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Kassidy Helfant

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Go to the Dragoon page


8 out of 9 gamers thought this was helpful

“These are the terrifying dragons ravaging the lands: Seafoam. Bone. Squash. And… Ketchup.”

My relationship with Dragoon began at my friendly local game store. A coworker recommended that I check out the game, which was being made by a friend of hers. I wasn’t hooked by the Kickstarter, so I figured I would see how I liked the game by playing it. I had a pretty good time with the designer teaching it, and wound up backing the Kickstarter to get a copy with a full-color map.

I’ve busted out Dragoon several times since buying it. Each time, I get a little bit less out of it. I have a decent time introducing the game, and talking about some of the fun stories from the Kickstarter — how the dragons got their names; how the Thief became canonically female; the player who kept coming back to play at PAX until they could make the Thief win. But the actual gameplay has not held up well for me.

How does it look?: Dragoon is a treat to look at and hold. Several components are made of hefty metal painted fun colors, with painted wood pieces to match. The map and score tracker/carrying bag are cloth. The remaining pieces are cardboard and good-quality cards. The art style for the map and cards is jagged and distinct. The one complaint I have about component quality is the score tracker printed on the game’s carrying bag. It loops in some weird directions, which always throws players off. All in all, this is a game that will last, and is a lot of fun to set up and show people.

How does it play?: Dragoon has a few avenues for racking up points. You can cow the human settlements into paying you tribute. If you do this, you roll once at the end of a turn to see if your settlements pay a little, a lot, nothing, or if one of them gets uppity and you lost ownership. This is the option to take if you want long-term security and don’t mind some random chance. If, instead of capturing a settlement, you destroy it outright, you get a one-time payout, guaranteed.

The third option is to steal — if you enter a space with another dragon, you can fight them, with the winner stealing gold from the loser. You can also enter another dragon’s lair, stealing from their hoard, but they will steal some amount back if you don’t exit the lair by the end of your turn. There is also an NPC Thief, whose treasure you can chase down on the map and plunder.

This is all supplemented by a deck of action cards that change the game. Some cards make it easier to win fights, incentivizing players to pick on other dragons. Other cards give additional movement, or guarantee payout from conquered settlements. Cards are single-use, so they shape play in a tactical way, rather than changing the entire game.

Overall Impression: The point-tracking in Dragoon is very visible — it’s a race to the finish, and you will always know where each player stands. This makes it susceptible to Kingmaker situations. There is also a lot of random chance — card draws, dice rolls, and human settlement placing. I do think that you can be better or worse at Dragoon, but even when you’re good at it, a not-insignificant part of the game is arbitrary. It can also take a long time for what is mechanically a fairly light game.

If someone asked to play Dragoon specifically, I would break it out, and probably have an okay time.

Go to the Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island page
122 out of 130 gamers thought this was helpful

“Hey hun, what’s your favorite thing about Robinson Crusoe?”

Okay, not what I was expecting. So, Robinson Crusoe has a special place in our hearts as the first board game we played together – and she considers it the first board game she’s played, because Munchkin doesn’t count (neener neener neener).

We were introduced to Robinson Crusoe by another gamer couple who are great friends of ours. It was fantastic to have players who were familiar with the game guiding us through our first play, and we even won! Picking up a copy for ourselves was a no-brainer. We’ve played it about six times now, always the first scenario. We’re hoping to play it more frequently in order to really get the rules down and feel confident playing the next scenario (of six!).

How does it look?: Robinson Crusoe is a lovely game. The components are mostly high quality. As pointed out in other reviews, there are a number of plastic cubes that feel out of place with all the wood (including wood cubes!), but it’s not enough to seriously detract from the gorgeous illustrations. The board is a lovely map of the deserted island that will be filled in with tiles over the course of play.

The many cards are of good quality. The text is all legible, although small on some. The flavor text is all great and fits into the themes of mystery and exploration that suffuse the play experience. The tokens are nice as well, with iconography that generally makes sense without needing a rules reference.

