroids and nebulas which affect shields and sensors respectively, and there are power crystals which can add special abilities to your ship once you capture them in a tractor beam. Each ship is jockeying for position on the board to attack the opposing ship, so careful attention must also be paid to obstacles on the board.

The only time action stops in the game is when some yells “Fire One” or “Fire Two” or “Tractor Enemy”. Here firing solutions are resolved and damage potentially taken, then the game resumes again.

Conclusion

Overall, I really really enjoy this game. It is fast-paced action in a box of frantic rolling of die while trying to accomplish your objectives. This game can play very quickly. Time really flies, because everyone is so engrossed into the game. The rules are very easy to learn and are somewhat intuitive if you’re familiar with sci-fi shows like Star Trek. It’s definitely a change of pace compared to other games I have that are deep and analytical. I introduced this game to some co-workers during lunch, and everyone had fun, but felt like they needed break. The game is that intense!

So, if you’re into deep and dry games, this may not be the game for you. However, if you’re looking to “liven up” your game night, this game should really be on your table.

Gamer Recommendations
Family Gamer – YES
Social Gamer – YES
Casual Gamer – Maybe
Strategy Gamer – NO
Avid Gamer – YES
Power Gamer – NO

10
Go to the Memoir '44: Pacific Theater  page
21 out of 23 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Storm the beaches of Iwo Jima in this latest army pack for Memoir ’44. Here you get to play either the U.S. Marines using base game figures or the new Japanese army figures that come in this box.

Pros
Really changes up the game play compared to base game.
Don’t need any other expansions to enhance this like the other army packs.
Captures the characteristics of the two forces.

Cons
Not enough missions!

Gameplay

This expansion really alters the base game’s gameplay with new army rules for Marines and Japanese. It really makes it fresh, especially if you’ve only played the base game for a long time without any other expansions. The most interesting rules are for the Japanese Army that really reflect the fierceness and tenacity of their fighting style. The most potent is that Japanese infantry can attack with an extra die in close combat if their unit is at full strength. So the marines player may want to focus on damaging each infantry in range, before taking out a whole unit. Especially when you factor in the next rule that allows the Japanese infantry to move two and still battle if they end their second move adjacent to the enemy. That’s a one two punch if they are at full strength. Not only that, but the Japanese must ignore the first flag rolled against them which reflects their mentality that it is dishonorable to retreat in battle. So you may be thinking that the Japanese sure get a lot of cool rules, what about the Marines. Well, they do and it’s basically the ability to always order an extra marine of your choice depending on the section your command card activates. That may not seem like much, but believe me, it’s a HUGE advantage to be able to activate another unit and bring it’s power to bear on the enemy. This rule captures the mobility and adaptability of the Marine Corps.

Also, there are lot of other neat things put in this expansion that adds to flavor of the pacific theater. There are new jungle tiles that almost act like forest tiles. Then you got rice paddy tiles, trench tiles, mountain tiles, beach tiles, airfields, and hospital tiles (help recover lost figures). The cave tiles are awesome in that they let the Japanese infantry move from cave tile to cave tile with no penalty even if the cave is across the board. Marines can seal up caves to prevent that. This really captures one of the biggest
problems the Marines had in WWII against the Japanese, and that’s rooting them out of the caverns peppered across many islands. One of the scenarios has night rules that can have the Marine player
biting his nails praying that the sun will come up soon. I could go on, but this covers to bulk of what is cool about the Pacific Theater expansion.

Conclusion

This is by far my favorite army pack expansion for Memoir ’44. I admit, I’m slightly partial, because I have family that fought in that theater.. particularly at Iwo Jima. However, I just like how well this expansion captures the fighting spirit of both forces, that brings a unique experience to Memoir ’44 gameplay. I honestly don’t mind playing both sides when I get an opportunity to play. I also like that you can buy this expansion and play it right out of the box with the base game with no other enhancements. For example, the Eastern Front and Mediterranean Theater packs really could use the “Winter/Desert” board, so their tiles don’t look so aesthetically unpleasing against the green board of the base game. Also, the gameplay of the other army packs don’t differentiate themselves from the base game that much compared to Pacific Theater. My only disappointment is that there aren’t enough missions for this theater compared to the rest of battles covered by all the Memoir ’44 expansions (Campaign Book Vol 2 helps).

If you’ve been playing Memoir ’44 base game for a long time and are looking for an expansion that drops right into the game and freshens up the game, I couldn’t recommend this expansion enough.

9
Go to the Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective  page
59 out of 62 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Step into the shoes of the famous “Baker Street Boys” as you help out the worlds most famous sleuth. Traipse through London collecting clues as you try to match wits with Sherlock Holmes or against each other! Are you the kind of person who likes to read a mystery novel and try to figure it out before the end? Or are you just a big Sherlock fan? This is your kind of game!

Pros
Plays great in solitaire, cooperative, and competitive mode.
Really feels like you’re solving a mystery.

Cons
Replay value not so good. Requires expansions to keep fresh.
Can get long sometimes depending on how hard mystery is.
A lot of reading…

Gameplay

I’m basing the gameplay on the older edition, because that’s what I have. From what I’ve read, the newest edition is pretty much the same.

The goal of the game is not only to solve the mystery, but to beat Sherlock Holmes’ score (solve it faster). The game comes with 10 mysteries or cases and each one is very difficult to get 100% correct and in less clues then Sherlock. You can play by yourself, as a team, or against one another.

The game starts with someone reading one of the cases. Then you take turns as a team reading the next clue out of the cluebook for the case or as individuals reading each clue. You must keep track of both the number of clues and which clues you have visited, because that will turn into part of your final score. Each clue is listed in the cluebook as a location on the huge sprawling London map, so the London directory book will be vital for finding coordinates of locations on the map.

The cluebook isn’t the only resource for clues. There is the London newspaper at your disposal which contain nuggets of information that may be relevant to your case. You turn to the newspaper anytime and as many times as you want without it costing you anything.

Once you are ready to solve the case as a team you will take a quiz then look at the answer to help determine your score. If you’re playing against each other, then players will take turns taking the quiz and determining their score when they’re ready. They can no longer play or give out hints of course until everyone is done. Whoever has the better score wins.

Conclusion
This is the only mystery game that I have played that has made me feel like I was really trying to solve a mystery. As you track down clues and interview people across London, you can almost see the old gas lights of London as the fog rolls in over the Thames river in your mind. I like how the game gives you the freedom to pick the order of the clues you think are the best. The mysteries are really worthy of the Holmes lore.

The only downside is that once you have solved one of the mysteries, it’s solved and you can’t go back. So after the first 10 are done, it’s over. The only way to keep the game going is through more expansions, and the old edition has quite a few that are hard to find. Let’s hope Ystari reprints them and adds new ones.

I will warn players that sometimes it can kind of drag out, because of all the reading. Some players will want to re-read clues (counts towards the total number of clues) or read the newspaper over and over again.

When played as a team, I think this game would appeal to social gamers, because of the interaction going on trying to decide which clue to run down and theories explored as to who did it. it’s a fun way to spend the evening. This could also be a good game with older kids that like mysteries. This probably won’t appeal to casual gamers, because these are brain-burner cases. Strategy gamers won’t find an overall long-term “strategy” to the game either, because it’s just pure problem-solving and no formula to the game. I’m not sure how power gamers will feel without the expansions or free form of play. In fact, this is almost a “roleplaying” game in some respects.

Overall, this is a fabulous detective game and deserving of it’s “Spiel de Jahres” Award back in the ’80’s. If you love mysteries or you’re a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, you’ve got to pick this game up!

8
Go to the Core Worlds: Galactic Orders  page

Core Worlds: Galactic Orders

29 out of 31 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Core Worlds: Galactic Orders is the first expansion to what I thing is a “sleeper” hit of a deckbuilding game. It adds quite a bit more to the game and provides more depth and options. A sixth faction has been added that provides a new hero with a nice new ability. New sector 0 cards that makes the pre-game draft more interesting that work with the new galactic order cards.

Pros:
New Faction
More tough decisions
Better box for storage of base game and expansion
Better balance for sector one

Cons:
Still no sixth player even with new faction
More potential downtime between turns
Takes more time to setup

Gameplay:

I won’t cover the complete gameplay of Core Worlds which can be found here. However, I will talk about what is added.

The most interesting addition in my opinion is the “event” cards. These are normally mixed into each corresponding sector deck that they belong except for the sector 0 event which is put into play at setup. Every time an event card is drawn, they stack on top of each other in order with the top card now “in effect”. These events add a nice twist to the game and can sometimes disrupt your plans. It adds some randomness to the game, but it usually affects everyone equally. The starting event is nice in that it gives more strategic options for invading planets in the first sector instead of the strategy of just deploying everything and drafting.

Of course, the “galactic order” cards and faction tokens are the meat of the whole expansion. The galactic order cards are placed on the table and represent six orders: science guild, merchant alliance, order of the knighthood, mystic brotherhood, mining coalition, and the galactic senate. Each of order gives a player a special ability if they spend their faction tokens located on the cards. To get tokens on the cards, a player has to deploy a unit or play a tactic card with the order symbol on it. As usual there a cards that create “synergies” around these galactic orders that can enhance your strategy. Sometimes having the most tokens in a order can activate bonuses abilities on certain cards as well. At the end of the game, players with the most tokens get bonus empire points that equal a point per token or half point per token for second place.

Another nice tweak to the game is the capital city “advancement” cards which addresses a deficiency in culling your hand. This card allows you to place any card in your hand underneath the card if you have at least three worlds. Also, you no longer “colonize” a world upon invasion by putting a grunt or snubfighter underneath, but you can “garrison” the world by putting any type of invading card under it.

Lastly, the home worlds are replaced with an improved ability and new name. Besides being able to gain 2 energy by discarding a card in the energy phase, a player’s home world allows you to draw an extra card if you have more worlds then units in the warzone.

Conclusion:

I really like the amount of depth this expansion adds. It makes for tougher decisions as you factor in both the new events that occur every round as well as when to use faction tokens for special abilities in galactic orders versus conserving tokens for extra empire points. The event cards tweak the game nicely and aren’t overbearing. There are only a few of them per sector, so you’re not as likely to see them all at the same time.

Also, I like the newer storage box that can store the base game and expansion better. It comes with deck dividers with some nice artwork that works better than fixed dividers. They work with regular cards or sleeved cards, since they can expand in the card section.

This expansion should really appeal to power gamers, avid gamers, and strategy gamers. The added play time of understanding new cards and more decisions would definitely push it out of the family, social, and casual gamer types.

More choices, more options, more storage, more events, more goodness all around.

Gamer Recommendations
Family Gamer: NO very complex, only if your kids can grok it
Social Gamer: NO complex, not much interaction
Casual Gamer: NO too complex to be casual, longer setup than base game
Strategy Gamer: NO too tactical, the deck setup is random, harder to do a long term strategy
Avid Gamer: YES lots of variety, lots of options
Power Gamer: YES lots of variety, lots of scoring options, lots of depth

9
Go to the 1960: The Making of the President page
30 out of 33 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
Okay, politics and history may be a dry theme to some people, but this should not prevent you from taking a look at 1960: The Making of a President. This is a masterfully designed game for 2 players that has almost chess like qualities to some degree. The object of the game is very simple of course – win the 1960 election as players take on the role of John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon. Will history repeat itself or will you successfully rewrite history?

Pros
Theme and history make it a richer game
Well designed
Very replayable
Rules well laid out
Great artwork

Cons
Can get kind of long sometimes
Crummy insert
Takes a few plays to really understand the game

Gameplay
The gameplay at first seems a little convoluted, but the designers did a nice job of breaking it down into turns and phases that you can keep track of on the board itself. There are 7 “normal” turns that have 7 phases to them. Then, there are two extra turns that are special called the “Debates” and “Election Day”. Players will go through 5 normal turns, do a “Debates” turn, 2 normal turns, then finally “Election Day” turn.

During a normal turn, each player will be dealt 6 cards before “Debates” and 7 cards after “Debates” and start out with two momentum markers. They will take turns playing five cards and save the remaining cards to their “campaign strategy” deck to be played on “Debates” or “Election Day”. The cards themselves provide interesting decisions. A player can either play the event on their card or use the campaign points on their card. If the player uses the event, then it is resolved immediately unless it is permanent or lasts for the round.

However, if the player decides to use the campaign points on the card, then it gets more interesting. A player can use the campaign points for either adding support cubes to a state called “campaigning” or add support cubes to a campaign issue or add support cubes to advertising. The support cubes for states helps your candidate win electoral votes, the cubes for issues help the player win more momentum markers and endorsements during the momentum phase, and the cubes for advertising helps the player not have to do support checks in states that are carried by the opponent or currently occupied by the opponent as well as reorder the issues at the end of the momentum phase.

Of course if a player chooses to use their campaign points, the player leaves their opponent an opportunity to activate the event on that card using a momentum marker. The player can override their opponent by using two momentum markers.

Players who win issues by having the most support cubes during the momentum phase of a normal turn gain more momentum markers and/or endorsements. Cubes are then removed from each issue, then the leading player in advertising can rearrange the order of two issues.

At the end of a normal turn, players choose one (before Debates) or two (after Debates) card to put in their campaign strategy deck and discard any extra. Players are basically saving up cards in their campaign strategy decks to be played during those special turns. It’s like two extra mini games in the game. In the Debates, players are laying down cards in support of one of three issues: economy, civil rights, or defense. As each issue is won by a player, they get to add cubes to states increasing amounts with each win. On Election Day, players are playing cards to do support checks in states listed on the cards to possibly swing a state to your side.

Once all the support checks, endorsements, and events have been resolved for Election Day, players will see which states they have won based on whether or not they have their cubes on them. Then they’ll take the votes of each state and tally them up to see who has the most electoral votes to win the presidency.

