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Review 21 games and receive a total of 2270 positive review ratings.
Go to the Eldritch Horror page
Go to the Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery page
Go to the Firefly: The Game page
Go to the Star Wars: Imperial Assault page
Go to the Blood Rage page
Go to the Imperial Settlers page
Go to the Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game page
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Go to the 51st State page

51st State

9 out of 9 gamers thought this was helpful

So a quick history lesson for you, everyone got their pens and notepads ready? 51st state was the precursor to Imperial Settlers which subsequently was the remake of this game. Thematically they are entirely different beasts Settlers abounds with cutesy Romans and cuddly Barbarians while 51st State wallows in its grim, dark post-apocalyptic future of the Neuroshima setting.
The original iteration of 51st State had a dedicated following spawned a couple of expansions New Era and Winter and despite being quite popular was hobbled by a steep learning curve and impenetrability from being entirely icon led, resulting in it not being as popular is it probably should have been.

Settlers re-implemented the core mechanisms but junked much of the heavy duty iconography going instead with very tiny text directly explaining what the cards did. And proved to be much much popular.

So now we have 51st State 2.0 which brings us full circle embracing all the good that Settlers introduced and then further refining that design offering a sleeker darker beast. Everyone got that? There’ll be questions later.

Much as I adore Settlers as its grown with expansions and factions, there has been some noticeable bloat and in particular with the Atlanteans some over-complication of what was initially quite a simple game. So this redux is a welcome return to the no-nonsense fun that first appealed.

So the first question is if you own Settlers or the original 51st State do you need this?
If you’ve been on the fence regarding picking up either than for the record this is a leaner version of both, Settlers is the more aggressive whereas 51st State’s charms lay in struggling to get an engine running with dwindling resources.
And while both games share core mechanisms there are quite a few noticeable differences between the two and how they play.

Now none of that really answers your question so, I would say if you own the originally 51st state, you’re looking at a more refined experience, it is essentially the same game radically re-implemented.

If you own Settlers, this feels a bit like the grunge metal cover version in State you take actions by using Contact tokens generated by converting the four primary resources found in the game. It’s sort of the equivalent of playing the piano with mittens on, it’s the same thing you know how to do, just a lot trickier to accomplish. Each of the four factions included unlike Settlers doesn’t come with their own decks. Instead, their player boards feature very subtle differences offering each its own delicate economy. Creating a very subtle asynchronous play.

And aside from the theme, this micro engine layered over the main engine is the biggest difference between the two. Thematically it’s on the nose as we should presume that resources in the apocalypse aren’t in abundance after all all the supermarkets have gone and Amazon won’t deliver anymore.

The biggest divergence created by this Contact token generation means that this is a far less aggressive game than Settlers, everything is so hard fought to come by that each and every transaction you make is weighted with far greater consequences for the rest of that turn.

It’s not to say Attacks won’t happen they can and will but in much smaller numbers, it doesn’t lessen their impact, in fact, they are probably far more damaging than those of its cuddly sibling.

The final difference is in the game end trigger. In Settlers, there were the predefined 5 rounds that you were building towards, invariably meaning the last was a free for all as everyone scrambled to generate points. In State, you’re racing to assemble that machine faster than your opponents to turn it on and start churning out the VP to hit the 25 point limit and end the game.

One design choice that’s a little clunky is the addition of the Contact cards. Two of these are available each round, and they either offer Blue or Red Contact tokens if you sacrifice two workers to take one. It’s more choice during your turn, but they feel a lot like a band-aid slapped on to fix balance issues, or bad card draws. They work fine and can be very useful, but it feels a bit ham-fisted I only really mention it as Portal’s games are nearly always very thematic story driven affairs, and this stands out like a sore thumb as a patch to something.

Components are all top drawer the cards are thick with a lovely glossy finish and the art although recycled is stunning in a grim and gritty way, the tokens and boards are substantial, and there’s a heap of cool looking wooden resources.

Included in the box are two smaller decks of the previously available Winter and New Era expansions one of which its advised is added to the core deck. Era seems more steered towards conflict and the related icon’s whereas Winter appears to nudge more towards collecting of resources, both add a tad more flavor to the base cards and more variety.

However calling this ‘The Complete Master Set’ is a bit of a misnomer. Anyone who pre-ordered received a chunk more content including two other faction boards and cooler components blatantly making the retail version, not ‘The Master Set’ it precludes to, and while the two expansion decks are included without them, this would have barely been a game*.
It’s not that your being shortchanged on content but when compared to say Millennium Blades and the wealth of options and variety that came in that box, or even the very similar named Summoner War’s Master sets that are bulging with goodies this feels a little light on content.

I suspect we have to chalk that one up to an incredibly poor choice of name combined with a well-intentioned but ultimately a resounding home goal on behalf of Portal. A mistake that hasn’t been repeated in subsequent pre-orders.

So summing up. If you don’t own either of these, then it probably comes down to which theme is more attractive to you and how aggressive your group is. Both are equally robust and enjoyable, but you don’t need to own the two. For me, I enjoy the more challenging engine building that the Contact tokens have added to the game, for want of a better phrase, this is ‘the thinking mans’ Imperial Settlers.

*And in the last couple of days much of that pre-order content has appeared on portals store, so if you are still feeling bitter about missing out, you can at least now get a majority of the bits you’re missing from your Master Set.

Go to the Scythe page


16 out of 16 gamers thought this was helpful

Scythe represents Jamey Stegmaier’s second difficult album, technically his third but I hope you get my point. Coming as it does off the back of the highly praised Euphoria and the beloved Viticulture reprint, fans had lathered themselves up to a frothing fit of expectation. Not least due to the fabulous artwork supplied by Polish artist Jakub Rozalski that was integral in the development of the game alongside all the bells and whistles now expected of a Stonemaier product.

And putting aside any other opinions one thing that cannot be taken for granted is just how fantastically handsome this game is, from Jakub’s stunning art to the extravagant components the collector’s edition of this game cements Stonemaier as THE premium board game publisher on the market.

But is the actual game any good? While I’ll agree it’s a robust and thought-provoking experience and a highly entertaining thing to play I have to admit to finding it falls short of the lofty expectations heaped upon it.

The game is actually very straight forward, players each control a faction represented on the map by workers, and the towering mech’s a sort of steampunk equivalent of Pacific Rims kaiju thumping robots. Each faction comes with two randomly chosen and distinct player boards one representing a technology tree and the other offering perks unique to those peoples.
The meat of the game sees each player racing to develop their tech tree into building the most efficient engine to make the best of where on the board they find themselves. Each round a player takes an action to activate one section on the board and carries out those orders and pays whatever resources that are required, a more costly second option is also available on each that will allow them to manipulate their board in some way and progress the development of their faction.

It’s this activity that is the beating heart of the game as the decisions you make here affect how effective your forces are on the board the resources you can harvest and the points you’ll ultimately score. Don’t get me wrong its enthralling fun as you focus on this business, but it is essentially a table of people playing their own little solo games of tech tree Sudoku.

Lauded as part Euro and war game this is where Scythe fumbles the ball. While the Euro is there for all to see with the resource gathering and engine building the combat system feels like a cobbled on afterthought. Borrowing from Rex and Kemet yet nowhere as exciting as either, Kemet’s battle system with duplicated hands of cards for each faction lead to enthralling skirmishes of bluff and double bluff with neither side quite sure of what their opponent was going to choose, only the knowledge of what had been played previously. It simulated the fog of war effortlessly and allowed for some real tactics and ploys. Whereas Scythes battles hold no surprises the player with the most power is invariably going to win. And worse the game is handicapped against the aggressor, for every worker you dislodge in your warmongering you lose Popularity, and Popularity, as we’re about to discover, is I believe central to winning the game.

And as I brought it up let’s discuss Popularity, at the edge of the board is a track charting each factions Popularity rating, this is split into three tiers with the higher you are, the bigger the multipliers for your end game score. It’s my opinion despite all the multitude of choices and options on offer, it is this one score that can make the difference between victory or defeat.

Finally after all of that when a faction hits 6 stars the game is over. Immediately.

And if you found that a little jarring then well it is. After all this world building and tech tree manipulation there’s this arbitrary end, finished kaput and it can be sudden with little warning. A game of Scyth will go as such, everyone spends an hour maybe two harvesting, moving and tech sudokuing picking up the odd one or two stars, and then in the space of a round maybe two suddenly everyone can hit the total. Its then this mad dash of trying to suddenly grab territories or resources throwing any gestating plans on the fire in this mad grab for stuff. It’s just so sudden and unsatisfying after the journey we’ve taken, Imagine if Lord of the Rings Return of the King decided to skip that whole Gondor siege thing and volcano and ring business and just jumped to the bloody Hobbits high fiving at Rivendale. The End.

Now this sounds like I’m ragging on Scythe, and I don’t mean to. It is an enormous amount of fun, when you’re engrossed in the business of tweaking your engine and messing with your tech tree, it’s all very enjoyable, but here’s the rub.
There really isn’t anything all that innovative, it feels like I’m playing this potpourri of popular mechanics. The player boards are excellent fun, but I think TM did it better, the combat again borrowed from Kemet is nowhere near as much fun as that game. There’s a dash of Eclipse a pinch of Viticulture a niblet of Euphoria. Everything is immaculately balanced, but you know what? I love a little chaos in my world, a bit of random, there is nothing here to chance, and inevitably the whole thing ends up despite the incredible art and extravagant components feeling great when I really want to be jumping on my chair, and bellowing like Brian Blessed “It’s incredible!”.
I think I get it now Jamey is the Ridley Scott of board games, both of them it cannot be denied are masters of their form. They create these epic stylishly produced masterpieces beautiful to admire but ultimately lacking in something.

Originally published @

Go to the SeaFall page


14 out of 14 gamers thought this was helpful

SeaFall was absolutely and unequivocally my most anticipated game since first teased by Rob Daviau some four years ago. Skip forward to this past Friday and our campaign came to a abrupt close on its fourteenth game.

For those of you unaware of SeaFall then let me sum that up as briskly as I can. Set during the age of sail it follows you as you nurture your province of bumbling merchants as they venture out into uncharted waters, happening upon mysterious islands and high adventure slowly uncovering the mystery of the lost civilisations that came before you. Paired with the legacy system that actively encourages stickering boards, ripping up cards and writing on things it’s a heady mix and an idea ripe with exciting possibilities.

And upon first encountering the contents of this voluminous box you’d be pretty optimistic that the journey you are about to take would be exactly that. Which makes the fact that while SeaFall does indeed contain all of these things it’s a crushing disappointment to discover that it never manages to truly capitalise on any of them.

The one area that the game does deliver is the abundance of the Legacy experience. As with Risk and Pandemic, SeaFall has those marvellous boxes each a tantalising prospect of new and exciting developments however its in how it chooses to utilise them that differs from its illustrious predecessors. Whereas in Pandemic each box felt like a thunderclap of new content SeaFall’s legacy moments permeate into the status quo loading each turn and decision with the possibility of changing the game state in some way. This method of delivery is both a blessing and a boon for as the campaign progresses and each new box smears its goodness over the existing game like so much crunchy peanut butter the contents of the subsequent boxes starts to resemble Schrodinger’s moggy. That initial elation of unlocking all this new stuff is tainted by the faint whiff of recently expired feline.

SeaFall teases us constantly but it so often feels like you’re stealing glances at some sprawling epic adventure from the window of a passing train. You’re convinced it’s preparing the foundations with which to deliver a grand operatic tale of redemption and jaw-dropping reveals replete with heart-stopping cliffhangers up until the point it doesn’t.

The choice of the Captains Booke to deliver the story inherently created many issues, with no way to unravel the tight plot that Pandemic so successfully utilised story threads and plots are peppered throughout like a schizophrenic producing a cover version of David Lynch’s greatest hits.

Rob has said that originally he’d thrown everything into the design but that it run away from him, and a year into the process the only sensible option was to stop and rebuild stripping away the extravagant and narrowing the scope in the hope of it ever being finished.

It’s during this process I believe that the heart of SeaFall was cut out and the resultant finished design presents us through necessity a compromised version of Rob’s original bigger idea. There’s still fossils from this larger beast to be excavated from what finally was SeaFall but so much of it feels incomplete or abbreviated.

The game’s final unwelcome capstone is in its choice of how to end. On the board teasing you throughout proceedings is an undiscovered location that requires a significant effort to uncover and will open the last legacy box. It’s by design there teasing and building anticipation every single time you play. You’ve been pre-programmed to want to open that box to discover its secrets, finding the last continent was supposed to be the end of the game, but then why the box? What was going to happen?

Well the game would end is what, and while within is a hastily bolted on epilogue as if Michael Bay had suddenly been prodded and told to sort this mess out mostly it was the stale air of dissatisfaction.

For me, this started so well, I was willing to look beyond some of its shortcomings. Many bemoaned the actual game wasn’t all that great, and now, here at the end of this world looking back on all we have accomplished I find it hard to be the apologist. That’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy the journey even accepting the ho-hum pickup and delivery mechanisms and the frustratingly random turn sabotaging events. We even mostly forgave the infuriating sudden end game developments of the milestones that could see an entire games preparation dashed by another player suddenly ending the game.

It’s just now, with the knowledge that so much of what you invested time in completing really wasn’t worth the effort, so often you could have just as easily taken a shortcut to accomplish the same result. It’s a growing sense of disappointment that all the really cool stuff that could have happened all the things you were breathlessly anticipating were never there, to begin with.

At the end of the day is just a game and for what it’s worth for a majority of it I did enjoy myself. But all of that goodwill, all of those hours poured into this sours when you finally have to shrug and acknowledge it’s really not all that good of one.

Originally Published (with Spoilers) @

Go to the XCOM: The Board Game page
9 out of 9 gamers thought this was helpful

With the announcement from FFG that we’d finally be getting an expansion XCOM Evolution, I was inspired to pluck this one back off the shelf where it’s languished for most of the last year.

Having now vigorously revisited this, I’m rather glad I didn’t write this review on my initial close encounter, time has, in this case, allowed the game and my opinions on it to mature like a fine wine.

Fans of the PC game series need to park their expectations before settling down to play. This is an abstracted version of the theme, story, and style of XCOM, it’s jettisoned probably one of the most beloved parts of those games the missions these, and much of the rest are still present but in cliff notes like glimpses of its software sibling. If you’re expecting the joy of getting attached to your grunts as you name them and nurture them on those early missions before weeping like a lovesick panda when they don’t make it back, then well that’s just not here.

Instead, players assume roles of the commanders and officers running the entire XCOM facility during its last ditch effort to resist the colonization of the evil alien overlords. All of the good stuff that you’ve come to love about XCOM is still here, battling the UFO’s developing tech, and the missions but in the equivalent of small little nibbles.

It literally is a game of two halves.

The first part is played in real time, during a frantic five minutes, the players must react to whatever the APP is throwing at them either UFO’s popping up across the globe, attacks on the base, advances in R&D. Everyone is forced into snap decisions over what tech to develop next, assigning troops to defend the base, how many interceptors to scramble against the alien menace it just keeps coming at you like a needy child in an ice cream parlor. One poor soul, the Commander is also responsible for balancing the books overspending will result in the various continents your protecting falling further into crises, so this unwitting fool must play den mother to the military industrial complex during a fire sale.

This whole stage effectively does away with any chance of quarterbacking discussing any form of strategy is impossible as every few seconds the APP throws a new dilemma at the team. Adding to the mayhem is that each player has individual abilities at their disposal that only they can utilise during this timed phase or the resolution, these are ways to mitigate some of the chaos. The Central Officers role initially is little more than Sigourney Weaver’s part in Galaxy Quest (to repeat the computer), but it slowly develops as the tech is unlocked into someone who can look at the broader picture and move units and troops about to react to the mounting carnage or compound it.

The second stage of the game the Resolution Phase is where you deal with the repercussions of your decisions through rolling dice. The game comes with four blue custom XCOM dice, and one Red D8 (the Alien Die) both rolled when resolving a task. Perched in one corner of the board is a threat track that slowly creeps up from 1 to 5 with each successive attempt and whenever the Alien roll is equal or below that number, then the attempt is a loss and the units involved are either destroyed or incapacitated.
It adds a punishing push your luck to tasks, with the XCOM dice so weighted against success with only two of their six facings a result means that you’ll always be gambling as to whether that one more roll will pull off that miracle you need games will often have multiple standing dice rolls. Dependant on your opinions on luck, chaos, and dice is whether you’re going to be thrilled by this mechanism or appalled. It’s a brute and uncaring device for ratcheting up the pressure and tension, it’s certainly not subtle, but it works.

This is the equivalent of Pandemic on steroids with a quadruple espresso it’s remorseless and at first can seem that the odds are ridiculously stacked against you. And on my first encounters with it, I would and did dismiss it as that. But now having had the luxury of letting this percolate, there is a lot to be impressed with; all the tech is well balanced to give an edge against the chaos. And it never feels gimmicky the app is integral to the design and helps to create this tension-filled first half that no amount of sand timers or stopwatches could ever have achieved.

It’s not perfect the lack of manual I’m sure deemed revolutionary in a board room somewhere is a drag. Yes, the app does an excellent job of teaching that first play, but it’s a ball ache not having something physical to reference as a reminder if you just want to quickly refresh your brain as to how things play out.
As I already mentioned the merciless luck dependant second half can with a run of bad rolls just feel like some sadomasochistic punishment, it is to some degree mitigated by the tech cards I mentioned, but I get that for some players it’s not enough.
This is definitely one of those try before you buys and is very group dependent, but with the right gathering and the correct mindset, this can be an exhausting but thrilling experience.

Go to the Millennium Blades page

Millennium Blades

102 out of 114 gamers thought this was helpful

Millennium Blades, when described, sounds like a game about to perform the most extravagant Shark Jumping ever. It’s a card game that seeks to simulate the length and breadth of Trading Card Games (henceforth referred to as TCG) ala Magic The Gathering complete with the buying of boosters building of decks and the tournament scene with its fluctuating strategies and meta. And not only that but to abstract all of that into an evening’s entertainment?? You’d be correct in thinking this is bonkers an impossible task, and that’s before you wrap your head around the fact that you’re playing a card game simulating playing a fictionalised trading card game how very meta. Or as Keanu Reeves put it in the Matrix Whoah!

In this immense box of cards and there really are literally hundreds in here, at the end of a session you will have experienced the entirety of a TCG’s lifecycle concisely and majestically diluted into two hours. And as you push back your chair from the table your head swimming with the crazy goodness that you’ve just experienced, you’re left with but one defining thought, I really want to do that again.

A game plays out over three tournaments, sandwiched between these are real time sessions of deck building, set collecting trading and selling. Besides the multitude of cards and illustrations each representing numerous sets and collections, there is also one of the greatest gaming components of modern times great big wads of cash to spend. These cash stacks thematically link beautifully to the idea of what you’re doing, and it becomes an addiction to be blowing huge wads on rare and super rare cards or just buying armfuls of boosters hoping that you’ll discover that one card that works in tandem with the deck you’re constructing. It’s like I’m that teenager again in the comic store for the first time tearing open foil packs hoping, praying like Charlie Bucket to find that super rare golden ticket. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Everyone gets a starter deck, it includes a deck box (of course) one accessory and eight single cards that to anyone familiar with TCG’s or deck builders work together in simple but effective synergies. As a starter game, it’s suggested, and I strongly agree that players play these decks to understand how the tournament works and also get a feel for how those cards play. It is from this humble beginning you can adapt your strategy and build on this to engineer bigger and better combinations for the next tournament not forgetting the cards your opponents played and working on a strategy to immobilise their scores.

The tournament is abstracted down to playing six of your eight cards that will either include SCORE options that offer points or multipliers at the end of the tourney dependent on the Types/Elements remaining face up in your tableau. There are also ACTION cards that will allow you to FLIP your cards for points or to activate further combos or other ways of manipulating your score or your opponents. Or you can CLASH a simple mechanic that involves comparing the points values of the two battling cards, with again some cards adding points for winners or losers. It’s not incredibly deep but when combined with the sheer variety of different combinations and builds offered by the vast number of cards available still manages to be massively satisfying.

And as much fun as these tournaments are the timed stages are where the magic and happy embolisms happen. The deck building phase is split into three timed intervals the first two are each 7 minutes in length at the beginning of these you get 6 cards for free, and then the timer starts, and you are free to buy boosters trade cards, build your decks and collections. During the first and second intervals, a meta card is revealed for additional bonus points available for you having a particular card type in your deck. The final 6 minutes period is used for everyone to try and get their house in order sort out the cards decide what’s going in the collection whats going on the deck. Before we jump back into the next tournament, you score your collection which is based on all the cards having a connecting element it’s a great way to offload any excess cards you’ve collected during the turn but also offers some serious points and is ignored at your peril. And then the player board is flipped, and the battle commences.

The first round of this game and for some, the entire first play is a mind melting experience as you try to juggle improving your deck and wrapping your brain around just everything that is happening. The rules flat out tell you-you can’t do it all pick your battles, it’s an excellent piece of advice, any control freaks need not apply you’ll lose your mind trying to accomplish everything against the clock. Some have stated this is a heavy economic game, and while the spending and recouping of cash scouring the aftermarkets and emptying the store are certainly a massive chunk of what you’re doing it’s all leading you to build that perfect deck. You cannot underestimate the tournaments the points available for winning are essential to victory, so yeah the spending of your money and making every dollar count is a factor but don’t be deceived into thinking it’s all the game it’s not.

So who is this for? Anyone with a TCG or LCG background are going to eat this up and will comfortably slip into the strategies and style of the game like it’s a pair of warm slippers. It might be a harder sell for those not accustomed to the scene although I’ve played with pals who’ve never picked up a collectable game in their lives and they enjoyed it for the deck building element and challenge of the tournament play.

You get an enormous amount of value in this box, aside from the 6 starter decks and the 118 card core deck an additional 29 sets allow for multiple store configurations. Then there are the player powers, pro player powers, rule’s variants for the buying and selling of cards, super powerful accessories and even the opportunity to play each tournament at different venues with separate rules and effects. There’s an exhaustive amount of content in this box you could literally play this for years before ever experiencing everything.

If this is going to fall flat it’s going to be players who haven’t experienced TCG play, it can for the first time be an intimidating experience, and I know some players who absolutely cannot cope with the pressure of real time play. The rules are fast and loose with how long you give to these sections, however, it’s more to stop games rolling for hours than anything else. If you don’t pre-build the store decks before a game then you’re looking at a healthy amount of time shuffling those cards, my advice is to choose ahead of time and keep the same deck for a few games before you think about mixing things up. And those lovely bundles of cash, yeah set aside a couple of hours to wrap all of that together before you can play, but then that’s why God invented Netflix right.

If you’ve ever enjoyed the buzz of opening foil packets, collecting sets, trading cards with friends or playing in a competitive card game then this is a direct line back to the soul of that 12-year-old in all of us geeks, it’s ridiculously wild fun the work of a deranged genius. The fact that not only does it accomplish all it set out to do but does so in the most infectiously enjoyable way makes this a contender for me of my game of the year 2016.

Go to the Talisman page


46 out of 53 gamers thought this was helpful

Let’s play Talisman. It’s a phrase when uttered in gaming circles will either materialise hazy half-remembrances of wasted Sunday afternoons and dreamy expressions, send a gamer screaming from the room or get you punched.

On the button pushing scale of gaming, it’s up there with other marmite flavoured delights such as Munchkin, Cards Against Humanity and Flux.

So what is Talisman? Well, it’s the ghost of gaming past, the hobby’s dirty little secret that refuses to bow to modern design mechanics, reciprocate in any way to those ninnies who cry foul at player elimination, randomness or the rolling of dice. It’s everything that was wrong about classic board games yet seems so right.

In all its many iterations are the same core ideas, players choose an adventurer replete with Cosmic Encounter levels of random potentially game shattering abilities and traverse the board by rolling and moving. The effects of whatever random spot you land are resolved by drawing cards from monolithic decks threatening to topple and crush a passer-by or rolling more dice.

Think of this as the b*st**d love child of Monopoly and Robert E. Howard.
If a player manages to level their hero up without dying, and that’s a big if they’ll then need to obtain one of the Mystical Talismans of the games title. Once that seemingly simple feat is achieved, it’s a swift jaunt to the centre of the board to run a gauntlet of deadly traps and overpowered enemies before attempting to claim victory via a hidden final goal that could potentially kill them straight away or shortly afterwards.

Designed back in the bygone days of 1983 by Bob Harris and formerly part of Games Workshop’s stable it received various expansions that bolted additional boards to the base set offering up further chances for frustration and joy in equal measure. It was resurrected briefly in its Third Edition during the early 90’s reminiscing bits and pieces and adding more expansions and playable characters. And then it disappeared faster than Keyser Soze from an FBI interrogation.

However the fickle gods of Talisman were not done with us just yet, in late 2008 Fantasy Flight Games became the torch bearers which seems oddly correct, Talisman is the epitome of Ameritrash and joining the FFG stable was like a long lost child returning home. They hit the ground running with a new lavish edition replete with mini’s a gentle smoothing of mechanics and some fresh spins on old favourites and we were off to the races.

For transparency Talisman has rightfully earned all of its press good and bad, its random has no discernable path to victory and games can potentially outlive players. Tom Cruise is obviously a fan, his 2014 blockbuster ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ includes the blatantly Talisman inspired tagline ‘Live, Die, Repeat’ and he was in Legend, which has fantasy stuff, so yeah. But despite what should be deliberating mechanics, design choices and play length it not only continues to be published but has flourished acquiring somewhere in the region of fifteen expansions with Cataclysm it’s latest releasing this month. How has a game loathed by so many somehow managed to keep on trucking?

I must admit to a nostalgic wobble in my nethers whenever I see the box, and it’s not just me supping from the Kool-Aid. Across dusty corners of the web, numerous Talisman communities support the game with fan made expansions and characters. People who love it, adore it. Its silly, its random but its also something else that can sometimes be forgotten in this age of refined mechanism’s and EURO peaceniks it’s riotously fun. If approached with the correct mindset, that your character will die (potentially more than once), it’s the only game you’ll playing that night and that a great splosh of random is about to drench you then you’re set for a epic evening’s entertainment. I think it’s something else as well, Talisman thrives because of its simple mechanics and play it’s the ultimate ‘Beer & Pretzels’ game, it’s like mainlining hobby gaming in its purest form.

Go to the Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 page
53 out of 59 gamers thought this was helpful

Pandemic is a fine game with a dynamic theme of that beleaguered CDC team battling global annihilation by way of a sneeze; it’s at heart an ever evolving puzzle with an unforgiving, mean streak designed to kill you. I’ve played it many times but it’s one I’ll now only break out for new groups or those fresh to the hobby, it’s a great introduction to muggles as to how modern board gaming has evolved.

Legacy, the brainchild of Rob Daviau introduced in Risk Legacy, is to me a lightning bolt into the heart of our hobby. Legacy’s mojo is to add permanence to our games; typically we play a board game, and then it returns to the shelf waiting to delight us again the same faithful hound. Legacy is a different animal, it remembers rewarding or punishing every wrong-footed move or inspired choice that you make, if you treat it badly then yes you’d best have the ill-tempered mutt put down before it bites a child but then that’s your doing.

Risk Legacy was the baby steps that would lead us to Pandemic Legacy and what Daviau has done is take Matt Leacock’s fiendish puzzle and layered it with a pulse pounding and white-knuckle story straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Whereas Risk was a marvelous scattershot of crazy comic book surprises and outlandish goodies now, Rob has refined the Legacy system by way of the Legacy deck, a skeleton from which he hangs a riveting narrative that reacts to our choices. It’s this addition that cements Legacy as something to become justifiably excited about meshing as it does the worlds of tabletop and RPG with such sleight of hand as to make Ricky Jay envious.

Yes, you will sticker your board and be called upon to destroy a card or two but that’s, not the game, it’s not meanness for meanness sake those are tools in Legacy’s arsenal, it needs you to make that leap of faith and trust in it. If you can give yourself over to Legacy, then you will have a unique and wonderful experience, it’s a thrilling ride that can only be accomplished by making us carry out this sadomasochistic molestation of our beloved board game. In truth, it’s quite cathartic and once you start to encounter the repercussions of your decisions and what they mean for your world and its story its unlike any other game you will play, your experience will be uniquely yours and yours alone.

To dive into the story or even tiptoe around spoilers is to destroy the journey that this game rewards you, suffice to say story is king here. And it’s a beautifully crafted one at that, Daviau has said his intent was with the game to mirror a season of a TV show and it does with betrayals and cliffhangers in abundance and plot twists that payoff after a slow cigarette burn that are hidden in plain sight.
Your characters will grow in skills and abilities but also can become scarred gathering psychological baggage like a porter at the airport. These impediments will have far reaching repercussions down the road, they may even become lost overcome by the horrors they are witnessing.

There’s so much to say and yet so little I can.

My only disappointment with Pandemic Legacy was that as you battle through the months, overcome its trials and tribulations you know it will end there is a finale to this story and to the game. But what a story and what a game and, at least, we always have Season 2?

Go to the Hostage Negotiator page
48 out of 54 gamers thought this was helpful

Hostage negotiation Hollywood has mined this genre creating some thrilling and nail biting flicks Dog Day Afternoon, Speed, The Negotiator and The Taking of Pelham 123 (the original not the remake) are all excellent examples. All are chockful with twists and turns featuring more cat and mouse shenanigans than a Tom & Jerry marathon.

It’s surprising given the subject matter then that we’ve not seen more games based on this theme, it’s an idea ripe with possibility and could make a **** fine co-op. This isn’t to diminish Van Ryder Games efforts, what they have crafted is a pulse-pounding solo experience capturing the core of these dramatic face-offs with the stakes turned up to 11.

In a refreshing twist, of the three abductors included with the game, only one feels like the typical Hollywood bad guy the others represent hyper realised facsimiles of real world counterparts giving things a much more gritty flavour. Whether it’s the cheeky terrorist antics of Arkayne or the muddier waters of Edward or Donna they all feel different and their situations will throw up some surprising moral conundrums.

The object of the game is, of course, to negotiate the release of the hostages and the capture or elimination of the abductor, how this works is by you earning conversation points that allow you to buy better conversation cards to use. You also need to balance this against managing a threat meter a representation of just how calm your opponent is. Importantly if it plunges into the red, then hostages start getting offed its level also affects how many dice you have available to you.

Ah yes, this game has dice in it, we like dice.

As the hostage negotiator, you start with a basic hand of conversation cards that when played give a variety of results dependent on the number of successes rolled either reducing the threat level, gaining points or even freeing hostages. It’s a gamble of how many cards you want to play and push your luck, some carry penalties for bad rolls by increasing the threat track while others kill the conversation dead stopping that rounds negotiation and the chance to play other cards.

To mitigate some of the luck, these cards can be played face down to either earn a conversation point or two together change a failed die to a positive. At first, I wasn’t sure the dice just seemed punishing, but as a representation of the hostage situation and the push and pull of negotiation, it’s all rather clever. As the situation escalates, the dice reflect the erratic behaviour both sides would be feeling in this pressure cooker situation as you race to keep a line of conversation open buying you more time and better cards.

Once the conversation phase ends, you can spend any points earned on the cards available. These go in your hand for the next round of negotiation and any played return to the pool able to be bought in a later round. It’s a cautious game of knowing when’s best to play what cards and how many, building a deck and biding your time for the right moment to strike is the heart of this game.

At the end of a round is the Terror Phase where you draw and resolve one terror card, these represent the volatile nature of the situation throwing some interesting spanners into the works. They also function as a timer when this deck is exhausted then it’s times up and if you’ve not successfully resolved the situation, then things turn into the sort of mess that the FBI tend to get a bit twitchy about.

So that’s Hostage Negotiator it’s a lean and fast play kudos to designer A.J. Porfirio for coming up with such neat idea with a cracking theme. Some may be put off by the dice chucking nature of this as there is a lot, as a representation of the knife edge you’re on it works, life’s random, dice are random get over it.

Another interesting wrinkle is each abductor comes with Demands cards that are randomised at the start and once uncovered offer some interesting options where you can submit to their Demand for a bonus, balancing these with your hand of cards can make the difference to a victory or not. And of course, it’s not all beer and Pizza as some come with some nasty penalties.

And if that wasn’t enough there are already four mini expansions that add some interesting new villains and introduce a handful of new mechanics to keep things fresh.

Go to the Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn page
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The duelling card game arena is sodden with choices. There is the behemoth Magic system with its thousands of cards and ferocious tournament play, an intimidating prospect for new players. Netrunner has its riveting asynchronous matches marred by a ridiculously steep learning curve enough to send a casual observer into spasms and investing into it is a financially humbling proposal for most. And then there’s the Doom Town’s, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars the list goes ever on.

