10 Days in Asia is my first and only foray into this series of games (if you don't count good old Racko), and I have to say that I liked it! It works great for us as a light 2-player strategy game to end the evening. Haven't tried it with more yet. It has a nice element of luck, making it suitable for mixed groups of people (children adults, serious gamers casual gamers, goths punks, and so on). It's very attractive, but one error stands out - it isn't very color-blind friendly. I had to use a sharpee to mark appropriate tiles and countries on the board so that I could use symbols instead of relying on the terrible color choices. The colors are pretty, mind, I just can't distinguish some of them. I wish more game publishers would take color-blindness into account when making design decisions. - Initial rating.
I found this interesting, but it lasted 8 to 10 hours - my memory is a little hazy. We also only had 2 players, and only ever played one game. I imagine the game is more fun with a few more players. The feeling of building your empire is fantastic, and I would love to find a game that captures that feel in a few hours, and that scales from 2-5. Based on my one experience though, I ended up giving Advanced Civilization to Goodwill. If I had to do it over, I would have kept it.
I enjoy the "richness" of this game, that is, how the game's mechanisms interact with the theme to create the feeling of actually building railroads and transporting goods. I am also a fan of the spartan graphic design. But Age of Steam possesses a real downside for me. First, the game isn't very forgiving. You need to make truly optimal decisions each turn in order to triumph over your opponents. Second, the game only really shines with a table-full of experienced Age of Steam players who also enjoy the game. This rarely happens for me. Age of Steam is a very good train game, but it isn't my holy grail of such games. I suppose I'm still waiting for that.
Alhambra is a great social game. In the game, you build your own Alhambra (palace) by purchasing pavilions, towers, gardens, etc. and adding them onto your sprawling complex. These components are purchased with four different types of currency, which you collect from a pool of four available cards. The palace-components are drawn from a bag and randomly placed on a little placard where each component aligns with a different kind of currency. On any given turn, you may take a currency card, OR purchase a component, OR remodel your palace. However, if you manage to purchase a palace component with precisely the correct amount of currency, you may take another action. The game has three scoring rounds, during which players with the most of any particular kind of palace component receive points. Alhambra restricts a players choices enough so that the game doesn't become a brain burner - after all, there are few available choices on a player's turn, and one or two usually stand out as optimal. Despite this restriction, Alhambra manages to be tactical and strategic at the same time. Every turn, you must make the best choice given your options and your ability to forecast the next few moves - but you also need to look ahead to the later scoring rounds and attempt to establish dominance in a few different areas (gardens, towers, manors, or etc. etc.). It is too bad that there is usually such an obvious right choice on a player's turn, as I think the game would be enriched by some heckling and cajoling ("You should *really* take that manor. What a steal, and look, it will give you such and such benefits.") - which if successful, would then provide the cajoler with preferred options. But Alhmabra doesn't lend itself to this kind of interaction. There is definitely a lot more control in a two player game. Adding players decreases the amount of control a player has, and decreases opportunities for skilfull play. I enjoy playing this, but it doesn't compel me as some other games do.
Arkadia is a game about positioning and timing. Your decisions in the game are aimed at collecting little discs in four different colors and then timing your sale of said discs to whenever the going price is the greatest. There are four or five nested "layers" of resources, depending upon how you look at it. You play *cards* to lay down *buildings*, which you then surround with your *workers*, to gain the colored *discs*, which allow you to play *castle pieces* which influence the value of the colored discs, which you then sell by using your *banners*, and get *gold* (which is what you need to win). So the game is set up like a cataract. You need to use A to get B, B to get C, C to get D, and D to get E, and she who has the most E wins. This is fine and well, but the pacing of the game is kind of odd, and it will end before you know it. So you need to play a few games to figure out WHEN to use your banners to sell your colored discs, and WHEN to complete buildings which allow you to build castle pieces which control the value of the discs, and WHEN to place the workers that will allow you to collect the colored discs in the first place.
It sounds complicated, but the rules are actually pretty simple. Arkadia is a straight-up optimization game in the Euro-game mold you are familiar with, and may be weary with to a degree. It's a game with a very mechanical and premeditated feel to it. There is only one basic strategies, and that's it. Figuring out the strategy is not why you play Arkadia, as anyone can do that. The winner will be whoever is best at implementation. You go after one or two colors and then try to control things so that these become valuable enough at the right times for you to sell and make lots of gold. There is a little bit of player interaction in that players may compete at times for worker placement - that is, the player on your right may snap up spots you have your eye on. That's it.
Arkadia is a solid game, but along these lines, I'd much rather play Domaine (for its brutally fun interaction), or Samurai (for its elegance), or Puerto Rico (for its variety of possible strategy), or Web of Power (for its tension).
Super happy fun in a box. Uh, and incomprehensible horror.
After playing solo, with two, and some larger multiplayer games, I think the sweet spot for Arkham Horror (for me) is two-three players. Even after a larger group knows the game well, finishing a game can take 4 hours. You can easily cut that in half for a two player game, and for two players each playing only a single investigator, there is superb tension.
Arkham Horror is, for my money, the best table-top adventure game around. It's definitely "pulp Cthulhu" what with blasting your shotgun at dread Cthulhu himself, but it makes for a fun game. It takes a few plays to figure out the rules. I'll just warn you ahead of time that the rule book isn't the best. You *will* run into situations that are not covered in the rules, often. This will force you to look up errata online, as well as develop some house rules of your own. In the end, the process is worthwhile however, as a fun game emerges. Production values are top notch - it's a gorgeous game.
The best thing about Arkham Horror, for me, is that it got me interested in the Call of Cthulhu role playing game, which I am now Cthrazy about! I never figured I'd come back to pnp rpgs after a 20 year absence, but life is full of surprises. Update: I'm less interested in CoC RPG than I was - I've found I like games with more character development. CoC is a neat game though, and features some of the best game writing I've ever seen.
I played this a bit when it first came out. I certainly liked it much more than Risk, but I feel abosultely no compulsion to obtain a copy. In fact, it just isn't that memorable. Reading the rules to Struggle of Empires is more exciting to me than actually playing Axis and Allies.
I got this as a present in 1986. I certainly liked it much more than Risk, but I feel abosultely no compulsion to obtain a copy today. In fact, it just isn't that memorable. Reading the rules to Struggle of Empires is more exciting to me than actually playing Axis and Allies. It's not that it's a bad game, there's just a lot of downtime and the play is pretty clunky compared to other offerings.
Of the more traditional games, I enjoy Backgammon a lot. There is luck in the game, but a surprising amount of skill as well. In a more game-poor environment, we'd definitely be playing more Backgammon.
An excellent party game. A favorite at large family gatherings. The game really shines with 5-7 people, and is just a constant stream of laughs - at least it has been for us. I can see the fun level here depending a lot upon group constitution, however.
I like Balloon Cup. It's a fun and light game about making short balloon hops, or races, through the mountains and fields. The decision tree is reminiscent of Battle Line, which I love, but a bit simpler. Instead of battling for flags, you're battling for the balloon hops (and each hop has some colored cubes that go to the winner). Instead of the hands of Battle Line, you merely have to play down a set of cards which color-match the cubes you are fighting for. And the sophistication of the suits is gone - you are merely going for either the highest sum or the lowest sum. Ultimately, you will turn in colored cubes for "balloon cups" - the equivalent of winning a race, I suppose. People call this a race game. If this is a race game, so is Battle Line - but the terminology seems silly. In every game, one races to win, right? I think Balloon Cup is a battling game, and game of pretty direct conflict. It's light, quick, and fun. The only downside is that I am colorblind, and this game is *terrible* for me in terms of recognizing the colors of both the cubes and the cards I am holding. If the color choice were better, this game would receive a solid 7 rating from me. As is, it can be very frustrating, and it gets a 6!
Battle Line is my favorite 2-player card game. In this game, players compete for Flags by playing down cards from their hand in sets of three (albeit one card at a time). There are six suits (colors) of cards, with values running from 1-10. Each of the 9 Flags is available for competition. Some sets beat other sets, allowing you to claim a Flag. Winning requires a breach (claiming 3 adjacent Flags) or an envelopment (claiming any 5 Flags). Special Tactics cards break specific rules of the game, adding a strong element of the unknown. You can remove the Tactics cards to play Schotten-Totten, and added bonus.
I just love the blend of analytical thinking and chance in this game. To win, you need to keep track of what's going on and remain flexible. If you become too attached to winning a particular Flag, it can spell your doom. Knizia's Battle Line is heavier than his LotR: the Confrontation, but just light *enough* to play fairly briskly. I definitely prefer Battle Line to Lost Cities, which is also a good game, perhaps because Battle Line feels a little less "mathy". Every game has been fun, and more strategies have become apparent with each play. This game truly gives you many interesting/desirable options, and then makes you choose only one - based upon an analysis of the playing field, your own resources, and your grasp of opponent psychology.
Battle Line also plays fast enough we fall prey to the "just one more game" syndrome - which can be a curse if you have to get up early the next morning! [To my chagrin - just a little - my wife beats me at this game most of the time, and we maintain a pretty intense rivalry.]
I like the gameplay, but I'm a big fan of C&C:A, so that's no surprise.
The unit strengths are somewhat different between the two games - enough so that one's tactical decisions especially must be altered from what they would be in C&C:A. The production value of the game is excellent, and I really like the art work and the development of scenarios - gradually introducing new wrinkles as you go.
I do *not* like the little plastic men. They're unpainted and hence unattractive to look at - I guess I prefer the wooden block aesthetic. And no, I do not have the time to paint them. I'd rather spend that time actually playing games! Well, I probably will spray paint them, both for looks and because of a color problem. I cannot understand why game publishers continue to make life miserable for those of us who have color vision impairments. I cannot tell the difference between the red banners and the green banners in this game, and am forced to tell which is which by memory in scenarios where the ambiguity arises. I figure spray painting the figures in different shades of red/green will allow me to tell the difference at a glance.
I also find the separate information cards irritating, and would prefer a single sheet which summarizes the different kinds of units and terrain. Throughout, Days of Wonder opted for flash instead of practicality when it came to the materials in this game. Take the dice: why couldn't they have used different symbols for light, medium, and heavy units? Would that have been so difficult? As it is, I have to have my opponent tell me whether the symbols I rolled are red or green. Grrrr! Also, on the summary card, mounted units are called "Long Sword" units. Elsewhere, they are called "Mounted". A little consistency would have been nice. All these little details, despite the lavish production, are really irritating as they create confusions which hamper actually *playing* the game. If someone were to express interest in the Commands and Colors system, I would not hesitate to recommend that they pick up Ancients instead of BattleLore if only for the reason that the production of Ancients is streamlined in a way that makes it easy to learn and play the game. Usefulness trumps glitz.
Other than that, it's a good game. Familiarity with Ancients allowed me to get over the irritations here, but in the end I prefer Ancients. BattleLore emphasizes chance over skill as compared to Ancients, and I don't care for this. Confronted with both games, I will always choose to play Ancients.
Have played both packaged versions and homemade pencil and paper. Players take turns guessing coordinates in an attempt to locate and "destroy" their opponent's ships. It's not much of a "game", but then again, neither is Memory - yet I still get stuck playing it every once in a very long while (with kids!).
This is a solid "I'll play it if I'm in the mood" kind of game. With the right crowd, it can be a lot of fun. Although: it can drag on for just too long even *with* the right crowd, and some early player elimination can leave players with little to do. The game isn't nearly as maintenance-heavy as something like Arkham Horror, and isn't nearly as fiddly (in general) as some make it out to be. Sure, there are some ambiguous places in the rules with respect to the scenarios, but it's easy to just make a house rule and move forward. I think Betrayal actually does a very good job of capturing the table-top role-playing vibe.
The original Balderdash was a better game by a good deal, I think, and as a party game, I rate it much higher than Beyond Balderdash. If you don't have a copy of either, I would recommend playing Fictionary, as described in Bruno Faidutti's Ideal Game Library. This kind of game is truly hilarious with the right group of people - escpecially when 2 or 3 are intoxicated. (I hate saying that, and do not say it to encourage drinking - but mildly intoxicated people do come up with hilarious word definitions.) The original Balderdash is essentially a formalized version of Fictionary.
Beyond Balderdash diminishes the fun, in my opinion, by introducing categories other than word definitions. The three or four times we've played it, it just fell flat when compared to the original.
My wife enjoys this game a lot. She likes the competetive "crap on your neighbor" element, and it's fun to build a city together. Big City is a fairly light game, and once you've played it a few times, you'll have the basic strategies down. There aren't many emergent strategies which depend upon player choices, but that's alright. It's a fun, competitive game well-suited for an end-of-long-day play. The bits are great too. In Big City, players take turns playing property cards, which allow them to place properties. If you can manage to collect and then play adjacent cards, you can play double and triple properties for more points. There are a variety of special properties beyond the basic homes and businesses, including churches, factories, banks, and so on. Each has either an effect on scoring neighboring properties (factories and parks) or can only be played in certain places (churches, cinemas, etc.). There is also a streetcar players are able to build, which benefits certain kinds of properties. The level of complexity here is about that of Carcassonne, although there is more planning involved.
We've found that increasing the number of players makes the game more chaotic, more tactical and less strategic, and increases run-away-leader problems. But it's still fun, so it gets played.
Blackjack is one of those games that I doubt I would play outside of a gambling environment. It just doesn't work that well without the fiduciary incentive. That said, it is a very good gambling game, although not as good as Poker or Mah-Jong. I rate it a 4, meaning that I would play it - but I think I would only play it to gamble. Ironically, I don't really gamble - for gain or for entertainment. (To have played over 100 hands, clearly there *was* a time when I did play it for entertainment and/or gain!) So, although I "would" play it, I doubt I will ever play it again.
Great for 2 or 4 players. Things get a little funky with 3. Why? Well, if you play by "the rules", then there is always a ghost player, whose turn is taken by the living players in turns. Because of starting positions and player order, a perfectly balanced game fails to result. This is irritating in an abstract. So, we often play without the ghost player. But even then, there is an unbalancing because two players will have an unprotected flank. I should add that we primarily play this variant with a child.
Blokus is a pretty good abstract if you enjoy lighter abstracts. It has lost a lot for me over time, however. I find that if I'm remotely in the mood to play, I'd rather play Rumis instead - also a light, reminiscent-of-Tetris abstract, but a better one.
CHILDREN'S RATING: 8. I've described our 3 player variant for playing with a child above. I think most 4 year olds will be able to grasp the rules of this game and have fun placing pieces. Some will begin to grasp the tactical relevance of tile placement. The pieces are also very pretty - appealing to kids as well as adults.
Rumis is a very elegant game of building three dimensional structures. Although Blokus is often likened to Tetris, Rumis actually captures the feeling better in my opinion. And I like playing Rumis a whole lot more than Tetris (or Blokus). Rumis scales really well from 2-4 players, unlike Blokus which is at it's best with four and good with two but loses something with three. The theme is nicely done: players take turns placing blocks to create ancient Incan structures. There are four that come with the game. There are few rules. Primarily, your placements are subject to a height limitation and you must always make contact with one of your own pieces (first play excepted). The structures are constructed upon a Lazy Susan, which conveniently allows players to rotate the project obtain a rather useful change in perspective. Spatial reasoning skills are certainly rewarded here, yet there is a depth (no pun intended) to the game that makes it surprisingly accessible. It's great to play with children, and fun even for adults of differing skill levels. Part of this is due to unexpected results - part of it is due to the nature of building something together with another person. In Rumis, you are working together in a concrete fashion, even though you are trying to get more "points". This cooperative feel creates an environment of kibbitzing: "Oh, I don't know if I'd make *that* move!" Looking forward to many future plays.
Much better than Blokus for me. Rumis still gets the "spatial abstract" nod, simply because it scales so well, plays fast, is interesting, and because you get to build 3-dimensional structures. But Travel Blokus is also fast and fun. Here, we say goodbye to the 2 and 3 player fiddliness of the regular edition, and the Travel Blokus package is excellent. It really *is* designed to take on trips, with little tray for the bits. The play is essentially the same as Blokus, save for the fact that you begin by placing a piece of your choice on a starting square which is offset from the center of the board (as opposed to beginning in the corner). This works very well, kicking off the conflict for territory right away.
There's something addictive about Blue Moon! The games are fast, the system is elegant, and the decks are extremely well balanced. However, if I had to live out my days on a desert island with another person (I'd prefer a dessert island), and I could choose to either take Blue Moon or all my Magic cards, I would take Magic.
The benefits of Blue Moon are that it is easy for beginners to understand, it is very balanced, it is affordable, and it doesn't take much time. If you like Magic, but don't have time to fiddle with decks, you will *probably* enjoy Blue Moon. Further thoughts: a few more plays has seen the Blue Moon wane a bit (I know, bad pun). Granted, we are only playing with the base decks, but deck familiarity and tactical repetition are dragging the game down. Next time we want to play cards, we will probably play Magic. I still think Blue Moon is a good game, and the rules are very clean. As a system, it's rather elegantly balanced, and the see-saw action if fun.
Even further thoughts: this game is definitely worth owning, but just isn't going to see the table that often. My wife refers to it as "dumb Magic" - not as an insult, but simply as a way of explaining that it employs some similar mechanics (and is fun as a result) while managing to be a much simpler game. If you find the complexity of Magic exciting, Blue Moon can be a let-down (although in a world without Magic, I would likely acquire all the Blue Moon expansion decks and rate the game higher). Playing Blue Moon makes us want to play Magic, and in the end, I've found that the conflict resolution in Blue Moon is not as satisfying. Between well matched players, the victory seems to be a matter of luck. There is no room in the game to develop much of a different long term strategy, and so it is simple for two good players to consistently make optimal or near optimal decisions to "work the system". Winning is robbed of its excitement.
With an unknown opponent, I'd rather play Scrabble. Scrabble introduces enough luck to level the playing field a bit. The problem with Boggle is that if one player trounces the other in the erudition and pattern recognition departments, the game is very lopsided (i.e. NOT fun!). With two well matched opponents, Boggle just shines. There's no downtime. Games are quick (there's an hourglass timer, after all), but you can always play many rounds. And it's fun to see the different words that you and your opponent can find. I'm always impressed by the amazing words my wife can find in this game.
Caesar and Cleopatra is a solid two player game, oddly reminiscent of Battle Line (action cards = tactics cards, patrician cards = flags), although it is more fiddly than Battle Line and generally not as good. The players take turns playing action cards (like the tactics cards of Battle Line, they tend to do nasty things which make it difficult for one's opponent to win the cards under contention) and influence cards. Influence cards are simply numbered cards which are played on the patrician cards, with the top card typically being won by whomever has the greatest sum of influence cards. I think the theme is well done here, and am mature enough and educated enough to understand that sometimes, well, there isn't any politcal activity because there's an ORGY instead! Like many of the ancient Greeks, the Romans were fascinated with mystery cults, and orgies were certainly an aspect of worship/indoctrination. Every turn in the game, you flip a card from a deck revealing either a vote of confidence from one of the patrician types, or a card which says "orgy today: no vote". It's a slightly humorous, as well as historical touch, and there isn't any tasteless card art or anything. Kudos also to some of the Roman names, such as Oculus Myopus, and so on. They're a hoot. When it comes down to it, though, Hera and Zeus is a much better game for my money. I like the multiple routes to victory, and the psychological dimensions of that game do not feel contrived as they do here. Alternately, I would play Battle Line in the game "space". Caesar and Cleopatra is one of the better titles in the Kosmos two player line, however, and it might be the thing for you if games like Battle Line, Hera and Zeus, or LotR: tC aren't scratching your two-player itch.
Good times back in the mid-80's! Great theme, fun battles. At that age, it didn't have the staying power of D&D, or Risk, etc. - probably because playing the game ended up being just a string of unconnected battles. But it was fun anyway! The different booklets with equipment and regional information were humorous and full of character.
Carcassone is a light, relaxing game. In Carc, players take turns placing a single tile which might depict a farm and a road, a city, or a cloister - or a combination of these. Then you have the option of placing a meeple on your tile (as a knight, bandit, monk, or farmer - depending upon whether you put him on a city, road, cloister, or farm); and then there's some scoring business. There is something very pleasurable about slowly building the French countryside with others, and the scoring mechanism is ingenious. Learning when to deploy farmers takes a bit of strategizing. Now don't get me wrong, there is real strategy at work here - Carc just "feels" kind of light to me. This makes it an ideal game for social play. Skill matters (some anyway), but you don't feel that you have to watch the play like a hawk to perform well. My rating for this game includes a slight variant we use: we add the river tiles in with the rest (as opposed to playing them all at the beginning or leaving them out) and then use them to "screw your neighbor." Try it! It adds a little bit of ruthlessness to the bucolic setting.
There was a time when I rated Carc higher, and I do think it is a great game. But I've now played it sooooo many times, it's become a little stale. For a strategic game, I find myself desiring something a lot meatier, with greater control.
