Quick Look: Your Family Rocks! Designer: Nuno Sousa Artist: Duarte Loureneco Publisher: Self Published Year Published: 2018 No. of Players: 3-6 Ages: 10+ Playing Time: 30-90 minutes
WARNING: This is a preview of YOUR FAMILY ROCKS. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
Review: Your Family Rocks is a unique game in that it is both original and capitalizes on your own family experiences. The game is purchased and created based on family photos that you supply to the game publisher. Instead of placing these photos on a Monopoly board or on a set of playing cards, they are converted into a game of memories for your family.
The 8 Game Modules
When setting up the game, the length can be customized to suit the time frame that you have to play in. Once you determine how long you have to play, you set out 2-5 of the game modules (there are 8 total modules in the prototype). Place the Family Members (People Meeples), Family Values (Crest Meeples), Family Rules (Book Meeples), and Family Objects (Round Meeples) into the bag for random selection later. Also, each player sets up a screen provided in the game. Place the modules you select on the table and add a number of random meeples near each module. (We used 5 meeples at each module for three players.) You are ready to start the game.
Each module has a little game that involves the family pictures and sometimes memories. These games award Family Time (represented by the cubes). After completion of the little game, players bid family time to acquire the Family Members, Family Values, Family Rules, and Family Objects associated with that module. These are awarded based on bids and also placed behind your screen. Family Time can also be saved for later modules.
Instructions for the "Guess What" module
After playing the modules selected, you then add up your points: Family Members are worth 8 points, Family Values are worth 6 points, Family Rules are worth 5 points, and Family Objects are worth 3 points. Ties are broken with leftover Family Time.
Now that we have an idea of what the game is about, let's look at it closer. The game provided to me is a prototype, so I'm not going to really discuss the quality except to say that the photo cards are pretty nice quality. I wish I could have sent in pictures of my family to comment on the process, but I'm sure that would not have worked in the timeframe of this review effort.
Family Photo Cards
Setup is pretty easy and the rules are straightforward. The rulebook is well written and ready for a Kickstarter campaign. The Modules have clear instructions and good examples of what they want you to do as well. For where this game is in the production timeline, I think the rules and instructions are well done.
I think this game would be greatly enhanced by playing with pictures that I recognize and love. The theme for this game is pretty neat considering the concept of incorporating the personal touch. The modules can be selected to make the game more or less personal as well.
The gameplay is clean and changes as you move through the modules. The bidding portion is a little clunky, but does give you something to play for and does move you quickly back into the next module.
I usually comment on the artwork, but I think a majority of what you will look at during the game will be images that you supply. The other images and graphics that will be included aren't exactly my style, but my family seems to like them, so obviously I am wrong on this .
The Good: Great game for incorporating the personal touch. I think this is a great idea for a gift and holds its own as a game. I would love to see what fun this offers when the pictures are funny memories along with the other memories that the different modules encourage you to have.
The Bad: I don't know that there is too much bad. I will use this section to make a couple of suggestions to accomplish through the Kickstarter. I'd like to see better components (particularly the box and meeples). I would also like to see some components added to the game to add variety to the experience.
Final Thoughts: I will likely purchase this game as a gift for those I love. It is easy enough, deep enough, and varied enough to keep anyone involved. It is a good combination to help get your whole family involved.
Players Who Like: I think you will like this game if you like involved group games like Apples to Apples or Wits and Wagers.
WARNING: This is a preview of Raccoon Tycoon. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
Review: tl;dr: A variety of some of the best game mechanics with a classy theme and art. A gentleperson's game.
Getting to the Game: Setup for Raccoon Tycoon (are we all sure that "raccoon" has two C's in it? It looks weird every time I write it) is quick, and actually helps explain how the game is going to work. Each action you are able to take on your turn has its own place on the game board. Start each of the commodity tracks with a token of the respective type at the bottom. Separate out the cash into stacks, and place near the board. Shuffle the town deck, custom railroad deck (varying cards depending on how many players), production deck, and building tiles, and place them on the board where indicated. Give each player $10 and three production cards. Randomly decide on a first player, who gets one commodity token of their choice. Each player in turn order then gets one additional token.
Learning to play will come down to mastering when to take each of the game's five available actions: produce commodities and increase the price of some of them, start an auction for a railroad, trade commodity tokens for a town, purchase a building tile, sell commodities for cash. In most games, cash is king, so you're constantly looking for ways to increase your liquid assets, while getting resources to help you net more cash. Raccoon Tycoon flips this script: cash matters almost not at all at the end of the game, so players focused on the almighty dollar will almost certainly lose. It's a means to victory points, the sweet, sweet nectar of board games.
Playing the Game: As mentioned, victory points are the only way to win, and cash doesn't give you any VP's* at game's end. There are two primary sources of victory points: Railroads and Towns. Railroads come in 6 different animal types, and the more of one kind of railroad you have, the more VPs the set is worth. The lowly Skunkworks is worth only 2/5/9/15 VPs, but the titular Raccoons will get you 4/9/16/25. However, it's not as easy as buying them as soon as they come up on the board. One of your turn actions is to start an auction for one of the revealed railroads. Name your starting bid, which must be higher than the minimum starting bid on the card and then players then go around in turn order bidding or passing. Auctioning is one of my group's favorite mechanics, so for us, there was a massive amount of pleasure derived from watching one railroad sell for $12, and then immediately after that, having another one go for over $60. The actual results of the auction are going to vary wildly depending on when in the game it's taking place, so there really isn't a strict way to "cost" the points provided by the railroads. This makes for a wild dynamic, as you try to determine how much cash each player has (their stashes are secret information), and how much you think they're willing to give up. There's definitely a strategy in forcing auctions that players aren't ready for in order to drive them out of cash or to force the price of a railroad down because no one wants to spend money yet. One of the game-end conditions is all the railroads being sold, so burning through the deck early is one way to lock up a game.
