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S.C. Barber

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9
Go to the A Touch of Evil page

A Touch of Evil

229 out of 240 gamers thought this was helpful

A Touch of Evil is a great game with an unfortunate name, as some will miss this gem of colonial gothic action investigation as your hero rescues the town of Shadowbrook from a menace. The game is highly thematic, even to the degree that if players opt not to read the flavor text on the cards the experience will be diminished. The game is more strategic than tactical as resolving conflicts usually involve rolling dice and counting 5s and 6s, and players spend most of their time moving around the board and having encounters in hopes of gaining clues, allies, or equipment to aid them in ridding the town of the Touch of Evil that is plaguing it.

During setup a villain will be chosen. Each villain has its own set of minions and special abilities which alter some aspect of the game. Each villain has a basic and advanced version of its stats allowing the players to decide how hard of a game they want to have. Additionally the players can decide to play with the co-op rules, the team rules, or the competitive rules. Players also get to choose which hero they are, each hero having different stats and different special abilities. During setup the players will shuffle a deck of secrets and the deck of Town Elders. Each Town Elder is dealt a secret, which is kept secret from the players until they spend their hard won clues to discover an Elder’s secret. The secrets range from being helpful in fighting the villain, harmful in the fight, to actually being in league with the villain.

Each round all of the players will get a turn, after which a mystery phase occurs in which the villain heals, KO’s heroes revive, a card from the Mystery deck is drawn and is resolved, usually to the detriment of the players, and the first player marker moves. Each turn a player will roll a die to see how many spaces he can move on the board. Should a player move into a space with one of the villain’s minions in it he will stop and fight. Finally players will take actions, in any order they wish, and as many as desired. Actions include encountering the current space, which usually means drawing a card from one of several decks, healing, pay to look at an Elder’s secret, uncover where the villain’s lair is, and start a showdown with the villain.

Individual turns resolve quickly, resulting in a game with little down time once players are familiar with the rules. Considering each player and each villain adjusts the rules, and that many of the cards in the game will impact how players will decide to play, the first few plays will take time; however, once slight learning curve is mastered the game flows smoothly. Thematically it feels as if players are in the world of Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow; indeed the game even has a headless “Spectral Horseman.” Players are essentially building up an arsenal to take down the villain and become the hero of Shadowbrook. The game is not a high strategy game, rather it is a game that will allow you and your fellow players to tell the story of how the town of Shadowbrook was rescued from A Touch of Evil.

9
Go to the Vikings page

Vikings

23 out of 24 gamers thought this was helpful

Vikings is strategic tile-based game where players spend gold to buy both a viking and an island tile, and place them in their tableau to their best advantage. The game board includes a score track, a round track, and the payment wheel; the payment wheel is one of the central mechanics of the game. The wheel has 12 slots, numbered 0 – 11, each corresponding with a location where a tile and viking combo will rest. The number of the slot determines the cost for that set. There are two types of tiles in the game, islands and ships, and six different types of vikings. Each player also receives a player base. The game plays over 6 rounds, then a final scoring round occurs and the victor is determined.

When the game is setup all the tiles are shuffled then arranged into stacks of 12 tiles, then placed on the round track. At the beginning of each round the next tile stack is removed from the round track and distributed around the payment wheel. Islands are start at 0 and work up to 11 while ships start at 11 and work down to 0. Finally 12 vikings are chosen from a cloth bag and arranged on the offered tiles, always in the same color order. Players take turns buying the tiles until there are no titles left to purchase. A player must buy a tile, and may buy any tile he can afford, the only exception being the tile priced at 0, which can only be purchased when no other vikings of the same color are available, or the player cannot afford any of the offered tiles. When the tile at 0 is purchased the wheel is rotated clockwise until another tile is worth 0. When a tile is purchased it is immediately placed in the player’s play area; however, the tile must be orthogonally adjacent to another tile or the the player base. Any island tiles must be played correctly orientated, and the tile’s edges must match those it is adjacent to (water to water and land to land), otherwise the tile is discarded from play. All ship tiles are played in the first row of the player’s tableau.

Each viking color corresponds to a particular fashion of scoring in the game, though wile every tile will be played, not every viking will come into play. Each row in the player’s tableau corresponds to one of the vikings, and if an island is placed in the same row as the viking that came with the tile, then the viking can be placed on the tile just played, otherwise he’s set on the player’s base. Vikings score when they are on islands, with the only exception being the boatsmen, who score vikings on the base.

