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Designer: Roberto Fraga, Delphine Lemonnier
Artist: Stephane Escapa
Publisher: Blue Orange Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 15 Minutes
Dr. Microbe is a dexterity puzzle game that is fun and quick for the whole family. I can't keep my five-year-old away from it long enough to get pictures for my review.
In the game are four different microbe shapes (I nicknamed them Pickle, Sponge, Snake, and Suitcase for description purposes). Each microbe comes in three different colors: red, blue, and green.
These viruses come in a single Petri dish with multiples of each virus and color. Players use the provided tweezers to place the viruses into their own divided Petri dishes. Each player dish contains four areas. The first area is half the dish and is reserved for the superbug, and the other three areas are equally sized and homes for individual microbes. A completed dish requires one of each shape in each of the four areas, and the three microbes in the smaller areas cannot match the color of the superbug.
A completed dish; all four shapes with no color matching the superbug. (The superbug is the red sponge.)
Players compete all at the same time. A card is drawn that shows a matching Petri dish with 1 to 4 specific microbes shown. Players attempt to complete the dish in any legal way with the shown microbes. The player who finishes first collects a number of cards to represent their score based on how many players there are and where they finished compared to the other players. Once a player reaches a predetermined number of points, they win.
Let's start with the rules. The rules are easy to follow and easier to explain. They come in a quick, complete, and thorough format that is clean and easy to follow.
Setup is a snap. Each player takes their supplies and the game starts. Cleanup is just as easy.
This is definitely a dexterity game, but it adds a little bit of a puzzle component by allowing players to complete their dish in a way that follows the rules. I like that aspect because it takes more than being fast with your hands. Since there is a limited supply of microbes, finding the right one can take a little bit of time, so being able to think about all of the options to complete a puzzle when you fill in a blank becomes a valuable skill.
The doctor or lab theme seems to be complete in the game. There is nothing really out of place as far as theme goes.
The gameplay is quick and simple to follow and provides a quick filler game useful for family time. Players can control the game length by deciding how many points to play to.
The components have lasted the abuse of my five children, so that deserves some kind of quality award. The box is well packed and allows for fast setup and put-away.
The Good: The game is quick, clean, easy and just a touch deeper than most dexterity games.
The Bad: Old dad fingers don't have quite the dexterity of 10-year-old fingers. Sometimes I can outwit them, but rarely can I keep up with placement when the cards come out with more microbes shown. As far as the game itself, for the role it fills you can't say much bad.
Final Thoughts: I like Dr. Microbe as a family-friendly, quick-to-learn, quick-to-play filler game that requires a little brain power. We found that differences in age (above 8) didn't really have much affect on the balance of the game.
Players Who Like: Jenga, Slapjack, Operation, and other fast paced family games will love Dr. Microbe.
See more reviews from Dave and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
2018 was SaltCON’s biggest year yet, with 1,750 attendees. This sold-out board game convention gets better every year, with no intentions of slowing down. If you’ve never been to SaltCON, you may want to reconsider your priorities and make it out next year.
When reviewing a convention, there are a lot of things that could be included. Here are some of the things I won’t be touching on too much, but which are certainly worthy of a mention:
40 unique exhibitors
Over 4,000 prizes
Over 1,300 games in the SaltCON library
Compared to some conventions, SaltCON is relatively small. And yet, as you can see, SaltCON packs a wallop with events, prizes, and more. But let's take a look at what SaltCON is all about.
While all the aforementioned aspects of SaltCON help make SaltCON what it is (which, to put things bluntly, is awesome), there is one part of the convention that really embodies the convention, and that is the people.
The spirit of SaltCON is that of inclusion and friendliness. I went up not really knowing who I would be gaming with the entire time. I thought maybe I’d spend most of my time with my in-laws, but surprisingly enough, I only played two games with them the entire weekend, and that was on my first day there. Instead, I mostly played with people I had never met before, which was way more fun than I could have possibly imagined.
SaltCON is about forging new friendships and renewing old ones.
As an example of how inclusive SaltCON is, I noticed the following while I was in line waiting to check out a game. Two of the people in font of me invited a stranger next to them to join their group, since he was asking about the game they were checking out. There was no hesitation in that, either. And, the stranger (to them) beamed at the invitation and accepted the offer with a big smile. Inviting a stranger to game with them seemed like the most natural thing to do. And you know what? That was a reoccurring theme throughout SaltCON.
If talking to random strangers gives you anxiety, yet you would like more players to join your table, the “Players Wanted” signs make it easy to ask for newcomers to join, without having to be too forward. Simply put the sign on the table and watch people wander over in your direction to see what you’re playing and ask to join.
Honestly though, the people at SaltCON are just so nice. I joined large groups of people I didn’t even know, and by the end of our time together, I felt like I could legitimately call them my friends. I was accepted by all I spoke and gamed with, and for someone with not a little social anxiety, this was huge for me. I’ve never attended a larger convention, so I’m not sure what those are like in this regard, but SaltCON will always hold a special place in my heart for helping people feel welcome and wanted.
Terrific Tournaments and Awesome Awards
Behold the Ion Award finalists!
I only participated in one tournament (Crokinole), but I can’t leave this part out of the review. Tournaments are fun. Straight up, unadulterated fun. And there are lots of options to make gamers of all types happy. As I mentioned, I played in the Crokinole tournament (I won my first and lost my second game in single elimination, but had a blast doing it), which is one of my favorite dexterity games. My brother-in-law played in the Race for the Galaxy tournament (which game he’s mildly obsessed with). Other tournaments included Hardback (a deck-building word game), Terraforming Mars, Splendor, 7 Wonders, and more. If there’s a specific game (or type of game) you like and would love to take a chance at competitively, SaltCON’s tournaments are a relaxed, fun way to do so. (And the winner goes home with a prize, so can’t argue with that!)
The Ion Awards is always an exciting time at SaltCON. It's here that unpublished games get put through the wringer and are judged by people from various publishing companies (including Red Raven Games and Mayday Games). While there are only two winners (one for the Strategy category, and another for the Light category), all the finalists have solid games and are one step closer to getting them in front of the world. In fact, many of the previous Ion Award winners have been published. What a wonderful opportunity for game designers!
Vive la Venue
The venue itself is the perfect place for SaltCON. Held at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, Utah, there is room a-plenty for all the various activities and events going on. The main gaming hall is large, with lots of tables set up for gaming, and room enough that it’s not crowded. Side rooms host RPG games and quieter locations for those who would like a bit more solitude (I spent most of my time in the main gaming area and didn’t feel stuffed or crowded at all). The game library isn’t far from anything, and the exhibitor hall was always a happening place.
A panorama of the main gaming hall on Saturday (and yes, that baby in the pen was all smiles).
The conference center is clean, the staff work fast and hard to keep everything running smoothly, and the atmosphere is much more calm than I would have ever assumed a 1,750-attendee convention could be. While the venue could change in the future (it will remain at the same location next year, FYI), the Davis Conference Center will, to me, always be SaltCON's home.
Oh, and one more thing about the location. There is a hotel connected to the conference center, which makes gaming and sleeping (wait, people sleep?) all the more convenient. Of course, if that sells out (or is too pricey), there are other hotels nearby. I stayed in one that was only a 10-minute walk from the convention center. Talk about convenient!
With Eyes Wide Open
The 1:30 a.m. crowd, keeping it real.
Let’s be honest with each other. When you go to a board game convention, you go to play. Stopping—even for eating—is difficult at best. Fortunately, SaltCON offers 24-hour gaming. Although the game library closes at midnight, attendees can check-out games overnight. On Friday night I didn’t leave until 1:30 in the morning, but there were plenty of other groups still going strong when I left. I was up and at ‘em by 7:30 the next morning for another full day of gaming. Was I tired? Exhausted. Was it worth it? YES. (In fact, I feel a tinge of guilt for wasting all those hours sleeping when I could have been playing games!)
Staying up all day and all night playing games is generally frowned upon (something about adult responsibilities…). However, SaltCON is the perfect place to leave your responsibilities at the door and indulge in four days of gaming bliss.