The other primary source of victory points is from towns. Towns are worth anywhere from 2 to 5 VPs, and each gains another 2VP by pairing it with a railroad. Towns aren't purchased with money—they're acquired by trading commodities. Lower-value towns cost only a couple of a particular commodity, depending on the town, but any town can be had by trading in a higher amount of whatever you got. The more the town is worth, the more commodity tokens you'll pay for it. The deck is organized by point value, so all the 2VP towns will be gone by the time you see the 3VP ones, and so on. This deck is another game-end trigger, so once the last of the 5VP towns is gone, the game will end.
Commodity tokens and cash work on a market scale, and here is where Racoon Tycoon really starts to show its muscle. At the top of the board, there are tracks for each of the game's resources: Wheat, Wood, Iron, Coal, Goods (our least favorite named commodity, as it's a synonym), and Luxury (Wine). The further to the right on the board you go, the higher the price floor. Wheat bottoms out at $1 per bushel, but luxury can never go lower than $3 a bottle. Whenever you choose the Production action, you play a production card from your hand. Each card is divided into two halves, Price and Production. You produce first (even though it's on the bottom half of the card, a minor annoyance), by choosing three icons on the card's production area and gaining one token for each icon chosen. Then, you increase the price of each commodity listed on the Price half of the card by $1. If a commodity is listed twice, it goes up $2, and so on. By increasing the price of a commodity, you're allowing your opponents to beat you to sell that commodity, if they have it. On their turn, they can choose to sell any amount of one commodity in their possession for the market price. The price then drops by $1 for each token sold, to reflect the increase in supply. This becomes a delicate, tense dance of looking around the table to make sure you're not pumping the price of a commodity your opponent might be stockpiling, and risking increasing it anyway because you desperately need cash to earn your fourth Fox railroad.
The final action of purchasing a building tile with cash will let you cheat some of the game's rules in sometimes very game-altering ways. Tiles let you do anything from produce an additional named resource (or two!), increase your production yield from 3 to as many as 5, to even gaining $1 whenever someone sells a listed resource. It's this last one that has a tendency to be overpowered. That particular tile costs $10, and if you nab the one that gives you $1 for every Iron or Coal commodity sold early enough, it's going to net you a lot of money over the course of a game. In one of our games, one player got that tile in the first couple rounds, and rode it a very long way to a large stack of cash. Now, I'm hesitant to call this out as an issue. It's possible that in your game, you'll never see it. It's also possible that your fellow players will ease off selling those so as to avoid benefiting that player. The latter is somewhat less likely, as that's cutting off a third of the game's market, and those particular commodities represent the middle commodities, so they're traded often.
Overall, Raccoon Tycoon feels very balanced and not broken in any single mechanic. I think that some of the building tile costs still need to be tweaked. Building tiles overall feel not-quite-ready. Buying a building tile means flipping over the next one on the stack, but not being able to buy that one until it's your turn again, if it's even still available. With five players, flipping over a tile that's undercosted, or very, very good feels very, very bad, even if the one you bought is one you really did want. It drove several of us to not buy them because we were afraid of losing out on a good one. The tiles are also of varying strength. All of them are beneficial, but some (I'm looking at you, "increase hand size") aren't worth their cost.
* There's a building tile that gives you VPs for cash, but only one player can own it.
Artwork and Components: The artwork across the board (literally and figuratively) is incredibly well done. I'll give the usual caveat about pre-production components here, but if this game was shelf-ready today, I would honestly be ok with it. The railroad art depicting masculine and feminine of each named animal in high-class dress is just phenomenal. The art on the actual game board is watercolor perfection. Iconography across cards is great and easy to distinguish. Overall, attention was clearly paid to these assets and it shows.
The components are less-ready, but I'm assured they will be. The town cards all feel sort of same-y, and the Production cards are upside-down. The wooden bits are really great, but my bag has black wooden pigs for coal and blah gray squares for iron. Again, these are just placeholder and if they end up being as good as everything else in the box, then this game will easily earn a spot in your "most beautiful game that's also incredibly fun" collection.
The Good: Tight mechanics, fun and tense gameplay. No runaway victory problems. Assortment of things to do feels fresh and exciting. Art is absolutely phenomenal, and the overall feel of actually playing is top-rate.
The Bad: Building tiles feel unbalanced and dangerous. Paper money is double-sided, and is supposed to be secret. This leads to a weird dance of holding it under the table, stacking it up and being very careful with it, etc. Solutions to this could still be in the making (single-sided cash? a cardboard wallet?).
Score: Despite my misgivings above, I can't recommend Raccoon Tycoon enough. It's early enough in the process that tweaking could still be made, and that's really all this game needs to be one of the best in the business. The sheer variety of mechanics combined with a fun theme and art, the excellent balance of interaction without feeling too cutthroat, and even the game's attention to preventing a player from getting ahead and staying ahead all feels just spectacular. I'm giving Raccoon Tycoon a score of Top of the Food Chain.
WARNING: This is a preview of the MMA Combat Card Game. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
'The best fighter is not a Boxer, Karate or Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt on any style. He kicks too good for a Boxer, throws too good for a Karate man, and punches too good for a Judo man.' - Bruce Lee
MMA Combat Card Game is a 2-player card game where each player has their own deck of 50 cards and is working towards lowering their opponent's life count from 30 down to 0 in three rounds of game play.
MMACCG is a deck builder, meaning you are able to customize your decks using cards that come with the game. There are some limitations set to the decks (50 cards maximum in your Stamina deck, five cards in your Routines deck, no more than three copies of any non-unique card, and only one copy of any unique card in the deck). Outside of these rules, you can completely change your deck to match your style of play.
Speaking of decks, the game has four pre-made decks available, each customized to work with the individual styles: the Brawler (keep the opponent standing and lay massive damage to them), the Tap-Out Artist (submissions expert, laying holds once you are grounded), the Muay Thai Specialist (focused on clinching and laying massive beats on the opponent), and the Ground and Pound Artist (solid all-purpose deck, able to do damage either standing or to a grounded opponent).
Setting up MMACCG is very simple. Each player will have a deck of cards. Included in the deck are three extra cards; two of them are identical and are used to track fight position, stance, and player turns, while the third is used to track your life total
Each player will then take their deck of 50 cards, shuffle them, allow their opponent to cut the deck, then draw their starting hand of six cards. You may, if you choose, select three cards, place them aside, draw three replacements, then shuffle them into the deck. The game also allows for an advanced mode using cards called Routine cards. If you are playing with these cards, you will have a separate pile of cards for them, from which you will draw three cards, placing them face up in front of you.