CHILDREN'S RATING: 8
This is fun to play with even very small kids too - just remove/simplify the scoring and play it primarily as an edge-matching game.
At first blush, I liked this better than the original (plus its various neverending expansions). H&G plays a little more viciously with two. In the original, we threw the river tiles into the mix and used them to stymie one another (or 3rd, 4th, etc. opponents). But H&G has "screw your neighbor" tiles built in - such as the tigers (which eat deer, depriving your hunters (kind of like farmers in the original) of catching those deer; and the sacred shrine tile; and the way the whole river/lake tile subset is structured. H&G is less a leisurely stroll in a bucolic setting, and more a "nature red in tooth and claw" kind of game. So it works much better for us as a two player, and I suspect as a multiplayer as well.
The feel of the game is very "Carcassonne". In many ways, it is fundamentally the same game, and hence deserves its name. But there are enough differences in H&G to warrant a look if you like Carcassone.
Update: Upon further play, I now prefer the original. If I'm really in the mood for a more cut-throat games, I prefer something that isn't from the Carcassonne family. H&G can hurt to look at after a while, as the graphics are bright and busy. I guess I just prefer the "feel" and elegance of the original.
I think it's hilarious that the "You Might Also Enjoy..." section lists Queen's Necklace in bold. Ha! They do not seem at all similar to me.
In Carcassonne - The Castle, players are placing tiles inside a walled perimeter, which also cleverly serves as the scoring track. Tile placement is a little different than vanilla Carc, but easy enough to pick up. There is an interesting tactical element in that certain bonus tiles are located in key places along the scoring track, and you get these special tiles if you are the first to land on them. So it can pay to get a specific amount of points at certain points in the game. I like the fact that this version of Carc is a little bit more thought-intensive than other versions, but we've discovered a problem with it when contrasted with regular Carcassonne. In Carcassonne, you have the ability to make a strong comeback at the end if you play the farming game well. In Carc the Castle, a player who establishes a truly dominant lead early is pretty likely to win - so much so that the end game is extremely anti-climactic about 50% of the time. Some games, we're just tempted to quit after playing 2/3 of the game. That's no fun.
My favorite out of all Carcassonne games. The mechanics are just like the base game, but there is some added complexity in scoring which makes the game more interesting. I also find that, with four, the game plays close which is a sign of good balance. In vanilla Carc, there is too often a run-away leader problem.
Carcassonne is already a light game infused with plenty of luck. This expansion exacerbates those aspects of the game, so if you like even more randomness, you'll enjoy the Princess and the Dragon. Although I'm finding that this is more and more *not* what I personally enjoy, this expansion can be quite fun. Pulling the right tiles allows you to eat meeples with the dragon and using the princess allows you to kick meeples out of cities. For a low scoring variant of Carc with lots of see-sawing, this expansion can't be beat. It certainly livens up the base game with some fun elements!
This is my favorite Carcassonne expansion. I like the fact that, as an expansion, it "recognizes" the nature of the base game and runs with it, instead of pretending that the base game is some hugely strategic brain burner and adding some faux-bells and whistles in "that" vein.
I only find this expansion to be worthwhile when played to create a "screw your neighbor" mechanic - as described in base entry. You don't get a completed river playing this way, but it's fun! I'd probably only rate the river expansion a 6 if playing it as intended in the rules.
Well, I've played this classic enough times now to give it a firm rating. I have to choose giving it a 3 because I really don't want to play it again. For starters, it's actually a rather long game given its very narrow decision tree. In Settlers, you roll the dice, and players with wooden blocks bordering tiles receive goods if the numbers on the tiles match the number on the dice. You also get opportunities to trade five different types of good, and an opportunity to build things. Building things gets you victory points, and the first player to ten victory points wins. Once your initial little houses or villages or whatever have been placed, it's in your best interests to focus on upgrading them to cities (which give you double goods on the correct dice rolls), build the longest road (which gives you a couple bonus points), and build more villages. But the game offers little in the way of long term strategy. You simply hope the rolls are good, try to get others to trade you what you need, and grind on. Of course, this simplicity is also what makes Settlers easy to teach, and has been a contributor to its success as a gateway game.
Settlers is an impressive game in some ways, foremost in that it's accessible. It also introduces gamers to trading, odds, and the concept of victory points. But it suffers from too many liabilities compared to the games it inspired. For me, it's kind of brain dead. I would much rather play one of Teuber's other games. There aren't many interesting decisions. Assuming a table of reasonably intelligent players, way too much of the outcome rests on initial village placement. So much so, that I now have no interest in playing. This isn't sour grapes on my part, but last game I played I had to watch my wife and one other player twiddle their thumbs for an hour because although they were still "playing" Settlers, they had no chance to win. None. Zip. It was like playing Monopoly when one player is clearly dominating, and everyone's just going through the motions until the end game condition has been met. This is a massive strike against Settlers, even more damning than the anemic play.
My new favorite "children's game". Even so, I can't believe I'm rating this so highly - but then I carefully consider the playing the game, and always conclude that I really, really like it! There is a small memory element, but unlike most children's games, Chateau Roquefort does not feature memory as its primary game mechanism. It's really more of a puzzle game based on action points. You can do four things on your turn, including removing roof tiles (to see the location of various cheeses), moving your mice, and sliding the underlying tiles (to move cheese and trap other mice). This game rewards clever tactical play, has gorgeous components, and is equally accessible to children and adults. In fact, it is a VERY enjoyable game for an all adult group. It's quick and in my opinion, slightly heavier than your classic filler. In other words, it is an ideal warm up game. And my daughter is bonkers about it. I want to go play it right now!
CHILDREN'S RATING: 10 If you have kids age 6+, get this game.
Okay to play with kids. Laskers is infinitely better as a variant to play with adults on the same board. With Checkers, I've played the best AI I can find, and I just feel like I've played it all out. Checkers is really borderline broken, as two decent players frequently stalemate.
I've never enjoyed Chess all that much. An occasional game can be fun, and I like plenty of abstract games, but Chess always seemed a little blah for me. I'd always choose to play Pente, or especially Go. For something mechanically closer to Chess, I'd choose Hive. I am not denigrating the game, it is a classic and deeply strategic. It just isn't to my taste as much as these others.
Citadels can be played by 2-7 players, but with 5 or more, our games have bogged down horribly. After playing some fun 3 and 4 person games, I actually turned some newbies OFF to European games by trying to play a six person game of Citadels.
And the game gets really predictable with 2 players. So, I'd play it with 3 or 4 if requested. Those games were a hoot. It can be a lot of fun, but I still don't like the downtime.
Clue is decent fun, but there are just too many superior games out there now for it to compete. Scotland Yard, Mystery of the Abbey, and Fury of Dracule are all games with deduction that might interest fans of Clue. So why would I ever play it? Maybe under a lot of duress from my daughters - fortunately, they'd rather play better games.
Colossal Arena isn't a bad game, but it isn't much fun for me. Like some of Knizia's other games, this one manages to exude a dry-ish mechanical feel even though it's chalk full of monsters and mythological creatures. At it's heart, it's a numbers game where the cards provide for a limited ability to bend the rules in different ways. It's put together in a rather clever way, but neither I nor my pals had much fun with it. My wife describes CA thus, "It's lame." That pretty much kills it.
C&C: Ancients: when men were men, and elephants stomped all over them.
The Punic, or Phoenician, culture survives today in fragments. It provided the basic alphabet which became Greek in one location, and Arabic in another. Some have likened the Phoenicians to the Vikings of the Mediterranean, as they traveled widely and had a strong impact on local cultures, but didn't leave much in the way of written records for the scholars who would later write history books. Alexander spelled the end of Phoenician culture in the Middle East, yet Carthage in Northern Africa remained a stronghold of Punic religion, language, and culture. C&C: Ancients, is primarily a system - a system recreating ancient warfare. In the base game, the first few scenarios pit Carthage against Syracuse. Carthage was trading all over Sicily between 500 and 300 BC, and settling some on the western end of the island. The Greeks had also sent settlers. Settlers from Corinth established Syracuse, which would later rival Athens herself as a power in the region, and there was often conflict between the Hellenes and Carthage. The rest of the scenarios in the base game depict the Second Punic War, in which Hannibal marched up through Spain, across the mountains, and down into Italy (unfortunately feasting on elephant meat part of the way). The scenarios also depict the brilliance of Publius Scipio the Younger, who came to be called Scipio Africanus after his victories in Africa - the one at Zama ultimatley defeating Hannibal. Even though the scenarios here (all of which are assymetrical battles by the way) mostly allow the players to re-live the Second Punic War, one quickly sees that Borg's system will be able to nicely accomodate other ancient battles with ease.
Some grognards may call Ancients (perhaps derisively) a "lite" wargame. Sure, it doesn't take 6 hours to play, and involve a thousand fiddly components. But for me, I don't want that level of complexity, and I don't have the luxury of the free time necessary for those kinds of games - though I suspect I would enjoy some of them. Ancients boasts a degree of simplicity not found in many wargames, although it is apparently more complex than Battle Cry and Memoir 44, two earlier productions which bear a family resemblance to Ancients. In philosophy and science, simplicity is always in a theory's favor. It is a factor if excellence, such as explanatory power, or predictive ability. I think simplicity is also a virtue in game design, and here it helps Ancients shine. The game can be learned quickly, and you aren't going to forget the rules after a few plays.
The game boasts a great balance between abstraction and concreteness, as well as the kind of blend between luck and planning which I seem to favor. Unit movement is controlled by cards, and battle is resolved by die roles. So chance enters in prominently - but it is a sort of balanced chance - balanced by the differences between units and the distribution of cards in the deck. The challenge then becomes, much as it did in genuine ancient warfare, the flexibility of the minds behind the opposing sides. Competent generalship is more than planning well, it is being able to adapt successfully to change, all the while under tremendous pressure. Playing Ancients gives me the feeling of being able to exercise just such a virtue - although I do not claim to do it well!
Each scenario attempts to recreate the conditions of a particular historical battle, and so one side usually has an advantage (just as in life). Players can each switch sides in a given session if they wish. Or, like me, you can keep playing the underdog until victorious, darn it! The game is certainly a lot of fun if you simply approach the scenarios with a relatively blank mind. However, if you are interested in history and allow the scenarios to engage your imagination with respect to the flow of events and the setting, Ancients is the kind of game that you will have dreams about - during your sleep, and even your waking hours. The game also inspires the "just one more game" syndrome; this is a hallmark of my favorite games. It's safe to say that I might rate this a tad lower if it were the exact same system but some different theme. I *really* enjoy the ancient military angle.
Now I've said a lot of nice things, yet there is one thing about C&C:A which some people find off-putting, and that is how chance works in the game. Because you rely on a card draw to move units in the three parts of the battlefield (right, center, left), it is possible that you may have no cards to move left-flank units. Well, that isn't strictly true, as most cards will allow you to move a single unit of your choice if you can't perform the operation on the card. More accurately, luck of the draw may not provide you with any *good* options for moving your left-flank units. For players who like a large degree of control, and want to be able to move each unit at their discretion, this can be frustrating. Columbia's block games might be preferable to such a player, as you draw a card indicating the number of units you can move - but you can move *any* units you like, anywhere on the battlefield. I do not think inability to do this is a flaw in C&C:A, precisely. It's simply a matter of mechanical preference that will impact certain players' enjoyment of the game.
Component-wise, the blocks initially take a loooong time to sticker, but a) you can use this as meditation time, and b) the result is worth it. The blocks provide an excellent feeling, and fit the ancient period well. The dice, I could do without. I can't keep them on the table, it seems, and I hope better dice become available. The cards are excellent - stiff and with clear type and crisp art. Saying the box is stiff would do an injustice to the box. The lovely, glossy box which houses Ancients is the mightiest game box I have ever met. I could stand on it, and my forebears had names like "Trond the Red Menace" and "Lars Axe-Hurler". I like the artistic design, much of it done by the same artists who worked on Battle Line. The board is okay, it's thin but solid cardboard. I would pay extra for a nice mounted board, however. I'm looking forward to the expansions for this game.
My only real desire, however, is that I knew more people who liked to play this. Oh, here are some rules which are important, but which many either forget or get wrong:
1. A defending unit can ignore one retreat flag if there are two or more adjacent units, and may also ignore one retreat flag if a leader is attached to the defending unit. The total possible number of flags a unit can ignore is two. 2. If a unit retreats, but is blocked and so cannot move, and loses one or more blocks as a result but is still adjacent to the attacking unit, the retreated unit may battle back! 3. If a unit has an attached leader and that unit makes a momentum advance, it may attack again (because it has a leader) - even if it could not normally do so. 4. Read the rules for making checks on hitting leaders and everything about elephants very carefully.
Gripes: still crappy plastic dice, no mounted board or new terrain tiles, very few new unit types (again, with the caveat: some of these units will only show up in expansions), very high price for what amounts to some new scenarios and mostly superfluous wooden blocks (could have just used blocks from the base game - making the expansion cost around $8.
Kudos: the player aids are really nice, I like the new colors, and the game is just a lot of fun. As has been pointed out many times, the historical accuracy of the scenarios is not as perfected as possible. However, C&C:A provides a great feel for ancient combat in what is the most fun war game I have every played. You can also play a game in a reasonable time frame, which makes this a great game for those who have a lot of time constraints.
I do not think this expansion is a "good value" unless you a) love the base game, and b) also love anything having to do with ancient Greek/Macedonian warfare. If you meet (a) and (b), get this game! Otherwise, stick with the base game.
Thank goodness Valley Games has made high quality wooden dice available, and at a great price too.
As with Tic-Tac-Toe, Connect Four is broken - but of course, that doesn't count as an excuse to a four year old. In Connect Four, players take turn dropping discs into the game board in an attempt to get four in a row.
Cribbage is a game I have played with family since I was very young. In the game, each player attempts to complete two circuits (on a standard board) by leapfrogging two pegs. Pegs are advanced by playing cards. Card distribution has a Blackjack-like feel to it, and allows each player to influence the course of the game. Cribbage has a strong luck component, but skill also plays a role. In some ways, Cribbage reminds me of Backgammon: a classic game where skill is important, but where there is also a bit of luck. Cribbage plays quickly, is fun, and prompts further play.
Sahara. The hot desert winds thunder across the sand sea, blasting spray off the peaks of the waves in imitation of maritime whitecaps. Sahara. Bedouin gather with good cheer at the oasis, deeply thankful for its water and date-fruit. Sahara. Small lizards and snakes eke out an existence on its periphery - this is their home. Sahara. Now, my own friends and family can cling the experience tightly to their own chests. http://www.crokinoleworld.com/crokinole_gallery/Sahara.jpg
Crokinole is the best dexterity game I have ever played, and that includes such non-board games as bowling, billiards, shuffleboard, croquet, darts, and lawn darts. PitchCar is fun, especially for large groups, but Crokinole is intense. Play is full of suspense, surprise, and satisfaction. Playing on a fantastic Hilinski board doesn't hurt, either.
Perhaps in another life (or if I were retired), CR would have gotten more love. We just don't have the time to play it, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we aren't willing to make the time. The rules are *just* complex enough that they cannot be easily memorized by infrequent plays, which means we'd have to relearn the game every time we want to play. I must say though, that I like the "feel" of the game. The background information is excellent. I traded this away, but I would have kept it if the rules had been just a little more streamlined. Later rule changes mixed things up even further, and it became hard to recall which rules were correct.
For the price of the game, I expected better quality cards and a better board (both art-wise and thickness-wise). The blocks/stickers were lovely, however. I find that I'm now getting into longer games, so perhaps I'll acquire another "block" war game sometime soon.
Quite frankly, I enjoy playing Dawn Under more than playing Fury of Dracula - so my rating has to reflect that. (Note: gameplay is nothing alike.) Seriously, this is the best game I've played that strongly features a memory mechanic. In Dawn Under, each player tries to find available coffins (located in a graveyard - spooky!) for his/her vampires before the burning sun climbs over the horizon. 60 vampires are evenly divided between the players, and each arranges them in a row like this: XXOOOOOOOOOOOOXX, where the X's represent upturned vampires and the O's represent hidden (turned down) vampires. (As vampires either enter coffins or go to other players, new vampires are turned up to maintain the "two up on each side" configuration. The first player to successfully place all vampires into empty coffins wins. A player turning up a coffin lid on an occupied coffin must collect a wooden stake. Collect three stakes, and each of your opponents gets to unload one vampire on you. So, a player that keeps blundering into taken coffins will collect more and more vampires from other players. Each player also has three garlic tokens which can be placed into empty coffins (for those situations where you reveal a coffin that does not match the color of one of your available vampires). The garlic acts a little like a bomb - a player that uncovers one must take a vampire from the garlic owner. If the garlic owner stumbles into her own garlic, each other player gives her a vampire. Ouch!
In the early stages of the game, it's a race to find matching coffins. But as the coffins begin to fill, the focus turns more towards avoiding stake collection and strategically placing garlic (and trying to recall where you placed it!). Games progress at a good speed, providing just the right amount of reward for the work required by the game (actually more so, as not that much work is required [complexity wise - memory work is another thing altogether]). The theme is just beautiful. These are the cutest vampires you can imagine, making the game perfect for little kids who like things to be "scary" but who aren't truly ready for serious scares. The coloration is vibrant and fun, the stakes aren't sharpened, and the vampires look like they would give great hugs. The other memory game in our household is Enchanted Forest. I don't see it getting played again. If you have kids, get this game. If you don't, but you like memory games, this is a great one.
Dead Man's Treasure seems to be a Knizia pitched to children, which is appropriate given the level of manufactured randomness. The game, like all Knizia's, has that transparent feeling of being built on an algorithm, but here, the chaos increases as the number of players increase to the point that it is very difficult to make meaningful decisions. Players have very little ability to plan ahead, given the game mechanics, and so winning has very little to do with skill and much to do with luck. This seems right for a children's game about pirates, but I don't think it's much fun. Even assessed as a children's game, there is a problem, and that is that the mechanics themselves are not intuitive/simple enough. One token moves clockwise when you play cards at his location, another moves counter-clockwise. And they only move when a card turns over, and that card is a "pirate" card. Blah blah blah. After playing a few times, the rules are easily understood. Despite the cute pirate art (or perhaps in virtue of it) and despite the fact that Benn Gunn and Captain Flint make appearances, I did not like this game. It feels too much like an "exercise" and the outcome may as well be determined by flipping a coin. (That's a very slight exaggeration, but I'm going to stick with it.) This said, I think it would be decent for kids to play with one another - say a 6 or 7 rating for them (although I won't be playing with them.)
Diamant is a very simple game of "push your luck". There are five turns in the game, each one consisting of a few to several rounds. In each round, each player decides before time whether s/he wishes to be "in" or "out". Then a card is revealed. If the card is a treasure card, all "in" players get an equal share of the booty. There are (I think) 15 treasure cards. Leftover treasure sits on the card. If it is an artifact card, nothing happens. If it is a hazard card, and the first of its type, nothing happens. (There are 3 each of 5 different hazard cards, if I recall.) If the revealed card is the *second* hazard of a given type - that is, one has already been revealed this round - then all players who are "in" LOSE all the treasure they have accumulated in the round so far. So as you play deeper into a round, and more hazards appear, you must decide whether staying "in" (and the chance of getting even more treasure) justifies the possibility of losing everything. As soon as you decide to go "out" (return to camp), then you and any other departures travel back along the cards already revealed, splitting any leftover treasure sitting there. Also, if ONLY on person leaves, and an artifact has been revealed, that player gets to claim the artifact as his own. When you go "out" you place your treasure (in the Incan Gold version) under you card tent, and you cannot lose it. It's yours until the end of the game.
Diamant/Incan Gold is a very simple game with two prominent elements: 1) figuring your odds based upon deck composition and what has already been revealed, and 2) bluffing your opponents/doing the unexpected. You must balance (1) with (2) to win. You have to make prudent decisions, but you also (ideally) would like to see the other players chickening out and leaving you to get all the treasure, or conversely: you bail out when the time is right, and they lose everything.
This game gets much better with more players, which makes it a nice party game. It also seems great for kids, as the mechanics are simple, there is basic math (learning is fun!), there is good tension, and it's fun! But it isn't a very satisfying game for me. That is to say, it's a filler. It's a *good* filler, but I don't generally think filler games are the bees' knees. Even so, I would recommend this game to pretty much anybody, simply because it is so good as a filler and because anyone can play.
