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Martin Syvertsen

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Go to the Puerto Rico page
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8
Go to the Fresco page

Fresco

93 out of 103 gamers thought this was helpful

Visiting my hometown this weekend I stumbled upon Fresco at a bargain price and since the homestead was missing some nice euro action I took a chance and purchased it on a vim. I had heard mixed things about it before, knew it was a worker placement game and also loved the theme so the bargain price pushed me over. Played a couple of rounds of the basic game, it comes with three minor expansions in the box, so this is a review of the base game as I have not played with the expansions, but I will talk a little about them as well.

The game has you play as a master painter in charge of a workforce of apprentices that are competing in restoring the bishops renaissance masterpiece fresco, a huge fresco in the ceiling of the bishops cathedral. He is expecting prominent guests soon and the state of the painting is not good, so you and other master painters are tasked to restore it to it’s former glory. You must manage your small band of workers to decide when to wake up, what paint to buy, what to restore, make money, mix paint, and cheer up spirits.

There are two main phases of each round, though it kinda feels like one big phase. First all players in turn pick a time to wake the workers, the player who is currently in last place picks first and so forth until all players have a picked a time (no two players can have the same amount of points in this game by the way). The wakeup time decides three things, who gets to go to the market and cathedral first, how much money each paint token costs and how the mood of the workers are affected. Rising up early at 05.00 AM will guarantee you first pick of paint in the market and restauration pieces in the cathedral, but you will pay the highest price for the paint and get a high mood penalty, perhaps you will even lose one worker because of low morale. Getting up late at 08.00 AM (still kinda early in my book but ok) will put you last in line for shopping and painting, but give you great prices and happy workers that may also grant you an extra worker that round. Taking a look at your current paint and money holdings, the market offering and available tiles to restore in the cathedral, are all key to picking the right time to get up, but that is off course only if you are in last place and has first pick.

After everyone has chosen a wake up time each player secretly places the workers on a action board behind a player screen. You have a small screen for the action board and a large screen for hiding paint and money. You place your four to six workers on the five different actions and must choose how many workers to send to each task. Sending only one worker to the market means you only get to purchase one paint tile, sending three (the maximum) worker to the studio to paint portraits will fetch you the most money (3X3=9), but will let you do little else that round. Deciding what your workers will do is the worker placement part of the game and it’s fun to do it in secret and simultaneously . After all players have decide you all reveal the action boards at the same time by lifting the player screens. Then all players buy paint, restore, earn money, mix paint and lift spirits of the workers in the order set by the wake up time.

Fresco feels like a easy worker placement game because even though there are things to consider and some actions require that you think a head one or more turns it’s never even close to be as complex and mind boggling as say Agricola or Tzolkin. In the base game you have three primary and three blended colors, this means you have to get some primaries, blend them and then next round you can restore pieces that require the blended colors. There are a few blended colors in the markets (the market is random for each turn) but you have to blend to get them all. There are three expansions that comes with the base game that add portraits (event cards), bishops requests (special points), more colors (more paint colors). Not having played with these cards I can’t really say what they add, but they seemingly only add more of the same really, not changing the basic mechanic of the game. The fact that these expansions come with the game and are not part of the base game is interesting as it seems the designers wanted to present the most basic game possible for new players of Fresco. It also adds a nice option of spicing up the game if or when the base game gets a little predictable or just to simple.

All in all Fresco is a nice euro worker placement game that offers some interaction with the wake your workers, choosing which stall to purchase/close and getting first pick on the restoration tiles each turn, but aggressive this game is not. It offers some nice strategic decisions and requires some light planning ahead. But for me it often feels just a little to light, this is mainly because I love and adore the brutally hard decisions required in games like Agricola, Manhattan and Tzolkin. However my brothers enjoyed the game and not having played worker placement before it was perfectly challenging enough. So as it stands now I think Fresco is a nice easy to medium worker placement game that is well suited for perhaps younger family members or friends that haven’t lost their agricolainity yet. Even though I found it simple it still required strategic choices along the way to get the most points and it’s perfectly possible that other players will block your restoration attempts. If you’re looking for a game like this then Fresco is perfect, if you are looking for a crunchy and challenging worker placement euro then you will be better served with Manhattan Project, Tzolkin or off course the mother of all (modern) worker placement games Agricola.