Strategic Overview

Even though the ultimate goal of the game is to win the most electoral votes, the road to victory is not so straightforward in this game. A lot of elements play into how you maximize your chance for victory, and you need to pay attention to every element or your opponent can swing an unexpected advantage. This means you can’t solely focus on adding support cubes to states or your opponent may start racking up momentum markers by leading the issues, then you’re really in trouble as they can start activating more beneficial events on your cards that you can’t cancel. Sometimes you need to play your candidate card for five campaign points, so that you can deny your opponent very powerful cards by discarding them at the end of your turn. You can’t use your candidate card that often, because it becomes exhausted and can’t be activated again without another special card. Ignoring advertising can hurt you as well, since leading advertising helps you rearrange issues each turn as well as avoid support checks in tougher areas to campaign. Then there is setting aside cards for the final election day which is easier to deny opponents events by stowing them into the campaign strategy deck. However, all the cubes and momentum markers leftover at the end of the last normal turn adds more cubes to the campaign bag which helps increase your chances of winning support checks on “Election Day”.

Conclusion
1960: The Making of the President is a wonderfully designed two-player game. It has almost “chess” like quality of moves with a back and forth momentum between players attacking with their cards and counter-attacking with the same or other cards. Along with that is a couple of “meta-games” on top of the game planning for the debates and election day turns. It captures the historical atmosphere of a famous election in a very elegant way. Being a card-driven games, it does take a few plays to fully understand the game given that the cards are so full of information.

This is not a game for social or casual gamers. For lighter fare, these gamers should look to Campaign Manager 2008 by the same designers. 1960 is a deep, rich, and rewarding two player game that should appeal to power gamers and strategy gamers. Even though the cards can be random which adds to the replay value, there is quite a bit of planning involved leading up to the “Debates” and “Election Day” by setting aside cards in your Campaign Strategy hand or playing permanent event cards.

Family gamers will have to wait until their kids are old enough to play, but it makes a great way to explain to your kids about our voting system and talk about a very historic election. So, it makes a pretty good educational game in that respect.

If you looking for a heady and well balanced two player game, get 1960: The Making of a President. You won’t regret it.

8
51 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

Boardgaming.com is a great site that is easily accessible to new users to the boardgame hobby. The graphics are gorgeous and fun to view. This site fills a niche of gamers that isn’t addressed in other gaming sites. (NOTE: This review is of the site in Beta stage, some of the comments may no longer apply as features are added)

PROS
Superb graphics
Accessible
Easy to get straight to the content
Fun quests to keep you coming back (meta-game)

CONS
Not comprehensive
Heavily slanted to newer games (a lot of side effects)
Difficult to interact with other users on the site
Can’t share gold or gems with other users

GAMEPLAY
Boardgaming.com has a meta game of many quests that drive you back to the website. You can add value to the site through reviews, tips, strategies, and house rules that rewards you with experience and titles. Other users will reward you of how good your content is by “liking” it. Also, you’re rewarded in XP for playing games on the site and exploring other parts of the website from user profiles to game pages. The reporter quests reward users for inviting their friends to participate and spreading the word about the site. You can spend gold on showing how much you like game beyond saying it’s one of your favorites and spend it on customizing your profile.

CONCLUSION
Boardaming.com is a really good complement to heavier and harder to navigate boardgaming websites like BGG. The meta game is nice, so long as they can keep providing achievements for more experienced users which is difficult to do. The graphics are great and make great eye candy with some nice customization of graphics on your profile. I do like the site a lot, but I feel like they need to improve on the level of user interaction. Especially if you have a site about quests, it seems natural to support a way to help users quest together like guilds or band of adventurers in RPG’s.

I like the streamlined interface overall, and I hope this site continues to improve.

8
Go to the Wits & Wagers page

Wits & Wagers

26 out of 30 gamers thought this was helpful

Wits and Wagers is a trivia game that puts the “fun” back into trivia for everyone. No more dreading a trivia game where you know that you’ll get stomped by some trivia buff wishing you could just get a game of “old maid” in to save your sanity.

PROS
Easily accessible to all skill levels
Quick play time
Scalable
Easy rules

CONS
Okay components

GAMEPLAY
The game revolves around 7 rounds of questions with each player writing down their answer on a secret dry erase card. Answers are put in order on the playmat with increasing odds. Players place both of their bets with poker chips on the answer they believe is closest to the right answer without going over. The banker pays out the correct answers based on the odds in chips. The person with the most chips at the end of the game wins. Really, a simple game.

CONCLUSION
When I was young, I used to be pretty good at trivia games. My mom was better than me. Not many people wanted to play me, and I didn’t always wanted to play my mom either. Not much fun when you sit around and stare at trivia game no one wants to play. Wits and Wagers addresses this problem, by giving everyone an equal chance by allowing players to bet on the right answer. There’s a skill involved in determining which answer to guess and hedging your bet on the right answer. It comes down to not necessarily how confident you are in your answer, but how confident you are in someone else’s answer. That comes with knowing the person as well and how well the know things. Of course, there can be some mind games going on if you want to try and throw off other players, but that is rare.

I personally found it a breath of fresh air after all those years of playing Trivial Pursuit. I enjoyed playing it with my family which includes my mom. I like how just about everyone in my family could play.

This game should be very fun and enjoyable for social, family, and casual gamers.

7
Go to the Le Havre page

Le Havre

81 out of 112 gamers thought this was helpful

Le Havre is game designed by one of the hottest designers in the industry, Uwe Rosenberg. This is second game in his big trilogy of worker games: Agricola, Le Havre, and At the Gates of Loyang. Le Havre was designed by getting rid of some of the tenser moments in Agricola which make you feel like you’re scraping by as a medieval farmer to a more of a game about optimizing your choices as you deliver, sell, and pick up goods as shipping company in France without big penalties.

PROS
Way less fiddly than the board game
Graphics are excellent and easy to see
Awesome tutorial
Solitaire play available
Good price

CONS
Not an exciting or tense theme

OVERVIEW
Le Havre is all about collecting francs to win the game. You do this in many different ways such as picking up raw materials and converting them to goods that can be sold or picking up francs. You can also earn francs by buying buildings that other players will have to pay fees to use your buildings. You really have to balance things out by feeding your workers at the end of each round, but this isn’t near as bad as Agricola harvest time partly because you can make your loans later in the game where it’s harder to get rid of begging cards in Agricola. You can also play on the same buildings as other players on the final round of Le Havre, so you’re not blocked out of some last minute scoring opportunities.

GAMEPLAY
Each player begins with a ship and some francs. You take turns traveling down the harbor either picking up resources on the docks determined randomly (wheat, francs, fish, clay, iron, wood, cattle), visiting buildings to perform certain actions. Players can also buy buildings to allow them to perform actions for free on future turns, sell buildings at half their value, pay off loans, buy ships (helps with feeding your workers). Normally, you visit buildings to enhance or improve the resources you have collected making them more valuable to sell or helping you building more complicated items like advanced ships. The game becomes a constant back and forth between converting goods for better options, keeping track of new available resources all the while feeding your workers each round that keeps increasing and hoping your francs continue to keep pace with everyone else or above.

CONCLUSION
I liked Agricola when I first bought it, although it is not my favorite. I get a little tired of managing all the little bits during the resupply phase of the game and keeping track of everything. The design was tight, so I had Le Havre on my radar while reading a lot of rave reviews. However, I’ve never been able to pull the trigger for two reasons: it looks extremely fiddly just like it’s cousin Agricola and looked like a “nicer” version of Agricola. I figured buying the iPad version would be a compromise rather than plunking down full price for the board game. I must say that I’m glad I did, because I probably will not by the board game for myself. If you don’t like fiddly games, then just get the digital version and let the computer do all the work.

Also, Le Havre seems a little less exciting to me than Agricola. Agricola has me caring more about my little farm then my shipping enterprise in Le Havre. I feel like I really need to make every action count in Agricola than Le Havre or my little farm could really be in for a tough harvest. Le Havre feels a little more forgiving in some ways especially the last round by allowing other players to use the same building. Allowing only one worker per action in Agricola can be such an essential way to seal your victory sometimes by denying other people the action they need on that last round.

Overall, I’ll stick to Agricola in cardboard format for now, and play Le Havre in digital at my leisure.

4
Go to the The Game of Life page

The Game of Life

41 out of 46 gamers thought this was helpful

The Game of Life has been around a long time, and I would be surprised if no one on this website has never played it. It’s a classic kid’s game that tries to simulate events in life; however, it doesn’t do a good job of modeling the fact that we make a lot of decisions in life, but more on that later…

PROS:
Kids just like it
Colorful

CONS:
Your kids want you to play it
Cheap plastic pieces
TONS of various pieces
Not many interesting choices
Extremely random
Takes a really long time to play with more people

GAMEPLAY:
Players start out with a car, peg, and some money. The first big decision players make is whether or not they go to college or not. This affects your salary on payday and payout on taxes, however, your occupation is random luck of the draw. From there on, players take turns spinning the spinner to determine the amount of spaces to move. Where they land dictates what they have to do whether it’s collect or pay money. This continues until all players reach the retirement space. You choices of retirement don’t really affect the game that much unless there are a lot of players where you can potentially lose life tokens. At the end of the game, the person with the most money is the “WINNER”.

CONCLUSION:
As a kid, I played this game a lot until I burned out on it. I didn’t play just so much as it was fun, maybe the first few times, but it was more something to pass the time. I didn’t have many gaming options as a kid until Nintendo and C64 came around.

As a parent, I cringe at this game especially if I’m trying to instill good values in my children. I find the randomness of this game with very few meaningful choices distasteful, and I feel like it communicates to my children that life is super random without you being able to change the outcome. I hate that it makes it seem like life is about making the most money, when there are far more rewarding things to do with one’s life then just collect a bunch of money to retire. I hate that the current edition has players sue other players to get money. I remember an earlier 90’s edition that didn’t have that, and I would prefer that edition to this one. I’m not a big fan of fiddly games, but I do have a few. But for me to play a “fiddly” game, I need to enjoy it. Life doesn’t count. I’m not excited about the gambling aspect either of “Spin the Wheel”. I could go on and on..

It’s definitely a family game by virtue of it’s design, but not really a game I would recommend to families. Life certainly doesn’t fall into any other Boardgaming.com gamer class either.

Really…if I were you, I would pass. There are way better family games out there then this one.

8
Go to the Neuroshima Hex page

Neuroshima Hex

38 out of 43 gamers thought this was helpful

Neuroshima Hex is digital adaptation of a boardgame of the same namesake. Players try to destroy each other’s home base tile until the game ends. If no bases are destroyed, then the base with the least damage wins. You can play up to four players or play by yourself.

PROS:
Limited rounds
Nice graphics -> looks cool
Works good on cellphone screen.
Decent AI

CONS:
Help manual doesn’t work in Android version
Maybe too random
Theme doesn’t really matter – it could just be hexes with dots and numbers.

GAMEPLAY:
Basically, each player takes turn placing their home base tile the first round on the hexagon grid. After that, you receive 3 tiles from your deck of tiles and pick one to discard. You can then place 2 tiles on the board into strategic locations. When the grid is full or if a battle tile is placed, then the battles commence. The tiles with the highest initiative points get to strike first and do damage, then the next lower initiative points go next down to your home base tile which get to attack as well. Tiles that take maximum damage are removed after each initiative phase. You do this until the tiles run out or only one base is left remaining.

The keys to the game is in positioning your tiles at the right time. Only certain tiles can attack on certain sides, so you need to rotate your army tiles appropriately. You also need to protect your base, and not leave it wide open to be surrounded by enemy units to take a beating. This is hard to do, because you have to make good decisions on which tiles to discard and which ones to play. Definitely play a battle tile if you have the upperhand as to what has been played, so you start the battle early before the grid is filled up.

CONCLUSION:
Overall, I found NH a rather fun little tactical game that appears to be hard to master. I’m still figuring what all the pieces do for just one army, don’t mind all the others sheesh. The Moloch are just brutal with all the attack angles they get. Also, the online help didn’t work on my smartphone which made it difficult to really learn the game. This game can be tense while you try to make the right decisions.

I don’t think there is an overall deep strategy, because of the random draw of tiles and having to choose two out of three. You spend more time reacting sometimes than planning. So, I don’t think this will appeal to strategy gamers. I think avid gamers and power gamers would gravitate to this kind of game especially if they plan on purchasing the expansion armies to add lots of variety.

For a smartphone app, it makes a great little timekiller.

8
Go to the The Settlers of Catan – 5-6 Player Extension page
19 out of 25 gamers thought this was helpful

Be ready to take a hit on the game time when you add this expansion. I still like this expansion, but you have to factor in the added time of more players trading and analyzing their options. You can add up to two more players with this “extension”.

Some complain about the extra build step that everyone gets after a player’s turn, but that is so you’re less likely to get hit with the robber when you hand starts to pile up waiting for your turn. 5 or 6 rolls of the dice between your turns can create a lot of resources for you in the late game was you expand. I can see why they added the new build step, but that also adds to the play time. If you lose a big hand due to the robber, you more than likely didn’t take advantage of the extra build step, so shame on you.

Overall, I like this expansion, but it can take a while to finish a game.

9
Go to the Catan page

Catan

24 out of 28 gamers thought this was helpful

There is no denying that Settlers of Catan has had a huge impact on the boardgaming world. Once the iPad came out, it didn’t take too long for it to find it’s way on iTunes and now on Android. Besides a few bugs early on, the game has been well adapted to the classic we all know giving you options to play multiplayer or against the computer

PROS:
Easier to setup and go then the real game
Really good graphics

CONS:
Not much variety unless you purchase the expansion.
Have to purchase expansion in game
Buggy for a while, but appears to have improved

GAMEPLAY:
The gameplay is the same as the board game, but you have the option to play by yourself against computer opponents. Again you start out with two settlements and two roads, and you place them based on who goes first. The last settlement you place allows you to collect adjacent resources. Each player takes turn rolling two dice for resources, trading for resources, buying cards, and building roads, settlements or cities. Points are awarded through number of settlements and cities along with bonuses for most roads and armies. The first person to reach the number of points for the scenario will win the game.

