Cardboard Clash

Taking a look at board games playable with either one or two players. Reviews written by the husband in a board game-addicted marriage with occasional commentary from his better, and far more strategic, half.

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LotR LCG Strategy: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest

David Wiley
United States
Waukee
IA
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Welcome to what is the third post in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

Why listen to me when I am a beginner, too? Because I love to deckbuild, and I am at a starting level of this game like you. I'm not five years into playing and looking back on things. I don't know much of the cardpool that is out there in current meta play, I just know the cards in this core set really well after building dozens of decks and running through Journey Down the Anduin more times than I care to share.

So without any more ado, I will dive right into the topic that many of you are probably really curious to know: how to construct a deck that is capable of faring well against many quests. This isn't a way to build that One Deck to Rule Them All which can win every quest out there, but rather how to build the foundation for a successful deck.

What spheres do you want to use?

This is one of the more important questions to consider. At best, you will max out at using three of the spheres; however, I would definitely encourage avoiding even making a deck using three spheres. Why? Because resources in this game are going to come at a premium price if you have each hero belonging to a unique sphere. Consider this: each turn you gain one resource on every hero. Those resources can be used only to pay for cards in their sphere or to pay for the only neutral card in the Core Set. That means anything costing 3 or more resources is either going to require you to play nothing for a good chunk of the game or they will simply sit and clog up your hand. Yes, there are ways to gain extra resources, but in general you'll get a lot better mileage when running only two spheres.

What Tactics can offer - This sphere excels at dealing damage, taking hits, and influencing enemy attacks. This is a fantastic sphere if you are playing with another person, and when paired with the right sphere it is also quite feasible for solo play. This sphere is very weak at questing, though, so it will need the other hero or two to be strong in that area.

What Lore can offer - This sphere provides ways to heal damage, draw cards, and some mitigation of threat in the staging area. Like the Tactics sphere, this one really shines in a 2-player game because it brings a lot of ways to dig into your decks for needed cards and ways to reduce what the encounter deck has thrown at you. This sphere isn't very good with damage dealing, making it a sensible partner with Tactics.

What Spirit can offer - This sphere really shines at questing, and also offers good ways to reduce your threat track and to cancel the nastier effects that an encounter deck reveals. There are allies that can help to burn through locations, both active and those clogged in the staging area and is my must-have sphere in any solo deck. This sphere, like Lore, isn't so great at attacking but is also not great at defending. Spirit and Lore make a fun deck to run, but not one that will progress quickly through piles of enemies that appear.

What Leadership can offer - This sphere provides ways to generate resources, making it a great partner for any sphere. They are reasonably good at questing, attacking, and defending which makes them a jack-of-all-trades sort of sphere in the Core Set. But while they are good at all of those, they do not excel at any of them so - although they are arguably the best sphere to use if running mono-sphere - they definitely benefit from pairing with one of the other spheres.

The vital things to include in a deck

Questing - Without high willpower, or other acceptable ways of dealing with what is in the staging area, there is little hope to find consistent success with any deck you make. This is the reason why Eowyn is, for me, pretty much an auto-include in any deck I construct. Her ability to quest for 4+ each round is simply too good in the Core Set to be ignored. Other good options include Aragorn because he can ready after questing, Faramir to boost all questing characters, the Northern Tracker to put tokens on locations that clog in the staging area, the Lorien Guide to auto-add tokens to the active location, and the Snowborn Scout for their effect when entering play. Attachments such as Favor of the Lady and Celebrian's Stone are also fantastic to include in a deck.

Attack power - Few quests can be completed if you have a board full of enemies either engaged with you or in the staging area. The former will continue to damage you and/or require you to dedicate blockers each round instead of using them in other ways. The latter will require you to have insane amounts of willpower in order to progress through locations and the quest cards. Legolas and Glorfindel are the two strongest base attack heroes in the game. Other excellent cards include Beorn, For Gondor! to boost attack for all characters, Blade Mastery to boost one attack, Quick Strike to deal damage before an enemy, as well as Blade of Gondolin and Dwarven Axe to attach to heroes to boost their power.

Defense power - Enemies strike first, which means you have to be able to defend what is thrown at you. Heroes like Denethor are great for his high defense, and there are some like Gimli and Beravor who have a solid defense stat. Gimli in particular is nice to defend early so he can get his attack boosted. A popular line of thinking is to put out a host of cheap allies who can exist solely to defend. No one does this better than the Gondoran Spearman who deals a damage as he defends, but allies like Guard of the Citadel, Snowborn Scout, Wandering Took, and others can serve in that capacity. Beorn and Gandalf are both excellent blockers but are expensive. Cards such as Protector of Lorien to boost defense, Swift Strike to deal damage while defending, Citadel Plate to take more damage, and Feint to cancel an attack are all worthwhile to include.

The other stuff - This is where everything that doesn't fit nicely into one of the three main categories can fit, and this is going to depend on your spheres used. If you are using Leadership, you will want cards like Ever Vigilant to ready characters, Sneak Attack to get out an expensive card for a turn, and Steward of Gondor for resource generation. If you are using Tactics, you'll want to include Blade Mastery, Quick Strike, Feint, and Swift Strike to manipulate the attack/defense phases of the game. You'd also want attachments like the Horn of Gondor to boost resources as your cheap allies die. If running Lore, then cards like Lore of Indralis and Daughter of the Nimrodel to heal damage, Gleowine and Lorien's Wealth for card draw. You may also consider Forest Snare, Secret Paths, and Radagast's Cunning for their ability to mitigate the impact of certain enemies and locations. For Spirit, cards like Hasty Stroke and A Test of Will are vital to cancel encounter deck effects. The Galadhrim's Greeting is a great way to reduce threat, and Unexpected Courage allows you to ready a hero each turn so you can use them for more things every round.

Putting things together into a deck

For the purposes of an all-around deck, I feel that Spirit and Leadership will make a great pairing because it can handle a little bit of everything. However, in the interest of undoing my dependency of Eowyn I am going to have us build a slightly different deck here:

Heroes:

Aragorn
Dunhere
Theodred

Theodred and Aragorn will quest each round, with Dunhere holding back to be able to defend or attack an enemy in the staging area. With a 28 starting threat, this should allow him to chip away at a few enemies early in the game. Aragorn can gain the resource from Theodred in order to ready again if needed, and Theodred could also add a resource to Dunhere in order to boost that spirit generation as needed.

Allies:

Brok Ironfist x 1
Faramir x 2
Gandalf x 3 (If playing two players with the same core, reduce a Gandalf and increase a Silverlode Archer)
Guard of the Citadel x 3
Longbeard Orc Slayer x 2
Lorien Guide x 2
Northern Tracker x 2
Silverlode Archer x 1
Snowbourne Scout x 3

Attachments:

Celebrian's Stone x 1
Power in the Earth x 1
Steward of Gondor x 2
The Favor of the Lady x 2
Unexpected Courage x 1

Event:

A Light in the Dark x 1
A Test of Will x 2
Common Cause x 2
Dwarven Tomb x 1
Ever Vigilant x 2
For Gondor! x 2
Grim Resolve x 1
Hasty Stroke x 2
Sneak Attack x 2
Stand and Fight x 2
Strength of Will x 2
The Galadhrim's Greeting x 2
Valiant Sacrifice x 2
Will of the West x 1

Cards to look for in a starting hand:

Sneak Attack + Gandalf - This combo would let you get a Gandalf out immediately, either to drop some damage on an enemy on the board or to drop your threat, allowing even more time to get set up before the big nasties have to engage with you.

Steward of Gondor - This is an excellent resource generator, and getting this Turn 1 onto Dunhere will allow you to be able to afford a lot more of the Spirit items early in the game, such as Lorien Guides and Northern Trackers to help with the questing and location resolution.

Unexpected Courage - Getting this onto Theodred early would allow you to quest with 2-3 heroes and have 2-3 ready after the questing phase. Or, putting it on Aragorn will allow you to quest, defend, and attack with him every turn.

Celebrian's Stone OR The Favor of the Lady - Either of these are great additions, and putting one of them onto Aragorn will boost his questing ability. The Stone, in addition, will allow him to spend on either Spirit or Leadership cards which would make him become the ideal candidate for a later play of Steward of Gondor.

****

Okay, so there is a fairly basic deck to start with. Want to make questing a little easier? Sub Dunhere out for Eowyn. It will leave you needing to get allies out in order to defend so Aragorn can attack them (unless you get an Unexpected Courage right away) but you'll be able to chew right through a ton of locations and quests. I've built it myself and will run this through the first two quests in the Core Set three times each solo and then I'll report on my results in the final post in this series for the month.

By all means, feel free to throw this together as well and let me know how it worked for you!

Here are the other two planned posts for this month, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #1: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/lotr-lcg-str...
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2017/11/20/lotr-lcg-str...
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set?
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event
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Fri Nov 24, 2017 6:13 pm
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LotR LCG Strategy: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes

David Wiley
United States
Waukee
IA
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Welcome to what is going to be the first in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

Why listen to me when I am a beginner, too? Because I love to deckbuild, and I am at a starting level of this game like you. I'm not five years into playing and looking back on things. I don't know much of the cardpool that is out there in current meta play, I just know the cards in this core set really well after building dozens of decks and running through Journey Down the Anduin more times than I care to share.

So without any more ado, I will dive right into the twelve heroes that come in the core set, looking at them each in turn and then considering some synergies between certain heroes and their abilities.