The game has a fascinating depth of strategy, as players not only must choose which tiles they want, weighed against which vikings they want, they must also manage the payment wheel. Careful selection of the tile/viking combo will reward the player, and skillful management of the payment wheel can force an opponent to take a disadvantageous tile/viking set. Vikings is a marvelous game of strategy and dynamics.

8
Go to the Rune Age page

Rune Age

21 out of 21 gamers thought this was helpful

Rune Age is an asymmetrical, scenario based, deck building game where the victory conditions change from last man standing to cooperating for a shared victory. Each game players will select a scenario, each scenario having an unique victory condition, an unique event deck, and a set of neutral cards. Each player will also select a faction to play as; each faction’s unit cards are unique, and only that faction may draft those cards.

Players spend their turns performing actions. Players can spend their gold to draft their private units, or spend influence to draft neutral cards, gold cards, and to keep cards in their hand for the next turn. Players can also play their cards for the actions printed on them, or they can engage in a combat action, spending strength, either against a neutral city (which awards influence per turn), another opponent or against a comment enemy drawn from the event deck. When a player is done with his actions he must discard any remaining cards in his hand, unless he spent influence to keep them. Once the last player ends his turn an event from the event deck occurs. Play continues until the victory conditions on the objective card are met.

The asymmetry of Rune Age, while balanced, does force players to form their strategy based on the faction they are playing. By employing 3 resources (gold, influence, and strength) the game forces players to weigh and judge how they want to play the scenario. Gold is needed to draft more units, and units are needed for combat or influence, while influence is needed to manage your hand and purchase the neutral cards. Tension is further added by the effect of the events in the event deck, each one commanding attention from the players.

The four scenarios are radically different in their objective and event decks, which give players an immediate breadth of choice with regards to the type of game they will play in any given session. The main difference between scenarios is the level of player interaction, from virtually none, to an all out war of elimination. Each scenario does dictate which neutral cards are available, which can make repeat plays of the same scenario seem rather static. Nonetheless, the game feels dynamic and worth replaying as the combination of scenarios and factions add dimension to the game; however, this can work against the game in that some players may refuse to play a certain faction and/or scenario.

9
Go to the Dragonheart page

Dragonheart

14 out of 18 gamers thought this was helpful

Dragonheart is a two-player card game of indirection. Each player starts out with an identical deck of cards, distinguished by color; each player shuffles his or her deck then draws a hand of 5 cards. Between the two players is a board with 10 different areas, each area set aside for a different type of card, and each area indicating how many cards can be played until it is full and its action triggered resulting in a different area of cards added to the player’s score pile. Each turn players take turn playing as many cards of a single type as they desire (providing there is room on the board), they then score cards if they trigger an action, then finally draw cards from their private deck until their hand is full. At the end of the game the player with the highest score wins.

During the game each player must decide where to play his or her cards on the board. Some areas require more than one card before scoring, others a single card, and one area will never trigger, but allows a player to stack up a large amount of points to later capture. The game is symmetric, which adds to the tension, because each player knows the other player has the same opportunities; a card played in preparation for later scoring might be scored by your opponent on the following turn. The game plays fast (15-20 minutes) and has elements of playing your opponent as well as playing the game, as you are constantly guessing what your opponent will play next. It’s a game of give and take with hidden depth.

9
Go to the Quarriors! page

Quarriors!

33 out of 36 gamers thought this was helpful

Quarriors! is a game of rolling dice in order to ready creatures for glory, smiting your fellow player’s creatures, and recruiting more creatures into your fold. Taking inspiration from the deck building genre, each player starts the game with an identical bag of 12 dice. On his turn a player will score glory for any creature he still has in play from his previous turn, then he will randomly draw 6 dice from his bag and roll them. Each die belongs to a set of dice, easily identified by color, and each set of dice has a corresponding card in the play area describing what each face of the die means. A die is either a spell, a creature, or currency. After rolling the dice players have to decide which creatures they rolled they will ready; they can only ready creatures they can pay for out of the currency rolled. All creatures the player readied will now attack every other player; each player will defend the attack with their readied creatures; some will perish defending their player, and thus will not score. Finally, the player may recruit one die from the common area with any remaining currency. Play continues until one player accumulates the necessary glory to win the game!

Quarriors! has a higher luck quotient than its deck building cousins, and the game’s combat mechanics are straightforwardly ruthless: you cannot play favorites, nor can you be merciful, you will attack everyone. The greatest conscious tension in the game is deciding what to do with your rolled dice, as readying a creature will diminish your ability to recruit another creature. Some creatures are cheap to ready, won’t survive most attacks, and score few points, while other creatures cost a premium but will score a handful of points. The strategy of the game lies in curating the dice in your bag as well as making the best of every situation.

