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Ururam Tururam

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Review 13 games and receive a total of 980 positive review ratings.
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Go to the Puerto Rico page
Go to the Carcassonne page
Go to the Through the Ages page
Go to the Caylus page
Go to the El Grande: Decennial Edition page
Go to the Arimaa page
Go to the Agricola page
Go to the Quarriors! page
Go to the RoboRally page
Go to the Ora & Labora page

Ora & Labora

190 out of 204 gamers thought this was helpful

If you are a gamer you have probably already played Agricola or Le Havre or both. If you liked them you will most probably like Ora et Labora too. Mechanics-wise it is a similar game and it can be easily felt that it’s a work of the same designer, namely Uwe Rosenberg. In fact most of the things you encounter playing Ora et Labora are redesigns of older concepts. Even the “rondel” or “treadmill” governing the resources distribution, while looking brand new, is just a new way to apply quite a common mechanics of “+1 resource unit a turn”.

But why to change mechanics that worked very well in older games, there’s no need to alter the winning team… In fact adding a few new flavors (French and Irish, more about it later), another unusual theme, and a few new ideas can make together a very good game. A game that is – in my opinion – better than Agricola and Le Havre.

Running a medieval abbey theme combines well worker placement, limited resource management, area development, competition/cooperation dilemma, and growing possibilities. And all of that mixed together in a game that is quite easy to learn and comprehend. The process of learning is made easier by player-friendly components that are intuitive to use.

There are two variants in, as the action of the game can take place in France or Ireland. The variants are different, but once one of them is played there is no additional learning needed to switch to the second one. Unlike in Agricola where there is a “family” variant and a “full” one, here none of the variants is clearly easier. Adding such a variability to a game instead or releasing it for example as Irish-only and then adding the French version as an expansion is a welcome idea.

Ora et Labora leaves players with a great feeling of accomplishment at the end. Looking at the developed abbey, newly bought terrains, freshly constructed structures – one can sense that something noteworthy has been done. It can be felt here much better than in Agricola or Puerto Rico however not so immensely like in for example Through the Ages. But one should remember that at least two games of O&L can be completed during the time needed for one game of TtA!

Summing up – it’s a very good semimediumhalfheavyweight game. Surely worth a try.

Go to the Power Grid page

Power Grid

95 out of 103 gamers thought this was helpful

Among a lot of economical games Power Grid is one of the highest-rated by the players. There are several reasons contributing to this outcome.

The game has a number of layers. The goal is to deliver electricity to cities. But in order to do so, one needs power plants, fuel for them, wires to connect the plants to the cities and finally transformer stations in the cities. Each of these elements has a different way it is simulated within the game:
– Transformer stations have fixed prices but players are not always able to construct them.
– The price of the wires depend on the distance they have to cross.
– Various fuels can be bought on a limited market simulating to a certain extent supply/demand rules.
– Power plants can be bought on open auctions but they become obsolete soon and they should be replaced with new ones a few times during the game.

There is a lot of variability in the game. And this is not because of randomness. In fact there is little (but not none) randomness in. The variability comes mainly from the facts that there the game contains not one but two large boards (representing Germany and the USA), and most of the games are played only on fragments of these boards – fragments that can be chosen differently each game. Moreover one can expand the game by new boards (e.g. China, Central Europe, Iberian Peninsula, Russia and more). Those maps not only provide new geometries for the wires, but they also include minor tweaks to the game (for example the Central Europe you cannot buy nuclear plants in several counties but coal for coal plants is cheaper).

Another factor to take into account is the rubber band effect enforced by the game rules. That is: the higher is your current place during the game the heavier handicap is applied to you. In Power Grid this effect is so strong that in my opinion it is not a “rubber” band any more – it’s a repulsive band as the one used in pinball tables! In theory it should give newbies some chances against more skilled players, but in fact it usually works in the opposite direction: a happy newbie may enjoy the first place throughout the whole game and during the very last turn, the turn that decides who’s the winner, the poor greenhorn may be pushed way back to the last place. I guess that’s why some players love this game some other hate it.

Power Grid is not one of my personal top favorites, but I must admit it is an interesting, expandable and well balanced game with complex yet not oversophisticated rules. Maybe I’ll not propose “let’s play Power Grid” too often, but when invited I’ll gladly play it.

Go to the Acquire page


75 out of 82 gamers thought this was helpful

In 2012 we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Acquire. Is it the age when a game that is still alive may be called a classic one? I think so.

Acquire is a clever marriage of two game genres: economic games and abstract strategies. From a mechanics point of view it can be recognized as a three-dimensional area control game. Yes, 3D, no kidding here. The first two dimensions are simply length and width of the board. The third one is virtual – it is money invested in a given fragment of the board.

As for an economic game the rules are very simple and easy to learn. As for an abstract strategy they are just of average size and complexity. The game plays fast and the rules become intuitive to the players after just one play.

The gameplay goes as follows: players put square tiles on the board. Each tile has its own board square where it may be positioned, so each player has their choice limited to the squares marked on the tiles they own. As the game progresses, clusters of adjacent tiles appear. Those clusters represent hotel companies. Players are then allowed to buy shares of those companies effectively building the third dimension of the clusters. When two clusters touch each other they merge, bringing bonuses to the players who had most shares of the merging companies. Once a cluster becomes large enough it can only attach smaller ones to itself but it is immune to being “devoured” by bigger companies. The goal is to acquire (!) most wealth by buying right stocks in right time taking profits from merges and growth of the companies.

There are two drawbacks of this game: First – there is no possibility of trading stock between players. Second: sometimes a player has no good tile to play in their hand just because of bad luck. Fixing the first issue by a kind of house ruling pushes the game from the realm of abstract strategies more to the domain of economic games. Fixing the second one (which I strongly recommend for more advanced players!) reduces the luck factor.

Yet all in all even in its standard version it’s a very interesting, challenging and entertaining game. I wish it next 50 years of prosperity!

Go to the Citadels page


62 out of 69 gamers thought this was helpful

Citadels is a game about building a medieval town. But in fact I can easily imagine exactly the same rules with only naming changes to a number of themes, for example developing a trading enterprise or exploring the Universe. The rules are general enough, ant the genuine flavor suits them well.

The game is played with two decks of cards, a set of tokens representing gold money and a starting player marker – the crown. The decks are: the character deck and the town deck. The cards are well illustrated in a “dark ages” manner.

Game turns are divided in two main phases: during the first one the players choose the characters they impersonate in the current turn. Each of these characters has its own powers that benefits the player who has it and (in the cases of characters like “Thief” “Assassin” or “Warlord”) can harm the others. The choices are being made in “incomplete information” environment i.e. everyone knows their own character but have limited knowledge about the characters chosen by other players. Note that the knowledge is “limited” and not “none”. This creates a lot of opportunities for psychological trickery: “you think that I’d choose this but I choose that”. It’s important to guess the way of thinking of the opponents while hiding one’s own.

The second phase of the turn is about drawing and playing town cards representing various buildings. In order to play a card the player has to pay its cost so earning and accumulating gold is essential. This part is much more “mechanical” than the previous one. The players use the powers of their characters as well as powers of already played cards to be the first who has eight possibly most valuable town cards played. Eight cards is considered a “complete town” and it triggers the end of the game.

