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Go to the Royals page
Bongo_clive {Avid Gamer} Aug 9th, 2022
“ A Back of the Shelf review of Royals”


I have long passed the days of suggesting Catan or Ticket to Ride as the perfect ‘Gateway Game’. If I’m trying to impress someone, to entice them into this wonderful hobby, my go to game has for some time been Ethnos.

Does Royals have the chops to supplant the champ?


Royals takes place in that staple setting of board games, Medieval Europe. England, France, Germany and Spain are up for grabs, and their respective nobility are there to be won over.

The board is broad and busy, a map of Europe with various little tracks and charts dotted about. Much like Ethnos, the theme is irrelevant, and could really have been anything else. If I was a betting man, I’d say the relative obscurity of Royals is down to it’s bland, generic theme.

And this is a colossal shame, because the gameplay is anything but bland.


To gain favour with an Earl, Princess or King, you must sacrifice cards with symbols of their respective nationalities. The higher the rank, the more cards you will need. Once you gain favour, you place a marker on their city on the board, and another marker on their respective portrait that sits off to one side. The first to impress someone in this way gains points from the city, which are not available after first being won.

To gain the necessary cards, you must pick up from a face up/face down pool, immediately familiar to players of TtR, and still a delightful little game of ‘push your luck’. Naturally, the early stages of the game see players picking up fists of cards and splurging them on easily swayed aristocrats.

But as the game progresses, the cities fill up with red and blue and yellow, and easy pickings become harder to find. Gaining influence over the nobles then requires serious investment in single suits of cards for the big fish, or some foxy intrigue.

You see, when collecting cards, players are presented with the choice of influence cards and intrigue cards. Influence is used to gain favour with the nobles and are hoovered up quickly, but intrigue cards are used to usurp nobles from others’ spheres of influence, placing your own marker with the noble. They are the choice of the long term, as the early points are already gone.

Because as the deck dwindles, all eyes turn towards the national influence points. Three times you will play through the deck, which seems daunting when first explained, but in a game that moves as fast as this, soon reveals itself to be quite manageable. At the end of each of these ‘ages’, influence in each nation is counted up and further points awarded.

Play commences again, with a reshuffled deck and a board full of influence. It’s somewhere around the middle of the 2nd age that intrigue begins to bite, and the push and pull of intrigue, usurpation and feuds really kicks in and seething resentment sometimes explodes into naked aggression.

Once the dust settles, and blood pressures come down, at the end of the 3rd age, points are allocated, counted and the person with the most is declared the winner.


Alas, all the potential Royals has in it’s simple, direct gameplay, it more than undercuts with it’s appearance. By the end of the 1st age, the board is awash with cubes, and becomes increasingly difficult to parse. You are constantly required to slide cubes to one side to see which portraits they cover, and it never becomes an easy task to work out which cities belong to which country.

In a game where 1 or 2 points of influence can have dramatic effects, this is bordering on the unforgivable.

And in a game as themeless as this, it’s bizarre they didn’t go with something truly imaginative.


Easy to grasp rules, sitting in a 6 page rule book place this squarely on the lower levels of complexity.

I watched a video, read the rules, and was good to go, with only a few occasions requiring a check of the book.


The setting is at least a little friendlier than the high fantasy orcs, halflings and minotaurs of Ethnos, but when compared to the simplicity of that modern classic, or the other Gateway heavyweight Ticket to Ride, Royals is just a bit too busy to receive unqualified enthusiasm.

A shame, as this could have been something special.

We’ll put this top of the list of games desperate for a reskin/retheme right next to Ethnos.

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0 out of 0 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Go to the Martian Dice page
crimedoc {Avid Gamer} Jul 18th, 2022
“Fun, quick, simple filler game”

Martian Dice is an easy-to-learn push-your-luck dice-rolling game (goodness, all the hyphens in this sentence!)

Anyway, it’s a great quick game that’s perfect to play as a filler or when you’ve only got a short time. The game includes a dice cup and 13 dice. Basically, you are a Martian invading Earth and trying to collect living creatures. The humans are trying to stop you with tanks but you have death rays to retaliate!

