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Guardian Angel
Baron / Baroness
USA
Go to the Exit: The Game - The Pharaoh's Tomb page
10
5 of 5 gamers thought this was helpful
Chris {Avid Gamer} Aug 20th, 2017
“Entombed With the Pharaohs (No Spoilers)”

This is the second of the three currently available Exit: The Game sets which I and my wife have played; the first one being The Secret Lab. We just finished it a few minutes ago and I had such a blast playing it I had to try and get my thoughts down for you all ASAP.

First, some basics in case you’re not familiar with Exit: The Game. These games are play-at-home escape rooms. That is to say, there will be a scenario—such as being stuck in an Egyptian Tomb behind a large stone door which has just sealed behind you—and you will need to solve a series of riddles/puzzles in order to “escape”. Technically, there is also a time limit placed on you, but the Exit games are flexible on this point; just do your best and solve all the riddles and get out; regardless of how much time it takes you, you WILL feel a sense of accomplishment when you “escape”.

The box comes with a small instruction booklet which will give you a general overview of how the parts—notebook, “decoder” wheel, and riddle, answer and clue cards—are used in the course of play in addition to the actual parts needed to play. In this case, a notebook, the riddle and answer cards, and two “mysterious items” which you will be instructed to get out as you “find” them by solving the various riddles of the game. It also comes with a set of hint/clue cards which you can use if you get stuck on any of the various riddles; these cards are symbol coded to match the riddles, so you’ll know which set of clues to refer to for each riddle.

The game states it is for 1-6 players, but both sets we have played we have played with just my wife and I, and it has worked out well for us. It might be helpful to have more sets of eyes and brains (i.e.- more players) working on things, but I can also see how more hands might just get in each other’s way. So far, we usually have enough to be able to keep us both engaged with the game at all times and neither of us have felt left out in the solution(s) to any of the riddles.

Exit isn’t the only play-at-home escape room game out there right now. There are at least 3 others—Unlock (from Asmodee), Escape the Room (from ThinkFun), and Escape Room: The Game (from Spin Master Games). I haven’t tried any of the other types yet, but we do have one of the Unlocks here at home waiting its turn to be played.

Here’s the one big downside (for some folks) to the Exit games: you destroy them when you play them.

I’ll let that sink in.

If it helps, think of the Exit games as legacy games with only one scenario; so Pandemic Legacy with one game instead of twelve, and you either win or don’t.

DO NOT let that dissuade you from playing any of the Exit games. Having now played two of them (and we already have the third set—The Abandoned Cabin—waiting in the wings) I cannot recommend them enough. Once I played the Secret Lab, I rated it a 9/10. I gave this one a 10/10.

That said, this one did seem more challenging to us than the first one we played. We played through Secret Lab in around 90-120 minutes (give or take). Pharaoh’s Tomb took us almost 3 hours(!) to play. But we really felt a huge sense of accomplishment when we “broke out”.

And that’s how I’ll wind up. These games have left us both feeling immensely satisfied. Yes, we can only play each set once. Yes, it took us around 3 hours to play (this one). But we both felt that those were three hours well spent—doing something engaging and fun together vs watching television for the same amount of time—and we both really want to play more of these games. With a price point of just $14.95 (less than it would cost for us both to go to the movies) it’s one of the best expenditures of money we have made this year.

When the next three Exit sets come out later this year, we will definitely be buying them all. You should too.

‘nuf said.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
5 out of 5 gamers thought this review was helpful
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1
Private eye
Go to the Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game page
9
Saint of 89 {Avid Gamer} Aug 17th, 2017
“Great Game.... Depending on the players”

Dead of Winter is one of those games that is great based on who you play it with. Those who are Alpha gamers will find this game frustrating with players who have never played. Likewise, those who are new might will find this game had to play with people who have played before.

