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London Dread (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
United States
Edinburgh
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If you have been reading our blog for some time, then you know that we tend not like to co-op games. That would make this one, a co-op game, an odd choice for us. However, if you are particularly observant reader of our blog then you would know that the co-op games I do actually like are ones with a really strong narrative. You might also be able to recall that my wife loves all things London. We got this game as part of a math trade last year with the hopes that the London theme and the narrative story telling would be make this be the rare breed of co-op game that we both like. Did that happen or is this game just dreadful?

Game Overview
In this game each player is an investigator. Each investigator has skills that they are proficient in (represented by icons) as well as an unique deck that fleshes out their traits. The board is a map of London, divided into four quadrants, and each quadrant will have six cards present there.

At set-up the board is seeded with face down cards. This will include plot cards, random encounters, and potentially allies. The game then has two phases. The first phase is played in real time for twelve minutes. During this time, the players will flip over cards on the board in hopes to find the plot cards. The players will also program their actions. Each player gets to do twelve things such as encounter cards in the quadrant they are in or move to a different quadrant. In the next phase these actions will be resolved in order, so it is important for players to coordinate being at the same place so they can combine their strengths to take on a plot card or an encounter.

The second phase is when the actions are resolved. To successfully win an encounter card, players need to meet its threat level. Each encounter card has a set threat and it has one or two attribute icons that can be used to meet that threat. Through their natural abilities and items players need to have icons equal to the threat level.

Encountering plot cards works differently. The plot cards do require specific symbols, but each matching icon gives the player the chance to roll a die. In addition, each player will draw from their deck of cards. These cards can give extra icons, but one of the six cards is a past trauma and drawing it is bad. Players shuffle and draw from all the cards each time. The die that is rolled has four blanks and two successes. All players encountering the plot roll their dice and the successes are added up. The plot card is turned over and the story is read, the number of successes determine the outcome of the card. If players are unable to encounter and resolve the plot cards they lose.

After all twelve actions, the encounter cards that were not cleared are discarded and this increases dread. The first chapter only has one act, but for the other chapters the board is reset for the second act.

Eventually players get to the end game where they encounter the antagonist. Before doing that, they must go through a series of three encounters. Players may choose to sit these out if the odds are not in their favor. These endgame encounters work just like a plot card, but if a player fails there are penalties, and these penalties could lead to the elimination of the player from the game. For each encounter a player passes, they earn a die for the final antagonist. To beat the antagonist, the players must roll successes with the dice earned in the endgame encounters equal to the dread level divided by five. If they do they win, if not they lose.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: I did not like the mechanisms and rules of this at all. I hated that no matter what happens, the game comes down to a random die roll where on each die the player only has a 33% chance of success. The story aspects of this game are extremely weak. Players just hope to find the cards while flipping at random, and the plot cards are resolved no matter once attempted, it is just a matter if the players are hurt or get extra stuff.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I did like the teamwork of planning out the actions and then the satisfaction of executing those plans. However, the amount of randomness and how punishing that randomness can be was really annoying.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: I appreciate the effort of giving this game a narrative, but I did not like how it was implemented.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game tried to tell a story, so I guess that was thematic. I listened to all of those cards being read, but I could not tell you what the story actually was. It was not engaging and forgettable.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: There are four chapters, and once each one is played win or lose I see little reason to want to do it again.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I suppose the different stories could be played again because there is some variability, but it would all feel repetitive.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: This is the best aspect of the game. The two phase structure works well. I like the real time, timed planning aspect. That did create a tense pace to the game.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I liked the timed part, and then resolving everything worked well without bogging down.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: I like narrative co-op games because they pull me into their story. This game through constant obstacles up to make it objectively hard to engage in the story. This game is as engaging and as fun as reading a book by strobe light.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I really did like the planning mechanisms, but that is not enough to carry an overall not great game.

Final Score

48/100

So this is a review of a co-op game by a couple who tend not to like co-op games. However, if we had to play a co-op game, even one we did not care for, I think there are a lot of games we would choose to endure over this one.
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Fri Feb 15, 2019 3:17 pm
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BattleCON: Fate of Indines (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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I played a BattleCON game over four years ago now. At the time I had middling thoughts about it, but I think a lot of that had to do with a bad match up. I had a slower heavy hitter guy, and the person I was playing had a fast ranged person. I could never make it work to get in range. So I was not exactly seeking these games out, but we ended up getting this one in a math trade. It was paired with another game, I was really trading for the other game and this one just came along for the ride. Since we had the game anyway it was worth giving this game another chance. So did the game win the second round or is it out for the count?