9
Go to the Mage Knight Board Game page
97 out of 105 gamers thought this was helpful

Writing about Mage Knight is a classical “where to begin” problem, the game is in many ways a huge and complicated beast that will scare off most beginners of board gaming and yet having played it this notion strangely disappears, or it does at least a little bit. So lets try to describe Mage Knight The Board Game and why it is so incredible in many ways.

In Mage Knight the player(s) (I will get back to that) control powerful warrior mages called Mage Knights and with them traverse a land filled to the brim with stuff like rampaging orcs, mage towers, fortified castles, dragons, dungeons and much much more. You battle enemies, conquer mage towers and visit villages to recruit units for your own personal army, or maybe you burn the villages if you’re that kind of hero. For each game you pick a scenario from the rulebook so the specific goals will differ, but getting fame (the XP like system in the game) and creating a mighty mage knight will almost certainly be important for any quest. You can play solo, coop or competitive with 1-4 players (1-5 with expansions). So that is the main idea or theme of Mage Knight and that theme is strong and excellently portrayed within the games mechanics and inner workings.

The mechanics and inner workings of the game are pretty substantial and for me Mage Knight was a real challenge to just get up and running, more so than any other game I have played or learned from scratch. The game actually layed on my shelf for many months before I finally took the plunge and spent a day to learn the game and played through the intro mission. Watching a youtube series that played through this intro mission and went through most of the rules was really helpful and made it a lot easier, not easy, but it helped a lot. I put the link at the bottom and I highly recommend watching these videos for both learning the game and also to check out the game thoroughly to see if it is something for you or not. Off course the best thing would be to learn from someone who already knows the game, in fact the manual itself states that “you should learn it yourself before inviting others to play”. So consider this a fair warning, the game is not to be considered easy or simple to learn, not by my definitions anyway. That being said lets move on.

The game itself is not easy to explain in one central word, this is not Agricola where the words “worker placement” more or less encapsulates the whole experience. If I were to pick one central mechanic it would perhaps be “deck builder”. Deck building and card utilization are the central mechanics of the game and the activities you will be performing the most, but there are plenty of other aspects of the game to master as well. You are a mighty mage knight traveling a dangerous land of monsters, villains and foes and you fight them with a wide array of moves and spells. These are represented by cards in your own deck, each of the four mage knights have their own decks, and as you learn new skills, spells and take wounds your deck grows. But the game itself feels much larger, grander even, then a mere deck builder.

You move your hero on hexagon divided tiles with mage towers, dungeons, villages and more. Movement is a key part of the game as different landscape has different movement costs and since you are always racing against time in MK you should make the most of your movement cards. To defeat foes you can also (and should) recruit units to support you in combat or maybe just act as shields as you assign them damage instead of yourself. Victory in combat will give you fame (or XP as it is known in other games) and sometimes rewards like artifacts, skills or spells. Leveling up gives you abilities, more armour, larger hand size (for drawing cards) and command tokens making you able to control more units at the same time, letting you create an almost army like following. There are plenty of options and opportunities in Mage Knight and the decision trees feel endless, which is a good thing.

There are other aspects as well like reputation, mana dice, mana crystals, the wound card mechanic and more but I’m leaving this for further exploration, the youtube videos are excellent for this. The point is that the game has plenty to offer and what makes it so great, the game is great by the way, is how well all these elements and mechanics fit together. Nothing feels really out of place or tacked on, it all feels strangely cohesive and meaningful, there are central ideas and game design philosophies in Mage Knight that when you start to notice them really shine through in all the big and small elements that creates a larger than the sum of it parts game. This takes some time to realize and understand, especially with the daunting amount of game that is fitted into the pretty hefty box and two (!) substantially large manuals with a lot of text and detail. That it all fits and works so well together is a design feat to be sure, great respect and appreciation goes to Vlaada Chvatil for designing this beast.

