Gaming Bits: Board and Card Game Reviews

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Gaming Bits: Preview Review of Stadium

Jonathan Nelson
United States
Birmingham
Alabama
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Recently I was given the opportunity to check out an upcoming new game that will be available on Kickstarter very soon. I received a prototype of the game with everything needed to play. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Stadium is a game by Mark Hanny, published by Joe Magic Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of owners of a multi-million dollar professional football team. They will be making lots of executive decisions like which players to draft, who to hire and what to build for their stadium. Each decision will be carried out by their Vice Presidents in an attempt to earn victory points. In the end, the player with the most victory points will be declared the winner.

To begin, each player is given 3 million dollar tokens. They will then choose a color and are given the 7 blocks of that color, as well as the 2 corresponding vice presidents. The Action board is placed in the middle of the play area. The Stadium Building board is assembled and placed in the middle of the play area. A white bonus chip is placed on the spaces with the arrow symbols on them. The blue employee cards and green player cards are separated into 2 separate decks. Each deck is then shuffled and placed face down next to the boards. The tokens with victory points on them are placed next to the board along with two $5 million tokens in the draft area. The first player is chosen and is given the Commissioner pawn. Play now begins.



The game is played over several rounds. Each round consists of 5 steps. In the first step, players will take turns placing one of their vice presidents on the action board, beginning with the commissioner. This continues until each player has placed all of their vice presidents. When a player places one of their vice presidents, they will place them on one of the colored spaces of the board, not in the center white spaces. If there is a bonus token on the space, the player gets a bonus. There are several different spaces that a player can place their vice presidents. The money symbol will give the player a million dollar token. The card symbol will allow the player to draw an employee card from the deck and place it face down in front of themself. They will then draw another card and place it face up next to the board in the draft area. The star symbol allows the player to activate a hired employee. Any spaces that show one of the types of tokens gives the player one of those tokens. Spaces with red tokens or stacked tokens receive added benefits that are noted in the rulebook.

In the second step, players will place, turn over or stack turn tokens. What this means is that for any completely empty spaces where there no vice presidents and no turn tokens, that space receives a white side up turn token. For spaces that have no vice presidents and a white turn token, the player will flip the token over to the red side. For spaces with a red token and no vice presidents, another red token is stacked onto that space. For spaces with a vice president on them, the turn token is removed regardless of which color is on the space. It should be noted that players will be penalized for spaces with stacked tokens remaining on them. This penalty is based on which spaces have stacked tokens on them.

In the third step, players will perform actions based on which spaces their vice presidents occupy. Beginning with the top left of the Action board and moving down to the bottom right, each player that has a vice president on that particular board space will be able to take the action based on the symbol in the middle of the space. There are 9 different spaces. There is a space for Upgrading Equipment that allows the player to gain 2 equipment tokens. There is a space for Player Training that allows the player to trade 2 equipment tokens for 1 win token. There is a space for Hiring Staff that allows the player to either hire a new vice president for 6 million dollar tokens or they may hire as many employees as they would like and can afford that are face down. The hired employee is then placed face up in front of the player. It should be noted that employeed with star effects on them allow the player to use the effect when they play a vice president on a star bonus space. There is a space for the Playbook that allows the player to either take a win token or if they have the correct amount of win tokens, they may place a block on the playoffs, championship, finals or bowl game. There is a space for Building or Gaining Materials that allows the player to either gain a construction token for each money token spent or place a block from their supply onto the stadium building board. The player must then pay the building cost for this latter action. It should be noted that a player is only allowed to place 1 block on the stadium board per turn and that they may have only 1 block on a particular building. It should also be noted that the player must have 1 block on the 1st level before building on level 2. They must have 2 blocks on level 2 before building on level 3. There is a space for Ticket Sales that gives the player one million dollar token for each win they have, up to a maximum of 5. If a player has 10 wins, they receive six million dollar tokens. Skyboxes and new stadiums give ticket bonuses. There is a space for Drafting and Trading that allows the player to pay the signing bonus of an available player and place them face up in front of them. Players can gain win tokens and possibly entertainment tokens during the Game Time step. Trading is done by taking a player from their team and swapping it with a player in the draft area. No signing bonuses are required for trades. It should be noted that the player is only allowed to draft or trade one player per vice president on the space per turn. The player is also allowed to trade a player for a victory point token or a five million dollar token in the draft area. There is a space for Sponsorship Sales that rewards the player with 2 million dollar tokens. There is a space for Merchandising that rewards the player with 2 entertainment tokens and one million dollar token.



In the fourth step, players will resolve Game Time effects and loss effects for stacked turn tokens. First off for each space on card or building that shows a football, the player gains the token shown. Next, the players must each pay salaries to the supply for their players and employees. They also must pay one million for each vice president. If a player can not pay all the salaries, they will lose any players or employees that they do not pay for. The cards go into a discard pile. If a vice president's salary isn't paid, then the player can not use them on the next turn to place them on an Action space. Finally the players must calculate their loss. For each space on the action board that has stacked tokens, each player loses a token, employee or player depending on the action space. For more information on the loss for each space, please check out the rulebook.

For the fifth and final step, the player with the Commissioner pawn passes it to the next player in turn order. A new round will then begin.

The game continues until either one owner has used all of their blocks to buy buildings and/or win playoff and championship games. When this happens, the player's complete the current turn before ending the game. Players will then add up their victory points from cards, buildings and entertainment tokens, as well as bonus tiles and victory point trade tokens. The player with the most victory points is the winner.



COMPONENTS
This game has some cool looking pieces. There's the Action board which is a little bit difficult to understand to begin with, but with a bit of help from the rulebook it makes more sense. The graphics and thickness of the board is pretty good. The other board is the multi-tiered Stadium Building board. This is actually one of the coolest parts of the game. I can't recall having seen three boards assembled together like a football stadium. It's definitely unique and looks awesome when put together. Again, the iconography is a bit rough to begin with but easier to understand after several plays. There are lots of small and large round tokens. There are tokens for building, equipment, win, million, entertainment, bonuses, victory points and the like. Yes, there's lots of cardboard tokens with this game. Many of the graphics on these match the iconography on the boards. I do say that for the most part, they all look cool. Next there are the plastic pieces; the vice presidents and the player's colored blocks. The latter are all brightly colored cubes, while the former are custom plastic meeples. I will say that these VP meeples are quite unique and are fun to play with. Of course the best looking piece is the Commissioner pawn that's shaped like a football trophy. I really love the design for it. Finally, the last pieces of the game are the cards. There are 2 types of cards, the player cards and the employee cards. The same iconography that is found on other components can be found on these cards as well. Each card has a nice shiny finish and is really easy to shuffle. The card has a silhouette of either the player or employee that it represents with their cost and salary on each one. I have to say that I kind of like how these look. If you want to pretend you're drafting that all star player from your favorite university, you can. There are no distinguishing pictures or anything to keep you from doing that. That's another aspect of the components that I really like. Overall, I think that the game looks very nice and has some unique pieces that I've never seen before. I'm pretty happy with the overall design.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is pretty much like those of previous Joe Magic games. It has the same type of layouts and design as those. There are several pictures and an example or two in the fairly thin 4 page booklet. Like in the game, Other World, this rulebook tends to jump around a bit and makes things a bit difficult to understand at first. Thankfully the book isn't that large so it doesn't cause too much of an actual problem. I will say that I wish that there were more pictures and examples as well as more attention to spacing and details. In many ways, the rules are like a giant run on sentance that can be a bit difficult to read through. I feel like there could have been a better outline of each of the different steps and how the game is won. You basically have to read through the whole thing before you will get it. I also would have like a handy reference on the back of the book to be able to look back at without searching through previous pages. I will say though that there are a few highlighted sections, like the action board and game time. Why were these emphasized and printed in bold bright colors? I have no idea. In any event, the book is a bit of a mess but it gets the job done. While I'm not thrilled with the look or design, it did help me understand how to play the game and isn't that what a rulebook is supposed to do? I'm hoping that the rulebook for the actual game will be much better.
7 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a fun game that take the game of football into a different direction. I've played games like Blood Bowl and 1st & Goal and have enjoyed them. However this game approaches football in a different way. Where the other games go into the actual game of football, this one goes about the day to day of owning and running a football team. From drafting players to hiring staff. Each round you'll be doing your best to get your team the best options money can buy. You'll also be building up your stadium with sky boxes, half time shows, food courts and VIP restaurants. You'll also be trying to motivate your team into the playoffs, the championship and the bowl game. All this will be in an effort to gain victory points. You'll be doing all this in a worker placement style way, as you place your Vice Presidents on the board to collect different resources. I have to say that I like the mechanics of the game and how everything starts coming together in those later rounds. It's actually a pretty well rounded game. While it's not what you'd expect from a game about football, it's still pretty good. The iconography can take a bit of getting used to, as I think I've mentioned earlier, but with a couple of plays you start getting used to it. Fans of euro style worker placement games may enjoy this one. I also think that if you're looking to experience what it's like behind an owner's desk, than you will most likely enjoy this game. If you're more interested in mixing it up on the gridiron, then you may be a bit disappointed. As it is, I like the game for what it is and find myself enjoying it. I would recommend giving this one a try.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Stadium is a worker placement game where players get to feel what it's like to be an owner of a pro football team. The play time is pretty average. Most game sessions last a little over an hour. The componets are pretty unique and I like a lot of the different designs. However the iconography takes a couple of play throughs to completely understand. The game itself is quite fun. I like how everything comes together. I especially like the design of the game. It's definitely a unique take on the football genre. It definitely gives you the feel of being an owner and having to make lots of executive decisions for your team. Fans of worker placement games should enjoy this one, especially if they like football. Players that are more interested in the actual game of football and less on the day to day basics of running a team might find this one a bit off for them. As it is, I rather enjoy the game. There are a few things that are a bit rough around the edges for the game but overall it's pretty solid. I would recommend giving it a try. No need to keep a trainer handy when playing this game.
8 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Joe Magic Games at their site.

http://www.joemagicgames.com/

Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter link coming soon.
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Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:43 pm
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Gaming Bits: Cover Me Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Birmingham
Alabama
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Cover Me is a game by Bram Verbiest, published by Jumping Turtle Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of chief editor of a trendy fashion magazine. They will be trying to influence the upcoming fashion trends by placing the trendiest models from their portfolio onto the cover of their magazine. This will earn the magazine prestige which will help them beat out their competition. In the end, the chief editor that is able to raise the most prestige for their magazine will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Catwalk is placed in the center of the play area along with the Mirror board. The 3 fashion markers for the background patterns are placed on the 0 space of the Catwalk. The 6 fashion markers for the clothes colors are placed near the Catwalk. The 3 fashion markers for the hair length are placed on the 0 space on the first mirror of the Mirror board. The 3 fashion markers for hair color are placed on 0 space of the second mirror of the Mirror board. The year marker is placed on year one of the Mirror board and the season marker is placed on the winter snowflake space of the Mirror board. Players choose a Magazine and take the 2 corresponding cards, placing one in front of themself and the other in a column beneath the Catwalk. Space should be left to the right of this column for rows of 3 cards, as well as above these columns and beneath the Mirror board for the influence row. This row will never have cards more than the number of players. All of the Model cards with red, yellow or blue clothes are shuffled together to form a stack which is placed face down beneath the columns. Cards are drawn from the stack sorting them by hair color until there is at least one of each type placed in a row. If a card matches a color that has already been revealed, then the card is placed on top of the previous card. This keeps going until there are 3 stacks of different hair colors. The green clothes Model cards are shuffled together and placed face down in a stack near the row of Model cards. The black clothes Model cards are shuffled together and placed in a face down stack above the Mirror board. The same thing is done with the white clothes Model cards, shuffling them and placing the stack face down beside the black clothes Model cards. The starting player is chosen and is given the starting player marker. Two cards are drawn from the draw pile and placed into the influence row. The fashion tracks are adjusted based on the Models in this row. Each player is dealt 6 cards each. Beginning with the first player each player will then take either a card from the open draw piles or the face down stack. This continues until each player has 9 cards in their hand. It should be noted that if one of the three draw piles is emptied, then a new card is drawn from the stack and sorted based on hair color until there are 3 draw piles again. This method is the same as mentioned above. Once this is taken care of, play now begins.

