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Jeff King

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Go to the Nightfall page
Go to the A Game of Thrones: The Card Game - Core Set page
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Go to the Alien Frontiers page
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9
Go to the Alien Frontiers page

Alien Frontiers

73 out of 80 gamers thought this was helpful

Alien Frontiers, developed by Clever Mojo Games, is a great space themed game that utilizes its mechanics well for a solid game play experience.

Components
The components for this game are extremely well done.

The board looks great and also offers a lot of information, utilizing language independent icons. Dice are used in 4 different player colors to represent spaceships. Each player also gets small wooden tokens in their color to represent colonies they place on the board. A small handful of cards are used to represent Alien Technology that players can acquire to interact with the game and their ships. There are also wooden tokes to represent fuel and ore, which are collected and used to pay for various things in the game.

Mechanics
Dice Rolling – Yep, the “dreaded” DR phrase. It’s actually one of the core mechanics of this game. But it works really, really well. And with the right Alien Technology cards you can manipulate the dice to use them effectively. So yes there is some random element involved since you have to roll the dice, but there are ways to control it a bit. If you like Kingsburg and games like that, this mechanic will not bother you and I think you have the potential for more control of the dice in Alien Frontiers than you do in Kingsburg.

Territory Control – As you place your colonies, you’ll be thinking about if you can gain control of a territory, or if you can at least make it so no one has control. The reason for this is the player that has control of a territory gets an additional victory point and bonus abilities to use during the game. The moment they no longer have more colonies than anyone else (so even on a tie); they lose both the bonus abilities and the victory point. Placing your colonies and gaining control of territories are the two main way to gain victory points for the end of game win.

Worker Placement – In this case your workers are spaceships. Your choices for where to place those spaceships each round are determined by: what you roll, what you can manipulate on those rolls, and what areas are still open for ships to dock. Like most worker placement games, most areas on the board do not have enough spaces for everyone to use them. So you might have the perfect roll for something, but without an open spot to dock your ships you are out of luck. This adds a bit of a cut throat strategy element as well. You can use worker placement not only to your benefit, but also to your opponent’s detriment. If you like Kingsburg but wish it would move a little faster, or don’t like Kingsburg because of the slow pace, this might be a game to check out. The Worker placement isn’t as “round robin” as Kingsburg. You place all of your ships/dice on your turn and they stay in their spot until your next turn. The next player will remove their dice, roll them, and then work with the open areas on the board. So there’s less wondering if you need to take a spot or if it will still be available for your remaining dice. You place all your dice, work with the spots that are open, and you’re done. Yes, there can be some Analysis Paralysis, but it’s minimized greatly next to the amount I’ve seen in some Kingsburg games (I enjoy Kingsburg, don’t get me wrong).

Fluctuating Scoring – As mentioned above, having control of a territory gets you extra victory points, but losing control will also make you lose that point. There are also a couple of Alien Technology cards that will give you victory points as well, but those can be stolen. So your score is not a fixed element in this game. And you will be thinking not only about how you can gain points, but also how you can make your opponents lose points as well.

Variable Powers – Between the Alien Technology cards and the Territory control benefits, you will have variety of tricks at your disposal. And all of them can be taken away just as fast as you gain them! This helps make the game a bit more cutthroat as well. And it’s one more thing to be thinking about. Sometimes you’ll make a play to gain an ability and other times you might make a play just so no one has that ability for a turn or two. Almost all the Alien Technology cards have a “pay to use” ability and a “one time; discard to use” ability. So the cards can come in and out of play easily. There’s also a spot on the board to dock ships that allows you to steal cards from other players. So the additional abilities will be in constant flux.

Overall Impressions
I really, really like this game. I love that it plays pretty fast and allows for a lot of manipulation of the dice. The cutthroat aspect of controlling territories for extra points and abilities is pretty nice as well. It makes for some contention and makes you think about the best placement of your limited colonies.

From a teaching aspect, this game is great as well. I was able to grab the game, read through the rules, and teach it to a new player that same night. There was minimal referring back to the rules, and when you do have to refer back; the rulebook is laid out nicely and I was able to find answers quickly. I have only found one rule that was being played incorrectly so far, and that was not the fault of the book. It was me not paying more attention to a territory that I never really go after.