That’s really the issue with LCG’s, TCG’s the expense and the unrelenting pressure of monthly releases. Sure you don’t have to get them all but we’re collectors and once you’ve started on a deck collection, it’s kind of difficult to know when to stop. Let’s be clear I love the idea of playing one of these systems, of pouring over cards and building the decks I just don’t enjoy the damage it applies to my wallet.

So Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn where does this fit? Well, refreshingly the base box supplies enough cards to build six basic decks. One for each of the Phoenixborn, that’s pretty cool, even if I never decide to alter one deck I still have hours of replayability just there.

And while this shares tropes with those games above Ashes has to be applauded for coming at it with a new bag of tricks. Refreshingly the barrier to entry is set low enough that rank amateurs can pick up a deck and get playing. And within a turn they are involved and making deeply satisfying strategic choices, even with the pre-constructed decks each has a distinct feel and synergy. And you never feel that there is ever nothing to do, the design here is such that you always have options you’re always invested.

And before we get too engrossed in how all this works I have to pause for a moment to give kudos to the art and design. Fernanda Suarez, the artist responsible for Dead Of Winter’s terrible gorgeousness, has knocked the ball out of the park. Every illustration is worthy of space on my wall and combined with the stark, effective design and iconography from David Richards means each card pops. The whole game has a crisp, assured effortless feel to it. It’s really a thing of beauty.

So the game just what’s so great about this? I’m not going to get too engrossed in the rules, the Watch it Played video does it perfectly. So if you want to know how the whole game works take a moment to give that a look. The game pits you in a duel between another of your Highlander like Phoenixborn, imagine if Harry Potter grew up and then became Connor Mccloud and you sort of get the idea, anyway there can be only one. You will battle your opponent reducing their health through spells and conjuring allies who can defend and attack.

On your turn, you have the simple choice, either play one main action and/or side action. Main actions are represented by a symbol on your cards and will usually be to play either a spell or ally, or activate the ability on a card you have previously played in your area.
If that doesn’t grab you, then you can choose to go straight for the face and attack your opponents Phoenixborn. Any of your units that are active can do this or if the mood takes you target one of her units, and finally you could just pass.

Additionally you get that side action, identified by its icon they are usually a buff to another power or chance to draw more cards or in some instances a further way to attack. Meditate is also available or you can use a dice power both of which leads us to this game’s secret weapon the dice. Their addition is a simple but brilliant mechanic that instantly sets this apart from its peers while adding another level of tactics and choice for the player. At the start of a round, both players roll ten dice. When using the included decks, these will be five each of two of the differing schools of magic. The results will be a mix of a Basic icon, Class or Power referred to on a separate reference card. Each of these cards also displays a side action ability that can be activated by using the Power facing if rolled.

The inclusion of dice in the game as a resource is a master stroke, it presents a separate level of strategy not available to the other games and instantly sets it apart. Spent when casting your spells or activating abilities, they determine how you’ll play that round. And if you’re worried that rolling a weak pool will leave you flailing then you can Meditate. Meditating allows you to discard any number of cards from your hand, in front of you or from your deck to change the facings on that many dice to whatever you want.

I’ve played all of the pre-constructed decks now, and while some seem more powerful than others, certainly Coal Roarkwin and his onslaught of Iron Rhino’s has been proving an issue. As much as Aradel Summergaard and her mixture of offensive ally shredding spells and buffs have seen my enemies crushed and more than a little lamentation on their part. I suspect that is down to finding each characters unique ability’s and play style. I’m still trying to get a handle of Jessa Na Ni who’s rocking this cool voodoo princess vibe and host of gnarly spells to match. This is a game where you need to cast aside any preconceived notions or knowledge of playing these types of games and look again, each Phoenixborn has a unique play style, some more readily evident than others.

Now who this is for is a good question. I strongly suspect that Netrunner and Magic players may initially be put off with the perceived simplicity of the game, each Phoenixborn’s deck only contains three each of its ten cards. That limited pool may be seen as a weakness, but it’s this leanness that allows for the game to avoid stalling and offer the choices it does each round. The manipulation of the dice is enthralling as you’re always watching what your opponent is doing with them. After the first couple of rounds, you’re going to know what facings they have been using and so when they Meditate and flip those dice you’ll be preparing yourself for the pain. It’s a TCG for people who don’t play TCG’s, yet at its core it’s also a hugely rewarding game for players who do.

I’ve yet to immerse myself in the games deckbuilding or drafting. I can already see beyond the base decks that it’s here the game is going to gain its legs. The suggested builds are entirely satisfying and in truth I’m enjoying developing the knowledge to play them optimally. But I’d be fooling myself if I didn’t say I’m salivating at what combinations I can compile from those cards and dice.

If tomorrow Plaid Hat declared Ashes done with this box then I’d still recommend this. It’s a solid and complete game that offers a tremendous amount of replayability and value for money, but of course they won’t. They have already confirmed that future decks will be released but in a much more wallet-friendly fashion with potentially one big box a year and personally I can’t wait to see this game grow. I can’t quite put my finger on why, its a kind of magic.

Go to the Blood Rage page

Blood Rage

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I’ve had a love-hate affair with Cool Mini or Not while it can’t be argued that their games offer an abundance of glorious trinkets I’ve found them often lacking in anything substantial. Zombicide for all of its multi-million dollar success is essentially a box jammed with great looking minitures in search of a set of rules.
Fortunately, the recent addition of Eric Lang to their roster himself on something of a roaring rampage of game design success gives me hope that their titles while still containing vastly overproduced toys might now accompany a rugged design skeleton for these adornments to hang.

The central conceit behind the game is Ragnarok’s coming, the mythical Asgardian realms are going big ba-da-boom! So the assembled Viking clans being essential a bunch of heavy metal nutbags intent on a beautiful death see this as the opportunity of an all you can maim buffet of wonton violence. The clan attaining the greatest Glory can go off with the knowledge that they’re be bigging it up in the halls of Valhalla for all eternity.

So the game, the first thing I was hit by was how clean the rules are, there really isn’t much to this, the depth and decision making emerges during as to what abilities you use or where you send your units or how you spend your Rage. The game takes place over three ages which at the end of each will see another location on the map being shook asunder slowing reducing the play area. This being a game of area control means that the battles and strategies become more desperate as time and locations run out, every action, every move is important.

The rounds consist of two main actions, at the beginning of each there is a draft. These cards inform how your clan evolves throughout the game and even how you’ll play, they come in three main flavours:

Upgrades these are either for your units, offering more powerful troops or subtle modifiers. Or your clan which essentially allow for you to build a violence engine to convert your increased stabbyness into Glory and finally the Monsters, super powerful units that come with just the most gloriously huge miniatures and some devilishly useful abilities.

Quests these primarily give glory for completion at the end of an age and revolve around either having the most strength in regions or the most dead in Valhalla, successfully resolving these also allows you to improve one of your base stats, which I’ll come to in a moment.

Battle cards. These function similar to the Cosmic encounter fight mechanic. Whenever you get into a rumble for a location, you add up the strength of all your units present as does your opponent/opponents and then you get to play one of these. Some will simply add a large number to your total while others offer chances to remove units or to mess with your foes, it adds a meaty element of poker style bluffing and uncertainty to proceedings.

This draft will essentially inform how that round or even your entire game will play out and it’s really only upon repeat plays that deeper and more emergent strategies start to show themselves. There are plenty of decisions to weigh up as potentially you won’t get to play all the cards and concentrating on one area will leave you weaker in others while not building any synchronicity into your hand could leave you floundering as your rivals race ahead.

As I mentioned earlier, each clan begins with exactly the same basic stats and these are three main powers that you can upgrade throughout the course of the game. Rage is probably the most important as every action or card played will nearly always have a associated Rage cost. Running out of Rage is fatal as you cannot perform any actions once it’s gone. Axes dictate how much Glory you gain for winning battles and finally Horns dictate how many units you can have in play at one time on the board.

Beneath all its lush thematic trappings, this is essentially a Euro game of engine building and bookkeeping. Everything centers around this violent stock exchange to support your Rage addiction. And the slow emergence of asynchronous clans as each player creates their most efficient murder machine.

The rest of the game is in the actions phase, taking it in turns each player gets to pick and choose one action. Whether it’s playing an upgrade or quest which will utilise those cards. Invading which will see you placing troops on the board, or pillaging where you can attempt to increase your clan stats from various rewards available in different regions by winning battles. This keeps going until everyone eventually taps out having run out of Rage.
This is where it all comes down to having that best most efficient engine, actions such as the pillage are free if you still have rage, so the slow accumulation of troops on the board is a viable tactic waiting to strike and taking as many rewards as possible. An opponent may, however, have already increased his Axe stat and just go about accumulating Glory through hacking and slashing across the board.

Then Ragnarok happens and any units sat in the province when its nuked gain Glory for having had such a glorious demise and we can begin again.

There’s a great deal going on here, many, many different strategies and tactics and in truth I still need to play more to discover them all. There is the worry of the runaway leader problem, the draft can be unforgiving especially for beginners. Somebody getting lucky and setting up a working engine in the first round and unchallenged will pull away from the others. You can’t afford to become focused on your clan or risk losing the war, a strong player going unchecked will eventually decimate their opponents.

So is it any good. Yes, sir, it is. This game finally puts Cool Mini on the map as a true contender to the likes of Fantasy Flight it’s a solid design that welcomes repeat plays with a multitude of different paths to victory. The fact it also comes with such amazing miniatures is the icing on the cake, those monsters are ridiculous but so totally satisfying when you get one on the board. Is it as great as the hype surrounding it, probably not but it’s certainly no Phantom Menace and while the price tag may be too steep for some what you’re getting for your money is all there to see?

My criticisms are few and far between, more variety in the cards would have been nice. I’m a fan of the emergent asynchronicity but a little baked in from the beginning would have added just that touch more flavour to the clans. It plays well from 2 to the 4/5 and in truth at the lower numbers its a different game to the sausage fest that takes place on a board crammed with players.

Game of the year? It’s certainly one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve encountered in 2015 and one I’m keen to return to, anything that looks just so **** handsome when on the table can’t be all that bad now can it?

Go to the Mysterium page


127 out of 139 gamers thought this was helpful

This review is based off the Polish version of the game, there are significant art and some minor rule differences from the Asmodee version. But essentially it is the same game.

If a board game can be defined as such a thing as a sleeper hit then I think Mysterium is one, originally published by Portal Games back in 2013 this has long flown under the gamer radar. I personally didn’t know of its existence until rumblings started to emanate from Essen 2014, people had played a game that nobody could pronounce Tajemnicze Domostwo and had come away wowed and excited. Upon digging further all I could discern was it took the art led play style of Dixit and meshed it with the murder mystery of Clue, with players taking the roles of psychics trying to discern meanings from gothically beautiful cards played by the ghost. Attempting to find out just what this was all about almost turned into a game itself.

Mysterium is a mash-up of Dixit and Clue (Cluedo for us brits) by way of a David Lynch fever dream. One player is the ghost who is trying to nudge the psychics to establish who committed his murder and with what weapon and where, this is accomplished by playing dream cards which are beautifully rendered surreal pieces of art, the sort of thing Dali would have come up with after consuming a couple of cheese boards. The investigators have seven days in which to narrow down the field of suspects and eventually to all agree on who the culprit was with only the dreams to help. The game hinges on whether the ghost can tune into the minds of the players and lead them to success or sit silently wanting to punch them as they fixate completely on the wrong part of each new clue. It really is very simple, and its a hoot.

There exists at present two rule sets for the game that differ in various ways the Polish version and the Ukrainian, they mix about the order of play and differ significantly on how the final round is played. Already homebrew equivalents have materialized on BGG either through happy accidents or misunderstanding the translated rules and I’m sure as time goes on more will emerge. The thing is I’d suggest going with whatever feels the best for you and your group, either variation works fine and I’ve combined bits of both to make for the most satisfying game for me.

This game has hit at the perfect time riding a wave of renewed interest in lighter fare whilst simultaneously offering a satisfying meal that is both nutritious for those new to the hobby and chewy enough for us old stodgy gamer types to sink our teeth into.

So is it any good? Yes is the short answer, its possible with the storm of hype that this has acquired that some will be left scratching their heads when finally getting a chance to sit down and play it. This is a slight game with a party feel that I think has gained the sudden and instant following by managing to capture a neat mix of theme with an easily explainable hook that means virtually anybody can play it. And the confusion over the rules (normally a major issue) has actually helped to further the mystery rather than hinder, everybody likes to tinker and have an opinion and this has certainly helped foster that mindset. The games lightness and adaptability has allowed for these variants to start to pop up. Lets be clear Gamer’s looking for something deep or intense will find this wanting, despite the theme and Gothic art style this is at heart family friendly fare and may disappoint those seeking something that’s not here to find.
I was never a huge Dixit fan, I liked the idea of what it was doing but it never hooked me. Now along comes Mysterium which has just enough of a theme and story that Its really caught my interest. I love the art choices here, the fact that we get these stunning Tim Burtonesque, Addam’s Family style locations mixed with the otherworldly feel of the dream cards. And that theme although sleight works so well with those cards that it delivers a complete package that Dixit with its big stack of crazy never quite did, I think that’s just me and my love of story and theme rather than an issue with either game but I’m putting you in my head space.

So to sum up, the hype is well earned, this is just something different and in these days of regurgitated themes and mechanisms hits quite a refreshing and macabre note, the fact that it plays effortlessly to gamer’s and non is a huge bonus and I can see this arriving on quite a few tables during the festive season and beyond.

Go to the Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island page
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You may be mistaken by approaching this game expecting wholesome Disney japes on a jolly little island complete with white sands and postcard palm trees. No, think of this more as Robinson Crusoe by way of Joseph Conrad with a hearty chunk of 70’s Italian mondo exploitation cinema. Crusoe is a fascinating, complex and ruthless experience that has amassed a body count among my many plays to rival Schwarzenegger in his heyday. And like those grainy video delights of the 80’s it’s a guilty pleasure with which I return regularly and always leave the experience with a big dumb smile on my face.

A word of warning. This can be a complex game, the relatively slim but wordy rulebook appears at first to do an adequate job of getting you going. However, as you progress through the six included scenarios mechanics start to grind noisily against one another followed by the questions and furious consultations of the text, soon it becomes apparent that there’s some explanation missing. And while the manuals inadequacies can’t be ignored in truth it never had a chance when faced with the spiraling array of variables that the game erupts like a soundly beaten pinata. Fortunately nestled deep in the labyrinthine depths of BGG resides a Hitchhikers Guide To The Island FAQ diligently waiting to allay your confusion. (link to FAQ added by Chris 8/7/17)

Each of the games scenarios comes with its own reference card artfully themed to set the scene. Each functions as an addendum to the rules including specific setups and equipment. Cleverly these also customize how much of the games components function completely altering the effects of tiles and tokens you will encounter during that specific story. It’s a neat idea which enables significant altering of the gameplay in fascinating and quite different ways while not tinkering with the primary rules it’s a really simple yet effective piece of design.

Each round breaks down into phases, some are just bookkeeping exercises while others involve hard decisions and suffering with the repercussions.
First up is the Event Phase. An Adventure card is drawn from the deck presenting a dour situation and an instant negative effect on the game, some also feature icons relating to the scenario further compounding the misery. There is always a way to alleviate this carnage in the form of an action that can be taken later in the round, but as we’ll soon see that is not an easy decision. And just for extra giggles they become time bombs queuing at the bottom of the board, that when pushed off by subsequent cards give the knife one final twist. Each card not only oozes story with their stakes-raising cliffhanging situations but also passively aggressively forces you to gamble with how long you’re willing to risk leaving them before having to do something.

After all that ruckus it’s time to settle down with some accounting as we balance the camp’s morale. If you’ve assembled some happy campers, you gain Determination tokens which function as a sort of karmic currency used for your characters special abilities or rerolls of the dice. Then things come over all Euro in the production phase where you scrape together the meager offerings of food and wood from your camp location before it’s off to the Action phase.

Here is where the dark beating heart of the game lurks in a worker placement by group vote. Once again this simple process is fraught with dangers but first you must agree on whose dealing with those Adventure Cards, building, exploring, gathering resources, hunting or staying at the camp to rearrange the twigs.

If only one worker has been assigned to a task, then you have to roll the three dice relevant to that challenge. Like ill-tempered doppelgangers of Donald Ducks nephews, these dice have got it in for you. Bumpy dictate’s if you receive any wounds during your hamfisted attempts, Lumpy decides whether you actually managed to complete what you were trying to do in the first place and then there’s ****. **** is unbridled chaos concentrated into a die while most of its faces are blank scattered among them are “?” and trust me when I say you don’t want to roll those.

What then if fate takes a dump on your plans and a “?” is rolled. Well, each task has its own deck, like the Adventure cards they come with two surprises. The top half will set the scene, maybe a rampaging Gorilla has blustered into the compound, or you’ve found a snake in your boot. There will be an instant effect detrimental to the camp your equipment or even you. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of it. These cards are then added to the Adventure Deck it’s given a shuffle and you then get the agonizing wait for them to reemerge. Eventually, the repercussions of your clumsiness will catch up with everyone. That snake bite from earlier yeah, well it got worse, and now your friends are holding you down while they lop off the septic bit.

This mechanism adds a punishing push your luck element to these tasks, do you concentrate your efforts thus limiting what you will accomplish to guarantee success or spread your efforts in the vain hope you’ll get lucky. And the game knows to stand any chance of successfully accomplishing everything your require to survive you’ll going to have to gamble. It waits like a benign psychopath for you to get careless or desperate enough to try and then has its sadistic fun.

Now if you thought for a moment that all this adventuring and high jinks were all you had to worry about than think again. Because following a hard day of amputation and gorilla wrestling, there is also the little issue of dinner. Hopefully, you had the foresight enough to ****** some coconuts to feed everyone, if not then you can serve up a further plate of misery.

So knackered, famished and that leg stump smelling faintly of almonds now at least you can settle down for a peaceful nights sleep… um, not sure how to put this. Well no you won’t.

Now it’s the bloody weathers turn, yep more dice serving up a delectable assortment of fog, snow, driving rain and hurricanes. The elements hit in the final third of most scenarios and this looming dark cloud will decimate any camp that hasn’t been adequately prepared. If all you have for protection is a large leaf and a scattering of twigs expect a cheery dose of hypothermia with a side order of death. Bear Grills would last about two minutes in this place I’m telling you.

So that may sound like an unrelenting misery inducing horror show, and in truth anyone not versed with the brutal nature of most co-ops will sensibly bolt when first faced with this monstrosity. But even as you panic and stress and invariably perish you know what else is happening you’re having a riot. To survive you have to work as a team if you try and go it alone then the story of you will be short. Coming at this from my video game roots it’s like one of those old-school platformers, or for more modern audiences Dark Souls. It’s going to kill you and often, but slowly you can learn from those mistakes. When you finally manage to get off the bloody island there is a real sense of accomplishment, you’ve seen the heart of darkness and can easily understand why Kurtz came over all Marlon Brando.

This is a complex and at first indecipherable stew of Euro, worker placement, choose your own adventure, sandbox, and survivalist training tool. Ignacy has literally thrown the kitchen sink into the box with mechanics and rules wrestling and tripping over each other to create this gloriously insane perfect storm. Your first plays are going to be head-bangingly frustrating every time you think you have a handle on things you’ll spot a missed rule or be forced to dive into that bloating FAQ. Then around the third or fourth play the clouds of confusion clear and with this new clarity it becomes personal and you’re battling the game and you want to win. It’s an unrelenting ******* and if you gouged at its flesh, I guarantee you’d find the metallic endoskeleton of a remorseless killing machine waiting beneath.

Go to the Dark Moon page

Dark Moon

52 out of 59 gamers thought this was helpful

Hidden traitor games. For me, they are one of my most absolute favorite game mechanics introduced in this modern age of board gaming. The frenzied levels of finger pointing loud proclamations of distrust and the general level of tension these can instill among a group of dear friends over a dining table are fantastic.

There are many notable names in this genre, but probably the most revered for capturing this mechanic so completely and enveloping it in a theme is Fantasy Flights Battlestar Galactica. I can recount some epic games of arch betrayals and accusations of innocent parties leading to nerve-wrangling denouements its a game that has never left me unsatisfied. Playing time is the barrier to entry, running into the bum numbing four-hour mark it’s not getting to the table often and it’s a faint inducing prospect to a muggle.

All of that rambling leads us to Stronghold Games Dark Moon. This is itself a re-imagining and tweaking of one of BGG’s most downloaded print and play games BSG Express, you’ll also note this is lauded to on the box of Dark Moon with a completely superfluous subtitle. BSG Express is a condensed version of the bigger thematic game streamlined into a set of rules that allowed players to enjoy the traitorous shenanigans but in under an hour. As a disclaimer before we dig any further I have never played the original express, the whole process of PNP is great in concept but can be a costly and labor intensive process that I’m far too lazy to partake in.

Dark Moon plucks from the Dead Space franchise and The Thing setting its story in a mining facility on Titan the Dark Moon of Saturn. With the usual reckless abandon, a bunch of sci-fi roughnecks have stupidly released a virulent alien infection. The unlucky recipients have gone bug nuts and set about killing their comrades and sabotaging the facility’s life support systems. The game starts with the remaining survivors awaiting rescue and attempting to stem the tide of chaos. Unfortunately, some of their numbers have become infected, so it’s about to be a rough couple of days ahead.

The story and theming are the one area the game develops a wobble. Despite its best efforts to set the scene complete with a board representing a grimy retro console straight out of one of Ridley Scott’s fever dreams, it never really feels like you’re in the colony. One reason for this is I think that the game is so turbocharged and mechanic lead that you don’t get time to smell the roses as you do in BSG’s much more thematically bloated predecessor. I don’t even think it’s particularly a fault of any of the workmanlike art or component design, I think it’s inherently an issue with how the game plays and the speed in which it progresses. And truth be told I can handle that, it just would have been even cooler had I been immersed in this world. Fortunately everyone gets so caught up in finger pointing and distrusting their comrades that you barely notice its absence until after its all over. It is a shame as if this had managed to evoke something like the movie Event Horizon complete with some gnarly art this could well have been something amazing.

OK right that’s enough of the bashing but I thought we’d get that out the way because everything else in here works beautifully, the design and mechanics are tight as a snare drum and very easy to set up and explain even to those new to this type of thing. On the station, there are three main areas The Shields, Control Console, and Life Support. If any of these areas completely fills up with damage tokens then it’s game over, the infected players then get to high five tentacles and plan their domination of the star system. In addition to keeping the colony ticking over and everyone breathing there are also four events these are progressed by successfully completing tasks whereupon a new event is added until all four are complete and then the good guys have saved the day and much whooping and hollering can take place.

Player’s get the choice of attempting 1 of a selection of actions each turn. Repairing one of the stations life-giving systems by secretly rolling their dice and submitting any with a positive face to fix something. And to be clear this isn’t an option, you have to submit a dice. Now that’s all well and good but here’s the rub. The two styles of dice are Black and Red, only two faces on either of these hold a positive number. The Reds are weaker only offering at best a +3 or +1 while the black has +2 and +4 all other facings are negatives, so it’s very possible to roll all negatives. And of course submitting these fails will instantly attract the attention of the other players, was that deliberate? Are they infected?

Going Lone Wolf is an option, basically a chance to go all Billy brass balls and roll three dice, and if they can get two positives, then they advance the current event. Maybe you could Call for a vote? If an unfortunate soul is deemed infected then its off to quarantine with them, this comes with a couple of ramifications. Their dice pool is halved, and they can no longer repair anything or go, Lone Wolf. If they are infected, then they can also no longer reveal themselves as such to get the perks from their infection card. So locking up a bad guy is great but you shut an innocent crew member away, and you’ve severely reduced the capacity to deal with any disasters that will occur.

The remaining options are to issue an order to another player allowing them to either retrieve two dice or take two of the above actions or to reveal themselves as one of the infected. After that, they trigger their infection card (if not in quarantine) roll a dice and if they get a positive they can repeat the action. The damage caused will be to one of the stations terminals and if timed correctly could win the game or at least severely hamper proceedings. Once outed the infected’s actions revert to screwing one thing up a turn. Timing of when to appear on the scene is crucial as while some of the actions are quite powerful if the station isn’t in turmoil you’re faced with a struggle to derail a close knit team.

Once a player has completed their action of choice then the second stage is to complete a task. They draw two cards from the deck and choose one to play, obviously some of these are nastier than others and nobody knows what the task they discarded was, I’m looking at you the infected player at the back. These come in two main flavors either a malfunction that will set a difficulty number that the whole team can attempt to contribute to resolve, fail and bad things will befall one area on the station. The other cards are spicier options that mess with players, getting the option to look at infection cards or take dice. All of them have choices, and anyone refusing them instantly casts a question over their loyalty as well as further damaging the station.

What these relatively light rules do is give a sandbox with which everyone sits in trying to resolve the various dilemmas that befall the station while trying not to draw attention to themselves. It’s those dice, those bloody dice easily coming runner up in the most ******* evil dice awards just short of Dead of Winters Exposure Die. Even the most well-intentioned players actions will often appear highly dubious to the rest of the table. Your dice pool is also an interesting bit of accounting, the only times you retrieve dice are either at the start of your turn or if you pass on a task. The remaining time its a balancing act of judging whens a good time to use them. If you’ve spent them previously and then an important vote is called you can be powerless to act.

I will say that while the mechanics make this easy to get in front of beginners playing as an infected is a much tougher proposition than its bigger flashier brethren. With nothing hidden as who is submitting what dice to any event or task the infected need to play a really clever game. One misstep and they will be banged up in quarantine faster than you can shout Traitor and point, anyone not well versed with being a double crossing scum bag is going to struggle. The rules do come with some suggested variants to tweak proceedings if you find your games are too far weighed in the favor of either the infected or good guys.

The sweet spot is probably six or more players then at least there are 2 infected in the mix. And most satisfyingly is that for once this plays within the time the box claims with games rattling along and rarely tipping far over that hour point. Now personally this does not replace either Battlestar or Dead of Winter both of those games have far more meat to them and those delicious thematic trappings. Dark Moon presents that same feel but in a vastly accelerated play time, this is better compared to something like The Resistance but for my money this offers far more player choices and option for deceit. If you approach this knowing, you’ll not going to be telling intricate yarns. But will still get that tensely strained nobody trusts anybody anymore feel of the big box games then you’re in for a great evening. I’m keeping this, it’s lean, and it can be nasty and it’s made it to the table multiple times since arriving because it offers that short, sharp bite of gameplay that I love. If you’re a fan of The Thing, then this is pretty much that game in a box and I can think of no higher praise than that to pour on any game.

Go to the Coup page


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Coup premiered at Essen 2012. Designed by Rikki Tahta it went on to be a huge success and pretty soon unfortunately went out of print.

Skip forward to early 2013 and Indie Board & Cards announced that they had picked up the rights to a re-theme and re-print setting it in their Resistance universe, a sort of cyberpunk dystopian future world deal. Having played this fiendish little game and loving it, but not owning a copy, I jumped at the opportunity to pick it up and backed the project.

So I’m now very excited to report that popping through my post box this morning was my pimped up Kickstarter exclusive version of this cool little game.

While Indie sensibly hasn’t messed with the rules; they have given this the Resistance makeover. Personally I liked the originals simple art style and while this isn’t a slouch in the visuals department, I enjoyed the earlier version.

This is a bluffing and push your luck style of game, and if you have played Love Letter and enjoyed that then you should just go and pick this up right now. It’s also very quick to explain and set up and is ideal filler material. These sort of games are my home groups bread and butter and having dined out on many an evening of Love Letter, I know this will be a huge hit.

The base game uses just a deck of 15 cards made up of 3 each of the following types.

The Duke, Assassin, Captain, Ambassador and Contessa. Each of these has specific powers that we’ll get to in a moment. To play you shuffle up and deal everyone two cards that are kept face down by the players (their influence). The remaining cards make up the Court deck.

You also get a set of summary cards with all the characters powers and actions you can perform. Helpful for the first couple of games as it’s hard to bluff if you can’t remember what the card you were pretending to have.

The idea is to win the game by eliminating the influence all the other players have over the court. You do this by removing their cards from play. But how you may ask do I do this? Well rather like poker by getting a tell on the other players and bluffing, a lot of bluffing.

Each turn you get an action, it can either be to take coins, the basic is one but you can select to claim foreign aid and receive two. If at any point you have 7 or more coins in your hand you can stage a coup on a player of your choice and they instantly lose one influence. If you’re not doing any of that, then you can choose to use one of the characters actions and this is when things get interesting.

You can choose to play it safe and pick one of the characters in you hand and play that action, or pretend you have a power that takes your fancy. Once you’ve announced your intentions, the other players decide whether they want to challenge or counteract that action.

The challenge is the most dangerous move because somebody is probably going to lose a card. When you issue a challenge, you select a player who has just made an action with a character and call them out as being a liar. They then have to prove that they have the card they said they did, by showing it.

If successful then the challenger loses one influence and must reveal one of their cards. Now they are in a tricky situation as you don’t get any more and must play on with their remaining card, this also paints a big bulls-eye on you for the others. The player who successfully repelled the challenge gets to replace their shown card from the Court deck.

And so it continues until everyone else is knocked out.

Right let’s take a look at these cards and what they do:

The Duke
He will allow you to take three coins from the Treasury.
And blocks foreign aid. (handy if somebody is starting to accumulate wealth)

The Assassin
Can assassinate one of the other players.
You pay three coins and pick a player. Unless they successfully block this move, they lose one influence.

It’s a dangerous card for players to bluff with, if caught out, they lose an influence for the failed bluff and then the assassin takes out their other card.

The Captain
Can steal two coins from another player.
And he also blocks any attempts to take from you, a very powerful card if you are building that wealth up for a coup attempt.

Can exchange cards with the court deck. Handy if somebody thinks they know what cards you are holding and make you a wild card at the table. And then you can lie about whatever you like.
He can also block a player attempting to steal from him.

She blocks any assassination attempt. It’s a very useful card to hold. As blocking an assassination attempt with a bluff can be a very dangerous game.

As you can see all the actions are pretty easy, the fun comes from trying to work out what cards everyone else is holding and whether they are just a big fat liar. Remembering who did what in previous turns is essential. A Player, persistently bluffing and going unchallenged will eventually make the silly mistake of claiming a third card type they can’t realistically have unless the first two actions were both bluffs! It soon turns into a minefield with players bluffing a bluffing player. But once cards start to be flipped, and you can see what’s out of the deck then the tactics change gear and everyone has to play things very tight.

It’s marvellous fun, deceptively simple and a joy to play.

As I have the pimped out Kickstarter edition, it also came with an additional character card for mixing up games. And that’s the Inquisitor.

He has a couple of choices.

He can either exchange a card with the deck or look at one of his opponents cards and then choose whether he will force them to change it. I’d suggest leaving him out for your first few games. The opportunity to know what an opponent is holding does give you significant power over them.

Additionally he also blocks anyone with a captain attempting to steal from him. (If you play with him, he replaces the Ambassador)

If your a fan of these types of filler games then this is a must buy. The retail version should be hitting pretty soon, be aware this is just the base game and is missing some of the extra cards found in the Kickstarter edition.

If you can hunt it down in addition to the inquisitor and the shiny coins you also get 12 additional cards, 2 each of the roles but with alternative art, these allow you to play with up to 10 players.

Whatever version you do get, this is still a very cool little game and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Go to the Room 25 page

Room 25

44 out of 51 gamers thought this was helpful

This is one that had been on my radar since its release and finally I managed to get a play in at the recent UK Games EXPO courtesy of Geraint one half of Going Half On Games, we assembled a rabble of detritus from the UK’s gaming media folks consisting of Nate & Ben from Board Game Hour and The Cardboard Cartographer as well as my good self and we gave it a spin. It was quite the giggle and I took the dive and ordered myself a copy on my return.

Room 25 EXPORoom 25 takes its cue from Cube a low budget Canadian sci-fi horror flick from the 90’s, its set up involved a bunch of strangers waking in a strange complex and soon discovering that all the interconnecting rooms contain hidden traps designed to kill them in violently unpleasant ways. Its a great set up unfortunately the film never quite monopolizes on the initial idea lucky for us Room 25 sensibly focuses on the films unique premise and runs with it.

All players start in a central room of a grid of 5X5 rooms all represented by randomized tiles that are flipped over obscuring what they contain, the goal of the game is to find the exit room which is hidden somewhere along the perimeter of the board. Now the game can be played two ways either as a straight co-op which is a mildly enjoyable puzzle or with the addition of hidden traitors (guards) sneaking among the desperate survivors which is frankly the only way to play this.