To my mind, Domaine represents the perfection of a certain (very ubiquitous) sort of designer game: that game in which one must focus on developing a financial base early in order to exercise the military and political options later which will assure victory. In this way, Domaine is like Puerto Rico - one needs to figure out a way to make some money to enable to key construction. Money must come first. In Domaine, this means getting a mine or two in a small domaine along the edge of the board or in a corner. If a player can achieve this, then she will be a contender. I enjoy Domaine more than Puerto Rico though. I like the direct conflict, the organic feel of expanding and contracting domaines, and the transparency of planning. What do I mean by "transparency of planning"? I mean that, if you examine your situation closely, you needn't *guess* about what you need to do to win! You can see some clear options, some riskier than others, some offensive to particular players and not others, and some cheaper than others. Several successful "routes" to victory seem to fall out of the game design into your lap, and then YOU get to decide what you should do. This makes Domaine rather exciting! Puerto Rico also has this element, in that you can go for a "corn strategy" or a "factory strategy" or whatever. I like Domaine more, though.
Domaine also reminds me of Tigris and Euphrates, in that the focus of play is these little kingdoms which can be broken up, expanded, and diminished. Contrasting T&E though, Domaine's game play is a bit more intuitive and straightforward.
Every turn in Domaine, you can either play a card or sell a card. How is that for parsimony? It costs to play a card, and though you begin with some money, you'll soon be required to "waste" a turn selling a card. This highlights why early mine ownership is so vital. Mines provide you with money every turn, reducing the number of turns you must spend selling cards. By getting to play more cards than other players, you've just secured a nice advantage for yourself. You may not lead in early scoring, but that doesn't matter. Focus on generating your economy first! Wealth combined with careful choice of cards from the Chancery are crucial to success - although I don't mean to diminish good card play at their expense! The cards allow you to do things like: build walls to create domaines, add knights to the board, cause enemy knights to desert their lords to join YOU, force alliances between two neighboring domaines, and expand your domaine directly by bumping out its borders.
A final caveat, though, to the wondering buyer of this out of print game (why isn't this in print? it's great!) is that the level of conflict is very high. (I *like* this in a game, but many people do not. Know thyself.) Options abound to screw other players over pretty severely, and you may *have* to in order to win. This is the ultimate crap on your neighbor game, because it's very likely you will defecate upon them all before the game is concluded. Pardon my scatological metaphor, but I'm a metaphorical thinker, and I'm sticking to this one (no pun intended). As a special treat, in my first game, another player rendered one of my domaines stillborn by leaving me no room to add a knight and no room to expand into neutral territory - and the comment was made that my domaine had been "pinched off".
After many games of Dominion with different groups of people, it's become one of those games I'd play if a group wanted to, but don't feel like I need to own a copy of. It's a neat game. You are gradually building the deck with which you are playing the game. So as the composition of your deck changes, the gameplay changes. Dominion gives players extensive feedback as to how well they are playing, and I like this about the game. What I'm not so keen on is the pride of place given to efficiency. I don't not mean to compare Dominion to Race for the Galaxy, because in most ways they aren't comparable - but imagine if Race for the Galaxy only had a single method to ending the game (victory point depletion) and only a single winning condition (most victory points earned through consumption). If this were so, I wouldn't enjoy Race nearly so much because the game would have been reduced to efficiency at this single task. And that's how Dominion feels to me. Yes, every blend of cards lends itself to slightly different strategies. But the end is always the same. Tightest deck wins. I do think it is a pretty darn good game. It's just that whenever we're talking about what to play and Dominion comes up, the feeling is always "meh".
Another "okay for passing the time" game. There are a variety of games you can play with dominoes, and you can stack them in long lines and have fun knocking them down.
CHILDREN'S RATING: 6.5
This game earns a decent children's rating because so many ways of playing it are very accessible to little ones. And in many variants, there is such a strong luck element that they can win their fair share of games.
I did only rate this a 4, but I've recently been playing a lot of variations with my daughter - and as a kids game, I definitely have to bump this up to a 6.5. With some variants, there can also be so okay strategy.
The Downfall of Pompeii is an entertaining social entry into the gaming field. It's very light, and chance plays a tremendous role despite the appearance of self-determination. Around a table of roughly equal players, the winner will be determined largely by chance and by who chooses to victimize whom when the Omen cards are drawn. If you try to play this game competitively and strategically, you are in for a major let down. So don't. Instead, just kick back, throw screaming meeples hex-cylinders into the volcano, and have some fun. It's a relaxing social game which doesn't make you think too hard, and plays very quick. In other words, Downfall is a great filler. Personally, I don't want to play fillers that often, so no matter how excellently they are designed I can't get all that jazzed about playing them. I just really groove on mental stimulation - but this game is a perfect breath of fresh air if you need a break from intensity. It is also an excellent game to play with kids, as your masterplans can be easily foiled, thus allowing a little bit of youth victory to occur now and then. So it's much better as a family game than many Euros.
Well, add me to the list of fans! I like this game because it executes a roll and move mechanic with success, and I suppose I'm nostalgic about roll and move. But that's the least of why it's a great game. Every turn, I find myself wanting to do more than I actually can. So far, with 2, 3, and 4 players, this game has managed to maintain very good tension throughout. There are really two reasons for this. 1. As mentioned, you just cannot do all you would like. 2. Unless you have a photographic memory and pay close attention to your opponents, you may not know who is "in the lead", because the items you collect for points are hidden behind a screen. In Drachenland, each player moves three companions (an elf, a human, and a dwarf - I think) amongst a landscape dotted with volcanoes. Each player has a blue, red, and green companion - and only the proper companion can collect sapphires (blue), rubies (red), and emeralds (green). Anyone can collect dragon eggs. All these things reside in volcanoes. The most points are awarded for complete sets, that is one egg, and one of each gemstone. BUT, for a given kind of gem to count, the corresponding companion must also obtain a magic ring. So there is a race to get these rings before the game ends (when all the eggs have been collected). There are a few different viable strategies to win, involving opponent denial, etc., that I will not detail but only mention in passing (hey, I just did that!).
CHILDREN'S RATING: 9
I call this game "Tigris and Euphrates for kids", primarily because of the scoring mechanism (which is surprisingly similar), but also because Drachenland is classic Knizia. If you have a budding strategy gamer child, like I do, this game is AWESOME. I have not heard another request for Enchanted Forest since Drachenland arrived in the house (not that EF is terrible or anything - I just enjoy Drachenland much more). The game really draws kids in with the (ahem) rolling of "destiny cubes" - and the "tower of destiny" likewise adds flavor and fun to rolling them! You get to collect dragon eggs and little gems, both of which are irresistible little toys. Sometimes, if you roll a 4, you get to fly to a different volcano on the back of a dragon. What could be better? But keep in mind that all this good stuff is trapping. The base game is a Knizia - I'm sure there's a mathematical algorithm (or many) resting under there somewhere. So while this game may not appeal to the Candyland crowd of rollers-and-movers, if you are a European boardgamer, and your kid(s) like some of your games, this one is worth a shot.
I'm basing my rating here on distant memories. I got this game as a present when it was originally released (and I was a "tween"). I loved it, but had a hard time getting siblings and parents to play it. (They prefer Monopoly.) I had fun playing it, though, and preferred it to any of the household games.
Ha ha! Now I own it! We've played it about 5 times, and while I love the art, I'm not sure that the winner isn't largely determined by chance. The apparent futility of choice means that it's significantly less satisfying to play this than, say, Tichu. We haven't yet played with the full on, advanced rule set though, so perhaps that changes things up.
Dreamblade is what Chess should be, at least for me. Even though it's a very different game, there is a Chess-like feel to moving your pawns about and engaging the other player. Dreamblade is fantasy Chess done right - Dungeon Twister, by comparison (for me), is fantasy Chess done wrong. Success in Dungeon Twister relies upon planning, planning, planning - as far ahead as you can. The better you are at seeing massive decision trees in your head, the better you will do. This doesn't make it a "bad" game, I just find that I do not enjoy it. Dreamblade, on the other hand, relies upon (a) putting together a good warband - whether via drafting or pre-selection, (b) making the right spawn choices at the right times, and (c) moving into and holding strategically valuable positions. The variability of the miniatures adds a level of interest to the game, a bit of welcome Magic-ification, yet Dreamblade is a much more straightforward sort of game than Magic. Partly, this is due to the fact that your opponent can see what units you have right off the bat. There is no hidden information.
On your turn, you can either "shift" your on-board units by moving each one by one cell, or you can "strike" with any units you choose - if they share cells with enemy units. Combat is resolved through dice rolls, and is well implemented. There's great tension, and at least the possibility that your master strategic plan will be foiled. Unit abilities and traits allow for some cool interactions. Make no mistake: Dreamblade is a pretty cerebral game, hence mentions of Dungeon Twister and Magic. And although I'll always be a huge Magic fan, there's room in the clubhouse for Dreamblade too.
The only con is that it is collectible. (grrrr.) This is really a double-edged sword, as the variation of units helps make the game so interesting, but it also elevates the cost to play if you want to have a good selection of units. Fortunately, the rare units aren't all that much better than many of the uncommons, and so you can put together pretty awesome warbands without rares. And you can pick up lots of commons and uncommons on eBay for decent prices.
Druidenwalzer takes the mechanics of Mancala, and jazzes them up a bit. The theme is bizarre but fun - but figuring out the whole clockwise/counterclockwise movement and so on can be a headache. The game represent a pagan-ish forest ritual featuring dancing satyrs and so on. It's cute and has nice bits. This IS a fun game if you don't mind doing a fair bit of calculation, but I personally prefer the simplicity of Mancala.
It's a neat concept, and mechanically it works very well. I also like the different piece abilities, and the maze-like theme. What I don't enjoy is the feeling of playing chess wherein parts of the board can change orientation at times. Dungeon Twister requires the far-seeing planning of Chess, but even if your brain is Big Blue, you will have a hard time computing all the possible permutations because of the "twisting" element. So the game "appears" amenable to analysis, but allows much less analysis than you might think. For me, this difference between appearance and reality leads to constant frustration, and robs the game of much of its fun. Should I play it analytically? If so, there are too many permutations possible for my puny brain to even work 3 moves ahead. Should I play it intuitively? If so, there isn't much to recommend moving one pawn over another. Playing Dungeon Twister makes me feel like my personality is being split in two - and not in a good way. I can tell that my wife would hate it without her having played it.
Overall, good fun, and I enjoy the Mancala movement mechanic. Druidenwalzer employs the same kind of mechanic, but is more of a brain burner. Emerald is the kind of excellent family game that allows parents to cut their kids some slack (if called for) while playing more cut-throat tactics with one another. In Emerald, each player moves her knights through the fields and then into the Emerald's cave; if the knight ends up sharing a space with Emerald, he must pay her a gold bribe or be fed to her hatchling! Players can move one or two knights per turn (and they move exactly as in Mancala), but taking a gold/gem card ends the player's turn even if doing so occurs on the move of the first knight. You see, every time a knight lands in a cave space, that knight must draw a gold OR gem card. If the knight lands in the same space with Emerald, the die is cast and Emerald moves. Wherever Emerald ends up - THAT is where any local knight must either bribe her or become lunch.
This game captures the feel of running the gauntlet, and basically provides much the same game as Mancala but features the option to play with 2-5 and is really just more fun.
You know, Empire Builder presents a clean system. It isn't un-fun. It just takes too LONG to play. If the playtime were reduced, I could see pulling this out again. I realize that the time it takes to play a game is one of those factors where people vary widely with respect to what they accept/tolerate and what they like. For me, Empire Builder is too long. Although the box says ages twelve and up, my eight year old played this competitively with us.
Move around. Look under trees to reveal trinkets. Try to remember where the trinkets are. Get to the castle. Guess right and keep the trinket. Eh. I can't see playing this with a group of adults, but....
CHILDREN'S RATING: 6.5
This is a pretty decent children's game, with fairy tale tie-ins and a nice memory component.
Initial rating. This one shows a lot of promise. The rules are overwritten a tad, but once you start playing the game, the simplicity and excellent balance of the rule set is revealed. Lots of fun, lots of tough decisions, lots of tension.
Evo just doesn't grab me. It seems like a great family game (with older children), or a good game to play after a group has whet thier appetite with a TtR or some other intro game. There are a variety of mechanics at play here: bidding, area-control, etc. - but the way they blend together just doesn't excite me. It's like drinking flat Coke. The taste is the same, but without the fizz, I'd rather drink water. (Forget for a moment that I'd rather drink water most of the time anyway!) In Evo, each player is trying to ensure that her herd of dinos survives climactic changes by moving around among jungle, mountain, beach, and hill country. At certain points in the game, players bid on genetic enhancements for their species - such as the ability to better survive cold weather (and so on). I found that Evo produces a fairly tight game, which is great. I also really like how you can put the two halves of the board together in different ways to suit the number of players. What a great concept for keeping the game balanced as you scale up or down in players. Evo isn't going to see a second playing in my house though. It is a good game, but after one play has not generated a "Let's play again" request. It's hard to put my finger on why this is so.
I feel about Expedition much the way I feel about Carcassonne. Of course, the games do not really invite a comparison! So no more about Carc.
In Expedition, players are trying to guide three different geographical expeditions so that they pass through particular locations (which match the cards held by the players). So, on your turn, you place a single arrow, in one of three colors, leading from one location to another. If you (or another player) hits a location matching a card in your hand, you get to play the card down. Play them all down, and the game ends. There are special blue locations which earn you an extra turn, and special red locations which earn you Expedition Tickets. The tickets can be redeemed to place another arrow, or remove the most recent arrow, on any expedition. Each player begins the game with three of these tickets. Each player also uses four tokens on the map to indicate a subset of his/her locations. These tokens add a strategic element, as you want to prevent expeditions from passing through opponents' tokens.
Expedition strikes me as a lightish family game, kind of like Carcassonne (oops, didn't really mean to mention it). There is a nice blend of luck (card draw) and skill. I have the National Geographic edition, which is very attractive and the cards are interesting and informative. Place names are all in the native languages, as much as possible. There are no Chinese characters, and a western alphabet is used for all place names - but the game has a very global feel. Expedition is one of those games I can't help thinking should be part of the average American family's game collection. Maybe then, more than 1 out of 4 Americans could find Iraq on a map.
Expedition is best played with 2-4 people, even though up to 6 can play. With 5 and 6, the game just takes too long, and there is too much downtime. But with 2-4, the timing is tighter, and it's a very enjoyable experience.
I enjoy Factory Fun - we play the bodily fluids version, where blue is water, red is blood, and yellow and brown are...well, I play this version anyway. (My wife prefers that the "substances" are fruity ice cream toppings. Boring!)
Believe me, this really enhances the game, especially given the names of some of the machines, such as the "Megabrowner" and "Packomatic" - hope I got those correct. Poop jokes never grow old!
Anyway, two things can potentially detract from this charming puzzle game: 1) the speed grab for pieces - it makes sense, I can see why the designer chose to deal with machine selection in this way, but our local majority felt that the game would be better simply taking turns with respect to the order of choosing. The way it is, the game rewards the speed of players' pattern recognition, and this can be very frustrating for some. It also doesn't seem to fit the pace of the rest of the game. Also, somewhat ironically, the highest scorers are often those who pick last or next to last, and so we question that order of choice is even that important. UPDATE: I think you can just take turns going first when choosing machines; it doesn't seem to impact play that much. Further UPDATE: Just taking turns choosing works extremely well with two players, but we prefer the speed grab for 3 or more! It makes the game faster and focuses the attention on machine integration, as opposed to selection - this enhances the FUN in Factory Fun. Even further UPDATE: after many. many games, we prefer the speed grab in all situations! Yay for the speed grab! Depending on the players, it can even get a little vicious!
2) Lack of competition - even against the game. Some cooperative games can be said to be competitive, as you are striving together against a tasking game engine. But Factory Fun is a strange bird, so far as games go. It doesn't feel very competitive, even though it is not a cooperative game. As a puzzle game, we often end up sort of cooperatively working on one another's factories - making suggestions and so. This further undermines the "gamey" feeling, making it feel more like a fun group jigsaw or something. This isn't a bad thing - but if you are looking for a "game" to play, this one may miss the mark due to this aspect. After several plays, I've decided that I really like this element of Factory Fun. It's a refreshing change from other games I play.
I think this is a neat game, and always look forward to playing it - especially with varying numbers of players. I will admit that it is a very different kind of game, and my initial impression was "meh". But the more I play it, the more I enjoy it.
The KEY to this game, as with much in life, is maximizing those *machine-to-machine* connections.
Fairy Tale doesn't thrill me. I like the drafting element, but the available strategies are pretty thin. I will definitely keep this one, as I think it is a great transitional game for gaming-inclined kids.
I think this is going to be a solid filler for years to come. If you aren't sure what a good "filler" game should be, play this to find out. For Sale is fun, quick, light, and contains both tactical and strategic decision-making - and an element of trying to second guess other players' choices. This game is never going to be the "event" around which a game night is organized, but its an outstanding starter/filler. The thing about "filler" games is, they may see table time only very infrequently. But I think we'll keep this one - our single "go-to" filler game.
In the first half of the game, players bid up properties in an effort to get the highest value plots at the lowest possible price. In the second half, players participate in a blind bid to secure the most money for their properties. I look forward to playing more of this.
You are a lonely, hideous, little Dwarf. Your name sounds like someone is gargling rocks: "Gerg", "Alfrik", etc. The females of your species are hirsute troglodytes. Cue the Wagner: Freya appears and proclaims that she will trade you her "favors" if only you can make her a bracelet... You've never seen so many Dwarfs mine and jewelcraft so hard. I agree though, mixing it up with the Dwarfs IS Freya's Folly. What is she thinking?!? Fun game.
I'm rating this based on memory. I got the game as a gift when it was first released, but had a hard time finding multiple opponents. I only ever got to play with 2 players, but I really liked the game. I eventually gave it away because I had no one to play it with - now I'm kicking myself, as I have the people to play it with, and I have such fond memories. It actually inspired me to make my own game, well before I was even aware of "German" boardgames. Update: I'll be getting the new FFG version! Thank you, FFG. Update: didn't care for reprint - warm glow of original gets it a higher rating.
Here is another game I would like to be completely ga-ga over, but cannot. Production and theme are both very nice, and we all enjoyed the cat and mouse game of trying to pin down Dracula. The event cards, encounters, movement, and deduction aspects of the game are all fun and well executed. Combat is a morass though. Tedious, time-consuming, and full of checking for modifiers, etc. The game also suffers from being unnecessarily complex for the experience it provides, and too long. We played for three hours, at which point Dracula had two of the needed six points to win (the Hunters were able to diminish a strong early lead on Drac's part), and Dracula was at full strength. Especially frustrating for the Hunters: they had worked to get Dracula right where they wanted him, and he used an Evasion card which allowed him to "teleport" anywhere in Europe. So at nearly three hours, the game basically started over again. Argh! We could have played another good group game three times over by this point. This made playing the game feel pointless.
The rules, while being accurate, are not concise. Part of this can be explained by all the fiddly elements of the game which have to be explained: the day-night counter has to be moved at the beginning of Dracula's turn, and moving to Dawn causes the Vampire track and the Hunter's Resolve track to each increase by one and any Hunter can redeem a Resolve Point to do one of such and such actions, and during combat any Hunter can play a card to modify combat but only at the beginning of combat but only the combating Hunter can play cards affecting combat once combat begins and some encounters can be "matured" to provide extra bonuses for Dracula once they move off his Trail Track but only certain encounters, and Dracula has to play blood points to do certain actions, and so on and so forth. Even with all this, the rules were a bit frustrating. Reading through them, there is a lot of: "...which leads to combat - see page XX for a description of combat." If you are reading the rules trying to get a feel for the sequence of play, this constant "go look at page such and such" is a pain. All of this complexity is for a purpose: Fury of Dracula tries to faithfully recreate the environment of Stoker's Dracula, albeit ten years later. So it makes sense, for example, that you cannot travel as fast by train in Eastern Europe, as the transit system there was less developed during the period. Unfortunately, the complexity introduced by this kind of accuracy detracted from the game for our group.
Combat is accomplished by a combination of dice rolling and card playing, and not only dragged on for too long, but created very little tension. It is no surprise to see people inventing all sorts of combat variants. A system like that used in Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, would have been really excellent here. Too bad.
Cons: - you may need to have the immortality of the undead to last through a game - a lot of complexity for what it delivers - combat not fun - unbalanced by a few cards Pros: - dripping with theme - it really does feel like a hunt for Dracula - the combination of guessing and calculating to discover Dracula's location - beautiful production
To be fair, this is not a board game emerging from the European school of design, where complex strategies emerge from a simple set of rules. It's a big, messy American affair. The original came out in the mid-80s, preceding many of the favorite games on the Geek. I had hoped that this iteration would take advantage of recent developments in design, but it didn't seem to. I desperately want to love this game, but I feel as if I'd have to rework many aspects to get it to play in about 90-120 minutes: new combat system, revision of event card deck, reduction of fiddly simulation elements, and so on. Bottom line is we can have a lot more fun in three hours with other games. I'd like to see FoD get further plays, but I'm going to have to do a lot of convincing to make that happen.
