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Go to the Rise of Augustus page

Rise of Augustus

22 out of 23 gamers thought this was helpful

Briefly: Rise of Augustus is a gorgeous card game that is a new strategic take on Bingo. It’s got a bit more luck than most strategy players would prefer and the box is much bigger than needed, but it has replay value especially by varying the number of players. This will likely be a new regular for family and casual game play.

Non-briefly: Rise of Augustus initially got my attention for being nominated for the Spiel des Jahres 2013 award of which Hanabi won, so my expectations may be on the high side. The actual premise had me intrigued; each player is a representative of Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor. We are competing for the title of Consul, as chosen by the Senate, by influencing senators and gaining control of provinces in the empire for additional wealth (apparently the senators like their Consul to be wealthy). Each player achieves this by only focusing on 3 (initially) objectives at a time. Each objective (senator or province) has a cost for completion on the left side and a reward for completion on the right. There is a bag that contains 23 tokens of various legion categories – a player (“town crier”) chooses one at random from the bag and announces it to all. Each player begins with access to 7 legions (wooden red meeples) that are individually placed on the left side of an objective on the icon for what the town crier called. Once a player has filled all of the object cost icons with legions they immediately announce “AVE CEASAR”, claim their reward, and then replace the objective with one of their choice from the open pool of 5 objectives. When a player has completed 7 objectives, the game ends and whoever has the most victory points from objectives and rewards wins title of Consul.

Now what makes the game not Bingo is that each objective (senator or province) has a different number and categories of legions needed for completion and the victory points achieved for each objective varies as well. Some give great powers for helping get future objectives, some negatively affect other players, and some have no powers and just provide victory points. In addition, there are several reward tiles available for players to claim when they meet the requisite criteria. These include: the first to 3 senators, 3 provinces of the same colors (3 different colors), 1 of each (3 province colors & a senator), the player with the most wheat and/or gold (produced in provinces), and then the reward tiles for having a particular number of completed objectives (2 through 6). The latter rewards add some tension since each player is only allowed to take one of these per game and its a gamble on who can get the most points in their one reward tile.

The number of legion icon tiles drawn from the bag differ by category and create a hierarchy on economic value: double swordx6, shieldx5, chariotx4, catapultx3, standardx2, daggerx1, & jokerx2. The joker can be used as a wild for any other category. When it is drawn, all of the previously drawn tiles including the joker are returned to the bag and it passes to the next person who becomes the town crier. The more daggers or standards on an objective, usually the greater the power or victory points for its completion. In addition, the number of different colored provinces also vary. The green are most plentiful, followed by purple, and then orange (only 8 in a deck of 88 cards). Fortunately you start the game with 6 objectives and choose 3 to keep, so you can quickly get an idea if you’ll have a chance of completing 3 orange provinces. Early on the objectives that reward you additional legions (more than 7 limit) and the provinces that have wheat and gold are the most popular.

The quality of art throughout the game (objectives, tiles, and rule book) are wonderful. The theme is well-done and consistent throughout. The square objective cards don’t make it easy to find protective sleeves (they’re bigger than Power Grid), and the large square game box is much more than enough space for this card/tile/meeple game. The red legion meeples are unique enough that they won’t be easily confused with any other games and thin enough to fit nicely on the cards. The scoring note pad seems unnecessary to me. If you have kids who need the space for doing basic arithmetic, then it’s a plus. We found it as a way to encourage having multiple plays and just record our scores on the same sheet. The rule book is beautiful, but surprisingly for its quality in looks, it left a lot of questions that arised unanswered. Fortunately there is an online English FAQ for such occassions here. The choice to only have rewards for provinces with wheat and gold seems strange since all provinces have art for various commodities. Some speculate that this is for future expansions – so be it.

Summary thoughts
(RO)Augustus is a good family game that will find a nice fit for game nights when we need a filler game or something for those who prefer shorter and casual fare. I found the randomness of tile drawing (bingo) and cards allotted to be a source of frustration – though most players felt this at some point. The game allows for a variety of strategies, but once you commit, the game is too short to change course successfully. The FAQ was needed for us and I’ve seen others play the game incorrectly based on their rule interpretation. The theme in the art is excellent, but is lacking when it comes to the game mechanic (ie. all of the representatives of Caesar are allotted access to one legion of one type equally like Bingo?) and the addition of “Rise of” reminded me how different this is from Ryse, Son of Rome’s action. Still, I think this will go great at my next extended family gathering for those looking for a something new in the “gateway” game realm.