The base game is incredibly rules light and could easily be utilized as a great gateway game with only four actions to be learnt by players its explanation and set up runs into a handful of minutes. Each round players secretly program two of their available four actions and then on their turn one is uncovered and taken and play then continues around the table until it returns to them and they play their second, what are these actions well:

Move – pretty self explanatory when uncovering this action the player must move to a adjacent room, either uncovered or hidden, obviously hidden tiles could potentially be very bad for them, so its very good they have another action which is.

Peek – Yep it is what it says, players get to act like some leery uncle and secretly peek at an adjacent hidden tile, they are encouraged to give a vague idea of that rooms contents to the rest of the players. Now obviously here’s the fun bit if there are any guards mixed into the group who’s to say what they telling you is the truth.

Slide – This action allows that player to slide a row/column of tiles (excluding the middle row/column) along, the tile that is pushed out the end of the facility then joins onto the front of the moved row. This essentially allows you to move troublesome rooms out of the mix or for any traitorous types to mess with the other players by moving say the exit out of reach. Which leads us to the final and potentially most fun action.

Push – If a player is in a room with another player and they uncover this action then they get to push that player into a neighboring room, now this can obviously be used to assist in moving about the complex faster which is fine, but its much better option and one that will cause the most cries of outrage at the table is when one of the guards shoves an innocent victim into one of the murder rooms.

There is a ticking clock element element to proceedings which slowly counts down to zero and the players need to have found the exit and escaped before it runs out, it also rotates out who will be first player each round meaning players will need to be discussing their plans to avoid any accidents!

Whilst the game does come with the two different modes of play, it really only shines when played with the betrayal option. Personally I’ve only ever used the co-op to teach the game, and if its a group of experienced gamer’s then there really is no need, played straight as just a co-op sucks all the malicious fun that’s to be had with possibility of the guards snooping around and the prickly realization that sooner or later somebody is going to come to an unpleasant end.

Playing with the guards in the mix is a whole new world, there is still the possibility of there not being a traitor in the four player game but above that there will be at least one, the delicious fun of this is that the guards don’t know who might be a comrade so there is a strong possibility that they may well off each other in their enthusiasm before being uncovered. Once its become clear who cannot be trusted the guards still get to play but now their actions are no longer pre-programmed allowing them to choose which of the actions they take when it comes around to them, it gives them a slight advantage they’ll need as the other players are going to distance themselves pretty quickly from them, its still fun but the real joy of being the traitor in this game is the power move push action at an unexpected moment sending an unwitting contestant into a room of certain death.

And as were discussing rooms that’s take a look at some of the special treats our contestants can expect tonight.

Behind door no.1 we have The Trap Chamber, ah yes a home audience favorite this little room full of swirling dicing and slicing mischief is triggered upon entry if the unlucky soul doesn’t exit with their next action then they are sushi.

Behind door No.2 The Illusion Chamber. Hows your luck tonight lets roll those dice and hope you don’t come up snake eyes. Upon entry this room takes the form of a random uncovered room, will it be naughty or nice.

Behind door No.3 The Acid Bath – Ah yes this sneaky little beast is safe to enter but due to space limitations anyone charging in after you is going to push you into that large vat of flesh dissolving acid so be careful out there folks because we wouldn’t want any nasty accidents to occur.

Behind Door No.4 The Flooded Chamber. How do you fancy getting sealed in here as it slowly fills with the finest mountain spring water (as supplied by our sponsor Cracked Back Mountain Refreshments), you get until the second action of your next turn to get out or your be sleeping with the fishes. As a clever safety feature this rooms seals itself shut to avoid any further accidents and its contains are fully recyclable.

And finally behind Door No.5 My personal favorite, The Mortal Chamber! Come on down! we’re frying tonight! Guaranteed to ruin any contestants day unless their wearing factor 5,000 sun block as they are super heated faster than a ready meal in a turbo oven and instantly (and painlessly?) incinerated.

Now not all the rooms will kill you straight away, some will maim you first then kill you and a few are just dull plain old rooms, others will teleport you, trap you, freeze you or plunge you into darkness! There’s a delightfully mixed bag of mischief here and with the randomized set up no game ever plays out the same.

So lets get critical for a moment shall we? The components as a whole are solid the room tiles are a good grade of board and the art itself is fine if a little sterile and lacking in character and I did notice on my set some slight color issues with the backs, not ideal with a game containing hidden information but as it was a fairly even split across the tiles it hasn’t hampered the enjoyment immensely. The miniatures are OK but with all the same grey plastic it can be awkward to distinguish them apart (this issue is resolved with the expansion where each figure is now colored). Game play is where this version falls short of greatness why the different player powers were not included as part of the base game is a major oversight, yep its corrected with the expansion but really it’s a feature that should have been in this box. And whilst we are on the characters I know there has been some outcry on the naming on one in particular “The Bimbo” is an unfortunate choice for one of the only two female characters I understand they are supposed to represent stereotypes but still bit of a home goal.

It sounds like i’m ragging on this As the game stands its an entertaining and rules light experience that can be got to the table with minimal trauma and it has some interesting ideas and with the right mix can be a hoot with the right group. A possible downside you should be aware of is player elimination which as most games run to at best 30 mins isn’t a disaster unless off course your on round two of a game and Bob pushes Ben into a Mortal chamber with no other reason then he was sure Ben had threatened him in the earlier round (cue some pouting and sulking).

So final thoughts the retail price on this is around £20 and if you can grab a copy for that then its a fine deal, its a entertaining little filler that doesn’t outstay its welcome. The only misgiving is that if you’re looking for more meat on its bones the base game as it stands can feel a tad soulless. The expansion appears to fix a great many of the base games shortfalls, its then down to if you are prepared to outlay for that when it becomes available again and whether the extra expense will be justified. Once its available I’ll be snagging a copy to try out and give my opinion, for the time being I can give this a reserved round of audience applause.

Go to the Chaosmos page


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The backstory of Chaosmos sounds a little something like a coke addled 80’s movie producer could have concocted during a lunch time pitch meeting, it probably would have gone something like this. “These crazy looking aliens are tear-assing across the cosmos frantically searching for the Ovoid, this strange alien egg critter. You see the universe is about to implode and the only way to survive when it does, be holding the Ovoid!” So the Ovoid is the Maltese Falcon, Rosebud or that strange glowing case in Pulp Fiction, its a Mcguffin it makes zero sense and its not supposed to, its sole purpose is for us to be able to enjoy the ride, and what a crazy ride this one is.

This game is a hugely entertaining mash up of social deduction, slight of hand, bluffing, deception and exploration all wrapped up in a brisk playtime with a rules set that can be taught to anyone in about five minutes. It’s the sign of a game and its designer who are spooning comfortably in their own little cuddle room happy with their lot in life, it also means its a game that can be quickly introduced to players both fresh to our hobby and old hats giving it some serious legs.

From the moment of opening the box and my first few plays I’ve been getting something of a Cosmic Encounter vibe, maybe its the assortment of crazy looking aliens with their asynchronous powers, or all that double dealing and morally dubious behavior that escalates throughout the game culminating in a final couple of rounds with a body count not normally seen outside of a Game of Thrones children’s party. Let me be be clear, Chaosmos and Cosmic Encounter are completely different games but somewhere in its gamey soup Chaosmos shares some key ingredients or at least the odd flavor enhancer with that classic, and I can easily see it appealing to fans of that fine old chap.

So this game is a race, sort of like its a mad mad mad galaxy as all the various aliens hot foot it around the nebula and planets seeking high and low for the legendary Ovoid. In a cool little bit of design each of the planets is represented by a card envelope and at the beginning of the game these are secretly loaded with random items, weapons, equipment and of course the Ovoid, everyone knows its out there, heck somebody might start the game with it, but at that early stage you don’t want it. Its helpful to know where it is and a clever player, a quick player, might conceal that ovoid in plain sight.

On your turn you get three actions that can be used in any way or order you wish from moving about the galaxy, to controlling planets which allow you to sneak looks inside those envelopes, you can secretly switch cards from your hand with they’re contents or maybe set a trap for some unsuspecting opponent, possibly even stash a precious item behind an impenetrable vault which only a key will access. You could of course forgo all of that bunk and just start a fight, this involves rolling two dice and comparing totals with players then using cards to modify the hit total to beat them. In a neat tweak not all cards are discarded and many are returned to players hands so its important to keep an eye on who is using what because you might want to find the equipment that deactivates those weapons giving you the advantage in a subsequent tussle. Winners get the choice of either banishing the loser home or stealing a card from their hand also giving you the opportunity to see what else they have scurried away in their sweaty mits, this can be quite the power move in the latter stages of the game.

The rules and mechanics are light, far lighter than you might at first expect, its in the deduction, lying and cheating that takes place at the table where this game shines the strongest and acquires the much needed meat on its bones. Like others of its ilk requiring underhand tactics and secrecy Chaosmos excels with a group intent on deceiving and bluffing. And there’s no turtling here because that’s only going to draw the attentions of other players suspecting that you have something to hide. And we can’t go on much further without discussing the Chaos Clock this sits on the table looking all innocuous but at the end of every players turn it ticks down and while in the early stages of the game its easy to take for granted suspecting you have all the time in the universe to do what you need, very quickly it becomes clear that the universe is a bit knackered and times running out, the game then enters the second stage or what I like to call “all out war”

Its in these latter stages of the game with everyone at the table lying and bluffing that it suddenly becomes a frenzy when the ovoid is finally discovered, instantly igniting war with running battles occurring across the board involving everyone in a Benny Hill skit. Its hilarious to see a scuffle break out, some cards exchange hands and then one player hot foot it very quickly across the galaxy and you feel the eyes of every other alien greedily slide to that side of the table as they start causally heading that way without trying to look like they are.

There are some highly inventive and clever little pieces of equipment to aid in the fun, The Hypertube allows a player to send a face down card to any envelope. Did they just send the Ovoid over there or was it an attempt to distract, in the final stages of a game with time ticking down and a 50/50 decision of where it might be this is a nail biting and hilarious development. A power card in the final stages of the game is the Temporal Displacer which allows the user to move time forward up to 8 spaces anytime in the final 24 turns of the galaxy, hold that and the egg and you’ll in a winning position, that’s if you can keep hold of them.

Components are nearly all top drawer, some of the alien sculpts are a mixed bag with a few lacking detail I’m looking at you yellow alien, and the cards are another concern, I never sleeve cards in my games, but this is a game i’m sleeving. with all the handling they are going to get in and out of envelopes etc, you’ll going to want to sleeve these (cannot believe I actually said that). There are a bunch of variant rules included in the box and once familiar with the basics I’d certainly recommend using the counterfeit Ovoid option, in this players are not just looking for the Ovoid but also to discern which of the two in the game is the genuine one, it cuts down on that early game crawl and forces players to really get moving about and searching and adds a delightful level of uncertainty as to whether you’re holding the true Ovoid.

Now getting critical, which is what us reviewers are supposed to do then the biggest issues with the game is its initial clunkiness, the constant in and out of envelopes and fiddling about, the randomness of the combat (although I’d argue that there is ways of balancing that out with the card play) the slow crawl of the game’s early turns where everyone sort of wanders about looking a bit embarrassed like they just turned up at a formal cocktail party in a clown suit, and whilst the rules advise on 48 turns for a longer game 36 seems the sweet mark. Personally I find the strengths of what else that this game is doing right does outweigh these issues. Yes the game could have been streamlined it is overproduced, buried beneath all envelopes, mini’s and dice there’s a really cool deductive card game experience hiding out and I think that’s where this games kickstarter roots betray it, probably if produced by one of the big boys it would have been refined further but sometimes we have to love these things warts and all, its quirkiness is part of its character and I like to think of this as a cool Roger Corman cheesy sci-flick rather than a slick popcorn pleaser, whatever your thoughts the love bestowed on this thing is there to see.

At its heart this is a light almost party game experience with just enough of a gamey veneer lacquered on top to make this stand out from the crowd, it has a abundance of interesting new ideas and implementations some of which don’t always quite work but it manages to create more than enough goodwill in the latter stages of the game to blot the slow awkwardness of those early few turns, and with return visits it continues to reward allowing for you to enjoy those slower moments for what they are, the preparation for the chaos to come.

Go to the Forbidden Desert page

Forbidden Desert

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Matt Leacock designer of Pandemic, Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert seems like a nice enough chap, I can only assume he was picked on as a child, maybe he always lost those family games of Monopoly. The reason for this? Well take a look at his board game output it resembles a 70’s disaster movie marathon, in fact that’s it! Matt Leacock is board games very own Irwin Allen. His design output has predominately been co-op games, bloody merciless, vicious, take no survivors co-op’s with the players against natural disasters or rampaging viruses, all we need now is an earthquake or killer bees and he’s done the lot. Somebody somewhere wronged this man and he’s been seeking a reckoning for this against any poor passing slob who happens to pick up a meeple.

So Forbidden Desert is the sequel to Forbidden Island, a game that saw players desperately trying and often failing to escape a rapidly sinking island. Not content with that horror show we are now transposed to an ancient desert dwelling city, beset by constantly shifting sands and howling storms threatening to bury us all at a moments notice this is not a happy holiday. The set up is pure Flight Of The Pheonix by way of Indiana Jones, with players coming over all Jimmy Stuart with a bull whip after carelessly crash landing. Ahead they have the herculean task of searching the shifting dunes to scavenge the scattered parts of a steampunk chitty chitty bang bang style aircraft, glue it all back together and hot foot it outta there.

The game is played on a randomly assembled five by five grid of tiles that our desperate survivors face the unenviable task of excavating by flipping to look below, some may contain cool gadgets to aid in moving about such as the nifty rocket packs or a Jules Verne style vacuum cleaner for sucking up sand dunes. Others may conceal a hidden passage, or ways to shield you from the merciless beating sun or possibly an oasis of life giving water. If you’re really lucky you might uncover coordinates to one of the scattered aircraft parts, track down both of these and they triangulate on the grid showing the location of the lifesaving components.

However there is one problem, sand. Once a player has completed their four actions they draw cards from a Storm Deck, how many depends on what wind force the storm is at. You see it slowly gathers up a head of gritty steam as the game progresses, aided by the dreaded “storm picks up” cards that increase its ferocity. Whenever a storm card is drawn the storm moves in the direction indicated on the cards, the eye of the storm in this case is one empty tile space that starts in the center of the grid but throughout the game will haphazardly meander about, helpfully every tile shifted by the storms passing becomes covered in sand, starting with an annoying light dusting to becoming a gritty pain in my backside burying everything beneath. Once a tile has accumulated more than one layer of sand it’s blocked becoming impassable and can only be interacted with once all the offending sand has been dug out, so freshly discovered parts can become buried or even our adventurers, OK not can, will, WILL be buried.

If you hadn’t already figured it out the Storm Deck is bad, nestled within is further misery waiting to strike like a particular ornery rattlesnake and that’s the “sun beats down” card. So as we already covered we’re all in a desert and you know the thing about deserts, aside from all the bloody sand is that they are hot, and the thing about people getting hot is they get thirsty. So every character starts with a sparse amount of water and when that jolly old sun beats down then they take a sip from their canteens, and when they run dry and this being a team game one goes we all go, its game over.

So there you have it, the game is relatively straight forward to play and teach so its sits nicely at the family level entry point, its a hugely rewarding puzzle to try and solve, and Leacock’s co-op’s are puzzles. This one just happens to be a jumbo 1000 piece set that has an annoying uncle passing every five minutes dumping the contents of a litter tray on you, then stealing that refreshing beverage you just prepared for yourself whilst all the while you are poached under a spotlight.

Components wise this is a home run, it comes with the neat little flying machine parts that actually fit together giving it a cool tactile edge to appeal to kiddies big and small. All of the card and tile art is top notch featuring a thematic steampunk Miyazaki Saturday morning adventure serial vibe, and as the whole venture plays out in under an hour it won’t outstay its welcome. If you’ve kept your distance because of the assumed Pandemic similarities then I can say that these games are like very distant cousins who happen to share the same self destructive gene’s, both want to ruin your fun, but go about that in completely different and dastardly ways.

Its replay-ability, ace components and low threshold to entry already make this a winner, that it can be picked up for essentially peanuts convert it to a slam dunk. If you have kids then this is a great alternative to the usual family friendly dirge that the big box stores offer, and contains plenty of informed choices and nail biting levels of excitement that you’re never going to get in a Monopoly. The fact that this is also a satisfying enough challenge that rufty tufty board game veterans will still feel their noodle twisted by the dusty dark heart of this adventure is the cherry on the top.

Mr Leacock once again we salute you, but I really think its time that you speak to somebody about these issues.

Go to the Alchemists page


119 out of 130 gamers thought this was helpful

Alchemists was one of the big hits from Essen 2014 with much ballyhoo concerning its reliance on an app to play. I was intrigued, not only by the apps inclusion (it did sound quite cool) but generally from what the game pertained to be, a heady concoction of deduction and worker placement all bottled together in that quirky fantasy world that CGE do so well.

In the game players inhabit the role of back alley Alchemist’s plying their trade by combining dodgy ingredients usually found in dumpsters outside restaurants into volatile potions. It feels like a lost Discworld game with players lying, cheating and plying their dubious trade to passing adventurers before sneaking off to the Alchemist conference to brag about their findings, only to be swiftly debunked or discredited by their peers. If you’ve read any Pratchett involving the Wizards of Ankh Morpork then all of this will make you feel right at home like slipping on a pair of novelty comfy slippers shaped like a trolls paws.

Czech Game’s wisely employed the marvelous David Colchard (Dungeon Pets, Dungeon Lords) for the art chores, and at first glance the whole package looks and feels like something Vlaada Chvatil’s fevered imagination could have cooked up, and its clear from reading the rules that Matus Kotry the games designer was inspired by the quirky fun that Vlaada loves to inject into his designs. Since its arrival I’ve had chance to savor this game and my feelings toward it have been as mixed as any of the concoctions we will create in our musty labs, horror, frustration, elation, joy and utter confusion. Sit a while and together we will attempt to define the base elements of this peculiar and mind numbing of games and see whether its a potion of good fortune or an icky flask that leaves a bad taste in your mouth and a permanent limp.

So the game itself feels like a gloopy cocktail of Euro mechanisms with a frothy topping of worker placement all of which are simple to grasp, the explanation however required for players to understand how to go about playing, mixing the potions or more precisely understanding the findings of said experiments set’s such a high barrier for entry that many will run screaming for the hills when first presented with this puzzle.

I’m not going to fully attempt this mighty feat here, just understand that each ingredient contains two alchemical elements that are a combination of positives, negatives and colors. Every time you mix a potion you use the app to scan the two ingredients and it will give you the results of that test, anything from a plus green potion to a minus red dependent on what the aforementioned elements of the two ingredients were, see what I mean. You then mark your findings on your player board, crossing off the elements you know that those ingredients cannot possibly contain based on the potion you just created. Its the the explanation of this process and getting players to properly understand what it is they are doing that is Alchemists biggest turn off, making the first play-through and explanation feel like attending an algebra lesson whilst being simultaneously water boarded.

However if you persevere you are rewarded, on subsequent plays it becomes faster and then you can start to uncover the game hidden within, turning leaden first experiences to shiny gold joy on return visits.

So leaving the app and the potions to one side the remainder is incredibly straight forward, it utilizes that start turn order choice previously seen in Fresco and Tuscany offering greater rewards for the lazy alchemist who stays in bed, but this can penalize you later. The early risers place they’re actions last and get to play first so there is a huge advantage to having this position especially in the later rounds of the game. As an example, one action is to test your potion on a student which seem’s a perfectly sensible thing to do, however if somebody before you manages to poison or paralyze the unfortunate test subject then he won’t drink anything your offering unless some gold passes hands. This can make or break strategy’s especially if you haven’t the gold required, with the game hurtling through its six rounds you really can’t afford to waste one moment.

The remaining actions are gathering ingredients, transmuting them for cash, selling your potions to passing adventurers or buying special equipment and powers, the final couple of things you can do are either publish/endorse a theory, which comes down to either you nailing it through fantastic research or ************ completely which leads us on to the final option which is to debunk a fellow players theory. This is actually where the meat of the game is hiding and where your going to score all the lovely points required for victory or lose them all when your caught out publishing some complete bunkum, everything before this is a bountiful feast of flavor masking this cut throat race to beat your opponents to the punch and getting published first. There’s a lot of fun to be had here of boldly made claims and the satisfaction of discrediting sloppy lab work. I just fear there is a limited life cycle whereupon eventually everyone grasps the fastest direct route to nailing chemical compositions then its a game of gaming the game, if you see what I mean.

This is good solid entertainment with some refreshing and interesting ideas, the inclusion of the app isn’t a gimmick and you can play without it although I suspect this was included more as a “We told you so” to naysayers than actually something any sensible person would want to do. Once you know and understand the deduction element of the potions then its a pretty speedy process and a rewarding play, although the short amount of rounds can feel punishing when your halfway through the game and still haven’t published a paper.

I’m giving this a cautious recommendation, it can be fun, and will certainly give the grey matter a bit of a workout but its an acquired taste. It really comes down to if you are willing to endure the pain of learning and teaching the game and whether you can battle past those first couple of sloooow plays, this is one of those games that you’ll going to have to work at to find the goodness within, rather like batting at an armor plated pinata with a tickling stick.

Go to the Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem page
13 out of 14 gamers thought this was helpful

Gale Force Nine have become one of my guilty gaming pleasures, OK let me quantify that statement further. By rights their output should be terrible consisting as it does of TV show licenses an area of our hobby historically beset by cheap buck efforts with slapped on themes. Yet despite this they have consistently managed to produce games (Firefly,Spartacus) that thematically capture the shows and feature rules and mechanics that can appeal to both fans and hard core tabletop hobbyists whilst still offering hugely enjoyable entertainment and replay-ability.

So Sons of Anarchy is certainly in their wheelhouse another cult show dealing with some strong themes, its not for the faint of heart or easily offended charting as it does a high velocity full throttle tale of Shakespearean levels of tragedy befalling a rag tag biker gang. It features a fantastic cast of the cream of american character actors getting their teeth into some of TV’s biggest bunch of ******** as they double cross, swindle, murder and betray each other on a weekly basis. Its the sort of show you need to take a good hot shower after watching and has traumatized my better half on more than one occasion.

The game could never hope to capture all the minute of the episodes and characters, but what it does is apply the petrol drenched leather clad atmosphere to a set of mechanics usually at home in a Euro, area control, worker placement, bidding and negotiation are the meat of the game drizzled with an Ameritrash sauce of what makes the series so appealing blackmail,double dealing, morally dubious behavior and violent repercussions.

the game’s focus is specifically inter-gang rivalries over a turf war for the town of Charming with locations represented by coaster sized tiles that are drawn randomly to create the player board, at first I wasn’t sold on this but actually it adds a solid chunk of replay value and randomness to set ups, with the economy and tactics of each game dependent on the draw. As the game progresses more locations will open up offering either more ways to accrue firearms, cash or stash or with the option to trade one commodity for another. The game then becomes an engine building drag race to either assemble a gun running operation or cashing in on a drug empire, the problem being that the most valuable locations are so hotly contested that pretty soon our happy clappy worker placement descends into a war zone.

The goal of the game is to be the player who has the amassed the most cash here represented by some satisfyingly chunky tokens by the end of the sixth round, this is achieved by either buying and selling guns and/or drugs using the aforementioned locations with each player taking turns to complete an actions dependent on the size of their gang. What weapons, drugs and cash the players accrue remain hidden behind a screen so it encourages plenty of opportunity for blustered and bull interspersed with copious amounts of drug deals and gun running and also for you to build a satisfying pile of greenbacks resembling one of Walter White’s cash storage lockers.

This being a worker placement locations cannot be used if another gang is already hanging about, now you could attempt to bribe them to move on or more satisfyingly kill em all! These violent disputes are settled via a throw-down, the strengths of each gang is totaled and players can secretly decide on whether to use any guns, these are then brandished in a closed fist. Once revealed these add to your gangs strength and will result in sending some of your rivals to the emergency ward or potentially the morgue, finally a dice is rolled adding just a squeeze of lemony randomness to allow for last ditch lucky breaks.

Its not all fun and games, any gun play will attract the attentions of the ATF and with it comes heat the more violent and naughty your gang becomes the higher the heat you’ll attract which effects not only the stash you can sell at the end of a round but also if it maxes out you’ll lose a member who takes the fall for all your dubious behavior.

Adding some flavor from the show are anarchy cards which are played each turn, offering everything from temporary locations, abilities and even some nasty events that can stop specific trades taking place or worse can target players with the highest heat. Much like the locations only a portion of the full deck of these cards are used each game, so again there is a whimsical randomness to how things will play out.

This is another solid entry from Gale Force 9, there’s a decent amount of game with enough crunch for a seasoned player to get their teeth into but not too much as to scare away fan’s of the show. And it has to be congratulated by managing to squeeze both a mathy trading game usually the home of farms and power plants with the cut throat and mischievous mayhem of the bluffing and murder of a old west poker game. It shouldn’t work but it does and is a genius abstraction of the core themes and elements of the series and a solid game, throw in some great components including miniature gang members, guns and cool little swag bags of Colombian marching powder and those irresistibly stack-able dollar bills and you have yourself a fine evenings entertainment, crack open a bottle of Jack and thrown on a leather jacket and your all set, just don’t expect to have many friends by the end of the night.

Go to the Star Wars: Imperial Assault page

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

142 out of 154 gamers thought this was helpful

There are a lot of Star Wars board games, the issue is so few of them live up to source material and/or are any good*. Some notable exceptions are Epic Duels,The Queens Gambit or Deciphers old CCG all now out of print or in the case of the Video board game about as much fun as Greedo firing first. However if your a serious fan then you’ve learnt to be a apologist (well someone saw the prequels more than once) seeking for the midichlorians in the rough even if it requires Jedi like powers, is often worth it. We want to love you Star Wars, Lumpys, JaJa’s and all. So does Imperial Assault get all Holiday Special on us or is this a New Hope?

Taking its cue from Descent 2.0 Imperial Assault has streamlined further that games clunk, tweaked the dice rolling combat systems while retaining that stormtrooper inaccuracy with blasters and finally given the Overlord a greater involvement in proceedings. By far the most welcome addition is how the players activate. In Descent all the heroes would take their turn whilst the Overlord sat patiently waiting, maybe firing off an occasional card to irritate a player, waiting some more, defending his monsters when they were attacked but mostly waiting.

So Imperial Assault has trash compacted that process and now a Rebel gets an activation and then the Imperial player (the Overlord) does, this simple little change really spices things up. It means that the rebels can’t now take all their turns as one coherent assault, potentially wiping the board of a threat before it can actually do something. And now the Imperial player can adapt his strategy on the fly, which leads to a much more tense and involved game for everyone.

The missions themselves and how they play out have also received some much needed attention. In Descent everything was laid out on the table starting monsters and all, everyone knew what they were doing and where they were going, leaving very few real surprises. This always sort of bugged me, Heroquest had managed to create the feeling of exploration as you ventured deeper into the dungeon, opening rooms and finding out what lay within, and I was always disappointed that Descent lacked this element. Imperial Assault attempts to rectify this shortfall whilst remaining in the confines of the Descent set up. It does this in two ways, all the missions now come with a set round limit instilling an urgency to proceedings, a ticking clock forcing the Rebels to press on like a little gaggle of Jack Bauer’s. But most tantalizing, information is now hidden from the Rebels empowering the Imperial player with the feeling of an old school DM and at times even some hidden choices over what events will trigger. The board is still laid out for all to see but now these events thematically tied to each mission will occur during rounds, it might be more imperials showing up at an unexpected moment or changes of objective, it results is this juicy level of uncertainty for the Rebel players. These little tweaks now offer a far more involved thematic and rewarding game for both sides, and is probably my most beloved addition to the rules.

Say the Rebels are attacking an Imperial Arms Depot, suddenly a legion of Stormtrooper’s or worse a Walker might lurch up mid game, maybe all the doors might seal themselves trapping the Rebel scum! It lends proceedings that excitement of the films and forces the Rebel’s to think on their toes, everyone always “Has a bad feeling about this” it promotes much derring-do from our rag tag band. And besides from adding some great thematic touches it completely removes any chance of playing by committee that I found could rear its head in Descent.

There has been much ballyhoo with cries that this has unbalanced game play from both sides of the force, I really don’t see it. Yes some games feel that the Imperial player has all the toys but a rebel team playing well and leveled up can pull off some incredible feats, nearly all of the games we have played in our campaign have come down to the wire, usually down to the dice roll. I won’t argue that now missions can be less forgiving and a poorly timed move or activation by the Imperial player can lead to a wipe, but then this is a campaign and as long as you learn from your mistakes the Empire can strike back. And that’s surely how it should be we’ve had some amazing stand up from the table moments of heroic dice rolling and close scrapes, everything you want from a Star Wars game.

Besides all of this wonderful uncertainly the one guaranteed factor is the obligatory polish we expect from Fantasy Flight, and this game is no slouch in that department. We get a great modular jigsaw board system and a battalion of fantastic miniatures that are just crying out for a splash of paint, fistfuls of tokens, decks of cards all that’s missing is a soundtrack CD. And I applaud FFG again on a solid set on manuals and another one of those cool reference guides.

And if that wasn’t enough the game also comes with a separate Skirmish mode where you and another player can just have some straight up mano-a-mano miniature battles. I’ve not dived into this yet but it certainly adds more value to the box and will give you a perfectly sensible excuse for buying all the new mini’s as they come out.

And as we are discussing extra’s then expansions have to rear their head, after all this being Fantasy Flight we are going to get some. The campaign system is designed to enable games in different time periods, the one in this box is set just after Episode IV so we can fully expect more to tie in with the subsequent movies and potentially some from the prequels. And less we forget this Christmas see’s the new movie hitting which I’d be very surprised if we don’t see some content coming for that. Hopefully they will go the route they have with Eldritch horror by releasing a smaller expansion followed up by a big box, for me I’d want to see Droid’s, a staple of the movies were the faithful droid companions and they’re noticeably absent from this set and obviously Boba Fett, c’mon FFG what are you playing at?

Here’s the thing, if you are a Star Wars fan then you are going to eat this up, in fact I find your lack of faith disturbing that you don’t own this already. Games are tight and fast and most importantly fun. If you own Descent then whether you splash out on this is really going to come down to the theme and if you have the spare cash. Personally Imperial Assault replaces Descent for me I’m enjoying this far more and with the volume turned up on the entire back catalog of Star Wars soundtracks and a like minded group then there is no better way to while away a couple of hours in a galaxy far far away.

*For the process of this review I’m counting X-Wing as a miniatures game, and yes I’d count it as very good.

Go to the Coin Age page

Coin Age

15 out of 16 gamers thought this was helpful

Kickstarter has given us a great many things, Video Games, Comics, Potato salad! One area it has thrived is board games and more specifically the micro game has flourished in these mysterious seas. Just cast a net into the turbulent kickstarter waters and you’re sure to drag it up bulging with promise. Coin Age was a huge hit funding at over $65,000 with a pay what you want campaign and following a few distribution wobbles its finally landed on shore. But is it something to proudly mount over your mantle or one of those that got away.

I find micro games a handy fallback for pre or post game nights, occasional pub gatherings and to be enjoyed for what they are, diluted gaming goodness in bite size nibbles. I originally proposed doing a clever one word review for Coin Age in honor of its micro game aspirations, but aside from a gimmick it wouldn’t allow me the time to say what makes this game so great.

Coin Age truly embraces the micro-game mantra from the components up, it consists of just one card and a pocket of loose change, that idea alone is lightning in the bottle levels of inspiration it encourages you to take a second look, is it just a gimmick or does it manage to pull off the tricky proposition of actually including some game in there, and to answer that yes it does. The design slinks in and germinates in a cool area of the brain the place that is usually absorbed with flat screen TV’s and Apple products. It captures what makes great games so great, its not just the beautiful artwork or clever mechanisms its more basic and primal than that, its the tactile nature of games, of being able to fiddle and play with components and Coin Age’s designer Adam P McIver gets this, coins are a lovely thing to handle, they make a great noise and have weight and heft when you flip or spin them and make for a satisfying noise when slapped on a table. To make them the components was a masterstroke.

It also hits at the gadgety cool level, who doesn’t want to sit in a bar and say to a fellow beside you fancy a game and then produce a simple card from your wallet and empty your change onto the counter while they watch with perplexed interest. Its a brilliant and smart design tuned into what is just cool.

So the game then, which is deceptively easy to teach but has surprisingly deeper levels than it has any right to have.You start with your map which is divided into territory and zones and the object is to have the most control of these areas when either a player runs out of coins to put on the map or all of the map is full.

