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North Star Games fan
Go to the Deckscape: The Fate of London page
Tiana901 {Family Gamer} Dec 10th, 2017
“Escape Room Game as a deck of cards”

This is a ‘pocket’ escape room game from dV Giochi. This escape room game has a deck of cards, hence Deckscape. There are no separate instructions, you just start reading the first card and follow the directions from there. Each card has a number, and you start with card number 1. The cards will explain the story to you as well. London needs your help!

As the puzzles are presented to you, when you believe you have the answer, you flip over that card which will tell you the correct answer. If you got the solution wrong, you mark an X on your score sheet. At the end of your game you will have a score based on the time it took you to solve and the number of X’s.

There are two ‘clue’ cards, which have very simple clues for some other cards. If you still are not sure how to solve the puzzle, then you can take a guess and flip the card over.

You will also find some ‘objects’ as you go through the cards. You hold onto objects and they can be used to solve puzzles.

I was excited to play this game. There was something appealing about the deck of cards to solve puzzles, without any extra pieces, like decoder. It just sounded like the focus would be on puzzle solving, which I enjoy.

I liked the design and the artwork. I enjoyed the variety of puzzles. There were some really inventive ways to solve some of the puzzles, which I also really liked. What I did not like was that there are some puzzles you will come to that require something else like an object or information, and there is nothing on that card to indicate that you need an object or other information to solve it. For the most part, nothing tells you that you need an object to solve a certain puzzle or which object goes with which puzzle. Although some hints do say you need a certain object to solve the puzzle. Most of them I figured out, but there were ones that I didn’t get. One of them I still don’t get after reading the solution.

What I found most frustrating, was that when I came to a puzzle I could not solve, I couldn’t tell whether I just wasn’t getting it or whether I was missing an object or information. So I couldn’t tell the difference between ‘try harder’ or try something different’ versus, try another puzzle, because you can’t solve this one yet.

Although this game has some puzzles you can solve in parallel, I don’t know how well to would work of more than two people. I think 3 or more people would have trouble seeing the cards at the same time, or there would be some passing cards around, which could slow down the game.

Overall, this game wasn’t a good match for me. It’s also at the same price point as other escape room games but I don’t know that their components have the same value.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
3 out of 3 gamers thought this review was helpful
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North Star Games fan
Go to the Escape The Room: Secret of Dr.Gravely's Retreat page
7 of 7 gamers thought this was helpful
Tiana901 {Family Gamer} Nov 16th, 2017
“more of a Party Game Room Experience”

This is a fun puzzle solving game that emulates an escape room experience and is modeled after the “how to host a murder” style party games. The Thinkfun web site even has text you can use for your invites, and costume and period music suggestions.

The game starts as you arrive at Dr Gravely’s spa retreat. You have won a free trip there, but all is not as it seems. You and your fellow guests start to unravel the mystery so that you can escape the spa.

There are objects to explore in the game, and several items in envelopes that you can open when you are instructed to do so in the game. As you solve some puzzles, it leads to other puzzles and more to solve.

When I selected this game from a game library, at a local convention, I did not realize it was meant to be played at a party. We just had two players, which worked out fine. The game says it is for 3-8 players. I think the game elements are a bit small for up to 8 people to share. I also don’t remember a lot of elements that could be solved in parallel, so I think this game might work best with 3-5 people, but it will depend on your group and how active all the solvers want to be. Even playing with one other person, there were some puzzles, I really wanted to grab and have a try, (although I waited my turn). Most of the puzzles have a visual component, and people will need to look at the elements. There are a few puzzles where you have to manipulate some elements, and only one person can effectively work on the puzzle at a time.

The web site also has game hints that you can use if you get stuck. The hints are tiered, where you can get one hint, or a 2nd hint or the solution, if you need it. I think a good hint system is important with these types of games. In a real escape room you would have someone to watch your progress and give you hints.