Lastly, Ave Maria and Bingo! were vocalized more than AVE CAESAR when we played. They were usually quickly followed by groans and even louder “Ah ****!” Results may vary! ^___^

Go to the Ginkgopolis page


29 out of 29 gamers thought this was helpful

In Brief: Ginkgopolis is a well-designed and attractive strategy game in which you compete to get the most success points from optimal construction of buildings as an urban planner in a future eco-friendly city. Simultaneously play means it stays around 1 hour to play with 4 players. Works with 1 to 5 players and various initial conditions so there is variety for repeated play. The theme is questionable (could just as easily have not had anything to do with the Ginkgo Biloba tree) and a few parts are confusing, but overall a great addition to the game library!

In Detail: Setup.The game revolves around three primary elements each with associated color in cards and building tiles: red resources, blue buildings, and yellow success points. There are 20 numbered building tiles (#1-20) in each of these 3 colors (60 total) and a corresponding building card for each. The game starts with a 3×3 grid of randomly placed tiles numbered #1-3 in each color, and 12 urbanization tokens labeled A-L are placed on the perimeter. Each player chooses a colored screen for hiding their pieces and associated resources in their player color. You start out by drafting 3 character cards that give you resources, building tiles, and points to start the game. For your first game, best to assign these by random number (1-6). Both character cards and later on, building cards that you control are placed in front of the player screen for all to see the benefits they provide. The starting deck of shuffled cards contains a card for each of the initial 9 buildings and one for each of the 12 urbanization letter-tokens. A starting player is chosen with associated labeled card and each player is given 4 cards from the deck.

Game play.All players choose 1 of the 4 cards from their hand to play and place it face down in front of their screen. Depending on the card, they may also need to place a building tile face down with their card. When everyone is ready, the first player reveals their card (and optional building tile) completes their action and each player does the same in clockwise order. After all have played, pass your 3-card hand of cards to next person as well as the starting player card, and draw back up to 4 cards from the deck. Continue until end game condition is met.

There are three types of actions to take corresponding to the two types of cards (buildings and urbanization) and whether you have a building tile with it. The first is “Exploiting” or just playing a card. If the card is a building, you get a number of element(s) equal to the height of the building and type corresponding to the color (red=resources, blue=building tiles, yellow=points). If it’s an urbanization card, you get either a single resource or building tile. The second action is “Urbanization” where you place a building tile with an urbanization card. Place the tile where the letter is, thereby expanding the city outward. Place a resource from your hidden supply on the building tile along with a new-construction marker and move the letter next to your new tile. Your reward for building is to receive all bonuses of buildings adjacent to your new tile as if you Exploited each of them (e.g. a point if next to a 1-story yellow building, 3 building tiles if next to a 3-story blue building, etc.). Lastly, the third action is “Construction” where you play a building tile on top of a current building matching the card you played. When done, you must put the number of resources on top of it equal to its height (always 2+), add a construction marker, and pay any costs if your new tile is a lower number than what it replaces (1 point per difference) and a resource if it’s a different color. If you place on top of someone else’s building, they get their resources back and points equal in number. Your reward for building is to keep the building card you replaced in front of you along with your character cards.

After playing your action, you then take any bonuses given to you with that action by the cards in front of you. So this means that players who have lots of bonuses for taking the Exploiting action, may do that more often to get these rewards. Building cards with higher numbers provide a variety of end-game bonuses (e.g. 1 point for each blue building you control, etc.).

When the deck of cards runs out, you take the discard pile and add building cards to it corresponding to each building with a new construction marker. When done, remove the construction markers. This means that all cards in the deck correspond to A-L tokens or buildings that are visible (on top) on the table. When the pile of building tiles runs out, there is a one-time restocking by players who get a point for each tile they donate back.