How does it play?: Robinson Crusoe is, at its core, a resource management game. Each scenario has its own unique goal which the players should be working towards. However, the elements and hunger add a sense of urgency and pressure. Feeding everyone means spending actions gathering food, or investing early in inventions that will provide food. However, if the players spend too much time worrying about just getting by turn to turn, they’ll get tighter on time to finish their scenario objective. It’s a matter of balance – starving for a night means taking damage, but can get you that much closer to building a wood pyre to signal a passing ship!

Actually getting things done is a matter of risk management. Each player has two pawns. Most actions require one pawn to attempt, but put the player at risk of taking a wound and/or getting a random adventure (generally, but not always, a bad thing). However, if two pawns (from one player or two) are used on the action, it’s a guaranteed success. Sometimes you’ll want to play it safe, but other times you just need to spread out and get a lot done. Just as with gathering food, it’s all about maintaining a skilled balance.

Overall Impression: With its emphasis on decision making and risk management, Robinson Crusoe is not an easy game to win. It is absolutely driven by skill and experience. It’s the sort of deep, thematic experience that necessitates repeat plays in order to really “get” it. However, with at least one player who knows the game, it’s not all that hard to teach. It made for a fantastic first foray into hobby gaming for my girlfriend, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with others. If the idea of getting trounced a few times doesn’t scare you, I would highly recommend playing Robinson Crusoe.

Go to the Magic: The Gathering page

Magic: The Gathering

101 out of 108 gamers thought this was helpful

It’s 2001. My little brother and I each have our allowance for the week – $5. Not too shabby. We go to our local collectibles shop and browse the 3 for $1 comics bins, a veritable treasure trove of adventures. Then, it catches our eyes. A little foil packet with some gnarly art. I want it. I buy it. I have no idea what I’m getting myself into.

It’s 2014. I’ve had my Magic phases – I remember my first time drafting, back in Shadowmoor with its twisted Faeries and soul-snuffing Cinders (still my favorite set to this day). I’ve quit and come back a few times. That’s all behind me now. I have one deck I bust out regularly and a couple others, with a handful of loose cards. No boxes of excess. My only regular opponent is my girlfriend with her (dirty good-for-nothing) Vampire deck. So why the **** do we still bust out this game? What gives?

How does it look?: Magic is a drop-dead gorgeous game, broadly speaking. There’s massive variability in art quality as you retreat further and further into the older cards, but Wizards has kept tighter and tighter quality as the game has flourished. Every set has a theme. This makes Standard (limited to recent sets) tournament play really, really cool – decks tend to be thematic and the game tells a story. Any sense of cohesion is usually thrown out the door for other formats, where cards from many sets mingle and the art quality tells the history of Magic as a whole. Still cool, but not always pretty.

How does it play?: At its core, Magic is a simple game. On your turn, draw a card into your hand. You may play one land. Then, you use your lands to play other cards from your hand for their costs. This leads to a natural progression – each turn, you can play more cards, or more expensive cards. After you play anything you’d like, you can have any creatures you control attack an enemy player. They can defend, some things will probably die, and the other player may take some damage. Then you can play some more cards from your hand if you’d like, and then it’s your opponent’s turn.

The fun is in how individual cards interact with those rules and with each other. For example, a player could build a deck that focuses on cards that let them play additional lands per turn, thereby accelerating their ability to play bigger, more expensive cards. Or someone might focus on alternative means of dealing damage – don’t like to use creatures? Focus on throwing fireballs at your opponent! Every deck has the potential to be a personal statement. If there’s something you think is fun, there’s probably a way to make it happen.

Overall Impression: Magic is a mixed bag. It shows its age. The system of playing Lands is less efficient and predictable than modern systems that allow players to play any card face down as a resource, or that give each player one additional resource per turn. Your pace is dictated by your draws.

I never liked the tournament scene – people take this game seriously. Like, thousands of dollars seriously. For a just-for-fun game, Magic scratches a good itch. Playing with a tight group of similarly skilled players means you can usually fine-tune your decks until they’re well-matched and provide unpredictable and balanced games. That’s super satisfying, and the customization of decks means that you can usually shake things up by swapping out a few cards. It’s a bit like playing Dominion with different sets of cards.

Magic is a long-lived game for a reason. It’s what you can thank for keeping your Friendly Local Game Store afloat. If you haven’t tried it, I’d recommend asking someone for a demo and giving it a shot. No rush, though – it’ll be there. Waiting.