However, Dead of Winter has the great potential to be an amazingly fun and challenging game when played with people who are able to be ruthless and cunning at the same time. This game is incredibly fun when played with people who willing to enjoy the time spent playing and let the game dictate the outcomes.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
0 out of 3 gamers thought this review was helpful
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1
Private eye
Go to the Android: Netrunner page
10
Saint of 89 {Avid Gamer} Aug 17th, 2017
“Cheaper Version of CCG”

Netrunner is one of the games I have found that is starting to save me hundreds of dollars a month. I have loved Magic The Gathers but Netrunner has replaced it and helped me fall in love with the LCG games. I am able to satisfy my deck building desire as you get all the card for expansions and the core set it doesn’t break the bank.

Thus, Cheap in Netrunner does not mean Bad. This game is an amazing deck builder as well as 2 players competitive game! It takes a little bit of learning as you have the Corp. and the Runner and understanding how to play either well takes a few play sessions. However, This game is worth playing and investing in!

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
1 out of 3 gamers thought this review was helpful
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1
Private eye
Go to the 7 Wonders page
9
Saint of 89 {Avid Gamer} Aug 17th, 2017
“Next level draft game”

7 Wonders is a great game for those looking for a game a step up from Sushi Go. The artwork and history involved in this game make add an extra element of joy as you play. If my in-laws hadn’t played Sushi Go first the draft style play would have lost them so if you have new players to this type of game it might be a little confusing. The expansions add a great component to the game and make it a great overall game to play with the family.

Its quick playability makes it a fun and fast game to play to get the strategy ich but still have fun with those who are not strategy players. Additionally, It a game that levels the playing field and makes winning harder to judge.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
0 out of 3 gamers thought this review was helpful
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1
Private eye
Go to the The Grizzled: At Your Orders! page
10
Saint of 89 {Avid Gamer} Aug 17th, 2017
“Challenging but Easy ”

The Grizzled is one of those games that bring the stress of trying to survive and the ease of explanation any corroborative group wants. Additionally, the play time can be short or long depending on the level of difficulty. I found this game to be fun, easy to learn and challenging to survive. The art work is amazing and as a work of the late Tignous who was assassinated in the Charlie Hebdos shooting in 2015. If anything this game is a testimony to the work of Tignous and should be in every board gamers collection.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
0 out of 2 gamers thought this review was helpful
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4
Go to the Eminent Domain page
9
4 of 5 gamers thought this was helpful
Steve {Avid Gamer} Aug 17th, 2017
“Pretty lighthearted basic deck-builder in space”

Eminent Domain was a term that I first remember from Social Studies in grade school referring to the government’s ability to buy land from someone whether they wanted to sell it or not. So when I came across this title on the shelf of my FLGS, I was curious, particularly because it appeared to be a spacescape across the box. No ships, just what looked like a giant gas nebula. So I turned the box over and saw little ships on the box, and “Empire Builder.” I was immediately intrigued. I was fairly new to the hobby at the time, and while I had played Dominion before, I hadn’t grasped how big the genre was, and someone wasn’t able to grasp that this was one. So what happened once I opened it up?

Well, obviously, I was able to quickly deduce that it was a card based game. I had kind of expected some kind of map to fight over. The rest of it, unfortunately, was a slog to learn. The rule book was poor to say the least. All I can think is that it was written by someone who was too familiar with the game and forgot that it might be played by someone who was (like me at the time) new to gaming, and didn’t know the lead/follow mechanism. Even after going through the rule book, I saw “Game End” in the book, had been told how to choose cards, but hadn’t yet been told how to use those cards once we had them.

However, eventually, by watching some tutorial videos, I was able to figure out how to play the game. Once I was able to do this, and actually start playing the game, I found it quite enjoyable. Mind you, it was different from what I expected, but I enjoyed it. I found the mechanism of everyone just picking the card from the central display, without having to pay for it intriguing. And um, I was, before looking through each stack, shuffling them…um…anyway, this was my first exposure to the follow mechanism, since replicated in many games. I found I enjoyed it.