I think it’s pretty impossible to leave SaltCON without bringing home at least one new game. After all, attendees this year received a new game from Iello (you know, the people who publish King of Tokyo and Bunny Kingdom). Then there are the giveaways, tournaments, and the live flea market from which people can acquire games.
The game swap, however, is where most of the people come away with arms loaded.
With its own dedicated room, the game swap allows people to leave games (along with a sticky note that includes the price of the game and the seller’s contact information) for other people to peruse and, eventually, purchase. I sold five games this weekend, which games I simply did not play anymore, thus making more room on my shelf and more money to acquire games I will actually play. It’s a win-win for all involved.
One of the best reasons for checking out the game swap is because there you can discover hard-to-find games, games that are out of print, and others you may have thought about but didn’t want to spend full price on. Most of the games are used, but some are still in shrink. No matter what the condition, however, the prices are (usually) always worth it. It’s a great place to sell and buy.
And I know what you’re thinking, but no. People don’t pick up the games and walk out without paying the owner (besides, they have volunteers watching for sneaky thieves). Sellers receive calls and/or texts for the games in question, meet up, exchange money, and the game moves on to a new home. Usually the process takes less than a minute or two (which includes travel time from your game table to the game swap room), which makes it even better.
SaltCON was the first chance I had to play a lot of new (to me) games, including Scythe (above).
I could go on ad nauseam about how amazing SaltCON is. I have yet to have a bad experience in my four years of attending. I truly believe that it’s the people that make this convention such an amazing experience. The spirit of fun is contagious, and the people—staff, volunteers, and attendees alike—will go out of their way to make sure not one person is forgotten. Everyone is more than happy to play with strangers (we invited a number of passerby’s ourselves when we sat down to play games that had room for more, and the only ones that declined were those that already had a destination in mind).
I met some wonderful people at SaltCON this year, ran into some old friends who I haven’t seen in over seven years, and made lots of new friends. Needless to say, I had a wonderful time and would recommend this convention to anyone. Is it possible to have an unpleasant time at SaltCON? I suppose so, but it’s possible to have a horrendous time at Disneyland, too. Sure, it can happen, but the odds of that happening are much like those of successfully navigating an asteroid field (which are pretty slim odds, in case you were unaware).
If you’ve never gone to a board game convention before, SaltCON is here for you to have a great first experience. If you have attended other conventions before and are looking for something new and exciting, then SaltCON is where you’ll want to go next.
SaltCON 2019 will be held on February 28 and March 1-3. Tickets go on sale on September 1, 2018, so mark those calendars and secure yourself a spot at one of the happiest places on Earth.
See you there!
See more reviews from Benjamin and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
Designer: Matt Lloyd
Artist: Matt Lloyd
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-3
Playing Time: 60-180 min.
WARNING: This is a preview of Terminus Breach TD. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
tl;dr: Perfect for that gamer who's been saying to themselves, "I love Tower Defense games, and I wish I could play them on a huge table and semi-cooperatively with up to two of my friends."
Getting to the Game: A giant six-fold board contains the 8x6 layout for your maps. Three pre-made layouts of rocks and woods are provided by the game, in increasing difficulty, but there's nothing stopping you from coming up with your own - a nice feature of a physical execution of this genre. Each player chooses a race, and then a leader. The first "battle" deck of five is shuffled and placed at the entrance to the path. There are various tokens and such that need to be placed within reach of the players - overall, setup is pretty easy. Once it's fully on the table, though, the thing that will stand out to you is just how much space it takes up. Anyone trying to play this three-person game on a table made for four people is going to have issues.
Learning Terminus Breach is a snap for anyone who's ever played a tower defense game. There are some mechanics that take a downgrade from the digital space, due to a lack of automation, but if you keep the core gameplay in mind, the actual playing is pretty intuitive. Included with the game is a handy helper card that steps through the turn order, which really simplifies the process.
Playing the Game: There are five decks of battle cards, each containing an increasingly difficult mix of flying and ground-based "drakka," which serve as this game's creepers. These drakka move through the tunnels created by the board, coming (and hopefully staying) in range of the towers you and your friends build. Each battle consists of three waves, and the drakka will follow the programmed movement on their cards. If there isn't a place for them to go, they will be "trampled" and go into a discard pile. I understand the mechanic, but it feels cheap to me. The allure of tower defense games is solving the puzzle. Each level is known to be possible, and the difficulty ramps up as you go. In Terminus, each wave in battle one could have up to 5 drakka spawn each time. This feels like it would be way too much given the amount of money you start with. We had two spawn in one wave, which was over too fast. The variable difficulty can be likened to Pandemic, where a bad shuffle can end your game real quick. One or two drakka can slip past your defenses with little consequence, but if too many get by, you're done.
After three waves, the battle ends. Drakka not killed and still on the board stay there, the next battle deck is shuffled and placed at the start of the track, and you begin again with three new waves. Killed drakka award gold after every wave, and players have the option to build new towers, upgrade existing towers, and even purchase additional benefits in the form of random cards called Imperial Sanctions. Some of these cards have a set collection element where you can hold on to them, delaying their effect until you collect enough to give you a victory point bonus. Also, depending on what leader you've chosen, leveling up happens after certain objectives are met, and each level gives you additional benefits which make your job easier. You and your tablemates are playing cooperatively in that you're all trying to kill drakka together, but it's victory points that determine the ultimate winner.
I struggled for a while with my thoughts about Terminus Breach. Whenever I don't understand a game, I try to always go back to what the developer or designer tried to do, and see how effective they were. By this metric, I think Terminus Breach succeeds in what it's trying to do. It's a labor of love by an avid fan of the genre, and it effectively brings the feel of a tower defense game to the tabletop. It has the added benefit of being a semi cooperative game, which I haven't personally seen in the tower defense mix yet. As a reviewer, though, I go back to the question of "is it fun?" I personally like tower defense games, though admittedly I'm not a rabid fan. Terminus Breach failed to hold my interest past the one-hour mark, and games could go as long as three. It checks all the boxes of what should be in the game, but none of it feels fresh, interesting, or elegant. It feels exactly like what would happen if you couldn't automate the action, and instead were put in charge of the tactical as well as the strategic, and had to fiddle with the creeping baddies. If that sounds like your thing, then this is worth checking out.
Artwork and Components: The art is fun and feels very thematic. The world of crumbling rock and dense woods jumps off the board and is engaging. Tokens are serviceable thick cardboard punchouts, and everything is handled mostly with cardstock pushed around the map. The modular board is a fantastic idea that allows for hundreds of varying paths, so it's possible to never play exactly the same game twice.
The Good: Very pretty, and the map variability is a nice touch. Loving extension of tower defense games, proficiently brought to the table.
The Bad: Doesn't do anything new, games take too long, and gameplay doesn't evolve or change as it goes on. Semi-cooperative style forces players to play non-optimally at times in order to prevent everyone from losing.
Score: Reiterating the fact that you're probably reading this because you either love tower defense games and want to know if it works on the table, or because you said to yourself, "A tower defense game on a table? Whaaaaaaat?", I'll say this. If you're the former, you owe this game a look. If you're the latter, my answer is "Yeah... That's about it." I'm giving Terminus Breach a score of Grind it Out.
On KICKSTARTER between now and April 12, 2018
See more reviews from Nicholas and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
Hoomans are good. They throw sticks and give belly rubs. Since the dead ones came, Hoomans are hard to find. The smart and noble doggos moved to Central Bark, a defendable paradise at the center of everything. Missing ear scratches and the taste of hairless skin, the noble doggos decide to search the ruins of civilization for Hoomans to protect and cuddle.
Good Dog, Bad Zombie is a thematic cooperative game where you take on the role of brave and faithful doggos to help the Hoomans survive the zombie apocalypse. This isn't like Mice and Mystics where you play as personified animals with weapons. In GDBZ, you're a dog. You can do what dogs can do, like sniff, bark, lick, etc. It turns out those skills work surprisingly well against zombies.
