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Purring Meeple

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Go to the The Castles of Burgundy page
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9
Go to the The Castles of Burgundy page
66 out of 73 gamers thought this was helpful

In Castles of Burgundy, you and your opponents are 15th century princes from the Burgundy region of the Loire Valley in Central France competing to bring your estates prosperity and prominence through strategic trading and building. Castles of Burgundy is very much a Euro game. While the theme puts the player actions into context, it is not very deep and the game mechanics are not restricted by the theme. Play entails set collection and tile placement and there are numerous ways to earn victory points. Additionally, player interaction is limited as time is spent quietly contemplating and strategizing your route to victory. That being said, Castles of Burgundy is a delightfully addictive game that combines a little chance with a whole lot of strategy.

At first glance, the game looks incredibly complicated to learn with its many pieces and cryptic boards. However, the straight forward mechanics of the game are easy to learn. Castles of Burgundy is played in five phases, each phase consisting of five rounds. Each player has a mat consisting of 37 hexagonal spaces that together represent the estate you are developing. Also included on the player mats are spaces for dice, goods, silverlings (the game’s currency), workers, and six-sided tiles that have not yet been played. Additionally, the mats include a puzzling player aid that at first makes little sense, but after playing the game a couple of times, the meaning becomes clear and the player aid is quite helpful. The central game board has six numbered depots that hold both the six types of terrain hex tiles and the six types of goods that come into play as the game progresses. Why so many sixes? Dice. Each player has two dice that are the same colour as the player scoring pieces.

At the start of each round, players roll their dice and use them to perform two separate actions based on the value of each die. Players are free to choose from four different actions; however, the values on the dice place constraints on how the actions are carried out. For example, if you roll a five on one die you can either gain a tile from depot five on the main board, place a terrain hex on a five space on your player mat, or sell value five goods. Before using a die to take any of these actions, you can use one die to gain two worker tiles. A worker tile allows you to adjust the value of a die up or down by one. Workers are a valuable resource in that they assist you in meeting your strategic goal, and at the end of the game, you gain one victory point for every two workers you have remaining.

There are many different types of hex tiles, (knowledge, ships, mines, animals, castles and buildings) each offering something different that assists you in developing your estate. Keeping track of what each tile means can be rather confusing. For example, there are 26 different knowledge tiles, each with a different effect, and eight types of buildings that all give different bonuses. While the player aid on the mat helps to determine what some hexes do, it is not very detailed and not all inclusive. I found myself constantly flipping through the player manual to find out what the various tiles did. I found a solution to this problem on BoardGameGeek. Stephen Brinich, a BoardGame Geek member created a fantastic two-page cheat sheet that has pictures and descriptions of all the hex tiles. I printed and laminated several copies so that each player has their own quick reference player aid. This definitely simplified play!

I have played this game with two and three players. Both work equally well, it just takes a little longer with three. Castles of Burgundy left me feeling like I had given my brain a really good workout – in a fun and positive way. It definitely requires a sharp mind and plenty of focus! The only criticism I have about this game is the colour scheme. The colours blend together in a way that sometimes makes it difficult to discern what hex tiles are remaining on the main board.

Castles of Burgundy has immense replay value. A game is never the same twice AND it comes with nine different players mats for added variability. There have been a number of small expansions that add hex tiles and different player mats, but they are difficult to find. Overall, this is a fantastic Euro game that should not be missed!

9
Go to the Biblios page

Biblios

50 out of 56 gamers thought this was helpful

In Biblios, you are the abbot of a medieval monastery competing with the heads of other monasteries to amass the most distinguished library of sacred texts. You work towards this goal by collecting manuscripts, holy books and forbidden tomes, hiring the best scribes, and seeking out the best quality pigments of ink. You must also maintain a rapport with the bishop as his influence may be crucial to your mission.

As a lover of both history and books, I was immediately drawn to the theme of this game. The box is modeled after a book with a magnetic flap that holds the box closed. The artwork on the box, several serious faced monks in a library full of books observing the texts by candlelight, is both appealing and intriguing. The components of the game are simple and very well done. The game consists of a scriptorium (a small game board), five six-sided dice in different colours, and 87 cards. The image on the back of the cards is the same as that on the box. The art on the verso of the cards consists of a number of different beautifully done images. There are seven card suits including one for each of the five categories, (pigments, monks, holy books, forbidden tomes and manuscripts) as well as church and gold cards.

