Troll in the Corner http://trollitc.com Gaming on your level Thu, 09 Mar 2017 14:45:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Welcome to the Troll in the Corner podcasting network. We feature actual play RPG podcasts, interviews with those involved in the industry and discussions of all things table top gaming. Ben Gerber yes Ben Gerber ben@trollitc.com ben@trollitc.com (Ben Gerber) Troll in the Corner is CC licensed with a CC-BY-SA license. Use it, share it, have fun! Gaming on your level Troll in the Corner http://trollitc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/tcproductions.jpg http://trollitc.com 5115648 Musivational’s second album, Controlled Chaos launches today on all platforms! http://trollitc.com/2017/03/musivationals-second-album-controlled-chaos-launches-today-on-all-platforms/ http://trollitc.com/2017/03/musivationals-second-album-controlled-chaos-launches-today-on-all-platforms/#respond Thu, 09 Mar 2017 14:44:21 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29729 [...]]]>

The second album from Musivational (i.e. Ben) launches today on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, Spotify and of course, Bandcamp! The latter is the cheapest option at $4

Once again Musivational has returned to the roots of 80’s music, generated by 2017’s digital instrument’s with a 90’s fashion sense and the scifi goodness of the 50’s through the present. Add all that up and you’ve got a little slice of Controlled Chaos. 17 tracks touching on such wide and varies subjects as 80’s manga, modern fiction, bad-ass level 1 spells and the tech breakthroughs that should have come 30 years earlier.

Not only is this a bit of a passion project but the music can easily fit into any scifi/retro/cyberpunk style game night. Please check it out!

Track List (linked to Bandcamp where you can stream these all for free):

1.  Moonwalker 04:23
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Scalzi 06:05
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Tree Frog 04:04
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Total Confusion 2017 – This one goes to 11 http://trollitc.com/2017/03/total-confusion-2017-this-one-goes-to-11/ Wed, 01 Mar 2017 17:18:54 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29595 [...]]]>

There’s a peculiar thing about this particular convention – every single one I’ve attended has been the best one yet. That’s not bad, by any means – in fact, it’s great! Turns out Total Confusion 31 continues this streak with some new faces, some new friends and a hell of a lot of gaming. For that reason, this is going to be a long post!

I’ll take a look at this convention day to day, but first let’s look at the basics. Total Confusion bills itself as “New England’s Largest Gaming Convention” and they’re not wrong. While other conventions may draw many more attendees, Total Con is the largest convention dedicated entirely to the art and science of playing games. When I first stepped into the new location on Wednesday afternoon, there were already 20-30 people scattered about gaming. Now the convention doesn’t officially start until Thursday morning but I know folks showed up on Tuesday evening with the intention of getting in a full day of gaming before getting in a 4 day weekend of gaming. That’s awesome.

This is just the Board Game room. There’s a lot more to this con!

What’s always awesome

Have you ever gone to Gen Con and off in the distance seen someone like Tim Kask or Mike Pondsmith – maybe attended a talk they’ve given or an event they’ve hosted? Here at Total Con, you’ll just bump into them in the hallway, or in the game room – or jump into one of the games that they are running! The guest list for this convention never ceases to amaze me. Some the highlights? John Wick, Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Mike Pondsmith, Cody Pondsmith and many, many more! Your chances of just bumping into someone amazing are great! This year we also had a few folks just drop in – like Stefan Pokorny of Dwarven Forge and author R.A. Salvatore. You really never know who you may be talking to – or better yet, gaming with! For a New England con, I think this alone makes Total Con a unique experience. And that’s not counting the huge number of gamers like you and me who are always willing and ready to have a great time.

So many awesome people!

Tim Kask, Stefan Pokorny and two con attendees play Ticket to Ride

What was new

This year, Total Con moved venues for the first time in well over a decade. The Best Western Royal Plaza Marlborough, MA. It’s not the first time Total Con was at this location but it’s been a while. The change in venue offered two very important differences over the last hotel. There was more than adequate parking and there was a more than adequate number of rooms. These two things made for a huge difference from the last few years where attendees who both wanted to stay on site or drop in for a day had the easy ability to do so.

Wednesday Evening

The new venue also offered a much different layout, with board games, mini’s, the computer games room and the young player’s area being on one side of the hotel and RPGs being in another. This did result in a little bit less mingling, but also a lot less crowding. On the whole, I think it was a good thing. In fact, a day or so after the con wrapped up, even though official numbers aren’t out yet, the TC Facebook page posted:

TotalCon 31 is officially in the record books!!! With all the big changes going on, we expected a bit of a drop, instead the convention grew again!!! The convention surpassed every bench mark it set as a goal. That credit goes out to every volunteer, industry guest, game master, performer, vendor, exhibitor, and podcaster that was in attendance. The TotalCon team may provide the framework but the passion, creativity, and heart you bring to the table is what gets folks excited and what keeps bringing them back year after year. And now to see folks jazzed about creating new events for 2018 is AWESOME!!

Wednesday

Since my wife is on staff for the convention – and Total Con didn’t officially kick off until Thursday morning, Wednesday is always an interesting time. Generally my wife and I go into the airport a few times to pick up several industry guests being flown in from the mid-west or west coast. Generally for us this is a day of greetings, getting folks settled into the hotel and whatnot. We ended up in the hotel bar that evening, as we so often do. It’s our chance to see convention staff members we don’t get to see all that often, greet incoming guests and psyche ourselves up for a lot of uptime and not a lot of sleep.

Thursday

My Thursday started with being interviewed for And Now A Word From a Gamer – a new documentary that was filmed almost entirely at Total Confusion. Hopefully we’ll all be able to see the final film at Total Con 32 (and also everywhere else!)

From there I went to the first game I was running all convention – Above and Below. I love Red Raven games and Above and Below may be my favorite (with Islebound a close second). It was fun to teach three other folks the joys of cave exploration.

After that I did what I’ve done every year for the past three years. Help set up, move crowds through and then take down Sal’s Traveling Flea Market! This is a pretty sweet event where over 800 games and game related products were brought in. A whole bunch of ’em sold too.

Finally, after the flea wrapped up around 11, I found myself with my wife and the head of con security in the board game room with a quick game of Splendor.

Friday

This was my big day. I was running games in all but 2 slots, which worked out to roughly 11 hours of planned gaming (and in reality about 15 hours of actual gaming).

The morning started off with an event I called Territorial Disputes. I brought a number of small, area control games and had fun playing them with three folks I’d never met before. I brought Age of War, Eight Minute Empire:Legends, Guilds of Cadwallon and Tiny Epic Galaxies. We ended up playing War several times and Guilds once but didn’t have time to make it to the other two games.

From there I got to introduce six folks to Cutthroat Caverns – my all time favorite take-that style game. While I had originally intended to play as well, I had a grand time running the game (as it was entirely full with no space for me)!

Then on to the first big event of the day for me. Scythe. Taking two slots from 3pm to 7pm, it had sold out in pre-reg. Strangely, only 2 of the pre-registered folks showed up to play. That was fine though as three more players materialized seemingly out of thin air. One had to leave mid-game, which gave me the opportunity to allow a 6th person to jump in whom I taught on the fly. I. Love. This. Game.

I had a 2 hour break for dinner, roughly 20 minutes of which I spent in my room relaxing with my wife. Then it was down to the bar/restaurant where I secured two tables for dinner and for my next event. Kids Games for Adults – 2 Drink Minimum. I’d call this game a stunning success. It helped greatly that a pub game event had just ended and we attracted a few of those folks to our table (along with their pub games). I have never, ever laughed so hard during a gaming event. We played a six player version of Loopin’ Chewie (that I modified with 3D printed parts), Villa Paletti, Pairs, Animal upon Animal, Skull, and finally several rounds of a terrible game (which I loved) called Midnight Party with Hugo the person eating ghost. We literally closed the bar down with this event – they turned out the lights on us. It was amazing.

 

I will certainly be running this event next year – in fact I’m hoping to team up with Mat who ran the pub games event so we can have one epic night in the bar gaming our little hearts out.

Saturday

This was my lighter day. I’d purposely not scheduled any games as Luca was going to join us for the day. After touring the con a bit, we settled on a copy of Ice Cool from the Vendor’s room (the awesome folks at Crossroads Games). It’s a fairly simple, dexterity/flicking game where you attempt to get penguins through different doors to capture fish tokens while one player is trying to get your little penguin school ID card. Players switch off as the penguin attempting to capture the others. The physical (and graphical) design is amazing, and the physics of the game are a lot of fun too. I’d play this one just about any time. We played it at various times during the day with various people.

Then we bumped into our buddy David (who’d entertained us at the Granite Games Summit) and he introduced us to a bunch of cool, smaller games. We played Stack, Kingdomino (a surprisingly fun filler), and Mint Works – a tiny little worker placement game in a mint tin. Lots of fun!

From there we went to the all-con-long Paint and Take event. You paint a mini and then you take it. This has been a favorite of Luca’s in the past years and this time I joined her. Loved it!

Luca and I also got to demo her game Candy Crash and got some great feedback!

From there I got to relax a bit, grab dinner with my wife and some other convention staffers and then headed into the board game room to see what was what. I played a pick up game of Tiny Epic Galaxies, Played several rounds of Spyfall (finally!) I had a fun time also teaching Guilds of Cadwallon whilst playing Tiny Epic Galaxies. Something I’ve not done before. It must have been okay because I won TEG by a decent margin.

Later that evening I had the privilage (as I have for the past 6 cons) to attend an industry guest party. It was, as always, an amazing time filled with amazing people who I never would have met were it not for Total Confusion. I also found out that John Wick has a much, much better angry face than I.

Sunday

Ah Sunday… a day of winding down and doing nothing. NOPE! Not at this con! Sunday morning I ran my Prototype Workshop. This Sunday we had five prototypes to go over and it was a lot of fun seeing a ton of creativity and good games before they make it to publication. I fully expect to see at least a few of them in game stores in a year or three!

From there I was going to run a Bohnanza game but didn’t have enough folks to do it. So I wandered back into the vendor hall, bought a few things, wandered back into the board game room and was almost immediately scooped up for a game of Vast: Crystal Caverns. This is a very cool, very asymmetric game in which players take on the rolls of the Knight, the Goblins, the Dragon, the Thief and the Cavern itself. I played the Cavern. Very interesting game! I was a bit burnt out at this point (it’s 2pm on Sunday after all) and didn’t play at my best but still very much enjoyed the experience.

Remember how folks were at the hotel a full day early to game? Well here’s the board game room at about 4:15pm on Sunday. Still stuff going on!

From that point on I was pretty much toast. I’m lucky not only to be invited as a guest but that my wife is on staff which means I get to see the after party (full of pizza) and hear how all of the staff experienced the convention. From there it was a quick ride home and a short dive back into reality.

In Conclusion

I had a fine time. Total Confusion remains one of my favorite times of the entire year. As always, a huge thanks to the fine folks who make Total Confusion the best. The amazing staff and volunteers, the awesome guests and everyone who comes out to play! If you are anywhere near the area next February, I cannot encourage you enough to get out – even for a day – and play with us!

I played a bunch of fantastic games, ran some fun events, met a ton of great people and loved every minute of it! Special thanks to those who brought their prototypes to the workshop – some very interesting ideas! And to my friends at the con – those I met six years ago to those I met this weekend, you are the best part of this whole experience!

Here’s a semi-annotated gallery of most of the pictures I took at the convention – not all of which made it into the posts above. They may be a little out of order. Enjoy!

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Three Ring Circus: Automobiles http://trollitc.com/2017/02/three-ring-circus-automobiles/ Sun, 19 Feb 2017 20:34:20 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29566 [...]]]> If tracksuit bottoms are “give up on life” pants, then I am at the stage in life where I drive “give up on life” cars. I’m past the need for speed BMWs and sporty VWs, instead I like my cars to be tax efficient and thrifty.  With this in mind it is appropriate that I have found a car racing game that doesn’t like waste and even gives you a hybrid option.

Automobiles is a racing game with a difference, because you’re building the engine that drives your car as the race goes on. It’s a bag building game, where you are drawing coloured wooden cubes to drive your car around the circuit. It plays from 2 to 5 players, with the game time dependent on how long you want to make the race.

The game comes in a pretty big box.  Inside there’s a double sided board with an oval circuit on one side and a more Formula 1 style track on the other. The rest of the components are; two plastic cube trays to hold the 10 different colours of cubes, 5 bright red bags, player boards and a slim set of cards. Finally you have a wooden car and lap marker for each player.

Setup

Set up for the game is very quick when compared to a deck building game because the cubes act as a proxy for different cards sets, and this means that you won’t be pulling cards out of a box for fifteen minutes.  Once the board and cube trays are out, all that’s left is to select a set of action cards to use.  There are four cards for each of the five colours and they are themed around; gears, garage, pit, handling, performance and engine.  So you might get the green Gearbox card, which lets you move the same number of light grey spaces as your race position, (and one extra if you are last), or the blue Rotary engine, which moves you as many white spaces as you have different colours in your discard area.  The game has suggested combinations which will keep you going for a few games and, after that, you can go wild.

Every player has a set selection of cubes in their bag at the start and these are added to with a one off buying phase. How much you get to spend depends on grid position. How you spend them is up to the player, upgrades or gears?

Play

Over the course of the game you will be building a bag of cubes and drawing from it to propel your car around the track with increasing speed and efficiency.   

You draw 7 cubes from your bag at the end of your previous turn so you have time to think about what you’re going to do.  

The race? It’s in the bag.

The rules split each turn into 5 sections:

    • Actions.  Which is where you use cubes to activates the power of the associated card colour.  Actions are split between those that manage the cubes you have available and moving your car around the track.  The former are activated and placed in the used area on the player board and the rest go out on the track to plot the course of your car on that turn. The track is colour coded.  Higher gears let you go faster / further and this is reflected in the board’s design.  On the home straight you can pootle along in 3rd gear which takes 8 white cubes, or fizz down in 6th, which only takes 2 black ones. You can switch to adjacent lanes and not through other competitor’s cars, which adds a slight puzzle element as the order you use the cubes can make a difference to your distance travelled and the lanes used.
    • Buy.  Any cubes not used in the action phase become spends.  Each cube has a value and you can buy new cubes up to that value.
    • Car.  Here you move your car as far as your cubes, (placed in the action phase), let you.

      Yellow is moving through the gears.

    • Decline is where you clear the track of your cubes and take wear for your track movement and any, wear inducing, actions.  If you manage to position your car directly behind another competitor you are considered to be drafting and this reduces your wear overhead.  Wear cubes don’t do anything apart from slow you down by clogging up your draw bag.  Incidentally, if you  draw a hand full of wear you can choose to take a pit stop.  This is like a “miss a turn” option, but you do get to return that wear to the supply.  You finish your turn by placing your used cubes into the discard area of your player board.   
    • End  Draw another 7 cubes from your bag.  If you don’t have 7, all the cubes from your discard area go into the bag to be drawn.

Play continues until a player makes it over the finish line. All players take the same number of turns and whoever makes it furthest past the chequered flag is the winner.

Playing with Three

Three isn’t quite the magic number with Automobiles. There is definitely a bit more on track action in a four or five player game, but it’s not a drastic improvement, just a case of drafting and manoeuvring having more importance.  

How easy is it to teach the game?

The game is mainly about the turn structure; actions, moment, buying, taking wear and cleaning up.  Passing that on isn’t too hard and movement can be covered with examples.  The rule book is really well written and helps a great deal.  The one area that needs to be stressed is the difference between the cost of a cube and its buying power. It can be a bit confusing.

Can complexity be scaled?

There is a suggested first play set up which eases players into the game. The standard game is three laps. Playing with 2 laps doesn’t change the complexity, but it will level the playing field, as the benefits of building a good bag tend to come out in lap three onwards.

Can you handicap other players? Do you need to?

I haven’t tried it.  Increasing starting money for the initial cube buy should work fine.  One thing to consider is playing with Gearbox because it gives a great catch up mechanic.  It’s no coincidence that it’s in the suggested first play set up.

How likely is your child to flip the table half way through?

Seeing you car being lapped can be a dispiriting experience, shorter races could help.

What do I think?

Automobiles is a solid game and having a deck-builder that doesn’t rely on victory points is refreshing. Does it replicate the action of motor racing? Not really, but that doesn’t matter so much, because it does translate the tension of a closely fought race.  The last race we ran saw 6 white spaces between 1st and 3rd and the difference between winning and losing coming down to a single cube colour not being there when you needed it.  OK, I was the one in 3rd and I’m not bitter about that.  I made some buying mistakes and got what I deserved.

Each game set up needs a different approach and picking the cubes for the job is where the nub of the game lies. It is a nice marriage of strategy, in building your bag, and the tactics of using your 7 cubes to the max.  There are questions to answer on each turn and, because a cube can be used for its action or currency,  they are more varied questions than a standard deck-builder.  There’s a great balance to the game play and the pace is good too.  It starts slowly and revs up to the final laps, which can pass in just a turn or two.  

If you like deck-building and want something a little different, it’s definitely worth giving Automobiles a run out.

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Total Confusion kicks off Feb. 23rd! Here’s my official schedule and more about the convention http://trollitc.com/2017/02/total-confusion-kicks-off-feb-23rd-heres-my-official-schedule-and-more-about-the-convention/ Sun, 19 Feb 2017 16:25:32 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29562 [...]]]>

Every year in February, I have cause to celebrate! My favorite convention, Total Confusion kicks off and this year is no different! I’ll be in attendance all convention long, from Thursday the 23 through Sunday the 26th.

If you’re in or going to be in the area this February, you definitely want to check Total Confusion out. I’ll get to my tentative schedule in a moment but first I can give you a few other reasons to join us. How’d you like to play games with Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Mike Pondsmith, John Wick,  Michael Curtis, Jay Libby, Peter Bryant, James Carpio, the Dark Phoenix folks, the Iron GM folks and more?! Oh, and I’ll be there too.

For the last while, Total Confusion was in Mansfield, MA. This coming year they’re moving to the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough, MA. I’m bringing a bag full of games to play and I’ll also have some copies of Swamped and Ninja – Silent but Deadly with me as well.

Thursday

10am -1pm – Being interviewed, lunch, hanging at the flea setup, etc.

1pm-3pmAbove and Below.  Above and Below is a mashup of town-building and storytelling where you and up to three friends compete to build the best village above and below ground. tcaboveandbelowIn the game, you send your villagers to perform jobs like exploring the cave, harvesting resources, and constructing houses. Each villager has unique skills and abilities, and you must decide how to best use them. You have your own personal village board, and you slide the villagers on this board to various areas to indicate that they’ve been given jobs to do. Will you send Hanna along on the expedition to the cave? Or should she instead spend her time teaching important skills to one of the young villagers?

3pm-11pmFlea Market. I’m once again volunteering to help run the Total Confusion Flea Market. I’ll be setting up and then guiding excited guests through the maze of board game and RPG deals.

Friday

10am 12pmTerritorial Disputes – Eight Minute Empires, Ages of War, Guilds of Cadwallon and more. If you’re feeling like controlling some area in a few tiny games, this is the event for you. Explore some fun, fairly fast and not terribly large area-control games.

1pm – 3pm  – Cutthroat Caverns“Without teamwork, you will never survive. Without betrayal, you’ll never win.” I like to call this one Munchkin but for adults. It’s a semi-tccutthroatcooperating dungeon romp where you’ve already done the hard work, and gotten the magical gew-gaw! Now all you have to do is get back out. Easy, right? Right?! In Cutthroat Caverns, it’s every player for themselves, except  you need the other players to make it out! At least, most of the way out. 

3pm-7pm –  Scythe – Scythe is a 4X board game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and tcscythevalor. In Scythe, each player represents a character from one of five factions of Eastern Europa who are attempting to earn their fortune and claim their faction’s stake in the land around the mysterious Factory. If you’re looking for strategic game play, beautiful artwork and resource tokens that will amaze, join us!

9pm-11pm – Kids Games for Adults – 2 Drink Minimum. What? Kids games? Where? At the bar. Why? If you have to ask, this event isn’t for you.

Saturday

I’ll be hanging out with friends, my daughter, my wife and playin’ games!

Sunday

10am – 12pm – Prototype Workshop. Join me with other industry insiders as we look at you board and card game ideas. Spend 10-15 minutes explaining your game and showing off your prototype. Receive 10-15 minutes of feedback from us!

1pm-3pm – Bohnanza – It’s Sunday, the convention is winding down and you’ve come to realize you have not yet fulfilled one of your bucket list items. To become a successful bean tcbeansfarmer. In the classic Bohnanza, players have a gas wheeling and dealing, making and breaking alliances and of course, planting lots of beans. This fairly casual card game could be the perfect way blow out the con.

And that’s my convention so far. I’m running a fair number of events and am reserving some time on Saturday for myself. I may participate in a panel, I hope to get in a game or two (maybe even *gasp* an RPG!) I’ll have my personal copy of Swamped and Ninja on me and I can easily teach either of these in a fairly short amount of time, so if you see me wandering around or stationary for a short time, feel free to come up, say hi and ask!

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Candy Crash – a game designed by Luca for 2-4 players – grab your Print and Play here! http://trollitc.com/2017/01/candy-crash-a-game-designed-by-luca-for-2-4-players-grab-your-print-and-play-here/ Fri, 27 Jan 2017 16:28:28 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29557 [...]]]>

Candy Crash is a die rolling, card playing game for 2-4 players, aged 8+ which plays in 15-20 minutes.

In Candy Crash, each player takes on the roll of a teen, working a job such as lawn mowing or a paper route. They’re all saving up to buy the best candy on the street at the local candy shop.

Every turn, each player does their job and earns one coin. If they do an excellent job, they may earn a tip and start taking home some of that delicious candy!  Players earn money, purchase upgrades to their dice, special skills and compete to be the first on their block to take home the ultimate candy prize.

Luca came up with the idea for this game a few weeks before Christmas. Since then we’ve been hard at work on testing this and refining the rules! We’ve put together a Print and Play version and we’d love to hear what you think. You can download the PDF from right here. What you’ll need are 10-20 6-sided dice (depending on if you have 2-4 players), a printer and some scissors. That’s it! We’re also looking for a new name, as Candy Crash may be a little too close to some other, popular online game.

We’ve also entered this game into the Cardboard Edison 2017 Game Design Contest. Here’s the video we put together that gives you a good idea of what the game’s all about.

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Musivational – a new album of electronic “RetroWave” music from Ben is now available everywhere! http://trollitc.com/2017/01/musivational-a-new-album-of-electronic-retrowave-music-from-ben-is-now-available-everywhere/ Mon, 23 Jan 2017 13:45:15 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29546 [...]]]>

Not gaming – but certainly Creative. I’ve been hard at work on an actual musical album, called Musivational (also the name of the band). Hard to believe but this album is out… now! It’s all electronica in style, and belongs to a sub-genre called RetroWave – which harkens back to the glory days of the 80’s. Think Terminator, Stranger Things and heavily synthesizer influenced TV soundtracks and you’ll have a good idea.

I’ve been listening to a lot of trance/dubsteb/electronica lately as it’s a wonderful way to relax. I can simply listen, or work on something else creative while the music plays and I find it keeps me very focused. I’ve tried to recreate that with my own work.

Another influence is the the artist Simon Stålenhag – who’s evocative artwork gives me the chills! I think back to the RPGs we played in the 80’s, the fiction I read and Simon’s artwork is the best of all of that squeezed into some amazing pictures.

All 16 songs were generated on one lowly iPad – using Garageband. Lots of loops, lots of me performing electronic instruments and just a few vocals as well – though heavily digitized.

If you’d like to hear it, you can listen right here:

If you’d like to buy it, you can go to Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music and more. Also – it should be on Spotify and Pandora by now as well. Please let me know what you think and feel free to rate the album wherever you listen to it or purchase it. Thanks!

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Turbo Drift – a real space racing game done in just 18 cards http://trollitc.com/2017/01/turbo-drift-a-real-space-racing-game-done-in-just-18-cards/ Fri, 06 Jan 2017 17:51:17 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29536 [...]]]>

Before the holidays came and ate up my entire life, I was given a copy of one of the three newest Button Shy Games productions – Turbo Drift by Rob Cramer. For a long time I’ve been admiring Button Shy’s devotion to the very small game space – it’s an interesting design challenge to make good games that fit into 18 cards or less and a little plastic wallet. I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised a number of times and Turbo Drift is, while a very different kind of game for Button Shy, no exception. Turbo drift is on Kickstarter right now!

How to play

Turbo Drift is a racing game for 2-4 players, taking about 20 minutes for ages 8+. In the game, players will place a series of Barrier cards onto the play space, decide where the racers will be starting from, place their Car cards there and then determine where the Finish Line card will be. The Car cards have a plain and a B side – make sure they’re on their plain side. Now, take the Path cards (there are six of them and they’re double sided), shuffle them up and lay them out in a 3 card by 2 card grid. You’ll end up with something that looks like this (but probably neater).

That Stoplight card you see at the top right is the First Player card – whoever is designated as the first player should have that in their clutches. Clutches. I’ll give that a moment to sink in. The game progresses over a series of rounds until a player’s Car card touches or overlaps the Finish Line card, when the game ends and that player has Champaign poured all over them.

Each round goes like this:

  • The first player places the Burning Rubber card behind their Car card to move forward, or in front of their Car Card to move backwards.
  • Now just go ahead and pick your Car card right up.
  • Choose your Path cards – by either selecting a vertical row of 2 cards, a horizontal row of 3 cards or any 1 card. (If you’re crazy like a fox, you can take ALL of the cards in a Nitro action once per game as well).
  • Now, connect your Path cards in any order you like to the Burning Rubber card to see where your Car will be moving.
  • Flip your Car card over (so if the B side wasn’t showing before, it is now) and place it at the end of your Path cards, like so:

In the above example, the White Car has nearly won the race, while successfully not crashing into anything like that Barrier card below it or the Black Car card.

If, when placing your Path cards you do encounter a Barrier or Car, you crash! This means you remove that path card, place your car back on the playing surface and you’re done with your turn this round. It’s possible to not move anywhere if that was your first (or only) Path card.

If you manage to run across one of those Turbo Boost icons on a Barrier card without actually touching the Barrier (your Car can overlap a Barrier card as long as the actual barrier isn’t obscured by your Car Card) then you get to Turbo Boost! That means you get to take the Burning Rubber card and place it at the end of your full path – even if you’d be going through/jumping over another Barrier or another Car.

Now that you’ve moved, flip over the Path cards you’ve used and add them back into the grid. It’s the next player’s turn this round. If all the players have taking a turn this round without crossing the finish line, that round ends and the next round begins starting with the first player.

The advantages to taking 2 or 3 cards are obvious – you move further! Unless you’re like me and crash into a barrier on your first card. The advantage to taking just one card though is that you get to reassign the First Player card to whoever you wish – usually it’s yourself. This reassigning can happen several times over one round though depending on what tactics the other players are employing. There is also a certain strategy to making someone who’s about to crash go first to see if they can get out of their potential collision.

So that Nitro action? Once per game, you can scoop up all the cards. You cannot however choose what order you play them in. You start at the top and work your way down. You can stop at any time though (whether it’s one card, somewhere between one and six or all six).  Be careful though – if you crash into a barrier or another player, you go up in a giant ball of flame and that’s the game for you! We’ve had a 2 player game end rather quickly and abruptly this way and it was spectacular.

Real Space Racing

As in, it takes place a real, physical space, not on an x,y,z axis in a near vacuum. That’s a concept I’m finding in a few games and I’m really loving it – you basically take the space that’s available to you and utilize it as your game board. This can be your table, the floor, the air craft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) if you happen to have clearance and a lot of time on your hands. What this does is effectively turn an 18 card racing game into a game that fits into whatever space you have – it can be a big game if you want it to be. Another game that immediately comes to mind that utilizes this is X-Wing from FFG.

Why you should play

Turbo Drift manages to capture the essence of those funky old 8 or 16 bit, top down racing games for older computers that I still love. The cars are all equally matched, all equally hard to control, the course is ever changing to your own designs and it’s just plain fun. After the first few turns of your first game you’ll find that the game plays out very quickly. Our first game took us a good 40 minutes but after that we were down to the stated 20 or so minutes for a full 2 or 3 player game.

Turbo Drift manages to cram all of this into 18 cards and does a fantastic job at it. Players are really never bored even while watching someone else take their turn because you never know what will happen – crashes, driving off the table, getting <—–> that close to the finish line but juuuuust missing it. The game is actually pretty exciting for us and we’ve had a few moments where we’re all standing in anticipation of what may happen next. Can they pull of that last Turbo Drift to scoot across the finish line or will they end up facing the wrong direction and having to throw it into reverse?

There’s a bit of luck in that the grid of Path cards is constantly changing but you can still choose which among them you’ll take and if you’re careful enough or crazy enough, you just might win. I tried several strategies – the slow and steady wins the race strategy and the driving like a crazed, caffeine infused cheetah strategy. I’ve met with equal success with both although the crazed strategy is a bit more fun.

Button Shy recently posted a few suggested setups for various race courses on the Kickstarter page, which I’ve added below. You can set up the Barrier cards however you like though.

Here’s a 20 second gif of an entire race between Luca and myself if you’d like to see what a 20 minute game looks like.

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And now for something completely different – Music http://trollitc.com/2017/01/and-now-for-something-completely-different-music/ Thu, 05 Jan 2017 18:40:27 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29529 [...]]]>

A long time ago, in a galaxy somewhere up in New Hampshire, I used to play in a band. I’ve always loved music and have always fooled around a bit with musical production. Over the past year or so I’ve very much gotten into electronic and dubstep music – mostly because I love having something trance-like on while I’m thinking, writing and creating. Over the past month, I was given the opportunity (free time) and the tools (Garage Band, electronic instruments) to actually create something of my own. So I did.

Musivational is what I’m calling it. The concept behind the music is a re-imaging of my childhood in the 80’s. It’s influenced strongly by my own memories, awesome 80’s flicks, shows like Stranger Things and the artwork of Simon Stålenhag www.theverge.com/2013/8/27/466484…i-tech-were-real which you should really check out if you’ve not already.

This is a complete, 100% experiment on my part. The neat thing is – I’m actually launching an album which will be available from just about all electronic music distribution formats. iTunes, Play, Amazon and the rest. Here are links to two songs if you’d like to check them out. The actual album drops January 23rd. This will be the first, and possibly the only time I’ve ever tried to make money from music. We’ll see how it goes. It cost me very little to do this. I can make back what I’m spending to keep this album in circulation (which is approximately the cost of a nice dinner) for a year, I’ll keep going with projects like these. If I can’t? Well, at least I’ll have done this!

Please let me know what you think. Constructive criticism always welcome!

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Kanagawa http://trollitc.com/2017/01/kanagawa/ Tue, 03 Jan 2017 22:29:30 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29526 [...]]]> Welcome to the beautiful prefecture of Kanagawa (BGG, Amazon)! You are all students at Katsushika Hokusai’s art school and hope to create your own masterwork through the teachings of the great master himself. The publisher of Kanagawa, Iello, provides some of the best art direction in the board game industry. Iello games look and feel polished and refined and Kanagawa did not disappoint. Everything about the game fits into the theme and looks gorgeous. The artwork on the cards is interesting and flows well so that it does seem that you are creating a large art scroll. The gameboard is a bamboo mat which unrolls in front of you for your lessons. This elegant touch feels perfect – I love it. The paintbrush tokens are these neat little miniatures when they could have just been little cardboard tokens. Iello makes me feel all warm inside.

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Three columns of cards in a three player game. Some cards are placed face-up and some face-down (the red squares).

The card drafting and tableau building mechanisms are very similar to those I discussed in Dream Home by Asmodee. In both games you are drawing one column of cards and adding them to your personal tableau. In Dream Home you are choosing two cards (one room and one improvement card) or one room card and the first player token. Kanagawa is slightly more complex with an added element of press-your-luck. Lesson cards are placed in rows to help students develop their studios or their prints. At first only one row of cards is dealt on to the board equal to the number of players. Players can take a card or pass and wait for a second row and take a column of two cards or pass and wait again to get three cards. In the end you can get more cards but you run the risk of other players snagging cards you really need.

The lesson cards are delightful. I love multi-use cards. I absolutely adore multi-use cards when they are intuitively designed with clear iconography. The iconography is practically flawless and can be picked up and understood quickly. You barely need to examine the cards closely before knowing what they can do. Besides, I would much rather spend that time enjoying the amazing water-color artwork. 

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Jade Mosch did the water-color artwork on the cards.

The core of the decision space is after you choose your cards. Once cards are drafted, you can add them to your print to expand your painting and score points or you can add them into your Studio to help you gain the skills needed to add to your painting. It is here that Kanagawa felt nicely streamlined. There are no wasted actions. Sometimes when you draw cards in games like this you end up with cards you can’t afford to use or don’t have the requisite abilities to use causing you to discard. This causes frustration in younger players (and honestly, it bugs me as well). In Kanagawa you can always add cards to your studio to gain more skills. It is always an options and adding to your studio provides more options during later turns. There is a slight difficulty with the game here. Let’s compare to Dream Home again. In Dream Home you choose a column and then place a card. Since the cards in Kanagawa have multiple uses and you can have up to three of them to place during your turn, there tends to be a bit of analysis before the next player can take their cards. It slows the flow of the game down. Nothing dramatic but it isn’t as snappy as Dream Home.

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Some artwork and barely functioning studio.

You earn points at the end of the game primarily from Diploma tiles which have their own press your luck element to them. There are usually a few different tiles for each scoring element (number of buildings, tree, portraits, animals, number of identical landscapes, and number of brushes/arrows in your studio) increasing in points and number of elements to earn the diploma. For example you can earn the 3 point yellow diploma tile if you have 2 different buildings. Or you can wait to earn 4 points and a storm token with 3 different buildings. Or earn 7 points and the Assistant pawn if you have 4 different buildings. When you reach an objective (2, 3, or 4 buildings) you are required to announce it and then decide whether you take the diploma tile or wait to earn the next. If you wait then you can never go back and take the earlier tile. There are lots of them diploma tiles (a total of 19 of the seven colors) and you can never have more than one of the same color. You also earn points by having a long stretch of one season in your print and by scoring bonus points on some lesson cards. 