Designer: Evan Rowland, Brian Van Slyke
Publisher: Make Big Things
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 45-90 minutes
WARNING: This is a preview of Good Dog, Bad Zombie. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
Rules and Setup:
Place the three boards in the center of the table so that Central Bark is in the center and the cliffs and river are at opposite ends. This is where dogs will run around to various locations searching for humans and eliminating zombies. A few zombies will be placed on areas at the beginning depending on your player count and chosen difficulty level.
The three stacks of square cards in the bottom left are Scents. They are event cards that happen when you "Sniff" a cube. You shuffle them and make three roughly even stacks with the numbered area up. The top scent of each of those stacks tells you where to place the yellow scent cubes on the game board.
The Feral Track goes to the right of the Scent cards. Place a tracker on the space that corresponds to your player count. This tracks your relationship with humans. If they get to be more trouble than they're worth, the dogs go feral and everybody loses.
Energy cards are shuffled, and each player draws two. The rest are placed near the board. Energy cards make you able to do better actions like Herd, Bark, Chew. and your special ability. Your hand limit is five.
Hooman Town goes above the main board. It starts out empty, but Hoomans are added as you rescue them throughout the game.
Finally, each player takes a player board, and the dog standees are placed in Central Bark.
The whole process takes about five minutes. The rulebook is currently six pages of large print and pictures. It's extremely concise, despite being full of jokes. Normally, I hate it when rulebooks try to be funny, but this one is really well done.
Theme and Mechanics:
GDBZ is an immersive dog-mind experience. Every single detail is saturated with flavor. It wouldn’t really surprise me if it was designed by an actual dog, or maybe a kindly werewolf. I mean that in a good way.
Each dog has a special ability that can be triggered by their Good Doggo card. For instance, Lupin can Snuggle (move to any dog, then Lick them and yourself). This translates to teleporting to any space with another dog and both of you drawing two Energy cards. This is a massively powerful ability nestled in an adorable thematic cocoon. Regular movement is one space in any direction. A lot of cards let you move 2-4 spaces, but cards go quickly. Stopping to Lick can be very dangerous when the zombies are closing in.
Some cards grant you an extra action, so it's possible to string a bunch of cards together to have an epic turn when you really need it. Many cards have special symbols in the corner. Here's a breakdown of things the Energy cards do:
Another thematic aspect I loved was the Scent cards. There are eighteen locations where a scent cube might end up. Each location has three unique cards featuring encounters that suit the location. Many require you to roll a d20 to determine the outcome. For instance, if you go to the "Treasure Cave" (the pet store), you might find a human or get distracted by all the dog food or squeaky toys. At the "Worst Place" (the Vet), you might interact with cats. The three gameplay outcomes are always either:
1. Roll to gain/lose cards
2. Roll to place a Zombie or Hooman on the board.
3. Simply place a Hooman.
It sounds limited when phrased that way, but the imagination put into each encounter makes the commonality almost invisible. It's all extremely well-balanced and thoroughly playtested.
This plays like a simplified Pandemic. You're moving around the board, suppressing threats, and trying to survive long enough to rescue six humans. The dice and action cards add a bit of luck, but there's still a lot of strategy and coordination required to win. The difficulty is very scalable. For a harder game, simply start with more zombies on the board.
On your turn, you will work toward reducing the zombie threat or trying to rescue humans. If you are in a location with a cube, you can Sniff by drawing the corresponding card and dealing with its effect. The cube moves to the space indicated on the card beneath the one you drew. If you find a human, you have to lead them back to Central bark while avoiding Zombies. Once they reach Central Bark, draw a Hooman card, gain the bonus, and place them in Hooman Town. They are safe for the rest of the game.
If a zombie and human ever occupy the same space, the human dies and the Feral Track moves up. In this event, draw a Hooman card and see who died. Each character is unique. For instance, Antwan is a mechanic with a good singing voice. When rescued, he Throws Ball (you may move anywhere). There's not a lot of info on the cards, but there's enough to make you go, "Aw, he seemed nice."
Each turn, you get to make two of the following actions:
Run - move one space in any direction.
Lick - Allow any player to draw two cards.
Act - Play a card. Most of the good stuff is on Energy cards.
Sniff - Interact with a Scent card in a place where there's a cube.
The center of the board is Central Bark. The eighteen spaces (nine on either side) are places where Humans might be. The ends of the board are the cliffs and ocean. If you can herd the zombies there, they will fall off a cliff or be sucked away by the tide. Zombies are stupid. You can also kill them with Chew or Good Doggo cards.
After performing two actions (or more if you play a paw card), roll a d20 and place a zombie on the corresponding space. There are eighteen spaces a zombie might spawn. On a 19-20, you roll around in the mud because it's a joyful, zombie-free day. If a zombie already occupies that space, place the new zombie one space closer to Central Bark. Every time a zombie would be placed in Central Bark, the Feral Track moves up. When it gets to 10, you lose.
The main object of the game is to rescue six humans before the Feral Tracker hits 10. The tracker moves up whenever a human dies, a zombie gets to Central Bark, or when you have to discard but have no cards.
Artwork and Components:
I'm playing a prototype, so I can't tell you much about what the end product will look like. The artist on BGG is listed as N/A, so I'm pretty sure they're redoing the art. I like the art, though; it makes me think of children's storybooks and birthday cake.
This is a fun, light game. It's perfect for when I'm in the mood for something like Pandemic, but I don't feel like dealing with Pandemic.
Great gateway/family game.
The execution of theme is off the charts.
It's Kickstarting, so there's likely to be a bunch of improvements to what is already a solid and well-balanced game.
You can try out the PnP version here.
There are some odd thematic/semantic choices. For instance, Bark can move zombies away from you, and Herd can't move more than one zombie. Nothing too bad, though. I wish there was an advanced game where zombies spawned more frequently but you could Herd through spaces with other zombies and take multiples out with one action.
This is a great gateway/family game. I tend to go for heavier games, so I'd prefer 15-20% more complexity. That said, I enjoyed this game a lot.
Players Who Like:
Dogs. Zombies. Light tactical games. Pandemic. Cuteness. Call of Catthulhu.
See more reviews from Stephen and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
Designer: Daryl Andrews, JR Honeycutt
Artist: Rob Lundy
Publisher: CSE Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 1-5
Playing Time: 20-50 minutes
Before we start:
After receiving this game and giving it a few play-throughs, I wrote the review, and then played a few more times and re-wrote the review, and then played some more and here I am now with a completely different third draft of this review.
I blame Catan. (Stick with me here - it may be a labored metaphor, but it is a labor of love.)
My first experience with the modern age of board games was with, you guessed it, Catan.
And I hated it.
Sure, I was much younger and there were so many things vying for my extra time back then, but the truth of the matter is that it just didn't appeal to me. I had no frame of reference for any other board game outside of the Milton Bradley titles I played as a young child, and in all honesty, the theme didn't interest me at all. The sheep and wood and trading things - it just didn't resonate. I couldn't relate. I was an athlete and liked athletic things, so for my gaming fix, it was back to the PlayStation and video games for several more years.
Flash forward to present day, and here I am. The PlayStation is collecting dust, and the hall cabinets are bursting with board game titles. Catan and I have made-up, but I still kind of blame it for delaying my immersion into the world of board gaming and the board game community. And now, I am reviewing Fantasy Fantasy Baseball, and I can't help but think what might have been if this game would have been available when I was first trying to play Catan.
This game would have been my gateway game. And I bet that there is someone out there, possibly someone you know, that could be introduced to the hobby if you had a game that appealed to a sports fan. This could be their gateway game.
As a reviewer, I often think of how I would like my reviews to be received. It is nice to hear that a review influenced a person's decision to purchase (or in some cases, avoid) a game, but ultimately, I feel that the best feedback to receive would be to hear that a review, directly or indirectly, led to someone new joining the board game community and falling in love with the hobby. Fantasy Fantasy Baseball wasn't around to introduce me to the hobby, but it is here now, and I bet there are others that could be introduced to the hobby through this game.