Game end & final score. The game ends when either the building tiles run out twice or a player has placed all of their resources on the board. The score is the sum of success point tokens plus bonuses provided by building cards. Then there is an additional score given to the first and second place controller of each district, a group (2+) of buildings adjacent with the same color.

Personal take: First, the theme really doesn’t make sense to me. This is a strategic city-building game and success points in the form of yellow and green ginkgo biloba leaves could just as easily be victory points or liquid capital ($). The more efficient your building is, the more you save and better the city. The theme could just as easily been 1800s Industrial Age or Ancient Rome or Current city planning or even bacteria growth in a petri dish grid!
Once you’re over the theme, the game itself is great! It takes a full game to understand play and develop strategies especially with the importance of end-game scoring. It plays well with 1-5 players, with the solitaire playing a 2nd game ‘bot that is always building on top of other buildings. Adding more players slows play down a little as each takes their action in turn, although they all think about it at the same time. The pieces are gorgeous and have tremendous amount of details, although most of the card symbols do require referencing the rules. Recommended!

Go to the River Dragons page

River Dragons

32 out of 33 gamers thought this was helpful

In brief: great, simple, and gorgeous game to play with up to 6 players with social, family, and even some strategy gamer archetypes. Lasts about 30 minutes and usually has some frustrating as well as hilarious moments. May be a good game to teach young-at-hearts good sportsmanship as well as some basic strategy.

Not in brief: In River Dragons (not Delta Dragons), you’ll first notice how strikingly beautiful the artwork and the quality of the game board, pieces, and cards are. Like Chinese checkers, your job is to get your color meeple (marble) from your island (corner) to the other side’s island (corner) while using the spaces and other player’s pieces along the way in between. Like Robo Rally, you have to “pre-program” your actions in advance using 5 of 13 unique action cards. The order of actions is based on clockwise turn order, and you tend to have more flexibility than the more logical/rigid Robo Rally. Lastly, it’s similar to Mother Sheep in that you use colorful wooden planks and some fine (or in my case, not-so-fine) finger motor skills to create a 2-D grid of pathways connecting the various islands.

Gameplay. See above. There are some details not mentioned above that make this a bit more strategic. When placing a plank, you can’t take it back to try another, so you need to choose carefully. Stones are not to be nudged or moved after being placed. When you remove a plank, not only must it be a number you don’t have in reserve (so you’re encouraged to play more planks than you remove), you can’t have more than two colors in reserve so this limits you further on your opportunities for destruction. You can place pieces anywhere on the board, even if they are far from where you are. Each stone can only have up to 3 planks connect to it, so sometimes you should add a useless plank only to stop others from using those same stones.

Quality. The game board is very large and double-sided (beginner and advanced sides). We didn’t have space to set our cards out on our tables, so we stacked them on top of each other. You lose a little information for strategy this way, but it speeds up the game a bit. Everything is top quality – the updated artwork, the board, planks, and cards. The only item we wish we could improve were the stones. Having them made of something heavier so they wouldn’t be so easy to accidentally move would be very helpful, especially on the advanced board that isn’t restricted to islands.

Experience. Depending on your experience, it’s possible to have a winner on the second full turn (each turn has 5 actions/rounds). This happened with us, and our second game was much slower as everyone worked to prevent anyone else from winning. The ability to place and remove planks and stones anywhere while being very slow to actually move the meeple makes the theme somewhat hard to relate to (questions like:”If I could magically drop a stone over here, why can’t I magically get to the other island? And why does my guy need to be limited to 5 pre-programmed actions?”). There were several times where our meeples, planks, and stones fell over and we had to replace everything – usually after we stopped laughing. The chaos that comes from pre-planning usually results in inefficiencies, inaction, and jumping in the river only to start over again. Winning often just feels like you got lucky with the right card played while others didn’t negate you by playing a dragon of your color. There are only 2 direct ways of moving forward and 1 additional requiring a jump, so it’s often a slow pace wins the race. The first one to their island wins immediately, which prevents any ties even if they would have also won on the same round of the turn.

Still, this is a gem for social and family players – easy to learn and play, and often results in feigned frustration and laughter.