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The Diploma tiles are not that confusing but they do slow down the flow of the game.

Overall the game is gorgeous and the artwork beautiful. The gameplay is a rung above Dream Home in complexity so if you like the card drafting in Dream Home (and I do!) but feel like you need just a bit more decision space (like I do!), then Kanagawa is a great choice. Tableau building games provide a strong feeling of creation and accomplishment that really shines in Kanagawa. There are other amazingly fun tableau builders that are too dry but with solid mechanics (San Juan), can be too cut-throat for some families (Citadels) or too complex for beginning gamers (7 Wonders, Eminent Domain) and Kanagawa fits in nicely where those games fall short. It is great family (or library) fare, with attractive and accessible art, and satisfying after the first play. The only difficulty in teaching the game was explaining the diploma tiles and dealing with the large amount of them. It may take a few plays (or at least some time examining each tile) to really understand each one. The shear number can be potentially overwhelming for younger players but not necessarily intimidating or off-putting. Just take the time to explain each one when you get a chance throughout the game.   

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Best Board Games of 2016 http://trollitc.com/2016/12/best-board-games-of-2016/ Sun, 18 Dec 2016 18:06:53 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29518 [...]]]> This was an amazing year in board games with many games popping up perfect for your personal library. As I stated in 2015, it is nearly impossible to play and review even a large portion of all of the game that comes out in a year. And it is even harder to be able to recommend them to libraries when that audience is so diverse and community so varied. That said, I think I limited it to eight games that will certainly make a wonderful addition to your personal collection.

I try to recommend games with a small learning curve so most of these games are perfect for a budding library collection (Dream Home, Happy Salmon) and if I do include more complex game, they are worth the extra time it takes to learn and will be a better addition to an already established collection (Terraforming Mars, Beyond Baker Street).

Some games just barely missed the cut. Scythe contained too many components for inclusion and those minis go missing too quickly to keep up. The Grizzled: At Your Orders is an expansion and is mandatory (the base game was included in my 2015 list). Great Western Trail looks amazing but I couldn’t get a copy and thus never made it to my table. A Feast For Odin is just too complex.

There are dozens more worth discussing and recommending to you, and I hope that this shortened list serves as a good representation for what 2016 has offered.

The Strategy Game: Terraforming Mars

(BGG, Amazon) After the success of The Martian, expect a whole glut of mars-themed board games next year and a whole bunch of red boxes in the future. At quick glance you have Surviving Mars, First Martians, Martians: A Story of Civilization and a reprint of Mission: Red Planet. So, you know what you have to do.

The goal of Terraforming Mars is simple: make Mars habitable for colonization and exploitation. Getting it done, however, is far from easy. The entire game unfolds over generations as futuristic mega-corporations battle to change Mars from a red planet to a greenish blue one. This is accomplished by building cities, encouraging vegetation and creating water. To make the planet habitable and end the game three things must happen: atmospheric oxygen rises to 14%, the temperature rises to 8 degrees Celsius (that’s correct, in this game you are encouraging global warming) and the oceans are filled.

This game is a chunky engine-builder and full of strategic potential. Unlike many science-fiction themed games, Terraforming Mars focuses on scientific accuracy, attention to detail and technical consistency. You know that part of The Right Stuff where all the engineers are struggling to brainstorm how to make a new thing with a box of old things? It’s like that mixed writ large and combined with the Weyland-Yutani Corps (“Building Better Worlds”) from Aliens. You have hundreds of years to introduce moss, melt icecaps and crash meteors into Mars before it is any good to humanity.

Fair warning though, it is also really, really, really ugly. The artwork is inconsistent and the graphic design is unfortunate. So, if you are looking to “wow” patrons into gaming at first glance, this isn’t the best pick. But if you want to bulk up your collection with a thematic thinker and encourage your patrons to grow, then give Terraforming Mars a chance.

Terraforming Mars has great gameplay and lots of strategic potential to bulk up a collection. It is an amazing game that rewards repeated play. It is best to pair it with, obviously, The Martian by Andy Weir.

The Party Game: Happy Salmon

(BGG, Amazon) Stop reading right here and go buy this silly, ridiculous real-time game for your library—you won’t regret it. Happy Salmon is one of those games that children will love, adults will pretend they don’t like (but actually do) and can be just as much fun to watch to play.

The game is snappy and fast and, honestly, it takes longer to read the tiny rulebook than to play one full game.The goal is simple: get rid of all your cards. You place the pile of 12 cards facedown in front of you. Everyone flips over the first card. There are four types: High 5, Pound It, Switcheroo and Happy Salmon. Once you see your card, you yell out the title of the card until you find someone yelling the same thing, make eye contact and perform the action on the card. Once you do that, you discard that card and go to the next one. Three to six people will be giving each other high fives, bumping fists, trading places at the table and doing the happy salmon (grab each other’s wrist and slap your hand against each other’s forearm).

Listen. It comes in a pouch shaped like a SALMON. It’s simple, silly and hilarious. You can at least do a round or two at the start of departmental meetings with this game and consider it money well spent. Pair this game with Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss and Salmon Fishing in Yemen by Paul Torday.

The Tiny Box Big Game: Kodama: The Tree Spirits

(BGG, Amazon) Invoking images of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Daniel Solis’s Kodama: The Tree Spirits is a masterfully designed card game in a small box and it will totally enchant you upon first play.

In Kodama, you tend to the homes of the tiny bobble-headed spirits who inhabit your forest. To appease these helpful spirits, you need to tend to their tree according to their exact, and maybe strange, specifications. Their happiness and your success depends one how many caterpillars, fireflies, flowers, mushrooms, are at home in your tree and how many clouds or stars can be seen from their branches. You compete against other players to grow the best trees for your new tree-dwelling buddies. Happy Spirits keep a Happy Forest!

The true beauty of Kodama is the ability to grow your tree. Each player starts with an oversized trunk card and then each card they choose throughout the game is a branch extending from the trunk. The result, at the end of three seasons, is an massive splay of cards representing the tree you created. Everything from the whimsical art to the simple gameplay makes this a perfect game for families. They even included additional cards specifically designed for younger players.

Kodama is adorable, family friendly and best of all, lets you create something satisfying at the end of your game. In Kodama, it is a large, branching and likely lopsided, tree. Games like these leave you satisfied, win or lose, because you created something. Pair it with anything from Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

The Dexterity Game: Ice Cool

(BGG, Amazon) In Ice Cool, you are all students at a penguin high school. Get it? High School. Ice Cool. Penguins? Right? A little word play and I’m yours forever. Remember that. Anyway.

One player is the hall monitor and the rest of the players are students. The students are trying to collect three fish located throughout the school, and the hall monitor is trying to catch the students and collect their student IDs. As players meet their goals, they draw cards with points on them. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.

Each penguin is kind of like a Weeble. They weeble and they wobble but they don’t fall down. When players want to move their penguin across the board, they flick them. The students just need to go through the doors to the rooms where the fish are and the hall monitor needs to flick themselves into the students. A round ends when either a student collects all their fish or the hall monitor has collected all students’ IDs. At the start of a new round, a different player becomes the hall monitor and you begin again until everyone has had a chance to be the hall monitor. You tally the points on the cards collected through the game and the player with the most wins.

Fun, loud and nicely contained in a box that doubles as the game board. If you want to drum up interest in your board game collection, get a family or two playing this game out in the open and it will definitely draw a crowd. Pair this with reruns of Saved By the Bell.

The Two Player Game: Tides of Madness

(BGG, Amazon) There is plenty of bite in this delightful card drafting game for two players with only 18 cards, a handful of tokens and stunning artwork.

Generally, games with heavy themes (horror, science-fiction, fantasy) have not circulated well at the library but small, simple, light games with heavy themes that it can be demoed at a service point may just work. Tides of Madness offer a tense 20-minute duel where you score points by collecting sets while drafting cards back and forth. At the end of the round you tally any madness tokens you may have accumulated, choose to keep one card for the next round and discard another out of the game. You’ll need to anticipate which cards your opponent needs and obfuscate which ones you are looking for while keeping an eye on the madness tokens. They can accumulate, and if you delve too deeply into the arcane, you may lose your sanity and the game.

Only 18 cards in a quick, snappy drafting game, and totally tense! Tides of Madness is to two people what Love Letter is to four. Pair with The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins.

The Editor’s Choice: Kanagawa

(BGG, Amazon) Dear Reader, if you have not been introduced yet, let me introduce you to Iello. Iello games have, bar none, the best art direction in games today. Every game in their catalog looks like it couldn’t possibly belong anywhere else and every game is aimed straight to the heart of the family gaming market.

In Kanagawa, it is 1840 and you are a student in Master Hokusai’s painting school. Your goal is to earn different diploma tiles representing your many artistic successes at the school. To achieve this you will need to expand your studio, learn new techniques and create an epic masterpiece of your favorite subjects (a combination of flora, fauna, architecture and notables) across the Japanese countryside. But you are still in school and your master will be offering many lessons to a select few represented by tiles placed on a rattan central board. You can take a tile quickly or wait until later to get more, but if you wait too long another student may grab your slot, leaving you with whatever is left over. You add tiles to your print (your painting gets longer) or to your studio (your skills improve and you are able to paint different subjects).

Rattan. Game. Board. It rolls up when you are done. I’m flabbergasted and completely in love with this. Best paired with The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima.

The Cooperative Game: Beyond Baker Street

(BGG, Amazon) A spiritual successor to the cooperative card game Hanabi, Beyond Baker Street from publisher Z-Man Games has two to four detectives working together to solve a mystery before that insufferable show-off Sherlock does.

Players have three leads to work on in order to solve the mystery—Subject, Motive and Opportunity. Each player has a handful of clues, witnesses and evidence. What makes the game a challenge is that players are unable to look at their own cards and instead have their cards facing out towards the rest of the players. Cooperation is elementary as players provide clues to each other in order to place the correct cards in the correct places before Sherlock solves the case. On your turn you can provide a hint to another player about what is in their hand, play a card on a lead, confirm a lead, discard a card or eliminate a lead. There is more to the game but if you are familiar with Hanabi (which uses the same cards facing outwards mechanism), then Beyond Baker Street will be quick to pick up. If you are not familiar, it will take five minutes to read the rules and you will be right as rain to play.

Beyond Baker Street adds some added thematic elements including different cases to increase the challenge and character cards that provide special abilities, which make this a nice upgrade to Hanabi or a great starting point into cooperative games. Best paired with Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz.

The Family Game: Dream Home

This game is so adorable I just want to hug it. Look at all those happy people on the box top! The future has so much potential.

(BGG, Amazon) In Dream Home you are building your perfect house, and also a better house than everyone else. Each player gets an empty house tableau with 12 room spaces in it; five on the second floor, five on the first and two in the basement. Players get to choose from a pair of cards with one room and one resource (helpers, handy-persons, architects, tools, etc.) to use in building their home. The room gets placed according to some simple rules, and the resource can be used immediately or later to score more points. You can expand rooms for more points (a playroom is nice but a huge playroom is even better), add decor to provide the perfect finishing touch for a room and get bonus points for functionality.

There is very little room for improvement in this light family game. It is a complete joy to play with people of all ages that plays in 30 minutes. Perfect after-dinner game in your newly remodeled kitchen. Best paired with A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia McAlester.

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The Climbers – wonderfully wooden abstract about climbing, with real (tiny) ladders http://trollitc.com/2016/12/the-climbers-wonderfully-wooden-abstract-about-climbing-with-real-tiny-ladders/ Tue, 13 Dec 2016 16:31:29 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29319 [...]]]> climbers

I was recently introduced to the abstract game The Climbers at the Granite Game Summit. I was immediately taken with the components and the game play. Nice, chunky wooden components and decent strategy! Let’s take a look at The Climbers and see what it has to offer. Climbers is a game for 2-5 people, ages 8+ and plays in anywhere from 15-45 minutes. Players pick a figure of a specific color and can only climb on blocks with that color, or grey facing upwards. Blocks can be moved and turned to facilitate climbing.

How to Play

When you first open the box, you’ll see it’s packed tightly with all of the components. 35 wooden blocks of varying sizes, 5 short ladders, 5 long ladders, 5 colored figures and 5 colored blocking stones. Two of these wooden blocks, the largest, are solid grey while the rest of all of the varying five colors on them. The wooden blocks come in 1?, 2? and 4? sizes.

Setup: To set the game up, the two large, grey blocks are placed upright next to each other. This forms the core of the climbing structure. Next all of the colored blocks are placed around the two grey blocks so that the grey blocks are completely obscured. This is done randomly and can be a fun little exercise if everyone starts grabbing and placing blocks rapidly. They can be placed horizontally or vertically. All of the blocks must be placed so that they are entirely on other blocks (or the table) but they can be placed offset of each other. Each player chooses a color. They take the pawn and blocking token of that color and both a long and a short ladder.

The blocks are all configured so that Red is opposite Yellow, light Blue is opposite dark Blue and Purple is opposite Grey.

Play: At the start of the game, all of the pawns are simply hanging about on the table. Here’s how a turn works.

First, a player may move an empty block to a new location or rotate it. The blocks must end up connected to another block, with at least 1/4 of the surface touching that other block. They cannot overhand, nor can holes be created. Blocks can be placed on other ‘occupied’ blocks (with a pawn or pawns on it) provided that there is still enough room for those pawns. Each pawn takes up 1/4 of the surface of a block. Blocks can’t be loose, inclined (tilted) or skewed. And you can’t move the same block someone just moved on the prior turn.

Next, that player may move their pawn (called the “climber”). You can move the pawn up, down, horizontally or in any combination of those. Your pawn may only move upwards or downwards 1? without the assistance of a ladder. They may use the short ladders to climb up the equivalent of a 2? block or the long ladder to move the equivalent of a 4? block (so that could be 4 1? blocks or any other combo). Once the ladders are used, they’re discarded – you only get one shot with them! Also, your pawns may only move onto a block of your color or a grey block.

Lastly, you may place a blocking stone on any unoccupied block. No players may move onto this until the start of your next turn, when the blocking stone is removed from the game. Again, you only get one shot with the blocking stone!

Winning: If no players can move higher during their turn, the fist player who couldn’t move their pawn higher gets one more shot. If they somehow contrive to legally move higher, the game continues. If not, the highest pawn wins! If two or more pawns are the highest, whoever arrived first is the winner.

Why you should play

There’s a few rules to digest in this one, but I assure you that once you’ve played a few turns, you’ll get it. From there on in, it’s a fun, fairly quick little puzzler of a game that will have people up out of their seats, wandering around the table to look at it from all angles. There can be a bit of a take-that aspect of the game, but there can also be a surprising bit of cooperation – nothing forbids players from working together to attain greater heights.

This game could I think best be described as absolutely charming. Even when you’re doing a bit of a take-that move, it doesn’t feel like you’re denying other players so much as settling on a very decent strategy for yourself. Lots of people love playing games that give you the feeling of having built something at the end – a decent card engine, an engaging and interesting city, a massive army. This not only gives you that feeling but collectively all of the players are building a colorful, if abstract tower while also climbing that same structure.

The game is completely random at the start in that the tower was built with no plan. From there on out though every single factor of the game depends on how the blocks are moved by the players and where they place their ladders and blocking stones. The strategy in this game lies not only in getting your pawn to climb higher, but doing so in a way that makes it harder for others to do the same while they only move or rotate one block.

I very much enjoyed my time playing this game and am looking forward to adding it to my collection. The components are nice, chunky wood, the game is simple to explain, easy to teach and very fun to play. It’s also pretty quick for a 2-5 player game – after the first play I think most games could be played out in 20-30 minutes tops, even with five players. If this sounds like the kind of abstract game you’d enjoy, you can pick it up at the Strategic Space site in the US or at your FLGS.

 

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As some of you may have noticed, the site died for a bit http://trollitc.com/2016/12/as-some-of-you-may-have-noticed-the-site-died-for-a-bit/ Tue, 13 Dec 2016 16:21:40 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29510 [...]]]>

Yup – the database shrugged it’s virtual shoulders, and jumped right into a hole.

Unfortunately the last uncorrupted backup of the DB I was able to get was from Nov 25th. So we lost a few posts and about 3 weeks of traffic. All was not lost however, for which I’m grateful! Off to do some better backups (again) and see what happens from here. Hopefully we’ll stay afloat another 8 years!

-Ben

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Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space http://trollitc.com/2016/11/escape-from-the-alien-of-outer-space/ Thu, 24 Nov 2016 21:15:12 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29505 [...]]]> Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is a minimalist game of bluffing and secrecy set on the damaged research ship — the SELVA. All systems are down and the entire ship is dark. Captain and crew are trying to make their way to escape pods and an unknown, alien virus is transforming the crew into blood-thirsty monsters. If you are human you quietly and swiftly try to make your way to the escape pods and hope they work. If you are an alien, you quietly make your way towards the humans and hope they are tasty. Rather than utilizing a central board like Scotland Yard, Letters from Whitechapel, or Fury of Dracula, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space has each player marking their movement on a personal map sheet which remains hidden from the other players. Players use a dry erase marker to record their movement, location, and any additional information they can glean from the others in 40 rounds.

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There are several map sheets to choose from, each featuring a specific zone of the SELVA. Each map is made up of different numbered hexagonal sectors. At the start of the game, each player agrees to the same map (since your personal map is secret, it is important that everyone starts on the same page). Each zone has a specific name such as Galilei — The Research Zone — and come in varying sizes, layouts, for recommended player counts and levels of experience. After a map is chosen, a number of character cards equal to the number of players are drawn and secretly dealt to each player. For even numbers of players, half of these should be alien cards and the other half should be human cards. For odd numbers of players, you add an extra alien. Each character card (both alien and human) has a unique ability.

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Characters: Red for Aliens and Blue for Humans

Payers take turns moving from one sector to another and recording their movement on their sheet. Humans start from a different sector than aliens and attempt to move to the escape pod sector[s]. Aliens start moving towards where they think the humans are currently located. Aliens can move one or two sectors (three after an alien successfully devours their first human) and humans can only move one unless aided by certain cards. When players move into a dangerous sector (colored grey on the map) they draw a card. There are different types of dangerous sector cards. Some require a player announce their location, some require you bluff and announce any location, some allow you to remain silent, and some are items that can be used by humans immediately or later in the game. Regardless of species, all cards drawn are kept in front of the players and remain secret. Since aliens can’t use items, only humans should be looking at their cards occasionally. Humans, remember your cards. Aliens, pretend to reference your cards at all times just to blend in.

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Item cards plus a dangerous sector card in red

At the end of their aliens can declare an attack on anyone else in the sector. Players, either human or alien, in that sector must announce their presence and promptly die and reveal their character. When humans are killed they respawn as aliens from the alien starting sector and begin to hunt. When aliens are killed they are eliminated from the game and either start making snacks, mixing drinks, or picking the next game to play. To counteract this, human players can utilize items any time during their turn. Items can help them attack, teleport, defend against attack, or force other players to announce their location.

The game ends after 40 rounds, when all humans escape, all humans are eaten, or some combination of the above. The aliens win if they can kill all the humans remaining on the station. Any human killed by an alien loses and any human who escapes wins.

Escape from the Aliens of Outer Space is a mixed bag of a game. Let’s start with the unsatisfying ending of the game. As an example of a satisfying ending, take the hidden movement game Letters from Whitechapel. Jack can win if he escapes detection for the game and the constables win if they can locate Jack. The endgame rewards cunning and secrecy for Jack and rewards teamwork, communication, and cooperation in the constables. Either way it is certainly satisfying. The ending of Escape from the Aliens of Outer Space is a weird “every person for themselves” for the humans and a secretive game of teamwork for the aliens. However, with no central board to work from it is difficult for the aliens to subtly communicate with each other to determine who is an alien and a lone human survivor can’t really celebrate since what feels like a cooperative (humans surviving versus aliens hunting) game was really a competitive (get outta my way, this is my escape pod!) one.

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A sector map with starting locations for Aliens and Humans and the numbered escape pods in the back.

A better role for dispatched aliens could have been designed. When humans die they are respawned as aliens. But aliens killed by aliens result in having a player potentially removed from the game early on. This is, in my opinion, a design flaw. Granted, Escape from the Aliens of Outer Space should only last 30-45 minutes but if one person is removed early it ruins their experience of the game and then makes it much harder for the Aliens to win. I prefer to have an attacked alien revealed as an alien. This makes the game difficult for these two aliens (now revealed to everyone else — location and identity) without removing one from the game. Any way to keep people playing should be the goal of the design, unless the game is specifically a player elimination game which doesn’t seem to be the intent of Escape from the Aliens of Outer Space.

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Here you record your movements for 40 rounds and a kindly reminder for all to the items

That small design flaw aside, the game is certainly tense and if you place a strict time limit on movement, the game can move quickly (to meet the 30-45 minute time expectation on the box rather than the 45-60 minutes it takes with larger groups) and the experience can be memorable. But, like any hidden role game, it depends on the group. Some games can be horrendously silent and slow. Others can be rousingly thematic and exciting. If you want to play this game and have a positive experience you need to seriously read your game group well. And despite the simplicity of gameplay, it is not a gateway game.

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Hilariously, not all of the escape pods actually are functioning…because everything wasn’t bad enough already.

Bookkeeping can also be a challenge. Unlike Letters from Whitechapel where only Jack is required to keep a careful log of movements, in Escape each player needs to be meticulous in their records and also able to keep an eye on where everyone else is potentially located. In the wrong hands this game looks like a large and boring rendition of Battleship with announced coordinates and a quick jot of a note. To be fair, in the right hands you feel like you’ve been transported to the set of Alien. The game really is only worth a play at higher player counts and thus the downtime can be excruciating. That said, there are eight maps to choose from so you can customize your game experience to your group by using a larger or smaller map. This plus your ability to go online and use the map editor (http://www.eftaios.com/mapeditor.html) provides a ton of variability.

This game could have gone a route to be bigger and more component heavy, especially in a market that rewards miniatures and intense components. It could have had a central board and more planning. However, it minimizes the overhead to maximize the immersive experience — you are alone and in the dark trying to get out or to hunt. This does place the onus solely on the player to provide the atmosphere. My recommendation is that if your group loves Letters from Whitechapel, lives and breathes Battlestar Galactica, and washes it down with The Resistance, then you have a winner here. Escape from the Aliens of Outer Space sits nicely in the realm of hidden movement and hidden role games, providing a large depth of immersion for a game that is so very easy to learn that exceeds at higher player counts for a true experience game.

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Happy Thanksgiving folks! http://trollitc.com/2016/11/happy-thanksgiving-folks/ Thu, 24 Nov 2016 13:55:10 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29501 gobble

To those who celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m hoping to get a few casual games in with various family members this Thanksgiving, along with a copious amount of time lazing about. Hope you can do the same!

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Celestia http://trollitc.com/2016/11/celestia/ Sun, 20 Nov 2016 14:10:22 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29496 [...]]]> In Celestia (Amazon, BGG), you and your crew of adventures are aboard an aircraft traveling through the cloud cities of Celestia. Your goal is to collect the treasures from each city which grow in grandeur the further you travel. The group is a discordant bunch and you were unable to choose just one person to be in charge so you will each take turns being captain. It won’t be an easy journey. You will be hampered by fog, lightning, birds, pirates, and, probably, each other. But if you play your cards right and push your luck just far enough, you will fly away as the richest of your crew.

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The game begins with all the players placing their pawns in the three dimensional cardboard airship. Each of the nine cities are set up from lowest to highest with the airship placed at the lowest city. Treasure cards are placed next to their corresponding city. Each player gets six-eight cards and the first captain is chosen. The captain rolls two to four dice (depending upon the next city up from where the airship is docked) to determine what difficulties the crew will face. Then the rest of the crew determine (clockwise from the captain) whether they wish to get off at their current city (I will leave) or to stay in the ship to travel to the next city (I will stay) and more precious cargo. Any crew who decide to disembark will remove their pawn from the ship and take a treasure card from the city’s deck. The worth of the treasure card varies at each location and increases the further you travel (although some special items can only be had at the earliest cities). After the crew is done at the current location, the captain plays the cards needed to overcome the obstacles. If the captain is successful, the remaining crew in the ship move forward and the player to the left becomes the new captain. This continues until a captain is unable to overcome the obstacles in their way, the ship crashes, everyone starts at the beginning, and draws up one equipment card.

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This is a retheme of Cloud 9 (1999) and maintains the light, interactive push-your-luck mechanic of the original with much upgraded art and components. The decisions and card play are simple so this is a great filler or ender. Basically, if you are the captain, only you know if you can overcome the difficulties so you need to bluff the other players to either stay on board or get off as quickly as possible. If you are the crew you need to read these bluffs and disembark at the right time or play the right cards to influence the result. Some cards can do more than just avoid hazards, these cards have additional powers such as a Turbo Card which acts as a wild card to overcome any hazard, a Jetpack which lets someone jump off right before the ship crashes, some allow for rerolls, others force players off the ship.

Celestia’s strength lies within it’s simplicity and its beauty — it is cute and colorful but not glaring. It is quick to set-up, simple to learn, and provides just enough interaction and take-that to make it interesting without getting too mean. The artwork and production quality are both wonderful — it has a nice, gentle, “around the world in 80 days,” whimsical, steam-punk vibe to it that isn’t too over-the-top or off putting. It plays best at higher player counts and still comes in at 30 minutes with 6 people playing. This game encourages surprises, bluffing, and explosive moments of laughter (when certain cards are played).

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While most press-your-luck games tend towards the abstract (King of Tokyo notwithstanding), Celestia does a great job with theming such a simple game. Player interaction isn’t intense and even being booted off the ship still allows you to pick up a treasure. There is also a surprising amount of table talk. The crew will berate the captain and the captain will bluster or sweat to bluff out the crew. It allows for plenty of supplemental interaction which doesn’t necessarily pertain to the game but certainly adds to the experience.

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A quick break on the reviews to design a new game and polish up an existing prototype. http://trollitc.com/2016/11/a-quick-break-on-the-reviews-to-design-a-new-game-and-polish-up-an-existing-prototype/ Fri, 18 Nov 2016 16:37:03 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29492 [...]]]> Hey all! A few of you, perhaps 30 or 40 people out there, may have noticed that we were reviewing on average about 1.3 games per week! That’s pretty rad and I’m happy to be back in the saddle with that. However, I’ve got to take a quick break from it because we have these holidays here like Thanksgiving that take up a lot of cycles in the most fun way possible. Also, I’m working on a new, small design that has me pretty excited. Like many new designs, it may amount to nothing or it may be the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s too early to tell right now!

I can say that for the first time since I had my shoulder rebuilt and then shortly after that my Mom passed away, I really feel like I’m back. Back reviewing, back creating and pretty much on a more even keel creatively. I honestly had no idea it would take me this long – but these things just have to happen naturally. Oh and then when I was starting to feel my old self again I stayed up for 25 hours play board games. Every year it takes me just a little longer to recover from that!

On the few times I’ve talked about designing games with folks who aren’t into designing themselves, I get asked what a new game design looks like. I think people are naturally curious as to how the whole process goes. For me, it looks like this:

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That’s a bit of it. Right now it’s entirely on paper. I won’t be able to do much in the way of prototyping until perhaps Sunday morning as I’ve got family commitments between then and now. But once I do have time I’m going to break out those 400 blank playing cards I bought a year ago, my kid’s markers, and I’m going to go to town! This will be my first game about trading. Sure there will be conflict too but primarily it’s all about the Benjamins in this game, which tickles me to no end. I’m working in a pretty small design space, which means there are some interesting problems I don’t encounter when I can use things like say… anything other than a card.

I’ve gotten perhaps 35-40 games to real, playable prototype status. Of those, I’m still actively working on 4, (5 once I get this puppy real) and have abandoned or openly shunned the rest. Why am I excited by this one? Well, it’s small, it’s got a bit of complexity, lots of player choice and very little luck. All things I enjoy – but it also just feels right. As someone who’s played over 200 different game titles and churned out 30 or 40 of them himself, a lot of them feel like they’re good but need work. This one feels like a nicely oiled machine even on paper.

Which means that instead of going through a hundred little and big iterations before it’s a real, polished game, it may only need 80. Still, it’s a good feeling. Whether this one works out or not, I’m still pretty excited by it – if by nothing else than I feel like I’m back. The piece of me that was missing for a while has returned to fill that little game design/creative hole in my soul. That’s priceless.

I’m also paring down one of my existing prototypes to fit into the realm of the nano – a 9 card version of a dexterity game I mucked about with before. Fish Pitch is the game and with a few rules changes and a bit more playing about I think I have a very workable, tiny little version of this.

 

For those interested, the next review I’m working on is a fun, entirely wooden game called The Climbers, which I hope to have published next week.

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Extra Life 2016 Recap http://trollitc.com/2016/11/extra-life-2016-recap/ Sun, 06 Nov 2016 18:15:22 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29442 [...]]]> Session Report: Extra Life 2016 – we played a lot of games.

Here’s the (mostly) whole list of games we played. I may have missed a few as a couple of smaller spin-off games may have sprung up.

Star Realms (phone)
Friday (solo) x2
Star Realms (phone) x5
Forbidden Desert x2
Firefly nope
Seasons
What were you thinking?
DC Deck Builder
Codenames x2
Animal upon Animal
Codenames x2
Camel Cup
Bang Dice
Tsuro
King of Tokyo
Truth or Dare
Funemployed
Cutthroat Caverns
Scythe
DC Deck Builder
Bohnanza
Monopoly Deal x2
Sentinels of the Multiverse (phone)

As with the past five years, I promised that if I made my goal (I did), I’d shave off my beard. This year I went from right to left rather than to mutton chops or whatnot. That was interesting.

At this second, I’ve raised $1833 by myself (with a few offline donations I have to add in). Team Troll met and beat our goal of $4500 with $4,951!

Here’s a whole bunch of pictures of the night! I’ve also included the link to the campaign should you want to pop in a last minute donation.

http://www.extra-life.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=217085

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Dreamwell http://trollitc.com/2016/11/29437/ Sun, 06 Nov 2016 13:08:28 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29437 [...]]]> In Dreamwell (Amazon, BBG), you are in a strange world where children wander while they sleep. You are searching for your friends — the dreamkin — who are lost in this realm. While you search for these lost souls, you will navigate strange terrains, enlist the aid of fantastic creatures, avoid the dreaded Nightmare, and keep an eye on the other denizens of the Dreamwell . In strictly game terms Dreamwell is an abstract game where players, through careful hand management and grid movement/manipulation, will score points (rescue souls) in order to win.

To set up, each player takes two standees of their color and one marker. The board is set up by randomly placing 16 tiles in a 4×4 grid. The tiles can be in any orientation and in an advanced variant they can be flipped to a “dark” side as well. A market of four cards is opened at the top of the grid and each player is dealt out a starting hand of two cards. This is your dreamscape to explore and search for the souls of children lost in the land of dream. Each tile has doors located on the edges or corners which allow for easier movement, a creature in the foreground,  and a terrain in the background. The goal is to meet the requirements of cards (one terrain and two creatures) in order to play them for instant bonuses, game long abilities, and points. On their turn players can take three actions:

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Move

Each player starts off the board with two standees in their color to move around the board. When using an action to move, players are limited to only one tile (adjacent or diagonally) and can only move if in the direction of a door. However, if they move through connecting door on the other tile they get an additional free movement action. In this way, with properly connected tiles, players can move the length of the grid easily.

Rotate a Tile

In order to line up doors, a player can rotate any tile. They don’t have to occupy the tile to rotate it so they can make traveling more difficult for other players if they wish.

Play a Friend Card

Each friend card has three requirements (two creatures and a terrain). If these requirements are met (their standee occupies tiles with corresponding creatures and terrain), that card can be played. Each card will provide a score plus a benefit which is resolved immediately or a game-long bonus ability.

Draw a Friend Card

Take a friend card from the market or draw one off the top of the deck.  

Refresh the Friends Card Display

Discard the market of friend cards and deal out four new ones.

(Advanced) Flip a Tile

If you are choosing to play the advanced variant, you can flip any tile from light to dark or dark to light.

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And that is about it. You are moving your standees around the board in order to line up the requirements to play friend cards and score points. The gameplay is simple and like any abstract game, your are rewarded when planning a few moves ahead. Lining up doors can move you long distances and chaining the right cards can gain you immediate bonuses or game-long abilities. 

The artwork is an immediate draw to the game but, while delightfully surreal, the terrains aren’t distinct enough from each other and often I found myself having to move the standee to see the terrain or move several tiles in order to rotate/flip one. Along with Kodoma: The Tree Spirits, Action Phase Games is certainly on point with art direction. However, unlike Kodoma where the art was added to an already stellar design by Daniel Solis; in Dreamwell, it feels as if they wanted to build a game around the artwork (Edit: Upon review this is actually the case according to the artist’s blog…which is kinda awesome). And they certainly succeeded. Tara McPherson is amazing, more games need to be made based on her artwork, and I have since made a pin of my favorite creature, the Skullflower. Given the choice between Dreamwell with Tara’s artwork and Little’s solid design and some cat/bear/baby-related thing coming out of The Oatmeal, I’ll take Dreamwell in a heartbeat.

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The gameplay is abstract so if you enjoy …and then, we held hands or other abstract games with card play, then this is probably your game. While the theme in the description of the game is engaging, it barely relates to the actual mechanics. Which is a shame if you like a game to be immersive. If you like abstracts though, this isn’t an issue. You are each a person exploring this world but you have two standees (where your divided soul is represented by balloons?) and also you are competing over the rescue of souls? There is an amazing cooperative game in there somewhere. Even providing the names of the friends, creatures, and locations, didn’t help (although I really appreciated it).

A modular board ensures that the game will benefit with repeated play and the card play is engaging. When you have a good feel of the cards, you can start chaining them together and the game can really move forward quickly.