Each player starts with the same denomination of 10 coins ranked from 1 to 4. With the flip of a coin its decided who will be playing as the empire of the Heads or those terrible despots the kingdom of Tails and then we’re off . On a players turn they take one of each coin type from their pool and slaps them onto the table, any coin showing their side can be used and depending on how many will be decide what actions they have. Four coins up allows them to place two or pay one to their opponent and place three, placed coins can either go in a free zone or on top of any coin with a higher denomination. Three or Two successes and they can place two, one and they can place one and move a stack and finally if they come up empty then they can capture a coin from the map and move a stack. Simple stuff but it all adds up to a deceptively deep little strategic game of tic tac toe. With the move or capture rules allowing you to take your own coins back as well as an opponents, each move has to be carefully calculated. And it becomes clear that the smallest coins hold the most power over the board allowing you to shut out zones with your opponent unable to place anything on them, their only hope to gain the capture option to right the balance.

The victory points at a game end are given for the value of the coin controlling each territory for that player and if they have majority control in a region those values are doubled. So then those small low value coins we were using to control regions and so smug about have suddenly cost us the war as they don’t pay out at the game end. There really is a lot going on for something that at first glance seems so simple.

Tasty Minstrel Games did themselves proud with this product besides the two different double sided cards offered in the game we also get a plastic credit card version of the main board. They also supplied a set of card coin tokens for using if you don’t have the change to hand and best of all a set of stickers to sticker up your local currency, and in all honesty is really the only way to go to truly embrace and capture the essence of this game.

Frankly this is ludicrous that I’ve written this many words on a game that consists of 1 card and loose change, but then that tells you more about the cleverness of this game than anything that I can write. This comes highly recommended if for nothing else than the coolness of just owning this, the fact its such a clever little game is a huge bonus.

Go to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game page
13 out of 16 gamers thought this was helpful

Released at the height of Buffy’s fame the board game is surprising and actually pretty **** good, rather like the show its based. Considering this come’s from Hasbro who are never known for exerting themselves with licensed property’s besides slapping a new set of images on a Monopoly board, this is pretty good.

Ooh! A quick word of warning! there are two Buffy games Don’t go near the other one. Ebay buyer be warned.

For a mass market game this really captures the essence of the show whilst also being simple but fun to play. In a mechanic now popular among dungeon crawls one player gets to be the big bad and the others the scooby gang attempting to foil his dastardly machinations.

And here’s one of the first cool bits, this is actually 4 games in one. Included in the box are the villains from the first 4 seasons of the show and playing with them changes the goals you will need to complete that play.

The actual game is pretty straight forward including that old staple roll and move. The bad guys go first moving around the board and gathering cards which will give some nifty skills and sacred artifacts that do all kinds of kooky things. Depending on the Bad playing it alters what the objective is for the players and whilst its not huge game play changes they do add a nice thematic feel to proceedings, usually revolving around the gang having to track down specific items so as to dispatch that episodes villain.

To make things worse for the good guys all the evil players cards are kept hidden from them whilst all of their cards are kept visible. Play continues by moving about the board and then fighting by rolling dice. A quick pause for moment to mention components, some of it are great, a decent board with actual 3d elements a pewter Buffy symbol, but the dice ew, cheap plastic blocks you needed to sticker yourself.

There’s a bunch of neat touches throughout the game, again these tie into the theme really nicely. There are homes that uninvited vampires can’t enter (unless they have evil card that will let them, that’s led to a few nasty surprises) in the center of the board there is a circle representing the cycle of the moon and sun, some of the movement dice will cause this to activate which can effect some of the characters in interesting ways.

For instance when it gets to the full moon some characters will transform into werewolf’s, if you’ve seen the show you’ll know about Oz (played by Seth Green) when he transforms he bin’s all the cards he’s carrying and charges around the board berserker style chomping on vamps, a great idea but can actually stuff up the players turn if he’d collected the weapon to destroy the villain. When its sunup all the vamps scuttle for cover like cockroaches when the kitchen light is turned on and getting cooked if they can’t move fast enough. Some of the bad guy’s can even sire vampires transforming a good character into a bad and if its one of the more powerful characters that can really put a crimp in your day.

Returning to this game I’d forgotten just how much fun it was and how closely linked it was to the shows theme, it was defiantly ahead of its time featuring a great deal of ideas and rules that are now commonplace in a lot of the modern games. (Arkham horror and the Battlestar games come quickly to mind as well as Descent)

its a real shame that Hasbro never released any updates to the game, due to the modular nature of the bad guys and cards etc season packs could have easily been released, adding new characters and villains and switching up rules. If it came out today via someone like FFG that would be exactly what we’d get (come on Fantasy Flight – show some Buffy reprint love?)

Whilst I couldn’t recommend it for the prices it can go if you get the chance to give it a whirl its not bad for something getting on for 15 years.

Happy Slaying!

Go to the Imperial Settlers page

Imperial Settlers

131 out of 141 gamers thought this was helpful

My first introduction to Civ games was the granddaddy of em all Sid Meir’s Civilization. And oh my! have I whiled away countless hours chasing that next wonder or shiny new tech, its like historical crack. I’ve circled Fantasy Flights lavish board game adaptation like a seagull over a ham sandwich but I just couldn’t commit, you see the great thing about Civ on the PC is that all the fiddly niggly math is done way off camera leaving you to just enjoy the “gotta collect em all” ride for all the fun and megalomaniac joy that it brings, I just suspect having to do all the hardwork yourself will kind of suck the fun out of being a dictator.

So along comes Ignacy and his jolly little card game Imperial Settlers (and let me be clear I’m developing something of a fanboy crush on this designer having spent many a wonderfully terrible time on a certain cursed island) Imperial Settlers sets out to offer us that Civ game experience we crave but with a compressed play time, streamlined rule set and minimal components, whilst still managing to offer a continents worth of choices.

The first most refreshing thing about this game is the well written but surprisingly light manual, following a jaunty run through its sparse 14 pages you’ll be able to play the game by the time you’ve flicked passed page 12. The game is intuitive and relatively easy to teach to any one with a basic grasp of this style of game and with a modicum of knowledge of modern board games. And in this day of Tolkien sized tomes accompanying boxes filled with more wood than a lumber mill its a nice surprise, and whilst it may be light on instruction it doesn’t skimp on game.

Another attractive feature is the art choice. If you were passing the box on a shelf you might well be predisposed to believe it was a big cuddly cutesy game of simple village life involving farming root vegetables, well you’d be wrong. On the lid there’s this portly looking Belgium chap wandering away from his picturesque little village all smiles his faithful hound scampering beside him, both appear ignorant to the fact that at any moment a hoard of barbarians could descend to raze the town hall, eat his dog and make off with all the women folk, I love it but it may disarm some who go in expecting that carrot gathering game. The art carries over to all areas of the box (literally) and the different faction decks, giving it a character all its own. It kinda reminds me of the early Settlers PC game’s especially as each card depicts a building with your little followers going blissfully about their business, as you build up your empire it becomes this brightly illustrated tableau of village life giving this a retro game feel with a dash of Asterix The Gaul and just a delightful whimsical feel all its own. And here’s another little touch that I really like, the player boards for each of the races is reversible offering either a male or female avatar a feature previously utilized in Robinson Crusoe, its nothing really in the big scheme of things but for me it shows a designer and company not limiting the choices players coming to this game have, no one is alienated.

Played over five turns this see’s you building your own little dynasty from one of the four supplied factions and the great touch is that each of these races has specialized deck compiled of buildings and powers requiring the construction of slightly different engines to thrive. So whereas the Barbarians are all about Razing (Destroying) other players locations and getting generally all a bit fighty. The Japanese are all very Zen and have the option of recruiting workers as Samurai to defend locations and the ability to take other races resources for their own. This gives you a lot of play in this box offering plenty of strategies to explore before your going to get a real handle on proceedings.

And as we are covering factions and the decks a little more about those, besides the individual factions there is also the common deck that everyone can use and is chock full of generic buildings and powers that can be combined with factions to enhance your engine. The cool thing about these cards is that each can be used multiple ways, so whilst you could just build a card if you have the resources available with the commons there is also the option to raze the card (discard it) and collect the payout, or you can rotate faction cards placing them under your main faction board and “make a deal” where it will produce an effect or resource each following round. Its a great design that offers a wealth of options and means that you always have a choice its for you to decide what is the most efficient way to go.

And that efficiency is the core of the game, because with a few exceptions for each faction or certain special buildings at the end of every round everything that you have produced will be discarded. This requires a deep brain burn of planning and juggling of cards and resources to eke every last drop of game out of each choice, a poor early decision could mean you throwing away valuable resources you acquired because there is nowhere to spend them that turn. And with the game only lasting five rounds that could be enough to lose you the war. This does lend proceedings the feeling of each player engrossed in a complex game of solitaire but this experience is enthralling heck! its the game. Nothing gives a greater sense of accomplishment than managing to chain together a series of actions resulting in no wastage allowing you to sit proudly back and smile at the player across the table with a pile of resources and that desperate look in their eye. The game does allow for every faction to attack an opponent and destroy common buildings gaining resources so there is some interaction, and it means you always do need to have one eye on the other players, and it may be time to get nervous if those filthy Barbarians are stockpiling Raze Tokens. If you find all of this a it too much or your just predisposed to flag waving and tree hugging then the rule book contains a peaceful variant limiting all this nasty attacking business. Pansy.

And really is the meat of the game. Every round is broken down into four main phases.

Lookout – this is where players acquire three new cards one from their specific Faction deck and two from the common cards.

Production – Players receive resources from the their specific Faction board and then from any Production buildings or Deals in play.

Action – Where everything happens. Cards are used to build Production locations, Features locations (these give either multipliers or other abilities usually tied to taking actions), Action locations where you will use a worker or good on that card to receive a ability or bonus. This is done in turn order with each player taking one action and play passing round the table until everyone has passed.

Cleanup – Everything is cleared away and then rinse and repeat.

Once the fifth round is over Victory Points are added up, gaining extra for Faction locations and any other multipliers and whoever has the most wins.

So who is this for? Well if your looking for that Civ game experience without a telephone directory sized rule book and a brisk playing time then this does the job admirably, I love that each of the factions have distinct strategies and a feel all their own, adore the clever design of the cards and all the neat looking wooden components. Its true that the randomness of the card draw could be problematic if you do draw a dead hand in the early rounds, but personally with all the options available to you there is always something to do. The learning curve has a gentle amble to it that escalates with each subsequent round and there’s this beautiful moment where you see the light switches clicking on reflected in everyone’s faces as they suddenly get it, I mean really get if I do this and then spend that and then do this I can get the thing I wanted here etc etc. It scales great and plays just as well with two or four and if you are a solo player then this also includes rules for you, its a solid little variation that captures the essence of the main game and is being supported in the forthcoming expansions.

For me this was one of the highlights of 2014 its a snare drum tight little game my only lament is I don’t get to play it nearly enough as my home groups is usually five players, hopefully the promised extra factions will appear in the coming year and allow for expanded player numbers, for the time being I guess I better convince my better half to play more. There is already one expansion available “Why can’t we be friends” that includes more cards for the decks and opens up the possibility to deck build your factions. As more of these sets become available then another avenue of strategy will be there, personally I just like the game for what its is and i’m not convinced I want to bury its sleek design below the requirement of having to build decks before I can play, but I certainly welcome more cards to the sets even if I just mix them all in.

I personally don’t own anything else like this, it has a dash of deck building two shots of civilization and a shake of engine builder resulting in a heady cocktail of all the great things from bigger longer games distilled into a satisfying hit of fun with just enough thinky to result in a gratifying game that won’t outstay its welcome.

Go to the oddball Aeronauts page

oddball Aeronauts

23 out of 24 gamers thought this was helpful

OK so I’m coming a tad late to this party, in actual fact its a shocking oversight as the designers are local lads. Stop with the looks back there, OK the truth of the matter is I missed the original Kickstarter and fully intended to catch up with Nigel and Lloyd at the UK Games Expo, but of course their stand was always busy so I never had the chance. Cue lots of shiny new games between that to muddy the waters further and so time passes Thorin sings about gold etc.

Spin forward to now and I’ve managed to right a great many of these wrongs, I have now made first contact with the Pyne brothers the symbiotic organism responsible for oddball’s and managed to play the game with them, bolstered by that experience I subsequently purchased it. See. Happy Now!

So what is all this oddball Aeronauts business anyway? I’d original been drawn in by the cool art and just the overall look of the game there was something intriguing which I couldn’t quite get a handle on. On its release many fellow reviewers and podcasters were bigging this up, heck there was even some slavering, i’m sure I saw some slaver. I’d kept quiet obviously, admitting to having missed the airboat would have made me terribly uncool.

So oddball’s is actually a pretty simple little card game set in a kooky steampunk universe where bands of critters pilot great floating airships and battle it out upon the very high seas. It does a simple little bit of sleight of hand, it takes that old staple of school yard playtime Top Trumps, a game I personally sunk numerous hours playing my old Horror deck and then fixes all its issues.

Gone are the marathon play sessions where you wish the world would just end and swallow you up, the endless clip art and themeless game play and in comes a story and art working alongside the clever idea of not requiring a play surface to get a game going. This is something that you can pull out of a bag and get to playing anywhere with anyone. It improves upon the pick a stat and compare by offering a few simple modifiers to the cards that will reward playing a certain power or type of card allowing for you to create some clever little combo’s. And the fact you can stack the stats from the top three cards to boost your score takes away the simple my number versus your number monotonousness play of Trumps.

This is a game of attrition as your deck slowly dwindles either through playing cards or the effects of losing a trick (a hand) which is also the in game timer counting down to your inevitable defeat. The three skills that you play and compare each round have ramifications allowing for some subtle tactics and choices to occur.

Sailing – The winner recovers 2 cards

Guns – Loser discards 2 cards

Boarding – Winner recovers 1 card and loser discards 1.

And its as easy as that, the skill comes in planning ahead and using those combo’s. Do you sacrifice a win this round knowing that you’ll lose the cards that will allow you to get to the sweet ones below, do you gamble on what your opponent will play or even how many cards to hit a sweet combo. There’s a little of a lot to think about each round, enough so that your always making a decision each round but not too much that you’ll fall into some AP coma.

Its a simple game and is gently marred by a few issues, there is the inevitable confusion in the first few plays, the rule book could be better I was helped tremendously by having the designers on hand to teach me so I didn’t need it, this is a feature that should be worked into all future games, somebody get on that right away. It also comes with a active player marker that kind of goes against the whole philosophy of the surfaceless requirement to play, we got around this by using it to bounce off the losing opponents forehead to really rub in that defeat and that works just fine.
There are enough extra mercenary cards that once you’ve mastered the base decks you can mix in a few of these more powerful ones to spice up the proceedings and offers a tantalizing glimpse of where this game may go. All in all if your looking for a simple and portable little game that looks great in your mits while offering that espresso hit of game than this is what we have here.

Go to the Firefly: The Game – Blue Sun page

Firefly: The Game – Blue Sun

21 out of 22 gamers thought this was helpful

Its time to take another mosey around the verse in the latest Firefly expansion from Gale Force 9, this time we’re heading out to Rim Space with the Blue Sun expansion. Since its launch over a year ago Firefly is a game that has been met with equal parts adoration and loathing, many being put off by its star destroyer sized playing length, randomness and clunky play and mechanism choices, I’m here to tell you now that this expansion really doesn’t fix any of those things, so if you were looking for an intergalactic band aid for your gaming woes move on, nothing to see here.

Now if your already a fan and loved the show then let me start off by saying that this is awesome sauce for us. So what do we get this time out? Well previously on Firefly we encountered the Pirates & Bounty Hunters that added a big ole chunk of PVP mayhem to the verse and now Gale Force 9 have turned their attention on another area of the game that the fan’s had grumbled was given poor lip service the Reavers.

Ah the Reavers, those deranged and vicious cannibal mad men on the raggedly *** end of space who’ll eat you soon as do other unmentionable things to you, they were a serious threat in the show and movie but in the game up to now have felt more a mild inconvenience, well all that’s about to change.

Its not all about the bitey men we get other shiny goodness including more jobs, supply decks and two new contacts in Lord Harrow and Mr Universe and of course that new Rim Space board. Kudo’s to Gale Force 9 they have taken a leaf (on the wind) from Wizards of the coast and much like the Waterdeep expansion Skulldeep, these come with one main mechanism change and lots more flavor, allowing them to slot easily into the existing game making it a breeze to teach to new players as much as brown coats.

So lets take a look at the most fun bit that comes in the box. We get two additional Reaver ships and a stash of alert tokens, the Reaver’s now start out in Rim space all nestled up together cozily orbiting Miranda but don’t go getting comfortable because they are definitely not staying there. In addition to these there are 10 new border space navigation cards that replace the existing Reaver cards and really spice up the threat, allowing them to move about with far more alarming regularity and giving players plenty of scope to sic them on their competition. The new rule for the Reavers is they drop an alert token whenever they move from one space to the next and these can stack, whenever you enter a zone containing tokens you roll a die and if its below the amount then you are getting some Reaver company and about to have an awful afternoon.

These new rules have given some serious teeth to the Reaver threat, they are prowling all the time now and venturing out to those Rim spaces is now a nail biting prospect and combined with the alert tokens there is a sustained threat of getting eaten. The Rim cards also have some cool little rewards and challenges to reflect the tribulations of a captain tear arsing around at the far reaches of civilized space that might just make it worth the trauma of heading out into that part of the black.

As mentioned there is also the Lord Harrow and Mr Universe decks, the Harrow cards offer some very lucrative jobs and getting solid with him also pays out big. Mr Universe is the more interesting preposition he doesn’t offer specific jobs but rather modifiers ” Big **** Challenges” that you can attach to any jobs that you start working. These do things like make you have to p*** more misbehave cards, or prohibit you from using certain skills on jobs and have a nice element of push your luck where you need to balance the risk reward, and some of these come with big pay days.

Finally there is the Meridian supply deck which is loaded with goodies and lots of gear specific to dealing with the increased Reaver presence, there might just be enough sweet trinkets to make the trip worth the while and all in all these are great editions to the base game.

If you own the original and play it and love it then this is an essential purchase, my main niggle is concerning the Reavers and the rules associated with them, personally this should have all have been available in the base set. The Reavers as they existed where completely toothless and I think the base game suffered because of this. Still, I’m glad that we now have them in all their violent crew munching glory and the extra models, I’m just a little irked its taken this long for us to actually get the rest of the game that I bought a year ago. That said the new board is great and adds some interesting new tactics and decisions and along with the Rim navigation cards is an exciting new area to explore offering plenty of scope for further adventures.

If your on the fence as to which expansion to go for it breaks down pretty easily. If you want more player versus player than Pirates is for you, otherwise this is my choice as it offers a heap more game, and those new Reaver rules really spice up the proceedings and combined with the new contact decks is a pretty solid deal. And throwing everything into a game doesn’t make it feel bloated or overlong you are still free to pick and choose what you do during the game, which was what made this so much fun and now there’s just a lot more choice. I’m interested to see what they have planned next.

Go to the Legendary Encounters: An ALIEN Deckbuilding Game page
146 out of 157 gamers thought this was helpful

Ever since Upper Deck announced their plans to release an Alien themed version of Legendary I’ve been staying frosty in anticipation.

This has been a tricky license for designers to get right (Don’t even mention the video games) So would Upper Deck deliver? I’ve played and enjoyed Marvel legendary but for me it suffered from some disjointed theme issues with the heroes and crippling downtime when played with four or more, and lets not get started on the set up and tear down time on that one. So it was with some hesitation that I approached this new edition.

Designers Ben Cichoski and Danny Mandel have managed to work wonders by tweaking the elements of what works within the existing Legendary system and adding enough spins of their own to embrace the Alien theme and have taken this series in an exciting new direction (sort of like Prometheus only much better). First off they’ve made this a pure co-op it really was the only way to be sure, its us against the bugs and it manages to successfully mesh the deck building mechanisms with theme to pull off something a bit special.

Each of the four movies are included in the box, composed of three separate decks which are combined to create that mission, played alongside these are location cards and objectives whose triggered events include many nod’s to classic moments from the films with goals based around major plot points, all these work together to give a greatest hits of the Alien’s movies. Replacing the four color heroes of Marvel are a gristle’d bunch of survivors from each of the films with abilities tailored to fit thematically with those scenarios and caps doffed to some clever choices here with some interesting powers that managed to reflect those characters little quirks or moments from the films. All of this nerdery helps to dunk you into the theme like a rich tea in a hot cuppa and really ties the game together with each scenario capturing its celluloid counterpart, there are moments when you really do feel like you’re on an express elevator to ****.

Besides all of this card based joy we also get a play mat instead of a board, which I have to say is a brilliant feature, it looks stunning on the table and makes manipulating the cards a lot easier than trying to wrestle them up off a board, I hope that we see more of these coming along in the future.

As I progressed through the films the game seemed to get increasingly harder to beat, with some of the big bad’s causing Hudson levels of histrionics when they appeared in all their brown stain inducing glory. What’s so great is how the designers have managed to layer in so many neat little thematic elements from the films to help put you into the heart of the action, from the macho posturing and gun laden fun of Aliens to Alien 3 where the game I played felt suitably desperate, with you constantly struggling with resources and a savage creature that echoed the dire situation the characters found themselves in that movie. I really like what they have accomplished here and it feels much more thematic and challenging than Marvel Legendary did.

Another nice new touch is that each player now gets an avatar which also works as health meter, each of these classes receives one specific card that goes into their deck allowing everyone a little something different and special to bring to the fight. And as your character has such a limited health score it really builds on that sense of dread and threat that the game thrives on and also helps to make you feel part of the action rather than just playing a set of cards each round.

Another change to the basic mechanisms is how the cards spawn from the hatchery, to further enhance the feeling of encroaching menace they now move across the complex face down representing the doom-laden bleeps of a motion sensor as they edge closer to your hiding spot. The only way of flipping these is to use your attack and depending on where they are in the complex will alter how much it costs to flip them, often resulting in exhausting all your attack in the early game to uncover something unpleasant. Its not all horror and death, hidden among these cards are those objectives that you need to complete to progress through each scenario and also some neat little Easter Eggs from the movies. There’s a really ticking clock to this part of the game because you don’t want to dally as those cards keep coming and if objective two problems and monsters are spawning and you’ve still not resolved the first its likely you’ll have a rotten afternoon.

Boy is this game hard! And the more players you add to the mix the harder it seems to get, there are a few new kinks that have been included on the cards that do help. There is the new co-ordinate skill which allows you to play a card from your hand on another players turn allowing you to add that cards resources and perks to the current players total, really handy for dealing with some of the nastier surprises or if you get a bad draw. To stand any chance at successfully winning the game you’ll going to need to embrace this new ability and for a simple little addition it really adds a cool cooperative element to play.

There’s so many neat little thematic design choices buried in the game, one of my favorites is the facehugger’s. These can hatch from eggs which add some peril to proceedings and will often force you to use those precious attacks on wiping them out, but if one of these skittery little swines hatches it latches onto the active player and they have their turn and till the end of the next players to kill it, if that doesn’t happen then everyone has a problem because a chestburster card is added to that players discard deck, and when eventuality dealt will kill that player. There is nothing worse than knowing that one of these cards is hiding in your deck and the palpable sense of dread as everyone watches breath held each new deal you make. There are a few slim opportunity’s to avoid this situation but generally once you’ve been fertilized then its just matter of time until you’ll be ruining somebodies breakfast table with all the gurgling, thrashing and spurting of your runny bits.

There are a bunch of optional add on’s that help to spice up proceedings, there’s the Alien deck which essentially means that after you’ve gone through the agonized labor pains of birthing your new xenomorph then you can pick up this deck and play as an bad guy, great fun but it will usually result in the pretty swift death of everyone else at the table. And then there’s the option of secret agenda’s that adds a traitor mechanic to the game and some cool cards to peoples decks and really sells that evil corporation idea from the movies. Both of these are great additions, but I strongly urge you waiting until you have a few plays under your belt, especially the Alien deck as that’s evil.

So summing up time, well lets quickly address a few issues that this series has suffered from. First is the initial sorting of the cards, yep its involved and you should easily put aside at least an hour to do this. A comprehensive list of the cards to check off in the manual would have helped with this, the ones on BGG are great and without them the task would have been a nightmare the manual really doesn’t explain the process as well as it could and like legendary the text to identify the different sets is minute.

If your a fan of the films then you’ll going to lap this one up, its a tough little son of a game and is certainly a challenge. All the new tweaks made greatly improve upon the foundations built by Marvel legendary, the co-op along with the different modes of play give this some decent longevity and have reduced that terrible downtime I encountered playing its predecessor.

Whilst this is not doing anything new or revolutionary its a solid mesh of theme and mechanics working in harmony to produce a tense white-knuckle roller-coaster ride from beginning to end, which considering its subject matter makes this just about perfect.

Go to the Firefly: The Game – Breakin' Atmo page
20 out of 20 gamers thought this was helpful

Breakin’ Atmo is the first expansion or booster as Gale Force Nine are calling it to hit following the games release. This is a tiny little set consisting of 50 more cards to add to the already card heavy base game. Loving the Firefly game down here at Who Dares Rolls towers and any excuse to fit in another play will always be welcome.

So whats in the box, well we get 25 new job cards and another 25 new bits of equipment and other goodies. As I said its pretty light but all of these cards have just the right amount of a twist to the base game that shuffling this set into your already pudgy decks will more than add to the fun.

The job cards all come with an interesting new mechanic which is skill based pay. All of them are now loaded with a flat rate which won’t let you retire but with a modifier of a additional payment of a set amount for each type of a specified skill. This simple little mechanic now gives you the chance to really hit some very nice payouts both early and late game.

I do tend to favor a morally dubious business practice whilst out in the black, and a crew armed to the teeth and bolstered by a bunch of Mercs can now mean a serious payday when you bring one of these jobs home.

The supply cards are no less interesting, with the usual assortment of crew skills but all these guys either come with a bonus when used on certain jobs either dishing out more cargo or contraband, or coming already equipped with nice shiny things. There are a bunch of other kit a few or note are.

A universal Encyclopedia that allows you to sneak a look at the top 3 cards of the misbehave deck and stack them back how you want. pretty **** useful if your about to make a run at this nasty deck. There’s a bunch of new weapons that come with re-rolls or more than equipment type.

And another cool little card that just playfully uses that hoary old misbehave deck. Its a set of tall playing cards which you pay $500 to activate and draw five misbehave cards and if you get 3 matching suits you nab a cool $1500. I really liked some of these simple editions and I hope we see more of this sort of thing in the coming expansions.

So is this an essential purchase? Well if your a fan of the game I imagine you don’t even need to ask, just buy it already. But I’ll go on the record and say its well worth a look. All the cards throw in either speedier ways to bring in that money and so bolster your crew and upgrade that ship, and lots of cool kit and gadgets some of which help you fill out your equipment faster to take on those misbehave cards and earn the big bucks. One of the biggest criticism’s leveled at the game has been its playing time, so anything that can chip away at that is a good thing surely.

Bottom line if your not a fan this really isn’t going to change your opinion we are not talking water into wine or some other all purpose band aid. This is a solid and more importantly reasonably priced little taster to tide us over before we get our next fix with Pirates & Bounty Hunters that’s set to tackle the other bone of contention, the lack of player interaction.

Can’t wait.
Originally Posted @

Go to the Firefly: The Game – Pirates & Bounty Hunters page
18 out of 19 gamers thought this was helpful

Firefly The Game hit tables around a year ago at Gen Con shifting stash fulls of games and proving itself to be quite the dapper gent, its a bit of a monster having a board presence to rival the verse and a gravity inducing pile of components, it drew some cries of discontent over its season running play time and lack of player interaction. Despite that It’s become a regular visitor to our tables being as we love the show and its always fun to return to the verse for a bit of derring do.

Pirates & Bounty Hunters is the first proper expansion for the game and it focuses on tackling the big issue and one we brought up in our original review the lack of player interaction, it does this by squeezing in two new options for you when you are out and about doing your space captain thang.

This module adds 5 new cards to each of the jobs decks, these give you the means to attack other players and rob them blind of any cargo, fuel or parts they are carrying. It involves you completing a boarding test using one of the skills dictated on the card to see if you are successful and then both crews meet in a showdown, showdowns are resolved by each captain choosing a skill and duking it out to see who has the higher score, if successful then the attacker can take however many goods the card said and get a cash bonus dependent on the job. If they screw up then it will usually result in the death of one of the attackers crew.

This deck of 20 features a bounty for each of the characters in the supply decks with the alliance wanted symbol on them, at the start of a game three bounty’s are placed face up. You now have the option of tracking these culprits down beating them in a showdown and then taking them to wherever the bounty can be collected. There is also the option for players to bounty jump and ****** these prized miscreants from rival ships for their own ends, and I imagine you can see where that will go.

In addition to those new rules the expansion also comes with a bunch more supply cards mixed between new shiny equipment or crew members, including Lawmen who have bounty multipliers to help boost those jobs and 3 new story cards that focus on these new modules. Also included are two new ships the S.S.Walden a big slow cargo ship that you can stack with cargo and the Interceptor which is a tiny little thing but it can zip around like a mosquito at a BBQ.

So what does this all mean for the game? Well for starters it achieves what it set out to accomplish and adds a great new level of manic PVP joy to the game. The story cards that come with this expansion give you a chance to try out these new found toys and are best used to get you up to speed, one of these features the option for Havens which are essentially bolt holes where you can’t be messed with, handy as with these new rules games can descend into a sort of intergalactic game of tag. The piracy jobs add a mischievous new level of uncertainty, when you see an opponents ship heading your way and you’ll trundling along with full cargo bays it does instill a level of panic suddenly its no longer one big happy verse. More than once in our games ships parked up working jobs were suddenly hit by some nearby carpetbagger who swooped by and nabbed their goods, resulting in a benny hill style chase across nearby space and much fist waving. During one game Trixie spent the entire evening using everyone else as mobile gas pumps diving in and siphoning off our fuel before hightailing it out of their leaving us puttering along on fumes and harsh words.

The bounty’s also add another new level of mischief my tactic being to bounty jump from fellow captains which resulted in numerous failed attempts and dead crew. In time once these new shiny toys have lost their edge I’m sure they will find their place in the bigger game, but for now its been a refreshing change of pace to proceedings.

The new ships are still up for debate, whilst its great to have something else to pilot they are both very different beasts to the firefly’s. The Walden with its pondering pace and lack of stash does make it a bit of a target for pirates unless suitably crewed with an army of cut throats, it does come with perk that completed piracy jobs can count as salvage ops, so with the right crew you could stack some serious modifiers and boost your earnings.

The interceptor is also a strange one, its speed and lack of requirement for fuel to initiate a full burn is pretty cool, but it also means that you are tearing through those nav cards leaving you open for some nasty surprises. There is also the fact it only has a cargo hold with 4 spaces, making it really a ship specific for bounty runs or jumping fellow captains.

For us this is a hit, loving the new ways to play and with a few simple mechanisms its added at lot more to the base game. Now it does have the potential to add more length to a game that was already a time hog, but the new options and entertainment they bring means that you’ll be more invested in what everyone else is up to. And with the Blue Sun expansion we’re gonna need a bigger table.

Go to the Fresco page


94 out of 106 gamers thought this was helpful

The Renaissance, a glorious and romantic period in human history; a time over-flowing with creativity; a period which saw the production of some of the greatest works of art of all time: Michelangelo’s David and the Sistine Chapel, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper and Mona Lisa, Donatello’s Saint John The Baptist and Saint John The Evangelist, Raphael’s Deposition of Christ and Wedding of the Virgin, and of course their leader, Splinter, who… wait, that’s not right.

Anyway, it’s a period ripe for exploitation through a multitude of media, be it Assassin’s Creed in video games, The Borgias on TV, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in cinema, and now Fresco in the world of board games.

Well, OK, not now, exactly. Fresco is a game of German origins from Queen Games which dates back to 2010, but was recently Kickstarted in a Big Box format and that’s how I got my hands on it. It’s for 2-4 players and in its vanilla form takes around an hour to play.

The idea is that each player is a painter working on commission to paint a ‘Fresco’ on the city’s chapel ceiling and you will be rewarded with victory points for each section you paint. In order to accomplish this you must send your apprentices to do various tasks for you in a classic Euro-game set-up.

Now at this point I can sense that a lot of you are probably starting to stifle a yawn, or maybe even looking for a Luchador link to click… DON’T!! “But painting ceilings!” I hear you cry, “Really? Is this where games have gone to?” Yes, yes, settle down.