I also found I enjoyed having two different paths to choose from to gain points. I could either go the military route, and collect ships to conquer planets, or I could go the colonization path, and pick those cards. It was interesting seeing which method worked better, particularly depending on which planets came out. I’ve seen people succeed with both methods, and it’s fun to see players racing to try using opposite strategies. It’s even more fun to see players choose the same path to victory and race for the same planets since the planets that are good colonization targets normally aren’t good military targets. The tech cards, once we started using them, added some nice flavor to the game, and gave some direction to a strategy, rather than just move faster than your opponent. It allows the player to get an engine going to fuel their deck as they conquer planets. It was different in that you’re not trying to strip cards out of your deck like most deck builders. Instead, if anything, you want to beef your deck up with one particular strategy, so by the end, you’re able to conquer a planet in one quick shot. I’ve even seen games where by the end players were even flipping over two planet cards.

So what were the parts that disappointed me? Well, seeing different ship molds, I was expecting combat. I expected something to fight my opponent’s fleet or something to take planets from them. I was even more disappointed when the different ship molds didn’t mean anything. My understanding is that this was fixed in the expansions, but it didn’t matter whether I took a big ship piece or the tiny one. After a time it seemed to suffer from being multiplayer solitaire. It would have been nice to have some interaction, and that could have made the game a whole lot more strategic and thematic, having to worry about how is my opponent going to disrupt my plans. I also didn’t care for the method of ending the game. Running out piles seemed to end the game too quickly, especially since either the Colonize or Warfare cards seemed to be the way to go. Too many of my times with this game it seemed like we were just getting an engine going when it was forced to end. Yes, this is a common complaint about engine building games, but it somehow seemed more acute in this game.

The components were surprisingly good. The cards had a nice feel and finish to them, and are more durable than most cards in games. The ship minis were surprisingly detailed for the price point of the game. The only problem, lots of people like to paint minis, and the black plastic could have made it difficult. I can also see how the Central Display piece could easily become frayed and could break in two fairly quickly if the game gets played a lot; quicker than the folding points of many boards that I can think of. I did like the artwork of the game, and perhaps the fact that it didn’t evoke any particular sci-fi universe in my mind, as many generic sci-fi games seem to try to do with their art style, allows me to see the game on its own.

So what did I think overall? Well, despite the long list of complaints, and the lousy rulebook, I actually enjoyed it. For its price, and what it was, I found it enjoyable. Now, I am kind of a sucker for deck-builders, so I wasn’t too disappointed when building an empire didn’t mean conquering your enemy; but that lack of interaction does mean I get to this game in spurts. Eventually, after a few games of this, I just want something where I get to throw a bunch of space ships at my opponent and fight it out. If you’re looking for a simple deck builder that’s not gonna cause a fight, check this out.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
4 out of 5 gamers thought this review was helpful
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1
Go to the Valley of the Kings: Afterlife page
9
Dark Soul Tonto {Avid Gamer} Aug 16th, 2017
“Deck Building with a purpose.”

There are many deck builders that do nothing but have you buy cards to buy other cards to get points or defeat monster cards. That’s a lack of depth in a genre that has great potential, and the VOTK series does something to address that lack of depth. In this game, you must balance the desire to continue to play a given card throughout the game versus the need to bury it in your pyramid for points at the end of the game, because only cards buried in your pyramid will give you points. And you need to bury sets of the same color, but not repeat cards, to stack those points, all set against the backdrop of the sand running out of the hourglass. In this case, the timer for the game is the deck itself, and when all cards have been bought or disposed of, from the stock and pyramid, and all players have had an equal number of turns, the game ends.

So with a full slate of 4 players, the scores will be lower and you can adjust your strategy to that, but with two players, the need to bury a lot of cards is paramount.

I consider all three games in the series published so far to be good; however, my favorite is Afterlife.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
3 out of 3 gamers thought this review was helpful
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3
I Am What I Am
Go to the The King is Dead page
10
3 of 5 gamers thought this was helpful
Matt Adlard {Avid Gamer} Aug 11th, 2017
“Good game, one for the long term planners”

Picked this game up on a whim and pleased did as it is a lot more complex that it appears and offers a lot of strategic play and resource planning and manoeuvring.