There is very little player interaction. While flipping or rotating a tile may slow down an opponent, the fact everyone has two standees means that you have quite a bit of freedom of movement across the board. Again, this isn’t a criticism and if you enjoy the solitary feeling of Splendor or Dominion, then this could be the type of game you prefer. But if you are looking for interaction, other than standees getting in your way, everyone else may as well not be there.

Bottom Line: Great artwork, and accessible gameplay makes this an enticing game for new players. Lack of player interaction and strategy may not attract experienced players for more than a couple plays. But if you have some friends or family who need a second step game or want to step out of Dixit into something just as strange, then Dreamwell will suit your needs.

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EXTRA LIFE 2016 IS HERE – Live updates all day long! http://trollitc.com/2016/11/extra-life-2016-is-here-live-updates-all-day-long/ Sat, 05 Nov 2016 09:54:04 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29379 [...]]]> Scroll down for LIVE updates! 

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For my fifth year, I’m taking part in Extra Life! We’ll be playing games with a bunch of awesome people all day today right through to tomorrow (25 hours, yikes!) to raise money for Children’s Hospitals. Join us via this live stream to see what we’re doing!

Extra Life is a 403(b) Charitable Organization dedicated to healing sick and injured kids. This will be my 5th year supporting this awesome charity. Here’s how it works. Once a year, folks like you join my team, create their own, or sponsor us as we play games for 24 hours straight. All of the money raised – 100% – goes to children’s hospitals around the country and the world. And any donations are tax deductible! If you want to donate – please do so here!

Also, since I’ve met my goal, the beard goes! Here’s one of the last pictures of this year’s EL beard.

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Also, don’t forget that at 2AM this Sunday – it’s Daylight Savings Thing Time!

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We got a few extra games in the night-of – Started with the silly Animal upon Animal and then some deck building fun with Dominion and DC.

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Right, off to play some solo games and get that coffee going!

 

 

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Universal Rule – A 4x game in a tiny package that gets the job done http://trollitc.com/2016/11/universal-rule-a-4x-game-in-a-tiny-package-that-gets-the-job-done/ Wed, 02 Nov 2016 12:45:51 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29323 [...]]]> ur

Note: Universal Rule is on Kickstarter now through November 12!

4X – eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. These are games that I really love! You get out there, build an empire, try to take out the other players while also finding new things and managing resources. I love them on computers, I love them in cardboard and really I only have one problem with this genre as a whole. It takes to darned long to play these games! I wish I still had hours to dedicated to them (and sometimes I make the time) but most often I just don’t. Then along came Universal Rule.

Universal Rule plays with 2-5 people, in about 45 minutes for ages 12+. It’s designed by Chip Beauvais and published by Button Shy Games. And it does all this with eighteen freaking cards as part of the Button Shy Games’ wallet series. I’ve played the prototype and pre-Kickstarter print and play versions. There may be some changes to the production version of the game.

Editor’s Note: Button Shy Games are the publishers of my game Ninja – Silent but Deadly.

How to play

In Universal Rule, players are competing to colonize new worlds, exploit them for money or military power and by either cunning or force be the first player to reach the winning number of victory points. 15 points for three players, 13 for four players and 11 for five players.

To start off, there are 17 Planet cards and 1 Universal Rule card. The Universal Rule card is put aside and the 17 planet cards shuffled. Each player is dealt three Planet cards and will choose two to start the game with. The remaining cards, including those discarded by the players are then shuffled into the main deck.

Players will have to provide their own money counters (called Credits) for this game. There’s a hard limit of 25 credits per player. This can be taken care of by providing 1 dime, 2 nickels and 8 pennies per player. Or use something else. I prefer original M&M’s as you can eat them at game’s end.

Each of the 17 different planet cards have an ability that can be used when they are colonized (when they are played to the table). They also have a cost in credits (gold number), a military power (red number, which includes their fleet) and an income (green number) which shows how many credits they could potentially generate. Every non-upgraded planet is also worth 1 victory point, as shown by the star just under the name. When upgraded, the number of stars increases, increasing the total victory points that planet is worth. In addition to this, each Planet card can be rotated 180 degrees to be upgraded – offering generally larger numbers. There’s a cost to upgrading though. From these planet cards each player can determine everything they need to know about their galactic empire. The first player to reach or exceed the winning victory point number on their turn immediately declares themselves the winner.

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On a player’s turn, they can select one of five different actions. Other players can also follow all but one of these actions, for a cost. In a neat twist to other games that feature a similar role mechanic, the role doesn’t vanish when it’s selected (so that other players can also select it) and the players themselves determine the cost of following. To follow, the player sets the cost at a minimum of 1 and a maximum of however many planets they currently have colonized. They set this before they themselves take their action.  If a player decides not to follow, they take 1 credit from the bank. And what are these actions?

Explore: Here players can pay one credit to the bank and choose to draw a card (if any are available) from the deck and add it to their hand. You have a hard limit of 3 cards for your hand.

Colonize: Take a card from your hand and place it on the table. Pay the cost as indicated on the card and that planet is now colonized and in play. If you can afford the more expensive, upgraded side of the planet, you can put a planet directly into play, already upgraded. Other players may follow and pay your follow cost to you, and the cost of colonizing their planet to the bank.

Upgrade: Pay the difference in their planets initial colonize cost and the upgraded cost, then flip their planet card 180 degrees. They now use the upgraded military power and income numbers. When following, other players pay the follow cost in addition to the planet’s upgrade cost. You cannot downgrade a planet.

Produce: The player takes the credits generated by all of the planets colonized and in play. If other players choose to follow this action, they gain their planetary income before they must pay the follow cost – so it is possible to follow this action if you have no cash on hand to start with.

Attack: The one action that cannot be followed. Players select one of their planets to attack with. Let’s go more in depth with this action as combat involves all of the players.

The player doing the attacking picks another player’s planet to attack and then selects one of their planets to lead the attack. Those planet’s military value is where this attack will start. The winner is the one with the most military value, defenders winning all ties. Now comes the neat bit. Each player, starting with the attacker and going in turn order, can add their fleet and as many cards from their hands as they would like to add. To add cards, it’s always the fleet value of that card (signified by the little wings on the Military Power icon) and each card is played face down.

Next, players can add funds to the battle. Each player takes tokens into their hand equal to the number of fleets they possess on planets that aren’t currently the attacking planet or the defending planet. They secretly separate these tokens into funds they want to spend (their right hand) and funds they don’t want to spend (their left hand). Those numbers can be zero.

Now the reveal! At the same time (count to three) all players will reveal their credit support and also point to the player they are supporting – either the defender or the attacker. Now it’s time to total up and see who won. The attack value is the attacking planet’s military power plus all coins revealed by those siding with the attacker plus the fleet value of all cards contributed (played face down above).

The defense value is calculated the same way – the defending planet’s military power plus all coins revealed by those siding with the defender plus the fleet value of all cards contributed.

In this example, almost all of the other players, including my own daughter are siding with my attacker.

In this example, almost all of the other players, including my own daughter are siding with my attacker.

If the attack was successful, the defending planet is downgraded. If it can’t be downgraded, it’s destroyed (and added back into the main deck). The player who contributed the most (in coins, cards and planet’s military power) then takes the Universal Rule card, which is worth 6 victory points. If unsuccessful, each player that supported the defender and contributed at least 1 credit or played 1 card gets a free Explore action, in turn order. If the attacker had the Universal Rule card, it’s returned to the center of the table. Either way, all coins spent in an attack go to the bank and all cards played are discarded to the main deck.

And that is the game – play continues around the table until someone hits or exceeds the vp total needed to win. Quite a bit going on for a little game like this!

Why you should play

4x games can be a bit on the complicated side. While that’s certainly ameliorated by having only 18 cards in play, Universal Rule is not a simple little card game. There’s a lot going on here! Thankfully the graphic design choices put everything you’ll ever need about each world right on the card. That makes playing this game a lot simpler when everything you could possibly want to know is right in front of you on the table or in your hand. I love that this game turns an hours long 4x experience into less than an hour play time even with five players! I still feel like I’ve gotten my 4x experience in as well, which is gratifying.

I love the inclusion of following on other players actions (or at least earning a credit) as it keeps all of the players, even in a five player game, on their toes and thinking during each player’s turn. Everyone’s engaged – and if there’s combat? Woo boy, then everyone’s really engaged.

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Metal tokens do not come with this game.

There are a lot of interesting, sometimes stressful decisions to be made at any point in the game as well. The need to explore to have more cards (and potential colonized worlds) in your hand balances with the need to actually get some planets on the table and generate income. Do you add these worlds to your budding empire? Save the cards so you can properly defend or attack another player? Maybe you just need to expand your base so you can generate more cash. More cash means the ability to follow more often, so you can get more done! But then that depletes your ability to add money into an attack and grab the Universal Rule card for six victory points!

The special powers, unique military and credit values and the differing victory point values (once upgraded) of each planet mean that even after many plays of this game there’s still a good deal of replayability built right in.

Really, the most telling thing I can say about Universal Rule is that five minutes after getting soundly thumped in my first game I was thinking about different paths I could have taken and itching to get another play in as soon as possible. Chip and Button Shy Games have really hit this one out of the park – this could be the most game I’ve ever seen squeezed onto 18 cards. I’m saying that as someone who loves to play and collect tiny games. The ability to sit down and pull a legitimate 4x game out of my pocket, and I mean literally out of my jean’s pocket, is pretty amazing. Yes, you do have to add your own counters for the in-game cash, but that’s a trivial thing. A bag of M&M’s costs about eighty cents and two rolls of pennies costs exactly one dollar and each are just as portable as the game itself.

Universal Rule is currently on Kickstarter and can be had for $10. This is Button Shy’s 21st project on Kickstarter and they have a very solid track record of delivering good games on time.

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A big thanks to Button Shy Games for supporting my Extra Life campaign! http://trollitc.com/2016/11/a-big-thanks-to-button-shy-games-for-supporting-my-extra-life-campaign/ Tue, 01 Nov 2016 16:31:31 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29380 [...]]]> buttonsh

A shout out to the always amazing Button Shy Games for donating a ton of games for me to give away during Extra Life!

Extra Life is a 403(b) Charitable Organization dedicated to healing sick and injured kids. This will be my 5th year supporting this awesome charity. Here’s how it works. Once a year, folks like you join my team, create their own, or sponsor us as we play games for 24 hours straight. All of the money raised – 100% – goes to children’s hospitals around the country and the world. And any donations are tax deductible!

If you’d like to sponsor me – you can click this here link! Our event launches at 6 am, EST on Saturday November 5th and actually runs for 25 hours this year thanks to Daylight Savings. Publishers like Button Shy Games help us out by giving people another reason to stop on by and support our cause! They’re also doing some amazing things in the small game space and you should absolutely check them out!

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The 2016 Mega List of games and goodies for (mostly) under $20 http://trollitc.com/2016/11/the-2016-mega-list-of-games-and-goodies-for-mostly-under-20/ Tue, 01 Nov 2016 12:03:38 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29262 [...]]]> 20

Every year for the past five years or so I’ve put together a list of 40, then 60, then 80 and then 90+ games and things for the geek in your life that cost (mostly) $20 or less. This year is no exception! Except I’m not going to assign a number to it – I’m just putting together everything I’ve found that rates as both entertaining, a good value for the money and affordable. So here it is: The Mega-List for 2016.

As an added bonus, I’ve added a bunch of games, toys, books and movies that I very much enjoy, but which don’t fall into the under $20 or game categories. You’ll find those at the end.

These less expensive games tend to be smaller, making them easier to store and lug around.  By way of disclosure, many of these are through amazon, and yes I get a small percentage of any sales.  This goes directly in to keeping this site alive.  Another trick, Amazon has free shipping for orders of $35 or more, but with Amazon prime, it’s free 2nd day shipping on many of these. Remember, if you’re a student, prime is free! Also, you can get Prime (as a non-student) and try it out for 30 days for free.

Items that have red prices cost over $20.  Items that are green are 20 bucks or less.  Click the images to go directly to Amazon or the site selling the item. All prices are subject to change at the unreadable whim of Amazon.com. PLEASE NOTE: I don’t control the pricing at Amazon, as much as I wish I did. These prices change constantly! They may be off by a dollar or two, or you may get really lucky and they may be $5-10 less.

If you have any suggestions you’d like to see on the list, feel free to let me know!

Now, in no particular order, a whole bunch of games and table top gifts costing mostly under $20.

Help Me! – $10.00 

helpThis is a wonderful, quick little filler that plays in 5-10 minutes and costs $5-10. Totally worth it! The spirits of nature are in danger! Can you help? By making use of your bluffing and tactical skills, carefully move the game tile while trying to determine the identity of your opponents creatures. My review!

Patchwork – $22.00

patchI love this 2 player game! In fact, you can ready my review right here! Patchwork is a form of needlework that involves sewing together pieces of fabric into a larger design. In the past, it was a way to make use of leftover pieces of cloth to create clothing and quilts. Today, patchwork is a form of art, in which the designers use precious fabrics to create beautiful textiles. The use of uneven pieces of fabric in particular can result in real masterpieces and is therefore being practiced by a large number of textile artists. To create a beautiful quilt, however, requires effort and time, but the available patches just do not want to fit together. So choose your patches carefully and keep a healthy supply of buttons to not only finish your quilt, but to make it better and more beautiful than your opponent‘s.

Rhino Hero – $14.00

rhinoThis one shot to the top of my list of amazingly fun games to play. The only game in my collection where card-bending is not only encouraged, but required. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Super Rhino! No building too high, no street too dangerous for this caped crusader, as he scales buildings and patrols the city protecting the citizens. On his quest for safety, he must use caution as even the most solid buildings may start to sway and wobble. Can you help Super Rhino accomplish the challenge to build a skyscraper as tall and solid as can be? A heroic 3D-stacking game for 2-5 players ages 5+ and amazingly fun for adults.

Dingo’s Dreams – $19.00

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-2-22-20-pmAnother wonderfully illustrated game from Red Raven and designed by master designer Alf Seegert. Dingo and his friends have gotten lost on Walkabout! Visit their dreams to lead them home. Includes simplified rules for younger children, and tougher challenges for experienced players. Plays in 15 minutes for 2 to 4 players. Be the first to guide your animal from the Dreamworld by sliding tiles in your own grid to match the goal.

Flip City – $15.00

flipAnother good game from TMG, Flip City is a tiny little deck builder with everything you’ll need to play in the box – no extras, expansions or must-have add ons. The citizens of Flip City want you to expand and renovate their neighborhoods — but if you ask for too much in taxes all at once, they won’t be happy! To keep them at ease, you will play cards from the top of your deck (no hand!), push your luck, build your deck, and upgrade cards by flipping them.

Wok on Fire – $14.00

wokHere’s a great little game that uses set collection and a splash of spicy dexterity. Another one I’ve reviewed and highly recommend. Are you ready to cook a pot of delicious food? we all get to take a turn being chef in wok on fire! you can eat meat, fruits and vegetables in bulk, or make small delicious dishes of rice and noodles. Whatever you do, pick the best combinations of food to get a high score! Here’s my review of this one.

Mystery Rummy – Jack the Ripper – $20.00 

mystery rummy

 

Will you succeed where Scotland Yard failed? The case of Jack the Ripper is re-opened in this innovative card game that combines the elements of an exciting mystery with the strategies of traditional rummy. Each suspect, victim and murder scene is depicted with historical accuracy in this challenging game of intrigue and suspense.

Codenames – $17.00

codenames This game was all the buzz during convention season this year. It was available in limited quantities until, well, now. Codenames is a social word game with a simple premise and challenging game play. Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their codenames. The teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first.

 

The Grizzled – $18.00

grizThrough what tragedies can friendship endure? The Grizzled is a fast paced, fully cooperative card game that takes place in the trenches of World War I. Already a best seller in Europe, The Grizzled is an elegant game of avoiding threats and leading a team, and is regarded as one of the finest cooperative games ever made. Featuring beautiful art by French artist Tignous. The Grizzled’ s outstanding art is the perfect complement to its message of peaches and enduring friendship.

 

The Dwarf King – $17.35

dwarfThe Dwarf King (Le Roi des Nains) is a trick-taking game played with a deck of 53 cards: three suits (Dwarves, Goblins and Knights) of thirteen cards each and fourteen special cards. The game also includes twenty contract tiles. The game is played over seven rounds. At the start of a round, the dealer randomly draws one special card, reads it to all the players, shuffles it into the deck, then deals the deck out evenly to all players. (The dealer for the first round is the game’s owner; for subsequent rounds, the dealer is the one who took the 5 of Dwarves in the previous round.) The player who receives the 5 of Knights draws a contract tile, reads it, then chooses one of the two scoring rules on it to apply for that round. The player holding the 5 of Goblins leads on the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible and the game includes no trump. The highest card played of the suit led wins the trick and leads to the next trick. Once all cards have been played, players tally their points (possibly negative), remove the special card and contract tile from the game, then shuffle for the next round. The player who scores the most points over seven rounds wins the game.

Castles of Burgundy – The Card Game – $12.00

burgDespite my appalling inability to spell Burgundy, I love the original game. Here’s the card version! The hundred years’ War is over and the Renaissance is looming. Conditions are perfect for the princes of the Loire Valley to propel their estates to prosperity and prominence. Through strategic trading and building, clever planning, and careful thought, players add settlements and castles, practice trade along the river, exploit silver mines, farm Livestock and more in this top-selling game by Stefan Feld.

legoStar Wars Lego – $20.00

Believe it or not there are a ton of Star Wars Lego sets that are $20 or less. I’ve sorted out a group of them that are $25 or less – just filter this by price and you’ll have all the Star Wars Legos you could want for under $20.

 

Lost Cities – $20.00

lostTake two players, give them risky choices and watch them go! Who will discover the ancient civilizations? Two explorers embark on research journeys to remote corners of the world: the Himalayan mountains, the Central American rainforest, the Egyptian desert, a mysterious volcano, and the bottom of the sea. As the cards are played, the expedition routes take shape and the explorers earn points. The most daring adventurers make bets on the success of their expeditions.

Swamped – $14.00

swampYou’re lost in a deadly swamp with unreliable companions. Can you navigate the mission to success and claim personal victory or will the crocodile catch you first? Swamped is a huge adventure in a small box for 2-4 players. Disclaimer – this is my game! I’m terribly proud of it too. It’s a semi-co-op number where players share control of a boat while searching for treasure and trying to avoid death by crocodile!

7 Wonders Duel – $24.00

duel If you know someone or are someone who really loves 7 Wonders but would love a non-kludged together way to play it with only 2 people, well boy are you going to like this. 7 Wonders Duel takes the game play and excitement of the original and adapts it for one-on-one battles. Take control of your civilization and decide to invest in science, military or prestige. Two new ways to win will keep you on your toes and watching every move your opponent makes. If you fail to build defenses your capital city may be destroyed, but ignore technology and your people may be left in the dark ages.

Pairs – $9.00

pairs Pairs is a super quick, extremely easy to teach press your luck card game. There’s only one loser each round and it can be played once in 5 minutes or for a good, solid hour while you and your opponents hurl insults at each other and twirl any mustaches you may have between you. Not that I’ve ever done that.

Welcome to the Dungeon – $12.00

dungeonHere’s a title that’s on my wishlist this year. Welcome to the Dungeon is a micro dungeon crawler by Masato Uesugi and Paul Mafayon for 2 to 4 players with push-your-luck elements and disappearing equipment. Dare your opponents to tackle the dungeon with less-and-less equipment to fend off the increasing horde of monsters.  This push-your-luck dungeon delve tests your courage and shrewd choices.  Beat the dungeon twice or be the last warrior standing to win the game.

Bat Man Love Letter – $9.00

bat If you look further down this list, you’ll see the original AEG version of Love Letter. Why include two versions? Because Bat Man! This game plays very similar to other Love Letters with the exception of the Bat Man offering extra points if he pinpoints a villain in an opponent’s hand. It’s a cheap price for a game this full, even with only 16 cards and a bunch of bat signal tokens.

6 Nimmit – $12.00

6nimm You start with 10 cards, ranked between 1 and 104. Each round, you must add a card to one of 4 active rows. If you play the 6th card in a row, you must take the first 5 cards in that row. This is not a good thing! You get penalty points for each bull head on these cards. The player with the least bull heads wins.

Artifacts Inc. – $19.00

Artifacts incA game from Red Raven Games, where Ryan Laukat designs and illustrates everything. I’ve another of his games further down below and it’s my game of the year. Players roll dice, which represent their troop of adventurers and place them on cards in order to find artifacts, sell them to museums and purchase new cards representing their company assets. Players can choose to focus on making lots of money by selling artifacts, having museum majorities, creating the best combination of expeditions and buildings, or searching below the waves for lost cities and hidden treasures. The first player to reach 20 reputation triggers the end of the game and the player with the most total reputation wins.

Guilds of Cadwallon – $17.00

guilds A tiny little miniatures game! In the Free City of Cadwallon, a constant shadowy struggle for power simmers just below the surface of the seemingly peaceful city. Mighty guilds constantly vie for power, influence, and control. Using your influence and instincts, can you turn the never ending struggle for power between the guilds to your advantage?

Happy Salmon – $13.50

happy-salmonHappy salmon is the simple, fast-paced card game packed to the gills with high-flying’, fin-flappin’ fun. Actions including the classic “high 5”, the unifying “pound it”, the frantic “Switcheroo”, and the delightful “happy salmon” will leave players doubled over in laughter. With so many mini-celebrations built into the play, it’s the happiest game ever! how to play 1. Everyone calls out the action shown on their top card. 2. When two players have a match, they celebrate performing that action together, then discard their top card. 3. The first player to match all of the cards in their deck wins!.

Shinobi Clans – $17.00

shinobi clans As a ruthless and cunning shinobi clan master, you lead your team of ninjas on secret missions that decide between life and death for dangerous ronin, noble daimyos and powerful shoguns. Recruit the most skilled assassins, arm them with the deadliest weapons, and devise plans that will outwit your rivals on your way to becoming the most feared and prosperous ninja clan of them all!

Machi Koro – $18.50

machiHere’s one I’ve not yet played but have heard great things about. Welcome to the city of Machi Koro, the Japanese card game that is sweeping the world. You’ve just been elected Mayor.  Congrats! Unfortunately the citizens have some pretty big demands: jobs, a theme park, a couple of cheese factories and maybe even a radio tower.  A tough proposition since the city currently consists of a wheat field, a bakery and a single die. Armed only with your trusty die and a dream, you must grow Machi Koro into the largest city in the region. I’ve also heard that the Harbor expansion changes it from a decent game to an excellent game.

Fairy Tale – $16.99

fairy tale If you like drafting games here’s another title you’ll be interested in. With game play lasting 15-20 minutes and a variant designed by Richard Garfield thrown in it makes for a good, light game.

Cthulhu Realms – $16.00

cthul Cthulhu themed deck building! In Cthulhu Realms, each player tries to reduce their opponents to insanity or have more sanity than their opponents when the deck runs out. Each player starts the game with a small deck comprised of initiates, goons and followers. Five cards from the deck form a row of available cards on the table; with more than two players, place three available cards between each pair of players.

Empire Engine – $6.00

empi This little game has been on my shelf for a while now and I’m itching to get it to the table. During the game, players simultaneously choose actions to attack, defend, salvage, export, or collect resources (goods for export, soldiers to attack your opponents and inventions to score points). Players use their gears to rotate their engines, and in each round perform the actions on the top edges of their engines. The player who scores the most points for the goods, soldiers and inventions in their score pile at the end of the game is the winner!

Valley of the Kings – $16.00

valley

I’ve not played this one yet but it’s another game on my personal wish list. A lot of people have been commenting on how well it works both mechanically and thematically! Also, while the price ranges from $18-$22, keep an eye on it. You should be able to get it for $20 or less. In Valley of the Kings, 2-4 players are Egyptian nobles at the time of the pharaohs, preparing for their death and burial in the Valley of the Kings. In the Egyptian religion, when you die you can take it with you! Egyptians therefore stocked their tombs with food, shabti (statuettes of servants who will work for them in the afterlife), canopic jars (to preserve their organs), statues of the gods, household items, and amulets.

Good Cop Bad Cop – $14.00

cop A deduction and bluffing game for 4-8 players which plays quick and is suitable for your larger groups. Corruption has infiltrated your agency. The Kingpin must be taken down before the crooked cops take out the Agent. You wont be able to do it alone but theres no knowing whos honest and whos crooked. Do some investigating to discover whos who but act fast; there arent enough guns for everyone This version is a second printing that puts the game in a traditional telescoping box

The Builders – Medieval Age – $17.00

builders Recruit workers and create buildings to prove that you are the greatest builder. You’ll have to start small, with cottages and stables, but you’ll be building your name as you build your masterpieces and before long, you’ll complete the cathedral! Hire worker cards, pay them to build your buildings and balance your income with your expenses. You can’t do everything on your turn – but you’ll want to! From wells and shacks to castles and churches, use your resources to create structures that will stand the test of time.

Qwixx – $9.00

qwixx Qwixx is simple to play but each decision is crucial – the more numbers you cross off, the more points you score. With no downtime between turns you’ll have a chance to gain from each and every roll.

Cube Quest – $22.00

cubequestIf you’re looking for a fun, dice flicking, army building dexterity game, here you go! Mobilize your fingers for the ultimate six-sided skirmish. Field an army of cubes and then place them strategically on the board. Each cube has special powers: Heroes and Skulks are strong on the attack, while Guards are better for defense. Once your cubes are in position, sound the trumpets and let the flicking begin. Try to knock your opponent’s king off the board, aiming carefully not to get caught behind enemy lines. Triumph in your quest and crown yourself the Cube King.

Just Desserts – $14.00

just desserts A new game from Looney Labs, this happens to by my 10 year old’s pick for game of the year. It’s also interesting enough that I’m not sick of playing it. It’s a relatively simple card game of set collection where you as a dessert provider, must match your ingredients to your customers to create desserts that they’ll love. Once you have a match, you collect your customers – looking to collect three of a single suit or five of the available suits of customers. You can read my full review here.

Times Up – Title Recall – $17.00

times Times Up was a decent party game staple and now it’s been revamped! Guess titles of famous books, songs, movies, TV shows and lots more. New for this edition are expanded rules to allow an odd number of players (3, 5, or 7). Even more exciting is the addition of an all new 4th round, the Freeze Challenge.

Qwirkle Cubes – $18.00

qcubeThe follow-up to one of the most awarded games of all time has finally arrived! Qwirkle Cubes plays very much like Qwirkle. However, you have more control over your hand because you can roll and re-roll your dice to get the shapes you want! Also, because everyone plays open-handed, you can better judge your opponent’s future moves. Simply create rows and columns of matching colors or shapes to score the most points. And, as always, no reading is required, making this truly a game the entire family can play! Includes 90 wood tiles and a drawstring bag to hold the tiles. 2 to 4 players. Ages 6 and up.

Ninja Dice – $14.00

ninjaIf you know me at all, you know my abiding love for Ninjas. That’s where Ninja Dice comes in! I saw the folks who publish this demoing it at Total Confusion and it looked like a great time. Ninja Dice is a fast-paced, push-your-luck dice game with a unique mechanic: it’s not just what you roll, where the dice land is important!

Dead Man’s Draw – $18.00

deadBased off of a popular app, Dead Man’s Draw is a push your luck card game. It comes with a number of colorful characters as well, which I personally suggest you set aside and never, ever use. The rest of the game however makes for a spectacular filler game, lasting 10-20 minutes and playing up to 4 players.

Start Player – $7.75

startBy our detailed calculations, more than 2.5 million additional games could be played each year if you took less time picking a start player. Start Player solves this problem: Just turn over a card and you’ll know who the start player is. Maybe it’s as simple as the tallest player, or the player with the most unbuttoned buttons. It’s the most comprehensive system ever devised for choosing who starts a game.

Harbour – $19.99

harb Harbour did quite well on Kickstarter and now it’s in stock everywhere! Harbour is a worker placement game where players move their worker from building to building, collecting and trading Fish, Livestock, Wood, and Stone; and cashing those resources in to purchase buildings (which are the worker placement spots) from the central pool. Once a building is purchased, it is replaced from the deck, and the central pool is a small subset of the deck, and is therefore different every game.

Cockroach Poker – $13.00

kockro A super easy, quite fun bluffing game! It makes for a great family game but also works very well as a filler or pub-style game too. Easy to learn, fun to play, inexpensive and attractive looking. What more could you ask for?

Star Wars Risk – $24.00

riskYes, here I am recommending a Risk game. Star Wars Risk is a modern, slightly less hectic redo of the much sought after game The Queen’s Gambit. From everything I’ve heard, it’s a fantastic little game with a ton of plastic minis for under $25. It’s actually quite a good game – here’s my review!

Epic – $14.00

EPIC From the folks who brought you Star Realms comes EPIC – another fast and furious deck smashing game. They’ve got a bunch of different ways to play, from each player grabs 30 cards and you go! To full on deck construction, sealed/open draft and what have you. A very fun game.

Coloretto – $12.00

coloret If Zooloretto looks interesting to you but you’d like it in a smaller package, Coloretto may be your jam. The players draw cards from a card supply in the middle of the table. During the game, the players try to specialize in a few colors, as at the end of the game, a player can score plus points for only 3 colors; the rest score minus points. The more cards a player has of a color, the more points he scores. The player with the most points wins.

Biblios – $20.00

biblios Never before has working in medieval conditions copying books been so fun! As an abbot of a medieval monastery, you compete with other abbots to amass the greatest library of sacred books. To do so, you need to have both the workers and resources to run a well-functioning scriptorium. To acquire workers and resources, you use a limited supply of donated gold. In addition, you must be on good terms with the powerful bishop, who can help you in your quest.

Kahuna – $20.00

kahuna Who will rule the South Seas? Two Kahuna – ancient sorcerers of the Pacific – compete for dominance on an archipelago consisting of twelve small islands. Using their magic and wisdom, they struggle for control of the islands. They anxiously await the cards handed to them by fate. But when the time is right, they move to capture one, two, or even more islands, trying to gain the upper hand. At the mercy of the magical powers of the South Seas, they quickly realize that even the best magic is no good without strategy.

Fidelitas – $18.00

fidel Here’s a neat set collection game of medieval interest. It’s surprisingly deep for a little card game and really captured my wife’s interest – we’ve played a bunch of 2-3 player games and thoroughly enjoy it. In Fidelitas, players take on the role of faithful citizens in a medieval city who are exerting influence in order to gain the credibility needed to lead the charge against the corrupt crown. Players play character cards to various locations that make up the city in order to meet conditions of hidden objectives. Each type of character card is associated with a unique action that manipulates cards in the game

Carcassonne – $24.00 

carC A classic of the new hobby games, Carcassonne is now out in a new edition. What can I say? It’s a great game and probably just about the most ‘game’ you’ll get in a $23 package. Time tested and it continues to sell. The southern French city of Carcassonne is famous for its unique roman and medieval fortifications. The players develop the area around Carcassonne and deploy their followers on the roads, in the cities, in the cloisters, and in the fields. The skill of the players to develop the area will determine who is victorious.

Eminent Domain Microcosm – $10.00

edmic A wonderful take on the larger Eminent Domain – this two player game of tiny galactic domination plays very fast. Do yourself a favor though, grab the updated copy of the rules (as a PDF) from Board Game Geek, which will make your first game a heck of a lot easier.

Star Wars Loopin’ Chewie – $15.99

chewieSneaking in at just under $20 is this re-theme of the classic kids (and in some places, adult drinking) game Loopin’ Louie. Loopin’ Chewie is a fast, dexterity game. Every time he flies by in his Millennium Falcon vehicle, he’ll be out to knock another Stormtrooper off. But if you can flip him out of the way with your paddle, he’ll go after someone else’s Stormtrooper! Be ready, though, because he’s got some super-dodgy moves!

Magic: The Gathering – Arena of the Plainswalkers – $20.00-$25.99 

magicOr… Heroscape reborn. Lots of folks go trawling eBay and thrift stores looking for the now out of print Heroquest game system. Arena of the Plainswalker’s is Hasboro/WotC answer to this by revamping and re-releasing the system based on their Magic: The Gathering IP. It comes with a bunch of decent plastic minis, a bit of minimal 3D terrain and a large game board. There’s quite a lot of game packed into this box for the price. The price has also be fluxuating wildly but I’ll bet you can get it for under $25 if you keep your eyes open.

Exploding Kittens – $20.00

kittJust about the highest grossing Kickstarter game in the history of ever. It’s a simple card game featuring lots of cats, explosions and artwork from the Oatmeal. In this highly-strategic, kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette, players draw cards until someone draws an Exploding Kitten, at which point they explode, they are dead, and they are out of the game — unless that player has a Defuse card, which can defuse the Kitten using things like laser pointers, belly rubs, and catnip sandwiches. All of the other cards in the deck are used to move, mitigate, or avoid the Exploding Kittens. Also comes in a NSFW/Adult version.

Tiny Epic Galaxies – $23.00

epic It’s not a big box but there’s a ton of game there! Interesting (sometimes really tough) decisions and plays 1-4 – that’s right, solo games! Tiny Epic Galaxies is driven by an exciting dice-rolling mechanic that rewards thoughtful programming of the results. Players control a home planet and a series of space ships within their own personal galaxy. As players upgrade their galaxies they gain access to more ships and more dice.

Doodle Quest – $17.00

doodArts and crafts meet games! Dive below the deep blue sea where there’s fish to gobble, treasure to discover and divers to save! You will complete each quest with the power of your pen, drawing your way through underwater scenes on the quest cards. But it’s not that easy! Players draw on separate transparent sheets and must trust their eyes in order to meet targets and avoid obstacles. This unique drawing game includes 36 illustrations and two levels to master. The bait of the challenge hooks kids for hours of fun!

Antidote – $19.00

antidote  Antidote takes all of the fun things about a game like the original Clue and boils it down to a fast, changing, fun deduction game without all the random stuff! In Antidote, you are a laboratory scientist working for a giant chemical research conglomerate. When you and your lab are suddenly exposed to a deadly toxin, you must work quickly to share your research and discover the Antidote before it’s too late!