Citadels is an easy to learn, fast and funny game. It can be played basically by 2 to 8 players which extends to 9 with the expansion. A solo variant also exists. But in order to make the game reveal all its subtleties I strongly recommend playing with as many people as possible, let us say 6 at least. The 9-players games I had were by far the most interesting ones as all the characters were used and interactions between the players made the games be tense to their very end.

Go to the Quarriors! Rise of the Demons page
69 out of 77 gamers thought this was helpful

The first regular Quarriors expansion adds three new types of dice to the game:
– one new monster set (with four cards), the Demonic Overlords;
– one new spell set (also with four cards), the Corruption;
– a “hot potato” Corrupted Quiddity dice that no one wants to have (along with its one card).

It also contains ten new cards that add new “corrupted” versions to the already existing creature sets.

Mechanics-wise it also has a few new features including: a possibility to cull dice to the opponents’ dice pools instead of usual culling to the wilds, losing glory points, and permanently removing dice from the game. It also includes damage prevention, a feature that was already present in the Quaxos promo expansion.

I think that no Quarriors fan should be disappointed by this expansion. It really expands the base game and it does not change it. The amount of player-player interactions is slightly larger, and the gameplay lasts a bit longer (yet not much longer which is important). The fun factor of the base game is fully preserved. A number of new combos and anti-combos between various creatures and spells appear. The new versions of old monsters are playable and innovative. Myself I will not play without Rise of the Demons any more.

It is noteworthy that there is no corrupted version of the Demonic Overlord in the game! There is a “Lesser” version of this monster instead. It may well be a hint for an upcoming and not yet named second expansion to Quarriors. That new expansion is in fact mentioned in the Rise of the Demons rulebook… I’m looking forward to seeing it. I hope it will be as good as Rise of the Demons is.

Go to the Guillotine page


57 out of 93 gamers thought this was helpful

Looking at its mechanics Guillotine is quite an interesting game. I could describe it as a “Queue management game”. There are two decks there. The first contains cards that form the queue on the table. Basically players take cards from this deck one after another in sequence. These cards bring victory points. The cards from second deck are kept in players’ hands. The players may use them to alter the order of the queue to get themselves the most valuable cards from there leaving the less valuable ones (including ones with penalties) to the opponents.

The game is fast and easy. It may be a good filler and a good game for younger players. Playing it could be really interesting and funny but

The theme chosen for the game is – in my opinion – unacceptable. Players are executioners. Yuck. More! Not only plain executioners but ones during the French revolution, during times when to be sentenced to death it was often enough to be born as a noble. The executions were commonly just justified murders that time. Yeah, it was long time ago. But it does not change much. If we accept such a theme for a game next generation could accept as normal, let’s say, a game about genocide management in a Nazi German concentration camp during the second World War (there is one, really).

Summing up: the nice mechanics of this game should be re-implemented with a more proper theme. In its current form I recommend not to play it, and most of all not showing it to any children.

Go to the Scrabble page


61 out of 68 gamers thought this was helpful

Horse: everyone can see what is it.” – so says an old encyclopedia. Ditto with Scrabble in my opinion. Every gamer and a lot of non-gaming people knows what Scrabble is all about. Well, it’s one of the classic board games.

It has been invented in 1931 (three years earlier than Monopoly) and first published in 1946 (its name was Lexico that time). As Scrabble it is known from 1948.

The rules (for those who do not know how a horse looks like) are as follows: 2 to 4 players draw tiles with letters on them. Then they take their turns trying to make a word out of their respective tiles and to put that word on a board so it connects with a word already present there – effectively forming a crossword. The longer the word, the more uncommon letters are in and the more valuable spaces it occupies on the board – the more points its owner earns.

As a word game Scrabble is language dependent. The board looks the same for all national versions but the letter tiles sets are different. It is not only because the letters used in various languages are different, but also because the frequencies of the common letters are different too. And more common letters are of less point value. For example in the English version there is one Z tile with the value of 10 points while in the Polish version there are 5 such tiles and they give the players only 1 point each.

People who like crosswords usually like Scrabble too. I am not a big fan of this game but I like it. I like it especially in English – that (as you probably already know reading this review) is not my native language. Playing Scrabble in a foreign language you learn is a good and funny way to enrich your vocabulary. So if you study another language – get a copy of Scrabble in it!

Go to the Urban Sprawl page

Urban Sprawl

35 out of 40 gamers thought this was helpful

My first impression when I saw Urban Sprawl was: “Well, is it the SimCity computer game transfered to a board?” The answer turned to be: “To a degree.” This is a 2-4 player game about building a city.

The players construct buildings of four types (industrial, residential, commercial and civic) so they form appropriate districts and thus the town is developed into a city and later into a metropolis. They also receive rewards for things they have built before.

The game mechanics combines a number of standard elements that can be found in other games. What we can find there is: gaining and spending action points; earning, accumulating and spending money; taking various roles; taking decisions how to use a particular resource, as most of the game elements have more than one use. While all these mechanics elements work quite well together, they set the entry threshold moderately high: it’s not a “sit down and play it at once” game. It is perhaps easier to comprehend than Through the Ages or Dungeon Lords, and it takes less time to do all the in-game bureaucracy than it is required for those to games. Yet some kind of internal rules consistency that is present in TtA and DL seems to be missing in Urban Sprawl

What I’ve found particularly interesting and appealing in this game is the way the districts (represented by board sectors) change their prestigious and financial reward values throughout the game. This emulates changing preferences and trends among the inhabitants. Clever, really. Another interesting feature is a possibility to demolish a few buildings to make some space for new ones. Most games would have only offered upgrading those old buildings in such a situation.

As for the game components: they are simple and useful but not of superb quality or astonishing beauty. But, well, Puerto Rico has similar components and it is a great game nevertheless…

Two weird final remarks:
– It is said that the town in question is “somewhere in the USA”. Judging by the number of permits to obtain to proceed with construction, as well as the way elections are resolved, I’d rather say “somewhere in the USSR”.
– The game-ending event is “Olympic Games”. Well, surely expenses necessary to prepare such en event may ruin any city. No need to play any more.

Go to the Lost Cities: The Card Game page
40 out of 49 gamers thought this was helpful

The name Reiner Knizia is well know to most of the gamers as he is one of the world best game creators. The games he designs are usually strategies with themes. “Lost Cities” is not an exception here. It is a two-player, card-driven strategy game with a theme of explorers’ expeditions.

First of all a few words about the cards. There are five sets of them. In each sets there are nine numbered cards (from 2 to 10) and three bet cards. The numbered cards of one set depict the progress of one of the five expeditions. The lowest card contains a hint that there is a lost city nearby it may be a carved stone or a remnant of a sword…) while the last one shows the lost city itself. The bet cards look pretty similar and they are use to double, triple or even quadruple the points gathered throughout the game.

The aim of the game is to put as many card series in ascending order as possible. For long sequences of cards (especially of the high valued ones) the players are rewarded. But if any player starts a series but at the end of the game it has a low value it effectively decreases the score – so it’s better not to start an “expedition” than start an unsuccessful one.