Game play continues up to three rounds. Each round consists of a player playing up to five of their cards and each player taking a turn. After three rounds, a winner is determined. There are three conditions that lead to a victory: knock out your opponent (lower their life total to 0); successfully play a card that states that you win the game; or, if no player has met the first two conditions, count the victory points of cards played successfully, and the player with the highest count wins.
Theme and Mechanics:
We’ll take this easy and start with the theme. You are a fighter looking to take out your opponent. Each card you play has a value towards victory points (in case of a tie), toughness (damage to opponent), and stamina (also damage to opponent). The stamina value also has a second ability
The cards are meant to work in three different stances, similar to a MMA match. Each card will work both with and against your opponent, who will be either Standing, Clinched, or Grounded. The text on the cards will show what stance the opponent needs to be in for it to work. That is, if your opponent is standing, you cannot use a move that requires them to be grounded.
You will play cards into two different areas of the area in front of you. Cards discarded (or removed from your deck) will go into a pile called the "Corner Area," while cards that you successfully played go into a pile called the "Cage Area," which are used in case of a tie at the end of the game.
Mechanically, MMACCG is very straightforward. On your turn, you will be playing a number of cards to do damage to your opponent. There are cards that have the keyword "Counter" on them which allow you to counter a move that an opponent is using on you. If a counter is played, the turn for that player is over and the next player will take their turn.
I also want to call out that the images on the cards appear to be actual images from matches, adding to the realism of the theme. The images specifically appear to match the card/maneuver, giving you actual imagery of what it would look like. (While I keep using the word "appear," please remember that this is based on a prototype and that the final artwork may change.)
Game Play: Gameplay for MMACCG is very straightforward. On your turn, you will draw a card, then play up to five cards until either you have played what you want or your opponent plays a counter to your move.
At the start of the game, you will be drawing cards from your deck (called the Stamina deck), playing them on your turn, and resolving the damage that is done to your opponent. If damage is done to the opponent successfully, you lower their life total, then look at the card you played to see what the stamina value is. If there is a number in that box, your opponent will take that number of cards off of their stamina deck and place them in the discard pile.
When you are taking damage and removing cards from the stamina deck, you will be turning these over one at a time. The reason for that is that if you turn a "Counter" card over, you can immediately play it and stop milling your cards. That’s right, you can interrupt the opponent who thinks they’re making you lose the good cards in your deck, and end their turn immediately.
There are also "Referee" cards, which need special conditions to occur for them to be played. For example, one of them can only be played after a submission has been played, and if the opponent has taken at least 15 points of damage in a turn. The reward for playing it? Instant win! Another one lets your referee put everyone in the Standing position, and everyone draws three cards.
Artwork and Components:
As mentioned above, a prototype was provided for this review. A sample of the card artwork was provided and can be seen below.
Looking at the placement of the cards received, and the images provided in the sample art, you can see that the artwork shows images you would expect to see in a MMA match, with multiple fighters and holds being used. The images appear to be actual photos from matches, adding additional realism to the game.
The cards size provided were standard size, and the text was easily readable against the dark background. As the game runs fast, you'll probably want to sleeve the cards, as you'll be shuffling them after each game.
MMACCG has some great things going for it. While the game says it needs 10-15 minutes, it’s really close to that 10-minute limit. This is fast!! You can do an entire game between rounds of another game or while waiting for your turn to play in a long board game. Also, you only need two people to play this game. The card artwork adds to the realism of the game, as you can see actual images of the moves and counters. The four different styles of play are also awesome. Want to play as a brawler? No problem. More into submissions? Let the Tap-Out Artist show you how flexible you're not. Ground and Pound? Been there, done that. Muay Thai? Oh, heck yeah!
You know, rules are always the hardest thing to put together. While this is a prototype and not the final version, the rules are a bit hard to follow and understand. That being said, after playing one turn, you know everything you need to know, and will only use the rulebook to remember how to score if there’s a tie at the end. Additionally, there is no indicator on the cards to show which base deck it would go with. So if you’re looking to reset the game to its base set, there doesn’t appear to be a way to keep track of which card goes to which deck. Something like a number at the bottom of the card (i.e. Card 23/125) would suffice.
Ten minutes! Seriously, that's all it takes to play a full game. Gameplay isn't difficult, and if you've ever seen an MMA match, you already know most of how the game would play. Remember the game where you were looking to take someones money during lunch, but had to always look a rules to see if you can land a roundhouse or if you needed to grab someone first? Yeah, completely eliminated looking that up. Everything is right on the cards that you need.
Get this. You will enjoy it! That being said, if you're looking for a big deck builder, this isn't for you. Yes, you can customize your deck, but at this time, the cards included in this set is all there is. CCG does not stand for Collectible Card Game in this instance.
Players Who Like: Card based combat games, two-player games, fast gameplay.
Lost to history, a new land in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean was discovered by Portuguese sailor Raimundo Peres da Costa at the cusp of the 14th century. The process of merely planning and gaining support to make such a risk-filled journey was a difficult path of its own. Yet, in securing the sponsorship of beloved Queen Isabel of Portugal, Raimundo was able to get the supplies and crew needed to accomplish his dream.
Players recreate this accomplishment in a game that plays out as a 3-act story. First, draft cards representing people who have evidence of the hidden land and plans to get there, in order to gain sponsorship from one of six important figures. Second, use the resources from your sponsor to draft cards representing the supplies and crew needed to make the journey. Finally, sail the treacherous seas to discover the "Land of Danger" by using your hand of cards to pay for the costs of the voyage.
WARNING: This is a preview of Days of Discovery. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change. Days of Discovery launched on Kickstarter on June 19, 2018.
Review:Tales of Danger #1: Days of Discovery Overview and Theme: Days of Discovery features Portuguese explorers setting sail in the late 13th century, trying to gather evidence and supplies before setting sail and trying to survive five dangerous, difficult segments of a journey of discovery and exploration. It is slated to be the first in the Tales of Danger series by Matt Worden Games.