I am really enjoying this game! Each play is divided into two rather distinct phases. In the first, you and your opponents try to build your space ships from the common pool of components before the time runs out. You are competing here not only on the basis of time, but also for choice components, such as shields and large batteries, which are not plentiful. This part of the game is very reminiscent of Factory Fun (which I also like), and I think it's just a blast. Often, the timer runs out and one or more players haven't really finished their ships, so they just have to run with what they have so far.
The second phase of the game involves everyone's ships trying to make it through a gauntlet of obstacles and encounters to reach a destination. This part of the game can be rather hysterical, as heavy cannon fire can shear off whole wings of ships. Invariably, especially in 4 player games, someone will get blasted to bits or only coast in to the finish on inertia (having had all their engines blasted off), or lose their last crew members to slavers.
There is a fair amount of "strategy" in Galaxy Trucker, both in how you construct your ship, and in where you try to position yourself on the journey (ships in the lead position have more opportunities, but also face more dangers). But really, this game is about having fun with your friends. Galaxy Trucker is well worth the cost. We obtained a copy of Pandemic (a super game) at the same time Galaxy Trucker arrived in our house, and when it is just the two of us, my wife has been choosing Galaxy Trucker.
The components are generally good quality, and their variety and abundance explains the price tag. A few of the ship pieces tore a little on being punched out of their frame, which is irritating. I was careful too. Oh well. The box is also not a very good one. I bought the game brand new, and the sides of the box are already bowing. These are quibbles, though, and shouldn't keep you from acquiring this outstanding game.
Ghost Grove is one of the better children's games I have played. There is a small memory element, but it is not a memory game - and *that* is a welcome and refreshing change. Players take turns rolling the die, which has sides showing 1,2, and 3 "eyes", and sides showing a ghost figure. The player can then move any of the "children" figures (one belongs to each player) by the number of eyes, or, if the die shows a ghost, the player can move one of the two ghosts. A ghost goes on top of a player pawn, completely concealing it and preventing it from moving. There is also a giant dwarf on the first space of the board, who magnetically attracts all the player pawns. If you choose to move a pawn forward, and the pawn encounters the dwarf, then the dwarf moves along for the remaining spaces, dragging all attached pawns with it. So if you roll a '3' and choose to move your own pawn three spaces, *if* your pawn is attached to the dwarf along with other pawns, the dwarf will move 3 spaces taking ALL the pawns with it. Early on the movement track there is a log over a river. When the dwarf crosses the log, all attached pawns (children) fall off into the river and swim back to the beginning. So, ideally, one cleverly caps oneself with a ghost before reaching the log! Later on, there is a "sun circle" space, and when the dwarf reaches it the two ghosts clear off temporarily, freeing up captured children. The first player to get his child to the end space ("home") wins.
I apologize for the lame explanation - I'm finding this game tricky to describe. But it isn't complicated. It's very playable by 4 and 5 year olds, for instance, and really a lot of fun. It allows for the possibility of multiple players winning simultaneously, allows for light tactics, and it includes some mild "screwage" very appropriate for children - via immobilizing each other's pawns with the ghost pieces. Trash talk with kids is great playing this game. Ghost Grove plays 2-6, but is definitely superior with more players. It also plays fast, making several repeat plays a pleasure.
Played 3-4 times now - and a nice interactive game. This one seems to have multiple paths to victory, and while negotiation skills play an important part of the game, they aren't everything. Planning and strategy are vital. Need a few more plays before I can write something comprehensive, but so far I like it!
I really did not care for Gheos. The chaos-meter is way to high on this one for me, and that's in a 2 player game! More players makes it worse. As with many other tile laying games, you draw a tile and then place it - although in Gheos you have the option to cleverly remove some other tile and replace it with your draw. This effectively removes any attempts at planning on the part of your opponent - indeed, on the part of anyone, really. Gheos is almost a purely tactical game, and one wherein player fortunes can shift drastically from turn to turn. I just didn't find it fun or satisfying to play. The rules are more involved than Carcassonne, for instance, but do not deliver commensurate gameplay rewards.
This is a great deduction game to play with children! It is attractively produced, and the game play is at just the right level to be fun for kids and adults alike - namely, it's a children's game that won't bore you to tears. As an added bonus, it's actually fun. One player plays Max, the ghost, who moves invisibly about the castle. Max appears at various points in the game, providing a big hint to the ghost chasers. Everyone else plays a cooperative game as ghost chasers who are trying to enter the same room with Max, or force Max to enter a room containing one of them. Max can only visit each room once (with rare exception). So far, the ghost chasers have won every game, so we may have to give more advantages to Max. Fortunately, the game has a variety of special cards which can be added/removed to provide benefits to Max/the chasers. This is really nice, as it allows you to introduce handicaps appropriate to the ages of the players. It's a very thoughtful aspect of the design. If your child enjoys The Secret Door (a memory game for kids with a very simplistic deduction element) then get Ghost Chase. It's a big step up from The Secret Door. My only recommendation is that, for younger kids, make sure an adult plays Max as it may be difficult for children to follow the restrictions on his movement.
All versions of Rummy are a solid 6 for me. Trying to meld a full hand of books and runs before your opponent is an enjoyable pastime. But there are a few things about Rummy that keep it from reaching the heights of a game such as Mah Jong. First, there is just very little tension in the game. It isn't typically a betting game, and playing Rummy for points just feels like a time killer. It also lacks the interesting scoring of Mah Jong. For me, it feels like a "dumbed down" version of Mah Jong - basically, I'd always choose to play Mah Jong instead of Rummy. And if I only had a deck of cards, I'd play Poker or Hearts or Tichu.
Takes a longish time to play for what you get, but a neat game. It's similar to Race for the Galaxy in some respects, but it is (a) easier to play and (b) takes longer. I have only played one game, so this rating will probably change.
Go is an abstract game, meaning what? It has simple rules, simple bits, and no overt theme. Place stones, capture stones with no remaining liberties, create living shapes to capture territory, and obey the ko rule. That's it. The thing is, go does have a rich theme, to me anyway. That theme can be a variety of things - it's really up to the player. Go is so satisying to me that I read books about it and solve go problems in my free time. I have dreams about it. When I was younger, I didn't get many opportunities to learn about it, unfortunately. But now, with things like the Kiseido Go Server, anyone with a computer can play pretty much anytime. Although not a big fan of playing games against other people on the computer, it's better than not playing at all.
So many things have been said about this game that it is hard to filter my own thoughts through all the commentary. If I could only play one game, this would be it. I like the way go tickles my mind - but even better, the game is incredibly exciting. I always found Chess to be kind of a turn off for me for some reason, and that prevented me from really investigating other abstract games. Years ago, I had played go a few times, and rated it about a 7 for a long time based on the memory of those games. Of course, I was a fool (that is, I robbed myself of playing more go, earlier!). I'm very glad that I dug a little deeper. Now I just have to be careful that I'm not consumed by my own passion for the game.
This would be a solid 2, but for the fact that I have small children, and so *must* allow myself to occasionally be convinced to play this. So, the 2.5 indicates that.
CHILDREN'S RATING: 8, assuming the child is 2-3.5 in age. It's really a superb first game for the little tykes, and really a must in your collection if you have them! They have a lot of fun yelling "Go away monster!" and chucking the monster heads. You can alter the rules to be nicey-nicey too.
Gobblet is a really neat abtract. As abstracts go, it's light and quick - and yet, you can lose very quickly with an accompanying shock if yuo fail to pay close attention to the progress of the game. Gobblet reminds me of Connect Four, Tic-Tac-Toe, Pente, and a bunch of other games - combined with those little nesting Russian dolls (which you could actually play the game with if you had enough sets of them). Each player has three sets of four cylinders. In each set, the cyclinders nest within each other so that you must play the largest one first, the second largest next, and so on. You take turns playing these pieces on a four by four grid, trying to get four in a row. Once a piece is on the board, it can "gobble" up other, smaller pieces (you may choose to do this instead of placing a new piece on the board). You know how, when you play Tic-Tac-Toe against someone who is really dim, you can win by setting up a situation where you will win regardless of your opponent's move? Well, in Gobblet, you are trying to execute a more complex version of that - but the game isn't broken like Tic-Tac-Toe. As you play the game more, you begin to see ways of positioning defensively and of manipulating your opponent's plays which will lead you to a win. That said, it's pretty tactical for an abstract. What you need to do to win is highly dependent upon what your opponent chooses to do. This makes the game fun even for people new to it, though.
Why not higher? I don't know - this game, despite its elegance, just doesn't grab me with the "fever". I think it is incredibly designed and nicely produced. El Grande is an interesting game, but not a particularly fun or fascinating one. I realize El Grande is this landmark game, and is considered by many to be the premier area majority game. And I can see its historical place in the records of game development. But I do not find it that compelling. I like the mechanics - the crucial role of bidding for turn order and so on. But I think El Grande only really shines with five, and when we have five players, we usually play a lighter game, or a meatier game. Which leaves El Grande gathering dust.
Argh, this deduction game is pretty tedious - with adults anyway. First off, the game is imbalanced. You are attempting to determine which mystery person your opponent has by asking yes/no questions about the characteristics of the faces in the game. But there are only five or six female faces, so if you choose a female face, you will pretty much always lose to an equally-skilled player. I suppose the same thing goes for other traits, such as "white hair", but people tend to gravitate to separating based on gender, as a matter of psychology. Even playing the two card variant, if you and your opponent even split a single brain between the two of you, the person going first will usually win. Finally, the components are just crap!
Children's Rating: 7
As a children's game, Guess Who is actually quite good. It's a great way to teach young children how to go about deducing things, and they seem to have fun doing it!
I will almost always play it if asked, and have a good time doing so. Gulo Gulo is probably the best "children's game" I have ever played. It's surprisingly fun for adults who play as well. I confess, however, that much of the fun results from enthusiastic games with the kiddies. I would never want to play this with adults when other games are available.
CHILDREN'S RATING: 9.5
If my daughter were stuck at age four forever, I do not think this game would ever lose its appeal to her - hence the 9.5 rating. This game incorporates dexterity in a way that is rather fun, and there is just the right amount of tactical decision-making for a 4-6 year old. The components are also gorgeous. I concur with the positive comments left by others as well - if you are playing games with children, don't miss this game.
Hannibal is an awesome system. It has aged surprisingly well. Learning the rules took a few games, but Hannibal just seems the capture the right balance of game and simulation. Abstracting history is a tremendous challenge, and I marvel at how well this game has succeeded. There is just enough asymmetry to make playing both sides exciting and different, and not so much that the conflict is unbalanced. Each game is filled with tension...can you tell I haven't played this for awhile? I enjoy the game, but it does require a good 3 hours to play, and it's often a challenge to find that much time for a 2 player game. Also, Hannibal's rules are *just* complex enough that I know I will have to relearn 50% of the rules next time I bust this out. So, those are my two gripes about the game. Even so, this one is a keeper for me, and I look forward to future plays. Valley Games also did a very fun publishing job, insofar as the materials are concerned. The board comes together like a giant jigsaw, the cards and counters are all high quality, and eventually, even my miniature generals arrived!
Hansa is a nicely produced game with clear and intuitive rules. I kind of liked my first few plays, but now have no desire to play. Unfortunately, the game is just over-programmed for my taste. Many folks compain that Schacht's games are dry, but Hansa doesn't feel dry to me. It is simply too constrained for me. Hansa provides no opportunity to develop a rich strategy, and the tactically optimal moves are fairly transparent. Yes, it's a tight game, but that doesn't make it good. Plenty of tedious games are tight.
You know, this game is alright. I've only played the basic rules, but I give it a 6 so far. As many have said before me, the game seems like a streamlined Magic, with lessons cards for mana (which you do not need to tap), and a very rough equivalence between colors (Magic) and lesson types (HP). In the basic version, you get to perform two actions on your turn, such as summon a creature or cast a spell. There are no interrupt-type cards as in Magic, so you own your turn completely. Your opponent cannot interfere. Of course, this takes away some of the confrontational zest which Magic offers up in such abundance, but it makes for a more straightforward game that can be played (and played well) by young children. This makes Harry Potter one of my top choices for "least painful game to play with my daughter", who just isn't quite old enough for Commands and Colors: Ancients.
Further play sees this dropping to a 5 for me, but my daughter would probably rate it a very solid 8.
Hera and Zeus is one of the very best in Kosmos' 2 player line of games. My wife and I have played dozens of games, and enjoy the mechanics. The battle of gods theme works well. While I agree with the complaint that it would have been nice to print relevant text directly on the cards, this is a minor issue. Some of the mechanics here are Stratego-esque, and I mean that in a good way. There is a nice mix of strategy and psychology, many ways to win (lose!), and it's like those potato chips - you can't have just one (we always play at least two in a row).
We sometimes compare this game to Battleline, in the sense that they are two card games we enjoy with rather different play - H&Z introduces a powerful luck element in that you don't know when you will draw your hostage, and you sure as heck don't know when your opponent will draw hers. If you're not in the mood to allow luck of the draw such a powerful role in your game, you won't want to play H&Z. But if you want to shake things up a bit, this game is the perfect thing. Battleline, by contrast, plays in a more steady manner - you can generally plan a bit further ahead, and success is usually achieved via a strategy which is developed over a greater amount of time.
See entry for HeroScape. Volcarren Wasteland introduces lava (both molten and hardened) tiles which decrease unit survivability, as well as a three unit squad and two new scenarios. The scenarios are very well designed - much better, in my opinion, than the game's original scenarios. I traded this expansion away however, as I just wasn't using it that much, and I'm not really a completist with respect to expandable or collectible games.
HeroScape. Many argue, "It's a toy more than a game!" Others reply, "It's a game more than a toy!"
Relax. It's both, and it's quite engaging. The ability to battle it out between heroes from across all space and time on an infinite variety of battlefields, where the victory conditions are limited only by one's imagination, is a lot of fun.
The units are varied and interesting. Building and designing new battlefields keeps things exciting, and the game can be easily played with 2-4 players. It is also fairly accessible to younger players.
The luck factor is there (although it seems higher than it actually is), and that can be a turn-off for some people, but it also induces nail-biting tension. The tension is great, but it would be nice to have some rule variants that diminish the luck a little bit, as it can seem overwhelming at time. (Update: playing the Master game with the Basic game's turn structure balances the game more to my liking - it increases the ability of a player to pursue an effective strategy and diminishes the chance of rolling for initiative, and makes the game more fun to play - and faster to boot. But for those considering playing with this rule alteration, I recommend playing the Master game as is first.)
I can't think of any other game that's as fun to both play and play WITH! It's also expandable! The game is fairly light, but the simplicity of adding house rules can make it heavier. I think the first expansion is the best.
CHILDREN'S RATING: 8.5
Am finding this is a fun option for small children - playing with the basic rule set. You can contextualize the characters as doing battle with other as part of a contest of some sort where losers have to sit out to the next game. "Killing" isn't really a necessary aspect of HeroScape. Little ones will also enjoy making up stories with the characters for imaginative play. You should hear my daughter tell her stories about Deathwalker, Mimring, and Raelin. They are hilarious and entertaining. She also really enjoys building the battlefields.
Update: The synergy that can be generated between different sorts of units is like a Magic: TG - "lite". The intricacy of both strategy and tactics increases and the luck factor decreases. Good drafting becomes much more important. With the expansions in play, of course, the game becomes more difficult to win for a child playing against an adult, but things are easily leveled out by giving the child more points with which to draft.
I've played Hive both online against the computer and against live players (in person). It has been compared to Chess, in that different pieces have unique ways of moving, etc. But it does not "feel" at all like Chess to me. I don't particularly care for Chess, but I enjoy Hive. The insect theme is a winner for me, as is the way that placement of various insects "creates" the playing field. It's a mechanic I really dig, and meshes well with both the theme and the other mechanics of the game. Unfortunately, repeated plays have seen the endgame bog down into a dance (not unlike the dance of a honey bee sharing news of a nectar discovery with its hive-mates) of positioning which causes the game to drag on and on.
A total blast! This one generates a lot of laughter with the right group. I've found this to scale really well between 3 players and any higher number. I wish that this was the family game I had grown up with, instead of Monotony. Also, this game has *never* failed for me as a gateway game - even though the fun-factor is somewhat crowd dependent. I can see the success of I'm the Boss as a gateway game depending upon whether or not the players enjoy negotiating with one another, as it is a game of almost pure negotiation.
I'm the Boss is a game that is not mood-dependent for me, although I realize it probably would be for most people. I'll play it just about anytime, and don't expect that will ever change. There are games that I like better, games which I feel are just objectively superior, but I'm not always in the "mood" to play them. If I'm the Boss played well with 2 and were a little more intellectual, it would get a 10 from me.
Imperial is a finely crafted, dynamic, luckless, in-your-face economic game. Luckless does not mean without chaos, though, and people tend to either like or dislike Imperial based on how reactive it is. From a strategic perspective, Imperial doesn't really allow a player to pick a strategy and stick with it. In the early game, you must be a generalist with respect to strategy, positioning yourself soundly in the financial interests of a few nations, and working to develop a nation that you control. I haven't really determined whether I like or dislike this about Imperial: the fact that winning often comes down to the last few rounds of play. To be sure, to be in a *position* to win, you must make good decisions in the early and middle game, but I don't think you need to make *optimal* decisions. Just good, solid ones. Then it all comes down to how deftly you play the end game. So far, I think I like how this plays out. Every player seems to have a viable shot at winning, so long as s/he plays fairly well early on.
Overall, I really like this game. Imperial is an economic game at heart, and even though it features soldiers and ships, it isn't a war game. There are plenty of opportunities for military conflict though, and used judiciously, doing so can really help advance your plans. But becoming too militaristic will hurt you and drain your resources. You must stay focused on developing your financial holdings. Each player in Imperial is an investor, and you buy bonds in different countries. He who holds the most bonds in a country controls that country. But ownership can and does change throughout the game via what amount to a series of hostile takeovers.
There are a variety of things going on in Imperial. While you try to improve whichever country you control, you are also trying to invest other well-managed countries, make money for yourself, and block other players from becoming too powerful. And you must strive to achieve all this in a constantly shifting battlefield as other players' choices significantly change the game. Imperial is a medium weight game in my opinion, which sometimes dips into heavy territory near the end when you are calculating which decisions will yield the best outcomes. Things about the game I really like:
1. It's very dynamic - the situation is always developing and you must be flexible to take advantage of new opportunities. 2. There doesn't seem to be a kingmaker problem - everyone is in the running to win. 3. Play is in-your-face, with national takeovers and using military units to occupy (shut down) opponent factories and what not. I like the combat aspects of the game. Frankly, in a game about the ascendance and decline of nations, Imperial's combat rules capture area control exactly right - to my way of thinking. 4. The rules, the system, the components...everything is very elegant. There aren't any rules which feel like clutter. Because of this, Imperial is easy to teach and easy to remember between games. No re-learning rules required. 5. Pretty board and pieces! Very satisfying from a tactile and/or visual perspective. 6. Although I like luck, no luck in this game is a bonus. You really succeed or perish based on your decisions. Player choice introduces all needed chaos.
The major criticism against Imperial is that it is too reactive. I can't tell yet whether it even allows discretely different strategies. This isn't a dream game for "builder" type players who like to plan something out carefully and then create it without allowing anyone else to mess with it. I'm thinking of the way you build your own factory in Factory Fun or your own palace in Alhambra. Imperial also fails to capture the balance between strategy and tactics that something like Go achieves. Imperial doesn't reward strategic geniuses. It rewards tactical geniuses who have solid strategic skills. And in the end, it's details like this which will often determine who likes the game and who doesn't. For my money though, it is an outstanding game that blends interesting mechanisms so that the whole surpasses the mere sum of parts - unlike a game such as Yspahan which throws together a bunch of gamey mechanisms and ends up with a whole equal to *precisely* the sum of its parts.
Update: I remain concerned about the seemingly overwhelming impact of late-game decisions, but feel that I need to play a few more games. My rating will either stay very, very high, or drop to a 5 or 6.
First impression: Not only is Ingenious the best multiplayer abstract I've ever played, but it's a fun game that can hold its own against non-abstracts. It's also loads of fun with two, but it suffers from chance elements so much that games are often decided by it. Chance in an abstract is a double-edged sword, as on the one hand it makes the game more engaging to a broader audience, introduces a great amount of tension, and ensures variety; but on the other hand you can get screwed by the draw. This especially hurts in a two player game. In such a game, each player can play more or less optimally, and the winner can be mostly decided by tile draws in the late game. This makes the game unsatisfactory even for the winner, as it's no fun to win when this is obviously the result of luck - not in an abstract, at any rate. The best way to mitigate the chance element is to play 4 players with teams. In this case, each team has a total of 12 tiles. But the most fun to be had with this game is with the regular 3 and 4 person games. Luck still plays a role, but sort of screws everyone equally - or at least it feels that way!