The mechanics of the game follows other Knizia’s creations. It is pretty tricky, but quite easy to learn, teach and understand. I guess the ways the cards are drawn discarded and re-taken are somewhat borrowed from Rummy. They suit the theme well, and they assure a good balance between luck and skill.

If you want a good looking short game for two – you should try “Lost Cities”.

Go to the Neuroshima Hex! page

Neuroshima Hex!

121 out of 138 gamers thought this was helpful

Neuroshima HEX is a non-so-abstract strategy game. The flow of the game simulates a battle between futuristic armies; there may be 2 to 4 of them each lead by a player. I have to say that the game scales well with the number of players, however it feels different for each of these possibilities. I like it for 2 players the most because this is the variant when strategy and tactics clearly dominate luck. For 4 players the fun factor grows while the tactics factor lowers (yet the long term strategy factor seem to stay still or even grow a bit). The problem arises for 3 players as a kingmaker dilemma often appears.

There are some not too obvious resemblances with Chess here. The victory condition is pinned to one unit the HeadQuarters. The object of the game is either to destroy all opposing HQ-s while protecting one’s own or to stay with least damage dealt to the HQ when the time of the game ends. Another similarity is that player’s units have variable powers. But the parallels end here, there are a lot of substantial differences: For example not only the position of a unit matters but usually also its orientation does. Moreover the order the pieces move and attack depend on their relative initiative value (so they depend on what other units are on the board).

The most important feature is that each player has an army much different than their opponents. Each of the sides of conflict has its pros and cons; one faction may have swift but weak units while the other may deploy slow but powerful ones. For one army an offensive tactics may be optimal, for another one a defensive strategy could possibly bring much more. What is important: the factions are well balanced! I played quite a few games of NH and I know players who players tens of times more than me – and they claim there is neither a clear leader nor any obvious underdog among the factions.

Neuroshima HEX requires some time to learn and more time to master but it provides a lot of valuable entertainment.

Go to the Cthulhu Dice page

Cthulhu Dice

34 out of 50 gamers thought this was helpful

This is a very fast and simple game. It can be played in a few minutes and it can be taught equally quickly.

The whole game fits in a pocket – it is one 12-sided die and a number of glass tokens. In fact only the die is essential, the glass marbles may be easily replaced with buttons, paper clips and such. I guess that along with a dark theme it makes this game a good one to be played during school breaks, or even during classes under back row desks.

The aim is to be the last player still having the tokens. The process of getting and losing them is pretty random (die-driven) and the only way to apply some tactics is choosing the “victim”, the object of one’s attack. By the way basic tactics is “attack the leader”…

Besides a nicely engraved die this game has not too much too offer. But it does not deceives us it has! It fills a certain niche being just a quick and mostly mindless fun based on Cthulhu stories.

Go to the Bohnanza page


59 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

The name of this game is obviously a pun: “Bohnanza” is made of two words: “Bohn” (German: “bean”) and of course “bonanza” – a gold-abundant ground. The designer of Bohnanza was Uwe Rosenberg, yes, the same who invented Agricola a few years later. In fact it was the success of the first game about farming that made Rosenberg invent another and more complex one.

In Bohnanza players are farmers who decided to plant, harvest and trade various kinds of bean. Some of the bean species are rare and costly, some other are common and cheap so their larger amount should be accumulated to bring its owner a reward. Players starts with two “bean fields” (they may each buy a third one later on) and the tweak is that only one kind of bean may grow on a single field. This forces the players to continuously trade and haggle with each other either to obtain a desired bean card or to get rid of an unwanted one.

The mechanics of the game is quite simple as long as one important rule is kept in mind: the order of cards in players’ hands does matter. Under normal circumstances cards in hand form a “first in / first out” queue, so the players have to play their oldest cards first (trading may change it). The rules nicely blend resource management (including hand management) open-market trading (no fixed prices for bean trading among players) and limited market environment (fixed prices after harvesting a field).

Bohnanza has a lot of expansions that are worth trying when all the players got used to the rules of the basic game. Personally I recommend the Mutabohn expansion most.

Oh, and one more thing: playing this game in a big group can be a big fun but all the players have to enjoy haggling. For those who don’t like bargain sessions Bohnanza can be simply annoying.

Go to the Through the Ages page

Through the Ages

107 out of 120 gamers thought this was helpful

Here we have another game that focuses on player’s “property” development with indirect interactions between the players. What I mean is that each player has their own board to build their in-game wealth. There were successful games that used this scheme before, to name the two most famous: Puerto Rico and Agricola.

In Through the Ages each of the players’ boards represent a civilization. These civilizations compete mainly on two fields: cultural (which represent the overall level of the civilization and eventually decides who is the winner) and military (civilizations with stronger military forces may bully weaker ones). There are also another civilizational aspects represented, like: knowledge, happiness, production, population, government etc., but they don’t serve as competition fields, they are rather means to achieve more culture and military power.

As the game rules are quite complex, there are easier, introductory variants included in the rulebook. Here I’ll describe briefly the “full” variant. The game is played literally “Through the ages”. There are five “ages” total. Three of them are main parts of the game: Part 1: Middle Ages; Part 2: Renaissance and explorer times; Part 3: Modern times. Each of them has its own decks of cards representing civil and military achievements that civilizations may claim during these periods. There is also an introductory part: Ancient times that serves as a startup and adds some variance to the beginning of the game. There is not too much “ancient” cards, and this part of the game is very short. There is also the ending part Present days that has no cards at all and it is added to let the players finish what they started during the “modern times”.

During the game players have opportunities to cooperate or fight witch each other. Cooperation is based on “pact” cards that give involved parties certain benefits. Fight is played as comparing military power levels of the fighting civilizations (including bonuses that can come from various sources). The balance of the conflicts always favors the defender. So while players may attack each other with “aggressions” and “wars”, TtA games with none of them played are not uncommon while games with wars are in fact pretty rare. As long as players all take care about not being too much behind the others on the military field, declaring an attack is usually a worse choice than peaceful development of one’s own realm. In other words “Si vis pacem, para bellum”, “If you want peace, be ready for a war”.

What I like about this game is the balance of power described above and the level of abstraction the game uses. It is a civilization game with no map. Even when civilizations fight for new terrains (“colonies”) the colonies are represented by cards showing only the gain of the colony owner. All the conflicts are also played in an abstract space.

What I don’t like, is that this game is time consuming. It is really nice to play it, I like it very much, I like the sense of accomplishment the players have after finishing the game when they look at the civilizations they have just built. But playing a 3-4 players “full” game requires about 4 hours. And one may plan their future movements only to a limited extent during other players’ turns. So a lot of the time spent is just sitting and waiting. Nevertheless I think it’s worth the time it takes – if one has enough time to play.

Go to the El Grande: Decennial Edition page
58 out of 63 gamers thought this was helpful

Although El Grande is a 2-5 players game it is best for 4 or 5 ones as with decreasing number of players some tactical options disappear. Yet – I have to say – it is OK even for 2. In fact it can be seen as a medium-weight abstract strategy disguised as an influence-gain game. Well disguised! The board is looking like an old map of Spain and most of the components (with the exception of the king figurine) are great looking.

The aim is to get majority of one’s own pawns in as many sectors of the board (representing regions of Spain) as possible. The number of pawns does not matter only ranking places do: 1st, 2nd or 3rd in each region. The game has 9 turns and the scoring happens thrice – after turns 3, 6 and 9.