The story in this game is well imagined and you feel like you are really in the story as you solve the puzzles. I found the story engaging, but the puzzles were not very challenging. They took time to resove, but mostly because some physical manipulation was involved with the game pieces. A seasoned puzzle solver might not find them challenging enough, and some playersmight be looking for more of a puzzle challenge. Although I only played the game with one other player, I believe that with the strong story element, people looking for more of a party game experience, might enjoy this more than some of the other escape type games.

This is the first game I have played from Thinkfun’s Escape the Room series and I would be interested in playing another one of the games (I think the only one available now is Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor) for the fun experience but not for a big puzzle challenge. However, these would not be my first choice for a game room game, because it’s not exactly what I am looking for. Also, I am not much of a horror lover, and I found the story of Dr Gravely a little sinister and creepy for my tastes, but that could be a plus for some gamers.

The web site also tells you how to reassemble all the pieces so that you can get the game ready for the next group of players.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
7 out of 7 gamers thought this review was helpful
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I play blue
El Dorado
Guardian Angel
Go to the Islebound page
9 of 9 gamers thought this was helpful
Stargazer1 {Avid Gamer} Nov 8th, 2017
“A Good Sail Lost in the Fog”

Islebound takes place in the seas surrounding a generic fantasy archipelago. Each player controls a fledgling nation striving to build an empire. The theme is fairly well represented in the game. The object of the game is to construct buildings, conquer and/or ally with towns and collect gold to become the best sea-faring nation which scores the most Renown. Islebound is for 2 to 4 players ages 12 and up and plays in about 1.5 hours. Islebound is at its best with 4 players.

The components are very good. The double-sided modular Sea boards are mounted on thick cardboard, but are prone to slight warping. There are thick cardboard tokens, wood playing pieces and plastic dice. The large and small size linen stock cards are durable and have average artwork. The artwork on the boards and cards is a bit cartoonish but colorful and well done. The artwork uses some pastel colors which gives the game a very warm feeling. The rulebook is only 14 pages, is well written and organized, and has some examples of play. My one and only complaint with the components is the box insert. It is completely worthless and should be thrown away.

Set-up for Islebound is easy but does take a few moments. Each player receives a ship board, three starting crew members, seven gold, player cubes in their choice of color and a reference card. The Event and Reputation decks are shuffled and placed in their respective places on the Renown board along with a few other tokens. The building deck is shuffled, and then five buildings are drawn and placed face up in a row. The Sea boards are arranged to form the game board and players pick a home port.

Starting with the first player, and proceeding clockwise, each player takes a turn. The game continues in this manner until a player has eight buildings, then each player receives one more turn. On their turn a player moves his ship and then performs one of the following actions:

The player pays the fee to visit the town and perform the listed action. A player can gain resources such as fish, wood or knowledge, construct buildings, rest their crew, gain Renown and Influence, recruit crew members and pirates or enlist the aid of sea monsters.

Players use their accumulated Influence to ally with any town which flies a turquoise flag. The player spends Influence Points equal to the town’s value to ally with the town. The player then receives Spoils or gold equal to the town’s value and may then Visit the town. The player places one of his cubes next to the town’s flag to claim ownership and no longer pays a fee on future visits to the town.

Players use their pirates and sea monsters to attack a town flying a red flag. A player commits a certain number of his pirates and/or sea monsters to the attack and rolls 1D6 for each. The pirates and sea monsters give attack strength according to the die rolls. If the sum of the attack strength is equal to or greater than the town’s value then the attack is successful. The player discards any pirates and/or sea monsters used in the attack and then takes Spoils and may Visit the town similar to the Diplomacy action. The player places one of his cubes next to the town’s flag to claim ownership and no longer pays a fee on future visits to the town.

The player simply takes the gold that has been accumulating due to fees for Visits to towns.

