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orions

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Go to the Carcassonne page
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7
Go to the Forbidden Island page

Forbidden Island

66 out of 75 gamers thought this was helpful

Overview
The aim of the game is to find four ancient artifact on a sinking island and then manage to get out of the island in time before it sinks completely. On a player’s turn you will execture actions – you have the option to move, give your artifact cards to another player, get an artifact (if you have 4 of its cards) or fortify the tile you are standing to prevent it from sinking. After that you will randomly draw two artifact cards and several tiles of the island from a stack and those tiles will sink. That’s basically about it.

Components
Well, it’s a matter of personal taste, but most of the people I play with say that the art on the tiles is very nice. The artifacts though – they actually look like pieces of treasure – big plus here. Other than that, the game has around 100 cards which are standard for what you would expect in a modern boardgame.

Impressions
I must admit I have a problem here. Forbidden Island is a really good gateway, its extremely easy to explain and the co-op nature of the game makes it even more suited for newcomers. On the other hand it is simple to the point of being simplistic. I don’t really find any reason to come back to if after two plays, other than bringing new people into boardgames. Imagine basic Pandemic (which is simple in itself) and then make a game twice as simple and here you have Forbidden Island.

9
Go to the Hanabi page

Hanabi

307 out of 329 gamers thought this was helpful

What is it all about
The objective of Hanabi is to create as many and as long streaks of same-coloured cards as possible. There are 6 colors available, each containing cards numbered 1 to 5. The streaks have to go in ascending order, ie. 1,2,3,4 and 5.

Where’s the challenge then? Well, the problem is that you (the player) do not know your own cards, as you are holding them with their backs facing you. All of the other players see your cards, but they do not see their own.

In your turn you can give a hint to one of the other players, you can discard a card or you can play a card to create or add to a streak.

Giving a hint is a tricky mechanic in itself, as you can only give information about one colour (suit) of the cards or one number. So for example, a correct hint would be: “You have a yellow card here and here.” (pointing the specific cards of course). Giving a hint also costs a special token (you start with 8 of them at the beginning of the game).

Your other option is to discard a card from your hand, which is one of the ways to win back the tokens you use to give tips.

Lastly, you can play a card to a streak. If you play it correctly (ie. there is a streak you can add to on the table or you play a “1” to start a streak), it is a legal move and you also win back a token. If you play a wrong card however (for example a “4” in a colour which only has 1 and 2 on the table), you must take an error token. Three errors and you lose the game.

That’s it in a nutshell.

Impressions
Hanabi is a great filler game between heavier titles – it plays in around 20-30 minutes and there is much fun throughout. It makes your brain cells work a bit, but most of all it requires good memory. The logic you employ in the game is a rather simple one, but the challenge is to remember the hints you were given let’s say 6 turns ago. Not so easy, believe me.

It is also one of the games where the spectators have lots of fun watching you play. I’ve heard lots of people say things like “How could you not get that hint – it was so obvious!” Well yes, for someone who saw all sets of cards, maybe it was 🙂

All in all, it is one of the better games I have added to my collection lately and I can recommend it as a great party logic game (“party logic game” being in itself a rare thing to see).

9
Go to the Goa page

Goa

48 out of 49 gamers thought this was helpful

A short overview
This review will not concentrate on the game mechanics themselves, I would rather like to describe the challenges you will face playing Goa. Why? Because this is in my opinion one of the strongest points of this game – the diversity of decisions you will have to make and the resulting diversity of the game itself. However, in order to do that, you need to know some basics first.

So, Goa is about managing your spice trading enterprise in India and the Spice Islands. The game is played over 8 turns, with each turn beginning with an auction for tiles. Each player can choose one tile to auction. Each tile you win can either give you resources striaght away (ships, colonists, special cards) or enable you to plant spices and harvest them later. After the auction each player has 3 actions, sometimes more if they have additional action cards. Actions usually allow you to gather resources or upgrade your enterprise (which lets you gather more resources per action most of the time). Upgrading your enterprise is the primary resource sink.

The goal of the game is to amass the most victory points, most of which are given for your level of enterprise upgrades. There are also some points for having a certain number of colonies, most cash in the game and so on.