Game Overview
This is a two player duel game that is meant to deliver the feel of fighting video games. Each player will have a fighter. These fighters each have access to the same base technique cards, but each fighter will bring their unique style cards. In addition to that each fighter has a special ability unique to them.

Each turn follows the same structure. First players will select their attack. This is done by choosing one blue backed technique card and combining it with one red back style card. The style cards will often modify the blue cards, as well as providing various abilities.

After both players play cards, there is an ante phase where players can potentially activate their unique abilities. Then the chosen cards are revealed. Each combination will yield a priority number. The player with the highest priority will be the attacker and the other player is reactive. The attacker can then start resolving cards.

The cards can have a wide variety of special text that activates at various times and can have a wide variety of effects. In general for an attack, players will first check to see if the attack can hit because of range. If it can, the attacker then deals damage equal to the attack's power.

Often an attack will stun the reactive player meaning their attack will not happen. However, it is possible to have stun guard abilities which prevent this. If not stunned, the reactive player gets to go and follows the same procedure. Range is checked, if in range damage is dealt, and again a variety of effects and abilities can be triggered.

Finally there is the recycle phase where the cards used are put in a a discard pile, and the cards there are retrieved. The process then starts again. Both players start at twenty life and this process continues until one player's life total is reduced to zero.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: I do think the card combining system is neat. Putting the different cards together can create wildly different attacks and possibilities. This mimics some fighting games really well that have the same basic controls for every fighter but the style and feel of each fighter is very different.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I liked putting the cards together and I liked how cards kept cycling around, but overall I found this clunky. There are a lot of card effects. and the process of making sure they are all applied in the right order made it all flow in a stilted way.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: I am garbage at playing them, but I tend to like fighting video games. I often like the over the top, memorable, and unique character designs and concepts those games have. This board game taps into that ethos really well.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I am not a huge fan of fighting games, so this theme did not connect with me. The outlandish attacks names like Tempered lash or whatever are silly.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: This particular box is meant to be an introductory set for beginners into the world of Indines, but even in this box there is a decent amount of replayability. There are several fighters and each fighter can be explored and matched up against the others.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: If someone wanted to play this more there is a decent amount of content in the box.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: I like the general turn structure of this game quite a bit. Twenty life, while being the golden standard set by Magic, does seem to get the game length about right.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The pacing and flow is far too uneven. One game can go by too fast as one player can get stomped, and the next can feel to crawl as both player struggle to land good attacks.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: I think my first attempt at this game four years ago was just a bad play, because I liked it considerably more this go around. This is a good game with a lot of theme that strikes a wonderful balance between depth and accessibility.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: Even when the game went fast, I was bored. I am not big on this theme to begin with, but I would choose to play Yomi over this game every single time.

Final Score

65/100

In the end I probably have to agree with my wife. Even though I did enjoy this game a decent amount, I probably still prefer Yomi as my fighting card game of choice. We got this game as a tag along out of a trade pile, and I suspect it will go to someone else in the same way.
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Thu Feb 14, 2019 3:02 am
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Schlock Mercenary: Capital Offensive (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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Every year I attend a local convention and that convention often has a flea market list. Last year this game was available for the high price of $2. I really did not know much about this game, other than it was a science fiction combat game, and I could pay for it with money I found under the seat in my car. It took awhile to get it played. Now that we played is this game schlock or is it a hidden gem?

Game Overview
This game is scenario based with a variety of different scenarios. It can be played cooperatively or competitively. While there are a few differences this will mostly focus on how to play competitively.

For each scenario there is a recommended team or players can create their own. Each player will get alternating activation tokens, and they will assign a token to each of their characters. The characters will activate in token order. There is some upkeep as a turn starts. Then the player will roll movement to see how many spaces they could potentially move.

The main part of a player's turn is taking actions. The character card tells the players how many actions a character gets. There are multiple actions a player can take. They can move what was rolled, do a special movement of 2 spaces, aim, dodge, or make attacks.

