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Ramenhotep

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Review 8 games and receive a total of 380 positive review ratings.
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Go to the POX: Save the People page
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10
Go to the ZOMBIEPOX page

ZOMBIEPOX

27 out of 28 gamers thought this was helpful

GAMEPLAY
ZOMBIEPOX is a purely coop containment game, where the players are working together to contain a zombie outbreak.

ZOMBIEPOX’s board is a grid of faces of people in your town. Two of them start as zombies (represented by a zombie chip). Each turn, the current player draws a card. First, this card has something bad that happens, second, the player gets to do something good.

In this world, zombie bites cause the zombie pox (represented by a green chip). When someone infected with the zombie pox dies, they reanimate as a zombie. The first type of bad effect a card can have is “spread.” When a spread card is drawn it indicates a direction, for example up. All zombies then spread zombie pox to healthy people above them (by biting), and all people infect with zombie pox spread it to the healthy people above them (by coughing). The other bad effect a card can have is an “outbreak.” When an outbreak occurs, one new person (of the player’s choice) gets the zombie pox.

After bad effects happen, the players are usually allowed to either vaccinate 3 healthy people against zombie pox (by putting a red chip on them), or cure and vaccinate one person infected with the zombie pox (by replacing their green chip with a red one).

But watch out! If any person becomes surrounded on all sides by infected people, that person turns into a zombie. If a baby (special spaces) becomes infected, she immediately turns into a zombie. If too many people turn into zombies, the players lose. The players win if the zombie pox can’t spread in any direction.

MESSAGE
As with all Tiltfactor games, ZOMBIEPOX has a goal; in this case, ZOMBIEPOX’s goal is to encourage vaccination and to teach systems thinking. And initial studies suggest that it does just that. In fact, it does a better job of teaching systems thinking and encouraging vaccination than POX: Save the People, a mechanically similar game but about a disease and no zombies. Why is this? Tiltfactor theorizes it’s simply because being engaged in the zombie narrative makes players more engaged in the game and learn more.

THOUGHTS
This game is fun, simple, and quick. I’ve seen players 7-65 enjoy the game, and it’s a good filler for 15 minutes or so. While not the best game to play over and over, I’ve played it a ton whenever I have a spare minute, and I still find it a fun challenge to try to play on the hardest difficulty (with no new zombies allowed).

The materials are cool, especially the board which is a soft, flexible, washable and indestructible playmat (like those that Magic players use). This is a particularly good game to have around if you have kids to play it with. Despite this, even hardcore gamers will find the game a challenge to win at easiest difficulty at least for the first few plays.

Ratings for various types of gamers:
Power Gamers – 4
Strategy Gamers – 6
Avid Gamers – 7
Social Gamers – 8
Casual Gamers – 9
Family Gamers – 10

9
Go to the Awkward Moment page

Awkward Moment

35 out of 37 gamers thought this was helpful

Gameplay
3-10 players each get a hand of 5 reaction cards. These are ways that people could react to awkward moments, like: “Pretend your shoe is untied,” or “An eye for an eye.”

One player is chosen to start as “the decider.” The decider flips over a moment card and reads it out loud. These are awkward situations to which the rest of the players have to respond. My favorite example is: “You think you see your best friend walking down the street and wave at her, but it turns out to be somebody else.”

The decider flips over a decider card as well. This card says how the decider should pick the best answer. If the decider flips over the card that says “bravest,” then each of the players (except for the decider) contributes one reaction card face down, and each wants their own answer to be the bravest. Reactions are shuffled and read aloud, then the decider chooses his or her favorite one, and whoever submitted that gets to keep the moment card (worth one point).

Everyone fills up their hand to 5 reaction cards, and the next player becomes the decider. Play continues until players run out of time or cards, whichever comes first.

Message
As with all Tiltfactor games, Awkward Moment has a goal; it was made as part of a project to make board games and card games that decrease gender bias in Science Technology Math and Engineering (STEM) fields. Some of the moments are tangentially related to gender bias in STEM (although I’ve never see anyone notice this fact). Through these, the game has been shown to decrease gender bias. Studies done reveal that middle-school girls and boys are more open to pairing women with non-stereotypic professions after playing the game even once.