It is very much a game of long term plans and occasional risk taking through playing of cards to quickly alter others plans and possible change yours.

We found most games last 45min-1hr and it makes for good option during a games club session.

The basic premise is to finish with the most coloured blocks of your colour, and it is very much a long term strategy play style game.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
3 out of 5 gamers thought this review was helpful
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7
Guardian Angel
Baron / Baroness
USA
Go to the Hard Vacuum page
10
5 of 5 gamers thought this was helpful
Chris {Avid Gamer} Aug 10th, 2017
“What if WWII Had Been Fought in Space?”

To start with, I’d like to offer you a brief history lesson.

In the late 1930s, at the request of Adolph Hitler, Eugene Sanger developed plans for the Silbervogel (the Silver Bird, aka the Amerika Bomber). The Silbervogel was a rocket propelled space plane which would be capable of reaching low Earth orbit and then, via a series of hops, it would skip along the upper stratosphere, deliver a 8,800 lb bomb to a target within the continental United States and then continue to hop around the Earth to land somewhere in the Japanese held Pacific ocean.

These are actual facts and plans for such a plane were created and had an influence on various post-war US space projects such as the Space Shuttle. Hitler, however, placed more emphasis on the V-1 and V-2 and the Silbervogel never took flight.

But, what if it had? How would the United States have responded? Would an orbital theater have opened up in the war and what might it have looked like?

These are the questions which Hard Vacuum attempts to answer.

After Battlestations Hard Vacuum is one of my favorite games, but I never have anyone to play it with. Published by (the now—sadly—moribund) Fat Messiah Games, virtually everything you need to play comes in the rule book. I say virtually because the game doesn’t come with either a map board (you can use any standardized hex grid – Chessex Battlemat, GeoHex Space Mat, heck! the Battlestations map boards work great – or use tabletop minis (the rules have conversions so you can play either way). Nor does it come with dice, but all you need is two standard d6s (and who among us doesn’t have those?); although they also sold sets of specialized Hard Vacuum dice. All the various counters and markers and such which you will need come printed on a heavier card stock which is bound into the centerfold of the book. Sure you had to cut them out (and possibly mount them—I mounted my ship counters on cardboard, but you don’t really need to), but giving them to you in this way vs die-cut punch boards saved on costs and thus kept the retail down. FMG was all about keeping costs low and making its games more affordable to the average gamer.

Simply put, Hard Vacuum is a fighter based space combat game using vector movement. Oh god! I used the “V-word” (something which FMG avoided in the rules).

Ack! Vectors! I thought I left those behind in high school physics… Yuk!

I feel some of you stopping right here, but bear with me. Each player (or team of players) controlled one or more WWII-esque space fighters in a variety of combat situations. In the base game, all the fighters are either American of German, but the expansion—Science Gone Mad—had rules for British craft as well.

Each ship had a small control sheet (click here for example blank sheets for American or German ships) which denoted its various systems – fuel, weapons, ammo, hull integrity, and any special equipment (such as radar, or booster rockets) it might be equipped with. It also has a small diagram of the ship, centered in a hexagon with numbers in small circles along the edges. These numbers showed where each ship had thrusters and how much thrust could be applied in that direction (e.g. – a ship with the number 6 in the bottom, or aft, position could apply up to 6 points of thrust behind it, thus propelling it forward 6 hexes). It would also have two small boxes above the hex representing “spin thrusters” which would allow the ship to change facing without changing the direction of its movement (vector-based flight, remember?). Lastly it would have Maneuverability number (say 3) which represented how nimble the ship was; basically it told you how many of your thrusters (directional or spin) that ship could fire each turn to effect its movement.

Now, now; it’s alright. Let me explain. The game comes with a supply of small, triangular thrust markers. When your ship applies thrust in a given direction, you place an appropriate valued thrust marker along the side where thrust was applied; make sense?