If possible, players may also perform any number of the Free Actions below:
The player may purchase one of the five face up buildings for gold equal to the Renown value in the upper left corner of the card. The player places the purchased building in front of him and receives any of the building’s special abilities for the rest of the game.

If the player moved his ship to a town where an event is occurring he may perform that event. There are always two events occurring at any given time. Events generally require paying resources and/or exhausting crew to gain Influence.

Once each player finishes his last turn, each player then tallies his Renown from buildings, gold and the Renown track. The player with the most Renown wins.

Islebound is easy to learn and play. Turns play quick with minimal downtime. However, Islebound offers a good amount of strategy than at first glance. There are many paths to victory which offer players interesting decision-making. For these reasons, Islebound will appeal to casual as well as avid gamers.

The designer, Ryan Laukat, really stepped up his game with this design. He rectified the criticisms of his first game, Above and Below, to produce a masterpiece. Gone is the steady march to game end, replaced by a variable game end mechanic which allows players a bit more time to develop an economic engine. He made it much easier to ready crew members by eliminating the need for beds. In Islebound, each crew member is readied when the player rests his crew. Ryan also eliminated some of the luck/randomness and incorporated more player interaction in Islebound. There is much more planning in Islebound and a very nice balance of luck/randomness to provide good variety in game play. The base game has limited player interaction, players can attack other players’ towns. However, there are optional rules which allow players to trade items and raid each other’s ships providing a more than adequate amount of player interaction.

Islebound is a fun, light-hearted, easy play wrapped in a package which features player interaction, nice game length, decent components, minimal downtime and good replay value. It really slipped under the radar but truly is a diamond in the rough. Islebound would make an excellent addition to your collection.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
9 out of 9 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Novice Reviewer
I Own a Game!
Explorer - Level 3
Go to the Flip City Board Game page
8 of 8 gamers thought this was helpful
Smuge {Avid Gamer} Nov 4th, 2017
“Mystic Vale lite”

Flip City is a deckbuilder where you are developing your city (deck) in a race to produce one of two conditions in a single turn.

How it works
The deck, in this deckbuilder, is a deck of buildings you have in your city. The deck is held in your hand and you know what the top card of the deck will be. It is a push-your-luck style game because some cards with “sad faces” have to be played if they are the top card of your deck. Three sad faces and you bust – your turn is ended immediately. This is very similar to how you place out cards in Mystic Vale.

When you decide to stop putting out cards, if you didn’t bust, you count up the currency your turn has generated and you either purchase new cards from common piles in the middle to add to your discard pile or you can pay the cost to flip a card that is in your discard pile, upgrading that card. Because all the cards are double-sided you have to be careful when shuffling – but I am careful when shuffling with a typical deck so it isn’t that big of a deal.

The upgraded sides have more powerful buildings or buildings with just different effects. Some of them have victory points. If you can get a turn where you are showing 8 VP points, the game is done and you win. There is also another card that allows you to win if you have a turn where you have 18 cards showing (without busting).

My thoughts
Turns are pretty quick. There are about three strategies you can take. Strategies change a little depending on how risk tolerant the players are. Knowing your deck and keeping track of what cards have been played are crucial for knowing when you can or can’t risk playing the next card.

There is a newer version of this called Flip City: Wilderness that is a stand-alone sequel. Just like with other deckbuilders, the cards of the expansion can be mixed into the original game if you would like.

My family likes this one. It is a bit faster in gameplay, setup and clean up than Mystic Vale. So as a filler, it works but if we have more time we would probably play Mystic Vale.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
8 out of 8 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Novice Reviewer
I Own a Game!
Explorer - Level 3
Go to the Word Domination page
7 of 7 gamers thought this was helpful
Smuge {Avid Gamer} Nov 4th, 2017
“Creative Spelling Fun”

Word Domination is a creative word game where you are battling for dominance.