CONCLUSION:

This a really good game. The AI is pretty good sometimes if you’re playing by yourself. The graphics are top notch. The interface is fairly easy to figure out. This has every thing you know and love about Catan along with solitaire play if you need a Catan fix with no one around.

My only beef about the game was some early bugs that made the game lock up at weird times, but they appear to have those fixed now. I don’t like it that you have to purchase expansions in game. I would prefer deals where I can buy everything at once at a good price.

If you looking for a good Catan version on the go or just want to play by yourself, download it. Another good reason to justify your iPad purchase! It’s great.

7
Go to the Dixit page

Dixit

44 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

Dixit puts a refreshing spin on the party game genre. A game of creative storytelling that is bound to make laughs, groans, and memories. Players try to be the best storyteller by winning the most points for victory.

PROS:
Simple to learn
Wonderful artwork
Stretches the imagination
Big easy to handle cards and good components

CONS:
Not sure of the replay value with multiple plays with the same game group

GAMEPLAY:
The game is super easy to learn. Each player has a hand of 6 cards of wonderful pictures, and each player takes a turn being the storyteller. The storyteller describes one of his or her cards with a word or phrase or song, then everyone pics a card from their hand to match the storyteller’s description. Everyone lays their cards down and gives them to the storyteller to shuffle, who then turns the cards over for everyone to see. Each player picks which card they think fits the description by placing their token by it. If everyone guesses wrong or guesses right, they score 2 points and the storyteller gets zero points. However, if this doesn’t happen, then the storyteller gets three points for the card being guessed as well as the correct guesser. If someone guesses another person’s card, then that other person gets one point. The game proceeds with everyone drawing back up to six until the deck is empty or thirty points are scored. Thus ending the game.

STRATEGY:
There is no clear cut strategy other than possibly knowing your players. The hardest part is finding that fine line of not giving the card totally away as the teller, yet also making sure someone can guess your card. Makes it very hard at times depending on the card. I think it would get harder the more you play with the same people, because the more each player learns each other’s style of creativity for the same card. It’s definitely a game where even some children can excel, because they have just as much chance as other people at guessing a card right.

CONCLUSION:
Dixit really makes for a memorable game that can keep you talking long after it’s played. The funny phrases and stories people come up with can make for some good laughs and good times. My family really has enjoyed playing this game, so I highly recommend it for family gamers. Social gamers and casual gamers should also get a kick out of the game based on its interaction and ease of learning. Strategy gamers and power gamers may not find this to their tastes given it’s lightness and lack of depth. Avid gamers may find it appealing just for the sheer novelty of this game’s design. If you looking for a real interesting party game, you can’t go wrong with Dixit.

7
Go to the Core Worlds page

Core Worlds

128 out of 140 gamers thought this was helpful

OVERVIEW
Core Worlds is an interesting deckbuilder. It’s not just deckbuilder, but combines more mechanics of pre-game draft, different factions, hand management, tableau building, energy and action points. The basis of the game is that your empire is invading the galaxy from the outer sectors towards the inner sectors that are older and more advanced. As players go from sector deck to sector deck, players will add to their deck with unit and tactic cards and build their empire with planets. The big points coming at the end of the game by capturing “Core Worlds” in the last sector. The player with the most empire points at the end of the game wins.

PROS
Beautiful artwork
Tight mechanics
Limited number of rounds
Built-in replayability

CONS
Needs more options to cull and fine tune your deck
Not much player interaction
Some downtime between turns with Analysis Paralysis prone players

GAMEPLAY
Each player chooses one of the faction decks to start the game and go through a pre-game draft of cards from a special deck. The special deck contains units or tactic cards with special abilities and bonuses to enhance your starting deck. This makes your deck more customized compared to your fellow players. There are five sectors to the galaxy represented by five decks of cards, and each deck is played for two rounds before moving to the next. Players take turns drafting cards from a galactic sector deck which contains planets, units, and tactic cards. This costs action points and energy. Energy is provided by the planets you have in your tableau and some tactic cards. It should be noted that you never play all the way through a sector deck, so you can’t always count on a certain card showing up. This maximizes replayability.

A player has to “invade” a planet with units that combine their fleet and ground strength that is equal to the planets strength. Once a planet is invaded, it is placed in a player’s tableau. With a successful invasion, a player can choose one of their basic infantry or starfighter cards to put under the invaded planet to help “cull” your deck of weaker cards. This is the only way in the game to remove less valuable cards. To “draft” a unit or tactic card from the sector decks, a player just pays the energy cost of the card and uses an action point. Drafted cards go to your discard pile waiting to be shuffled on the next round. To deploy a unit or tactic card, you pay a separate “deployment” cost in energy. At the end of the round players must discard down to at least one or none cards, then draw a fresh hand.

CONCLUSION
Overall, Core worlds is a fun game to play. My beef with it is that there is very little player interaction, but I guess that’s par for deckbuilders. The limited number of rounds is nice, so that the game doesn’t drag out forever. Yet, it can drag out between turns if you have opponents prone to analysis paralysis on their turn. There can be quite a bit of reading to do with those cards. However, the game does feel like it ends quickly sometimes, because you feel like you’re just getting started by the time the Galactic Core worlds show up. That feeling sort of reminds me of Catan as well. There are a lot tough decisions the further the game goes, and you really have to make every turn count.

This game probably isn’t well suited for social gamers, because there isn’t much interaction. It might be a little complicated for casual gamers and family gamers. Avid gamers should enjoy the mix of mechanics and strategic options. Strategic gamers won’t find any deep strategies, but there is strategy. Power gamers will probably want something more involved and more interactive or more expansions.

It’s a solid game and worth a shot if you’re looking for a deckbuilder with a sci-fi theme.

8
Go to the Gulo Gulo page

Gulo Gulo

38 out of 41 gamers thought this was helpful

Gulo Gulo is a fascinating little kids game that you might find intensely nerve-wracking and fun. Kids even younger than 5 should probably have no problem playing this game, because it’s really simple and they only have to know their colors.

PROS:
Solid and great components overall
Little eggs give kids with little fingers an advantage over fat-fingered adults

CONS:
Not a deep game at all
Not in print and expensive now

Gameplay
The premise is quite simple. The players play the role of wolverines (gulos) trying to find their kid brother who was captured by the vulture. However, they can’t resist stealing the vulture eggs which are tasty treats for them while on the hunt. Each player takes a turn flipping colored tiles over and trying to remove the same colored egg from the dish full of eggs without tripping the alarm or dropping the egg. If you successfully retrieve the egg, you advance to the tile you flipped over unless another of the same color is before it. If you trip the alarm, the eggs are reset in the dish and you go backwards to a tile of the same color or the beginning. The goal of each player is to be the first one to find the junior tile and retrieve the purple egg that represents the junior tile. There is only one purple tile in this case. The rest of the colors are blue, yellow, red, and those evil tiny green eggs!

Conclusion
Gulo Gulo is a nice way to pass the time with younger children in the family who can’t read. My youngest really loves it, and she is quite good at getting those little green eggs out of the dish. I find the game pretty intense when quite few eggs have been removed, and there are very few eggs holding the alarm inside it. One false move and — KAPOW! — it comes tumbling down. It makes for a few good laughs and groans. This is a good family game for young ones.

8
Go to the Medici page

Medici

22 out of 24 gamers thought this was helpful

Medici is game where players take on the roles of Italian merchants bidding for goods at the marketplace and filling up their ships with the goods. Reiner Knizia is a master of subtle strategy, and this game shows especially when you add more players.

PROS:
Plays fast
Great and intense with more players

CONS:
Dry with 3 players.
Average components

GAMEPLAY:
The gameplay is fairly simple and is played in three rounds (days). Each player takes a boat and tokens, then the active player draws 1 to 3 tiles which represent goods in the market. Once the tiles are drawn and placed, each player then takes a turn bidding on the lot of tiles from left to right ending with the player who drew the tiles. These tiles are used to fill up the players boats. Once a player’s boat is filled, they cannot bid until the next round. When the bidding is complete, the next player one left draws more tile and more bidding begins. When everyone’s boats are filled, then the day (round) ends and scoring begins.

The scoring based on the point value of the goods and how many goods the player put in their boat. Whoever got the most point value of goods will get a 30 florin bonus, then other lesser bonuses handed to other places down to no florins for last place. Then the tokens are moved in each market for the goods on the tiles, and there are bonuses for people with the most and second most of a good on the market pyramids. If you can get your marker to the top of the pyramid, you score yet another bonus. After scoring is complete, the poorest player starts the round by drawing tiles.

CRUX:
The meat of the game comes down to two things: jockeying for position to get the most points for a round and getting the most (monopoly) of a certain set of goods by the end of the game. The sooner you secure a monopoly in a good, the more the bonus counts as it’s added per round. You really have to watch and keep up with the goods that everyone is getting, because you need to know who may be challenging you in the same good and know how to spoil the market for someone based on what’s in their boats. The bidding can get really tense sometimes when trying to secure the goods you need versus the bonus for the round.

CONCLUSION:
I found this game quite refreshing the first time I played it. I was fortunate to start with six players playing the game, and it really made it fun. As the game wore on, I noticed how this game could really get boring with 3 players, because there is less strategy and competition over bidding on the goods. This game really needs close to the maximum number of players to keep it interesting. The intensity ratchets up while watching everyone’s progress and figuring out how to win bid of a batch of goods you need. Sometimes you get stuck trying to decide if you need to bid on some low value goods and sacrifice the round bonus, just so you can secure a monopoly in that good.

This game seems well suited for casual and social gamers, because it is easy to play and has a lot of player interaction in the bidding wars. I don’t think power gamers will in enjoy it, because there isn’t a lot of depth to the game beyond the number of people playing and no overall long-term strategy. Avid gamers and family gamers with older children should still give it a try.

Try it it, you just might like it.

6
Go to the The Kids of Carcassonne page
35 out of 71 gamers thought this was helpful

Kids of Carcassonne does a really nice job of simplifying the game based on it’s namesake for young kids. I bought this for my youngest daughter who turned five not too long ago. We pretty much all enjoying playing a round or two, especially to help satiate my daughters need to play, since you can’t play the more grown up games with the rest of us.

Components:
Tiles are nice and thick, so you don’t have to worry about them getting messed up by the little hands. The artwork is cute and playful which appeals to the little ones. The figures are sturdy wood and well painted just like regular Carcassonne, but a little bigger in this version.

Gameplay:
Each player first chooses their color between yellow, blue, red, or green to play. They then take turns putting tiles down and connecting them just like Carcassonne. However, the tiles will always connect, no matter how you put them down, so it makes it easy for the little ones. The goal of the game is to complete the roads with child on the road that has your color to score points. You show you scored by putting your little figures over the children on the completed road of the same color. The first one to use up their figures wins the game. If there is a tie, then tied players both win.

Conclusion:
I was surprised how fun this game can be for how simple it is. In some ways, I find it more refreshing than regular Carcassonne, and that’s probably because there is less hosing over your opponents in the kid version. It is definitely well designed for younger kids, because there is very little counting and helps them with color identification. This makes a really good family game for mamas and papas with their little ones.

8
Go to the Battleship Galaxies page
33 out of 38 gamers thought this was helpful

OVERVIEW
Battleship Galaxies is brought to you by Wizards of the Coast and the same designer of once popular “HeroScape” game, Craig Van Ness. In this game, you play either the invading and aggressive alien force “the Wretch” or the defending humans of the USN fleet protecting Saturn. It has very little to do with the old classic Battleship game that we all grew up with in our youth. Each game begins with a scenario setup that details which units you’ll use and which cards will be in your deck. There is a way to draft your deck as well if you want to do that. To win, scenario objectives must be completed. The game combines tactics, deck building, die rolling, and miniatures in a really cool way.

PROS:
Awesome components
Good tactical game
Expandable
Easy to learn

CONS:
A little unbalanced in favor of the “Wretch”
Probably no longer supported by Wizards of the Coast
Too few scenarios!
Boards susceptible to tearing at junction
Adding and removing pegs for shield and hull strength can be clumsy at times.

Gameplay:
The gameplay is fairly simple and turns are divided up into three phases: energy, deployment, and action. Once the board and scenario is setup, each player begins their turn by adding a certain amount of energy to their energy pool (based on the scenario). The energy you receive is basically your currency to do your actions. It costs energy to deploy ships onto the board, to activate ships for moving and attack, and to activate certain cards in your hand or attached to your ship. Each ship has it’s own strength and weaknesses, and each player maneuvers their ships to complete their objectives to win.

Combat is fairly straightforward. Hits in combat are scored by rolling a numbered and lettered die to produce coordinates, and then resolve the possible hit by looking at the target ship’s card with said coordinates. This is where you roll a “B4”, and your opponent says “Hit” like in the old Battleship game. A hit will reduce the shields or hull based on the power of the gun’s capabilities. Each ship also has a “critical” hit coordinate that can completely destroy the ship if shields are down even with full hull strength which makes for some exciting plays.

Conclusion:
Battleship Galaxies is really good space battle tactical game. It seems like the Wretch are a little too strong at times, but it’s not impossible to beat them. The game shows a lot of promise in that it could easily be expanded with more space fleets with different strengths to add to the mix. I really enjoy the game, and I was looking forward to getting some expansions to it. However, it doesn’t look like Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro is going to continue to support it, based on the latest rumors of this writing. They didn’t do a very good job of promoting it to start out which is a shame.

