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Julian Leiberan-Titus

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Go to the 7 Wonders page
Go to the Cosmic Encounter page
Go to the Pirate's Cove page
Go to the Race for the Galaxy page
Go to the Magic: The Gathering page
Go to the Roll for the Galaxy page
Go to the Small World page

Small World

72 out of 80 gamers thought this was helpful

Smallworld is a light hearted territory control game that uses simple mechanics spiced up with a variety of special powers and combos to keep things interesting.

The play of the game is pretty simple. On your first turn you pick a race and get some tokens to represent your troops (usually 9-10). Each race has its own power and an additional randomly assigned special power creating new combos each game. One game might have Berserk Orcs while in the next game they might be Diplomatic Orcs.

You then place tokens on board spaces to take over territory. To take over an area, you simply place two tokens + 1 additional token for every obstacle in the space (mountains, enemy troops, etc). At the end of the turn, you grab a victory point token for every space you control. On following turns, you pick up all troop tokens except for 1 on each space and continue to take over more territory.
The only additional consideration comes from going into decline. After your troops begin to get spread thin, you can choose to put them in decline. You skip a turn and no longer get to do anything with those troops but they still score points for you as long as they are on the board. On the next turn, you get to pick a new race and start taking over even more territory. You earn points for any space your active or in decline race controls.

Smallworld has several great aspects. It plays fairly quick for a territory control game and technically you can never be knocked out of the game. The race/power combos add a lot of variety to play and the fight mechanic is simple enough that my six year old loves playing this game. The first several games you play of Smallworld will prove to be a lot fun. The fun, however, doesn’t last forever.

The simple mechanics make the game easy to learn and play but also present an inescapable problem. Eventually, the races and powers begin to become overly familiar and even a bit stale. After this point, you’re left with a game that’s as complex and intricate as basic arithmetic. Smallworld plays fast for a territory control game but it still doesn’t play real fast for a game with such simple mechanics.

Smallworld is a great choice to introduce casual gamers and young family members to war gaming. It can even entertain a more seasoned gamer in short bursts. However, Smallworld doesn’t have the depth to keep a serious strategy gamer engaged for long. There are no deep strategies to discover and no advanced moves to master. Because the powers and available races are random each game, you can’t decide to try out any specific ability or combo. The play is fun, but it fades fast.

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

Magic the Gathering is a fantastic game that everyone should try. Despite what you may have heard, Magic CAN be both simple and cheap to play.

At its core, Magic is a game where you play a wizard who summons monsters and casts spells in an effort to kill the other wizards in the game. Everyone plays with their own customized deck. The main play involves playing land cards and using them to pay for spells and monsters. Overtime you can put in bigger and better effects. Each player starts with 20 life and is usually playing with a deck of 60 cards. Run out of life or cards and you are out of the game.

That’s the basics. The problem with describing magic is that the decks and the rules are so customizable that you can do almost anything with it. You can play one on one or multiplayer. I’ve played with as many as 8 other players at the table but I recommend no more than 5. There are five different colors of magic each with their own theme and style. There are literally hundreds of different sub-games and house rules and alternate ways to play so that you make playing Magic the Gathering into a themed battle, a role-playing style game, a cooperative effort, or mix up how the battle goes in a variety of ways.

Odds are, if you’ve played Magic the Gathering and didn’t like it you just weren’t playing it right. It’s so customizable that it’s almost impossible to think that there’s no version of the game that would be fun for you.

Sound complicated? Don’t you worry. Magic can also be very simple. Get a deck with some basic cards and just go have fun. I recently taught my 5 year old daughter how to play and she understood it completely.

Despite being collectible, Magic doesn’t have to be expensive. If you want to check it out, go buy a set of Duel Decks. There are a variety to choose from. One of these packs will cost you roughly $25.00. For that price, you will get two 60 card decks with lots of fun cards that are designed to play well against each other. If you don’t spend another dollar on Magic you still got a great two-player game at a great price, and these decks can be played against any other magic deck that your friends might own.

When you want more, more will be out there. Try out some other duel decks or buy a few packs and start to make your own deck. As long as you don’t get too crazy about it, you will only be buying more Magic when expanding the game sounds fun to you. It only gets ridiculous and expensive if you start to obsess about having every new expansion or winning in tournament play.