Ok, after that short intro, let’s get to the fun part, that is the decisions…

Money Management
This is one of the most important parts of the game. Money lets you win auctions, and without winning auctions you won’t have anything to do or any way to develop. The auction is one round only, so each player has the chance to only bid once. A very devious mechanic is also in place, which says that if you win your own tile (the one you put on auction), you pay the money to the bank. However, if you win someone else’s tile, you pay them the winning amount… What is more, the amount of money each player has is secret, but ALL money movement is open. If you manage to track and remember the money reserves of each player, you can manipulate the auction very effectively. It’s quite easy to do in a 2p game, but try that in 4p… So, what kind of decisions will you face in this aspect of the game? Should I bid high for this tile or hope noone will want it and I can get it cheap? Should I drain this player by raising a bid on a tile they definitely want, even if i don’t need it? Draining a player may mean that they won’t be able to raise the bid on a tile I desperately need later on. Will they follow and let themselves get drained or will they leave me with the tile? Should I bid on this other player’s tile? I need it, but giving him the money is dangerous… And so on, and so on.

Tile Management
Choosing the tile to auction is also a nice mini-game in itself. The tiles are laid out in a 5×5 grid. The first player chooses the space the auction will start, and every subsequent player can only choose a neigboring tile. This way you have a degree of control over which tiles your opponents will be able to auction. Of course this ties in with the money management… Should I choose to auction a tile which is useless for me, but will lock my opponent into choosing a tile they don’t need? If I choose a specific tile, what options does that give to my opponents? Are those options not too powerful?

Resource Management
There are several types of resources in the game: money, 5 kinds of spices (cloves, pepper, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg), colonists and ships. Ships and spices are used to upgrade your enterprise, money is used for auctions and colonists are used to… well, found colonies. Colonies let you plant and harvest spices later – and they are better than the normal spice tiles you get from the auction, because colony tiles let you plant verious types of spice on one tile. Each enterprise upgrade needs several ships and a certain combination of spices – so the obvious decision point is to where to spend your spices and ships.

Action Management
Each turn you have 3 actions, possibly more if you have additional action cards (most commonly obtained in tha auction phase). There are several action types you can choose: upgrade your enterprise, build ships (1 to 5 per action depending on your upgrade level), harvest spices (1 to 8 per action), get money (4 to 12 per action), get expedition cards (1 to 3 per action) or found a colony (with 0 to 6 bonus colonists). As you can see, the efficiency of your actions rises dramatically with your enterprise upgrades. So, which actions should you do this turn? In what order? Should you spend your additional actions now or save them for later?

Expedition Cards Management
You get expedition cards from your “Get Expedition Cards” action. The amount you get and the amount you can hold is determined by your upgrade level. You can then play them to augment an action you do in your Action Phase. One catch though – one action can only be boosted by one expedition card. Expedition cards are very powerful – they can give you resources, let you upgrade without using ships or spices, and do many other things. Their most powerful effect is that they effectively let you save actions, because otherwise you would have to spend those actions to gather resources the expedition card has just provided. You will have around 25-30 actions each game, so each action saved is worth a lot. But of course you have to decide, which expedition cards to use – in the late game you usually have more expedition cards than actions. On top of that, expedition cards have symbols on them, which follow a simple set collection mechanic – the more of the same symbol you hold at the end of the game, the more bonus victory points you get. At a maximum you can get 15 VPs (by having 5 cards with the same symbol), which is around 30-40% of the final score… a lot. So, do you play this great expedition card, or do you save it for the VPs?

Final thoughts
I love this game. It’s entertaining on so many levels. It forces you to think flexibly and control various aspects. On the other hand it does not get bogged down in AP – usually a game lasts around 90 mins. It has some randomness factor (the expedition cards you draw, the way the tile grid is set up) but that only adds to replayability and does not have the potential to block you. This game was the first I have ever given a 10/10 (changed it to 9/10 later, but still one of the greates games I have played).

Oh, and after playing this I was so hooked in the theme (not that his game is so very thematic), that I started looking for and trying Indian cuisine recipes 🙂

9
Go to the Space Alert page

Space Alert

352 out of 363 gamers thought this was helpful

What is Space Alert about?
The game is about flying shoprt (10 min) missions in a spaceship. Each of you will be playing as one crewman of said ship. The game is divided into two parts – the Action Phase and the Resolution Phase.

In the Action Phase you plan your movement around the ship and the actions you will take. The soundtrack that comes with the game will tell you what is happening – mainly what kinds of trouble are you facing (and believe me, you will be facing ALL kinds of trouble – ranging from enemy spaceships, space monsters, intruders aboard your vessel, all the way to various systems malfunctions). All the actions you plan will have some effect, like shooting a laser cannon at the enemy, powering the main reactor, etc. After 10 minutes the soundtrack will annonce that the mission is over.