Each turn has several phases: the first is playing priority cards. Players with higher priorities can choose their actions earlier but they can get less pawns ready (so called “summoning nobles to the court”). Then players choose their actions in order determined by the priority. Actions may allow the players to move their “nobles” on the board, withdraw opponents’ nobles, get premium scoring and more. Each action also allows the active player to put a few pawns on a board (“sending nobles from the court to regions”). In general the more powerful the action the less “nobles” it allows to place.

There are two things in the game rules that spices the play up:
– “Castle” or “tower” – it acts as a hidden region (pawns placed there are not visible” that has its own scoring and allows sending the “nobles” from there to any region.
– Hidden choice mechanism – when the rules require some or all players to choose a region they do it secretly and the choices are revealed simultaneously, which gives a lot of opportunities to apply psychological trickery.

Playing this game lasts longer than an hour but it does not seem so. It is entertaining with well balanced skill and luck factors.

El Grande is one of my current top three games. (It had been the first before I got to know Arimaa and Caylus). As for the expansion included in the decennial I’ve tried them and I think that the game is better without them – in its basic version.

Go to the Tsuro page


55 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

Tsuro is an abstract strategy game for 2 to 8 players. Really. It scales so well that it is interesting and challenging for any number of participants within this range. In fact solitaire variants are also possible.

At the beginning of the game each player places his or her “stone” at the edge on the board. Then the players start to lay tiles on the board, so each tile is placed next to the active player’s stone. Each of the tiles has a different configuration of paths. After laying a tile all the stones that were standing next to it are being moved along their paths. The aim of the game is being the last player with one’s own stone on the board: If a path leads a stone off the board or two stones “collide”, their owners are eliminated. There’s a bonus for eliminating opponents: the active player may swap their own tiles with the tiles of kicked off adversaries.

The rules are simple and intuitive (yet the rule leaflet explains them not too easily) and the gameplay is fast, however it requires careful planning based on something that can be called “geometrical imagination”. For skilled players one game of Tsuro may take 10 minutes or even less if they agree to play a blitz game.

The design of the game based on far eastern motives is stunningly beautiful. It’s a real aesthetic pleasure to play this game! The board features a drawing of a phoenix, the colorful stones have dragons engraved on them and the tiles look like made of reddish stone. For sure Tsuro is worth a try!

Go to the Carcassonne: Wheel of Fortune page
36 out of 41 gamers thought this was helpful

This set can treated both as an expansion to the Carcassonne game and as an alternate starting set. How does it suit these two roles?

As an expansion it is very big (71 new tiles) and it adds a new starting area – the wheel in a form of 4*4 tile. Unfortunately it is pretty incompatible with both versions “River” expansions (unless you use the “Mini expansion” along with them (as it allows connecting the source of the river to a road).

As an alternate starting set it is OK. But is it really better than the standard version of the starting set? I doubt so. The wheel adds a new mechanics: basically generating random events that benefit or punish all the players for certain deeds (e.g. having followers in certain structures). To be honest – the events are not totally random: by memorizing the frequencies of tiles that cause the wheel rotation a player may prepare somewhat what could possibly happen in the nearest future.

One more mechanics addition: players may put their followers as fortune-tellers on the wheel to score points when the wheel stops pointing at the appropriate meeple. But it should also be taken into account that as more and more expansions are added to the game the wheel spins more and more rarely which makes fortune-tellers not a great investment.

All in all: for the startup I recommend a basic set instead, and for an expansion I can recommend the Wheel to collectors only.

Go to the Dungeon Lords page

Dungeon Lords

101 out of 117 gamers thought this was helpful

There’s no wonder that “Dungeon Lords” is a good game.

* It has an interesting theme based on a wonderful computer game from 1990s – “Dungeon Keeper”. The player is a ruler of underworld and tries to expand his domain and defend against adventurers.

* It has a good-looking, functional and well thought components. Cards, cardboard tokens, plastic imp figurines, minion meeples – everything!

* It has a clever mechanics that combines together:
– secret worker placement with a lot of psychological trickery included (order phase);
– resource management within very strict constraints (all the time);
– planning ahead within an ever-changing environment (adventurer assignment, random events);
– logical puzzles (combat).

So, yes, it has almost everything a perfect game could have. So why it’s not so perfect? Probably because it has that all. This game seems to be overdone, oversophisticated.

For the theme: it’s pretty hard to enjoy it and at the same time to think as hard as many of top level abstract strategies require players to do. For example the order phase require thinking similarly to the way of thinking used in Bridge. One needs to imagine possible combinations of orders played by the opponents and then to choose their own path? Maybe a safer path, maybe a risker and more rewarding one – who knows? Attempts to think straighter during the order phase usually end with a common conclusion that this phase is too chaotic to be predictable.

Ditto with the necessity of playing ahead. It also requires to solve pretty big if/then/else decision trees covering several steps in advance. It is important to maintain general flexibility of the dungeon development to be able to react to emerging threats as they appear. Where to find some spare time to enjoy the theme and the components simultaneously?… An example: in theory the stronger adventurers come to attack the most evil dungeon lord. But in practice the strongest adventurers are not necessarily the most dangerous ones. Subtle manipulations of one’s own evil level are the key to victory here.

The combat phase is in fact a series of solitaire games. Each player fights against a few heroes and other players may only watch the process. They could become bored especially if the current player thinks too long.

For the multitude of components the one thing lacking is probably a computer to keep them organized and letting the players focus on the flow of the game. (This is probably a feature shared by most board games based on computer ones.)

And one more thing: it’s a 2-4 player game but in fact it does not scale well. It’s designed for 4 players and the 2- and 3-player scaling look and feel artificial.

Yet again – it’s a good game! But who is it aimed towards? I can see two target groups of players:
– Casual ones who think: “Let’s play this or that card and see what will happen!”.
– Strategy/Power gamers, possibly four good Bridge players who want to play something else than Bridge from time to time.
All other gamers may feel disappointed.

Go to the Carcassonne: King and Scout page
98 out of 105 gamers thought this was helpful

This is really a tiny expansion… Reviewing it is like reviewing a haiku – a lot of words per one word… I mean per one component.

“King and Scout” adds only five new tiles to the base game. One of them is the clever “town crossing” – completely improbable in terms of real life structures but looking fine as a part of the landscape created during the game. The second one is a cloister by a town. The remaining three contain town/road combinations that are not present in the base Carcassonne set nor in the first few big expansions. In my opinion “King and Scout” is worth getting for these five tiles alone.

There are also two reward tokens in: “The king” and “The robber”. They are trophies for building the largest city (king) and the longest road (robber), and they can be worth a lot of points at the end of the game – under the standard rules they values are equal to the number of finished towns (for the king) and completed roads (for the robber).

Oh, and one more bonus: this expansion contains also several new tiles for the “Hunters and Gatherers” game. But that’s a different story.

Go to the Carcassonne: The River II page
74 out of 81 gamers thought this was helpful

“The River II” is the successor of “The River” expansion. Just as the older version it adds 12 new tiles to the game. They all contains parts of a new feature added – he river itself. Players start from the river source and continue up to the lake where the flow ends. The river is being set up at the beginning of the game instead of starting from a standard starting tile. This makes more room for early followers placement especially in multiplayer games, as the meeples may be placed on map features like cities and roads that are present on river tiles. After setting up the river the game resumes its standard shape with no additional rules.

