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Go to the Caverna: The Cave Farmers page
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Go to the The Manhattan Project page
Go to the Pay Dirt page

Pay Dirt

22 out of 24 gamers thought this was helpful

Pay Dirt is a game set on the Alaskan frontier. Each player takes on the role of a prospector mining for gold in the frozen north. To add to the excitement of gold mining, the players have made a gentlemen’s wager as to who will have the most gold at the end of the season. During each round, players compete for the limited equipment, land and staff available on the frontier. They use what they have or were able to acquire to try to process pay dirt into gold. If funds run low you can sell your gold to bolster your cash flow, but in the end only the gold matters when the ground freezes and the season ends.

Setup & Play Time
Each player is given a player board representing their mining camp, a greenhorn claim with three barren pay dirt tiles, 5 workers, and $9,000. In the center of the table, the main board and the rest of the materials are placed in the center of the table representing a nearby town where players will compete for mining resources. Set up takes around five to ten minutes.

I have now played this game a half dozen times. The first time took two hours since none of the four players were experienced with the game. The second game with two new players took an hour and a half. The others averaged an hour. So based on these experiences I would say that the hour to hour and a half is an accurate time range for this game with experienced players.

5 Player boards
1 Main Board with a Thermometer
18 Equipment tiles (6 Excavators, 6 Loaders, 6 Wash Plants)
18 Personnel Cards
18 Claim tiles (6 layered Claims, 12 normal Claims, 4 Greenhorn Claim tiles)
14 Gear Tiles
44 Pay Dirt Tiles (20 Barren tiles [worth 2 – 4 nuggets], 12 Promising tiles [worth 3 – 5 nuggets], 12 Rich tiles [worth 4 – 6 nuggets])
30 Hardship Cards
50 Money tokens ($1k [30] and $3k tokens [20])
48 Wear cubes
55 Gold Nuggets (25 small worth 1, 30 large worth 5)
50 Worker meeples (10 each in five colors)
Head Miner token
Auction Token
Temperature token

Instructions / Learning Curve
The rules are laid out logically. It would be nice if there was a player reference sheet, but it is not hard to find what you are looking for.

Game Play
Pay Dirt plays out over a variable number of rounds (between 5 and 15). Each round is comprised of four phases: Auction, Work, Hardship, and Income. Rounds continue until the temperature marker reaches zero or below. When this happens players have one more opportunity to collect as much gold as possible before the ground freezes and a victor is decided.

Auction – In the auction phase a number of items are auctioned off equal to the number of players. The interesting part of this phase is that after the first auction, the category that the purchased item came from (Equipment, Personnel or Claims) becomes closed during the next auction. Get it while it’s hot. By closing part of the auction, you can close off a player from getting access to something that they need. This increases the strategy and fun.

Work – This is the “worker placement” part of the game. Each worker can be assigned to run equipment, repair equipment or gear, and go to town to: visit the supply store or the sales office. There is no restriction on the number of workers that can be assigned to any task so placement is simultaneous. Once all workers are placed, players take turns taking their actions.

Hardship – As an interesting twist, the player in last place (with the least gold) draws hardship cards equal to the number of players then chooses one to suffer, passing the remaining cards to the person in second to last place, etc. Once all the cards are distributed the start player reveals their card, moves the temperature down the indicated amount and suffers the effect of the card. Then each other player suffers the effect of their card (ignoring the temperature).

Income – The final phase of the round allows players to draw money from their cash reserves (normally $2,000). Then the start player marker is passed to the next player the auction and gear areas are refilled and play moves into the next round.

As part of the Kickstarter campaign that printed this game three mini expansions were created: Old Timer 1899er, The Last Frontier, & Spectral. Each mini expansion comes with a set of equipment, 1 claim, 1 gear, and 1 personnel. If you get a KS edition they are included in the box. I assume that they will be available at some point to everyone that do not get this version of the game.

Final Thoughts
I have really enjoyed the games of Pay Dirt that I have played and look forward to getting it to the table more. One of my favorite games is Power Grid because I like the auction and tight economics of the game. This game captures a lot of what I love about Power Grid and adds a lot of new twists.