So I love this game a lot and I highly recommend you either try it or watch the youtube videos, but I will add a couple of caveats and potentially negative notes first. One is that I have only played this game solo. I have played trough solo campaigns five times now at about 3 hours average for each play, longer for the first ones where I was learning the game. That is a long while for a solo game. I have yet to play it with any friends and I’m planning on trying it carefully with only one other player at first. This is not a game for anyone in my opinion so I have to invite very specific friends to come play this. I’m also very curious on how this plays with another person, the solo game feels great, but how does it fit in with other heroes wandering around? You can play coop, competetive or really competetive (thats with player versus player combat) and I’m not quite sure what will be most fun. Second is that the game is hard to learn and you do have to lookup many rules again and again and even then I never quite feel that I have a 100% grasp on the whole thing, fortunately that is not something that is required for this game, especially in the solo variant, just having fun and having it feel challenging and rewarding is the most important part.

Mage Knight is, as many others have also said, the best solo board game I have ever played. It feels strangely like playing a manual computer game only it’s actually fun and almost reminds me of Might & Magic which is also fantasy themed adventuring across a hostile land and the game really has a “just one more turn” hook to it. I love this game and highly recommend it to anyone not put off by the complexity and demanding nature of this amazing game.

Mage Knight tutorial videos: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB7C824980F797C4A

9
Go to the Agricola page

Agricola

136 out of 143 gamers thought this was helpful

I can still remember my first introduction to Agricola, I was at a yearly christmas gaming party at a friends house and I was at the Agricola table (four or five games where running at the same time). The person in charge of explaining the rules starts with “You are husband and wife, you are farmers and are building a farm and a family”. That is the basic theme of Agricola and it stunned me as being incredibly mundane. Then he explains the mechanics: “First you most plow a field, then you can get a grain, then you can plant that grain and at harvest you get one grain back”. Even more mundane I thought and the premise of Agricola in both theme and mechanics is in fact incredibly mundane and pretty much borderline booring. But Agricola is anything but mundane and anything but booring, it is a incredible game that will have you clammering for that grain so desperatly you can almost taste it.

Agricola is a worker placement game, you have workers at you’r disposal and you place them out to do work. It may not be the first worker placement game, but for me it will always stand as the absolute definition of the worker placement mechanic. You start with two workers, the husband and wife, and later in the game you can add more workers, you’r children. These two people must do everything, nothing happens by itself in Agricola. To get to harvest grain you must first plow, then get a grain, then sow, then wait for the harvest at wich point you get one grain back. Sowing one grain will get you three grain after three harvests. High stakes stock options these are not, the return of investment is modest at best, non-existant at worst. To make things even harder each action once taken by one worker can not be done by any other that round, meaning that other players may take the actions you so dearly wanted and needed to get that last resource or to bake that important bread. Did I mention it’s important to bake bread? After all workers have been placed the round ends and players collect their workers again. A new action is revealed and resources are added to their actions as some actions are cumuluative like “+3 Wood” that adds 3 wood for each round, meaning suddenly 6 wood is up for grabs if no one took that action last turn.

One added central mechanic to Agricola is that after each harvest each family member requires food to eat, two food pieces pr. grown family member. Failure to provide food results in having to beg for it and recieving begging cards, begging cards that are -3 points each and are not possible to get rid of, so getting food to feed the family is a constant struggle in the game. And now you realize the real premise of Agricola, there is so much to do and so little time and resources to actually get to do it without starving you’r own family. For many this might not sound that much fun, but that is the strange thing about Agricola, it’s really really fun.

The game is fun because of the strange satisfication it is to get actual things done on you’r farm, to fence in that stable and get those sheep and se them get baby sheep come harvest time. To uppgrade that shabby trehouse to a fancy brick house or a even grander stone house simply feels great, but maybe I’m weird. The ever linear path of doing things is a mechanic I love in both board and PC games and Agricola does it really well, there are long paths of achievement here and they are not easy to pull off.