Attacks are actions that are printed on the character card or they come from items they pick up. To attack line of sight first has to be established. Then the set number of attack dice is rolled. Each weapons has numbers that are auto-misses. The dice that roll those numbers are removed. Then range is established. Any die that rolls less than the range is also removed. Finally, the defender rolls their defense die. Defense dice can be spent to remove an attack die equal or less than it. If there are any attack dice left they will deal damage. First, armor is removed and then health. If all of the health is gone then the character is defeated.

Many characters do have special attacks with their own rules and several also have special abilities that are always active. Victory is determined by the scenario.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: The rules are simple, but they feel clunky. There are a lot of little things to keep straight, and things like determining range can be overly complex. I guess it just is not very streamlined.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I liked the way that activation tokens were assigned at the beginning of the round. everything else though felt a little bloated. The attack system, for instance, felt like more work than it was worth.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: I know this is based off of a web-comic that I know nothing about. It did feel like a video game-esque combat game and I am fairly sure that is the exactly the feel they were going for.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I have no connection with this theme, and the bland artwork and look did not do much to draw me in.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: They did a decent job at trying to cram as much variety as possible into the box.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I know there are multiple scenarios, but the tiles all look a like. I think that even with variety things will get same-y quickly.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: I do like the turn structure with assigning activation tokens at the beginning. Keeping small rules straight and remembering who is on overwatch and who is dodging can slow hings down a bit.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I was afraid this game was going to be a lot slower paced than it was.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: This game is not bad. This is the kind of game though that needs a strong thematic hook to really connect, and I just do not have it here. Even if I did, the substandard components make it hard to pick this over similar type of games available.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This is ok, but not great. I liked it more than I thought but the component quality especially does not really excite me to play it much more.

Final Score

64/100

Honestly, I think we enjoyed this game a little bit more than the final score reflects. As we both mentioned the lackluster components will detract it from making it to the table. The bigger issue though is if we are going to play a game of this nature, we will pick Imperial Assault every time. Still, it was very much worth $2.
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Fri Feb 8, 2019 4:46 am
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Two by Two (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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I am a lot better about than I used to be, but I find it hard to turn down a good deal on a game. So back in November when there were Black Friday deals, I added this to the game order because it was $4. I did not know a ton about the game, but I knew the game has a Noah's ark them, and that interested me a good deal. So was this game worth four bucks or was it two by two too much?

Game Overview
In this game player are seeking to get points for collecting sets of animals from an ever sinking island.

On a player's turn they will first add a water tile. The water tile has to be placed on a blank space and every face down animal tile next to the water tile is flipped face up The player will get one point for every tile flipped face up in this way.

Next the player may do two things and they have two possible options. They may do the same action twice. The first option is they can move their boat from one water space to an adjacent water space. The second option is that the player can collect an animal tile adjacent to it as long as that animal has a matching pair on the board. Each player has a few types of animals that are worth double for that player.

The game ends when all of the water tiles are placed, or when all of the animal tiles are revealed and there are not any more matches. There are two ways to score. In the basic rule, each animal collected is worth a point and players get a bonus if they are only one with that animal. In the advance way of scoring each pair of animals is worth six points, but those six points are split across the number rescued. If only one is rescued that one pair is six points. If two sets were rescued, then each set is worth tree points and so on. The player with the most points wins.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: The rules in this game are really basic, and the decisions are overly straight forward. Ideally players will collect animals that they score double, but getting those animals is mostly luck. The best play for each turn usually seems overly obvious.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The rules of this game are very easy and simple. They might be a little too simple, but I appreciate that they included advanced scoring.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: This really is not a Noah's Ark game, even though the theme I guess is inspired by that biblical story. I overall found the theme implementation of this game to be odd.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I found the theme implementation to be weak and not overly engaging.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: This game does not offer a lot of meaningful choices or engaging play so there is not much to draw me back for more.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game is simple, so I am not sure it has enough to stand up for multiple plays.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: This game does have a fast pace to it and the flow is good as the island shrinks. The animal matches start off limited, grow bicker, and then become limited by the end.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game does not drag on, and I think the length is right for what it is.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: Overall I find this game to be boring to play and forgettable as an experience.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: There are a lot better games, but I think this one is especially good as a family game.