The scarcity of resources, constantly having to send workers to repair equipment and the steady drop in temperature all add to the excitement of the game. I know mining in the Klondike may not appeal to everyone, but I am an experienced miner and have worked in the aggregate and coal mining industries. With a few exceptions, the game represents the mining process very well and brings back fun memories.

I have enjoyed the game play that Pay Dirt has provided; how the auction is broken into three categories with only two of the three available at a time (adding interesting decisions and player interactions). How the gold/victory points are needed to be able to purchase the items you need and how you have to balance your score with your need for cash. Finally, though the players choosing the hardship that they will face makes little sense thematically, it adds tension to the game and creates difficult choices and a balancing act between keeping your operations running and not letting the other players get too far ahead as the temperature quickly drops.

I plan on “blinging” out my copy with tiny pieces of pyrite just to take this already great game up a notch.

Edit: The publisher for this game went out of business in early 2017. It may become hard to find.

Go to the The Manhattan Project page
140 out of 149 gamers thought this was helpful

In The Manhattan Project each player takes on the roll of a industrial nation racing to have the largest atomic weapons stockpile. To accomplish this goal players assign their workers to multiple projects and sites: building your infrastructure, expanding your air force, or sending spies to infiltrate your opponent’s facilities. Careful management and superior strategy will determine the winner of the arms race.

The Manhattan Project is a low-luck, mostly open information efficiency game in which players compete to build and operate the most effective atomic bomb program. Players do not “nuke” each other, but conventional air strikes are part of the game. This game features worker placement with a twist; There are no rounds and no end-of-round administration. Players retrieve their workers when they choose to or are forced to (by running out).

• 1 Main Board
• 5 Player Boards
• 6 Starting Building Cards (Red)
• 44 Regular building Cards (Blue)
• 30 Bomb Cards
• 38 $1 Money Coins
• 10 $5 Money Coins
• 5 Fighter Counters
• 5 Bomber Counters
• 5 Implosion Test Counters
• 15 Wooden Player Disc
• 10 Loaded Markers
• 16 Double Sided Damage Markers
• 40 Wooden Yellowcake Cubes
• 72 Workers in six different colors. These workers are divided into thee different types: Laborers, Scientist & Engineers

Place one token from each player on the bottom of the Plutonium and Uranium fuel tracks, and the espionage track. Add Implosion Test counters to the supply based on the number of players. Place the 6 Red buildings randomly and fill the rest of the space with random blue buildings. Then shuffle the bomb cards and deal a supply equaling one greater than the # of players.

Each player takes 4 laborers of their color, $10, and places their fighter and bomber tokens on the “1” space on their player boards. Place all players’ scientists and engineers into the general supply to start. Players then get a bonus based on random start player positions.

This process takes about 10 minutes.

Play Time
I have found this game to last between 90 and 150 minutes depending on the player count and speed of play.

Instructions / Learning Curve
The instructions are well written with lots of illustrations and examples to help with understanding the concepts. It would have been better if player aids had come with the base game, but they were added in the Second Stage Expansion.

Because of the unique aspect of the worker placement in this game it takes a few turns, around 8 to 10, to really understand the importance of main board placement, player board buildings, espionage, contract workers and when to retrieve your workforce.

Be the first player to build their arsenal the proper size, based on player count. You score points only through building, testing and loading nuclear bombs.

Game Play
On your turn you have two options:

Place Workers
If you place workers you send one of your three types of workers to the main board. There he can build buildings, manage airstrikes, repair your compound, utilize factories, operate mines, hire new workers, design bombs or refine yellowcake into Plutonium or Uranium. Once your Main Board action is complete you can take as many Player Board actions as you want or have workers for. Finally, you can build load or test your bombs.

Retrieve Workers
If you retrieve your workers you collect all the workers in your color from all boards adding them to your pool, and you return all contract workers (temporary workers) from your board and the main board (regardless to who placed them) to the general supply.

Currently there are two expansions: 1) Nations, which introduces seven countries that each has a unique player power. This is a great mini expansion, which if you plan on getting the game is worth the few extra dollars. 2) Second Stage, which introduces more nations, hydrogen bombs, and scientist.