Each die shows two death rays, a tank, a chicken, a cow, and a human (these are the three types of living creatures you want to collect). On your turn, you roll all the dice and first set aside any tanks. Then you can set aside one other symbol. The catch is that except for the death rays and tanks, you can only set aside each type of creature once – so if you set aside a human on your first roll, you can never keep humans again that round. Death rays can be set aside repeatedly becuase you must have at least as many of those as there are tanks or you will be driven away from Earth and score no points that turn. You can stop rolling at any time and score your dice or keep rolling to try to eaern more points. You earn one point for each creature, and you get a bonus of three points if you collect all three types on the same turn.

This sounds more complicated than it really is – it takes less than 5 minutes to teach someone the game and start playing. It’s fun, quick, and surprisingly addictive! And since it’s basically just 13 dice, it’s really portable too.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
0 out of 0 gamers thought this review was helpful
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I'm a Real Person
Go to the Tuscany page
kem2070 {Casual Gamer} Jun 26th, 2022
“A great expansion to a great game”

Tuscany (I am talking about the Essential Edition) is actually three expansions: extended board, special workers, and structures. There is a lot more to think about when compared to the base game. It isn’t hard to learn, but it will take a little bit to get used to the new strategic thinking you need to go through on your turn.

From videos I have seen and reviews I have read, I would also recommended doing the expansions separately until you learn how they work, then add them all together.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
1 out of 1 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Go to the Arkwright page
Bullsnboards {Power Gamer} Apr 28th, 2022
“Economic brilliance”

Dry as a bone, but beautifully designed. One of the crunchiest economics games I’ve ever played. Once it clicks you can’t help but ponder every step you take in this game. Use your actions towards gaining industries and manipulate the market for financial gain. Forward thinking is a must as everyone is catering to a common supply pool of customers. Produce and sell good to stand victorious at games end.

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1 out of 2 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Go to the Love Letter: Kanai Factory Edition page
storkb0mb {Avid Gamer} Feb 4th, 2022
“Possibly one of the most elegently designed card games ever made. ”

The fact is, I spent 20 minutes typing and re-typing trying to explain the rules to you because of how easy, simple, intricate, and borderline perfect they are.

But I’m not going to do that. I’m sure you can find “How to Play Love Letter” articles all over the internet. Just gotta say that for the price of this game, (and assuming you’ve ever enjoyed a board/card game before), you are doing yourself a major disservice by not owning this game.

The short version is: you win by being the last person not eliminated from the round, OR by having the highest card in your hand after the deck draws out.This opens up possible victory via process of elimination, out-manipulating your opponents, having the best poker face, OR by (maybe subtly coaxing) your opponents into getting a little too greedy…

All of this depth from a game with SIXTEEN cards – it’s truly an impressive achievement.

There is some luck involved, as there will be with any card game with random starting hands, but not so much that skilled play can’t save the day for you.

One thing worth mentioning – this version: the Kanai Factory Edition, has a slight rules difference than most of the other versions. Again, I’m trying to avoid teaching you the whole game in a review, but the Kanai version has a rule where you can potentially instantly lose if you hang on to high value cards (which, recall, is the goal of the game).

The other versions (Tempest, etc) replace that rule with one that may either allow for more strategy….or may put you at a serious disadvantage. Personally, I like the sudden death version of the original Kanai Factory Rules, but you may want to do your research when choosing a version (although technically, you could play with either rule set with any version….shhh don’t tell).

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
2 out of 2 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Go to the Gloomhaven page
Midnight {Avid Gamer} Dec 29th, 2021
“Not for us, but a game that popularized campaigns in a box”

We played through about ten sessions before our kids took it over. in the realm of campaign gaming we are more keen on higher emphasis on exploration and story like in games like 7th Continent, Legacy of Dragonholt, Tainted Grail, and we’re big Middara fans. Our kids seem to like Gloomhaven for when they have gaming gatherings with extended family, though they say they don’t intend to play the whole campaign. They are very focused on 5e dnd, and have their own campaigns that they run every week.