Ingenious shares some qualities with Knizia's Tigris and Euphrates, notably the victory condition (you win by ensuring that your lowest scoring color/shape is higher than everyone else's lowest color/shape), but also somewhat in the tile drawing and laying departments. Your choices in Ingenious are much more constrained than they are in T&E, however, and so Ingenious is not nearly as meaty a game. But because it's a fun, light abstract, most of the groups I play with are going to prefer Ingenious to T&E (even though I think the latter is a more satisfying game).
For a two player abstract, I prefer YINSH or Go, both of which I enjoy a lot. But if you like a bit of luck, you'll probably prefer Ingenious even for two players.
Update (after many, many plays): Okay, my initial take on this game was a bit off. I think the two player game is the best way to play Ingenious. With three and four players, luck of the draw plays a more vital role, making the game a bit more chaotic. With more players, skillful play is not rewarded as consistently as it is in a two player game. I like Ingenious as a light, fun end of the day kind of game. You can play it purely on instinct, which is great for when your brain is fried or you are tired - and it serves well as a way to wind down the day with my wife. It's also a great abstract to play with kids - in a multiplayer situation, they actually have a chance to win.
We have I-Play's Honey Bee Tree, in which the "marbles" are little bees. As far as dexterity games go, I am intermittently willing to play, although I can't really see playing this with anyone other than small children.
CHILDREN'S RATING: 7
As far as dexterity games go, this is not even close to being in the same league as Gulo Gulo, but kids do seem to enjoy it.
Fun game! I have only played the basic version, which is a very light game. It's a set collecting kind of game with a very minor memory component. I LOVE the theme of rival alchemists trying to collect potion ingredients! The art is beautiful, which helps immerse you in the game. Plays quick. Looking forward to trying the included variants. I can see my rating going up if the variant increase the strategizing.
Update: Well, I played the variant where each player plays with secret ingredient cards - each outlining a goal which, if met, awards the player bonus points. Having a hidden goal adds to the experience, but my feeling about the game has ironically dropped from 7.5 to 5 with repeated plays. I do think this is a neat game.
CHILDREN's RATING: 8
This is a light, entertaining game which I can play with my daughter - and I appreciate that. At 4/5 she can easily grasp the basic game, even if she sometimes prefers to choose cards that are not maximally helpful to here. Against an adult, it is also fun if you want to tax your memory a little, and games are generally very tight - but on the whole, I'd usually rather play something else with an adult.
Wow, blast from the past. I just saw this in a Geeklist and I had a little memory-seizure. My family had this when I was a kid, and it was one of the better games we played. Just looking at the photos of the board and the cards make me feel good. This reminds me of Proust's ruminations on how scent triggers memories, but in this case it was the verbal cue of "Landslide" and the visuals bringing back some strong emotions. I don't recall the gameplay all that well - only that, as a kid, this was one of the only truly fun games in the house.
In graduate school, this and Go were *the* two constantly running game in the lounge. We called it Laskers (after the inventor), not Laska, and the logicians generally preferred to play this over Go. A fun abstract. You can easily build your own version of this game.
I've now played with five and six, and everyone had a good time. The rules are very straightforward and are well-integrated with the theme. The production values are fantastic - no need to shy away from LL because it's a GMT game. They did a very nice job on the art and components, and the box is one of these uber-boxes such as the one in which Commands and Colors: Ancients comes in. You could probably sit or stand on it and it would support you. I'm glad I participated in the pre-order.
LL is a purely tactical game, with a nice element where players take turns operating the eagles which fly around and can be used to eat other players' lemmings. But because it is so tactical, and because the actions of other players significantly alter the landscape, you pretty much have to focus on simply making the best play you can on your turn. At least with 5 and 6 players, there isn't much opportunity to develop and implement a strategy. This is bad, because it's the kind of game anyone can win. This is good, because - again - it's the kind of game anyone can win. The tactical focus and chaotic elements make LL a super family game, and a pretty good game to pull out when you have a crowd of people which includes gamers and non-gamers. LL does have some nice "crap on your neighbor" action as well, which is sadly missing from most "family games". I like LL for certain situations, and I recommend it for families and playing with the kids, but I don't recommend it for a group of gamers. There isn't enough control to make it interesting for that crowd.
When it comes to collectible card games, such as Magic, or even a game like Dreamblade, I really appreciate a certain degree of bluntness. Legend of the Burning Sands, however, is not a blunt game. It's a bit more nuanced. There are multiple paths to victory, and there is more accounting. Burning Sands requires you to resolve various conflicts with too many numbers match-ups for my taste, and even though I really like the instant card resolution over the nested madness that Magic can sometimes become, I prefer Magic overall. Like I said, even though it is nuanced in some respects, the overall goal is blunt - straightforward: opponent has 20 life points. Reduce those to zero. Burning Sands is one of those games where I admire the design, but just have much more actual fun playing something else in a similar vein, such as Magic or Dreamblade. I also think Burning Sands requires too large of a card pool to forge it into a good game, a problem shared by Magic. I had high hopes, as I just love the Arabian theme, but oh well. Just a little bit too fiddly and time-consuming for what you get.
Boy, I really don't see the appeal here. I'm not saying it isn't here. I just don't see it, and I love bluffing and what not. This game simply does not click with me, and (deep breath) that's...okay. This lovely 1978 edition is going to the Goodwill post-haste!
I heard about this game last year, and scrounged Ebay for a copy to get my daughter for Xmas. With a doubt, this is my favorite dexterity game. Louie flies around on something like a crane arm which can swivel in various directions. He flies at a constant speed, and if he flies low over your "barn", he may "steal" one of your three chickens by knocking a token down a slot. LL really shines with 4 players, although 3 is alright. If the fun-quotient remained as high with fewer players, I would give this game an 8. Ah well. It always generates some laughs in our house, and games are usually quick, so you can play a bunch in a row. There is also a way to make the game harder for some players (when adults vs. children) by altering how the arms work (which are used to smack Louie into the air on his little plane.
Really quite interesting from a design perspective. Not only is the integration with theme the best I've seen from RK, but the way the game is balanced is just masterful. If it were simply as matter of clever design, however, this game wouldn't garner such a high rating from me.
The key words here are tense and fun. LotR is the kind of game that encourages great table talk, largely due to the way the game is integrated with the theme, but also because it is so cooperative and so tense.
I am concerned that, at some point in the future, the decision making algorithm for players will become transparent, robbing the game of its ability to create interesting choices for players. But thus far, that hasn't been that big of a problem. Even if you are making "optimal" decisions as a team, the level of randomness still manages to inject an exciting level of tension and surprises do occur.
I will play this game pretty much any time. Although I thrive on competitive games (even though I am not competitive - I'm equally happy to lose, I just happen to like competitive game designs), I enjoy the change of pace and the feeling of cameradrie created by LotR. This could be a 10, but I'm still worried about replayability. I'll just have to wait and see.
Update: Definitely worthy of at least a 9. This game is just peachy. Further Update: After a dozen plays plays, I can vouch for the replayability here. Lord of the Rings is just an excellent cooperative game. I suppose, with boorish gamers, there is the risk of someone attempting to "quarterback" the game and pushing for particular decisions, but we haven't had this problem. We all enjoy a little huddle where-in the pros and cons of a decision are discussed, and then it is up to the *player* to actually make the decision. Excellent, excellent game - we always play with the Friends and Foes expansion.
Definitely play the vanilla LotR several times first. Win a few times, maybe, so that you have a grasp on what you are doing. Then step up the tension with this excellent expansion. Friends and Foes increases your strategic options for getting that pesky bit of metal to Mordor, and more options is a good thing in a cooperative game like this. I'm very glad I bought this expansion. It introduces two new scenario boards (Bree and Isengard) and the "Foe Deck", which summons baddies for you to fight along the way. Great!
The comparisons to Stratego are understandable, but there is mostly contrast when it comes to the excellence of these two games. LotR:tC is far and away superior. Knizia is perhaps best known for his heavier games, which involve little chance and weaker (according to many) themes. And this one has a little bit of the flavor of his other games, yet the theme is very rich in its meshing with the game mechanics, and there is a significant element of bluffing. There isn't really "chance" per se, but rather your opponent's identity in different locations is hidden from you. As I mentioned, this introduces a significant element of psychology into the game and probably explains why my wife usually kicks my behind at this game. This is also an excellent game for those prone to analysis paralysis. I haven't found that my AP-suffering friends engage in their nasty little habit with this game. [Wife's #5 game.]
If I were the sort to wish that I had invented a game, I could do a lot worse than to imagine that I had invented this gem. Although the rules presentation is a little strange, once you begin playing you will discover the economy of the game.
In Lost Valley, which incidentally plays best with 4 (by a loooong shot - I'm not inclined to play with 2 or 3), you are a prospector sniffing out gold in the Yukon Territory. On each turn, you may move somewhere along a tile edge. If you move to the edge of the playing space, you will draw one or more tiles to fill out the landscape. This makes the game "board" different every time - a mechanic I really like. Then, you can do different sorts of things, like hunt, fish, chop wood, pan for river gold, or dig for mountain gold. Performing these activities is aided by purchasing items at the trading post or hunting/fishing/chopping - and in some cases, specific items are items are required. For example, you cannot build a mine without wood, and so you must chop wood down on a forest tile and bring that wood to a mountain tile in order to build a mine. Whiskey, purchased at the outpost, allows an extra move!
Lost Valley promises great potential for player interaction. Letting other players build mines, and then moving in to steal their gold is extremely amusing. And so some careful planning is required in order to avoid players stealing "your" gold. There's a lot more to say about this game - but just go get a copy and play it. It's excellent.
2012 Further update: I took the time to re-read my original review (below), and although I will leave it alone (since it reflects my views at a certain point in time), I do not feel it is very accurate any more. The average age of Magic players is higher now, and playing at a large game store in a large city is an excellent experience. We've met some great people playing Magic. The scene is just totally different now. There is a large Grand Prix competition somewhere on the planet pretty much every weekend, and the efforts WotC has made to professionalize the game are starting to pay off. Also, the number of women playing has gone up and seems to now be around 5%...sometimes as high as 10% depending on where/when you play. It *used* to be about 1%. Yes, it's a game that attracts nerds, but the Magic playing venues I have gone to in the past year have all been quite pleasant. Nice people with just as good, if not better, personal hygiene than the general population. This wasn't always the case, but I haven't needed to smear Vick's under my nose since returning to the game.
WotC R&D have gotten better and better at what they do, and the game is now a pleasure to play. The Commander format has appeared to give casual players a fun multiplayer variant in which all cards are legal, and there is a thriving competitive scene for both constructed and limited formats. Magic possesses the psychological complexity of Poker (perhaps even more) and while the strategic depth may not be as deep as Chess, I don't think a comparison there is too off-base. Before 2000, drafting may have existed in Magic, but it just wasn't a "thing". Now you can do a booster draft at Friday Night Magic, and that is an awesome thing, as it's an absolute blast to draft. I once read about a Japanese gentleman who, upon retirement, decided to devote his time to mastering Go. I love Go, but there just isn't a thriving player base in my region. Magic, however, seems to be growing. So I think I'll make that nameless fellow my role model, but strive to master Magic instead.
2012 Update: With the Innistrad Block, I confess that Magic is once again fun for me. I'm just playing sealed deck with Innistrad and now Dark Ascension cards, but the block works so well as a stand alone set. Way to go, Wizards. I don't think it would be much fun to blend the current block with my old cards, but playing completely within Innistrad is pretty awesome. There are many interesting synergies, and every game is exciting!
2008 Update: You know, after years of exposure to the best designer games out there, returning to playing Magic was an interesting experience. I'm struck by how much luck is involved in winning. I still like how interactive the game is, I love the theme, and I think the art and so on is fantastic. But playing in a sealed deck type environment, or with a random set of cards (how we usually play), winning just requires tremendous luck in addition to skill. I am less interested now in collecting cards or playing the meta-game. I just want to play the game, and the game is showing its age. For years, this was the only designer/complex game we played. Now, I'm much less enthused about playing Magic.
Magic is a great game. We started playing before the Ice Age expansion, and kept playing after Ice Age was released. Then we got irritated with the constructed deck environment and stopped playing for many years. Then, in 1998 or so, we started playing again, and acquired a large collection of cards. Then we got fed up again with the game...until we developed our own way to play it. I would rate the game an 7 the way it is (what with the expensive cards and economy), but I would rate the way we play it a 8, so I'm going to give it 8.
We pooled all our cards together, separated them by color, and randomized them into 10 card units. Each unit has about 5 creature cards, and 5 other cards. Lands are not included. Then we use a random number generator to choose a selection of these 10 card units, spend 20 minutes building decks, and then play several games. Then we replace the cards, and pull new random selections. For example: let's say I chose to make a black-only deck. The random number generator would choose 4-5 sets of 10 cards from the 35 black units available, and then I'd polish those cards into a deck (with as many lands as I like).
Is this a lot of work to go to to play this game? Initially, yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. With our system, we are able to quickly build fun and interesting new decks to play with. And you never know what surprises your opponent has in store when she has cards from the initial release of the game all the way up to those released in 2000!
Magic was/is a revolutionary game (Garfield you genius you!) - it spawned a spate of collectible card games. CCG have their detractors. I am often one of them, mostly because of how companies price and market the games. There is also the player base (shudder). Mrs. Sifu and I participated in a few tournaments (she always placed better than I!), and it seemed that many players of the game were people who didn't really have that much fun playing it. Whatever satisfaction they derived came solely from "beating" another person - which (if you've been to a tournament) shouldn't come as a shock. Most players are teenage boys who look and act as if they aren't "winning" much in other of life's arenas. This is not a knock on the game or its players, just an observation or caveat regarding many of its fans. If you intend to play in a public venue, brace yourself for offensive odors and boorish behavior. If you're a woman, dress like you're an Anabaptist. If you are a reasonably attractive woman, wear a potato sack and a bag on your head...unless you *like* being mobbed by the stereotypical Magic player.
Even though the early (fun) environment of Magic where people actually anted cards is gone, the game remains an engaging, exciting, and richly thematic. If there were a good way to play it multiplayer, I would rate it a 9.
I like this one, but be warned: it is a brain burner, and analysis paralysis can set in easily. You kind of have to force yourself to keep moving, or the game can bog down. That caveat aside, this is a game that relies on good tactics, is beautifully produced, has a fun theme, and is great with 2 or 3 players. We haven't played with 4 yet. With 2, it's almost like playing a puzzle with another person, and that makes it appealing to me when I'm in the proper mood. Things become a bit more free-wheeling with four players.
Rating is for playing with the World Series (or Zung Jung) rules. Knock a half point for playing with Hong Kong rules or a whole point for playing Classical rules. Mahjong is really a great family game, which was a little bit of a surprise to me. It's also a great social game to play with another couple, provided you have the time!
The shame of Mahjong is that most people in America only know Mahjong as a match two puzzle game. It's a fine puzzle, but this is sad. The actual game is quite good (it's had pretty impressive staying power, after all), and blends the set collecting elements of Rummy, the "card" (tile) counting elements of Poker, and throws in a dash of Chinese cosmology. The rules are simple enough that my four year old has started to play her own hand, and you can easily simplify the rules a little bit when playing with young children. Mahjong also offers a great deal of tactile pleasure - much more so than a card game. Clacking the tiles together as you shuffle them, building the walls, drawing the tiles and smacking them down on the table, and shouting out your Chows (runs) and Pungs (3 of a kinds) is a lot of fun.
If you are a board gamer, you should at least learn to play this classic.
An exercise in thinking ahead that isn't as much fun as some other games out there. But player interaction forces one to keep a flexible strategy, and quickly adapting to one's opponent is a good challenge. This game also gets a boost from its simple, elegant design that has obviously stood the test of time. I'd rather play Emerald.
Manhattan is a light game of building placement in which you score points for things like creating the tallest building and obtaining area control. Your placement is limited by your cards, however, and so you are not always able to build where you wish. This game has some great confrontation, but isn't very meaty. I certainly don't mind playing, and enjoy it, but would generally rather play something else. A good filler - prefer Torres, which (for me anyway) scratches the same itch while providing more options for clever play.
Marvel Heroes is a difficult game for me to rate. Deciding whether to play it is like deciding whether to cook a seven course meal of food you don't like for complete strangers. The experience possesses certain rewards: doing the job well, earning the admiration of others, joy in the act, and so forth; yet the work itself is also rather complicated and you may not be that interested in cooking the food for the sake of eating it. In cooking, everything must be timed to precision in preparing a meal with so many courses. You must also cope with chance details such as guest #3's allergy to milk. It's rather difficult to do with only one cook. Everything must be served hot, and must be served at the right *time*. In Marvel Heroes, which is very nearly "doing your taxes with super heroes" when it comes to the rules, you must pay close attention to the those very involved rules, which strike me as even more involved than those of Arkham Horror. As with cooking for strangers, there is a strong chance element to success. Will you please them with your cooking/win Marvel Heroes? It ends up largely the result of a die role. That's how Marvel Heroes feels: a lot of difficult work wherein it is easy to forget a step, at the end of which your success is determined by chance.
Doesn't sound very appealing, does it? This game feels like the designers were sitting around a table and one guy said, "Our game should have victory points!" In went victory points. Someone else said, "Our game should have *teams* of heroes." In went teams. "Our game should have... * A rock, paper, scissors combat system...with DICE! * Some kind of story track with story cards which can bequeath victory points. * Super villains! * Villians, allies, agents, etc. * Various power up cards for villians, heros, and arch villians! * Two tiers of rounds to keep track of. * Different possible scenarios. * Little figurines! * And more!
It feels like elements just kept getting added until the game became "complex enough" to be a respectable board game. But playing the game required us to check the rules every time we did something, even when we repeated an action, because there were just so many little details to keep in mind.
But there are assuredly good things about Marvel Heroes. Once you have a solid grasp of the rules, you can relish kicking some villain ass. Each player controls both a team of heroes and a super villain, and there are some very clever touches. To wit...well, they're hard to explain because they are so detailed, but suffice it for me to say that the designers have built some nice checks and balances into the game.
Even though some of your heroes' special abilities are a bit too generic, the game and its materials did really get my blood flowing. If you like comics, and you like gaming, you will be able to enjoy this game even if you aren't a fan of the rules. The miniatures are lovely, the graphic design and art is gorgeous, and it IS fun to fight with your little dudes. On the other hand, I think fighting with little HeroScape dudes is more fun, so far as that goes.
As with cooking a difficult meal, Marvel Heroes offers up certain pleasures - both in the doing, and in the completion. Fighting with super heroes is flavorful and fun, just like cooking (if you like to cook!). And having your plan come together under the favoring eye of Fate is also very satisfying. You just have to ask yourself whether it is worth the trouble. For my part, I think Nexus' Age of Conan is a MUCH more enjoyable game. I would not suggest a game of Marvel Heroes, but I would play it if a group of people really wanted to mix it up with heroes and villains. It was pretty awesome when I used Iron Man to kick Ultron's metal butt.
Ehhhh. Can be fun, not ecstatic about it. Like many older games, it has been surpassed by improvements in game design. Where Milles Bornes can succeed is as a light multi-player card game with some fun screw-your-neighbor opportunities. In the 70s, this was great. Today, it's blown away by what's available.
The riddles are fun to solve, but the game element is pretty minimal. I also agree with others who point out that the authors think in certain patterns. Discern the patterns and the game becomes less playable. Replayability is also not so good if you work through the cards.
Modern Art, as many others have pointed out, is just a paragon of creating a game that plays very, very well on a very, very spare skeleton. If you love auctions, you are probably going to rate this higher than I have. I enjoy auctions games, but am not crazy about them. I also don't feel that the game gives players enough opportunities to make interesting plays or plan and execute a strategy. There is a lot of auction game here, and I put it solidly in my "enjoyable, but not especially fun" category.
Build your real estate empire! This classic game possesses extremely limited appeal compared to most other games. I hold this game responsible for turning so many people off to board games. Monoploy is one of those games where, usually, the winner emerges well before the end game, and then everyone else has to sit around and die slowly. The game doesn't even have the redeeming grace of Risk, where players get killed off and can go play Tiddlywinks on the side or something. I will never play this again.
So what's the matter with me? I love puzzles. I love deductions. Yet this clever two player game of deduction is just a flat tire under the engine of my passion for such things. Production values are excellent. The theme, although a bit gruesome, is not a turn-off for me. I'm just not excited to play Mr. Jack. After one play, I thought this would be my favorite decution game ever. A few more plays though, and I just didn't feel the tension. Despite the rich production and theme, the game ended up simply feeling like an exercise.
I really like the logic puzzle aspect to this game! The game is also gorgeously produced. My only gripe is that, after playing many times, the kinds of questions one can ask that help one's self while not aiding others are kind of limited. But this has been a great gateway game in our household. And hilarity ensues when people are *certain* they know who the killer is, and they screw up!