Each game only sees a few sets of dice brought out to play with, the others saved for a future game. Additionally, each set of dice has more than one card describing its abilities, so future games with the same dice will not always grant the same power, offering a wide array of replay options. The game plays fast, with little in the way of down time and setup time. It is heavier on luck than deck building games: you know what dice you will roll, so you know your chances, but you don’t know what you will roll. You may, or may not, get that creature you were hoping for. This can be both a good and a bad thing, for it levels the playing field allowing a less skilled player to still have a chance to win the game, but a highly skilled player can still lose with a few bad throws of the dice. Because of this the game should be played in accordance with the theme: have fun, take it lightly, enjoy yourself, and play for the social interaction.

10
Go to the Railways of the World page
33 out of 35 gamers thought this was helpful

This is a game where carefully building a network of railroad links between cities is paramount. The object of the game is to move goods from one city to a target city (based on the color of the city/good). Players do this by linking the cities together with railroad tracks. Players only get 3 actions each turn, thus giving the player some tension in deciding the optimal play for the turn. For each link traversed in the delivery of a good the player whose link was used gains a point on the income track. After everyone has taken their three actions there is an income phase. Players have to issue bonds when they need money, and they pay back each bond each turn, so gaining independent income is rather important. Players do not start the game with money, so debt is inevitable, but controlling how much debt one incurs is part of the game.

The game has a good depth of strategy, and no two sessions will play out the same since the goods are randomized each game. There is a good balance between upgrading engines, building tracks, and delivering goods, combined with the income track which increases in value until the midpoint, and then decreases. The income track doubles as the victory point board, so one does want to increase to win the game, but increasing too fast too soon will deprive you of money.

The game is not too deep as to prevent people from playing it, yet it is by no means light. A good strategy will be clearly rewarded. The game is somewhat unforgiving for bad play, but there is room and time to recover and put up a good fight.

8
Go to the Citadels page

Citadels

38 out of 41 gamers thought this was helpful

Citadels is a role-based card game where players are racing to be the most prosperous city by building districts into your own city and possibly sabotaging the efforts of your rivals. There are 8 different roles in the game, each offering a different power including, causing another role to lose its turn, stealing money from another role, swap hands with another player, get first pick of roles, protection, earn extra gold, build 2 districts in one turn, and destroy a rival’s district. Each turn the King shuffles the roles, discards 1-3 roles at random (one face down), then chooses from the remainder; each player then chooses a role from the remaining roles. Each player acts in the order of their role which are numbered 1-8, with the lowest number going first. In addition to acting on their special powers players must decide to either collect 2 gold or draw cards on their turn, then they have the option to spend their gold to build a new district. The game ends when a player has built their 8th district at which time the value of each district is calculated and the player with the most points wins.

Citadels is a lighter strategy game and once all the players know what each role does the game plays fast. The hardest choice players have is choosing which role they want from those available. The roles are varied enough in power that no one role is superior to another in the long run. Player interaction is limited to affecting another role (not player), with the notable exception of the ability to pay gold to destroy rival’s district. The distinction between stealing from a role and a player keeps the game from having a “take that” attitude, as you don’t know who picked which roles until it is that role’s turn to act.

9
Go to the Race for the Galaxy page
42 out of 45 gamers thought this was helpful

In Race for the Galaxy players are racing to achieve the preeminent civilization by settling planets and gaining technological developments. The winner is decided when one player has at least 12 developments and planets in play or a set number of victory point chips have been exhausted; the player with the most victory points wins. Each turn players secretly select which action they are going to perform, then simultaneously reveal their selection. Each action selected will grant an action for all players during that phase, with an additional bonus to the player who chose the action, so players must carefully consider not only which bonus they want on their turn but what actions the other players will choose. The actions vary from drawing cards, developing a technology, settle a planet, trade goods, consume goods, and produce goods. Actions are activated in the same order each turn (drawing first on through production) regardless of who played what; in this fashion there is no “first player”. The cards in Race for the Galaxy function as either a planet or development, a good produced on a planet, or currency; this will force players to consider their options each turn based on the cards in hand, deciding which will be used to pay for the others, and this is not always an easy choice.

Each planet and development are worth victory points at the end of the game, but some planets allow you to consume goods for victory points. Other planets allow you to consume goods for more cards. Some planets can only be conquered with military might, others can simply be settled by paying its cost in cards. Some worlds produce goods, some produce goods and cards, others just produce cards. Both worlds and developments have special powers that activate only during certain actions, so players must carefully choose how to use their planets and developments in order to obtain more victory points than the other players.