I will definitely add this game to my list of games to teach at game day events.

8
Go to the Gears of War: The Board Game page

Gears of War: The Board Game

385 out of 406 gamers thought this was helpful

Gears of War: The Board Game, developed by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), is a translation of the popular video game franchise to a board game that can play 1-4 players. It is a cooperative with varying scenarios, random map setup, and AI controlled enemies.

Components
Overall, the components for this game are well done. Since this is a FFG game, most people first notice that it is “component light” compared to most of their line, but what they provide works well. You get plenty of cards for various decks, plastic sculpted figures for both Locust enemies and to represent the players, cardboard tokens for enemy wounds and ammo/grenade the players have available, custom six-sided dice, and plenty of double sided cardboard map tiles.

There are two things that I wish were different. First, I wish it came with more dice. But knowing FFG they will offer dice sets for sale online sometime in the future. Second, 3 of the 4 figures that represent the players are too similar. If you study the figures you can see minor differences, but trying to play quickly and with new players can lead to confusion; especially if the figures all stick together on the board. In fact, all four characters are holding the same weapon, and one of them doesn’t start with that weapon.

Mechanics
Solo Play – This game scales up to 4 players, but also scales down to a single player. With the spawn changing based on the number of players, and the AI cards controlling the enemies, this works really well. A lot of games that claim to play single player tend to not interest me as a solo game, but this is a game I can see myself making an exception for.

Cooperative Play – Up to 4 players work together as a unit trying to complete a scenario objective. The enemies are controlled by AI cards that control how they move and attack. Showing your card hand is not allowed, but table talk is strongly encouraged so that strategies are worked out, but the individual player is responsible for what card they play and how they use it.

Hand Management – Hand management is crucial in Gears of War. That handful of cards you’re holding on to as the game starts? Yeah, those cards go quick. No big deal, right? Wrong, that handful of cards is also your current health and they will dwindle fast. You get to draw up to 2 cards at the start of your turn, without going over your max hand limit/health (which is six for most characters). Those cards (also known as Orders) also have multiple uses. Each one has text on it that you can resolve, a symbol towards the top that can be used instead (Follow, Guard, or Dodge), or you can discard it for a basic (move or attack) or special (revive a fallen player, pick up dropped weapons, or activate an area’s equipment icon) action. You also have to use at least one card each turn, but as the game progresses you’re looking at using 2-3 cards easily if you can spare them. But, when an enemy attacks and wounds you, you have to discard a card for each wound you take. If you can’t discard enough cards, you are considered bleeding out and can’t do much of anything until another player discards a card to revive you. As the game progresses it is not uncommon to be wondering if you should discard a card to dodge, or would you be better off taking the attack to see how many cards you lose that way.

Dice Rolling – Yes, the random element of dice rolling is involved in this game. This is a mechanic that can be a killer for some people. I actually had a player walk away from a second play because of the dice element (the dice for attack weigh heavier than the defense dice). Everyone else hasn’t had too much of an issue with it and it adds to the tense feeling of how to best utilize your limited cards/health.

Scenarios – The game comes with 7 scenarios. This sounds like a small number, but the modular setup of the board makes it slightly different each time you play. I can also see some ability to work on your own scenarios if you want. And finally, FFG has started doing a lot more Print on Demand expansions to their games, and scenarios for this game lend itself perfectly for that.

Modular Board – As I stated in the Scenarios section above, each scenario has a set amount (and side) of tiles that will be used, but they are always set up randomly. So even replaying scenarios can feel like a slightly different experience. For example the Emergence scenario relies heavily on access to grenades. Only one of the map tiles offers a chance to get additional grenades. Having that tile in as the last tile placed, making it so there’s no need to run back to another tile, is vastly different than having it be the first tile placed; so that running out of grenades means running back to the tile you started on.