There are several features added to the second version: the river has a fork now, one of the roads has an inn nearby (for use with “Inns and Cathedrals” expansion), the ending lake is accompanied by a volcano (so, when playing with “The princess and the Dragon” expansion, the dragon lands on the board very early), and one of the town segments has a shield on it.

The main problem of “The River” expansion – the large farms – is still present however it is less annoying. In order to fully cure it “The Mini Expansion” (with an alternate source tile) is recommended.

It is noteworthy that some basic Carcassonne sets include “The River I” expansion. If you have one of them – there’s no need to buy “The River II” unless you want a longer river or you are a collector. Yet if you have the basic set without any river, I recommend to get “The River II” and “The Mini Expansion” if possible.

Go to the Carcassonne: River I page
43 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

“The River” expansion adds 12 new tiles to the game. They all contains parts of a new feature added – he river itself. Players start from the river source and continue up to the lake where the flow ends. The river is being set up at the beginning of the game instead of starting from a standard starting tile. This makes more room for early followers placement especially in multiplayer games, as the meeples may be placed on map features like cities and roads that are present on river tiles. After setting up the river the game resumes its standard shape with no additional rules.

The main drawback of this expansion is creating large farms. It unbalances the game a bit towards farming. The second edition (“The River II”) is improved, but solves this problem only partially. Quite a good solution is added in so called “The Mini Expansion” that features an alternate source tile clearly dividing the meadow into halves.

It is noteworthy that some basic Carcassonne sets include “The River” expansion. If you have one of them – that’s fine. But if you don’t, there’s no need to get it; it’s better to look for its successor “The River II” and “The Mini Expansion” if possible.

Go to the Arimaa page


62 out of 65 gamers thought this was helpful

It can be easily seen that Arimaa is a chess-like game. It is played on a 8*8 square board. Each player has 16 pieces: two unique ones, three pairs and one set of 8. And Arimaa is a complete information, zero-luck, zero-sum, two-player game – just like Chess.

But if you take a look you see that there are more differences than similarities between these two games.

The first difference is the setup. In Chess it’s fixed, in Arimaa setting up the pieces within two first rows of the board is the first “move” of each player. Any combination is legal. Some of the setups are more effective than the others but in fact each game may start from a different position. This makes Arimaa much less a memorization game when compared to Chess (as you can’t play Chess above a certain level without memorizing a number of openings).

In Chess (and for example in Hive too) the victory condition is pinned to one piece – the King. In Arimaa the victory conditions are spread among pieces. In order to win the player should do any of the following:
– Advance one of their 8 Rabbits to the farthest line of the board.
– Capture all eight opponent’s rabbits.
– Immobilize (“stalemate”) the opponent making them have no legal move.

Another difference is the piece strength. In Chess it’s situational. A pawn can capture a queen as well as a queen can capture a pawn. In Arimaa there is a defined hierarchy with an Elephant being the strongest and a Rabbit the weakest piece. Stronger pieces may bully weaker opponent’s pieces while being unaffected by them or by pieces of the same type.

As for capturing: It is also quite different from chess-like “stepping on” or checkers-like “hopping over”. A piece is captured only if it stands on one of the four “trap squares” with no friendly piece on any of the adjacent squares.

And – finally – the piece movement rules. Unlike in Chess, in Arimaa all pieces move according to the same rules: one step left, right, forward or backward (with the exception of Rabbits that can’t go back). During their turn a player may make one to four such steps assigned at will to up to 4 pieces.

Okay. So how does playing this game feel like? Arimaa is undoubtedly easier to learn than Chess. But once you get the rules you realize that you can keep learning the game all your life. It is the game that if you start to like it, you will want to play your tenth game, and the hundredth, and the thousandth. You will still have something to learn here even being a reigning world champion. Here comes another common point with Chess: Arimaa is not only a game, it’s a intellectual sport! And it should be treated as one.

If the world is kind enough to exist with mankind in 500 years, I’m sure that the human race will still play Arimaa. Its invention was a flash of genius. (“Genius = 10% inspiration + 90% perspiration.” – Einstein)

When I want a brain-burner – I play Arimaa. Yet when I want to play a game without a necessity of making my mind work at its best – I get other games.

Go to the Carcassonne: Catapult page
91 out of 98 gamers thought this was helpful

Once upon a time the Carcassonne game design team was discussing a new expansion:

“I bet our fans will buy everything we put into the ‘Carcassonne’ labeled box!”
“No, you must be kidding!”
“Nope, I’m serious.”
“Well then! Let’s make the new expansion a dexterity-based one. We will put a small wooden catapult in and we let the players shoot cardboard projectiles towards the board.”
“You mean – a siege-themed add-on?”
“Gosh, no! It would be a fun-catapult used on fairs to amuse the audience. Do you still think people will buy that?”
“I do.”

Well, that’s how I imagine the origins of “The Catapult” expansion. πŸ˜‰

It is big boxed (the wooden catapult would not fit into a small box), but it adds only 12 terrain tiles to the base game. All of them contain a new feature: the Fair. when one of these tile is placed a shooting round begins. Depending on the chosen projectile different effects are generated:

* Target projectiles earn points for shooting the right tile.
* Knockout projectiles remove followers from the board.
* Seduction projectiles remove an opposing follower and replaces them with the active player’s one.
* Catch projectiles gives points for… yest catching them.

Funny? Maybe…
Suiting the rest of the game of Carcassonne? Maybe not…
Making the game much longer? Certainly.

Oh, maybe the designers had in mind those poor players sitting around the table with almost no movement besides occasional placing the tiles and followers – and they just wanted to give the players an opportunity of doing a few healthy physical exercises? OK, I’m joking again now.

If you like Carcassonne and you like dexterity games and you feel that such a mix is OK for you then get this add-on. If you are an expansion collector then cry but get it. If you are a hardcore Carcassone player then get it and find or make a variant to use the fair tiles in a more fair way. Otherwise – stay away.

Go to the Carcassonne: Abbey and Mayor page
44 out of 47 gamers thought this was helpful

“Abbey and Mayor” adds only 12 new standard terrain tiles to the game of Carcassonne. Some of them are clever (like the tunnel tile), some of them are interesting (like the town tile with two shields) and some are a little crazy (like the town crossing ones). But this expansion is not about tiles, it’s about new mechanics – and it adds a lot of new rules.

* Abbeys: the abbey tiles are basically wildcards that can be placed on any empty square surrounded by terrain tiles. They serve as cloisters and they terminate all the features they touch. Each player gets one. They make the game easier and may be used to rescue followers from blockaded structures.

* Mayors: They are followers that can be placed only in towns having their strength equal to the number of shields in that town. I’m not a fan of big meeples and at the first place, and I’m also not a fan of mayors. In fact they are “tups” that reduce tactical options when fighting for the majority in a town.

* Trolleys: These followers can move along the road to an adjacent unfinished unclaimed structure when their one is finished. Effective use of them require a good planning. Similarly to builders from an earlier expansion they are vulnerable to getting stuck, however having them in a dead end is not as devastating as it is in the case of a builder.