In Gloomhaven, the players read a short intro to a chapter of the campaign, and set up a dungeon according to the chapter’s requirements. They then enter the dungeon, cooperatively clearing it room by room of monsters and treasure, and then at the end they can choose one of two branches of the story to continue with (one quite good, the other more evil). Combat is done via a deck of cards, and there are two options of action on each card. In many ways the game is mostly a tactical dungeon combat game. As the characters level up, they can get more cards, and their dice roll deck can change (with better outcomes hopefully!). Players can also switch to other characters (other classes) as they are discovered. We never played with the forteller app, but I hear it’s quite good.

I think the sequel to Gloomhaven (Frosthaven) will be a better experience because it should have a shorter set up time, and perhaps a deeper story. The shorter set up time will be due to Frosthaven adopting the book of dungeon maps concept originally found in Mice & Mystics. We found the amount of time we took to set Gloomhaven up was a deterrent to playing. The organizer we got from Broken Token helped but not enough in that respect.

Good effort for a first game from the creator. I think he was very savvy by going for mass market vendors like Walmart for wider market exposure. He has benefited for sure for being a leader in launching the concept of a campaign game in a box, and is a smart creator and businessman.

Other “campaigns in a box” that are out there or will be released in the coming year or two are: Sword & Sorcery, Hel the Last Saga, Middara, Isofarian Guard, Oathsworn, Tainted Grail, Etherfields, ISS Vanguard (space campaign game), Solomon Kane, Bard’s Tale, 7th Continent, 7th Citadel, Kingdom Death Monster, Bardsung, Shadows of Brimstone, Arydia, the Paths We Dare Tread, Roll Player Adventures, Aeon Trespass Odyssey, Darkest Dungeon, and Secrets of a Lost Station. I’m sure there are others!

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
3 out of 3 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Go to the Wingspan page
Midnight {Avid Gamer} Dec 29th, 2021
“Solid Family Game”

Easy to teach, plays quite quickly. I got prettier components on Etsy to replace the little wooden cubes and ingredients (transparent acrylic from Laserland), and ordered the speckled eggs from Stonemaier Games. I’m adding expansions as they come out.

I think it’s a great Christmas game too, with the partridge in a pear tree, two turtledoves lyric of the 12 days of Christmas. It’s an easy worker placement game where you settle birds in tree, prairie and water ecosystems, and lay eggs to either pay bird settling costs or to accrue points. Settling birds also depends on having the proper foods that each bird needs.

Very fun, good for lighter gaming with friends and family. If the dice tower eventually falls apart, I might spring for a new one. Hoping that the creators come out with a big box soon to better fit all the expansions and core game.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
3 out of 3 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Go to the The Game of Life page
boardgameaddict Dec 28th, 2021
“okay enough to finish it a few times”

i didn’t really like it much. It was rather dull and long and i had to force myself to finish it. I brother hated the game and refuses to play it.
The pieces and board were decent but the game play just felt like a repetitive waste of time. It’s like monopoly but shorter and without properties to buy. I can barely do monopoly let alone this.
If you can borrow it rather that buy it, i recommend. It isn’t worth having it and paying for it though because you will probably only play this one once.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
1 out of 1 gamers thought this review was helpful
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8 Beta 1.0 Tester
Mythic Kingdoms Backer 2020
Platinum Supporter
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Go to the Marvel United page
Green Metal Box {Family Gamer} Dec 28th, 2021
“Avengers Assemble... to Unite... Against a Cmon Foe! ”

Marvel Unlimited is a game developed by CMON and distributed by Spin Master Games. Designed for 1-4 players (but can play 5 with some slight modification), the players select a Marvel superhero (Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Ant Man) to face off against one of three super villains (Red Skull, Ultron and Taskmaster).

Game setup is fairly straight forward, you select a villain and set aside their mini, deck and plan card, you select 6 location at random, and lay them out clockwise. Roll a die or use some other randomizer to place the villain on a location, then place the heroes opposite. Everyone shuffles and draws 3 cards and you’re off!

Play proceeds clockwise with the villain going, then 2 players going, laying out the cards in sequential order forming a “story line”. This is significant because each player can combo their own card play with the card play of the previous player for a more dynamic turn.