Go to the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game Starter Set page
69 out of 76 gamers thought this was helpful

All of the very positive reviews on this site combined with my love of old-school Star Wars had me go out and give this a try. I’ve never played a true miniature game (BattleLore is the closest), but I expect that Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) were specifically hoping to create a new and larger market (like me) with this starter set. So with that background, and another warning, this is a review of the Starter Set (ie. the game listed on this page) and not the entire FFG X-Wing Miniatures game universe.

Object. It’s a very straight-forward 2-player game – you either play the X-Wing fighter or the two Tie-Fighters. Your job, destroy the other enemy ship(s). Alternatively, you can play one of the included narrative mission games which has you still play one of the two sides, but at least one of you have a greater goal than just blowing the other player to bits. These are usually simple and similar to beginner missions in X-Wing or Tie-Fighter the computer games from the 90s in which you escort a shuttle, scan satellites, or just escape an attack. Very simple and straightforward.

Rules. Each turn has 4 phases: Planning, Activation, Combat, and End. Planning is where you secretly indicate your ship’s move for that turn. Activation is where you execute your move in ascending order of your ship’s pilot skill level and then take any available actions after moving, if possible. Combat is where you attack any enemy ship in your firing range in reverse order of pilot skill level (best pilot fires first). An attack is done by rolling special red 8-sided dice and the defender rolls special green 8-sided dice. The End phase is just the usual end of turn action and cleanup. Rinse and repeat until you have a winner. I am guessing from others that this game is unusually well-designed and simple to learn and play for a miniature game – it took no time to play with the most advanced rules. See coltsfan76‘s review here for greater detail.

Components. The consensus is right; the components are terrific! And the joy of having detailed and painted spaceships (1 X-wing, 2 Tie-Fighters) in my hands definitely brought back fond memories of playing with the Kenner toys as a kid. The cards and tokens are easy to understand and the overall quality is great. While the dice are nice, they should have included 2 more of each color as you often need more than 3 dice to roll at one time. For a starter set, it would have been great to include a poster of space to use as a starting play area or board, but my black table-top worked ok. The bases of the ships are light and it’s very easy to accidentally bump or move the ships, which does impact the game. This would be a very different experience with OCD players which demand perfection in placements. The tokens for the missions are nice, though these could easily be replaced with other models/miniatures.

Game play. My first game was the quick-start game they include. I was dead in 2 turns – fast! Our second game used the full rules, and took an hour to play. Once I killed one Tie-Fighter, it was a lot of flying in circles taking shots at each other (rolling dice). We both had so much defense that it took much longer than was fun (for either of us) for me to destroy the last Tie-Fighter. Not a good first impression. After several more experiences, I feel that I’ve played all I can with what the Starter Set includes.

Impressions. As I implied above, this does not seem like a full self-contained game or, when treated as one, it doesn’t have near as much strategy and replay-ability as I would expect. The game booklet recommends playing with 100 points worth of ships which is 2-3 times the amount that this set comes with. Considering the price of this starter and the four expansion ships available, this means you’ll need to spend ~US$100 in items for this before you have enough for a regular recommended game. For those who play miniature games, this may be the normal, but for newbies like me, I was not pleased. I wish someone here had written a review like this to warn me of this beforehand, hence this review. [To be fair, others recommended having fleets of ships, but I didn’t realize how much this would be required for a better overall experience.] Like many of FFG’s big properties, e.g. Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, etc, this is another one where you get a taste and then have lots of ways of adding to your future play experience. But unlike those great card-based examples which have enjoyable self-contained starter games, this one doesn’t and is much pricier than the rest. Many individual future ships to be released start to cost the same amount as this entire starter set (e.g., $30 for Millennium Falcon or Slave I).

I’m still debating if I’ll go all-in. For those of you who have, continue to enjoy! In the meantime, *pew pew*!

Go to the Telestrations page


92 out of 100 gamers thought this was helpful

Our gaming group has played this ~40 times in the past 2 years as the party game of choice. (It would be more, but Cards Against Humanity appeared.) It’s VERY easy to learn how to play and a full game typically takes 60+ minutes.