Camel Up – $34.00

camelIt’s a betting and racing game featuring stackable camels and a unique, dice rolling pyramid. In Camel Up, up to eight players bet on five racing camels, trying to suss out which will place first and second in a quick race around a pyramid. The earlier you place your bet, the more you can win – should you guess correctly, of course. This is one that my family really enjoys.

Tides of Time – $12.00

tides of time I’ll admit, I don’t know a ton about this 2 player game, other than lots and lots of people have started recommending it to me. Play as an ancient civilization as they prosper and collapse through time. Build gigantic monuments, raise impenetrable fortifications, and amass vast knowledge as the ages pass. The greatest civilizations will leave their mark long after their collapse. From times long forgotten to times recently lost, civilizations will rise and fall as the tide of time carries them.

Lost Legacy – The Starship – $9.00

lost  A bit like Love Letter, with some added mechanics – but plays just as fast and is in my opinion a slightly better game. In the distant past, a starship from a faraway world appeared in the sky. Damaged in battle, the craft broke apart and traced lines of fire across the horizon. These falling stars crashed to the surface and in the ages to come, became enshrined in legends as the Lost Legacy. Discover where the Lost Legacy can be found and win the game! Lost Legacy is a game of risk, deduction and luck. Like Love Letter, but a bit different.

Nuts! – $12.00

nuts Squirrels. They love nuts. They’d do anything to get their hands on nuts. They sometimes mess with each other to get their hands on each others’ nuts. In the end, for a squirrel, it really is all about the nuts. As a squirrel, it’s a matter of pride to see who has the biggest and baddest nuts in the park.

 

lagoon

Lagoon: Land of Druids – $16.00

Lagoon is the first world that ever was. Boundless spiritual energy flows through the land, and is the source of all the world’s magic. All was in balance, until divinity was split by the rise of humanity into three energies that now vie for dominion of Lagoon: Element is the energy of the spirit, Vowelon is the energy of the heart, and Deonin is the energy of the mind. In the end, one of these three energies will become Lagoon’s destiny. It is up to humanity’s druids to unify Lagoon. Lagoon: Land of Druids is a game about forging the destiny of a world. While not everyone’s cup of tea, I have this game and I’ve enjoyed it. For the price, it’s a steal.

Diamonsters – $12.00

dia From the folks who brought you Machi Koro. Diamonsters, is a fast-paced monster collecting card game! In Diamonsters, each player begins the game with the same hand, and the first player to collect three identical monsters or five diamonds wins. But it’s not so simple, some monsters are more valuable than others, and some will eat the diamonds you fought so hard for!

Poo – $9.00

poo Sometimes, being an ape ain’t so bad. It’s been a tough day in the monkey cage and something in the food tonight wasn’t quite right. In monkey world, there’s only one thing that can be done about it – fling poo. It doesn’t matter who started it in this fast and furious game of monkey see, monkey doo. It only matters who has what it takes to be king of the cage.

Pocket Battles – Orcs vs Elves – $14.00

pocket There are a bunch of games in the Pocket Battles series, all under $20 and all being compact, fun little wargames. Pocket Battles is a wargame that easy to learn, inexpensive, fast, portable and requires minimum table space! It is also compatible with other Pocket Battle games in the series!

Smash Up – $18.99

smashup Take two decks, say Ninjas and Dinosaurs, smash ’em together and face off against other players who’ve created equally absurd and fun decks!

Age of War – $12.00

ageCan you unite the clans amidst the tumult of war? Age of War is a fast-paced dice game for two to six players by world renowned game designer Reiner Knizia. You and your fellow players assume the roles of daimyos competing to unite the warring clans of feudal Japan and assume control of the nation. During play, you muster troops by rolling seven custom dice, and you use. these troops to lay siege to one of fourteen different castles, each of which requires you to assemble a unique combination of troops in order to conquer it. Castles grant points towards your victory, and you can gain more points by uniting an entire clan. The daimyo with the most support at the game’s end is the victor!

Blokus – $16.00

blokus Stake your claim and protect your territory with Blokus game! There’s just one rule: each piece you play must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but only at the corners! It takes less than a minute to learn but has depth to challenge your whole family.

Iota – $8.50

iota Iota is a tiny little game that packs a lot of punch. I’ve tried it out several times and there really is a game in this here little box. The only thing I don’t like about it is the use of a piece of scratch paper for scoring – if that doesn’t bother you though, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Red7 – $10.00

red7 The rules of Red are simple: Highest card wins! But Red is only one of seven games you’ll be playing. Red7 is a quick and easy to learn card game that you can teach and play in five minutes.  You must be in the lead at the end of your turn, or you’re out. Play from your hand to improve your palette, or discard to the rules canvas to change the game!  Red7 uses a deck of 49 cards, numbered 1-7 in suits of the seven rainbow colors.

Loot – $9.50

loot Arrrrr! The Plundering Pirate Card Game. Yo-Ho-Ho and a barrel of fun! Set sail for an exciting adventure of strategy and skullduggery in this captivating card game. Storm your opponents’ merchant ships and seize valuable treasure. But watch your back, matey — plundering pirates are out to capture your ships as well, the player with the most loot rules the high seas.

Boss Monster – $19.00

boss Remember all those 8-Bit games I used to play. No? Well here’s a chance for you to live my childhood. Boss Monster is a dungeon building game of chaos and, well, boss monsters. It pits 2-4 players in a competition to build the ultimate side-scrolling dungeon. Players compete to lure and destroy hapless adventurers, racing to outbid one another to see who can build the most enticing, treasure-filled dungeon.

We Didn’t Playtest This At All – $12.50

playThe most aptly named game ever! In this exceptionally silly and awesome game, your objective is to win! Simple enough. Sadly, all of your opponents have the same simple goal, and they’re trying to make you lose. Between Rock Paper Scissors battles, being eaten by a random Dragon, or saved by a Kitten Ambush, there are many hazards to avoid. Games last between 30 seconds and 5 minutes, and are lots of fun. Any number can play, though we recommend between 2 and 15.

Seven7s – $13.00

seven Here’s a fun set collection game based on the magic number 7. I’ve played it a few times and am looking forward to getting it back to the table. The magic number 7 holds meanings powers and coincidences dating back to the dawn of time. In Seven7s you have the powers of 7 of the most famous 7s in history. Use these powers carefully to defeat your opponents. Use the Powers of the 7 Ages of Man the 7 Colors of the Rainbow The 7 Deadly Sins the 7 Holy Virtues the 7 Lucky Gods the 7 Seas and the 7 Wonders of the World to collect the most points.

BraveRats – $10.00

braveIn the Highlands of Medieval Scotland, an epic battle is taking place underfoot! Rivaling rat clans clash in a bid for the throne in this fast take on the card game War. Both players have a hand of eight cards, numbered 0 to 7, with each character on the card possessing a special power. In a calculated duel, both players reveal a card. The victory goes to the higher number, unless the special power overrules. The first player to win four rounds claims the kingdom for their clan. This minimalist wonder plays in just minutes but packs rich game play and plenty of suspense.

Robot Turtles – $19.00

robot Robot Turtles took in a decent amount of money on Kickstarter last year and now it’s just about everywhere. From what I understand, it’s with good cause too. If you’re looking to get kids as young as 4 years old interested in the concepts of modern programming – this is the game do to it with. Two words: Robot Turtles. This game teaches kids 4+ the ins and outs of programming in a fun, tactile game. Perfect for 2-5 players, this game has levels of increasing difficulty, introducing obstacles and more complex Code Cards. Beginner to Advanced levels will make it a family favorite for many years!

Sellswords – $20.00

sellswords Draft your Guild, Plan your Attack, and Seize Victory! Take to the field of battle in this intense head-to-head contest of wits and strategy. Use the diverse assortment of mercenaries at your disposal to capture strategic terrain and exploit your enemy’s weaknesses. With 50 different sellswords to compose your guild, no two battles will be the same!

Marvel Dice Masters: The Uncanny X-Men – $14.95

xmen At first, extremely hard to come by, the Dice Masters system is now coming into stock and lots and lots of people are loving it. Showcasing fan-favorites like Wolverine, Magneto, Cyclops, Iceman, Psylocke, and the Sentinels, Marvel Dice Masters: The Uncanny X-Men features X-citing game-play that supports two players in epic dice battles! Featuring more than 30 new characters (and their respective dice), Marvel Dice Masters: The Uncanny X-Men brings X-cellent action to your next Dice Masters game! This series is offered in 60-count gravity feeds of individual foil packs containing two cards and two dice, as well as 2-Player Starter Sets comprised of 44 custom dice, 38 cards, two dice bags, and the complete Dice Masters Core Rulebook – everything two players need to play Marvel Dice Masters.

Castles of Burgundy – $26.00

castlesA wonderful introduction to the world of Euro-style games. The Castles of Burgundy is a detailed strategy game set in the Loire Valley of France during medieval times. Players assume the role of princes trying to build the greatest estates in the land by becoming more prosperous than their competitors. Over the course of five rounds, players collect points by trading, livestock farming, city building and scientific research. They must buy and sell goods or labor and use action tiles for building, shipping, mining, livestock and knowledge across two game boards.

Just about any game from Button Shy Games – $10.00

smokeButton Shy Games have a bunch of games in their Wallet Series which are little card games that come self contained in their own plastic wallets. They’re entertaining, offer a bunch of replay value as good filler games and are fairly unique in their presentation. Check them out!

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Starter Set – $12.00

dnd The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set is your gateway to action-packed stories of the imagination. This box contains the essential rules of the game plus everything you need to play heroic characters on perilous adventures in worlds of fantasy. It’s not your grandfather’s D&D! Or is it? 5th edition purports to take all the good stuff from previous editions, distilled down to the essentials. This starter set is just that – a quick start to a whole new world.

Jaipur – $18.68

jaipur My kingdom for a camel. Work hard, earn more than your opponent and become the official merchant of the Maharaja. At the beginning of the game, three camel cards and two merchandise cards are on the table between the players, who already have five cards in hand. On your turn, you can take some cards or sell some. Each time that you take cards, you can take one or more, however if you decide to take more, then you will have to trade in the same amount of cards from your hand that you take. If you decide to take all camel cards, then they can be used later to trade.

Hive Pocket Edition – $19.00

hive po Hive pocket is the very same wonderful game we all love, but in a compact version. With all its pieces in a portable small cloth bag, this game can provide fun just about anywhere.

Cypher – $10.50

cypher Faced with constant hacker attacks, the corporations created an artificial intelligence that could learn from the hackers themselves. The AI, codenamed Cypher, evolved faster than its creators could have imagined. It gained sentience, went rogue and became the ultimate hacker. Now Cypher is fighting the corporations themselves for control of the nexus. Players take on the role of factions gathering characters from all spheres of influence, from corporate overseers to street level hackers, in order to dominate Cypher and seize control of the nexus. The player with the most influence at the end of the game wins!

Ca$h ‘n Guns (2nd Ed.) – $28.00

cashThe big heist may have been a success, but it all goes wrong when every crook wants a bigger cut. With this much money on the table, bullets speak louder than words! In Cash ‘n Guns, players will point foam pistols at each other and try to intimidate their opponents into letting them have the largest share. The bravest crooks enjoy the most money – but only if they live long enough to spend it!

Star Realms – $15.00

star realms Last year this was a bit hard to track down, now though it’s in stock and available. Star Realms is possibly one of the best deck building games I’ve played recently. Compact, fast, very fun! Star Realms is a spaceship combat deck building game designed by Magic Pro Tour Champions and Hall of Famers Darwin Kastle and Rob Dougherty (developer and cofounder of the Ascension Deck building Game). Star Realms offers all the thrills of traditional trading card game style combat, combined with the fun of a deck building game. Play powerful ships, destroy enemy bases or blast your opponent directly on your way to victory!

Onitama – $24.00

onitHere’s another two player game I absolutely love! Here’s my review – but in short it scratches that Chess itch without actually being chess. Onitama is a two player abstract strategy game where players take on the role of a Master, guiding their monk followers, attempting to defeat your opponent armed only with a handful of moves, your cunning and your wits!.

OGRE – Pocket Edition – $2.95

ogrepok The classic game that I bought back in the 80’s is back, for exactly the same price! The giant tank rumbles toward its target . . . its guns are destroyed, its movement crippled, but only a few defenders are left. Will they stop the robot juggernaut, or will it crush the Command Post beneath its gigantic treads?

 

Diamonds – $18.95

diamonds  This game was an instant classic with me. It’s a trick-taking game (like Hearts) but with a trick of it’s own. Real faux diamonds! What makes the game of Diamonds different from other trick-taking card games is that when you cannot follow suit you get a “Suit Action” based on what suit you do play. Suit Actions are also taken by the winner of each trick, as well as at the end of a full Round of play. Suit Actions will enable players to take Diamond Crystals from the Supply, moving them to their Showroom (where they may score 1 point) or to their Vault (where they will score 2 points). The Vault is a secure area, but the Showroom is vulnerable to theft by the other players. Whoever has the most points in Diamond Crystals at the end of the game wins!

Any X-Wing Miniature – $11.00 – $20.00

x-wingIf you know someone who’s played the X-Wing Miniatures game, or who’s a huge fan of Star Wars, then you’ll probably be all right getting them one of the many X-Wing Miniatures expansions that contains a ship. You’ll be getting a nicely scaled, hand painted miniature of a freaking Star Wars spaceship, many of which are available on Amazon for well below their $14.95 suggested retail price. It looks beautiful even if it’ll never be used in the game. Just don’t be tricked into paying more than $15 for one of the smaller models. For the larger ships, check back if they’re not around $20, because they often fall to that price. The link I provided points to the Z-95 Headhunter but other models can be quickly found by looking at the Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought… area.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf – $19.00

were One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a fast-paced game where everyone gets to be a different role. In the course of only one night and the following morning, the players will determine who among them is a werewolf…hopefully. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a micro game of the party game Ultimate Werewolf that doesn’t need a moderator. There’s no elimination and each game lasts about 10 minutes.

Rise of Augustus – $27.00

augustus This is a fun one – utilizing a (yes, really) bingo mechanic to great satisfaction. The full retail price is around $40 but for quite some time the game has been available for under $20.  Serving the 1st Roman Emperor, Augustus, you will need to mobilize your legions to control provinces of the Empire and its senators to ultimately obtain the title of Consul. The aim of the game is to earn as many points as possible before any players has taken control of seven objectives.  Throughout the game play, players must strategize so as to manage the risk of claiming the rewards that are available to them in order to maximize the points gained. Players also have the opportunity to wreak havoc with their opponents by causing them to lose some of their legions or objectives, thus foiling their plans on becoming the next Consul.

Niya – $12.07

niyaNiya is a pattern matching strategy game, one that I haven’t played yet but it’s high up on my want list! In Japan’s Imperial Garden, courtly manners and nature’s beauty veil a dark political conspiracy among two influential clans. On each turn, players replace a garden tile with one of their clan tokens. The next player can only exchange a token for a garden tile that has an element in common with the previously chosen tile. The first to position their clan in a row, square, or blockade will win control of the garden. And power at court! A simple yet sophisticated abstract strategy game, Niya captivates players young and old.

Oddball Aeronauts – $18.00

oddball  oddball Aeronauts is a play in the hand – no surface required – card game and so can be played anywhere 2 people can get together. In a car, on a train, on a plane, in the school yard, in a waiting room and so on. Each player takes charge of the officers, crew and bots of an airship and goes head to head in a dirigible duel in the skies of an oddball fantasy, steampunk-esque world. Contents – 81 cards, 1 token, 1 rulebook. Includes bonus cards for customising your deck before facing off against your opponent.

Roll For It – $14.00

roll This is a very quick to learn game that plays in about 15-20 minutes. Another great quick game for a game night opener or a family game night. Roll for it! is everything you want in a game. It’s fun! It’s easy! It’s fast! And it has lots of dice with cards to boot! At its heart, Roll for it! is a resource management game that blends the luck of the die roll with a decision making process that will bring smiles and laughter to everyone at the table.

Friday – $15.00

Friday Something a little different here, a solo board game! One that I’ve finally, FINALLY won! It took me about six games to conquer the lowest setting. You are helping Robinson, who came ashore on your island, fight against many hazards. At the beginning, Robinson is not very skillful. With each fight he wins you will improve his abilities, but defeats are also helping to get rid off of his worse habits. However, life on the island is energy-sapping, so that Robinson not only gains experiences during his time there, but also starts aging and tends to get clumsy.

Forbidden Desert – $19.00

desMuch like it’s younger cousin, Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert is a cooperative game of survival. You and the other players must survive a ravaging desert storm long enough to find the four parts needed to rejuvinate an ancient flying machine and then high tail it to safety! It’s made for a slightly older audience and is a lot of fun with kids and adults. Gear up for a thrilling adventure to recover a legendary flying machine buried deep in the ruins of an ancient desert city. You’ll need to coordinate with your teammates and use every available resource if you hope to survive the scorching heat and relentless sandstorm.

Splendor – $32.00

splendorThis is one of those rare gems (no pun intended) of a game that plays very, very well with 2, 3 or 4 players. Once you’ve played it a few times, you’ll get it down to 30 minutes a game and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. This could be my pick for best game of 2014. As a wealthy Renaissance merchant, acquire mines and transportation, hire artisans and woo the nobility. Create the most fantastic jewelry to become the best-known merchant of them all! Acquire precious stones to trade them for development cards. Use development cards to acquire more gem stones. Use your gems and gold to create the most fantastic jewelry, and appeal to the nobles to gain the prestige you need to win.

Got ‘Em! – $13.99

Got Em We got this game for our Extra Life event and my whole family enjoys it. A quick, simple wall building, pawn trapping game. Seize and capture your friends’ pawns in this delightful game with two unique ways to play. Brainy got them offers the strategic challenge of outsmarting and cornering your opponents with deliberately placed walls, while the tricky yet fun for all ages, Bright got them has the same goal of trapping your opponents, plus colorful surprises that will keep you on your toes. Surround yourself with friends and family and get ready to enjoy 2 great games that hold more fun than any four walls can contain.

Suspense – $4.00

suspense Each time you play, there is a secret victory condition. Sometimes you want the lowest number in play, sometimes you want the highest number in hand… there are thirteen unique victory conditions possible. Fortunately, you have some clues in your hand to help your process of elimination. Your goal is to deduce a victory condition while also trying to meet it. A great game for three players, which plays in under 5 minutes.

Sushi Go – $10.00

sushi  Pass the sushi! In this fast-playing card game, the goal is to grab the best combination of sushi dishes as they whiz by. Score points for making the most maki rolls or for collecting a full set of sashimi. Dip your favorite nigiri in wasabi to triple its value. But be sure to leave room for dessert or else you’ll eat into your score! Gather the most points and consider yourself the sushi master! My 9 year old has this and loves it.

Bang! The Dice Game

bangUnmask and defeat your enemies, keep up with the Indians and challenge your fate to bring your team to the victory! Fast and exciting game play – Based on the BANG! Game System. A very successful game line, with fans all over the world! You do not need BANG! to play. Just like the card game, but faster and more furious.

Coup – $13.00

coupIn the not too distant future, the government is run for profit by a new “royal class” of multi-national CEOs. Their greed and absolute control of the economy has reduced all but a privileged few to lives of poverty and desperation.Out of the oppressed masses rose The Resistance, an underground organization focused on overthrowing these powerful rulers. The valiant efforts of The Resistance have created discord, intrigue and weakness in the political courts of the noveau royal, bringing the government to brink of collapse. But for you, a powerful government official, this is your opportunity to manipulate, bribe and bluff your way into absolute power.

Anomia – $13.00

anomia This is possible the most tense (in a good way) game in my collection. My entire family loves playing this one but it’s a real hit with the kids. We haven’t found anyone yet who doesn’t enjoy it. Anomia plays off the fact that our minds are positively brimming with all sorts of random information; things to eat, pop songs, websites, etc… Sure, under normal circumstances, it’s easy enough to give an example of a frozen food, or a dog breed; but you will find that your brain works a little differently under pressure!

Cheaty Mages – $16.00

cheaty From across the land spectators come to watch the arena battles of mythic creatures, and many coins hinge on the results! As a powerful mage, you have the chance to influence the outcome through arcane means. But beware! Other practitioners of the arcane may be in attendance as well, and have their money riding on other fighters. Cheaty Mages is a fast and fun betting game from famed Japanese designer Seiji Kanai (Love Letter, Mai Star). Place your bets, play hidden spell cards on fighters, and try to win the most gold in three rounds!

Pretense – $14.00

pretenseIt’s board game night! Players are dealt roles and have the entire night to complete their secret objectives. By the end of the night, the truth will come out. The goal of Pretense is to obtain the most role cards over the course of the night and to avoid being caught and removed from the game. This is played during the entire game night. There are no rounds, no turns and there is no time limit!.

Incan Gold – $22.00

incan Incan Gold is a game in which players push their luck as they head into a ruined temple attempting to find the most jewels. Each turn, a card is turned over that increases the gold found in a temple or shows a hazard. Players can attempt to escape, keeping the loot that they’ve acquired, or stay in the temple, hoping for increased profits. As players escape, those in the temple will acquire bigger shares of each pile of gold found, but also run the risk of dying if the same hazard card is drawn twice.

Dungeon Roll – $18.00

droll

One of the first Kickstarter board games I backed, from the always excellent Tasty Minstrel Games comes Dungeon Roll! Awesome box (a treasure chest) and a complete dungeon delve for 1-4 players in this handy little game that can be played in 30 minutes or less. You have assembled your party of hearty adventurers and have a few tricks up your sleeve. How far will you go to seek glory and fame? Will you risk losing everything? In Dungeon Roll the player’s goal is to collect the most experience points by defeating monsters, battling the dragon, and amassing treasure. Each player selects a Hero avatar, such as a Mercenary, Half-Goblin, or Enchantress, which provides them with unique powers. Then players take turns being the Adventurer, who boldly enters the dungeon seeking glory.

I kickstarted this title and I have not regretted it a single bit! For $18 you get an entire dungeon delve built around dice and your character cards. My 7 year old and 10 year old enjoy this game, and all of the adults I’ve played it with enjoy it too. Plus… look at that awesome box!

Frog Juice – $10.00

This is a family favorite in my home. My 8 year old and I spend at least three nights a week playing this before she goes to bed. Strategic enough to be fun, easy enough for an 8 year old to beat me. How would you create a magic spell? You might need some unicorn horn or some eye of newt, or maybe some bats or toadstools or star and moon dust. But be forewarned as you’re stirring up your potion–you’d better be wary of a black cat or the powerful All-Purpose Witch Wash! One of your opponents might even be brewing up an Uglifying Spell. (“Results guaranteed to crack mirrors at a single glance!”) All of these magical ingredients are part of Frog Juice, an imaginative card game for two to four players that uses fairy-tale elements from fair maids to frogs to create a game that both kids and adults will enjoy. This game of strategy includes 44 ingredient cards and 15 power cards, each with an illustration that looks like it came straight out of a fairy-tale book. Cards are played in the center of the game and then captured by other players by matching numerical values or by using stronger powers.

Hey! That’s my fish! – $11.50

myfish

Here’s a fun little game that I enjoy with my kids, which also works with adults. I’m finding a lot of these games branded towards children that can be just as cut-throat as a 4 hour game of Talisman. Hey, That’s My Fish. is an engaging, award-winning board game of strategic fish hunting, in which 2-4 players control determined penguins hungry for their next meal on a bustling Antarctic ice floe. Since Hey, That’s My Fish. was originally published in 2003, it has become widely popular as an engrossing and strategic board game for casual family and tactical play. This definitive edition of the game includes 60 hexagons to create your ice floe with new artwork renditions of fish, 1 rules sheet and 16 newly sculpted, colorful and animated penguin miniatures.

 

Werewolves of Millers Hollow – $10.99

Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow is a game that takes place in a small village which is haunted by werewolves. Each player is secretly assigned a role – Werewolf, Villager, or special character such as The Captain, The Hunter, the Witch, the Little Girl, The Seer and so on… There is also a Moderator player who controls the flow of the game. The game alternates between night and day phases. At night, the Werewolves secretly choose a Villager to kill. During the day, the Villager who was killed is revealed and is out of the game. The remaining Villagers (normal and special villagers alike) then deliberate and vote on a player they suspect is a Werewolf, helped (or hindered) by the clues the special characters add to the general deliberation. The chosen player is “lynched”, reveals his/her role and is out of the game. Werewolf is a social game that requires no equipment to play, and can accommodate almost any large group of players.

Spot It$10.99

spot it
Spot it! is the addictive, feverishly fun matching game for every generation. The first thing to know about Spot it! is that there is always one, and only one, matching symbol between any two cards. Got it? Now all you need is a sharp eye and a quick hand to play all five party games packed into the grab ‘n’ go tin. Including up to eight players, Spot it! is a cinch to learn, plays fast, and is irresistibly fun for all ages! Here’s one that I haven’t played myself, but is constantly recommended to me. So much so that it’s now in my wish list!

Mr. Jack (Pocket Edition) – $15.00

This time he won’t get away! Discover the pocket version of Mr. Jack the favorite investigation game of strategy game players! As in the board version a player takes on the role of the inspector trying to unmask Jack the Ripper while the other player takes on the role of the fleeing criminal. The difference is in the game mechanics: the infernal pursuit now takes place on a board that’s 3 squares to a side each square representing both a London street and one of the nine suspects. around the board are placed a Holmes a Watson and a police dog token. On each turn the first player (the inspector or Jack in turn) uses 4 action tokens which allow to move the investigator tokens to reorient the tiles or to draw a ”suspect card”. A suspect is visible only if the investigator can see that suspect in the streets in front of him. Suspects hidden by buildings are invisible. At the end of each turn the player in the role of Jack must say if the guilty character is visible or not. If that character isn’t visible Jack earns an hourglass. If the Jack player can earn 6 hourglasses that player wins the game (knowing that hourglasses are earned by remaining invisible and by drawing ”suspect” cards). The inspector wins if there’s only a single suspect left at the end of a turn.

Ghooost! – $16.50 

ghooost Ghooost. is a fast, easy-to-learn card game with a Halloween-based theme and lots of twists and turns. Play your cards wisely to get rid of all the ghosts, undead, vampires, zombies and other spooky creatures haunting your mansion. Block your opponents while they’re trying to drive spirits out of their home and into your backyard – but beware as the scariest ghosts will not be driven away so easily.

Don’t let the MENSA game winner thing scare you off either. I play this game all the time with my seven year old and we love it. It’s a fairly simple game of playing out your hand, getting the high cards on the lower cards. Add in the twist of having to take the entire pile of cards, if you fail, and special cards that add twists and turns to the game.

Argyle & Crew – $9.25 print $2.99 PDF

Disclosure: This is my game, written and designed by me! It’s a great gift for RPGers with kids but know that it’s mine. It’s a collaborative storytelling adventure for kids. It’s a great pick up game for adults. The land of Skcos is inhabited by all manner of things, but primarily its inhabitants belong to a race of ever changing, always interesting creatures called Soppets. Soppets are a magical breed of intelligent, funny, thrill seeking socks. Yes, you read that correctly, Socks. Argyle & Crew is a free wheeling system powered by imagination. Rather than a character sheet like a traditional RPG, your character and it’s attributes are all based on a sock puppet, or in Skcos lingo, a Soppet. Each Soppet has several unique qualities which allow it to do extraordinary things! Argyle & Crew is great game for children as young as 4 years old. Short scenarios and active participation keep things lively! Useful as a learning tool not just for gaming, but for life lessons, Argyle & Crew can easily be used in a classroom setting. Professionals working on counseling children can find this game equally useful for indirectly or directly exploring past experiences and future anxieties. Use the additional rules for older children or adults and expand the game from a fun, play driven activity to a fully developed RPG. PDF version.

Sleeping Queens – $9.42

Imagine a place where there?s a queen of all pancakes, a king of cookies and a pack of over-protective dragons? If this sounds like something out of a dream, it actually is! Sleeping Queens was invented by 6-year-old Miranda Evarts, who thought up the game one night when she couldn?t fall asleep. She awoke the next morning and with help from her older sister, Madeleine and her parents, Denise and Max created this wonderfully whimsical world of napping nobles. As you immerse yourself in the Evarts? fantasyland, you will find a game that helps develop memory, strategy, and elementary arithmetic skills. Just be careful when playing potion cards or you could wind up putting all the players to sleep! HOW TO PLAY: Rise and Shine! The Pancake Queen, the Ladybug Queen and ten of their closest friends have fallen under a sleeping spell and it’s your job to wake them up. Use strategy, quick thinking and a little luck to rouse these napping nobles from their royal slumbers. Play a knight to steal a queen or take a chance on a juggling jester. But watch out for wicked potions and dastardly dragons!

Dungeon – $19.99 

dungeon

A return of the classic Dungeon, with a bit of reworking to make this a fun game that I’ve enjoyed with both my kids. Dungeon is a fast-paced game where you and your friends can decide which way to go in the hunt for bigger and better treasure. Will you stick to level 1 and clear out the Goblins and Kobolds? Or will you delve deep into level 6 and set your sights on the Purple Worm or the Red Dragon? Along the way, you’ll have to face off against such iconic monsters as the Black Pudding, the Drow, and even the Owlbear.

 

No Thanks – $9.99

I haven’t played this in years – but many veteran gamers still swear by it. Good card games can be so simple: either take a card or pay a chip. Anyone can make that decision, right? However, there’s a catch – in fact there are two. Nobody wants the cards, not even for free, because they give you points in a game where you need to have the fewest points to win. And the chips? They are scarce, very scarce.

Village Idiot – $6.75

viLife in a medieval village can be very political. On one side you have the Mayor – respected, powerful, able to affect real change. On the other side you have the Village Idiot.Challenge other players to a battle of skill and luck. Add to the rules of the game as you seize power but beware! No one is above the law. Claw your way to the top and do your best to stay there in this fast, fun, trick taking game with a twist! Village Idiot plays in less than an hour for 3-10 people. You’ll be jumping right out of your seat! (Disclosure: This is also my game).

Skip Bo – $9.99

A member of Mattel’s popular family of Uno card games, Skip-Bo resembles speed (or spit) in the same way that Uno takes after crazy eights. Out of a 162-card deck, two to six players are each dealt 20-card “stockpiles”; the first one to deplete their pile wins. Competing either alone or in teams, players draw from a central pile and stack their cards sequentially onto one of four “build” piles (for example, an eight onto a seven, a three onto a two), using plentiful Skip-Bo wild cards to break up static situations. Deceptively simple and ingeniously designed, this classic game offers plenty of strategizing opportunities, or it can just make a nice backdrop to socializing and munching on potato chips.

 

Tsuro – $22.96

tsuro

Here is the most chill and zen game I think I have every played. It’s the perfect rainy day game, or to play after you’ve just won or been defeated in some kind of heavy Euro. Create your own journey with Tsuro, the Game of the Path. Place a tile and slide your stone along the path created, but take care. Other player’s paths can lead you in the wrong direction – or off the board entirely. Find your way wisely to succed. Stay the path – your journey begins here.

Gamers: Dorkness Rising – $9.99 HD download

The epitome of indie film geeky goodness – they get everything right about the hobby, the folks who play it and the real magic that can happen. Read my review here on TitC.  Struggling writer Lodge (Nathan Rice) isn’t asking for much: he wants his gaming group to finish playtesting his table-top adventure, rather than killing, looting, and debauching his fantasy world. Desperate to save the integrity of his story from the whims of his players’ crazy characters-a horny bard, wild sorceress, and cryptic monk-Lodge allows Joanna (Carol Roscoe), Cass’s (Brian Lewis) ex-girlfriend, to join the game. With Joanna’s help, the group’s characters trek deep into the fantasy game world to retrieve the Mask of Death from the evil necromancer Mort Kemnon (Geoff Gibbs). Will their choices in the game save their friendships in real life . . . or will Mort Kemnon triumph unopposed?  HD Download.

Haggis (2nd Ed.) – $15.00 (non-edible)

Haggis is a climbing card game for 2 or 3 players in the same family as Tichu, Zheng Fen and Big Two. Haggis features traditional elements of card combinations, bombs, with scoring for cards in hand and scoring for cards collected in tricks. Innovative wild cards create tension in every hand. Sean Ross designed Haggis over a number of years, extensively testing over thousands of hands to create a very engaging and balanced game. Gary Simpson has done a masterful job on the original artwork, that has to be seen to be appreciated.

 

 

Bag O Zombies – $11.50

Looking for a stocking stuffer? Why not stuff a stocking full of 100 glow in the dark zombies? Imagine the fun as candy and other small gifts are carefully separated from the zombie horde! They can be used in various zombie games, with a bit of glue as an alternative to glow in the dark stars or for next year’s holiday window scene! Really, in this day and age, who wouldn’t like 100 glow in the dark zombies?

Citadels – $19.97

Nominated for the German Game of the Year in 2000, Citadels has finally arrived in an English-language edition. Game enthusiasts of all genres will be enchanted by this wonderful game of bluffing, deduction, and city-building. Wrapped in a medieval theme and gorgeously illustrated, players seek to be the first to complete a grand city of their own. Each game round players secretly take the roles of either the King, Magician, Architect, Assassin, Thief, Bishop, General, or Merchant and seek to use the powers of such offices in their efforts to win the game. As an additional bonus, the English version will ship with 10 new cards designed by Bruno Faidutti himself. These cards feature new locations and new characters to make your game of Citadels even more diverse than the original German version. The game is for 2 to 7 players and it takes 20-60 minutes to play.

Lords of Scotland – $19.00

scot Do you have the audacity and cunningness it takes to be crowned king?  Recruit new soldiers and build your army in order to face your rivals, only then will you be strong enough to try and fight! Prove your worth in merciless skirmishes and your opponents will have no other choice then to bow down to you as their leader. Do you have what it takes.

