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Randy Newnham

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Go to the 7 Wonders page
Go to the The Settlers of Catan page
Go to the Android: Netrunner page
Go to the Storm Hollow: A Storyboard Game page
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Go to the Cleopatra and the Society of Architects page
23 out of 40 gamers thought this was helpful

That’s right; I said “tactile”; no mistake. Cleopatra and the Society of Architects is a fun, component-rich game has a lot of replayability. In this excellent game by Days of Wonder, the players take on the role of ancient Egyptian architects designing the ideal tomb for Cleopatra.

The components for this game are excellent molded plastic pieces that you build throughout the game. The box itself is a part of the “board”, and you will be erecting columns and doors alongside it, mosaics and a throne and on top of it, as well as sphinxes and obelisks before it. It is great for those who like interesting components.

There are cards that represent actions and building materials. Each piece needs a specific number of material cards. There are role cards that allow you to use a character to do an action. Most importantly, though, some of the cards are tainted. You earn corruption tokens by playing tainted cards throughout the game, deposited into your own little pyramid to keep the number secret to those not paying attention.

The game ends when the Cleopatra token gets to the doors and surveys the palace. At this point, corruption matkers are counted and the one with the most gets sacrificed to Sebek, the crocodile god. After that, victory points are counted among the players stil remaining and the highest total wins. It is a fun and thematic game, and the components really enhance the experience!

Go to the Magic: The Gathering - Dark Ascension page
33 out of 38 gamers thought this was helpful

Dark Ascension is the second set in the Innistrad block (Innistrad was the first set, and Avacyn Restored will follow in May 2012), and it continues the horror theme that was so well started in the first set. It is a small set at 158 cards, as is typical for the second set in a block, and for those who play draft games, it drafts with Innistrad (meaning you would open three packs of this along with three of Innistrad).

The new mechanics introduced are Fateful Hour and Undying. Fateful Hour defines effects that start when your life total is five or less, and Undying means that as long as the creature did not have any +1/+1 counters on it when put into a graveyard from the battlefield, it returns with a +1/+1 counter on it. The mechanics strongly convey the horror theme of the set, I feel.

The primary tribes represented in this set are humans, vampires, werewolves and zombies. Others are present, of course, but these represent the primary conflict on the plane of Innistrad. The backstory is great, and ties in with the primary planeswalker, Sorin. Sorin Markov, by the way, gets a makeover… the version of him that is present is Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. This is an excellent card and is a no-brainer to include in any Black/White deck.

Aside from Sorin, there are some great cards here. Mikaeus, the Unhallowed is a Black zombie cleric (an updated version of Mikaeus , the lunarch) that gives all non-humans +1/+1 and Undying… a Mythic rare deserving of the designation. Feed the Pack is an excellent Green that allows you to sacrifice a creature and put in a number of 2/2 wolf tokens equal to the creature’s toughness, which is great for a Green token deck. Additionally, there are a few double-sided transforming cards that are fun (and each pack contains at least one).

All in all, I like this set. The theme is fun and I am alreqady modifying my favorite Commander deck to include some of these cards. I seriously believe that the Innistrad block is my favorite to date, with a possible exclusion of Zendikar.

Go to the Magic: The Gathering - Scars of Mirrodin page
25 out of 32 gamers thought this was helpful

The Scars of Mirrodin block, starting with the Scars of Mirrodin set, focuses on the story of the war between the Phyrexians and the Mirrans. For those familiar with the original Mirrodin set, this one, too, introduces a lot of new artifacts. A LOT of artifacts. And that’s a good thing. Though one of the most fragile type of permanants (due to myriad ways to destroy them thoughout all colors), most decks will have at least a few.

The new mechanics for this set are Metalcraft and Infect. Metalcraft encourages artifact-heavy decks in that the mechanic takes effect once you control three or more artifacts. This really helps escalate the power level pretty quick. One of my favorite mechanics, though, is Infect. Creatures with the Infect keyword deal damage to players in poison counters and creatures in -1/-1 counters. Players lose when they have 10 poison counters. I love this! Even a 1/1 “chump” blocker is something you need to consider if it is an infector… and further, it’s a great foil even for indestructible creatures, since the counters can accumulate, and even indestructible creatures go to the graveyard at zero toughness.

I highly recommend this block in general, and this set in particular. Artifacts complement most decks, and Infect… it really changes things!

Go to the Magic: The Gathering - New Phyrexia page
23 out of 30 gamers thought this was helpful

I have to say I regret not buying more of the New Phyrexia set; most of my exposure has been purchasing singles from the secondary market. But I must say that this is a great capstone to the Scars of Mirrodin block. I am particularly fond of both the Mirrodin- and Phyrexian-themed cards, and draw deeply from those when deckbuilding.