This game spoke to me as a baseball fan first and a board gamer second. Fantasy Fantasy Baseball is a love letter to the National Pastime masked as a card game about fantasy characters, and this, dear readers, is what is necessary to see continued growth in the hobby. Not games about baseball, per se, but games that speak to different fandoms, different genders, different ethnicities. Games for jocks, for video gamers, for book lovers. For fans of movies, music, or the underrated NBC-turned-Yahoo series Community. The young and old, male and female, Yankees or Red Sox. I believe that everyone is a fan of something, so everyone is a potential fan of board games, given they are introduced to the right game.
I have nothing against any specific title, but it seems to me that there are many games about farming, or trains, or vikings/ninjas/pirates. Those games are great; some of my favorite games are wrapped around the same, or even more ridiculous, themes. But the board game community is not going to see continued growth by adding another game that mainly appeals to one gender/race/fandom. We need more games that genuinely meet players where they are - i.e. a game by fans of _____ for fans of _____ - and Fantasy Fantasy Baseball seems to be one of those games for baseball fans.
My final appeal to you before we head back to the regularly scheduled review is this: you may love the latest game about wheat farming ninjas that travel across the land via train, and you may not understand why your child, neighbor, co-worker, parent, etc. doesn't love it too. For the non-board gaming baseball fan in your life, this could be the shared-interest gateway game that may lead to them sitting at your table and eventually wanting to play the newest game about wheat farming ninjas that travel across the land via train - and that is why I think Fantasy Fantasy Baseball is so important.
General Rules Overview and Setup:
In Fantasy Fantasy Baseball, players take control of a baseball team and act as the Wizard Manager, attempting to collect the most wins and moving on to the Championship Series.
Setup begins with the infield board and stat tracker (aka The Monster) being placed at the center of the table, followed by each player choosing the color of their wizard figure and waiver tokens. The win cards are shuffled and placed in the middle of infield board.
The character cards are divided into five piles based on their character class - rookie, pro, specialist, all-star, or Hall of Fame. Each player is dealt three rookies, and then one of each from the pro, specialist, all-star, and Hall of Fame stacks, for a total of seven cards in hand.
Examples of character cards that were based on actual MLB players. L:R Mariano Rivera, Craig Biggio, and David Ortiz.
After each player has seven cards, the live draft begins. Of the seven cards, the player chooses one and passes the rest to the left. This drafting mechanic continues until each player again has drafted seven cards. Players then discard one of the cards so that they only have six cards - four that will go into play as starters, and two bench players that won't be used directly for the head-to-head match-ups, but whose magical power is still usable.
Once players have drafted and discarded down to six cards, four win cards on placed around the infield board (one by each base on the field), and the free agents are revealed. Free agents can be added to a player's hand after the first month of play in exchange for another card from that player's hand. That card becomes part of the free agent pool and can be claimed by another player.
Four win cards positioned around the infield board.
Using the win conditions outlined on the win cards, players then select the four cards that will serve as their starting line-up. The four cards are placed around the players' team cards in the same way the win cards outline the infield board.
The starting line-up placed face-down around the team's card and Wizard Manager.
Once the starting line-ups are set, players simultaneously reveal their cards, starting with first base and working around the infield board. Players compare the win card conditions with the stats on their corresponding player card. The character with the highest stat total wins the win card.
Players that did not win the win card may advance their stats on the Monster stat tracking board. Stat track position is important, as it can equate to wins at the end of the regular season.
The stat track, AKA The Monster.
After all of the cards are revealed and win cards collected/stats added, players take their cards back into their hands and do it again - three times total. Upon completion of the third round of play, win cards and wins earned via the stat tracker are added, and the two teams with the highest win total move on to the championship series. The championship series plays similar to the regular season, but it is a best of seven series that could potentially be completed by only one trip around the infield board.
The game also includes event cards that can be included in game play. These cards add an additional element for players to consider when selecting their starting line-ups.
Event cards can increase the complexity of choosing your starting line-up.
Theme and Mechanics:
Fantasy Fantasy Baseball is a card drafting, hand-management card game. There is an added element of memorization that comes into play during the waiver wire period. Since all players are privy to the players available via waiver, and can see which player drafts which card, players can have a good idea of what card their opponents may play in an effort to win a specific round. While it does have some different mechanics at work throughout the game, none of them are very complex and wouldn't be difficult for a new gamer to pick up.
As for theme, did I mention this game is about baseball? The players are all fantasy based characters, but there are so many that are based on real players, past and present. More on that to come.
Artwork and Components:
As I flipped through the cards, I instantly appreciated the art. I usually don't get to excited by the fantasy genre, but I wasn't seeing fantasy characters - I was seeing players, and some of my baseball cards. There was the Griffey Upper Deck #1, the infamous Billy Ripken '88 Fleer card (Google it), Jeter with his signature jump throw, Batista with the bat flip, and I even recognized the inclusion of Team USA softball star Jennie Finch. There's Mays, Bonds, Ruth, Sandberg, Ortiz, Biggio, Rivera, and the real player list list goes on and on. Being able to quickly and easily identify the cards and players that were represented led me, as a baseball fan, to liking the game before even reading the rules.
L:R My Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 Upper Deck #1 Rookie Card and Grifseidon from FFB. Note: the Ken Griffey Jr 1989 Upper Deck #1 Rookie Card is NOT included with the game.
The other components are high quality and easy to distinguish during play. The wizards/manager pieces are detailed, and the cardboard components add to the baseball theme. Even the pegs used on the stat board are shaped like little baseball bats.
Baseball. If you skipped down to this part of the review, please go back and read the intro.
There's no crying in baseball. This token can be played in front of a player that is whining. It doesn't actually do anything, but its another example of the baseball theme that permeates the game.
The cards. As a baseball fan and baseball card collector, I got a similar thrill opening the player cards and shuffling through as a I would opening a pack of baseball cards. See the "Artwork and Components" section above.
Most baseball fans will recognize the real-life counterparts that inspired the art on the cards.
The fantasy baseball. Fantasy baseball fans that are familiar with the scoring should have no problem picking up the game play. Many of the scoring stats in fantasy baseball are the same in Fantasy Fantasy Baseball. The designers didn't shy away from using baseball jargon, so there isn't a need to try to re-learn common stats with a fantasy-themed name. They should also be familiar with the waiver wire and picking up free agents. It is a good transition from one fantasy game to another.
The (green) Monster. I wasn't a huge fan of the monster stat tracker. It seemed to add more time to the overall game play, while not adding much more than another clever callback to a modern baseball shrine. I feel that there may have been easier ways to track the stats rather than trying to stick a tiny baseball bat into an even tinier hole on a baseball score board.
One and two-player modes. The game is marketed as 1-5 players, and I played the solo variant, as well as two-player and four-player games. The four-player game was the best experience, as it offered a true elimination-style system. With two players, the championship match-up was already decided before the first card was played, so the first three rounds seemed like an unnecessary warm-up to the best of seven series. The solo variant was okay and would work in a fix, but the game seems better suited for social interaction rather than solo play.
Bo knows board games. I may have missed it, but I didn't see a recreation of Bo Jackson on any of the character cards. Hopefully he's included in Fantasy Fantasy Football.
Again, if you are reading this and skipped the "initial thoughts" section, give it a read. I may have went full baseball fanboy at the beginning, but in my opinion, this game is the best at merging baseball and board games, and these type of genre mergers are necessary for continued growth in the hobby. I believe there is real potential for this game to be a gateway game for baseball fans.
Players Who Like: Bottom of the 9th, sports-themed games.
I am recommending this as a potential Game Changer.
See more reviews from Nick and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
Designer: Adam Rehberg and Chris Neuman
Artist: Rodrigo Camilo Alves De Almeida
Publisher: Adam's Apple Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-5
Playing Time: 20-40 minutes
From the publisher:
The realm is defended, but the sword of protection is broken! The king has called on the best Swordcrafters to forge a replacement.
In Swordcrafters, players compete to forge the best sword scoring based on length, quality, and magic. Each round each player makes one cut in a grid of sword tiles to create a separation. After separations phase, each player selects one grouping of sword tiles and assembles them into their sword. When there are not enough sword tiles to form a new grid, scoring occurs.