The game is played over 3 years. Each year is divided into 4 seasons; winter, spring, summer and fall. Each season is divided into 4 steps or phases. In the first step, players will play Model card from their hand. For each season, 3 months or rounds are played. Each month players will place a Model card face down in the middle of the table next to their magazine card. Once each player has done this, the cards are flipped over and the fashion tracks are adjusted by moving the fashion markers. Each season there are three active fashion traits; hair color, hair length and background pattern or clothes color, which are dependent on the season. It should be noted that during the fall and winter the background pattern is used, while during the spring and summer the color of the clothes is used. Each active trait on the Model card will move the fashion marker that corresponds with that trait one space forward on the track. It should also be noted that the Model cards in the influence row will also count towards tracking each trend and will move the trackers forward as well. The dominant characteristic will become the trend. Once 3 cards have been played for each player and the trackers moved, play moves to the next step.

The second step or phase is to select the most trendy model for each magazine. In this step the players determine the trend value for each of their cover models on the table. The trend value is equal to the number of characteristics that match the season's overall trends on the fashion tracks. This value can range from 0-3. Each player will determine which of their models is the most trendy. That model will be the one with the highest trend value. That model will be placed in the season special and they remain on the table. The remaining Model cards are returned to the player's hand. It should be noted that if a player has two models with the same highest trend value, then the player will choose which one will be returned to their hand and which one will stay. If a player has all 3 models with a trend value of 0, then all 3 remain on the table. Once this is completed, play moves to the next step.

The third step or phase is to evaluate the season special and replenish the player's hand. To start this step, all the cards in the influence row are discarded. Players then check their model(s) still on the table. If their model has a trend value of 3, the card is placed face down beneath their player card and they will score prestige. If their model has a trend value of 1 or 2, the card is placed in the influence row. If their models all have a trend value of 0, then all of them are placed beneath their player card scoring them prestige. Once this has been done, each player will then take turns taking a new card beginning with the starting player until they have 9 cards in their hand again. If the player scored prestige, they are able to take a card from either the open draw piles or the face down stack. If all 3 of their card scored, then they may take all 3 cards one after another. If the player didn't score prestige, they will take the top 2 cards from the next draw pile, which is beside the open draw piles, and keep 1 card and place the other on the bottom of the next draw pile. Lastly, the season on the season track is adjusted and the starting player marker is passed to the next player in turn order. The fashion tracks are reset back to 0, before adjusting them based on the cover models in the influence row. Play starts back over with the first step, unless the fall season has just completed. In this case, a new year begins.

Starting a new year is the fourth step or phase and only happens after playing through the winter, spring, summer and fall seasons. First off, the year marker is moved to the next year. The next draw pile beside the open draw pile is placed face down on top of the draw stack. The 3 open draw piles are placed into the discard pile. Cards from the new face down draw pile are revealed to form 3 new open draw piles based on hair color. The deck with the next clothes color is moved from above the Mirror board to beside the open draw piles to become the new next draw pile. Starting with the starting player each player in turn order is able to place one of their cards into the discard pile and choose a card from one of the open draw piles or from the face down draw stack. If one of the open draw piles is emptied, then cards are revealed until there are 3 open draw piles again. Play then starts over with the first step or phase.

The game continues until after the fall season of the third year has been played. At this time, the game ends and scoring occurs. Players take all of the cards that they scored beneath their player card and place them face up in front of themself. Each colored card has a specific value. Yellow, red and blue each score 3 points. Green scores 3. Black scores 4 and white score 5. Each player will count up the point values of all their cards. The player with the most prestige points is the winner.



COMPONENTS
This game is very thematic and beautiful. Let's start off with the biggest piece, the Catwalk. This is a really large custom cardboard piece that has to be assembled before playing. Once it's completed, it really brings out the theme of the game. The artwork on it is really great and looks like the back stage of a fashion show with designers and hair and makeup personnel running about in a frenzy. This could have been a simple board or track to keep up with the trends, but the designer went the extra mile and really made this something that stands out. On top of that, when flipped over and placed inside the game box, it doubles as a organizer. There are places to keep the cards and other pieces from moving around. It's really quite cool. Next there is the Mirror board. This is pretty thick cardboard with some great looking artwork on it too. It too is quite thematic with the look of 2 models looking in a mirror while the track is made up of the light bulbs and makeup around the mirror. Granted, it's the same model picture only flipped to the other side, it's still very cool looking and fits in well with the theme. There are several tokens and markers that are included with this game as well. There are hair length markers, hair color markers, a calendar marker and a season marker. These are all thick cardboard. The calendar and season markers are a little larger than the others. The hair length markers show the 3 different lengths of hair on a woman. The hair color has yellow(blonde), orange (red/brown) and black for the different hair colors of the models. I like these pretty well, especially the hair length markers. However I think maybe some wooden pieces like a cloud for the season and maybe just some colored cubes would have worked just as well. It may have even upped the overall look. As it is, these are still cool though. The next things are the background pattern markers, the fashion markers for the clothes colors and the starting player marker. These are little double sided cardboard standees. Mostly they are all just silhouettes with either a colored dress or a different background behind them. I like these and they look pretty good overall. I think that the acrylic pieces that were part of the Kickstarter look a little better than these cardboard pieces though. I sort of wish that there had been some wooden themed meeples, but I understand that this would probably have upped the price of the game too much. Still, these markers look thematic and bring the game to life. The final components of this game are the cards. There are 10 player cards for the player's magazine, 2 of 5 different designs. Each one represents a different fictional magazine. I like these and how different each one is. Of course the best part of the game is the Model cards. There are a whole bunch of these. These have designs of different women and each card is simply amazing. The artwork on them is great. I like how it seems that the artist took a picture and painted each one. The designs really bring the game to life and are the absolute highlight of it. The iconography on these cards is very simple and doesn't take long to learn. Needless to say, I've seen a lot of great looking games over the past year, but this has to be one of the best of 2017. I'm amazed at the detail and love that was put into the look and theme of this game. It's jaw dropping amazing.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
This game came with 2 rulebooks included, one in English and one in German. These are very well designed. There are plenty of great looking pictures and examples throughout the books. There are 3 pages of pictures that include the details of each card, a listing of components and a detailed setup. The book isn't that long and is very easy to read through and understand. There are even tips for playing the game included. The last page of the book contains rule adjustments for playing with only 2 players. The back cover contains several variants for longer games, shorter games and for having all cards have the same value. There's even an advanced variant for 2 players included which gives a bigger challenge and lowers the luck factor of the game. About the only thing missing is a reference guide on the back cover. Even without that, the book looks really great as a whole. I feel that it is well designed and I'm pretty much happy with the whole thing.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Upon first looking at this one, I thought of the game Pret-a-Porter. That's probably due to the theme of the game which is fashion. I'm sure that there are plenty of guys out there that are probably thinking, "why would I want to play a game about fashion?". The answer is because it's fun. While you are dealing with fashion in a way, the game is actually more about manipulating the system to make the cards you play become worth more points. In this way, it feels a bit more like an economic game. Each time you play a card, you're having to think about what the current trend is and how that you can adjust those tracks with the cards in your hand so that you can score the most points. Of course if you're trying to score all 3 cards by matching none of the trends, that's the most difficult thing to do. I will say that I like that this rule is included, but so far I have yet been able to accomplish the task. There is a bit of luck involved, especially if you're playing a 2 player game without the advanced rules variant. That said, there is still a fairly good bit of strategy involved too. As I said, making the right decisions on which models to play is the key. I really like that the game is so thematic, even the components are smothered in theme. There is one thing that I didn't mention in the components section about the cards that I'd like to bring up. That is that the models are very diverse. It's not like they only chose skinny girls or girls of a particular race. There is every race and size there. The models are not objectified and are not wearing clothing that is too revealing or anything of that nature. I really feel that because of this, players are able to play the game without getting into an uncomfortable discussion about ethics or morals. One thing that I really love about this game is that, as a father of a young daughter, I can play this game with her and feel comfortable with it. This allows her to see that there are women of all shapes, sizes and races and that you don't have to be a particular one to be beautiful. Ok, I realize I'm getting off the subject a bit, but I felt that I needed to say that. Anyway as for the game, I really feel that this is a great game that can be adjusted to your own game play styles. If it feels a bit too long, there are ways to shorten it. If you're wanting more, than you can make it longer. My daughter and I really enjoy this one. I think that fans of games like Pret-a-Porter or Rococo should enjoy the fashion aspect of this game. I also think that this is a good family game, especially for those of us with daughters. Even male players can enjoy the game if they like a game with an economic feel to it. Overall, I enjoy it. This is one that I would recommend. It might not be for everyone, but I really think you should give it a try anyway. You might find that you like it more than you thought you would.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Cover Me is a thematic game about running a fashion magazine that is fairly simple to learn and play. The length of the game can be adjusted to fit your play needs. However most game sessions last around 45 minutes to an hour. The components are great. They are very thematic and look amazing. I especially like the cards with the diversity of models, as well as the beautiful designs. The Catwalk, while a bit overproduced, is quite cool and makes a great organizer for inside the game box. The Kickstarter version adds a bit more pizzazz to the game that the regular version is lacking. I would have liked some wooden meeples and pieces to make the game even more thematic. The game itself is quite enjoyable and has a bit of an economic feel while incorporating a fairly underused theme. With ways of shortening or lengthening the game as well as special rules for 2 player games, this should appeal to a wide variety of players. As a family game, it's very good especially for families with daughters. While the game does have a fair amount of luck, especially in the 2 player game, it can be fairly strategic as well. Some of that luck can be adjusted with the variant rules when playing with only 2. Fans of fashion games like Rococo and Pret-a-Porter should enjoy this one. Overall I enjoy this game immensely. While the theme may turn some gamers away, this is one that should definitely be tried. This is a game that I would definitely recommend. No tickets to Paris or Milan are required.
9 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Jumping Turtle Games at their site.

http://www.jumpingturtlegames.be/en/
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Fri Jan 5, 2018 9:22 pm
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Gaming Bits: Valeria: Card Kingdoms - Flames & Frost Expansion Review

Jonathan Nelson
United States
Birmingham
Alabama
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Valeria: Card Kingdoms - Flames & Frost is an expansion for Valeria: Card Kingdoms by Isaias Vallejo, published by Daily Magic Games. It is for 1-5 players. This expansion adds a whole bunch of brand new cards as well as some extra tokens.