Game Overview
This combines the kids game of Telephone with Pictionary. Everyone gets their own sketch book, a marker, a black cloth for cleaning, and a word card. Roll the dice to determine which secret word is yours and write it down on the 1st page of the sketch book. You then draw a picture of your interpretation of this word without using any alphanumeric characters. Once done, you flip the bottom page up and pass your sketch book to the player next to you who then writes down in word(s) what they think your picture is. They pass it on and the next person draws a picture of the word(s), and so forth until it comes back to you. There is a timer you can use to make sure each round (drawing or guessing) doesn’t take too long. Your job is now to score the drawings/guesses. The game recommends either using friendly scoring (1 point to your favorite guess and 1 point to your favorite drawing) or competitive scoring (1 point if guess matches prior guess or secret word and 1 point for each drawing this guess was based on) and both score yourself 1 point if the final guess matches the original secret word.

It’s always more fun to play with the maximum number of 8 players and there’s a new party edition that has room for 12. An even number of players is best as it’s fun to compare the final guess with the original secret word. After we score the points on our sketch book, we take turns showing everyone else the pictures/guesses in order for all to see at once. This usually results in a burst of laughing as we see how far the original word gets altered, plus players can see if they scored any points.

For each new round, change the direction you pass the sketch books. The game ends after 3 rounds, and whoever has the most points wins.

Reality of playing
The friendly scoring is best, though we also like to just recognize your favorite drawings/guesses and sometimes don’t bother to keep track of points. Rarely do we have any real artists, but when we do they tend to get all the points. So instead of worrying about competing, we just give kudos to those we were most impressed with as we go through each sketch book sheet with the group.

We also rarely use the sand timer as most get done before it finishes leaving us taking time to get it reset. This sometimes results in a bunch of the sketch books getting bottle-necked with one person who we try to put pressure to move faster. Don’t fret if you want to end after 1 or 2 rounds for times-sake. We have never had a game with 8 players and 3 rounds take less than 60 minutes.

I recommend having players switch seats between rounds if possible to mix it up. This is not a game to be played in a room with lots of quiet competitive games. While there will be long bouts of quiet, when it’s time to share the books it gets loud quickly!

This is a game that you can play with materials you have at home. But USAopoly did such a great job with the quality of the sketch books that no one wants to play without these. The markers do go dry after a while and it’s good to clean the sketch books before you put them away or it gets very hard to remove for the next time. I bought a kit of colored dry-erase markers which can provide fun with multiple colors. Also it’s good to keep paper towels handy as the very small black cloths that come with the game will get cruddy and make your hands dirty after multiple uses. The word cards provide some order for folks lacking imagination, but there’s no reason you couldn’t just make up your own secret word for each round.

Like so many other party games, the enjoyment factor really comes down to the humor and mood of the other players. You may need to make it clear at the beginning about your house rules, especially if you have any rules lawyers who may change the mood quickly from what may have been intended. Having each person judge their own book is good, too, as they can decide how to reward (or not reward) the wide variety of drawings, words, and levels of appropriateness (it’s rare when a word doesn’t get devolved and usually depends on overall maturity level or if a parental unit or kid is playing 😉 ). I’ve played with all levels of drawers – this is likely the main reason for us no longer using points as it can be intimidating for some though great to see that talent on display. Even if English isn’t a player’s first language, it’s sometimes fun to have them write down as many words describing the noun or verb they couldn’t remember.

Lastly, this is not a game you want to force on everyone. When it’s just the jester or artist of the group trying to find players in order to show off their skills, it can become a bit dry for others especially if overplayed (which game doesn’t?). But this also shows the level of popularity it has.

Final thoughts
This is a great game to have available for almost any social gathering. If the group is needing a break from serious discussions or contentious games, this provides a great transition period. To this day some of the most memorable occasions from game night came from playing Telestrations – it’s a must have and makes a perfect gift for gamers and non-gamers alike.

Go to the Le Havre page

Le Havre

125 out of 138 gamers thought this was helpful

Yes, if you want to learn the game quickly and get lots of experience and take a long time thinking about your next action.
No, if you want to be able to read the cards, handle lots of quality game pieces, and prefer in-person interactions.