Final Thoughts
This is the only worker placement game I have played currently, so I cannot compare it to anything else. As my first game into the worker placement mechanic I have to say that The Manhattan Project really delivers. I enjoy the push & pull aspect of worker placement and recalling them. I love the bombing of opponent’s buildings causing them to stop functioning. I like the espionage, and being able to send spies into opponent’s compounds to use their facilities. This is a great game with a lot of different paths to victory. I really enjoy how the theme blends so well with the game play.

I would recommend this game to Strategy Gamers, Avid Gamers and Power Gamers. I would also highly recommend this to anyone that like worker placement.

Go to the Suburbia page


128 out of 136 gamers thought this was helpful

Plan, build, and develop a small town into a major metropolis. Use hex-shaped building tiles to add residential, commercial, civic, and industrial areas, as well as special points of interest that provide benefits and take advantage of the resources of nearby towns. Your goal is to have your borough thrive and end up with a greater population than any of your opponents.

Suburbia is a tile-laying game in which each player tries to build up an economic engine and infrastructure that will be initially self-sufficient, and eventually become both profitable and encourage population growth. As your town grows, you’ll modify both your income and your reputation. As your income increases, you’ll have more cash on hand to purchase better and more valuable buildings, such as an international airport or a high rise office building. As your reputation increases, you’ll gain more and more population (i.e. victory points).

1 Population Board
1 Stacks Board
1 Supply Board
1 Real Estate Market
4 Borough Boards
8 Suburbs
8 Community Parks
8 Heavy Factories
1 “1 One More Round” tile
32 A tiles
36 B tiles
32 C tiles
20 Goal tiles
4 Player Aids
1 Start Player Marker
66 $1
48 $5
12 $10
4 Refutation Cubes
4 Population Squares
4 Income Cylinders
12 Investment Markers

Instructions / Learning Curve
The instructions are well laid out with setup information on the cover and a separate book explaining each tile and goal in more detail there are also player aids that walk you through a turn so you don’t miss anything. I have taught this game to most of the people I have played with and most understand the concept by the end of the first third of the game, if not before.

Each player starts with a player board, 0 income, 1 reputation, Suburbs, Community Park and Heavy Factory tiles, 15 money a hidden goal and 3 investment markers.

The Stocks Board is populated with three stacks of tiles labeled A, B & C. The board has pectoral instructions on the number of tiles used based on the player count.

The market board has goals placed on it based on the number of players with 4 each of the Suburbs, Community Park and Heavy Factory tiles. Below this board is the market that is filled with seven tiles going from right to left with tiles from the stack board.

Setup time can very greatly depending on the number of players and how you store the game. The base game comes with bags to store everything in that are too small for the letter sets (A, B, & C) you need for setup.

Play Time
I have played Suburbia about a half dozen times with 2 – 4 players. I have not played the solo variants so I cannot comment on that aspect of the game. In my experience the game last about 60 to 90 minutes with miner player down time as you are constantly checking your suburb for tile interactions with the other players and planning your next turn.

Game Play
Game play is simple, on you turn you:
1. Purchase one tile or Investment Marker and play it.
2. Collect or pay money based on your Income
3. Adjust your marker on the Population board (score board).
4. Add a new tile to the left of the market pushing everything right.

The fun in Suburbia is the tile placement. Each tile has the possibility to give a bonus or penalty, have a conditional effect trigger, and possibly trigger another tiles conditional effect. The triggered tiles could be next to the newly placed tile, in the same city or anywhere on the board.

Suburbia currently has one expansion, Suburbia Inc. that adds more A, B & C tiles and goals as well as introduces Bonuses, Challenges and Borders. In addition to the expansion there are two promotional sets Essen SPIEL & Hala Stulecia,

Final Thoughts
I personally really enjoy this game. Trying to decide what the best purchase is and where to place it really makes me think and look at possibilities and interactions. I would recommend this game for Avid Gamers, Power Gamers, and Family Gamers. My only complaint is that the component storage for this game is horrible.

Go to the Compounded page


112 out of 119 gamers thought this was helpful

Compounded is a game about building chemical compounds through careful management of elements, trading, and a bit of luck. In Compounded, players take on the roles of lab managers, hastily competing compounds to raise experiment levels, gain equipment, before a lab fire destroys your work in an explosion. Some compounds are flammable and will grow more and more volatile over time; take too long to gather the necessary elements for those compounds and a lot of hard work will soon be scattered across the lab.