Aye, Dark Overlord – $19.90

Tell lies! Shift the blame! Save yourself from the anger of the Evil Genius! You are returning to the Tower of Dark Sorcery after the umpteenth failed mission. His Excellency will certainly be displeased which can only result in the most awful pain and suffering for his hapless minions. If only there were some way you could convince him that it’s not your fault… Aye Dark Overlord! is a hilarious party game of lying through your teeth. Convince your Dark Overlord that it was not your fault his evil plan failed but that of your inept companions! But watch out; they probably have the exact same idea… This all new edition from Fantasy Flight Games includes everything from the first release plus an all new set of rules plus updated and improved components.

The Resistance – $15.84

resistThe Resistance is an intense social deduction game for 5-10 players. While it shares similarities with games like Werewolf, Mafia and even Battlestar Galactica it has many very unique features such as a quick 30 minute play time, no moderator required and no player elimination. Set in the near future, The Resistance pits a small group of resistance fighters against a powerful and corrupt government. The resistance has launched a series of bold and daring missions to bring the government to its knees. Unfortunately spies have infiltrated the resistance ranks, ready to sabotage the carefully crafted plans. Even a single spy can take down a resistance mission team, choose your teams carefully or forever lose your chance for freedom. The Resistance artfully balances pure deduction elements with the social elements into a game that creates the adrenaline filled moments of high stakes poker but in a full interactive and social event. Its not for the faint of heart, or slow of mind – but if you are quick on your feet you’ll be proud of your hard fought victories.

Lunch Money – $19.48

This card games simulates being little girls running around the playground beating up each other and stealing their lunch money. Once you get past the strange theme, there’s a fun little game where players beat each other senseless with cards like ‘Poke in the Eye’, ‘Uppercut’, and ‘Humiliation.’ Not for the weak willed, this game is mean. The last player still standing wins.

 

Fluxx 5.0 – $12.48

There are 4 kinds of cards in Fluxx: * Keepers: You put these out on the table in front of you when you play them. * Goals: When someone plays a goal, it stays in the center of the table until a new goal takes its place. To win, you simply need to do whatever the goal says. Most of the time, the goal requires you to have a couple of particular Keepers on the table in front of you. As soon as any player achieves the current goal, that player wins! * New Rules: This is where the fun really starts. When the game begins, the only rules are that you draw 1 card per turn and play 1 card per turn. But when you play a New Rule, these rules are either changed or added to. New Rules change the number of cards drawn and played per turn as well as the number of cards you are allowed to hold in your hand, the number of Keepers you can have, bonuses for players who have particular Keepers, and more. * Actions: These are 1 time use cards that let you do fun stuff like stealing someone else’s Keeper, getting rid of a rule you don’t like, drawing more cards, and so on.

Monopoly Deal – $14.50


The fast-paced, addictive card game where your luck can change in the play of a card! Collect 3 complete property sets, but beware Debt Collectors, Forced Deals and the dreaded Deal Breakers, which could change your fortunes at any time!  This is one of those games that’s been on my shelf for a while but just never got played. Finally, while doing our Extra Life fundraiser thing for 24 hours straight, we broke it open. It was far, far better than I was expecting. Gone are the days of staring at a monopoly board while my 9 year old agonizes over purchasing a property! Fast paced, fun, strategic – my whole family enjoys this game.

 

Munchkin – $16.60


Munchkin is a stand-alone card game designed by Steve Jackson that “simulates” well, sorta’ a fantasy-themed RPG oh, ok, D n D in a simple, card-based game that’s chock full o’ silliness. Everyone begins the game as a 1st level human with no class heh-heh and via cards, they acquire Races Elf, Dwarf, etc., classes thief, Wizard, Cleric, etc., Items, armor, potions and more that they use to combat hideous monsters like the 4th level Undead Horse, the 10th level net troll and the 14th level unspeakably awful, indescribable horror very nasty, indeed. The object of the game is to reach Level 10 and levels are acquired via the slaying of monsters and the selling of acquired treasure 1,000 gold pieces equals one level. Very silly and a lot of fun.

Bang! – $15.64

When a man with a pistol meets a man with a Winchester, you might say that the one with the pistol is a dead man, unless his pistol is a Volcanic, In the wild west, the Outlaws hunt the Sheriff, the Sheriff hunts the Outlaws, and the Renegade plots in secret, ready to join one side or the other. Before long, bullets start to fly, Which gunmen are Deputies, ready to sacrifice themselves for the Sheriff? And which are the merciless Outlaws, looking to gun him down? Great game of bluffing for three or more players. Load up and take ’em out!

Zombie Dice – $9.47

Eat brains. Don’t get shotgunned. You are a zombie. You want brains. More brains than any of your zombie buddies. Zombie Dice is a quick and easy game for gamers and non-gamers alike. The 13 custom dice represent victims. Push your luck to eat their brains, but stop rolling before the shotgun blasts end your turn! Zombie Dice is a dice game for 3 to 8 players. Each game takes 10 to 20 minutes, and can be taught in a single round.

 

 

Bananagrams – $12.55

The bananagram game that will drive you bananas. The award-winning word game that needs no pencil, paper, or board. Fast and fun. Players race against each other to build crossword grids and use all their letter tiles first. Great for travel. My oldest loves this game, and my youngest who’s just starting to read is getting into it as well!

 

Crazy Creatures of Dr Gloom – $7.00

crazyHere’s a fun little game for 2-4 players. You try to rid yourself of your own cards, while at the same time keeping your opponents from discarding. It’s got a simple, neat counting up/down mechanic and of course, some crazy creatures. Best yet, it’s the first game I’ve found that is for ages 7+, which my 7 year old loves. Strange noises are heard from the Mad Mansion of Doctor Gloom. Clouds of all colors come out of the chimney, and people tell weird stories about wild creatures seen in the forest around the mansion. Doctor Gloom is creating the world’s craziest creatures ever seen. In Crazy Creatures of Dr. Gloom, players try to get rid of all of their cards, since cards remaining in your hand score penalty points at the end of a round. The player with the fewest penalty points at the end of the game wins… and becomes Doctor Gloom’s new apprentice.

Bohnanza – $15.00

Ever imagined you were a bean farmer? Sure, who hasn’t? You got your red beans, your green beans, your black-eyed beans, your coffee beans… But where to plant them? In this card game, smart sowing lets you reap big rewards. Plant the beans you do want, and trade the beans you don’t want to the other players. Adding to the realism of the game, the one who ends up with the most money wins! Comes with 154 Bean Cards, 7 Third Bean Field Cards and a rule booklet. Imported from Germany. For 2 to 7 players. My wife kicks my ass regularly at this one. Bluffing, trading, making a case for this bean or that bean  – awesome game!

 

Flashpoint Fire Rescue – $23.00

flash Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a fully cooperative game, everyone plays on the same firefighting team – win or lose together. Every turn is filled with the tension of having to fight the fire back rescuing victims or investigating points of interest. Players can ride the ambulance to safety or fire the engine’s deck gun in a desperate attempt to control the blaze.

Battle Line – $19.59

Ancient battles were fought in organized formations. The leaders of both sides directed their forces along the battle line to gain tactical advantage in order to overwhelm their opponent in the center, breakthrough one of his flanks, or hold their position until the time came for a decisive move. How will you muster your battle line? Your objective is to create powerful formations on your side of the nine Flags, in order to beat the formations on your opponent’s side of the respective Flags. The first player to win three adjacent Flags (a Breakthrough) or any five Flags (an Envelopment) achieves victory.

Gloom (2nd Ed.) – $18.00

In the Gloom card game, you assume control of the fate of an eccentric family of misfits and misanthropes. The goal of the game is sad, but simple: you want your characters to suffer the greatest tragedies possible before passing on to the well-deserved respite of death. You’ll play horrible mishaps like Pursued by Poodles or Mocked by Midgets on your own characters to lower their Self-Worth scores, while trying to cheer your opponents’ characters with marriages and other happy occasions that pile on positive points. The player with the lowest total Family Value wins. Great storytelling game!

Tichu – $11.00

Players who love new and interesting card games will love Tichu. It is simple to learn: one need only get rid of his cards. The basic game is played by two pairs of two partners each with the players of each team sitting opposite one another. During the game, the partners try to help each other score points and opportunities to lead. The game is played over several hands with the goal to be the first team to score a total of 1000 points. Although Tichu is primarily a partnership game for four, with the two packs of cards, Tichu is well suited for large groups, too.

 

X-Wing Miniatures Game Core Set – $29.00

x-wingYup, it’s over $20 but it is so completely worth it! Relatively simple rules, no game board required plus you get to be Luke Freaking Skywalker! As an added bonus, many of the expansions have an MSRP of $15 and make great stocking stuffers. Control the most advanced starfighters and outstanding pilots in the galaxy. In the X-Wing Miniatures Game, you take the role of squad leader and command a group of merciless Imperial or daring Rebel pilots in furious ship-to-ship space combat. Featuring stunningly detailed and painted miniatures, X-Wing recreates exciting Star Wars space battles from small engagements of only a couple of crafts, to large conflicts where multiple squadrons clash. Select and equip your ships, pick your crew, plan your attack, and complete your mission.

Forbidden Island – $14.93

My 9 year old loves this game. My wife loves this game. I love this game! It’s a great honor to introduce the latest creation by cooperative game master, Matt Leacock. There are so many things we love about this unique game: from the rich illustrations, to the collaborative nature of play, to the innovative set of rules, to the infinite possibilities generated by the tiles and cards. Don’t be surprised if your pulse starts pounding faster soon after you start playing – it’s a game that instantly generates an electrifying atmosphere of tension and excitement. Dare to discover Forbidden Island. Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step. Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss.

Guillotine – $13.62

This irreverent and humorous card game takes place during the French Revolution. Players represent rival guillotine operators vying for the best collection of noble heads over three rounds. You want top bragging rights, so you’d better collect the most prestigious noggins. Will you be skillful enough to bribe the guards and collect Marie Antoinette? Or will you lose points for beheading the Hero of the People.

 

Munchkin Axe Cop – $18.38

Axe Cop is a cop. With an axe. And he knows how to use it. Axe Cop is the hit webcomic written by Malachai Nicolle (age 5) and drawn by his brother Ethan (age 29). Along with his friends Dinosaur Soldier and Sockarang, Axe Cop fights crime by fighting the bad guys and chopping their heads off. Fans know Axe Cop, it’s a webcomic (www.axecop.com) and a comic book series from Dark Horse. There’s only one game that can match the anything-goes feeling of Axe Cop: Munchkin. Chop the bad guys’ heads off and take their stuff. I love the comics and I love Munchkin. Together… awesome!

 

Cthulhu Gloom $20.00

From Dunwich to Innsmouth from the halls of Miskatonic University to the Charles Dexter Ward at Arkham Asylum trouble is in the air. The stars are almost right and terrors from beyond space and time are beginning to break through. When Cthulhu rises we’re all doomed – but whose downfall will be the most entertaining? In Cthulhu Gloom you control a group of Lovecraftian protagonists and guide them down a path of horror and madness to an untimely death – while keeping your opponents happy healthy and annoyingly alive. When one group finally falls prey to the interdimensional doom that awaits us all the player whose characters have suffered the most wins. Fully compatible with Gloom and its expansions Cthulhu Gloom features new Story and Transformation cards that introduce new mechanics and actions to the game.

 

The Rose King – $16.00

rosekingEngland, 15th Century – On one side, the House of York, with its heraldic badge featuring a single, snow white rose. And on the other side, the House of Lancaster, its own heraldic rose depicted in blood red. The War of the Roses, a dynastic struggle for control of the English crown, has erupted between the two houses. In this strategic game, one player commands the House of York and the other, the House of Lancaster. The players use their power cards to bring territories under their control, aiming to keep their territories as contiguous as possible. They also deploy their heroic knights to take over enemy territories and cause surprising upsets. Who will be crowned England’s new king?

Family Business – $14.99

Be the boss in this fast-paced card game of survival on the mean streets. “Family Business” pits mobsters against each other – all working to make sure theirs is the last family standing! Your gang members get placed on the Hit List. Can your “Family Influence” save them? Will they “Take it on the Lam”, seek “Police Protection”, or perhaps up the ante with a “Double Contract”? Family Business is fast, furious, and fun! Your goad is survival! What’s in the cards for your game? My wife and I really love this game. It takes about 20 minutes to play with two players, and about 40 minutes with four. We bring it to family gatherings all the time.

 

Timeline – $11.40

timeline Timeline is a fun game of trying to figure out where in time your series of cards fit. Other players are doing the same exact thing as well. The first person to correctly place all of their cards wins the game. Was the light bulb invented after or before glasses? With Timeline, learn the answer to this question and thousands of others by comparing your knowledge or hunches to historic reality. There’s a lot more to the Timeline series than the base game as well and one of the neat things about this series is you can combine different Timeline games to make larger sets.

Eminent Domain – $27.99

By far my favorite deck building game, and ranking very high in my top 10 games of any type. Deep strategy in a simple package! Eminent Domain is an empire building game in which your empire’s abilities are based on a deck of Role cards. At the beginning of the game each player has the same deck of cards. Every turn you must choose a role to execute and in doing so you will add one of those Role cards to your deck. When executing a role,you may Boost its affect by playing cards out of your hand matching the role you have chosen. For instance, the more research done by your empire, the better your empire gets at doing research – because there will be more research cards in your deck!

 

Castle Panic – $23.00

castleThis game is how I introduced my kids to cooperative games, where the game is the opponent and all of the players are playing to beat it together. In Castle Panic players must work together to defend their castle, in the center of the board, from monsters that attack out of the forest, at the edges of the board. Players trade cards, hit and slay monsters, and plan strategies together to keep their castle towers intact. The players either win or lose together, but only the player with the most victory points is declared the Master Slayer.

 I love this game on it’s own, but love it even more with the addition of the Wizard’s Tower, the first expansion which you can also grab for $19.00 or so.

 

Hanabi – $9.99

hanabiHere’s an incredibly popular, award winning card game about fireworks for under $11. It’s so popular that for a good while you couldn’t even buy it as it was between print runs. It’s back now and I’ve played it and it’s wonderful, and tough!  In this challenging cooperative card game, players work together to launch a spectacular firework display. Trouble is, it’s dark out, so you can’t really see what you are working with. Each player holds their cards so that only the other players can see them. They must give each other vital information and remember all the information received. Then use the information to choose which cards to play. Helping each other play the right cards at the right time is the key to creating an unforgettable show and avoid being booed by the audience.

Loch Ness – $27.20

A kid friendly euro-game which my kids very much enjoy! Check out my full review for more. For decades reporters from the around the world have been on the hunt for the Loch Ness monster. But lately reports of sightings of Nessie have been increasing. Such reports naturally have drawn such reporters as the attractive belinda viewing from New York, the half-belgian claude McMirror, the clever Filosa Sharp, as well as her Londoner competitor Jack Nesstee and even Nils the Blitzen from Denmark to the loch. Equipped with the most modern equipment and techniques, these daring reporters have traveled to Scotland, in order to capture the elusive nessie on im for their newspapers. But the 5 will experience some surprises. For 2-5 players. Plays in 30-45 minutes.

 

Catan: Junior – $28.21

This game… I love this game! It’s the first game I could play with both of my kids that I’m willing to play again and again. No Candyland here! For my slightly gushing full review click here. A Catan adventure for fledgling swashbucklers. Explore the Seas Catan: Junior introduces a modified playing style of the classic game giving younger players the opportunity to experience the world of Catan. Designed for players as young as 5 and is a perfect introduction to the Catan series of games for kids and families. Catan: Junior takes place on a ring of islands where 2 to 4 players build hideouts, and the mysterious Spooky Island, where the Ghost Captain lives. Each island generates a specific resource: wood, goats, molasses or swords and players can acquire gold. Each player starts with two pirate hideouts, then builds ships in order to expand their network. The more hideouts you build, the more resources you may receive. You use your resources to build ships, hideouts or get help from Coco the Parrot. Just watch out for the dreaded Ghost Captain. Be the first player to control seven pirate hideouts and you win the game.

 

Fools! – $11.99

box-cover1

Disclosure: This is also my game, and makes a heck of a fun, fast card game! Fools! Is a fast paced and fun card game that can be played with 2-4 players in less than half an hour. Each player takes the part of a Fairy Lord who brings their vast host of fairies to a grand tourney held once a year. Over the course of a day, many battles are fought in the Grand Tourney, giving individual fairies a chance to show their skills on the field of battle. As a Fairy Lord, you will use all of your magic and power to fill your armies with the most powerful fairies. If you sometimes slip a poor little sprite (or even a fool) into your opponents army, or replace one of your brownies with a knight, well it’s not cheating if it’s done magically! But be careful for the Fairy Queens, Kings and Champions will not stand for any trickery!

Lost Temple – $27.50

Another game we play a lot at home. Select a roll or three and go tromping through the jungle! Great for kids and adults to play together. In Lost Temple players go on a trek into the jungle armed with a machete to cut a path and emeralds to enlist the assistance of the native population. Who will be the first to reach their destination? Nine characters with unique individual skills are at your disposal to help you, Unique racing game with a balanced mix of bluff, chaos and tactics, Unravel and thwart the plans of your opponents., Quick short turns and a lot of direct player interaction, Can be played with up to eight players – game speed remains high and possibilities remain unlimited (and still great with even just two players).

 

Dixit – $23.00

Dixit is a really cool storytelling game that works well with hardcore gamers and novices. My kids have enjoyed a few rounds of this as well. The players have hands of oversized cards with various artistic pictures. The active player secretly selects one of his cards and gives a very brief description. The other players secretly select their own cards which match the description. The chosen cards are shuffled and revealed, then players vote on which was chosen by the active player. Each correct answer gives points to the guesser and the active player. Each incorrect answer gives points to the player who submitted the guessed card. However, if all of the guesses are correct — or none of them are — then the active player gets no points and all the other players get points. The game ends when the deck is empty. The greatest total wins the game.

 

Enchanted Forest – $19.99

Here’s a great game for a family with kids as young as five. It involves a bit of strategic thinking, a good memory and lots of luck which means even the youngest can win. Plus, I really like the tactile feel of this game with trees sticking up off of the board. Combining memory and strategy, Ravensburger’s Enchanted Forest is a challenging game in an engaging medieval setting. Designed for two to six players, each participant ventures across the map in search of items from your favorite fairy tales. These items include the gingerbread man from Hansel and Gretel, one of the dwarves’ hats from Snow White,  Cinderella’s glass slippers, and many more.

Martinique – $8.18

 on our list is a suggestion from another Reddit user! Z-man’s Martinique. An ancient legend says a great pirate treasure is buried on the island of Martinique. Pirates would have attacked various merchant vessels, confiscated their loads and eventually sunk the ships. Afterwards they would have brought the stolen jewels, objects and coins to the island to bury the treasure over there. Many have tried to find the Lost Treasure, but nobody has succeeded so far. You are the captain of a pirate ship heading for Martinique. After dropping anchor in the morning, you set off in a rowboat towards the island with four of your most loyal pirates to find the Lost Treasure. Will you unravel the legend and add your name to the illustrious list of great pirates and rulers of the seven seas? Game Contents: 1 game board, 8 wooden pirates, 1 linen bag, 96 souvenir tiles, 16 map tiles, 3 joker tiles, 2 counters and rules.

 

Innovation – $19.30

Another suggestion – Innovation makes it to #62! A journey through innovations from the stone age through modern times. Each player builds a civilization based on various technologies ideas and cultural advancements all represented by cards. Each of these cards has a unique power which will allow further advancement point scoring or even attacking other civilizations. Be careful though as other civilizations may be able to benefit from your ideas as well! To win you must score achievements which you can attain by amassing points or by meeting certain criteria with the innovations you have built. Plan your civilization well and outmaneuver your opponents and you will achieve victory.

Chessex Pound of Dice – $20.86

#62 could be an invaluable resource to any gamer. There are approximately 100 factory-second dice in this bag.(Number of dice will vary with the mix- four-siders are lighter than other shapes, for example.) These dice are mixed in a variety of styles & colors. Every bag does not necessarily have every style & color. Sizes may include 6, 8, 10, 12, 20 & 30-sided dice (and, possibly, other sizes) in colors that include (but are not limited to) speckled, marble, rainbow, opaque and translucent. This assortment features one complete 7-die polyhedral set of never-released speckled dice, available ONLY in the Pound O’ Dice assortment.

 

G-Core – The Superhero RPG System – $9.50

#63 arrives for all of us who want to be heroes. It’s G-Core! Welcome to G-Core: The Super Hero Role-Playing System!
Inspired by classic superhero gaming, this book provides players with everything they need to start their own games! From Origins to Powers, G-Core allows players to create the hero of their dreams in a matter of minutes! From short adventures to long campaigns, G-Core provides refreshing rules that give the die-hard gamer their crunch, while allowing little kids the ease needed for them to keep coming back for more!

Martian Dice$12.95

martian diceBilled as the more complex of the three staple tiny dice games, Zombie Dice, Cthulhu Dice and this! Your mission, Martians, is to swoop down on the pathetic denizens of the primitive planet “Earth”, and to scoop up as many of the inhabitants as you can manage. We are interested in samples of the Chicken, Cow, and Human populations, so that we can determine which of them is actually in charge. The Earthlings might manage to put up a feeble defense, but surely nothing that a small taste of your Death Rays can’t handle. Make Mars proud be the first Martian to fill your abduction quota.

Get Bit$17.00

get bitGet Bit! is a card game where players are competing to stay alive as the others are being eaten by the shark. The order of the swimmers is determined by simultaneously playing cards face-down then revealing the values. The number on each players card determines position in line (higher numbers in front, lower numbers in back), however ties do not move. The swimmer at the back loses a limb to the shark and is flung to the front of the line! The process is repeated until only two swimmers remain on the table. When this happens, the swimmer at the front of the line wins the game!

Love Letter – $8.00

Love LetterSixteen cards, a bunch of wooden cubes and a velvet bag. It doesn’t sound like much but this game is possibly one of the most well designed and replayable small card games on the market right now. And it’s only $10 on top of that! I cannot recommend Love Letter enough! All of the eligible young men (and many of the not-so-young) seek to woo the princess of Tempest. Unfortunately, she has locked herself in the palace, and you must rely on others to bring your romantic letters to her. Will yours reach her first? Love Letter is a game of risk, deduction, and luck for 2 to 4 players. Your goal is to get your love letter into Princess Annette’s hands while deflecting the letters from competing suitors. From a deck with only sixteen cards, each player starts with only one card in hand; one card is removed from play. On a turn, you draw one card, and play one card, trying to expose others and knock them from the game. Powerful cards lead to early gains, but make you a target. Rely on weaker cards for too long, however, and your letter may be tossed in the fire.

Things that may not quite be board games, or certainly are not under $20 but are still awesome in my book

Above and Below – $43.00

above Above and Below is my current pick for my favorite game of 2015 and I played a bunch of new games this year. From Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Games, this is a mixture of worker placement, resource management and storytelling. It’s awesome. If you enjoy some slightly crunchy mechanics mixed with a sort-of choose your own adventure style fiction (similar perhaps to Arabian Nights) then you’ll love this one. It plays 2-4 players in about an hour and a half and is wonderful.

Islebound – $40.00

isleAnother game I’ve loved and reviewed. This takes place in the same world as Above and Below but is a bit more mechanical and a lot less storytelling. Excellent game! In Isle bound, you take command of a ship and crew. You sail to island towns, collecting resources, hiring crew, and commissioning buildings for your capital city. Each building has a unique ability, and your combination of buildings can greatly enhance your strength as a trader, builder, or invader. You also recruit pirates and sea monsters to conquer towns, which, once conquered, allow you to complete the town action for free, and charge a fee to opponents if they want to use it. Alternatively, you can complete events that give influence, which can be used to befriend towns. Will you be a ruthless conqueror, careful diplomat, or shrewd merchant? The player with the most the most wealth and most-impressive capital city will win the game!

DC Deck Building Game – $32.00 to $40.00

dcThis is by far the most played game in my collection. I’ve logged at least 50 plays now, and the actual game box has recorded nearly 65 plays. The DC Comics Deck-building Game, featuring the Cerberus game engine, is your chance to take on the role of one of the greatest heroes of the DC Comics universe. Play as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, or many others. As the game progresses, your small starting deck gets bigger and better. But look out.When a Super Villain makes his First Appearance, he attacks each player in the game. Defend yourself with Super-Speed or the Batsuit, or become Bulletproof. Soon you’ll be ready to take on Super Villains such as Darkseid, The Joker, Parallax, and many more. The game features a wide range of heroes, villains, super powers, locations, and equipment of various power levels, from a young sidekick like Kid Flash to a master sorcerer like Dr. Fate. Uncover hidden paths to victory and race your opponents to see who can build the world’s greatest deck one card at a time.

Legendary Firefly – $52.00

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-2-53-26-pmUsing the excellent Legendary system, but with a new Firefly hotness – it’s not quite a season 2 but we’ll take it. Legendary encounters: A Firefly Deck Building Game is a cooperative game set in the Firefly Verse. Players will take on the roles of the crew of the Serenity as they try to complete episodes from the acclaimed TV series. Steal from the Alliance, avoid being capture the gram Readers, do what you have to do to keep fly in’. players will also have to protect and upgrade the Serenity this time around if they are going to have a chance of success. Lose the ship, lose the game. This is legendary encounters: Firefly.

The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki

miyazakiThis looks amazing. It’s not cheap, certainly but it does contain 11 Miyazaki films along with a very nice looking book along with some of Miyazaki’s television work from 1972 and other special features.

Nerf N-Strike Elite Rhino – $79.99

woah You shouldn’t even have to ask why the most bad-ass thing in foam and plastic is on this list. I mean… look at it!

Mage Knight – $60.00

I first saw this game in a WizKids demo at Total Confusion last year. It’s massively incredible. A board game lovers wet dream. Created by the Renowned Game Designer, Vlaada Chvatil, Mage Knight is a game of Epic Exploration and Conquest that mixes character development, intrigue, and the clashing of swords to create a truly unique gaming experience. Enter the mysterious world of the Atlantean Empire as 1 of 4 Heroes (or villians) in this expansive world that allows players to conquer lands, steer the wheels of history and give birth to legends in this exciting all in one board game. Choose to play competitively or cooperatively with other players as you roam the countryside affecting your own reputation by beingeither the benevolent leader or brutal tyrant. Accumulate Fame and experience that translate into more powerful Spells and abilities, then use your power to influence units to join your ranks. Will you play the Hero and gain favor among the people or will you destroy monasteries to steal Legendary artifacts hidden within? I don’t own this yet but I honestly yearn to make a copy my own.

The Secret World of Arrietty – $20.00

I love everything that Studio Ghibli has done, and my kids love it just as much as I do. Nothing beats a family movie night with these movies in the queue because everyone enjoys them. I saw this in the theater with my family – it’s a great, touching and wonderfully animated movie! Discover The Secret World Of Arrietty where your imagination comes to life! The studio that brought you Ponyo and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away (2002, best animated feature) once again delivers a heartwarming tale of friendship and courage.In a secret world hidden beneath the floorboards, little people called Borrowers live quietly among us. But when tenacious and tiny Arrietty is discovered by Shawn, a human boy, their secret and forbidden friendship blossoms into an extraordinary adventure.Featuring the voices of the Disney Channel’s Bridgit Mendler, David Henrie, and comedic all-stars Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, and Carol Burnett, and based on the award-winning novel The Borrowers.

Lords of Waterdeep – $39.00

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What do you get when you combine a Dungeons & Dragons theme with a eurogame style of play, and make it easy enough that someone with very little modern board gaming experience can enjoy the heck out of it? Lords of Waterdeep!  Waterdeep, the City of Splendors—the most resplendent jewel in the Forgotten Realms, and a den of political intrigue and shady back-alley dealings. In this game, the players are powerful lords vying for control of this great city. Its treasures and resources are ripe for the taking, and that which cannot be gained through trickery and negotiation must be taken by force. Lords of Waterdeep is a strategy board game for 2-5 players. You take on the role of one of the masked Lords of Waterdeep, secret rulers of the city. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city. Expand the city by purchasing new buildings that open up new actions on the board, and hinder—or help—the other lords by playing Intrigue cards to enact your carefully laid plans.

Scythe – $100

scytheThis game – absolutely beautiful. Vast, fun, amazing. You may or may not be able to find the Collectors edition, if you can it’s more expensive but utterly worth it. It is a time of unrest in 1920S Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “the factory,” which fueled the war with heavily armored Mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries. Scythe is a board game set in an alternate-history 1920S period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and Valor. In scythe, each player represents a fallen leader attempting to restore their honor and lead their faction to power in Eastern Europa. Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous Mech.

X-Wing: Tantive IV – $70.00

tantiveIt’s… I mean… look at it! A beautifully detailed model for your X-wing game.

Legendary: Encounters – $53.00

encountersNow, play all of the Alien movies right on your tabletop, without fear of face huggers or chest bursters! Own the first ever Alien Deck Building Game! Use Legendary moves from battling Super Villains to battling chest-bursting, face-hugging, acid-for-blood-having Aliens. This game features some of Alien’s greatest protagonists, including Ripley, Dallas, Bishop and Private Hicks, as they go to battle against some of the most terrifying creatures in the universe. Players must work with each other to defeat the terrifying Xenomorps! Each core set comes with 500+ playable cards featuring all original art. Also included is a Legendary Encounters Alien game mat to help organize the playing field.

Actual Edible Haggis form Caledonian Kitchen – $26.00

haggisIf you’re going to go with the game Haggis above, and want to carry that theme one step further, here you go. Also great for people who love the Scottish culture, claim Scottish ancestry but have never actually eaten a Haggis. Now you can watch with glee as they cook up and consume some in front of you. For those who are curious, I have actually eaten a Haggis. It was wonderful, but there was a surprising amount of Single Malt Scotch involved, and I was actually in Scotland having the time of my life, so my recollection may be colored a bit.

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Luca’s Gaming Corner: Dream Home http://trollitc.com/2016/10/lucas-gaming-corner-dream-home/ Mon, 31 Oct 2016 12:15:34 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29342 [...]]]> dhcover

Dream Home

Note: Asmodee supplied a copy of this game for this review.

Dream Home is published by Asmodee.  This house making game is for ages  7+ and takes about 30 minutes. 2-4 players can play. Dream Home is a game where you make a  home using different types of cards such as Room cards and Resource cards. You also use a score pad,reference tile, a game board, home boards, a starter token, and Decor tokens. The goal of this game is to have the most points by adding up all your room cards, roof cards and your decor cards.

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Set Up

The set up is pretty quick. Each player takes a home board and a reference tile from the box. The home board looks a big house looking board. Next, place the square shaped fame board in the center of your table/ game board. Shuffle all resource cards and place them face down on the matching space on the game board. Place 4 cards in a row next to the deck of cards. Skip the space that has a home picture. After that, do the same with the  room cards but put them below the resource cars and place 5 cards down. Place the decor tokens somewhere near the game board. The youngest player begins but really anyone you want can start. NOW YOU CAN BEGIN DESIGNING YOUR DREAM HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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How to play

This fun filled game may look very simple but really it takes a lot of thinking! The rules are pretty easy to learn.

This game has 12 short rounds. The youngest person starts the game with the first player token. Each round the player with the first player token goes and it proceeds clockwise. During a player’s turn they chose a card on the top row and takes he bottom one too. (One room card and one resource card) If they chose the card below the house picture, then they take the first player token. Put the card you took and put it on your house board. You cannot put a room card on the top floor if there is no card directly below that. On the very bottom of the board there is 2 card spaces, those are only meant for cards with the blueish green. Try to get the same card type next to each other to get more points. If you get a Decor card then take the matching decor token and place it where it says to.There are numbers on the cards and those mean if there are that many of those cards then you get the points on the cards. The card shape space is how many cards you can have of the same room. Try to get 4 of the same color roof cards.  If no one picks the card below the house then the person with the first player token goes first again. After everyone takes a turn then discard all the cards on the game board. Discard them in 2 different card piles. The resource cards go in one and the room cards go in another.When there are no more cards in the deck then the game is over.

Scoring

After finishing the 12th round then begin the scoring process. Add up your points on the score pad that comes with it. Don’t forget about the tool and helper cards, they may add something for you at the end of the game.You score for decor tokens, room cards, roof cards and home functionality. Most cards are scored for how many cards you have of the same type next to each other.The decor tokens have numbers on them and those are how many points you get. If you have different color roofs then you get 3 points and if you have 4 of the same colors then you get 8 points. And the person with the most points win!

Why you should play

You should play because it is so fun and you can learn it super fast. I like how the cards look because they have good artwork and some have kids on them. Also i like it because there is a way to break a tie. The person with the most kids win.

I give this game 8/10. Go buy this game, it is so worth it. It is a good family game for all ages. It takes a lot of a thinking for a kid game!

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Thank You For sending this game to me!

(A note from the editor: Luca is my 10 year old daughter. She’s been a gamer for just about her entire life and over the last few years has played a variety of non-family, non-kid games with me, my wife and friends. Some of her current favorites are the DC Deck Builder series, Isle of Skye, Love letter and a little game called Swamped. 

She’s been interested in writing game reviews for a while now and I’m slowly showing her the ropes here on Troll. I’ll edit her writing for format and spelling (as best I can) but I’ll leave her style to her.) 

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29342
Three Ring Circus: Sanssouci http://trollitc.com/2016/10/three-ring-circus-sanssouci/ Mon, 31 Oct 2016 08:43:06 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29364 [...]]]> Sanssouci is a tile laying game set in the Prussian palace gardens of the same name. It’s designed by Michael Kiesling and published by Ravensburger.

Sanssouci box

Players are tasked with laying out a formal garden including summer houses, woods and mazes, by drafting 9 different types of tile from a common pool.  The player with the highest score wins. Games last no more than 45 minutes and cater for 2 to 4 players.

The game’s components are very high quality, with some of the thickest tiles I have ever seen. If the tiles were a little smaller and a bit thicker they would be cubes.  The only negative is the half sized cards, but they are only shuffled at the start, so I don’t see this as much of a failing.