The base game, or family game or easy game, has major improvements but not minor improvements. Major improvements can be purchased for resources and give you points and more options in the game, usually ways to get food like being able to cook animals or bake bread. With the normal game each player starts with 7 random minor improvements and 7 occupations. Minor improvements can be purchased and will provide a combinations of points and usefulness, like getting one food each time you aquire straw for instance. Occupations may add victory point conditions and/or benefits for certain actions like making it cheaper to uppgrade you’r houses or getting extra resources for certain actions. There are a huge amount of minor improvements and occupations included with the base game of Agricola, divided into Easy deck, Interactive Deck and (K)Complex deck. These cards add extra difficulty and spice to the decisions each player makes and also prevents each round from being the exact same (alltough having played a bunch of family games they never really feel repetative).

After 13 turns and 5 harvest the game ends and the scoring happens. After five brutal harvests of feeding that hard working family comes the most brutal part of Agricola, the scoring. You see the point system is based not only on points that you get, but also negative points and negative points you don’t get. You get minus points for not utilizing you’r farmspace, for not having vegetables, for not having sheep, not having grain etc. Getting the most points means building the most all round greatest farm, something that is very dificult when other players keep getting that sheep or taking that plow action. The need to score quite evenly makes singel strategy plays useless, so all players must do at least a little of everything, ideally.

I have come to love Agricola for several reasons. I simply love the theme of being a farmer in post-plague Europe (at that time a lot of land was unused and up for grabs, hence the unused farmland). I love the basic mechanic of placing one worker and getting one thing done at the time, forcing hard decisions and prioritizing everything that get’s done to something that will not get done as a result. I love how Agricola manages to make such a mundane theme and mechanic shine into a brilliant strategic and fun board game. I love how you can play it as a brutal strategy game, something that is hard because the points are all masked behind animals and abstractions, or you can play and think only that you want to achieve certain things, like get eight sheep or three children or stone housing, either way it’s fun and challenging.

Agricola is a true classic in the world of board gaming and every player should at least play it once, after that they are probably hooked anyway.

8
Go to the Friday page

Friday

92 out of 100 gamers thought this was helpful

I love board games, more and more I try to arrange board gaming with my friends and colleagues each and every weekend or sometimes weekdays and when it comes together it is always a great time with friends, games and maybe something good to drink. But sometimes it is not that easy to get together four or more people to have some great gaming done, sometimes it’s just a regular Wednesday and it’s eight o clock, but I still find myself wanting to play some board games, now what?

Enter the genre of solo board games, a place often associated with either heavy war games or boring solitaire card games, but what about the board games that you usually like to play? Are there any games out there that take between 30 to 60 minutes to play and offer strategic and fun decisions to achieve some goal or beat some challenge? A euro game for one if you like. I found such a game and it is called Friday by Friedman Friese.

The game puts you in the role of Friday living on a quiet island, until Robinson shows up and disturbs the peace. You’r task is to help Robinson leave the island and to do this he must defeat a myriad of challenges and finally face off with two pirate ships before he can leave. This is done trough a deck building mechanism that is the core of the game.

You start off with a Robinson fighting deck that contains many terrible cards and a few barely ok ones. You draw challenges from a challenge deck and draw cards from you’r terrible fighting deck to try to beat the challenge. If you beat the challenge you add the challenge card to you’r deck, it has two orientations where one is a fighting card and the other a challenge, if you loose the challenge card goes back to the challenge discard pile. But loosing the challenge still requires you to meet the challenge number, but instead you pay life points to meet it, for these spent life points you may discard fighting cards from you’r deck permanently. This mechanism of paying life to loose bad cards from you’r deck is the key to the whole game as you must rid you’r terrible deck of bad fighting cards, but also you can’t spend to many life points.

The game captures what I love the most about board games, the decisions. You must pick one of two drawn challenges, you must choose to stop or continue drawing free cards, you must decide how to use card abilities, how to spend life points. All these decisions you make during the game makes it feel very much your fault if Robinson dies and your achievement if he defeats the pirates and leaves. The choices are also what makes the game fun and challenging.