If wizard battles, magic tricks, and monster summoning sounds fun to you, you can’t do better than Magic the Gathering. It is the most expanded, most play tested, most refined, and most customizable game on the planet earth. Buy a set that looks fun and give it a shot. You’ll enjoy endless hours of replay for no more money than you want to put into it.

Go to the Defenders of the Realm page
140 out of 147 gamers thought this was helpful

To be fair, I must state upfront that I am writing this review after only a single play of the game. That said, I have been searching long and hard (or questing you might say) for a solid adventure game that I could enjoy playing over and over. I have played many and found few that I love. Defenders of the Realm, however, has inspired my adventurous spirit. I wish I was playing it again right now!

Defenders of the Realm does almost everything I want an adventure game to do. The character classes are powerful and diverse. The combat mechanic is simple but satisfying. The sidequests are motivating and useful. Above all, it’s a cooperative game. You and your friends are actually allies working together (like in every adventure story ever) instead of trying to save the realm before the other hero does it.

For those experienced with co-op games (especially Pandemic) there will be some familiar devices. Each turn, your hero takes a number of actions to move around, fight monsters, accomplish side quests, or gather power. At the end of your turn, you draw 2 hero cards (that can help in a variety of ways) and then advance evil. When evil advances, minions are added to at random locations around the board. When there are too many in one location they break out (like a Pandemic virus) to neighboring locations causing more monsters and more problems to appear. Additionally, there are 4 generals of the monstrous hoards that move ever closer to the capitol city and leave more minions in their wake.

Winning the game involves defeating each of these generals. Generals feel sufficiently different from each other and epic in their scale. They make for a very satisfying fight which you can attempt all on your own or team up with any players that want to get in on the action.

There is a light competitive component which amounts to little more than Legolas’ and Gimli’s competition to see who could get the most orc kills in the Lord of the Rings movies. You get victory points for every side quest and general you defeat. The person with the most victory points is awarded “best defender of the realm” or something like that. This amounts to making you the MVP of the game and NOT the winner so it’s a fun incentive to try to be the best without getting in the way of the cooperative spirit of the game.

All in all, it was an amazing first play and I am excited to play again. Despite its high price tag, Defenders of the Realm has been added to my list of “must own” games. Its awesome gameplay, beautiful components (Larry Elmore art is a big plus in my book), and solid co-op mechanics have won me over completely. I suspect it will top my list of adventure games and cooperative games for some time to come.

Go to the Pirate's Cove page

Pirate's Cove

44 out of 46 gamers thought this was helpful

Pirates Cove has everything you could want from a pirate game. You get to upgrade your pirate ship, fight sea battles, get treasure, and become famous. Pirate’s Cove is a fun game that family members, casual gamers, and even more avid gaming fans can all enjoy together.

The rules are fairly simple and the game plays fast. Each turn, treasure cards are placed on the various islands. The players secretly choose which island to visit and everyone moves at the same time. If you show up alone, you get the treasure and can improve part of your ship(Hull, Cannon, Crew or Sails). If another player shows up at the same islands, you have to fight for the right to claim the treasure.

Sea battles are fast and fun with players rolling six sided dice and trying to get 5’s and 6′ to damage their opponents ship. Depending on how you built you ship, you’ll have different advantages and disadvantages but nothing too complex.

After you get enough treasure, you have to make pit stop at Treasure Island to bury the treasure and earn points. After all, no pirate ever became famous without burying treasure.

In additonal to this, there is a legendary pirate wandering from island to island so if you wanted to see just how tough the Flying Dutchman or Blackbeard really is, you can find out for yourself or even team up with other players to take them on.

The only downside to Pirate’s Cove is that some of the action cards you get in the game aren’t very useful and others aren’t well balanced. I would love to see this game get a revised version with some of these issues address. This is a small gripe, however, and doesn’t ruin the fun.

Pirate’s Cove is still the best way to play pirate without actually picking up a cutlass and making someone walk the plank.

Go to the Apples to Apples page

Apples to Apples

58 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

Apples to Apples provides a fun way to socialize, start friendly arguments, and just banter with your family and casual gaming friends.

Each turn, one player acts as judge and puts down an adjective card (like “Disgusting”). Every other player then picks one card from their hand of noun cards that they think best fits the adjective and turns it in to the judge. The judge looks over the cards, picks the one that they think best fits (Hmm…what’s more disgusting, a rat, an atomb bomb, or a high school bathroom?). Whoever’s card they pick, that player scores a point and the next player to the left becomes the judge with a new adjective card.