Go to the Gravwell page


13 out of 13 gamers thought this was helpful

“Yeah, I’m gonna go so far! Oh, no, wait gravity’s that way – Emergency Stop, Emergency Stop!” I picked up Gravwell a couple weeks ago at the recommendation of a young regular at my FLGS. Our first plays resembled to some extent the utter zany chaos that is RoboRally, but it quickly evolved into a deeper game of careful drafting and thoughtful play. All the while, it has stayed fun, light and refreshing.

How does it look?: Gravwell is not a stunning game. The player pieces and Derelict ships are done well, although one of my player ships was not glued onto its plastic stand when I opened the box (remedied with some super glue). The cards, rules and board are simply designed and of good enough quality. Given the space theme and very light rules, I don’t know that this could have been improved upon. If anything, I would have preferred more decorative box art. As it was, I needed some coaxing before I picked up the game. I am glad that I looked beyond the presentation!

How does it play?: Gravwell is essentially a racing game. Everybody starts in the middle of the titular gravity well, with the goal of being the first player to reach the exit. The fun part is the method of moving. You generally play cards that will either pull you towards or away from the nearest object, whether it is another player’s ship or one of the non-player Derelict ships! There are also two (out of 26 – one card for each letter of the alphabet) cards that instead move all other objects a certain number of spaces towards you.

After choosing what card to play secretly, all cards are resolved in alphabetical order. The very early letters tend to move lower distances, while later cards let you move further with the tradeoff being the potential for earlier players to screw up your plan! It makes for some really tricky decisions. Once per Round (six card plays), each player can activate an Emergency Stop to not resolve the card they played. This is a great safety feature, which wound up being used just about every round by everyone.

Overall Impression: Gravwell is a great little game in an understated package. I have found it to have very high replay value and a shallow learning curve that makes it accessible to all. Players who enjoy cerebral social games like The Resistance and Coup should have as much fun as wacky King of Tokyo dice-nuts do. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Go to the Tsuro page


56 out of 63 gamers thought this was helpful

Once upon a time, I thought that Tsuro was a silly, simple game of avoidance. Then, I played somebody who knew what they were doing. It absolutely blew my mind – and still managed to play in under 15 minutes. Thus began my love affair with Tsuro, which continues to this day.

How does it look?: Tsuro is gorgeous. It may well be my favorite game to just casually look over after a round. The board is beautiful, and as it is filled up with winding path tiles the patterns formed are captivating. Cracking open the box for those who’ve never played is a pleasure.

All of the components are thick and sturdy. My tiles are good as new after a few years of heavy play, and the player pieces are unscratched. The choice of colors for the playing pieces isn’t particularly exciting, but I think that the mute tones fit quite well thematically.

How does it play?: At its core, Tsuro is a very simple game. Each player has a hand of tiles. On your turn, you play one tile in front of your piece and follow the path that it creates. If you have not been eliminated by colliding with another player or moving off the board, then draw a new tile to replace the played one.

The easiest strategy to grasp is one of avoidance. If I can stay far, far away from you, I can move about freely, make some pretty patterns, and eventually people will start running out of space and losing. Whoever used their space best wins, yay! But that’s just the start of it.

As you get familiar with the game and the tiles, some much riskier but stronger moves make themselves apparent. Aggressive players can wall off other players and choke their options. Crafty players thinking several moves ahead can make the most of limited space, creating an emergency path that will lead them back to open space. The rules are simple, but the strategies made possible by truly learning the game are deep and elegant.

Overall Impression: Tsuro is a really wonderful game. It does involve player elimination and the discomfort that can cause with some players, but a game should not take more than 15 minutes to play.

Tsuro’s pace makes it great to play between other games, but it also truly deserves some play for its own merit. Each game is different enough that I am not against marathon play. I would recommend it to anyone who likes to play and think.

Go to the Jambo page


16 out of 16 gamers thought this was helpful

I was introduced to Jambo a few years ago by one of the owners of Greenfield Games in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t in stock at the time – I had to wait, oh so patiently, for Jambo to grace their shelves once more. I was not disappointed when I was finally able to add it to my collection. It’s a solid experience for two players (great for couples), and a great way to discuss economics and maximization within board games.