OK, try this: if you apply 6 points of thrust aft (to move your ship forward), you place a “6” point thrust marker behind your ship. Got it? Now, space in Hard Vacuum is just like space in the real world: Newtonian. That is to say, once you apply thrust in a specific direction your ship will continue to move in that direction (forever) until you apply thrust in another direction and alter its course.
I see that confused look creeping in on some of your faces again… So, here’s the simplest example: If your ship is moving forward at a rate of 3 hexes per turn, and you apply an additional 2 thrust aft (for forward movement) you will now be moving 5 hexes a turn. You will keep moving 5 hexes a turn in that direction (which is important as you can change the facing of your ship without altering the direction of movement) for all your subsequent turns until you do something to change that.

Like this: Now you want to slow down from 5 hexes a turn, so you apply 3 thrust fore (for reverse movement) and that will slow you down to 2 hexes of movement per turn. There are two ways to arrive at that number (2 hexes/turn): you can either move your ship forward 5 hexes (your original speed) and then backwards 3 hexes (the new thrust you have applied this turn) for a net forward movement of 2, or—and I recommend this—you can combine the thrust markers into one and just move that many hexes. In this case you would subtract 3 hexes of reverse movement from 5 hexes of forward movement and come up with 2 hexes of forward movement. Just replace the existing thrust markers with the one combined thrust marker and that’s what your ship will do (and keep doing) until you change that.

I won’t continue to confuse you with more detailed examples of how to combine thrust markers from multiple directions down into the fewest possible markers, but the rules do have a very simple way to do this and it makes the horror of vector movement very simple (thrust me on this—pun intended).

Rotating your ship (spin thrust) works similarly, but only has two possible spin directions (clockwise vs counter-clockwise). Thrust markers for movement are placed alongside your ship’s counter along the relevant side (as mentioned above). Spin markers are placed directly onto your ship’s counter to show which way you are spinning. Again, your ship will keep spinning until you do something to effect that spin (increase, decrease or cancel altogether).

Various ships designs have movement thrusters in different directions, so being familiar with the thrust combining rules is useful so that you know how best to maneuver your ship. But, enough about movement; I can see your eyes glazing over.

For flavor, the two sides of the war (US vs Third Reich) have different technologies which they use.

The Germans use radium pellets (which they mine from their not-so-secret base on the far side of the moon) to fuel their ships. This means they have a limited amount of fuel to use over the course of the scenario and the ship control sheet has a fuel track which you mark off as you use it. For the most part, the Germans use traditional gun-powder weapons—machine guns, cannons, and the dreaded 88mm AT gun—but they also have space mines (watch out you don’t fly into your own mines—I have done this) and a radium powered Death Ray (which also uses radium pellets).

The Americans make use of the scientific genius of Nicola Tesla and employ small Tesla energy collectors and batteries to both power the ships’ thrusters and weapons—heat rays, plasma bolts, etc…— for a more Flash Gordon style of ship. While this technically gives them limitless fuel and ammunition (did I forget to mention the Germans have to keep track of ammo as well?), their collectors will only generate so much power/turn and their batteries will only store so much, so the amount of power available to an American pilot will vary from turn to turn and power management becomes a factor for these ships.

NOTE: The British have yet a third technology—liquid fuel rockets—which they use for their ships, see the expansion, Science Gone Mad for those details, and the Russians and Japanese (which were only ever explained in an online sets of supplemental rules which may (or may not) be available here) have a fourth and fifth technologies for their ships.

Next, as you may have noticed on the blank ship control sheets (if you followed either of the above links) there is something called the Silhouette for each ship. This number represents how large the ship is (and thus how easy it to hit when you shoot at it); small ships have a larger Silhouette than large ships (that will make more sense in just a moment)… which brings us to combat!

