Apr 142015


Swamped – A Semi-Cooperative Game of Adventure, Secrets, & Deadly Peril

This is the first sample of in-game artwork we’ve been able to release and I’m incredibly excited to share it! Especially after a year of play testing with cards that don’t look anywhere near as good as those featured here. I’m also really digging the Swamped logo!

Swamped is a game for 2-4 players, taking 20-30 minutes to play, ages 8+. I suppose you’d call it a micro game because it will weigh in at around 40 cards and three tokens when done.

In the game, players navigate their shared vessel through a dangerous water-logged jungle in search of lucrative natural resources. Your expressed goal is to help “save the world,” but as time runs out, your own secret motives may lead everyone into deadly peril.

The game ends when players escape the swamp with three herbs (and other treasures), when the swamp crocodile attacks the boat, or when the card pile is exhausted (leaving players stranded in the swamp). You can still download the slightly outdated Print and Play game/rules from BoardGameGeek up until the Kickstarter goes live.

In designing this game, we took a lot of the elements we love from much larger games and boiled them down to the bits we liked most. Different characters, cooperative overarching goals with hidden win goals for each player and a neat movement mechanic we’ve not really seen before. All of that and a bunch of multi-use cards that form an ever changing swamp populated with exotic wildlife and a changing cast of characters. You can read the first review (based on the PnP art and rules only) over at BoardGameGeek.

Dennis from Bellwether Games has put a ton of work into developing this title and the result is an amazing game. Add to that the artwork you see above by Jonathan Logan Clark and it’s beautiful as well!

I feel there’s really a lot of game in this title, with tons of replayability!  I’ve been playing it for over a year now and I still thoroughly enjoy it, although I’m admittedly a bit biased. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Apr 132015


Crowdfunding can do many amazing things. Gordon Sampson hopes to crowdfund his new venture the Adler Boardgame Cafe.

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About Jonathan J. Reinhart

Jonathan J. Reinhart is an editor of Troll in the Corner where he writes about wargaming. Jonathan also is the owner of the Wargaming Recon podcast. He has been gaming with miniatures since 2000 and playing board games from a young age. He's played a myriad of games such as: Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy, Warmachine, Starship Troopers, Axis & Allies: War at Sea, Flames of War and Warlord Games' Black Powder rules. War at Sea and the Black Powder rules are his current go-to games. Jonathan enjoys casual, fast, fun, and group board games. Sitting Ducks Gallery, Zombie Dice, Guillotine, Pandemic, and Carcassonne rank high on his list. He is a retired local politician with a B.A. in Politics & History, which provides a useful background for historical gaming. A casual World of Warcraft player, he became a Kingslayer as Viktrious the Blood Elf on 4/23/11 and followed that up by slaying Deathwing on 5/9/12.

Apr 112015

Do you ever think about the pence-per-play cost of board games?  I do, although it is usually as a cunning means to justify a new purchase.  At £13 or $13, (through the mysteries of board game currency conversion), Star Realms is a game that renders value for money arguments unnecessary.

Star Realms

Big game – small box.

Star Realms, by White Wizard Games is a two player deck building game which sees you and a friend play out an epic space battle to the death. Deckbuilding is all about starting with a small hand of weak cards and gradually improving it by buying better and better cards. It’s a powerfully clever concept started by a game called Dominion.


In the small box come 118 cards, rules and zero wasted space.  The cards are things of beauty: imagine every spaceship and space station from every science fiction book cover ever.  The cards are split into four coloured factions each with their own style:

  • The Trade Federation who are keen on money and defence.
  • The Blobs who favour destruction
  • The Machine Cult who eat their own young, (sort of).
  • The Star Empire who have an aggressive Star Fleet feel about them.

Set up

This is a 30 minute game, and set up is suitably quick too.  Each player starts with 10 basic cards and then its a question of shuffling the main deck and laying out the top five to form the starting market.

Set up and ready to play.

I have the Authority

To win the game you must reduce your opponent’s authority from a starting 50 to zero. In your starting deck you have two Vipers with a combat of 1 and eight Scouts with a trade of 1.  Winning the game with just these cards would be pretty dull, futile even.

To win you need more combat.  Combat is the bullet, but first you need to build the gun.  In other words, you need to construct a deck that will be an awesome engine of victory!

How do you build a deck?

The market place always has 5 cards.  Whatever you buy will give you one, or more, basic benefits: 

  • Combat, which reduces the opponent’s authority.
  • Trade, which allows you to buy new cards.
  • Authority, which increases your authority.

Middle cost ships.

Each turn you use the five cards drawn from your deck.  At first your deck is weak and the more expensive ships and bases are out of your price range.  When you buy new cards they go straight to your discard pile, but eventually reinforce your draw pile.  This steady buildup of strength is the nub of the game.