No Player Elimination – I’ll admit it, I have screwed this part up several times. I’ve actually killed off players if they take too much damage. The reality though is they are simply bleeding out. Which makes what they can do very limited (they can only move one space) and they still make the Locusts move/attack via AI cards. But they are still in the game and it’s to the benefit of the players to have someone revive the player so their actions can have some purpose besides making the Locust attack the players.

Scalability – I’ve stated this above, but the game scales well by adjusting what spawns at the start of the game by the number of players involved in the game. Also, the fact that the Locust AI only happens at the end of a players turn means the attacking and movement of the Locust will be slightly less as well. But having more players is nice for the simple fact that if the Locust have multiple targets they can engage, the players get to choose the actual target. That can make the difference between continuing on and bleeding out.

Overall Impressions
Like many gamers I thought this game was vaporware. FFG announced it so long ago and then went completely silent on it that most gave up on it and then forgot about it.

I’m happy to say that not only did the announcement of the games arrival shock everyone into remembering it, but the game turned out to be a solid game. It’s definitely a game that attempts to slap you in the face while you’re playing it. It can be hard and challenging, especially initially. I’ve seen frustration, but I’ve also seen players dig in their heels and demand it be setup again. To me, that’s a mark of a game that did something right.

Will it appeal to everyone? No. The dice are heavily involved and attack dice are stronger than defense dice. This definitely is not a eurogame beyond it has some hand management decisions in it. But if you like the video game, you like light war games, or you like a good challenge; this game is a good edition. I’m also a fan of any game I can teach easily. Of course, teaching it usually means you’ll see the Emergence scenario more than you might like (as it’s the shortest scenario/map), but with different players and the map being randomly setup, you will still enjoy the experience.

9
Go to the Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game page
54 out of 61 gamers thought this was helpful

Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game is a board game published by Flying Frog Productions based on the zombie survival genre that can accommodate 2-6 players. It is a combination of cooperative and competitive; as several hero players work together to defeat the scenario while one or two players act as the zombies and try to defeat the heroes.

Components
The components for this game are just beautiful. Flying Frog Productions did not skimp on components at all. With thick cardboard tokens, great plastic sculptures, and quality cards used for the zombie and hero decks. There have been a few people that have had a bad batch of cards, but it sounds like Flying Frog Productions has been ready to replace them with ease.

The game comes with a full color rulebook, 1 town center board game (flip side is the manor house for one particular scenario), 6 L-shaped outer board pieces, 8 hero figures, 14 zombie figures (7 green and 7 brown), 60 card zombie deck, 60 card hero deck, 6 reference cards, 8 hero character sheets, 5 scenario cards, plenty of counters, 16 six-sided dice, and 1 CD of original music to use as a soundtrack.

The only thing I would replace if I could (and plan to in the future) is the little dice that come with the game. With all the other components looking so great, the small dice area bit of a letdown when you first pull them out. But it is a minor thing and does not really take away from the overall game.

Mechanics
Cooperative Play – Up to 4 players work together as the heroes to complete a chosen scenario and survive the zombie onslaught. At the same time, up to 2 players can work together as the zombies to try and thwart the heroes. The exact number will depend on each side will depend in the number of players participating in the game.

Competitive Play – There is also a competitive play mechanic with this game, as the zombie players and the hero players work towards different goals and are in direct opposition of one another. When the game ends, either the zombie players or the hero players will be victorious.

Hand Management – Both the zombie players and the hero players have card decks that they can utilize. For the zombie player it is automatic but the heroes have to search in order to collect cards. Hero players might have to decide on items to discard or trade away if they already have 4 items in play (or 2 of those items are already weapons). Zombie players have a max hand size of 4 (total, so if there are two zombie players, each has a hand size of 2). Zombie players can also discard up to one card per turn. So zombie players need to play or discard their current cards in order to get more cards.

Dice Rolling – Yes, the random element of dice rolling is involved in this game. This is a mechanic that can be a killer for some people. But honestly, it works for the type of game this is and between special abilities and cards there are plenty of ways to possibly manipulate the dice rolls. The dice are used for hero movement, ranged weapon results, ammunition checks, and normal combat.