The goal is to have the most victory points at the end of the game by having the highest score in each of the five categories. The game is carried out in two phases, the gift phase and the auction phase. The gift phase is a drafting stage where players acquire cards. In the auction phase, players use their cards to bid for more valuable cards. At the start of the game, the five coloured dice are placed on their respective spaces in the scriptorium with the “three” value showing. The dice represent the value of each of the five categories. Players can increase or decrease the dice values by playing church cards. The strategy here is to increase the dice value in categories that you think you can win, and decrease the dice value in categories that your opponents appear to be collecting. Knowing who is collecting what will become evident in the auction phase when players bid for cards. The auction phase also has a bluffing element. If you are not interested in a card, you can still bid on it to drive up the price and force your opponents to pay more; however, you also run the risk of having to pay for a card you didn’t want!

Biblios is recommended for two to four players. I have played the game with two, three and four and found the game works equally well any of these numbers of players. The rules recommend removing 27 cards for a two player game, 15 cards for a three player game, and seven cards for a four player game. In each of the games that I have played, we used the full deck as we did not want to miss any of the artwork. When we were left with an uneven number of cards at the end of the gift phase, we simply shuffled the remaining cards into the auction phase deck. Removing cards would add an element of mystery to the game. The number of cards in each category is listed on the inner cover of the box, and thus viewable by all players. When all cards are in play, you can tell if you have a category majority by looking at this chart and doing some calculations. If cards are removed from the deck, this calculation becomes far less accurate. Alternately, you can keep the box closed so that the chart is not viewable. I found the best strategy was to collect everything. Invariably, some opponents seemed to focus on collecting one or two categories, using their cards from other categories to make purchases during the auction phase. In these instances, if you have a few cards in each category, you are bound to win some of them – often enough to win the game.

Overall, this is a brilliant game that can be enjoyed by both gamers and non-gamers alike. It is quick, easy to learn, makes for a great game when you have limited time, and is an excellent filler. An excellent addition to any game collection!

 
Go to the Exploding Kittens page

Exploding Kittens

52 out of 59 gamers thought this was helpful

Exploding Kittens is a party game touted as a “kitty powered version of Russian roulette.” It was originally proposed as a Kickstarter project seeking crowd funding of $10,000 USD. It exceeded this goal in only eight minutes. On the campaign’s seventh day, it surpassed 106,000 backers, thus setting the record for having the most backers in the history of Kickstarter. The campaign ended on 19 February 2015 with $8,782,571 USD in pledges by 219,382 backers! Exploding Kittens began shipping to backers in July 2015. Backers received the game in a specially designed box that “meows” when opened.

The success of the Kickstarter project was aided by the social media campaign mounted by the game’s designers. Additionally, the designers encouraged backers to participate in the process by unlocking achievements in various “categories” such as: 25 pics of a beardcat, 25 pics of a potatocat, 10, 50 and 100 people wearing cat ears, ten batmen in one hot tub, five spidermen in a kayak and five YouTube videos of songs about exploding kittens.

The game consists of 56 full colour matte cards of nine different types:

Exploding Kitten – the player that draws this card looses, unless they have a defuse card;
Defuse – defuses the exploding kitten and allows the player to continue play;
Skip – player skips their turn and does not have to draw a card;
Attack – player ends their turn without drawing a card and the next player must take two turns;
See the Future – player views the top three cards of the deck;
Shuffle – player shuffles the deck;
Favor – another player must give the player card from their hand;
Nope – stops the action of another player – except Exploding Kittens or defuse cards;
Cards with no instructions (pair cards) – must be played in matched pairs and allow player to take a random card from another player’s hand.

Each player is dealt five cards, including a defuse card. Players take turns discarding and drawing cards until someone draws an exploding kitten card. The discarded cards are shuffled and replayed once the deck has been depleted. If an exploding kitten card is drawn and the player cannot defuse it…BOOM…. he explodes and is out of the game. Fortunately, there are a number of cards that can help you prevent (or delay) exploding. Exploding Kittens has been rather accurately compared to Russian roulette as the elements of chance and risk are high. To add balance to the game, there is always one less exploding kitten in the deck than there are players. If you draw the exploding kitten and are lucky enough to be able to defuse it, you can place the exploding kitten back in the deck wherever you like…including directly on top of the deck for the next player to draw. This gives the game an excellent “take that” component. If you do this under the table, no one knows where you put the card and the tension mounts! The last player left in the game is the winner.