Thoughts
While the gameplay is not extremely exciting or innovative, the content is. The moments and reactions are hilarious, and especially so for a younger audience. Kids 10-15 just love this game, and I’ve even seen them choose it over better known ones such as Uno and Battleship.

The game can be played with 3-10 players, and is super easy to learn. This flexibility, coupled with the game’s effectiveness at decreasing bias makes it a great choice to play with kids or to entertain young teenagers with!

Ratings for various types of gamers:
Strategy Gamers – 4
Power Gamers – 4
Avid Gamers – 5
Casual Gamers – 7
Social Gamers – 9
Family Gamers – 9

7
Go to the Betrayal at House on the Hill page
82 out of 89 gamers thought this was helpful

Gameplay
As has been noted in other reviews, Betrayal at the House on the Hill is played in two distinct phases.

In the first phase, players play a fairly standard dungeon crawl in a haunted house. You each get a figurine and a matching chipboard hexagon with your figurine’s four stats: speed, might, sanity, and knowledge. The cool part is that the house is revealed as you explore. You start in the great hall, and as you move into unexplored rooms you place random new rooms to where you move.

Each turn you move up to your speed, and whenever you explore a new room one of four things happens. First, nothing can happen. Often nothing happens in hallways, and you just keep going. Second, there can be an item. When this happens you draw an item card and get to keep it. Third, there can be an event. Events are one time occurrence cards, filled with flavor, and read by the person to your left. Sometimes you have to roll based on your stats, other times you make choices, and others yet make changes to the house, for example:

Something Slimy
What’s around your ankle? A bug? A tentacle? A dead hand clawing?
You must attempt a speed roll (and then some stuff happens based on your roll.)

Fourth, you can walk into a room with an OMEN. Omens can be like items or events, but creepier, and every time you get one you roll a set number of dice. If you roll a number higher than the current number of omens found, then exploration continues as usual. If you roll lower than the current number of omens, however, the HAUNT begins.

The Haunt is the second phase of the game, and happens after you’ve been exploring for a while. When the haunt happens, you look up in a table what omen caused the haunt, and in what room, and it tells you which of the 50 possible haunts is happening, and that one of you is a traitor! Surprise, hence the name of the game. The traitor leaves the room with his or her own booklet, and reads about his or her goals for this particular haunt. At the same time, the explorers read about how THEY win.

The traitor returns, and the haunt begins where it’s one versus many, and only one team can win.

Theme, narrative, and feel
This game does a fantastic job of setting the mood, especially if you read events and omens to the person who drew them in creepy voices. When played at night it does a great job of creating the feel of a (cliche) horror movie, where everything starts off hunky dory and then gets creepier and creepier until the big reveal when the heroes must fight for their lives (and usually most of them die).

The 50 different haunts make the game feel like it’s telling a story, and things can get kind of tense. Overall, the way the game’s theme comes across and sets the mood is its strength, and it is worth playing for this.

Strategy
The strategy in Betrayal at the House on the Hill is kind of weird, because you know one of you is going to end up fighting against the rest. Mostly you just want to collect STUFF, and hope that the person with the most stuff doesn’t become the traitor (unless that person is you). There’s really not that much going on the in the strategy department, but there is a good amount of tactical decision making.

Thoughts
Far from being a problem, the two phases in which this game is played
are a strength. Cliche horror films often are in these two phases, a first phase where the characters are introduced as happy and stupid and make bad decisions. The first phases then gets creepier and creepier until the reveal of the monster and the deaths start happening.

This is definitely a game to play with casual and social gamers, especially if your players like narrative. I find myself returning to this game over and over because it’s a great one to play with my girlfriend, and I really want to see all the haunts. Some of my friends who have played this more says that it does start to be less fun once you start repeating haunts.

The second version of this game fixes a lot of stupid problems and printing errors the first one has, answering questions like “Why is the underground lake found on the third floor of the house,” so that’s a plus.