How it works
The game is a grid of tiles that are laid out. On your turn, you place a new tile somewhere on the outside of the grid. You then come up with a word using the letter you just placed and any other letters that are on the grid. Letters do not need to be connected. You can also use letters you have collected in front of yourself. When you come up with your word, you place your colored markers on the letters you used.

The next person does the same. When they create a word, they place their markers on the tiles. If they use the same letters as a previous player, that other player’s markers are removed. If you use a letter that still has your marker on it, you claim that tile for yourself and it gets moved in front of you (not part of the grid anymore). The tile if replaced with an upside-down tile (no replacement letter) and your marker is left on it.

After a set amount of rounds, the game is done.

You get a point for all your captured letters. You also get a point for every tile in a grouping of tiles (3 or more).

What is interesting
• Coming up with similar words as others (or as yourself) so you can use essentially the same letters as an opponent or to claim letters for yourself is the challenge
• Do you go for removing all the markers of other players or do you concentrate on getting as many of your color out there so some will survive until it is back to your turn?
• There are special tiles that, if captured, give you special powers
• There are also special character powers that can be added in
• The tiles are random and as you capture letter tiles, some off the stack take there place upside-down- thus continuing with the randomization of what tiles are and will be available
• If there is only one copy of a letter showing and a player captures it, only they can utilize that letter in future words
• The area control scoring gives you the incentive to battle over specific tiles that will block someone from joining up groups of areas
• The theme (Didn’t I mention that? Players are villains trying to dominate the world – sort of fun but not necessary).

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
7 out of 7 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Advanced Grader
Go to the Exit: The Game - The Secret Lab page
8 of 12 gamers thought this was helpful
Igneus {Avid Gamer} Nov 2nd, 2017
“Puzzle Game”

Can’t go wrong at this price point. These “Exit” games have been a blast with my family. They don’t take very long and can get a good size group engaged for the time frame.

Be Aware though the game is “disposable” ie. you will not be able to play again if played how you are supposed to. It calls for you to destroy components.

In essence (since I don’t want to spoil it for you) you are given a “room” as well as things you would see at first. You look around the provided cards for clues that lead to how you solve it.

If you are shy about doing that, then give UNLOCK! a chance.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
8 out of 12 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Smirk and Dagger Games fan
Go to the Sword & Sorcery page
8 of 10 gamers thought this was helpful
Aleksandar {Strategy Gamer} Oct 31st, 2017
“S&S - Currently the best out there (comparison)”

I’m a dungeon crawl board game lover.
I’ve owned Imperial Assault and Descent.
I have Massive Darkness and played Gloomhaven
And now i have S&S

Imperial assault was perfect DC game for my, but i always felt lack of some Fantasy aspects in there. Tried with Descent, but since IA is actually 3.0 of Descent, i always felt like IA is way better game.
Also, what’s wrong with both games is that there are too many expansions.
Way too many. I had everything for IA and sold it all

Massive Darkness -> Great components, bad campaign, good game to bring to the table when you don’t want your brain melted.

Gloomhaven -> Good game, too long, it becomes repetitive after a while.
Would love better component quality for some stuff…

S&S -> Brilliant. Campaign with Book of Souls is perfect innovation at least for me. The way the actions are handled (you have number of actions for attack, movement and free to assign actions)
Heroes and their development, how they come up with differences between the monsters. Just brilliant. AN example on hot to create a game where you don’t need hundreds of miniatures to have variety. The more the merrier, but i’m happy with what i got.

It’s not easy, you need to learn it, but it’s easier than Mage knight for example (way easier). It’s somewhere in between Massive Darkness and Mage Knight with complexity.

Don’t have anything to add, you have plenty of videos on YouTube. Just wanted to say that i’m thrilled that i was able to find the game that takes me to the table more often then any other game…

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
8 out of 10 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Advanced Grader
Go to the Millennium Blades page
3 of 9 gamers thought this was helpful
Igneus {Avid Gamer} Oct 31st, 2017
“Love it”

This game OOZES with theme. Everything from the setting to the mechanics buy into the concept of what this is. Made with the whole CCG theme in mind, without the endless money sink.