In the Resolution Phase, you will go through the mission again, this time without the soundtrack (no time pressure) and see what REALLY happened. You see, what you planned in the Action Phase and what did happen might not always be the same (and thats an understatement). Did you plan to shoot that cannon in round 7? Ok, you shot it, but someone else forgot to power the reactor earlier, so the gun had no energy to shoot with. Did you assume that frigate was destroyed in round 8? Well, you didn’t shoot the cannon in round 7, so no it wasn’t and it fried half of your ship in the process. That’s the kind of revelations you will see in the Resolution Phase. Of course there are times everything goes smoothly and you fly the mission without a scratch. Yes, I heard it can be done…

What is Space Alert REALLY about?
This game is about a lot of things, but mainly communication… your ability to stay focused and process information under severe time pressure… ability to prioritize and coordinate with your fellow crewmembers… and ultimately the ability to cope with failures in a productive way (yes, there will be failures, take my word on it). It is also about getting better with every single mission – after flying several times you will notice that you really are better, the missions go smoother (though you will still get killed – often) and you are coming together as a team.

Space Alert is balanced in such a way that there is almost always too little time and too much information to cover every angle. You will have to do the most important stuff and hope the rest won’t kill you. It is also an exercise in trust and delegating – you will definitely not have enough time to plan for other people (yes, alpha players, I’m looking at you) – so you will have to trust that they are doing their jobs and you can concentrate on doing yours.

Impressions
Have I mentioned that this is the best co-op game I’ve played? It’s absolutely amazing, it has truckloads of replay value (each mission takes roughly 30 minutes to set up, play and analyze) and even if you fail, you have great fun and want more. Last time we played, we flew 12 missions in one session (don’t ask for succes rate though, please) and we had a blast.

Aside from the gamer’s perspective, Space Alert has tons of real life value – it’s a great exercise in communication, problem solving, teamwork and interpersonal skills. A word of warning though – don’t play it with people you don’t come along with. A certain dose of forgiveness for each other’s mistakes is required in a game when a misstep of one player can ruin the whole flight.

Well, what would you like to know besides all the above… Components? Great and a lot of them. Instruction? Written in a clear way with lots of examples – and the story sections are hilarious. If I really had to nitpick, I would mention non-standard card sizes (I still haven’t found the right sleeves) but really, considering all the things this game does perfectly, card size is really a non-issue.

8
Go to the Ticket to Ride: Europe page
57 out of 64 gamers thought this was helpful

When I look for new games to buy (and i don’t have anything specific on my radar), I usually have two basic criteria: will The Wife play it? and will it go well with non-gamers? Ticket to Ride scored 10/10 on both accounts.

Gameplay
The main idea in this game is to build railroad routes between cities to complete tasks (“tickets”). The ticket will tell you to build a route between city A and city B and will reward you with some points for doing so. You also get points for actually building the route parts, so sometimes it is beneficial just to build something anywhere, even if it’s not a part of your ticket.

Building routes requires playing several same-colored cards, so the next most important part of the game is collecting sets of those cards. Some routes may be completed by any color, some have to be filled wit hspecific cards. You can draw the cards from a visible set of 5 cards or you can test your luck and draw random face-down cards. There are also wildcards matching any color (some routes actually require them too).

Interaction
Interaction in Ticket to Ride is… variable, which is in my opinion one of the stronger points of the game. It comes in two flavors: you can build routes in the spots you opponent wants, thus blocking them and / or you can ****** the card colors they need for their routes. Depending on the number of players, your strategy and some luck of the draw, you may want to mess with your opponents to a lesser or greater degree. Of course the more players, the bigger chance of the map getting crowded and subsequently, more blocking. Two player games tend to be relaxed and solitaire-y, while five player games usually end up a bit tense. Most of the times though you can get around it by using a different route ar by placing a station.

Luck factor
On the surface, the game is very random. The tickets you draw are random (meaning your goals are too), the cards you draw are semi-random – so theoretically there is a lot of luck in the final score. After one or two plays though you will see the layer of strategy. Do I hoard train cards for a long time and then build several routes or do I build as soon as I have anough trains for one route? Do I go for my most expensive ticket as soon as I can, thus revealing my most important goal or do I intentionally obscure my priorities to my opponents? Do I hunt for specific colors of train cards from the face-up deck, or do I get lots of random cards and try to get statistics work in my favor?

Dont get me wrong, there is still a lot of luck involved in the game, but there are also several tools for you to manage it – if you choose to use them.

Impressions
Personally, I did not like Tictet to Ride very much after my first play. I thought it was okay, but nothing worth writing home about. Recently however, I had the chance of introducing several friends to board games and TtR shone brightly in that aspect. I even realized I began to like the game myself 🙂

The game is light, even when there is some blocking involved, gives you just enough downtime to socialize (but not enough to get bored) and has quite a nice replay value (could be better with more expensive tickets but that can be solved with a “Europe 1912” Expansion).

Overall – if you are looking for a light casual game or a gateway, you can’t go wrong with Tickets.