Ratings for various types of gamers:
Strategy Gamers – 6
Power Gamers – 6
Avid Gamers – 7
Social Gamers – 9
Casual Gamers – 9

7
Go to the Rat-A-Tat-Cat page

Rat-A-Tat-Cat

21 out of 22 gamers thought this was helpful

Disclaimer
This was the first real analog game I remember ever playing. I was probably around six, at a marathon-watching party with my parents. The kids of the host were playing some Gamewright card games on the floor, including Slamwich, that witch game, and Rat-A-Tat-Cat. From the moment I saw those cards on the carpet, I knew that gaming was for me. It was fated. Thus, this review may be colored by nostalgia.

Gameplay
In Rat-A-Tat-Cat, 2+ players are distributed four random face-down cards each. They do NOT get to see those cards. Each card has a numeric value 0-9 (or one of two or three special powers), and your goal is to have the lowest total value among your four cards at the end of the game.

On your turn you choose one: either take the top card of the discard pile and switch it for one of your cards, face down (remember, you don’t know the values of your cards, so it’s risky), or you draw the top card of the deck. If that card is a number, you may switch it with one of your 4 cards, or discard it. If that card has a special ability, you do that special ability and discard it.

There are three special abilities: Peek, Swap, and Draw 2. Peek allows you to look at any face down card (yours or your opponent’s). Swap allows you to swap your face down card for an opponent’s face down card (they don’t get to look at the card you gave them). Draw 2 allows you to take 2 extra turns.

One of the cool mechanics in this game is that it ends when any player calls “Rat-A-Tat-Cat,” so you have to believe you’re doing better than your opponents. When a player does that, his or her opponents each get one more turn and then it’s over.

Strategy
Most of the strategy in Rat-A-Tat-Cat revolves around memory, which is okay but not awesome. You really need to remember which of your cards are which values, and you really should remember which cards your opponent has as well.

However, there are a few interesting strategies and tactics in Rat-A-Tat-Cat. Like in Gin Rummy, when playing against a skilled opponent you should do your best to give your opponent as little information as possible. Sometimes this means passing up better cards in the discard pile, or replacing a 3 with a 0 instead of a 5 with a 0, because your opponents know what the 3 is.

Another interesting strategy is bluffing, by replacing a 2 or a 1 with a higher card (although preferably not too much higher, like a 3), so they think you have a better score than you do.

Finally, it doesn’t come up when playing as a kid, but I now realized that if you get a 0 on one of the first draws, or start with one, it is probably a good idea to end the game right there and then.

Summary
Rat-A-Tat-Cat is a fun little game, mostly for kids, for 2-6 players. It’s short, and very flexible in where you can play it. If you have kids who like the game, you could carry it with you and use it to entertain them when their bored, almost anywhere. It was my first real game, and it’s a good introduction to semi-strategic gaming for children.

9
Go to the Jungle Speed page

Jungle Speed

86 out of 93 gamers thought this was helpful

Gameplay Summary
Jungle Speed features a deck of around 80 cards. Each card has a shape on it, filled with either red, green, yellow, or blue. The deck is divided among each player, and players sit with their mini-decks face down in front of them. Proceeding in a circle, players flip one card from their deck face up in front of them.

Whenever your shape matches someone else’s shape, you try to grab the totem, a wooden (or plastic in the new versions) cylinder sitting in the center of the table. If you grab it before the person who matches you grabs it, you give that person all the cards you have flipped face up from your deck. First person to completely run out of cards in his or her deck wins.

In addition, there are three special types of cards: All Grab in which everyone grabs for the totem, All Flip in which everyone flips a card and craziness ensues, and Colors in which matches in color count and matches in shape DO NOT.

Thoughts
Although not unusual among dexterity games, this game is a rarity among most games in that gamers who play Twilight Imperium everyday can play with people who only play Apples to Apples. The only prerequisite is that you have to be super competitive.

I live in a house of 20 gamers, with a board game collection of over 50 serious games, and Jungle Speed is still a favorite. At events with many people, somebody always brings out Jungle Speed and furniture is moved to clear a play area. We have even considered emblazoning a circle with a dot in the center on our carpet to ensure players are always evenly spaced from the totem.

The game’s name is evocative of some sort of heavy drug, and it’s appropriate because the game has that effect on its players.