The new mechanic for this set were Phyrexian Mana and Living Weapon. This is a good example of mechanics matching theme. To represent the “desperate last days” of Mirrodin and the “sacrifice for power” theme of the Phyrexians, some cards cost Phyrexian Mana, which can be paid with the appropriate color, or with 2 life each. It’s sort of a “Faustian bargain” or an act of desperation. This really meshes well with the storyline, and I appreciate seeing theme motivate mechanics. The Living Weapon keyword for equipment is also pretty spiffy. These are equipment that are automatically attached to a 0/0 Black Germ creature token upon entering the battlefield.

Wizards of the Coast kind of put it out there that this set might have been called Mirrodin Pure, indicating that the Mirrans had won the war. There was a bit of hype on that, but I am glad that they went with New Phyrexia. The mechanics are great, and I am really liking having some of these cards in my latest deck.

Go to the Pathfinder: Core Rulebook page

Pathfinder: Core Rulebook

66 out of 75 gamers thought this was helpful

I have played Dungeons & Dragons in its various incarnations for 23 years, and I must say that the Pathfinder RPG is the best implementation of its rules. For those not familiar, Pathfinder is an Open Gaming License (OGL) ruleset based on D&D version 3.5. The OGL allows the use of the base D&D mechanics to make compatible products. Most of these products have not diverged too far from the source material.

Pathfinder is amazing in that it takes everything that the core of Dungeons & Dragons was and makes it all new again. For starters, take the classes. The classes form the basis of the player experience. They are the archetypes from where the most basic of a character’s abilities are derived. In the PFRPG, they have (mostly) done away with “empty” levels (levels in which no new abilities are received). Without exception, levelling up feels like an accomplishment, and not just the stepping stone between you and the next point of interest. Additionally, players have more interesting choices for their characters built into the class (like Rogue Talents, Rage Powers, etc.). And further, the base classes are all playable well into high level (with less emphasis on prestige classes).

This book is a hefty tome, and well worth every cent. The Core Rulebook covers the ground that both the 3.5 Player’s Handbook and the 3. Dungeon Master’s Guide did. With this book, and the Bestiary, you are all set with everything you need to play. I highly recommend trying Pathfinder!

Go to the Magic: The Gathering - Worldwake page
17 out of 26 gamers thought this was helpful

Worldwake is a relatively small set, the second of three in the Zendikar block. One of the best things about this particular set is the expansion of the Allies. Allies are really spiffy cards. If you are familiar with Slivers from a ways back, these build of of that in that most allies increase the effectiveness of the other allies, at least upon entering the field (in design, they were referred to as “super slivers”). Some put +1/+1 counters on themselves and other allies, some will do damage to a target… this mechanic can get sick and ridiculous if you have an effect like Mass Polymorph that allows you to make several enter at once. My wife has a five-color Allies deck (Commander format) that really kicks butt. Perhaps the set’s biggest claim to fame, though, is that it has Jace, The Mindsculptor, one of the most expecnsive Planeswalker cards. Whan last I checked (January ’12), unopened boosters were selling for $12 apiece at my local game store… all due to the fact that there might be a Jace in there. Crazy!

Go to the Magic: The Gathering - Rise of the Eldrazi page
14 out of 22 gamers thought this was helpful

I absolutely love the Rise of the Eldrazi set now… though I recall not being as excited when I was playing it upon release. The thing about this set was that it introduced the Eldrazi creatures and spells, and along with them, the Annhilator mechanic. The Eldrazi are all VERY big. With the exception of a few colored support creatures and the colorless 0/1 Eldrazi spawn, the actual Eldrazi are all at least 7/7; the largest is a whopping 15/15! When these hit the board, they demand an answer. The bad thing is that in Standard or COnstructed, it’s hard to get them onto the table. The Eldrazi spawn help, in that you can sacrifice them for mana, but still… tough. I love them in Commander, though. Other things in this set are the Totem Armor auras, which are spiffy: these are buffs that will go to the graveyard instead of the enchanted creatures. The Level Up creatures are okay, but a bit of a letdown. Interesting mechanic, though, and combines very well with things that Proliferate. Overall, a great set when combining with others. A great capstone to the Zendikar block!

Go to the Yomi: Complete First Edition page
20 out of 33 gamers thought this was helpful

Yomi is also a fighting game, and uses the same ten characters as Puzzle Strike, a game also by Sirlin. They’re both set in the Fantasy Strike universe. Yomi: The Complete First Edition primarily consists of ten 54-card decks. The decks have poker numbers and suits, and can each be used as a standard poker deck, including jokers. Perhaps the first thing you would notice about this game is the art. The art is fantastic, and will remind you somewhat of the Street Fighter franchise. Each deck has about 15 unique and excellent pieces of art (all cards are illustrated, some repeat), plus a unique card back for each character. The decks are beautiful… and the game play is pretty simple. Each player selects a card, that will either be a Throw, Block, Dodge or Attack. You reveal them and compare: Attack beats Throw, Throw beats Block/Dodge, Block/Dodge beats Attack. Sort of a Rock-Paper-Scissors thing. Once you determine the winner of the reveal phase, you can potentially play other cards to combo. You then subtract damage and go to the next round. Each of the 10 characters feels different, and each has their own powers and combo strategies. This game is definitely worth checking out.