For more information on Valeria: Card Kingdoms and how to play the game, please check out the link below.

https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/70672/gaming-bits-valeria...

The setup for this expansion follows the basic setup rules in the base game rulebook. However, there are a few differences that should be noted. With this expansion, 1 Exhausted card and 1 Event card per player are shuffled together and then placed in a stack above the Monster row. The remaining Exhausted and Event cards are returned to the box. It should also be noted that during the Action phase, when an Event is revealed, the players must follow the instructions on the card before moving to the the next action or phase. Actions taken as a result of the Event card will not count as a player's action for the turn. Other than these few instances, the rules remain unchanged.

So just what does this expansion add as far as new content? Well as previously mentioned, there are lots of new cards including Event cards. These Event cards will add a new dynamic to the game which can be either helpful or harmful, depending on the Event. There are also lots of new Citizens, Monsters, Dukes and Domains. New Citizen cards like the Bard, Baker and Summoner. New Monster cards that are Flame and Frost themed like the Lava Hound, Efreet, Yeti and Snow Queen. New Dukes like Shem the North Sea Guardian and High Priestess Marianna. New Domains that are also themed like Wandering Flame, Den of the Ice Witch, Flame Tongue Fountain and Switch Wind Fortress. On these cards are several new icons like the Wild icon which represents all of the other resources and can be used as any of those resources. There are also icons that explain things a bit differently. Such as banish card, cannot take, opponents and you. Each of these icons replace text with a symbol to instruct players how to perform an action. Another new aspect is that there are now 5 new Monster areas that can be interchanged into the stacks. There's the Desert, Glacier, Oasis, Tundra and Volcano. As you can see these are appropriately themed.



COMPONENTS
This expansion introduces lots of new cards which I described earlier in the overview. Each new card looks stunning. I'm simply amazed at the look of each one and I love the new artwork. Of course these cards are all thematic and fit in with either the Flame or Frost design. There are also new player aid cards which are fantastic and a great help. One side covers the basics of gameplay including the different phases, as well as the game end scenario, while the flip side covers all the icons on the cards. The expansion also has new card dividers much like those in the base game. These help divide your cards when placing them together into the base game box. One last thing that comes in the box is a set of 9 more multiplier tokens. These are thick cardboard just like those with the base game. Overall, I love the artwork and think that the new themes come through really well in this expansion. For me, it is truly beautiful.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this expansion is a single double sided sheet of paper. While the sheet is full color and glossy it doesn't have any real pictures or examples to speak of. One side covers the story behind the expansion and details the new rule changes. The opposite side covers the new icons and includes a card clarification for Betrayal of Bonds. As you can see, there's not a whole lot to this, however it's not like there's much that changed. As it is, there was not really any need for a big thick rulebook when there were only minor changes to the base game rules. Plus this expansion is only usuable if you have a copy of the base game so you should already have everything you need in that box. Overall, this gets the job done.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
What is there to say about this expansion that hasn't already been said about the base game? Basically this expansion adds a lot more stuff to an already amazing game. It adds the new themes of Flames and Frost which are found in each of the card types. I like the addition of the new wild resources which makes things a little easier to pay costs or to get the resource that you need. The Events shake things up a bit and add some new twists during the game. Just like the original game, this new iconography is a bit challenging to remember for the first couple of games. However, it's not that bad. I will say that if you already enjoy the base game, this will simply add to that enjoyment. As I've mentioned in the review of the base game, fans of Machi Koro will enjoy this. I highly recommend this expansion. For me, this is a must own expansion. The added excitement and variety gives me plenty of new stuff to add to the replayability of the base game. I can't say much more than that.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Valeria: Card Kingdoms - Flames & Frost is an expansion for Valeria: Card Kingdoms that adds lots of new cards to an already great game. There's plenty of new elements included with the game which are very much in line with the Flames and Frost themes. There's not really any adjustments to play time. Most game sessions are still around the 30-40 minute time frame. The artwork on the new cards is absolutely stunning. Each one fits in with the new themes. Fans of the original game will be extremely happy to add this to their base game as it adds lots more replayability and some new mechanics like the wild resource and Events. Fans of the original will most definitely want to pick up a copy of this. For me it's a must buy. I highly recommend this expansion. It's a hot expansion that's cool to play.
9 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Daily Magic Games at their site.

https://www.dailymagicgames.com/
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Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:11 pm
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Gaming Bits: Star Cartel Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Star Cartel is a game by Martin Boisselle, published by Osprey Games. It is for 3-6 players. In this game, players take on the role of intergalactic smugglers as they attempt to deliver all sorts of goods through the seedy underbelly of the black market in space. Along the way, they'll be purchasing newer ships with larger cargo holds to carry more stuff, some of which will have special abilities that will help with the delivery of cargo. Of course even in space, the stock market is unstable and is always changing. In the end, the player that can smuggle the most valuable contraband will be declared the winner.

To begin, the cartel board is placed in the middle of the play area. The contraband tokens are then placed on the 3 space of the board. Depending on the number of players, some ship cards may need to be removed from the deck. Each player is given a starting ship card. Any remaining starting ship cards are returned to the box. The remaining ship cards are sorted in the deck by capacity with the lowest capacity on top and the Cassiopeia at the bottom. The deck is then placed face up next to the board. The contraband cards are shuffled together and placed face down next to the board. Twelve cards are then drawn from the deck and arranged into 4 columns of 3 rows called the hub. Each column should be lined up with the slots on the bottom of the cartel board. If any of the drawn cards have a size of 4, it should be replaced with a new card and then shuffled back into the deck. The starting player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played with each player taking a turn. Each turn the player will take 2 actions; loading and delivering. The first action is the loading action. To load, the player must first check to see if they have any room to be able to fit any more contraband onto their ship. If it can't hold any more or there are no cards that will fit on the bottom row of the hub then the player must skip directly to the delivering action. If this isn't the case, then the player must take one of the contraband cards from the bottom row and place it face up beside their ship card. The player also has the option of taking a second card from the same column as long as it will not overload their ship. The remaining card(s) in the column are then slid down. Once the player has finished loading, they must check to see if their ship is full. If so, they can take the second action and deliver. Otherwise, they must end their turn.

The second action is the delivering action. To deliver, the player must group all of their contraband card that they have loaded by type. They will then need to add up the size of each set. The player will then discard the largest set and move the matching token two spaces up on the cartel board. Next they will discard the smallest set and move it's matching token down one space on the cartel board. If the player has any remaining sets of cards left over, they may choose one set to keep, placing it face down in front of themself. Any remaining sets are then discarded. It should be noted that some times a cartel token will be moved past 9. When this happens, the token is immediately moved down to 1. The player will then replace their current ship with the top card of the ship deck, discarding their old one. It should be noted that some ships have a special ability that can be used during a player's turn. These abilities are explained in more detail in the rulebook. Once the player has finished taking actions, cards are drawn from the contraband deck to fill the hub back up to 12 cards. Play passes to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until a player takes the last ship from the ship deck. When this happens the game ends. All of the remaining players will now take a final turn. However there is one change to the delivery action. Even if a player wouldn't normally be allowed to deliver this turn, they are allowed to make a rush delivery after loading with whatever goods they have in their ship. A rush delivery only allows the largest type of contraband's token to be moved up one space and the smallest doesn't move at all. Once all players have had their turn, the game is over and scoring begins. Each player will now take all that contraband cards in their stash and group them together by type. Each card is then worth as many points as the corresponding cartel token on the board. Players add up the values of each of their cards based on this along with the value of their ship card. The player with the most points is the winner.



COMPONENTS
This game has some very nice looking pieces to it. There's a nice looking cartel board that is bright and colorful with some great looking designs on it. It's very thick and sturdy and has a really great finish on it. The designs on the board correspond with the designs on the contraband cards. These are really nice and highlight each of the 5 different goods that the players are trying to smuggle. These cards are smaller like a Euro style card. They have a very nice finish to them as well which makes them very easy to shuffle. That same finish is also present on the regular sized ship cards. These have some great looking ship designs on them. Each one has a differnt paint scheme to it making each ship unique. On the flip side of these cards is the name and ability of each ship. I like that there are unique names for each ship. It adds a nice little touch of detail that wasn't necessary, but I'm glad that it's there. Finally there are the contraband tokens. These are plastic and each one has a unique shape and color to distinguish them from each other. There's also a reference on the picture of each good on the cartel board so that players will know what each token represents. Once again, another nice detail that wasn't necessary but is very much appreciated. I love the artwork for this game. The designs on the ships and contraband are very cool. I especially love the uniqueness of each ship. Overall this is a great looking game with some excellent designs to it.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is quite nice. There are plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book, including a great picture of how the game should look when it's set up. The different card types are explained in detail, as well as the different player actions. There's also a section where the ship abilities are explained along with the iconography for each one. The book doesn't have a lot of pages so it doesn't take very long to read through. It's also well written and designed. I didn't see anything that should be a problem or that was difficult to understand. I'm pretty happy with the overall look and design of the whole thing.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a simple and fun game. It's really quick to set up and doesn't take long to play either. It's kind of a combination of a pickup and deliver game and an economic game. For the pickup and deliver part, well it's pretty obvious. The game spends a lot of time having you take goods onto your ship and then when your cargo hold is full, you deliver them. The economic part comes in later. As you're taking certain cargo, the more you have of an item when you deliver will cause that stock price to go up, while having the least of a certain cargo will cause it to drop in price. You'll then be squirreling away some cargo for yourself in the hope that what you have hidden will be worth a lot at the end of the game. That's where you'll be speculating on what's going to be worth the most when it comes time to score. In some ways it's going to be sheer luck, but if you really pay attention to what you're doing and what your opponents are doing, you can work those prices out to benefit you. As an introductory economic game, it's great. I like that the contraband cards are always changing. What might be there one turn, may not be around on your next turn. You have to figure out the best course of action and just get to it. As I said, the game plays pretty fast and it's simple enough that new players and even kids can play it. It's a great family game. For younger players you can even leave off the ship abilities to help them learn the game easier. I think this is a really good game. Fans of economic games like Splendor should enjoy this one. I would recommend this for first time players and families. Overall this is a great introductory game that is really simple to teach.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Star Cartel is an introductory economic game that combines elements of pickup and deliver included. It's a fairly quick and simple game. Most game sessions last around 30-45 minutes. The components are very nice. I like the artwork on all the cards. I especially like the uniqueness of each of the ship card's designs and how each one has a different name. The rulebook looks great and is easy and quick to read through. The game itself is great for families and as an introduction into economic games. It works well with different player counts, however I find that 3-4 players works best. It does have a bit of luck but with a little bit of strategy it can be controlled fairly well. Fans of economic games like Splendor should really enjoy this one. I would recommend it, especially for families and first time players. Overall, it's one that most players should enjoy. I like it. Now hold onto these energy crystals for me while the ship's being inspected. Everything should work out just fine...for me.
8 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Osprey Games at their site.

