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Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: Lords of Waterdeep page
Go to the 7 Wonders page
Go to the Race for the Galaxy page
Go to the Star Realms page
Go to the Takenoko page
Go to the Race for the Galaxy page
35 out of 41 gamers thought this was helpful

Race for the galaxy is,at its heart, a tableau building game with a strong sci fi theme. Similar to other games in the genre (like 7 wonders) it pits players against each other in a bid to quickly and efficiently build the most impressive space faring civilization.
Each round the players will choose one of several possible options. They will draw cards (explore), play a development card, settle a planet, sell resources (for points or cards), or produce resources. The game is fairly quick moving with little downtime as players choose and play their action simultaneously. Another mechanic that helps ,is that although players will gain a benefit from their choice, each other player also gets to take this same option.
Race for the galaxy plays equally well from 2 up to 4 players. Since there is very little direct action between players (no attacking) it really does feel like a race. Players must use the cards in their hand to pay the cost of the item. This means cards are the actions you take as well as the resources you use to pay for them. This can lead to some agonizing choices as you are often forced to discard the cards you want to pay for others.
In addition to building your tableau you also can earn victory point chips. This is mostly done through selling resources between your various cards. Many different strategies are available as cards can give discounts to other cards, some can increase their worth with different combinations, or let you draw or play additional cards.
The game continues until one player has a dozen cards on their tableau. This adds some interesting choices as you have to decide between playing a lower value card or saving for a larger point item. Do you focus on earning vp chips or a military option to conquer planets for free. There are many possible roads to victory.
I would not recommend this as an introductory game due to its complexity. Although the gameplay is straightforward the iconography on the cards makes for a fairly steep learning curve . Even with dozens of games under our belt I do still find us needing to refer to the rulebook for clarification with certain cards.
The base set is balanced but lacks options for a true military victory ( it is possible but you need to rely on luck to get the right combination). I also find the base set could use more possible start worlds for variety’s sake. We have since purchased the first expansion (the brink of war) and this really rounds out the game.
I feel race for the galaxy is an excellent mid level card game. It is fast moving, well designed and plays in roughly 30 minutes. The cards and the game pieces are of good quality with excellent art work that suits the theme. The variety of possible paths to possible victory add lots of replayability. This is a solid option for anyone looking to move up from the gateway difficulty games.

Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: Lords of Waterdeep page
53 out of 59 gamers thought this was helpful

Lords of waterdeep is a worker placement style euro game set in the dungeons and dragons universe. This combination of the euro and nerdy creates a fairly lite entry level worker placement gateway game (similar to games like stone age without the need to feed your workers).

The game is very high quality with a beautifully designed board. A lot of thought has gone into the layout, the pieces and even the design of the box which holds the components. The cards and artwork are great and fit the theme well.

The game is fairly straightforward as each player is given a number of agents (depending on the number of players) and each round take turns sending their agents around the city to perform actions. Each action will give them adventures (colored cubes that count as fighters, wizards, clerics and thieves) used to complete quests, intrigue cards that give bonuses, new quests, gold or an option to build a new building.

The main aspect of the game is that any location has a limited number of spaces available , typically one. As the turn progresses a location you wanted might become blocked which limits your options. This adds lots of weight for proper planning. Do you go for something early to guarantee a spot or block an opponent? Buy a new building or take a chance with an intrigue card? As the game progresses other buildings will open up increasing options.

I have played it many times and feel the game is fairly balanced. Each time we played the scores were fairly close which kept it interesting. This is quite lite for a worker placement game which makes it a great introductory game.

Sadly what makes it great for casual gamers may leave more said strategy gamers feeling disappointed. There is little player interaction so it is more of an individual race than a true competition. Although the cards and board are nice the cubes that are used for adventurers distract from the theme. The extra buildings are also well designed for mechanics but their simple design leaves you never fully immersed in the setting. The Quest cards also add little flavor even with the great artwork. It feels like a well designed game with a theme added as an afterthought or a game which could easily fit a different setting. Even the Lord’s or color you choose does not add much depth (unless you get the building lord). I feel some more thought into adding more dynamic lord scoring or making the different colors start or score differently (each start either certain cubes At the beginning or have their own house or quest scoring bonus) could have added a lot.

Those few criticisms aside Lords of waterdeep is a great introductory worker placement game. It is a lighter game geared for casual players and offers a great gaming experience with any number of the players possible. Even with my feelings on the theme and lack of depth it is super fun. I have played it with the expansions which added a lot more to the game and with the random nature of the game it can have a fair amount of replay value. Again avid or power gamers may find it lacking and want a more heavy game and some d&d fans may be kept wanting a greater immersion experience. This aside I highly recommend the game to the more casual audience looking to wet their beak with the worker placement genre.