8
Go to the Dungeon Petz page

Dungeon Petz

162 out of 170 gamers thought this was helpful

Intro
Let me begin by saying that ‘euro’-type games are definitely my favorite, so bear that in mind. This text is not going to be a standard review, instead I will try to focus on my impressions of the game.

Dungeon Petz is at its heart a worker placement / resource management game with some secret auction parts. The aim of the game is to get the most VP by having the most successful pets collection by the end of the game. Your success is measured by your pet’s performance during contests and by how much your prospective customers like your pets.

Decisions
The game fetures several quite heavy decision making moments. The first one you stumble upon is the buying phase. This is the worker placement / secret auction part. To buy something (more cages, more pets, food, etc.) you need to send your goblins to specific spaces on the board. The problem is that the spaces are very scarce and the good ones run out fast. This is where the secret auction part comes in – you need to assign groups of goblins as your ‘buying groups’. The bigger the group, the sooner it comes on the board. The group assignment is secret, so you can’t be sure what your opponents do. You can for example build one large group to get something fast (thus making almost sure noone will beat you to it), but this means you won’t have goblins left to buy many other things or do some mop-up work later in the turn.

The next decision stage is needs management. Your pets have different (semi-random) needs. Each “point” of need means you have to draw a card in corresponding color and assign it to your pet. Generally each color contains various needs (such as eating, playing, etc.), but the composition of needs is different in each color. This means that you won’t know what needs exactly you will have to satisfy, but you can make some educated guesses. After assigning the needs you will have to satisfy them (resource management). You can choose not to satisfy a need, but this will earn you a suffering token, which lowers your score and may cause the pet to die.

After the needs phase, you will have the option to show your pets in contests and sell them subsequently. At this point, the needs you satisfied in the previous phase determine the features of your pets. The mechanic here is that each contest awards points for various features of your pets – for example a specific contest might award points for aggressive pets, while deducting points for playful pets. The selling mechanic works almost in the same way – some customers award points for specific features and deduct for others. Oh, you also know in advance what contest and what customer is coming the next turn – so you can prepare somewhat, though one turn is sometimes not enough.

The rest of the game is basically token and cube shuffling – nothing exciting. There is also the final scoring, but it is always the same.

Impressions
To sum up – I had some great fun playing this game and I can recommend it to anyone looking for midweight eurogames. Why did I like it?

1. Interaction – exactly the kind I like: indirect. You do compete for the same resources, but in no way mess with your opponents directly.

2. Randomness – quite big, but you also have quite a lot of tools to manage it. As a result no game is the same, yet you do not have the feeling of winning / loosing due to chance.

3. Snowball – no snowball! At one point I had like 20 points of advantage (40:20), but I had to miss one contest and did not manage to score too much during final scoring and the game ended with something like 68:66.

4. Quality – the components are superb (and also super cute :)). The mechanics are well thought out.

5. If I had to point out a flaw in Dungeon Petz, it has to be the manual – it is 20 pages long and some rules are quite convoluted. You will probably make several mistakes on your first playthrough. On the other hand – the manual is hilarious (pet descriptions rock) and you will learn the ropes quickly.

8
Go to the Agricola page

Agricola

76 out of 83 gamers thought this was helpful

Agricola is one of the first games that come to my mind when I want to say what games I usually play – the simple answer is: medium weight euro games like for example… Agricola. For some time now this one has been the very essence of its type: worker placement mechanic, struggle for resources, but no direct conflict, lots of resource and time (action) management – and a nice theme.

I will not write about the way you play the game, there are other reviews which do this far better – instead I will focus on my impressions.

Complexity: variable – you can play without additional cards (which makes Agricola a light eurogame) or with them, which can make it a medium or even somewhat heavy game. I use the first option when I want to show modern boardgames to my friends after walking them through easier titles.

Replayability: immense (in the full variant) – several hundreds of cards (of which you usually draw 14 per game) make every play unique. The replayability value is acceptable even in the family variant, thanks to the semi-random turn cards order.

Components: very respectable out of the box, bu the best part is the custom made components – Agricola lends itself extremely well to making your own game pieces, and actually seeing some photos of custom vegetables several years ago is the very thing that made me try this game.

Social value: depends… on one hand the theme is light and presented with a lot of humour (note the game boards printed on several house tiles), so friendly chatter is abound during play. On the other hand, especially in the full variant youh can get into some serious AP situations, which usuall cause longish periods of silence while everyone is weighing their options.

Sheer fun: great. I will admit that Agricola is not my favorite euro, but very close to it. Having just the right weight, beautiful components and a lot of replayability, I don’t imagine Agricola ever leaving my collection.

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