https://ospreypublishing.com/store/osprey-games/
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Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:08 pm
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Gaming Bits: The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 Review

Jonathan Nelson
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The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 is a game by Joe Van Wetering, published by USAopoly. It is for 4-8 players. In this game, players will take on the role of one of the characters from the sci-fi cult classic movie, The Thing. They will be investigating the research station in the Antarctic using supplies and equipment to clear the building. However, they'll have to be very careful as an alien lifeform has infiltrated the station and has infected one of the team, taking on their likeness. They will have to free themselves of any imitations and escape on the helicopter if they hope to survive and make sure mankind does to. If they are able to accomplish this goal, they will be declared the winners.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. Each player will then roll 2 dice. The player with the highest number is given the Captain Indicator. The Objectives tracker and Infection tracker are placed next to the board with the correct player count side face up. The Computer is placed at Contagion Level 0 on the Infection tracker. The Character boards are sorted by Department into stacks. Each player will then choose a Character from a Department stack with the most remaining Characters, beginning with the Captain and continuing in turn order. Each player should read aloud their character's name and powers. They then are given their matching Character miniature. Each player's Character miniature is then placed in the Rec Room on the board. The Mission Log cards are sorted based on the number of players. They are then shuffled and placed on the Mission Log space facedown on the board. The Dynamite, Flamethrower and Rope cards are placed beside the board. The Room Chips for Sector 1 are placed face down and mixed up. A chip is radomly placed face down in each Sector 1 room. The same is done for Sector 2 and Sector 3. The Supply cards are shuffled together and placed face down on the board. Each player is dealt 5 cards from the Supply deck. It should be noted that this is the player's hand and may never be shown to other players. A player's hand must be kept secret. When not looking at their cards, the player should placed them face down on their Character board. The Captain will then create 2 decks of Blood Sample cards as shown in the rulebook and depending on the number of players. The first set is equal to the number or players and contains 1 Imitation and the rest Humans. These are shuffled and randomly dealt one to each player. This shows each player which side they're on and may never be shown to another player, voluntarily. The second set contains 1 or 2 Imitations as determined by the rulebook and also contains several Humans. This deck is shuffled and placed face down until needed for Assimilation. Tokens, dice and turn order cards are placed within reach of all players, along with the Power Out/Room Destroyed cards. Play now begins.

The game is played in a series of turns. Each turn, the Captain begins by drawing a Mission Log card and placing it face up in front of themself. Any Event cards are resolved before drawing a new Mission Log card. These can be in the form of Smoke and Power Outages. When these are revealed, the Captain rolls to place the corresponding token or card in a room of the highest unlocked sector. A new Mission Log card is then revealed. These events usually will prevent players from investigating the particular room without the use of a Supply card. In some severe cases, this can lead to a room becoming Destroyed. The Captain then select a team to Investigate, including himself, equal to the number required by the Mission Log card. This also includes any departmental requirements. He then chooses one of the rooms with a Room Chip in it in one of the unlocked sectors. The team then places their Character minis on the room space. Sector 1 rooms are available immediately. However Sector 2 and 3 require filling out the Objectives Tracker to unlock them. This may require using Supply cards as explained in the rulebook. Each player will then hand the Captain a Supply card face down. These are placed in a pool separate from the player's hand. The Captain will then shuffle these cards. He then looks at them, revealing any Sabotage cards and resolving them immediately. The Captain may then swap out a Supply card from the pool, discarding it and drawing a new card placing it in the pool without looking at it. He then shuffles the cards again. The Captain will then reveal as many cards from the pool as directed by the Mission Log card. If less than the full pool of cards must be revealed, then the Captain will flip over one card at a time until the directive has been fulfilled or the number of cards have been revealed. If a Sabotage card is revealed during this time, because of the Captain swapping a card, then it must be resolved immediately or the investigation fails. If a dice roll is required, the Dice Value of the pool is totaled and compared to the Mission Log card. If the team was successful, they passed the investigation and may continue to reveal the room chip. If they didn't meet the Mission Log's requirements or failed due to a Sabotage card, then they will move on to resolving smoke or fire, skipping the room chip and a possible battle with the Thing.

When a room chip is revealed it can be one of three things; gear, discard or the thing. If a gear tile is revealed then the Captain will take the gear card and place it in front of themself. If it happens to fulfill one of the objectives for the Sector, then the Room Chip is placed face up on the Objective Tracker. If a Discard is revealed, then each member of the team may discard a Supply card and draw a new one. If the Thing is revealed, then a battle takes place. The appropriate Thing mini is placed in the room to start the battle. Just like during an Investigation, each player will hand the Captain a Supply card, usually with high Dice Values on them as the Captain will be using them to resolve battle with. It should be noted however that the Captain may only use 6 dice maximum. Once the Captain has a card from each player, the cards are then shuffled. The Captain will then look at the cards and reveal any Sabotage cards, resolving them immediately, then just like in an investigation, the Captain may swap a card from the pool with one from the Supply deck. The pool of cards is then revealed and the Dice Values are totaled. The Captain must then roll the dice and get a result of 3 of a kind or 4 of a kind to defeat the Thing, depending on the Sector. The Infection Tracker explains how many rolls the Captain is allowed to get the result. If the Thing is defeated, the Thing mini is placed on an empty spot of the Objective Tracker. If it is not beaten, then all the Room Chips from the current Sector are mixed up and placed back into the rooms. After the Investigation has completed, any smoke or fire is dealt with for individuals sent to a room with one of these conditions. Once this has been completed, each Character is then returned to the Rec Room. Players draw Supply cards back up to a hand of 5. If a player did not Investigate, they may discard a card and draw a new one. Players that have been tied up with a rope may not exchange a card.

When the team fails and Investigation or fails to defeat the Thing in battle, Contagion will spread across the outpost. This is indicated by the Computer being moved up the Infection Tracker. If it reaches a certain point, determined by the number of players, then the game is over and the players have lost. If this hasn't happened yet, then when Contagion spread, Fallout from the Contagion must be resolved. Each time it moves, the instructions on the Infection Tracker must be followed. This could be a power outage, smoke or a room being destroyed. It should be noted that Room Destroyed counters are placed in the appropriate room in certain cases onto the Destruction Tracker. If 4 rooms have been Destroyed, then the game ends and the players lose. If the players lose 2 of the same Room Chip type in one Sector, the Objective Tracker will be impossible to fill and thus the players lose.

It should be noted that as the players fill up the appropriate Room Chips onto the Objective Tracker, they will eventually unlock the next Sector of the Outpost. However this also leads to possible Assimilation by the Thing. The Captain deals a card from the Blood Sample deck to each player. Each player will then take both of their Blood Sample cards and mix them up, returning one face down. A Human dealt another Human card, remains Human and simply returns one of the cards. An Imitation dealt another Imitation remains Assimilated and simply returns one of the cards. A Human that is dealt an Imitation must return the Human card as they are now Assimilated. Once all the cards have been returned, the Captain shuffles them together to form a new Blood Sample deck, placing it back on the board.

Once all this has been completed and all the Consequences dealt with, players prepare for the next turn. Players must make sure that they have 5 cards in hand. Any players tied up with rope are freed. The trackers should be checked for any end of game circumstances or other situations. The Captain must then pass the Captain indicator to the next player in turn order. A new turn will then begin.

If the game hasn't ended from one of the many different ways detailed above, then the game continues until the final Sector 3 Room Chip is added to the Objective tracker. At this point, the game immediately moves to the final Escape phase. The Captain of the team that successfully filled the Objective Tracker must then nominate another player to be the Final Captain. However this player must meet the approval of the majority of the other players. Players are able to discuss their points for and against before taking a vote. Each player must hold out their fist with their thumb sideways. On a countdown from 3, players will either give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Majority wins. If the result is a no, play continues to the next player in turn order who must nominate a new player that has not been nominated already. If the result is yes, then the Captain indicator is passed to that player who now becomes the Final Captain. At this point, the Final Captain must check the Infection Tracker to see how many Blood Tests are available to use. They will then select an equal number of players to reveal their Blood Sample cards. The Final Captain must then selet the rest of the members of the Escape team. Any revealed Imitations may not be selected. The Final Captain must select as many players as the Escape Target number determined by the rule book. At this time, the players on the team must place their Character mini at the helicopter on the board. Players will then reveal their Blood Sample cards, starting with the Captain. If there are no Imitations on board the helicopter, the players win and mankind survives. If an Imitation managed to stow away on the helicopter during the escape, then the Thing wins and mankind falls.