The Tactics Sphere Heroes



Gimli – This dwarf is one of the early stars of the Core Set for heroes, simply because he is so beefy. His five health, combined with the increase in his damage output as he takes more damage, allows him to contribute to defending early in the game and to mercilessly slaughtering the tougher enemies later in the game. He even has reasonable willpower for questing, allowing you to plunk down progress tokens when there isn’t any visible threat to deal with. His biggest drawback is the threat of 11, which isn’t horrible for what you can have out of him but is still on the high end.

Legolas – There are three important things to note on Legolas’ card: Ranged, 3 Attack, and his ability to place progress tokens when helping defeat an enemy. That 3 attack is really nice, and helps make up for his unimpressive willpower and defense. He’ll often be a hero you keep back along with a dedicated blocker, allowing Legolas to cut through swaths of enemies via the only efficient way that Tactics can quest in this Core Set. Ranged is a keyword that is nearly meaningless in a solo game playing with one deck, but as soon as you add another player it can become important because it allows him to attack an enemy that is engaged with another player.

Thalin – His willpower is his weakest stat, but it is probably the one you’ll use him for the most often because of his ability to deal damage to enemies as they are revealed. That means anything with one health dies instantly, something very important in certain scenarios as we’ll discuss in the fourth post. His defense is better than Legolas, allowing him to take hits a little better, but he seems to be really only worth including if you plan to quest with him every round.

The Lore Sphere Heroes



Beravor – Her stats are solid. As a very well-rounded hero, this alone would make her stand out. Her threat is a little on the high side, but it is one less than Gimli (who is identical apart from health) and two less than Aragorn (whose attack is one higher) so in comparison that actually isn’t a bad cost. Where she shines, and why so many people are thrilled to use her in their decks, is for her action to draw cards. Being able to dig in your deck is no small benefit, allowing you to get that event, ally, or attachment you really need. She can be held back until the end of the round in case you need a defender or a boost to an attack more than a card. They have errata’d the text on her to make that ability once per round, but even with that change she’s definitely one of the more useful heroes in the Core Set.

Denethor – There are three things I really like about Denethor, and they are why I usually add him into a deck when I want Lore: his low threat, his 3 defense, and his ability to peek at the encounter deck. He is perfect for sitting back while the other heroes quest, leaving you a capable defender if an enemy gets revealed. In those best-case scenarios where an enemy never appears, his ability allows you to see the top card of the encounter deck and either put it on the top or the bottom of the deck. This is not only useful at the end of a round so you could possibly plan on what comes next, but it also could allow you to peek ahead of dealing shadow cards when the enemies attack. More often than not, the card I see goes right back on top but then I can plan my questing and combat phases for the next round based on that information. Better to deal with the threat you know is coming than to risk revealing something even nastier, right?

Glorfindel – The knee-jerk reaction is that this guy is a great hero. Five health. Three willpower. The ability to heal. Three attack. If you need a quester and don’t want to include Eowyn or Aragorn, then he is a good replacement. But that threat is so high, and his ability is one that I find I rarely make use of during a game. That one resource could be put toward a card in my hand, or saving up for those expensive cards in my hand. Lore has a lot of cards that allow you to heal, including some ally cards that will let you do that every round once they are in play. So he ends up being that hero who is really only in there if you don’t use Aragorn or Eowyn instead, either of whom I would include over him. I suppose if you are running Tactics/Lore…

The Leadership Sphere Heroes



Aragorn – This is arguably the best hero in the entire Core Set. His stats are all excellent. His threat can be an issue, but if you pair him with two lower-threat heroes then it isn’t as much of a detriment. His ability to ready by paying a resource is invaluable, allowing him to quest and attack, or to quest and defend. In a solo game his Sentinel keyword is useless, but in a multiplayer game that adds even more benefit to bringing him in a deck because he can take an attack directed at another player. As you will see in the next article, there are also some very specific cards that synergize with Aragorn in this Core Set so that raises his value even more. If you are including Leadership in a deck, he is the hero you probably want to be using.

Gloin – In a deck with lots of healing, this dwarf might actually become useful. As it stands, he is one of the other heroes that never sees the chance to appear in one of my decks because he is, overall, unremarkable. Sure, his stats themselves aren’t horrible. And his response isn’t a bad one, really. You get resources for every point of damage he suffers. But the limitation is that its usefulness caps at around 3 unless you have healing or a way to take additional damage. His problem is that he just isn’t as good with ability or stats as some of the other choices for the same, or very close, threat in your deck.

Theodred – The real reason why Gloin is left behind is because of Theodred. Yes, his stats are a little worse for one threat less. But where this guy wins is his response to add a resource to the pool of a hero who is committed to the quest. Which, guess what? It gives you the resource to ready Aragorn. This combo right here, as I’ll discuss soon, is what makes Theodred a fantastic hero to field when you want to use two Leadership heroes. Plus he also is handy to have when you need to boost your resource generation of a specific sphere in order to play an expensive card.

The Spirit Sphere Heroes




Dunhere – Welcome to the sphere of mostly unimpressive stats. His low threat is a great thing, but the real reason you’re going to want to consider him in your lineup is because of that ability. Normally you have to engage an enemy in order to attack it, which means it will get a chance to hit you first. Not with Dunhere on your side! He can sock an enemy for 3 when attacking alone, which is enough to deal with some of the lesser enemies you might see in an encounter deck. It isn’t a spectacular ability, but it definitely works well in a deck designed to keep threat really low.

Eleanor – I will be the first to admit that I do not use her nearly as much as I should, and I think the problem is because I play solo. Denethor is great to keep back until late in a round because he excels at blocking with that 3 defense. Eleanor’s 2 isn’t bad, but there are too many chances she’s going to take some damage if left to defend. But that ability, allowing you to cancel the effect of a card revealed from the encounter deck, can be huge. She might not be designed for solo play, but I could see her being very welcome in any multiplayer game you might play.

Eowyn – If I were to log my decks that I built, not counting mono-sphere decks, I am almost certain Eowyn would be on every one of them. And why not? As a solo player, it is hard to beat her 4 willpower each questing phase. Not to mention her ability to boost that by a point if I need it to advance that quest, clear a location, or to avoid an increase in threat. Every deck I build in the core set begins with her and with very good reason. Just don’t put any unnecessary damage on her – encounter cards getting revealed can kill her off and leave you floundering to scrape by the last leg of a quest. Trust me on that.

A few basic pairings

Aragorn + Theodred + Eowyn – As I mentioned already, these two have some excellent synergy because they can both quest each round and then Aragorn can essentially ready for free. Or not, if he isn’t needed. Throwing the two of these with Eowyn can lead to a deck that is able to blaze past almost anything quest-wise. Just be sure to field lots of cheap allies to block so Aragorn can attack when needed.

Legolas + Denethor + Eowyn – I’ve grown less fond of tri-sphere decks lately because it can be hard to afford cards, and this grouping would be no different. Where they have synergy, though, is in having a strong attacker, a strong defender, and a strong quester for a starting threat of only 26. Most decks I make start between 28-31, so having those few extra rounds to set your board up for whatever is flipped is a great benefit. Plus consider Legolas’ excellent addition to questing whenever he attacks.

Eleanor + Denethor + Beravor – This wouldn’t be as great in a solo situation, but if you want a strong support deck to field when playing with friends this is where it is at. You can cancel treacheries, peek ahead at the encounter deck, and help whoever is in need to draw cards. If you want to go all-in on playing a supportive role you might really enjoy this deck. The card pool for Lore and Spirit also help to support that idea. And I actually find that one of my favorite dual-sphere combos to play solo is Lore and Spirit, just not with this trio. You guessed it, swap out Eleanor of Eowyn and you have one of my favorite solo combos for a slow, but steady, progression that is very dependent on some card draws for certain quests.

Gimli + Legolas + Aragorn – On the other side of things, maybe you like going all out and being able to attack and defend at will. This would actually pair really well with the above deck for two players running through the Core Set together, as this gives you both Sentinel and Ranged to help pull off any threats that go after the support deck. The biggest problem with this deck is the starting threat of 32, which means there are a lot of nasty enemies that won’t just sit and wait for you to be ready for them. Meaning you need to not only draw that card you need in an opening hand, but also be able to hold off until you have the resources to play it.

So there you have it, a brief evaluation of each of the heroes in the core set, some of my thoughts on them, and four pairings that you could take and test against the Core Set scenarios. How would I build the deck at this point? For a dual-sphere deck, throw all of the cards in both spheres together, add in three Gandalf cards (or two if building a second deck to use), and run with that. Pay attention to the cards you always try to play as those should definitely stay in the deck. Also pay attention to the cards that seem to always sit in your hand, either because they aren’t ever useful or are too expensive. Those are likely good candidates to trim from the deck.

Running three spheres in a deck and don’t want to deckbuild yet? Grab two of each card in those spheres and some Gandalfs and see how that plays with the same parameters as before. Even if the deck is too large, this will let you see a great number of cards during game situations to see how they perform. At this point, that is the most important thing you’re wanting to find: how useful are these cards?

I’d love to hear if you try out one of these decks going through Journey Through Mirkwood. Got a combination of heroes from the Core Set that you prefer? Comment below and let me know what that is as well!

Here are the other two planned posts for this month, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #1: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/lotr-lcg-str...
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set?
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event
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Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:54 am
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Review for Two - Lignum

David Wiley
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Waukee
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Thank you for checking review #36 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A review copy of this game was provided in exchange for an honest review. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.

An Overview of Lignum (Second Edition)



Lignum is a game designed by Alexander Huemer and is published by Capstone Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 90-120 minute play time.

Starting with a limited amount of resources and workers, you set out to run your lumber mill as efficiently as possible. Savvy investments and proper planning will ensure that your mill will be the most profitable. Be cautious, however, for competition is fierce! You will need to secure the best cutting areas, make use of limited contract workers, and continually update and replace your equipment. Your competitors are not the only thing to worry about as you will also need to store enough firewood and food to survive the harsh winters.