Go to the The Settlers of Catan page
31 out of 61 gamers thought this was helpful

Prior to learning Magic: The Gathering, my daughter’s (now six) favorite game was Settlers of Catan. She did a super-cute review of the game just before turning five. Here’s a link to that review:

I’m a little biased, but I’ll wager it’ll be the cutest review of Settlers you’ve read all day. Enjoy!

Go to the Magic: The Gathering page
62 out of 70 gamers thought this was helpful

Without a doubt, Commander (also known as EDH, or Elder Dragon highlander) format is my favorite way to play Magic: the Gathering. It is a multiplayer format that encourages longer, more social gmaes and politicking is a key to winning. What makes it this way?

1. 100-card singleton decks: No more than 1 card with a given name. You’ll see more variety, and themed decks are easier to play. In the Constructed format, usually cards are added in increments of four to make the deck “do its thing” more consistently. Commander allows you to use fun, neat cards that aren’t always viable for the needs of a Constructed format deck.

2. You always have one creature to cast: Each Commander deck has a general. This is always a legendary creature whose color identity defines your deck. Instead of being in your deck, this card is in the “command zone” and is always available to cast and re-cast. Each casting after the first requires two more colorless mana, though.

3. Higher life totals: Each player has 40 life. And even though life gaining can get sick and ridiculous, it’s not a problem. Why? 21 damage from any one general will put you out of the game.

4. Longer play times: When you want to have a fun evening, a couple hours on a game tends to trump a bunch of 20 minute games. As a “kitchen table” player, I like this much, much more.

Commander format is a great format for casual players like myself. It allows me to choose “cool” cards and not worry that my deck will lose because it doesn’t have the four copies each of the same eight cards everyone else’s deck has. If you play Magic and haven’t tried this, I encourage you to make it a point to build one of these decks and go to town!

Go to the Summoner Wars page

Summoner Wars

81 out of 130 gamers thought this was helpful

What I like about this game is that when you’re done playing, you feel like you’ve played a strategy game… in 30 minutes. Yes, it’s pretty short (at least in our playthroughs). But it feels very wargamey. It is played with decks, each deck representing a faction. Each box has two factions. We liked the Phoenix Elves vs. Tundra Orcs so much we rushed out and bought the Guild Dwarves vs. Cave Goblins a couple days later. It’s played on a grid. Each player has a faction-specific starting setup. You have a main character, your summoner. Your summoner wants to take out their summoner. You use your summoner to bring in units, which move about the board and engage the other summoner’s units. It’s pretty simple, and each faction plays differently. The Master Set is forthcoming, with several new factions and a nice board.

Go to the Conquest of Planet Earth page
143 out of 151 gamers thought this was helpful

Are any of you familiar with Flying Frog Productions? I certainly am. I really enjoyed playing Last Night on Earth, their scenario-based zombie survival game. Complete with a soundtrack and stunning photographic art, it is a very nice game and worth a playthrough. So we were pretty excited to try out Conquest of Planet Earth, with its quirky 1950’s B-movie saucermen theme. And I love it.

How it looks

For starters, it’s pretty . This game does not use the fun photography and makeup of the Last Night… series. Instead, this goes for a more traditional painted/drawn style. The alien races are all well illustrated and really convey those B-movie tropes. You could totally see these in a monster movie from the 50’s or 60’s, or maybe even off of the original Star Trek series. The Rantillion Beetlemen, the Fishmen of Atlorak, the Vyborian Arbiters… heck, there’s even some warrior-women and and space emperors in faux-Roman clothing. The miniatures are well-scuplted, with four tokens of each color (all the same sculpt), and four unique ally tokens. They very much capture the theme. Embrace the cheesiness! And then there’s the soundtrack…

Player tokens

Why a soundtrack for a game? Why not! On the CD, there are eleven tracks of instrumental music that goes a long way to set the mood for the game. Most of the ten alien races have tracks named after them, themed after their breed of vileness. Crazy, spacey, atmospheric… I highly recommend those of you trying out the game play this in the background. Sure, it’s not absolutely necessary; but don’t let that stop you from turning a playthrough of a boardgame into an experience.

Four different games in one!