Summary
This is one of those games (along with Pit and buffalo) that you should always have nearby in case you suddenly need to entertain 4-12 people for an indefinite amount of time! It’s easy to learn, a low minimum time commitment, and almost universally appealing.

I give it a 9/10 simply because the new version has a plastic totem instead of a beautiful wooden one. I know from experience that the plastic one results in fewer bruised knuckles, but I still prefer the wood.

Also: never play with anyone with long nails. My friends boast Jungle Speed scars from when this happens.

9
Go to the Pit page

Pit

34 out of 35 gamers thought this was helpful

Flexibility:
The reason this game has lasted 100 years is because it’s amazingly flexible.

You can play pit with audiences casual to hardcore, learn it in 2 minutes, play for 5-60 minutes with, and play with 3-8 players. This kind of flexibility has allowed this game to endure, and makes it a great choice for many occasions. It’s so flexible I carry a copy on me at all times, just in case.

It’s not always my first choice of what to play, but given all the circumstances in which I could play games, it’s definitely my most frequent choice.

Skill and Strategic Depth:
Most gamers seem to believe that this flexibility has come at a cost of depth. To an extent, this is true. Pit is no Race for the Galaxy in its choices, nor does it even have Dominion’s level of strategy.

These gamers underestimate the skills that can be cultivated in this game. Pit is entirely about reading signals from your opponents. This will sound familiar to hardcore Magic: the Gathering players out there, since signal reading is also a key part of high-level drafting.

Once you can adequately read your opponents’ choices and collections, you know what niche to go for, when to switch resources, and what not to give certain people.

After mastering those tactics, fun strategies can be employed. I often enjoy splitting 4 of one resource into 2 and 2, to make it harder for my opponents to collect and possibly encourage them to fight over a resource. I’ve even held onto one of each resource and then ransomed them off to great advantage (although I don’t recommend all the time, as your opponents can quit).

Also, every round 2 player gets 9 cards instead of 8. We usually play that the 2 left of last round’s winner get those. If playing this way, it is distinctly to your advantage to kingmake rounds that you won’t win such that you get 9 cards.

10
Go to the buffalo page

buffalo

141 out of 154 gamers thought this was helpful

buffalo is an extremely simple game that I can play with my family, which is a rare occurrence.

buffalo comes with 400+ cards, each one with an adjective or a noun on it.

The game has exactly three rules:

1. If you can shout out the name of a real person or fictional character that matches two or more cards, you take those cards. For example, if “Teenage” and “Book Character” are out, you could say “Harry Potter,” and take those two cards.

2. If your group cannot make a match (either because the cards out are too hard, or there are 0-1 cards out since matches need to be 2+), you flip two more cards over and players can match across any 2 (or more) cards.

3. If a “buffalo” card is flipped, the first person to match 2 cards takes all the cards on the table. The buffalo card just institutes a “winner take all” situation for one round. This has the added benefit of clearing out difficult cards.

But these rules rarely, if ever, need to be explained! Very often I’ve seen a game of buffalo start off with two or three players and end with eight. Hearing players shouting out the names of famous people draws party-goers or strangers over to the game, and it really only takes a minute of watching to figure out how to play.

My family and I played a prototype version of the game, and they’ve wanted to buy it every time I’ve talked to them since!

My one word of warning is the game works well for ages 14+, as younger kids often don’t recognize the words or don’t know enough pop culture to play without their family present. Also good to play with grandma, because the more life experience you have the better you’ll be at buffalo.

7
Go to the Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer page
46 out of 71 gamers thought this was helpful

I have some beefs with the game design of Ascension, but I gotta say, the tactile nature of dragging the cards around on the iPad is really satisfying. Combined with the increased speed of play you get by playing in a digital medium, I think the iPad game is a real improvement over the boxed version. Yes, the interface could use some work, and yes, the layout seems kind of amateur, but I’m willing to forgive that for a good quick deckbuilder to play with my friends quickly and easily.

9
Go to the Battle Line page

Battle Line

122 out of 164 gamers thought this was helpful

As others have mentioned, Battle Line has that classic Knizia feel, with really simple rules that lead to mind-numbingly deep game play. Battle line does this to the extreme.

