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Go to the Warmachine: Prime MKII page
Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game page
63 out of 73 gamers thought this was helpful

Castle Ravenloft is a cooperative board game based on the 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons role-playing rules. It does a good job of a “dungeon crawl” without bogging down too much in the role-playing aspects of D&D which may turn off some players.

In other words, I would call it D&D Lite

Depending on your mood, your group and your time constraints, Ravenloft may or may not be what you are looking for. If you just want to dive into a dungeon, kill some monsters and grab some loot – then this game is likely a great fit. If however, you want to negotiate with the Necromancer before resorting to violence, or if you want to discover the reason people have been going missing in the town of Shallowood – then don’t bother with this game.

In Castle Ravenloft the players take on the role of a pre-generated character – either a Human Rogue, a Dwarven Cleric, an Eladrin Wizard, a Dragonborn Fighter or a Human Ranger. Each character has – of course – special abilities and actions available to them, along with a set of power cards specific to their race and class.

The game presents the players with a scenario (there are over 10 in the game as it stands – with others available on the ‘net) detailing a “mission” presented along with some special rules. You step into the depth of Castle Ravenloft and the mayhem begins.

Each player in-turn can move and attack, then has to either expose new areas of the dungeon or have a random encounter. The game encourages you to continue moving forward at a somewhat rapid pace – hence revealing new dungeon tiles and more monsters to fight. The monsters move via a set of “tactics” which determine their actions – and allow the players to cooperatively best them. Although the monsters do move on specific player’s turns, their actions are determined by the game.

Overall I think Castle Ravenloft does a good job fulfilling the dungeon crawl niche of games. Although the D&D license may at first seem like a hook to get players to try the game, Castle Ravenloft does introduce key D&D concepts like player actions, abilities, ranged vs. melee combat, etc. It is certainly a good fit for players unfamiliar with RPGs in general or D&D specifically.

The component quality is top notch – with tons of plastic miniatures, many dungeon tiles and a lot of cardboard counters to keep track of many different things. My only negative component-wise is the box insert is a little useless for keeping things sorted – some “snack-sized” baggies will do wonders for clean-up and organization.

Finally, being cooperative is a nice change of pace compared to a game like Descent where the players are working against a game-master. The game scales well based on the number of players, and it is easy to handicap for new or younger adventurers.

Go to the Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War page
17 out of 18 gamers thought this was helpful

The Cold War. A dangerous time for the world. A dangerous time to be a spy…but that is exactly what being a spy is all about.

Therein is the introduction to Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War, a two player game that plays in 45 minutes or less.

In Confusion, players take on the roles of either the United States or the Soviet Union. Each side is vying for control of a suit-case marked “TOP SECRET” which starts in the center of the board. On your turn, you attempt to move one of your spies in order to advance towards your goal.

Yup – I said attempt to move.

You see, as the game begins, you don’t really know how each of your spies move – your opponent does. So when you attempt to move a spy, your are actually asking your opponent, “can I move this spy here?”. Your opponent then either says yes or no. If your move was legal, your spy stays in the square into which he moved; if your move was illegal then your spy returns to where he started.

Again – your goal is to grab a TOP SECRET briefcase (which starts in the center of the board) and bring it over to your opponents first row. Of course, no spy game would be complete without a bit of conflict – and Confusion has a great simple mechanic for handling this. Move one of your spies (successfully!) onto one of the enemy spies, and that spy is eliminated (without revealing its movement rule to his player).

Sound confusing? Agreed. But the game really plays quick and easy – harder to describe than learn for sure.

The components in this game are absolutely fantastic – the spy pieces are separate from the movement tiles. Both piece types are nice chunky plastic with embossed and painted evocative symbols. A mounted map-board continues the theme perfectly. To complete the experience, each player has a dry-erase dossier which is used to keep track of which moves are valid or not – both for himself and his opponent.

This game isn’t for everyone. If you don’t enjoy deduction, then certainly don’t bother with Confusion. However if you are a fan of light strategic games, then you cannot go wrong in picking up a copy. Personally, I love it.

Go to the Carnival page


13 out of 14 gamers thought this was helpful

I challenge anyone to play this game without humming, whistling or ‘singing’ that “carnival song”. You know the one – don’t pretend you don’t.

Carnival is a set collection game in which each player is trying to be the first to assemble four out of five rides. Assembling a ride is simply collecting one of each of the four components of a ride : Seats, Lights, Banners and Materials – all represented by wonderfully themed artwork.

Typically your turn will involve a game of chance – rolling three dice and picking two. The numbers on the dice represent actions you can take; drawing new cards, stealing cards from another player, etc. You will then be able to start construction of new rides or add on to an existing ride.

Wild cards are also included – which can take the place of any needed components of a ride if necessary, or can be used to discard some of your hand to replace with new cards.

The final component included in the game are tickets – used to modify dice rolls, or prevent an opponent’s action. You are limited to three with an ability to acquire more, so saving them for the appropriate time is an important consideration of game play.

Carnival is a simple game from a newer company – funded through Kickstarter. Overall the game is a wonderful set collection card game which fits in well with families and gamers alike – if a light game is what you are after. The only downside is that the designers appear to worked hard to fit their rules onto one page – which makes some of the rule specifics hard to find.