For those of you really trying to make the most of your gaming dollar, I want to point out that there are four ways to play this game. That’s right: four. The first is the competitive game. In this, each player plays an alien species bent on taking over the Earth, but there’s these pesky humans in the way… not to mention the other aliens who want this prime real estate! The second is the cooperative game, in which the alien players join forces to take over the Earth, but the humans are much craftier and have a more active resistance. The third is a team game, which has two teams of two aliens fighting for the planet. And the last is the solo game, which is just like the cooperative but it is played solitaire, with the player choosing to play one or more alien races, again, trying to subjugate Earth. Of those four, the competitive and cooperative games fit our play style the best, and both offer great gameplay.


All styles have a similar board setup, with a central human capital and an additional adjoining board for each alien player. Location cards are played on the spaces when aliens move to an undiscovered one, and each have a Terror rating (victory points for the controller) and a Resistance score. The resistance score determines the number of battles a player will do with human defenders from the Resistance deck. Watch out! Those crafty humans have ways of joining forces and some cards will stack and give bonuses. Woe to the saucerperson who finds Captain Fantastic… he’s the toughest the humans have to offer, a pulp-era hero ready to swing his super-powered fists at any alien daring to land on his planet! A dice roll for each side, plus modifiers, determines the outcome, though cards in players’ hands can, of course, alter outcomes. Simple resolution, meaningful choices… perfect for a theme-heavy game of this sort.

My thoughts

I love this game. It’s just that simple. This is a game that can be equally enjoyed by those looking for a game with a quirky, fun theme, or a more strategy-oriented player. Granted, there is enough randomness here that hardcore eurogamers may have cause to turn up their noses, but this isn’t for them. This is an experience in a box. If you have ever delighted in watching a cheeseball low-fi movie with aliens and rayguns, check this game out. You won’t regret it. My advice is to make a night of it; try watching something like The Green Slime (1968, rating a whopping 3.8 of 10 stars at IMDB!), or maybe just an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series after playing the game. You’ll have a blast!

Go to the Race for the Galaxy page
35 out of 55 gamers thought this was helpful

I really like Race for the Galaxy. It’s a good game. I would call it more tactical than strategic, but sometimes that’s what is called for. It really takes the system of San Juan and up the ante. It is very satisfying to build up a tableau of planets and developments and then throw down a couple six-point develpoments that makes your score skyrocket.

My biggest issue is teaching the game. It’s a steep buy-in to learn the iconography, and more casual gamers will almost always be put off by it. Then add in the fiddly rules of the expansions… and suddenly I have a great game that I absolutely never want to teach to anyone again.

Go to the Cranium page


15 out of 32 gamers thought this was helpful

I had crazy fun my first several plays of Cranium. Just silly, over-the-top laughs. It was indeed an excellent party game and icebreaker. The game, though, can get a little dull after a while. Once you realize the time commitment, then things go downhill. I still have fondness for the game, though, but I recommend Cranium Turbo. This speeds things up. If you have the basic game and can’t justify the time, upgrade to Turbo.

Go to the Loot page


41 out of 58 gamers thought this was helpful

A very light game. I played this with my 5 year old daughter and enjoyed it. It can be played as a counting game with young kids, and, fortunately, requires no reading, making it viable for pre-kindergarteners. It doesn’t really stand as much for adult gamers, though. A few playthroughs and you are going to be done. Great for playing with young kids, though. You really can make it fun with pirate talk, too!

Go to the Dungeons & Dragons (4ed): Dungeon Master's Guide page
58 out of 78 gamers thought this was helpful

I’ll start this by saying I am not a fan of D&D 4E. I will, however, say that the Dungeon Master’s Guide has some gems in it (some that I use in Pathfinder). Skill challenges are great. They provide a good template for cinematic action. Best used in combat, where multiple things are going on. The idea that different charactters contribute different things is great, and this can allow non-focal character to have a meaningful role in a given encounter. If for no other reason, borrow this book from a friend and read this section.

Go to the Ticket to Ride page

Ticket to Ride

38 out of 61 gamers thought this was helpful

Ticket to Ride (TTR) is an excellent game to introduce people to the wide world of hobby gaming. It is quick to learn and understand, and first-time players can be competive from their first playthrough, which cannot be said about most hobby games. The importance of that factor cannot be understressed: first-time players can easily be turned off if they get completely shut out their first game. Alan Moon really got it just right with this one. No, this is not a game that hits my table too often. But i have lots of fond memories playing this one with my wife and her mother, and sometimes her uncle. If you want to convinve your family to play games with you, it is hard to go wrong with this one. It is is beautifully illustrated and well-balanced.

Go to the Blokus page


35 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

I like this game quite a bit. Before having kids, my wife and I played it quite a few times but it was never on the top ten. It has still not cracke dthe top ten, but playing it with my 5 year old is great. You can totally see the gears turning. I fully believe that this game is helping her better understand spatial concepts.