Lignum is a strategic optimization game that portrays the logging industry in the 19th century. Each round, players travel to the nearby forest, picking up tools and hiring workers along the way. After felling timber, players must decide how to transport their wood to their sawmills and if the wood should be processed or sold immediately, all the while optimizing their entire processing chain.

The second edition of Lignum also includes the "Joinery & Buildings" expansion. In this expansion, players can visit two additional locations along the supply path. Players may now acquire special buildings that give them unique, special abilities for the remainder of the game. Additionally, players can acquire joiners to help generate more income each round; if those joiners are supplied with the appropriate wood, players can earn extra money at the end of the game!



Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

There are only a few changes in setup for this player count. The starting wood supply in the center will have (2) firewood placed on four of the spaces and (3) firewood placed on the other two spaces, along with a player's token going onto these two spaces so that each player will cut in a (3) wood area for the first round. The tokens placed along the track each round will consist of (2) X tokens, (2) rafts, (1) cart, (1) sled, (2) food, (1) money, (1) saw, and (3) random orange "building" tokens. These are randomly distributed throughout the empty spaces around the board track each round, and the big inclusion would be those X tokens which essentially shrink the board by two spaces.

Six bearers, eight cutters, and three sawyers are placed on their respective places on the board. Two task cards are placed face-up, and four planned work cards are used. If using the Joiners expansion, six random building tiles are also placed face-up along the board.

The game is played over the course of two years, with each year being broken into the four seasons. Spring, Summer, and Fall are all played in an identical manner. Players start by secretly selecting one of six areas where they will cut wood that season, revealing them at the same time and putting those tokens in the associated area. If there is food in the area, they get that food immediately - however, if two or more people select the same area the food is divided equally with any leftover remaining on the space. After that the players take turns moving their foreman around the board along the numbered track, taking the action associated with the space. This ranges from taking the token on the space and getting its reward (or putting it in their supply), hiring workers, planning work for future seasons, gaining tasks that provide a bonus at the end of the game if completed, and buying/selling goods.



After that comes the cutting phase, where players use their woodcutters to chop wood in their chosen location. The first player to reach the end of the track cuts first, etc. so if two players chose the same spot there is strong incentive to jump ahead in the previous phase in order to cut the desired wood. That cut wood is placed on the player's supply area of the board. Then players can assign their bearers to transport the wood from the supply down to either the cutting or the selling area of their board. Then, players can assign sawyers to cut the wood (but they need a 1-time use saw token per sawyer) and either place it into the firewood storage space or into the selling space. Players then can assign wood to task cards, sell wood for money, and then wood remaining in the sale area advances one step along the drying track.

In winter, a lot less happens. Each player takes a wood of their choice and adds it to their supply. Then, they can use their colored meeple to either cut two firewood, transport wood from their supply to the cutting/selling area (but only if they have a sled), or to cut one piece of wood. In the second year only they can then assign wood to a task card. After that comes the time to pay the required food and firewood to feed and heat, which is determined by a 1st Year and a 2nd Year winter card chosen at the start of the game. Any wood or food that cannot be paid will cost 3 money per unit the player is short. Loans can be taken to help pay this debt, but must be paid back (with interest) at the end of the game.

After both years are played there is one final selling phase and then players tally up their money. The player with the most money will win.

My Thoughts

I'm all for variability in a game, and this has ample changes to allow a fresh experience from play-to-play and, to an extent, even within the game itself. There are five different Winter cards for each year, each card having two different sides. So your amount of food and wood will change each time you play. The task cards only have a few out at a time, and those only change when a person buys them. There is the variable reseeding of the forest areas between rounds. There are only a certain number of the planned work cards used each game, and only a certain number of the buildings used from the Joiners mini-expansion. And then, round to round, the position in which the tokens appear will be different. So there is a lot of freshness to be found even at the round level in optimizing your path in order to grab what you want first or get to the end before your opponents so you can cut first.

The planned work actions are a fantastic mechanism in the game. There are only a few available for the game, so you can't always count on a certain strategy being available but you'll know from the start what you can use. These can be really powerful, such as getting food when shipping wood down the river. Food is usually in short supply, so any action that can provide food is a great one. You have three tokens to use, allowing you to plan either one, two, or three seasons in advance to use that action. But each season you can only use this space once, meaning you if you want to do two of the actions in the same season you need to go there two seasons ahead of time and drop a 2, then next season go and drop the 1 on the other card you want to execute. But some cards don't do anything if used in winter, and if you're like me and accidentally ship your logs down river in the Fall with a planned work action they won't arrive until the Spring rather than the Winter because the river freezes in Winter. It is certainly possible to ignore the planned work and do well. It is also possible to do a little bit of it, using just your 1 token to plan for the next season. But this system rewards those players who are able to think 2-3 seasons ahead and plan accordingly. And I love that!



The worker placement aspect of this game was what initially got me interested, as you are all traveling along the same 18-22 spaces on the board. Some spaces, such as where you hire workers, have enough space for everyone to stop there. Many of the spaces hold only one foreman, and most of them have a 1-time use token on there which means the first person to stop there gets it. Which means if you stop there, someone else is able to jump ahead of you, which brings about the internal debate on whether you need that item on the way or if you need that one six spaces down the path to make sure no one else takes it. You can jump ahead as far as you'd like with your move, but once you go there you can't travel back. If you're a fan of aggressive play, you can go as far as to take a spot you know the other person needs in order to force them to buy that food they are short on, and so forth, but at the risk that they might leapfrog you and get to that spot you really wanted. It all works magnificently, especially since the tokens will appear in a different location each turn, meaning that food you need might be near the very end and so you really have to agonize over when to start jumping ahead and how far you need to go to be sure to get that spot.

It is a process to chop the wood, move it to the cutting area, and saw it down into the more useful pieces. This makes me appreciate the whole process, but also provides a great set of mechanics in the game. You need various numbers of each type of worker, although you may not need all of them on a given round. There are ways to be more efficient with moving the wood, although some come at the cost of a delayed delivery. You also have to provide saws for the sawyers to use, making it even more costly to do. You also have your colored meeple to account for, which I forget to account for more times than not and end up overspending. Did I mention that hired workers are only there for that season, which means every season you need to hire more if you want to do that action again! I really enjoy this aspect of the game.



Money = victory points. And unlike a game like Five Tribes (which uses money as points), they final scores are usually low. Our average scores are 57-58 with the absolute highs coming on our last play: 69 for me and 80 for her. Most come around the 45-55 range, which means that every dollar usually counts. I haven't won a game yet, but my first two games were lost by a combined total of 3 points. Yes, 3 points. You try telling me that my bad habit of hiring a worker I don't need wasn't a difference maker. This game forces you to be thrifty because it is not only a challenge to make money, but your essential actions of hiring workers, buying food, and buying saws all cost you money. Want a task card that can score you 18-23 points? It costs you money. Want to use a planned work action that someone else is already on? It costs you money! You start with 5 money, and for the first few seasons you'll over between 0-10 pretty regularly. After all, it is quite the process to get that wood cut, moved, sawed, dried, and sold for a big profit! All of which feels like it pays off at the end of the game.

The Joiner mini-expansion is an easy expansion to include. I left it out for our first two plays to learn the base game and understand it. After playing with the expansion, though, I see no reason to ever leave it out. Even when teaching new players, because it honestly does not add to the complexity of the game while opening at least one path to higher scoring. And a player, like my wife did, can completely ignore the expansion content and do just fine. It adds two more stops along the path. Easy to add, easy to learn, and it definitely enriches the game. Do yourself a favor and just learn it with your first game. You won't regret it, as it adds in seamlessly.

You can play this game and do well without paying attention to other players. You can have a great experience even if you intentionally avoid taking the things they need. However, your game will get better if you take note of their needs and try to disrupt them. Our last game as lost because I didn't realize she had her wood set up to be able to pick up and score two additional task cards in the final seasons of the game. Her three completed tasks blew past my one task + triple joiner combo and I didn't see it coming. Don't want a multiplayer solitaire game? Good, because this is a game where paying attention to the other players can make a big difference. I would gladly have spent one money to prevent her scoring an extra 20+ from that last task card!



I need to find a way to have myself not be the banker in this game, as I could see it really slowing things down in a game with more players. I'm very interested in the new insert that Meeple Realty just announced for the game, as it might make the distribution of money/wood/food an easier process. The game is a bit fiddly, but never in a way that really detracts from the game experience. If anything it adds to the experience of seeing the wood progress from area to area, and going from cut wood to sawed wood, etc.

If you dislike a game where feeding and heating are a mandatory requirement, a mechanic seen in games like Agricola, then you won't be a fan of it here. Overall, this never feels out of place, however, it definitely has a chance of slowing you down in your money-making engine because you need to get wood for year-end heating while also getting wood to sell for profit. You need food, and there are only two spaces each season that get food tokens and two spaces in the wood-cutting area that get food cubes added per placement card. It can become a hard thing to gain, making you have to consider purchasing food in the Fall rather than lose 3 coins per food you are short. So while it is a requirement each year, I did find it easier to accomplish overall than Agricola.

Let's face it, the color scheme of the game isn't spectacular unless you really love browns and greens. The board and components don't pop when on the table but, as far as I am concerned, they don't have to. The color schemes make sense in terms of the theme. But if you need a pretty-looking game than this one might end up leaving you disappointed.

On behalf of my wife: she doesn't like how long the drying process takes. See, before the wood gets to the spots where you can sell them at an added profit, it has to take a season to advance to a spot that is the same as when it enters the selling area. So that wood you need to get to the +2 area for your task card really takes 3 seasons to get there. As for me, I think this is fine as it stands but my wife wasn't a big fan of that initial "add no value" drying space. I think she should just get some huts and then she can zoom those right along as she pleases.