Setup

Each player gets one of the, (slightly different), garden boards, places their nobles at the top of the board and takes their 18 garden cards.  The garden tiles are shuffled, (there are extra tiles for higher player counts), piled face down onto the central board and laid face up to make the initial pool.  Finally the player markers are placed on the score track and everyone is dealt two personal goals. These goal cards give a bonus based on the end game position of two of your nobles.

Play

How do you grow your garden?  Sanssouci is a very formal place.  The 9 columns take one of the 9 types of garden only, e.g herb or rose, and the 6 rows are colour coded.  In the game your options are tied down tight and the player who best finds a bit of room inside the straitjacket is going to win.

Sanssouci board. Note colours for drafting.

Sanssouci board. Note colours for drafting.

Here’s what you do on each turn.  Feel free to marvel at the restrictions:

  • You draw two cards and play one. The card will either have two colours on it or a type of garden, oh and there is one wild card (whoop!).
  • 10 garden tiles are laid in twos across five colours.  Pick one dictated by the colours on the card or the type of garden depicted.
  • Place your chosen tile.  It has to go in the column that matches the garden type and the row colour has to match up too.  In other words: there is just one space that your selected tile can go.
  • Move one of your nobles down the garden to score points.  It can be any of your nobles. They have to finish in the column they started in and can’t pass through any unfinished bits of the garden, (unfinished gardens are bad for your opera slippers). The further down the garden your noble gets, the more points they score.
  • Deal yourself one new card and place a new tile on the central board.

So far, so limiting! Fortunately the designer threw in two rule breaking tweaks:  

  1. If there are no tiles that match your garden card you get a free choice as if you had a wild card.  
  2. If the tile space in your garden is already filled, then you can flip the tile over to its gardener side and place it anywhere in the same column or row.  A noble can pass through a gardener tile, but not finish a move on it.  This is a good way of linking bits of your garden or finishing rows and columns for end game bonuses.
Player board. The rose garden noble has used a gardener to reach the purple row.

Player board. The rose garden noble has used a gardener to reach the purple row.

Making best use of these two tweaks is the key to winning the game.  Getting as many free selections as you can is going to get your nobles down the board, where they score more points and free you up to fill rows and columns.

Play continues until you run out of cards and tiles.  Final scoring adds bonuses for completed columns and rows as well as points for your personal goals.

Playing with Three

The game plays well with 2 to 4 players. There might be a little more waiting time in a 4 player game, but it’s not really noticeable.  The amount of interaction in the game is zero, so adding more players in doesn’t introduce a take that mechanic as you fight over the potting compound.

How easy is it to teach the game?

A turn has a rigid structure; play a card, pick a tile, place a tile, move a noble, draw a new tile for the pool. This makes it pretty easy to teach.  

Can complexity be scaled?

If you wanted to make this more friendly for a younger child you could skip the tweaks and make the placement in the garden a bit more free form.  

Can you handicap other players? Do you need to?

A points handicap of -10 would level the playing field.

How likely is your child to flip the table half-way through?

Your table is safe.  This is a peaceful game, that is occasionally frustrating when the right tile won’t turn up until the end of the game.

What do I think?

Sanssouci is a fairly light game. It’s not going to tax your brain for hours, but it will provide some good entertainment and tight scoring.  I think of it as a push-your-luck puzzle game.  There aren’t enough tiles to complete your garden and you’re not guaranteed to get the right tiles in the right place.  This throws some interesting decisions your way.  Do I complete a row, or try and get my nobles down that little bit further?  Can I force a gardener tile in to create routes for my nobles?

If you want an experience that replicates the heady joys and mechanics of garden design, this may not be the game for you, (even though the artwork is delightfully detailed).  On the flip side, if you like to play a game accompanied by a sweet sherry and a shortbread, then it’s worth checking out.  Is it exciting?  No.  Is it innovative?  No, but it does it deliver a light thinkiness  with close finishes.  Perfect when you want to wind down of an evening.

Small cards and tiles. Railway whistle for scale.

Small cards and tiles. Railway whistle for scale.

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29364
Granite Games Summit – a summary http://trollitc.com/2016/10/granite-games-summit-a-summary/ Tue, 25 Oct 2016 13:03:50 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29288 [...]]]> 20161022_152206

I dragged (okay, she really wanted to go) my 10 year old with me up to New Hampshire for 6.5 hours of gaming goodness that was Granite Game Summit and it was awesome! We played a bunch of games, connected with a bunch of cool folks and generally had a grand old time. We were only able to stay until about 4pm (the event goes until Midnight) but still crammed in a lot of gaming! Next time we’ll look into staying later to cram even MORE gaming in.

Our first play was Chip Beauvais‘ forthcoming Universal Rule – A fast, 18 card, 4x game reminiscent of Eminent Domain or Tiny Epic Galaxies with roles and the ability to follow. The facts that it’s an 18 card wallet game but plays like a much larger game make it a stand out and at about $10 and fitting in your pocket – highly recommend. It’ll be on Kickstarter from Button Shy Games in early November. I know at least three other folks I met who are planning on backing just from our plays at G2S. Luca enjoyed it as well and it was in her top 3 games of the day. I should note that the graphic design and artwork were spot on with this one too.

Coins not included - this is a prototype.

Coins not included – this is a prototype.

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I finally got to play Animal upon Animal, which I love. I own it but hadn’t gotten it to the table yet but it’s critical I do! At Total Confusion this coming winter I’ll be running a Kids Games for Adults event at the bar and this’ll be one of the games.

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We then stuck a finger in the eye of quick, light games and broke out Islebound. It was good to get a three player game in, even though I did terribly and was utterly destroyed by David who I know from my G+ Board Games community. I really still do like this game but feel like it’s perhaps… a half hour too long? I think Luca felt a little trapped with this one but will probably appreciate Islebound more when she’s a bit older.

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Luca dug up Donkey Kong Jenga from some forgotten corner and we took it for a spin – missing the rules though so we just played regular old Jenga with it. Not anyone’s favorite but still a nice, non-thinky diversion.

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From there we got into  The Climbers – a nifty, abstract of climbing! Well worth the play an something that’s peaked my interest as a game collector too. I’m not always into abstracts but there was something about this game that was a ton of fun. It’s made from chunky, wooden components which is quite appealing. Each player attempts to be the one at the highest point by the end of the game. You can only climb onto neutral (grey) surfaces and the color that matches your pawn in the game. Ladders can be used to hop up quickly, you can move one block on your turn and also block other players for a single turn. It turned out to be a bit more complex (in a good way) than first look. I may have to look into acquiring a copy of this. Luca chalked this up to her 2nd favorite game of the day.

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Luca then discovered Klask and it was a whole bunch of games of that before we had to take off. This was clearly her favorite of the day and has subsequently been added to a certain 11 year old game reviewer’s Christmas list. It’s a simple magnet powered dexterity game. Get the ball into your opponent’s goal without getting your magnet controlled (from beneath the board) pawn stuck in your own hole, hopelessly offsides or with two of those white magnetic pegs stuck to it. I very much enjoyed this one too!

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I also had a chance to meet and (for a very short time) hang out with Jason from Button Shy Games, along with two other Buttonshy designers, Chip who did Smoke and Mirrors and has Universal Rule coming out and Daniel Newman with the very successfully Kickstarter and soon to be arriving Ahead in the Clouds. That was great to meet everyone in the flesh – well, Chip I’ve met before but still great. I think Button Shy’s doing some really interesting things with small games, so pay attention to them.

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It was, all in all a wonderful, game filled day. The organizers of G2S did a bang up job. It took us perhaps 2 minutes to get through registration and in the door. Once there, there was a library of games provided by G2C and also every attendee was invited to bring games to play and add (briefly) to the public library. You put the games you’re willing to share on top of a table with a number, fill out a quick sheet of what you have and when you’re leaving and that’s about it. The system worked great!

My one regret the whole day was that I didn’t find the time to have Daniel teach me Ahead in the Clouds. I’ll have it in my greedy little hand soon enough anyway but I always like getting in games with their designers and publishers.

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Before 10 am with the room just starting to fill.

In addition to this, there was a raffle in place with a bunch of decent gaming prizes. Three tables were constantly in motion with designers and publishers showing off new and prototype games. I want to particularly thank Kimberly for being one of the organizers and also bringing this event to my awareness. We didn’t get a game in this time but we’ll get one in at some tiem in the near future! Bang up job!

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Help Me! A ten minute review of a five minute game http://trollitc.com/2016/10/help-me-a-ten-minute-review-of-a-five-minute-game/ Mon, 24 Oct 2016 13:05:23 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29234 [...]]]> help-me-post

Help Me! published by Libellud, designed by Dong-Hwa Kim for 2 players, ages 8+ and plays in literally five minutes.

Here we have a charming little game first published waaaay back in 2011. It’s a strictly two player affair that features cool illustrations of nature spirits and a simple tile placement/stacking mechanic. It’s actually quite fun and can be found for relatively cheap.

How to play

Here I’m going to indulge myself and copy directly from the instructions for once so you can get the whole of this game in a simple sentence. Score more points than your opponent by placing your creatures on top of stacks of tiles which will be made during the game. That… is a pretty easy to learn game, right? Lets look a bit deeper. If you want to skip the how’s and get to the why’s – head on down to the Why you should play section.

The game consists of 30 Avatar tiles, each featuring one of six creatures. Each creature has five of their own tiles, numbered 1-5. There are also six Creature tiles. The Avatar tiles are shuffled about and laid out in a five by six tile rectangle. The six Creature tiles are shuffled and two dealt to each player, who keeps them secret from their opponent. The remaining two creature tiles are not to be looked at for the rest of play. Now you’ve set up the game!

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Each player, on their turn, must move an Avatar tile or a stack of Avatar tiles according to the following rules:

A tile or stack of tiles can be moved to a space to the right, left, above or below of its starting position, but cannot move diagonally. Tiles (or stacks) must move onto an adjacent tile or stack. When you’re moving a stack (that is more than 1) of Avatar tiles, you must move the whole thing – it cannot be split. Once a player has made their single move, it’s their opponent’s turn. Now you know the rules! The game is over when no more Avatar tiles can be moved. Let’s get on to scoring.

At the end of the game, players reveal who their two Creatures are (on their Creature tiles) and score up stacks. Any single Avatar tiles are claimed by the player who owns that Creature tile. Any stacks of Avatars belong wholly to the player who claims the Avatar tile on top. A stack is worth the number of tiles in it (so three tiles = 3 points). A tile by itself, regardless of the number on it is worth 1 point. Now here comes the bit that slightly harder to follow. A tile is worth the number of points printed on it if and only if these conditions are met: It can’t be on the top of a stack, it must be the same creature that is on the top of the stack and it must match one of the two creatures that the player owns.

That’s the game, the first one should take you about ten minutes and each game after that perhaps four or five minutes with an extra minute for scoring.

Why you should play

help-me-1First and I think most important, this game is straight up, simple, easy to learn, hard master fun. Well, not terribly hard to master but still a heck of a lot of fun. It plays in about the same time as a hand of Love Letter but feels like a complete game.

While game play itself is simple, pick up a tile or stack of tiles. move them up/down/left/right, the scoring is where your strategy comes to the front. To score more points, you must ensure your higher point tiles are in a stack of other tiles with that same creature on the top of the stack. You can spend a few moves getting a decent stack of tiles together only to have your opponent move an unrelated creature to the top and strand those tiles so no more can be moved on them. If you’re not careful it can be a little frustrating  – the good news is that a whole game lasts just five minutes, so your chance for revenge won’t be far off.

Add to that the gorgeous artwork, small size and equally small price tag (most retailers should have it for under $10) and you’ve got a great two player game that you can kill fifteen minutes with in a best of three series.

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29234
Patchwork – Competitive quilting for two http://trollitc.com/2016/10/patchwork-competitive-quilting-for-two/ Thu, 20 Oct 2016 12:35:31 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29240 [...]]]> patchworkbox

A game about quilting. That kinda threw me for a bit but everyone and their sister were raving about it so I had to find out for myself. Turns out, everyone and their sisters were right.

Patchwork is a game for exactly 2 players, ages 8+ and plays in about 30-45 minutes.

How to play

Thankfully this game involves no actual sewing because the last time I tried that I ended up in the ER with a sheepish grin on my face. You’ll find Patchwork to be a bit different than your average game in both set up and play. To begin with, each player will take a Quilt Board representing their as of yet not started sewing project. The Quilt Board is divided up into a number of 1×1 squares. They’ll then take 5 Buttons (the currency in the game) and a Time Token.

There’s a third board in the game which is the central Time Board. Players will each place their Time Token on the starting space of the Time Board. Now, the most fun setup can really begin. There are a whole bunch of Patches – shaped, Tetris-like tokens – that you’re going to arrange randomly in a (fairly large) circle around the Time Board. Locate the smallest Patch (a 1×2 square Patch) and place the wooden Neutral token between that and the next patch, going clockwise. Each of these Patch tokens will have a little tag image on it that will show a number next to a button to indicate how many Buttons they cost, and a number next to a timer icon, to indicated how many spaces on the Time Board you’ll move your Time Token if you choose that Patch.

Lastly, you’ll lay out the special 7×7 bonus token and place the five special 1×1 patches on the Time Board.

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The first thing you should know is that Patchwork doesn’t necessarily alternate turns. The player who’s Time Token is furthest back on the Time Board will get the next turn, which could (and will) mean players take multiple turns in a row.

On your turn, you can do one of two things. Advance your Time Token to the space just after the other player’s Time Token on the Time Board and get yourself some buttons or take and place a Patch on your Patch board.

In the first option you’ll receive as many buttons as spaces you’ve moved to get past the other player’s Time Token – advance three spaces, get three buttons. And that’s it, since the other player’s Time Token is now behind yours, it’s their turn. Remember, Buttons are currency in this game.

If you choose to take a Patch, you’ve got to follow these five steps. First, the patch must be within three patches in front of the Neutral Token you placed amidst all those patches in the game setup. Second, you’ll move the Neutral Token to be next to the Patch you’ve chosen. Third, you pay the number of Buttons indicated on the patch (some patches are free). Fourth, you will place the Patch you just bought on your Quilt board. Last, you move your Time Token on the Time Board the number of spaces indicated on the Patch token you just placed on your Quilt Board.

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Some of the spaces on the Time Board have some special powers on them. There are five Special Patches, which are 1×1, leather looking Patches. These can only be gotten off the Time Board, and you only receive them if you are the first to move your Time Token onto or past them. The second special power are the Button icons. If you move past a Button icon, you then receive Button tokens! Look at your Quilt Board – many (but not all) Patches will have graphics of buttons sewn into them – count each individual button and take that many Button tokens.

When you’re placing that patch on your Quilt Board, you have to follow a few simple rules too. You can flip or turn the Patch any way you like as long as it fits entirely on the board and doesn’t overlap any other Patches. That’s where the Tetris aspect of the game comes in.

Finally, there’s a special 7×7 token – the first player to fill in a 7×7 grid completely on their Quilt board receives this token and scores an extra 7 points at the end of the game. Speaking of which….

End of the game and scoring. The game ends when both player’s Time Tokens reach the last space on the Time Board and players determine their scores. Add up the number of Button tokens you have left, and subtract 2 points for each empty 1×1 spaces on your Quilt board. That’s your score. If you had for example 11 buttons left and had managed to snag the 7×7 token, you’d start off with 18 points. If you had six empty spaces (6*2=12) you’d subtract 12 from 18 and end the game with 6 points.

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Why you should play

Answer this question truly and honestly. How many games in your collection have a sewing or quilting theme? Now how many games in your collection with this theme are really engaging, allow for some interesting and thinky strategy, have just a bit of a puzzle aspect to them, allow you to build something of substance during the game, and are extremely well balanced?

Patchwork checks all of these boxes and does so in a really compelling way. You’re looking ahead in the Patches portion of the table to see where the Neutral Token will next fall, while trying to calculate how many spaces forward you want to move to get more Buttons and maybe grab that 1×1 patch you need to fill in your 7×7 grid so you can finally get that extra points token. You’re opponent is doing that very same thing too, and perhaps plotting a way to take two turns before you’ll get your next so that the Neutral Token will skip over that one Patch you really need.

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It’s a lot of fun and sometimes a little frustrating in that good “oh, I can’t believe you just did that to me!” kind of way. I’ve enjoyed quite a few games while waiting for another friend to show up or between my wife and I or Luca and I. Patchwork hits that sweet spot of a 2 player filler game that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and still offers a complete gaming experience. It’s what I’d expect from Uwe Rosengberg who’s designed (among many, many wonderful games) another tight, small game I love, Bohnanza.

Be warned however, for such a small box the game ends up taking up quite a bit of space! It’s those Patches you’ve got to spread about. There’s a whole bunch of them! Other than that extremely minor thing I don’t have much in the way of criticism – rather I’m still pleasantly surprised that a game with a quirky theme is so much fun.

 

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Three Ring Circus: Bruges http://trollitc.com/2016/10/three-ring-circus-bruges/ Tue, 18 Oct 2016 07:41:06 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29245 [...]]]> Three Ring Circus: Bruges

Bruges is a card game from ace Euro game designer Stefan Feld. It will keep 2 to 4 players occupied for around an hour by placing you at the heart of 15th Century Bruges, in a battle for victory points.  This is done through various types of building; houses, canals, reputations and employment of the widest range of people ever seen in a game*

I think I visited Bruges as a child, clearly, it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. For me Belgium was all about two things; my dad driving our Chrysler Avenger on the Spa race track, (the straight is a public road), and eating frites with mayonnaise at the roadside.  Any country that serves quality chips from the verge is tilting at greatness and I salute them for it.

Bruges

Also tilting at greatness is this game. It has all the hallmarks of a good European strategy game:

  • Colourful board, delightfully depicting a city in forced perspective.
  • Cardboard tokens for money and resources.
  • Wooden meeples in two sizes!
  • Cards.
  • Edge of the board scoring track.
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Bruges at the end of a fine game.

The only thing lacking is wooden cubes, but I still give this 5/6 on the Euro-conformity(™) scale with a bonus point for including two deck shoes. Overall the quality of the components is excellent.  My only quibble is with the colour choices. The games uses five colours; blue, red, brown, yellow and purple. In low light I find the brown and yellow, red and purple hard to distinguish. Knowing what the colours are is essential to this game and I would think this is a serious impediment if you are colour blind.

Setup

Getting everything organised is a little bit involved and falls into the sort of time range that allows a friend to make you a cup of tea, and possibly bring a slice of cake too.  There are money, threat, canal and fountain tokens to deal with, as well as some meeples.  We’ve speeded the process up by separately bagging up everything that each player needs.  Finally the huge stack of 165 cards is sorted into 5 stacks. Stacks equal to the number of players are used and divided equally between the two deck shoes.  

The play is the thing.

On the face of it, playing Bruges is straightforward enough.  The turns go like this:

  • Draw cards from the two decks until you have five.
  • The start player rolls the dice.
  • Everyone plays a card from their hand in turn.  This continues until each player has played four cards.
  • Check for majorities on reputation, canals and people employed.
  • Start player token moves clockwise and back to the card draw.
  • Carry on until one of the card stacks are depleted.  This is the final round.

So far so good, but the devil is in the detail.  This game immediately throws two hurdles at you, “What do I do?” and “What is the smart thing to do?”.  

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The decisions start early and easy. Drawing face down cards split between two shoes. There are five different colours of cards and at the early stages the colours aren’t too important. As the game goes on you will have formed a plan and those colours become more important. Ultimately you will be silently cursing the deck for not coughing up a yellow when you need it most.

The dice roll is simple enough: 1 & 2s are summed and this is the cost of moving up the reputation track.  5 & 6s rolled, generate threat markers matching the dice colour ,and are distributed. Get three threat markers of the same sort and you suffer the various consequences.

The real decisions come in your hand of 5 cards. Each card has a unique power when hired and housed, but they also can be used in 5 other ways:

Building a canal.

Exchanging for money.

Exchanging for workers.

Building a house.

Removing a threat token.

These actions are all colour coded too. For example, discarding a card for money ,gains you the cash amount equal to the pips showing on the dice that matches your card colou1gbr, while building a canal needs a card matching that stretch.  

The whole game is about working out the most effective use of your hand to pull in victory points.  Typically our two player games see us finishing grouped around 55 points mark and usually not too far apart.  A few points dropped can definitely make the difference between winning and losing.

When I start playing I generally have some sort of strategy formed by my starting hand of cards.  It could be building up a large pool of citizens in my tableau or going all out for canal building to pull in the bonuses for completing its full five stages.  This doesn’t often last long as I will be reacting to what cards come into my hand and the threats that build up in the game.   

Each hand becomes a benzedrine fuelled spider’s web,  (http://www.trinity.edu/jdunn/spiderdrugs.htm) of possibilities and layering and betrayal.  Five cards, four to use, six possible actions and then the order of play make for many choices.   

Playing with Three

Until recently Bruges has been almost always a two player game. This is something it excels at, but it plays well with three and four too. Turns come around quickly with the occasional bogging down when all those possibilities overwhelm you.

How easy is it to teach the game?

For a long time I was scared of teaching this game. When I tried it with a few friends it turned out to be not as hard as I thought.  Once the card actions are explained there isn’t too much else to cover. Less experienced gamers might well need a assisting through the first round.

Can complexity be scaled?

No, you’re in at the deep end here.  

Can you handicap other players? Do you need to?

We’ve not considered handicapping. Scoring mainly takes place at the end and it just doesn’t feel right to do so.

How likely is your child to flip the table halfway through?

There could be table flipping, but it’s pretty unlikely given scoring happens at the end.  I struggled to convince my son to play Bruges. He was adamant that he wasn’t going to try it and in the end it was playing another Stefan Feld game, Rialto, that persuaded him.  

What do I think?

I have owned Bruges for a couple of years now and it sits very comfortably in my top five games.  It seems to have everything; great board and card art, incredible variety and plentiful decisions to make. Definitely one to try.

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*Probably.  I didn’t research this.

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New York 1901 – Building the Big Apple http://trollitc.com/2016/10/new-york-1901-building-the-big-apple/ Mon, 17 Oct 2016 12:39:02 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29190 [...]]]> 20161006_193509

New York 1901 is one of those games that immediately strikes me as a perfect introductory game to modern hobby boardgames. In other words, a ‘gateway’ game. It’s not without it’s flaws though – mainly in the rule book. A while back this game made a huge splash but then the fervor died down and of course that’s when I got a copy. I think this is a good time to take a second look though – if you’re at all the kind of gamer that has newer players and would like to get them deeper into the hobby, you’ll want to take a look at this one. It’s also wonderful for a lighter evening of gaming if you’re not into burning your brain but are into a bit of strategic puzzle solving with this fairly forgiving title.

New York 1901 is published by Blue Orange games and designed by Chénier La Salle for 2-4 players, ages 8+ and plays in an hour or less.

How to Play

As you might have guessed, it’s 1901 and you’re in New York! A fledgling builder looking to take the city upwards towards a more modern day skyline. This game takes a little bit from Ticket to Ride, a little bit from Tetris, combines them with some card drafting and comes out with a nice, eminently playable game.

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First, you set out the game board, which is divided into five Districts, each represented by a different color. Each District is divided into 13 territories which come in two sizes – 2 space territories and 3 space territories. Dividing all this up are five important streets, which will be relative at the end game for scoring. There’s also a scoring track around the outside of the board à la Ticket to Ride, which not only tracks scores but also shows when certain in-game things are unlocked.

Each player will choose one of four different colors and then get their 18 skyscrapers (cut-out cardboard chits), their 1 starter building, 4 plastic workers, their King token (which looks like a trophy) and their score tokens, which are decently formed little Empire State Buildings in the player’s color. Every player also gets three action cards – you’ll be able to use them once each during the game, or save them for one bonus point each unused card during the end scoring. Player’s skyscrapers come in three flavors, bronze, silver and gold. Generally speaking, they’re worth more points moving from bronze to silver and then to gold.

Each player gets or chooses a character card – this determines where they’ll place their starting building on the board. Each of those five streets are also represented on a card – three of these are dealt out at the start of the game. The person with the largest number of skyscrapers on each street at the end of the game will score five bonus points. There’s a deck of Territory cards that remind me a bit of the train cars in TTR. There’s one card corresponding to each territory on the board. These are shuffled and the top four dealt out in a line next to the deck, called teh Open Market. These are available during each players turn. Players will place their starting building, and remove one Territory card that matches the color/size of the territory that their starter building now occupies.

In the game there are also four Legendary Skyscrapers. These are put to the side of the board and will be available to all the players. Each player may build only one during the game and they’re worth extra points.

You’ll also have a chance to deal out one of the Bonus Challenge cards (if you’re not playing the beginner setup). These cards offer a chance to score additional points by completing the conditions on the card – either during the game or at game’s end, depending on the Bonus Challenge you draw.

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During a players turn, they can do one of two actions.

  • Expand
  • Demolish

Once you’ve chosen one of these actions, you then Build.

Again, you’re going to find a game that’s fairly simple at heart but has some complex strategies and thoughts going into it based off of these two actions. Let’s delve deeper.

Expand: As any good land baron is want to do, you’re going to expand your empire. If you choose this option, you’ll start with your four plastic workers. If you have one available (i.e. not on the board) you can take any one of the four face up Territory cards in the Open Market. You then place a worker on a Territory on the board that matches the color and shape represented on that card. The card then goes to rest on your character card for the rest of the game.

When you claim a territory, it becomes part of your estate and no one else can take or touch it.

Now you can Build if you wish to but it’s not mandatory (though you’ll often want to). To do so, take one of your available skyscrapers (again, available meaning not already on the board) and place it on a territory occupied by one of your workers. There are some rules you’ll need to follow when it comes to building. Skyscrapers must fit entirely on your estate, if you’re looking to build anything other than a bronze skyscraper, you’ve got to have scored enough points to do so. Six points is enough to unlock silver skyscrapers and eighteen points will unlock gold skyscrapers. These are also marked right on the scoring track so you can easily see when you’ve reached them. Skyscrapers must touch a street or a park, they may be built across multiple territories and districts and do not need to completely fill the territories they’re built on. You also can’t build one building on top of another.

As soon as you build a skyscraper, you score the number of points printed on it. You’ll then replenish any cards taken from the Open Market and your turn is over.

Demolish: Here’s where you replace one or more of your already standing skyscrapers with something newer and worth more points (hopefully!). To demolish a Skyscraper, you must build a new skyscraper of a later generation – that is, where bronze was you can build silver or gold, where silver was you can only build gold. You return any demolished buildings to the game box – they’re done for the game. Also, if your new building leaves any of the previously occupied territories completely empty, you must place a worker on those territories. If you can’t place a worker, then you can’t use the Demolish action this turn.

Now you must build – and that means replacing your demolished buildings with a new one following the rule above. Once you’ve done that, your turn is over.

Those four fancy Legendary Skyscrapers? They count as gold buildings and one can be built by each player instead of their normal gold buildings. Once you’ve built one of these, place your King Token on it so you can remember who it belongs to and know you can’t build any more of them.

Remember those three action cards you were dealt? They also can come into play during your turn. There’s the Construction Boom which allows you to build an additional building on your turn, the Market Shift where you can remove the four Open Market cards, shuffle the deck and then re-deal them and the Land Grab card, where you can gain two territory cards rather than just one.

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That’s the whole game! The only thing left is to end it and score. As soon as one player has only four unbuilt skyscrapers or there are only 3 cards left in the Open Market and the deck is empty, the game end is triggered. The player who triggers this completes their final turn and every other player gets a last turn and then we score.

You’ve already been scoring your skyscrapers as the game moved along. Add to that one point for each unused Action Card, get any bonuses from the Bonus Challenge cards, and get five points for each player who’s got the most buildings on the three Streets of New York cards.

There are some alternate setup rules for 2 players but they’re not anything like some games where there’s a phantom third player or the entire game changes.

Why you should play

This game is, at it’s core a fairly simple gateway game. There are a few concepts in here which may be a bit challenging for those completely new to modern hobby board games but I don’t think they’re insurmountable at all. I realize after looking back at my post and it’s length that it may not seem that way – what is important to note is that there are those concepts and mechanics which take a bit of explanation. When the game actually kicks off and the players are building away, it flows quickly and smoothly, with each turn taking perhaps a minute.

What this game has to offer that other so called gateway games don’t though is a very tense, very strategic level of play for people more familiar with it. It can be a real challenge figuring out which of those two actions is the best for you right now and then implementing them without being blocked by other players. The Tetris-like puzzle aspect of the game, while not overwhelming or the entirety of the strategy, is also a blast. It’s hard to beat that feeling of actually building something in a game. In the hour or so it takes to play this, win or lose, you still feel like you’ve accomplished something and that’s a very rewarding feeling.

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The game isn’t without it’s flaws but most of those exist in the rule book, not the rules or mechanics themselves. It took me three plays and three different versions of the rules to finally play this game correctly. Ultimately what saved me was this set of rules uploaded to BGG by the designer, Chénier La Salle. They make everything far, far clearer than the original rules and turned the game from a bit of a head-scratcher, kind of fun experience to a real, challenging, fun, tense game.

Now that I know how to play, the game is a heck of a lot easier to explain – I can teach someone to play in 10 minutes tops and we’re off and running. I do think like many games this one rewards multiple plays but it’s one I plan on playing multiple times with some of the same folks so I’m okay with that. This is, I think a great opening game for a game night, a great convention game and perfect for events like my Extra Life game day where I can show people how to play without actually playing myself. Not that I wouldn’t mind a playing! My nearly 11 year old daughter very much enjoyed this one as well so I suspect It’ll continue to see time on my table.

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A big thanks to Cool Mini or Not for sponsoring our Extra Life event! http://trollitc.com/2016/10/a-big-thanks-to-cool-mini-or-not-for-sponsoring-our-extra-life-event/ Wed, 12 Oct 2016 00:05:44 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29213 [...]]]> cmonlogo

Excellent gamers and game makers Cool Mini or Not stepped up and provided us with two titles for our Extra Life game day! Thanks so much for the copies of Rivet Wars Eastern Front and Kaos Ball!

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Extra Life is a non-profit organization working with children’s hospitals around the world to raise money to heal sick and injured kids. Every year my family and I run a 24 hour game day for the cause, playing games all day long and being sponsored by people like you! If you’d like to sponsor me, here’s the link. Every dollar counts, 100% of the donations go to children’s hospitals and it’s tax deductible.

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Thanks again to Cool Mini or Not and everyone who donates, plays and participates!

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29213
Fly Casual – a review of Risk: Star Wars Edition http://trollitc.com/2016/10/fly-casual-a-review-of-risk-star-wars-edition/ Tue, 11 Oct 2016 12:45:33 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29180 [...]]]> 20160214_115004

Note: This is a review of the Black Edition of the game, which comes packed with higher quality everything. Game play is the same with either version. 

Some games are destined to be modern classics for hobby game enthusiasts. Risk… is not one of those games. One could argue the ‘classic’ part of the argument I suppose. Risk: Star Wars edition – based off of the hard to find and very expensive Queen’s Gambit though is a bantha of a different color. This time Hasbro hit it out of the park with this tight, 2 player game that is thematic and, well, good.

Risk: Star Wars Edition – 2 (or 4) players, ages 10+, plays in about 45 minutes.

How to play

As always, this isn’t a deep dive into the rules. I’ve purposely not gone over every single rule here in this summary.  Also this review game play wise is for either the standard or Black edition of the game but the pictures will reflect the Black edition and hot damn do they look good.

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To start, set up the TIE Fighter looking board which is pretty neat in and of itself. The center board will feature the Death Star smack dab in the middle surrounded by a whole lot of TIE Fighters and Rebel Fighters. Either side (the wings of a TIE-Advanced) are dedicated to either Luke and Vader or the forest moon of Endor. Then players decide who’s going to be the Rebellion and who will be the Empire. On the Rebel’s side of the board, a number of fleets of X, B and Y wing fighters and the Millennium Falcon are organized around the Death Star while more fleets are held in reserve on tabs that attach to the main board. On the Imperial side, a whole ton of TIE fighters are set up along with the hefty Executor class Star Destroyer.

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Not pictured: I may or may not be actively salivating.

What you’ll see once you’ve gotten the board set up is that there are really three intertwined but different games going on at once. In the center is the Death Star, surrounded by Rebel and Imperial fleets. On one side of the board is the Shield Assault area. This represents the Rebels attempting to take down the shield generator on Endor. On the other side you’ve got Luke versus Vader – representing the iconic clash between the new Jedi Luke and the seasoned Sith Lord Vader.

Coming along with all this each player also gets their very own deck of Order cards. Once shuffled each player draws six cards into their hands. Order cards let each player choose one of several actions. The Empire may choose to attack with the Death Star and take out some Rebel ships, or use Force Lightning to ruin Luke’s already sketch afternoon. The Rebel players are often given the choice of attacking with ships, attempting a run on the shield generator or having Luke take a shot at Vader.

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Once each player is ready to go, they both choose 3 of their 6 cards and place them face down on the table.

Each player, starting with the Rebels, flips over the top card on the 3 card stack and chooses one of the orders on that card to play. Once played, it goes face up into your discard pile.

If you can’t play what’s on the card, it just gets discarded.  After each player has executed (or failed to execute) all 3 orders, 3 new cards are drawn and the next turn begins. Once the decks are depleted, the discard pile is shuffled and forms a new deck.

The Empire wins the game by destroying all of the Rebel ships. The Rebels win the game by destroying the Death Star. Here’s the big, bold HOWEVER. The Shield generator has to be taken out before the Rebels can even attempt to attack the Death Star. At that same time fleets of ships are maneuvering and attacking each other and the Death Star is taking out whole swaths of Rebel ships while the Rebels are fighting to take down the shields and Luke and Vader are confronting each other too. The fight between the two is to the death – unless Luke can successfully redeem Vader. Ship to ship and ship to Death Star combat is ruled by the roll of the dice, with different ships being more or less effective.