* Barns: They allow to score farmers during the game. Well, this is a substantial change! A part of the original Carcassonne strategy is the balance between early and late placing of farmers as they remain on the board until the end of the game. With barns early farming is much more tempting.

All in all there is a lot of changes. And additions. Take them or leave them…

Personally I feel a kind of surfeit here. I play with abbeys and trolleys leaving mayors and barns (along with their rules) in the box.

Go to the Carcassonne: The Tower page
89 out of 96 gamers thought this was helpful

The fourth big Carcassonne expansion “The Tower” brings 18 new tiles to the game. All of them share a new feature: a tower base. Towers are new mechanics introduced in this add-on. Instead of playing their followers the players may put wooden tower elements (there are 30 of them) on the tower bases.

The aim of the towers is capturing opposing meeples. The higher the tower is the bigger is also the range within which the meeple can be captured. Once taken, the follower is consider “a prisoner” and it cannot be used by its owner unless they either pay a ransom (3 points) or exchange it for another captured meeple.

The rules are fairly straightforward and the resulting towers growing above the game landscape look cool! But many players feel there’s something lacking there. It’s perhaps something like the potential of the towers is not fully utilized. Moreover: the followers once taken hostage cannot return to the structures they were taken from (they could in “The princess and the Dragon” expansion thanks to the magic path tiles). As the result many abandoned structures appear. And – similarly to “The Princess and the Dragon” – the meeple captured mechanics seems not to be liked by many players.

Oh, one more thingy! The expansion contain a nice-looking tower-like tile dispenser. Yet I still think that a cloth sack is much more handy…

My conclusion is then analogous to the one I had with “The Princess and the Dragon” – this expansion is worth getting. Mainly because it adds the third dimension to the game. But if you don’t like the follower capture mechanics (I don’t!), I advise you to either try one of the game variants available online or to try to make your own variant.

Let the towers grow!

Go to the Carcassonne: The Princess and the Dragon page
52 out of 59 gamers thought this was helpful

Two first big expansions (“Inns and Cathedrals” and “Traders and Builders”) moved the game of Carcassonne to its zenith of glory. Then a slow decline started. The third big expansion “The Princess and the Dragon” was not bad by itself but it was not good either.

The expansion adds 30 new terrain tiles to the game, more than any of the two previous ones. All of the new tiles are connected to new mechanics added by the expansion:

* The volcano and dragon symbol tiles let the players move the dragon who scares their followers out of the board.

* The magic path tiles let the followers return to unclaimed uncompleted structures.

* The Princess symbol tiles let players to withdraw followers from the cities.

There are two wooden figurines in the box. One is the terrifying dragon and the second is… No, not a princess! It’s a fairy who can protect tiles from the dragon and who adds value to structures. Players can move the fairy each turn instead of playing their followers and score one point for her presence… and this makes most of the turns last much, much longer. Uff.

I’ve tried playing according to the rules several times and always the reaction of my co-players was something like: “The game is too slow now! Let’s invent new rules to use these cool figurines!” So we did.

I can say that “The Princess and the Dragon” is worth getting. But I don’t recommend playing it according to its official rules but use any of the variants available online or… make your own one!

Go to the Carcassonne: Traders and Builders page
111 out of 118 gamers thought this was helpful

“Traders and Builders” is the second expansion for Carcassonne. In my opinion the best one, although not perfect thus my rating for it is 9/10.

First of all it adds 24 more terrain tiles to the game. Along with the base game tiles and the tiles included in the first big expansion (“Inns and Cathedrals”) it makes the game last as long as it should. The basic game seems to me to be too short while throwing more big expansions in makes it somewhat too long.

There are three additions to the game mechanics:

Traders: 20 city tiles produce goods. The bonuses from these tiles come not to the player with the majority of the followers in the given city (as the points do) but to the very player who finished that city. This causes more interaction between the players.

Builders: A new type of followers, one for each player, that allow players make two turns in order. They speed the game up and add a nice strategic option. But beware! If your builder gets stuck somewhere for a longer time you lose all chances to win against players with active builders. This is the main drawback of this expansion: a single blunder (or bad luck) with the builder may ruin the whole game session for an unlucky player.

Pigs: They increase the value of the farms they are placed on. And they add some fun factor to the game.

And one more nice thing: the expansion contains a bag to draw tiles from. Very useful!

I recommend playing Carcassonne with “Traders and Builders” and “Inns and Cathedrals” together. You could also add a few small expansions if you want, but think twice before adding another big one.

Go to the Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals page
49 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

This is the first expansion for Carcassonne. It adds 18 new land tiles to the mix, which is good because the base game is somewhat too short. It also adds one new player color (gray); that makes a 6-player game possible.

There are of course some additions to the game mechanics too. First of all: the inns (6 tiles) and cathedrals (2 tiles) make finished roads and cities more valuable while making unfinished ones worthless. Then the “big follower” makes the game more competitive as it counts as two followers when it comes to resolve structure ownership. The remaining 10 tiles add nothing more to the mechanics of the game but they have new patterns of cities, roads and meadows that are not present in the core set.

Personally I like the new tweaks added by the presence of cathedral and inn tiles. At the beginning of the game they are used to increase the owner’s score, towards the end of the game they change to malicious tiles that spoil opponents’ structures. I am not a fan of the big meeples however: I usually play using them just as score markers or give them only to newbies to balance the game (a simple handicap).

To sum up: “Inns and cathedrals” along with “Traders & Builders” are two must have expansions for every Carcassonne fan. If you like the base game you will like I&C.

Go to the Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game page
75 out of 97 gamers thought this was helpful

I remember playing the first Sid Meier’s Civilization on an old IBM PC 386… All the “just one turn” moments, all the discoveries (including the fact that the civilization percentage is coded in a single byte), all the nights with not enough sleep. Well, in fact I still play the old “Civ I” from time to time. So there’s nothing strange that I was eager to try the SM’s Civilization as a boardgame.

The boardgame looks familiar to everyone who played the computer versions. We have cities, and military forces; we discover technologies, build new cities and upgrade our units; we scout the land, establish trade routes and eventually we attack other civilizations (well, sometimes we defend against their attacks). As in the PC original version we start in deep ancient times and we are to lead our people all the way to the present.

The rules of the game are complex and the mechanics is quite heavy. And the bad news is – we have no computer to take care about all the necessary calculations and adjustments! So fiddling with the components (they are well made and appealing by the way!) takes quite a big part of the long game time. Where’s the comp when we need it? πŸ˜‰

There is a few ways to win the game starting from dominating the world by brutal and armed force ending at being the civilization of superior cultural achievements. This allow players to try various strategies and tailor their way of civilization development both to their own nature and to the nature of the nation they play in a given game. But then suddenly a pitfall appear: the development lines are not well balanced: there are a few no-brainer progress steps (like irrigation) and there are a few that turn out not to be worth attention. I’d say: the game looks better when it’s fresh. After several plays it tends to be more and more repetitive.

Although “SM Civ TBG” is quite a good game, for those who want to play a Sid Meyer labeled product I’d rather recommend a computer version (and you have a few ones to choose from!), and for those who like to play a civilization boardgame I’d propose trying “Through the Ages” instead.