Final Verdict

This game has hit me in a way that few games accomplish. I fell in love with this game from the first play, and I can't stop thinking about Lignum. I am pretty sure that, if I had no restraint on time, this is the game I'd be pulling out almost every time someone asked what game I wanted to play. And I am still trying to wrap my head around the full scope of strategy that this game has to offer.

There is so much going on in this game, yet it all ties together in a manner that feels like it should be easy. I still find myself failing in my attempts to plan work effectively, wishing I had a certain token still available or choosing to do an action in the wrong season so that I don't reap the rewards in time. Yet rather than being a source of frustration, this actually has me excited to try again and do better the next time I play.

Victory in the game has eluded me, something that could be a source of frustration as well. Yet I find myself enjoying the experience even when I lose. Most of the time I don't lose badly - my first two games I lost by a combined total of 3 points - but the last game we played I got crushed by her clever planning that I didn't see coming. I obliterated my previous high score only to watch her take things a notch above even that.

Lignum is that perfect game that provides a fulfilling game experience, although I'd always be willing to reset and play again after finishing. This is the sort of game to play when you only have time or the desire to play one game. I'd gladly travel to a game day to play this and nothing else and consider it time well-spent. It plays reasonably well for the timeframe - our latest game took around 90 minutes for the two of us - which means it could even be played on a weeknight after the little one goes to bed.

It can be hard to read through the positive excitement written in many reviews out there, so let's be completely transparent for a moment about Lignum. I've played a lot of great new games this year. I've reviewed three dozen games so far and, looking at that list, I'd put this above any one of them. Yes, even my much-loved Kingdom Builder and my newer-loved Mystic Vale. Both of those games will appear on my year-end Top 10 list, but neither will be as high as Lignum. There is a very real chance that this game is in my Top 3. It is that excellent of a game.



Edward at Heavy Cardboard likes to state "Theme schmeme" and I agree - don't let a lack of interest in woodcutting put you off from a game that is excellent mechanically. There are a lot of great, tense moments throughout the game. This is one that, when it hits the table, leaves me feeling satisfied. It plays well with two, and we've tried it with three and enjoyed that experience as well. I imagine it scales just as fine with four, being a great game to add to your collection because it can be used for any of the advertised player counts.

If you like euro games and either enjoy heavier games, or want to try something that is mechanically different than an Uwe Rosenberg game but similar in weight, this would be an excellent choice. I've played two excellent games from Capstone this year, and this one secured them as one of my top publishers. There are other games they produce that don't play 2-players, but I intend to at least play, if not own, them all at some point in time.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas...
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Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:36 am
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New-to-Me First Impressions 10/16/17 - 11/15/17

David Wiley
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I began this a few months ago and really enjoyed going through and providing these impressions. The thought was to give some coverage to those games that I may not play enough times to review, or which may never quite make it to a review due to the number of games played and the time it takes to review a game. So here are some brief first impressions of games I recently got my first plays with. I'm also including a "Replay rating" for each game on a scale of 1-10. 1 would be "I'd rather sit out and watch others play games than play this again" and 10 being "Save me a seat, I'd gladly play this any time!"

A Feast for Odin - My wife is a huge Uwe Rosenberg fan, so when we had a chance to get this with the Meeple Realty insert in exchange for a few games collecting dust on our shelves, I had to jump on that opportunity. We both enjoy Patchwork. I love just about anything Viking themed. And she loves both Worker Placement and Rosenberg games. This all sounds like a recipe for success, and my first play was solo and left me wanting to pull it back out again. Then, of course, the next game on this list came along again and blew all other games off to the side, so it hasn't hit the table again yet. But I plan to change that tonight when sitting down to a game with my wife... In terms of the game itself, I really liked the puzzle aspect of the boards and that spaces used 1-4 workers depending on which part of the board you go to. Part of me questions, with how open the game is, how much replay value there really is here but for now I am eager to dive right in some more. 7/10

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game- This isn't new to me, per say, but it recently reentered my collection. When I first had the game, I was resistant to expand the game beyond the core set so I traded it away to a friend. Now that the game has returned, and vaulted up to be my favorite solo game in my collection (with good reason!), I have changed my tune a little on the expandable game. Instead of seeing it as an endless money grab, I see it as a way to continue to freshen the experience of a game I really, really enjoy playing. My recent shift in thinking from "play more new games!" to "replay favorites" was partially inspired by this game, along with many others. There are so many options in this game, and now that there are Saga sets out there I have a great idea where to begin expanding into this game. 10/10

Imperial Settlers - I picked this one up on a whim, passing over some games that I almost-immediately regretted not buying. I stuck it out and set this game up to try as a solo play and discovered that there was a nice, tight engine builder in this card-based game. So I set it up again and played a second time that day, having fun once more as I played through the solo mode (which will end up growing stale eventually). The good news is that I think this is my type of game with engine building via cards. 7/10

Photosynthesis - Sometimes the environment in which you game can have a real impact on the experience of the game. That was very much the case when my wife taught me this game. I know, for a fact, that my experience was impacted in a negative way that had nothing to do with the game itself, and so this is very high on my "I need to play that again" list even though my first play left me feeling "meh" about it. 5/10

Arkham Horror: The Card Game- Lord of the Rings 2.0 is what some might call this, and mechanically there are some really striking similarities. But the two games, theme not considered, are vastly different in approach. Lord of the Rings is designed mostly to be played a single scenario at a time, whereas Arkham Horror is supposed to be a campaign of X scenarios strung together. They both require deck construction, but Arkham Horror's approach is smaller and more streamlined in a sense because you each have an unique investigator rather than fielding a trio of heroes. If you love the constructing of decks and fine-tuning them in the fires of challenge, you'll dig Lord of the Rings. If you prefer a game where the narrative is as important as the gameplay and where the deck construction is easier and less impactful, then Arkham Horror is for you. My wife would probably prefer the design of Arkham Horror more, and honestly if there are two games that would be worth my money to expand, it would be this and Lord of the Rings because they are both soloable. If Lord of the Rings didn't exist, this might have a shot at being at the top of my solo list if I played it solo. As it stands, I'd choose Lord of the Rings because I love the deck construction and the theme more than the fine-tuned mechanics and strong narrative. But in all honesty, I'd have a blast with either one. 9/10

Trajan - I think I am firmly on the path to becoming a Feld fan, as this is the third Feld game I have played and the third one I really enjoyed. I am pretty sure this is a game I'll like even better than Castles of Burgundy, which is still a really fun game, but I found the decisions in this one were fantastic. I'd really love to play this one again, as I think it takes a full game to really understand and enjoy that personal mancala mechanic. 9/10

Between Two Cities- Stonemaier Games delivers yet again on a pleasant gaming experience. It won't be the heavyweight in a collection that a Scythe or Viticulture would be in rankings, but this is one I could see being a great addition to a game collection. It has some unique takes on tile laying and end-game scoring to determine the winner. I just so happened to be in the highest scoring city overall as well as have the top 2nd-highest scoring city. We used the Capitals expansion, which I'm sure enhances the base experience but this is one I'd really love to try with 2 or playing solo before purchasing. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem likely so onto the Christmas list it goes... 8/10

Queendomino - A part of me groaned when my wife came home with this game. I enjoy Kingdomino for what it is: a very light and fast filler game. I was expecting more of the same in this one, making it a game that I would be willing to play but never really want to play. What I wasn't prepared for was just how much was added, mechanically, to this version of the game. It has a new terrain type. It has up to three additional optional actions that can be done on a turn. This took the predecessor and, rather than giving us more of the same, it took the game to a new level of complexity. It is still a simple enough game, but there are a lot more interesting decisions to be made over the course of the game. Which means this is a game that I am actually okay with owning and playing. 7/10

Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game - This was one I was eager to try since it was a brand new LCG and so the barrier to entry would be relatively low. A small card pool is a great time to plunge into a game like this. And yes, it was a lot of fun. I liked a lot of the things the game did mechanically. The fate, which determines how long a character is on the board, is outstanding. However, this game had two strikes against it: it didn't blow me away quite like Netrunner did, and it is an LCG. If I'm going to collect an LCG, it makes the most sense to have it be the cooperative, soloable ones out there. Unless my wife gets hooked on one of the more competitive ones, I'll never have a chance to hone a deck and improve my skill in an LCG like Netrunner or Legend of Five Rings. 6/10

Friday - Anyone who has paid attention to my taste in game mechanics knows by now that I am a pretty big fan of deckbuilding games. I also happen to play a reasonable amount of solo games - not usually because I prefer to solo a game but because my wife isn't available at the time so I play a game on my own. I've been meaning to try this solo-only game for a while and, after a few plays, I find that this is a really solid and challenging game. There is a line between risk and reward that has to be balanced well, and it can be real easy to fall on the wrong side of that line. I don't know if this would be a game I would want to play often, so it may not enter my collection, but it is definitely a very solid solo game with a small box. 7/10
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Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:13 pm
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LotR LCG Strategy: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set

David Wiley
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Welcome to what is going to be the first in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to get started with learning the game and, after that, what to purchase after the Core Set. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you'll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you'll encounter.

That leads us to the question: what do you do first after opening the game? Where should you get started as a newbie to the Lord of the Rings: LCG? The answer will apply whether you are playing solo or playing with another player...

