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Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: Lords of Waterdeep page
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Go to the Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin page
97 out of 107 gamers thought this was helpful

Ever since Final Fantasy for the original 8-bit Nintendo was the single video game gift I opened on Christmas morning so many years ago, I have had this constant itch for Fantasy. It’s also a fact that books like The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia helped the itch too. I remember playing Dragon Warrior 3 for hours on end until my eyes were completely dried out. Recently I read the entire Inheritance Cycle [Eragon] and finished A Game of Thrones. My itch continues. Having fantastical board games only keeps me itching. Games like Runebound, Lords of Waterdeep, and Thunderstone Advance all bring to mind those experiences as a kid and how much I really enjoy the theme.

Oddly enough, I don’t have many Fantasy board games. Of the 80 or so games I own, I’ll bet only 8 or 9 are actual Fantasy themed. Wow. Less than 10%. It literally just hit me as I was typing that out. Why so few then, if it’s a theme I really like? Well, just like any other theme I suppose, it can get tired and repetitive. Elves and dwarves and dragons and wizards. It kinda all bleeds together sometimes, and the theme gets missed quite often. And if it’s a theme I really like, what makes this stand out among other fantasy themed games? How well does the theme hold up? Let’s answer those questions among others in this review…read on…

I’ve never actually played the original Thunderstone. I had my mitts on a copy of it to buy it, but a kind fellow at the game store said “Ummm…there’s a new one coming soon I hear…”. Obviously, that was earlier this year. So I waited patiently, and apparently that was a great move. I know a lot of reviewers out there have spoken highly of the series, and I’m glad I didn’t wait too long to get on the train with this game [the new version, that is]. I’ve had the game for some time now, just haven’t had a chance to get a good review in until now. So what is Thunderstone Advance anyway? It’s deck builder. Plain and simple, it’s a deck builder. But you’re not building a deck to score points, oh no no no…you’re building a deck, essentially, a team with an arsenal, to defeat the baddies in the dungeon or wilderness. This game, in addition to being a deck-builder like the grandfather of them all, Dominion, is also a dungeon crawling adventure. You can hire mercs in the village, buy up weapons and special abilities, hire some expendables, and kill of the creeps in the Dungeon/Wilderness that threaten the lives of the villagers. The expendables you hire can level up…and this is necessary..because the baddies in the deeper parts of the dungeon are only going to get stronger. You need your guys to level up so that you can have them carry bigger and better weapons, wield stronger spells, and pack stronger punches. The goal of the game is to defeat the Thunderstone bearer that resides deep within the dungeon. This has most of the elements of a solid RPG, and yet it keeps it within the confines of a deck-building game. So…let’s look at what the box offers:

1. The Cards

Duh…it’s a deckbuilder. And that means that there’s a lot of cards in this box. Like..a ******** of cards. Enough cards that if played by the basic rules, no two games will be alike, unless you play this game a few hundred times. Me? I play the best way I know how: The Epic Variant. Popularized by Tom Vasel and Richard Launius [even credited them in the rulebook], the epic variant basically makes use of ALL of the freaking cards. The upside? Having a crazy epic game, with a mystery around every corner. The downside? Reorganizing the dang cards again. The box comes with a great insert, along with dividers, to keep your game ready and clean and organized…just like I like it. If I can’t keep it well organized in it, then darlin’, we’ve got a problem. Needless to say, I had a bit of a fit when I did the epic variant. Easy to set up and play…just flipped me out when I went to stow it back in the box. Took as long to reorganize it as it did when I just threw all of it together and played the game. In any case, the artwork on the cards is gorgeous and pretty well keeps the theme intact without being crazy over-the-top [Ascension, while has creepily great artwork, I think it’s heavy and dark fantasy just for the sake of being so]. Thunderstone Advance’s artwork is right in line with what one would expect going into a fantasy themed game. Brilliant and Beautiful.

2. The Board

Yep…there’s a board in this here card game. While not necessary, it’s definitely got some amazing visual appeal to it. And it’s a full on legitimate board, not some flimsy thin sheet or ****** cardboard. No kids, this is a thick stock of a card board. Like I said, it isn’t necessary to even have. But it has spots laid and filled out where each stack of cards should be stowed, again, with some remarkable visual appeal. And seeing where the village is in relation to the wilderness or dungeon? Yes please.

3. The Thundstones

There’s a set of plastic bits acting as the thunderstones themselves. These are used in exchange for leveling up your heroes. The publisher [AEG] could have done themselves a favor by just putting in a punch board of bits to use but NO, dang it…they did US a favor and added these pretty sweet plastic bits. I haven’t swallowed any yet, but then again, I don’t actually plan to.