They say that the mark of a good documentary (stay with me) is that it will make you care about a subject you never knew you were interested in. See King of Kong, non-video game fans, or Senna, non-Formula One fans. Well maybe something similar can be said of board games. It can’t. But maybe it can. The game doesn’t hinge on the subject but more the balance and competitiveness. The fact that everything is themed so well is an added bonus, but what you really get, once you have waded through the rules (more on those later), is a game that is simple, intuitive, fun and fair.

See, for me, Fresco is the best Euro (worker placement) game I have come across, ahead of the likes of Lords of Waterdeep, Lewis & Clarke and Euphoria. But before we get to that, let’s go through the mechanics of the game.

On each turn, players decide what time they want to wake up in order to determine the turn order for all future actions. The player in last place gets first choice of wake-up time and so on. The earlier you get up the unhappier you are, and happiness causes you to gain or lose apprentice meeples to do your bidding. But getting up earlier gives you first dibs on all the actions through the rest of the turn.

These actions are:

Buy paint form the market
Paint a section of the chapel Fresco
Earn money by paint portraits in your studio
Mix paints to make more exotic colours
And taking a little time off to go to the theatre to gain some happiness and, maybe, an apprentice for the next round
In the basic set-up it’s only the first 2 actions that matter, when it comes to turn order. The market is restocked with different selections of paint each day so getting in there first means you can get the pick of the best combinations on offer. It also means those paints are a bit more expensive so you can’t afford to get there too early too often. Arriving late might mean fewer paints available, but you can pick them up for much lower prices while also gaining some vital happiness.

Painting a section of the chapel ceiling involves handing over some of your hard won paints to complete a section of the ceiling for some victory points. Each section requires a different combination and is worth a different number of points. Again, getting there earlier means you get to make your choice from all those available. Arriving later means someone might have taken the piece you intended to paint.

Earning money from portraits is vital, especially early on, if you want to buy paints. As you complete ceiling tiles you start to earn an income each turn so you can slowly stop your other work.

Mixing paints allows you to paint more colours. You start off with the primary colours and can mix them for green, purple and orange (an expansion that we’re coming to adds in brown and pink). Tiles with the mixed colours are worth more victory points and, as there are only 2 with just the primary colours on, mixing is also a necessity.

And finally, maintaining happiness is vital unless you decide you don’t need one of your apprentices – a bold strategy.

The game is over when the chapel ceiling is complete and the player with the most victory points is the winner. You can earn a few extra victory points by spending your paints on painting the altar rather than the ceiling, should someone snaffle the tile you were about to place, but otherwise that’s about it (for now).

As you can see, it’s a pretty simple turn set-up, one that can be taught and learned very quickly. After that it’s all about the subtlety of tactics, which is as it should be – how early do you want to get up each day? How many meeples do you spend on portraits and the happiness when you really need to be buying and painting as much as you can?

The game is balanced in such a way that good tactics will likely win out, but you’re never totally out of the contest (unless you’re wilfully playing badly). You have 4 meeples to start and can go up to 5 or down to 3, but with 5 different actions to spend them on, every turn you have some difficult decisions to make about what to do.

Add to this the fact that each turn keeps everyone involved. There’s little downtime as each player does a mini turn in each venue (market, chapel etc), rather than someone doing all of their actions before passing on and sitting out for the next 10 minutes.

Finally, the trump card of this Big Box, what makes it big. It comes with 10 expansions (along with something which is more of a tweak than a true expansion, so 10 and a half?). These range from adding secondary wall Fresco to be painted, to adding stained glass windows, specific portraits (which give instant or ongoing bonuses) and even a doctors surgery (which adds a mechanism for apprentices to get sick and require curing before they can play a fully active role).

While it wouldn’t be recommended for anyone to throw all of these at once into a game, each one adds a different dimension and extra consideration in. They extend the length of a game by a few minutes and can make you ponder your moves a bit more, but for a smart tactician this can only be a good thing. I have to confess to not having played all of these just yet, but I’m eager to get a few more under my belt soon.

So what about negatives? I have but two, and neither of those should stop you from buying the game. The first is the rule book. I walked you through, basically, how a turn should work back there. It’s pretty simple, and once you get going you’ll be fine. However, the rulebook does not make it seem anywhere near as simple as it is. Maybe it’s a poor translation from the original German, maybe they only got people to read them who already knew how to play the game, but whatever happened, it didn’t lead to an easy first game.

The second problem is the box. Or rather the moulded plastic inside it. The game has 11.5 sections (the game, 10 expansions and the mini expansion). The box (and manual for that matter) do little to tell you which bits are needed for which version of the game. Don’t get me wrong, once I figured out how everything fitted into the plastic insert I marvelled at how neatly everything went away. Then I tried to work out where what I needed for a game was and I got lost. In the end I threw out the insert, went through all the components and bagged them in marked ziplocs so I could find all the bits I needed much more easily.

But you know a game must be good when the only two things there are to complain about are the box and the writing in the rule book. And I am serious, I cannot pick fault with the game itself.

OK, so if you are looking for a deep game filled intrigue and back-stabbing you’re not going to find it here, but that’s like complaining that Groundhog Day isn’t the Godfather. It was never supposed to be. And just as Groundhog Day is a perfect comedy (don’t even try to dispute that), Fresco is not Battlestar Galactica or Twilight Imperium because it’s not trying to be. Fresco is a perfect hour or so of worker placement fun and that should be celebrated.
Originally published @

Go to the Love Letter page

Love Letter

105 out of 115 gamers thought this was helpful

Love Letter. Originally released back in the bygone days of 2012 has subsequently been republished several times with a variety of different art and themes. Whatever version you settle on they all all have one thing in common, a small very portable and brilliant game.

So straight out the gate shock number one. This game is only played with 16 cards, yep you heard me just 16. And if you are thinking well what sort of game is that? Just hold on. When I first picked this up I was met with the same sneers of divisiveness from my group, and I have to admit to being a bit skeptical myself. There was the small pool of cards and it was a game called Love Letter! And to make matters worse it came in a red satin bag and had princesses and princes in it, and things didn’t get any better when I explained the story.

You play some frisky member of the royal court trying to sneak your grubby little ode to true love to the nubile princess and so win her heart, frankly I don’t understand why you can’t just tweet her.

OK, so all flowery fonts and misplaced tragic love aside, at its core Love Letter is a bluffing and push your luck game. Each player’s dealt one card. On your turn you take another card decide which one you want to discard, once you do its played face up in front of you and you apply its effects.

What adds the whiz and pop to proceedings is those card powers at a glance they all seem rather simplistic. There are a variety of these, Guards for instance allow you to choose a player and name a card and if an opponent is holding it then they are out of the game and don’t get any special princess time. There are also a couple of Handmaid cards which are great because if you play one it protects you for that round, giving you a moments peace to speculate on the inhumanity of man to man, and watch it in action as the others at the table do unmentionable things to one another.

Or maybe the King that will allow you to trade hands with another player, which can also backfire hideously if you land yourself a great card and the player to your right gets an inkling. And then hits you with a Guard.

And so it continues until either only one player is left standing, or the deck runs dry. In the event of that happening then whoever is holding the highest ranked card wins, if its tied then its whoever discarded the highest value of cards. Taken out of context the card powers don’t appear as anything particular special or challenging but once added to the whole some powerful alchemy happens.

The strategy behind this simple little game materializes after you’ve played a couple of times. When you are comfortable with what each card does you can then start playing the meta game. As an example the Countess at first glance whilst the second most powerful card is nobbled with the fact you must discard her if caught with either the King or Prince in your hand, well that’s fine but what if you junk her when you don’t? And its not just your cards, we started to formulate tactics based on our opponents play style and hands they always seem to have. A favorite at my table is on the first round if you start with a guard is to seek out the Handmaids (a power card in the early rounds) if you can bag one you can take out a player early and avoid them safely sitting out a round. And most importantly annoy them because they smugly thought they where about to be immune. And for some reason its always poor old Bob gets picked on because he always has a handmaid, I’m not sure on the miss to hit ratio on this strategy, but its always satisfying when we do catch him with one (its his own fault constantly turtling under their protective shield).

Considering the most cards you ever hold in your hand at one time is two, there is a insane amount of strategy going on here, hitting a great two card combo of say a Priest (look at a hand) and then a Bishop (compare hands loser goes out) offers tantalizing possibilities, take a look and if your opponent is holding a low card you know you are in a power position to maybe take them out next round, you just have to pray the next card you ****** from the deck trumps theirs. Well that is unless they counter with a hand swap or unlucky for you pick up a more powerful card. And of course if you do take them out successfully then you will be announcing to the table you have one of the rarer top tier cards, and then make yourself a target in the process.

Seniji Kanai the games designer is a genius, a sort of micro-game-surgeon. How he managed to combine so much deep strategy and bluff and counter bluff in such a tiny tiny game still boggles my brain. The hints where there in 2009’s Chronicle a trick taking game twisted the rules with some clever card powers (well worth a look).

Not that this is one of those one night stands, no this will be a brief romance all fluttering heart beats and sweaty hands followed by a long loving relationship filled with sappy montages and happy memories. (i’m not referring to Bob).

Go to the Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game page

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

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So here we go again, another bloody zombie game! I understand the eye rolling, the board game market has been flooded with Zombie titles over the last couple of years and disappointingly very few of them have honestly nailed this genre, the one exception being City Of Horror that came pretty close.

They all make the same mistake by focusing on the dead when really its us the humans who are the biggest threat in these final dark days of civilization. Fortunately designers Jon Gilmour and Isaac Vega understand this the dead in Dead Of Winter are just as they should be an unstoppable tide of doom, they gather at the fences patiently waiting for us to screw up, to get greedy, to be human. They could be robots or rabid weasels that’s not the point here they are needed for the story that Plaid Hat wants to tell. So if you are of the oppinion that the world really doesn’t need another Zombie game then I have to strongly disagree with you, there is always a place for a really good one.

What Dead Of Winter does so very well is take the tense meta game of Battlestar Galactica with its twisty turny traitor mechanisms and a dash of resource control and apply them to the world of Zombies, so far so so right? The ace in the hole for DOW is in the addition of the Crossroads cards, now if you’ve seen the box you will notice that below the title it states that this is a crossroads game. So what is this crossroads stuff then? Well its a deck of cards linked to either characters or events that may or may not occur on a players turn, which are triggered whenever a survivor moves somewhere or performs a specific action. When that occurs then the card stops play and the magic happens. These cards all come loaded with richly thematic text that will set a scene and either give a specific character a choice or the group as a whole leading to tense votes. These cards are intrinsically linked to the survivors that you are playing in this world and all of them have repercussions to single characters or potentially the whole camp.

But let me hold up and back up a tad before we get into those, I need to set the scene some more. To get the most out of DOW you need to approach it with the same head-space of Eldritch Horror or Robinson Crusoe, your’e here to tell a story. If you can’t allow yourself to slip into your characters roles and embrace that, to make their decisions from that perspective then you’ll be missing half the game. You’ll be left sitting to the side with a confused look scratching your head trying to figure out what all the fuss was about.

Life is pretty cheap out here in the post apocalypse winter, you start the game with two random characters each will have a couple of stats for searching and fighting and one special skill. This being a co-op (of sorts) everyone has a goal and there are a bunch of mission cards that set a scenario of what you are attempting to do to win the game. These cards are linked to a small piece of story in the rule book which should be read aloud to set the scene and get everyone in the mood for whats coming. There is also another glorious addition, each player begins with a secret objective that will allow them to win the game. It might be hoarding a set number of food cards or equipment, whatever it is it will be something that eventually will be a test of your character whether you keep items that will allow you to win over helping the colony out of a tight spot. And worse there is the possibility of someone getting a Betrayal card these will give a win condition that will see you chuckling merrily while you watch the world burn. So from the very beginning the seeds of distrust have been sown which has the potential to derail choices that might be for the good of everyone down the road.

Once the game is underway in addition to attempting to fulfill the main goal every turn there is a Crisis, these represent the ongoing issues of trying to survive in this frosty environment and will revolve around the colony having to secretly add specific items to a pile to complete this challenge. Failure to meet the goals of these cards come with hefty penalties whether it be more undead piling at your colony, injured survivors or the cold touch of desperation as your morale is drained.
So lets set the scene, supplies are sparse you start with a scattering of basic equipment but to sustain the colony you’ll need food every round or risk starvation. Then a crisis hits we need fuel for the generators before they stutter and die, things look desperate and then someone stands up and agrees to go scavenging.

David Garcia was an accountant before the freeze but he’s keen to prove his worth, so throwing one final look to the small group he leaves behind he sets off across the bitter tundra to that old gas station on the edge of town, the hopes and dreams of the others going with him.

This is the point when the cruel hands of fate may intercede, you see whenever a survivor moves anywhere or performs an attack you roll the Exposure Die (an incredible apt name for this) on this monstrous creations twelve sides rests your survivors fate, it might be a blank and nothing happens, a wound, not terrible but three of them will kill you, frostbite okay worse and untreated will add a wound each round, or a bite which equals death. And worse if your travelling to a populated area the bite can spread which will result in the deaths of more and should that occur when your returning to the colony the results could be catastrophic. OK so the dice is bad got that, you will come to fear this evil little twelve sided beast.

Anyway back to David our heroic accountant, you remember hopes and dreams and all that. So Davids sets out and roll’s the dice. Its a bite he’s dead. What? Wha..? But hey. Nope he died, gone. Back at camp everyone sits around as the lights begin to fade and die, David didn’t make it back and the fuel is running low the morale of the colony drops and then everyone looks around at who’s next. And that could very well be the first action of your game, all bets are off.

Every decision in DOW is loaded with these terrifying consequences and not just for that player, but the whole camp and before long you get attached to your small group of survivors. And as the crossroad cards start to resolve building a tapestry of tales that enhance the story your telling it can truly hurt when someone dear to you bites the dust.

As an example in the game I played last night I was lucky to count Sparky the stunt dog among my happy few. Faithful old Sparky scampered out to forage for supplies (**** clever that dog, makes Rin Tin Tin look like a moron) on his way out a crossroads card was triggered and a helicopter crashed with the pilot wounded and trapped calling for help. Now Sparky had the option of rescuing the pilot or just leaving them and taking the supplies. The gamer’s response would likely be to take the stuff and scamper and put the colony and main objective first, after all we don’t need another mouth to feed at the colony we need that equipment. But this is Sparky the ******* stunt dog! No way he ignores somebody in distress, so I did the right choice for the story I was telling and ole Sparky pulled the pilot from the wreckage and brought her back to the camp. This little moment is a prime example of how this game should be played, it brought some humor to proceedings and lets be clear this game can get pretty dark, some of those cards are grim (we’re talking HBO Game Of Thrones grim) with terrible decisions to be made. But this was a spot of light during the bleak days we’d had. And as it turns out Sophie the pilot ended up being terribly useful as she went on to become a stand up member of the colony.

played as just a game then you’ll find the mechanisms actually pretty simple (aided by a well put together rule book) and you can whiz through proceedings and potentially leave mildly satisfied, but if your not willing to stop and smell the flowers you are going to miss half of the game or more importantly the whole story.

There are a couple of gamey issues that threaten to derail proceedings, items scavenged from locations become instantly available to all from your hand wherever they are located. I get that this decision was made to avoid over complication of hand management and bookkeeping. If you really needed to it could easily be explained away and to be honest I welcome the decision by the designers. There is also the point that you can’t un-equip items, but again to allow this would break the carefully created threat that the game sneaks up on you. There’s a worry that some of the card pools aren’t huge and may lead to an over familiarity with continued play, there are however plenty of objectives and the option for hardcore rules so it will be dozen’s of games before you ever exhaust those. And whilst the box lists this as playable by two, the sweet spot is three or more, with two of you its a straight co-op removing the distrust and potential betrayal from proceedings which guts the heart of this game from it.

But that’s nitpicking what Plaid Hat have achieved is something special, the art and design of this thing is spectacular and most importantly it totally nails the world and theme it set out to. This for me is the first true Zombie game to come out of the hundreds that litter game store shelves. If your a fan of the Romero films or read the Walking Dead comics or played the incredible video games by Tell Tale then you are going to lap this up.

I should probably end right there, but I’d be remiss not to mention you can vote to exile players whereupon they receive a whole new set of missions to mess with you, or the desperate resource management and defense of the colony you need to maintain whilst everything else is going on, or the sudden desperate realization that somebody has snuck damaging cards into a crisis and plunged the colony into turmoil, I could go on and on. I cannot wait to see what further adventures Plaid Hat have planned in this Crossroads series and hopefully we’re see an expansion or two for this game.
So as summer draws to a close I know what game will be slouching to my table as the dark nights close in, its going to be a*uva winter.

Originally Published @

Go to the City of Horror page

City of Horror

132 out of 143 gamers thought this was helpful

City Of Horror is surprise surprise a zombie game, you’d have to have been living in a cave not to have noticed board game designers obsession with this genre. To be honest I find a majority of the zombie games on the market all a bit samey and at worse dull.

The biggest issue I have had with the zombie games out there is they completely miss the point of the genre, it has always been about us humans and how we do terrible things to each other (just watch any of Romero’s movies) the zombies are this slow encroaching doom that we bring on ourselves, usually through some stupid or greedy action.

Well I’m pleased to confirm City of Horror gets a lot right, its all about the humans. The survivors in this game are a mixed bag of the staples of horror and disaster movies, including a slimy suit, a hard nosed cop and of course everyone’s favorite a pregnant women. Let’s be clear from the off, this is not a nice game, at some point during the proceedings you will exhibit all the most base and loathsome characteristics of the horror genre scumbag. You can shake your head and look all holier than thou, but i bet you’re the first in line to shove a defenseless pensioner to the flesh munching hoards to save your skin.

And now a word on the components, this game is stunning. Once it’s set up and everything is ready to go it looks so inviting, in a post apocalypse kinda way. The art on the board and cards is all of a high standard, and all looks suitably gloomy and horror movie like. Its a nice big board that slots together and even has a 3D water tower that is assembled and overlooks the ensuing carnage.

All the cards and board locations have a well designed icon on them referring to all the various actions, for my first couple of play through’s I needed the reference sheet to remind me what these were, but after a while you get the hang of it.

The board is split over six locations a Church, Gun Shop , Hospital and a Bank. These are where all the main carnage will ensue but there is also the aforementioned Water Tower and the Crossroads (you don’t really want to be standing out here in a zombie apocalypse).

Each of these areas all have strengths and weaknesses, but i’ll get to that in a bit.

So the game is actually pretty straightforward, each player starts with a random selection of survivors, each of these has one specific action most are usually a one time deal as it will cost you important items to recharge them.

The game is played over four turns each representing an hour of time. Your goal is to survive till that last hour, make sure you have amassed enough vaccines for your survivors and then get to the choppa!!

And that all sounds pretty easy right, well its not. For starters supplies are very limited and each turn some will randomly appear on the map it then becomes a scrabble to see who can get to them first.

A players turn goes something like this:

If your up the water tower you can take a look at the forthcoming invasion card – this will give you a clue as to where stuff is going to drop and where the undead are going to show up, this is kept secret only the players in the tower will know this and it can be a major advantage.

Then everyone selects a movement card. They are all simultaneously revealed.

Then the invasion card for that round is played and whatever zombies and supplies it states get put down.

Then its time to move. Each player moves a character to the location on their selected movement card from earlier. But be warned locations have limited space, and if its full up you might end up left standing out in the street (not a good idea). Hey that guy in the water tower mysteriously got his people to the church where the vaccines dropped, swine!

Resolve location – Or as I like to call it the poop hits the fan round. Each location has a ability whether its picking up vaccines at the Hospital or refreshing your special abilities at the Church. All of these powers will involve discarding action cards and trust me these are limited and once they get low things can get really desperate. Then to make things worse you have to check if your building is still secure. Each of the areas has a max limit to the amount of undead that can be thumping at the doors, when its reached things go from bad to really really bad.

The Vote – Ah yes, you know earlier when I said this game was mean, well this is the point when you find out who your friends are. Each player has a colour and the more of your colour you have at a location means you get more votes. Now this might just be resolving who gets the pick of the goodies there, but it can be much worse. If the undead are coming through the doors the only option is to chuck someone to them and save your skin (you see where this is going don’t you). This is when it becomes a desperate negotiation for supplies and who gets to live, when a location has an even split of votes you can see everyone casting looks of suspicion between the others, or maybe a subtle nod in the direction of that annoying accountant who’s been hoarding all the food.

Like all good zombie flicks it all starts civil and soon descends into finger pointing threats and petty squabbles, and then some poor ******* get’s shoved to the hoard. its usually at this point you start to find out who your friends are. This is when the action cards come into play, you see these have a variety of skills be it moving zombie hoards to a different location, or a good old shotgun that will blow a bunch of them away, or maybe you’d like to put a gun to one of the other players heads and steal their vote, yeah it can get nasty. All of these cards play beautifully into the theme and encourage the mayhem to just keep on coming.

Coming back to the characters. Each has a skill that functions similar to the action cards and locations. These are brilliantly thematic. That pregnant women I mentioned earlier well she can give birth and then has two votes, the granny well she can’t move but you can use her power so she can, the kids can hide avoiding votes and zombie attacks. Depending on your characters each game your strategy is going to be different. There is (of course) a downside to these powers, once used they reduce the victory point value of that character, and that may very well be the difference between wining or losing.

And then there’s a bunch of other little thematic delights, the crossroads there’s nowhere to hide but there is a truck full of food that you can ****** for the victory points (hopefully you don’t get an empty can) but they also give you a useful negotiating tool. And that Water Tower and the Armory, using explosives near them will catch them on fire, use too many and they blow. The Tower comes crashing down killing anything on or near it, some nice act three carnage to add to the mayhem in true Hollywood style.

And then finally that fourth hour rolls around and the chopper arrives and its a mad dash to get on-board, if you’ve got the antidotes that is, otherwise your going no-where brother. Then the points are tallied, characters, food and then you get to snarl and snipe at the victor.

So should you get this game? Well if your a fan of the zombie genre and are looking for something that has the thematic feel of those stories then this is the one for you. But be warned this is not for the faint of heart, to get the most out of this game you need to be pretty thick skinned. With the right gathering of people this is a barnstorming tense couple of hours of game play, alliances will switch constantly bargains will be made and deals welshed on. By the end you’ll have a story to tell and probably a few less friends, but you’ll have had a big rotting pile of fun.

Go to the Kemet page


123 out of 134 gamers thought this was helpful

Kemet is a very fighty game. Its the equivalent of that kid who was always in trouble at school you know the one, used to sit in the back of class and punch random classmates, that’s when he wasn’t doing things to girls near the bike sheds that we wouldn’t know about until the following years biology class.

Antagonistic is probably a more succinct way of describing Kemet. Everything about it is focused on you running up to an opponent and punching them in the throat whilst relieving them of any shiny baubles they might be holding, followed by a victory lap around the twitching body. What I’m trying to say is that you won’t find any of that John and Yoko peace ballad stuff going on in this box.

At its core genetic level Kemet is Risk but with all the randomness removed and given a makeover by some guy who spent the last year just watching 80’s action movies gearing up montages. Its all about war, war and a arms race, its the military industrial complex refined down to its core with the sandy sheen of ancient Egypt applied. This being the ancient Egypt where generals rode about on their giant war scorpions and smote their foes with lightening bolts, you know that one. It achieves this constant heightened state of homicidal impulse by a few simple mechanisms which all boil down to converting enemies into the victory points required to win.

The stage set for this barney is a scattering of kingdoms squeezed into a a thin strip of land. Outside of your city walls squat temples and thrumming in the center of each is a temporary victory point, it sort of bobs there teasing everyone. Note I say temporary because you only get to keep these whilst your troops are in residence. I really wouldn’t get comfortable.

The other type of VP is the permanent variety which are gained most of the time by going to war and winning a battle Ding! You can also gain one by holding two temples at the end of a phase Ding! But that’s not nearly as much fun.
So for a moment let all of that sink in, got it? Right now i’m going to add a couple of other kinks to proceedings.
1. every location is at most 2 spaces away from any army.
2. You can teleport your troops directly from your city to obelisk’s that litter the board and are in all of the temples. Remember Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic park? Well aside from all the vigorous hand movements and purring he was yammering on about chaos mathematics, what he was talking about was this game. Forget about a butterfly in Peking flapping its wings, what he really meant was an army of cat warriors going bamf! all Nightcrawler on us and materializing in the nearest temple. Ooh and those handy obelisk’s are a one way trip there ain’t no coming back.

An early game of Kemet starts pretty much the same everyone begins with a tenuous toe dip into proceedings maybe leveling up a power or moving some troops about and then Bamf! some joker zips across the board and gains a point, everyone does a double take and then the carnage commences with victory points changing hands faster than a groupie backstage at a Rolling Stones concert.

Now all of that would be fun enough, but that is not all that Kemet has to offer, aside from its war game styling’s it also has some Euro going on as well. The game has two distinct phases night and day, the night is a brief pause where you’ll recharge prayer points (the games currency) and potentially gain extra bonuses including Divine Intervention cards (we’re come onto them in a moment), one of the most significant is the player trailing with the least VP can decide the turn order for the next day phase, this can have a huge impact on the proceedings especially in the latter stages of the game.

The day is when the most fun happens. Each player has a board and five counters which they place on it to perform any of the nine actions available, just like a worker placement these are everything from moving to praying for more points or upgrading your pyramids.
Pyramids you say? yes each race has three of these nestled in their kingdom represented by large D4’s one red, one white and one blue, aside from looking cool they also track your level in each of the three powers. These powers are the beating heart of the game sort of like a k-mart for ancient deity’s, they have four levels that can only be purchased if you have the corresponding leveled pyramid in your city.

They start simple enough giving you bonuses to actions or modifiers in battle. Its when you get to the level 3 or 4 powers that things get rather exciting, you can buy the giant creatures which boost any armies that they travel with and aside from coming with really cool mini’s they offer some serious clout on the battlefield. The other thing about these powers are that they are in limited supply, once one has been purchased its gone and only that player has access to it.

The powers are a game on their own combining them allows you to build your races economy, will it be all about the war or a strong defense, there are multiple combinations and its hugely rewarding for return plays as you can tweak a game winning strategy dependent on which powers you take.

Now the one thing I haven’t touched on is the battles themselves, a game revolved around fights better have a **** good way of resolving them or it’ll unravel faster than a ball of twine in a cattery. There are no dice here you control your destiny, each player has the same set of six battle cards some focused on a strong attack whilst others on defense.

Whenever you go to war each combatant plays one and discards one these cards have a few simple stats on each, all come with differing amounts of strength which when combined with the number of units in your army the resulting player with the highest overall strength wins the battle. However in this game you may win the battle but lose the war, you see there are also two other stats wounds and defense, the wounds kill that many units in your opponents army that go undefended by the defense stat regardless of winning or losing.
In addition to the battle cards you also have the Divine Intervention cards, many of these come with additional strength or wound modifiers that are played with your battle card to further boost your stats, again these are secret and can really turn the tide in battles.

Its an elegant solution to this old war business and adds a poker style bluff to any battle where there is never a sure thing, and even a victory can be hollow if your forces take the target only to be decimated by the retreating forces leaving you suddenly a terribly appetizing target for the next warlord.

There is a lot to love in this box, if your group is looking for lighter war game that rewards return visits to the scene of the crime then this is for you. It’s incredibly easy to grasp and play the swathe of power tiles are what add the complexity and can slow down the early games as everyone pauses to contemplate what new weapon of mass destruction to add to their growing stockpile. But oh boy its exciting when you can start to pull of those combo’s. And with how the board is designed there is never any opponent out of reach and in such a condensed area it turns the game into the equivalent of a knife fight in a elevator, except that somebody just brought a bazooka. I haven’t even touched on the fact you can steal an opponents pyramid and then use it to buy those powers for yourself, or how about the initiative power that kills two opponents troops whenever you attack, or teleport that allows you to use the obelisk’s to move about or maybe Holy War that pays out four prayer points for every battle you win. The list goes on and on, and aside from all these juicy mechanism’s you also get all the cool monster mini’s and little armies, this game looks a much fun as it is to play.

If I had to get critical and these are small things, I’m not sure how finely balanced this beast is, which depending on your point of view may be great or not, but certainly some of the powers can give huge advantages if combined. There is also the possibility of a kingmaker in the final rounds, most games do get incredibly tight towards the last few turns and victory can often be determined by the slimmest of margins. But this is all minor niggles, at its heart this is a great great game with strategies only surfacing from repeat plays and unlike Risk and similar games you are never completely out of the running even after a terrible defeat, there is always a way back. Me I love it, it fills that down and dirty war game with enough polish and shiny trinkets that I can’t wait for another go at it.

Originally published @

Go to the Risk: Legacy page

Risk: Legacy

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For me the original Risk is an enjoyable light war game, when my group began playing on a semi-regular basis again this and its Lord Of The Rings variant saw plenty of time at the table. Sitting back in my armchair some years later having now devoured my fill of what modern board game design has brought to the gaming banquet its easy to dismiss the simple pleasures of Risk. You see Risk’s biggest strengths and subsequent weakness is its a fun and easily grasped game, making it the go to gateway for armchair generals in training who will move onto bigger and deeper things as their hunger for a more strategic experience takes hold. My biggest issue’s with Risk in all its iterations be it Star Wars or the countless other licenses that have been applied, sometimes sensibly other times less so is that games will often rattle on for hours past where anyone really cared who won or lost anymore. And then there’s the randomness and luck driven nature of the combat. Whatever the grand tactic that you will embrace that evening and no matter how many troops you have mustered to your cause over long periods of stockpiling and trying not to get noticed, all of this posturing can quickly unravel before your eyes in a series of terrible dice rolls that leave your blitzkrieg across Europe stuttering just outside Paris. Its painful and the agony is further extended when one of your opponents then sweeps through your undefended lands to sink a flag in the swiftly cooling remains of your empire, don’t you wish you had some way of getting back at them, I mean you’ll remember that, why shouldn’t the game?

Well now it does. So the first thing to get out the way straight off is that Risk Legacy while not reinventing the wheel has gone some way to making it all a much smoother ride, it also includes one incredible feature the Legacy mechanism.

Legacy is something that should be applauded and its a shocker that it has taken three loong years for it to be even contemplated as happening again, the brain child of Rob Daviau its a mechanism that see’s not just the rules, but the board and the components being altered or removed completely from the game. All of your actions and decisions can have ramifications for the rest of the life of your copy of the game. For me the invention of this system is probably the single biggest development to happen to board games since dice.

As soon as you open the box a decision in itself (there’s a big label there to make sure you are aware of the enormity of whats coming) and begin playing you have further decisions to make after which your version of Risk legacy will be the only copy like it. To prove this point the first action you should take will be a ceremonial signing of the plate attached to the rear of the board, that’s another thing if you are intending to play this game through with a group, make sure everyone is in for the ride, because trust me no-body is going to want to miss whats coming.

Upon opening the box you are faced with sealed compartments and envelopes, its like being in some gamer’s Aladdin’s cave of possibility’s. At this point you need to exert self control and leave these mysterious artifacts alone or you’ll ruin what makes playing this so unique.

The more you play the game the more it changes and you will only open the envelopes or compartments when the game dictates, it may be within a game or two or maybe five or six. The thing is every time you open a box or envelope it changes things maybe some simple rules tweak or possibly an option to penalize a foe, whatever it is you will want more. Your mind will start to spin with what else could be concealed away awaiting to delight, and trust me there are some stand up and push the chair aside, mouth slackening moments of gaming joy in this box. Opening the sacred artifacts becomes a moment that your’e group will treasure for years, it can turn a bunch of old and jaded gamer’s into a gaggle of dizzy seven year old’s on Christmas morning, if you could bottle this stuff it would be illegal in most countries.

Now i don’t want to ruin the surprise here, and word of warning if you’ve not played yet, don’t go seeking spoilers or you’ll rob yourself of probably one of this gaming generations most amazing experiences, but just to tantalize. The main rules will be significantly altered throughout the whole campaign it will allow you to upgrade the games factions, you can also track those factions wins and loses on the card. You will write on the board, tear up cards, city’s will be built and destroyed you can even name continents giving you a perk. By the time you have run through the fifteen game campaign your board will be a unique one of a kind artifact, something to gaze upon and tell of mighty clashes and sad stories of battles fought and lost. An experience that you shared with good friends that no-one else will ever repeat, something to treasure.

If you’ve not ordered this already then there is probably very little more I can do to convince you. For me I feel sadness that you are robbing yourself of a one of a kind unrepeatable experience. And if its because its a Risk game then more fool you.