Those who claim this is merely a game of elimination, and not a true deduction game, do not understand how to ask the right questions. I guess, if I were playing in a group where someone asked a question like "Have you eliminated Brother so-and-so?" every turn, I would go nuts and probably despise this game. The trick is to ask questions which aid you more than they aid other players. One can also intentionally ask misleading questions, e.g. "Have you eliminated one or more of the thin Fathers?" when you have not eliminated *any* thin Fathers. (This question would lead many players to conclude that you [the asker] had already eliminated two thin Fathers - thus fouling up the deduction of your competitors.) Also fun: if you truthfully answer another player's question, he is bound to answer yours, even if it's an embarassing question not related to the game! This kind of thing helps make Mystery of the Abbey shine as a social game. So put on the Gregorian chanting, and enjoy. [Wife's #4 game and favorite social game.]
The Jack the Ripper version of Mystery Rummy was certainly more fun than standard Rummy, but after two dozen or so plays, it just didn't have much staying power. Battle Line is a simple two player card game which has had tremendous staying power. It is a bit "brainier" that the Rummy variants, but still light enough to play at the end of a long work day.
Color me impressed. I've been turned off some to MTG since being exposed to so many Euros. When I went back to Magic, I found it kind of clunky and slow but still charming. Netrunner, on the other hand, is one slick game. It's isn't clunky at all - although it definitely plays too slow for me. In Netrunner, one player is the Runner, a hacker, and the other player is the Corporation. Both of these entities have their own decks, which contain Corporation-specific or Runner-specific cards. The tableau for each player is laid out uniquely as well. Playing the Corporation means that you try to establish data forts and use ICE program cards to protect your data resources while you build them up to the point of scoring them. As the Runner, your goal is to use icebreaker software to get into those Corporate data forts and "liberate" the data, hence scoring it.
Netrunner boasts a really nice blend of tactics and strategy. You can tell that Garfield learned a lot by designing Magic, and Netrunner is the beneficiary of this deepened understanding. I don't like the theme, Cyberpunk, as much as the theme of Magic - but I have to respect what Netrunner does and how well it does it. It also didn't become as bloated as Magic, perhaps because it didn't catch on as big. One great thing about Netrunner, echoed by many others, is that you can happily play with the basic set (one deck of each side) and a few booster - pretty much forever. The design of the game doesn't lean towards "ubercards" the way many CCGs do.
Overall, I think Netrunner is probably the best CCG I've ever played. I definitely liked it better than Burning Sands, and I also thinks it edges out MTG. Personally, I gripe that it just takes a little too long to play a match, but it probably hits the sweet spot for many.
Woohoo! Another game I had the pleasure of submitting. This was a favorite of my Dad's when I was a kid, and we played it a lot. It doesn't see the light of day anymore, but I hold onto it for the kids. Great for teaching division!
Make no mistake, O Zoo le Mio is a light game - but it manages to present some interesting choices to players. Each of the 2-4 players is a zoo director trying to build a zoo which attracts the most visitors, as well as erecting the most park benches and trees. The game is played over five years, during each of which sees the auctioning off (via blind bidding) of file zoo tiles. Once a tile is successfully won, the winner places it in his zoo so that the paths match up. If dominance is established in one of the exhibit types (reptiles, apes, etc.), then that zoo immediately attracts more visitors. Completing a path loop in your zoo earns you a park bench, and players with more shrubberies in their zoos get little trees. At the end of each year, your score is a multiplier of how many visitors/benches/trees are hanging out in your zoo. You recieve one coin for each *tile* in your zoo, at the end of every year.
So you're trying to do a number of things in O Zoo le Mio: get the most tiles, spend as little as possible for the tiles you do manage to win, attract as many visitors/benches/trees to your zoo as possible, and *block* your opponents from achieving these goals. That's a lot of action for a quick, lighter game like this! I really like how all these elements come together. The blind bidding adds an element of psychology, the tile laying adds an element of Carcassonne-like strategy, and the design of the game is simple enough to teach people to play in about two minutes.
Update: repeated plays have seen a drop in my estimation for this game. More and more, the game revolves around how well players bid in the blind bidding phases. If you are good at sensing what your opponents are going to do with respect to bidding, you will win with your savvy bets. There is little strategy, I think, in the actual tile placement, and only slightly more in tile choice.
Now playing with the correct interpretation of the Magic Way rules. Odin's Ravens is still hobbled by the fact that some games never seem to end. They just go on an on, and so a clever race game which should be short ends up taking as much to play as Puerto Rico. The art work is quite lovely, but the game doesn't generate enough tension for us to be very interesting.
CHILDREN'S RATING: 8.5
Odin's Ravens is a superb children's title. Don't be put off by the age 10 rating. The game can easily be simplified by removing the auxiliary and/or magic way elements, created a much more straightforward race game that even a 5 year old can grasp and excel at. Also, removing those more strategic elements appropriately handicaps the adult player - but the game retains much of its tactical flavor (so it's still fun for the adult!).
This is one of those games where, with the right people, it's hard to imagine having a better time. For everyone else, it can still be a lot of fun if the players are willing to be uninhibited story-tellers. It is an absolute ball with a bunch of 8-12 year olds though.
Try to pull bits out of the board without sounding the buzzer. When I was little, this was the *rage*. Every kid wanted this "game". But seriously, there are actually good dexterity games out there. Go get one.
Initial rating after one four player game. I'm kind of waffling on this one. Some things about it, I like: the choice of calling an auction for tiles versus just purchasing some outright from a central pool and the need to remain flexible while planning for different contingencies in your construction. But there are some big detractors for me. First of all, it seems as if there is only one good strategy for success, and that is to keep drawing money early in the game so that you can control most of the auctions by being able to outbid other players whenever you wish. This is my primary gripe, and if my initial judgment is correct then this rating will drop precipitously upon further plays. Second, I do not care for the art design. It isn't bad - I just don't like it. Third, the game is murder on the color-blind or impaired. There are three kinds of currency and for me to tell which was which, I had to examine the actual coins printed on the cards. This means that I could not tell what I had when fanning the cards traditionally, because the corners only sport little colored circles with numbers in them. Who chose these colors anyway? I can't distinguish them or even name them! If I could , they would get names like ennui, depression, and malaise. I can't tell those apart! There just one big mess of suffering to me.
Overall, my cooperative game crown still goes to Knizia's Lord of the Rings. But while Lord of the Rings is a co-op game that really requires a group of "gamers", Pandemic is a go-to game for any group of people.
The tension around the table is just palpable playing Pandemic, and the game plays in under an hour, so it's really perfect for a weeknight get together with friends. To succeed, team members must really plan things out together. If each player simply pursues his or her own "plan", then the group is sure to lose the game, especially on Normal or (god forbid) Heroic settings. Pandemic is an ultra-cooperative game. This is its greatest asset, but also the thing about it which I foresee will put me off a bit over time. There is little room for autonomy and self-determination. Success requires the closest sort of collaboration. So be warned: play this only with people you like! If you play it with someone you don't have a lot of patience with, you *will* want to throttle them. Pandemic throws very difficult situations right in the face of the players, and good brainstorming is required to win the game. If someone is being boorish and trying to "quarterback" the whole game, you will be driven to distraction. Likewise if someone is being an utter dolt and failing to grasp the plan that the group came up with.
Again, VERY tense. VERY exciting. LOADS of fun. But play it with the right people. Otherwise Pandemic possesses the potential to devolve into an exercise in frustration. It also shines with 3-4 players, but the tension is significantly less with only 2. This is because 2 players can tightly coordinate their actions, working as a team and moving more or less together around the world in order to cure the diseases. With 3 and 4 players, it's harder to get ahead of the intensity curve - the point where, after a few epidemics, you start infecting new cities without any disease (and hence a lesser chance of outbreaks). Because of this, I think 3-4 player games are actually slightly more challenging than 2 player games.
Components: the board is crap. The disease cubes, pawns, research stations, and cards are all just fine. But I'd shell out another $10 for a decent board. This one warps, wrinkles, smells funny, and peels up from the edge. I like the size of it, I like the art and design. It's the physical quality which is just dismal. That's a shame when it affects such a super game.
Update: this one has settled at a perpetual 7 for me. When I like it, I love it. But it's not really something I'm in the mood for any time, in plenty of situations I'd just rather not play it. You have to be in the mood to do the group-think thing, communicating extensively with the other players at every turn, in order to win. And sometimes, I feel that players can make all the right choices (optimal ones) and still lose due to luck and game balance. If this weren't so, it is true that Pandemic would lose some tension, as it would become a puzzle - solvable by an experienced group of players. That would be a shame, and a downfall. Yet the game falls down anyway, as once you ARE very experienced, it is frustrating to lose a perfectly played game. For some reason, this complaint doesn't arise for me when playing Lord of the Rings. The balance of choices in LotR maintains at least the illusion that your success depends only on your choices.
Anyway, despite my gripes I rate Pandemic a "strong buy" for its accessibility, tension, and short play-time.
Pecking Order is a simple bluffing game where players use the exact same hands to compete for perches with different point values. Players draw cards one at a time though, and must then either occupy an empty perch or challenge one of the opponent's birds for an occupied perch. Different perches are worth different amounts of points, and there are a few special perches. Occupying the "Tie Breaker" perch allows you to win all ties, even if you are the defender (who normally loses ties), and the "Vision" perch (I can't remember the whole name right now) allows you one peak at an opponent's bird (birds are played face down). You might think of Pecking Order as occupying the same "space" as many of the two-player Kosmos line, such as Caesar and Cleopatra, Hera and Zeus, etc., and I suppose it fits in with that group of games. But it is a little bit quicker/simpler than most of the Kosmos two-player line, and I confess to really liking it as a light, two-player bluffing game. Also, I think the art is beautiful, and the match of theme to game play is excellent.
Better than Yahtzee. When I'm in the mood for a super light dice fest, this is the go-to game! Simple rules, fast play - it's a great filler game, or if you don't play "some" games as fillers between "other" games (like me), then it's just great if you're in the mood for a light-hearted dice fest.
What a fun pirate game! Rule complexity is about that of Puerto Rico - although the game play itself doesn't much resemble Puerto Rice. Pirate's Cove fits the bill as a super "beer and pretzels" kind of game. The blind destination mechanic introduces a great feeling of tension as players try to guess where their opponents' are heading so that they can be avoided - or battled with. The combat is quick and rolling the bones just seems very apropos in a pirate game. Look forward to future plays.
Assuming you have at least 4 people in the game, PitchCar is great. You take turns "pitching" (flicking) little wooden disks around a modular race track, trying to be the first to the finish line. The game is very amenable to house rules, is a crowd pleaser, and just generally a lot of fun. Frankly, I'm surprised this isn't carried by Target and similar stores, as well as toy stores everywhere. I can't think of many games which have such wide appeal.
The extension adds more track sections and jumps, and is essential if you're going to get the base game. Do *not* just get the base game. The extension adds so much, it seems like it should be packaged along with the base game. Oh well.
So far, I really like Plunder (we'll see where things go with further plays). It scratches the piratical itch, and in addition to being sufficiently "gamey" to be interesting, it's fun. There are some negatives that made it really hard to get started, however. The rules. They may look alright on paper, but I guarantee all sorts of unanswered questions will begin popping up when you try to play. We had to figure out certain things inductively, as the rules just aren't very precise. The quality of the components could also be a lot better. I would have gladly paid a little more for a larger box with higher quality components. I don't normally gripe about component quality, but if I like a game, I like the game to have nice bits - and this one doesn't. So it just seems a shame. I'm looking forward to playing many more games (after scouring for rules clarifications online), and will adjust my comments accordingly. I hope to see some expansions for this game in the future, or better yet, an expanded reprint with much nicer components and a larger box. (I appreciate conserving cardboard, but the box is really too small.)
Working mainly off the player aid by sodaklady, I have restructured and fine-tuned the rules in a 2 page document, and uploaded it to BGG. I hope it will help people have a better initial experience with this fun game. It's located here: http://www.bggfiles.com/viewfile.php3?fileid=12919
As a tribute to sodaklady (Mary Weisbeck), whose notes I used as a starting point, her name remains in the "author" field when you look at the "Properties" of the file.
With respect to Plunder as a two player game, I don't really care for it. It's just no fun when you play "Stand Trial" on the other player and she happens to lose all her treasure. If you have the opportunity to make such a powerful play in a game, any game, then doing so should enrich the experience. With four players, the feel of the game is substantially different, and such shenanigans are more rewarding - not just in terms of winning and losing, but in terms of the psychological experience. Plunder also thrives on inter-player conflict and competition, and a more crowded playing field enhances that aspect of the game. If I want a two player game where conflict is the focus, there are better choices out there.
I like to play Poker once in awhile, but the playing for money aspect has always been a turnoff for me. It's like this: if I turned my greatest passions into my financial livelihood, those passions would be bled dry. This is because the motivation for engaging in them would shift from enthusiasm to fiscal stability - blah. So I only play Poker when there is no money involved. But then I have a catch-22: Poker was practically designed to play for money, so removing the stakes makes the game less than it is. So I'm screwed either way with this game. I only play it if others really want to play.
The mechanics are very clean and streamlined for this kind of a game. I've played it enough now that I feel I can make some accurate and useful remarks. I've never played Talisman or any of the ancestors of this game, so I cannot make any comparisons there. In Prophecy, you and other players move your avatars around on the game board, encountering "Opportunities" which are optional and encountering "Creatures" which you must fight. There is a basic game, with no spells and somewhat simplified rules, which is truly excellent for playing with children. In the advanced game, you are trying to gain as much strength, wisdom, spells, and powerful items in order to defeat very powerful guardians and take their groovy artifacts. This is more of an "experience" game, yet there are very discrete goals you may work towards - both short term and long term, and this distills out any feeling that you are just dorking around. You must focus on a strategy and reaching your intermediate goals if you wish to succeed.
The atmosphere in the game is excellent. It's traditional fantasy, but with a fun element. The board art is slightly cartoonish, but in a good way - like World of Warcraft is cartoonish in a good way. There are also some really excellent touches. For instance, if you decide to battle the Noble Lion in the mountains, and you defeat it, it's card says that you may henceforth call yourself "The Beastmaster". Any game that provides for some beastmaster action is A in my book. There is also a four leaf clover Opportunity card that, should you pick it up, grants you luck for the rest of the game! Yes! Although battles are resolved by a simplistic die role, the mechanism just really fits the theme and style of the game. The only real downside I see with Prophecy is that, if you play to the game-winning conditions stated in the rule book, you will be playing the game for a very long time. I wish the expansions were available in English.
CHILDREN'S RATING: 8
Prophecy wins huge points from me because my daughter loves to play it. So I play it a bit more often than I would were she not around. This game is superb with kids about 5/6 (if they are patient, skilled readers, and like the theme) - again, the only downside is the playing time. Fortunately, it's very easy to modify the winning conditions to shorten play time.
Although there are some standard strategies, there is enough interaction to keep you on your toes. This kind of balancing act in the game's design is incredible to me. The core mechanics are elegant and ingenious, but there are some shortcomings for me: I think there is tense goodness in 2- and 3-player games. With 4 , the game slows down some, and I don't care for it so much, even though it is more interesting in many ways. Then again, maybe I just need to log more 4 and 5 player games. The game revolves around players choosing "roles" on their own turns which give themselves the most advantage and others the leat advantage. So there is a bit of min-maxing going on - but hidden victory points help prevent too much analysis paralysis. And I like the way the landscape changes based on player choices, as opposed to randomness - such as a card draw or dice role. Another game which is ingenious in this regard is Indonesia.
Puerto Rico vies for the title of "Wife's favorite game", which is great! Even though the theme (growing crops, processing crops, shipping the finished commodities to Europe) is about as exciting as a wet noodle to me, Puerto Rico truly transcends its thematic drawbacks to provide an awesome gaming experience. Puerto Rico also possesses a certain kind of dynamism by way of player interaction that I really like. It reminds me of how players bid for action selection order in El Grande, and how players can announce and bid on mergers in Indonesia - this is a hallmark of superior game design. Even though I'm personally lukewarm on El Grande, I think the game is put together really well.
This edition has rekindled my love for PR. I originally traded it away after we got Race for the Galaxy, but now, after 200 plays of Race, returning to Puerto Rico has been extremely enjoyable. Puerto Rico sports a level of interaction you just don't get in RftG, allowing players tremendous influence on the development of their competition. This anniversary edition is also absolutely amazing. The components are beautiful.
I was prepared to love this game: the lavish art, the jewelry, the interesting theme of working as Jewelers for the French Court! Looking at the character cards, I became very interested in playing. The production is really beautiful in every respect, something I've come to expect from Days of Wonder. It began well enough, trying to collect gemstones and using the occasional influence card to tweak things. On any given turn, a player has 10 ducats with which to buy cards (cards represent gems, characters with special powers, etc.). Anything a player does not/can not purchase is devalued for the next player and available for purchase, along with some new cards to replace the missing ones. This mechanic introduces a lot of fun and tension into the purchasing phase of the game, and I really liked it. Three times in the game, a Merchant card appears and there is a big jewelry sale. Here's where the ickyness comes in, and all the accumulated tension and fun from the purchasing phases is squandered. First off, the instructions for scoring are not written very clearly. It took a bit of work to puzzle out how the rarity tokens work, and how the actual scoring works. I'm still not sure I did it correctly. The scoring and the character cards (to a lesser degree) make the game rather chaotic and tad too fiddly for its own good. What do I mean? Well, by "chaotic" I mean that your strategy doesn't count for that much in this game. You can work towards a goal with respect to scoring (winning), but it becomes almost a complete crap-shoot given how scoring works. There is almost no way to predict what opponents will do, and it becomes, not a game of using psychology to outguess, but rather an exercise in random decision making. Some chaos is good. But here, it's enough (for me anyway) to feel that playing the game is pointless. Queen's Necklace also feels more complex than it should be. The work to reward ratio is off. As I indicate, my comments are based upon a single play, but I doubt I will play this again. It just isn't much fun for me.
Update: After a second play, I've raised my estimation of this game a little. If you pay close attention in a card-counting kind of way, then the game does involve relevant tactical decision-making. But serious card-counting is out of place in this "airy" game which seems to have been designed and explained (in the rules) for little girls. In any case, jumping up and down and screaming "I've got the Queen's Necklace!" provides entertainment for all present.
What is truly remarkable about my relationship with this game is that, in every single instance, I have come in last place with the least amount of fame points - and yet I love the game. (Update: no longer true! Yay!) This could be more revealing about me than Ra. Perhaps I just don't care about winning when assessing a game. Or perhaps, at the far end of the spectrum, I am so obsessed with winning that consistent loss presents me with an intriguing challenge. Regardless, Ra is a winner - and not just because he's the god of the sun. Despite rules that are a bit more lengthy and verbose than necessary (I am starting to think that this is a frequent artifact of translation from German), Ra is very easy to learn and teach. Play is fairly intuitive. My recommendation is to explain how scoring works first, as your choices in the game are all predicated upon the value of the tiles.
In Ra, players take turns drawing tiles from a bag, which go onto an auction track. These tiles represent monuments, aspects of civilization, pharaohs, gods, and so on, and are valued in different ways during the three scoring phases. Ra tiles (or a player may simply invoke Ra) go onto the auction/Ra track to create an auction phase, in which each player has the opportunity to make one bid (only!) for all the tiles accumulated upon the auction track. Winner takes all. Players bid with using a limited pool of sun tiles, and a scoring phase is initiated when no players have any sun tiles left to bid with - or the Ra track is filled up with Ra (auction) tiles. At the end of the third scoring phase, the game is over. Fame points received are kept hidden.
The chance element of drawing tiles from the bag, combined with the hidden scoring and the psychology of the short but sweet auctions helps prevent analysis-paralysis. This means that the pace of the game never bogs down and games are quick. It's quite reasonable to get multiple games in during an evening. I also really enjoy the tile collecting aspect of the game, trying to acquire different kinds of sets. Despite my failing to grasp a winning strategy, I have fun playing this game, and so does everyone else I've played it with. Something Ra does very well is keep downtime to a minimum and keep players engaged.
My estimation of this game continues to rise as I play. After a first play, I rated it a 6 or 7, but the more I play it the more I like it. My greatest complaint in the beginning was that there was not enough direct competition for my taste, and I missed the tension that comes with that competition. Another multi-player solitaire game, I thought. But I persisted, and began to see how different strategies could be pursued. I decided that RftG is something of a multi-player solitaire - but a very good one! Inspired by Puerto Rico, I can't help but compare it to that game. Race is certainly a more streamlined version of PR, taking the role selection, the goods, and the buildings/crops from that game. I confess that I *really* like the hidden information aspect of Race, though, which is not present in PR. Race for the Galaxy has also cut set-up time and the fiddle factor by using only two kinds of components: cards and VP chips. As a believer in simplicity, I like this!