4. The box insert

I learned some time ago that I need to get past the idea that all box inserts are good to keep. Most of the Fantasy Flight games I own I take the card board insert out, and do some sort of ritualistic ceremony when I toss it in the recycle bin. It just isn’t necessary. I don’t see the benefit for long term storage, but it makes sense in delivering and shipping the game itself. I’m seeing that in a lot of my games. The insert for Lords of Vegas? Not even the right insert. Should have been for some other game. But where does Thunderstone Advance fit in? The game came with some fancy divider cards, along with some foam inserts to keep the cards organized, in tact, and unmovable. Right now, I have this game sitting vertically on the shelf, and not one card has budged. AEG did a fabulous job with this insert. Plenty of room to grow in the box, too, if you know what I mean.

The bottom line is that this is a fabulous game. While it is a card game, it doesn’t feel strictly as a card game. The theme is engaging enough that you don’t feel so compelled to grab up victory points, rather you seek out your victory by wiping out the monsters that are constantly coming your way. Being able to grab up delicious loot and formidable companions keeps the theme alive. Now that there are two expansions out for Thunderstone Advance, you can be certain that these will make it to my shelf and eventually, my table. If you like Fantasy and card games, this is a no brainier…get it. If you’re looking for something tactical, look towards Rune Age. Thunderstone Advance doesn’t have the tactical strategies you might think it should have. It is after all, a deck builder. And it incorporates that “do I have enough to get this sword” economic strategy, much better than other deck builders I’ve played.

Go to the Rune Age: Oath and Anvil page
22 out of 24 gamers thought this was helpful

It’s somewhat awkward when at the end of a few plays of a game, you think to yourself “hmmm…this needs more”. Not awkward in a bad way, mind you. I felt this way after playing Dominion and Alhambra. Both solid games on their own, but I wanted more of the game itself. With Rune Age, the game is good on its own, but I really wanted more options. Oath and Anvil delivers on those options.

Adding a couple of scenarios, a couple of new races, and new units for existing factions…this is definitely something you should get if you’re already a fan of Rune Age. The new units for existing factions make your deck building decisions a little easier, and possibly a little more tactical. And the bonus is that you can use them with previous scenarios without throwing off any balance.

I love playing solo Rune Age…and the new races seem to benefit from multiplayer more than the previous ones. I’ve house-ruled a few things (which I won’t get into here) to make them more accessible. I’ll try to toss out a game tip later.

Bottom line: if you’re a fan of Rune Agw, get this expansion. The price is a little steep for what comes in the box, but the replayability is there, and and easy one to pick up because it seamlessly integrates into the original without riddling feathers.

Go to the Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small page
51 out of 52 gamers thought this was helpful

It’d be ridiculous to break out Agricola every game night. It’d be like expecting turkey every Thanksgiving. Right? Probably a bad analogy. But my point is that it’s a heavy duty game, with all kinds of stressors. Regardless of how stressfully entertaining it is, I seem to gravitate towards those complicated matters that drive my main gaming partner (my wife) crazy. That why I picked up Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (AACBAS).

Editor’s Note: I’m typing this review on my iPad…so you’ll have to excuse the use of the abbreviation, AACBAS.

This new two-players-only gem from Z-Man Games and Lookout Games is a remarkable re-engineered idea on a board game that just does not hit my table as often as I’d like. This being the 4th Uwe Rosenberg tasty treat I own (Agricola, Ora & Labora, and iOS Le Havre), it captures a small piece of a bigger pie, and still leaves you full and satisfied as if you actually ate the entire pie.

In AACBAS, each player is running a farm with hired workers, to help get building materials, purchase and breed animals, and expand the farm. No need to feed your workers, and no worries about growing crops. It’s all critters here. 65 critters actually. There’s a number of sheep, horses, cows, and pigs that you need to grow your farm, gran points, and become intergalactic farming champion.

Each round is pretty simple, split into 4 phases:

Refill the action spaces on the game board
Send your workers out to do…work
Bring your workers back home
Breed the dang critters.

It has similar round phases to its bigger brother, but the options are limited (16 different actions you can take). And the limitation makes it less stressful, and a much quicker game. I was able to teach my wife how to play, then play a game in around 40 minutes. What?! Yep. This means that I can get my Agricola fix over lunch time, while dinner is cooking, or when we have 30 minutes to kill before we do anything that requires us to have 30 minutes to kill! Brilliant!

Each player has 3 workers and a plot of land to start with and nothing else but a cottage that can hold one animal and a few fences to start with. You send your workers out to gather the resources, whether reed, wood, or stone, and you can also send them out to get more fencing, build fences, build walls, build stables, or starte herding animals. And like its big brother, the resources in AACBAS that aren’t used are generally added on top of existing resources at the beginning of each round.