With the variety of planet and development powers and the dynamics of the action choices made each turn, Race for the Galaxy tests a player’s ability to build a strategy on-the-fly, and then adapt and refine that strategy as the game progresses. Players must always be aware of how their action choice will impact their opponents and work to maximize their own gain.

7
Go to the San Juan page

San Juan

29 out of 31 gamers thought this was helpful

In San Juan players are racing to achieve fame and fortune by building up the city of San Juan. The winner is decided when one player finishes building his 12th building. The player at the end of the game with the most victory points wins. Each round 5 actions are made available through the use of role placards; each role grants the same action to all players, and grants an additional privilege to the role owner. Each turn players must decide which action they want to take; however, once a role has been chosen it is unavailable until the next round. The actions vary from drawing cards, building, producing goods, and selling goods (which grant you more cards). The cards in San Juan function as three things, the building printed on the card, currency (used to build the building), or a good; this simple fact causes players to carefully weigh which buildings they want to construct, and which ones they are going to use as either goods or currency.

The game plays quickly and despite the simplicity of the rules there are some key decisions to make throughout the game. Choosing the right role at the right time, to either leverage the privilege or deny that privilege to other players, is the main player interaction mechanic, and the fulcrum of your strategy; however, since the cards you draw are random players will need to continually evaluate their strategy and adapt it based on their current circumstances. Beyond choosing which role to assume on your turn, players must carefully consider how to best use each card in their hand, as some cards must be spent (discarded) in order to win the game.

San Juan is not a deep thinking strategy game, instead it is a fast light-medium to medium strategy card game rewarding careful decisions and adaptability.

8
Go to the Puerto Rico page

Puerto Rico

70 out of 77 gamers thought this was helpful

Puerto Rico is a game with deep strategic play offering more than one path to victory due to the abstract method employed to gain points. Each turn players select a role from the pool which gives each player an action, but the chooser gains a bonus. The roles vary from adding a plantation, adding workers, building, producing goods, shipping goods, selling goods, and being greedy and taking money. Shipping is the only role with an action that grants points, while two roles grant money which is used to build buildings which are worth points at the end of the game. Production only works if you have a plantation and a production building of the same kind and they are both staffed. Players will find they need to carefully balance what roles they pick at what times, and have a few backup plans as someone may choose a role at a disadvantageous time.

Players do not directly interact, however after shipping goods players may find themselves with spoilage causing all but one of their goods to be discarded. The plantations and buildings in the game are finite, not every player will get what they want, so players must choose the right time to act or else lose out. There are three end-game triggers, so it is difficult to delay the game, and if you are not paying close attention the game may end before you realize it. There are a few good strategies for winning the game, but not all of them will work for each play, so players need to maintain a Plan B while also doing some form of damage control.

Puerto Rico offers depth of play and rewards careful planning and adaptability. There is no luck in the game, though the forces at play cannot always be predicted.

6
Go to the Lost Cities: The Card Game page
36 out of 40 gamers thought this was helpful

This is a mathematics/numbers game. There are 5 expeditions, each with 3 investment cards and 1 copy of each number between (and including) 2 and 10. Each turn you play a card either into one of your expeditions or onto the discard pile for that expedition. Then you draw a card, either from the draw pile or from one of the discard piles. When you play a card on your expedition the card you play must be of greater value than the one previously played. At the end of the game, as soon as the draw pile is empty, each player totals their expeditions, subtracting 20 points from each expedition they contributed to.

The tension in the game comes from deciding when to start an expedition and which ones to abandon, as trying to play all of them will result in negative points for at least one. Players are making decisions based on the totals they can make, as well as deciding to give up a card their opponent might take in order to stall and hope for a better draw.

It plays fast, but is rather light on strategy. It makes for a great filler or casual game.

9
Go to the Power Grid page

Power Grid

66 out of 81 gamers thought this was helpful

Power Grid has players trying to power the most cities. Power plants are auctioned off each turn, and each power plant consumes some number of some type of resource to power some number of cities. Players buy power plants, “build” into cities, buy resources, and gain an income determined by the number of cities they power. The first person to “build” into at least 14 cities triggers the end game, the winner being the person who powered the most cities (money being a tie breaker).

This game has an interesting negative feedback loop: the player in the lead acts first at auctioning off a power plant (usually the worst position), and acts last at building into cities and buying resources. Resources have a sliding price, so the more that are purchased the more expensive they get. Great depth of strategy, especially in balancing your income as money is only a tie-breaker.