It’s simple, but it’s fun and easy to teach new people how to play. It also doesn’t mess up the game if someone wants to leave after the game starts or jump in mid game.

However, to enjoy this game you MUST allow discussion. I have seen players play the game where the judge looks over the cards, silently chooses a card, and announces the results. You have officially defeated fun if you play this way. If you don’t have your second cousin trying to justify to the judge that Hitler really was “Inspirational” because he inspired a whole country to do horrible things, you just aren’t playing right.

Go to the 7 Wonders page

7 Wonders

64 out of 73 gamers thought this was helpful

7 Wonders lets you build a civilization in less than 30 minutes. It’s fast, fun, and still very strategic.

At its core, 7 Wonders is a card drafting game. There are three rounds to the game. At the start of each round each player is dealt 7 cards. Each turn, you pick one card and then pass your entire hand to the next player. All cards that were picked are played at the same time. Then players pick up the hand they were passed and choose a new card. After three full rounds of drafting cards this way, the game is over and the scores are tallied.

Using this drafting mechanic, players get to make relatively simple choices that let them gather resources, build wonders, raise a military to do battle, and even increase trade with their neighbors.

7 Wonders plays with 3-7 players and increasing the player count does not significantly increase the overall play time. Every turn, players are considering their own hand of cards and choosing 1 card to play. For trade and battle, you are only ever concerned about the players to your immediately left and right regardless of how many people play the game.

The only downside to 7 Wonders is that there isn’t great card variety. With games playing so quickly, it won’t be long before you start to feel like you are seeing the same cards over and over.

7 Wonders is a fantastic spice to throw in to the mix now and then, but it starts to feel stale quickly if you make it a regular meal.

Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: 4th Edition page
53 out of 63 gamers thought this was helpful

Okay what the heck is up with D&D 4th Ed being the only Role-Playing game to show on this site?

D&D 4e takes much of the customization, adaptability, and interesting choices of its previous editions and boils it down to something overly simple and singular in its purpose. D&D 4e is usable as a “kick in the dungeon door and go fight monsters” game and not much else.

Every class is designed to fight and they all fight in a similar way. There is very little difference in mechanics or effect of a brave warrior swinging his sword or a mage casting magic missile. There are little or no class powers that encourage actual role-playing or give your character anything special to do outside of combat.

I’m not saying you can’t role-play interesting situations in a D&D 4e campaign. Good game masters and players can create interesting role-playing situations with almost no rules at all. What I am saying is that D&D 4e does absolutely nothing to help you role-play interesting situations.

4e is practically a miniatures battle game with “RPG” elements. There are many new role-playing games doing some wonderful and exciting things with the genre. D&D 4e isn’t one of them. It’s a shame this site doesn’t have information about Pathfinder (the true successor to 3rd Edition D&D), War Hammer Fantasy Role Play, World of Darkness, Dungeon World, or any of the other much more exciting RPGs.

Go to the Agricola page


55 out of 75 gamers thought this was helpful

Agricola has deep strategy, tough choices, great components, and lots of variety. It’s just lacking one small thing: fun.

The game has a basic structure. Every turn there are several action cards that represent actions you can place a worker/family member token on. New actions come out each turn. Players take turns placing their worker tokens and gaining the benefits of the actions in an effort to build up a farm with fences, animals, and useful crops. The player also starts with a random assortment of special cards in their hand that provide other choices for things to build during the game.

At regular intervals, players will have to feed their families or suffer drastic negative points. Feeding doesn’t help you or let you do anything interesting, it simply avoids negative points.

After 14 turns, the game is over and high score wins. Simple enough in principle, but the reality is that new players WILL lose this game every time to an experience player. This game is deceptively simple. It takes almost no time to learn how to play and a lot of time to learn how to play well. New players will not struggle a bit to learn how to take a turn. They will, however, likely find themselves at the end of the game wondering what happened and why their score was so low.

Obviously this game scratches the right itch for some gamers. You’ll note the many positive scores on this site as evidence of that. However, I’d make sure you play a friend’s copy before you buy. This game provides lots of opportunity to get penalized for poor play and the constant maintenance required can be frustrating.

It’s not that Agricola isn’t interesting. It’s not that Agricola isn’t well designed. It’s just that Agricola isn’t very fun.

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