The gameplay itself is fairly abstract: you’re waging war by making 3-card poker hands face-up in front of battle flags. When you win a battle you get the flag in front of the hand you won. When you’ve captured three flags in a row you punch through the battle line and win the war. Or, if you capture five flags you trample the opponent and win.

The brilliant twist of this game is to win a flag, you must show that it’s not possible for your opponent to beat your hand on that flag. Sometimes that means playing cards in your hand just to prove your opponent can’t have them.

In general, a great hardcore game to play, and one of those rare fun 2-player games.

9
Go to the Race for the Galaxy page
46 out of 89 gamers thought this was helpful

At first Race for the Galaxy doesn’t seem like much, but I find myself playing this game over and over again. Whenever the question is “which game do we play?” Race for the Galaxy seems to be the best and most agreed upon answer.

The rhythm of the different strategies in the game is what really gets in my bones. Military explores for new cards and settles. Alien and genes strategies produce and consume trade, with brief forays to settle or develop. Development strategies explore and develop.

On top of this, the strategy can be really deep, the interaction is limited in a good way, and the special bonus yellow chips make varied strategies viable. I love this game.

That said, the attempted symbolic communication of individual card mechanics is inscrutable for new players. They really should have just stuck with words.

9
Go to the Space Alert page

Space Alert

284 out of 393 gamers thought this was helpful

This coop neatly circumvents the problem of experienced players directing newbies and telling them what to do–there simply isn’t time! I find Space Alert challenging and hilarious, as well as frustrating in a good way. It has brilliant components and mechanics.

The tutorial for Space Alert has the best writing I have ever seen in a board game manual–I make a point of reading it aloud whenever we play with new players instead of just teaching them the game, since it’s filled with absolutely hilarious flavor.

The game has a ton of different mechanics that get added in slowly. This is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it’s great not to get overwhelmed, but that there’s enough content for frequent players. On the other, I feel inferior since I have never gotten to play with all the mechanics.

Finally, however, the technical requirements can be a hassle. I don’t have a CD player on any of my devices, so I had to download the files and put them on my ipod. That worked great until I set it to shuffle and I transition from the Beatles to, “ALERT! ENEMY ACTIVITY DETECTED!”

9
Go to the Bohnanza page

Bohnanza

44 out of 80 gamers thought this was helpful

I brought this game and Bang! on a vacation with my family. To my surprise, my brothers and father couldn’t understand Bang!, but immediately latched on to Bohnanza.

Since I play this with some of my more hardcore friends (albeit as a light diversion), I was happy my family liked it too.

I believe that since all the choices are very straightforward (do I want to plant this bean?), casual gamers don’t get overwhelmed. Also, since all of the cards are treated the same, they don’t need to read every single one and learn the fancy mechanical differences.

Meanwhile, I’ve played this game a lot with my more hardcore friends (who like to break games), and we’re still split 50-50 on whether to buy the third bean field, which is a great sign of hidden complexity!

My only negative comment is that removing different types of cards (as the rules suggest for different numbers of players) is annoying.

6
Go to the Fluxx page

Fluxx

24 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

As my friends and I often discuss, Fluxx isn’t very fun for anyone, while being mildly fun for many groups.

I don’t really love playing Fluxx because as an avid gamer I have very few strategic decisions, although the tactical decisions I get to make are alright.

My brothers and my girlfriend hate playing Fluxx because it does several things casual gamers don’t really like: (1) every turn you must make a (or multiple) decision to progress, and they better be good ones or else you might lose, and (2) you have to read every card and they all do different things. Although this latter element is great in games like magic, it makes it less accessible to casual gamers. In addition, the crazy abstraction isn’t doing it any favors.

6
Go to the Flash Point: Fire Rescue page
173 out of 298 gamers thought this was helpful

I played through the family version of Flash Point at Gen Con this year. It was fun (if a little easy), and I enjoyed several mechanics. The tension of knocking down walls for easy passage while also bringing the house closer to collapse was fun. Not knowing whether a Point of Interest was a person to save, or just a false alarm was clever.