Play through the Passage Through Mirkwood quest with each preconstructed deck

The very best way to gain an understanding of the various cards in this core set would be to try each of the four Spheres out. This is best accomplished by running through the first scenario - one that can provide enough challenge to test the deck but not enough to create confusion and frustration - with a deck consisting of the three Heroes and all the cards of that particular sphere. Each mono-sphere deck is capable of making it through this quest, although some will be more likely to succeed than others. This will let you see the strengths and weaknesses of each trio of heroes for the sphere and learn what some of the cards in each sphere can accomplish. For example:


Tactics is really good at killing things and surviving attacks, but isn't so great at questing

If you are going to lose with one of the four decks, this is the one that will probably lose. And it isn't through any real fault of this sphere - they will be more than capable of handling any enemies that spawn and they do have ways of getting some quest tokens onto the board. But they are heavy on attachments and on events that affect attack, defense, or the ability to attack. There are only a handful of allies in the deck, and none of them really add to the questing power of your group. Being able to see the deck in action, and witness both its strengths and its shortcomings, will pay off when it comes time to construct a deck. You'll be able to know that this sphere will need to be paired with a sphere that is excellent at questing.

After you've played through the quest with the faction, take some time to look through the rest of the cards in the deck and see what cards didn't come out over the course of the quest. Doing this now, while the playthrough is fresh in your mind, will help you to see and evaluate how that could have possibly functioned if you had drawn that card. Especially in a losing situation, being able to look for a card where you say "If I had this in my hand, I could have overcome X and then I might have won" is valuable because that will help you to identify those cards that you'll want to consider including in a deck.

The Gandalf cards

The one sphere-less card in the core set is Gandalf, a very powerful ally card. You'll find later, when constructing decks, that this is the one auto-include card in every deck. If you are playing solo and using one deck, you'll want to include three copies in your deck. If you are building two decks, you'll want two in each deck. It is that good. There can be some value in adding the Gandalf card to these four decks as you test them, as it will allow you to not only see how his card can be a big benefit but also help you to preplan for the cost needed to play him in a deck.

However, his card can also detract from the experience of seeing how a particular sphere functions and its ability to operate independently. There is a good argument to include him at this point, and a good argument to be had for leaving him out. Which is why I'd probably suggest putting only one copy in the mono-sphere deck. This will give you a chance to see him in action if you draw him, but will also not clog the deck down with multiple copies of the card. But if you feel inclined to do so, you can leave him out entirely or put in 2-3 copies.

The Next Steps

The next thing you are going to want to do is to construct a deck of your own, putting two spheres together in order to create a larger, more versatile deck. This is the area that I will be looking at in the next few posts, all of which I am going to aim to create this month. Here are the other three planned posts, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Heroes - In this post I will look at all twelve heroes in the Core Set and discuss a little bit about them, their abilities, and give some thoughts on solid pairings of heroes in a dual-sphere deck.

Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest - In this post I will go over some strategies on how I would blindly construct a deck that is suited to tackle a quest without knowing what dangers are lurking in the specific quest. In other words, what general things should a deck have in order to have a fighting chance against most quests?

Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest - I'll take a look at specifically building a deck to tackle known threats in the second Core Set quest: Journey Down the Anduin. We'll cover what those cards are that you need to plan on dealing with and some possible counters that exist in the Core Set.

Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set? - I'll look at the various suggestions that are frequently presented to the newer player and evaluate what those have to offer. Since I've not purchased anything other than the Core Set myself, this will present the thoughts of a newer player trying to weigh the pros/cons of each possible path of purchase.

Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event - December is coming, which means the 2017 Fellowship is arriving soon at local game stores. I'll take a look at a possible deck using just the Core Set, as well as possible low-cost purchases to expand a deck construction beyond just the Core for the event. Then, after my event on December 17th I will come back with an impressions/reaction post based on participating in my first Fellowship Event.
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Mon Nov 13, 2017 5:54 pm
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A New Feature Approaches

David Wiley
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I've had a revelation lately, not the kind of thing that one must take lightly.

It is one my wife, when she reads this, will probably approve of and even be thankful for this revelation. You see, it was all sparked by a simple question via text yesterday asking me what games I've been wanting. My mind started to race as I listed a bunch of games and then she amended the request to which games at Barnes & Noble I might want since that was the likely shopping place. After some struggle, not knowing for sure what games Barnes & Noble might actually have on their shelves, she turned it toward Amazon.

I was ecstatic and immediately was able to list half a dozen games at a reasonable price range, and vowed to get around to putting together a list for her ease of use with future requests. After all, 'tis the season when non-gamers are going to ask her what her gamer husband wants for Christmas and, like any loving wife, she'll tell them board games.

This list went through several pre-draft phases. It went from having a few games to having a ton of games, then back down to a more selective list. And through this process I realized something: while there are some new games I want, I am finding myself wanting a good number of expansions for games in my collection.

I can hear her initial groan right now. My wife is, in general, not a big fan of expansions. But I hope she's willing to hear me out.

This year has been a tremendous year for me in terms of playing new games. I came into 2017 having played well under 100 modern board games and I've played 151 unique titles so far this year across 563 plays. However, only 33 of those games have been played 6 or more times, and only 9 have hit the 10+ play mark. I've been hitting quantity, and it was an important goal to have, but I think the time has come to focus more on repeat plays of a game. Becoming a reviewer has been a blessing in getting to try out and review newer games, but at the sacrifice that I always feel the need to move on to the next game in the review queue rather than continue to explore and enjoy a game I'm really digging at the moment.

I'll still be playing new games and reviewing games that show up; however, I want to change part of my focus and dive in a little deeper. I want to get 10-20 plays of a game and really understand the intricacies of the game. I want to discover what games will hold up over the test of many plays and remain a game I desire to keep playing again and again. If a game fails to excite me after that many plays, it is probably ready to leave our collection.

Later this month you'll see a new review or two as usual. You'll see, by reader demand, a Top 10 list of solo games. But you'll also start to see something completely different: strategy articles. I want to dig deeper into games, and as I do so I will share some strategies to help you see a game in a different light. They might be in the flavor of writing articles about strategies to pursue using each side in War of the Ring. It might be strategies considering board state and placement in a game like Kingdom Builder. To begin, I will start exploring how to get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. As a relative beginner myself, I hope to help others interested in the game ease into the Core Set, explore what each faction in there can do, cover some deckbuilding strategies I've found success with, and possibly run through how I try and conquer the second Scenario in that Core Set.

I'm excited to dive deeper into games, and potentially to even reach out and interview some of the designers of these excellent games that I really enjoy playing time and again. Those games, after all, are what become the "forever games" on a shelf and would be ones I'd consider essentials to try for a collection.


Curious as to some of those eventual games/expansions on my Christmas wish list? These should provide, to some extent, an idea of some of those games that I plan to expand and therefore play in greater depth moving forward (which makes them good candidates for an eventual strategy focus on the blog). As a parting gift, here are what I believe will be some of those making the final cut of each, in no particular order:

* Lisboa
* The Ruhr: A Story of Coal Trade
* Charterstone
* Above and Below
* Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
* Raiders of the North Sea


Expansions:

* Tuscany: Essential Edition (for Viticulture)
* Mystic Vale: Vale of Magic
* Android: Netrunner - Terminal Directive
* Kingdom Builder: Marshlands
* Scythe: Invaders from Afar
* Scythe: The Wind Gambit
* Terraforming Mars: Hellas and Elysium
* Lord of the Rings LCG: The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill
* Lord of the Rings LCG: The Hobbit: On the Doorstep
* Lord of the Rings LCG: The Black Riders
* Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn: The Law of the Lions
* Ashes; Rise of the Phoenixborn: The Song of the Soaksend
* Barony: Sorcery
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Thu Nov 9, 2017 8:03 pm
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Review for Two - Codenames: Duet

David Wiley
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Thank you for checking review #35 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A review copy of this game was provided in exchange for an honest review. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.

An Overview of Codenames: Duet



Codenames: Duet is a game designed by Vlaada Chvatil and is published by Czech Games Edition. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 15-30 minute play time.

Codenames Duet keeps the basic elements of Codenames — give one-word clues to try to get someone to identify your agents among those on the table — but now you're working together as a team to find all of your agents. (Why you don't already know who your agents are is a question that Congressional investigators will get on your back about later!)

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

From the game's description:

To set up play, lay out 25 word cards in a 5×5 grid. Place a key card in the holder so that each player sees one side of the card. Each player sees a 5×5 grid on the card, with nine of the squares colored green (representing your agents) and three squares colored black (representing assassins). Three of the nine squares on each side are also green on the other side, one assassin is black on both sides, one is green on the other side and the other is an innocent bystander on the other side.

Collectively, you need to reveal all fifteen agents — without revealing an assassin — before time runs out in order to win the game. Either player can decide to give the first one-word clue to the other player, along with a number. Whoever receives the clue places a finger on a card to identify that agent. If correct, they can attempt to identify another one. If they identify a bystander, then their guessing time ends. If they identify an assassin, you both lose! Unlike regular Codenames, they can keep guessing as long as they keep identifying an agent each time; this is useful for going back to previous clues and finding ones they missed earlier. After the first clue is given, players alternate giving clues.


My Thoughts

Let's dive right in, shall we? This game, in spite of its cooperative reshaping, remains the game that so many people have come to love and enjoy. At its root, this is still a version of Codenames. However, its most brilliant twist comes in the key card. What you see as an assassin on your side might be the clue I need you to guess on my side. That throws people off so hard when they are trying to guess a clue, and I love seeing that happen. It is a struggle to wrap your brain around the idea of picking a word that you are convinced will make you lose. Bravo for this change.



The components are all of the same quality you found in the other Codenames games. The cards are nice and durable, the tokens are a good cardboard, and everything is built to be played often. The box is a little oversized compared to what it needs to be, but this could probably hold another version or two of Codenames in one box for those who like to condense and save shelf space.