If Luke is destroyed, the Empire gets some bonus cards. If Vader is destroyed, the Rebellion gets some bonus cards and if Vader is redeemed, more bonus cards are in order for the Rebellion.

Why you should play

This game takes everything you love about Return of the Jedi, compresses it into 45 minutes of game play with some really stressful decision making (in a good way) and stays on theme the entire time. It’s challenging with both players managing three different fields of battle and once you get the hang of it, the whole thing works surprisingly well!

Who doesn’t want to sit on the bridge of a Mon Calamari cruiser and direct the entire freaking Rebel fleet in a massive attack on the Death Star? Or sit in your strangly lumpy metal throne and cackle evilly while that very same Death Star blows up the entire Rebel Fleet? Oh hey, you’ll also be coordinating a ground attack and a light saber duel.

If that’s not good enough for you, I should also mention that the Black Edition comes with just a ton of miniatures too.

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The game has a lot of tight, meaningful choices and scenarios where you’ve got two or three good options and are forced to pick just one. Assaults between ships and the Death Star are determined by die rolls, and of course the cards you draw determine what orders are available. There’s certainly a random, perhaps slightly chaotic side of this game but I don’t feel like this detracts from the game play at all. Many of these rolls, particularly towards the end game, are of the stand up and fist pump variety.

It can be easy, especially on the first play, to lose track of the side boards (Luke vs Vader and the assault on the shield generator). It’s very important for both sides to pay attention to these though and the will become apparent towards the middle and end of your first game. Without lowering the shields, the Rebel ships will be slaughtered. The loss of Luke or Vader can deal real blows to both sides by providing a pretty decent advantage to the other.

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Now this is not a high strategy, brain straining euro-style game. Nor is it a carefree, chaotically random dice chucking game where your strategy doesn’t mean diddly. It’s something of a hybrid of those two states. Your decisions do matter and without a solid strategy you won’t win the game. But you can expect to be thwarted by the occasional card draw or die roll too. It is also a Hasbro game so don’t expect FFG level minis. The TIE fighters and Rebel ships are the same Risk plastic we’ve come to know. The Black edition does come with some nice metal Minis and a handful of tiny plastic storm troopers.

For the price, I think you’re looking at an extremely good 2 player, head to head game that really bears no resemblance to classic Risk whatsoever. If you go into the game expecting a bit less than an hour and some light strategy and dice chucking, you’ll come out of it very satisfied. The game plays well with 10 year olds and adults. There’s also a four player variant but I’ve not tried this. I’m very impressed with the game itself – apparently a reworking of the Queen’s Gambit which I’ve not only never played but never even seen.

The standard version doesn’t feature quite as many miniatures but is available for an MSRP of $30. The Black edition is sleek and well packaged, has more minis and is available for an MSRP of $50.

If you get either version of the game, I’d highly recommend downloading the rules summary sheet found on BGG.

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The Ravens of Thri Sahashri http://trollitc.com/2016/10/the-ravens-of-thri-sahashri/ Sat, 08 Oct 2016 21:00:01 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29208 [...]]]> “Trapped in the prison of her own mind, Ren has only one chance at survival; her psychic friend Feth must reach into her unconscious to help guide her home. One player controls the deck of memories, while the other can communicate only through the placement of cards. Only by working together can they save Ren before the Ravens come to feast on her heartbreak and devour her memories whole.” The Ravens of Thri Sahashri is a tarot-sized, 2 player, cooperative card game with some legacy elements thrown in for added spice. In the game you alternate between playing the psychic Feth and the terminally unconscious Ren. Feth will build a tableau of cards for Ren to choose from and, communicating only through card play, will help guide each other through hidden and relived memories.

The Game

In The Ravens of Thri Sahashri one player takes the role of Ren, young girl in a coma and the other player takes the role of Feth, a young psychic with the ability to reach deep inside her subconscious and bring her back. This interaction between the two players centers around the Feth player setting an array of cards out for the Ren player to have the best chance at completing sets of cards.

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The Atman. Each card has to have at least one shaded area overlapping another shaded area. Shaded always overlays shaded and unshaded always overlays unshaded.

Each game of Ravens is made up of three “dreams.” At the beginning of the first dream, the player taking the role of Ren, will draw four cards and place them face down in a column in front of her. These are her Heart Cards and only she can see them. Each card has a numeric value of 1-5, one of five colors, and shaded areas (meant to represent the hurdles or blocks to Ren’s memories). Then each round of the dream, the player taking the role of Feth will draw cards from the central deck to build an Atman in the center of the play area. This Atman (or True Self) represents the fragments of the Ren’s memories. Ren can then choose one card from the Atman and place it in next to her heart cards. The hearts cards represent a poem (a dodoitsu — or poem with four lines of 7, 7, 7, 5 syllables). Ren can work to complete one line at a time. Only moving to the next line when the previous one is complete by a set of cards adding up to 7 (or in the case of the last line of the dodoitsu, 5). When Ren chooses a card of the same color as her heart card she may reveal the heart card for Feth to see. This is important information as it helps guide Feth in creating an Atman for Ren to choose from.

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Ren’s Four Heart Cards with one completed line of 7 and another partially completed (but revealed because the same color was pulled from the Atman)

As they work towards completing the poem, ravens begin to emerge from the deck. There are five ravens in the deck (one for each of the five colors of cards — red, blue, yellow, purple, green) and each are hungry enough to devour Ren’s hard earned memories. So, instead of discarding unused cards at the end of a round or dream, cards of a corresponding color to a revealed raven will be placed below the raven — a memory to be devoured at the completion of the dream. To counteract this, Feth can attempt to help Ren relive a memory by combining a block of same-colored cards in the Atman whose value equals 7. When this happens, a raven of the corresponding color is chased away, the cards sent to discard, and Ren reveals any of her heart cards that match that color. This provides Feth with important information about which cards he should add to the Atman and allows Ren some additional help at the end of the game. Those Heart Cards revealed due to a relived memory can be used in the third dream, where Ren needs to complete one line per round or lose the game.

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Feth’s drawn memory cards and two reveled ravens.

Play continues like this for the cycle of the dream. Feth will draw memory cards from the deck and add as many as he can (wants) to the Atman in the center of the play area with the rest being discarded or devoured by Ravens. Ren will then choose one card to add to her evolving poem or to discard. The dream ends once all four lines of the poem are completed and the heart cards revealed match the colors of the cards in the Atman.

At the end of the dream any heart cards revealed due to a relived memory are kept aside in Ren’s score pile. All other cards in the poem, heart and Atman are discarded or devoured by ravens. Any cards devoured by ravens are removed from the game, all revealed ravens remain in play and you deal up a new dream.

During the third and final dream, Ren must complete one line of her poem on every turn or lose. However, she can use the relived memories that Feth revealed in previous dreams to add to her poem and help her out.

Then and only then do you consider yourself victorious. I’m not sure if it is immediately obvious from the description but this game is exceedingly difficult. It is meant to be played in silence without any advance planning or discussion so expect a long line of agonizing defeats before claiming victory. As an added bonus, there are three sealed envelopes which add a legacy element to the game. I have not opened any of these envelopes yet but I understand that they make some minor rules changes and (hopefully) some additional story elements.

The Review

In playing “Ravens” two games immediately come to mind — Hanabi and …and then, we held hands. Similar to Hanabi, the core of this game is using your partner’s tells to help guide your actions through the game. So, in this sense, both games provide a puzzle to be worked out through non-verbal communication and empathy.  

In …and then, we held hands, players also were meant to remain silent while they played. However, I’m not a fan of how removing the social element makes any game feel, so I recommend that while all pertinent communication should be through the selection and placement of cards, light conversation and banter is acceptable. The theme of the game is not thick, so don’t worry that talking takes you out of it. In fact, to learn the game, I recommend playing a round (or an entire dream) out loud and allowing your partner to hear how you are planning and thinking and then going into silence. It is like playing a learning game with an open hand.

The card’s artwork is not really my flavor but it is certainly quality and well done. My perfect version of the game would drop the amine style completely and pick up some French surrealism. I feel as if I mention this often but Dixit cards makes every game better. There is a potential story to tell in Ravens and including artwork that allowed for some interpretation could add an extra storytelling element to the game. Imagine if every line in the poem could be interpreted to actually mean something!

The Rub

The Ravens of Thri Sahashri is everything I wanted …and then, we held hands to be, but wasn’t — an experience game which provides an actual experience plus some narrative and story. If you are partnered with a person friendly to gaming or a gamer themselves, then this is an easy purchase. If you are just starting in two-player games or gaming, then perhaps Hanabi is better first step but Ravens should come right after. For a quick 2 player game, it does take up a ridiculous amount of table space.

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Happy Birthday to Troll, Happy Birthday to Troll! http://trollitc.com/2016/10/happy-birthday-to-troll-happy-birthday-to-troll/ Sat, 08 Oct 2016 13:04:22 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29166 [...]]]> birthday

Hard to imagine but it was 8 years ago today that Troll in the Corner launched as the little gaming blog that could. Since then we’ve seen an awful lot of stuff come down the pike! The site transitioned from an RPG focused place to a board game focused place. I’ve had several of my personal designs published. We started a podcasting network and then it faded slowly into the sunset. I’ve had upwards of 15 people writing for the site at one time and there have been many occasions where it’s just been me.

We’ve had 1,511,386 unique visitors in that time and 2,355 individual posts – with this post, 1039 of them from me. Yikes!

I don’t know where the site will be going, particularly but I do know I have no plans to stop. If nothing else this is a decent place for me to review new and interesting games and post my thoughts on game development and my designs. I can’t say we’ll be around another eight years but if we are, it’ll be very interesting to see where that takes us!

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More activity – maybe a new direction – more reviews! http://trollitc.com/2016/10/more-activity-maybe-a-new-direction-more-reviews/ Fri, 07 Oct 2016 16:18:27 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29199 [...]]]> screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-12-08-23-pm

Like it usually does, life has a way of happening. Sometimes the site ebbs and sometimes it flows. Hopefully, with some big old life stuff now out of the way or in the rear-view mirror, the flowing will be starting again! You may have noticed some more reviews popping up. You may also have noticed that soon to be 11 year old has taken an interest in reviewing games as well.

You should be seeing more reviews from the both of us starting two weeks ago and continuing on for as long as we can manage! I’ve got a number of unplayed games in my collection and I’m doing my best (with my youngest daughter’s help) to get them all out to the table and played. My goal for right now is at least one decent review a week. With the holidays coming up I don’t know if that’ll be sustainable but I’m going to try my best!

You may also see a few other authors stopping in from time to time to add to the general pile of game reviews.

If you’ve been to the site before, thanks for coming back! If not, welcome and we hope you’ll stick around!

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Onitama – a relaxed, fun chess-like game that isn’t anything like chess http://trollitc.com/2016/10/onitama-a-relaxed-fun-chess-like-game-that-isnt-anything-like-chess/ Thu, 06 Oct 2016 12:01:28 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29170 [...]]]> onitama-box

I tend to look at my board game collection as an investment. Not in the monetary sense but more in the sense of time well spent or time that could be well spent. I’ve got games in my collection that I have not yet played and probably won’t play for a year or two. Why? Because I think they’d be a great fit for my almost 11 year old and me when she’s a bit older. Or that they’d work really well with some friends who I just haven’t been able to get together to play games with. Others are there because I could see myself playing them now and for years and years to come. Onitama fits into all of these categories.

Onitama is a game by Shimpei Sato, published by Arcane Wonders, for two players ages 8+ and playable in 15-20 minutes.

How to Play

The actual rules for Onitama are easily fit on to a single printed page. It’s not terribly complex in execution. The strategies and tactics that you’ll find yourself employing while playing however are anything but simple. Here’s the first comparison to Chess – there’s just a few pieces and a board consisting of 25 square spaces (compared to Chess’ 64).

Players unroll the board, which is printed on a play mat, and set up their pieces. Each player gets one  Master piece and four Disciple pieces. There are also 15 different movement cards, of which five will be used every game. The Master piece is placed on that player’s Gate (the middle of the 5 spaces closest to that player) while the four Disciples are placed on the two spaces on either side of the Gate.

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Shuffle the movement cards and deal out two to each player. Flip over the top card of the deck to determine who goes first – each movement card has a colored icon to represent one of the two players – blue or red. This fifth movement card will be placed next to the starting player’s right side of the board. The movement cards are each named after a (real or fictional) animal and show one black space and several lighter spaces. The black space represents the current location of the piece you’re moving. The lighter spaces represent spaces relative to the starting space where that piece will end it’s move.

The starting player selects one of their movement cards and executes the move on it. They then take this card, slide it up to their left hand side of the board and take the fifth movement card placed to their right side of the board.

The second player does the same, and play moves forward with a continuous exchange of just-used movement cards.

If either the Master or the Disciple pawns ever end their movement on a space occupied by an enemy pawn (either Master or Disciple) that enemy pawn is knocked out of the game. Players can move through their own pieces while executing a move but cannot end their move on one of their own pieces.

Play continues until either one player’s Master is removed from the game or your can position your Master pawn on an opponent’s gate (which is the middle space on the row closest to that player).

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Why you should play

Onitama is one of those rare games where I don’t just play it. I play it four, five, six times in a row – generally against the same opponent. I could easily burn an hour or two playing, resetting and playing again. It’s wonderfully addictive, easy to teach, always the same basic game but constantly different as each game unfolds. No two games really play the same when you’re only using a third of the available moves in each game and those constantly change with a shuffle.

This game is one that I love playing now. My daughter enjoys it but hasn’t quite gotten the hang of it – as she gets older though I can see her mastering this more and more. I can also see myself playing this game essentially for the rest of my life. Once you get the hang of it, you really want to spend more time with it so you can start to master it. That’s where I just can’t escape the Chess comparison. There’s a lot going on and you have to think several moves in advance. On the surface it’s simple, deep into the game though it’s really a match of wits with your opponent and game play can get very complex in the back and forth. So it’s not Chess, even though it shares some qualities.

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The components are beautiful, from the box that houses the game right down to the individual cards and pieces. The artwork is minimalistic but elegantly so and clearly reflects the spirit of the game. The theme is, well, about as appropriate as that of Chess. It’s a fight you’re entering into with each game but it’s an elegant fight.

I’d say that Onitama would make a perfect opening game except I think I’d find myself playing it a whole bunch and having it turn into one of the main courses. It is a great lunch time game if there’s two of you. Once you have the basics down (which takes one play) you can get 3-5 games into an hour, depending on how much long and your opponent think during your turns. While this game is no longer in the ‘new hotness’ category, I’d highly recommend picking it up if you haven’t already and have a place in your collections for a two player game.  This is a game that I can see myself playing for as long as I play games.

 

Please – consider donating to my Extra Life campaign. 100% of the funds raised goes to children’s hospitals. Thanks!

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What comes around goes around with Karmaka http://trollitc.com/2016/10/what-comes-around-goes-around-with-karmaka/ Mon, 03 Oct 2016 12:45:53 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29153 [...]]]> karmaka

Alas, I am once again forced to play another game with stunning artwork and quality components. I must have done something right in a past life. Here you’ll find a quick to set up, fairly easy to play card game that features some neat mechanics.

Karmaka is a card game for 2-4 players, by Hemisphere Games and takes about 30-60 minutes to play.

How to Play

This is a brief summary of the rules – it’s entirely possible that I’ll miss a few of the once-case rules or whatnot.

Shuffle the deck of 64 cards. Place the Karmic Ladder in the center of the table and drop your player tokens smack dab on the Dung Beetle. Yup, the Dung Beetle. Now you create the ‘Well’ (main deck of cards) with those 64 game cards. From this well of cards you’ll deal four cards to each player which becomes their hand, and 2 cards face down which becomes their starting deck.

On your turn, you’ll draw one card from your deck (if available), and play one card from your hand. You can play these cards in one of three ways.

  1. To your Deeds.
  2. To your Future Life.
  3. For it’s Ability.

That’s it! That’s your turn. Players keep doing this until they die. No, seriously. It’s okay though, with Karmaka, you’ll be reincarnated in a turn. Now let’s get into the meat of the game.

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If you play a card to your Deed’s pile, you’ll be doing it for the score. Each card is worth 1, 2 or 3 points. If, when you run out of cards to play and you shuffle off this mortal coil you have enough points (4, 5, 6 or 7) you can reincarnate at the next level of being.  Levels proceed as follows: Dung Beetles, Snakes, Wolves, Apes and finally, transcendence and the win. If you die without having enough points to move upwards, you’ll receive a Karmic Ring which is worth 1 point when scoring.

There is a trick though, there are four colors – red, green blue and ‘mosaic’ (wild). You must pull your score only from one color in your Deeds pile, adding any Mosaic cards to that color.

That’s the Deeds pile. There’s also your Future Life pile. You may play cards face down towards your Future life. When you run out of cards to draw and play, you’ll reincarnate – whether you have enough points or not to proceed to the next level, your Future Life deck will become your new hand. If there are less than six cards, you also draw cards from the well, face down into a new draw deck until your hand and your deck equals six cards. If you have six or more cards, you’ve got yourself a big hand.

Then you can play cards for their Abilities. Each card has an ability on it They may allow you to add extra cards to your hand, or Ruin one of your opponents Deeds (put it in the discard pile) or even peruse the discard pile to add cards to your hands. There are quite a few abilities but as with all things karmic, what comes around, goes around. If you play a card for it’s ability it goes into the Ruins pile (again, the discard pile). Here’s the catch though, your opponent may choose to snatch that card from the ruins and place it into their Future Life pile, to use against you.

That’s the game. When you have not more cards to draw or play, you die and are reincarnated. You score your deeds and move up the Karmic Ladder or grab a Karmic Ring if you can’t move up. Then you take your Future Life pile as your new hand, draw so you have at six cards if you have fewer and go around again. There are a few extra rules and play variants for 3-4 players.

Why you should play

Simple on it’s surface, Karmaka actually has a lot going on. You don’t want to extend your life too long by building up your hand to a massive size through your Future Life deck. You have to be careful what you play in your Deeds pile as other players can do things to this – and to your hand as well. Trying to time when you’ll die and reincarnate is fairly important, as well as holding on to that one card you want to play when your opponent dies and essentially misses a turn.

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Our first play through was fairly simple – build up a good Deeds pile, throw a card you don’t care about it on top (the order doesn’t change) so that if you get attacked it’ll hit a card you don’t mind losing and then pop off to reincarnate and do it again. Towards the end though, when trying to scrape up the 7 points to transcend and win, we realized that you can do a lot in the earlier game to set yourself up for the later game.

What you play to your Future Life pile can be critical, as is snatching up nasty (or highly beneficial) cards your opponent plays for their Abilities. But don’t just grab every single card they play, when they play it – it may be worth it let that card get buried in the Ruins, hopefully never to be seen again.

Later plays actually slowed down by five or ten minutes as we gave some though to what may happen in our next life.

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The components, though simple – a few cardboard punch outs, wooden player tokens, a small player board and cards, are all of very high quality. Wonderful, moody art makes every card something to look at. The cards aren’t linen finished but are decently thick and shuffle well.

Personally, I think this game plays best with 2 players. The 3-4 player game works and is certainly playable and enjoyable but as a two player, thinky card game Karmaka shines. This is another game that’s found a home on my shelf and I’ll certainly be playing more of it.

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You’re Fired – the game that (mostly) fired Love Letter http://trollitc.com/2016/09/youre-fired-the-game-that-mostly-fired-love-letter/ Thu, 29 Sep 2016 15:25:37 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29142 [...]]]> fired

You’re fired – a phrase that come pre-weighted with a lot of assumptions. It could be the end of your career, or the end of a TV show, or something that happens to older board games when they’re replaced by newer board games. In this case, it’s all of that mashed into one card game! Here we have a fairly light filler that hits all of the same check boxes as Love Letter but hits them with a bit more force and adds a few extra check boxes as well.

You’re Fired – designed by Doug Levandowski and published by Button Shy Games. The game is for 2-4 players and takes about 15 minutes to play. My review is in two parts. The first part, How to play goes over the game play itself. If you’re just looking for my opinion skip over to the Why you should play section.

Disclaimer: I don’t get to put this here disclaimer up very often so pay attention. Button Shy has also published one of my very own designs, Ninja – Silent but Deadly. You should know that this in no way affects this review – I purchased this game myself before my own game was published.

fired

How to play

The goal of this game is to eliminate your opponents boss before they eliminate yours. Simple, right?

Each player gets one of four companies – and with that company comes 11 cards. Shuffle all 11 of these cards into a neat little deck. There are also a series of consultant cards in the game – this deck is shuffled and each player is secretly (face down) dealt two. These consultants are shuffled into your deck to make it a nice 13 cards in size.

You draw three cards to form your starting hand. If either player happens to draw their Boss card, they reveal the Boss, draw one extra card and shuffle the Boss back into their remaining deck.

On your turn, you draw a card and then play a card. These cards will most likely be Employees or Consultants. You play your card to the Break Room (discard pile) face up. Every card has some kind of effect on it which happens when you play it. There’s also an Unemployment Line area – this is where employees who have been Fired go.

drawplay

A few examples: The Manager. When you play the Manager, you fire a random employee from an opponent’s hand. The Manager can also be Reactive – meaning you can play this card when it’s not your turn. In the Manager’s case, if you’re Boss is about to get fired, you can instead play the Reactive ability of the Manager and said Manager gets fired instead. Which is, in my experience, entirely too realistic.

Some Employees effects are only triggered when they are Fired. Also, there’s the Boss. If the Boss ever ends up fired or played to your Break Room, you lose. If however an opponent tries to Fire your Boss and they fail (because maybe you have an unsuspecting Manager handy) you get to shuffle your Break Room cards and your hand back into your main deck and draw a new hand.

Photo Credits: Maurice Fitzgerald

Photo Credits: Maurice Fitzgerald

There are a few changes if you’re playing with 3 or 4 players – each time a player is eliminated (their Boss is fired/taking a break) the other players shuffle their Break Room and hand into their deck and draw a new hand.

Game play continues until only one player is left still employed

Why you should play

If you enjoy Love Letter – this is a lot like it but better. Why is it better? You’ve got more options, you’ve got several ways of recycling many cards in your deck, the Intern cards make every game different (and this works better than Love Letter’s taking 1 card and putting it aside). Sure, their’s player elimination but in a game that lasts fifteen minutes with most of the players being eliminated in the last five it’s really not a strike against it.

Now my family (for a wonder, all four of us) really do enjoy a good game of Love Letter. It’s fast, simple, easy to teach, easy to learn and plays in a very short amount of time. However, it was getting a bit stale for us. Then along came You’re Fired and suddenly we’ve got a game that’s just as fast, just as fun but employs a bit more of a strategic element and where it’s not all that common to knock someone out on the first turn just by guessing a card.

You’re Fired is still a light game but it manages to give you some important choices to make while you’re playing it where you’re not entirely at the mercy of another player’s single card. Those reaction cards are key to this. We as a family really like that.

Now this is a little bit of a “take that” game so keep that in mind if that’s not your style.screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-10-49-48-am

I can say that there’s really only one reason we’re still playing Love Letter at all and that’s this guy:

Other than our occasional forays into Joker territory though we’re pretty much sticking with You’re Fired. It’s just got better game play and is less reliant on only 16 cards being shuffled.

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Islebound – beautiful and strategic with simple play but complex interactions and a strong finish. And cheaper than a $60 bottle of wine. http://trollitc.com/2016/09/islebound-beautiful-and-strategic-with-simple-play-but-complex-interactions-and-a-strong-finish-and-cheaper-than-a-60-bottle-of-wine/ Mon, 26 Sep 2016 13:00:00 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29115 [...]]]> pic2735446

Islebound by Ryan Laukat, published by Red Raven Games. 2-4 players, 1-2 hours.

I seem to be on a roll when it comes to playing beautiful games. Scythe, Heir to the Pharaoh and now Islebound. All of them are wonderfully illustrated and laid out – and Laukat’s latest is no exception. I very much enjoy the whimsical, broad stroke style that Red Raven games embraces! Here we have a bit of area control, some area movement, a neat modular board, a dash of resource management and a few tracks to go up or down on thrown in for good measure.

How to play

I’m not going to exhaustively re-write the rule book here so there will be a few things missing from this section. You should be able to get a real feel for setting up and playing though.

On first setup, the game looks a bit complicated and does take up a decent amount of table space. I’ll say this though, after the first few turns you realize that the actual game play is relatively intuitive. As with many of Laukat’s games, the simple play hides some fairly deep strategies, tough decisions and the ability of for your opponents to force you to adapt your strategy on the fly.

First, players set up the modular game board. There’s two sides to each of the 8 map pieces – one for beginners, the other for more advanced play. Once the map is set up, the play board goes into place and each player takes their own ship board.

On the game board (separate from the map) you’ll find a renown track, two stacks of Event cards, two stacks of Reputation cards, a stack of Renown tokens and three crew members. Not in the picture below (but visible in some of my other pictures) there’s also a diplomacy track. Certain in-game actions will allow you to add to your renown, place cubes on the diplomacy track, hire new crew, complete an Event or bolster your Reputation. All of this goes towards your total renown, which at the end of the game will determine the winner.

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On your ship board, you’ll find your three starting crew and spaces for them to rest, to store fish, wood and books (the three resources in the game) and a spot for your gold.

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You then lay out five building cards. The first two can be built for the price in gold and cost in goods listed on them. The last three cost one, two or three books in addition to their listed cost.

Here’s what each player does on their turn.

  1. Move.
  2. Take 1 regular action and any free actions.

That’s… it. Two things you can do. Okay, adding in the game play and you’ve got some actual meat in there but really if you can get that you do those things, you have the basics of this game down.

Moving: The map is divided into a series of regions. During your turn you must move up to the speed on your boat. You start off with a move of 2 but depending on which crew you hire can go as many as four regions in a move turn.

Actions: You must perform one action during this portion of your turn. They are: Visit the town, Attack the town (and attempt to conquer it), use Diplomacy to ally yourself with a town or Hunt for Treasure and earn your self some gold.

Here’s where the meat of the game is found. If visited, every town allows you to do something different, for a cost of course. Hire crew, get fish, wood or books, hire pirates, get some sea serpents, build buildings and more. Every crew member allows you to do more as well – move further, get more resources, add extra dice when needed to attack, do some physical work, or take care of some administrative tasks.

Each building also gives you bonuses – not only in renown, which will win you the game, but added resources or abilities.

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Some towns are susceptible to attack while others can only be allied with through diplomacy. There’s a neat track on which the players place cubes sequentially, with the higher value spots being further down the track. Various in-game things allow players to place cubes. Want to use Diplomacy to grab a nice town? Remove enough of your cubes to pay for it on that track.

If attacking is more your style, you’ve got to hire pirates and sea serpents to help out. Pirates are easier to come by but sea serpents can pack a bit more of a punch. Commit your forces and try to beat the town – do so and it’s yours.

Similar to Above and Below, the pirates and Serpents score you differing amounts of points (or no points at all) depending on how your die roll goes, adding a bit of chance to the mix. Doing things with your crew can also exhaust or hurt them – which means a trip to a port where they can rest and recover is probably in order.

If you take a town through attacking it or diplomacy, you gain a hefty amount of gold, and get to visit it for free (as long as it still belongs to you) for the remainder of the game.

While all of this is going on, players are building as well. The first player to reach 7 or 8 buildings (depending on the number of players) triggers the end game.

Once the game is over, players add up the renown from their buildings, renown tokens, their current location on the renown track and each gold is also worth one renown point. The highest total wins.

Why you should play

Hmm. First, there’s the ‘I’ve never met a Red Raven game I didn’t like’ factor. Second, the game is beautiful with great components and a pretty impressive price point for what you get. third and most importantly though – it’s good. It’s ‘set it up I again want to try something different this time!‘ good. The simplicity of the rules, the ease with which the iconography makes sense and the astoundingly wide variety of choices laid before you ever turn make for a very deep game. I’d be really surprised if any two games played extremely similar to each other – there’s just so much to do, and so much to react off of when your other players do something you were just going to do yourself! Do you pay the extra cost to do it too? Go elsewhere? Alter your plans a bit?

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If you’ve played Above and Below, you’ll be familiar with the look and feel of this game. It employs many of the same mechanics, has that same are style and weird beasties along with the humans you can play. Heck, it’s the same world – all of your crew members have their Above and Below alter egos on the flip side of their tokens so you can pop them into that game and use them as villagers. Sweet!

I’ve found Islebound to be just a little more streamlined than Above and Below, which is as it should be. Here we have a straight up, knock down, area control resource gathering strategy game, without the storytelling aspects of Above and Below. For that, I think this game fits in a similar niche but feels much faster. There’s still room on my shelf for both of them however, depending on my mood and if I’d like to explore vast underground caverns or a mystical archipelago.

The game started out a bit complex for us, took a nice ‘ahhh I get it!’ turn fairly quickly and then opened up and became much more than move/action/free action. This is a great title to showcase how fairly simple play can lead to very complex, long term decisions and strategy. Just don’t get married to your move three turns out because your opponents will be sure to muck up those well laid plans!

This game is a real gem. I’d be more than willing to bring it to the table when anyone requests it and I’ll be sure to bring it with me to the next bunch of game nights and conventions I’ll be attending because I want to play more!

 

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Yeah, this Wok is on Fire (A Review) http://trollitc.com/2016/09/yeah-this-wok-is-on-fire-a-review/ Sun, 25 Sep 2016 14:18:10 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29127 [...]]]> wokbox

Hailing from a centuries old tradition of cooking inspired dexterity card games, Wok on Fire is quite the little gem. That first bit isn’t true either but I’ve always wanted to write something like that. Here, you have a game that’s just 58 cards in size, including the player aid/scoring cards. Set for 2-4 players, the game takes less than 20 minutes to play and is good for people aged 8+.

The premise is this: All players are chefs, laboring over a fiery hot wok. With our spatulas we compete with each other to stir-fry, pick and plate the choicest ingredients. Our goals are to make the most complete and desirable meals – failing that we’ll settle for some great meats or collections of memorable spices. Worst case scenario, we end up scooping gobs of green peppers and broccoli – the stuff of nightmares for kids around the world.

How to play

Setup is pretty darned easy. There are 50 ingredients cards. Shuffle them all together. There are four Spatula cards – each player gets one, those not in use go back into the box. There are also four Player Aid cards – one goes in front of each player. If there are less than four players, the player aid cards are still used – as these define the edges of the shared Wok. Other objects (the edge of a round table, a few game boxes or in on memorable case, my cat) can also be used to define the limits of the Wok. This is important during game play.

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One player takes 24 of the 50 cards in the deck and spreads them around the play area (your Wok) face down. The other 26 cards are placed to the side as your supply of ingredients. Then play begins.

Each player will have three phases per turn. Stir Fry, Pick and Chop. In the Stir Fry phase, you take your Spatula cards an flip over at least one card in the Wok. Do this twice. Cards must actually be flipped to qualify as really being stir fried. This should expose a bunch of cards (or hide others).

In the second phase, the Picking phase, you must pick one ingredient, and may pick up to two (depending on what’s visible or not). Certain ingredients, like Chicken or Green Peppers allow you to pick all of the face up versions of that card, for better (chicken) or worse (green pepper).

In the Chopping phase, players take the supply deck and ‘chop’ two more ingredients into the Wok, by flipping the top card off of the deck with a downward, chopping motion and saying “Ha!” (At least, that’s how we do it).

The Picking phase is really the only phase of the three that doesn’t involve some dexterity. Flipping can take skill, particularly if you’re trying to hide less savory ingredients and reveal more desirable cards. Chopping can be interesting as well – you can cover up existing ingredients causing your opponents to try and Stir Fry them back into view. Cards must have a least one corner and the center image visible for you to pick them. Unless it’s Chicken – you can always make a guess that something is chicken. If you’re right, you get a tasty meat ingredient. If you’re wrong, back in the wok the card goes.

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Ingredients stir fried or chopped out of the Wok remain outside the Wok until the next player’s turn, where they are chopped back in. A practice I don’t encourage while actually cooking.

What’s the purpose of all this – besides making a delicious cardboard meal? Why – the card combos of course! At the end of the game players will arrange their cards into the most favorable combinations with full meals scoring tons of points and combos of meats, spices and sets of ingredients scoring points based on the number and variety of cards. Get to many of the less desirable ingredients and you’ll be subtracting points too.

Play continues until the Supply deck is empty and then players pull out calculators or napkins and start working out their score.

Photo credit: Natasha Tadisch

Photo credit: Natasha Tadisch

Why you should play

Wok on Fire is a very quick, fairly easy game to play provided you have the space to flick around a bunch of cards. The game itself is quite fun and is reminiscent of Sushi Go but with a dexterity component. It can be fairly quick but doesn’t involve a lot of players getting in each other’s way – speed isn’t an issue so much as accuracy is.

We very much enjoyed this aspect of the game. Scoring is a little fiddly though, as you look at the image above. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but we weren’t expecting as complicated a schema as there is. What we found was that in our first few games, scoring took almost as long as the actual game itself. In later games however, we realized why the scoring is they way it is, and this is important. You can actually employ a good deal of strategy in your Stir Fry and Chop phases keeping the scoring in mind. Suddenly our games were a bit slower – more in line with the 20 minutes listed on the box.

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We’d carefully flip in just the right way, and happily chop cards face down over important ingredients we knew our opponents could really use. So yes, the scoring can be a little bit of work at first but after a few plays, the end game is a presence throughout the actual game – directing us to try and aim better and make smarter choices in picking cards.

The one real complaint I have about this game is the box. It looks great, colorful and fun. It took us about five minutes of wrangling to get the darned thing open though. The top fits so snugly over the bottom that gravity just can’t do it’s thing. Forcing the box made me wary that I’d rip a corner (I didn’t) but it’s a tight fit. It’s getting better with repeated openings. Other than this issue, the game is well made, with nice linen finished cards and a neat take out menu/rule book.

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If you’d like to add an additional challenge, I can suggest adding a cat into the mix while playing on a bed, as we did.