I have played Friday seven times now and the game was fun and challenging each time, I have won two times and lost the rest. The game has four difficulty levels so the next step for me is to increase the difficulty and still beat the game and also hopefully get a good score. The game box is very small so it’s perfect to take on trips, tough it requires some space to play so probably not a car or plane game, but I did manage to play one round on a train when I got a table all to myself.

If you are looking for a great solo adventure that plays in 30 to 40 minutes and gives a fun and rewarding challenge then look no further then Friday.

9
Go to the RoboRally page

RoboRally

71 out of 78 gamers thought this was helpful

Robo Rally is a racing game (for the most part) where players program robots to make them walk trough the level and be the first to reach all of the numbered flags in order. That is the innocent sounding version of Robo Rally, now for the fun details.

The central mechanic in Robo Rally is the programming of the robots to make them move. Each round players are dealt up to 9 cards called action cards which are more easily described as movement cards. Then all players look at the cards simultaneously and start to program their robots five memory registers. Cards are rotate left, rotate right, u turn, move 1, move 2, move 3, back up. Programming is meant to go as quickly as possible and when programming you must declare “finished” as soon as you are done. When the second to last player calls finish a 30 second timer is turned and the last player must finish programming within those 30 seconds, if not he must stop at 30 seconds and let the player to the right shuffle his remaining cards into his remaining empty registers. The challenge is to be able to move your robot on the map by creating a sequence of movements that correspond to the map and the other players robots, also the map hazards. Map hazards consist of conveyor belts, express conveyor belts, lasers, pushers, pits and the edge of the board. Programming the robot to move correctly is hard because all players program and move their robots at the same time and whenever robots are about to collide or push each other then the number on the action card determines which robot moves first, often deciding if a robot gets pushed of it’s intended course (almost never a good thing) or perhaps even pushed down a pit and is destroyed.

In addition to being destroyed when falling down a pit or outside the course, robots take and deliver damage to each other. At the end of each memory register (after each action card is resolved) all robots fire lasers in front of themselves in a straight line, any robot that stands in that line is damaged one point. A robot can take 10 damage points before being destroyed, but damage affects the robot also. For each damage point taken the player is dealt one less card to program with, after four damage points the damage causes the memory registers to lock, meaning that the card last put on the register is stuck in that register until the robot is healed or starts a new life. Each robot has three life tokens, after being destroyed a life token is removed and the robot begins again at the spawn token for that robot. When the last life token is removed the player is out of the race. To heal the robot during the race it has to stop at the end of the turn (not end of a memory register phase) at a repair or repair/upgrade site, healing away one damage token. Stopping at repair/upgrade sites at the end of turn adds a upgrade that makes the robot more powerful in various ways. The flag posts are also repair sites. Each time a robot stops at a repair site at the end of a register phase then that robot moves his respawn token to that site so that if the robot dies it starts again at that location.

Now the programming, damage and race aspect of the game is just the stage on which the genius of Robo Rally unfolds. When you play Robo Rally the rules are nothing more then a setup for chaos and madness. You have the stress of programming the robot as fast as possible to avoid getting random registers, the difficulty of moving the robot and taking into consideration the conveyors and pushers on the board and last but not least the impossible task of avoiding being pushed and damaged by other robots, it all adds up to chaos and destruction. This chaos is, for me at least, the real fun and genius of Robo Rally. When resolving the registers it is always tense and exciting to see 1) what did you really make your robot do and 2) how are the other robots going to affect your intended path. Simply pushing your robot one space off course may be the difference of life or death, victory or defeat, triumph or failure. The simple and genius way the game resolves competing movements with simple numbers on the action cards also makes for tension, you want to push that robot down the pit, but if he moves with a card with a higher priority then he gets away!

The chaos aspect of Robo Rally really shines because of it’s simple (relatively) rules and elegant execution and it also keeps strongly to the theme. You are supercomputers programming robots with instructions placed on memory registers that resolve according to priority and it does actually feel that way. As you get damaged and get fewer cards and eventually get locked registers it gets harder and harder to not loose control of your robot and the level of chaos in the game steadily increases the further it progresses. You can shut down your robot to heal it completely, but that leaves it dead in the water for others to push or fire lasers at, or even worse, you power down on a conveyor that puts you on a path of destruction. If you don’t shut down or find a repair site you might end up with a robot that is impossible to control anyway because you get more locked registers and very few cards to program it with. The chaos aspect of the game is what makes it genius, but it also makes it feel more of a random and uncontrollable game then a true strategy game, but that is the strength and weakness of Robo Rally.