There is in fact considerable player interaction in this game. It comes in the form of studying your opponent's tableau AND the sequence of phases your opponent has chosen over the past few rounds. Doing these two things will give you some idea of what she will do next, and excelling at the game requires a solid grasp of the opponent's motivations. This element of psychological study and deduction enhances the game considerably. (In PR, players take turns choosing available roles. In Race, players (blind to the others) choose any role they like.) Would I like more direct interaction with other players? Yes. But it's a small gripe. Other downsides: medium-steep learning curve - you will have to play a few throw away games to "get it"; also, I wonder about the viability of multiple strategies. I won't be able to answer my wonderings without more play, though.
Race for the Galaxy blends theme and mechanisms rather beautifully though, and that is an element of game design I both admire and enjoy tremendously. The art is also gorgeous and evocative, and the theming/art brings to mind certain science fiction memes such as Star Wars, Star Trek, David Brin's notion of Uplift, and more. This material is seamlessly integrated into the game in a way that adds atmosphere for science fiction fans, as you can play the "Imperium" and try to subdue Rebel worlds, or try to settle a lot of "Uplift" worlds and focus on Gene goods. The game also plays pretty fast once you grasp how to play, and that's really important to us given our schedule. We can actually get a game in after the kids go to bed, which isn't true of all our favorites.
Update: upgraded to a 9 after many plays. The game improves considerably once players have some familiarity with the deck. The heart of the game's strategy, in my estimation, lies in the role of the 6-cost developments. In Puerto Rico, these are the "big" buildings which give you VP bonuses at the end. Race does a better job of implementing this idea, and I am looking forward to those expansions! I can't wait to have the Uplift strategy, for instance, fleshed out by more cards. Aside: Race does boast some CCG elements, which we really like. But I have noticed that new players can get frustrated by the fact that cards in the tableau affect the game in so many different ways.
I like how the different strategic routes unfold over time in this game, both my awareness of routes to victory and my strategy in any given game. On the whole question of "Is there enough player interaction?": although I LOVE games which are highly confrontational and allow players the opportunity to crap on their neighbors (just look, I rate go a 10!), I find the structuring of a successful tableau in Race for the Galaxy very fulfilling. In many ways, the game really is a race, a race to make sure the game ends when YOU have the most points. The interaction in Race amounts to a psychological estimation of what your opponents are going to do, but the game doesn't strive to be a paragon of interaction. That's okay - this doesn't prevent it from being a fun and outstanding strategy game.
Update: Now rated a 10, well over 100 plays. I am really looking forward to the expansions.
Okay, I think if you love Race, you need the expansion. I like the new cards, and after playing over 150 games of this, tweaking the deck is rather welcome. So are the new goals, for that matter.
The expansion also comes with solo play rules - I don't really care about this, but this may be a selling point if you're interested in solo Race. The expansion also comes with a bunch of blank cards. That's cool - I may throw in a couple ideas I've been thinking about.
But I REALLY wish there had been more new cards, especially some cards which allowed a bit more interaction. (Guess what I'll be using those blank cards for!) Compared to the base game, the expansion is underwhelming. Yet I can't imagine playing without the new cards. They just make a great game a little better.
Wow, what a great dice game. MUCH better than Yachtzee, in my opinion, not that they are especially comparable. With eight dice, players play eight different mini-games, trying to roll up the best scores in the 10 events of the Decathlon. Mostly luck, but lots of push your luck! This game is great for passing some time rolling the bones. Recommended.
This is one of my daughter's favorites, but I find the game drags for me. The components are gorgeous, but that simply cannot make up for the lackluster play. In RotH, you adventure around with your hero, running errands which you pick up all around the modular board. You also spend some time fighting monsters to gain gold and experience, becoming as strong as possible to fight the end game boss. Like I said, my daughter really enjoys this game - it reminds me of roll-and-move games. Although you do not actually roll to move, there is plenty of moving and plenty of rolling. One frustrating aspect of the design is that, often, in order for you to complete a quest, the person/thing you need will not be on the board. This is because many of them start in a bag, and things are randomly drawn out of the bag when you defeat monsters, for instance. The game also takes at least two hours. There isn't a huge amount of downtime, there just aren't any very interesting decisions to be made. Finally, rulebook = ugh. I mean, the rules aren't that complex at all, but the organization and presentation of rules makes the game much harder to learn than it has to be. Part of the problem is that cardboard chits are used throughout the game and the vitals are not actually on the chits. So you have to dig through a glossary until you are familiar with them. But the rulebook in general is also put together in counterintuitive fashion.
Initial rating. Knizia area influence/tile laying game. It's got some bite to it, which I like, but doesn't offer the same freedom found in Tigris and Euphrates (or the same intensity of conflict for that matter). I think the pacing is kind of funky, but really need to play it a few more times before I give it a more stable rating.
I played this game over 200 times between the ages of 11 and 13 (I played it almost daily with my neighbor). It is the classic war game with broad appeal, and often got broken out at large family gatherings. Unfortunately, in a game with 4 people, some get bumped off early and have to go hit the bar or something, as the game isn't that much fun to watch.
Strategically, Risk also possesses a fundamental flaw. In all those games, I'd say anyone who was able to take North America in the early to mid game won the game. It's worth a good chunk of armies, and there are only three choke points.
So the game simply became a contest to see who could take and hold North America. Blah.
What can I say? This just fell really flat for me. Where to begin? 1. The iconography on the cards, used I'm sure to save the cost of printing different language versions, is dreadful. It's confusing and doesn't lend itself to quick recognition. So every time you play, you're repeatedly looking up the cards in the glossary. Blech. 2. Because you can only activate your cards based on what numbers you roll up with the dice, you can't really develop much of a strategy. So Roma is sort of a procedural mash up. You roll dice, choose some actions, maybe draw some cards, maybe get some money, maybe lay some new cards. But there's no thrill of accomplishment.
The art on the cards is pretty, and the game isn't broken. Everything "works", but I didn't have any fun.
I can see why this game fails to please people at the extremes. It doesn't offer the solid control or long-term strategy of Durch die Wuste, nor does it offer the simple fun of Einfach Genial. The scoring is kind of a bizarre perturbation of the mechanism used in Tigris and Euphrates. So what's going on in Samurai? Each player is trying to collect helmets, buddhas, and rice fields, and does so by surrounding these items with numbered influence tiles. You win if you manage to have the most tokens in at least two categories. But often, no one fulfills this condition. In a two player game, it is very common for each player to lead in one token type. To then determine who wins the tie, you check to see who has the most remaining tokens, once your leading tokens are removed. So, as in Ingenious and Tigris and Euphrates, it doesn't always pay to amass a huge number of only a single token. You need to strive for a balanced approach to win. You want to have the most of at least one kind of token, but shabby performance on other tokens will usually cost you the game. Thus Samurai rewards the player who can capture a broad variety of tokens, as well as take the lead in at least one category.
Given this kind of winning condition, the absense of total control in the game may frustrate some players. When you choose your moves, you have to plan for a rather wide variety of future contingencies - yet you must do this from a limited, random selection of your tiles. And the array of possibilities is too extensive to be subjected to thorough analysis during play. This isn't to say that analysis is impossible. Far from it! You must develop a sense of what can happen and act accordingly in order to win. Samurai doesn't offer total control for a few reasons: 1) you play tiles from a random draw (but you do get five tiles at a time to choose from) and 2) every player has one tile which allows them to exchange the positions of two selected tokens. So playing Samurai, you might become frustrated because you cannot execute a particular strategy for victory. I happen to like this about the game - that it forces you to play flexibly and adapt to ongoing developments. Any "strategy" you develop will only be good for about five turns - which is related to your five tile hand. As an aside, you do get to choose your initial five tiles. Despite this focus on tactical problem-solving, you still have to watch what is happening in the long run to do well. You don't want to allow opponents to lock out one of the three token types, for instance.
Samurai plays fairly quickly, scales really well from 2-4 players, and is a fun game. Some of my GeekBuddies note that it is missing the "fun factor", and although the gameplay is obviously "Knizia" and has that little bit of a dry feel to it, I disagree with them. I think Samurai is rather fun, and the best of Knizia's tile-laying trilogy. I am happy to admit that this is a matter of taste, however. One neat aspect of Samurai is that, especially in 3 and 4 player games, it boasts player elimination. This is why you keep the tokens you have won a secret behind your screen - if everyone displayed them, player A might realize well before the game is over that it is impossible for him to win. But given the tricksyness of the scoring conditions and player A's non-eidetic memory, it is doubtful player A will be able to figure this out before the game concludes. And like I said, it plays fast enough that it doesn't really matter. In the two player game, you do not hide your tokens. Occasionally, this means that two astute players will see who the inevitable winner is before the last tile is layed. In one recent game, the outcome had been decided when there were still seven tokens (one third of the total) yet to be claimed. This is a minor gripe, if it is a gripe at all. The point is: the game does reward skilfull play and does punish poor play - enough to occasionally eliminate players.
If you like games that have some strategy, but more of a tactical focus, and you don't mind a little bit of randomness and loss of control, give Samurai a try. I think it's a lot of fun! (I only have one concern - not my idea originally - that Samurai may fall prey to Tic-Tac-Toe-ism, that is, that it is "solvable" and that for two players who have solved it the outcome will be (90%) a matter of turn order.)
Well, it's kind of like normal Scrabble, except that the words are already printed on the board. Every turn, you choose to place two letters. There's a bit of interesting strategy to it, but it really isn't compelling. I will only play this with children.
CHILDREN'S RATING: 7
For kids who are learning to spell and read, this can be a lot of fun.
I don't normally enjoy "memory" games, but I like this one (better than other games of this kind I play with my kids). In The Secret Door, three "treasure" cards are placed behind the secret door at the beginning of the game. Players play "memory" to try and discern which three cards are hidden. Some of the cards are turned over to reveal clocks, and when 12 clocks are revealed in this way, the game ends. So there is a time pressure as well. This is a cooperative game for 2 or more players, and although it isn't high on the list of things to pull out for the adults, anytime my daughter requests this game I am happy to oblige. I think the theme of trying to catch thieves enhances the game as well. Secret Door is a fine game to play with kids, but I'd pick Dawn Under instead if I had a choice. (Heck, I'd even play Dawn Under with adults if requested.)
CHILDREN'S RATING: 8.5
This is a super game for kids. They can play with adults, or they can play together. It's completely cooperative, but can also be played with a competitive conclusion - that is, people can make differing guesses at the end as to which 3 treasures are behind the secret door.
Senet is one of those classic games which everyone should try, along with Chess, Go, Backgammon, Mancala, and so on. It plays like a simplified Backgammon, and I prefer the latter game. But Senet has its own charms. The stick throwing thing is fun and the token movement, while generally like Backgammon, does provide some excellent opportunities for nasty play. Senet is also one of those games which you could easily construct out of spare rocks and twigs, making it a game that doesn't truly rely on have a set to play. As a game, Senet is definitely a so-so experience for me, but I think it can really shine as a children's game. This is not a -
I wanted to love this game, but honestly, I'd rather play most any of my other games first. SoC, to my thinking, is mostly a card game disguised as a board game (which isn't a bad thing - this is just a neutral description of what it is). Players attempt to get runs, pairs, and full houses before the game does nasty things to the Knights of the Round Table. The game is gorgeously produced, but this just doesn't make up for the gameplay and the large amount of downtime. Given the lightness of the game, it also just drags on for far too long for what it is. I love Arthurian legends, high fantasy, etc. But I'd play plain old Rummy or something similar before playing SoC again (hence, I traded it away). Now, granted, these comments are only based on one four player game, so give them whatever weight you feel appropriate. But from where I stand, I've played enough games to make a pretty keen assessment for myself. Being forced to play further games would have only driven my rating of the game down further - so I got out while I was ahead.
I am sensitive to the point that this is an "experience" game. Despite all our fun quoting Monty Python and making medieval jokes, the "experience" just wasn't that great. For an "experience" game, I'd much rather play Plunder or Pirate's Cove (piratey goodness, arrrgh!), replete with jokes about pinnaces, "arrrr, matey"s, and piratical derring-do - or Lord of the Rings, which provides very tense, thematic fun.
Update: Well, a second play with more people who know the game better sees my feelings about the game drop EVEN further. I feel as if, during this second play, I saw the game at its best. That said, my biggest problem with Shadows is the lack of meaningful decisions. There are no "deliciously difficult choices" to be made in this game, from my perspective. Couple that with the fact that one's turn often consists only in moving from the Round Table to a quest or playing a single card (with no immediate effect), and watching other people make similarly banal moves, and you get a recipe for ho-humming. Even with a traitor (or more correctly, the possibility of one), Shadows just has no where *near* the tension for me that Knizia's Lord of the Rings does. The latter game I have played a bunch of times now, and get so much more out of. When Shadows was released, many people made the claim that it borrowed things from LotR: the corruption track becomes the black vs. white swords, and so forth - but they are very different cooperative games to my mind. Objectively, after two plays I'd say that SoC is a better game than I first thought - perhaps on a purely objective scale it would get a 6 from me. But I don't want to play it any more than I did after my first play. When this game debuted on the Geek, it was quite the darling. I obtained it right after it was published and didn't see what the fuss was about. Ironically, I kept wondering how so many other people could find SoC so fun and engaging, and I could not. What was wrong with me?!? The hivemind of Geekland now reveals, of course, that I was/am not alone.
I like Shogun. A friend dubbed it "Risk on acid", but the resemblance to Risk is fairly specious. Shogun is an excellent strategic game of conflict, however, which also does an outstanding job of incorporating role selection, blind bidding, bluffing, and even negotiation - to some degree. At least, Shogun allows for negotiation. I wouldn't say the game design promotes it. Some have remarked that playing the two years (six actual full turns and two scoring turns) does not allow the game to develop as fully as players would like. And I agree that going for three or four years would provide an interesting experience. The problem with this is simply a matter of time. After playing a one year trial game, our first full game still took four hours. I would say that the players were neither exceptionally fast nor slow, but average with respect to play time. It didn't *seem* like four hours to me, but that is because there is very little down time in Shogun, were you are just twiddling your thumbs. The time-consuming part of the game is the act of secretly matching up your provinces with the 10 actions which occur every turn. Some might call this downtime, but it's really sort of a mutual brain melt. Each player is examining the board, assessing the possible events for the season, the five revealed actions, and their own position - trying to figure out the most advantageous way to appropriate the actions. This takes time, as so much rides upon the decisions made.
The one thing I dislike about Shogun is that the weight given to this process of matching roles to provinces is disproportionate to the amount of planned strategic impact which results from the process. What you end up doing, and when, and where - IS THE GAME. But because the process is blind, and because you only see the order of the first five action types for the season, you have to spend a lot of time speculating as to what your opponents are doing in order to decided what you are going to do (and when and where during the season). This all has a tremendous impact on the game, and everyone knows it, which is why making the choices take so long, and why the entire game ends up taking 3 hours. But it feels to me as if there is a disconnect between investment and outcome. I think simplifying this process would have improved the game - perhaps reducing the number of roles/phases down to five somehow. This is my only gripe with the game (besides the warping player mats.)
The cube tower is used to resolve combat - you can see pictures of it here. I think it works quite nicely, and helps generate tension as mild surprises can occur. You aren't merely attacking provinces in Shogun. In fact, I would say that the heart of the game is not attacking (although that may be the most *fun*), but rather positioning and strategic building. Turn order (along with a special season-specific privilege) is determined by a blind bidding process. It makes sense. Shogun is a lot of fun, but it does seem to me to be a more contemplative, slower paced game. As with many, I prefer the Moon side of the board. I recommend the game, but make sure you don't mind longer games, and that you set aside adequate time to play.
Initial rating based on 6 quick plays of the Suicide Mission. Space Hulk is the best tactical, squad-based combat board game I have every played. (That isn't to say that you can throw a long term strategy out the window - you cannot. But tactical chops will determine the victor.) After I got my copy, I discovered all this stink about the poor business practices of the publisher. But my rating does not reflect my opinion of the publisher, or the private habits of the game designer, or anything of that sort. The game itself is at least an 8 for me, I expect the rating may even rise.
Update: more plays sees this rise to a solid 9 for me. Some reviewers comment that this game is "good for being an older game". Wha?? It's a good game. Period. It does not feel clunky or outdated to me. It's just an excellent implementation of tactical, squad-based combat. The rules are easy enough to teach just about anybody and not too complicated to recall between long breaks away from the game. I'm sure there are deeper games of this sort on the wargamer's chest, but delving into serious wargames is a commitment for which I lack the time and interest (at this time). So Space Hulk is perfect. Each game is tense and exciting, and I especially enjoy the asymmetry of the Genestealers vs. the Space Marines. Example: The Space Marines have to use a timer to limit their turn, whereas the aliens get all the time they want. This is a fantastic way to represent the fact that the aliens are really, really fast AND perhaps have some sort of telepathy thang going on. The Space Marines excel at ranged combat. The Genestealers have none, so must close to hand-to-hand to win.
I also like the balance of brains and luck. It seems just right for these kinds of conflicts. I look forward to many more plays.
Spicy Farkel is a simple push your luck dice game, but it really shines as a family game. MUCH more entertaining than Yahtzee, for instance. Similar idea, in that you roll 6 dice, remove scoring dice, and keep rolling. The twists are that if you don't role any scoring dice in a go, then you "Farkel" and lose all accumulated points for that round. The other tweak on the formula is the High Stakes rule. Let's say you role up 500 points with 4 dice, but you don't want to risk losing those points on your next role with only 2 dice. So, you pass. You get your 500 points, and the next player gets the option of starting over with all 6 dice, OR rolling the 2 unrolled dice from your turn. If the next player can role up some points, then she gets those points PLUS your points. And, if all 6 dice scored out, she can keep rolling - forever really - to get more points. This leads to some massive point totals in the game, and gives it that high stakes gambling feel. Lots of fun to play with kids, as the game incorporates basic odds with pushing your luck, and some good math in totaling points.
Spy Alley is a roll and move deduction game. There are six identities and one wins the game by either eliminating all other players by guessing their identities or by collecting four essential items (a codebook, a key, a password, and a disguise) for one's specific identity and then landing on one's embassy space (all players are spies of varying nationalities). To win, you try to collect your own items, but collect enough items for other identities so as to misdirect the guesses of others. I like deduction elements in games, but the randomness in this one is very high, and the winner will usually be decided by "dumb luck", not inventive deduction. Spy Alley clearly plays better with more players, but I'd prefer to play Mystery of the Abbey if I'm going to play a deduction game.
I played this one with the family when I was young, and have great memories. This was the "Monopoly" in my household. Sadly, our copy was lost/trashed when I got a little older, however, and Monopoly became the "Monopoly" of the household. Ugh.
Stratego isn't a bad game, and is one of the better traditional children's games on the market. Fortunately, there are many excellent games available now, but this is one of the few that has some staying power.
This game is a lot of fun and very engrossing. There are many things about Tahuantinsuyu that I like, and a few things that I don't. I like the gameplay in general and find it very engaging. Even when it's not my turn, I'm interested in what's going on. So this is a game where downtime doesn't bother me. I also like how success emerges from many small decisions, each of which is affected by what the other players are doing. And I like that it plays very well, albeit differently, with three and four players. Many people mention that this game is similar to the crayon rail games, so I guess I'll have to try them out.
The winning strategy is definitely centered upon making sure you are well-connected! In Tahuantinsuyu, you are one of four generals subjugating the neighboring cultures and developing the Incan Empire. You can build all sorts of things, chief among them: roads. In the scoring phases, you get points for each structure (city, temple, etc.) that you are connected to, so you want to focus on getting your roads connected to all the different structures. But you also get one time point bonuses for building cities, temples, etc., so you muct balance your need for bursts of points with your need to collect a lesser amount of points in the scoring rounds. The cumulative Sun cards are a stroke of genius. Sun cards are cards played down between players which have some effect upon them, You can read more about them elsewhere, but they are an excellent aspect of the game. I especially like the balancing mechanisms which punish the lead player!
Things that could be better: a better player aid would be nice. Also, it can be hard to tell where some of the roads and Huaca points are located on the board. A clearer board design is really needed. Play time also typically runs to 180 minutes (which is ironically what is listed as play time for most of the crayon rail games!), which seems just about 30 minutes longer than it should be for this game. But nits aside, excellent, excellent game. I'll play anytime.
Taj Mahal nicely combines area influence with bidding to make a great game, but doubts linger. In Taj, players use cards to bid for dominance in six different categories. This bidding, as many have pointed out, bears some small resemblance to poker: there are four basic colors/suits, there is bluffing, you fold when you no longer wish to or cannot continue, and your card play often "raises" the stakes. (To my thinking, the strongest point of connection is the bluffing.)