COMPONENTS
There are some really great looking pieces included in this game. To begin with there are the oversized character cards. These have a nice mugshot style drawing of each of the different characters from the movie. These are very nice and I like seeing those familiar faces again. There are lots of other cards as well, both normal sized and smaller. There are supply cards with a picture of what each one represents, as well as several sabotage cards that do several different things. These last ones are bright red and hard to miss. Next there's the blood sample cards for determining which side the player is on, whether human or imitation. I especially like the back of these as it looks like a hospital blood bag. There are several square gear cards for the flamethrower, dynamite and rope. The designs on these are much like the supply cards. The mission log cards are also square like the gear cards. These each have the different amounts of players that are required on a team and the requirements to pass the investigation. The backs of these look like the rulebook cover. Then there's the double sided power outage and room destroyed cards. These are square like the gear and mission log cards but have very little in the way of artwork on them. They're mostly just colored black and red. The turn order cards are also square and have a rule reference for easy use. For the most part the cards all look good. They have a really nice finish that makes them easy to shuffle. There are several thick cardboard pieces as well. There is the Captain Indicator that looks like a gun. For those familiar with the movie, this makes perfect sense. There are double sided smoke and fire tokens which are a little bland and could use a little more pizazz to them. There are room chips and room destroyed counters which are all small squares. These are colorful but no real artwork to them, which is fine given that they simply reference something else, such as rope or a Thing. The Objective Tracker and Infection Tracker are really thick cardboard and are super sturdy. These are actually quite nice. They don't have a lot of artwork on them but I still like the designs. Finally there are the dice and miniatures. The dice are all a bunch of blue six sided dice, which seems appropriate since that's the color you would turn if you were left out in the cold for too long. The miniatures are actually the best part of the game, apart from the board. These look great. I especially like the different brightly colored figures. Even though they aren't overly detailed, they still look great. No, I didn't forget the board. The board has some nice artwork and everything looks good once everything gets all setup and pieces start moving around on there. I mean, it's not overly detailed, much like the minis but still looks great to me. Possibly because I'm such a fan of the source material and find it nice to be able to see everything from this perspective. Personally I like it. I'm sure not everyone will. With all that said, I need to mention one other thing, the insert. For the most part, the insert is great. It hold everything in it's own perfect little spot. The one caveat is that there are these lips or guides or whatever you want to call them, that hold the board in place inside the insert. It's a royal pain trying to get the board out without denting it or really having to struggle. About the best way that I've found is to slide it either in or out. Still, I wish that those little plastic parts hadn't have been placed into the insert. I really don't like them. Ok, so overall the game looks very nice and has lots of great pieces to appease the most rabid of Thing fans. I like it a lot. Do I think there could have been some improvements, sure but for what all I got, I'm happy.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is fairly large, especially in size but also in thickness. It looks like there's a lot more to the instructions and rules than what there really is. Don't let it itimidate you. It's not that bad. The book has lots, and I mean lots, of pictures and examples throughout. The cover of the book looks like a file folder from the movie. It starts by giving you the backstory of the game followed by explaining the current situation. The different components are then shown followed by a great 2 page spread of how to set up the game. The rules are then explained in very good detail with full page examples including pictures thrown in along the way. The book finished with the answer to several questions that might come up while playing, as well as a detailed glossary with page references. This is one of the better looking rulebooks that I've seen this year. I'm really impressed with the overall look and feel of it. It's not difficult to read or understand. As I said, it looks like a lot of information to digest, but it's really not all that. Overall, I think the designer did a great job.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
First off let me say that I am a big fan of the original film with Kurt Russel. I've watched it so many times over the years. I wasn't all that thrilled with the remake. It was ok, but just not as good as the original. Would that color my judgment of this game? Let's see. First off there's the setting of the game. The idea of the isolation of the outpost along with the feelings of paranoia and anxiety of not knowing who to trust and who not to is very prevalent here. The theme really comes through for me. As I played the game it definitely made me feel the same way that I felt when I watched the movie the first time. Next there's the traitor aspect of the game. In some ways, this made me think of the game, Dead of Winter. Both games deal with the traitor aspect however I really feel that Dead of Winter does it a bit better. One reason could be that if everyone at the table tells what card they played, as is allowed by the rules, then it's pretty hard to hide the fact that your an Imitation. That can be a serious drawback and can lead to players sitting at the table with nothing to do for long periods of time as they're not being allowed on missions. What's even worse is that several times they're forced onto missions due to Mission Log cards, even though the whole group already knows that player is an Imitation. Those missions are destined to fail and usually do. It's for this reason that I'm afraid that the game is a bit broken as is and requires a bit of tweaking to the rules to make it playable. That's not to say that the game is bad. I still like it but had to make a few additions to the rule, such as not being so specific with your cards. That makes things a little better for the Imitation(s). Another problem is the Mission Log cards, I've thought about omitting those cards that force the entire group to handle things. If we still need a Mission, we'll simply shuffle the discard pile and start over. I haven't tried this option yet, so don't know how it would work. I do feel that something needs changed here though. I realize that this may look as if the game has too many flaws to actually be fun, but that's not the case. If you have some really good players in the right amount, like 6 or more, then this can be really fun, especially if the players know how to be really sneaky without revealing their true nature until it's too late. Sometimes things will just click and the game will be really entertaining for everyone. Other times, it can be doomed from the get go. Like I said, there's a lot of stuff to like but there's also plenty of stuff that needs work too. I think fans of traitor games like Dead of Winter or the like may like this one too. I really wanted to like this one. However, I'm not as thrilled with it as I was before I played it. I would recommend trying it out first, even for those that are fans of the movie. You may still find enough to make this one enjoyable.
7 out of 10

OVERALL
The Thing: Infecion at Outpost 31 is a co-operative hidden identity game with a traitor mechanic based on the movie, The Thing. It's a fairly long game. Most game sessions last around an hour and a half to 2 hours. The components are great. I love the miniatures and the board. I like a lot of the more minimalist designs for the cards and different components. I'm sure not everyone will like the looks of them, but I do for the most part. I didn't like the tabs on the insert though and found them to be a bit of a pain. The rulebook looks very nice and everything is easy to read and understand for it. The game itself needs a bit of work even though it's still fun to play. A few house rules should make it more functional and easier to roll with. However with the right amount of players and the right group, the game is more than capable of being fine without any updated rules. Not everyone will enjoy this one, and I'm not 100% sold on it, but I do like it. Is it the game that I hoped it would be, not quite. Still I'm happy to have a game based on one of my favorite movies of all times. That has to account for something. Fans of the movie, may enjoy this one like I do. Non fans may have more luck with Dead of Winter or something of that nature. This is a game that I would recommend trying out first. Overall it's not bad, but could use some tweaking. Now hand me the flame thrower, Palmer's one of them and he's gotta burn.
8 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out USAopoly at their site.

http://www.usaopoly.com/
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Tue Dec 19, 2017 4:37 pm
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Gaming Bits: Pairs: Deluxe Edition Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Pairs: Deluxe Edition is a game by James Ernest and Paul Peterson, published by Cheapass Games. It is for 2-8 players. In this deluxe edition of the game, players have over 30 different Pairs games and variations to choose from. The basic premise of the original game is to try and score the fewest points possible without collecting a pair of the same cards. The first player to reach the target score is crowned the loser. The rest of the players win.

For more information on the original game and how to play it, please check out the link below.

https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/36144/gaming-bits-pairs-r...

Since there are so many different games and variations that can be played with this set of cards, I won't cover every one of them. Instead I will choose a few that I actually enjoy to kind of give you an idea of what you can expect from the game.

As mentioned above, the basic game of Pairs can be played with this new deluxe edition. However there are a few variations to the basic game that are included here. There's the Calamities variation where 7's are bad luck. They count as lower than 1's when determining who goes first and if a player is dealt one, the turn stays on them. Another variation is the Pieces of Eight. In this variation, 8's are special. They allow the player to discard the 8 and take two cards as a third option of play. There are also variations of Pairs where players play for chips. In these cases, the player with the most chips wins. There are the Seattle rules where the loser pays each of the other players a chip. The Eugene rules where a player puts a chip into the pot every time they take a scoring card. At the end of this game, the pot is divided between the players with the lowest score. These are just a few variations.

Next there are the other games that can be played with the deck. Many of these games require chips or some way of keeping score, just fyi. There's Deadfall, which I've explained in a previous review of the game. This game is a bluffing game where the player is trying to either catch someone in a lie or to trick the other players into calling them when they're being truthful. There's the Judge which is a cooking contest where the players play cards to create a recipe in a cooking contest. The judge reveals cards from their deck to eliminate any recipes that match things that the judge doesn't like. The last player standing wins and gains points equal to the face value of their recipe. The player with the most chips wins. There's Rocket which is played a lot like blackjack, except that players are playing against the dealer and trying not to pair. Again, the player with the most chips wins. Lastly there's Troll Guts. In this game players take turns drawing, stealing or buying a card. If they get a pair they lose and have to pay the value of the pair. The surviving player wins the pot of chips. The one with the most chips wins.

These are just a few of the many games and variants that can be played. Of course for more information, check out the link below or check out the rulebook.



COMPONENTS
This game consists of only a single deck of cards. Each card has a really nice finish that is quite smooth and easy to shuffle. I fully expected that with the glossy look, I would have to break them apart as they would be stuck together. That was not the case. Instead I got some really quality cards. The artwork has the same design as the original fruit deck, except that it has a retro style to it. There are different fruits on each of the cards from pears, peaches and cherries to onions, peppers and pumpkins. I really like the overall retro style look. Even more so than the original fruit deck. The game box is a little bit too big. It's pretty close to the same size as the box for Get Lucky. The reason is because of the thick oversized rulebook. The box is big enough to fit it. That's not a big issue but is easily understood. I will say that since several of the variants and games in the rulebook expect you to use chips of some sort to play, it's mildy underwhelming to find that the game doesn't come with any. After a bit of online research I found that the reason was to save on cost to the buyer and that the designer expected most players to already have something that they could use at home. As I said, mildly annoying but I get it. Still, for what you actually get in the box, I'm fairly pleased. The deluxe edition looks quite nice.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is fairly thick. There are 45 pages worth of material. The book starts off with an introduction and a brief history of the Pairs game. From there it gives you the basics of the original game, followed by some variants on how to play. After a full on lesson into the game, the book delves into all the different games that can be played with the deck. Trust me, there's plenty to keep you occupied for awhile. The book itself is quite nice. There are lots of pictures throughout the book as well as plenty of examples of gameplay. However, the pictures are all in purple ink, the same as the headings of each game and chapter in the book. I would say that it's a little odd, but it kind of fits with the book itself so I don't really mind it. The book is just the right size to fit nicely into the box and looks rather good too. With so many different variations and games to play in the book, you're bound to find something that you enjoy. Needless to say, I think the rulebook does a pretty good job of providing plenty of information. It also looks pretty good too. Overall, I'm pleased with it.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
As I've mentioned before, there are SO many different variations and games that can be played with this deck using the rulebook included with the game. Needless to say, I haven't begun to play every one of them yet. What I have found is several that I really like, some of which I covered in the overview above. I will say that calling this a deluxe edition was a little odd. While it does include a book full of games to play and a new set of cards to play with, that seems to be all that the game included. Most deluxe editions have fancy bits and baubles to really pimp out the game with, such as metal coins or wooden bits. There is really nothing like that here. While I enjoy the fact that the book has a lot of games to play, it just doesn't feel like a deluxe edition to me. That said, I do like the original Pairs game. I especially like this new deck that the game comes with. I really like the way it looks. I have also found new games to play that I was unaware of, like the Judge and Troll Guts. I'm sure that anyone that enjoys the original game or any of the various variations found in the different themed decks available from Cheapass Games, will find something that they'll like with this deluxe edition. It's nice to have all those variations in a single book, along with some new games as well. I'm not going to say too much more about this game. All you really need to know is that if you like Pairs or any of the variants, you'll like this one. You'll also be happy with the companion book inside the game. I recommend this edition over all the others, simply due to the added companion rule book. Overall, it's the best version of the game.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Pairs: Deluxe Edition is a new version of the Pairs game that includes a companion book full of new variations and games to play. It doesn't take long to play. Most games last around 15 minutes or so, depending on which one you're playing. Of course you can extend the game as long as you'd like to play or even shorten the game if you like. This deluxe edition contains a new card deck with lovely new retro artwork and a companion rule book that gives players plenty of new games to play, some of which have never been seen before. I really like the new artwork and book. I will say that it did surprise me to be called a deluxe edition and yet be missing out on the metal and wooden bits that most deluxe versions of games have. Still, I'm pleased with the overall look and design. I like the game and enjoy having the companion book. I would recommend this version of the game, especially if you're already a fan of any version of Pairs. I will also recommend that if you're looking to purchase a Pairs deck, it's honestly worth the few dollars extra to get this version. Enjoy!
8 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Cheapass Games at their site.