Go to the Puzzle Strike page

Puzzle Strike

24 out of 33 gamers thought this was helpful

Puzzle Strike is a real gem of a game- literally! You know those games for consoles or computers that have you breaking gems, like Bejeweled or Puzzle Quest? Puzzle Strike is sort of like an analog version of that.I almost said “board game”, but there’s no board. It has a Dominion-like “deckbuilding” mechanic… although you’re not building a deck, you are instead buying chips that you will draw from a bag. Players each have a gem pile that is growing, and, if left unchecked, will cause you to lose. Every turn, you add another to the pile. You use your chips to perform “fighting combos” that usually result in you breaking gems and sending them to your opponent’s pile. What makes it really interesting is that you each play a character. There are ten characters to play, and each has three unique character chips. The game is a blast, and is rapidly becoming one of our favorite games. My wife and I have yet to play it more than two player, but I’m certain that it will translate well to multiplayer. Definitely worth the purchase!

Go to the Stone Age page

Stone Age

66 out of 74 gamers thought this was helpful

I have owned Stone Age for nearly a year, and I like it quite a bit. It may seem odd to write a review a year after the fact, but I just played it again last night with my wife and five year old daughter and wanted to say a few words. This was the first worker placement game I have introduced my daughter to, and I thought that this one would be a good intro.

The basic goal of Stone Age is to use your workers to gather materials to build things and hunt/gather to feed themselves. You gain victory points by spending the resources you gather to buy tiles and development cards. Players take turns placing one or more workers on spaces on the board. After all workers are placed, you check for earning resources by rolling a die for each worker plaed on a spot, and divide it by the number given. This makes food and wood relatively easy to gather, and stone and gold significantly harder. There are also action spaces where you may gain a new worker, create a food income, or buy a development card or a tile.

With my daughter, we chose to eliminate the cards and the tool tiles (tiles you may use to improve dice rolls). We explained the division by telling her to make sets of numbers. For instance, gathering wood has you divide by three, so we told her to make sets of three. This is much, much easier to explain than division! She caught on quick and enjoyed it quite a bit.

To sum up, I like the game. It is by far the simplest of the worker placement games (compare to Agricola, Caylus, Pillars of the Earth or Keythedral). A five year old is not quite ready to play it fully, but the fact that none of the play requires reading make this one to definitely try with the kids. For advice on teaching games to kids, my profile has a link to my family’s gaming blog where we explore that regularly.

Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game page
52 out of 65 gamers thought this was helpful

I just had the opportunity to play the Dungeons and Dragons Castle Ravenloft game, and I have to say that I am disappointed. Reviews I have read implied that the game was somewhat of a cross between D&D 4th edition and Betrayal at House on the Hill (an excellent cooperative game with multiple scenarios). I really wanted to like this game. Though not a fan of D&D 4th edition, I did consider that ruleset would make a great boardgame. Sadly, I found this game to be severely lacking.

The way the game is structured, you have a scenario with a win condition known at the start of the game (the sessions I played were an escort mission, and a quest to kill a dracolich). Players then take turns moving and exploring, with player turns working much like D&D turns. The exploration system is my primary problem with the game. You go to the edge of the board, and lay down a random tile. Every tile has a monster, and every monster immediately attacks the character. There is no opportunity for reaction, tactics, etc. There are several reasons why this is problematic.

D&D characters have strengths and weaknesses. Take, for example, the wizard. A wizard’s strength is being able to attacks enemies from afar, often multiple ones. Their weakness is typically lack of ability to take damage, represented by a low hit point total. Castle Ravenloft’s Exploration/Encounter system heavily penalizes the wizard character for having fewer hit points than the other characters. We came to realize that this character was just not viable for playing.

Another weakness is the Exploration/Encounter system, as I mentioned before. Every exploration reveals an enemy. And while it is nice that all players cooperate, the tactics they use largely make them feel the same.

Another game that occupies this same conceptual space is Descent. Also a dungeon crawl game, Descent has one player operate as the Overlord, controlling the monsters. Its gameplay is smoother and more satisfying, but it does not play so quickly. A better horror exploration game that plays in a similar amount of time is Betrayal at House on the Hill (mentioned earlier). Primarily cooperative, it uses a traitor mechanic that causes one player to unexpectedly betray the party, which sets into motion a story-driven scenario, where both the traitor and the rest of the players have distinct win conditions.

To sum up, this is not a good game. There are planty of other good cooperative games to measure this against. The poorly-conceived systems diminish its playability, and its small number of scenarios limit its replayability. I would seriously consider either of the games previously mentioned above this.