Components and Setup: Days of Discovery is a card game—the game includes 6 Sponsor cards, 102 People cards, 6 Player Reference cards, and 2 rule books. The final components may be slightly different from what I had in my prototype deck, but I thought the art and icons were well done and helped convey the game's theme of early world exploration.
Setup is simple—shuffle the People deck, deal a starting hand to each player, and lay out the next five cards from the deck as the Pool. Set out the Sponsors, make sure each player has a Reference card, and you're ready to begin.
Game Play and Mechanics: The most interesting feature of Days of Discovery is its three-act game flow, supported by triple-use cards. The game will progress through a stage of gathering information to secure a Sponsor for your journey (Act 1), loading up crew and supplies to prepare for the long trip ahead (Act 2), and then setting sail for five legs of sea travel (Act 3). Each card has certain icons and information on it that allows it to be used in any one of the three acts, and some of your cards will carry over in hand between the acts.
In Act 1, you will be recruiting two People each turn, hoping to find the right match of icons for the Sponsor you are hoping to impress. Each People card will have a few Sponsor icons (the crown matches the King, the rose matches the Queen, etc.) and can only be used to woo one of the matching Sponsors. You're trying to gather the required number of Evidence (scrolls) and Plans (maps). For example, to gain the support of Dona Isabel, Queen of Portugal, you need four Evidence icons and six Plan icons from People cards that also contain a rose icon. Keep taking turns drawing from the Pool or the pile (with a hand limit of 7) until you can fulfill the needs of a Sponsor, keeping in mind that at least one of your cards must be an Insider for that Sponsor (gold stars next to the icon).
Another interesting facet of Days of Discovery is that players will move from Act 1 to Act 2 whenever they are individually ready, not all as a group. This means that the more quickly you can secure a Sponsor, the more time you will have in Act 2 to gather supplies. It often makes a big difference during Act 3 if you've had a longer time to prepare in Act 2!
Once you have your Sponsor card, you move on to Act 2, drawing the number of cards from the Market (the face-down pile or the face-up Pool) that the Sponsor card allows. You are trying to gather a high and flexible number of Crew and Supplies to help you through Act 3. In addition, you may want to pick up some of the special cards that will help stave off Bad Luck, Illness, or Rough Seas later on.
After all players have moved into Act 2 and everyone has reached their maximum hand size for their Sponsor, the whole table will move into Act 3 together.
In Act 3, you'll be turning the cards sideways and looking at the boat and equipment icons in the sidebar of the cards. Each Segment of your journey will be represented by a ship with a number inside—the number represents the difficulty of that leg and also will be the points you can earn for successfully completing it.
It took us a little while to understand the way the Segments work—this was the one part of the game that didn't feel as intuitive and was harder to explain to new players. The card used as the ship for a Segment does not add the requirements from its own card, but instead indicates how many more cards you need to draw from the deck to add up the requirements (shown with x'd out barrel or crew icons). You'll then need to play People cards from your hand to equal the number of barrels and crew required from those cards.
If you can't meet a Segment's requirements with what you have in your hand, you'll have to Forage—draw four cards from the deck, add one to the requirements of your Segment and the other three cards into your hand. The more times you need to Forage, the more difficult your Segment will become—and the farther behind the other players you may get as they sail off without you.
As you complete Segments, you'll keep the first card (with the ship you used) as points; you also get to take one card from your hand and play it face down as the ship's journal entry—gaining the points on the ship icon from that card as well.
Once one player has completed her fifth Segment, each other player gets one more turn and then all players will reveal the total points from all Segment and Journal ships. Highest total wins!
Days of Discovery also includes a solo play booklet, encouraging players to play through all three acts before running out of cards in the deck. A few rules are tweaked slightly, but game play is largely the same.
The Good: Days of Discovery does a great job of telling a story of exploration through its three-act structure. It can be engaging and entertaining to get into the story, talking your way through gathering evidence from Farmers and Sailors, wooing an upstanding member of the Portuguese court, then accruing a suitable crew from the market, and finally taking on the hardships of a long journey.
The multi-use cards make the game more portable and more easily set up than other strategic games of similar weight, and help to streamline the experience of the game. The art and iconography in Days of Discovery is very suitable to the theme as well.
I felt that Days of Discovery worked quite well as a solo game, feeling puzzley and engaging.
The Bad: One thing that tripped up several tables of players was understanding that the first card you flipped over for each Segment only counted for the ship's difficulty, and that the requirements printed on that card were not taken into account. This one little non-intuitive rule sometimes stopped the flow of the game as we stopped what we were doing to explain it again.
The other thing that we noticed was that in some games at lower player counts (2 or 3 players) where you don't have the full range of Sponsor cards to choose from, sometimes it was difficult to accumulate the right cards for the Sponsors you did have available, and Act 1 tended to drag on as we pulled cards from the deck, hoping to dig down to the ones for the Sponsors we had on the table. It seemed especially hard to find the Insiders for the right Sponsors.
Players Who Like: Days of Discovery will appeal to players who enjoy multi-use cards in games like Flip City, card drafting games like 7 Wonders or Sushi Go, and who are drawn to the theme of exploration.
Final Thoughts: The unique multi-use cards will keep us coming back to Days of Discovery. These cards combined with the three-act structure allow a lot of game to be packed in a little box, as the strategy for each act is different. It works very well as a puzzle-based solo game, and the few hiccups in gameplay can be overlooked, especially with larger player counts and experienced players. I am looking forward to seeing how the other games in this series play out, and I wish Matt Worden Games good luck on their Kickstarter journey! Hope you have acquired enough barrels and crew for your trip!
Review: tl;dr: Post-apolocalyptic base builder with some neat simultaneous action. Mad Max without the car chases.
Getting to the Game: Setup is a little intense, but far from noisome. Each player gets a unique player board with their camp's starting scavengers and four dice. The center board representing the wastelands of this terrible future is littered with the five resource types you and your fellow campers will by vying for. The development grid, containing the cards that you're going to use those resources to build is shuffled and dealt out, containing cards from three different levels of complexity/value. Finally, a Dread pile is constructed based on how difficult a game you want to play. A boss and their upgrade is randomly chosen, and on top of that is added two levels of Dread cards, representing threats to your camps that you'll encounter throughout the game. The rest of the game's tokens are set near the board, and a deck of Badlands cards is shuffled and put next to the Dread deck. It's a lot of fiddly bits to set up, but it belies pretty straightforward gameplay.