That said, I found the mechanism for new fires to be placed on the board extremely clunky. To do this, the game uses a coordinate system determined by the roll of a d6 and a d8. In addition, the rules for putting down new fire are inscrutable… sometimes you put down smoke, other times (based on what’s already there) you put down fire, you overflow to adjacent squares, or you start a shockwave. I would have much rather seen fire placement done with tiles like ship damage in Space Alert.

Finally, although this is billed (at least in part) as a casual-friendly game, I would expect the gameplay experience would suffer terribly for new players playing with experienced ones. In short, the experienced players would always tell the newbies exactly what to do, ‘piloting’ them.

7
Go to the Libertalia page

Libertalia

116 out of 151 gamers thought this was helpful

I very much enjoyed the gameplay and mechanics of this game. The cards had cool mechanics and interactions, and I will totally play this with my gamer friends! That said, this game has a few strange flaws outside of gameplay:

Unnecessary components — Each player gets a chipboard flag, which serves no purpose. Each player gets an identity board, which serves no purpose other than to remind you of turn order and treasure value. There is a center board, which serves no purpose other than making layout easier. Finally, the point tracking board isn’t strictly necessary. The components are pretty, though, so I’m okay with the fact that this could basically just be a card game.

Too many zones! — There are way too many zones during gameplay, which makes this game difficult to teach to non-gamers. Aside from the in play zones (your hand and on the board), each player must have 4 stacks of cards: the deck from which you draw between rounds, your “den” of pirates played this round, your “discard” of pirates that died this round, and a removed from game pile of pirates used in previous rounds. I would be willing to forgive this if they had simply used some of the unnecessary board space to codify where to put these piles, but they don’t.

Terrible representation of women — There are 30 different characters in this game. 2 are animals, 3 are women, and 25 are men. Of the three women (according to their flavor texts), one has been kidnapped for ***, one exists only to be ogled, and one is a mystical shaman. What’s wrong with having women pirates? This game misses a great opportunity for cool female characters.

9
Go to the Pandemic page

Pandemic

23 out of 69 gamers thought this was helpful

Pandemic is a fun game with a few really cool mechanics (the epidemic mechanic of putting the most vulnerable cards on top of the infection deck is brilliant). Of course, it suffers from the co-op co-opt, where experience players end up playing everyone else’s turns.

6
Go to the Ascension: Return of the Fallen page
39 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

The expansion adds some fun cards and mechanics, but in the end it has the same problems as the original. First, it doesn’t add enough synergy between cards or “suit loyalty.” Second, it adds way too many powerful 1-off cards. The only way to keep Ascension balanced and not entirely luck dependent is to have many copies of each card. Having single copies simply leaves it up to luck who gets the card. This expansion should have added more copies of the powerful 1-off cards in the original, and had lots of copies of the powerful new cards. It didn’t, and for that it deserves a 6.

It IS still fun, though.

9
Go to the Lost Cities: The Card Game page
7 out of 47 gamers thought this was helpful

I love this game. It is one of my favorite 2 player games of all time, and the art is just fantastic. A must buy for anyone who only has a few gamer friends.

10
Go to the POX: Save the People page
122 out of 173 gamers thought this was helpful

POX is a very easy to pick up game, and a challenge for hardcore and casual gamers alike. I’ve seen players 7 to 65 years old enjoy POX. It takes a few games for most people to start winning, and after that quite a few more to play on the highest difficulty. Game like this convince me that coop board games are no less viable than competitive ones, but POX does have the classic problem that experienced players take control when playing with inexperienced ones.

I’ve heard POX compared to Pandemic. In concept, POX is like a barebones, abstract Pandemic, but in gameplay they are completely different games.

In addition, the cylindrical packaging and playmat board are really novel for a board game.

A+

9
Go to the Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game page
29 out of 75 gamers thought this was helpful

This is not your run-of-the-mill movie/show knockoff board game. Whether or not you have seen BSG, this game is great. All the better if you have, but definitely not a requirement to enjoy the solid, innovative mechanics in this game. Battlestar Galactica is like Mafia meets Arkham Horror.

A-

7
Go to the Ascension page

Ascension

29 out of 58 gamers thought this was helpful

It’s a fun game, but unlike in Dominion there are fewer viable strategies than Dominion. The ability to just shuffle the deck and start playing is very nice, however, and the plastic gems are very cool.

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