P.S. – The name of “that” piece is Entrance of the Gladiators, composed by the Czech composer Julius Fučík. You can listen to it here.

Go to the Ascension page


29 out of 33 gamers thought this was helpful

Ascension – Chronicle of the Godslayer (“Ascension” for short) is a Deck Building game set in a mythical universe of monsters, mechanical constructs, nature bound humanoids, mystical wizards and worshipers of dark magic. Designed by a group of professional Magic: The Gathering players, Ascension does a fantastic job streamlining the deck building concept and distilling the genre down to a quick playing and fun romp with multiple strategies and combinations.

Ascension currently has 2 expansions with another to be released shortly. Each expansion can serve as a stand-alone game or be combined in a variety of ways to mix up the possibilities.

For those of you reading this who are already familiar with other deck-building games like Dominion, Thunderstone and Resident Evil – this review is basically done: try out Ascension – you will not be disappointed.

For the rest of you still reading – I thought I would take a bit of space describing what a deck-building game is and how it can help you be a better player in other games (especially collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, WoW:TCG, Pokemon, etc.).

As the name suggests, a Deck-Building game focuses on each player gathering cards to put in their deck in order to achieve some goal – typically scoring some type of victory points. The cards which you ‘purchase’ during your turn will be mixed in with the cards you already have in your deck – and will have an effect when you draw and play them. In many of these games (including Ascension), the cards will serve as both victory points in the end-game, and also trigger actions during the game to either allow you to buy more cards, gain victory points or many other effects.

Each turn you will be adding cards to your deck – this is a double-edged sword, as the cards you ‘buy’ are generally valuable and you want to play them; however the more cards you have in your deck, the less chance a particular card will show up on a given turn. To counteract this, Ascension has cards which will allow you to remove cards from your deck – in effect streamlining it. Often times players will be faced with a conundrum as they weigh out the cost of ‘banishing’ a card since its effect is not that useful, with that card’s victory point value which will not be counted if the card is banished.

This simple concept is the heart of deck building techniques in almost all collectible card games currently in print – and often one of the most overlooked skills for new and intermediate players. Deck building and tuning in an important skill for being competitive, and Ascension teaches basic techniques without even trying.

For me, Ascension is the best of the deck-building games to date. Combining ease of play, an interesting and highly variable starting game state and wonderful card art makes it a clear winner.

Go to the Airlines Europe page

Airlines Europe

148 out of 155 gamers thought this was helpful

Airlines Europe is a recent game by designer Alan Moon – known mostly for the Ticket to Ride series of games. In Airlines Europe, 2-5 players ages 10 and up, take on the role of investors in the early age of commercial airlines in a game which averages about 75 minutes.

Before continuing, I need to make one thing clear. In Airlines Europe, you do not control a specific airline – and hence, you don’t own a specific color which represents you or your company. This concept almost universally confuses the newcomer to the game.

As the player, you represent yourself – an investment mogul – driven to by your desire to be the most notorious of your peers. You accomplish this by helping better those airlines in which you have a vested interest – and possibly hindering the development of your opponents interests.

Each player starts with a handful of stocks and some cash. Game play is fast and simple. Each turn you a presented with three options – expand an airline, add stocks to your portfolio or obtain more “seed capital.”

When you expand an airline, you buy the rights to fly from one European to another by paying a certain amount to the bank. You then take a colored plane marker and place it on that route. This action moves up the reputation of that particular airline a number of spaces corresponding to the cost of that route. After claiming a route (or possibly 2 if so desired, and funds are available) that player is able to claim a stock certificate – either one of the five available face up in the stock market, or chancing a blind draw from the stock pile.

After a stock certificate is taken, it is immediately replaced with one from the stock pile and the next player takes his turn.

Another option for a player turn is to lay down a number of stock certificates in front of you – creating your portfolio. Until stocks are in your portfolio (as opposed to your hand), they are considered out of the game for scoring purposes – so it behooves players to occasionally get those stocks on the table before a scoring round appears (more about that in a minute).

When a player puts stocks into play, he lays any number of same-colored certificates in front of him – into his portfolio (you can also play two different colored certificates if so desired). By doing this, income is earned based on the number of certificates played per turn.

Finally, there will be a point in which a player can neither improve and airline, nor lay down certificates. The final option is to receive “seed funding” from the bank – giving that player a nice bit of cash, but ending his turn immediately.

The name of this game is fame and notoriety however – and gaining fame is more important than fortune in this game. Fame is scored three times per game at semi-random interval, after a stock certificate is drawn from the pile. If a scoring card is revealed, the game pauses while the score is calculated. Each player adds up the stock certificates in their portfolio for each airline. A score track on the perimeter keeps track of how powerful that airline is – granting more fame to those players who have the most stock in that company. Fame tokens (victory points) are handed to each player until each airline has been accounted for – and the game continues as before.

Airlines Europe is a joy. A new and interesting mechanic, combined with Alan Moon’s wonderful talent for balance and simplicity make this a fantastic “next step” game for those Ticket to Ride players looking for something a bit different. Just don’t get your heart set on being the Red plane!

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