Go to the Apples to Apples page

Apples to Apples

58 out of 83 gamers thought this was helpful

Apples to Apples is an alright game, and I have hd fun with it. This is best used as an icebreaker game, and maybe as a agteway game to warm up non-gamers to the idea of playing more interesting games. Beware, though… some light gamers may want to overdo it if it is too prominently displayed on your game shelf.

Go to the RoboRally page


50 out of 82 gamers thought this was helpful

This game is quite crazy. You have to set up your turn ahead of time, planning moves and (hopefully!) anticpating the moving board elements, various hazards and other players. It’s great for people with logical minds (programmers!), but still crazy hilarious fun for others. A great game by the creator of Magic: The Gathering!

Go to the Ascension page


43 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

Ascension is a deckbuilding game. What does that mean? For those of you familiar with Dominion, this is a game using the same basic mechanic. For those of you new to the concept, here’s how it goes. You start the game with a deck. A small deck. On your turn, you acquire cards for your deck. Purchased cards typically go into your discard pile, which you shuffle when you get through your deck. This adds purchasing power for better cards and easier acquisition of point cards. You shuffle a lot. The concept started with Dominion, and has been popping up in other games like Thunderstone and Ascension. It’s a good mechanic, and it makes games that use it easy to teach since you begin the game with a premade deck of just a couple different kinds of cards.

Ascension works for 2-4 players. It has a board to organize the cards. There is a deck of characters and monsters to defeat or purchase, and some spiffy plastic crystals to track Honor (victory points). Six cards are laid out on the board, and these are either going to be characters which go in your deck (purchased with Runes), monsters to defeat (using Power) or constructs, which are cards that go through your deck that you may play into your play area and they stay in effect indefinitely. Most characters will provide Power and/or Runes. Runes are the currency you use to buy cards, and Power is what you
use to defeat enemies. You can buy as many characters or constructs and/or fight as many enemies as you have the Power and Runes for in your turn.

I like this game quite a bit. It is simple. Ascension is much less of an endeavor to set up than Dominion is. We own all the released sets for Dominion, and it really seems like a monumental undertaking to set up. Ascension, on the other hand, just requires you to grab a starting deck, lay out the board, shuffle the card supply and count out the Honor crystals. The simplicity of this makes it much more likely to hit the table if just my wife and I are playing. Additionally, the possibility of buying characters and fighting enemies in the same turn is nice, especially compared to Thunderstone’s clunky dungeon mechanic.

Go to the Tales of the Arabian Nights page

Tales of the Arabian Nights

60 out of 67 gamers thought this was helpful

Tales of the Arabian Nights is an adventure game set in the mythical world of Middle Eastern folklore. You will find talk of friendli Djinni, wicked Efreeti and scheming viziers.The way the game works is that you have a character chosen at the start of the game, such as Sindbad, Aladdin or Scheherazade. You then choose a victory condition, which is a number of Story points and Destiny points that together total 20 points. What you do then is travel the world and have encounters. You determine the encounter by drawing from an Encounter deck and then rolling on a chart in the Book of Tales, which determines what you encounter. After what you encounter is determined, the player decides how he responds. Each category will have a list of responses, and this will result in a paragraph from the Book of Tales, which in turn may give choices based on skills your character possesses. That may seem like a lot to digest, but here is an example:

I am playing Aladdin, and on my turn a I move a few spaces. I then draw an Encounter card, which is a Prophet. The card also has a number which corresponds to a chart in the Book of Tales. I roll a number on this chart, giving the Prophet an adjective: he is now a Mad Prophet. I then choose how to react to him. In this case, I will Rob him (I am Aladdin, a street rat, after all!). Another player who has a list compares my choice to a list and tells the player with the book what paragraph to read. The paragraph indicates that I stage a scheme with accomplices to take his wealth, and it goes well, but alas, he is poor. There are then two results, based on whether or not I have a specific skill. I do not, thereforefore I earn a single Destiny point and my turn is over and passes to the next player.

What I like about the game

What I like about this game is that it is an adventure game that seems to have enough variation to play over and over again. The number of encounters make it unlikely that one will repeat in the same game. A common issue with games in the genre is that they easily go stale. After about 5-7 plays, I still see myself playing this game more. As a person with a game library of more than 300 games, that is saying a lot. I’d play this over Runequest or Talisman any day.

What I dislike

There are some statuses that a character can acquire that sometimes seem a bit punitive. In addition to awards, a character may end up with a status of some sort. Some are good (Blessed and Vizier, for example), some are a mixed bag (Married and On Pilgrimmage), and some are just nasty (Accursed, Enslaved and Grief Stricken). The mentioned ones are not the entire list, but the bad ones just seem to stick around forever and some take away choices, or require specific choices. A minor dislike, but worth noting.