So, you want to blow the enemy out of the sky? Here’s how you do that:
First, you have to check to see if you can see the enemy ship. To do this you count the range to the target and roll three dice. If the number rolled is greater than this distance, you can see (and thus shoot at) the target. If you fail the roll, it is assumed you spent the turn scanning space trying to find your opponent and just missed him against the inky blackness of space. This is somewhat true to what actual fighter pilots in WWII had to do when fighting in the skies (either in day or night time). The die roll is modified by whether the target is using his thrusters and/or firing his weapons (both of which make it easier to be spotted).

So, now you see the whites of his eyes and you want to shoot. Each of your ship’s weapons will have a small table (conveniently printed on the ship control sheets) which shows how many dice you’ll roll at various range increments—typically from 1 to 3 dice. You’ll need to roll greater that your target’s Silhouette (oh, now I see why small ships have a larger Silhouette than larger ships) in order to score a hit.

But, there’s one more thing to take into consideration – deflection. Again, deflection is something which actual WWII fighter pilots had to contend with; heck, modern pilots have to as well, but computers do much of the work for them now. Deflection is a complicated way of saying that it is more difficult to accurately track a fast moving target vs a slow moving one (and it takes your own speed into account as well). This is one of the few things about the rules which is bit confusing —even for me, and I’ve played the game a fair amount—so I won’t go into the full details of it. Suffice to say that if you and your target are both moving fast, it makes it harder for you to hit him. Based on your speeds (yours and his) you’ll come up with a modifier to the target’s Silhouette. Add the modifier (which will be anything from 0 {very easy to hit} to +5 or more {very hard to hit}) and you have the final number you need to roll against to score a hit.

Roll your dice. Assuming that you hit him you’ll do damage based on the weapon you fired. Again, looking at weapon on your ship’s sheet you’ll see two things: Rate of Fire and Damage. Rate of Fire is how many shots you may fire in an attack—you might want to conserve ammo or power and thus fire less shots than you could. And Damage is how much damage your attack will do/shot (RoF) you use in each attack. So, I fire a weapon with an RoF of 2 and a damage of 5 if I hit and use both shots (I have to decide this before I roll my dice) I would inflict 10 points of damage to my target. That’s a lot; most ships in the game have 10-12 hull points 9which is what gets marked off by damage). NOTE: even if you have a RoF greater than 1 you will still only make one roll to hit your target.

If that’s not bad enough, there’s a critical hit system as well. If any of the dice which you roll in a successful attack are doubles then I score a crit in addition to my normal damage. Crits don’t normally do additional damage per se, but they will have an effect the one of the target’s internal systems—such as weapons. What critical hit you inflict is dependent on the ship’s Size stat (also listed on their control sheet). Size is more properly thought of as mass, and more massive ships are better able to shrug off crits that lass massive ones are. Being large might mean you’re easier to hit (small Silhouette), but it also means you’re better able to take it (more Hull Points and larger Size). Critical Hit effects range anywhere from Chain Reaction (i.e. – the target is automatically destroyed) to +1 Damage (this hit does one addition point of damage). The only time in which doubles will NOT score a critical hit is when the only way you could succeed in hitting your target is by rolling doubles (typically this happens at extreme range).

How do you survive? Well, as you might have figured from the bit about Silhouette and attack rolls, speed = life. Move fast and be hard to hit. Again, real life fighter pilots found this to be true. You can also be a wizard pilot and try and out maneuver you opponent and stay outside of his weapon’s firing arcs (yep, various weapons are restricted to certain arcs of fire). Or, you can rely on your ship’s Hull Integrity and Armor to see you through. Armor? Didn’t I mention? Some ships have an Armor stat which is basically the amount of damage subtracted from incoming hits. Most ships don’t have any, and even the toughest of ships only has 3, but since it is subtracted from each hit (remember an attack can score multiple hits based on RoF) armor can really help out. In the above hit example—RoF 2 x Damage 5 = 10 points of damage—if the target had 2 points of armor that 10 would become 6 (5-2=3 x RoF2 = 6); this is more survivalbe, but still hurts.