Go to the Caylus page


150 out of 159 gamers thought this was helpful

In Caylus the players impersonate master builders commanding their building teams. Their ultimate goal is to construct a castle. But to do so they have to develop a town around the construction site. The game wonderfully simulates the town growth: it starts as a settlement with a few workshops. Then the center changes to be a residential area and finally it holds large prestigious buildings and monuments. At the same time new production areas appear on the suburbs.

The game mechanics is driven by worker placement and resource management. As the players construct new workshops and resource providing areas they may later use them. One can use a property of any player, but using a workshop of an opponent gives prestige (victory points) to the respective owner.

The game is rather complicated; there are a lot of things that limit the players and should be balanced by them each turn:
– The number of workers in the team is limited so is the number of possible actions.
– The workers need to be paid, so money is essential.
– Most of places the workers can perform their action can only hold one worker a turn, so timing is important.
– Successful working for the king earns royal favors – special bonuses which become more and more beneficial as the game progresses, while working in the town helps develop the production base.
– Suburban areas may be most productive, but there’s a chance they won’t be allowed by the royal officers to work in a given turn, so placing workers there is risky.

The only randomization in the game is the starting setup. There is 6!=120 ways the six starting tiles can be placed. As the tiles produce goods in order they are positioned it makes the games slightly different. But then it’s all the matter of flexible strategies of the players.

Caylus can be played by 2-5 players. I recommend 3 or 4 ones. For two players it has too little interaction, for 5 it’s somewhat too unpredictable and quite long.

The game is dangerously close to the perfect game I can imagine. Two drawbacks I can see can both be overcome. First: after a few plays you may notice that you want more interaction between players. You may then try the “Free Market” variant described in the tips section. Second: the graphical layout is not too appealing. But there exists the Premium Limited Edition of Caylus with new stunningly beautiful artwork and layout designed by Mike Doyle, as well as real metal coins added for more flavor.

From the time of its release Caylus is my top one game ant it won’t be easy to dethrone it.

Go to the Haggis page


134 out of 167 gamers thought this was helpful

Do you want a five-suit deck of cards? Then with Haggis you can have it! Well, almost… The Haggis deck indeed contains five suits denoted by colors (silver, golden, orange, red, and green) and different Scottish (Celtic) patterns. Their visual appeal is quite high but the suits are not compatible with ones in standard card decks: there are only numbered cards in; the range goes from 2 to 10, and there are no jacks, queens, kings and aces of these suits. Well, jacks, queens and kings do exist in the set but their cards don’t bear the suit symbols. In fact they are jokers of different values and in the base game they are used as such.

The game itself resembles somewhat rummy and poker at first. The players try to form sets (cards of the same value of different suits), sequences (ordered cards of the same suit) and bombs (special combinations of cards). Yet then it starts to differ. The players may bet how many point (at least) they are going to win this round. Successful bets double the points, failures add to opponents score. Finally the starting player plays the first combination and then all the players try to play combinations of the same type but of higher total value. This continues until none of the player wants (or is able!) to play a higher combination or to the moment when one of the players empties their hand. Points for the cards won are then calculated and fulfillment of the bets is checked.

I find this game interesting. Interesting and nothing more… But I think that the five-suit deck can well be a basis for a few more games. At least if you have a classic deck of cards you have many games in one. The same applies here!

Go to the Carcassonne page


73 out of 80 gamers thought this was helpful

In the game of Carcassonne you and your opponents build a middle-ages land. Yes, the whole land: with its fortified towns, meandering roads, solitary cloisters and cultivated fields. The game contains a number of square terrain tiles that represent these structures or their fragments. Players take their turns putting those tiles on the table; in the process the appropriate features on the tile edges (i.e. roads, towns, fields) have to meet their counterparts on all the tiles the newly positioned one touches.

On a freshly placed tile the active player may put an inhabitant: in a cloister it will be a monk, on a field – a peasant and so on. (The small wooden dweller figurines are nicknamed “meeples”. This strange name is meant to be an abbreviation of “my people”; it is used now for any similar wooden figurines in many games, but the first use of this term was for the very game of Carcassonne.) When a structure is finished the player with most meeples in/on that structure is rewarded with a number of victory points.

The game is pretty simple and easy to learn. It allows a lot of playing styles: from concentrating on one’s own structures only, through competing for dwellers majority up to deliberate putting terrain tiles to disturb opponents’ creations.

At the end the players may marvel the world they have made. No kidding here – the landscape created during the game often has a substantial aesthetic value!

The main drawback of the base game – in my opinion – is that it is too short. The number of tiles should be higher. Fortunately, there are a lot of expansions around and one can always add a bunch of expansion tiles to the mix – even when sticking to the basic game rules!

Go to the RoboRally page


71 out of 78 gamers thought this was helpful

Robo Rally is a board game invented by Richard Garfield (who is also the creator of Magic: the Gathering). The game rules say that players impersonate supercomputers. Well, let it be so for advertisement purposes. In fact the players are programmers.

The aim of the game is to let your robot get through a race track. To do so you should program your robot using a simple set of commands like: “move forward”, “move fast forward”, “turn”, “move backward” etc. Each turn you get a bunch of special command cards and you should use them as effectively as possible.

Doing so you should take into account interactions between your robot and the game board as well as its interactions with other robots. As for the environment – the board represents a factory; so crushers may destroy your robot, conveyor belts may carry it, some other elements may push or turn it, your robot may have troubles to stop if there’s oil leak on the floor, and some doors open and close periodically… As for other robots – they push each other and even can inflict damage to opposing machines using laser beams. If you miscalculate something, your tin can starts to walk aimlessly for the rest of the turn. Or sometimes worse: it walks straightly to its doom.

It all sounds to be a good fun and it is so. In fact the more players the more fun, as with a lot of robots on-board some interactions are quite unpredictable and often hilarious.

But the game has also a big educative potential! If it is played with children (preferably as 2- or 3-player game) it teaches the basics of programming. No former Robo Rally player would ever claim The computer is stupid: it does not do what I want!”. The Robo Rally players know: the machines do not do what we want. The machines do what we ordered them to do. They are only following our commands!

I recommend this game as a source of both fun and wisdom.

Go to the Puerto Rico page

Puerto Rico

96 out of 103 gamers thought this was helpful

When you hear someone crying “Just one more turn!…” it’s quite probable that you hear someone playing a turn-based strategy game on a computer, or… that you hear a Puerto Rico player just after the game ended.

In Puerto Rico the players impersonate rich landowners during the colonial era. Their colony consists of a few islands and each of the players controls one of them. Landowners try to establish plantations and quarries on islands they control, to build towns there, to invite new colonists to work there… and ultimately they ship their freshly grown crops to the old world to gain victory points.

The problem the players must face is the lack of qualified workers. Builders, craftsmen and traders are not too numerous. So the landowners, in order to prosper, they must share the services of those skilled guys: when one of the players invites, let’s say, a builder to the colony, the others may also use the skills of that artisan.

The game mechanics that imitates the situation described above, it makes the game an interesting mix of cooperative and competitive elements. You – as a player – want your island to prosper, but in order to do that you have to help other players doing so. If you build, you allow them to build, if you trade the others also do. Of course the player who invites a certain artisan (“takes its role” in the in-game terms) gets some special privileges for doing so: that includes a possibility of preforming a special action connected with that role or even earning some extra money if the role was inactive during the previous turn or turns. The latest effect represents increased demand for that artisan’s services.