Final verdict

Tales of the Arabian Nights is a great adventure game. Don’t open the box and expect to play this like a strategy game, though: it just isn’t. You can’t reliably expect to plan a strategy and execute it. It’s a fun, random romp through a story-rich world. Expect to be amused by this light-hearted and enjoyable game.

Go to the Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm page
48 out of 55 gamers thought this was helpful

Race for the Galaxy (RftG) is an excellent strategy card game with a fun space theme. In it, players settle planets and build developments. A game round starts with each player secretly selecting an action card, then revealing the actions selected together. Each action card selected means an action is available for all players that round, and the selecting player gets some privelege for being the one who selected it. Actions include Explore (drawing cards), Settle and Develop (for purchasing a planet or development card, respectively, among others. Game play continues until someone has played the twelfth card in their tableau (play area), after which victory points are added up.

An expansion to this game I cannot play it without is The Gathering Storm (TGS). TGS is the first of three expansions for the game. As expected, it adds a few cards to the pretty large amount in the base game. These cards are pretty well balanced and fill thematic and mechanical “holes” in the base game. For example, some cards have keywords that can be relevant when scoring happens. This adds more of those cards, which allow more interesting combinations. What really stands out, however, are the goal cards.

The goal cards are a set of goals that are randomly dealt out each game. Two large goals each worth five victory points and four small goals each worth three are in each game. The large goals function like the Longest Road/Largest Army cards in Settlers of Catan, in that they can change hands during the course of the game. One is for largest military, for example, and another is for largest number of large developments. The small ones are for the first person to reach the goal. These add some serious considerations for gameplay, since sometimes a few points can be the difference in first and second place in scoring. And if your draws aren’t getting you the planets types you want, you can try focusing on the goal cards so that you’re earning points while you’re waiting to draw the next rare minerals world, or big development.

To summarize, I wouldn’t play RftG without this expansion. The other two expansions don’t seem as critical, as I can easily see playing without the additional rules from the Rebel vs. Imperium or Brink of War expansions (Prestige points and takeovers come to mind). This expansion really made Race for the Galaxy a better game. So, if you own the game, try this expansion if you haven’t already. And share your thoughts! Tell us what you think of this expansion, or any other expansion for any game you cannot see playing without!

Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: 4th Edition page
53 out of 61 gamers thought this was helpful

Flashback: I pick up the 3rd Edition D&D Player’s Handbook. I had been on a bit of a hiatus from roleplaying games after moving to Oregon to finish college. I played 2nd Edition extensively in high school, and after moving away for college, I played sporadically when it came up. I even started a short-lived but fun campaign as the Dungeon Master. I decided to pop into my FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) and check this out. I was not disappointed.

When I opened that book, I felt I had in my hands the ability to create any type of character I could imagine. Where earlier editions had fairly rigid archetypes, the customizability of character creation in 3rd Ed. was excellent. Skills, feats, generous multiclassing… I loved it. In short order, I found the university’s gaming club, where I met other roleplayers… including my wife through the club via a listserve… to (surprise, surprise!) play D&D 3E. But I digress. Back to 3rd Edition….

Another gem of D&D 3rd Edition was the Open Gaming License (OGL). The basic system of D&D, called the D20 system, was open source. This means that third party publishers could create adventures, supplements, campaign worlds, etc., based on this system. And they did. Lots. This really opened the field for a lot of innovation, and great product lines rose from this. It was a great thing to experience. And it lasted for several years. And then 4th Edition D&D was announced.

At first, I was pretty thrilled by the announcement. I was pretty happy with the direction of the product line thus far, and was excited to see where they would take it. After all, they’d really made it shine, they’re just going to do more of the same, right? Wrong.

I started being skeptical when Wizards of the Coast started giving previews. I just didn’t feel behind what they were doing, but I still kept reservedly optimistic.But each subsequent preview made it really seem that something was not going right, in my opinion. And then it was released. I’ll admit, I went to my FLGS to pick it up at midnight. Yup, I’m a geek and not ashamed to admit it!

So, I’m not going to review 4th Ed. I’ll just say that I was unimpressed by character creation, and the fact that every character class pretty much does the same thing with slightly different window dressing. It wasn’t ever, “What’s YOUR cool power?”, it was always “What’s your 3d6 + ability modifier power?”. Basically, they’re all the same. At least it seems like that to me. Feats are also stripped of all flavor. And the archetypes and pretty rigid, backsliding to 2nd Edition. Among other things. All in all, it seems like a pen-and-paper MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game), probably by intention.

Another point of note was the Gaming System License (GSL) for 4th Edition. Whereas the OGL was very permissive and encouraged third parties, the GSL did everything it could to say that Wizard of the Coast could terminate your rights to publish 4th Edition-compatible material at their whim. It is very restrictive, though there are quite a few third party publishers who do use it. I’m not impressed with it, though. And, as I understand, the GSL itself exists only because a lot of people pushed Hasbro (Wizards’ parent company) really hard.