The central game board starts out with 8 fences on the side, adding once fence at the beginning of each round. This in turn acts as the game timer, and also apparently, a hardship and constraint on fences at the local … Fencery? It keeps it nice and short, and that’s where the game has a lot of the charm for me. My only drawback is that I wish it was longer than 8 turns. Maybe even 10 turns? That can easily be done, and I might give it a go sometime.

But don’t count it out. It’s a solid game with some remarkably deep strategy for such a small and quick worker placement game. And that’s where I leave you, my friends. If you have been wanting to dive head first into a Uwe Rosenberg masterpiece but are afraid of the financial and eternal investment, AACBAS is definitely for you. It’s about half the cost of its big brother, half the size, and less than half the time to play it. I have a feeling that this game will be much easier and quicker to get to the table with my wife…and just as engaging and easy to learn with my coworkers over lunch. I love the strategy, the quick play, and the dang cute little critters.

Go to the Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game page
110 out of 117 gamers thought this was helpful

Being a fan of the Indiana Jones movies since they first arrived on screen, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get up to my neck in a game with this much Indy-like theme! And boy! It’s chock-full of theme. A few hundred cards and bits and a ridiculously detailed game board, this game is sure to strike fancy with anyone that has an ameritrash itch.

Speaking of which, if the term ameritrash is the best way to describe a game with a heavy theme and lots of minis and bits and cards, this game is an ameri-landfill. So…much…stuff. But not to its detriment. The fact that it has so much junk in it is, for me, what gives the game its appeal. The game comes with some quick start rules and another rulebook that explains all aspects of the game in greater detail. With a game this crazy huge, I was able to read through the quick start and get a game going shortly after opening the box for the first time. It probably helped that we had a bunch of eager adventurers waiting their turn to take down the Nazis.

The Good Stuff
The Theme, the bits, the gameplay, the replay value, the rules…all of it. Love all of it. While there isn’t a lot of strategic depth to this game, it’s a clear winner for me. Doesn’t hit the table as often as I want [due to the ominous nature, probably], but it’s a downright blast. Plays well as a two player game, but I think this game goes better with 4 or 5. Any more and it would slow down the time between turns and create a lot of other issues, likely with the length of game.

One of the mechanics in the game, the cliff hanger, is brilliant. As one attempts to steal or capture an artifact, they have to pass a series of tests. If one fails a test, they flip their current card [the danger card] over to see what the cliffhanger is. Then their turn is over. They can’t try to accomplish the cliffhanger test until their next turn.

The Bad Stuff
Honestly, the amount of junk in this game will be a big turn off to most people. And…if you don’t like roll & move games, this probably isn’t for you. But the thing about it is that it doesn’t feel like a roll & move game because there’s so much lurking around the corner. The main rule book can get a little wonky with explanations…and frankly adds so many variants to the game that it kinda seems blurry which is a real rule and which is a variant.

I’m not going to call the “luck” in the game a bad thing [or a good thing]. Why is it even an issue at all? I think having luck in the game is what gives it that Indiana Jones charm…sometimes, luck goes your way…sometimes, you wind up on a plane owned by Lao Che. Arguable, almost every board game has luck involved at some level. The level of luck in this game is enough to make the game charming and intriguing.

Go to the Ingenious page


19 out of 39 gamers thought this was helpful

This game plays quickly, and is accessible by all types of players. A lot of fun and easy to play.

The Good Stuff:

The game scales easily from 2 to 4 players, adjusting the board dimensions depending on the number of players. There’s even a solo variant that will allow one to try to achieve their highest score compared to previous plays. While I’m all for solo plays, this game shines with two people..even three. Tried it with 4 and oddly enough, some analysis paralysis came in to play. Could have been the crowd, but I really like it as a quick 2 player game. My wife and I can break this out and get a game [or two] in under an hour. The plastic bits are also of a pretty high quality, and are usable with those that are color blind. Match the shapes instead of the colors! BOOM!

The Bad Stuff:

Some slight warping on the game board came with mine. Previous versions also didn’t have peg-board score counters. While these do, and look and feel nice, the pegs are a little small. Maybe I have sausage fingers? I don’t know. Oh well. Not much bad about it really…other than the pegs.

This game is a gem of an abstract game. Of the abstract games I have played, this one stands out. I’d rather play this than Qwirkle. Similar features as Qwirkle, but I like the score tracking [despite the pegs] and the player interaction as well. Every once in a while, someone will make a mean and dirty move that will throw off your score for the game. While I typically don’t like that about some games, this one…I barely notice it. Fabulous game!