Remnants is played over six turns. The odd-numbered turns are basic building turns; no threats will arise during them. You're setting up for the even-numbered turns, where that previously-constructed Dread deck is going to come into play. Over each turn, you're going to go through the game's five phases. The trick here is that killing the intruders to your base only matters insomuch as doing so not only prevents your tribe from being slaughtered (thus ending your game), and also that successfully defending from them will give you victory points (awesome ketchup packets—flavor is the only real currency in the wasteland), the way you win the game.
Playing the Game: Each turn, as the leader of your particular scavenging tribe, you will assign whichever survivors you have left to one of two jobs: Scavenging or Looting. Scavengers can bring back one resource each from the wasteland board, which starts each round with an equal amount of cloth, plastic, metal, rope, and wood. Looters each get one die to roll, and can add the amount of pips on the dice they roll to your Loot, which is medicine, screwdrivers, and scrap. The resources your scavengers gain can be used to purchase development cards which range in benefits from granting a static resource each turn to increasing the defenses of your camp. Loot is a little different. Medicine allows you to heal your injured scavengers—and they WILL get injured. The wasteland and raiders will see to that. Screwdrivers allow you to add pips to your rolls, either for future looting, defending against raiders, or anything else that might require you to risk a die roll. Scrap serves as sort of a generic resource bank, allowing you to spend it to gain a single resource from the supply (it can't be used to snake a needed resource from your opponents).
After committing your survivors, the scavenging begins. Starting all at once, each player rolls all four of their dice. You can re-roll as many dice as you want as many times as you want, until three of them match. At that point, you call out the resource you've rolled, and take it from the center of the board and put it on one of your scavengers. Once they're all full, or none of the resources you want remain, you can attempt to roll three stars. If you do, you can claim one of the bonus tokens left on the board. This signifies the end of your scavenging. There's always one less bonus token than number of players, so the slowest roller won't get one. After everyone's done, the players who assigned looters roll one die per looter. Add up the number of pips rolled across all your dice, plus any bonus pips, and then move your choice of loot cubes that number of spaces to the right. The simultaneous nature of the scavenging is really great, lending a ton of flavor to the theme and making it feel like you're really fighting each other for a single plastic bottle.
From there, it's time to build. In turn order, each player is going to spend their resources to gain a building card from the display. On even-numbered turns, you're going to want to prioritize defense and attack cards if you can't repel the imminent raider. These turns tend to be the most chaotic, as the display is available to everyone during the scavenging phase, so if Barricade or Wood Wall is showing, you better be fast to the wood and rope. The nice thing is that with information fully available, you can plan for the upcoming battle. The awkward thing is that everyone else also has this information, so they can too. You're gunning for the same resources, so you'd better be fast. It's this balance that creates some really great tension and dynamic game play. Remnants soars in this area.
The actual battling is thematic, but not particularly "fun." As mentioned, the goal is to defend from the raiders, so you're building up your base in that way. You have weapons, but they only come into play when your defenses aren't enough (when the raiders have breached your walls and are in your base). Never battling the raiders produces the same rewards as fighting and defeating them, so your survivors feel more like cornered refugees than wasteland-hardened warriors. This is slightly at odds with the artwork, but serves the overall theme pretty well. If you can change your mindset to this type of game (gathering, surviving) rather than what you might expect from a Mad Max type offering (fighting, thieving), you'll find a really great time underneath.
Overall, Remnants provides an excellent tabletop experience. Looting and scavenging are well designed, and the addition of managing and recruiting specialist survivors is very welcome. There's enough here to feel crunchy and deep without being overwhelming.
Artwork and Components: Remnants has a really fantastic table presence. The artwork feels suitably dire, with some very nice attention paid to create a unified look. Iconography is solid, and you can tell at a glance what each card does. The art on cards is really nice, the tools and weapons aren't salvaged stuff from the world as it was. This equipment is cobbled-together tech that is literally strung together. Wraps of cloth and plastic hold the flamethrower to the tank, the speargun is loaded with a giant rubber band. Attention to details like this really make the game pop, and it deserves recognition.
The dice are great, but are a tad small for my hands. Considering the best mechanic in the game is fast-rolling them, they could stand to be a bit bigger (if you've played DiceMasters, then you have a good grasp of the size). Still, the icons on the dice match perfectly to the icons on the board, so nothing is lost in translation here, and you can quickly pick up visually what you've rolled. The tokens are standard cardboard chits. Nothing to write home about. The inset player boards are fantastic, a great improvement over just sliding marker cubes around. Including order of play on them is wonderful.
The Good: Scavenging from a central pool at the same time as the other players adds a delicious element of competition. Game looks great on the table. Difficulty is appropriately punishing, considering the theme. Theme is strong.
The Bad: Player elimination is a bummer, especially when it's completely based on luck of dice rolling—at 45-60 minutes (longer in some cases), it hurts a lot to fail early through no fault of your own and then be out.
Score: Remnants packs some really interesting and fun moments into a dark, futile theme. Base building is really great, competition is solid, battling is just fine. Overall, this is a solid addition for 3-4 players who love Mad Max-style media. I'm giving Remnants a score of Not a Wasteland.
Sprout paws and scavenge through the neighborhood's glorious garbage! Snag your own scratcher, fine salad, or colossal cheeseburger. But don't get carried away. You might cause a commotion and go scurrying!
Packed with family fun, Scavenge is the all-ages travel game where it's fun to press your luck!
Play Scavenge in between big games to refresh for 15 minutes. Bring Scavenge with you the restaurant to keep you and your friends entertained just long enough for your food to arrive. Take Scavenge with you on that road trip because it's only cards; no counters, pieces, or dice to get lost.
It's every player against the game. There are no player vs player attack mechanics. Feel the joy when someone finds something great and the angst when you had it all but you pushed your luck one card too far!