Players hold their swords in the center of the table to score based on length. Sword quality scoring is based on the highest number of adjacent matching gems on one side of the sword. Sword magic scoring is based on the highest sum of two gem types.
A innovative 3D sword-building game where the player builds and holds their sword as they play.
WARNING: This is a preview of Swordcrafters. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change. In particular, I know that the cardboard tiles will be thicker and have a UV coating for the final game.
Overview and Theme:
Swordcrafters takes the resource-production, product-building theme one step further by having players use the cardboard tiles they gather to build a 3D model of a sword as they play the game! It stands out as a very unusual physical mechanic, taking tile-laying into three dimensions as you plan to collect sets and build patterns to make the sword worth the most points.
It seems pretty clear that the theme here is obvious - a fantasy setting with swords and magic gems - and thorough - how could you forget you're building a sword? It's definitely a theme that appealed to our geeky little family.
Components and Setup:
I want to point out again that the components in the prototype my family played will be replaced with thicker, more durable components following their Kickstarter campaign - for more on that, please read this note on Kickstarter.
The prototype components in my copy of Swordcrafters were just sturdy enough to allow us to play the game and enjoy the gameplay. Cardboard squares with four notches line up to build a rectangular sword body off of a four-piece hilt. The game also includes a small deck of Sword Magic cards which give you certain color combinations to look for in scoring.
Setup is quick and easy - each player builds a cardboard hilt, and three Sword Magic cards are dealt out. The first round begins by dealing a grid of a certain size (4x4 for four players), and you're ready to begin!
Game Play and Mechanics:
Game play here runs in rounds dubbed Slice, Select, and Craft until the pile of tiles has run out.
Swordcrafters relies on a variant of the I-cut-you-choose mechanic. In each round, each player in turn will make one "Slice" to separate one of the groups of tiles into two groups along a straight vertical or horizontal line. The first player cuts the grid into two groups, the second player cuts one of those groups in two, creating a third group, and so on. With four players, you'll end up with five groups of tiles.
Now, starting again with the first player, each player in turn gets to "Select" one of the groups of tiles, choosing the colors that are most advantageous (or choosing the group with the First Player tile in order to gain the advantage of going first in the next round).
Finally, each player simultaneously "Crafts" by attaching the tiles they have chosen onto their growing sword. Rounds continue until there are not enough tiles left in the box to make a full new grid.
There is a definite awe-filled joy in working to build the sword in your hand, as well as comparing and swishing swords around (but hitting your fellow players is definitely discouraged!).
At the end of the game, the longest sword will earn ten points. Each Sword Magic card will give points to the three swords with the largest groups of certain colors. Each sword also gets points corresponding to the length of the largest set of a single color on a single side of the sword.
Scoring was fairly clear, and our family handled it quickly, though we have plenty of experience with games that use varied end-game scoring.
Really, the sword is the draw here! My kids (11 and 15) really enjoyed the tactile nature of actually building their swords. Oh, and my husband and I got in on it, too! The excitement of comparing all the swords at the end of the game was always high.
I also appreciated the fresh take on cut-and-take, giving the first player a strong advantage in both but allowing others to snatch that first position for other rounds. The set collection here was simple but engaging.
The only complaints that my family had about our copy of Swordcrafters were based on the prototype nature of the components (thin cardboard peeling or difficult to wedge together and pull apart - you can see white marks on our set), and those durability and aesthetic issues will be cleared up with the official manufacturing run.
My husband did wonder if the ability to take the First Player tile was too big of an advantage (as he and I tended to hog the first player role while my kids tended not to take it), but I think that with further plays and my kids getting to see that choice as being more strategic, the game will even out for our family. A table full of adults playing Swordcrafters probably would not have had that issue. Perhaps a new family just learning it might want to choose to play without those tiles at first (if no one takes the First Player tile, it moves clockwise around the table instead).
Players Who Like:
Players who enjoy medieval or fantasy themes will enjoy the theme and look of Swordcrafters. Families who enjoy set collection games like Lanterns, cut-and-take games like New York Slice, or dexterity games like Rhino Hero will also enjoy Swordcrafters.
Swordcrafters is a fantasy-themed family set-collection game with a unique twist: building your own 3D sword makes you the master of the gaming table and adds an engaging theme to the cut-and-take mechanic. My family will continue to (gently!) play with our prototype, and I can't wait to see how the Kickstarter fares for Adam's Apple Games and their fans.
Swordcrafters is on KICKSTARTER between now and March 11, 2018
See more reviews from Alexa and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
Designer: David Coleson
Artist: Josh Cappel
Publisher: CSE Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-7
Playing Time: 20 minutes
The circus is over, and cleanup duties fall to the elephants. To make the job go faster, these playful pachyderms have made a game of the task! Using their trunks like vacuums, they suck up all the junk under the big top and blow it into the trash! First small things like tickets and popcorn... all the way up to the circus' old broken cannon. Everything is blown into the trash until the circus has been swept clean. The first elephant to get all the JUNK out of its TRUNK wins the game!
Overview and Theme:
The title may be slightly risque, but this is actually a delightfully family-friendly card game with an endearing circus theme. The idea is that the circus is over and the elephants are put to the task of cleaning up all the debris by using their trunks to help out.
Components and Setup:
Junk in My Trunk comes in a sturdy box and contains a rule book and 108 nice quality linen-finish cards. The artwork is bright, bold, and colorful, and it fits the theme perfectly.
Since it's a card game (with no other components), setup is quick. If you're playing with less than four players, you'll pull a few cards out to make a smaller deck (unless you want a longer game), and it's suggested that you can play with eight or more by shuffling two decks together.
Each player gets dealt three face down cards in a row, and a hand of seven more cards. Of these seven cards in hand, the player will choose one to go on top of each of the face-down cards, leaving four in hand to start the game. There is a tiny learning curve in knowing which cards might be best to lay down, but the rules suggest using your highest cards or wilds, and that advice makes it easy to get started.
Game Play and Mechanics:
Junk in My Trunk is an empty-your-hand card game. On your turn, you can play numbered cards to the Trash (the growing pile in the center of the table) if you have a card equal to or higher than the card on top - if you don't, you have to pick up the entire Trash pile instead, and the next player will start a new pile. After each turn, you draw back up to four cards.
There are a few other rules, as well. You can lay down multiples of the same card, and if you've laid down the fourth identical card in a grouping, you get a 4-Pach Bonus that removes that whole Trash pile from the game. There are also 0-numbered wild cards that can go on top of any number and sometimes give you bonus actions, as well. 1s, 2s, and 3s have special actions that let you peek at, flip, or swap the face-down cards on the table.
Play continues until the whole draw pile has been drawn; then, your goal is to run out of cards in hand in order to be able to play your three face-up cards one at a time, followed by your three face-down cards. The first player to run out of cards in hand and cards on the table wins.
The rules are easy to explain and the game flows smoothly, with just the right amount of frustration; I was about to run out of cards in hand when I was stymied by a 50 on the top of the pile and had to take the entire pile! In a family-friendly atmosphere, that's accompanied by good-natured jeering and laughter, and it happened to everyone sooner or later.
There's room for a bit of strategy, especially as you get to know the game. You aren't required to play a card if you can see a reason for picking up the pile instead. Peeking, flipping, and swapping the face-down cards can get you set up for the best possible end game. You'll want to use cards - especially the wilds - very carefully.
My family was charmed by Junk in My Trunk. It's a solid family card-shedding game from theme and components to gameplay. It accommodates a wide range of players (from 2-7 in a single box, and will go higher if you put two boxes together) at a wide range of ages (the box says eight and up, but I know several six year olds who would enjoy this one, and it's equally enjoyable for adults).
Not much to say here! If you don't like lighter games, card games, or the circus theme, it might not be your cup of tea.
Junk in My Trunk is a well crafted, family-style card game with enough room for strategic players or for off-the-cuff lighthearted play.