Each ship and base offers something a little bit different like pulling an extra card into your hand, or allowing you to scrap a weak card.  On top of that there are combo powers that trigger when you play another card of the same faction, (remember them from earlier?). Winning the game is all about buying the right cards at the right time and picking ones that work together.

Playing with Three

This is a two player game. You can pick up a second pack and play with 4.  I’ve thought of playing with three and house ruling that you always attack the player on your left, with forced discards to your right.

How easy is it to teach the game?

As deckbuilding games go, Star Realms is pretty straightforward. The rules on the cards are clear and the ‘draw five – play five – clean up’ process will be familiar to anyone who has played a deckbuilder before.  For newcomers, learning how to play will take a few cycles through the hand of five.

Can complexity be scaled?

There are some mini expansions that add new cards and rules. I would avoid these on first play. Beyond that the complexity isn’t in the game itself.  It’s in the building of a deck that will floor your opponent.

Can you handicap other players? Do you need to?

At first I let my son start the game with a hand of 5 rather than 3. This worked well and wasn’t needed for long. You could vary the starting authority too.

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

Your table is probably safe. Someone has to lose and that is the perfect opportunity to suggest a rematch.

Beyond the game

You can play the same game on PC, Android and IOS. The game is free, but unlocking online and full campaign modes costs a couple of quid.  I have been playing online for months. The game does not get old.

What do I think?

Let’s start with the negative. The game comes with cards to keep track of your authority. They come as a selection of 20s, 10s, 5s and 1s and I found them to be a complete faff. Now we use some ship miniatures and the score track from Carcassonne.

Carcassonne score board with my own ships.

I am a sucker for deckbuilders in general.  There is something about the draw, discard and shuffle that feels so right. There is also that thrill of discovery as you find which five cards you drew into your hand. With that in mind I was expecting to like Star Realms, but I was surprised at just how much fun I have had with it, both online and in person.

The art work and the setting are right up my street, but the game play excites too. I think part of the reason for this is the different approach to victory.  Most deckbuilders have you accumulating victory points, but here it’s a struggle to the death. As you fence around the available cards it’s like having a knife fight in a pick n mix.  Each drop in authority that you suffer moves you a little closer to the end and this puts a spotlight on your decisions.

The feeling that you get when when your deck delivers the goods is fantastic.  When you pull off combinations that are devastating, which draw extra cards and do extra damage, it feels like you’ve just taken down the Death Star!   Also I can’t think of many games that make me panic, but this one does.  If my authority is low, I may start to trash cards for small benefits or buy unsuitable bases for defence.  It’s sort of the equivalent of blowing the tanks on a submarine when you think you are sunk.

 I’ll come clean: this is barely a review. Really it’s more of a recommendation. It’s £13, buy a copy, find a friend and play the game. 

This review was written for Tabletop Day 2015.  If you enjoyed this review, or if you are desperate to find something better written try these other contributors:

The Savage AfterWorld — http://savageafterworld.blogspot.com/ — Escape: Zombie City by Queen Games 

Channel Zero — http://www.channel-zero.net — Thunderstone by Alderac Entertainment

Fractalbat — https://fractalbat.wordpress.com/ — The Hills Rise Wild by Pagan Publishing

The Gibbering Gamer — http://www.gibberinggamer.com – Dragon Dice by SFR (formerly TSR)

Random Encounters (From Ohio) — http://randomencountersohio.blogspot.com – Nano Bot Battle Arena by Derpy Games



About Neil Robinson

Some say Neil spends too much time thinking about board games. I disagree. What is true, is that I moved to the coldest and wettest part of England, guaranteeing plenty of chances to play games with my family.

Mar 252015


I won $2 with that headline as I was challenged to get the name of this game into a single sentence headline three times. Never challenge a gamer.

Before I get to the description of this game and my review, I’d like to open with my 9 year old’s review, which she emailed to me earlier today. It’s safe to say this is her new favorite game. Here’s here review:

I really liked this game called JUST DESSERTS! JUST DESSERTS is a game where you try to match up different foods the guests like. The reason I liked it, is because it’s fun finding the different foods and finding if you won!!! If I could rate it I would give it a 10!!

Just Desserts is a game for 2-4 players, ages 8+ and takes 30 minutes or less to play.  It combines a bit of hand management with a bit of set collection and a heavy dose of Looney Labs look and feel. If you’ve ever played any of the Fluxx games, you’ll see a similarity in artwork and design – but that’s pretty much where the similarities to the Fluxx line stop.

The game consists of 24 Guest cards and 76 Dessert cards. Each of the Guest cards belongs to one of six suits, while each of the Dessert cards belongs to one or more of the basic food groups. And here the basic food groups consist of things like chocolate, fruit, marshmallows and cake. You know, the stuff essential for life to be more than just grains and vegetables.