The length of this game is a good one - perfect to get in several plays on a night after work or even to get a round or two in during a lunch hour. Add in the fact that you really only need a handful of the components to play a few rounds and that can make this both portable and playable in those windows of opportunity that arise for gamers. Being a cooperative game designed for 2 players, it also tends to be less loud than a full game of Codenames, making it something you could even play at a restaurant while waiting on your meal.



The time tracker is an interesting, and challenging, mechanic. I definitely think it is necessary in a cooperative game - otherwise you're just playing until you win or hit an assassin every time. The campaign (below) throws in a few wrenches, making it so only X number of turns can end in a wrong guess before you "lose". It also forces you to get creative with your clues, because there are not enough turns to give all 1-word clues and win. This can lead to some frustrating situations where you need to give a 2-3 word clue but nothing pairs together by any stretch of the imagination.

When you hear the word "campaign", you might start to get some impressive and grand ideas about what that will provide. Prior to the game's release, I heard about them developing a campaign mode and it raised my excitement for this game. And what they have is certainly a functional campaign, complete with a map and locations to try and win under varying conditions. Some places are easy, others would be incredibly difficult. It isn't what I was expecting, as all it does is mix up the number of tokens you use to track time and how many of those can be spent on wrong guesses and still have you win. But you, like me, might find it to be less-than-interesting.

Part of the fun of Codenames is playing with a large group of people and working with a diverse set of viewpoints and interpretations. This can lead to some wild clues, crazy reasoning for guesses, and many other memorable moments. This can be played with more than two, being possible to play on teams, but the core concept of a 2-player Codenames has the possibility of losing some of those moments that made Codenames so great as a party game. For instance, if you sit down to play this with your spouse then you are playing with someone you know fairly well. You can give clues that no one but they would understand. You can read body language that nobody else could interpret as they agonize over a clue to give or a word to guess. Dropping the player count removes so many of those great dynamics that it simply doesn't always feel like Codenames. Much like Super Mario Bros. 2 was the odd game out of the NES Mario games because of its unique approach, this one could be that Codenames game that just never becomes a huge hit for you because it presents completely different dynamics. It won't feel that way for everyone, but it runs that risk. There are great things to be said for exploring new options and player counts for a game like this rather than sticking to just a bunch of rethemes like Disney and Marvel. Some people will really, really love this one. Some people might really dislike it. Most will probably fall somewhere in the middle there. Which leads me to...

Final Verdict

This one is ultimately not a game that fit well for us. I enjoyed my few plays of Codenames well enough, but I am far from being a person who plays and enjoys party games. In fact, I haven't been back to a certain FLGS game day event ever since I was roped into playing a whole bunch of party games because it was the opposite of what I was looking for in a game day. But Codenames was the exception to that rule, and I was really interested in how a 2-player only version would work. The concept of a campaign really interested me.

My wife tends to like some of the lighter games on occasion, and it seemed like Codenames might be a fun change from all the other light fillers on our shelf. It really surprised me at how good she was at the game, as well as how much she enjoyed many of the core Codenames concepts. However, she's gone on record before as preferring to play a game where she is trying to defeat me, not work together. Some cooperative games she has come to enjoy as of late, but this one was not one of them.

I don't know how the regular Codenames game plays at two, but our consensus after multiple plays of this was that we'd both prefer the standard Codenames over the Duet version because we'd rather compete in this game. There are some excellent things this game does, and I really love the twist with the assassins and how each side of the key card is different. Other couples may find this to be the ideal game for them - someone like Rahdo, who loves playing a game with his wife where they have to be a team, will be the perfect pair of gamers for this version of Codenames.

If you really like Codenames and want a unique way to play with fewer players, you might want to check this out. If you enjoy, or prefer, a cooperative game then this is one you won't want to miss out on. It retains enough of the Codenames flavor to make it a good, solid entry into the Codenames line.

This is best expressed by one of the ratings on Heavy Cardboard's 6-point rating system: "It's not you, its us." Essentially, this is a good game. Probably even a great game. It will get a lot of great, glowing reviews and will deserve those. But it won't get them across the board, because this simply isn't the game for us.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas...
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Tue Nov 7, 2017 9:45 pm
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October 2017 Gaming Recap

David Wiley
United States
Waukee
IA
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At the end of each month (or, rather, the beginning of a new month), I will go over the games played solo, as a couple, and as a group for that month. How will my win/loss percentage pan out on solo games? What was the hottest game to hit our table for the month? Can I ever catch up to my wife in 2017 in terms of games won? Find out!

October games played as a couple

The Castles of Burgundy: 1 (David x 1)
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Century: Golem Edition: 1 (David x 1)
Century: Spice Road: 8 (David x 5, Nicole x 3)
Codenames: Duet: 1 (Co-op Loss)
Custom Heroes: 1 (David x 1)
Guilds of London: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Hanamikoji: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Herbaceous: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Jaipur: 1 (David x 1)
Lignum: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Photosynthesis: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Scythe: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)

David's Wins: 14/25, 56%
Nicole's Wins: 10/25, 40%

October games played solo

A Feast for Odin: 1 (1 Win)
Caverna: Cave vs Cave: 1 (1 Win)
Herbaceous: 2 (2 Wins)
Imperial Settlers: 2 (2 Wins)
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: 3 (2 Wins)
Mage Knight Board Game: 1
Night of Man: 2 (1 Win)
Viticulture: Essential Edition: 3

David's Solo Wins: 7/15, 46.67%

October games played as a group

Android: Netrunner: 4 (David x 1)
Biblios: 1
Blood of an Englishman: 2
Century: Spice Road: 2 (David x 1)
Codenames: Duet: 2
Dragon Run: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Fields of Green: 1
The Game: 1 (Co-op Win)
Hanamikoji: 1
Herbaceous: 1 (David x 1)
Honshu: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Kingdom Builder: 2 (Nicole x 1)
Kingdomino: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Lignum: 1
Longhorn: 1
Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City: 1
Patchwork: 1
Portals and Prophets: 2 (Nicole x 1)
Race for the Galaxy: 1 (David x 1)
Sellswords: Olympus: 1 (David x 1)
Seven Dragons: 2 (David x 1)
Star Wars: Destiny: 7 (David x 2)
Stratego: 1
Takenoko: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Valeria: Card Kingdoms: 2 (David x 1)
War of the Ring: 1
Zoo Ball: 1

2017 Games played as a couple

7 Wonders Duel: 6 (David x 4, Nicole x 2)
Aeon's End: 1
Agricola (Revised Edition): 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Albion's Legacy: 1
Argent: The Consortium: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn: 7 (Nicole x 3, David x 4)
Barony: 7 (Nicole x 4, David x 3)
Battle Line: 5 (David x 2, Nicole x 3)
Biblios: 4 (David x 3, Nicole x 1)
Blood Rage: 4 (Nicole x 2, David x 2)
Carcassonne: 1 (David x 1)
The Castles of Burgundy: 3 (David x 1, Nicole x 2)
Castles of Caladale: 3 (Nicole x 3)
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: 3 (Nicole x 3)
Catan: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Caverna: The Cave Farmers: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Caverna: Cave vs Cave: 2 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
Century: Golem Edition: 1 (David x 1)
Century: Spice Road: 9 (David x 5, Nicole x 4)
Codenames: Duet: 1 (Co-op Loss)
Council of Verona: 2 (David x 2)
Crazier Eights: Avalon: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Cry Havoc: 2 (Nicole x 2)
Custom Heroes: 1 (David x 1)
Eight Minute Empire: Legends: 6 (Nicole x 4, David x 2)
Exile Sun: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Fairy Tale: 6 (Nicole x 4, David x 2)
Fields of Green: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Firefly: The Game: 3 (David x 1, Nicole x 2)
Five Tribes: 5 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
Galaxy Trucker: 5 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Guilds of London: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Hanamikoji: 10 (David x 6, Nicole x 4)
Harbour: 5 (David x 2, Nicole x 3)
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle: 2 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Haspelknecht: 5 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
Herbaceous: 9 (David x 6, Nicole x 3)
Holmes: Sherlock x Mycroft: 7 (David x 3, Nicole x 4)
Incantris: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Istanbul: 1 (David x 1)
Jaipur: 1 (David x 1)
The King is Dead: 3 (Nicole x 2, David x 1)
Kingdom Builder: 5 (Nicole x 3, David x 2)
Kingdomino: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival: 4 (David x 3, Nicole x 1)
Legends of Andor: 2 (1 Co-op win)
Lignum: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Lords of Scotland: 2 (Nicole x 1, David x 1)
Love Letter: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies: 1 (Nicole)
Mint Works: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Mystic Vale: 8 (David x 5, Nicole x 3)
Niya: 2 (David x 2)
Odin's Ravens: 4 (David x 1, Nicole x 3)
Patchwork: 4 (David x 3, Nicole x 1)
Photosynthesis: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Pixel Tactics 2: 3 (Nicole x 2, David x 1)
Scythe: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Seven Dragons: 1 (David x 1)
Shahrazad: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Small World Underground: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Splendor: 1 (David x 1)
Star Fluxx: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Star Realms: 11 (Nicole x 4, David x 7)
Star Wars: Imperial Assault: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Sushi Go!: 1 (David x 1)
Takenoko: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary Edition: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 2)
Tiny Epic Galaxies: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Tiny Epic Kingdoms: 3 (Nicole x 3)
Torres: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Unearth: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Viticulture: Essential Edition: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
War of the Ring: 4 (Nicole x 3, David x 1)
Yokohama: 5 (David x 2, Nicole x 3)
Zero: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)