We played a handful of games over the holidays with my kids ranging in ages from 5 to 11, and everyone picked it up pretty quickly, even the 5 year old, though she needed help with any cards that had abilities on them as well. They all really enjoyed the experience.

The game’s components range from excellent to subpar. The miniatures are all well-crafted with fun designs and as a model painter, I look forward to painting them. The tokens are all the good thick card stock we’ve come to expect of tokens and should hold up to repeat play nicely. The locations, decks and villain plan cards leave much to be designed and are rather flimsy. Sleeving the decks will alleviate the deck problem, but not the others.

The kickstarter for this game made a killing, and there were a plethora of expansions and exclusive pieces, so we should start seeing a lot of that in 2022 which is good for the game to get some added variety.

Being a avid Marvel Champions LCG player (See my review on the MCLCG page), this game shares, at a minimum, a similar linage… being a cooperative, Marvel, card game… but that is where the similarities end. MCLCG is a much deeper, more complex experience to Marvel United. That said, this game has its own nice niche, and is an excellent game for family game night, for casual gamers and as a nice distraction game when avid gamers need to break up game night repetition.

I highly recommend this game for any family that’s a fan of Marvel comics or the Marvel Cinematic Universe or any casual gamer looking for something fun to bring to the table during their game nights!

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
3 out of 3 gamers thought this review was helpful
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Go to the Level 7 [escape] page
MariaBruno {Power Gamer} Dec 23rd, 2021
“Very confusing, but if you look into it, fascinating and quite a challenge game”

I’ll tell you right away – I’m not impressed with the game. And I’m not going to explain its rules or tell you how to play it. You’ll learn about it in other reviews.

The rules are poorly written. Considering that I’m a wargamer, that means something. I had to look at them to make sure I was playing them correctly. Even after a few games, when I more or less got the hang of it, I still had to do this because of the various exceptions in the rules in certain scenarios. Thematically the game does not shine, it’s the mechanics that pull it out. In many ways Level 7 [Escape] is comparable to Gears of War. The mechanics here are themed and the game is not overloaded with all sorts of tokens. Also, Level 7 [Escape] is similar to Dundeonquest. Flip over a crayon and maybe you die, maybe you don’t. There were games where I had -1 to shields and +2 to intelligence, which means it’s best not to face monsters. But according to the rules, the more players there are, the more monsters activate before your turn, so you can’t say you’re in control. I also tried playing solo with one character, and the game seemed uninteresting and unbalanced. So, in a solo game, it is better to take 2-4 characters.

The game lacks variety. The characters seem to be the same, although the skill cards bring some variety. The monsters also seem the same. And if you move your characters correctly, the monsters will just stand there and do nothing instead of attacking you every turn (like in Space Hulk). So the game lacks tension and turns into a puzzle game.

The complaints about the game come down to this: the theme doesn’t feel good enough, the monsters and heroes look the same, and overall things aren’t very interesting.

It’s hard to win here, you’ll lose often. I’m usually indifferent to “lost to the system” situations, but here it was more of a bad dice roll rather than a loss.

Everything seems too chaotic in this game, and it distracts from the puzzle problem (which is exactly what the developers wanted us to do), and whether I won or lost, it wasn’t interesting.

Another observation is the components. Tiles are a little bent, but you can live with it. The cards are not bad quality. And the game has no miniatures, although I expected to see them. In games of this genre there are often figurines. For example, Gears of War immediately comes to mind. The miniatures make the game more thematic, which is exactly what Level 7 [Escape] lacks. I won’t even try to compare the components of this game to Space Hulk. It’s just heaven and earth.

At the very least I was expecting thematic games like Arkham Horror, where the gameplay and mechanics serve one purpose: to tell a story. The story in this game is contrived, it lacks imagination. The most positive feature of Level 7 [Escape] is the design. But while the illustrations on the tiles, cards, and tokens are very nice, they look a bit monotonous, and the palette is dominated by too dark volumes.

I haven’t definitively decided yet and will play more, but after five scenarios, I rate this game a 5.5 out of 10. I suppose this rating may change a bit, but I don’t expect any surprises.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
2 out of 2 gamers thought this review was helpful
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