At the start of the game, after each deck is appropriately shuffled, three Guest cards are set up on the table. These represent folks who’ve come not for dinner, not for coffee but for Just Desserts. Do you see what I did there? No? Just Desserts? No?!

The game begins!

The game begins!

Game Play

Clever word play aside, once you’ve got your three starting guests set up, and each player has been dealt three Dessert cards, the game begins! Each player is attempting to match up the specific dessert ingredients on their cards to what each guest is craving. In the picture above, The Tourist, the guest on the right, is looking for something with chocolate, fruit and in a cake form. He also has a favorite dessert, which is Black Forest Cake (combining those three ingredients). Players can either satisfy him by playing as many Dessert cards as they wish to include all of those ingredients or if they’re lucky, they’ll actually have the Black Forest Cake Dessert card.

Once a guest has been satisfied, the player moves them down into their pile. The object of the game is to either collect a full set of five suits (in the image above, two suits are represented in the lower left hand corner of each card) or three guests of the same suit. The first player to do so wins.

At the start of every players turn, they draw a new Dessert card and place a new guest on the table. Then they have three choices. They can satisfy up to two guests, draw another card, or discard as many cards as they’d like from their hands and draw that same number of cards from the deck.  Once they’ve completed one action, they then compare all of the guests still on the table. If any of them share the same suit, one of the guests must be placed into the discard pile (player’s choice). The top guest in the discard pile is considered to be ‘standing in the doorway’ (i.e. loitering on the off chance they can still find a dessert they crave) and can also be satisfied by a player and added to that player’s collection of guests.

If you happen to be able to satisfy a guests craving with their favorite dessert, you receive a ‘tip’ in the form of being able to draw another Dessert card immediately.

That’s the gist of the game. There are some more advanced rules to add in if the basic game becomes to quick.



My Thoughts

Here’s the skinny – I enjoy this game because it plays rather quickly, introduces the concepts of set collection and hand management and is incredibly easy to teach. While the game play is relatively basic it’s entertaining. With games lasting on average for me about 15 minutes, I can get two or three games in after homework and before dinner, which is ideal. If you go into this game expecting a lightweight, fun little game about serving desserts you’ll be pleased with this title.


  • Quick, easy to understand game play great for families with kids over 8 years old (and probably a bit younger).
  • Nice, fun card layout with goofy pictures and clear iconography.
  • Advanced rules for more thoughtful game play and more player interaction.
  • This also makes for a decent filler game in an adults only group.


  • A reported price tag of $18 MSRP may be a bit high for some.

Closing Thoughts

While I’m not personally enamored with this game so much that I’d be demanding to play it every night, my daughter certainly is. If I could say nothing else about Just Desserts, I’d say how rapidly she took to it and how much she enjoys playing it. If you have kids of the appropriate age, they’re probably going to like this one a lot. As a bonus for us adults, the game isn’t terrible at all. It’s fun to play, runs a quarter of an hour and makes for a nice gaming experience. I’d recommend it to anyone who plays games with kids. Lastly – they have a character called the Dude who is… well, the Dude and they have a Boston Guy. Being a fellow Boston Guy, I like this.

Boston Guy!

Boston Guy!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Jan 282015

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Chopstick Dexterity MegaChallenge 3000 Game Review

CDMC 3000 designed by Greg Lam and published by Mayday Games is the perfect execution of an idea – “What if we made a game where you played with Chopsticks?” A blast of fun for 2-3 players with solid components – highly recommended.

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Jan 272015

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Targi Game Review

Targi is a fabulous, 2-player game by Andreas Steiger and published by Z-Man Games. It is a worker placement and set collection game, but mixes things up by using intersection points between your vertical and horizontal Targis (on the perimeter) to control inner squares. Tribe cards and resources layer in perfectly to create a great, euro-style, 2-player game.

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Jan 262015

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Quartex Game Review

Quartex, designed by Tim W.K. Brown and published by CSE Games, is abstract tile matching game where you compete with other player to score the most points by completing symbols on the ties. Double sided tiles, limited combinations, and an interesting scoring mechanic make this a step up puzzle game that puts your brain to work. Think of it as a competitive version of Cirplexed! For 2-5 players.

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Jan 222015

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Anomia Game Review

Anomia is a fabulous, fast-paced party game designed by Andrew Innes and published by Anomia Press. The premise is simple – name a person, place, or thing from the category on another player’s card before they can name one from yours. Part of the delight is enjoying how bad our brains fail in quick-think, high-pressure moments. 3-6 players recommended, but can easily support a few more.

Please like, subscribe, and share with your friends! Want to do a guest review? Shoot me a note.