Although Compounded does involve a fair share of press-your-luck tension and certainly some strategic planning, the most successful scientists will often be those who strike a good trade with their fellow lab mates. Players are able to freely trade elements, laboratory tools, and anything else (except points) to get what they need.

Setup & Play Time
Setup can vary depending on the way the game is stored. I recommend separating the player markers, a wild element, a fire extinguisher, and three storage markers for each player in a bag or other container. Because of the number of counter that change based on the player count the game can take up to 10 minutes to set up.

I have played Compounded a half dozen times or more, with a verity of player counts. It is my experience that this game takes between 60 to 90 minutes depending on player count and trading activity.

1 Rule booklet
1 Start Player Marker
9 Starting Compounds
54 Compounds
5 Lab fires
5 Player boards & associated tokens
1 Two player variant board
22 Lab equipment tokens
15 Fire tokens
100 Element crystals

Instructions / Learning Curve
The rule booklet is easy to read and laid out in a logical order. Looking up rules can sometimes be difficult, but the graphics normally get you close. The phases of this game are relatively simple: Draw elements & trade (Discovery), Clam compounds (Study), Place elements on compounds (Research), and Cleanup and score (Lab). It normally takes one play through to see how everything interacts, and what experiments you want when, and how best to use the equipment you have.

Game Play
Compounded is played over a series of turns that are broken into five phase. Every player is involved in every turn and has the opportunity to act in each phase so the game has very little down time. The object of the game is to have the post points when one of the three end conditions is met. The gem ends in one turn if any player has a score of 50 or more during the Lab phase or if any player has three experiments that reach the top level. The game ends immediately if you run out of cards.

Each scientist gains elements based on their discovery experiment level. At the beginning of the game you draw two elements from the bag, but you can increase it to five during play. Once everyone has their new elements players have an opportunity to trade with other players. When trading anything except points can be traded, elements, equipment, placement of elements, etc.

During this phase players have the opportunity to calm compounds, in player order, that only they will be able to score. Each player can clam one compound at the beginning of the game, but can increase the number to three through play. It is also important to note that you can complete an unclaimed compound, at which point you use the temporary side of your clam marker.

In the research phase player place elements on compounds that are in play. You place 2 to 6 based on your current research experiment level. You can play elements on any compound in play, but you will only gain points for the ones that you have claimed with a marker as noted above.

During this phase completed compounds are scored, research levels are raised, tools are gained, special ability of cards are triggered, lab fires can cause flammable compounds to explode, maintaining your work bench, and the first player marker is passed to the next player (in that order). For details on each of these refer to the online rules.

There are currently three mini expansions available for this game: Lab Partners (comes in the base game), Chemical Chaos and Methamphetamine. The first big box expansion, Compounded: Geiger Expansion, is now available.

Final Thoughts
In my opinion this is a great game with a unique theme in the gaming industry. I would not say it is for everyone though. If you like resource management, worker placement, or medium-light euro games give this a try. The order of the cards being drawn, and what elements you have can really change what you work toward and what path you take to try to achieve victory. I own the first two mini expansions and like the verity of play that they add.

P.S. – I have played this with a few chemists that have commented that the compounds they have checked are real, though some are very rare.

Go to the King of Tokyo: Power Up! page
30 out of 31 gamers thought this was helpful

King of Tokyo: Power Up! Is the first expansion for King of Tokyo. This is not a standalone game, and requires the base set to play. Power Up adds one more monster to the game, and special “Evolution” cards that make each monster unique.

Setup & Play Time
Power Up! adds a minor amount of time to set up for the basic rules of the expansion and for the first two variants. The Evolution Draft variant adds about 3-5 minutes for players that know the cards, depending on the group.

1 Rule booklet
56 Evolution cards (8 for each monster)
7 Counters
1 Pandakai Monster Board
1 Pandakai standee

Instructions / Learning Curve
If you already know how to play the base game you can play this expansion. There are new elements so you will still need to read the rule book but the base game mechanics are the same.