Issues I do have are length of play (it can get a little long) and learning curve. It really takes a bit to get going in it.

Best thing about it is the components. Fat stacks of cash to throw around which is the only game I want to have paper money. The card packs look like your buying foil packs.

So once again, the simple review is, Love It!

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
3 out of 9 gamers thought this review was helpful
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6 Beta 1.0 Tester
Go to the Starship Merchants Board Game page
4 of 5 gamers thought this was helpful
Dave Peters {Avid Gamer} Oct 25th, 2017
“Subtle and more than a little chaotic.”

Y’know the classic description of a chaotic system: the butterfly flaps its wings in Southeast Asia and some event happens in New York as a result?

This game, at least at first blush, is more than a little like that. There’s a fair bit of randomness (two shuffled decks of cards appear in some order, and one pulls Ore tokens from a bag when prospecting) but (after seventeen plays!) it seems to me that the primary driver of the game outcome are the downstream ripples from the decisions the players make.

That means that the game can easily seem capricious in a first play: the players haven’t yet been trained to see the tie between decision and outcome; and so one might (as we did!) complain that “the best player didn’t win.”

With practice, though, the best players absolutely do win. And the motivations for making one plausible decision over another start also to become clear. I’ve really enjoyed this for the last dozen plays, and would absolutely recommend it for folk willing to give it repeated and regular attempts. (Or, I guess, for folk that find the references to 2038 charming.)

Equally, I’d not recommend it to folk that won’t play often: a novice in a table of experienced players will lose (and not know why); and a table of novices will see a (superficially) random result. And neither of those are particularly compelling.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
4 out of 5 gamers thought this review was helpful
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North Star Games fan
Go to the NMBR 9 page
8 of 8 gamers thought this was helpful
Tiana901 {Family Gamer} Oct 18th, 2017
“Fun filler game with Numbers”

This is a game for one to four players. The game has 80 number tiles, 0 to 9, with four of each number. There are also 20 number cards, with 2 of each number. Each player builds their own grid of numbers, and scores are determined by the number on the tile and the height (level) of the number. All the numbers placed on the table, are considered level 0 and score 0 points. The next level up is level 1, so all numbers are multiplied by 1 for the score of that tile. I.e., on level one, placing the 8 tile would score 8×1 or 8 points. The next level is level 2, where the tile 8 would score 8×2 or 16 points, etc. Each number tile has a unique shape, and grids printed on the tile. Tiles placed on the same level must line up with at least one of the grids on another tile. When a tile is placed on top of other tiles, there must be another grid underneath each grid of the tile, meaning it can’t hang over any air. Each tile must be on top of at least two other number tiles. So, for example, you can’t just put an 8 tile atop another 8.

After shuffling the cards, turn one card over at a time and place the corresponding tile, anywhere you like, as long as you follow the placement rules above.
What I like about the game is that the rules are very easy to grasp, and the game is easy to learn. The shuffling of the cards adds variety to the game and there is some planning to try and earn the most points for your placement. Since there are only two of each number in the deck, during play, you will have an idea of which numbers remain. I also like that there is so little set up, you can really just shuffle the cards and be ready to play in a minute or two. The number tiles are a nice weight and colorful. I enjoyed the puzzle aspect of the game; trying to fit the pieces together in the most efficient way to earn points. Each level becomes more challenging, because it is difficult to build lower levels without any gaps that prevent higher levels.

However, there is very little player interaction, since all players build their own grid. I also kept jostling my numbers on the table and trying to restack them correctly. You may need a play mat to add a little friction.

This could be a nice filler game, it takes about 10-15 minutes to play. If you purchased several sets, more than four players could play at the same time. The solitaire option could interest some players, who might want to see if they can beat their highest score.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
8 out of 8 gamers thought this review was helpful
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