So… yeah. This post isn’t really about bashing 4th edition, Wizards of the Coast or Hasbro. I just wanted to convey my disappointment about the system, as compared with my previous experiences. I have played 4th Edition a bit, and enjoyed it; it’s just not what I want to spend my small amount of roleplaying time playing. I’ve chosen to look to the Pathfinder line by Paizo Publishing as my RPG of preference. To put credit where credit is due, Pathfinder is based on the 3rd edition OGL. I recommend checking this system out if you haven’t already.

Go to the 51st State page

51st State

42 out of 44 gamers thought this was helpful

One of our my acquisitions is 51st State, a card game from Toy Vault based in the Neuroshima world (like Neuroshima Hex). There has been quite a bit of buzz about this one, often with it being compared to Race for the Galaxy. In fact, many claim it will effectively replace Race for the Galaxy in your collection. I want to share how we’re feeling about the game after a handful of sessions under our belts. For those of you not familiar with the Neuroshima world, it is a post-apocalypic North America with various factions vying for power. It was originally based on the Polish roleplaying game Neuroshima. The designer of 51st State, Ignacy Trzewiczek, is also one of the designers of both the Neuroshima roleplaying game and Neuroshima Hex. For those of you familiar with Fallout, what I’ve seen and read about it seems a lot like the world depicted in that series of videogames. It’s an interesting setting, and the art of the cards does a great job of conveying the post-apocalyptic theme.

The rules of the game are not too complex, though I must indicate that the rulebook isn’t that great. It meanders a bit, and some things are not referred to throughout but not explained until the very end. That being said, a couple reads and look at some online resources helped us get started. It starts with players selecting cards from several set out at the beginning of the turn. After card selction, players earn an income and then take turn executing actions. Actions can be playing a location (more on this later), using a production location with a worker, playing a leader, rebuilding a location or a couple other minor actions. Play continues until all players have passed. For the most part, gameplay is multiplayer solitaire, much like Race for the Galaxy, or even Dominion.

Most of the cards you’ll see are locations, and locations are very interesting in this game. Each location may be played in one of three ways, each with a color associated with it. The most basic function is white, and that is putting the card in your play area as a location; doing this can derive one of several benefits, such as giving an income of a resource, or being able to produce victory points or having a trait that stays in effect. Some are production locations that you, or sometimes an opponent, may play a worker on to get its benefit. Another option is to make a deal, which is the blue action. This will give you a modest income of its resource (or sometimes a card or victory points) each turn. The final action, denoted as red, is to conquer the location. This will yield a one-time windfall of resources, cards or victory points. This is a definite strength of the game. Each time you look at a card, you have to decide how you want to play it. It’s a very interesting tactical consideration, and very thematic to the world.

Each player takes on the role of one of the world’s factions. There are four: Mutants, New York, Appalachian Federation and the Merchant’s Guild. Each faction is trying top establish dominance by controlling areas. They each play a little different. The differences are not huge, but somewhat thematic. This is reflected in how they spend resources to accomplish the three basic actions for dealing with a location, and income they receive in the resources present in the game: scrap, building materials, weapons and fuel. As can be expected, each has an advantage towards one of the basic location actions.

I have to say I’ve been enjoying this game. Rulebook woes aside, it’s a great game. There is certainly a bit of randomness with the limited card availability per turn, but the cards seem balanced enough that you won’t have a situation where you need to fish for cards to implement your chosen strategy. It has enough complexity to be interesting, without dictating a dominant strategy.The stated playing time is 40-90 minutes, and is accurate. It hits the “sweet spot” for games in regard to fun versus time spent. 51st State gets a solid recommendation from me. I encourage you to give it a try!

Go to the Dominion: Prosperity page
36 out of 82 gamers thought this was helpful

I love this expansion… it is perhaps my favorite for the game. I cannot imagine playing it again without Platinum and Colonies. This really adds a great deal to every game of Dominion you play!

Go to the Dominion page


63 out of 120 gamers thought this was helpful

This game both created and defined the genre of deck-building games, and, as far as I can tell, still does it best. An outstanding game that deserves to be on your shelf!

Go to the Forbidden Island page

Forbidden Island

35 out of 86 gamers thought this was helpful

This is an excellent intro to cooperative games. I played this with my five year old daughter and had a blast.

Go to the 7 Wonders page

7 Wonders

31 out of 89 gamers thought this was helpful

An excellent game that delivers the experience of playing a great strategy game in 30 minutes. An excellent value! It will see lots of replay on my game table!

Go to the Roll Through the Ages page
59 out of 110 gamers thought this was helpful

This is an excellent, quick and light game. Definitely a filler, but great fun!

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