How does it look?: Jambo is a pretty good-looking game. The artwork is solid and thematic without being distracting. When it comes down to it, Jambo is an abstract economic game, so don’t expect to be wowed and immersed.

The cards are of standard quality. As with any card game, sleeves will increase the longevity of your cards if you expect heavy play. The non-card components are great! You get a nice set of tokens representing the different trade goods, as well as money in the form of 1 and 5-gold tokens. The final pieces are the Action markers, which are a great means of physically representing what a player can do (more on this in the next section). The rulebook and box are of solid quality, but you’ll definitely want to snag a couple plastic baggies for all the tokens.

How does it play?: Jambo is a fantastic example of economic/risk & reward games. Each of the two players runs a stall with limited space. The core of the game is buying goods then turning them around for a profit. Goods are purchased and sold by playing cards depicting the goods, along with a Buy price and a higher Sell price. The goods are piece-limited, and a player MUST have room in their stall for all of the goods depicted on a card. Knowing when to buy is very important, or else you wind up with goods just sitting around, useless!

The other cards in the game are various people, animals and special items. People tend to allow special actions, like buying and selling goods at a modified price, or starting an auction. Animals are cards used for interfering with the other player – swapping goods, breaking their items, and so on. Items stay in front of a player for repeat use, capable of being activated once per turn. Some allow additional card draws, or exchanging cards in hand for gold.

One element of play that I really like is the Action markers. Each player gets five actions per turn. Every time an action is taken, the other player keeps track of this by pulling away an Action marker. I love the physicality of it, and it keeps the other player engaged when it is not their turn. Engagement is good!

Overall Impression: I will not deny that Jambo has its downsides. Because cards are drawn from a shared deck, the game’s random factor can occasionally be a drag. If one player manages to really kick it off with card-drawing abilities, it can leave the other player in the dust.

I would recommend Jambo to anyone looking for a good game for gamer couples. It’s also great for players who would like to learn how to optimize, plan and take risks – because there are only two players, you only have one other person waiting on you to take your darn turn! You owe it to yourself to grab a friend and try this game!

Go to the Adventure Time Card Wars page

Adventure Time Card Wars

111 out of 120 gamers thought this was helpful

Let it never be said that all games based on popular media are awful (I’m looking at you, Hunger Games: Training Days)! Crypotozoic, makers of the World of Warcraft TCG, have made an excellent little two-player card game. Let’s break it down:

How does it look?: Adventure Time Card Wars has some really solid components. The Landscape pieces have some heft to them. They are sturdy and very easy to pick up, which is important due to some cards flipping the Landscapes. The thickness of the Landscapes has the added bonus of making it easy to pick up cards from on top of them. No digging in with nails or having to sweep a card off the table to pick it up!

The art on the cards is charming in an Adventure Time kind of way. It’s simple and silly, with faux handwriting and a hand-drawn appearance. Given the game-within-a-TV-show aspect, it really hits the nail on the head. Very, very solid integration of theme and components.

How does it play?: The game is straightforward overall. The review above goes over the meat of the rules, so I’d like to just focus on a few things that caught my attention: Balance and focus.

I’ve only played with the Finn vs. Jake decks, so I can’t speak for BMO vs. Lady Rainicorn, but I found that the game was balanced in a great way. Jake’s Corn deck plays heavy up front. It hits hard, but you also need to play smart, because… Finn’s Blue Plains deck is super tricksy! Where the Corn deck hits the ground running, the Blue Plains deck builds up some intense combos as the game goes on. Both decks are fun and interesting, and feel like care was put into making them play well together.

Thanks to the Lanes/Landscapes, the game stays very focused. There will be four creatures per player at maximum, so the game doesn’t spill out of control across the table. Generally, the playing field at large feels strategic, with lanes needing to be filled to keep opponents from getting at you. Focusing in on particular lanes, the decisions become more tactical as you try to turn the tide of an individual battle to your favor. It’s not super complicated, but it’s enough to keep you thinking.