There are three independent triggers that cause the game end (no more colonists available, finished town, victory points limit reached). And they are well chosen: when the game ends most of the players have the feeling described in the title of this review: “Just one more turn!… Just one more turn and my island will really prosper!” This leaves the players not with the sense of accomplishment but with the strong urge to play more.

Along with a nice exotic theme and a well thought mechanics, the cleverly chosen way to end the game makes Puerto Rico one of the most successful board games. Although it is not perfectly balanced, I must admit it’s a game I really like to play, and a game that each and every boardgaming fan should try at least once.

Go to the Agricola page


67 out of 74 gamers thought this was helpful

‘I have a new boardgame, guess its theme!’
‘Well, exploration of the universe?’
‘No, it’s about the past.’
‘Um, maybe you are a king, a knight or a merchant?’
‘It’s called Agricola. In fact you are a peasant there.’

Have you ever heard such a dialog? I have, a few times. It turns out that a story of a peasant family may be a basis of a very interesting game.

You start as a head of a small family that has no more than a little hut and some land which may later be used to grow crops or to keep a few animals. As the game progresses your family becomes bigger, corn and vegetables grow on your fields, sheep, pigs and cows feed on your meadows, and your house becomes larger and more comfy. And all of them because of hard work of the members of your family!

The game offers many ways of development – and rewards all of them. The key to victory is balanced growth – players get more for small achievements on many nomen-omen fields than for spectacular successes on only a few of them and none on the others.

Agricola has a fairly high replay value. Due to the fact that available improvements and occupations are selected at random at the beginning of each game from a large pool of cards, there is in fact no chance that two games could ever start with the same setup. And even if they do (because the players may choose to use the same sets of appropriate cards) the play ma go quite a different way from the very beginning.

I must also praise the scalability of the game. The problem is addressed exceptionally well by selecting different possible actions (as well as restricting some job and improvement cards) according to the number of players. The game has also a built-in easy variant. Bravo!

The biggest drawback I can see is that the job and improvement cards are not well balanced. There are a few no-brainer “play me at once” cards as well as a few worthless ones. While it is usually leveled by their distribution, it happens sometimes that one player has a clearly better (or worse!) hand of cards than the others. As the game lasts about two hours such a situation may well spoil the fun. But there’s a simple cure for that – removing the overpowered and underpowered cards from the game before playing it.

All in all: it’s a good, solid game well deserving high ratings and awards it gets.

Go to the Quarriors! page


60 out of 70 gamers thought this was helpful

Quarriors may appear to be the the first game of a genre that has already been nicknamed “dice building games”.

“Dice building”? I don’t like that term, but as long as everyone understands what it stands for it’s OK. Of course the name refers to the existing group of “deck building games”. In the latter you acquire cards to your collection; in the former you acquire dice. And here comes the good news: if you have dice you don’t need to shuffle them!

The theme of the game is to learn spells (acquire dice), to use them to summon and protect fantastic creatures (roll your dice and use them up), and finally to escort the creatures to the castle attacking opponents’ creatures in meantime (your creatures must survive a turn to score).

There’s quite a lot of luck in the game:
* Much enough that if you lose you can blame bad luck.
* Much enough to provoke funny comments about exceptionally lucky or unlucky rolls.
* Not too much yet, so that if you win you can praise your skill in choosing right dice to add them to your set (however your opponents would probably say that you were more skilled just in throwing your dice).

The game is really fast and ends quickly. Some players like it, some players do not. Fortunately the length of the game could easily be adjusted by agreeing upon the number of glory points the winner has to gather. For example for a 4-player game changing the goal from 12 points to 20 results in a game that is more then twice as long as the standard one.

I recommend this game as a short burst of gamers’ fun. It may be also a good game to play with younglings as even a grandmaster may well lose against them. (Children roll better, haven’t you known?)

I’m also looking forward to next gamest of that genre. I wonder if it is possible to create a more serious game based on such a weird mechanics.

Go to the Magic: The Gathering page
67 out of 74 gamers thought this was helpful

When I started playing Magic: the Gathering actively, in 1995, the recent game expansion was Homelands. When I decided to quit active playing, it was the time of Apocalypse (2001). Yet since then I play casually using the remains of my former collection.

Magic is not just a game. It is a multi-layer system of games.

The first layer is of course playing the actual M:tG games. You get your deck of cards (the cards represent magical spells and sources of magical energy), your opponent gets their own deck… and you both try to defeat each other by reducing the adversary life points, poisoning him or making him have no cards to draw any more. Since there is a huge variety of possible decks and each deck may give various outcomes due to its shuffling, the resulting spectrum of possible games is virtually infinite.

The second layer is deck-building. In order to play a game on the first level you need a deck! This level can be skipped by buying pre-constructed decks (ready to play), but it is much less fun. There are, in general two methods of building a deck: “draft” when players build their decks using a limited pool of cards trying to use them as effectively as possible; and “open” when players build their decks out of the cards they possess (with some limitation if necessary).

This leads us to the third level of the game – the collection building. And it is also a game! A real game for real money. There is not to many players worldwide who can just buy each and every card they want to have, since the number of different cards is huge, some of them are really scarce, and the initial distribution of cards among players is random due to the method the cards are being sold (in closed semi-random packages). Thus trading cards between players becomes essential. This makes Magic a game of economy on its deepest level!

Magic: the Gathering was my favorite game for six years. Then I realized that it consumes more and more of my time and money as new sets appear each few months (causing my mind to be exhausted analyzing new possible card interactions, and my wallet to be drained). Fortunately I don’t regret my time. I had spent it well. And for the money… If you are good enough playing the third level of the game you can get more when selling your collection than you invested in it!

Magic is a great gaming system. But it has three big drawbacks: it is very complicated, quite costly and really addicting.

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73 out of 117 gamers thought this was helpful

There’s so many positive reviews of Dominion, maybe a word from a gamer who does not like it much is not out of sense…

A group of my friends convinced me to try out a “new great game” they acquired. Well, why not, I’m always for it. The game turned out to be “Dominion”.

My first impression was: well, a nice, big, and well organized box. Yet my second impression was: wait, what? Why are the cards so worn out?! “Well – my friends answered – we play a lot and shuffle them”. Oh yes. So my advice – if you are going to play Dominion, invest in deck protectors. But – alas – if you do, you may have troubles putting the cards back in the tray. A kind of drawback.

A big “+” for the simplicity and elegance of the rules. For a power gamer everything is clear after the first reading of the game manual which is quite compact. Even casual gamers would learn the rules quickly. You can play soon after seeing the game the first time. Probably this makes the game so attractive to so many.

But the gameplay… It did not impressed me much. It was basically shuffle / draw / shuffle / cut / draw / repeat process. The play run fast, yes, but for me it became a bore after the third or fourth play. Too repetitive, I’d say, and I do not think any expansion would help. It is not the cards that flaws it’s the mechanics itself.

Concluding: It’s not I won’t play “Dominion” again, no, but definitely it is not a game I’d propose to play.

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