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Heir to the Pharaoh – a 2 player game that gets bidding right and flows like smooth water http://trollitc.com/2016/09/heir-to-the-pharaoh-a-2-player-game-that-gets-bidding-right-and-flows-like-smooth-water/ Thu, 22 Sep 2016 13:07:11 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29099 [...]]]> pharoah

Heir to the Pharaoh from Eagle Gryphon Games is a two player, tile laying, bidding, area control, hand management gem. It plays in about an hour and was designed by Alf Seegert. You should seriously consider picking it up if you have a spot in your collection for a great two player game.

Displeased by his children, the Pharaoh favors his pets instead. He has decided to alter the lines of succession and will bequeath his entire kingdom either to the feline goddess Bast or to the canine god Anubis. But which one?

I’ve got a soft spot for Alf Seegert games, I’m the first to admit it. Not because he’s a cool, interesting guy (he is) but because he designs cool, interesting, delightful games. I’ve played a lot of games in my life and while I’ve been bored and entertained in just about equal measure, it’s rare that I’m delighted at a game. Heir to the Pharaoh is a delight to play – it’s strictly two player, has tons of player involvement, looks really darned pretty and gets auction/bidding right for two players, a rare thing. Mostly though, the game flows like a natural, evolved creation, not a constructed thing of cardboard and rules. More on that later.

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How to Play

Each player will pick a side – Bast or Anibus (cat or dog). The board gets set up and it’s off to see who’ll win the favor of the Pharaoh!

The game is divided into two phases – the Bidding phase and the Action phase. You’ll play each of these phases 8 times, when the game will end.  Your final scores will be tallied and a winner declared. I’m going to gloss over some of the rules and leave a few things out. You’ll get a good sense of how to play reading below without me simply copying the rule book and pasting it here!

The Bidding Phase: Each player starts off with a deck of cards numbered 1-10. These are your bids. The Gods deck is shuffled, with Thoth always on the bottom. The top card is flipped over and a Pharaoh’s Favor token placed on it. This gives that particular god an additional ability this turn.

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Each player then selects one of their numbered cards and these are simultaneously revealed. The player with the highest number wins! Mostly. Sometimes. You’ll see, just hang on a minute. If there’s a tie, the player who’s card shows a Sun symbol wins that tie. Repeat until the God’s deck is depleted, with one exception. If the Pharaoh card comes up, it’s moved to the Pyramid symbol on one corner of the board and each player selects one Bid card and places it face down near the Pharaoh.

Now, there are these Animal Magic cards as well. Before each god is bid for, any player may declare that they’re going to summon up some Animal Magic. These cards can alter the way bidding works. Sometimes the lower number wins, or a Moon symbol breaks a tie or what have you. The Animal Magic card also allows access to the higher value Pharaoh cards for some extra bidding oomph.

On every other Action phase, which comes up next, you’ll see what happens to that Pharaoh card.

The Action Phase: Each of those God cards you’ve been furiously bidding on have individual actions on them. Whichever card that turn has the Pharaoh’s Favor token on it will gain additional actions on the card (I didn’t list them below). All actions are always performed in the following order:

  1. screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-1-06-33-pmSeshat: Place a monument token on the board. Each token has arrows, which become vitally important very soon! Each side of these tokens is also keyed to Bast or Anibus. When you place the token, you decide which side is face up. Also place the ‘monumeeple’ (the monument meeple) on the board on top of the token.
  2. Geb and Nut: You may flip over one of the above mentioned tokens to change ownership.
  3. Ptah: Claim the active Monument card (Shrine, Sun Temple, Obelisk) as your own and immediately score it. Here’s the set collection! Through the game you can collect 1-4 of each monument and they’re worth 1/3/5/7 points accordingly.
  4. Ra: Place a player disk on the Sun space on the board that’s currently active this turn. Score yourself a point for that. This adds to your score in the end game.
  5. Wadjet: Draw the top Animal Magic card and add it to your hand (right in with your bidding cards). If it’s the last round, forgo the card and just score 2 points.
  6. Pharaoh: Every other Action phase, you’ll be revealing your secretly placed bid cards (there will be two of them) to see who controls the Pharaoh. The player who has the greatest total gets control and gets to build one section of the great Pyramid. That section will show the player’s color. At the end of the game, whoever controls more of the Pyramid gains a 7 point bonus.
  7. Thoth: Exchange all of your used bidding cards with your opponent, move the Sun marker, choose a new Monument card and reset the Gods deck.

Once all of the gods have been revealed and bid on, the best part of bidding in this game happens. Any cards you used to bid for the gods, whether you won that bid or not, are then traded to the other player. It’s very easy to have a spectacular turn bidding, only to set yourself up for failure on the next turn as you hand all those high numbered cards to your opponent!

These phases continue until the sun has mad a circuit around the board (8 times) and then final scoring takes place.

Scoring

  • Every animal magic card you have in your hand is worth 1 point.
  • Your longest chain of sun markers (see Ra above) placed on the board is doubled and scored. So if you have 3 sun markers in a row, that’s 6 points.
  • The player with the most (of four) Pyramid tiles gets 7 points. If it’s a tie, the player with the top tile wins. (Incidentally, my daughter has won this way a few times).
  • Score the monuments. Each monument is placed on a tile which donates ownership and has some arrows on it (see Seshat above). For every monument and the pyramid that are on the arrow’s line of sight, you score points. Shrines are 1, Sun Temples are 2,  and Obelisks are 3. If your monument points to the Pyramid, you score your own monument as well (not just those in line of sight).

Whoever has the highest score wins!

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Why you should play

Heir to the Pharaoh falls into that hard to reach category of slightly whimsical, extremely eye-catching and strategically interesting games. Once you get the hang of the game (and I’d recommend playing a round or two and then restarting the game your first time) it just flows. It flows so wonderfully that you’re barely aware of the phases switching or the rounds ending and are more focused on the game itself. That’s what I mean when I say it’s a delight to play! You forget that the rules are a structured thing as they meld so well into the game play and theme and you just enjoy the experience itself.

If you’re reading the How to Play section above and it seems a little complex, that’s because it is. At first. Trust me though when I say that a few rounds into the game you’ll just get it. It’ll click (like so many of Alf’s games do – Fantastiqa I’m looking at you!) and before you know it you’ll be motoring along without having to reference the rules or figure out who does what when. This game really does reward multiple plays. As you get to know each of the God and Animal Magic cards you can start to focus more on strategy and how you’re going to outsmart your opponent rather than mechanics.

I know for a fact that Alf spent over a decade working on this design and it very much shows. The game is highly polished, with auction/bidding mechanics that make it a joy to experience with only two players – a real rarity in gaming. The game also looks fantastic – the artwork is great, it’s theme and setting meld nicely with the components and art. More so than anything else, the best way I can describe why this game shines is that it just… flows. A few plays in and returning to this game is like playing chess with an opponent you’ve been playing chess with for a decade. You both know the rules and the mechanics so you can simply bypass them and just enjoy the challenge of the game and the company of your opponent.

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I will be at Granite Game Summit in Nashua, New Hampshire on October 22nd http://trollitc.com/2016/09/i-will-be-at-granite-game-summit-in-nashua-new-hampshire-on-october-22nd/ Wed, 21 Sep 2016 14:55:41 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29096 [...]]]> screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-8-50-36-am

I’m wicked excited about this one! I’ll be at the Granite Game Summit up at the Holiday Inn in Nashua, New Hampshire on Saturday, October 22nd. And I’m bringing Luca (my expert, 10 year old game reviewer daughter) with me. We’ll be there around 10ish in the morning staying until roughly 5pm. I will of course have a few copies of Swamped and Ninja – Silent but Deadly with me. I’ll also bring a passable passel of other games and perhaps even a prototype or two I’m currently futzing about with.

I may even try my hand at “Halp! Someone teach me Terra Mystica!” as I’d love to get a game of that in.

If you’re going to be at GG2Summit, please feel free to say hello! Maybe we can even get a game or two in.

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Total Confusion 31 – This February 23-26 in Marlborough MA http://trollitc.com/2016/09/total-confusion-31-this-february-23-26-in-marlborough-ma/ Mon, 19 Sep 2016 13:00:18 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29078 [...]]]> totalbanner940med

Every year in February, I have cause to celebrate! My favorite convention, Total Confusion kicks off and this year is no different! I’ll be in attendance all convention long, from Thursday the 23 through Sunday the 26th. I know it seems a bit early to be talking about this but first, I’m terribly excited about it and second, they’ve already opened up event registration.

If you’re in or going to be in the area this February, you definitely want to check Total Confusion out. Also consider running a few games! Because I’m excited, I’ve already gotten most of my events in! I’ll get to my tentative schedule in a moment but first I can give you a few other reasons to join us. How’d you like to play games with Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Mike Pondsmith, Michael Curtis, Jay Libby, Peter Bryant, James Carpio, the Dark Phoenix folks, the Iron GM folks and more?! Oh, and I’ll be there too.

For the last while, Total Confusion was in Mansfield, MA. This coming year they’re moving to the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough, MA.

So, I’m bringing a bag full of games to play and I’ll also have some copies of Swamped and Ninja – Silent but Deadly with me as well. This schedule is at the moment tentative, as events are still rolling in and the folks who volunteer their time to make this convention happen are still way early in the process of, well, making it all happen. So it is subject to change at their or my will.

10am -1pm – Being interviewed, lunch, hanging at the flea setup, etc.

1pm-3pmAbove and Below.  Above and Below is a mashup of town-building and storytelling where you and up to three friends compete to build the best village above and below ground. tcaboveandbelowIn the game, you send your villagers to perform jobs like exploring the cave, harvesting resources, and constructing houses. Each villager has unique skills and abilities, and you must decide how to best use them. You have your own personal village board, and you slide the villagers on this board to various areas to indicate that they’ve been given jobs to do. Will you send Hanna along on the expedition to the cave? Or should she instead spend her time teaching important skills to one of the young villagers?

3pm-11pmFlea Market. I’m once again volunteering to help run the Total Confusion Flea Market. I’ll be setting up and then guiding excited guests through the maze of board game and RPG deals.

Friday

10am 12pmTerritorial Disputes – Eight Minute Empires, Ages of War, Guilds of Cadwallon and more. If you’re feeling like controlling some area in a few tiny games, this is the event for you. Explore some fun, fairly fast and not terribly large area-control games.

1pm – 3pm  – Cutthroat Caverns“Without teamwork, you will never survive. Without betrayal, you’ll never win.” I like to call this one Munchkin but for adults. It’s a semi-tccutthroatcooperating dungeon romp where you’ve already done the hard work, and gotten the magical gew-gaw! Now all you have to do is get back out. Easy, right? Right?! In Cutthroat Caverns, it’s every player for themselves, except  you need the other players to make it out! At least, most of the way out. 

3pm-7pm –  Scythe – Scythe is a 4X board game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and tcscythevalor. In Scythe, each player represents a character from one of five factions of Eastern Europa who are attempting to earn their fortune and claim their faction’s stake in the land around the mysterious Factory. If you’re looking for strategic game play, beautiful artwork and resource tokens that will amaze, join us!

9pm-11pm – Kids Games for Adults – 2 Drink Minimum. What? Kids games? Where? At the bar. Why? If you have to ask, this event isn’t for you.

Saturday

TBD

Sunday

10am – 12pm – Prototype Workshop. Join me with other industry insiders as we look at you board and card game ideas. Spend 10-15 minutes explaining your game and showing off your prototype. Receive 10-15 minutes of feedback from us!

1pm-3pm – Bohnanza – It’s Sunday, the convention is winding down and you’ve come to realize you have not yet fulfilled one of your bucket list items. To become a successful bean tcbeansfarmer. In the classic Bohnanza, players have a gas wheeling and dealing, making and breaking alliances and of course, planting lots of beans. This fairly casual card game could be the perfect way blow out the con.

And that’s my convention so far. I’m running a fair number of events and am reserving some time on Saturday for myself. I may participate in a panel, I hope to get in a game or two (maybe even *gasp* an RPG!) I’ll have my personal copy of Swamped and Ninja on me and I can easily teach either of these in a fairly short amount of time, so if you see me wandering around or stationary for a short time, feel free to come up, say hi and ask!

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Extra Life 2016 – Five years of helping kids and playing games! http://trollitc.com/2016/09/extra-life-2016-five-years-of-helping-kids-and-playing-games/ Wed, 07 Sep 2016 17:11:33 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29053 [...]]]> screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-12-38-12-pm

Hard to believe that come November 5th, I’ll be hosting my 5th Extra Life game day! In that time I’ve raised over $9000 for children’s hospitals and Team Troll has raised over $18000! Why do this? Not only is it a great and worthy cause, but my now nearly 11 year old daughter has spent a good amount of time at Boston Children’s Hospital and we know what good work they do. She’s also been an incurable gamer for pretty much her entire life!

First and foremost, if you’d like to donate to my campaign, click this here link! You should know that I’m looking to raise at least $2200 this year. If I hit my goal, I will (as I have the pst four years) shave off all of my facial hair. No beard, no mustache, no goatee, no sideburns – no nuthin! I’m also toying with the idea of perhaps dyeing my hair a funky color like green if I get way past my goal.

What is Extra Life? It’s a 501(3)c charitable organization tied in with the Children’s Miracle Network who raise money to help fund children’s hospitals around the world. In this event, participants go on a marathon gaming session, this year it’s 25 hours! In a row! Thanks daylight savings time! I’ll be playing games for 25 hours and you’ll be sponsoring me to do so. Together we’ll raise money and help kids get better.

Throughout the day I host a what’s essentially a small board game convention at my house. My wife and kids are a driving force behind this and we have a rotating cast of awesome folks who drop by to play games, help keep me awake and focused and help to raise money for the cause themselves! I’ve included a batch of photos from last years event at the bottom of the post if you are curious.

Over the next few months I’ll be doing several things – first and foremost I’ll be asking everyone under the sun to contribute to my Extra Life page. That’s how I raise money for this awesome charity. As I mentioned with the mini-convention, we have tons of folks stopping by (usually upwards of 40 people throughout the day). I like to have games handy for them to take home as encouragement to get them out, playing and donating! To this end, my wife and I supply some of the games but we also ask publishers for donations. These donations we use towards several purposes. We give ’em out to participants at my event and some other team member’s events. We also select a few and play them on our game day.

That’s the scoop! You’ll be hearing more about it as November 5th draws closer, I’m sure! Now here’s some photos from last year’s event!

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Luca’s Gaming Corner – Jaipur http://trollitc.com/2016/07/lucas-gaming-corner-jaipur/ Mon, 11 Jul 2016 13:02:09 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29007 [...]]]>  

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Jaipur takes place in the desert, trading goods to other people. This fun game is age 12+ and takes around 30 minutes to play. Now, this game is unique because this is a 2 player game only. I think that is unique because most games can have more than 2 players. This game is made by Sébastien Pauchon and published by Asmodee.

Set Up

You start off by making a row with 3 camel cards and 2  goods cards. Then shuffle the deck. Deal out 5 cards to each player. Place the remaining cards next to the row. After all that, you want to put all the goods tokens from greatest to least, which means you should see the highest number on top. The last thing you do to set up, is to remove all the camels from your hand and put it out in front of you. If you don’t have any camels then you do nothing.

How to Play

The first player gets to chose if they want sell goods, which means they can trade cards in for tokens which are worth points at the end of the game or you can buy cards (goods) to save up to eventually sell goods. When you sell goods you make a discard pile and take the top tokens. The second player does the same thing by selling goods or buying goods. If you sell 3,4, or 5 cards (goods) then you get an extra bonus token. Those are worth extra points at the end of the round. The Camel Token is earned by the person with the most camels at the end of the round.  The end of the round is over when there are 3 piles of goods tokens gone. Add up all the points and the one with the most points in tokens gets a Seal of Excellence. Once you play 2 more rounds whoever has the most Seals of Excellence win.

Rating

I give this game a 9/10. This game is amazing. I do wish you could somehow trade cards (goods) with each other. But over all I love this game. I play this game a lot with my dad(even though he beats me every time).

 

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(A note from the editor: Luca is my 10 year old daughter. She’s been a gamer for just about her entire life and over the last few years has played a variety of non-family, non-kid games with me, my wife and friends. Some of her current favorites are the DC Deck Builder series, Isle of Skye, Love letter and a little game called Swamped. 

She’s been interested in writing game reviews for a while now and I’m slowly showing her the ropes here on Troll. I’ll edit her writing for format and spelling (as best I can) but I’ll leave her style to her.) 

 

 

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Luca’s Gaming Corner: Scythe First Look http://trollitc.com/2016/07/lucas-gaming-corner-scythe-first-look/ Thu, 07 Jul 2016 13:00:55 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29030 [...]]]> 20160706_203848

I just opened a game named Scythe! I was so surprised at how heavy it is and how much was in the box. There are over 50 game pieces!

Scythe | 1-5 players | ~2 hours play time.

All of the game pieces and the boards are super cool but my favorite part of the game is the Achievement Sheet.

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I think this is the best piece because it is so smart to write down all of the wins and the first time something happens. I also love the resources because they look so realistic. Overall this game seems like a blast and I can’t wait to play it!

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(A note from the editor: Luca is my 10 year old daughter. She’s been a gamer for just about her entire life and over the last few years has played a variety of non-family, non-kid games with me, my wife and friends. Some of her current favorites are the DC Deck Builder series, Isle of Skye, Love letter and a little game called Swamped. 

She’s been interested in writing game reviews for a while now and I’m slowly showing her the ropes here on Troll. I’ll edit her writing for format and spelling (as best I can) but I’ll leave her style to her. Luca also chooses which games she reviews.)

 

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A Review of City of Iron Second Edition http://trollitc.com/2016/06/a-review-of-city-of-iron-second-edition/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 11:38:13 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29025 [...]]]> City of Iron, players lead one of four nations and compete against each other for resources. You may be the hogmen, the weird albino elves, steam-punky humans, or <ahem> toads. But, in order to become an empire, you need to control the means of production. That’s right, you’re socialists and these aren’t your typical resources either: turnips, glow moss, tentacles, silk and bottled demons fuel the people’s developing economy. Comrades, to control the means of production you need to train and develop your civilian populace, recruit a strong military, and create the steam and air ships needed to move into new and unexploited lands. You also need steambots with mustaches. But if you need a quick boost you could always conquer (or re-conquer) an independent capitalist town.

The Game

  • Designer: Ryan Laukat
  • Publisher: Red Raven Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 120 minutes
  • Type: hand management, deck-building, fantasy
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An awkward image of the board showing the resource tracks, the market and some unexplored lands.

The Rules

You are representing one of four nations (The City-State of Arc, Cresaria, The Hog Republic, and the Toads of Om). Each nation has two decks from which you can gain the expertise of your populace: The Military and the Citizenry. Each deck has its own particular strength and when played together in your hand it helps formulate your overall strategy to gain economic control and influence over the land. This influence is primarily determined by your ability to gain an advantage over 10 different resources and goods which come out through three building decks. Deck A has mostly turnips, moss, mutant sheep, and ore. Deck B has mostly tentacles, salt, bottled demons, and factory parts (Gods Alive! I love this deck). Deck C has mostly buildings which provide influence for other resources plus silk and crystals. As rounds progress, these decks will populate the market and be available for purchase.

Each player starts with their home territory and a district which can support five building cards. In order to expand and grow, players can explore new lands which will provide room for more building cards or attack and conquer the nearby “free towns” for resources and income. Each explored territory will provide an additional bonus condition that, when met, will provide additional influence at game’s end. Each free town will supply resources but control of those town could be wrested from you by competing nations.

At the end of day, you build both your decks with experts, draw them into your hand and play them to allow you to explore new territories, purchase buildings, conquer towns, and occasionally take free actions. All in order to gain precious, precious resources and goods which provide influence and income. Much Euro.   

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Your capital district is looking nice. It only holds five building cards so make them count.

The game is seven turns long, each with four phases which correspond to the four seasons (it gave me Viticulture flashbacks…).

Spring (Bid)

It is the Spring, love is in the air and players bid for turn order. It may cost you some money to guarantee you first go, or you can hang behind to watch your loved ones frolic.

Summer (Actions)

It is the Summer, no vacation for us, players can do one action in turn order for a total of three actions (this does not count any Free Actions). Their options for state-sanctioned enjoyment are to

  • Build by purchasing an available building card from the market. This building gets placed in one of your cities only if you have room in your city and if the city has the requisite land type (grassland, forest, sea, mountains, desert, tropical, and … flying island?). Each starting city can accommodate five buildings. Certain cards can increase this capacity through the addition of districts or players can explore and found new cities.  
  • Store Building Cards in their hands and pay for them later.
  • Draw a Card from their military or citizen deck and place the card into their hand.
  • They can Research (pay four coins for one science token). Science is a form of currency for certain building cards and expert actions.
  • Play a card from their hand for an Expert Action detailed on the card. When playing a card for an Expert Action, they may need to play additional cards as a Skills payment for the action. There are three skills represented by icons of each of the cards. Distance is represented by a green compass rose. Red Guns represents offensive ability and a blue Hammer to represent…ingenuity? Engineering? Communisms? It really isn’t clear but just take for granted that some actions requires a payment of cards in order to activate that action. Expert Actions can be free actions which allow you to take a Free Action by playing that card without it counting towards one of your three actions for the turn. Some actions are Reactions which contain bonuses or actions which are only applied when certain conditions are met.
  • Players can Tax and gain one coin.
  • And they can Attack a Town. During the initial set-up there are three stacks of unconquered towns. Each requires a certain amount of Guns and Distance to conquer. The player will play a certain amount of cards to equal the amount of icons necessary to conquer a town and then take the card into their tableau and gain the resources displayed. Each town has an unconquered and conquered side. Each town starts out unconquered and once a player takes that town it gets flipped over to its conquered side. Which means that the town can still be taken by another player through the Attack Town action but it is more difficult due to your increased military presence in the town.

Important Note: When playing a card for it’s icon (hammer, gun or compass) it can only be played for one of those icons. The free market is not encouraged.

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I’ve got my eyes on the turnip farms of Hogtown. Easy pickings.

Autumn (Collect)

It is Autumn, like the leaves from dying trees, discard and rake away the first four remaining buildings in the market. Slide everything to the left and draw up new buildings, filling the slots available according to how many players are playing. On the 3rd, 5th and 7th rounds, players will score influence from the goods tracks and from building cards in play. Players collect income, science, and bonuses from building cards in play, town conquered, and bonuses from the goods track. Lastly players will draw up new military and civilian cards into their hands. This is done according to the citizen and military icons present on building cards and district cards in play.

Winter (Hire)

It is Winter. Players purchase new citizen and military cards to place directly into their hands. It is about as fun as staring into a blizzard. Players can take forever to slowly drift through their decks, read the effects, check the prices, etc. etc. etc. This is the one phase that I wish desperately could go faster. It is done simultaneously but even then, there will likely be one person agonizing over a purchase, window shopping through the deck, or stopping to build a mechanical snowman. Every other phase in the game is snappy and quick so it is especially frustrating that this phase goes so slowly. After each player makes their decisions about which cards to purchase, they put them face down in front of them. Once everyone is decided, they flip and pay the necessary coin and science.

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Just a couple potential civilian hires. Nice clear iconography plus anthropomorphic animals to boot.

The Rub

Theme and artwork is classic Lauket.

If you have seen any games by Ryan Lauket you will not be disappointed. The card and board artwork is gorgeous and varied. I’m a huge fan of how he decided to differentiate between the citizen and military expert cards. The background of the citizen cards has a bright blue gorgeous sky while the military background is sulfuric and yellowed. It is simple and subtle and a testimony to how much thought Ryan puts into the aesthetic of the game. There are anthropomorphic hogs, lizards, plus airships and people riding snails. Everything is perfect and amazing. The board is a massive improvement on the first edition and I love the flexibility in placing the building card market on or off the board. The roundels (sic) for tracking resources are nice but don’t leave enough room for all four cubes if you are playing the full player count. It is a tiny complaint and barely worth mentioning.

Gameplay is simple to learn but too tight for new players.

The game provides some variety in how you attempt to win but despite several paths to victory, the gameplay is so tight that if you try to switch strategy partway through the game you are doomed. With only seven rounds and three actions each round, you need to make sure each action counts towards your strategy. For example, deciding to explore and discover a new land can take four actions and three rounds to achieve. When moving forward is that time consuming, one misstep can tank it (or if someone else grabs it before you). This can lead to a tense and pleasurable experience if you are playing with experienced players. But will be constricting to new players or those still exploring what a strategy. It also means that individuals with a couple of games under their belt have a huge advantage over new players making this a poor gateway game. At the end of the day, this is a game about efficiency and doing the most with the limited amount of actions you have available and prior knowledge of the decks is pivotal. It also makes the free actions provided by some of the expert cards exceedingly valuable.

Another success in hybrid games.

Ryan hit peak “hybrid” with the fusion of storytelling with euro-styled gameplay in Above and Below. In City of Iron the seeds to that game are apparent with it’s own hybrid style of play with hand management along with economic warfare and exploration. Players have three main options: develop their lands and cities, explore new lands to develop, and/or conquer established towns (either off the board or in another player’s tableau). Similar to the mechanic in Above and Below, where players can barter with each other to gain resources, the option to attack other players is rarely used in a game session but when it does it can blow the game up (in a good way). Players are given a wide choice of how they want to play the game and even during the friendliest games you know that some of your tableau is not completely safe. It reminded me a bit of the Air Strike option in The Manhattan Project. It rarely gets used but you know it is there and people keep preparing for it in a cold war sort of arms race but when it hits…everyone is on their feet. It as successful in City of Iron and some ability to strengthen your defenses more may make it more palatable.

Interesting deck-building component but heavy on the AP

Let’s clear the air here. Deck-building is not a favorite mechanism of mine. I don’t like Dominion or Trains. I can enjoy A Few Acres of Snow about once a year. City of Iron’s deck-building component is interesting in that you have two different decks to develop. This begs the question – If I don’t like a single deck deck-building game, would a duel deck be any better? The answer is yes and no. Since City of Iron isn’t solely a deck-building game and has more mechanisms to offer, I don’t mind it too much. It is slimmed down but with everyone purchasing new cards from their own personal deck, it can gum up the game. The process of purchasing cards, plus the ability to discard cards in a preferred order, and the two separate decks (civilian and military) slows everything down and with the other seasons moving so quickly, the flow of the game is disrupted once you hit the Winter Phase. If you are an experienced player and know the basic layout of the deck, it doesn’t take too long but new players are ground to a halt.

The Bottomline

City of Iron is a graphically engaging, tight, and unforgiving hand management, city building game that provides multiple paths to victory and just enough asymmetry to make the factions approachable once you learn the basics. It shines after a few plays once everyone understands the components of the decks. The artwork is (unsurprisingly) inspiring. If you have the patience and a group sold on Above and Below, then City of Iron will bring you joy. 

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The Princess and the Goblin on Kickstarter now http://trollitc.com/2016/06/the-princess-and-the-goblin-on-kickstarter-now/ Wed, 08 Jun 2016 14:21:00 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=29011 [...]]]> p2

Industry buddy Dennis at Bellwether Games, who published my game Swamped, have a new game on Kickstarter right this very second. The Princess and the Goblin looks to be a fantastic family game for players aged 7+.

When the young Princess Irene noticed her special golden thread led straight into the goblin kingdom under the mountain, she did not hesitate, but followed it at once. There, in the dark, she discovered her friend, the miner boy Curdie, who had been trapped while searching for clues to the goblins’ evil plans.

Now, together they must make a daring escape. Can you retrace Irene’s steps through the dark maze of caverns, using only her special golden thread as your guide? Can you discover clues to save the kingdom? Or will the goblins catch you first?

In the game, you will explore the goblin’s vast underground cave network in search of clues to their evil plans. When you think you’ve discovered enough clues to save the kingdom, flip all of the pieces of your escape path in the correct order to find your way home. You will win if you can escape the mountain and find more clues than any of your opponents, but don’t get caught by the goblins!

The Princess and The Goblin is a tile-flipping game of memory and daring escape for 1-4 players ages 7+ that plays in about 10-20 minutes.

With under 5 days left, head over to Kickstarter now and get involved!

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Luca’s Gaming Corner: Ninja – Silent but Deadly http://trollitc.com/2016/06/lucas-gaming-corner-ninja-silent-but-deadly/ Mon, 06 Jun 2016 14:51:20 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=28979 [...]]]> Ninja-Stealth-Card

Ninja is a amazing game. You will love this game if you love hiding stuff.

Ninja is recommended 6+ but anyone can play. Just make sure little ones don’t eat the cards. Up to 10 players can play. Ninja was made by Ben Gerber and published by Button Shy Games.

This game is very long. Why? Because you hide a card and it may take a while for the other person to find it. There are many ways to play Ninja.

How to play

You get a wallet that says Ninja on it. Take a card and do what it says. If you grab one with a number you can just hide it anywhere. Wait until the other player finds it and that person will have to guess who hid it and then hide it back on them. Repeat until you want to end the game. No one wins!

Rating

I give this game a 9/10. One thing, I wish there is a way where you can play and not wait a while until the other player finds it. I definitely recommend this game to everyone!

(A note from the editor: Luca is my 10 year old daughter. She’s been a gamer for just about her entire life and over the last few years has played a variety of non-family, non-kid games with me, my wife and friends. Some of her current favorites are the DC Deck Builder series, Isle of Skye, Love letter and a little game called Swamped. 

She’s been interested in writing game reviews for a while now and I’m slowly showing her the ropes here on Troll. I’ll edit her writing for format and spelling (as best I can) but I’ll leave her style to her. Luca also chooses which games she reviews.)

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Quick Review: World’s Fair 1893 http://trollitc.com/2016/06/quick-review-worlds-fair-1893/ Thu, 02 Jun 2016 13:00:18 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=28989 [...]]]> wf1893

World’s Fair 1893 is published by Foxtrot Games, designed by J. Alex Kevern for 2-4 players, ages 10+. It plays in about 45 minutes.

What it is

World’s Fair 1893 is a worker placement/set collection game. The board is variable, meaning it changes each time and with the number of players playing.  There’s a bunch of little cubes to represent your workers. Along with these components are award chits, money and a wonderful deck of cards. 

How to play

The game is set up with 2 cards around each board space, of which there are five. The cards are either influential people, types of displays or tickets. These board spaces are randomly distributed at setup. The central bit of the board, representing the fantastically huge Ferris Wheel featured at the fair is double sided – which side you use depends on how many players are present. 

Players then place a worker cube (known as Supporters in game) on one board space, grab the cards that are there, then place three new cards.  The first card is placed in that space and the other two in the next two spaces clockwise around the board.

Ah, the cards! Here’s what you’ll see. Exhibits, Influential People or Midway Tickets. Exhibits are used at the end of the phase and may allow you to actually construct them (depending on who holds a majority) and score points. Influential People allow you distinct bonuses such as placing extra workers – but are only used once. Midway Tickets earn you money which in the end game equals points.

There’s also a little bit of majority area control. At the end of each phase (there are three) each player checks who has the a majority in the five spaces. These spaces represent general areas of the fair, like Art or Agriculture. If a player has a simple majority in that space, they may set up one to three displays that match that area. If you happen to have two Agriculture display cards in your space (having claimed these by placing workers on a board space and snagging these cards) and have a majority in Agriculture, you’ve just earned two cardboard chits for Agriculture! You also get an award worth 2 or 4 points (based on number of players or if their’s a tie for majority).

At the end of that phase, for every pair of workers you have in a space, you take one back. So half your workers rounded up, which have already been placed on the board.

worlds

How to win

After the end of every phase comes the money. You will earn one dollar for each admission ticket in your possession. The player with the most tickets earns an extra two dollars.

When the game ends, you add up all your points and then score your award chits for displays. One display chit equals one point. A set of three different displays is worth five points. A set of all five different chits is worth 15 points. The player with the most points (i.e. my 10 year old daughter) wins!

Conclusion

I very much enjoyed this game. Using the BGG point score of 1-10 it’s a solid 8 for me. I’ll play this just about anytime, just about anywhere. The artwork is great and entirely appropriate for a game that takes place in 1893. There are some unique little touches that I really enjoy, such as each phase being tracked by one revolution of the giant Ferris Wheel at the center of the board.

I like that there’s a bit of randomness in which cards will be dealt on your turn, after you’ve made your decisions. I also like that this can be fairly well mitigated with some strategic play in subsequent turns. For a 45 minute game it’s got a nice bit of weight to it without being brain-burning – this is what I’d expect from a game of this length with an MSRP of $39.

The components are fine – the cards are in my opinion a little on the thin side and repeated shuffling over many games may produce some wear – so sleeve them if that’s a concern. I really like the additional flavor text on the cards that, while they have no relevance to the game play do offer a ton of neat factoids about an important time in world history.

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Luca’s Gaming Corner: Love Letter http://trollitc.com/2016/06/lucas-gaming-corner-love-letter/ Wed, 01 Jun 2016 15:43:24 +0000 http://trollitc.com/?p=28977 [...]]]> ll

Love Letter

AEG – 2-4 players, 5-10 minutes, ages 8+

This game is a easy and short game. 2 – 4 players can play. It takes about 15 minutes and the age recommended is 8+. This game is good for on the go or just wanting to do something. A.E.G. published the game.

How to play

This game is super easy to learn. Each player gets one card. The first player draw draws a card and picks a card to play. For example, Soldier, you have to guess a non soldier card and if you get it right you get a cube. If you want to play that then play it. Go around in a circle and first player to get 3 cubes win.

Rating

I give this game a 7/10 I like it but I wish they had more ways to play Love Letter?

love letter

(A note from the editor: Luca is my 10 year old daughter. She’s been a gamer for just about her entire life and over the last few years has played a variety of non-family, non-kid games with me, my wife and friends. Some of her current favorites are the DC Deck Builder series, Isle of Skye, Love letter and a little game called Swamped. 

She’s been interested in writing game reviews for a while now and I’m slowly showing her the ropes here on Troll. I’ll edit her writing for format and spelling (as best I can) but I’ll leave her style to her.)

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