So to sum up, yes its still Risk but with some great new twists, its easy to teach and you can be up and playing in a short period of time. If you are new to the hobby or looking to convert some non-gamer’s then this may very well be the single greatest decision you can make. And you are getting in at the ground floor because Rob Daviau is as we speak, right now, designing two new legacy games. Seafall is a game completely of his own design that will encompass the Legacy system and Pandemic Legacy which will work similar to Risk did by layering the mechanism on an existing game system. These are exciting times people and whilst Risk Legacy maybe didn’t make the splash that by all rights it should have these next two are going to change things forever.

Times they are a changing people and very soon so will our games.

Go to the Zombicide: Season 2 - Prison Outbreak page
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I’ve long avoided Zombicide, the price has been one factor it runs into the serious gamer’s budget area making attaining a copy a special treat and less an impulse buy. I’ve occasionally glanced from afar but in all honesty I wasn’t that enticed, sure there are all the great looking mini’s I mean this box contains more plastic than Cher and it obviously had something going for it the Kickstarter’s have made enough to fund an actual Underground Volcano Lair but something just didn’t light my fire. Probably the biggest reason it remained off the list was it didn’t really capture what I love so much about the Zombie genre, the twisted mirror that these can reflect onto humanity’s base desire to be ***** to one another just to get Twinkies or a shopping mall all to yourself. And if I really wanted to shoot zombies for two hours there was always Left For Dead.

So spin forward to the UK Games Expo this year and Graham a member of my local group managed to snag a copy of Season 2 in the bring and buy for a steal and later that night we settled down for a game. At around the hour and a half mark when I wiped out about 50 zombies with a Molotov cocktail and the table erupted in roars of joy and hilarity I knew I needed this game in my life.

Zombicide encompasses everything I hate about how the zombie genre is handled in gaming, instead of nuanced comments on our society its the equivalent if Michael Bay designed board games, slick, manic, deranged incredibly violent and so over the top you’d need a really big ladder to see over it. But much like some of Bay’s output its also hugely entertaining despite the ridiculousness going on in front of you. So Zombicide is the Bad Boys 2 of Zombie board games, I think that’s what I’m saying.

So yes, there is nothing subtle about Zombicide but it does have a huge amount of shiny things going in its favor, those miniatures we mentioned earlier for instance, there are dozens of finely sculpted and detailed figures the quality of them are all exceptional. Actually point in fact all of the components are the best your money can buy no expense has been spared in the whole venture, there’s a lot of bang for your buck.

One of the games strengths is its accessibility, if came as a surprise to find just how simple this thing is. You place the boards dependent of the scenario you intend to play and then bang you’re off. Everyone starts with 3 basic actions that can be used to walk about, kill things, interact with stuff or search and that’s it. What really brings this game into its own is the XP mechanism, as you kill zombies a little meter on your player card creeps up from the blue level to the yellow and so on, whenever you ding! one of these levels you get to choose a new ability and soon it becomes terribly addictive to want to hit that next point, but and this is a big but, there is a consequence to this joyous fun.

The zombies are spawned at the end of every turn and they spew fourth from predetermined spawn points like the never ending chorus line of face eaters from the movies, how many is dictated by spawn cards. These innocuous little things have colored levels just like your XP track and as soon as a survivor dings! then that next level of spawn is activated, and things get much worse for everyone.

I’m sure you can see how that goes, especially if you’re trailing on the leveling stakes its not going to be a great day.

The combat system is another strength, as 90% of the game is all about mashing rotting heads a convoluted series of tables and stats would have killed this faster than a big breasted blonde in a slasher movie. Each weapon has a corresponding card which lists all of that weapons stats, its range, how many dice to roll for an attack what number will count as a hit and lastly the damage it causes. The damage is a breeze to handle, all the basic zombies require 1 hit to kill so there are no stacks of damage markers, you simply grab a stack of dice and roll and for every hit then that’s a kill. There is no greater joy than dual wielding hammers or samurai swords and charging into a mass of undead party ******* and reducing them to zombie sushi. Now there are a some zombies that have higher wound scores that require you to find the weapon that hits with enough force to kill them the Abominations are the worse, requiring a weapon with a hit of 3 (of which there are very few) when one of these spawns its time to run.

Another nice touch is the noise rule, certain weapons will create noise which is shown by a yellow hazard counter placed where you are when you use said equipment, if the zombies can’t see a victim then they will flock to these areas on their move. Now than can be used as a tactic to draw them to parts of the board, but also an over excitable player with their first chainsaw might just get a bit carried away and that can be an awkward moment.

If I have issues with the game its the length a scenario can take, even the smaller board set ups can see a game running to the two or more hour mark, and whilst its a hoot whilst you are playing there is the possibility of outstaying its welcome. Also the danger is to start playing by committee, the fun comes from everyone doing their own thing and I have had a couple of games where everyone has become obsessed with over thinking whats going on, there are strategies to levels but to treat it like a game of Diplomacy really sucks the life out of this thing.

All of these niggles fall away faster than a fat kid on a mountainside once you’re in your **** mobile and roaring down the main street beheading zombies willy nilly with your chainsaw whilst hanging out the passenger window, there is a childish glee to it. Earlier I mentioned Left For Dead and If you’ve played that and enjoyed it then you’ll going to equally love this, its basically the video game as a board game. And with the spawning of the zombies it turns almost into a Gauntlet style version of the zombie game as you cut swathes into the hoards giggling manically as your friends look on in horror as you ding! two levels above them. Surrounded with a like minded table of souls you are guaranteed a fun evenings slaughter.

So should you get this? Well if any of what I’ve said above excites you then yes, if you can swallow the price you’ll get your moneys worth and with sand box style of this game you can go on inventing your own scenarios or campaigns long after you exhaust the ones supplied, Cool Mini also have a neat little map editor you can download and use to make these on their site. Its also a modular game so you can pick any of the big box starter sets and you have a complete game, you can then choose to add the others if you want.

So despite all of my earlier misgivings I really enjoy this game, taken as a rotting slab of quick and dirty mayhem then this is a hoot, its a surprisingly tightly designed and clever thing with a flexible rule system that you can house rule to your own groups requirements to maximize your evenings entertainment. Would I get more? possibly I still have a lot of game in this box to play and I don’t see me exhausting it anytime soon, but **** some of those new mini’s look cool.

Go to the Boss Monster page

Boss Monster

61 out of 68 gamers thought this was helpful

Boss Monster is catnip for any passing geek, there’s the cool retro 8-bit style of the cards and the genius box design that alludes to those bygone days of gaming on creaky old consoles. Then there’s the theme, manage your own little dungeon as a bunch of heroes attempt to pillage it like some Conan themed stag party, only for the bumbling lunkheads to be wiped out by your fiendish traps and horrible monsters. Its a hugely popular idea already accomplished fantastically on the PC by Bullfrogs genre defining Dungeon Keeper and with some success later in cardboard by Vlaada Chvatil and his Dungeon Lords (although that one is a bit of a marmite game).

This one isn’t as heavy as Vlaada’s creation, were in filler territory, its rules light and a relatively easy to grasp card game. It plays up to four with each player taking the role of a random Boss Monster, each of these is a humorous non IP threatening variation of some classic video game baddies. The goal of the game is to assemble the best and most dastardly dungeon to attract all the heroes over to your place and then murder them, actually putting it like that it all sounds a bit creepy. The first Boss to kill 10 heroes wins, if you are unfortunate to take five wounds then you are out, you receive these wounds by any heroes successfully navigating through your dungeon without being maimed or made to be less alive then when they started. So yes a tasty big heap of geek catnip, the sort of thing you expect to roll in and get all purry and flop about waiting for a tummy tickle.

Components wise you get a couple of decks of thin cards, they aren’t the best stock I’ve ever encountered nor the worse. I’ll give them a pass for the pixel card art that actually functions within the theme of the game rather than just being a tacked on gimmick to be cool, something that seem’s to have reared its blocky little head of late, especially among Kickstarter’s. And hats off to whoever it was who came up with that box design because I’m sure a huge percentage of sales will come just from the cool factor of wanting it on your shelf.

Unfortunately once we dig into that neat little box its a bit of a buzz kill, the game itself is a disappointing mess. The central theme and idea is very cool and totally sold me on playing this, but in practice it just doesn’t work as well as it should, everything is all there sparkly and obediently ready to please but it just doesn’t deliver, sort of like a Pizza delivery driver with directional dyslexia. The game is hampered by some big issues, first and one of my main niggles is the bosses themselves. Considering the game is called Boss Monster I thought that I would have more to do with my big bad, essentially the only power they have is a level up that activates once you build your 5 rooms and then you get a once off bonus effect, some of these are quite cool and a few maybe a tad overpowered but then that’s it, they can’t fight or do anything else. Wheres the epic end of level boss battle that made those old games so cool and swines to beat. Say you construct this epic dungeon and a rampaging Barbarian thunders his way through felling foes and deactivating traps finally staggering wounded and spent into the heart of your dungeon, he rests on his blood smeared sword looking upon the overlord of this lair who cackles manically who then sits on the floor rocking while the confused adventurer jabs timidly at him with his weapon. This is a bit of a deal breaker for me and an epic fail for the designers, this one moment guts out the main draw of this game and launches you out of the theme faster than a German designer with a box of cubes.

So putting that disappointment aside the rest of the game also has some fundamental issues, the randomness of the card draws from the room deck mean that you can get run away leaders whilst others are left floundering with a bunch of rooms that just don’t work together. The idea behind this game is to be building this monstrous lair, but if you can’t pull the cards then you are left with ineffectual rooms that you can’t upgrade because your unable to get the correct cards to allow it, leaving you with the feeling of not being so much in control as blindly reacting to what you draw next. Now there are possibilities of selecting rooms but it requires you having the cards that will allow you to look through the decks. You might argue that this is one of the games strategies but I don’t buy it, its just too clunky and unbalanced and once again pulls you out of the games theme, of being this all powerful Boss. You end up more like some unprepared site manager directing confused contractors about your site “Who built the torture pit next the room of surprised orphans!”

And then there are the spell cards and a lot of these feel over-powered, you start with two but if you don’t get the right rooms then you can’t draw more of them, a player who manages to get a steady supply of these is going to decimate the competition. And going back to the randomness of the room cards its very hard to successfully combat this happening. And finally there are the heroes which aside from a bad draw at the start that can see your ill prepared dungeon getting a pasting can normally be dispatched pretty easily once you’ve managed to get a few rooms down. And it leads us back to the broken room draw mechanism, with you only being able to attract heroes if you have the correct flavor of stuff they want which is this whole randomness at the heart of this game where you very rarely feel ever in control of whats happening.

There is a great game somewhere around this theme with this style of art its just not in this box, and I think that crushing disappointment of wanting this to be the game its selling on the cover makes the discovering how short it falls of obtaining that goal all the more frustrating. As a simple random filler to be pulled out and played for a giggle then there is some fun to be had, the kids quite enjoyed it, but after a couple of games the voids in the game play where glaringly obvious.

So a warning then, if you dig the box design and theme be warned, there isn’t much game in here and what you get is really down to a Russian roulette spin of the chamber and whilst you can try to aim for a bulls-eye the utter randomness of the card draws means you’ll probably shoot the neighbors dog by accident. This is a great mesh of theme and art design desperately lost in some dungeon labyrinth in search of a decent game design and mechanism. If you are happy to settle for that, then it’ll while away a few hours but will leave you unsatisfied wishing for what this should have been.

Go to the Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men page
29 out of 29 gamers thought this was helpful

When I first heard about this game I was on the fence, I own Quarriors and whilst fun, it needed the expansions to really fix a game that traded off the fact it contained all those cool dice. So when Wizkids proposed this new Marvel licensed version I kinda suspected more Quarriors with different dice, cue cash in.

Well I was wrong, the returning Quarriors designers Mike Elliot and Eric Lang have completely overhauled the original rule set making it play much smoother and quicker and most importantly more fun.

To address the elephant in the room, yep its a collectible game but at a low price point especially compared to its closest rival Magic, and you get dice with this not just cards. Quality wise its of the standards we’ve come to expect from Wizkids with most of the dice easily identifiable and I only had a couple with some dubious paint over the symbols and I have to say they look cool. The card stock is pretty thin mind and once removed from one of the booster packs will require flattening over night beneath a copy of Twilight Imperium before you can realistically use them without looking like a stack of pringles. I picked up a bunch of boosters and have to admit to having some glee at popping open each new pack and watching what dice tumbled out, i don’t remember feeling that giddy rush of excitement from opening something since my days of collecting stickers for my Return of the Jedi album. The most heart stopping moment was when a Green Goblin die dropped out and my heart gave a flutter as I pulled the cards free in anticipation of a SR, only to find that during the sealing process they had become glued to the packet. Several tense moments and heart palpitations later left me with a damaged but serviceable common Gobby phew.

So anyway lets get onto the game, is it any good? Yes is the answer. Is it better than Quarriors? Again I’d say yes. The starter version of this game requires far deeper strategic thinking than Quarriors and has much more interaction. And whilst there is some choice to be had in this set, you are going to need to buy some boosters to make the most of what this game can offer. This is also far more of a mashup between deck builder and dice game than Quarriors managed, and I suspect this is originally what was envisioned for that game. So once you’ve taken the dive and amassed a collection of heroes from the boosters you can really start to build a deck to play to what ever strengths you enjoy, some heroes compliment each others abilities and can be combo’d together for devastating attacks, once playing the luck of the dice rather than the random draw of cards dictate how you build and play your deck. Its a simple but deceptively thinky version of the original Quarriors and I like what they’ve done.

You start each game with 8 basic dice with symbols for each of the 4 different energies you will use to buy your heroes, a basic sidekick character and a question mark that you can use as any of the symbols. Once you’ve bought some heroes and rolled them you can field them onto the play area, then either choose to attack your opponent or hold them back to defend. Many of the cards offer perks for having already fielded heroes which will boost attack and defense, or even damage any dice held back by your opponent for the same purpose. Your overall goal is to whittle down the opposing players 20 points of health by breaking through his wall of heroes defense he will be trying to build up.

The fighting works exactly like Quarriors with the character dice having 3 levels of power and a cost to field, a attack score and a defense. When you attack an opponent your attack is blocked by whatever characters he chooses to defend you with, if your attack is more than that dices defense then its knocked out of play and has to be re-rolled on his next turn, the same will happen to any of your heroes beaten by a defenders attack. However if your attacker survives without taking damage above its defense score then it goes back to the fielded zone ready to attack again on the next turn. If your opponent has nothing there to stop your attack then you deal that amount of damage from his 20 health and then your dice is used and will be cycled back into your bag.

And that essentially is the game, build your deck and then field your heroes using their powers to boost your attacks or defense scores. There are also some basic action dice available for either player to buy that give modifiers dependent on which cards you choose.

I really like what they’ve done with this, its a simple game to teach so it will certainly bring in fans of the comics with little or no gaming experience, but it also has enough meat on its bones to satisfy the more hard core among us. Yes you are going to have to sink some cash into this to get everything, but with the variety of powers and cards on offer you can still field a decent force and learn the ropes without having broken the bank. It comes down to a few simple questions you have to ask yourself, are you happy to buy into the collectible model and will you know when to stop?

Go to the Sentinels of the Multiverse page
88 out of 95 gamers thought this was helpful

I love comic books, have been avidly collecting since the 1980’s , worked/hung around in a good friends store for several years (worked is a very loose approximation of what took place). They are in my blood, if you cut me I’d bleed in four colors. But here’s a thing there really isn’t very many comic book board/card games. Or at least good ones.

I’ve been circling Sentinels Of The Multiverse for a while it was either this or Legendary and as a friend picked that up recently it made my choice to grab this a whole lot easier. The reason I’d hesitated up to now was reviews deriding its fiddly and late game algebra style mechanisms. But there was only one way to know for sure, so I jumped in.

So Sentinels isn’t a deck builder, in this you start with a complete preformed deck for whatever character you chose to fight as, lets get another thing out of the way as well, this is very much a homage to the classic big Marvel team up comics which see’s you battering the speech bubble out of some dastardly villain. This is all about the take down, that epic huge splash panel throw down between earths mightiest and the baddest of the bad. Its a co-op and everyone has one thing in mind beating the snot out of a villain.

The rules are easy, and pretty much involve the villain pulling a card and activating its effects, some cards are triggered at the start of certain turns and others at the end and that’s really it. The heroes have powers and as well as playing a card they can also use a power from one of their cards that are out. And once everyone has had a go a card is played from a nearby environment deck, which can help the heroes, hurt them or apply other modifiers to the fight.

So far so easy right? Well it is and it isn’t, things start to get complicated once everyone plays a card, because essential each new card subtly or in some cases not so subtly alters/breaks the rules, these can be anything from simple damage modifiers to hero crushing effects that activate at the start or ends of specific turns. This is when things get a bit complicated and its really only with further plays that you can settle into the quirky groove of how this game works. I will admit at first losing the plot with card effects scattered here and there and villain and environment cards applying effects and modifiers. Aaargh my brain.

The game comes with a stack of tokens for HP and others for keeping track of the various damage modifiers which certainly help. I was really beginning to think this was an awful game and lets not mess around the rule book is so slight because all of the rules are on the cards, and for the first couple of games that’s all you are doing, play a card read the new rules so on and so fourth. Its only on subsequent plays as you become more familiar with the characters that you can just play the game, and you know what its actually a huge amount of fun. This captures that superhero mega battle far better than Legendary (which I do like) when playing with friends you can start to combo super powers together, with someone taking on the role of healer, someone else as damage its sort of like playing a Warcraft Raid.

And I really dig the art style, it doesn’t try to compete with the hyper stylized ultra detailed art prevalent in most modern comics its its own beast, it reminded me of the work of Michael Avon Oeming who worked on the Image comic Powers, more akin to a Saturday morning cartoon. I love that the villains all have they’re own special skills and interact with their decks, and my group loved the card flip effect, where you have the baddie on the ropes and then his card is flipped adding a cool twist to the finale.

So yes I do love this, even in the base game there is a graphic novels worth of variety and once you start to bolt on the expansions you have a crazy array of choices. And boy this is a hard game, some of the level two villains are ridiculously difficult to take down, as to the level fours forget it. Yes it is fiddly and requires a lot of bookkeeping and to start with you are reading cards constantly, but this is a game that rewards perseverance. It certainly isn’t for everyone and can run on a tad long with a larger group, but if you are all in the right mindset and learn your characters powers then there is a lot of game in this box.

So if you are on the fence then all what you’ve heard about this game is true, and if you like the sound of that then you need to give it a go. Its a quirky game and does its own thing, but I applaud it for managing to capture that epic throw down of that big end of comic moment and I enjoyed immersing myself in the universe and the powers of each of the heroes, there’s very little downtime as even when not playing there is so much other stuff happening that you are constantly involved in the latest plot developments. Its a great co-op, you really do need to work together as a team to defeat the big bad, we’ve had some epic battles. Surprised by how much I enjoyed this one, give it a go it might surprise you too.

Go to the Arctic Scavengers page

Arctic Scavengers

79 out of 88 gamers thought this was helpful

In some funky alternative timeline Arctic Scavengers upon release became a roaring hit, ushering in a new age of deck builders and spawned a series of brilliant expansions. So it sucks that we’re stuck here in this ***** timeline where none of that amazingly cool stuff occurred. There’s a depressing history to what occurred behind this games release, I don’t want to linger on that bad mojo (and a google search will fill in any blanks you have) instead lets focus on the good stuff this game offers.

Arctic Scavengers is a deck builder set in a post apocalypse world trapped in a never ending ice age where bands of ragtag tribes struggle to survive in this unforgiving environment, think of a chilly mad max. You as the player control one of these groups by building your deck from the meager resources on offer in this cold new world.

This game brilliantly encapsulates the frozen environment through the icy blue art palette on the cards, to how it plays, everything you are doing makes sense in context of, and furthers the theme. Whereas most deck builders, even the theme heavy ones that followed on the heels of Dominion (Thunderstone,Legendary) whilst rich in art and story still never get over the clunky mechanisms of the deck builder mechanic, they are forever there drawing you out of the world. That’s where scavengers really hits the sweet spot, everything that you do in the game makes sense in the world it has created.

Lets walk through a round to see what I mean. Once you draw your cards from your deck you will find yourself with options, your hand will normally consist of a scant few members of your tribe and some equipment. You are going to obviously want more, unlike most deck-builders that see you totting up your coins and then browsing the available cards as if in some fantastical supermarket this differs. There is a limited supply of roaming mercenary’s each offering special skills, but you can’t just buy them you need to perform actions to get that currency by hunting. You send out your tiny group into the frozen wasteland preferably equipped with a net and whatever the amount of food they come back with you use to trade with these guns for hire to join your clan.

If you don’t fancy that you can send scavengers or refuges out with shovels to dig in the junkyard. Now this is something new, there is a deck of cards representing this wasteland and devastated cities surrounding your small camp, and dependent on how good your dig skill was for your team you can take that many cards from this deck. Buried among it are all sorts of useful stuff, maybe medical supplies a very valuable resource for recruiting or more tools or if really lucky weapons, of course you might just get a handful of useless junk. Whatever you dig up you can only bring 1 piece back the rest is returned to the pile. This little feature highlights what I was saying above of how the theme and mechanics mesh so well. There is nothing worse than sacrificing a small team to go out as you desperately need more supplies only for them to return empty handed. And as your actions are limited each turn you’ve wasted your time and gained nothing, in the game of post apocalyptic ***** you’ve come up snake eyes.

All of that is pretty cool and with the simple iconography of the cards it really is a lot easier to teach then I’m making it sound. But there is an even better aspect to the game that no other deck builder has and adds a whole other level of bluffing and strategy, and more importantly some actual player interaction and the stakes are high. There is another deck the contested resources, these work as both a game timer as once depleted the game ends and the colony with the highest population wins, but more importantly contain some rare and powerful cards. These are worth fighting over and fight you do.

The skirmish phase takes place after everyone has done their resource gathering, each players remaining cards battle it out with the other tribes to take the precious resource. No other deck builder I have encountered has anything like this, it works as a great bluffing stage, because all you know of your opponents is how many cards that they are sending into the battle, for all you know they might be just a bunch of refugees. It ups the stakes tremendously, do you burn valuable cards looking for resources and tribe members weakening what you can send to the fight, or risk it all praying that you can fight them off.

There are specific mercenaries that spice up this stage with snipers that can take out opponents cards or saboteurs that can disarm an opponents equipment, its a great idea and really ramps up the tension as you have no idea what your up against. And again adds a rich chunk of story to what it is that you’re doing rather than just playing off cards against your opponents.

Now all of that makes a rich rewarding game and taken alone is fantastic, but Scavengers has some more tricks up its insulated sleeve. Included in the box is the HQ expansion that for 50 cards really adds a lot to the base game.

Its modular so you can add it in stages (suggested) or maybe just play with the bits that you like.

There are a bunch more equipment cards to go in the junkyard deck and a Medic mercenary who can save your clan members whilst being targeted by a sniper in the skirmish. These are all cool stuff and add more variety to the base game.

There is the Tribes option which is a modifier for the end game that will reward you for collecting specific resources, got all the meds then the Pharmers will come flocking to you and bolster your population.

The second part of this expansion adds a entirely different strategy and that is buildings, the schematics for these are pulled from another deck by a special engineer class and then dependent on the amount of time its required to construct this building that many of the players cards are placed on it and it ticks down each round until built. This process can be sped up by sending more of your tribe over to help. These can add a huge difference to the game whether its a Armory that allows you to store equipment cards for retrieval later before a skirmish (effectively freeing up your hands to draw more cards on later rounds) or a Hydroponic Garden that generates food to assist with hiring it adds more thematic meat and gaming gristle to what is already a brilliant game overflowing with gaming gravy.

But there is even more, the final module in the expansion are Tribal Leaders – these guys are drawn in a draft of two cards, and are all unique offering various perks. Most of these guys are pretty messed up, the cannibal clan seem like a settlement to avoid. These bring more character and color to your tribe and the world whilst enhancing the game play.

Its criminal that this game hasn’t seen a wider release, aside from the wonderfully realized world, it actually offers something the other deck builders don’t, actual interaction. The skirmish mode and the whole poker style bluff and counter bluff. None of the games mentioned have anything remotely like this, whilst they are great the game play is pedestrian with everyone playing individual card games with the whiff of interaction. In this game you are always watching and wondering who has what, and where will the next threat come from.

If I had one complaint is the lack of variety in the available cards specifically the mercenaries and contested resources, the supplied ones are sweet but I’d like the option of one or two really powerful things in that deck and the option to change it up so you are never certain exactly whats in there. But that’s a small complaint and due to the nature of the game and its secrecy you never really know who has what until it strikes.

There is a sliver of hope on the horizon the next expansion Deception is done, and looks to include all the juicy stuff that fans are clamoring for. Its currently mired in Rio Grande’s reticence to push the button. Kickstarter looks like the potential avenue, but only time will tell and I just hope that this happens. But here’s something you can do right now to help, go out and buy the game, you’ll be supporting a great designer and giving a clear message to Rio Grande that we love this and want more and you get a fantastic game to keep, what a sweet deal.

Go to the Terra Mystica page

Terra Mystica

134 out of 151 gamers thought this was helpful

Terra Mystica thudded (and I mean that literally, have you lifted this box!) onto the scene late in 2012, it’s a box heaving with wooden components and at first glance once set up sprawled across a table is sufficient to send some gamer’s running to the hills screaming.

I first encountered Terra Mystica last year when I was introduced to the game at my local club, and it was with some hesitation that I sat down to tackle this beast, myself feeling a tad inadequate in its company. I was fortunate to have a good teacher (thank you Graham) who managed to sum up the rules and get us playing in relatively short time and without me developing a brain tumor or him punching me during the process.

And pretty soon I found out a couple of things about this game, despite its imposing table presence with its heaps of strange shaped wood and bundles of counters and chits, its actually a very intuitive and nuanced game and a great deal of fun to play. But I suppose you’d like something a little more detailed than that, OK then deep breath and here we go.

The games theme has you adopting the role of one of 14 different fantasy races each with their own unique traits and abilities, yep this is a Euro but with a fantasy theme. Its received some flack since release accused of the theme being pasted on, now granted it is more a thinly applied lacquer rather than the great big splosh you see on most Ameritrash games, but it still adds a pleasant aroma of pine to the proceedings (or maybe that’s all the wood) and thematically works alongside some of the more exotic mechanisms ticking away under the hood. So what are you actually doing in this, well the main goal (this being a Euro and all) is to amass the most points by the game end, you achieve this by building settlements over a very colorful hex covered board. Each of the hexes are a type of landmass from forests and deserts to mountains, and depending on your chosen race only one of these will make you feel suitably cozy enough to be able to put down roots. You do this by terraforming map tiles to the color you need and plonking your buildings on them. And that’s pretty much it, everyone is doing the same thing, obviously there are other more subtle goings on, with your opponents proximity giving you bonuses as well as he, and numerous careful choices of what modifiers to apply and at what times to utilize them.

Now I’m not going to run through the rules for this because I can’t without this review going on forever and in the process boring you to death, and me having a seizure, but what I will do is focus on some of the shiny bits that make this game so great.

First has to be the amazingly designed player boards, these are just the cleverest things and once you’ve got one set up and ready to go in front of you its like a selection box of gaming possibilities just urging you to dig in. Brilliant design happening here as they function both as player aide and resource tracker whilst sat in front of you like some TV dinner tray, goading you to pluck at the tasty morsels uncovering more and more cool stuff hidden beneath them. Its just such a well conceived idea I’m surprised I’ve not encountered it before, so yes the player boards brilliant.

The other cool mechanism is the mysterious bowls of power. In the top right of your board are representations of 3 mystic bowls that you have to cycle your magical purple power stuff to enable you to use cool bonus abilities. Its a sort of currency that you have to filter through this bizarre one player aide three cups thingy to be able to use, it sounds barmy and quite possibly is, but also becomes rather addictive. Your mystical bowls of purple power are often activated by an adjacent neighbor building something and you leach off them and jiggle your power about to produce a usable energy at the end of the process. But it is finite as once used it goes back into the first bowl and you need to filter it through the whole mysterious system to use it again. There is the option to BURN!! your power which accelerates the process and gets the polished purple power into your mits, but in so doing you burn up one power for each you bring through, its a tactic to be used sparingly, or you could find yourself coming up short when you most need it.

And that brings us back to the main game, because essentially this is what you are doing a great deal of the time through out your strange tree hugging journey that makes up a round of Terra Mystica. You build an engine to produce a resources that you need and then spending those changes your original engine, which means you then get different stuff and then try and get smart only to… where was I? Ah yes, every forward step has repercussions, everything you take off will mean another piece returning to your board covering up areas and limiting your income on the next round. It really makes much more sense when you are doing it.

Besides all of this crazy resource gathering and magic bowl rubbing, there are also bonuses that pay out for doing specific things during a turn like building a specific building or are dished out once everyone has finished doing their thing each round. These offer further options that you really need to be planning for from the start to guarantee you make the most of them. You also get the option of picking a start of turn perk each round that will offer either instant gratification or points bonuses. And these bonuses become more and more important as the game progresses, with the option to pass on your turn for a pick of whats available before the others. Which has resulted in a couple of games where everyone is waiting for everybody else to pass and return their chits, leading to a scrabble of meeples and harsh words as everyone snatches for the one they need.

And then there’s the cult track, which see’s you sending off your colonies priests to some jimmy jones style cult to worship, nature stuff. Do well on this and your little fanatics will reward you with more bowl rubbing powers and can amass a huge points payout at the end.

I’ve really only touched upon the surface here, and to be honest no written review is ever going to do this one justice its something you need to experience really to get whats going on. If I had to pigeon hole it I’d call this the experienced gamer’s Catan, its probably as close as I could get to an elevator pitch and even that really doesn’t do it justice.

Now its not all fun, fun, fun. Despite the games best attempts and the sleek and very well put together rules this one still has a pretty steep learning curve, anyone attempting this for the first time needs to have had some experience of modern board gaming and a good tutor. And for goodness sake if you are going to teach people make sure you’ve read the rules at least four times and played it through a couple more, because a shoddy set up on this one and nobody is going to thank you, which would be a shame because this is a game where its subtle tactics only really start to emerge on subsequent plays.

And on those following plays It all starts to become clear, well only its doesn’t. What is clear is Its very easy to make some poor decisions in the early turns that can see you struggling to recover from, you need to start your resource engine carefully to build toward that end game goal, and an early misstep will mean failure. And as each of the races have subtly different powers you can’t play them all the same way. After having a couple of successful games using the Witches I’d taken on the Giants and confident of my amazing world building skills subsequently managed to bankrupt my economy within two turns which resulted in me never really having a chance to catch up. And nobody wants an angry giant.

With more players it is easier to salvage your game but in 2 or 3 player games poor placement of your starting locations and burning valuable resources transforming stubborn terrain can really bog you down. When I started to write this review I found I kept recalling more and more rules and deeper strategies as I cast my mind back, you certainly get a lot of value in here and it will reward you coming back for more and with the mixture of races it will be a while before you’ve exhausted what this offers.

And regarding any AP heavy players out there, yes those prone to it will encounter brain seizing moments, and repeated plays can add to this, as its then you start try to plan ahead. So be warned as to who you play this with or bring a book, or a stick.

So who is this for? I have to say Euro players are going to get the most from this, despite the designers attempts to apply a story to proceedings that all takes a backseat to the mechanisms and is more a flavor than a selling point, but then that never hurt Lords of Waterdeep or its sales. If you are looking for a war game then think again, this is more passive aggressive with no actual direct conflict. I’m not the worlds biggest euro fan and often find the dry mathematics and math heavy play styles a turn off, but this is nicely balanced and it draws you in with its Witches and Gnomes and somewhere during the game does a subtle shift into the full Euro, it offers rewards for anyone coming back for more with a fiendish array of options. And it has mystical bowls and purple magic power stuff.

So I recommend this its a solid game and for me it fills that mid to heavy Euro gap in my collection and with its theme will guarantee it hitting the table with my group. I’d strongly suggest a try before you buy where possible because it is going to have that love it or hate it thing going on. Personally I love it.

Go to the Stak Bots page

Stak Bots

12 out of 13 gamers thought this was helpful

Stak Bots is a game I was very recently introduced to by none other than its creator Tom Norfolk. Whilst bumbling around at a game convention Ollie my eldest was rather taken by a large poster depicting the above little colorful and cutesy robots with the tag line “Battling Robots Card Game”. Being a eleven year old boy that was an easy sell, so after a small amount of arm twisting by him we went over for a demo.

Before sitting I will be honest to not being terribly enthused, at first glance the art looked simplistic and I already have a dozen or so card games, did I really need another. Tom gave us his demo, and then I bought the game.