A quick word about dice in Hard Vacuum; the dice they use are numbered 0-5 (as opposed to 1-6). This is easily simulated with normal d6s by subtracting 1 from the face value of each die you roll. And, the dice explode on a result of a 5. So if you roll a 5 (on their dice, or 6 [minus 1, remember?] on a regular d6) you get to roll an additional die and add it to your roll.

To sum up, Hard Vacuum is a solid game with well explained rules. The rule book is lavishly illustrated with many examples (which are very useful) to help you understand all the various rules—visibility, deflection, damage, critical hits, etc… It manages to both deliver a retro-science fiction feel while preserving a certain amount of real-world combat in a small package. Only 23 of 44 pages are rules – the rest is optional ship construction rules, scenarios, and ship control sheets. Also included in the book is a four page, removable insert, of quick start rules to get you flyin’ & dyin’ in no time.

SPOILER ALERT The Nazis lose the war…

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
5 out of 5 gamers thought this review was helpful
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4
Go to the Carcassonne: Traders and Builders page
9
3 of 5 gamers thought this was helpful
Steve {Avid Gamer} Aug 9th, 2017
“Adds some needed flavor to the game!”

Carcassonne is the granddaddy of tile laying games. Chances are most of us here have played it at some point, either way back in the ethers of time if we’re long time gamers, or more recently if we’re new to the hobby. It’s one of those games that we use to trick our friends into joining us in this lifestyle of ours. And there are indeed longtime gamers who love this game, now almost 20 years old and still in print, and still pull it out regularly, along with newer, more complex, and highly produced games. No mean feat in the time of the cult of the new. That being said, it can at times be a little repetitive, and any means to spice it up and throw new mechanics into the game are welcome. So how does this expansion stack up?

The first part of this expansion is the 24 new tiles. For the most part, it has the standard terrain of farms, roads, cities, and monasteries. Many of them, however, are in weird shapes. VERY weird shapes. Many times playing with this set a player holding some of these tiles have been left wracking their brains trying to fit them into their pre-existing cities. This isn’t necessarily a bad that, as the game needs something to be just more of the same tiles that come in the base box. In fact, I actually consider this a good challenge to throw into the game, instead of making it easy to fit any tile almost anywhere on the table.

Many of the city tiles that come in the new set have goods on them. The three goods are cloth, wine, and wheat. The advantage of these tiles is that it gives players a reason to place city tiles and finish cities that they don’t have a meeple/knight in. In the base game, once one person has a meeple in a city, they get all the points, unless someone is lucky enough to be able to join their city with someone else’s. The only reason someone might add to another person’s city is to prevent them from growing too big and zooming ahead in points. Now, with the trade goods, there’s a reason to finish cities that you have no other point stake in. And don’t knock it. I’ve seen plenty of games that turned on those goods tokens. Players have been distant seconds and jumped out to win the game handily once we counted the goods.

The other big pieces are the builder and the pig. The builder is one of the most useful pieces one can have. The ability to place two tiles at a time is invaluable and allows that player to place more tiles than others, which obviously means more points. It gives you a little edge in using it, and a different piece to place, besides just another standard meeple, adding to the strategy. Do I claim this tile I just placed to claim it or put the builder for a possible payoff next turn? The downside is that if he gets put in a city that ends up being unfinishable, then you lose him for the game.

The pig is another augmentation piece. Now, most of the times I’ve played Carcassonne, both the base game and with any number of expansions, farmers aren’t that popular. People aren’t that keen on losing a piece for the whole game, especially when any given city may or may not be finished by the end of the game. However, the last game I played with this expansion someone decided to give it a shot, and the field with the pig in it went from 12 to 16 points! Needless to say, that person is a convert to using farmers in the game!

Bottom line, this is an excellent addition to the base game. Carcassonne is always fun when I just want to play a hobby game that doesn’t require too much thinking. This expansion adds a little bit of flavor to the base game to make you think a bit and keeps it from being too repetitive. I recommend this to anyone who owns the game.

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