Overall Impression: Adventure Time Card Wars is a thoughtfully made card game. It’s true to the source material, well-balanced and easy to teach. My one concern is longevity. As it stands, I don’t know that I would enjoy playing it frequently given the limited pool of cards. On the other hand, if Cryptozoic continues to release material, the great balance they’ve struck so far may be lost. Only time will tell!

Go to the Superfight! page


27 out of 29 gamers thought this was helpful

Since Superfight! arrived, it has found its way to my table once in my friendly local game store, and several times on late nights. We’ve had some repeat players and some once-offs. What we have not had is anybody who has specifically requested it beyond their first play.

How does it look?: First off, I must note that I was a Kickstarter backer, so my components were from the initial print run. Having not seen further printings, my opinion on the quality of components may not be representative of consumer copies. This was most evident in the box the game came in – almost entirely unmarked, with no mention of what the game inside was. The boxes the expansions came in were flimsy and similarly Spartan in their decoration.

Superfight! has a very minimalist design a la Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. Each card has the game’s logo and a bit of text. I found that some of my cards were a shade away from the others of their color. This was honestly a non-issue given the casual nature of the game, but it did not look great.

How does it play?: Anyone familiar with games in the Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity families will have no trouble picking up this one. There are a number of small variant play styles listed in the rules, but it generally comes down to the Judge player setting up a semi-or-fully random Bad Guy, then the other players creating semi-random Heroes. The players pitch how they think their screwball heroes could beat the Bad Guy, and the Judge picks a winner.

Depending on the group of players, turns can fly by or take a few minutes as friends describe epic showdowns between a cat-like radioactive Bill Nye and a flying shark handcuffed to a golf cart.

Overall Impression: While Superfight! is quick and easy, it really doesn’t bring anything new to the table. We have found that it starts off with a few laughs, but eventually drags on. This might be remedied by setting a victory point goal, but that won’t make repeat plays feel any more fresh.

While it feels good to have helped an independent publisher create his dream game, I would strongly steer party gamers towards Say Anything! and other games that allow players to create their own answers. The card-based party games following in Cards Against Humanity’s wake just feel tired.

Go to the New World of Darkness page
20 out of 21 gamers thought this was helpful

Cold alleys lit by buzzing neon signs, ancient conspiracies, gators in the sewers… The World of Darkness has so many things that go bump in the night that all the closets and beds in the world couldn’t hide them. And yet, it manages to facilitate the telling of some truly compelling stories.

This review is based on having run two long Changeling campaigns and playing in one mortal campaign. I own the core book, several core source books, all of the Changeling line, plus the core books for Mage and Hunter.

How does it look?: The New World of Darkness books are beautiful. All of the books I own are hardbound and look as good now as they did when I picked them up. The binding is all intact and the pages are crisp.

The artwork gracing the pages is a mixed bag sourced from many artists. Some of the artwork in the Changeling core book looks smudgy, while other pieces in the same book are downright stunning. Even with the bad apples, any one of the books paints a horrifying picture of the world the players will be interacting with.

How does it play?: With many core books and extra source material available, all kinds of stories can be told in the World of Darkness. I have incorporated organ theft, Lovecraftian creeping dread, body horror and the very adult fears that come with parenthood into my games. I found that as time went on, my players became more than content with sessions that didn’t involve a single combat because they were so interested in the friendships and rivalries growing within their own team and the supporting cast, with only the occasional nudge from the Storyteller to keep some pressure on them.

The New World of Darkness is a d10-based system in line with White Wolf’s other products. When faced with a task, the player takes a number of 10-sided dice equal to the character’s relevant Attribute (innate capabilities like Strength, Manipulation or Wits)and Skill rating related to the task, plus some other modifiers to account of Specialties in the skill and situational modifiers (good luck picking a lock in the dark without a flashlight!).

The resolution is quick. After rolling the dice and comparing the result to the difficulty set by the Storyteller, you wind up with a simple yes or no and the story can move on. It’s infrequent for any one issue to eat into game time. This also translates over to combat. Although a bit more fiddly due to Armor, I have found combat to usually be quick and brutal. Recovery takes a long, long time in-game, so players are best off picking their fights carefully.

Overall Impression: With a generally easy to use system, a very rich setting and room for players to grow and develop their characters in interesting and meaningful ways, I believe that the New World of Darkness will stay with me for a long time. While not as light or intuitive as some small-press storytelling games, it may be the single most creative mainstream game out there.