My favorite part of the game is how you can enhance your game play with both tactics cards and ship upgrade cards. I like how you hide your units before deploying them, so your opponent doesn’t know what you have or how many ships your bigger ships could be carrying. This game should appeal to the kid in you with the cool spaceships, and the comic book that comes with is pretty neat. My son and I have really enjoyed it the few times we’ve played. Even without expansions, it’s still a solid game and fun to play. So if you need to scratch that tactical sci-fi space combat itch, this game will do it. If you’re looking to go deeper with more variety, you can always hope that an expansion will come out from either Hasbro or someone else buying the license. It should appeal to avid gamers and family gamers with older kids. If there were more expansions, I could see power gamer flocking to this. Avid gamers should enjoy it because it combines a lot of neat mechanics with a good theme. It’s fun romp and a good game.

7
Go to the Zooloretto page

Zooloretto

41 out of 47 gamers thought this was helpful

Zooloretto has broad appeal in that it attracts younger kids to play, yet has good strategic depth for older players. Zookeeping may sound boring to you, but inside this gem is a competitive masterpiece.

PROS
Beautiful artwork
Easy to learn
Good give’n take strategy

CONS
Rules a little confusing at first
Takes a while to setup the animal tiles

Gameplay
In Zooloretto, players are competing to build a better zoo that scores more points in the end. Each player can choose one of three actions during their turn for each round: add a tile to a delivery truck, perform a money action (5 kinds), or pick a delivery truck therefore ending your turns for that round. Once each player has picked a delivery truck, the round is over. Players then place their tiles (animal, money, or vending stall) in the appropriate location, then put their trucks back to start the next round. Last player to grab a truck goes first the next round. That’s pretty much how the mechanics go.

Strategic Overview
Now, the strategy involved centers around what you can put in your zoo. You can only have one kind of animal in each of your fenced in areas. If you don’t have room for an animal because of wrong type or too many, that animal has to go in the barn. Any type of animal found in the barn at the end of the game is negative two points. Each vending stall found in your barn at the end of the game is negative two points instead of positive two. You really have to manage your zoo allocation well to maximize your points and to get more coins. Some fenced in areas give you coin bonuses if you fill them out completely with animals, so long at the last animal in is not a baby. Even though you start with 3 coins, money is hard to come by in this game, and you’re going to need the coins to either get rid of those animals in the barn or buy an animal from a player to finish an area. Vending stalls are vital to maximize your points in areas where you have few animals.

Even though Zooloretto could devolve towards multi-player solitaire if everyone wants to play nice and not care who wins, it can get kind of “cutthroat” for those who are competitive. The key part comes down to when you pick up a delivery truck that someone else might want or putting tiles on trucks that hose over a truck that someone would have wanted. It has some mild “take that” factors indeed. There can also be some negotiation going on towards the end of the game when players are trying to figure out how to get rid of animals in their barns and try to convince other players to purchase some.

Conclusion
I really enjoy playing this game with 9 yr old daughter. I bought it for “her” on her birthday, and she immensely loves it. She was a big fan of Zoo Tycoon anyway, so it was an easy pick. I’ve taught it to a few others, and so far they have enjoyed it as well. I did have trouble understanding the rules at first, but as we played it became clearer. It does take a while to setup all the animal tiles, especially with lesser players where you have to remove some animals while you setup. However, with others helping setup, it’s not so burdensome.

I highly recommend this very fun little game.

8
Go to the Ticket to Ride: Alvin & Dexter page
26 out of 30 gamers thought this was helpful

Alvin and Dexter is really a nice add-on to Ticket to Ride (TTR). If TTR has gotten a little dull to you, this expansion can really mix things up and add some nice strategic options to the game. I was quite impressed with it the first time I played it. Don’t let the little box fool you!

PROS
Adds more strategic depth to TTR
Attracts kids to the game
Adds more bonus points

CONS
Alvin and Dexter tend to fall over
Increases “screwage” factor

Gameplay
Essentially, Alvin (the alien) and Dexter (the dinosaur) are monsters rampaging through the cities in TTR causing all kinds of chaos. When one of these monsters is in a city, you cannot complete a route to it or out of it. As a player, you can use part of your turn to move one of these monsters 3 or 6 cities away based on if you discard one or two wildcards. If you move Alvin or Dexter the most, you get 15 points at the end of game. However, you have to wait another turn, before you move the same monster again.

Basically, the extra points really encourage players to keep the monsters moving. Where the strategy is involved in how can you disrupt your opponent from completing their destinations, yet keep them off of your routes. It adds a “TAKE THAT” factor at a level TTR that has never been seen before. For a 5 player game, it can get crazy, and I can see players dog-piling on a leader. The best part is that it makes the 2-player version of TTR far more interesting, because plain 2 player games are just a race to the finish line.

Conclusion
Even though some people may be turned off by the cutesy monsters, this expansion really freshens up this classic game in a whole new way. I like it that you really have to adapt your nicely planned routes to the disruptive nature of these monsters. I like that it makes the game more interactive especially with less players. It makes for a more tense game, because you’re even less sure of how many destinations you can complete particularly near the end of the game when most people can figure out where you need to go. My kids enjoyed this game more, because of the monsters when normally they wouldn’t play. Seriously, if TTR has gotten kind of old for you or you got some kids who don’t want to play it with you, get Alvin and Dexter a try.

10
Go to the Ticket to Ride page

Ticket to Ride

24 out of 32 gamers thought this was helpful

My wife is a huge Ticket to Ride (TTR) fan, so when she got an iPad, she downloaded it as soon as I told her about. She plays it constantly. I’ve played it myself, and I’m quite impressed with the iOS version.

The artwork is superb, and they borrowed heavily from the game and kept it true to the theme. The interface is well thought out and easy to learn while you’re dragging trains across the screen to complete routes. You can choose between players online or various computer opponents of varying degree of difficulty.

Probably the only downside is that you order expansions individually inside the game. It would be nice if they offered a special deal for buying everything at one time.

For a while they had online only play, but the latest version includes solitaire play, making a great way to kill some time if you don’t want to be bothered with playing anyone else.

Get it! You’ll not be disappointed.

8
Go to the Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game page
90 out of 100 gamers thought this was helpful

Sid Meier is one of the kings of video game design, and one of his most timeless classics is the Civilization PC game series. The video game can take days to play, so trying to cram it into a boardgame that takes an evening must have been a huge challenge. There was an attempt years ago by Eagle Games, but it fell quite flat. Fantasy Flight Games took up the torch again and has done an excellent job remaining true to the spirit of the PC game. This game is EPIC! The goal of the game is to be the first to achieve one of the following victory conditions: get 15 coins (economic), get to the end of the culture track (culture), research level 5 tech (science), or conquer someone’s capital city (military).

PROS:
Lots of ways to win
Tight mechanics
Awesome artwork
Customizable board (better replay)

CONS:
Simplistic combat (just like the video game)
A lot of pieces, so very fiddly and takes a while to setup
3+ hour play time

Gameplay
Each round of the game is divided into five phases: Start of turn, trade, city management, movement, and research. Some these phases are done simultaneously like trade and research, but the others are done in turn order from the player with the first player marker. The start of turn phase is where players build cities and change governments. The trade phase is where players count their trade icons that their cities can reach, and then players can wheel and deal some trades for goods and trade icons. This is possibly the most interactive part of the game. A player gets to do one of three actions during city management phase: build a building, a wonder (big bonuses), unit, or figure, devote to the arts (culture stuff), or harvest a resource. These city management actions are done per city, so if you have 3 cities, then you get 3 city management phase actions. Building stuff costs production icons which are located around your city. Harvest a resource is for special icons within your influence via a city or a settler. Devoting to the arts is where you can “harvest” culture tokens and spend them to advance down the culture track and receive either “great people” (bonuses) or culture event cards (spoilers). The movement phase is where you move your figures on the map and explore new tiles. This is also where you do battle when your figures move onto squares occupied by opponents figures or cities. Combat is very simplistic where you can use 3 different units where each one can trump the other in a “rock, paper, scissors” fashion. There a rules governing how many units can deploy and who attacks first based on bonuses provided by tech levels, owning barracks, having city walls, etc. The last phase is research phase which costs you trade value. The research tech tree is very neat in that you stack your cards on the table in a pyramid form. This makes it easy to figure out what level of research you need, because you always have to research two of the same level before you can research the next. The research cards improve your civilization and certain bonuses that can be activated via resource tokens. Once the round is complete, the first player token is passed to the next player and the next round begins. The game ends immediately when one of the victory conditions is met by a player.

Conclusion
Even though the game is very fiddly and I personally can get tired of fiddly games, my fanboyism for the computer game makes me want to keep playing the game. I’ve organized the components better, so it’s not so painful on setup and teardown. Be prepared to spend the whole evening playing this game, because it does take about 3 hours to play. I like this game alot, and I wonder if I would really like it if I didn’t like the PC game, so I’m not sure I’m objective. I was surprised that my kids liked it. I think they like all the options of the cards and seeing their civilization grow. Even for such a complex game, I think the designer did a good job making it easy to digest the rules with the five phase rounds. The phases are logical and manageable. Not everything in the PC game is in the board game, but I’m sure that you can’t put everything in the board game or it would become a 3 day game instead of a 3 hour game. I like how the “exploration” aspect is preserved in the game with the customizable board where you flip tiles to see what they are. They also preserved the “hut” and “village” experience of the PC game which give you little bonuses throughout the early phase of the game. One of the differences is that you collect trade which is used for fueling your research engine or converted to production to rush building stuff. I guess the only downside is that it doesn’t take long to uncover all the tiles. If you don’t like long, complex, fiddly games, then this is not the game for you. If you’re a fan of the PC game and you like an epic game, get this!

7
Go to the Flash Point: Fire Rescue page
265 out of 278 gamers thought this was helpful

Flashpoint: Fire Rescue is a cooperative game for 1 to 6 players. Each player takes on a role of a firefighter with special skills, and everyone works together to rescue the people inside before the building falls down or four people die. The game is very well designed with good components and provides a solid co-operative experience.

Pros:
Great theme
Tense action
Nice components

Cons:
Fiddly…lots of pieces to maintain
Confusing and hard to remember rules for fire resolution (especially on experienced rules)

Gameplay:
Each player normally gets 4 action points (unless role card says otherwise) to spend on their turn. They can move, extinguish fires, rescue victims, chop walls, carry chemical hazards, move emergency vehicles, shoot the water hose on the truck, etc. After a player uses their points up, the die is rolled to see where the fire grows, and this gets to be the hard part. There are lot rules to keep track of depending on where the die says the fire lands. The family rules are easier to track fire resolution, but the experienced rules get really complicated. Various things can happen during fire resolution: smoke markers turns to fire, explosions happen causing shockwaves, chemical explosions, victims die, firefighters get knocked out, and walls get damaged. After fire resolution, you then determine if more POI – Person of Interest markers get placed on the board which are normally the victims you need to rescue.

There are plenty of roles to choose from that encourage working as a team. The CAPS firefighter can extinguish 3 fires for free, yet only has 3 action points. The Generalist gets 5 action points. The Rescue Specialist gets 3 free movement points, chop for 1 AP (half), but pays double action points for extinguishing. The Imaging Technician can identify any POI marker on the board for 1 AP (weakest role). The Hazmat Technician can remove hazmats for 2AP which is better than carrying it out of the building. The Paramedic can reduce the cost to move victims out the building, but pay double for extinguishing. The Fire Captain can spend 2 free action points to move other players. The Driver/Operator gets to fire the water hose (deck gun) for half the normal action points, and riding around in the truck and shooting the water hose is probably the funnest part of the game. It’s usually the fastest way to get ahead of the fire if you can roll a good number. However, figuring out the dice is still confusing for when the roll is outside the sector, and it really needs some rework.

Conclusion:

Flashpoint is the fifth co-op game that I own, so I really like co-ops. The theme is superb and readily appeals to my son. However, I find the game very fiddly with so many different components compared to my favorite co-op: Pandemic. Also, the fire resolutions rules seem really complicated to me and hard to remember especially when you add in the chemical hazards and hot spots. I constantly ask myself, did I resolve this part correctly, and later on, I look at the board in another turn and found out that I didn’t resolve it correctly. So, I find it highly annoying, and I still don’t understand the “hotspots”! This has to be the hardest co-op yet to get the rules right consistently. My kids love it, but they’re not the ones trying to figure out how to resolve the fires. Pandemic is so easy with a epidemic cards telling you what to do, and the outbreaks are very simple to resolve. The family rules are nice, but I find them lacking without the role cards that add the spice to the game. I personally think the roles should be included in the family game.

My kids want to play it frequently, but it makes me groan and rub my head every time they do. Not too mention, I find it disturbing thematically that you win by saving seven out of 10 people in a burning building…hunh? “Sir, there are still 3 people in the building” “It’s okay to lose a few there chief, now move along and celebrate your victory” All the criticisms aside, Flashpoint is still fun to play and gets very tense at times as you watch those damage markers shrinking and the fire growing.

7
Go to the 7 Wonders page

7 Wonders

78 out of 86 gamers thought this was helpful

INTRO:
Very few games can successfully combine the elements of strategic depth, fast play time, and allow many players to play at the same time. It’s like the old saying in manufacturing that you can only pick two out of three qualities that you want in a product: cheap, fast, and good. If you want fast play time and strategic depth, then you need a small amount of players, but if you want fast play time and lot of players, then you need to sacrifice strategic depth. 7 Wonders is a rare gem that accomplishes all three qualities very well, and this probably why it has won so many awards the year it came out. It’s just that good!

PROS:
Fast play time
Scales well up to 7 players
Asymmetric yet well-balanced
Lots of strategy and ways to victory

CONS:
For younger players, lots to keep up with to be successful
Not necessarily easy to setup and teardown (lot of cards to sort through based on number of players)
Not conducive to long-term strategic planning, you have to adapt (can be a pro)

Overview
In 7 Wonders, each player receives a civilization wonder board to play one of the ancient civilizations. This is randomly determined, but if players agree, then you can pick your civilization. Each civilization is different in what resource they automatically produce as well as what bonuses the get for each stage of their wonder they complete. Also, each wonder board has a side “A” and side “B” which kind of acts like a difficulty level to the game. Your starting civilization normally dictates your starting strategy, because of the abilities your civilization has. For example, Giza civilization is almost a pure points strategy based on it’s wonder stages and is probably the easiest civilization to play for newcomers to the game. The goal of the game is to score the most points, and that can be achieved by a combination of military victories, science research, money, building your wonder, bonus cards (guilds and cards that make other cards count as points), and buildings with point values.