Yeah so who’s a fool then, that’s me. Had I not sat down and given this a try I would have missed out on a brilliant strategic yet deceptively simple little card game. I loved this, this is the sort of filler game my group eats up. But it is more than that, you can play this all manner of different ways, in teams, with smaller or bigger decks, solo, you can make it real easy or really quite strategic, there a bunch variant rules included with this and more on the website. And that’s another of this game’s highlights its rugged enough to be tweaked and changed and it will keep on ticking over like a trusty little robotic companion.

Lets pause a second and I’ll give you a brief rundown of how this plays out.

Each player gets dealt a stack of nine cards, and two in your hand. You flip the top card of your stack and then you are ready to go.

On your turn you draw a card from the deck into your hand and then decide on what action you want to take. Whatever you do at the end of your turn when you are all done, you must have discarded a card into the trash pile.

You can attack either with the top card of your stack or from your hand, you have to make a decision of what and when as you can only do this once per turn. The green number at the top right of your card is both your attack power and energy. Once its depleted your Bot is scrapped, but its possible for a powerful bot to potentially go on a bit of a robotty rampage and tear through your opponents cards.

Play a card from your hand, you can keep doing this as long as you have cards.

Scrap the top card of your stack or one from your hand, again there are no limit to the times you can do this. However scrapping all the cards from your stack will eventually lose you the game, so not the best idea.

A key and cool little feature is that a great many of the Bots has a entry effect – this will be some power that immediately kicks in as soon as its played/or turns face up from your stack.

These can be great giving you extra cards or moving your opponents cards around his stack or terrible in the case of the stupid stupid clumsy bot who scraps your own cards. I love this feature and its possible for you to chain multiple events that can decimate an opponent or quite possibly screw up your plans.

Once either yours or your opponents stack is depleted its game over. And then have another go.

I like card games and play many at home and in my gaming groups and this slots in nicely in either, and at the silly cheap price this is a no brainer. I personally need to get another set as my original’s have been borrowed by Ollie to take into school and play at lunch times.

So to recap if you have any Robot loving kids at home or you yourself have a soft spot for cute little bots beating the oily snot from each other than go and grab this. You can also have the satisfaction of supporting some good old British ingenuity.

Still not convinced than more fool you. OK do you have an iphone? if so then download the app. It’s free and includes the full game. I’ve been having lots of fun with this and recommend giving it a shot.

Go to the HeroQuest page


72 out of 81 gamers thought this was helpful

Ah the 80’s that bygone age of big hair, bigger shoulder pads and florescent clothing. 1989 was a standout year giving us some great movies Lethal Weapon 2, Burton’s Batman and Back to the future 2 some pretty cool tunes, Nirvana’s Bleach, The Stone Roses all of them classics, it also gave us the board game equivalent of these much loved treasures Heroquest.

Milton Bradley teamed up with Games Workshop to give us the cardboard equivalent of lightning in a bottle the first true dungeon crawl boardgame Heroquest. As a kid me and my friends must have played this thing to death. As soon as you opened that box you knew you were in for a treat. It came with a wealth of so cool components, actual bits of furniture to adorn your dungeons, heaps of miniatures, spells, armor and treasure oh my, and a book chock full of quests.

I remember devouring this game, it filled the gap for me and my buddies giving us that great D&D RPG experience but with loads of really cool stuff to play with and a cleverly designed board that allowed for an infinite amount of possibility’s. Nostalgia is a great thing but sometimes those rose tinted glasses when removed can lead to terrible frights. Would this still be High Adventure In A World Of Magic.

So it was with some trepidation that I opened this once sacred item to try it out again now 30 years later, as an experiment and to skew my now cynical and aged disposition I recruited some youthful adventures to join my on my quest, my 11 and 8 year old and a couple of their friends. I got to be the DM I set up the first quest and we gave it a roll.

Here’s the first shocker you may have forgotten, but Heroquest is a Roll & Move! really! The rules are so simple you roll your two dice and move that many spaces opening doors willy nilly the only ruling that you cant move back onto a space you’ve already passed. You also get a couple of actions, you can fight by rolling the tiny little custom dice, roll a skull you hit something, need to defend you need to roll shields to offset any attack. You an search for secret rooms/traps dependent on quest (i remember searching a lot for traps and secrets excitedly and never finding much) or treasure which is decided upon by a random card from a deck. And the Wizard and Elf can cast spells by playing a card from their magic deck, mostly involving killing something.

But you know what, once this was set up and going I didn’t care, and the kids they loved it. The cool thing was always the exploration, as you opened doors and moved about the board evolved with new doors appearing or monsters,, that excitement still holds my audience was lapping it up. I used years of proper grown up RPG experience to help build the atmosphere throwing in sound effects and maniacal laughs for the villains and my little band of adventurers where living it, forget your games consoles they were eating this up.

It is all very simplistic, pretty much all the dungeon dwellers have 1 health so a solid swipe from a character will pretty much wipe out most of them, but the kids didn’t care and neither did I. It took a while to get them to work cohesively as a team my youngest was loot ******* like a Warcraft newb on their first raid, racing around throwing caution to the wind opening door after door spilling untold hoards of Goblins and Orks onto the party in that search for an elusive treasure chest.

Just sitting back and watching their joy and squabbles as they battled the hoards was hilarious, especially when George (the 8 year old treasure obsessed Elf) used his walk through walls spell to abandon the party that he’d gotten outnumbered by the evil denizens in his quest for shiny trinkets, and step through into the main baddies Lair seeing their delight that he was going to get his comeuppance, only for him to one shot the boss. Brilliant.

We’ve played this all week and yep its light, and incredibly overbalanced in favor of the heroes, by the third adventure they had bought a bunch of equipment pretty much making them unstoppable killing machines, but you know what they didn’t notice and I didn’t care, we were having a hoot.

Games Workshop tried this again with advanced Heroquest but they broke the game trying to bolt on the more traditional RPG ruleset of line of sight and abilities and a ton of stuff that just slowed it to a trudge. I have it and maybe after they have grown tired of this, we might give it a go. But I’m tempted to move them up to Descent or Mice & Mystics because I think those will blow their fragile little minds.

So yes by today’s standards its over simplistic, completely unbalanced in favor of the heroes, a roll and move. But it has all those mini’s and bookcases and doors, its a hoot to play both sides of the table. If you have kids then yep I think this is the best way to enjoy this game to really get that feel we would have in those balmy oldie times of our youth.

As a game its been surpassed by its more sophisticated brethren and in no way would be worth you investing the serious coin this gets in the second hand market, but I enjoyed my jaunt through these familiar old corridors and if its encouraged my kids to try out something it bit more challenging then thank you Heroquest my old Pal, your still fighting the good fight.

originally published at

Go to the Lewis and Clark page

Lewis and Clark

21 out of 23 gamers thought this was helpful

We’re heading downriver in our canoes fortunately this involves very little banjo playing and definitely no pig squealing. Lewis & Clark follows the expedition of 1804 that saw Meriwether Lewis and William Clark sent off to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory, in a slight historically inaccurate tweak its proposed that a few more hangers on joined the party.

The game is a mash up of deck builder, worker placement and race with each player assuming the role of an expedition leader charged with trying to reach the pacific before your rivals.

To accomplish this you will be juggling resources and space on your little flotilla of canoes as you try to decide what equipment and supplies you take on to accomplish your goal whilst still progressing along the route ahead of your rivals.

Once you get to grips with the myriad of options you are faced with each turn this is actually a pretty simple and straight forward game, the complexity comes from the choices you are faced with and boy are there a lot of them. Anyone suffering from terminally AP need not apply.

The action takes place on a beautifully designed board, I’ll stop here and get the fawning out of the way now, all the art in this game is top notch, Vincent Dutrait has a style that evokes a comic book feel and each of the cards in the deck are individually illustrated and each is fantastic.

Every game turn you have to perform a compulsory action. That will either be playing card from your hand or an Indian onto the game board.

Everyone starts with the same basic deck of cards each allowing a separate action, be it gathering resources or using them to progress along the river. You play them by flipping one of your other cards and on the reverse they have strength which equates to how many times you can repeat that cards action. So you have to use sensible hand management about what you use when, because if you use the reverse strength of a card early in your turn you won’t have the action that it gives later. You can also use Indians in your party to play on these cards to increase the strength of them as well but like the cards these are in limited supply.

You can also forgo using a card and instead play one of your Indian’s onto the board and use the actions available, like most worker placements the spaces are limited and the only way to retrieve them back is by using the card in the starter deck. Again these are mainly about gathering more resources. But you can also build more boats to add to your little convoy or convert other resources into canoes and horses the fuel as it where to progress along the route.

You also get a couple of optional actions. There is Recruitment that will allow you to buy new cards to add to your deck, these spill out along the side of the board and have descending values of resources and get shuffled along as they are picked up or discarded. Many add some very powerful options or multiple choices and one tactic can be to slowly discard the weaker starting cards for these power cards, many also come with greater strengths doubling there usefulness.

The other option you have is to set a camp, what this basically does is allow you to pick up all the cards that you have played, however there is a penalty to this. Some of your boats have a sunshine symbol on them and any resources piled in these will cause delays in your travel, once you’ve calculated how many of these you have you also count how many cards you have left in your hand. This number is how far back you drift along the river, thematically this is a nice touch with a simple mechanism that equates to overloaded boats and too many crew slowing you down. It does turn into this push me pull me situation where you may go thundering up the river only to drift backwards through poor planning. wherever you come to rest your camp comes up to meet you. And you can’t just race ahead ignoring the camp because you need to get that to the finish to win.

Now that may all have boggled your brains and I hate to splurge out tons of rules, after-all this is a review not a thesis on game theory but there really is no down and dirty easy way to do this otherwise. On the plus side that is pretty much all of the rules, I’ve skipped some of the finer details but at least that should give you the basics.

This isn’t a short game I’ve played with 4 and that was a good 3 hours of game, bearing in mind I was the only one that new what was happening, the original expedition took over two years to complete so a couple of hours isn’t a bad representation. Be warned there is an awful lot of decision’s to be made in this game, you may only get one of two actions a turn but they both have a lot of thought needed before making, and as some of the resource collecting is also linked to cards other players have put down there is the gambling when to collect what, and forgo another action, or worse the player makes camp to your right taking with it all the lovely resources you’d counted on taking.

As you near the end of your journey there are mountains to cross and this also tips the apple-cart up and then stomps all over them, because you can’t progress without having the resources to do it. This can be a nightmare, if you’ve constructed a sleek engine to whiz you up the river you have to suddenly change gear to a completely different resource. Thematically it works a treat slowing everyone down as a range of mountains would, the original expedition took months to cross these. Its also neat catch up mechanic because it will slow down even a run away leader.

Taken as a piece of historic gaming its applied a dubious hollywood veneer to history, the Indians are all playing nicely and everyone is one happy family which was far from the case for that time period, but as a resource gathering and worker placement this is something special. There are some real crunchy mechanics happening below the surface and a **** of a lot going on, and it balances all the disparate elements wonderfully.

So i’d highly recommend this for lovers of the worker placement genre looking for something with a nice twist, its not a light game and can run on a tad with a larger group, and has the potential for some brain seizing AP issues with those prone to over analyzing everything, I love all the ideas that this brings to the table and how well it all just seamlessly works as a whole.

It also plays as a solo and this actually works really well and is an equally challenging puzzle as you try to race another automated expedition that just slowly moves along the river like some 1800’s clockwork terminator as you fight to race ahead of it. I strongly advise giving this a go before trying to teach the game to others as all the main mechanics are used. So yes well worth a look, its sweet on the eye, light on the wallet and chock full of inventive stuff happening below the surface.

Go to the Shadows over Camelot page
52 out of 59 gamers thought this was helpful

Shadows Over Camelot is something of the elder statesmen of board games, its now the ripe old age of 9, which for board games whose ageing works something like that of a Pekingese makes it in about 98 by human years. So its a bit long in the tooth and by rights should probably be consigned to the composter, after all with all the new innovative games hitting what can this grand old codger teach us?

Well, Shadows is responsible for birthing many now commonplace mechanics and ideas into the board game universe like some teenage council estate single mother, although Shadows brood is bit more well behaved, and less likely to knock your wing mirrors off your car or spray paint a badly spelled expletive on your front door.

So what makes this so great then, well for starters the board and its components are just some of the best looking yummy stuff still even by today’s hi-def standards, there is a lot in this box and being a days of wonder release all of it is tasty gravy. It was also one of the first co-op games to come out from a big publisher and gets right a lot of the elements that subsequent games haven’t. Whilst its a co-op each player still has the freedom to control their destiny and make decisions which effect them as well as the group. Too often of late some of these newer co-ops just make you feel like a cog in some monstrous machine, with you just hanging around to hit the button at the right time.

And it also added a serpent in the mix that has become quite popular and an element I do love in games, the dreaded traitor mechanic. One of the cool things about how Camelot uses it, is the potential that if playing with less than the full 7 players then there may well not even be a traitor. But the prospect of one lurking and all the decisions that this game throws at you (most of them bad) means that even without the traitor, everyone is still going to suspect everyone else.

So whats all this Camelot stuff about then? Well each player is a knight hanging out at Arthur’s round table and you get to go out and do a variety of quests, everything from searching for the Grail, to fetching Excalibur from some watery tart to battling the evil Black Knight. Every turn a player must do two things one is bad the other good. The bad will be anything from losing a life, putting siege engines on the board or taking a card from the dreaded deck of dreaded cards of dread. The good stuff will be going questing, using cards, having a nap (healing yourself) or pointing at another player and accusing them of being the traitor.

This is a great place to start with anyone interested in co-op games or traitor games, the basic mechanics of all the quest’s are really just set collecting and making poker hands, so its easy to explain and get people playing. Whilst there is a lot options and initially it can appear a bit daunting after a round of turns everyone should grasp whats happening. For something to slap on the table and get going pretty quickly this is it and once set up it looks stunning. Sort of like the board game equivalent of a **** or is that a Cougar.

I’ll tell you another mechanic that this introduced that I don’t think I’ve seen in any other games is the option for somebody to just sit down and join in. Even if the game is underway and there is a space you can just deal them in and off you go, how cool is that.

The only bad mark I’m going to throw at this is its rule books, yes there are two of them. This frankly seems a bit overkill, they look lovely but splitting the quests into a second book is a bit strange especially when some rules are in one and not in the other, however its not a deal breaker and once you get a hang on whats happening you won’t even need them again, here’s a tip though, make sure you explain the traitors rules very well, because it can be a bit of a giveaway if somebody suddenly needs to study the rules mid game.

So this being a co-op obviously its you against the game, and boy this thing is as evil as anything that has come along since, then you throw in the possibility of a traitor and it really goes off the rails. So you all need to be working together and the game cleverly with a few very simple rules does its best to make you all look like your the bad guy. Take for example the Black Knight quest, if you draw a bad card for this quest it has to be played down on the board for the BK but the player has the option of putting it face down to gain a white card. This offers up such a tasty quandary if the player is good then they gain the card which is really useful, and now here is a thing, you can’t say what the exact power of these or any cards are. You would state something like “Tis a puny naive that I have placed down” i.e. a power 1 card, which of course doing this also helps the traitor disguise his actions because he can be lying through his teeth whilst putting down nasty cards or stockpiling other good cards in his hand. Pretty soon the most innocuous move can have all eyes on the table scowling at you.

You can out a traitor if you so wish, there are a few rules. There needs to be at least 6 siege engines down and 6 swords, and this is a one time deal so you want to be sure. Because if your wrong than a white sword switches to black, of course there is nothing stopping the traitor from accusing fellow knights as well. Once the evil traitor is discovered than he can cause all sorts of mayhem by taking cards from players and placing siege engines or playing black cards from the deck.

So losing well that is achieved a few ways, if the siege engines fill up to twelve than you’ve had it, if there are more black swords around the table at the end then you’ve lost, and if everyone dies you lose. The win condition is simple put down all twelve swords you need to have more shiny white swords around the table than black otherwise that mean old traitor wins. The swords are placed upon completing or failing quests and some quests also come with extra perks that can help you along the way such as the Grail or Excalibur.

So summing up, this is a lot of fun but **** its hard. As an introduction to some now much used mechanics alone its worth a grab, as I’ve already said you are getting a handsome game with some neat components. I’ve not even covered all the quests or the fact that some of the quest boards are reversible adding even more carnage to the game. There are deeper and more thematic versions of this style of game out there now, but this old lady still has some tricks up her sleeve. And if you throw on Monty Python in the back ground than this can turn into a riot, I can’t play the game these days without thinking about the stupidity of the film, maybe that’s what we need a Holy Grail licensed re-theme?

So for me and the gang we’re off to Camelot!

Go to the Zombie Dice page

Zombie Dice

12 out of 15 gamers thought this was helpful

OK time for something very light. We love dice at Who Dares Rolls and embrace any opportunity to play a game with them, which is lucky really as that’s all Zombie Dice is.

In the tube you get 3 sets of different dice. Green, Yellow, Red.

Each of the dice have 3 different types of symbol on them, a brain, some feet or the shotgun blast. The dice are colored to identify how tricksy it will be to roll those tasty brains!! Green are easy as they are festooned with grey matter the yellow throw in a couple more shotgun blasts and the red’s are basically death, a cube of death.

Each player is a zombie and on your turn you take 3 random dice from the pot roll them and score whatever brains you rolled, put them aside the same for any shotgun blasts that hit. The feet are dice that you return to your hand and then if you want to have another crack at it you keep them and pull more dice from to pot to bring you back up to 3, rinse and repeat. As this is a push your luck game if you get a bunch of brains to chow on you are going to want to keep going and scoring, and you can unless you roll 3 shotgun blasts. When that happens its bad news all day long, you lose whatever brains you’ve scored and play moves to the next player.

So the key is knowing when to call it quits and bank your brains you’ve already scored, its all gravy whilst your pulling green and yellow dice from that pot, but if you suddenly hit a bunch of reds, well you’ll going to probably have a bad day. Once one of you zombies hits a score of 13 brains you win, berate the others and proudly swank from the room with the knowledge of a job well done.

And that’s pretty much it. zero set up time really easy to teach and portable. Its not deep, the theme is tenuous but if you have young ones around its one they can pick up and play with ease.

Originally published on

Go to the Quarriors! page


86 out of 94 gamers thought this was helpful

If you love dice games and have a penchant for deck builders then this may very well be one of your favorite things, because Quarriors is both of these. Designed by Mike Elliot & Eric Lang and released by Wizkids back in 2011 the base set comes with a brain boggling 130 custom dice, now that’s a lot of dice.

Aside from the bucketful of dice you also get a set of 53 power cards that work in tandem with those dice, and mix up the proceedings so each game will be a little different.

And the game itself is a pretty simple affair it essentially see’s you battling your opponents by gathering lots of creatures into you pool of dice readying them each turn and any that survive through to the start of your next round can be scored for glory dependent on the corresponding card. First player to hit the requisite glory score wins. Its really as simple as that. The rule book does its best to explain all of this but to begin with mainly befuddles and confuses as its a bit of a wordy mess, it works and does its job but it could have been made a tad more user friendly.

Each game is set up the same way by assigning the powers each dice has by pulling from the deck of cards, you get 3 spells by dealing from the deck the first 3 unmatched cards any duplicates are discarded and you keep going until you have 3 unique types. There are multiple cards for each the different types some stronger than others or with some special burst abilities so this adds a nice haphazard randomness to proceedings. You do exactly the same process for 7 creatures cards. So this is all cool, it means the set up process is quick and easy, the biggest pain can be matching the dice to the cards as each will have 5 of the corresponding dice put on them. There are also 3 basic cards that go out and are available in every game one of these refers to Quiddity which is the currency of the game. You then grab your starting pool of 12 dice that you pop into your dice bag these are 8 Quiddity and 4 assistants which are basic low level creatures. And then off you roll.

The game plays by you pulling 6 dice from your bag and rolling them, now to start these are either going to give you a Quiddity value your cash and probably a couple of the assistant’s.

every turn plays out in 5 stages

1: score creatures – any beastie active in your ready area from a previous turn can be scored for the value of glory on its corresponding card. Scoring also allows you to cull a dice if you want to streamline your pool, very handy later on to start to thin out your dice.

2: pull your dice out the bag and roll.

3:Attack, Attack!!

4:capture a die (basically buy an extra dice for your pool from the ones available)

5:Clean up, move everything you’ve finished with into your used pile.

You are going to be buying lots of creatures and spending quiddity to ready them to attack your opponents, the attacking is pretty straight forward its your creatures accumulated attack value against whatever creatures your opponent has ready. They defend in turn using the defend value on each dice and are chipped away at until either you run out of victims or attack.

And so on and so fourth, basically your using your turn to get rid of any creatures from your opponent so that he can’t score them for the glory at the start of his next turn and he’s doing the same to you, and that’s pretty much how it works. It has to be said this does all become a bit meh! And especially if all your pulling is quiddity dice and then getting ******* by yours rolls when your monsters are hitting the quiddity faces and not the fighting sides. This is when you need to learn to start thinning out your pool of dice, the white quiddity dice just clutter up your bag after awhile and its a good idea to start ditching them after you have a good fistful of the more powerful dice in your bag.

The cards are the clever touch with the differing power levels and separate effects will mean that each game has some variety and you will have to play to the strengths of what has come out of the deck, and its not just the the power of the dice effected some of the creatures come with burst effects represented by an asterix in the bottom right of the dice, these can be anything from giving you more glory to wiping out creatures from your opponents pool.

And that really is it, as you may have guessed due to the modular nature of the game it was ripe for expansions and indeed there have been 5 already, so if you enjoy this there is certainly a lot more fun out there to be had.

I picked this up because I love dice rolling games, and wanted something I could play with the kids. There is a ton of luck in this, and the old problem of the leader running away with the game, but really its pretty light and simple and the base game while fun can get a tad samey after awhile. I heartily recommend picking up the Quartifacts expansion which really gives the game some legs and fixes some of the issues of it all getting a bit repetitive and adds a much needed depth to your options each round.

So should you get this? Well yes and no, I have a couple of caveats, if you do buy it I’d suggest snatching up the Quartifacts expansion alongside because it is really needed to add a bit more zing to proceedings, and the other issue that we have is The Marvel Dice Masters game is due to hit in April and I suspect at that point Quarriors will be seeing less and less table time. The Marvel game is from the same designers and looks to be Quarriors 2.0 with a rather spiffy Marvel theme. I want to recommend Quarriors as it looks so cool and there are all those dice, it just the base game isn’t quite as great a game as it really should be.

Go to the Space Cadets: Dice Duel  page
15 out of 16 gamers thought this was helpful

Who hasn’t watched the Wrath Of Kahn and secretly wanted to be on the bridge of the Enterprise barking orders and dodging photon torpedo’s whilst trying to outwit a deranged captain and his crew as you slug it out in a battle of interstellar battleships. Of course you do, well now you can.

Space Cadets Dice Duel is the sibling to 2012′s Space Cadets, its a lot easier to set up and get playing and is essentially the same game but with less faffing, and more dice. In Dice Duel you and your team pilot a ship taking the roles of the officers required to keep the ship moving and fighting.

It works like this, every station has specific custom dice rolled and placed on that panel to activate its functions. So the weapons officer is frantically rolling dice to load torpedo’s whilst simultaneously rolling other dice to also get a lock on the target whilst also making sure that they have even more dice on the jamming sensors. Somebody else is going to be doing the same but with the dice that allows them to pilot the ship, and also placing shields around the ship. And whilst all of that is happening some poor sod is running the engineering station who is tasked with rolling the correct dice to supply the power to the guys above, as they scream at you to “Give them more power!”. Not forgetting while you are doing all of that, you also A have to actually have a plan, which involves steering the ship whilst avoiding mines and asteroid fields. And B there is another ship out there doing the same thing and they are trying to kill you.

Most games I’ve played have gone a very similar way. Everyone rolls like mad, head down desperately getting shields up and loading weapons. We then try and position ourselves somewhere near the enemy ship, which has been usually doing the same thing. An overzealous weapons officer screams fire torpedoes and then notices that the enemy captain has somehow got his full shields up and is jamming us and that we loaded the torpedoes in the rear ports so we’ve effectively just blown up the small M class planet behind us. hmmm.

This is not a serene game, definitely not something to be savored like a warm mug of chamomile tea, no this is more an rowdy energy drink that comes with a small shouty man charged with punching you in the face every 5 minutes just to remind you he is there. This is a boardgame for adrenaline junkies, every moment is a mad dash to balance the constantly shifting parameters of what you are trying to do. But **** its fun.

There is a bunch of other stuff, like a tractor beam that you can use to wang your opponents into mines and nebula’s and some spiffy crystals that you can ****** to boost powers and repair stuff. Oh yes should have said that, once you’ve been shot four times its game over and every time you do take a hit you lose one of your energy dice to signify your slowly disintegrating spaceship. “She canae take nah more captain!”

This is a quick game and for once the estimated 30mins play time is accurate and makes this an excellent mid way game night refresher, it’ll certainly wake everyone up. If you are looking for a tactical recreation of starship combat then you’d probably best look elsewhere, if you love Escape or Space Alert then this is their ADHD suffering teenage love child.

All the bits in the box are great with some suitably chunky custom dice that roll very well (we tested them all) and simple but effective player boards. The rules must be applauded for being written in sensible English without the requirement of a mathematics degree or needing to cross reference them every five minutes. (trust me you won’t have time if you wanted to). And as my home group consists mostly of the mildly confused it was a relief to find something easy to set up and explain.

This is a light filler and works best with bigger groups and is an excellent party game, as long as you are aware of the frantic nature of whats about to come and don’t mind laughing at yourselves when you do something incredibly stupid then you’ll get a lot of joy from this. If your group consists of po-faced armchair strategists then you’d probably be better of with a nice game of Risk.

Go to the D-Day Dice page

D-Day Dice

103 out of 112 gamers thought this was helpful

Atchung! Schnell! and other war movie staples. We like dice here at WDR and also a bit partial to the odd war game so look what we have here D Day Dice has both yippiee!

War Games! Huh! What are they good for… Well actually they can be a lot of fun but equally also a bit complicated involving lots of tables,graphs and bucketfuls of miniatures, so*o D Day Dice, it has a tiny little board and dice and cards, so that makes it all a lot easier.

In D Day Dice everyone is on the same side, you play a dicey Tom Hanks and company as you battle your way up heavily defended beachheads and across mountains and coastal defenses to reach the Germans bunker at the top and blow them up and win the game.

At first glance the game looks a tad complicated but its really not. Everyone gets their own armies little resource card, it has five spinning dials that you use to keep tally of all the important stuff during the game and is a neat idea. Basically what you are doing is making your way up the beach and gathering resources as you go, these can be either more troops, courage, tool parts or commendations.

You get all of this stuff by rolling your lovely lovely dice, everyone gets six red white and blue dice and they have various resources like troops or courage on them, every turn these are rolled giving you your stuff. There’s a player aid that helpfully lists all your actions and also the RWB bonuses you can get by rolling complete sets of the symbols in those colors. Like Yahtzee and just about every game with dice since you get to choose to keep or re-roll some of these dice a couple more times before you go with the total, this moves things into push your luck territory as there are symbols that can lock dice.

Each sector of the beach has a defense rating which is the number of troops you are going to lose every turn that you hold that position, there are also other modifiers like Machine Gun nest’s that strafe you DakkaDakka! minefields, barbed wire, and some even require you to have specific equipment or troops.

At its core this is a resource management game, you have to balance recruiting cannon fodder so you can survive the withering assault that gets dished out further up the beach whilst also investing in upgrades of equipment or specialist troops, some will open up better routes on the maps. Then its the decision of when to head up the beach, you can wait three turns in most sectors before moving on and this is usually a pretty safe strategy because the later stages of some of maps are grueling death traps.

There is a lot going on in this little box, played solo this is an absorbing puzzle to be pondered over, in a group you need to work as a team assaulting those beachheads, trading valuable supplies and knowing when to hold back. This is not a one man assault, if you charge off unprepared leaving the other units behind your going to find yourself getting cut down, and if one unit dies then everyone loses. It works as a co-op but really everyone seem’s to be doing their own thing and someone always seem’s to forget to update the resource card or move their unit dice on, its just a little bit too busy with a lot going on and turns into a chaotic free for all.

So what do we think? Well this is the question really I’m kinda hanging on the barbed wire fence, the components are lovely the graphic design fits and is clear and concise. The manual is a tad jumbled and could make things easier, but there some tutorials to enable you getting a grasp of things. The game is a simple thing to teach and play.

Now wheres that but… Well but.

The set up can drag, considering this is filler territory you have to dig out cards and dice and prepare everything which is a good 5-10 minutes of fiddling about. Then its a half hour blast followed by another ten minutes of break down, not the end of the world but for such a brisk game a lot of its time is spent preparing. As it stands the game is teetering on the brink of greatness but I’d struggle to say where ultimately it fails, it hasn’t enough meat to make it a real strategy game, which is fine but somehow with all the other options in the pot they slow things down too much, leaving it stranded in no mans land. Its not terrible by any means and definitely a lot of fun can be had but most games come down to a book keeping exercise rather than some glorious derring-do, its hard to put my finger on. Its frustrating because I want to like this more than I do.

I’ve picked up the Atlantikwall expansion that allows a player to take the place of the opposition so once we’ve given that a spin we’ll see if that gives this the co-op the edge it needs. As its stands this is a great solo puzzler and can be a lot of fun on your own, if you are looking for a co-op then there are better and more fun ones out there.

Go to the Letters from Whitechapel page
63 out of 71 gamers thought this was helpful

Letters from Whitechapel is based on the very real and horrific serial murders committed during the 1880′s in olde london town, which to this day remain one of the most discussed and theorized upon unsolved mysteries of our time. Personally I’ve always been enthralled by this dark moment in UK history and have absorbed much of the literature and media that surrounds this event with each author adding their own distinct theories of who how and what. Alan Moores seminal comic masterclass From **** probably stands out as one of the greatest, the less said about the Jack Sparrow movie loosely based on his exhaustively researched and written work the better.

But you may ask this is all very nice, however do I really want a board game based on the serial murders of prostitutes, well in an answer yes, yes you do. Designed by Gabriele Mari & Gianluca Santopietro Letters from Whitechapel is a deduction game which tastefully avoids the more graphic elements of this event and focuses on giving us a tense and gripping game of cat and mouse played out in the fog shrouded streets of Victorian London.

The game itself is relatively simple to set up and play, someone gets to be Jack and everyone else is a copper. Played out over four turns each depicting a night when Jack will strike killing and then bolting back from the site of his most recent crime to get home. The Police are charged with working together to try and find where Jack is and catch him before he completes his murderous spree on the fourth evening.

Now here is where it gets really interesting, all of Jacks movements are hidden, they are secretly recorded behind a screen by the player who is Jack, so other than when he strikes the police don’t know where he is. All Jack has to do every night is make it back to his home before he runs out of moves or is caught.

This being a Fantasy Flight release you can bet it looks beautiful, and yep it does. Surprisingly for them its relativity component light but all of them are lovely and subtlety thematic. The board is a huge map depicting the tangled streets of the Whitechapel district this is where all the action occurs. It has a clean but very effective design appearing like the plans of the desperate police force, pinned on some wall somewhere in a station house.

Aside from the board there really is little else other than the pieces and counters that are used to track the hunt. The rule book is excellent and can be used to play through the first turn to get everyone up to speed. There are also some player aides that can help as a simple memory jogger to whats happening.

This game plays from 2 up to 6 and in my opinion the more the merrier with this, the smaller games are still a great deal of fun. But I have found this really becomes the tense and nerve jangling race against time it should be when there are a table full of amateur detectives.


So lets dig into how this all works. Before anything else happens Jack gets to pick where his house is and notes it on his special move track sheet that he keeps hidden behind a neat little screen that comes with a handy smaller map of the board. This is his goal for each night and its selection will dictate how Jack will play the rest of his game.

Part 1: ****

Each night follows the same pattern. First the board is set up. The player who is Jack goes first and places 8 white tokens depicting the women onto the board, 5 of these have a large red dot hidden beneath for where the victims will be and remaining 3 are blank. These can be placed out over any of the 8 murder locations on the board highlighted by a red number wherever Jack wants and only he will know which one is real and which is a decoy.

The police do the same thing but with their 7 police patrol tokens 5 being real the others decoys.

Then the white tokens are revealed and the ones with the red dots are replaced by the wretched pawns, so now we know were the intended victims are but as of yet the police patrols are still a mystery.

Jack chooses his action first and that can be to either strike and kill a victim or wait giving him more time to get home. If he has waited then the police get to move the wretched pawns once. So while this may give Jack precious extra moves it also means that the police can start to maneuver the victims closer to a police patrol effectively increasing the odds that Jack can be discovered. Once the victims have moved Jack gets to choose one of the patrol tokens and flip it to discover whether that is real or a decoy.