Go to the Takenoko page


112 out of 119 gamers thought this was helpful

What do you get when you mash up tile laying, personal victory point goals and a big bamboo garden? Fun! Maybe!

I have owned Takenoko for one week now, with six plays at the time of this review. Five of those games have been one-on-one with Nimera, plus one three-player with other friends when I bought it. Here’s what I think so far.

How does it look?: Takenoko is adorable. It may be the most approachable Euro-game I’ve seen. It is very colorful, with interesting pieces that are fun to handle.

I don’t know if it’s true of the first edition, but my copy does have some iffy pieces. My Panda has a small pink “birthmark” just off its belly. A few of my Bamboo pieces appear to be from a different edition, as they are somewhat narrower. There have been a number of cases of bamboo stacks falling over due to loose-fitting pegs. This is not a game-killer, but it can be distracting. Do not play this with grabby children or pets that might enter the play space.

How does it play?: Players interact with a shared play space, rather than having any player-specific pieces. Everyone tries to complete their own hidden victory point cards over the course of play. There are three victory card categories, each rewarding different types of play. Gardener cards are worth the most points on average and contain the very highest possible point values, but if a player feels that the game will be a close one, Panda cards can be used to break ties – it pays to dabble a bit.

The rules as written are unambiguous and can be taught in minutes. However, as mentioned in some of the Tips here on BoardGaming, there is the potential for some seriously aggressive meta that may scare off newer players. As written, there is no limit to how many victory cards can be played in a turn, so a player who thought they were ending with a lead may get an unpleasant surprise loss when their opponents take their final turns. There is also a heavy dose of randomness when it comes to the spread of points within each stack of victory point cards, so two players employing the same strategies may have wildly varying results.

Overall Impression: Takenoko is a seriously cute game with tight mechanics that are very satisfying to interact with. Its random elements are a mixed bag, serving to potentially level the playing field or to make a player feel crushed by poor card draws. Out of the box, I would highly recommend it for beginning Euro players and young gamers. However, for a more strategic experience, it needs heavy house ruling. Look no further than the game’s Tips page for some great examples!

Go to the Thurn and Taxis page

Thurn and Taxis

132 out of 142 gamers thought this was helpful

Thurn and Taxis is a game that has graced my table far too infrequently. It is a relative newcomer to my collection, with six plays at the time of this review. I have played 2, 3 and 4-player games, and it has been a satisfying experience every time.

How does it look?: The game’s components are not particularly striking. The wooden Post Office pieces, cards and board are all of perfectly good quality, but will not wow anyone. In one case, a friend was reluctant to play because the sepia tone board looked very dry.

The reverse side of the board has a coat of arms printed on it, so the game continues to be classy after a disgruntled player flips your table.

How does it play?: Other reviewers have given in-depth explanations of the game play, so I will focus on what I particularly enjoy. Thurn and Taxis is a fantastic stepping stone into Euro games. Its dry theme and board do not make it a great introductory game like Takenoko or Ticket to Ride. However, once a player has started to enjoy the mechanics present in games like those, Thurn and Taxis is easy to pick up and teaches more of the mechanics that one might encounter in more complex games.

The game seems to favor accomplishing one’s own goals over interfering with others, which I find is one of the things that makes it approachable for newer gamers. A loss won’t make a player feel that they’ve been picked on or singled out. Instead, it’s an opportunity to try a new strategy next game. The four Special Actions also make for meaningful decisions every turn – it is very rare to feel like there is nothing to do on a given turn.

While a player’s Victory Points from their current Carriage level are public, any Victory Point chits collected from the board are kept face-down. This makes for some tight games as players jockey for a few final points before somebody triggers the endgame. It also encourages newer Euro gamers to become more aware of what their opponents have done in the game.

Overall Impression: Whether you are introducing a player to Euro Games or just want a lighter Euro to play in an hour or less, Thurn and Taxis is a quality game. It provides more choices and less player versus player aggressive options than Ticket to Ride, and the many ways of earning victory points give it a solid level of replay value. If you can find it at your Friendly Local Game Store, I would strongly suggest that you pick it up.

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