Players Who Like:
Junk in My Trunk is a modern spin on the classic Swedish game Vändtia (Turn Ten), and so fans of that and similar card games will enjoy it. Families that play Flinch, UNO, Phase 10, Five Crowns, The Great Dalmuti, and similar games will enjoy Junk in My Trunk.
I am giving Junk in My Trunk 10 out of 10 Super Meeples for Family Style Card Games.
See more reviews from Alexa and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
Designer: Thibaud de la Touanne
Artist: Vincent Filipiak, Bruno Tatti
Publisher: Triton Noir
Year Published: 2016
No. of Players: 1-4
Playing Time: 30-180 minutes
The German army occupies the majority of Europe and nothing seems to be able to slow its progression. The Luftwaffe launches air attack upon air attack against London and the major industrialized British cities. Great Britain withstands and gets ready to face an imminent invasion.
But Winston Churchill was not one to sit back in a defensive stance. Convinced that the Allied Forces must take the initiative and strike blows behind enemy lines, he orders the creation of elite airborne units. Simultaneously, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) is established with the objective to “set Europe ablaze.” After intensive training, these units will conduct audacious operations of all kinds, striking like lightning bolts before withdrawing into shadows. Their numerous successes, although often unknown, weighed heavily in the outcome of the conflict.
Rules and Setup:
V-Commandos is a great cooperative game that supports between 1-4 players who are working against the game's enemy forces. Each player will be choosing their starting commando, each one with a unique ability, and form the squad that will be sent on the mission.
V-Commandos comes with two booklets to help guide you through the game. Not only does it come with two booklets, but the game comes in both English and French, with both book and all the cards provided in both languages. The first guide covers all the rules and options available in the game, going into detail using multiple examples and images to help you understand the flow of the turn and game. The second guide contains a few training missions that will walk you through the basics of the game.
The team at Triton Noir actually took a little bit of a different approach in creating the rule book. Instead of going through how to set up the game and right into what turns look like, they start with taking the time to explain how the main mechanism works in the game, which is how movement and stealth work. Using examples from the game, before you even work on the setup, you will know how it will all come together as you setup the missions.
With V-Commandos, the setup for each mission is outlined on the scenario cards that are included with the game. Within each scenario, it will show you a layout that consists of tokens that need to be used and areas where you can use any of the tiles/scenery to fill it. For example, the initial training setup consists of a total of 7 different tiles that will be used. It also has chits and layouts in it. The tiles all come in 3 different sizes (square, rectangle, large square), and are clearly marked with indicators so you know which to use, and what the facing should be.
Play is fairly straight-forward, with a total of 4 phases in each round. Each round starts with the Event Phase, where you will draw an event card for every terrain tile that is in play. What is a terrain tile? Glad you asked! A terrain tile is a tile that has an objective on it, related to the mission you are on. For, you see, when you pick the scenario card, you will be given multiple objectives to complete on the missions, and what the win condition is for the game. Not only will you have different objectives, but multiple spawn points for both you and your teammates, as well as for the game. Played a mission and failed it? Maybe try spawning in a different area and using a different character. Or split up the team and try it using multiple breach points to get to the objectives.
The event cards allow, well, events to happen changing the game state. The game comes with 37 different event cards, and you will be using multiple on each round. Once you resolve the event cards, we move to your turn (known as the Commando turn).
On the Commando turn, the first thing you’ll decide is the order that your commandos will play. As this is a cooperative game, you will want to talk to your teammate(s), and see what the order of play is. You will each have up to 3 actions that you can take, and each action has a cost associated with it. Need to pick or drop something? That costs 0 actions. Need to go through a doorway? That’s 1 action. Move up to a larger tile? That’s 2 actions. Once that player is done, the next commando plays their actions, and play continues until all commandos have taken their turn.
Once we’re done with the Commando phase, it’s time for the Enemy phase, where they have up to 3 different actions that they’ll take. On this phase, there is the Reinforcement step (spawning additional enemies), Movement step (if one or more of the commandos is visible, move towards them, otherwise walk to the adjacent tile), and finally the Shooting step (this will only happen if the enemy is on the same tile as a visible commando).
The final phase is the End of Turn phase, where game state is checked. If the objective of the missions has been met, and at least 1 commando has escaped, then you have won!
Theme and Mechanics:
With V-Commandos, the marriage of the game mechanics, and the theme of World War II have combined to form a fantastic union that really shines. I’ll talk about the artwork later on in the review, but thematically it all works and fits.
Mechanically, the game is solid, using tried and true game mechanics in a logical manner to bring the game together. Using a simple point system to determine which actions each player uses on their turn, and a solid AI playing the enemy, the game flows smoothly and does not take a lot of time to learn and move through.
V-Commandos is based on a solid core, and offers very good replayability in the core box. The game is a mid-weight game, offering challenging missions in the core box. With the inclusion of the training book, which includes 3 different scenarios to learn with, after playing through these, you’ll have a great understanding of the game and how the gameplay is.
Triton Noir has also published 2 expansions (not reviewed at this time) that offers more tiles, missions, and specialists to the game, bringing larger variety into this world.
Artwork and Components:
The artwork for V-Commands is fitting for a WWII game. You will see lots of brown, green, and tan colors in the game, and while that sounds as a negative, it really works and fits in the game for that era. The artists have done a great job on the tiles and cards to match the theme of the game.
Solid game play that is very easy to learn. The inclusion of a book that has training missions allowing you to learn the game, starting with the basics and moving to the more difficult missions is a fantastic aide that helps people learn the game. Supporting solo play by playing multiple characters is a logical part of the game, and doesn’t change the way the AI works.
V-Commando’s is not readily available at either FLGS’s (Friendly Local Game Stores) or some of the major online board game retailers, as it is not available from the major distributors, but is available direct from Triton Noir.
V-Commandos is an incredibly solid, turn-based experience full of difficult decisions, strategic planning, and artwork that drips WWII. I’ve put in just over 10 gamep lays of V-Commandos with various play groups, and we’ve all come away falling in love with the game. With built-in support for up to 4 players (solo play does require you to play more than one commando), the game offers lots of replayability and hits that strategic itch more than once without you having to get into a large game. The sweet spot seems to be at 3 players, where game play really flows smoothly. If you want to bring in the young kinders to try the game, age 12+ does work, as the more complex missions can take more time to complete.
With 2 expansions available, adding new mission scenarios, commandos and challenges, the game continues to grow and offer more challenges, keeping the game fresh.
Players Who Like:
Light WWII-era games, strategy games.
See more reviews from Delton and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
Designer: Mikko Punakallio
Artist: Markuu Laine and Sami Saramäki
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios and Lautapelit.fi
Year Published: 2016
No. of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 20-40 minutes
Dokmus is an area control, abstract strategy game in which players discover ancient temples and ruins, and call upon the land’s guardians to manipulate the landscape. Rotate and shift the tiles to alter the map’s layout, thus changing your strategy—and the strategy of your opponents—each turn.
Following this review of Dokmus, you will find a review for its expansion, Dokmus: Return of Erefel. Feel free to skip the setup and rules section and jump straight to my thoughts on the game.
Rules and Setup:
Setup for a 3-4 player game (2-player setup can be seen in the expansion review).
A deceptively simple game, Dokmus is easy to learn, quick to play, and chalk-full of strategy. To set up, simply lay out eight tiles in a 3x3 grid, leaving the middle empty. Players randomly determine the first player and give the newly acknowledge starting player the talisman token. Starting with the first player, everyone takes turns placing one of their colored tokens on an edge space (forest or meadow only) on one of the four corner tiles that nobody else has placed their token on. This will be your starting position.
Congratulations! The game is set up and you’re ready to get going.
Dokmus consists of eight rounds. Each round, every player (starting with the player with the talisman token) chooses a guardian card. The number on this card will determine turn order (number 1 goes first, number 5 goes last), and will give the player a special power they may use at any time during their turn.
Once all players have selected a guardian card, the player with the lowest number will take the first turn. On a turn, each player must play three tokens of their color. There are a few placement rules which will help you understand the game mechanics better, so let’s delve into those for a minute.