WARNING: This is a preview of Scavenge. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change. Scavenge is expected to launch on Kickstarter in July 2018.
Scavenge is a light-hearted family card game where the players act as raccoons, pawing through the garbage cans on the porch, driveway, and backyard in hopes of finding both treats and treasures. The press-your-luck gameplay is simple and quick, and the sticker-like cartoon art is goofy and funny. Our family didn't have a game about rooting through the trash (although we know of one game where you're trying to put garbage in the cans) so this was something new to hit our table.
Components and Setup: My prototype copy of Scavenge was printed by The Game Crafter and contains 69 game cards and 3 double-sided rule cards in a single tuck box. The quality of the cards is fine, but will probably be from a different printer after the Kickstarter.
My family enjoyed the silly, sweet artwork of sticker-style raccoons pawing through the trash, finding surprises, being scared, overindulgent, or sly.
Setup for Scavenge is simple: put the game cards on the table, sorted into three piles by type—Porch, Driveway, and Backyard. Leave room for discard piles, a Potential Garbage area, and each player's Stash. You're ready to play!
Game Play and Mechanics: Scavenge is an easy-to-learn game of drawing cards and pushing your luck. On your turn, pick one of the three areas (Porch, Driveway, or Backyard) to search. Start drawing from that can and place cards face up into the Potential Garbage Area on the table so everyone can see what you have drawn. Follow instructions on each card as you flip it over, and unless a card tells you to end your turn, you have the choice of stopping (and keeping the point cards you have revealed) or flipping over another card (and possibly losing everything you've found).
If you keep cards on a turn, they go into your hand. On later turns, you'll need to choose between Scavenging a can or Stashing what you have found. Only cards that you take the time to Stash will count for points at the end of the game.
Scavenge ends when there are no more cards to draw or when all three high-point Cheeseburger cards have been found and Stashed. When the game is over, add up the points in your Stash and the highest points win!
The Good: The rules for Scavenge fit easily on both sides of three playing cards, making it quick and easy to learn and teach. Gameplay is quick, light-hearted fun; it's a good game to take to a restaurant or doctor's office to fill the time. It's a little addictive—we often played three or four or five games in a row because point totals were close and the losing sibling just knew that with one more game, they'd come out ahead!
The Bad: There's not much to dislike about the game of Scavenge as long as you're looking for a simple family-style card game and you enjoy the humorous theme and art. Those things made it a hit at our house but might make it a harder sell for your gaming group.
Players Who Like: Players who enjoy simple push-your-luck games like Pass the Pigs, King of Tokyo, Can't Stop, or Flip City would enjoy Scavenge.
Final Thoughts: Playful raccoons wearing hats and eating cheeseburgers, encouraging you to dig deeper through the trash in hopes of finding a wonderful treasure before the spotlight catches you out...Scavenge is a casual, quick, friendly card game for the raccoon-lover in all of us!
Review: Editor's note: This review of Sectre is unique from other reviews in that two of our reviewers — Brody Sheard and Nick Shipley — have teamed up to give their combined thoughts on the game.
Rules and Setup: Brody: The rules for the game are explained on cards instead of having a rule book. This makes it a little hard to start since you don't really know which card you should read first. After looking at these cards, you will then find what each card is for by the text on the left side. There is a card for house rules, setup, getting points, and scrabbles. It doesn't really lead you to get the game up and running, but the rules and the game come down to simple rules and mechanics.
Referring to the setup card, you will figure out how many cards each player receives; this is dependent upon the number of players in the game. The cards are double sided and can be used on whichever side you would like. You will be trying to "connect" like colors, making shapes shown on the scoring cards and also connecting 5, 10, or 15 of the same color squares together to collect points. When "connecting" these colors and adding your cards to make these shapes, like-colors can not touch orthogonally. This is also true in every aspect in the game: if two like-colors are touching, then someone made an illegal move. You will place one of your cards and then score any points you made by taking the card that shows you connected 5, 10, or 15 like-colors in any orientation, or that you made a shape from the scorables of a certain color. Each color has each shape card that can be scored by the first person who makes that shape.
When every player has ran out of cards, the game ends. Each player will add up their score cards and the player who has the highest total points wins the game.
Theme and Mechanics: Nick: As the case with some other abstract games, there really isn't a theme to Sectre, no more than, say, a game of checkers. But when an abstract game has simple, yet thought-provoking mechanics, they can rely on that alone without the inclusion of an elaborate reason as to why players are laying bi-colored cards on a board. In all my plays, I never found myself wishing for a theme, and in fact, I think that the inclusion of more thematic elements would have felt shoe-horned into a light abstract game with mechanics good enough to stand on their own.
The mechanics, primarily tile laying leading to pattern creation/recognition, are the stars of the game. As Brody mentioned above, the instructions come on individual cards, but once the order of the cards is deciphered and the game is learned, Sectre is quick and simple to teach and play. The main objective of pattern creation is simple enough for children to understand, but can still be competitive enough for adults looking for a light-weight abstract game.
Game Play: Nick: This may seem like an over simplification of gameplay, but explaining the objective is fairly simple: create colored patterns on the board and get the corresponding points for those shapes. Players have a set number of cards and take turns placing the cards on the board, with the only restriction being that players cannot place a card in a way that would make like-colors touch orthogonally.
But, while explaining the objective is simple enough, achieving it is a bit more challenging, as players are ultimately trying to achieve the same outcomes with the same components, all while blocking their opponents. This fine balance between aggressive and defensive play is where players will find success.
While the box game-time is listed at 45+ minutes, I found that the game played much quicker—closer to the 30 minute range. I played it with two, three, and four players, and the gameplay remained consistent with each of the different player counts.
Artwork and Components: Brody: Being an abstract strategy game, the game's art is limited, but is also important with graphics and colors used to make the visual appearance appropriate. Black, white, orange, and blue are the colors used and I feel like they are well enough distinguished to use in the game. The graphics used on the rules and explanation cards are done well and look sharp, simple, and easy to read.
The components consist of cards and a board. The board is folded into four parts, and due to this, there can be a crease in the board, causing it to not sit as flat as it should. But this doesn't really take too much out of the game. The cards and board are all professional-grade quality.