Final Score

57/100

We did play this game with our kids, and my wife might be right. Perhaps this truly is a family level game to play with young children (as a reference point we have a kindergartener and a third grader). However, even then I personally prefer a lot of other family games. However, I was outvoted 3 to 1 so we will be keeping it (one the kid game shelf).
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Tue Feb 5, 2019 3:39 am
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Fort Sumter: The Secession Crisis 1860-1861

sean johnson
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By and large I think I have liked most card driven games I have played. I was especially interested in this game because it was intentionally designed to be a lunch time game. Even though this game is not technically a war game (it takes place before the war), it has war game trappings which means it could be very hit or miss with my wife. My hope was the shorter playtime and promised fast pace would offset that for her. So was this game a success or just a crisis?

Game Overview
In this game one player is the unionists working to keep the country together, and the other player is the secessionists faction. Players are competing for influence in the political, military, public opinion, and secession hotbed arenas. The game is played over three rounds.

Each round players get four cards and two objective cards. They will keep one objective and they will take turns playing the other three cards. These cards can be used to play influence cards or they can be played for the text on the card if available to the faction.

Influence cubes must first be placed from the pool if available, and if not then they come from a track. This track represents how close the situation is to a breaking point. As players advance they can unlock bonus cubes, but the first one to get into crisis will lose a point.

The fourth card will be used for the final crisis. After both players have played three cards, the player who controls the pivot points will get to move or remove cubes from that color group. If a player controls all three area of a color group then they get a point. To control an area a player must have more of their cubes in it than the other players. The objective cards are revealed, and which ever player controls that location gets a point. If a player scores the objective card they played then they will get to do the text which will involve adding or removing cubes.

If both players have reached the final crisis on the cube track or if three rounds have been played, the game moves to the final crisis. Players will order their three final crisis cards and reveal them. For the final crisis players are only paying attention to the bottoms which list one of the four arenas. If players reveal the same arena then cubes are removed. If players reveal different ones then cubes can be moved or added from the cube pools.

There is a final scoring, where players can get an extra point for controlling Fort Sumter. The player with the most points wins.
Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: I like the card driven game mechanism and it is employed well here. Compared to other games of this type the rules are really streamlined, but I still feel like the preserved a lot of the back and forth these games are known for.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This is a lot simpler than I thought it would be. I appreciate how straight forward the rules are.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: The included historical article is longer than the rules. I appreciate that, but this game is really, really abstracted.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I am not huge on games that are rooted in history, but it did come through in this game without feeling too dry.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: There is a fairly good sized deck, so not every card is going to be seen. However, player choices are limited by the smaller board size. I think eventually this game will hit a point where it feels played out.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The quick play time makes it easy to come back to, but I feel like this game can only be played so many times before it feels like it has all been done.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: This delivers on the lunch time concept. It delivers a history based game, with engaging card driven game play. This is successfully crammed into 45 minutes or less.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: We have played other game with a similar mechanism, and some of them feel like they drag out but this one does not.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: When it comes to quick two player card driven games I am not sure if I like this or Sola Fide more. Both games deliver a different experience over a vastly different topic, so I am great with enjoying both.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: Of the games we have played with similar mechanisms, this is my favorite.

Final Score

71/100

We are both concerned that this game has a shelf life, but just getting into it we are clearly not there yet. Eventually, we make reach a point where it is time for this game to secede from our collection, but until that crisis point we will enjoy playing it.
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Fri Feb 1, 2019 4:33 am
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Risk: Balance of Power (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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Way back in 2009, a version of Risk was released on the Xbox 360. This used rules from the 2008 revised edition, as well as including some ideas that have found themselves in various editions of Risk since then. Back then my wife and I played that together some (2009 was our transition from mainly playing video games to board games). She enjoyed it, so when we started getting into this hobby I looked for a version of Risk we could play together. I quickly discovered this two player only version, but also noticed it did not have an American release. I still went ahead and marked it "want in trade". Over the years we got played various other editions of Risk, and each time my wife enjoyed the game. For that reason I kept this a "want" and last year I finally acquired it in a math trade. So was this game worth an almost nine year wait?

Game Overview
In this version of Risk two players fight for objectives across Europe. There are a couple of set up options. There are four pre-made set up option, or one player can set the board how they want, but the other player picks who is what side. There will always be several neutral forces on the board. There are eight objectives that players can complete. These objectives often include controlling specific sites or groups of locations on the board.

Most of the game follows the classic Risk formula. Players begin by calculating the number of reinforcements they get and then deploying those forces to the board. Players can then attack to adjacent location. One troop must stay behind and the attack can commit up to three troops at a time. The defender rolls a max of two dice no matter how many troops they have. high numbers are matched up, and the loser loses a unit for each die. Defender wins ties. After each round of rolling, the attack can decide to continue or retreat. The attacking player can keep going and attack at as many locations as they wish.