Tokens are either played on the board or sacrificed. Sacrificed tokens earn points, so there is motive to removing your tokens from the game.
Sacrificed tokens are placed next to the score track.
A token may only be played adjacent (horizontal or vertical) to a previously played token of the active player’s color. Playing on a meadow has no special ability. In order to enter a forest space (if not already on an adjacent forest space), one token must be sacrificed. Sacrificed tokens are placed in the sacrificial area next to the score track. Tokens may not be placed on mountains, although they can be placed on volcano spaces. If, at the end of a player’s turn, they have one or more tokens on a volcano space, those tokens are removed from the board and sacrificed (I mean, what else would someone use a volcano for in a mythological world?).
Temple spaces consist of the large yellow temples and small red temples. Tokens may not be placed on a temple space, but must be placed adjacent instead. Once a token is adjacent to a temple, that temple is considered discovered. At the end of the game, discovered temples are worth two points for small (red) temples, and three points for large (yellow) temples. More points are given for discovering all temples on a single tile, and more points still are awarded for discovering at least one temple on multiple tiles (the more tiles the better). If a player has a token adjacent to a temple, the temple is then used as a sort of portal or connector to other spaces adjacent to it. Meaning, a player can use one of their tokens adjacent to a temple to place another token on another open space adjacent to that same temple (following placement rules).
Tokens placed on ruins may never be moved for any reason. Ruins give the player who controls it one point at the end of the game. Once a token is placed on a ruin, a free guardian ability is given to that player. This free ability must affect the tile on which the ruin is located, or a token on the tile of that ruin. The abilities the player may choose from are rotating the tile 90°, move the tile, or move a token to an open, adjacent space. This ability must be used immediately.
Tokens may not be placed on water. However, water can be used to move your tokens further (and faster) than by going space-by-space on land. In order to use connected water spaces as a waterway, one token must first be sacrificed (it’s for the good of the tribe). Then, as long as you have a token adjacent to a water space, you may place a token on any legal space adjacent to that waterway (i.e. anywhere along the river’s banks). You don’t even need to sacrifice another token to use a waterway to enter a forest; the first sacrifice will suffice.
At any time during a player’s turn, they may opt to use the ability on their guardian card. There are five guardian cards (although only guardians 2, 3, and 4 are used for a two-player game), and each guardian grants an ability, as follows:
Guardian #1: Take the talisman token and become the first player for the next round.
Guardian #2: Move a map tile to the empty spot in the grid.
Guardian #3: Move one of your tokens from a forest, meadow, or volcano to an empty and adjacent forest, meadow, volcano, or ruin.
Guardian #4: Rotate a map tile 90° clockwise or counterclockwise.
Guardian #5: Perform the action on Guardian 2, 3, or 4.
Guardians give special abilities, and also determine play order (#1 goes first and #5 goes last).
Once all three tokens have been played, and the guardian action used or passed, the player with the next lowest guardian card takes their turn. Once every player has taken their turn, the guardian cards are collected, given to the player with the talisman token, and a new round begins with players choosing guardians.
After eight rounds, each player should be out of tokens (otherwise somebody did something wrong). Once the eighth round ends, you may begin scoring. Score each temple you have discovered, as well as each ruin you occupy. For each tile on which you have discovered all the temples, gain eight points (five points in a two-player game). Count the number of tiles where you have discovered at least one temple, and add that score (see rulebook). Lastly, count the number of sacrificed tokens each player has. In a four-player game, the player with the most sacrificed tokens receives five points, the runner up receives three points, and third place receives one point. The player with the least amount of sacrificed tokens receives nothing (as the saying goes, nice guys finish last).
The player with the most points wins!
The game is over, and the scores are all very close!
Theme and Mechanics:
You are leading an expedition on the island of Dokmus, the land of your ancestors. Using your wits and the blessings of the island’s guardians, explore the ever-changing island, discover temples and ruins, and bring fame and glory to your tribe!
Theme generally isn’t something I think of when looking at an abstract game, but with Dokmus, the theme and mechanics play quite well with each other. Exploring the island is no easy feat, so calling on the island’s guardians for assistance is crucial. By using their abilities, the island shifts and rotates, and your explorers can get a little extra boost to help the quest along.
One of the main mechanics in Dokmus is area control, and a lot of times, that means blocking a player out of a particular location. While this is still true in Dokmus, using the island’s guardian abilities can help turn your misfortune into a fortuitous blessing. With a constantly changing board, the area you control will be contested in more ways than you may imagine.
Each round, the guardian cards are drafted, allowing players to vie for turn order, guardian ability, or both. Because of this, turn order is a lot like the island itself—always changing.
Another main mechanic is grid movement. It’s pretty straightforward (move horizontally or vertically from one of your already placed tokens), but the terrain, with its varying specialties, makes moving a life-or-sacrifice choice every turn.
Artwork and Components:
The art is lovely, and the tiles certainly show off the landscape without players having to rely too much on their imagination. The guardians also look quite impressive, and definitely adds to the flavor of the game.
The board tiles and guardian cards are all thick and sturdy, and the wooden tokens, despite looking like simple tents, are uniform in size and colorful in appearance. I don’t know how else they would have made these tokens, but how they are in their current form works just fine for me.
I absolutely love how the game board changes throughout the game. This aspect of Dokmus makes it more strategic than if the board were static, and opens up the possibilities for endless play experiences. With double-sided tiles, there are plenty of layouts to keep me happy for innumerable plays.
The components are excellent quality. Not sure what else to say about that, other than I was pleasantly impressed when I first opened the box.
Turns, for the most part, go by quickly. To me, that’s huge. I play with people who can take far too long deciding on the perfect course of action, and while they still took some time to decide while playing Dokmus, the waiting game wasn’t as terrible as some other games I’ve played with them. And that was on their first play, too. Experienced players will get faster as they understand how waterways work, the strategy behind sacrificing your tokens, and whatnot.
The playtime is just right. It doesn’t feel long (even if someone is taking their jolly good time deciding where to place a token…), and it’s quick enough that two or three games in a row isn’t unheard of.
There are plenty of ways to score points, and I’ve seen a few different strategies come out on top during different plays. I think that’s one of the things that makes Dokmus so good, that even if a player isn’t getting a lot of points (or any) from sacrificing, they can still pull ahead through other means (as just one example).
While I mentioned above that turns can go quickly, they can also allow the analysis paralysis to hit, and hit hard. Of course, you will know which of your gamer friends this applies to, but again, as they gain more experience with the game (as in after even one play), their turns will shorten up immensely.
Spoilers: I’m a huge fan of Dokmus. From my first play, I was hooked with the smooth, streamlined mechanics and strategy. The moving board adds a lot more thought to every turn, and the various guardian abilities are all useful, yet none are over-powered or always preferred over others. Every game I’ve played has been close (as in within about three points among all players).
It also scales well for two-players, which for me is a plus, because I do a lot of two-player gaming. That being said, I do think it plays best at four-players, but that doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly enjoyable at two or three. Having played it plenty of times already, I’m still eager to get it back on the table for more.
Players Who Like:
If you like abstract strategy games with an engaging theme (or one or the other), Dokmus is a brilliant game in that realm. It’s quick and easy to learn—yet deep enough for even the most hardcore strategy gamer—making it a solid choice for mixed groups of gaming preferences.
Dokmus: Return of Erefel (Expansion) Review:
Dokmus: Return of Erefel adds four new double-sided map tiles (complete with new terrain!), a new Guardian (Erefel), and four scenarios that change certain rules of the game. The new rules in this expansion are subtle, yet they enrich the base game and add even more replayability to an already evergreen game.
Rules and Setup:
Setup for a 2-player game. In this scenario (more on that below), the scenario tile acts as a giant ocean/waterway.
Setup for Return of Erefel is the same as in the base game, with two exceptions. First, The new guardian Erefel is included in the guardian selection phases. Second, a scenario tile may be used (choose a side of the tile), which is placed in the empty space in the grid. When shifting board tiles, do so as normal, replacing the moving tile with the scenario tile. When setting up the grid, you may add as many expansion board tiles as you wish (they’re the ones with roads on the spaces).