Gameplay
The gameplay is real simple in that each age is represented by decks. The cards for each age are dealt out, then you pick one and pass to your left or right based on the age. The cards are either resources for building, give discounts on buildings or resources, or buildings themselves that give certain bonuses or points. It can’t get any easier than that. If you really want to be good at this game, you really have to pay attention to what your neighbors are playing and what cards are still in the age deck you’re playing. The nuances to this game are found in card denial, setting up your long-term point strategy, and maximizing your points sometimes with what you have at the moment. You’re constantly trying to make good decisions with the cards you have. The decisions are easier for a smaller number of players of 3 to 4, because you know that part your hand is coming around back to you. However, it gets increasingly difficult with 7 knowing that the hand you have will never be seen again as you pass it left or right.

Components:
Overall, the quality of the components are very good. Card quality is good, but I’d feel safer sleeving theme based on how much they get handled. The tokens for coins and military points are nice and thick, so they should last a good while. The artwork is simply outstanding. And the design of the game is well done and conveys the information quite well on the cards and boards.

Conclusion
This is really just a great game that gets better with more experienced players. It is not that hard to learn in my opinion, in fact my 9 year old daughter has picked it up quite well and has beaten me a few times.

Strategy Gamers and Power gamers may find this game less appealing, because there isn’t much long term strategy you can consistently count and it’s not a super deep game that last hours.

I think this is a must for Casual and Avid Gamers. There isn’t a lot of interaction for Social Gamers, but they still may find it fun. For family gamers, you kids do need to be a little bit older to really grasp this game at consistent level.

Solid game!

8
Go to the Jaipur page

Jaipur

85 out of 94 gamers thought this was helpful

This is going to be a slightly different review then most people are used to seeing. It will compare Jaipur to two other highly recommended two-player card games: Lost Cities and Battle Line. Mainly because fans of one of these games are fans of the others. Even though two of those games are designed by renowned game designer Reiner Knizia, Knizia probably wishes he had designed Jaipur, because it’s that good!

First let me review Jaipur. Jaipur is a game of trading goods and camels for rupees. The game is played in up to 3 rounds as a best of two of three match. Each round, the players take turns trading for goods in the market with items from their hand and camel herd or selling goods for rupees. Sounds simple and straightforward, but it is very subtle because of a limited hand, limited market, and limited amount of goods to be sold. All these have to be managed with skill, so that you can get the better payout then your opponent. The round ends when either three of the six goods sell out or the draw deck which supplies the market is depleted. The winner of each round is the one who bagged the most rupees.

The game is full of decisions that make you press your luck with each turn. Many times you are holding onto a set of goods, because you want to sell a bunch of the same good (3, 4, or 5) for a big bonus payout alongside the normal payout. The more you sell at the same time, the bigger the bonus. However, if you sell sooner then your opponent, you get a higher normal payout in the beginning, because each successive selling of the same good is less rewarding. Then there is the give and take of the market. If you take all the camels (if there’s a bunch) in the market into your herd, then you give your a opponent the first pick of the new items coming into the market. Yet, having the most camels gives you a five rupee bonus at the end of the round. You’re also exchanging other goods in the market with items in your hand, and that could give your opponent an advantage especially early in the game when you don’t know what they are collecting. The give and take aspect of this game is phenomenal in subtly delicious ways.

Now, how does Jaipur stack up to Lost Cities and Battle Line. Well, let’s start with the basics:

Component quality.
The quality of Jaipur components is outstanding even though the cards are a little thin, the tokens are superb. Battle Line will be next with it’s thick and hard-to-shuffle cards, then Lost Cities with the flimsy, big, easy-to-shuffle cards and thick almost useless board.

Fiddliness
Jaipur is easily the fiddliest of the three having so may tokens to setup each round and get in the correct order on top of shuffling the cards. Battle Line is the second fiddliest with having to setup the nine flags in a row at proper card width distance, then shuffle two decks. Last and best is Lost Cities where all you do is shuffle and go again.

Complexity
Both Jaipur and Lost Cities are heavy on the numbers. Lost Cities is probably the worst with having to both add and subtract, then multiply. Jaipur you just add your money, and Battle Line you rarely add. Jaipur has probably the most rules to start out, but the concepts are pretty simple. Battle Line is probably the simplest of all, but the tactic cards can complicate things.

Theme
Jaipur wins hands down, because you almost feel like you’re wheeling and dealing trying to make trades, selling goods, and collecting coins. The other two games can almost be played with a regular deck of cards if they had more suits.

Gameplay
Wow! They’re all great at giving you that “press your luck” and “am I making the right decision?” intensity you come to know and love. Most of the concepts are easy to pick up and games don’t last terribly long. They all have that “let’s play again” emotion that grabs you.

Overall
Just get all three and appreciate them for what they are. They are all worthy additions to your collection. I’ve heard some people get introduced to Lost Cities first, and if they like it, they then get Battle Line. If that goes well, then they move to Jaipur and don’t look back.

Anytime my wife says she likes it and asks for more, I know I have a hit. Jaipur is really a solid little two player game that should appeal to social and casual gamers plus a few avid gamers. If you like playing with your significant other who isn’t big into games, then you might try Jaipur.

8
Go to the Battle Line page

Battle Line

109 out of 120 gamers thought this was helpful

Battle Line is another classic Reiner Knizia two player game. He has a knack for designing games that draw you in with it’s give and take appeal. The game is really a remake of “Schotten Totten” with special “tactic cards” and a ancient battle theme added to the game.

The basic premise of the game is that each player plays a card next to a flag then draws a card and tries to capture five of the nine flags in any order or three flags in a row of the nine flags. You win a flag with three cards based on their formation compared to your opponents three card formation across from the same flag. The formations are similar to poker where a run of the same color is highest, next is three of kind, then three of a the same color, then a run of mixed colors, then least is three random cards. The tie breaker is done by highest point count if the formation is similar or whoever completed the formation first if exactly the same (i.e. both have 10,9,8 of the same color then first to complete wins). The tactics cards add a little spice to the game by having “wildcard” type cards and rule breaking cards; however, you can only play one more tactic card then your opponent has already played.

The game definitely has an ebb of flow of press your luck as you try to figure out which card to put down while hoping to draw the card you’re looking for. The risk of putting something down that could potentially destroy an existing formation or start a formation that has no chance of winning can get pretty tense. You can draw from the tactics card pile, but that then limits your hand from getting the cards you need to build the right formation. You don’t want to draw too many tactics cards, because your opponent can kill your hand by not playing any tactic cards and your hand is stuck. My wife almost never draws from the tactics cards.

Overall, I really enjoy this game, partly because my wife asks for it a lot. I enjoy the press your luck feel especially with a good opponent. This game in some ways is better than Lost Cities, because it’s less “mathy”, and it plays a little faster in my experience. You can get three games in compared to Lost Cities, because Lost Cities requires three hands to get in one game. This game should definitely appeal to casual gamers and social gamers, because it is easy to pick up. It makes a really good couples game too, and it travels pretty light.

9
Go to the Word on the Street page

Word on the Street

39 out of 41 gamers thought this was helpful

Word on the Street is a easy yet challenging word game that is great for families and casual gamers!

The rules are fairly simply, and the game plays fairly quickly in around 30 to 45 minutes. It scales well from 2 to 10 players, since you play in teams. The goal of the game is to be the first team to capture 8 letter tiles to win the game.

PROS
Easy to learn
Team play
Don’t have to be the best speller with good teamates
Good components

CONS
Can’t think of any

GAMEPLAY
The game is straightforward by having a board that looks like a “street” with all the letters tiles laid down in the middle at the beginning. Each team takes a turn drawing a category card, and they must spell a word correctly that relates to the category. So, if the category is a “Type of Fruit”, the team could say “BANANA”. They must then proceed to spell each letter and move the correct letter that is NOT captured towards their side of the street one section at a time. So for “BANANA”, the B would be moved one section and the “N” would be moved two sections closer to the spelling team. If the letter is moved all the way off the board on your side, it is now captured and can no longer be moved by the other team. You can still use captured letters to spell words, but it just means that you don’t get to move it and makes it harder to come up with words that have letters to be moved to your favor. This all happens in single turn before the timer runs out. If the timer runs out, the team stops spelling the word and cannot finish.

It is possible that the other team can challenge the word chosen if the word is misspelled or doesn’t fit the category. If the challenge is successful, the letters are moved back to their previous position. If the challenge is unsuccessful, the challenging team loses their turn.

Strategy
There is a nice strategic aspect to the game of give and take as you not only try to capture letters for your team, but you are also trying to prevent the other team from capturing letters as well to buy your team time. The other team can also blurt out words not related to the category to throw the other team off.

Some criticism of the game is that you can learn some “goto” words that are great for this game like “grasshopper” or “baseball” that could spoil the game for experienced versus inexperienced players. I don’t think it’s a valid criticism, because these “goto” words only work for very few categories that come up and they don’t come up that often. Also, not only does the category have to come up, but the board has to be set up with the correct letters on it to really capitalize on the right letter combination which may not be there due to the letters already being captured.

Conclusion
So far, this has been a hit with my whole family that enjoys playing games. We have even had company over that has enjoyed it as well, so it has a broad appeal. I enjoy it over a game of Scrabble any day, because it’s fun and brings out the laughter more. The time limit keeps analysis paralysis in check. It’s a great way to test your kids spelling ability and help them out too, so I like the educational aspect as well.

Social gamers should really love this game, because of the team play.
Casual gamers should find it fun, since it’s easy to pick up and run with it.
Family gamers can get into it with the children that can spell.
Avid gamers should just get into it, because it’s just fun.
Power gamers and Strategy gamers should look elsewhere.

I highly recommend it.

9
Go to the Risk 2210 A.D. page

Risk 2210 A.D.

104 out of 114 gamers thought this was helpful

Introduction
Risk 2210 A.D. is a neat sci-fi/post-apocalyptic twist to a classic game where mech robots battle it out for territory. Gone are the days of playing Risk for hours and hours on end with one, two, or three people eliminated waiting for the game to finish. The game is set to only go 5 rounds (years), and whoever has the most points wins the game. This game contains a lot of neat mechanics to make the gameplay interesting with very nifty strategic choices beyond the basics of Risk mastery.

PROS
Limited play time to 5 rounds
Commanders with variable powers
Command cards
Better replay value with devastated land markers
More territories (moon and sea)
New 8-sided die

CONS
Long setup time
Analysis Paralysis prone

Gameplay
The game begins with each player setting up their set number of units by picking territories to place their units in just like normal Risk. However, four of the territories are randomly removed from the game by placing “Devastated Land” markers on them that no player can enter. This provides a neat replay factor where the map will not be the same every time you play and changes each players overall strategy. Also, there are now “moon” and “sea” territories, but those aren’t allowed to be used at the start of the game.

The last setup turn is different in that the players place their “commanders” and “space station.” What? Commanders? Space Station? Yep! Another new twist is the concept of commanders and space stations. There are 5 types of commanders: Space, Land, Marine, Nuclear, and Diplomat. Each player starts out with a Land and Diplomat Commander, the rest have to be “hired” or paid for by 3 energy (game currency). Each commander has different characteristics that provide bonuses when attacking and defending the units they are alongside, and give players access to tactical cards you can buy based on the commander type as well. The Land commander gives a player extra attack and defense bonuses (8-sided die instead of 6-sided die) for units on land and has cards that help units on land. The Diplomat commander only gives a bonus on defense and has more counter-defensive/disruptive and extra point cards. The Space commander provides access to the moon with bonus die for attacking and defending on the moon, and the cards help moon units. The Marine commander provides access to sea territories with attack and defense bonuses at sea and cards that help sea units. The Nuclear commander provides bonuses on both offense and defense for any units location and has the most riskiest and costliest to activate cards(most damaging even to yourself). The space station provides a defense bonus and allows an entry point for units to move to the moon territories from land, once a space commander has been acquired.

Now, a normal round for each player begins with an auction for turn order. Each player bids “energy” (start with 3) to determine who gets to pick their turn order and sometimes it is more important to not pick the first turn. After play order is determined, the player begins their turn by reinforcing their troops and collecting energy based on the number of territories they own and the number of entire continents, sea colonies, or moon colonies they completely possess. They then have an opportunity to buy another commander or space station, and then buy up to 3 cards. That is of course if they have enough energy which is also used to activate certain cards. So careful energy management is another strategic option that must be managed in this game. Once these steps are completed, the player may begin attacking just like normal Risk and continue to attack until they are done. Battle is resolved as normal risk, and once a player is finished, they can reinforce one territory by moving available units across connected territories the player occupies. This done for each player, and the round is complete when everyone gets a turn. Then the auction begins again for the next round or year. Once five rounds are done, all the players tally up their points based on territories owned, complete continents owned, complete colonies owned, and any point cards played; and the victor has the most points as always.

Conclusion
Overall, this is by far the best edition of Risk I have yet played. It brings a lot more strategic depth to the plain vanilla Risk game. There is so much going on besides just acquiring more territory to acquire more troops which is still important. Energy management is critical in being able to pick your turn order, purchasing commanders, purchasing cards, and activating cards. Hand management is critical as well for supporting your commanders and playing the appropriate card at the right time to help your overall strategy. The “Devastated Lands” can also dictate what may be the most optimal strategy based on which lands are blocked at the start of the game and add a lot of replay value. Each commander provides strategic options to help you accomplish victory not just because of the cards, but the territories you can now occupy. Of course the best part of all is the game is limited to five rounds instead of taking forever between skilled players! I say that it won’t take forever, but the added options do make players prone to “analysis-paralysis” drag the game out sometimes. Also, it’s very rare that a competent player is eliminated from a game (unless other players gang up on you), because it is limited to five rounds.