The game is played in 12 rounds, each one a battle for placing palaces and acquiring goods in the 12 different provinces of North Central India. Like many a Knizia game, there are different routes to making points (and winning), and you do best if you can balance them out. The six things you bid for are the roles of the princess, vizier, general, monk, mogul, and elephant. The first five give you a palace per role, winning the elephant gives you the goods in the province. Upon scoring, each good you attain earns you one point. Furthermore, you get points for matching goods from previous rounds. So goods are a potent source of points, and their effect is compounded as the game wears on. Also, you get to place one palace for each role you win that is not an elephant. No matter how many palaces you have in the province, they are worth a single point (total). But, if you manage to connect those palaces to palaces in other provinces, each province represented in the chain of palaces is worth a point. You don't get points per palace, but rather points per province connected by palaces. I don't know if this makes a lot of sense, but I want to highlight that there are a few different routes to making points.
The heart of Taj Mahal is the card play. You must make sure that you have enough cards to be competitive in bidding for the various roles, and sometimes it is worth it to skip the fight for a province completely, as this nets you a bonus card.
I have played Taj Mahal with 3 and 4 players. 3 players is great for learning the game, but every single 3 player game I have played in has had a massive runaway leader problem. The outcome of the game is obvious after playing through about 5/12 provinces. 4 players makes for a much tighter and interesting game, where it is really any 2 or 3 players at the end. My concerns are two-fold. First, a player who plays "incorrectly" will not only lose horribly, but will unintentionally benefit another player, perhaps catapulting her to a win over other players who are playing very well. So a learning game or two is necessary. All players must be reasonably competent in foiling others in the bidding process, or the system of checks and balances breaks down. My second concern is that, if all players are playing reasonably well, the win seems somewhat random. I'm not certain that long term strategy has much of a place in Taj Mahal. This leads to a competitive game where the winner feels determined by a die roll. I will say this, I like playing Taj Mahal. It is a fun experience. I'm just uncertain about its staying power right now. I suppose I need to play some more, and get some 5 player games in too. Among bidding games, I still prefer Ra to Taj Mahal, but I'll gladly play Taj any time.
My wife loathes this game. Hates it. She'd give it a 2, I think. "This game has no point."
Let me just say, she likes highly competitive, strategic games. "Experience" games will never warm her heart - I say this as a counterbalance to all the reports of this game being so very popular with the ladies. Not all. Not all, my friend.
On to me: I think it's rather clever and interesting. And although there is a game here, it really is more of a story experience. I'm hoping my oldest will enjoy it when she gets a little older, she spends a lot of time telling stories and playing pretend.
The game itself is pretty straightforward, rules-wise. You travel around, and draw cards, then role dice, generating encounters in the Book of Tales. Sometimes you get to make a decision, but usually, something just happens. I should note that what happens can often change depending upon what skills you have in the game. When free time is more plentiful, I look forward to spending more time with this one.
Interesting. I enjoy the game a lot, but especially with two player games it can suffer from an imbalance of skill. There is no luck, and no hidden information. So with two players of uneven skill, the winner swiftly becomes apparent. Then the game becomes a chore, as the outcome is already decided. If this happens often enough between two opponents, the game loses its luster. This is true, to a lesser extent, with 3 and 4 players. I like the game nevertheless. I like the theme, even though it is criticized as being "dry". I enjoy the mechanics, which are mildly remiscent of Go and Twixt (for me, anyway).A warning though - this is not a gateway game, in my opinion. At least I have had ZERO luck with it as such. See, I've only listed two plays. I've exposed it to 4 different people, and talked to others about their experiences playing it. Same result - not a successful gateway game, that is, not unless a person is already a very gamer's-gamer sort of person.I think if you like some of Knizia's other designs, DdW is really worth a shot, however. You might really love it.
T&T is a lovely game, and it's an extremely clean system which nicely utilizes proven mechanisms. I feel as if I should really like it. But there's also almost zero player interaction, almost zero tension, almost zero excitement. It's one of those games, like TtR (to which it is frequently compared), in which players attempt to complete routes. Completing routes gets you little victory point bonuses, and your goal is to get as many of those bonuses as possible while trying to ensure that the game ends when you are in an ascendent position. The rules are elegant, but I just find the game ho-hum. There is nothing especially satisfying about playing it, although I'm happy to play it while carrying on a conversation. I tend to dislike "multiplayer solitaire" games in which you try to build something, and in which other players can only thwart your efforts in passive-aggressive ways - which describes T&T pretty well. The only way to mess with another player is to pick up cards you "think" she might want. This is the only real interaction in the game, and it's pretty weak - but I simply don't care for this sort of interaction. If there is a conflict of interests in a game, I like it to be more direct. In Tikal, you can take control (for scoring purposes) of someone else's ruins. In Lost Valley, you can obtain gold from a mine another player spent valuable resources to build. In Puerto Rico, you can take a role card desired by someone else - but it has a *major* impact on their plans. In T&T, taking a card someone else wants (if you guess correctly about that) is like pinching them, not knocking them out with a knuckle sandwich. My complaint does not arise from lack of appreciation for subtlety. I love subtlety, but let there be some deviousness, for crying out loud. I've meditated a bit on this game, and I think although I find the presentation beautiful, it just doesn't feel that much like a game to me. More of an activity. Even in Lord of the Rings, a cooperative game, there is a strong feeling of competition - against the Sauron-Knizia evil mastermind, aka The Game.
A looooooong time ago, in a land far, far away (a state or so anyway), I practiced my X's and O's assiduously to develop the proficiency I knew I would one day need for...Tic-Tac-Toe. I played somewhat more than 20 games in my youth, and probably somewhat less than 50 games - scattered across a span of somewhat more than 3, and somewhat less than 8, years. Although I would be hard pressed to play Tic-Tac-Toe, or the "Triple T" as the undeniably cool call it, the time will come. This game is broken, as two semi-intelligent humans will always stalemate.
Tichu is a tremendous trick-taking game for partners. Best. Trick-taking. Game. Ever.
Update: Now that I've had a few years' worth of games under my belt, I can vouch for Tichu's staying power. It has been a consistently fun game. There is a real art to playing with different kinds of partners, to calling Tichu, and to passing. A person can be a good partner player, yet remain poor at passing. A person can pass well, yet remain poor at going out. And even though communication between partners is not allowed, a good player will "read" both her partner and other players in order to win. If you like trick taking games and have not played Tichu, do so.
Based on my limited experience, TtR is a solid, fun game. I think it is likely the best gateway game I have ever played. If I needed a game for a group of gamers and non-gamers, or ALL non-gamers, TtR would be at the top of my list. The set-collecting mechanic works well as a means of developing your routes, and the route cards add a timing element to the strategy of that enriches what would otherwise be a more tedious affair. Best of all, my 5 year old can play it and has fun, even if she doesn't always make the best decisions. Unfortunately, Ticket to Ride takes just a *little* it too long for what it offers: which is a light, social gaming experience. I wouldn't want to play it with more than four players again, and I don't think I would ever request it, but I wouldn't mind playing it as light entertainment while having a discussion about something else.
More or less Ticket to Ride: Europe, but without the train depots. I like it better because it's a bit more confrontational. Although, let's face it: it's still a Ticket to Ride game, which is the My Little Ponies of gateway games.
Wow, Tiddly Winks gets no love on the Geek. Considering that once you get the components and grasp the mechanism, 100s of exciting variants await the creative mind, I am a little shocked this classic draws so much derision. Snapping the tiddly "winks" around can be great fun on a big carpet, and it doesn't take too much imagination to develop your very own Tiddly-Croquet. Granted, the base game isn't thrilling - I'd probably give it a 2. But playing it through a course as a race game can be a lot of fun.
Of all the "heavy-weight" European games I have played, this is my favorite. Excellent with 2, 3, or 4, there are many different strategies to pursue. I love the fact that a player can come from behind to win - with the right strategy. The scoring mechanism is also ingenious, and keeps the game tense to the end. It's just excellent when everyone thinks player X is going to win, and then, when the victory cubes are revealed, little ol' player Y wins! The game has nice components and great player interaction, but seem a little mean-hearted and suffers from weak thematic elements. I DO like the theme here, but if I had to rate theme as a separate component, it would get a 7, whereas the rest of the game would get a 10. The confrontations can also get a little too nasty (for some players). That's code for: my wife will never suggest this game (although she will play it). Despite these gripes, I must rate this an 8 - it is incredible. I will also add that only this game (and Knizia's Durch Die Wuste) have actually gotten my wife mad during a game. I haven't decided yet if that is a mark for or against them.
I will not play this with analysis-paralysis types!!!! That said, I especially enjoy Tikal as a two player game (less downtime, more feeling of head-to-head competition). It plays in about an hour, and provides for a pretty intense experience. I like how Tikal manages to blend tactics with strategy. Over the course of a game, you have a rough idea of when scoring is going to occur (basic version), and so are able to plan ahead to some degree. You also have the option to build up to two additional base camps, which increase your mobility in different regions of the board. Tile placement is also rather strategic, and allows you to shape the board throughout the game to your advantage, or your opponents' detriment. The use of action points forces you to make more tactical decisions, and the scoring rounds themselves are an exercise in analytical tactics. "Analytical" - that's a word that is very appropriate to this game. Every turn, you must analyze which use of your available action points (10 each turn) give you the most reward - both for the next scoring round, and for the game overall. So the game requires analysis, and it doesn't really evoke the passions as a result. I don't get excited about Tikal the way I do about some other games, but I'm up for a game most of the time. Enjoyable.
Update: I am frankly surprised that I like this game as much as I do. I wouldn't classify it as an especially rich game, and I don't spend any time thinking about how I would play differently once a game is over. Neither do I anticipate playing it with the thrill accompanying, say, Union Pacific or Struggle of Empires. But I'm usually willing to play it, and enjoy doing so. Perhaps it is a kind of intellectual exercise that simply scratches an itch? More players makes the game more interesting to me, and increases the role of strategy versus tactics (which I like!), but the downtime is nearly *unbearable*. And with more players in the game, your positional options are further limited, giving you less thinking to do during all that tedious waiting. With two players, the game isn't quite as interesting, but it plays much, much faster. Tikal is very hard for me to rate objectively in terms of its excellence as a game, but it's easy for me to determine that it's something I definitely need to be "in the mood" to play.
Final update (& verdict): I really have a love-hate relationship with Tikal. Sometimes, major arm twisting is required for me to play, because it simply feels like a very tedious logical exercise of navigating a too-dense decision tree. But there isn't any *fun* in Tikal's brain-burniness. I give it a 4. Other times, it does kind of "scratch the itch" - but even then, it isn't loads of fun. It simply satisfies the part of me that enjoys this kind of intellectual exercise. I give it a 6. In the end, I'm splitting the difference. Tikal is a 5 for me.
Absolute final update (seriously!): Tikal, like El Grande, suffers (from my perspective) in that it fails to reward excellent play in the late game. Contrast with Tigris and Euphrates where a mistake on player A's part provides an opening for player B to catch up and win, or with Puerto Rico where you can trail for most of the game, but where your wharf-buying strategy can pay off in the late game. In Tikal, unfortunately, brilliant plays in the late game will avail you very little. So long as the leader plays "competently", her early lead will give her the game. Tikal probably has a greater probability (than, say El Grande) of allowing the trailers to take a leader down - but not by much. This bleeds a lot of the tension out of the game, and for me anyway, diminishes the fun.
This is the best party game I've ever played. I laugh so hard I cry when playing this. Playing it is simply hilarious. I can see how people might get frustrated when their partner isn't educated with respect to either art, world history, or pop culture - as the games revolves around charades indicating famous people. But this is part of the game's charm: are you able to communicate the identity on the card even when your partner doesn't have any clue who that person is?
This is one of those games that everyone should have a copy of.
Genus IV has terrible questions, in my opinion. The basic mechanic of Trivial Pursuit is alright, and it can be a fun game for 3+, but Genus III is the best edition.
If 'm really in the mood for trivia though, I like playing Newsweek's out of print trivia game, where the questions revolve less around popular culture and more around science, history, and literature.
I like the graphic design on Tsuro, but that's about it. I didn't really enjoy playing it. Tsuro is kind of a puzzle game, but it isn't the kind of puzzle I like. Sorry I can't say anything more specific - I played it a few years ago and just recall that I have no desire to every play it again.
Initial rating. This is the game I was hoping for when I bought Valley's reprint of Hannibal. It's an asymmetrical, exciting, well-themed strategy war game. Our first play, muddling through learning the rules, took around 4 hours, but it was glorious entertainment.
Okay, about 6 plays in - these may be the ultimate 2 player game. It's gripping, involved, and satisfying. There are strategic and tactical choices to make, and each game plays out like a different story. I can't believe I waited so long to get into this. Now...I just need to get my significant other to give it a try! Game length can really vary, but to be safe give yourself 3 hours once you know the rules. It's an awesome 3 hours though.
Twister was fun as a kid, and we even played it a few times at family gatherings. I suppose I could be talked into it - I like physical games, but as a "game", there's not much to maintain interest here.
Woohoo! A game submitted to the Geek by yours truly. A colleague in grad school introduced me to this, the best of all trivia games (in my opinion, anyway!). I own the "Premium Edition" yet I am not aware of any other editions. Curious. At any rate, the questions are more academic than the Trivial Pursuit games - think of this as the trivia game for the Renaissance men and women in your life. If you're lucky, you might be able to find a copy at a garage sale. I picked mine up for $1.49.
I like this "expansion" slightly better than Return of the Heroes, perhaps because it is playable as a shorter, two-player experience. Although you can combine it with the base game for a 5-6 player adventure fest, you'd have threaten puppy-torture or something to get me to play this as an expansion. I just don't think I could take it. I already get to the point where I just hunt through the stupid bag for the bits I need instead of drawing them randomly. But if there's time to kill, Under the Shadow of the Dragon is really an excellent table-top adventure experience for my daughter. I definitely like Prophecy better, and for myself, there is a supreme adventure board game: Arkham Horror. Under the Shadow of the Dragon is a good choice to play with kids though, as they aren't going to appreciate the Mythos theme.
Gameplay is just like RotH, save that you are beefing up to fight one of four dragons at the end, and your "heroic quest" is to acquire a magical weapon that will allow you to challenge the dragon (and hopefully live). Again, the rules are very poorly done, but if you've puzzled through the base game, learning this one is no challenge.
This is the game I hoped Ticket to Ride would be - before I had ever played either of them, or any of Alan Moon's designs for that matter. In UP, players are trying to make the most money in each of four dividend rounds (scoring rounds), finishing the game with the most millions. On a turn, you have two choices: build a railroad route for one of 10 companies OR vest stock shares in one or two of those companies by playing cards from your hand to the table. Various factors contrain your options in both cases. But you absolutely must balance building beneficial routes with investing, for if you fail to invest in a timely manner, a dividend round can occur - leaving you out in the cold. And the four dividend cards are semi-randomly located in the share deck - drawing a dividend card signals an immediate scoring round. The only gripe I have about UP is that it can be difficult to displace an early leader. It can be done through careful play. Some people complain that the game goes on a little too long, but I find that even when it does take 2.5 hours to play a game, I am engaged the entire time. Downtime has never become a serious issue for us, and you are constantly figuring out what to do next. I'm still not certain as to how many viable *different* strategies there are to win, and resolving that question will (in the long run) determine where my rating goes.
UPDATE: UP has left the limbo of a 9 rating to settle at 8. I really like the game and always have fun playing it, but am disheartened that it is *so* difficult to knock out a strong, early leader. Because initial vested shares are determined by a random draw, it's often the case that one person has an early monopoly on one of the smaller railroads (light blue, orange, etc.). If one player has a monopoly on two of these in the early game, they can translate that into overall victory without too much difficulty. Even the most savvy play is often incapable to displacing a strong, early leader in UP - as such a lead is really for the leader to lose, and barring idiotic mistakes the lead won't be lost. So even though I enjoy playing the game, oftentimes playing past the second scoring round seems academic.
Union Pacific has great tension, an excellent mix of strategy and tactics, and it light enough so that you don't have to relearn the system or rules every time you play. While UP isn't a brain burner, it does reward planning and intellectual flexibility, and of course, it's just plain fun. 3-5 players is the sweet spot here, even though it can be played with 2 or 6. 4 players seems ideal to me, with 3 and 5 being only slightly less sublime - and really, playing with 6 is still good. It's hard to believe this game is OOP, I'm glad I was able to get a copy from the Netherlands. It was worth the hassle.
An okay card game. My copy hasn't seen the light of day for over 10 years though, which should tell you something. Lots of people in my extended family love Uno, along with Skip-bo and Cribbage (I choose the latter if I get any say), but I've always seen Uno as a time-waster.
This is the game I had hoped Evo would be. Although Evo can be fun after a fashion (for me), Urland just scratches my gaming itches much better. The name of the game here is area control, and although area control isn't a mechanic I'm ecstatic about, Urland does it right. You are trying to successfully evolve your own little species of Ichto, in the seas and on 12 different, numbered land masses. Players take turns in the following roles: Environment, Observer, and Ichto...
I quite like this game! Players are royal advisors in the Forbidden City, and trying to collect sets of imperial clothing. I'm not sure why....hat envy?
Doesn't matter though. This is really a great family game. There is enough chance involved that anyone who is paying attention has a viable shot at winning, yet your choices genuinely matter. It's just got that proper balance that a great family game should have.
Web of Power is an area-majority type game, but one stripped down to bare essentials. I was concerned that I wouldn't care for it, given that Hansa kind of falls flat for me - but I was pleasantly surprised. There are many "good" games of this type, such as Tikal and El Grande, but I like Web of Power above the others. I think this is because it is so streamlined. Even though I initially liked Tikal, over time I found that playing with more people dragged the game out painfully due to too many possibilities to consider, and that playing with two left me hankering for the deeper strategy of playing with four. El Grande has always felt like a hodge-podge game to me, to its detriment. It just isn't compellingly fun for me - many disagree, holding that it combines many different game play elements in a thrilling mosaic of gaming goodness.
In Web of Power, players take turns placing either monasteries or advisors on one of nine 12th century European countries using one or more cards from their three-card hands. When the draw deck is depleted, there is a scoring round with players amassing points for monastery majorities in the various countries. The second time the draw deck is depleted, the monasteries are scored again, and the advisors are scored as well - and both scoring methods are roughly similar. In both cases, you are going for a majority (ties are okay). Players also get points (one point per monastery) at the end of the game for each chain of four or more monasteries linking continuously along a road. From the fairly simple mechanics arises a tense game of outmanuvering your opponents. A piece laid is a piece played, so players will viciously cut off their adversaries attempts to create monastery chains - and a difficult decision must be made every turn as to whether to play a monastery or advisor, and in which country. You will "run out of time", never getting to place as many pieces as you would like. Players also have significant influence regarding how fast the draw deck is depleted, and can speed up or slow down the game according to their strategy.
Web of Power plays fairly quickly, keeps all players engaged, and distills area-control down to its most interesting elements. It's a winning combination.
Wig Out is a speed-type game where you are trying to reduce your hand to zero by playing down cards which match piles on the table. Piles are initiated by playing down pairs and, at the beginning of a round, by flipping over two cards. The first player to have an empty hand shouts "Wig Out", and everyone collects one point per card remaining in their hand. Five rounds are played. Low score wins. Kids love it. I don't mind playing it with them.
Okay for passing the time, if there is NOTHING else to do. Some redeeming value because it can be fun to play for kids. I will also admit that there is something I like about trying to complete a set of all the different "hands". The best part is yelling, "Yahtzee!!!"
YINSH is one of the only abstracts I really want to play. Elements of Pente and Othello, but far superior to either of those titles. I have more luck getting others to play this than Go, but I'm not complaining. They are both exciting and interesting abstracts. I appreciate that the game rules include a "blitz" game variant which plays very fast. It's great for kids, and great for teaching the game.
I wanted to love this game. I do appreciate the art! And there is a neat mind game involved in the back-and-forth nature of the battle. You can also put together some combination moves, setting up your opponent for further damage. But even at its most complex, this mind game boils down to a shell game, and I just don't find that very interesting. Every turn, you need to guess what your opponent is going to do - based on their past actions, their "tells", and your knowledge of the game and their deck. Then, you choose an action in the style of rock-scissors-paper that will trump your opponent's action. Yomi is easy to pick up and learn, and very stylistic. But one of my measures of a good game is that when I lose, I get excited to play it again and try things a little differently. I never lost Yomi, yet even winning I was un-enthused about further plays. It just wasn't much fun for me. My opponents also were not excited about the game, and soured on it. Now - if I were to read what I just wrote, I'd start to wonder, "Wow, this guy must be a real stinker. I'll bet he's a poor winner and that's the real problem, not this game." Yet...we play tons of games around here and I've always got people asking me to play. So, no, it's Yomi. The game just isn't for us, I guess. In the words of my better half: "Yomi blows." That's her harshest indictment. She'd give the game a 3.
Just a quick note up front: it seems like the game was designed for four. With three, it feels like there are one too many mechanisms to keep track of, given the depth.
Yspahan strikes me as merely a so-so sort of game. It's clever. It plays fast. But it isn't compelling. The mechanisms don't really mesh naturally with the theme. And it's just too gamey for its own good - without yielding commensurate depth or satisfying play. My overall feeling is "meh".