Go to the The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game page
61 out of 68 gamers thought this was helpful


This game is hard. SUPER hard. And that’s a good thing. It challenges you to keep trying over and over to accomplish the quests. Of the three quests, I’ve only been able to complete the first quest with my brother-in-law. And we only did it once among the three times we played it. One other great thing about this game is that there’s a solitaire version to play. And it plays just as hard. I get demolished every time I play the level 4 quest. I haven’t even begun to attempt the level 7 quest.

Fantasy Flight Games has produced another great chunk of coolness by creating this card game. And it isn’t an ordinary card game. Most card games [think Magic: The Gathering] have rarity built in, which only the elitist of players are able to achieve by spending oodles of cash on the rare cards to make their decks stand out among the best. This isn’t like that at all. In fact, this is specifically called a “Living Card Game” which will grow over time, based on small and inexpensive expansions. The game is initially pretty affordable at $39 [possibly cheaper online] and the expansions are only around $14. And there isn’t a rarity involved. It’s just straight up cookie cutter cool. And with the expansions, it adds a series of new quests to tackle, all thematic. The first one involves the hunt for Gollum, and is a part of a series of 6 different Adventure Packs.

The last good thing about this game is the cooperative mechanic. I’ve done some cooperative games before, but this flows really well, giving you a sense of pride when you accomplish even a small portion of the quest.


Some might think the game is too difficult to tackle. They’re probably right. I personally love the challenge, but hard-to-win games are a big turn off to some people. I’m afraid they’ll pick it up and think that it’s worthless to even try, and will stay upon their shelf for years collecting dust. And the game really only caters to hardcore Lord of the Rings fanboys/girls AND to game geeks. My wife loves…LOVES the book and loves the movies, but when she saw the game…meh. The rules are a bit of a complicated mess to get through, which apparently is typical for Fantasy Flight Games.

Another problem is that the box has a terrible insert. There’s barely room for the stuff it came with, and certainly no room for the future expansions which will only be about 60 cards. What to do? I dumped the crappy cardboard insert, bagged all of the bits, separated the cards into their respective categories and types and bagged them too.

Go to the Ticket to Ride page

Ticket to Ride

55 out of 63 gamers thought this was helpful


There’s a lot about this game that makes it incredibly entertaining and fun to play. I can honestly say that when we purchased the game for my sister, 4 more were purchased through the promotion of the awesomeness that it is. The game plays quickly, there’s little downtime in between your turn, unless you actually force a potty break in there. And it appeals to a lot of people, not just the geeks. The artwork is beautifully done, and the pieces and cards are gorgeous to look at. The molded plastic trains don’t feel cheap either. All the bits are pretty well made, and fit into the box insert perfectly. The baggies that the game with help keep things together and from flying around.

Ultimately, and I know I’m repeating myself, this game is for everyone. However gamey you feel you are or are not, this is a magnificent gateway game to get your hands on. Most people that make the jump from mass-market games like Monopoly that want to experience a Designer game tend to lean towards Settlers of Catan. Catan is a fine game, but its very quirky looking to some, and seems to be a complicated mess…which it isn’t. But this isn’t about Catan. This is about Ticket to Ride. And about you, and why you haven’t picked it up yet. Being a Designer game that’s also a very easy to please gateway game that’s available at game stores and places like Barnes and Noble, you should be able to pick it up anywhere.


There’s not much to say about this game that is bad. So to be completely objective, I’ll pick at the cards. They’re super small. Granted, because the board is a big board, it might be worth having the small cards to reserve table top space, but… they’re a bit too small. And I don’t have man hands.

One other thing…and this is totally picky, but Days of Wonder has this kooky idea that picking the player to go first should be the person that BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. In this case, the person that is the most experienced traveller goes first. What the heck determines experience? Distance? Amount of travel? Method of travel? Based on my family’s travel habits, none of us would go first, and since I primarily play this with my family, I incorporated my own method of deciding the first player: a 50 cent die. It’s a fun idea, DoW, but Imma gonna use my die.

Go to the Rune Age page

Rune Age

29 out of 43 gamers thought this was helpful

I like the game…really I do. First, the bad stuff:

The solo option is limited to two different quests. Looking forward to more quests to work on, but until then…

The rules are a bit of a fiasco to deal with. Took some extra playtime to figure out the mechanic. If you’re used to Dominion, the rules will confuse you.

The Good Stuff:

The cards are beautifully done and a nice high quality. The quests that DO come with the game incredibly challenging and fun to work on. I am looking forward to some new stuff for the game, but I’m not that kind of guy that whines about the game he just bought hoping for more. This game is packed full of fun stuff. If you like deck builders, get it. The game is worth it.

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