The Good: Brody: The game is fast and quick and doesn't take long to teach to someone new to the game. I like how certain colors seem to be focused on by players and, as the scoring cards get claimed, the focus changes to another color and another after that. I like that you can score points by making the required shape, but also by connecting a certain number of squares together without forming a certain shape. Near the end of the game, you are stuck with whatever cards you have left, and if you strategically thought this through you might be able to score some missed points while others are forced to just waste their cards. The game has this element where you place a card to score some points, but might setup the next player to score more points, and then sets the next player up to score points as well. If you are playing this game to deny other players of scoring points, then it becomes difficult, as there will be many opportunities to score points. Lastly, I like how you need to strategically think out which points you want to score and which ones you don't want others to score if you place your card to score those points.
Nick: I think there is something commendable about a game that can stand so firmly on its mechanics that it doesn't need to add a theme. It's also refreshing to see a game that has strong, yet simple mechanics, keep them simple—no added steps, no creative or new ways of describing a common action, no added fluff. Sectre accomplishes both. It's simple in look, feel, and mechanics, but most importantly, it is simply fun.
I enjoy Sectre for what it is, but I really enjoy Sectre for what it can be—a good educational tool for pattern creation and recognition for kids. I want to be clear that it isn't branded as a children's game and that I enjoyed playing it with other adults, but the most enjoyment I had with it was playing with my daughter and watching her develop her own strategy and capitalizing on my "mistakes." Our previous go-to for this type of game was Connect Four, but Sectre offers the same strategy, and so much more. Instead of looking for four-in-a-row horizontal/vertical/diagonal in one color, you're looking at four different colors and over 12 different patterns. And again, since the game mechanics are simple, it was really easy to teach to a younger player.
The Bad: Brody: When first opening the game and having never seen the game played or knowing the rules, it's hard to really understand what the full rules of the game are. The cards explain the game as if you have already played before and you just need a little refresher.
Nick: I concur with Brody, in that the rules are on cards rather than a rule book. That being said, they have a good play through video and I would recommend going to the Freshwater Game Company's website and watching it. The rule cards work great as refreshers, but they can delay game play for first-time players.
Final Thoughts: Brody: The game is a fun abstract strategy game that I enjoy playing. I will place this game next to hive that is one of my favorite abstract strategy games. Once you understand the game, you can ditch the board and just take the cards with you, and this game can be played almost anywhere.
Nick: I'll break my final thoughts into two sections: "gamer" and parent.
As a "gamer" I enjoy the game, but that being said, it would have to compete with some similar abstract-genre heavy-hitters (e.g. Azul) in my collection for table time. The one advantage that it has, as Brody stated, is ease in play and portability.
As a parent, I fully and without reservation endorse this game. Pattern creation and recognition in children is shown to boost math comprehension, creativity, memory, and critical thinking skills. Sectre is better at developing these skills than the ubiquitous classroom staple of Connect Four. This game allows you to teach those skills without the child feeling like they are being taught. It is challenging without being so challenging that it becomes discouraging. Players Who Like: Abstract games, Hive, Connect Four.
WARNING: This is a preview of Planecrafters. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
From the publisher: As the saying goes, “He who rules the skies…rules at building airplanes and blimps and things”. And the whole world is racing to be #1! The small nation of Crumplehorn, scared of being left behind by its rivals, looks once again to Master Pennington B. Knickernacker to save the day. And he’s more than eager to help! Reports say the eccentric businessman, an avid plane enthusiast, is secretly devoting his substantial financial resources to build a fleet of flying machines that surpasses all others. But does he work for the glory of king and country? Or to line his own pockets? No one knows.
Components and Setup: Planecrafters includes the following components: 112 plane Part cards, 20 Employee cards, three bonus Award cards, four player aids, and 58 crown coins in denominations of 1, 5, and 10.
A completed "Black Hole", one of the planes players are trying to build.
To start, all of the Employee cards are placed face up in one of three rows, or tiers. There are three visual cues to help players know which employees go which which tier. For starters, employees with the deeper orange background are tier one. (There are two of each tier-one employee, and the duplicates are stacked on top of one another.) The tier-two and tier-three employees have peach-hued and beige backgrounds respectively, and they will also have five cards per row.
Employees are placed in three rows based on their tier level.
The second visual cue is the small diamond iconography beside the employee cost. Tier-one employees have one diamond, those in tier two have two diamonds, and the tier-three employees have three. This inclusion, however slight, decreases the reliance of players needing to differentiate the sepia hues to determine the tier. The final visual cue for determining which employees go with which tier is the employee cost; tier-one employees all cost 4 crowns, tier two ranges from 6-8 crowns, and tier three has a cost between 9-12 crowns.
"Jack-of-all-Trades" is a tier-three employee and costs 10 crowns to hire.
Once the employees are lined out, each player receives a player aid and five crowns. The remaining crowns are placed in a pile within reach of the players.
Players are dealt a number of Part cards based on turn order (first player goes to the player who last flew on an airplane, and play proceeds clockwise) and number of players. For example, in a four player game, the first player gets three cards, the second and third players get four cards each, and the fourth player gets five cards. The remaining cards are stacked face down within reach of all players. The top four cards from this newly created draw pile are turned face up and placed beside the Part pile. This is the "parts depot" from which players will draft their plane parts.
Once the Employee cards are lined out, all players have received their designated number of Part cards and crowns, and the part depot is created, play begins.
Rules and Game Play: The object of the game is be the player with the most crowns at the end of the game. Players earn crowns by selling completed planes (and, in some cases, from the abilities of certain employees). When the Part pile is empty, the game ends at the conclusion of that round. Players count their crowns and add any bonuses from the Award cards, and the player with the most crowns wins.
Each player’s turn consists of four phases: Hire, Acquire, Flyer, and Buyer. After the four phases, players discard their hand down to five cards, if necessary.
Hire (optional): Players can spend their crowns to hire a new employee to work in their factory. Each employee has a cost ranging from 4-12 crowns, but they also come with a unique ability that can be employed immediately and on every subsequent turn. Employee abilities can be stacked.
The "Factory Manager" allows a player to build more than one plane at a time.