This process can be repeated up to five times, but on that fifth turn he has to strike.
When he does strike Jack writes that number down on his sheet in the corresponding box and then the games afoot.

Part 2: The Hunt

So this is where the real fun begins.

Jack goes first and secretly moves one location and records it down on his sheet.

Then all the police get to move, and this is where it becomes a game of cat and mouse. After a policeman has moved they can perform one of two actions either to search for clues at any of the neighboring locations by calling out the number or making an arrest by choosing a site they believe Jack is at.

If they search for clues and call out a number that jack has visited then a clue marker is placed on the board a yellow chip, these become a trail of breadcrumbs that start to uncover where he is moving across the board.

And so this is repeated, with each turn marked off on the time track, so it becomes a ticking clock for Jack to make it back undiscovered to his home. And if he does then he’s safe and we go back to the top and start the whole process again.

So this is a really tense game. If you are playing as Jack, as the nights progress you have to come up with deeper and smarter ways of outwitting your foes. The first couple of nights are a breeze for this dapper prostitute murdering gent about town, the police will bumble around desperately prodding about in the hope of catching a whiff of where you’ve been and usually coming up short. But even now mistakes can be made, because by the end of the second night unless the investigation is being led by Inspector Clouseau they are going to have a pretty **** good idea of where your sneaking off too each night and so the net will slowly close.

Suddenly every decision is a nail biter, do you hold off for those extra turns to give you more time during the chase. But every extra turn will put those wretched pawns closer to a patrol and potentially further from your front door.

Now Jack has a few tricks up his sleeve to help in his nocturnal activities. He gets two special moves the amount of which decrease as the nights draw on. One is a carriage which allows him to move two spaces and sneak through the policeman’s drag net, which can be very handy. But this is also announced to the investigators and a marker is placed on the time track to show when it occurred. This will cause a new flurry of discussion to start, how close were they, did he sneak passed. Jack can also use an alleyway that will allow him to sneak to any other location on a blocks perimeter he is standing at that time, again a very useful move but its use will tip off the hunters as to Jacks shadowy movements.

It may sound that Jack has a pretty boring game, make a move and sit and watch. But no no, that is not the case. As you hunch there eavesdropping on the initially clueless observations of your pursuers you try to stifle a smug smile, their not even close snigger. And then they find a clue, and then some bright spark starts to piece it all together.

To sit there as fingers are waved or discussions are made about where you could be is tension inducing, especially when they are discussing your possible location without knowing that you are indeed standing exactly where they think you are. And by night three when you have to kill two victims and your special moves have been limited and the full weight of the force is centered on your location, its suddenly a whole new game.

If the police are smart they will form a dragnet about your suspected home, and suddenly it becomes some devilish game of hide and seek as you try to slip through their net without them noticing.

Its not all beer and pizza for the good guys, the first two nights its true that you’ll going to be playing catch up and the worse is although every clue found is brilliant, its easy to forget as you scurry about trying to find where he’s gone Jack is moving further away from your grasp. And especially when a carriage or alleyway is played you know with a sinking feeling that he can suddenly have disappeared into the fog and the trail has gone cold.

I love this game and its theme, it just oozes off the board. Yes its long with most games at least running to a couple of hours, every minute is a thrill, of either elation at outwitting your opponents or nerve jangling suspense as they close in on your location, block your escape routes and all the while that round timer is counting down. You sit there doing the math knowing you have a handful of turns left and need at least three of them to make it back, a costly detour can mean the end of your game.

And who is playing and how will make or break your evenings entertainment, the dreaded alpha player can rear its head, and potentially derail the whole investigation. But even that is kinda thematic, it won’t have been the first Police investigation fouled up by poor theory’s or deductions. There can be nothing more thrilling for Jack to hear a blowhard announcing they know where your house is and prodding a finger down in the completely wrong location. This will slow them down but sooner or later it will become clear that Mr Know It All was wrong and then **** probably grow awful quiet when he see’s that his blustering may have cost the game.

And if everyone is getting too good at one role then the game also comes with a bunch variants that can be used to tip the balance to one team or the other. Replay-ability is huge, with my group gagging for the opportunity to play Jack and try their hand at outwitting the others. I fully recommend you give this one a shot its theme and mechanics work seamlessly together and its simple enough to teach that any level of group can quickly pick up the rules, and the inbuilt learning curve will mean they will understand the nuance and strategy of the game at exactly the point they need too.

A great game with a brilliant integrated theme.

Go to the Chainsaw Warrior page

Chainsaw Warrior

19 out of 21 gamers thought this was helpful

Travel back in time my friends to the 1980′s. The golden age of action horror movies, muscle bound hero’s and bad hair. Released in 1987 by Games Workshop Chainsaw Warrior was an instant buy for my teenage coffers.

Essentially this is a John Carpenter movie in a box, minus Kurt Russel. If like me you’ve watched Escape From New York multiple times then you are going to love this.

The set up is simple its 2032 and an malevolent warp to the nightmare dimensions has opened in a New York apartment complex, as a retired special forces commando you have only 1 hour to storm the building with a blistering array of cool heavy weapons and save the world.

This is such a cool game and one of the few Solo efforts that I know off. The game comes with a comic book that helps to set up the pulp feel, and strangely for a Games Workshop title the rule book is relatively simple and straightforward. (anyone who has played Dark Future will understand the pain to which I allude)

Played out on a board that has a nail biting timer squatting ominously in its top right corner, this represents you state of the art digital watch as the world countdowns to doomsday.

After an initial set up which see’s you randomizing your hero with some simple stats which effect your health and weapon prowess you then get to do the board game equivalent of the equip your weapons montage prevalent in the 80′s.

You select your random weapons and equipment and then your ready to take on the forces of darkness.

The game is played by making your way through two decks of cards that represent the buildings corridors and rooms (sort of like a fighting fantasy book), each of these cards will have a hidden surprise beneath it (usually a monster) and you have to make your way through this deck (somehow) and reach Darkness the big bad buried somewhere in the second deck. Kill him and win the day. (yeah right)

Its as simple as that. But boy is this game tense, every turn that timer is ticking away and worse some encounters will cost you valuable seconds burning away into that slim 60 minute window. Its so easy to get caught up in whats happening and before you know it you are the board game equivalent of an action hero (you will have to provide your own one liners) The deck is mostly full of bad guys and most of them zombies and ghouls, but hidden among them are some really nasty surprises.

This game is so tense and hard, did I say hard. Its virtually impossible! If your not running out of time, your bleeding out or irradiated and then you turn the next corner and are faced with a mutant or robotic zombie thresher machine and by that point your down to a sharp stick and harsh words (yeah your ammo runs out too).

Just brilliant stuff and even though this game will hand you your backside 9 times out of 10 its such a manic tense ride on the way you know you want to play it again straight after.

When I got this out to take the pics I didn’t intend playing but the temptation was too great, maybe this time I’d beat the swine. No, not gonna happen 40mins into proceedings with my ammo running dry and suffering from radiation poisoning I turn the corner and was promptly torn to pieces by a pack of hungry rats, the indignity.

Love love this game. Gutted that the sequel that was hinted in the rule book never came out an Alpine Nazi occult stronghold assault.

So by now your thinking I want this game, but where can I get it. I’ve seen on ebay and can sometimes be picked up for a reasonable £10 or so, I was lucky enough to procure a second copy this summer from a car boot for a couple of quid. I then felt safe to allow the kids to try their hand at it without the fear of jam stains or missing components.

But all is not lost, this has been released as an app and on the steam store. I’ve not played it yet but it looks to be every bit as challenging as its board game counterpart, so for under a fiver you too can savor this classic.

Go to the Nothing Personal page

Nothing Personal

16 out of 17 gamers thought this was helpful

Nothing Personal has been on my radar for a while, I mean a gangster game chock full of double crosses, whaking’s, and family infighting who wouldn’t want to play that? Who hasn’t watched the Godfather Movies or Goodfellas and not wanted to dip their gaming toe in those turbulent waters, who doesn’t want to smile across the board at you buddy and then put two in the back of their head when they weren’t looking and then go get cannoli. Unfortunately like a Staten island immigrant it didn’t look to be reaching these shores. But wait! Having made an offer to the missus she couldn’t refuse this found its way into my Christmas stocking. So lets go take look.

So Nothing Personal is a mafia themed take on Kremlin (published back in 1986, but recently resurrected via a Kickstarter in 2013) with a garnish of Cosmic Encounter. Co-designed by Tom Vasel, that jovial gent who hosts The Dice Tower probably the biggest board game review site on the planet, with that pedigree behind it I expected something a bit special. And before we get much further into this I will come clean and state I love this game! Its so much fun, it’s not for everyone and I will lay out why below.

So the set up is this, you control one of the mobs five family’s and are battling it out with the others to gain control over the business and accrue the most respect whilst doing it. You do this by stacking influence chips on the motley crew of hitmen and enforcers arranged on the board, whoever has the most chips gets to control that gangster and in turn reap whatever respect and cash they accrue, additionally you can utilize whatever power their position in the pecking order gives or any special skills they may have.

Before I dive any further into how this plays I have to give a shout-out for the fantastic component quality of this game, the box weighs a ton and its no wonder, its bulging with fistfuls of thick components, tuck boxes and other assorted goodies, all the influence chips and money are chunky slabs of board, you get some real coin tokens and even a metal Capo ring to wear when you are the Godfather. All of the artwork and design is top notch, with each of the Gangsters getting really nicely illustrated cards (if you follow the dice tower you may well recognize some of the faces on these) and the whole package just oozes quality like a recently plugged bad guy.

Right that’s the fawning out of the way, but really, ****! this is a ruggedly handsome game.

The game-play is pretty straightforward and I’ve had no problems teaching this to my group and within a turn everyone I’ve played gets it. The game plays out over five turns each broken down into six stages like so.

The Commission – This is where everyone squabbles over which gangster they want and plays cards to effect the influence the various family’s exert over them. This is the meat of the game.

The Crew – You work out who has control over who and you get paid out with cash and respect, and then working up through the organisation everyone gets to do that position or gangsters action.

The Fence – You get more cards. Or can buy them.

The Feds – Its a raid and someones getting pinched. Anyone’s mobster who has amassed too much influence is going to do time.

The Family – Any mobsters left standing that haven’t been taken out or are in the slammer shuffle up through the ranks. There’s always somebody waiting in the wings to step over your dead body.

Bookkeeping – And we go back up to the top and start all over again.

And that’s the game and it is pretty simple stuff. What ‘isn’t so obvious and really comes to light later is how everything the rule book doesn’t tell you is where all the most fun is to be had. You see whilst there are a solid set of rules to really enjoy this game you have to harness you inner mobster, the rule book gives you a blank cheque to negotiate, trade cards, blackmail, bribe, steal and generally act the git. And it was only on subsequent plays when we all started to test the boundaries of what we could get away with that this really came into its own. Its not called Nothing Personal for nothing,

As an example the other night we started a game and the first turn in I offered my brother in law a perk that one of my gangsters had in exchange for cash, he dutifully paid up and then I took his money and gave the goodies to someone else. And you can do that, this game will be responsible for game night grudges that will endure for years. That set the feeling for the rest of the night and our two family’s slugged it out for the duration of the evening, and following me whaking a good number of his wiseguys and other morally dubious behavior I positioned myself as top dog, at which point it was too late to usurp me.

Just when i was out… they pull me back in!

So two caveats, the first is this isn’t going to be for everyone, if your group are not going to embrace the more anarchistic possibility’s and get down and dirty they’re probably still enjoy the game, but you will wonder what all the fuss was about. And on the opposite side of the coin, make sure everybody understands that skulduggery is a huge part of this, because this is rage quit in a box, there will be tears.

Aside from gaining influence on you gangsters and scoring the respect that will see you win (you even get a little gangster meepsters to track your progress) you can play influence cards. These come in all sorts of flavors that include simply adding extra influence onto the board or some really fun ones that involve whacking other positions or blackmailing. And after a round of these have been played you can ante on the next cards forcing your opponents to pay to play, anyone cash strapped are not going to thank you and you can chalk up some new grudges.

This has such a neat and simple design, but combined with the option to break the game by negotiating, lying or just cheating the others heck maybe team up. All of these little opportunities are there, its basically saying well here’s your game now go make some of your own rules up. During the commission stage, you could just quietly pop out your influence chips happy in your own little world, but what about if you offered another player a card for cash, or proposed a move and see who would bite. It suddenly ups the stakes and draws everyone into whats happening.

Then with the crew stage when the rewards start to come in and you suddenly see the repercussions of allowing somebody to control a gangster who then uses that power against you, ah its good stuff. Tired of that mobster ahead of you in the pecking order getting all the respect and cash, well than whack him or if you can’t bribe somebody else into doing it. You get a cool die for that task but be warned somebody else can pay $10 to make you re-roll any result. Not feeling that violent then make a move, you can muscle your mobsters up the tree to get those juicy higher tier positions in the family.

And that’s something I’ve seen in subsequent plays, the first time out our happy family of miscreants remained mostly in place for a big chunk of the game. That all changed on the next plays with arrests and whackings and backstabbing aplenty and by the end of the second round we had amassed quite a few casualties.

I love this game, I’ve always had a soft spot for mob movies and this game embraces this theme so beautifully and simply, and it does what all good board games do, entertain you and give you stories to recount later. Even now as I write this, i’m thinking up all manner of great tactics for when I next get this to the table. So if your group love the genre or have thick enough skins to stomach the meanness that this brings out in you then its a no brainer, go and get it already.

And if not well.


Go to the Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery page
115 out of 127 gamers thought this was helpful

Spartacus – a game of blood & treachery to give it its full moniker was the first game out the gate from Gale Force 9, they had some considerable success last year with Firefly. And after having savored what they did with that license and much Nom! Nom! later I decided to give this a nibble.

The game follows the events of the first series of the popular Starz TV show, based loosely on the true exploits of the slave uprising against their roman oppressors, ooh and Stanley Kubrick made a film of it with Kirk (manly) Douglas and his chin, and some oysters and other subtext. Subtext was something the show didn’t do, it did all full frontaltext It was a gloriously over the top and filthy piece of TV jammed to the hilt with blood, ************ and John Hannah chewing the wobbly scenery and swearing like a sailor. If you’ve not seen it I can heartily recommend giving it a shot, the later season’s failed to capture the fun of the first in my opinion, but that first season was slick with more joy than a freshly oiled gaggle of slave girls.

Uh, oh yes sorry got a little distracted. So the game see’s you running a Ludus or Gladiator school (think Harry Potter but with more stabby stuff) and is played over 4 turns, i’ll go into more detail on those in a moment. But to give you the gist you get to do some double dealing and mischief to the other houses, go to market and trade equipment, Gladiators or Slaves and finally the best bit, stage games in the arena and batter the living poop out of the other players premiership Gladiators.

And rinse and repeat, that’s it really. The goal of the game is to reach 12 influence, the first player to hit that dizzy height wins the game, and gets to utter assorted roman obscenities at your lowly opponents. You acquire influence along the way by staging the aforementioned games and winning in them or from playing Intrigue cards (more on that in one moment).

So those turns I mentioned…

Turn 1 – Upkeep. – There is a simple economy to the game, each gladiator you own costs you a coin to maintain, that can be offset by keeping slaves i.e. 2 gladiators and 2 slaves evens out with no extra income, grab an extra slave in the market and next round you bag a coin. You start the game with various slaves and gladiators dependent on the house that you have chosen to play with, each coming with different amounts of these things and some special powers. At the start of every round you balance the ledgers dependent on your slave/gladiator ratio.

Turn 2 – Intrigue – In this round you are dealt 3 Intrigue cards, these have a variety of powers from dishing out influence to nobbling a rival player’s Gladiators and other nefarious deeds. They all come with a intrigue score that you require to be able to play them, if you don’t have enough fear not as you might be able to cajole another player into helping you reach the target, this can be achieved by either bribes, threats or my favorite lying. You can make as little or as much of this round as you like, initially it can be overlooked only on subsequent plays have there been more and more negotiating and mischief in my group.

And another word on those intrigue cards. You can choose to play these cards not only on your opponents but also on yourself, and that’s the rub. I have run into a few games now where a canny opponent has kept a hand of the more powerful Influence cards and then rather suddenly brought proceedings to a sharp halt with a win, leaving the other players struggling to halt the sudden power grab unless they have cards of their own.

Turn 3 – Market – This is where you get to buy all the good stuff. Players first get the option to offer up any slaves, gladiators or equipment they have for sale or trade between each other and then the round moves to the auction. Market cards are dealt face down dependent on the number of players and then each is turned over in turn and the players get to make closed fist bids on them. In the event of ties then the tied bidders bid again, slowly rising the price of the cards. This is all great fun, like storage wars with frantic bids getting thrown in to nab that cool gladiator or to stop somebody else from getting it to add to their roster.

There is one final round of bidding at the end of this round for who will get to host the forthcoming games, the advantages of this are gaining influence and choosing who gets to fight in the arena. And eventually the host will have the power of life or death over a defeated party in the arena.

Turn 4 – The Arena – This is where the fun begins. The host gets to chose who goes in the arena and any player refusing this generous offer loses influence. Once the two victim’s are chosen they pick their Gladiator and any equipment they will be using, then everyone gets to bet on who they think is going to make it out in one piece and whose leaving in a bucket.

Gladiators Ready! Using a simple but effective mechanic each Gladiator comes with 3 stats.

Attack – The Red Dice.

Defense – The Black Dice.

Speed – The Blue Dice.

Dependent on your chosen Gladiators skills you ****** up the dice for your guy and then the fight is on. The speed dictates how many spaces you can move, after some running about the stabbing begins. Upon attacking the attacker rolls his RED dice the defender the BLACK – these are lined up and compared highest to lowest, with the higher number winning. Any attack dice undefended against are considered a hit. Any wounds sustained from this are taken from your dice pool of your choice weakening your Gladiator.

This keeps going until one poor soul runs out of dice, dependent on how many you are whittled down too will dictate whether you live to fight another day or if you lost your head.

This is such a simple mechanic but it works so well, especially when you throw in some of the equipment on offer. And once your prize fighter has a few wins under his belt he gains favor making him more valuable in games, and sticking a large target to his head. So much fun, we had people cheering on some of the favorites during some close bouts.

Whoever hosted the event has a final say so on whether any injured loser’s live or die with a thumbs up or down. If the Gladiator in question has won a few fights and gained favor his death will cost the host influence, making it a costly move if they are a popular fighter.

So this is a great deal of fun. Its a simple game to teach and once a complete turn has been played its easy to get into the swing of things. The components are of a decent enough quality the miniatures for the gladiators are acceptable although most of mine had bent swords and tridents making them look like they where brandishing exotic fruits rather than deadly weapons, but at the games price point its hardly a deal breaker.

This does suffer from from the old problem that once you are playing catch up that divide can open pretty quickly, and unless the other players are willing to team up to take down the more wealthy and powerful players you can quickly find yourself being outbid. There is also that intrigue card problem which can just suddenly end a game.

But its not all doom and gloom, there is a chunk of fun to had. The arena fights are a hoot and with more plays and a willingness to spot when a player might be moving into that power position should avoid some of those joy kill moments.

Go to the Eldritch Horror page

Eldritch Horror

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Confession time folks. I have not played Arkham Horror, Fantasy Flights sprawling ode to H P Lovecraft and his twisted tales of doomed lost souls. I came close quite a few times and its sat in my Amazon wishlist for as long as it takes to play a game of Twilight Imperium 3, but I never quite convinced myself to push that button. There is a couple of reasons for this, the innumerable amounts of expansions for the game being the biggest, I’m not saying expansions are a bad thing, just the opposite and in fact we will touch on the subject later in this review, but looking at the sheer amount of extra stuff for the game my wallet gave a little cry.

Even the base gave is a table hog (I’m looking you Firefly as well) and then I wasn’t entirely convinced my group would embrace it, Arkham does look a daunting task at first glance. But luckily for me FFG solved my quandary by announcing Eldritch Horror, which looked to be and is for all intents an Arkham Horror reboot, a great place to leap in at the ground floor.

Eldritch like Arkham is loosely based on the works of HP Lovecraft, it has cherry picked from his multitudes of elder gods and horrid things crawling at the edges of our sanity and wrestled them into a big box of dark intent. Set during the 1900′s this game see’s you take the role of one of 12 plucky but ultimately doomed adventurers, you are tasked with the unenviable job of travelling the globe desperately trying to shut down portals that are tearing through the fabric of our reality and spewing fourth icky orrible beasties. All the while the big bad Cthulu or another of his type is waiting in the cross dimensional wings to bring about the end of the world. So no pressure then.

Eldritch is at its most basic a great big horror story in a box, it will chart the short and terrifying journey of your character and their inevitable death at the tentacles of some nameless horror, recounting an evening of Eldritch will probably gain you a space on a packed train and some funny looks. As with all FFG titles this comes with a heap of quality components and tokens, and cards and more tokens. In this set there are four separate ancient ones each coming with their own tailored decks, so whatever bad guy you pick there are cards in here to add a nice thematic touch to proceedings rather then a ton of generic story fillers.

The actual game is pretty straightforward helped hugely by a very well put together rule book with an additional reference manual to help with some the games trickier bits. I doth my cap to FFG for their efforts here and all you other publishers out there need to take a look at this thing because they get it right.

The game comes with a lovely big board that portrays a world map of sorts with all the various locations and routes scattered around it, the iconography is simple and everything is very easy to understand, there is also a neat little key on the board should you be confused as to what you are looking at. Its not that busy and if anything is a little sparse.

A game turn plays out over three separate phases.

First comes the investigators action phase, you get two actions to perform and they can be travelling to some far flung location, have a bit of a rest (regaining health and sanity). If you are in a city yo can do a spot of shopping or book some tickets for a trip which will allow you to make one additional move dependent on what type of transport you selected and eventually some equipment and spells include actions that can be perform as well.

Once all that has been resolved then you move onto the Encounter Phase. So you’ve trekked across the globe to Antarctica maybe to uncover an expedition, or follow up on a clue. Scattered across the map are main locations that pull from color coded decks of cards and dependent on your location you read the flavor text that will set the scene and then will resolve a skill check against your investigator to see how well they did, some of these are pass or fails others will add more lore and options. You might also have to battle it out with a monster if you find one lurking on that spot.

And finally comes the Mythos Phase where something unpleasant will occur, in the early stages of the game when there are fewer gates on the map and monsters or conditions these can be less horrific. But as time proceeds these very quickly start to ramp up the problems.

And this is the thing, the start of this game is deceptively serene with a scattering of options on the board and it is easy for you to fall into a false sense of security and muddle about engrossed in solving some simple city encounters or other nonsense. What the game does is slowly creep up on you when all of a sudden you feel those icy tentacles on the nape of your neck and everything turns to poop, suddenly you are spread across the globe facing off against vampires, ghouls and elder beings barely keeping them in check whilst more gates are popping into existence spewing hoards of dribbling nameless horrors onto the board.

At its heart Eldritch wants to tell a story, unfortunately none of these will have a happy ending, but the ride is a hoot. As each character slowly tells their tale of discovering long lost texts in ancient libraries or duking it out with a mummy at the pyramids, even if at the end of the night the earth is going to die screaming and take you with it. Its the most fun you can have during a apocalypse.

This game is all about the options, and its constantly throwing up more at you, like a child that’s eaten far too many skittles you are mopping up each fresh multicolored torrent of horror only for a fresh wave to scatter across the board on its heels. it is a little unbalanced going from very little to accomplish to suddenly too much, but at least its not dull.

There are plenty of other neat touches like the various conditions and magic that crops up along the way. Want that shiny spell book from the store but don’t have the coin right now. Well you can take a debt, but the problem is you don’t know who’s picking up the marker and what the repercussions will be down the line or when they are going to be an issue. You see the spells and various conditions all come with two sides, so whilst that teleport spell you have would be really handy this turn to get your buddy across to the location of a new gate, you know you are going to be flipping that card when you do and the results are rarely ever good news. That’s this game through and through its like some schizophrenic abusive parent constantly offering some shiny new trinket in one hand whilst clutching a roll of quarters in its fist to pound you in the next, its always with trepidation you reach for that new bauble because you know that slap is never going to be far behind it.

This is a co-op game with many of the separate characters having skills and actions that come into effect if supporting a compatriot in some foolish endeavor, its all about balancing who you take along for this **** ride. You can happily run about in your own little solo adventure but you won’t get very far. And whilst it could fall foul of the dreaded alpha gamer, there is so much randomness to proceedings I think it will even pummel the most vocal into submission eventually.

Whilst there is a lot in this box I have some niggles, it does feel a little light in places the exploration decks especially the city ones are small with only 8 cards in each, and whilst I never managed to cycle through a whole deck of one color it did come close and you play this enough and you are going to see the same cards coming up again and again. Obviously we are getting an expansion this is Fantasy Flight and i’m sure they have a few already waiting in the wings, here’s hoping that they focus at least one on beefing up all the decks available. The Mythos decks and especially the tailored ancient ones cards are a great addition and including a new set of unholy terrors with more items and location cards would be a win in my book. And dice, why only four bloody dice it should have had at least double that, fortunately I have more but still.

And as we’re discussing items these are also a tad random, I understand the need for the mechanic but it is a mechanic what does seem to pull you out of the game, with such a limited amount of purchasable equipment at a time considering you are travelling the globe it seems strange that there are only ever four items available to buy. But this is all nitty gritty, there are no horrible game killing mechanics and as a start off point this is a solid place to begin, I’m quite interested to see what they have up their sleeve for this series. I just hope they don’t fall into the trap that the Arkham expansions appeared to by bloating the base game with rules and boards without adding any real new experiences. Please keep it lean.

If like me you have yet to dip your toe into Fantasy Flights Cthulhu games then this is a great place to start, you get a solid game with enough choice and variety to tide you over until the expansions start to arrive. And its a pretty zippy play time I’d imagine a 3-4 player game should be doable in under two and a half hours with some change. So dim the lights and gather your friends and prepare to jump on, this is an express elevator to ****, and its going down.

Go to the Firefly: The Game page

Firefly: The Game

82 out of 90 gamers thought this was helpful

First impressions. The box for this thing is real heavy and there’s a reason, its jammed with content and all of it beautiful. There are decks and decks of cards, a big wad of money (its paper but looks stunning) and a large board, individual player boards and a big mess of tokens. You also get 4 firefly models an Alliance cruiser and a Reaver ship.

All of the content and production values are top draw, I suspect the choice of the paper money will draw some groans from certain sectors but they are very colorful and neat reproductions from the show. And when you have a stash of these in front of you how can you not feel happy.

The game itself is actually pretty straight forward and is at heart a pick up and deliver game, depending on how much you loved the show is really going to be the deal breaker from this being a OK game to a must own. The big and only issue that some players will have is the length of time it takes to play.

Once I received this I was desperate to dig in and fortunately it comes with a solo mission variant so you can do just that. The card estimates this will take you an hour, in reality my initial play-through lasted approx 2 hours, although this does include a lot of rechecking of rules and general faffing. And I think that might be this games big deal breaker for some, what is at heart a very simple and light game it does go on a bit. However if you love this show and dig the theme then what better way to go get lost on a Saturday afternoon than moseying about the verse and getting up to mischief. Right that’s the negatives out the way, now lets dig into the game and see how it plays.

Everyone gets to choose a captain and a ship. this is pretty straight forward with all the Firefly’s being exactly the same and the captain cards giving you a mix of advantages and disadvantages. These only really become clear once you begin playing. Its a shame that there wasn’t a bit more variety in the ships but that is somewhat negated as you can upgrade them once playing.
Other than your skipper you also get a fistful of cash $3000 and some fuel and parts to rattle around your hold, and then your set.
Then its time to work out how to go about winning this Gorram thing. Included with the game are six story cards, each of these will give you a set of goals to complete in order and victory conditions, with some occasional variations in the set ups.
They are a nice idea and add some more theme and structure to the game rather than just the first to so many points.

And finally you get dealt a hand of job cards – You get to take a look at them and keep whichever ones take your fancy. These are the meat of the game as they will discern where it is your heading and what you will be doing. And how much trouble you are about to get into.

These come in different flavors and which you choose will have ramification’s on the rest of your game. You can take the easy route and just pick the legal ones, these will mainly involve hopping from one side of the verse to the other and ferrying cargo or passengers. Simple but also not terribly lucrative you’ll just about make ends meet.

Or you can go take illegal jobs, these pay much better but the risks then start to multiply along with your earnings. For starters if your’e carrying illegal cargo or passengers you risk entanglements with the Alliance, which means its probably best sticking to the space lanes outside of their control. This unfortunately means a longer trip costing more fuel, and worse also puts you in Reaver space, and that’s never good.

Picking the Illegal missions can also effect your crew. Some missions are not only illegal but also immoral and if any of the crew you have employed don’t share your dubious views on right and wrong, well they are going to start playing up. They get disgruntled counters placed on them, get too many of these and they will jump ship, and worse the other players can bribe them to join their happy crew’s.

There are other issues that come with dodgy missions including skill checks and Misbehave Cards, but we’re get onto them in a bit. A lot of the missions have some nods to the show and add a nice thematic touch to proceedings, especially when you start excepting jobs from Niska and digging into that Misbehave deck. I like the subtle push your luck mechanic of these missions, it ties nicely into the show and can lead to some nail biting skin of the teeth moments as the Reavers and Alliance close in.

Each turn you get to perform two actions either Fly, Buy, Deal or Work depending on where you are in the verse will have some bearing on which of these you can perform.

This is one you will be doing a lot. You all start with the basic Firefly and it has two modes of travel. You can Mosey which means you move one sector a turn but you don’t run the risk of any additional problems or burn through that precious fuel. Its slow but safe.

Or you can go for Full Burn when you perform one of these you can travel the maximum range of sectors of your engine. This will burn one fuel but more importantly as you move into each fresh sector you need to draw a Nav Card, there are two decks of these, one for Alliance space and one for Border Regions. now some will just let you carry on but others will have less pleasant results.

Some require a skill check. These will be specific to either an engineering skill or shooting, each character has a specialization in one of these and you need to roll a dice and beat whatever that skills level is. Fail and it could mean you losing your stash of illegal goods, the ship breaking down maybe picking up a warrant or worse crew members being killed.

Others will give the player beside you the option to move the Alliance or Reaver ships. And you can be pretty certain that they are not going to put them anywhere near theirs. You get one of those landing on you and you are in a world of pain.

Pretty self explanatory, but yeah you can browse the best the galaxy’s malls have to offer and pick up some crew or maybe a shiny new weapon. Spread about the verse are planets that offer this opportunity, fly to one and you can pick up 3 cards and chose to buy up to 2 of them. Any you don’t go to a face up discard pile that any other player can purchase from when they get there. You can also purchase fuel and parts whilst stopped at these places.

There are also various ship upgrades to increase your cargo space, or engines. Before you start some of the bigger missions you are going to want to stock up on some of these goodies.

This is where you pick up those juicy jobs. Fly to one of the planets or space stations that are home to one of the contacts and you can draw 3 cards and pick to keep up to 2 of these. As with the buy cards anything you discard is freely available for the other players to pick up when they pass through.

This is where everything comes together. To start a contract you need to meet the specifics of missions. Some require you to have either equipment or skills among your crew to complete. Most of these come in two parts the pick up and then when you reach your destination the drop off. Others can be robberies or even highly immoral assaults.

Before you can start you need to assemble what crew and equipment you will be sending on the missions. Some won’t go if the mission is morally dubious, this is important because if you are going to be pulling Misbehave cards from that deck to complete a mission you are going to want a good mix of skills and goodies.

As we’ve touched on it here and above I’ll cover off the misbehaving cards. These hold a chunk of the theme for this game many call back to events during the series. These work as wild cards testing even the most experienced crew and should not be taken lightly, attempting a few of these in a run will sort the boys from the men.

And that is all the main mechanics of the game. Then its a case of trying to outrun the Reavers dodge the Alliance and cash in those big pay days. The fun comes from all the little details and thematic touches.

I love that you can run the risk of taking illegal jobs through Alliance space only to have a run of ghastly flight cards that cripple your ship or lose your precious cargo, its straight out of the show. The other option is of course the border space and then the even worse situation of running afoul of a Reaver attack.

The morals of your crew again is a simple but effective mechanic, the most hilarious moment in one of my games was when Mal (my captain, of course) became so disgruntled by a bad run of luck that he fired his entire crew.

For me this is a keeper, I loved the show and this ticks all the boxes. With the expansions already coming and more announced I think this is one i’ll be coming back to as often as I can.

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