Game Play
The introduction of the Evolution cards takes the game from all characters being the same to each character having its own list of special abilities that are unique to them. This makes the choice of monster in the beginning of the game matter, making each character less cookie cutter.

In the base rules you don’t start with any Evolutions cards in your hand, but can draw one if you have three hearts at the end of your turn, no matter where your character is. In variant one, Active Evolution, you start with one random Evolution in play, and then follow the base rules. In variant two, Controlled Evolution, you follow the base rules except you draw two evolution cards and pick one, returning the other to the bottom of your draw deck. In variant 3, Evolution Draft, each character picks there monster and gets there evolution cards that are mixed into a pile then each character is randomly dealt 8 cards. Each player picks one cards and passes to the next player till all players have 8 cards. These are then shuffled and placed in front of the player as there draw deck.

Final Thoughts
I really enjoy this expansion. Variable player powers is one of my favorite game mechanics, and the added unique flavor to each monster really adds to the game. The evolution cards give you a reason to try to get that third heart and make the decisions more interesting.

Variant One, Active Evolution : Starting with one random evolution cards make the monsters different from this start. This is my second favorite way to play.

Variant Two, Controlled Evolution : Drawing tow cards and choosing one gives your more control over your monster. This is my favorite way to play.

Variant three, Evolution Draft: Drafting adds time to the game and can make one monster much more powerful than the others, in my experience. This does add verity and some interesting combinations to the game. This is my least favorite way to play.

I consider this a “must buy expansion” for people who, like me, like variable player powers, and a great addition to the game for everyone else.

Go to the Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower page

Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower

97 out of 104 gamers thought this was helpful

The Wizards Tower is an expansion for Castle Panic. It is not a stand-alone game and requires Castle Panic to play.

The Wizards Tower plays almost identically to the original game. The Big changes are that during set-up you randomly draw three mega bosses harbinger tokens (stand in tile) and without looking at the pieces add them to the bag. These monsters are fearsome and can be very difficult to take down. The second major change is the tower. With the wizards tower you have access to spell cards that can only be gained during the discards and draw phase. These cards bring a verity of new effects including being able to attack in the forest ring. The final major change is the introduction of fire. When a wall, tower or monster catches fire you add a token. When a tower or wall gains its third flame marker it is destroyed. Monsters receive one hit during the move phase for each fire token.

This expansion also adds ten new monster types: Centaur, Climbing Troll, Conjurer, Cyclops, Doppelganger, Gargoyle, Goblin Cavalry, Golem, Imp, Ogre and Phoenix each with there own special ability. You will want to keep the reference card handy till you know the monsters.

Set-Up and Play Time,
Set-up time is a little longer than the original game since you have to remove specific tokens from the base game to play the expansion and draw the mega boss monster tokens. I suggest keeping the removed token in a separate pouch to reduce setup time for the next game.

1 Rulebook
10 Castle Cards
22 Wizard Cards
37 Monster Tokens
6 Harbinger Tokens
6 Mega Boss Tokens
12 Flame Tokens
1 Wizard Tower
1 Monster Draw Bag
6 Reference Cards
1 Plastic Stand

Instructions / Learning Curve
If you already know how to play the base game you can play this expansion. There are new elements so you will still need to read the rule book but the base game mechanics are the same.

Game Play
Game play is only slightly modified from the original game, and in my experience the Wizards Tower dose not add to play time.

The addition of mega boss monsters and the ten new basic monsters adds a lot of verity to the individual turns and the choices you make. Also secretly selecting half of the mega boss monsters increase this verity from game to game. The presence of the wizard’s tower and the potential loss of access to the spell deck adds another interesting dynamic to the game. But even with these changes the board remains the same and each turn new monsters appear out of the forest to try to destroy your castle.

Final Thoughts
I originally purchased Castle Panic to play with my six year old. After around ten plays with only one loss because of child development/age issues I was played out. The game was too simple for our family and ended up on the shelf. When this expansion came out I decided to pick it up and see if it could save Castle Panic from a permanent position on the shelf. After One play I will NEVER play the base game again. In my opinion this is a must buy expansion. Our family has now played Castle Panic: The Wizard’s Tower many times and has only won once, but have come soo close many times. I love the challenge and that the game now works as a straight co-operative game.

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