If you’d like a review of the full and great game of Le Havre, there are several already on its main page here. This review focuses solely on the digital version experience.

Just like with the ND (non-digital) game, there are many cards that take up a lot of space on the tableau/screen. Don’t even try playing this on your smart phone; trust me, I have better than perfect vision and the highest-resolution screen currently available and I can’t read the card titles well, let alone easily select cards for action. Even with each card in a stack on a tablet, unless you’ve played the game several times and know all of the cards, I found myself having to spend lots of touches to figure out what other players have and what’s available in these stacks. That being typed, I can’t imagine presenting it much better than what they have done. Maybe if there was the option to keep all of the building cards together and sortable with a color on each card to indicate who owns it (this is an option we often use on the tabletop), or using the whole screen when zooming in on a card. It was nice that they used the exact cards and art from the game, but it is also what makes it hard to view/use on iOS.

The real beauty of this version is the ability to play many different scenarios that may not be available to you in person. 1-5 players means you can play against a mix of up to 4 other AI or human players. The local mode (as opposed to the online mode) allows you to play with humans next to you using the same device as well as additional AI players. You can choose the short version of the game (which I highly recommend for your first game), you can adjust the AI difficulty for each player, and there are several options to make the game experience enjoyable and evenly-paced. The only option not available is the ability to play with more than 1 human on the same tablet while having another play in online mode.

Like other online games, you can make your move and wait until it’s ready for your next turn (in seconds or days depending on who you are playing with). Since there are the same number of moves independent of the number of players, the length mainly depends on short vs normal version and the speed of the humans playing. My last game lasted 6 weeks even with only 2 humans & 1 AI, but with 18 rounds and turn-order at the end of each round for “feeding your family”, this is 43 + 18 = 61 individual turns! Needless to say, I recommend adding more AI players when possible. Also, there is no animation showing what the online players do, so you have to view a text list of prior moves or guess from the changes on the board.

The other reason this is superior to the ND game: game setup, upkeep, and scores are done so very quickly. OK, this is obvious, but for 1/12 of the price of the ND game you can be taught how to play, practice against the AI in many games (each ~20 to 40 minutes), and you get comfortable with all of the cards. It will also rank your performance (along with any other players including AI) using the Elo rating system.

While I personally prefer the ND Le Havre, I expect that I will hand my tablet to all new players to use and learn how to play a game or two before playing ND in order to help keep everyone at similar familiarity levels. I just hope they’ll still want to play the ND version afterward. 😉

Go to the Pathfinder: Beginner Box page
111 out of 120 gamers thought this was helpful

Review of Reviews of Pathfinder: Beginner Box
Having the game in front of me but no one to play it meant doing some extra research especially during a month where this was an explorable game in need of more reviews. Instead, here’s a summary of the 27 current reviews on
First, it got excellent reviews! 4.8 out of 5 stars. The worst review was 3 and S. Nelson’s main beef is that he wanted something more like the older D&D basic/expert where you could go well past experience level 5, which is the maximum for this game.
The vast majority declare this to be an excellent introductory experience to pen and paper RPGs, and that even for those of us who haven’t played a true tabletop RPG in years, we’d love it and want to play it over and over. Instead of having to figure everything out by reading a large book, this game has been made very intuitive for quick adoption by you and up to 4 more of your friends. While comparable products are less expensive, you get what you pay for here: quality components that would last far into your future years of RPGs. Most notably very visual and easy to follow guides, ~80 colorful character pawns, and a great support network in the Pathfinder system. A fourth of the reviews commented on having their kids or other family members play with them, from ages 8, 10, 12 & higher and including sons, daughters, daughter’s boyfriend, nephews, and a wife who even enjoyed being the game master. A couple mentioned the addictiveness of it and compared it to a drug (isn’t this how RPGs got such a bad rap in the 80s?). Almost half of the reviews mentioned D&D, usually how this game was superior to what they remember from playing D&D. There’s also a 2,000+ word review that compares this to the D&D 4th Edition Starter Set and summarizes as “In every single category, the Pathfinder box clearly trumps the D&D 4th Edition set, with the lone exception of price.”