Go to the 7 Wonders page

7 Wonders

37 out of 42 gamers thought this was helpful

Although 7 wonders is described as a light civilization building game, it is at it’s heart a tableau building game powered with a card drafting mechanic. Each player will start by choosing an ancient civilization, represented by their respective wonder, and attempt to build the most impressive empire over a series of rounds.
First off 7 wonders is a high production value board game. The cards are of good quality and feature great artwork which fit the theme wonderfully. The wonder boards and other game components are also of good quality.
The game can work from 3 to 7 players easily. There is a two player version, but like other games such as settlers, the two player game is somewhat clunky.
The game starts with each player being dealt 7 cards. Each round each player will choose one card from their hand and all players will reveal them simultaneously. Then each player passes their remaining cards left or right, depending on the age.
To play cards you must have enough resources to cover the cost. Some are free and some will take gold and/or resources. The costs and effect tend to increase over consecutive ages. There are some cards which have a chaining effect, where if you have a card from a previous age,you can play subsequent cards for free. This is an important factor in developing a strategy.
The challenge is deciding between resources ( which help you play more cards), science cards (that build points exponentially), structures ( which give straight points), military cards ( they give bonuses if you have more military power than your neighbors), or yellow cards which give gold or points. In the last age you also get guilds which give points based on other cards ( 1 point for each resource card between your neighbors as an example).
The other tactic is deciding on sacrificing a card to build a stage of your wonder. It is also important to keep an eye on your opponents and possibly choose a card they might like, to keep it from them. You will also compare military power with your neighbors and be awarded points and/or penalties based on whether you are more or less than them.
7 wonders is a simple yet fast paced and enjoyable card game. I really enjoy that everyone can play their cards at the same time (similar to race for the galaxy). This really helps speed up the game play and leaves people from getting bored. It also leaves more challenge for people to keep track of both their own choices and their opponents.
7 wonders is a truly great gateway, tableau building, and light civilization game. It may not be for power gamers or those that like a lot of detail. I have not tried the expansions at this point but I have heard that they do add a lot to the game. It also can be played in roughly a half hour when everyone knows how to play. This makes it a great filler game or a good choice when your group is looking for lighter fare.

Go to the Small World page

Small World

39 out of 44 gamers thought this was helpful

At first glance smallworld seems a lot like risk with a silly fantasy themed twist. I feel that this is a good candidate for a gateway game for those that like lots of interaction between players. It can seem somewhat overwhelming to newer players the first time through, but most will have a good sense of the rules by the time they are finished their first game.

Depending on the number of players you will start by selecting one of the several maps included in the game. The various sized boards does a good job of keeping a sense of urgency and interaction depending on the player pool. Besides setting up the board the players randomly shuffle the race boards(each with their own ability) and separately shuffle the power boards(with a separate game changing ability). These are randomly put together to make new and interesting combinations each and every game. Although it may not be great for players that like deep strategy it will be good for those that like quick fast paced action.

Each player starts by choosing one of the race/power combos on the board and takes the correct number of tokens. They then use those race tokens to capture and control regions on the game board. Each space starts by needing two to capture but this goes up with the number of opponents, special abilities or the presence of mountains. This continues until a player feels they cannot further their races domination and chooses to go into “decline”. this means they forgo their turn but on the next turn will get to choose a entirely new race/power combo. Players will continue to do this until the number of rounds indicated on the map is over.

I will not take the time to go into reviewing the various races and powers but I feel days of wonder did a good job of balancing this by adding or subtracting units depending on the combination. One issue we found was that after multiple plays their are some standout races and powers that seem to be more effective than others.

Although the game works fairly well with two players it really shines with multiple players as each and every turn you can see your small progressed crushed under your opponents feet. This constant back and forth and ability to start again with a new race keeps the game fresh round over round and prevents one person from dominating the board (even if they do dominate points).

I find the artwork and theme to be strong which really helps add the the value of this game. The combination of races and powers does make it harder to have any deep strategy going in but keeps each game feeling slightly different. In the long term I find the games does lose some life as your group learns which powers and races are better. I have not played the expansion but I have heard that the standalone expansion “smallworld:underground” helps solve this with new rules and additions. I like that Days of Wonder also has some smaller expansions that add a few races each(similar to the carcassonne mini expansions). This helps add some life to the game without breaking the bank.

Our group has found Smallworld to be a fun and light skirmish game that adds a lot of excitement without a long time investment. This is an excellent gateway game but may not be suited for those that are looking for a deeper strategy or a more involved war game. The light silly theme also helps the game as I never would have thought I would say “flying ratman” with such annoyance.