Because of the depth of options, this version of Risk should appeal more to power gamers, and the limited play may help casual gamers even with the long setup time. For those squeamish about wargames and kids, the units are mostly robots, so you can be less squeamish about tearing up their opponent. This helps you introduce a wargame to your kids more easily, and my son just loves the robots! So it has appeal to family gamers as your kids get older. It’s just a great game altogether and worthy addition to your collection!

6
Go to the Stone Age page

Stone Age

167 out of 185 gamers thought this was helpful

Stone Age is really a well designed worker placement game. The artwork is beautiful (really some of the best). It’s a much simpler worker placement game compared to others in the same “genre” in some ways, yet requires a bit of math when determining the resources you get on spots. It’s a civilization style game as well as you grow your primitive tribe into a larger more advanced tribe.

PROS
Beautiful artwork and components
A little easier intro to worker placement

CONS
Too mathy for a gateway game or family with younger children
Theme kind of dull
Resource luck driven

GAMEPLAY
Each player places their workers on spots to take action. When gathering resources like stone or wood, you can place multiple workers, however, when taking actions like tool making or hut building allow only one worker. You continue to manage your tribe by gathering resources to grow and feed your tribe as well as purchasing huts and civilization cards.

It is important to keep your people fed or you could lose 10 points to cover your food deficit. The game ends when all the huts are gone or all the cards are gone from the supply. The person with the most points wins the game.

The game offers a variety of strategy through the use of huts and civ cards. There is luck involved with the die roll for resources, so if you don’t like dice, you may not like this game. I also don’t like that I have to do math particularly division to determine my resource amount which makes it hard to bring younger kids into the game.

CONCLUSION
Overall, our family preferred Agricola, and I think part of it is because of the theme appealed more to them. Having sheep, cows, fences, and a tidy home seemed to capture my family’s imagination more. Besides, in some ways the family version of Agricola is even easier than Stone Age if you’re trying to introduce someone to worker placement games. There’s no die rolling, but there is luck in the draw of action cards in Agricola. Stone Age is still a really good game with a lot of options, so don’t be afraid to try it.

7
Go to the Scrabble page

Scrabble

43 out of 49 gamers thought this was helpful

There is a reason this game has been around so long. There’s also a reason why there are tournaments held for this game and over a dozen books dedicated to it. It’s a really good word game. It’s not a “kids” game either, because the better the vocabulary you have and better you can the spell, then the better you can dominate in this game.

The game is really simple in that each player draws letter tiles up to a maximum based on number of players. They take turns spelling words on the board, and score points based on the letters and the squares they have placed their tiles. The only catch is they have to make a word from one of the letters on the board except for the first initial move. The person with the most points wins.

The depth to this game comes into not only how well you spell with what tiles you have, but also in how well you can get the bonus squares on the board to maximize your points each turn. Managing your hand in this game is also a key strategy, because you don’t want to find yourself with a rack full of vowels or consonants.

The components in every copy I’ve seen so far have been great. The board is sturdy, and the tiles are solid wood along with the tile racks. You can get fancier versions of this game if you desire, but the basic game is pretty much all you need unless you’re a serious Scrabble aficionado.

Overall, I enjoy this game when I play it. It’s more of a brain burning/deep thinking word game. So “analysis paralysis” prone players, might make this game long. There isn’t much interaction between players except when there’s a question on the validity of a word which might get heated. For a more challenging and enjoyable game, you need to play someone close to your skill level, or else you’ll either crush someone or be crushed…not fun then. If you’re a social gamer looking for a quicker word game with more “fun” as in more interaction and laughs, Word on the Street would be a better fit.

7
Go to the Sorry Sliders page

Sorry Sliders

28 out of 31 gamers thought this was helpful

Sorry! Sliders is a fun little dexterity game that brings “curling” to the tabletop. This game really doesn’t have much to do with the original game of it’s namesake, “Sorry,” other than the shape of the pawns.

The game basically involves each player taking turns sliding their pawns down a track towards a center target. Each player then gets to score points once all pawns are used up based on where in center area the pawns wind up. The player to get all four their scoring pawns home first wins the game.

Really, the rules are simple, but the game is just plain fun as you try to aim your pawns to either bump someone out of a good scoring position or to get yourself into a good scoring position. It takes quite a bit of skill to consistently hit your target.

The components are okay quality overall. The pawns are made of durable plastic, but the boards are made of flimsy cardboard that sometimes can be warped slightly. This can make it hard to consistently shoot the same way down the track between different colors. However, the pawns slide very well down the track and were very well designed.

Overall, this is a game everyone can easily enjoy. My kids thoroughly enjoy it. There is a lot of replay value in the many different ways you can setup the board. It makes a good fun filler in between heavy game sessions. Compared to a $200 Crokinole board, this game is a steal if you can get it under $20 with just as much fun!

6
Go to the Race for the Galaxy page
77 out of 90 gamers thought this was helpful

Race for the Galaxy is a card game that is like San Juan on steroids! It has the same role selection and simultaneous action mechanism as San Juan(except each user can still pick the same role) as well as using cards to “purchase” other cards to place on your tableau. In this game, you’re building your galactic civilization by scoring victory points through exploring other worlds and trading resources. If the victory point chips run out or 12 cards are in a tableau, the game is over and points are tallied to see who the winner is.

This game has so much depth with many different strategies. It takes a while not only to learn the multitude of icons, but also all the various planets and support cards to understand how they work together to create your overall strategy. For example, some worlds support a military strategy, so if you find yourself drawing military worlds and military units, it may be best to start working with those cards. There are plenty of expansions to this game that will continue to satisfy the power gamer as they explore new strategies or ways to enhance older styles of play.

Personally, since I game with my family, I don’t see this ever hitting the table. I had a hard time learning the icons on my own, to the point it seemed like work. I have enough games that require “work” that I didn’t feel the need to go through it again. There isn’t much interaction going on in the game, because everyone is concentrating on their tableau. However, if I was younger and had more time with proper game partners, I would probably pick this up again. For now, I’ll stick to San Juan with the same amount of interaction with less brain burning.

10
Go to the Memoir '44 page

Memoir '44

76 out of 83 gamers thought this was helpful

Memoir ’44 is a great tactical wargame for 2 players that takes under an hour to play. It’s not just a game, but a whole game system that can be expanded and tweaked to your heart’s content with about 15 expansions so far. The game comes with over a hundred well crafted plastic miniatures that represent the Allies and Axis forces. There are fifteen scenarios to play from, giving you a lot of replay value before you move on to other expansions. The focus of this base game is the D-Day invasion of 1944 and the ensuing battles after the invasion.

PROS
Easy rules
Short playtime compared to other wargames
Nice components

CONS
Not entire historically accurate figures
Sometimes takes a while to setup and put back
Potentially too luck-driven for some people

Overview
This game is meant to be lightweight unlike other wargames that can bog you down in a thick rulebook and hours of playtime for a single scenario. It was designed by Richard Borg using his now famous “Command and Colors” system that started with “Battle Cry”, and can now be found in “BattleLore”, “Command and Colors:Ancients”, and “Command and Colors:Napoleonics”. This version of C&C is supposed to be accessible, and it works really great with younger kids to introduce them into wargames and history.

Since it’s so lightweight, it is more abstract, so do not expect an accurate historical simulation of the battle, but the game is designed to give you appreciation of the struggle. There is a huge following around this game system, and I’m talking about adults now, not kids.

Gameplay:

The game is centered around 3 types of units (tanks, infantry, and artillery) on each side that follow the same basic rules. These types of units each have different range and firepower. You position your units to maximize your firepower represented by the number of dice you roll, while minimizing your opponent’s firepower by proper use of nearby terrain. Certain terrain types reduce the number of dice your opponent rolls against you when attacking. The board is divided into three sections representing a players right flank, center, and left flank. The cards you draw are what allows you to activate which units you want to move and engage in battle. So, careful hand management is key to this game, if you want to be a consistent winner of Memoir’44.

Each scenario comes with a historical background and has been designed to reflect the conditions of the battle. This means that some scenarios will highly favor the Axis (Germans) or the Allies (US/Britain/France), but not all are lopsided. Some people may not like a lopsided battle, but historically some battles were lopsided. Also, each scenario will sometimes come with special rules such as treating units as “special forces”, special terrain factors, the number of cards each player has, who goes first, certain medal objectives, and how many medals are needed to achieve victory.

Conclusion:
This is by far one of my favorite games! I love how easy and quick it is to play(setup can sometimes take a while if there is lots of terrain). My six year old son loves it, and so do I because it’s FUN! I love the little army units and pushing them around. The game is expandable, so if you want to go deeper, there is room to grow. It also gives me an opportunity to talk to my son about the sacrifice these men made to achieve victory and secure our freedom.

Possible Con –
People who don’t like luck and dice will probably not like this game. However, the luck factor can be managed some through careful hand management and proper use of terrain. That is a skill in of itself that I enjoy. Also, the luck factor gives younger inexperienced players a better chance to win and not grow discouraged by pure skill games that Daddy crushes them at all the time! It also can make for some very thrilling victories!

Some scenarios are tougher on one side versus the other. Again, that is to remind us of how hard the sacrifice was for the men who freed France from Nazi control. For instance, the landing at Omaha Beach was exceptional brutal and high in US casualties, and the Omaha Beach scenario in the game is very tough for the Allies, but winnable. So, when you play it remember, and then switch sides so both people can share the challenge.

Get it! I think you’ll enjoy it!

8
Go to the Castle Panic page

Castle Panic

109 out of 119 gamers thought this was helpful

Castle Panic is a simple and fast co-op of pure action! It’s a lot lighter and quicker then the likes of Pandemic or Forbidden Island.

The goal of the game is to defend your castle in the middle of the board from the oncoming horde of monsters! Players work together to protect castle by sharing soldiers, archers, knights, heroes, and other special cards. It’s a very simple game, because the board is broken up into colored zones with rings based on the range attack of your troops, and most of your cards are colored coded as well. This means that a “red” soldier card can only fight a monster in the “red” soldier ring on the board, etc. The monsters move closer to the castle each round, and more monsters are drawn from the monster token pile each round. Sometimes those tokens have special effects like boulders that barrel through monsters to smash a wall, or make monsters in a zone move forward another ring. There are also different kinds of monsters of varying strength and ability (those darn trolls!).

Each player gets a certain number of cards based on the number of players. They can draw up to their maximum hand allowance, choose to discard one card and draw, trade one card with another player, then play as many of their cards as they desire, so long as it is playable. The game recommends you go ahead and show your cards, so everyone can plan together (this works great for kids), but if you have a bossy player, you might want to try hiding your hands and discuss trades. The player who gets the most monster points by killing certain monsters (not always the most monsters), they become the “master slayer” of the game.

Even if the game ends with just a single part of your tower still standing, you still win the game. You basically have to survive the onslaught and have one part of your tower intact. Note if one wall is left, and no towers are left, you still lose.

Castle Panic is really a light and fun co-op. It’s not a brain burner of a co-op of the likes of Pandemic. My six year old son absolutely loves this game! It’s not necessarily a kids game, because there is quite a bit of planning involved as you get ready for the next wave of monsters and try to trade cards to the next player to help them do the most damage their turn. Kids will love the artwork indeed. There is an optional official variant where someone can play the monsters, and my daughter likes that part. It’s a great way to past the time with kids besides the likes of Life or Candyland!

Power gamers will tend to gravitate to Pandemic or Defenders of the Realm type co-ops. This game is well suited for family and casual gamers!

7
Go to the Innovation page

Innovation

124 out of 132 gamers thought this was helpful

Innovation is neat civilization style card game. It took me a while to understand the rules, but once you play a hand, it begins to make sense. I recommend you learn from someone who already knows how to play to make it a lot easier.

In this game, each player is playing technologies to improve their civilization to get to a certain number of achievements to win (points determine winner if number of achievements aren’t made). The technologies are the heart of the game, because they bestow special abilities (called “dogma”) to players that allow you draw more cards, steal cards from other players, make special achievements, and other fun stuff. Also, sometimes “dogma” can be shared with other players based on how much of the same icons opposing players have. This can make one more cautious about exercising the “dogma” on your technologies, because you may benefit your opponent too much.

Gameplay is simple by the fact that you get two actions per turn. You either meld (put a card down), draw, or use a dogma effect from one of your top technology cards. Again, these dogma effects are “rulebreakers” allowing you to do some extra actions along with sometimes allowing your opponent to do the same.

This game is unpredictable, because even if you might be losing, a new card drawn from a supply pile in a new technological age may completely change the game. I’m not sure if there is a sure fire strategic “solution” to this game either, because there are too many combinations. It really makes you play to the very end, because you just don’t know who is going to win.

I like this game better than Race for the Galaxy even though it has icons like Race. The icons in Innovation are a little bit easier to grasp. The interaction in Innovation is a lot more direct than Race for the Galaxy even when players take the same action. Innovation is not as deep a game as some others, because you can’t really develop a long term strategy due to it’s unpredictable nature. It is a more of a “tactical” game where you have to react and play the most beneficial card at the moment.

Definitely a good game for avid gamers and probably social gamers for the unpredictable fun (might cause some laughter and groans). My guess is that most power gamers will gravitate to something more deeper like Race for the Galaxy. The rules may be turn off for casual gamers. For family gamers, there is nothing wrong with this game, you just may have to wait for your kids to get a little older to appreciate it, and depends on your family dynamics.

8
Go to the San Juan page

San Juan

97 out of 107 gamers thought this was helpful

San Juan is a game that was inspired by the groundbreaking strategy game called Puerto Rico. It has the same theme and same role selection mechanic contained in Puerto Rico along with some nice twists. It’s a pure card game and is a lot less fiddly than Puerto Rico, and it plays 2 to 4 players.