Honestly, if I didn’t have 100+ great board games to play with people whose company I enjoy, I’d be willing to play this in a heartbeat! In the meantime, thanks for reading and I hope this unusual review was beneficial.

Go to the Shadow Hunters page

Shadow Hunters

32 out of 33 gamers thought this was helpful

In our board game group, this has been played more than any other game in the past several years and I have easily played it 100+ times. The reasons are simple: we often have ~8 people available who want to play a tabletop game that won’t take much time to learn (or play), is social and has cooperative elements, yet also has some strategy where individual decisions affect the outcome.

I won’t rehash the prior reviews, but I will emphasize key points. You can learn this game in 5 minutes and often we teach how to play by just initiating playing and explaining the game and options as they arise. There are occasionally times where a FAQ is referenced regarding individual character special abilities, but overall new players pick it up quickly.

The game is best with 8 players where you get all 3 shadow and 3 hunter characters in play plus 2 random neutral characters. With this setup the team or character who wins has been most even. The Werewolfe and Vampire shadows are the most powerful individual characters, but Daniel (a neutral) often can tip the balance in favor of the hunters. Emi (hunter), Bob (neutral), and the Unknown (shadow) are the weakest characters of each group and we have often removed Bob from even being a possible draw. Any time a neutral character meets his/her win condition without anyone else winning at the same time is very memorable. Allie is the easiest neutral to win with (she just has to be alive when the game ends), but can be boring for some; though it’s very amusing when the peaceful school teacher goes on a killing spree against other characters to help the game end faster.

There isn’t much deep thought in this game outside of early deduction of figuring out who is who, and the enjoyment of the game will usually be directly related to how much you enjoy the company of those you play with. The most important decision made is often deciding when to reveal your character and start using his/her special ability.

As I hinted above, there are many areas for improvement. Foremost would be improving the components: getting color pieces that are more easily distinguishable on the board (pink/red/orange/yellow become a mess), using a more readable font on all of the cards especially the hermit cards, and having a more clear damage scale on the game board. While there is a single expansion of 10 more new character cards, I’m surprised there aren’t more cards and characters overall as this is the main source of variety in multiple plays.

While only a few players love this game in our group, most folks enjoy playing it 1-2 times each month as a way to interact with a larger group. If it gets overplayed, the luck factor of dice rolls get annoying, or it becomes dull, we move on to similar, if not superior, deduction co-op games like Werewolfe and Resistance. Still, I heartily recommend it for your next game night especially when you want a break from the longer or more complex games available.

Go to the Eclipse page


83 out of 93 gamers thought this was helpful

You know you’re dealing with different expectations and genres when reviewers mention 2-4 hours to be a “fast” game. But this is exactly where Eclipse succeeds, you don’t notice the time as it’s so enjoyable and engrossing to play.

10 out of the 12 people I’ve played Eclipse with are casual gamers and had never played Twilight Imperium or any other space games, and they all loved Eclipse (even when they came in last place!).

It does take a while to learn, and I did have to go through the entire rulebook (note, apparently v1.0 has mistakes) to deal with questions that arose throughout the game. Once you have the initial “learning game” down, it’s a breeze for future attempts with the exception of learning the different rules for different alien races.

The alien/human game sheets are the least impressive part of the game – while the graphic design is nice, it’s just so easy to warp and accidentally knock all of your banked resources, population cubes, and other components off the thin paperboard. I can easily imagine this being remedied in future versions or even with colored paper clips now.

The replay value comes from a) changing races, b) randomness of tiles, dice rolls, and technology, & c) changing the number of players (3-6) and starting locations (ie. not good to surround the newbie with two aggressive veterans). Since we don’t have control over b, it can also be the most frustrating aspect either when the dice are cursed or if the best technology was snatched up early and never reappears. Fortunately the game does reward you for failed combat as this is one of the main ways of obtaining reputation (ie. victory) points. With only 9 turns, it’s very rare to be able to predict the final outcome by turn 6 primarily due to this randomness and uncertain diplomacy. Plus there are many different strategies you can try.

Again, this is one of the most refined and enjoyable game playing experiences I’ve had out of all genres, and it is a clear gateway game for getting your friends into the strategic space genre or just into games that take longer than Catan.

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