David – 125/251 (49.80%)
Nicole – 125/251 (49.80%)

2017 Games played solo

9 Card Siege: 5 (1 Win)
A Feast for Odin: 1 (1 Win)
Aeon's End: 1 (1 Win)
Agincourt: 1 (1 Win)
Albion's Legacy: 2
Castles of Caladale: 2 (2 Wins)
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: 1
Caverna: Cave vs Cave: 1 (1 Win)
Chrononauts: 4 (0 Wins)
Elevenses for One: 1 (1 Win)
Firefly: The Game: 1 (0 Wins)
Freedom: The Underground Railroad: 4 (1 Win)
Harbour: 2 (2 Wins)
Herbaceous: 6 (4 Wins)
Imperial Settlers: 2 (2 Wins)
Legendary: 1 (1 Win)
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: 3 (2 Wins)
Mage Knight Board Game: 2 (1 Win)
Neverland's Legacy: 1 (0 wins)
Night of Man: 3 (1 Win)
Race for the Galaxy: 9 (4 Wins)
Scythe: 1 (1 Win)
SECRET Solo Game: 3 (1 Win)
Shahrazad: 5 (2 Wins)
Sherwood's Legacy: 1 (1 Win)
Space Hulk: Death Angel: 3 (1 Wins)
Stamford Bridge: End of the Viking Age: 2 (2 Wins)
Stellar Leap: 6 (4 Wins)
Tiny Epic Galaxies: 3 (3 Wins)
Valeria: Card Kingdoms: 1 (1 Win)
Viticulture: Essential Edition: 8 (4 Wins)
Yeomen: The 9-Card Agincourt Game: 6 (1 Win)

2017 Solo Record: 45/91 (49.45%)

2017 Games played as a group

7 Wonders: 2
Aeon's End: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Agricola: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Albion's Legacy: 2
Android: Netrunner: 5 (David x 2)
Argent: The Consortium: 1 (David x 1)
Barony: 1
Biblios: 2
Blood of an Englishman: 2
Bohnanza: 1
Carcassonne: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Carcassonne: Winter Edition: 1
The Castles of Burgundy: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Century: Spice Road: 3 (David x 1)
Clank! A Deck-building Adventure: 3 (David x 1)
Codenames: 4 (David x 1)
Codenames: Duet: 5 (1 Co-Op Win)
Codex: Card-Time Strategy - Deluxe Set: 1
Council of Verona: 1 (David x 1)
Courtier: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Crazier Eights: Avalon: 1
Cthulhu Dice: 2
Custom Heroes: 1
Dragon Run: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Earthquake: 1
Eight Minute Empire: Legends: 1 (David x 1)
Elder Sign: 1
Favor of the Pharaoh: 1
Fields of Green: 3 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Five Tribes: 1 (Nicole x 1)
The Fox in the Forest: 2
Galaxy Trucker: 1 (David x 1)
Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue: 2 (David x 1)
The Grizzled: 1 (Co-op win)
Hanabi: 2 (Co-op wins)
Hanamikoji: 1
Haspelknecht: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Herbaceous: 1 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Honshu: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Incantris: 3 (Nicole x 1)
Insider: 5
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King: 1
Istanbul: 3 (Nicole x 2, David x 1)
JurassAttack!: 1
The King is Dead: 3
The King of New York: 1
The King of Tokyo: 1
Kingdom Builder: 2 (Nicole x 1)
Kingdomino: 5 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival: 2 (David x 1)
Legends of Andor: 3 (1 Co-Op Win)
Lignum: 1
Longhorn: 1
Lords of Scotland: 1
Lords of Waterdeep: 2 (Nicole x 2)
Love Letter: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies: 1 (David x 1)
Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City: 1
Munchkin Marvel: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Mystic Vale: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Nations: 1
NMBR 9: 1
Odin's Ravens: 1
Outpost: Siberia: 1
Patchwork: 1
Portals and Prophets: 2 (Nicole x 1)
Qwirkle: 1
Race for the Galaxy: 1 (David x 1)
Rocky Road a la Mode: 2 (David x 1)
Room 25: Season 2: 1 (Co-op win)
Scythe: 2 (David x 2)
Seasons: 1
Sellswords: Olympus: 1 (David x 1)
Seven Dragons: 2 (David x 1)
Small World: 1
The Speicherstadt: 2 (David x 1))
Splendor: 4 (Nicole x 1)
Star Fluxx: 1
Star Wars: Destiny: 44 (David x 17)
Star Wars: Rebellion: 1
Star Wars: X-Wing: 1 (David x 1)
Stratego: 1
Suburbia: 1
Sushi Go Party!: 1 (David x 1)
Takenoko: 3 (Nicole x 2)
Terraforming Mars: 1
The Game: 2 (Co-op win)
Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary Edition: 1 (David x 1)
Ticket to Ride: The Card Game: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Tiny Epic Galaxies: 1 (David x 1)
Tokaido: 2
Torres: 1
Unearth: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Valeria: Card Kingdoms: 2 (David x 1)
Viticulture: 1
Walls of Jericho: 3 (3 Co-op Wins)
War of the Ring: 1
Whistle Stop: 1
Yamatai: 2
Zoo Ball: 1


On my Wordpress blog, rather than posting all this raw data, I have more categorized feedback such as favorite solo game of October, favorite 2-player game of October, favorite new game in October, and more! Check it out:
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Wed Nov 1, 2017 5:43 pm
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Review for Two - Portals and Prophets

David Wiley
United States
Waukee
IA
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Thank you for checking review #34 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A prototype of this game was sent to me in advance of the Kickstarter campaign in exchange for an honest review of the game. The Kickstarter launches on November 1st, and a link to that will appear here once it goes live.

An Overview of Portals and Prophets



Portals and Prophets is a game designed by Andrew Harmon and is published by Harmon Games. The box states that it can play 2-5 players and has a 30-60 minute play time.

The year is 2200. The Alpha and Omega time travel company is looking to hire a tour guide and you are on the short list. For your last test, you and the other finalists will be sent back in time to prove you are the best candidate to lead future time traveling expeditions. Players will score points by experiencing biblical events. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Portals and Prophets is a Bible themed set collection and hand management game that features difficult and meaningful decisions. You must decide which events to attempt to witness, how to manipulate the time capsule to benefit you, and how to plan your travels so that you arrive to locations at the right time in history to experience events.

With a setup time of less than 2 minutes, and a perfect blend of simplicity and strategic depth, Portals and Prophets is a game all ages will enjoy.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The setup for this game does not change based on player count. Each player gets three Genesis cards, there are five revealed Old Testament cards on the board, and three portals are placed onto the map.



On a player's turn, you get to do four actions, in any combination, from this list:

a) Move a space
b) Score a card (if you are in the right location and within the proper date range)
c) Draw a card (either from the face-up stack or a face-down from the top of a deck)

There are also fuel icons on some cards, and you can discard a card as a "free" action to increase the fuel gauge by the number of icons on the card. You can discard more than one card, but only one card of each fuel color. The fuel gauge is vital, as it ranges from Low-Full with 1, 2, and 3 in between. The number which the marker is by determines how far around the current round you can visit. For example, if the gauge is at 2 and the round is in the 10th century, you can score a card in the 12th-8th centuries (+2/-2 from the current date). When the gauge is at FULL, you can score any date range on the card, provided you are in the right location, and at the end of your turn the fuel drops back down to LOW.

You will be traveling around the map, collecting cards, and trying to score cards by being on the right place around the right time chronologically. Cards will not only score the points printed on them, but there are two additional methods of scoring at the end. You will get 10 points for every set of five colors you have scored, and there are six different symbols printed in various combinations on cards (such as Ancient, Miracles, God Speaks) where the player who scored the majority of cards with each symbol will get 7 points.



The game ends when one player has scored their third New Testament card and the round has ended (all players get an equal number of turns).

My Thoughts

Not only is this a Christian game, which is a rarity in itself, but it is also a surprisingly good one. There is a lot of depth to a game that is short on rules and quick on explanation. There are many variables to consider, such as dates on the timeline, physical location that you need to visit, the collection of sets of all five colors, the desire to win majority in as many symbols as you can, and maximizing your use of the fuel gauge when it is getting high. There is plenty of game here to keep everyone engaged and provide a great experience.

The use of the portals, which can either be placed as you desire or in the recommended locations mentioned in the rule book, is a key element in maximizing your scoring potential. Drafting cards from the board that are located near portals provides an advantage and is something that should always be considered. The portals also make it so the map feels a bit smaller at times, since you can leap across huge tracts of land.

The fuel gauge and time travel aspect is an interesting mechanism. I'm fairly certain there is no way to max out the fuel in one turn if it begins at LOW, meaning if you raise the gauge someone else will get to take advantage of it as well. It also may mean they get it to FULL before it comes back to you, making it a balancing act of trying to figure out when to use those cards for fuel and when to wait and try to let someone else bump it up for you.



As a Christian, I love the presence of Scripture at the bottom of each card. I love the vast array of events in the decks, ranging from the well-known such as the Birth of Jesus or the Parting of the Red Sea and going into more obscure characters and events. This will provide a learning experience for even the more mature Christians, as they may encounter and get to revisit some of the smaller stories and characters in the Bible. Although I have a weakness...every time Joshua Stops the Sun or Elijah Challenges the Prophets of Baal appears face-up I immediately grab them even when it doesn't make sense to do so. I want to visit my favorite scenes!

In a loosely abstracted way, this game actually does succeed at providing a thematic experience. See the last point: I actually want to go travel to visit certain events as they come up in the deck.