To end the turn the active player can redploy troops from one territory they control to another as long as the territories are connected. Finally, if they took at least one territory the player gets a card. These cards can be turned in for additional reinforcements. Alternatively, players can claim an objective if they meet the criteria.

This adds a couple of elements to that formula. In addition to the objectives, there is rough terrain which limits the attacker to only two dice at a time. There are also additional power boards. When a player loses a unit, it goes to a special board instead. Players may spend these units for a variety of special powers. In the same, neutral units defeated stack up on a board and players could potentially redploy them if they wish.

Play continues until one player completes three objectives and wins.
Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: The basic Risk dice combat system is a mechanism that stands the test of time. It is simple but it is versatile and it gets the job done. This game has several clever design decisions, like not getting a reinforcement card when an objective is claimed. This game has a combative feel, but since the goal is objectives not elimination it is not overly aggressive.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: It is Risk mechanisms for better and worse. I especially like the objectives in this game.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: Risk, in general, struggles with a two player experience. I appreciate how this game was built just for two, and it delivers a good two player experience.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The theme of this game is generic conflict. It is extremely bland.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: There is a lot of replayability among the starting set ups. The rules that allow players to make their own starting setups makes it even more replayable.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game has a lot of variability in set up which gives a good amount of replayability.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: Players can potentially trip people up, to slow the game down. It is a fairly simple game, and it might last a little long for what it is.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game moved a lot faster than I thought it would.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: I am not a big fan of classic take over the world (after turtling in Australia) Risk. However, I have liked a lot of the special versions that use the basic die mechanism in new ways. This game is no different, and it is the best way to play Risk with two players.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I like this game a lot more than I thought I would. I actually found it quite a bit of fun. I just wish it was called something other than Risk, because the baggage of that name is a bit of a turn off.

Final Score

72/100


We have played and rated a few different versions of Risk, and this one is probably our favorite. It took us a while to acquire the game, but I think it is a good fit for the two of us.
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Mon Jan 21, 2019 3:34 pm
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New Frontiers (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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My wife and I love Race for the Galaxy. It is easily by far our most played game together. So when a Race for the Galaxy board game was announced it became a must get for us. However, we were a little nervous because the previous two Race for the Galaxy spin-offs (Roll for the Galaxy and Jump Drive) were misses for us. Despite those misgivings we grabbed a copy of the board game as soon as we could and we have played it several times. So does this game truly open up a new frontier for Race for the Galaxy fans?

Game Overview
In this game players build developments and colonize worlds in an effort to get the most points. The game is played in rounds, and each round each player gets a turn to pick an action. Each action that is picked will be done by all players, but the player who picked the action gets a bonus of some sort.

The develop action allows the player to build a development. All developments are out and displayed to all players at the beginning and are available in limited numbers. Developments provide a variety of helpful abilities.

The explore action has worlds get drawn out of a bag. Each player will get to claim one of these worlds as explored, and the player who picked the action will get a second world. The settle action is how these worlds are colonized. To colonize a credit cost must be paid and each world requires one or two colonists. When the settle action happens players make two colonists instead of settling a world.

The produce action allows all production worlds to produce the appropriate good type. These goods are represented by colored cubes. The person who picked the action may get a credit bonus as well as be able produce on a windfall world, which normally does not produce.

The next action is trade/consume. The person who picks this action gets a point. Everyone then may trade a goods cube for a set number of credits based on the cube color. Finally, all players that have cubes left and have consume powers must uses them. These consume powers are one of the primary ways to get victory points.

There are two actions a player can take that only impacts the player that chooses it. One gives the player two credits, and the other gives the player a point and allows them to move to the front of turn order.

After all players have chosen an action, a new round begins and this repeats. This goes on until one player has colonized seven worlds, built ten developments, the point pool is exhausted, or there are five or less colonists.

At the end of the game players add up points collected, the point value of developments, the point value of colonized worlds, and the end game points from the large nine cost developments. The player with the most points wins.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: This is a remarkable feat of reverse engineering, because it feels exactly like a Race for the Galaxy board game. That is in itself interesting because, Race for the Galaxy was inspired by Puerto Rico. This does have a similar feel to that game, but I much prefer this one. I like that this game is all about trying to optimize so that there are no wasted actions in a round, and I like that players have to consider how a given action might benefit other players.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: It is odd, this game feels similar but different. In Race for the Galaxy it is possible for players to pick the same action, but in this game each player picks a different action. I like that.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: The card art is borrowed from Race and Roll for the Galaxy, but the space theme comes through. The use of exploring to find a world and then settling to colonize the world with colonists helps deliver this theme. It is a euro game, but it does give a decent feel of sci-fi space exploration.