Modular Board – There are 6 L-shaped pieces that make up the outer board, but typically only 4 of those pieces are used at a time. So the makeup of the town is slightly different with each game.

No Player Elimination – Zombies are going to kill heroes, that is part of the game and eventually those evil random dice turn on you. The good news is that Flying Frog Productions has thought of this and added in a mechanic so that players are not eliminated from the game early. If a player loses the last hero they control, they simply randomly grab a non-played hero and start in a random location. The game keeps going and everyone continues to play until one side or the other meets their objectives. What if you run out of non-played heroes? Not really possible, because one of the default objectives of the zombie players is an automatic win on killing 4 heroes.

Scalability – This is one of the things I really like about this game. There is always the same number of heroes on the board, regardless of number of players. There is also always the same number of zombies to control. In this way the game scales easily from 2 to 6 players, even in mid-game if necessary! If you have a game night where people come and go, this game works extremely well for adding and losing people during play. Nothing on the board changes, just which player controls what.

Scenarios
There are 5 scenarios that come with the game, and several scenarios available for download on the Flying Frog Productions website. Not to mention the expansions that have come out since the core game. These scenarios, combined with the modular board, keep the game from being the same with each play. Future expansions will also have new scenarios in them, making this a fun and flexible game with a good amount of replayability. Scenarios range from the basic, kill 15 zombies before 2 heroes die, to the more advanced, take out 3 zombie spawning points, find and rescue 4 townsfolk, or keep 9 zombies out of the manor house until daybreak. Each scenario will require the hero players to try and work together for a different goal and possibly use different powers available to them.

Overall Impressions
I am a huge horror movie fan, and that includes zombie movies. I have a lot of the zombie related board games themed around the genre; and this is by far my favorite zombie related board game. I have played this game countless times and even demonstrated it at conventions and gaming events, and I have yet to grow tired of it. I love breaking out this game with a new group, or with a bunch of people I know enjoy the genre. So if you ever want to give it a try, just get a hold of me; I am always up for a game!

I highly recommend giving Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game a try, especially if you like zombie genre games. You will not be disappointed.

Brrrraiiins!!

7
Go to the Cargo Noir page

Cargo Noir

110 out of 117 gamers thought this was helpful

Cargo Noir is a board game published by Days of Wonder that can accommodate 2-5 players. Players bid on goods at various ports in the hopes of collecting sets that they can sell for victory points and special abilities.

Components
The components for this game really work well together. The plastic, poker-like chips that represent money work well with the bidding mechanic. It’s a nice touch over using paper money and allows players to quickly see what they need to do if they want to outbid someone. The color plastic ships to represent actions work as well, and easily sit on top of bids to show which player made the currently winning bid.

The board is modular, in that it is setup different by the number of players you have playing. I think this could have still be accomplished with a single folding board, but it still works fine and setup is still fast with the individual board pieces.

The one thing I might have changed is not using large cards to represent victory points. It ends up taking up a lot of room and most are simply just victory points. Cardboard chits, smaller cards, or poker type chips would have worked just as well and saved a lot of table space on when setting up. But that’s a minor thing and you just need to be mindful of the table space when fanning out the cards for purchase.

Mechanics
Bidding – The game does shine as a light bidding game. This mechanic works well. Like I said above, the use of plastic, poker-like chips was a nice touch and makes bidding and sizing up a bid easy. It’s a nice visual with the stack of chips and one of the player’s ships on top.

Set Collection – You’re bidding on goods at various ports. Why? Each player has a storage area and a trade conversion mat in front of them. You can only store so many goods, and you can trade in sets of like goods, or sets of differing goods to obtain victory cards, some with special abilities (like more ships – actions, or more warehouse space, etc…). I’ve seen casual gamers struggle a little bit on this, but mostly because they are new to these types of games. Overall, this works well and the player mats help explain the conversion.