http://cheapass.com
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Wed Dec 13, 2017 8:41 pm
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Gaming Bits: Samurai Gardener Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Samurai Gardener is a game by Hisashi Hayashi, published by Osprey Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of gardener for a feudal lord during the time of the Samurai. Players will be trying to build the most impressive garden to bring honour to their lord and themself. The player that is able to arrange the best garden will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board is placed in the middle of the play area. Each player chooses a colored score marker and places it at the 0 position. Players are given a set of feature cards which are placed face up in front of them. The garden cards are shuffled together. One card is drawn and placed face up in front of each player. The remaining deck is placed face down near the board. The player that shuffled the cards is the starting player. Play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round the starting player will draw one card from the deck per player and place it face up in the middle of the play area. Players will then place their hands palms down on their lap. The starting player then calls out, "Ei, Ei!" The remaining players will then shout, "Oh!" and try to place their hand on the card they want as quickly as possible. The first player to place their hand on a card receives that card. If a card has already been taken, the player must quickly choose another one to place their hand on. Once all players have a card, they must then place it into their garden following a set of guidelines. Those guidelines are as follows. First, garden cards must be played vertically and must be placed beside or partially over a card already in the player's garden. If it is placed beside a previous card, at least one square on the card must be adjacent to a square on a previously placed card. If it is overlapping, then at least one square must be on top of another square on a previously placed card. When placing an overlapping card, the player is not allowed to place it so that it covers any part of a row or column of 3 or more squares of the same type. Once the card has been placed, the player is able to score points if they were able to create a new row of 3 or more squares of the same type. Every time that a player scores a row, they must flip the matching feature card face down. However, the player is only able to score a row if their matching feature card is face up. Feature cards will only flip face up once all four of them have been turned face down. This happens immediately after the last one is flipped face down. Once players have scored their points, moving their score marker on the board, the next player in turn order becomes the starting player for the round. A new round then begins.

The game continues until one of two things happens. If a player scores over 25 points, the game ends and that player is the winner. If there aren't enough cards in the deck left to start a new round, the game ends. In this case, the player with the most points is the winner.



COMPONENTS
This game has some fairly nice looking pieces to it. There's a nice thick score board that is really sturdy and has a nice linen finish to it. Unfortunately there's not any art or picture on the board. It's just a bunch of numbers in rows. It looks nice but could have used a little flair to it. The scoring markers are colorful plastic cubes that are larger than the normal wooden cubes in most euro games. These actually bring a nice splash of color to an otherwise fairly bland board. Finally, there are the cards. These include the 4 scoring aid cards that are nice references to have. Each card has a smooth finish which makes them a little difficult to shuffle and separate from each other as they have a tendency to cling together. I would really have preferred a nice linen finish to make them easier to shuffle and separate. There are 2 types of cards, feature cards and garden cards. The feature cards have nice big pictures of the different features that they represent. The art is pretty representative of what each feature is. The garden cards have 6 squares on them with various configurations of the 4 different features. Sometimes these images will be a little more elaborate than the picture on the feature cards. Such as a path that has a dog on it, or a tatami with a mat. These look pretty nice. I will say that I'm not completely sold on the design, but it's not bad either. Overall I think that the components get the job done, but could have really used a bit more thought to make them really note worthy. As it is, they're good.
7 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is rather nice. It has plenty of pictures and examples throughout. Each step of the game is explained in very good detail, usually with plenty of pictures and examples to help the player understand the concept. The book isn't very thick so it doesn't take much time to read through and nothing is difficult to understand either. The book has a small section with some optional rules for playing with younger players which I was very happy about. Overall I think the book looks good and it covers everything in plenty of detail. There's nothing here to dislike.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This game is an interesting mix of several things. For one, the dexterity aspect of grabbing a card or slapping your hand down on a card reminds me of the snatch and grab part of games like Kitty Paw or Loonacy. I'm not a fan of dexterity games and so this rush for the card that you want isn't fun for me. Playing with my daughter, I usually have to be a little lenient on how quickly I grab a card or she gets upset that I picked the one she wanted. Not that I'm going to always let her grab any card she wants, but I will slow my grab sometimes to let her get a bit of a one up on old Dad. The second part is the tile laying, or in this case card laying. This also makes me think of Kitty Paw, as well as Carcassonne and Kingdomino. Once again, I'm not a fan of most tile laying games. However I don't really mind that aspect in this game. It does make you think a bit more ahead as you try to figure out which tile you want to get to add to your tableau. It's not as annoying as I found most tile laying games. For me, it fits more in line with Kingdomino, a game that I actually like playing. My daughter liked building up her garden with the different features, much like Kingdomino. So for her, she liked it too. This isn't a game that everyone will enjoy. By all rights, it doesn't feature mechanics and elements of gameplay that I normally would enjoy. However, I don't mind this game. It's actually not bad. It's not my favorite, but it's one that I won't mind playing again. Fans of tile laying games like Carcassonne or Kingdomino should like this one. For those players, I would recommend this game. For everyone else I'd say give it a try, you might like it.
7 out of 10

OVERALL
Samurai Gardener is a light weight tile laying game. It's not a very long game. Most game sessions last around 15-20 minutes. The components are all ok but could have used a little more thought. The cards look nice but would have been better with a linen finish. The scoring markers are really nice and look quite cool, but the board is lacking a bit. The game itself is a mix of dexterity and tile laying, both of which I'm not normally a fan of. That said, the game isn't bad, even for me. I do find the tile laying aspect of the game to be rather good and is something that I don't mind playing. It's a good family game and is one that everyone can play with relative ease. It's not a difficult game so even the kids can enjoy it. Fans of tile laying games like Kingdomino or Carcassonne should like this one. I would recommend this for those players, but would suggest everyone else to give it a try. It won't be for everyone but I found it to be worth playing again. You never know, it might just be a hidden gem for you.
7 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Osprey Games at their site.

https://ospreypublishing.com/store/osprey-games/
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Wed Dec 6, 2017 8:16 pm
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Gaming Bits: DC Deck Building Game: Confrontations Review

Jonathan Nelson
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DC Deck Building Game: Confrontations is a standalone game as well as an expansion for the DC Deck Building Game by Matt Hyra and Nathaniel Yamaguchi, published by Crytozoic Entertainment. It is for 2-4 players. This expansion adds 4 hero and 4 villain characters to play as, as well as new main deck cards and new enhanced strength cards. It also has new artwork and designs for starting cards and weaknesses.

For more information on the DC Deck Building game and how to play it, as well as all the different sets that this product can be used with, please check out the link at the bottom of the review.

Setting up and playing this game is a little different than either the DC Comics Deck Building Game or the expansion/standalone product Rivals- Batman vs The Joker. Although there are some familiar aspects in the latter of the two. With that in mind, I'll give you a brief explanation of how to set up and play this version. Before I start though, let me mention that this review will mainly cover the 4 player rules. There are variant rules for playing with 2 or 3 players that I will briefly touch on in the gameplay section below. All that said, let's begin.

To begin, players choose a teammate and then choose a character to play. It should be noted that partners should sit beside each other so that they can compare their cards and discuss strategies. Each player will then place their 3 oversized character cards on top of each other with the 9 on top, the 12 in the middle and the 15 on the bottom. Each player then takes 7 Punches and 3 Vulnerability cards to create their starting deck. The Main Deck is shuffled together and placed face down in the middle of the play area. The top 5 cards of the deck are then placed side by side in a row beside the Main Deck called the Line Up . The Enhanced Strength and Weakness cards are placed in separate stacks at the end of the Line Up. The first player is chosen. That player will then take the number 1 token. Their opponent across from them will take the number 2 token. The first player's partner takes the number 3 token and the number 4 token goes to the last player. These tokens are placed beside each player's character card. Players shuffle their deck and draw the top 5 cards to create their starting hand. Play now begins.

On a player's turn, the player will resolve any start of turn effects. They are then able to choose to announce a Confrontation with the lowest cost opposing Character or they may simply play as many cards from their hand as they would like in order to gain Power and purchase other cards. I'll discuss Confrontations in a bit more detail a little bit later, for now just understand that this is an option. Each time a card is played, it's text is resolved immediately. The player will then gain Power which can be used to purchase cards from the Line Up or Enhanced Strength stack. These cards will help make the player's deck stronger. Any bought or gained cards are placed face up in the player's discard pile. Once a player has finished playing cards and making purchases, they will announce the end of their turn. Any remaining cards in the player's hand are placed into their discard pile. Any end of turn effects are resolved at this time. Any cards that were played are now placed into the player's discard pile. Any unspent Power is lost at this time. Five cards are then drawn from the player's deck. If there aren't enough cards to draw five, the player's discard pile is shuffled to create a new face down deck. The remaining cards are then drawn. Play then passes to the next player in turn order.

Play continues until one of the following two conditions is met. If an opponent's last character card has been defeated, then the game ends and that player's team wins. If there aren't enough cards left in the Main Deck to refill all five slots in the Line Up, then the game ends. In this last case, all of the Location cards, cards in the player's hand and discard pile are returned to the player's deck. Each player will then total up the Victory Points on the cards in their deck. Weakness cards will subtract points from the player's total. The team with the most combined points is the winner.

Earlier I mentioned Confrontations, these are the only way that an opponent can be defeated. When a player chooses to Confront an opponent, they are not allowed to later purchase cards on their turn. The player will play cards from their hand to gain Power which they will use to try and defeat their opponent's lowest character. The player must play all the cards that they wish to play at this time. Their teammate may also play assist cards that will help them gain Power. Once both players have finished playing cards, they must announce to their opponents that they have finished. The opponents are then allowed to play block cards in order to increase the character's Confrontation cost. If the players are still able to have as much or more Power than the opponent's character Confrontation cost, then they defeat that version of their opponent's character. That card is then removed from the player's character card stack and placed near the attacking player's side of the table. Once a player's last character card is defeated, that team loses.