Her Rating:
Her Comments:The experience feels like Race but different. This is not a bad thing, it feels familiar while still having a sense of something new.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: I am a little concerned with the replayability. I will say every game played has had a different strategy win. However, the static nature of the developments means by and large those strategies are available from the get go. I do like they included optional goals which does increase replayability.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I know half the developments are double sided, but I still do not think there is enough variety. I think that sooner or later this game will feel very same-y.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: Since every player can potentially do every action, everyone is always engaged. As players get developments and worlds their options open up and synergies emerge. There is a good sense of building up.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This is not a short game time wise, but it does not feel that long and it does not drag out. The pacing and flow is in a good spot for the size and scope of the game.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: I like this game quite a bit. I prefer the chaotic nature of cards a bit more, but for a euro style board game I like this one quite a bit. It was a game that I was "just OK" on, but for me this is an absolute Puerto Rico killer, and I can say I will probably not one want to play that game again. This has a similar feel, and for me, does it in a much more fun way.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game is fine and it is fun. I am not sure what I was expecting, but it does feel like a Race for the Galaxy board game. There are some differences but for me it may not be quite different enough.

Final Score

76/100

In a forum post the game designer said this:

Quote:
While both games offer replay value, Race is designed for "intense" replay (that's where the icons shine) while NF is a bit more casual (text on tiles), allowing a board game group to play it occasionally without having to struggle to relearn the rules and icons every time.


I think this will be our experience we will continue to play Race for the Galaxy a lot, but New Frontiers will come out when we want something similar but different. While the card game holds a higher spot, we much prefer this game to Roll for the Galaxy or Jump Drive. We do think the game is worth checking out.
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Thu Jan 17, 2019 3:29 am
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Space Base (One Couple's Review)

sean johnson
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I was really happy to be given this game for Christmas. I like space games and I like tableau building, so this seems like one that would connect really well. So did it?

Game Overview
In this game players have a space base that is home to a fleet of ships. Throughout the game players will acquire more ships and possibly build colonies all to be the first person to reach fourteen influence.

Players begin with 12 ships, one for each number 1-12. The core mechanism of this game is "roll and get stuff". On a player's turn they roll two dice, and they can choose to use the sum of the roll or both numbers individually. The ships of the number(s) selected will activate and players get what they provide. Often this is money or influence. It could also raise their income level, which just means the player starts with more money each turn. Finally, this could power up a special ability that could be used later.

After rolling, the active player can buy a new ship. Several ships in different tiers are available. The bought ship will occupy the listed number spot. The ship that is currently active at that number's spot is flipped to the red deploy side. This means that when an opponent rolls that number the player gets the listed resources on all deployed ships for that number. As the game goes on, players will have more and more deployed ships that activate on opponent's turns.

The game goes on until one player gets to 40 influence. Once this happens the round finishes out so there is equal turns, and the player with the most influence wins.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: The rules of this game are really simple but they are effective. This creates a solid game that steadily builds from the start to the race like conclusion.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I really like how acquiring new ships causes the old ones to flip to their deployed side so that they activate on the opponent's turn. That is a really clever mechanism.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: The theme is probably the weakest part of this game. It honestly could have been just about anything, but give that I do prefer a space theme over most anything else.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: The theme really takes a backseat to the mechanics in this one.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: There is a lot of variability from play to play because not every ship will make it out. The tactical nature of the dice rolls, also help ensure each play is not identical to th elast ones.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: There are always a lot of options each turn, and I think that means there is always something to explore.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: This is the strongest aspect of this game. It keeps speeding up as the game goes on and players get more and more options. This has a great pace as the space base builds up. Even though it is a building game it really is a race and it has the flow of a race game.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: It feels like it starts slow, but that feeling goes away quickly and it flows just fine.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: This is a solid little game. It feels clever, is really accessible, and it is fun how much is built up by the end.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: This game was a big surprise! I think it is a lot of fun, and it is so satisfying to get the base all built up.