10
Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game page
21 out of 26 gamers thought this was helpful

This is a players vs. the system cooperative game of dungeon crawling and combat. Players choose from 5 different characters each granting a unique ability to the group. Players will select a scenario to play through which will determine the starting position of the board and set out the victory conditions. The map is randomly determined by using a set of square tiles, ensuring that each tome the game is played the experience will be different.

When monsters are revealed a card is drawn and a figure is placed on the board. The monster’s card determines how they act when activated, by listing their tactics. Players who found the monster “own” the monster and only activate them at the end of their turn, or if another player has an identical monster. The players lose if anyone dies, and with only 2 healing surges available that is a likely outcome. The game is challenging but not insurmountable nor formulaic.

7
Go to the Kingsburg page

Kingsburg

65 out of 70 gamers thought this was helpful

While dice are heavily used in this game, this is not your typical dice game. Each player is governor of a realm of the kingdom, each trying to build the the better castle. The game is divided into 5 years, with 4 seasons each year. During three of the seasons the players are able to gain resources and build on their castle; during winter each player is attacked by a monster which can either harm the player or give the player a reward, depending on failure or success. During each productive season all the players simultaneously roll their dice, then progressing from the lowest total to the highest each player may spend their dice to gain resources. There are 18 advisors on the board numbered 1-18 and the dice are used to determine which advisors you can use. For instance,f you rolled a 3-4-5 then you could use advisors 3, 4, and 5, or 7 and 5, or 3 and 9, or number 12. Once an advisor has been claimed for that season, no other player may use them.

After gaining resources players may then spend them to build; each building offers a bonus to the player, and each player has the same choices. The buildings are arranged in a grid on a player mat, and you have to build left to right (columns) but you can pick which rows. Most buildings award victory points, although points are awarded for fighting off the monsters as well.

The game has a fair amount of luck involved regarding what numbers show up on the dice, however deciding what to do with your dice is a large part of the strategy behind the game. It is light-to-medium as far as strategy is concerned, but it is far from a luck-determined game.

8
Go to the Shadows over Camelot page
42 out of 48 gamers thought this was helpful

Shadows Over Camelot is a semi-cooperative game where the players are knights of the Round Table; there is a chance that one of the players is a traitor, working against the Round Table, but it is by no means guaranteed. Each turn the players may take 1 free action or may sacrifice a life point and take 2 actions, but they must always draw a card from the black deck which represents the opposition’s actions. The knights must complete quests thereby winning white swords, but if any quests are lost they gain black swords. At the end of the game if there are more white than black swords the loyal knights win, otherwise the traitor and/or the game wins.

Since the role of the opposition is played out via a deck of cards the players must coordinate their actions in order to win the game. Many quests will ebb and flow, and this will add great tension to the decisions. A wasted decision can spell disaster. On their turns the players must choose to move to a quest, or play a card from their hand on their current quest location, but if they cannot play a card on their current quest they must move. Players must think ahead as moving can be a tiresome waste. Players may also accuse someone of being the traitor, but they are penalized if they get it wrong, however if there is a traitor and he is undiscovered he may convert 2 white swords to black and thus tip the scales.

This is a great cooperative game that has seen many a knight die, a few traitors win, and required active participation by all players.

8
Go to the Arcana page

Arcana

26 out of 27 gamers thought this was helpful

Arcana is a card driven struggle to gain influence in the city of Cadwallon for your guild. Players pit their agents against the other player’s agents in an effort to convince new personalities to join your guild, or acquire new artifacts, or gain the control of a region of the city. The game employs some card drafting mechanics to accomplish this end; players play cards next to a Stake and at the end of the round the values of the cards are compared and the player meeting or exceeding the required value of the Stake adds that card to his deck. Each Stake card is also worth victory points at the end of the game.

Each turn players only draw 4 cards, and there can be as many as 5 stakes available per turn, so each turn you must carefully decide what you want and what you think you can win. The game is setup such that each player has the opportunity to play their agents face down for 2 of the stakes, and the rest of the stakes they must play face up, with only one stake in the game where all players play face up. This leads to a delicious bit of tension for one player will know who is winning a stake but the other(s) will not. Players may also bribe personalities by playing an artifact, thereby immediately winning over the personality, adding even more tension. Some location cards the players will win allow them to directly interact with other players, such as having them discard an agent, re-locate an agent, or immediately resolve the conflict for a Stake.

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