The game comes with several course maps and flag tiles to put on them, the instructions come with several course suggestions, some which have special rules. But these are merely suggestions and the game lends itself really well to custom rules and courses so the replay value here is pretty big if you have the tiniest sliver of game tweaking in you (or you can just Google some suggestions as well).

Robo Rally is a brilliant board game that is action packed and full of chaotic and funny moments where you and others will cry out in jubilee or frustration many, many times during a single game. It might not be for everyone, strategy gamers especially, but you should try it at least once, you are most likely to get hooked on the chaos and fun of Robo Rally.

7
Go to the Neuroshima Hex page

Neuroshima Hex

56 out of 63 gamers thought this was helpful

Neuroshima Hex is a abstract hex-tile laying game where each player plays as a army trying to destroy the other players headquarters. There is a theme here, each player controls a different kind of army in a post apocalyptic future and it’s kinda scifi in a way. In Android you have four different armies that are robotic, mutant, human or blends of those kinds. However this theme is very very thinly applied in the game and the Android version does nothing to present it, you just start games and it goes straight to the tile placing and fighting. The point is that if theme is very important to you, this game is not for you, even if you like post apocalyptic war scifi.

The actions in the game are very simple, you start each game by first placing you’r hexagon headquarters on the hexagon grid map. Then each player takes turn drawing new tiles and placing them on the board until 1) the board is full and a war breaks out or 2) a player starts a war by playing a war tile and war breaks out. You draw at most three tiles at the time and then you have to discard a tile, usually a hard choice. When war breaks out all the units on the board duke it out and when the combat is resolved players continue to lay down more tiles until either they are out of tiles (after which a final war is resolved for each player) or headquarters get destroyed by going to zero hit points, each HQ starts with 20 hit points. The winner of the game is the player with the HQ that has the most hit points at the end of the game, simple enough right? Wrong!

This game was for me confusing at first, took me a good couple of plays to understand it, not sure if am 100% there yet either, and when I started to understand it it got even more complex. Each tile you place on the board is either a module or a unit, modules and units have symbols on them to represent what they do on the board. Understanding these symbols is the first basic thing you must master in order to simply understand what is being placed on the board and what it means for the combat. Melee units have short triangles to represent one hit in a certain direction, ranged units have long triangles. Each unit has a initiative number on it and maybe a toughness sign. The initiative is important because when the combat starts the higher initiative units go first, meaning if a 3 init unit stands before a 2 init unit then the 3 init unit will most likely kill the 2 init unit before it gets to do anything. All these numbers are plainly visible so when you place a unit to kill another unit the other player can respond to that by perhaps placing another unit on your unit that has a even higher initiative then yours, or simply just move or kill you’r unit with a action tile.

So each round is a continuing stream of trying to outmanouver the other player(s) and hope/know that you have the upper hand when war breaks out, wich it will, the only real certainty in the game. With the modules things get more complicated because they boost and change the stats of other units, sometimes even negatively. Each hq also acts like a module giving a boost in some form to nearby units. The game suddenly goes from very simple in very complex when you’r trying to figure out all of the bonuses and trying to place you’r units in the best manner to destroy or damage the other player(s) hq more then they are destroying yours.

When playing against a computer opponent it is easy to get a extremely fast pace with the game, a game may take 10-15 minutes or less if you’r placing tiles at a rapid pace. With a human opponent a game takes about 30-45 minutes depending on the pace. The game feels a bit like chess in that each move of one player usually engages the other player to do a counter move, also the small and tight board makes each game instantly confrontational and aggressive. On my tablet it was a brilliant travel game to either place on a table or pass around. Even tough the drawing of tiles is random and may affect the game it never really feels random when one player wins, the choices made in placing the given tiles is the real factor determining the outcome.