Final Score

78/100

This game is a winner for us. I have seen that an announced expansion for this game is supposed to add story elements. I am looking forward to that, because that could shore up one of the weaker aspects of the game.
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Tue Jan 15, 2019 4:08 am
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2014 Look Back

sean johnson
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The past few years I have begun the year by looking back five years. It was in February of 2014 that I moved to my current location. This move brought upon a new job with different responsibilities to learn. This combined with the extra work of unpacking meant for the first six months or so of the year we played a lot less games than we did in previous and subsequent years.

In 2014 I played 30 games released that year, and in the years since then I have increased that number to around 80. Overall I think this was just an OK year for me. I think it might just be a year that did not connect with me. A lot of the big releases from 2014 like Dead of Winter, Five Tribes, and Roll for the Galaxy are games that I ultimately did not care much for. This was evident to me because after I made this look back list I looked at my top games of 2014 list to find several games had fallen off. The games that fell off are ones I did not even consider this time.

Looking back on 2014, these are currently my favorite games of that year in descending order for dramatic effect.

10. Good Cop Bad Cop
I like social deduction games, and this is one that I do not play quite as much as others. It is fun, but it is also a game I tend to fall into a rut with because I always grab a gun when it is available. I feel like this game is good it falls just short of greatness. I know it has a few expansions, but I have really looked to see if they do much to elevate this game.

9. Dark Gothic
This is a deck building game that is very much in the same line as Ascension or the DC Deckbuilding Game, and it is probably my favorite game of that style. This uses the center row, and different types of currencies. I like this game though because it evolves. Throughout the game there are three big bads to beat, and it is likely that the dominant attributes needed change. This means players are constantly seeking to evolve their deck throughout the game. I also like that this game feels more thematic than games that are mechanically similar.

8. Among the Stars

This game was available in Europe and garnered a lot of buzz before 2014, but it was not until 2014 that the wide North American release became available from Stronghold Games. This is one of my favorite drafting games, because I get to build a space base and that is fun. I also appreciate the extra effort to create a world to put this game in. I looked at my play stats for this game and I have played it far too little in the past couple of years, which is probably why it is so low right now.

7. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
On the flipside, this is a game that I have played a LOT in the past couple of years. I have the expansion, and I have played the alien and vampire versions as well. While I like the game, it seems that I like it less than the groups I end up playing it a lot with. This game can breakdown when the robber or troublemaker switches a werewolf, because once a werewolf knows they are safe they will throw people under the bus. At that point the game tends to be over. When that happens it goes quick so usually people want to re-deal and do it again.

6. Tiny Epic Kingdoms

This is the game that kicked off the Tiny Epic series, and it is another game I need to be playing more. This was a great first effort at the big game, small package concept. I feel like in the past five years, these Tiny Epic games have gotten better. Quest and Zombies are especially strong. With all of the lessons learned over five years, I would love to see a Tiny Epic Kingdoms second edition that builds upon and improves the concept of this game.

5. Zeppelin Attack!
2014 is the year that I was absolutely not prepared for the crowds at Gen Con. The way I had wandered around the exhibition hall in previous years no longer worked to really take it all in. Without a plan I did not know what I was looking for, and I ended up missing out on demoing or buying a lot of the big releases that year. What I did end up doing though is playing and buying a bunch of smaller releases like this one. My wife and I both really like this incredibly unique deck building game.

4. Thunder Alley

This is easily my favorite racing game. I like controlling a team of cars, and I like how much switching of track position happens in this game. At a higher player count this game is a blast to play. That is unfortunately one of the reasons why we do not play this more. My wife especially only enjoys this game with four or more players.

3. Alchemists
I did not get to play this game in 2014, but I think the US release snuck out right at the end of the year? I do remember that for the first half of 2015 this seemed to be the hot game everyone was excited about. Since then it seems to have disappeared, but I still love it. I like deduction games, and the more dressed up that deduction is the better. Normally I like it wrapped in a heavy theme blanket, but the combination of deduction with euro game mechanisms works well.

2. Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men
For my wife and I this was the game of 2014. I remember when it came out this game was really hard to find, except for the Target closest to me had it in stock and no one else seemed to know it. I also think we bought their entire stock. My wife and I played a lot of Dice Masters in 2014 (and then we played it even in more in 2015). In a lot of ways Star Wars Destiny rose above Dice Masters for us, and we did not play the game together at all in 2018. However, we still have a ton of dice and I am sure we will play it again.