Go to the Pandemic page


59 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

First off I have always been somewhat paranoid of disease causing germs, so when I heard there was a game built around this I was intrigued. This was also one of the first cooperative games our group played and was interested on how it would work. I had also heard good things about it so I was nervous all this expectation could lead to disappointment. In the end disappointment was completely avoided.

The game itself is pretty simple compared to other games you can play. The board consists of a map of the world dotted with cities which are connected by lines ( these act as connecting points like airline routes or highways etc between the various cities). There are two sets of cards, one for the scientists and one for the disease, and two markers that track outbreaks and infection rate.

Players begin by each choosing a role, typically selected randomly. Each role has a unique ability which will help the group combat the spread and eradication of the 4 diseases that pop up over the board. Although each ability is not totally balanced, they do compliment each other fairly well and since you work together it doesn’t make the game any less enjoyable.

each turn the players spread the disease by turning over cards which add disease cubes to the city the card represents. They then take their own cards which are typically cities(showing knowledge of the disease in that city). There are various actions the players can take from moving, flying around the glove, or treating a disease in one area to keep it from spreading, or ultimately curing one of the 4 infections. The decks of cards also have special cards which can have a major influenza er I mean influence on the game. The worst of these cards are the epidemic cards. These shuffle the already played cities on top of the disease deck and increase the markers on the board. This guarantees that already infected cities will be infected again. This adds a sense of urgency to the game as each time these cards are played it can increases the infection rate which means eventually more disease cards are pulled each turn. Another fun mechanic (well maybe not fun) is when a city has 3 disease cubes and another hits, it spreads the diseases to connecting cities. We have had games were we thought we were doing well only to have one city cause a cascade of outbreaks which ended the game in one turn.

This is a great co-operative game which is easy to learn but still quite enjoyable. The theme is well represented and the game is fairly challenging at even the basic difficulty level. The fact that you can increase the difficulty helps keep it exciting as you learn proper strategy with each play. Although some may not like the games random nature, I fell it helps build on the theme of how chaotic and unpredictable diseases can be.

A few things I find with it is that it can become less exciting with more plays as the theme becomes less strong over time as your group learns better ways to deal with the various challenges. I have not personally played the expansions but I have heard they go a long way to increase the longevity of the game. The only other issue is that in some sessions one player can end up dictating the rules so it can dissolve into a solo game if you have an alpha gamer in the group. One thing to watch as well is that you must follow the rules exactly or some of the very simple rules can make the game much easier if not followed properly (like sharing cards). You can tell great care went into designing and balancing the rules so playing them as they were designed will only add to the fun.

This is a great co-op game dripping with theme and an excellent gateway to co-operative games in general.

Go to the Ticket to Ride: Märklin Edition page
10 out of 16 gamers thought this was helpful

Ticket to ride is a nice, light, easy to learn game which has a fair amount of replay value. I find the ticket to ride games are easy to learn and teach, but add a lot of depth for players that are used to games like Monopoly.

For those that do not know the game is fairly simple. Each player selects a certain number of “destination cards” which they try to complete for points. Each turn the player either draws cards, builds a track between two cities, or draws more destinations.

The game comes with a huge stack of colored rail cards which are used to build tracks between two cities. To complete a track the player must have enough cards of a single color that match that track or wild cards that make up the difference. If you wanted to build a track which was 4 orange long you would need 4 orange or 3 orange and one wild card as an example. The value of the tracks you complete vary depending on the length with longer tracks being worth more. The increasing value is somewhat exponential so saving for longer tracks can be worth it. In some maps a few longer tracks are often raced to be finished as building them is worth many points even if it does not help with your destinations.

Destinations have a great effect on the game as the players all race to complete them and often block each other off which prevents players from completing their line or forcing them to use more cards and turns to go a roundabout way. the destinations are worth anywhere from small amounts up to huge amounts depending on the map you play. the danger is that if you fail to finish a destination you lose the points so taking more , especially later in the game means you could be stuck with commitments you don’t have time to finish.

This addition adds a nice twist by adding the passenger which mixes up the strategy from previous editions while leaving the core game intact. The Map of Germany is interesting with the two sides of the map, divided by short and long tracks, which can add a variety of paths people can use to victory. In my various plays I did find that the left hand side of the map, made up of shorter tracks often had much more competition for tracks than the longer tracks on the Berlin side. I can not honestly say if this is due to player selection or the design of the destination cards.

I find that Ticket to ride Europe or America to be easier to introduce to newer players but this is a solid experience. All in all I find this a great game and worthy to have in your collection. For more experienced gamer’s, or those who like to have more meat on their bones, than this may not be for you.

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