COMPONENTS
So as you can see, there's a lot going on here, but what does this add to the base game of the DC Deck Building Game? Well for starters, there's a really cool thick plastic card that is used as a divider making it possible to add the contents of this game to the Multiverse box. There's also a randomizer card to be used with that game's content and rules. There are 24 oversized character cards, 3 for each character. There are cards for Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Zatanna, Lex Luthor, Circe, Ocean Master and Felix Faust. These are very much like the cards for Batman and the Joker in the Rivals expansion. There are the new Enhanced Strength cards which take the place of the Kick cards in previous versions. There are Punch, Vulnerability and Weakness cards, all with new artwork. Finally there's the Main Deck with cards appropriate for each of the characters. Just like previous versions, the artwork on each card is amazing. I like that there are Punch and Vulnerabilty cards with artwork for both the heroes and the villains. I'm really happy with the overall look and feel of the many different cards and types. Overall, there's a lot to like here, especially for fans of the Rivals - Batman vs. The Joker game. Extremely well done.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is very similar is style, setup and size to those in previous versions. There are lots of great pictures and examples throughout the book, including how the game should look when setup. Everything is explained really well and there's nothing difficult to understand. All of the new card types are explained in great detail. There's even a section for several cards that clarify how each one works. The book also has instructions for using this with Rivals. There's also a section that explains how to play with only 2 or 3 players. Mainly this involves how the Assist cards work. The back cover has a really great reference guide with turn sequence and what happens at the end of a turn. Overall I feel like this does a good job at explaining everything and it looks good in the process.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Anyone familiar with the Rivals- Batman vs The Joker expansion/standalone game for the DC Comics Deck Building Game should find lots of familiar things here. Personally, I really enjoyed playing that version. That should come as no surprise as I've really enjoyed the entire DC Deck Building Game collection. This is no exception. I had hoped for more characters to be able to play against each other like Batman and the Joker. I have to be honest though, I had hoped for the Flash or possibly Green Lantern instead of Zatanna and Aquaman. Look I have nothing against either of those characters, they're both great in their own ways. I just tend to like Flash and GL better. Call it a personal preference. Still, now there are more options to choose from and a more dynamic gameplay. It's also possible to play with more than just 2 players which I like a lot. It makes it feel more like an actual team up like those old issues of the Brave and the Bold comics. Honestly, that's the way to play this game. I do like playing 2 players, but 4 is the real way to go. That way the Assist keyword actually comes into play and works correctly. Not that you're not able to use them in a 2 player game, it just plays differently. Instead of your teammate helping you out, you're placing an Assist card on your own character card to be used in a later turn. It works, but it feels a bit odd at times. The confrontations make me think of Munchkin in a way. The attacking player is playing all these cards from their hand in order to try and beat, in this case, the opponent's character. It has a bit of that same feel but looks a lot better doing it. I think fans of the DC Deck Building Game will really enjoy this version, especially if they liked Rivals. I would definitely recommend it. In my opinion, it's a must have expansion.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
DC Deck Building Game: Confrontations is an expansion/standalone game for the DC Deck Building Game that provides a new way of playing team battles. It adds lots of new material that plays a lot like Rivals - Batman vs. the Joker, except on a larger scale. It provides the players with 8 characters to play as including Wonder Woman, Superman, Zatanna, Aquaman, Lex Luthor, Circe, Ocean Master and Felix Faust. The game doesn't take that long to play. Most game sessions last around 30-40 minutes. The cards look amazing. I really love the artwork especially on the new character cards. There's a lot of new artwork on the regular cards as well as lots of new locations, villains, heroes, super powers and equipment. Each new card fits in with one of the hero or villain's worlds. The game play is a lot like Rivals except with a bit of a twist and it allows for 4 players to play in teams of 2. In every way, this game just works for me. Fans of Rivals or any of the DC Deck Building Games should love this. I highly recommend it. It's a must have in my book. Now if you'll excuse me, Lex Luthor and Ocean Master are trying to take over the world again. Up, Up and Away!
9 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Cryptozoic Entertainment at their site.

http://www.cryptozoic.com/
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Thu Nov 30, 2017 9:50 pm
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Gaming Bits: Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis: Animation Annihilation Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis: Animation Annihilation is a standalone game as well as an expansion for Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis by Matt Dunn, published by Crytozoic Entertainment. It is for 2-4 players. This expansion adds new Nemesis, Event and Main Deck cards, as well as all new Oversized Character cards to play as.

For more information on the original Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis game, please check out the link at the bottom of the review.

Before I get into all of the new cards that this expansion adds to the game, I'd like to take a few moments to go over how to set up and play the game. As I said, this expansion can be played both with the original game and by itself. I will discuss adding both this expansion and the main game in the gameplay section below. For now, I'll simply cover setting up and playing this expansion by itself. To begin, each player may be dealt a random Oversized Character card, dealt two random cards or they may simply choose their favorite character to play. As long as each player has a single Oversized Character card, it's fine. The card is placed face up in front of the player. Each player is then given 7 Punchies and 3 Pratfall cards. These cards are shuffled together and make up each player's starting deck. The Event cards are added to the Main Deck which is then shuffled together. The Main Deck is then placed face down in the middle of the play area. The Kanker Sisters Nemesis card is set aside for the moment. The remaining Nemesis cards are then shuffled together before being placed face down across from the Main Deck in the middle of the play area. The Kanker Sisters card is then placed on top of the face down stack. The top 5 cards from the Main Deck are placed side by side beside the deck in a row called the Line Up. The Inside Joke and Weakness cards are placed in separate stacks above and below the Nemesis cards stack. It should be noted that if there is more than 1 Event card face up in the Line Up, the additional Event cards should be removed from the game and replaced with cards from the Main Deck until there's only 1 Event card face up. Each player will now draw 5 cards from their deck. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

On a player's turn, they will be able to play as many cards from their hand as they would like. It should be noted that Weakness cards must be played first before any other cards. Each time a card is played, it's text is resolved immediately. Many times the player will gain Power which is then used to purchase cards from the Line Up, Nemesis stack or Inside Joke stack. Any bought or gained cards are placed face up in the player's discard pile. Once a player has finished playing cards and making purchases, they will announce the end of their turn. Any remaining cards in the player's hand are placed into their discard pile. Any end of turn effects are resolved at this time. Any cards that were played are now placed into the player's discard pile. Any unspent Power is lost at this time. Five cards are then drawn from the player's deck. If there aren't enough cards to draw five, the player's discard pile is shuffled to create a new face down deck. The remaining cards are then drawn. If the top card of the Nemesis stack is face down, it is now flipped face up. The card's Group Attack is read aloud and resolved. Play then passes to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until one of two conditions is met. If there are no more Nemesis cards left to flip up new card, then the game ends. If there aren't enough cards to refill the Line Up back to 5 cards, then the game ends. All of the Location cards, cards in the player's hand and discard pile are returned to the player's deck. Each player will then total up the Victory Points on the cards in their deck. The player with the most points is the winner.

Now with a good grasp of the rules, what all does this expansion add to the game. Well to begin with there are 6 new playable characters, including the Powerpuff Girls, Uncle Grandpa, Cow and Chicken, Billy & Mandy, Fionna & Cake and Ed, Edd n Eddy. There are also new Weakness cards, Event cards, Main Deck cards and Nemesis cards. All of these feature characters, locations and other things associated with the shows from Cartoon Network that feature the previously mentioned characters. Gone is the keyword of Rock, Paper, Scissors...enter the new keyword Wonder. Wonder simply means that the player reveals cards from the top of the main deck until they reveal a non-Event, non-Location card. The player then plays that card, gaining any benefits from it, before placing it into the Line Up. Any other revealed cards are placed on the bottom of the main deck.



COMPONENTS
As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of new cards included with this expansion to add to the orginal game. There are the 6 new characters that come with the game. I love having Cow and Chicken as well as Ed, Edd and Eddy. Of course my daughter really loves Fiona and Cake and the Powerpuff Girls. No surprise there. The new Weakness cards introduce a lot of new surprises as do the Event cards. There's also plenty of new artwork for the regular cards like the Pratfalls, Punchies and Inside Jokes. As I mentioned before, each of the highlighted cartoon worlds are represented in the different Nemesis cards, Locations, Hero cards, Villains, Super Powers and Equipment cards. There does seem to be fewer cards in this as opposed to the base game. Of course there's still plenty of cards to play with without even needing the base game. However for us, we love being able to add all the new material with the main game for a massive royal rumble of epic proportions. The artwork is really great and has plenty of screen captures from the various shows that each one represents. I think that overall everything looks good and that it provides plenty of stuff to make the kids happy. That makes me happy.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this expansion is the same size as the large rulebook included with the base game. That's pretty much the same as those of all the large box Cerberus Engine card games too. There's plenty of great looking pictures and examples throughout the book. Everything is explained really well and it's easy to read and understand. There are break downs of each of the main card types with explanations of what they are and what they do. There's a great section that explains the different keywords that this game introduces as well as discussing the ones that had also been a part of the first game. There's also a section describing how to combine this expansion with the base game. That's the part that I'm most happy with. The book also clarifies several different cards, as well as providing a nice section for frequently asked questions. Overall I find that the rulebook follows a set pattern that has been seen in both the previous rulebook as well as those of all the Cerberus Engine games. That pattern seems to work, so why stop using it. I think everything here looks great.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I've really enjoyed all of the different cartoons on Cartoon Network over the years. I've been especially fond of shows like Ed, Edd n Eddy and Cow and Chicken. My son especially liked those as he was growing up. We've also enjoyed Courage the Cowardly Dog and Adventure Time, but that's a different story. Now as my daughter has been starting to watch some of these older shows as well as some of the newer stuff like Uncle Grandpa and Adventure Time with Fiona and Cake, she's started enjoying some of the same shows that my son and I did. Enter this expansion. We've already enjoyed the first game but other than Dee Dee, my daughter didn't really have a wealth of characters that she felt comfortable playing. Of course she liked finding the different Crystal Gems from Steven Universe in the first game, but that's a different review. This game gave us Fiona & Cake and the Powerpuff Girls. Not to mention the combos of Billy & Mandy and Cow and Chicken. Both of which include girl characters. In case you were wondering. You can't believe the excitement my daughter had when she was able to play as these new characters in a game system that she already enjoyed. We've played the DC Deck Building game several times, but she seems a bit disconnected some times with that one. With this game, it features characters that are right up her alley. Characters from shows that she watches regularly and truly enjoys. It adds lots of new material to an already great game system in the Cerberus engine. Needless to say, we like this one a lot. The new characters are great and the new keywords are fun to use. Have to say, I got sick of the rock, paper, scissors from the first one. This one is a bit more fun in my opinion. Of course the best part is that if you already own the base game, you can combine it with this expansion to create an awesome fusion. Kind of like when all the lions come together to form Voltron. When combining the games you can use characters from both games. However you'll only be using 15 of the Event cards with the combined Main Decks though. You'll also use 7 or less Nemesis cards along with either the Kanker Sisters of the Ice King from the first game. The exact number will be dependent on the number of players. Other than that, everything plays pretty much the same. Fans of the original Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis will love this expansion. Deck Building fans with young kids will definitely enjoy this either by itself or with the first game. Needless to say, my daughter and I really enjoy it. I would definitely recommend it as a family game or for playing with the kids. It's a lot of fun.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis: Animation Annihilation is an expansion for the Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis game, as well as being a stand alone game. It adds 6 new characters, new Events, new Weaknesses, new Main Deck cards and new Nemesis cards. It focuses on characters and things from the featured shows of the Powerpuff Girls, Uncle Grandpa, Cow and Chicken, Billy & Mandy, Ed, Edd n Eddy and Adventure Time with Fiona & Cake. Play time remains pretty much the same with most games lasting around 30 minutes or so. The cards are great and my daughter and I both love the artwork on them. The game works great both as a stand alone game or combined with the original game. I like that the rock, paper, scissors keyword has been replaced with the new Wonder keyword. Fans of the featured shows will really enjoy this game, as will fans of the original Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis. This is a great game to be played with kids or families. It provides plenty of player interaction and will make you laugh. We've really enjoyed it and look forward to playing it a lot more. Stop Wondering, it's good fun.
8 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Cryptozoic Entertainment at their site.