1. Star Wars: Imperial Assault

This game also came out at the very tale end of 2014, and it is easily my favorite game from that year. This is clearly evident, because every year I have recorded more plays in it than the previous year. This is such a wonderful Star Wars game, and I can not get enough of it.
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Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:41 am
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Tiny Epic Zombies (One Couple's Reviews)

sean johnson
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We both like the tiny epic games we have played, despite that I passed on the kickstarter for this game and I almost immediately regretted it. We settled for the retail copy. Along with playing several tiny epic games we have also played a lot of zombie games. So does this game manage to be epic or is it a shambling mess?

Game Overview
There are multiple ways to play the game. It can be a one vs. all game, a pure co-op or a completely competitive game. It could also be played as a solo game. In some game modes a player controls the zombies with some agency and in the other modes a fairly straight forward AI system. Regardless of the system a lot of the basic concepts are the same.

The survivors are trapped in a mall that is becoming infested with zombies. Each survivor fits an archetype like athlete, mall cop, cheerleader, etc. These survivors each have a special ability. Three objectives are picked out at random. These objectives offer unique challenges such as collecting technology, finding an exit, or escorting military rescuers. In a one vs. all game or cooperative game the players must work together to complete these objectives. In a competitive game the first player to complete the objectives wins.

The board is made up of store cards that each contain three rooms. Players start in a barricaded center courtyard. On their turn they must move three rooms. When a player enters a room they may fight a zombie. If it is in the room with them they make a die roll. The zombie is always defeated, but it is possible that the survivor will get injured as well. When this happens, they move their health marker up. If the zombie is in an adjacent room the player may spend a bullet to shoot the zombie. If the health marker and bullet marker ever occupy the same space the player is defeated. They might get a new character or depending on the game state this could trigger the end of the game.

Often as a player moves through a room if the store is clear of zombies, then the players might be able to pick up or interact with tokens. Once a player has moved three rooms, if the store is clear of zombies the player might be able to do a search action and pickup an item that is in that room. Some of those cards will give the player a special weapon that their meeple actually gets to carry around.

The last thing a player does is reveal a search card, which will be available to find in the future. This card will also have a symbol that informs the players where new zombies will appear. When a player controls the zombies there could be some additional things that happen at this point.

Zombies are added along a set path of rooms, that lead to the courtyard. The zombies can break down the barricades and survivor tokens can be lost.

The game continues until three objectives are completed or if the zombies win by depriving survivor tokens or getting through the entire survival/item deck.

Our Ratings
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.

Mechanisms/Rules
My Rating:
My Comments: I appreciate how flexible this game works. I think my preferred way to play is pure competitive, but I like how it has multiple modes. Like all tiny epic games the mechanisms and rules manage to capture a bigger game in a smaller package.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: Everything works together in a very intuitive way. I especially like how the objectives change each game.

Theme/Experience
My Rating:
My Comments: I have played a lot of zombie games, and this is one of the best. It delivers the zombie theme really well.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: Even with meeples instead of miniatures and not a lot of artwork compared to other games of this nature, there is no mistaking this is as anything than a zombie game.

Replayability
My Rating:
My Comments: There are a lot of different characters, the store cards are double sided, and there are multiple objectives. The weapons add replayability as well, because not every game will a player get to wield a chainsaw for instance.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: A lot changes from setup to setup, but I wish there were a few more objectives or different stores.

Pacing and Flow
My Rating:
My Comments: The pacing and flow is where the tiny epic part comes in. At setup, it seems that it will take a lot of time to complete the objectives, but the game is playable easily under an hour.

Her Rating:
Her Comments: So far it has been fine. It does feel like it has the potential to be a bit uneven and either drag out or end to quickly.

Fun Factor
My Rating:
My Comments: I think Last Night on Earth is still my favorite zombie game, but this might be a close second. It is a lot of fun, delivers on the theme, and gets it done in a quick play time. Tiny epic, indeed!

Her Rating:
Her Comments: I am just so-so on the zombie theme, but the gameplay really pulls me in on this one. It might just be my favorite zombie game.

Final Score

80/100

I know the whole tiny epic series has detractors or object to the games based on the tiny nature alone. Those people are missing out. This may not be some big $100 miniatures laden game, but it is a fantastic zombie game and it is well worth playing.
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Tue Jan 8, 2019 4:27 am
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