In San Juan, you again take on the life of a plantation owner where you build your plantation to produce goods and improve parts of the capital of San Juan with better buildings. The goal of the game is to get the most victory points, but the points are found in the cards.

This game requires skillful hand management as you try to improve your “tableau” of cards. To put a building or a plantation card down in your “tableau” during the building phase, you must pay for it with cards in your hand to the discard pile. This is the tricky part, because you have to give up some good cards sometimes to put down the right card for the next phase of building your “tableau”. But don’t fret, the deck is reshuffled when it runs out, so you might see the card you’re looking for again.

Players choose roles such as building, producing, trading, etc. Each player gets to perform the same roles that is picked, but only the person who picked the role gets the role bonus. The bonus usually involves getting extra cards for some phase for example.

The first person to have 12 cards in their tableau ends the game. Then players add up the their points as explained in each card in their tableau. The person with the most points wins.

I really like San Juan, because it has a good amount of strategic depth versus standard card games. However, it’s a good game to introduce people to the next level of card driven games like Race for the Galaxy which shares a lot of core mechanics. As I mentioned early, it is a snap to set up, because there are very few extra items beyond the cards themselves. Even though the game says it plays 2 to 4 players, it plays better with 3 to 4 in my opinion. It makes a pretty good family game too!

8
Go to the Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals page
41 out of 51 gamers thought this was helpful

I got this expansion, so we could play with six people instead of five. This is nice. I think Carcassonne plays better with more people, because it brings more interaction as people are competing for space.

The Cathedrals and Inns add a nice twist to the game by adding more “risk” to the game. If you don’t complete a city with a Cathedral or a road with an “Inn”, then you don’t get any points. So, if you’re confident that a you can complete it, then you’re okay. However, if you play the 3 Tile hand variant, this can be a killer way to hose another player over. You can hang onto an Inn or Cathedral and slap it on opponent’s city or road near the end of the game, knowing that they can never finish it.

A worthy expansion!

5
Go to the Phase 10 page

Phase 10

35 out of 46 gamers thought this was helpful

Phase 10 is a game that I played a lot with my wife when we were newly married (that and Canasta). My wife is a big fun of rummy style games, so this was a hit.

The game requires players to complete all phases first to be the winner. Each phase has certain criteria that must be met in some form of a set, run, or run and set in your hand. Those phases get progressively more difficult to complete as you move up in phases. It interesting how some people are lucky enough to move up quickly, then get bogged down on a phase allowing others to catch up.

It is also a game of give and take, because people can pick up your discards. So you have to be careful trying to figure out what to discard and know what phase each player is trying to complete.

It’s a decent game. Works great for casual gamers and families.

6
Go to the SET page

SET

53 out of 98 gamers thought this was helpful

A nifty little game that really doesn’t involve any strategy whatsoever. Everyone pretty much stares at the cards on the table trying to make a set of the patterns on the cards. Someone says, “SET”, then everyone checks that person to see if they made a set. Person with the most sets wins.

Okay, you might think that sounds boring, but if you like puzzles, this game will suck you in! Your eyes might get bleary trying to find a pattern, and your head might start to hurt, but this game can make a nice diversion from your current fare of gaming.

There really isn’t much too this game beyond what I put, so no need for a long review here! Puzzle aficionados go buy it!

5
Go to the UNO page

UNO

28 out of 45 gamers thought this was helpful

UNO is a classic card game this is easy to learn and easy to play. There isn’t much depth to it, and it is very random. This game is more well suited for younger players and can sometimes make a good time killer with them.

In this game, you try to be the first person to go out. Each player tries to discard cards of the same color unless they have a card that change the color. There is lots of cards that skip people, reverse turn order, change the discard color, and make players draw two or four cards. So, you might be thinking you’re about to win, then someone skips you or makes you draw more, etc.

It’s a fun little game.

7
Go to the Puerto Rico page

Puerto Rico

80 out of 87 gamers thought this was helpful

Just as Catan was a groundbreaking “gateway” game to designer games and gaming with family, Puerto Rico stands as a big favorite among gamers. It has the innovative role selection mechanic that inspired other games like San Juan, Galactic Emperor, and Race for the Galaxy.

In this game, you are a Puerto Rican plantation owner. Your goal is to have the most thriving plantation, best developed section of San Juan (the capital), and ship plenty of goods back to Spain. All that accounts for victory points and of course you win with the most.

Each player during their turn gets to pick a role that allows everyone to perform a specific action. The roles are Builder, Craftsman, Prospector, Trader, Captain, Mayor, and Settler. The person picking the role gets the action plus a useful bonus that no one else gets. As you develop your plantation by selecting specific items to grow and adding buildings to the capital to process plantation produce into goods, you’ll spend your time carefully watching your opponents moves. The buildings you select give you slight advantages over your opponents in certain areas such as role selection, selling goods or producing goods, and final score tallying.

The reason you need to pay attention to what your opponents are doing is because you can adversely affect them in several ways. Sometimes you want to deny them the bonus action on a role even though he or she still gets the same action. Other times, you need to block your opponent from trading a good by placing yours first in the trading section, or you can deny them the good they want to ship back by filling up a ship first causing that player to lose goods. Even though there is no direct interaction in this game, you can see there is a lot of indirect interaction that makes this game stand out.

Personally, the game falls a little flat for me. I mostly play the official 2-player variant with my daughter. The theme doesn’t grip me like other games where Agricola has the tension of keeping your family fed, making it more rewarding in the end. I prefer to play San Juan which is Puerto Rico made into a card game. It’s still a really good game.

7
Go to the Lost Cities: The Card Game page
50 out of 55 gamers thought this was helpful

This was one of my wife’s goto games with me, since I got the board gaming bug. I can’t count how many times we’ve played this. This is another Reiner Knizia classic game of press your luck and subtle give and take of cards.

Each player goes on a “expedition” to find lost artifacts….nah, just try to build a stack of cards with the most points. The theme really has no meaning other than pretty artwork on cards. The trick is that you have to score over 20 points on each stack to make positive points (i.e. subtract 20 points). The person with the most points after three rounds wins. If you have bonus cards that can double, triple, or quadruple your stack the better, unless you’re in the negative… then it hurts! Very rarely can you start out with the 20 plus points in your hand for a stack (or suit), because you really have to build it as you go and hope another card you need comes along.

It’s a game of give and take, because your opponent can discard cards to the center which you can pick up in lieu of a draw or vice-versa. The problem is that you don’t know what’s in the opponent’s hand and whether or not they need that card. You could potentially give them the game by giving them a card you can’t use, but you have to discard it because you’re hanging onto other cards you need to complete your stack of cards. This is where the game gets tense especially towards the end of the game.

It’s not a deep game, just a tense one of do I pick the card or discard that card or do I hold out for a better card kind of game. Very enjoyable game overall, and the game plays very quickly!

7
Go to the Carcassonne page

Carcassonne

63 out of 76 gamers thought this was helpful

This has got to be one of the easiest games to learn, yet can be very hard to master on a consistent basis. Even younger kids can quickly pick this up, because all you do is lay down tiles that fit like a puzzle. Of course the subtly to the game goes into how players jockey for points by placing their workers on tiles and can get very cutthroat depending on the crowd playing.

PROS
Very accessible
Easy to learn
Nice components

CONS
No fifth player in base game
Needs more expansions for more depth

GAMEPLAY
If you place your worker in a city, it’s called a knight and scores you two points per city segment. If you place your worker on a road, it’s called a thief and scores you a point per road segment. If you place a worker on the countryside, it’s called a farmer and scores you 3 points per completed city touching your field (scored at the end of game). Players will try to stage tiles to try and steal your points by having a majority of workers in a city, on a road, or in a field. However, you can’t just plop a worker on an adjoining occupied space when you place it. That’s the rub, you have to stage the tile, so that it eventually joins up later with the occupied tiles in getting the majority to take the points. The other moves are to deny your opponent really big points, by completing their cities or roads earlier than they wanted.

CONCLUSION
The base game is good starter game, but ************ really needs expansions like “Inns and Cathedrals” and “Traders and Builders”, before it really starts to shine in a major way by giving you more strategic options for scoring. I think some players tend to grow tired quickly of the base game, so go get the expansions to breath some longer life into the game.

This game is easily accessible to casual and family gamers. It’s easy to learn and doesn’t take a long time to play. Social gamers may find this get to cutthroat unless they’re into to that sort of thing. Power gamers may want to look into playing with more expansions to add more depth. Avid gamers should find the tile laying and scoring a fun mechanic to enjoy.

5
Go to the Apples to Apples page

Apples to Apples

31 out of 46 gamers thought this was helpful

The first few times I played this game, I laughed a lot. But now that I’ve been through the cards a few times, some of the initial fun has started to wear off. I still enjoy it, but it’s just not the same. It’s a good game for couples getting to know each other as friends and breaks the ice. This is decent party game too.

The game is pretty simple where each player takes turns being the “judge”. The judge selects a green card that has an adjective on it. Players pick a card that the green card describes, and they hope the judge picks there card. This is where the hilarity can ensue if you don’t take it too serious. Whoever’s card gets selected by the judge, they will get the green card. Depending on the number of players, whoever reaches the maximum number of green cards first wins the game.

There are a lot of cards in this game, so it will last you for a quite a few plays before it gets kind of old. If it starts to get old for you and you game regularly with the same people, it’s best to mix up partners or mix up players you play with to help keep it interesting.

Overall, it’s a good game for a while, but to me it fades after while.

8
Go to the Pandemic page

Pandemic

78 out of 85 gamers thought this was helpful

Pandemic is a well designed co-operative game that can really be tough to beat. This game scales well with 2 to 4 players, and you can even play it solo as well (just pick 2 roles).

Players pick roles that give different abilities, then work as a team as you race around the world trying to save it from four virus outbreaks. There is only one way to win the game: cure all viruses. There are many ways to loose: too many outbreaks, player deck runs out, or virus cubes run out.

You’ll be constantly trying to slow down the spread of the diseases long enough to find the cures. To find a cure you must have 5 cards of same color (unless you’re role is Scientist then 4) as the virus, then bring those cards to a research station for a cure. It might sound easy, but you only get 4 actions per turn, and you draw new infections after each player’s turn. An epidemic card can really mess you up, because it increases the infection rate and reshuffles the infection discard pile back on top ready to reinfect the same cities again. It takes careful coordination between players to maximize the teams effectiveness at stemming the tide of infections to prevent outbreaks (really bad) while getting the cure.

The game has different levels of difficulty, and even the easiest level can be quite challenging. I marvel at those who can win this game at “legendary” level.

This game has pretty wide appeal, because of current events and who doesn’t like to save the world! Even my kids dig it and they’re really not quite old enough to play it.

One con: This game can degrade into non-cooperative and boring play if someone in the group is too bossy or not patient with other people’s mistakes. Just come together to have fun and work together.

7
Go to the Ingenious page

Ingenious

30 out of 46 gamers thought this was helpful

Reiner Knizia has a knack for developing simple, but good strategic games. Ingenious is a tile laying game of colorful tiles where each player scores points in one of the six colors as they make connections. This game combines a neat scoring method that encourages players to keep making connections that increase your score per color you put down. The person with the highest LOW score among their colors wins the game. There’s some subtle depth in laying the tiles especially near the end game where you can try and block your opponents from getting their low scores up while keeping your colors moving.

This game is a hit with my family of various ages!

7
Go to the Hive page

Hive

47 out of 70 gamers thought this was helpful

Hive is a nice little strategy game. The object is the capture your opponent’s queen bee with a wide array of assorted insects. Each insect has special movement abilities much like chess pieces. You move your pieces about trying to surround the opposing queen. Once surrounded, the game is over.

The pieces are nice and hefty, and the bugs appeal to kids. The game comes with a nice zipper bag for carrying anywhere. It’s a quick game, so it makes a nice filler for a game night between games.

9
Go to the The Settlers of Catan page
54 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

I really enjoy this game and it’s one of my top favorites. For a civilization style game, it hits a sweet spot of not being too complex, decent amount of strategy, and player interaction.

The game is about managing a colony on a fictitious island called Catan. You race to build the best colony among your peers to reach 10 points to victory. Some scenarios require more points. The interaction is achieved through negotiating for good trades to get the resources you need, and placing the robber on opponents to slow them down.

The strategy comes down to good settlement placement going for points through most roads, biggest army, or getting development cards. Besides placing the robber on leader, you can block opponents from getting to key resources by getting there first with roads.

Because the board is not fixed, but can be randomly created each time you play, this makes Catan quite replayable. It also keeps the game from being too “fixed” or “solvable” with a single solution, because it’s different everytime.

This game is another family keeper, because everyone in my immediate and extended family enjoy playing it.

7
Go to the Bohnanza page

Bohnanza

33 out of 39 gamers thought this was helpful

Bohnanza is a nifty little trading game about beans! The goal of the game is to have the most gold coins by selling your bean fields. Each player tries to maximize their beans in their limited number of bean fields (start with two, purchase one more). It’s important to trade and give to get what you want, because every turn you must plant the first bean in your hand even if it’s a bean you don’t want. That’s the beauty of the game of trying to manage your hand while trying to get the right beans to plant.

The game is fun and good for a socializing. The graphics are cartoony, so it appeals to kids. My daughter has the strangest strategy for an eight year old, yet she either wins or comes close each time. Also, it makes a good filler on game nights. Family gamers should enjoy it, because it appeals to kids, easy to learn, and is fun. It’s a very social game with all the trading and negotiating going on throughout the game, so social gamers should really like it. Causal games should be able to pick it up easily as well.

7
Go to the Blokus page

Blokus

31 out of 49 gamers thought this was helpful

There is just a few rules to this game. Place your piece only touching your previous piece on a corner, and nowhere else. Place your first piece on the starting location. From there, the deceptively simple game goes deep as you vie for control of the board area trying to block your opponents while maximizing the number of your pieces on the board.