Erefel brings new life to Dokmus. Once per turn, his guardian power allows the player using it to enter a forest or use a waterway without sacrificing a token. His activation number is a question mark, which means the turn order he goes in changes depending on which other guardians were chosen. To determine his turn order, reveal the two guardian cards not chosen; Erefel’s turn number will be that of the highest numbered guardian card not being used.
Roads make life on the island of Dokmus a bit easier. When placing a token on a road space, you may move that token one additional space along the same road. Likewise, when entering a forest space that also has a road on it, you do not need to sacrifice a token.
You take the high road, and I'll take the low road, and I'll be in Dokmus a'fore ye!
The scenarios alter the rules of the game in slight, subtle ways, but change the overall strategy immensely. Only one scenario is used each game. The Ice scenario transforms all water spaces into ice. As such, players no longer need to sacrifice a token to use waterways. However, to use the waterway, the player must have a token next to water (as normal), but must put their other token on a space immediately adjacent (horizontally or vertically) to that location. Basically, they’re sliding across the ice, and turning isn’t really an option (they didn’t pack their hockey skates).
The Wind scenario lets players move their token one additional space on roads and meadows, allowing players to get from point A to point B in record time.
The Sun scenario amplifies the free abilities of ruins so that the active player can use the ability on any tile, not just the one on which the ruin is located.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Water scenario. This scenario tile acts as a massive water tile, and can be used as a waterway from any adjacent space and tile.
Other than those changes, the game is played as normal.
Even the expansion box fits in the box!
These new additions to Dokmus really pump up the play options. Each scenario changes the strategy in small ways, but leave a big impact.
The road terrain makes it easier to move your tokens around the board, but at the same time, makes it easier for your opponents to cut you off and take the spaces you’ve been gunning for. This changes the dynamic and speed of the game, and you can choose how many of these new tiles to add, giving yourselves more or less roads for varying amounts of speedy movements.
Erefel seemed to be chosen quite frequently as the guardian of choice. Even though sacrificing tokens can bring about points, doing so reduces your movement options, making it more difficult to reach certain spaces. With Erefel, getting to those spaces is much easier, and is something to keep an eye on if you know you and your opponent are eying the same location.
Unlike some expansions where you have to find even more room to store it, the Return of Erefel box fits nicely inside the box for the base game. To some, this might seem rather "meh," but for me (and those who value shelf space), this is a big plus!
I can’t think of anything bad about this expansion. You can use all parts of the expansion if you like, or only some aspects of it (i.e. only use Erefel, or only use a scenario, or only use one or two new tiles rather than the whole package deal).
Dokmus: Return of Erefel is a natural addition to the base game. All aspects of this expansion fit so well with Dokmus that I can’t see myself playing without them. If you’re a fan of Dokmus to begin with, then you will certainly enjoy the new tactics and play styles Return of Erefel brings to the table. Dokmus is a wonderful game with lots of replayability to begin with. Combine the expansion into the mix and you have a game that will never get old.
See more reviews from Ben and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
Designer: Zeke Walker, Majdi Badri
Artist: Jordan Cuffie
Publisher: Ariah Studios
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-2
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes
WARNING: This is a preview of Deck Box Dungeons. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
tl;dr: A quick-and-easy dungeon delver that fits in a deck box. It's not just a clever name.
Getting to the Game: The DM here is controlled by an app, which automates the story and determines which map cards connect to what rooms. It doesn't currently track player locations or actions, serving only to carry out the most basic functions. Enemies follow specific rules outlined on their cards, though rolling their dice and occasionally making targeting decisions falls to the players. I personally wish the app did more heavy lifting, but it's possible that such functionality could be rolled out in the future. The rules are fairly simple, but there are some nuances that will need to be kept in mind. Overall, time to table is very quick.
The rules and components all fit into a single deck box, so there's not much to unpack. Heroes are represented by tiny meeples, and all enemies are separated into variously colored dice. The game comes with six separate heroes to choose from, each with varying base stats. You're allowed to choose a starting class and weapon for each hero, so the variability of your party is nicely executed. After selection, set your starting health to the value on the hero you chose, and your energy and loot to zero. Place your chosen hero meeple anywhere in the four starting squares, and it's dungeon time.
Playing the Game: Each hero is given two actions a turn, which can be used on movement, attacking, or a special action (if available). Heroes are also afforded a number of minor actions, including abilities from their class card, trading between heroes, and purchasing items from the store using acquired loot. Thematically, this last action makes the least sense, as apparently there's just a merchant following you around, risking their life alongside yours, but only willing to give you the good stuff they're carrying around for the hides of your enemies, but hey... it's a dungeon crawler. After all heroes have finished their actions, the enemies present in the room follow their engagement rules on the bottom of their card. Back and forth you go until you've either done what you came to do, or your bodies are left behind for the next party to find.
Gameplay mechanics simplify the standard d20 tropes down to the bare minimums, which again, works very well for streamlining gameplay. There's no distance for range attacks. If there's at least one square between you and your target, and you have line of sight, you can hit it. Melee attacks work only on orthogonally adjacent enemies, unless you have reach. Roll a d6 and add any weapon or character modifiers. If the result is 6 or higher, you hit. If it's a natural 6, it can't be blocked. Attacked by an enemy? Roll the same d6, add your modifiers. If the result is 6 or higher, you block. Every attack dings you for a single point of damage.
As a speedy dungeon dive, Deck Box Dungeons delivers in spades. The app could be a little more robust, but what it does is fine and allows players to expedite the action without having to track each thing both on the table and in their device. I mentioned earlier that I wished the app did more; I think there's a nice middle ground between micromanaging the game and just being a reference. The one main thing I wish the app could do is automate enemy movements. The players have a little too much power as it stands in choosing which hero is attacked and can game the system enough to avoid real tragedy.
For some, this might oversimplify the experience that's ingrained in those of us who grew up on D&D with thick rulebooks and saving throws. It's my opinion that while spiritually similar, these are different experiences. DBD is designed to scratch the itch while maintaining the casual timeframe and attention span of a lighter gamer. Call it a gateway game if you like, but it's by no means an incomplete experience. There's certainly room here for the developers to add a campaign editor into the app, allowing players to write their own stories but allow the app to randomize the rooms and even the difficulty. The addition of the app into the standard RPG experience leaves a ton of room for innovation, and while its current iteration isn't gorgeous, it is just a beta and isn't release-ready yet. The developer assures me the app will look far better than it does today, which means there's room for all sorts of additional goodies.
Artwork and Components: Tough to judge these from the prototype-level components I got, but I'll tell you what I think with the caveat that nearly all of it could (and likely will) change. The meeples are cute, but fairly boring. Same for the attack / defense dice. They're small enough to fit inside a map square, likely designed to match the enemy dice. Everything else looks really nice. The hero cards, along with their weapons, class, and stat tracker companions, have outstanding art, and I'd wager that increased cardstock quality would be a stretch goal in the campaign. The enemy dice are perfectly sized to fit in the map squares as mentioned earlier, which leads them to feel just barely too small. I have larger hands, though, so this may not be an issue for everyone. All of the dice roll well enough to feel sufficiently random, and the iconography on the enemy dice are perfectly distinguishable.
The Good: A clean, promising game that plays quickly and looks good. Delivers on the core experience of a dungeon dive, replete with loot, special powers, variability, and even boss fights.
The Bad: Might be too light for some. The app, and I stress that it's in prototype mode right now, is a little wonky and is missing some really nice features while getting the job done. Dice feel just a tad too light for my hands.
Score: Deck Box Dungeons as it arrived to my door feels solid, but not quite ready. With time aplenty to get it finished, I'm going to be looking forward to the changes and following the campaign with earnest. It has everything you want in a light RPG, and its mobility is a great advantage. I'm giving Deck Box Dungeons a score of A Great Role to Play.
Coming to KICKSTARTER March 6, 2018
See more reviews from Nicholas L and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
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