http://www.cryptozoic.com/
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Fri Nov 17, 2017 9:23 pm
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Gaming Bits: Valeria: Card Kingdoms Review

Jonathan Nelson
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Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a game by Isaias Vallejo, published by Daily Magic Games. It is for 1-5 players. In this game, players will take on the role of Duke or Duchess of a fantasy kingdom. They will be slaying monsters, recruiting citizens an expanding their kingdom's domain. By doing these things, they will gain influence in the form of victory points. In the end, the player that can best rule their kingdom and gain the most victory points will be declared the winner.

To begin, all of the cards with the 5 player icon on them should be removed from the game. All of the cards should be sorted into their initial stacks. The play area consists of a 5 by 4 grid of cards. The Monster cards should be sorted into stacks using the area icon at the top of each one. Each stack should then be arranged face up with the lowest strength card on the top and the highest strength on the bottom. The Monster stacks should be placed in the top row of the play area with the lowest strength stack on the left and the highest strength stack on the right. It is suggested that for the first game, a certain set of cards should be used in each stack and the others returned to the box. For more information on the exact cards used, please consult the rulebook. The second and third rows in the play area consists of the Citizen cards. These cards are sorted into separate stacks by name. One type per activation number should be chosen and placed in ascending order. The remaining cards are returned to the box. For the first game, it is suggested to use certain citizen types. For more information on the exact cards used, please consult the rulebook. The bottom row in the play area consists of the Domain cards. These cards should be shuffled together. Two cards are dealt face down to each place in the bottom row. One card is then dealt face up to each stack. The remaining Domain cards are returned to the box. Two Exhausted cards per player are placed in a stack above the Monster row. The remaining Exhausted cards are returned to the box. Each player is then given a Starter Peasant and Starter Knight card. They also receive a reference card, 2 Gold tokens and a Magic token. All of the remaining tokens and multiplier tokens are placed into separate piles within reach of all players. The Duke cards are shuffled together and each player is dealt 2 cards. Each player will then select 1 of the cards to keep and return the other along with the remaining Duke cards to the box. Players should keep their Duke card secret from the other players. The first player is chosen and is given the First Player token and the dice. Play now begins.

The game is played through a series of turns. Each turn is divided into 4 phases; roll phase, harvest phase, action phase and end phase. The first phase is the roll phase. In this phase the active player will roll both dice. The number on each die will activate matching Citizens in a player's tableau during the Harvest phase. During this phase, players may use the power of any of their Domain cards. This may include changing a die. Once all players have finished, the active player announces the results of the roll, ending the phase.

The next phase is the harvest phase. In this phase players check their Citizen cards to see if they match the number on either of the dice rolled. If they do, then the player will activate one of the powers on the bottom of the card. If they are the active player, then they activate the power on the left side. If they are not the active player, then the activate the power on the right side. If a player receives or pays tokens during this phase, then they are taken from or paid to the supply unless otherwise noted on the card. It should be noted that the Thief is the only Citizen card that takes from another player. This Citizen card always acts first before any other Citizens activate. If a player has no Citizens that activated during this phase, then they may take any one resource from the supply. Once all players have finished, the phase ends.

The third phase is the action phase. In this phase, the active player will take 2 actions from a list of 4. Those actions are slay a monster, recruit a citizen, gain a resource and build a domain. To slay a monster, the player takes a Monster card on top of one of the stacks and pays the strength and resources equal to the cost on the card. The Monster card is then placed face up in the players Victory stack, collecting any bonuses provided on the bottom of the card. To recruit a citizen, the player takes a Citizen card on top of one of the stacks and pays the resources equal to the Gold cost on the Citizen card plus 1 additional Gold for each duplicate Citizen card the player already has in their tableau. The player then places the Citizen card face up in their tableau to be activated on future rolls. It should be noted that when slaying a monster or recruiting a citizen, magic tokens may be used in place of all but one of the resources required for the card. To gain a resource, the player simply takes one of the resource tokens from the supply, adding it to their pool. That resource can be either gold, strength or a magic token. To build a domain, the player takes a Domain card from the top of a stack and adds it face up to their tableau. That is as long as the player has Citizens in their tableau that have the corresponding Citizen Role icons on them. If there are mutiple Citizen Role icons on the Domain card, then the player must have an equal number of matching Citizens in their tableau. The player must also pay the gold cost on the Domain card. It should be noted that player are also allowed to use Magic tokens in place of all but 1 of the gold tokens. Once the Domain is added, the player gains any bonuses provided by the card. The player then reveals the next Domain card in the stack by flipping it over. Once the active player has taken 2 actions, the phase ends. It should be noted that the active player is allowed to take the same action twice if they choose. Also, if a stack ever runs out of cards, the player must add an Exhausted card to the empty space.

The last phase is the end phase. In this phase, the players check to see if any of the end game conditions have been met. If one of them has been, then play continues until all players have had an equal number of turns. This is noted by the turn order returning to the player with the first player token. If the end game conditions have not been met, then the active player passes the dice to the next player in turn order and a new turn begins.

The game continues until the end game conditions have been met as noted above. Once this happens and all players have had an equal number of turns, the game ends. The game can end if all of the monsters have been slain, if all of the domains have been built or if the number of exhausted stacks is equal to two times the number of players. Once the game ends, players add up their victory points from slain monsters, built domains, victory point tokens and from the player's Duke. The player with the most victory points is the winner.




COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of great looking pieces to it. To begin with there are these 2 huge six sided dice that have a great looking marble style finish to them. They are almost the same size as the die in King of Tokyo. There are also several brightly colored wooden tokens for strength, gold, magic and victory points. These are really nice and look cool. I do wish they had a bit of a design on them instead of simply being plain, but wooden pieces are better than cardboard so I'm not complaining. The game also has some thick card board multiplier tokens to use with the wooden tokens. These make it where you don't have to use as many of the wooden pieces to count tokens. There's also a first player and resting token in cardboard as well. The game comes with some nice dividers to place all the cards into the very spacious and awesome looking insert. Yes, the game has a truly great looking insert inside the box. There's plenty of room for expansions and everything fits in great. The cards are gorgeous. I love how cool the artwork is on each one. There are several different types of cards including some reference cards to help while playing the game. Needless to say, I love how cool everything looks in this game. The fantasy theme is very much a part of the look and feel. It's truly a great looking game.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this one is really quite nice. There are lots of great looking pictures and examples throughout the book. There are pictures of the different components and a great setup picture as well. All of the different phases of the game are explained really well. The different card types are also explained in great detail with pictures too. The rule book also includes a 5 player rule variant as well as an amazing solo variant. The rules also have a mixed citizen variant where all the citizen cards of the same activation number are shuffled together into stacks so that you never know what the next Citizen card might be. The book also has a section devoted to the clarification of several of the cards as well as a section for recommended starting setups that focus on different aspects of the game. The back cover has a quick play reference that's very handy. It also has a section of important concepts and how to end the game. All in all, the book is very well designed. Everything looks good and is quite easy to read. I didn't see anything that looked difficult to understand at all.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Let me go right ahead and get the obvious out of the way. In a lot of ways, this plays like Machi Koro but with a fantasy theme. That said, this game really improves and adds a lot more depth to the actual game play than what is included with Machi Koro. Yes, you will be rolling dice on your turn and activating different cards. However this game you'll have citizens that activate on the dice rolls and domains that will give you abilities that can change up the roll or do other things. You have monsters that you can kill off to gain victory points and bonuses. You have a Duke card that will help you focus your style of gameplay into certain areas to better gain more points. This game is just so much deeper and richer and I love it. I like the variations to the rules, especially the solo rules. I will say that the solo is a little bit random but is still quite a lot of fun. It has the same type of feel playing against the Dark Lord as when I play Ascension solo. That's not a bad thing, as I like playing Ascension solo a lot. I like that as you play the monsters get harder. I also like that as you build up what I commonly refer to as your village, you get more able to do more things and fight those stronger monsters. This is not a difficult game at all and it's one that even the kids can enjoy. The iconography does take a little bit of getting used to but after a couple of plays you'll get it. This isn't an overly strategic game but I think some strategy gamers will still enjoy it, especially if they like the fantasy style theme. Fans of games like Machi Koro or even deck builders like Ascension should enjoy this one, especially since the game has some similarities to Machi Koro. Overall this is a really great game that has overtaken Machi Koro in my heart. I would highly recommend it.
10 out of 10
OVERALL
Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a light weight fantasy themed tableau building game. It's not a very long game. Most game sessions last around 30 minutes or so. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous. I love the look and feel of the cards and the wooden pieces that are included with the game. The game itself is really fun and has a lot of similarities with the game Machi Koro. There are several variations that allow the game to be played with as many as 5 players or few as 1. As a solo game, it has a bit of randomness much like playing Ascension solo, but it's still a lot of fun. It's family friendly and simple enough that everyone can play. It combines aspects of card drafting and tableau building in a fantasy realm to create a truly enjoyable game that the whole family will love. Fans of games like Machi Koro and Ascension should really enjoy this one. This is a game that I would highly recommend. Move over Machi Koro, Dad has a brand new love.
9 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Daily Magic Games at their site.

https://www.dailymagicgames.com/
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:07 pm
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