At first I didn’t like Neuroshima Hex because of it’s complicated and confusing symbols and very bare bones theme, as I said this was my first abstract game, but a couple of games in and I was completely hooked on it. Trying to outsmart a CPU or human opponent by placing the right tile on the right hex is a simple and addictive action that keeps me wanting to “just play one more round”. The Android implementation is solid and I hear the iOS version is even better with online play and expansions. I don’t think this game is for everyone, but I do believe everyone should at least try it (there is a free version on the Play Store, not sure about the App Store). If you like it you will probably love it.

8
Go to the Pandemic page

Pandemic

120 out of 128 gamers thought this was helpful

Pandemic is a coop-game where all players must work together to win the game, either that or all players loose the game. In Pandemic you are all part of a CDC team (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that must stop the world from being overrun by outbreaks of infectious diseases.

The game starts with the world being pretty badly infected in many randomly chosen cities and for each turn a player takes more infections happen and spread. Infections are symbolized by coloured markers on the board and there is a max number of three markers pr. city. If a infection is added to a city that already has three markers then a outbreak happens and all the neighbouring cities (cities connected to that city by red lines, can be across oceans) will also get additional infection markers, if any of these cities already have three markers then a chain reaction occurs and that city also has a outbreak. Players must stop outbreaks from happening by treating cities with infections, but this costs one action pr. infection marker and travelling to cities also costs actions, which you only get four of pr. turn. To win the game players must research cures for all four diseases, before the world is overrun off course.

The beauty and genius of the game lies in the mechanics of how infections are spread and added to the world map. The game starts by drawing 3+3+3 cities and infecting them with 3-2-1 markers each, then these cards are put in the infection discard pile, a very important pile. After that each player does the following on his or her turn:

1) Perform 4 actions – Move, Treat (remove a marker), Build research lab, find cure
2) Draw 2 cards from player card stack
3) Play the role of the infector

The infector part is crucial, the player draws cards from the infection stack equal to the current rate of infection (game starts at rate of 2). Each drawn card adds one infection marker to a city that is stated on the card and the card is put in the discard pile for infections. But when a player draws two cards from the player card stack and one of those card is a epidemic card, then the real problems start. The epidemic card causes a new city to be drawn from the bottom of the infection stack and that city is given three infection markers and is then discarded, then the infection rate increases by one, then comes intensification. Intensification means that all previously discarded infection cards are shuffled and put at the top of the infection stack. This means that every city that has gotten a infection will now get more infections, making any city with three markers pure time bombs for viral outbreaks, you will draw them again sooner or later, most likely sooner because the rate of infection is now also increased! Now you have to desperately travel to the cities with three markers and try to prevent more outbreaks from happening.

The game has three loosing conditions and only one winning condition. You loose if 1) 8 or more outbreaks happen 2) a disease color runs out of more markers to put on the map or 3) if the player draw stack is emptied. You only win by researching cures for all four diseases. To cure a disease you must gather five (or four if you are the researcher) similar coloured player cards, five red cards and you can research a cure for the red disease in a research lab, that you must build. These cards are used also for travel and building research labs. You can exchange cards by transfeer of knowledge, but then you have to meet up in the city that is on the card, two players in London may exchange the London card, nothing else.

To win this game cooperation is key and still the odds are not that great, bad luck may just loose you the game, just as in real life. The game has different difficulties to help make the game fun for beginners and more advanced players.

This was my first coop game and I loved it right from the start, me and my little brother have managed to save the world two times and lost it one time, however the game was fun even when you loose. A intense, challenging, cool and fun game to play.

7
Go to the 7 Wonders page

7 Wonders

74 out of 83 gamers thought this was helpful

This game is centered around the draft mechanic where players simultaneously get cards, pick one and send the rest to the player on the right or the left depending on the turn. After all cards but one are picked (the last one is discarded) the turn ends, wars are fought and a new turn starts.