Worker Placement – Each player starts with the same amount of ships; which equate to action points. On a player’s turn they get to place their ships at various ports to either earn money or bid on goods. You can acquire more ships in the game by buying victory cards that give you more ships. So a player has to manage their available resources in terms of money and ships they have available. If you are in a bidding war for a port; that ship is tied up until you win the port or pull out of the bidding. A pretty simple mechanic that again works well in the overall game

Scalability – This game does scale well, with the game board that closes/opens various ports depending on the number of players. But to really see it in action I’d recommend more than two players. Around 4-5 some of the resources get a bit limited (like extra warehouse space, etc…) and you need to make some tougher decisions at times. I have played it 2-player and it is enjoyable, but I think it shines better with more.

Theme
I think this is where a lot of people either love or hate this game. It is billed as a 1950’s noir style game about smuggling goods. It’s really not. The theme is thinly painted on at best. You really don’t get any of the flavor this theme promises. But if you aren’t in it for the theme, this is a great filler game.

Overall Impressions
Personally, I like the game. As someone that participates in a lot of gaming events that aim to teach games to people, this is an easy one for me to add to the list. It’s a great, light, gateway game and a good filler in a night of gaming as well. Again, if you’re looking for the rich theme, keep looking. But if you’re looking for a light, bidding game that you can easily bring casual gamers in with; this will do it!

9
Go to the 7 Wonders page

7 Wonders

60 out of 67 gamers thought this was helpful

7 Wonders is a great drafting card game with a slight learning curve. It plays 2-7 players and scales well regardless of number of players; although the 2-player variant included is a little clumsy feeling.

Components
At it’s heart, this is a card game. So you get plenty of cards. The game scales by including cards based on the number of players you have. The wonder boards are double-sided and the artwork for both cards and wonder boards is a nice element that also does not distract from the overall game play. Cardboard tokens are also included for military success and defeat, as well as representing money collected and spent throughout the game.

Mechanics
Card Drafting – You will be selecting a single card for yourself, and then passing your hand to your left or right neighbor, depending on which Age you are currently in. So not only are you looking for cards that help you, but you’re also watching so you’re not passing cards that realyl help your neighbors. At first glance, some people will neglect this very early ability to start using strategy.

Simultaneous Action/Play – While teaching this game, this mechanic might not be as closely followed. But one of the things that makes the game go fast is the fact that once everyone has secretly selected their card, it is immediately played, paid for, and any resolution that needs to take place happens. Everyone does this at the same time. So there’s really no downtime for players as they wait for a turn to come around, because everyone is constantly playing.

Variable Player Powers – The wonder boards provide different benefits (if they are built) for each player. This adds a nice variable element to the game. The B-side of the boards takes advantage of this to a larger extent than the A-side of the boards do. The boards are randomly chosen (you can have everyone select a board if you want) and the side can also be randomly chosen. This adds a lot of variety and options to the game that change each time you play. Guild cards may also change with each game, adding new elements and scoring options in to Age 3 (the last Age of the game).

Scalability – This is one of the things I really like about this game. With the cards scaling to the number of players and the fact that players will always start an Age with a hand of 7 cards, the time it takes to play a game (30-45 minutes once you have the cards and mechanics down) does not change simply because you have more players! How many games have you played that you loved at 2-4 players, but thought it dragged on once you passed that 4+ mark? This game handles the jump from 2 to 7 players very well.

Teachability
If you are teaching hardcore gamers this game, you probably won’t run in to much of a problem. For me, the rules are written a bit strange and took me several rereads to get what was going on. Also, for a short game with an overall simple foundation (pick card, pass hand, play card, rinse & repeat) there is a lot to explain. And parts of it are hard to just say “We’ll deal with it when it comes up” because players are making decisions on what cards to secretly keep based on that information. I was teaching a casual gamer and I almost thought we weren’t going to get to play because of the amount of stuff I had to relay just to start a game. Maybe I’ll find easier ways to teach it in the future, but for right now this is a minor dark spot on an otherwise wonderful game. As a side note, we did play, it was well received, and we played again since the first game was all getting use to the mechanics.

Overall Impressions
I’m a fan of this one. I do hope I find an easier way to teach it, but I’ll keep demoing it at game days in the near future. The fast play and flexible play is a very nice attraction and the game has multiple ways you can get your victory points.

I highly recommend giving 7 Wonders a try.

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