The game is best played with 4 people, and starts to fall flat with less.

With simple rules, a wide range of ages can easily pick up this game. It is well suited for families.

8
Go to the Forbidden Island page

Forbidden Island

58 out of 70 gamers thought this was helpful

I have played Pandemic, Castle Panic, and now Forbidden Island. Each one fills their own little niche for cooperative play.

Forbidden Island plays very similar to Pandemic in some respects, because it was designed by the creator of Pandemic (surprise surprise) Matt Leacock. It plays a little lighter than Pandemic, but it’s still challenging! It’s less fiddly than Pandemic, so it’s a quick setup and go kind of game. The theme is a little more light-hearted, but just as tense. The board design is modular which makes for greater replay value, and I’ve seen variant setups that are available in the German edition. This makes for a better cooperative game with younger kids, and I think they’ll like the theme better.

The component quality and artwork is absolutely top-notch! The price is incredible!

If you’re looking for something meatier, get Pandemic (and the expansion “On the Brink”).
If you’re looking for something more action-packed with hacking and slashing, get Castle Panic.
If you’re looking for a good quality cooperative game on the cheap and fun for the family with younger kids, get Forbidden Island.

9
Go to the Acquire page

Acquire

56 out of 63 gamers thought this was helpful

Acquire may not be as old as Monopoly, but it is older than me and I can see why it’s a classic. Finally, an economic game that is far better than monopoly could ever hope to be! I know a lot of people who have owned older versions are upset at the quality of the components compared to earlier versions and rightly so, but really, the game just rocks! Buy this cheaper version to play, and then go buy an older expensive version to store in your closet, so you can be an Acquire snob saying you have version 19xx something:-)

PROS
Easy to learn
Simple but deep strategy
No roll and move!
Interesting choices

CONS
Latest edition component quality quite bad

OVERVIEW
Acquire is a game about investing in hotel chains and getting the most money in the end, similar to Monopoly, but that is about where the similarity ends. The game does a wonderful job of creating the experience of investing in stock, simulating growth in value as the hotel chain grows, merging, and fighting to be primary stockholder for huge payouts on mergers. The gameplay is brilliantly simple, but the strategy and decision making can go way deep! It is done in such a way that the word elegance comes to mind. Even though there is luck involved in the way you draw tiles for this game, I at least get to choose where I want to move by placing a tile. Whereas in Monopoly, you have to move where the die tells you (roll ‘n move) which aggravates me.

GAMEPLAY
In this game you perform 3 simple actions: place a tile, buy up to three stocks, and then draw another tile. When I place a tile, I can decide if I want help grow a hotel chain(don’t have to own it), create a hotel chain, or merge a hotel chain. After that, I have to decide on which hotel chain on the board I want to buy stock. This is where things get interesting, because you know that if you own the most stock in a hotel chain that gets gobbled up in a merger, you’ll get some major moolah. Of course the bigger the chain is when it gets gobbled, the bigger the payout is. So, you may finding yourself trying to weigh out when you should merge the hotel chain if someone doesn’t do it first and whether or not you grow it. Again, there’s a risk involved, because if a hotel chain gets beyond 11 tiles, it is safe from acquisition. If that happens and you’re a major stockholder, then you’ll keep growing that “safe” hotel chain for the big payout at the end of the game. When mergers happen, you also have to decide if you should trade your stock in for the new hotel, sell your old stock, or keep it for when you decide to start the old chain back up again. The game has a lot of subtle strategy as you try to weigh out how you grow a hotel chain or merge it, based on how much stock you own in it or how much someone else has invested in it.

CONCLUSION
Acquire is just a beautifully designed game and is a lot of fun to play. This is a great way to teach your kids about investing in stock too! This game is so easy to play, I think it would appeal to casual gamers and possibly older family gamers. It should be a hit for avid gamers as well.

10
Go to the Catan: Seafarers page

Catan: Seafarers

76 out of 100 gamers thought this was helpful

I really enjoy Catan with this expansion. Some people say that it doesn’t add much to the base game, and I agree. However, what most people don’t know is that this game is what Catan was originally designed with Seafarers. So when you play Seafarers, you play Catan the way Klaus Teber originally designed it. When Catan was published, they cut out the boats and pirates to give it wider appeal, lower the complexity level, and lower the cost.

I love the boats and the feeling of exploration. It really makes Catan more Civilization like, and really completes the game. The complexity doesn’t ratchet up too much with boats, which I like. It finally makes wool more useful. The one thing that I don’t like about Cities & Knights is that it completely changes the game I enjoy, but Seafarers only enhances the base game experience.

I highly recommend it. This is the way I want to play Catan!

9
Go to the Power Grid page

Power Grid

98 out of 105 gamers thought this was helpful

This is my kind of economic game. I can’t fully explain why, because there are subtle moves to be made in this game as you go about improving your electric company empire. This game in some way is reminiscent of some of the famous train games, but set to power company theme instead. The reason why is because instead of buying better train engines to deliver more product, you’re buying better power plants to use resources more efficiently. Instead of planning train routes, you’re planning connections to cities to supply power for profit.

The only product you deliver is power, but how you deliver it is where it counts. So it becomes a game of efficient planning and knowing which resources to use at the right time to maximize your profit. The game has 5 resources (really 6 for one special plant) to provide power: Coal, Oil, Nuclear, Trash, and Wind. You don’t purchase wind of course, but the others you have to buy. Each one has a different value, and that value changes on the resource market based on supply and demand. The resource market is really the most brilliantly designed piece of the game. As other players buy up resources, the price of that resource goes up, and vice a versa, when no one is buying it up. That’s part of the subtlety of this game: watching the resources and buying the right plants that use those resources to maximize profit.

There’s an auction round where you bid on power plants. Each power plant can only be powered by either one kind of resource or two (coal or oil). This becomes a factor in how you play the game, because some resources are naturally more expensive then others such as nuclear. As the game progresses, you get opportunities to get more efficient power plants that use less resources and power more cities. You have to make sure you keep up with the number of cities you want to power if you want to keep making money. Of course the winning condition is based on the number of cities you can power in the final round, and doesn’t come down to money unless it’s a tie. So on that final round, not only do you have to have enough power plants to power your cities, but you also have to have the right amount of resources to run those power plants! So spend wisely!

There’s a city connection round. Buying the first connection to the city is the cheapest. Up to three players can share a city, but each space gets more expensive. To build a city, you not only have to pay for the spot in the city, but you also have to pay for the connecting lines to that city from one of your nearest city sites. There a lot of tradeoffs to be made as you fill up the board and try to decide if buying that city is worth the effort at this time.

CONS:
The rules take a little getting used to because of the way the game is broken up into phases that cause certain rules changes at different times during the game. I downloaded some player aids from “BoardGameGeek.com” for this game to help me keep it straight. I recommend you do the same. Go to BoardGameGeek.com, select “Browse Games”, select “Power Grid” (near the top), go down to the “Files” sections, and you’ll find the player aids.

Overall, just an excellent economic game with a great theme!

8
Go to the Ticket to Ride page

Ticket to Ride

52 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

Okay, I put this as my favorite not so much for stunningly game play, but it got my family playing board games more with me! This is my goto game when my mom or my sister and her family visit. This is my wife’s favorite game..probably all time. This game really shines with 4 to 5 players, because it ratchets up the intensity of completing routes and adjusting your strategy. The game is about connecting routes between cities to complete an overall destination ticket for points. Even though each connection gives you points, if you don’t complete a destination tickets, you will lose points on the ticket.

With two players, I found it quite boring, because it becomes a race to finish your destinations. I recommend the expansion for two players and better handling of cards.

Ticket to Ride is a fun game with broad appeal. It’s not a hardcore/power gamer type of game, but definitely shines as a game for families and casual players.

7
Go to the Agricola page

Agricola

91 out of 98 gamers thought this was helpful

Okay, I got this game because I do a little farming and BoardGameGeek had it at #1 for a while. However, this game is very fiddly with lots of components and lots of upkeep between turns. I do appreciate that this game has tons of depth and replayability with all the different types of decks that are included.

PROS
Great Replay value
Tense theme
Deep game

CONS
Fiddly
Hard to read rulebook

Overview
Agricola is a game about farming in medieval times where if you don’t farm well you starve. In the case of this game, if you fail to feed your family at harvest time, you have to take begging cards that detract from your final score. Your goal is to have a very well-rounded farm and keep your family fed. If you focus too much on animals, you loose points for lack of vegetables, and vice versa.

Gameplay
Players take turns placing workers on resources and actions to develop their farm and make it better. As each turn progresses, more actions become available to the players, but you can only put one worker on one action at a time. So players spend their time vying for spots to do what they need for their farm and grow food. This can make the game enjoyably tense while trying to plan for feeding your family at the next harvest.

Lots of replay value built into the game, because you have many different ways to play. The game comes with three thick decks of varying complexity to play with during a game. You choose which deck you want to use. These decks provide “occupations” for your farm that give you an advantage in different areas of the game. This really ups the complexity level of the game. That’s why there is a “family” version of the game for younger people that doesn’t use the cards.

CONCLUSION
It’s a very well-designed game. I enjoy it sometimes when I’m in a mood where I don’t mind putting up with the fiddliness of so many components to push around. Nimbler minds may not mind.

If you like really complex games with some brain burning…this is your game. I can see power gamers and strategy gamers gravitating to this game. Definintely not for social or casual gamers, because it’s very complex. I would only recommend the family rules for family gamers with young middle school kids, since it removes the player decks from the game.

8
Go to the Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game page
81 out of 97 gamers thought this was helpful

This is a very easy to setup and travel solo/co-op game. I haven’t played it co-op, but I’ve enjoyed it as a solo game. I’m not a fan of WarHammer 40K universe either, but I remember the old Aliens movie. This game is based on it’s bigger more expensive board game cousin: Space Hulk. It’s a lot cheaper version with some tight game play and very thematic. It’s amazing how such a little game basically writes the story as you go along, and you can picture your marines stalking through the dark corridors with sweat dripping down their brows in anticipation of something bad about to happen. Yeah, lots of theme for a little game and the artwork is very well done. The components are good quality too.

This is game is tough to beat and is very challengingly. The rulebook could be better in going into more in-depth detail, but it does provide great diagrams showing you how to setup and play.

This game won’t be for everyone, because it has a darker and more tense theme. Not everyone likes macho marines in armor taking on creepy aliens, but others will take to it immediately. Might be a little too scary for the little ones too.

6
Go to the Roll Through the Ages page
38 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

Take Yahtzee and Civilization, then throw them in a little box. Shake real hard for a few minutes, and Presto! You’ve got Roll through the Ages.

This is a nice little game that you can play with others or yourself. It works better with others, because it adds a little more interaction between players than Yahtzee ever did. You can affect other people with some of your Civilization advances and wonders, and you can end the game sooner on a certain condition.

It’s a small box, so that makes it a good game to travel.

So if you like Yahtzee, I bet you’ll like this even more. If you hate Yahtzee, well, you might want to give it a try.

6
Go to the Catan: Traders & Barbarians page
29 out of 34 gamers thought this was helpful

Traders and Barbarians is not a single expansion like Seafarers or Cities & Knights. It’s really a bunch of mini expansions that allows you to customize your basic Catan play without adding too much. I haven’t played all the extras, but I like that when parts of Catan get old, I’ve got something to add.

Some of the mini-expansions really only tweak the game a little, but others can really alter the game. The biggest expansion called “Traders & Barbarians” kind reminds me of Cities & Knights “lite”. My kids love the “Fisherman of Catan” addition, because you try to get fish which allow you to do some neat things like move the robber or get certain resources. I always play with the “HarborMaster” card now, because I like adding another path to victory through putting settlements on harbors.

The Catan cards which replace the die is another nice tweak if you’re tired of rolling die and never getting certain numbers. The cards almost guarantee that one of your numbers for resources will happen, and they have special events that add some variety to the game.

If you’re looking to spice up Catan with a lot of variety, Traders and Barbarians is the way to go!

7
Go to the RoboRally page

RoboRally

41 out of 60 gamers thought this was helpful

I like this game, although my beef with it is not the chaos. I understand that this game is about chaos and craziness. However, this game can get quite long especially with more players. It is nice they have a timer for the last player to select actions, but it still takes a while.

This game reminds me of computer programming, because you’re trying to program your robot’s next 5 actions. You race your robots to flags that have to be done in order. The first one to the last flag wins the game. In between each action is when the insanity happens, between laser beams, assembly line belts, and turn sections.

Overall, if you don’t mind the chaos, and perfectly laid plans spoiled, then this game can be fun.

9
Go to the Pandemic: On the Brink page
56 out of 67 gamers thought this was helpful

I really like Pandemic, but this expansion just makes the game so great! I love the fact that they added lots of new roles! I’m not sure which is my favorite now, but it is somewhere between medic (original game), troubleshooter, and field operative. My daughter really enjoys the bio-terrorist version of the game.

More powerful strains of viruses are added by new epidemic cards that really increase the challenge, along with a new mutating virus to mix things up a bit. This expansion really adds a lot of replay value to the game.

The petri dishes add such a nice touch to the game! You can now store all the virus cubes in them, and an extra dish for the player tokens and research stations. Only problem is that it just doesn’t quite fit in the original game box, but I cram it in anyway.

Well worth getting if you like the original game.

9
Go to the Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 page
49 out of 62 gamers thought this was helpful

This expansion really adds a lot to the base game. I can’t imagine playing without it. First off, the normal-sized cards are awesome. You can finally shuffle the deck compared to those tiny ticket-sized cards from the base game. A lot more destinations are added for some extra game play. The Big Cities variant is made to make 2-player TtR shine over the base game. That is one limitation of the original game is that it is a snooze fest with 2 players. You can also play with all the destination cards for a lot of variety. The downside of playing all the destination cards is a bigger luck element is introduced towards the end game, because players will be drawing more destinations to find routes they already have completed for extra points.

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