The draft mechanic is something that I loved when playing Magic The Gathering, a draft tournament where players opened fresh booster packs and sent the cards around for picking. The trick is to 1) pick great cards and 2) analyse what the other players are picking in order to stop important cards for those players or pick cards you know you will get more of. This goes for both 7 Wonders and Magic The Gathering.

In 7 Wonders you only draft the cards, there is no playing afterwards like in Magic, but it is still great fun! Picking the right cards to get the most points is fun and challenging, there are many different “colors” and strategies to win the game.

Each player also has a wonder of the ancient times and the different wonders have different advantages catering to different strategies of drafting.

The game is easy to learn and scales very well, a round goes really fast when players know the game. One minor gripe for me is that after 5-6 games it starts to feel a little to similar for my taste so maybe getting the expansions are a good idea to mix it up with new cards and wonders. Great production value and a all in all excellent choice for having fun at the gaming table.

9
Go to the Amun Re page

Amun Re

146 out of 159 gamers thought this was helpful

This was the first game I played when I realized the genius of not having dice or random factors in a game, or at least very very little randomness. It is a game that changed the way I saw board games and for that it will always have a special place in my game collection.

The theme is that you are a great Pharaoh in the old and new dynasties and you fight to become the most membered Pharaoh of them all (or just get the most points). The game centers around four central mechanics that take part in their own phases:

1. The auction
Players start each round by bidding on lands (drawn randomly and placed on the board) by placing bid tokens on the different lands. The auction ends when no one is competing for the same land. The bidding works by placing you’r bid token on a number on the land and the next player may then place a bid token above that token, when it is you’r turn again you can not bid on the same land again. The auction portion is about picking the right amount of money to get the land you want the most, not all lands are created equal after all. Bid to low and you might lose or be outbid, bid to high and you might use to much money.

2. Build and purchase
After each player has a land you all take turns building either a) pyramids b) slaves or c) chance cards. Pyramids is the main way of getting points, but there are many others. Slaves give you money at the harvest. Chance cards give you either money, bonus point conditions or actions to use in the bidding phase. All resources are important and useful, purchase wisely.

3. Sacrifice to Amun-Re
After everyone has done their purchasing it is time to sacrifice gold to the god Amun-Re. The sacrifice decides how much money each slave gives in return, if lands with camel symbols get extra money and finally how many points lands with tombstone symbols will get. The winner also gets a prize from Amun-Re in form of 3 freely selectable goods (pyramid stone, slave, card), second place gets two, all who gave gets one and those who steal from the sacrifice (-3 bid) get 3 gold.

These three phases repeat until all lands are taken and developed. Then there is a scoring after the third sacrifice to Amun-Re. Then the fun begins.

4. Death of the old dynasty
The old-dynasty now dies away and all land is freed up. Now players will bid on the same lands as before with one crucial detail, the pyramids from the old-dynasty are still standing there, up for grabs. This changes the auction phase a lot. After another three phases there is a final scoring and the game ends.

All these phases have different tactics and different considerations to think of, making the game very varied from phase to phase. Yet only the player who masters all phases in a grande scheme (from 1 to 3 and then the new dynasty) will win the game.

A brilliant game in both design and execution that I am always wanting to play just one more time.

9
Go to the Puerto Rico page

Puerto Rico

80 out of 98 gamers thought this was helpful

When I first played this game I didn’t really like it that much. This was partly because I lost very badly and could not understand why and partly because of the seemingly non-existing player interaction. But this is where I was wrong.

The theme of the game is to build buildings, produce goods and ship the goods for either money or points. By selecting roles like (not the real names here) Builder, Producer, Shipping etc. you achieve these goals. The person who picks the role gets the first action and a added benefit. After that the rest of the players get the same action but not a added benefit.

The key of the game, or the basic key at least, is to pick the right role at the right time. Asking yourself “What role benefits me more then the other players” is a crucial starting point for understanding the subtle dynamic of this game. From there the real fun of choosing strategy begins. It is never easy, but always fun.

In addition to the genius tactics of the game the theme is great, the production value is great (even in the regular edition) and the game is a joy to simply play where you always feel some satisfaction when you produce some sugar and ship it off to get some points.

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