The Exploding Kitten box boasts that the game only take two minutes to learn which is fairly accurate. The games simplicity and silliness make it an excellent party game for groups of up to ten people. Adults can add an element of bawdy humour to the game by adding the NSFW deck (described below). The artwork is the funniest and arguably the best part of the game. Exploding Kittens also makes for a rapid fire diversion between more substantial games.

A Not Suitable for work (NSFW) stand alone edition is also available, the card categories and mechanics of play remain the same in this edition; however, the humour and graphics are much more risqué. The NSFW editions naughty cards, recommended for “people who are into kittens and explosions and **** wizards and sometimes butts,” are definitely not recommended for children! The NSFW deck can be combined with the original deck (or another NSFW deck) to allow for up to ten players. In January 2016, a multiplayer version with content not found in the original game was released on the IOS platform.

Exploding Kittens is only available online from amazon.ca or from The Oatmeal Store (the designer’s venue). The cost is $25.00 CAD each for the original and the NSFW editions. The original game in a limited first edition box can be purchased from The Oatmeal Store for $40.00. this box features a magnetic clasp and an empty space for sleeved cards or another deck of 56 cards. What really makes tis box special is that it actually “meows” when you open it! Additionally, fifty percent of the proceeds for the sale of the fist edition boxes go to cat shelters.

9
Go to the Jaipur page

Jaipur

51 out of 58 gamers thought this was helpful

Jaipur is a beautifully done, fast paced card game for two players that has won a number of prestigious gaming awards. Even the pink box insert is exquisite, with the game’s name engraved inside engraved in a window with a distinctive architectural shape. I purchased Jaipur on a whim when browsing the shelves of a game store because I was enamoured with the game’s name and the artwork on the box. Jaipur is a city in Northern India nicknamed “the pink city” and the “Paris of India,” a perfect setting for the trading of exotic goods. (Jaipur has been on my travel bucket list since I visited India for a month during the summer of 2014.)

The object of the game is to become the Maharaja’s personal trader by being richer than your opponent at the end of each week (each round). In order to earn points, you must collect and/or exchange goods at the market and sell them for goods tokens (rupees). The tokens for each commodity decrease in value as the game goes on, so it’s important to sell as many goods as you can early in the game. If you sell three or more of the same good, you earn bonus tokens. Alternatively, if there happens to be any camels in the market, you can add all of them to your caravan of camels, but you can’t collect or sell goods during the same turn if you chose to take the camels. At the end of each round, which ever player has the most camels receives a bonus token worth five rupees.

The goods available at the market are leather, spice, cloth, silver, gold and diamonds. As the more expensive goods garner higher returns, they are attractive to collect. However, you need to have at least two of one of these higher priced items (gold, silver and diamonds) in order to sell them and they are not as plentiful as the other commodities. Whoever wins the round receives a seal of excellence. The first person to receive two seals of excellence wins the game and becomes the Maharaja’s personal trader.

The instructions are simple and the game is easy to learn. We were busily collecting and selling exotic goods after the first round. Despite the simplicity (or perhaps because of it), I missed an important instruction and ended up being puzzled by what I thought was a rather strange game mechanic. As mentioned earlier, whoever has the most camels at the end of the week receives a bonus token worth 5 rupees. At first, I tried to collect as many camels as possible just to get the bonus. After a few rounds, it started to feel like increasing my camel caravan was not really paying off, especially since I had to forgo collecting goods to obtain these camels that just sat there chewing their cud, doing nothing to help me amass wealth. My opponent also thought there was something strange about the camels so we had another look at the instructions. Lo and behold, there was the answer. You can use your camels to trade for goods at the market! This simple mechanic made a world of difference to the game! The only way to get more than one good at a time is to trade with the cards that you have in your hand, but then you have to give away goods to get goods…which can be a little counter productive. However, if you trade your camels, you don’t lose any goods and you have more to sell. Additionally, if you sell all of your goods, you can quickly replenish your hand by trading camels. If you have no camels to trade, you only get one good (card) each turn.

Jaipur is a terrific game for two and is perfect for when you don’t have much time, or as a filler between other games.  If you have time and would like to have a gaming session that stays within the orientalist theme, I would suggest combining Jaipur with Five Tribes and/or Istanbul.

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