Acquire: Players can obtain two new Parts cards from the parts depot by either selecting a face-up card (which is immediately replaced by a Part card from the pile) or by drawing a face-down card from the top of the draw pile. The available parts are nose, tail, left and right wings, and fuselage from various models. Spare parts are considered "wild cards" and can be placed in lieu of any plane part. Spare parts can also be moved as the plane is being built (i.e. switched from a nose to a right wing).
The "Spare Part" card can replace a missing plane part, but is not counted as a part when selling the plane.
Flyer: Players can place two Parts cards into their factory (i.e. the table space in front of themselves) to build their plane. It is not required that players place matching model parts, but the plane will sell for more crowns if they do. They can only play two cards and only build one plane at a time, unless a hired employee's ability states otherwise. Players will continue to add or remove parts to the plane until it is complete and ready for sale. If the player removes a part from a plane in progress, it counts as one of the flyer actions, and the removed card is discarded.
This plane is made up of five parts from four different planes. It would sell for six crowns.
Buyer (optional): Players can sell their plane for crowns. A plane is considered complete when it has at least a nose, tail, and left and right wings. Crowns are earned for each part of the plane, so at the minimum, a completed plane will sell for four crowns. However, if parts of the plane match, the value of the sell increases. Two parts from the same model are worth a total of three points. Three, four, and five-part matches are worth 6, 10, and 15 crowns, respectively. After a plane is sold, the cards are stacked and kept in the selling player's factory to be used as part of an end-game award.
Plane scoring is listed on the back of the player reference card.
At the conclusion of the turn, the active player will discard any cards in excess of the five-card hand limit. Play continues until the Part deck is depleted. At this point, players count up their crowns and add any additional bonus awards.
Bonus Awards: There are three bonus awards, one that is passed back and forth throughout the game and two that are awarded at the conclusion of the game. The awards are the Industry Award (awarded to the player with the most parts sold), the Enterprise Award (awarded to the player with the most expensive employee pool at the end of the game), and the Distinction Award (given to the player that sold the most expensive plane. This award is given at the time the plan is sold and can change hands several times throughout the game).
Bonus Awards: Enterprise, Distinction, and Industry.
Each of the bonus awards are worth eight crowns. In the event of a tie for the bonus, they are split between the tied players. The player with the most crowns wins!
Mechanics: Planecrafters is a set collection, hand-management card game with quick rounds. There is a small element of push-your-luck as players can blindly draft the top card off of the Part stack, but that is optional. Gameplay is accurately stated at 30-60 minutes.
Theme and Artwork: In my more recent reviews, I have steered clear of commenting on the artwork of Kickstarter previews, but this game had me rethinking that position. The art in Planecrafters is extraordinary. If I were to receive the exact same art in the finished version as I did in the review copy, I would be very pleased. Planecrafters' designer and artist, Andrew Bosley, is the artist behind games such as Everdell, Citadels (2016), and Mission: Red Planet.
The art in Planecrafters is a sepia-toned mashup of aviation and Art Deco that creates a whimsical caricature of the workers and planes without being campy. I know that art is subjective, but if you are the type that is tempted to buy a game simply for the art, this one may be for you.
Completed "Big Boy" plane. This completed plane would sell for 10 crowns.
The Good: Something that often goes unmentioned (unless they are bad) are the rules. Planecrafters went from unwrapping, to rules, to play in about five minutes. The rules were laid out clearly for ease of understanding and implementation. On top of that, the game also includes unique player reference guides that easily gets players on track in the event they are unsure of their next steps.
Player reference cards show turn order, employee attributes, planes, and scoring detail.
I really enjoyed the theme and artwork. I won't spend much time here discussing the artwork all over again, but it worked well with the thematic elements of the game. And when I say say "theme," I'm not only referring to airplanes, but also to the narrative of Master Pennington B. Knickernacker that is woven throughout the instructions. It could have been simple for the creators to say, "this is a game about building airplanes," paired it with some cool art, and called it a day. But instead, they also created this world of Knickernacker and his eccentricities (such as Knickernacker parachuting candy canes over the town at Christmas). This added effort didn't add anything to the gameplay, but it adds so much to the experience of the game - and that may be more valuable.
Together the story and art create the world of Knickernacker.
Lastly, I was a big fan of the chain abilities triggered by the workers at different steps in a turn. Players can create some powerful combinations (more on that below) that can swing the outcome of the game. It requires that players not only build the planes for crowns, but also manage their workforce and defend against their opponents' workers. A chain of worker abilities can provide a path to victory even when the strength of the other players seems much greater.
The Bad: Everyone that I played Planecrafters with had the same initial reaction at the conclusion of the game: "The 'Jack-of-all-Trades' is best card to have." The "Jack-of-all-Trades" Employee card, especially when paired with certain lower-tiered workers, is a powerful card. Players believed that victory went to the holder of the card, so much so that any subsequent plays with the same players became a race to earn it first, rather than a gradual progression through the game via completion and sale of planes with like pieces. I think that the perceived power of the "Jack-of-all-Trades" creates a singular focus at the beginning of the game that makes not receiving the card disheartening and more of a motivation killer than it should be.
That being said, can a player win without having the "Jack-of-all-Trades"? Yes. But it is harder.
"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." - Vincent Van Gogh
I'll go ahead and say that Planecrafters should reach its funding goal on Kickstarter. There are familiar mechanics, a likeable theme, and a easily digestible play time of around 45 minutes. But these three things could describe most of the games that land on Kickstarter week in and week out - most of which do not begin to meet their funding goal.
It isn't these things that are going to propel Planecrafters from a vision to a reality; it's these things plus the small painstaking details that will collectively make Planecrafters stand apart from other Kickstarter offerings. It's the clarity and layout of the rule book and player aids (which may be the best I've seen to date). It's the gameplay and how the employee abilities add a different twist on a simple set collection/hand management game. It's the thematic elements in the story of Knickernacker and how that world is translated into the art of the cards.
Planecrafters made the effort to not only land the big things, but also all of the little details that together will help this project take flight.
Players Who Like: Kodama, Darwin's Choice, Bohnanza, Jaipur.