It really surprised me as to how close the games ended up being for points. You would think the person to trigger the end would have a clear advantage in the game, but there are a lot of points to come from the set collection aspect. Which makes it important to not only pick cards for the point values listed on them, but also to grab cards that will mesh well with what you've already scored.



There are wild cards in the Old Testament deck, providing a boost either on a symbol or the colors to a player. They seem really powerful, especially the symbol cards because they not only add one to counting majority on that symbol, they also score the owner an extra point for each of that symbol they collected. These cards have been the deciding factor in a game.

Artwork is subjective, and the vast majority of it I really love. There are a few I'm not as crazy about, but the designer has told me there are some which are still being changed before the final production. So this was an issue with what I got but shouldn't be an issue with the final produced product.

But the one area that everyone commented upon was the board itself. It is a simple map of the area, with various regions shaded in a color that matches the color on the card for that region. It makes a lot of sense for the color-coding on the board and it is usually appreciated during the gameplay, but it really doesn't appeal to the eye for a first impression.



The New Testament cards are 100% blind draws. You'll never know the card you are going to get, although you'll always know the era in which it will be scored. You need to draw them early in order to plan for them, but if you are behind and racing to catch up then your draws could either make you really lucky (if they are all close together) or place the game out of reach (if they are very distant).

Each player gets 3 Genesis cards, and the rest are never to be seen during the game. I almost would prefer it if they got shuffled in with the Old Testament deck, allowing you the chance to get more of them, especially when you need one more Ancient symbol to boost your collection.

Final Verdict



I was initially interested in reviewing this game because of the Biblical theme. It promised to be a strategy game, and so I was more than happy to give it a try. When the game arrived, I looked at the board and the rules and was only lukewarm about the experience that I was going to be having with the game.

I've never been so glad to have my expectations exceeded.

This game isn't going to provide a heavy, brain-burning experience. Yet there is ample room for depth and strategy in how you approach the game. Early decisions, even as simple as choosing your starting location, can have an impact on the gaming experience. A poor decision can leave you needing to travel for turns in a row in order to arrive where you need to be for a second scoring card. The presence of other players on the board, and where they end their turns, can force you to reroute for a round or two or to take a complely scenic trip through an area you don't really need to visit. The multi-use cards provide incentive for grabbing something you might not need. The symbols and area colors provide set collecting, but only for those you score by the end. All in all, there is a lot more going on here than you first expect.

And increasing the player count increases the number of times you might get blocked, which is why some will really prefer to play with two. You can interfere, but not in drastic ways that could leave someone completely boxed in for a round or two. The board state will change, but not so radically that you can't try and plan a few turns ahead. The fuel gauge will reach full, but not as often which will allow you to build upon and capitalize upon what your opponent has done.

There will be those who read the word "Bible" in the game's description and move along without giving it a second glance. But if that word doesn't scare you away, you're in for a good surprise with this game. It plays well with two, provides an interesting experience for newer and experienced games, would make a perfect next-step game after a gateway game for newer gamers, and would be outstanding when used in a homeschool environment. Churches could place a copy of this in their kid/youth rooms and have it there for teaching and learning opportunities that will arise.

And even the common gamer, who isn't looking to use this in any educational manner, will find that there is a surprisingly rewarding play experience in this game.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas...
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Mon Oct 30, 2017 8:41 pm
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Review for One - Viticulture: Essential Edition

David Wiley
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Waukee
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Thank you for checking review #34 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

An Overview of Viticulture: Essential Edition



Viticulture: Essential Edition is a game designed by Jamey Stegmaier, Morten Monrad Pederson, and Alan Stone and is published by Stonemaier Games. The box states that it can play 1-6 players and has a 45-90 minute play time.

In Viticulture, the players find themselves in the roles of people in rustic, pre-modern Tuscany who have inherited meager vineyards. They have a few plots of land, an old crushpad, a tiny cellar, and three workers. They each have a dream of being the first to call their winery a true success.

The players are in the position of determining how they want to allocate their workers throughout the year. Every season is different on a vineyard, so the workers have different tasks they can take care of in the summer and winter. There's competition over those tasks, and often the first worker to get to the job has an advantage over subsequent workers.

Fortunately for the players, people love to visit wineries, and it just so happens that many of those visitors are willing to help out around the vineyard when they visit as long as you assign a worker to take care of them. Their visits (in the form of cards) are brief but can be very helpful.

Using those workers and visitors, players can expand their vineyards by building structures, planting vines (vine cards), and filling wine orders (wine order cards). Players work towards the goal of running the most successful winery in Tuscany.

Viticulture - Essential Edition comes with components for Viticulture, but adds some of the expansions from Tuscany, including 36 Mama & Papa cards, Field cards (previously known as "Properties"), expanded/revised Visitors, and 24 Automa cards (solo variant), along with a couple of minor rule changes.

Setup and gameplay for 1 Player



A standard solo play has the board set up mostly like in a game with two players. There are three exceptions: the Automa deck is shuffled and placed by the board, a clear token is placed on each of the seven wake-up slots on the board, and a neutral color's cork token is placed on the 20 spot of the scoreboard.

If you are playing through the campaign mode (listed in the rule book), then your scenario might dictate some additional changes to the setup such as placing your score marker on -5. I won't go into the details on all of these.

At the start of the Summer and Winter seasons you will draw the top card from the Automa deck and place a neutral worker on each space for the current season that is listed on the card. This could be anywhere from 0-3 spaces, as there are some Tuscany-only spaces (all of these have notation showing they belong to Tuscany). The spaces listed in the opposite season are ignored. A variant to increase difficulty would be to keep drawing more cards until at least two spaces in the current season have a neutral worker.

Your turns in the game will play just like the game with more players, with one key exception: you can only choose each wake-up position once. At the end of the seventh year (meaning you've selected all seven wake-up positions), the game will be over. When you select a wake-up position, you take the token for that spot in addition to the bonus typically provided by that wake-up spot. This token can be used at any time during the game to take the bonus middle action on the board when you place a worker (such as gaining +1 VP when filling an order).



Just like the 2-player game, you use only the left-hand spot on each space which means that a neutral worker will prevent you from using that space unless you send your Grande Worker to the space.

At the end of seven years, you compare your score with the neutral player's score. They will always be at 20. If your score is below 20, you lose. If your score is exactly 20, you lose. Anything higher than 20 is a win.

My Thoughts

This game is very thematic. For a euro-style game, that isn't a common thing to encounter. You choose when to wake up, determining the order in which you'll take your actions (not relevant in the solo game, but still worth mentioning). You plant grapes in the fields. You have to harvest those grapes. You have to crush the grapes to make them into wine. You can then sell the wine for money. You can give tours of your winery. Hiring more workers allows you to get more accomplished. Various people can visit your winery, providing a wide range of benefits. When you sell orders of wine, it provides repeat income each year. Your grapes and wines age each year, increasing their value. The tasks you can do each season are varied and fitting for each season. A ton of thought and effort went into this game, and this is about as close as you can get to bringing about a thematic experience in a worker placement game.

If I've mentioned this once, I've mentioned it half a dozen times. When it comes to solo gaming, setup and teardown time is an important factor. While I love some solo games that take time to prepare, there is a premium to be placed on ones that can get to the table and get started quickly. I was surprised at how fast this game turned out to be for setup and teardown. Pleasantly surprised. I can pull this game out, set it up, play it, and put it away in roughly 45 minutes. I can finish a game and reset it to start a new one in under 5 minutes. Both of these things are great benefits to the solo gaming experience.

The Automa is a fantastic system. It requires minimal work/effort from the player to operate. It really is as simple as flipping a card and placing a few wooden pieces on the board. Done. Now you can move back to what you really care about: planning and playing your turn. There is nothing fancy or complicated about the Automa system, which really shines in this game. Scythe steps it up a few notches in complexity, but if you tried that and didn't enjoy it then you might find the ease of Viticulture to be more to your liking.

I was intimidated during my first play of this solo, wondering how it was even possible to score 21 points in seven rounds. After all, it usually takes 3-4 years before the semblance of an engine is even in place to start scoring points from filling orders. It takes a measure of luck in drawing the right cards at the right time, but also some effective and efficient planning around what you are dealt and draw early in the game and managing your resources well. You have to make sure to avoid wasting actions, as the difference between winning and losing often comes down to 1-2 moves on the final year. All of this provides a thrilling and fulfilling experience.



The game, when playing it, still feels exactly like playing Viticulture. I don't find myself playing an inferior version of the game, which is something I always appreciate. Not only does the game function in a very similar manner, I also have an objective to accomplish even without using the campaign or variants included in the book. It is a straight-forward, but a challenging, task that is set before you. You have to get at least 21 point. Anything less than that and you lose. It isn't a "you scored X last game, now try to beat that this time" sort of game. And that is something I really like.

I was skeptical about the campaign system. A worker placement game where you play a series of solo games in sequence? Let me tell you, this is where the solo play really shines. Each of the eight objectives provide their own challenge. I felt great after the first one. I felt robbed when I lost on the second and quickly turned it around and won. I squeaked by the third one. I'm 0/3 on the fourth one. Yes, they have a way to make it easier by giving yourself an added boost with each loss on a scenario, but I refuse to use that. I can win without it. I'm even stubborn enough to use the same exact Mama and Papa cards three times in a row, coming so close in the last one that I would have won if it didn't use two spots in the last Winter. And guess what...those were the exact two on the card. I'm only halfway through, but I can already affirm that this solo campaign is legit in its challenge and a lot of fun to challenge.

As great as the Automa system is, this doesn't always provide a perfect simulation of playing against an opponent. First off, there isn't a you-go, I-go system to it. You know all of the spaces they will be occupying for the season so there is perfect information to plan around. There are times when they'll take spaces you almost never touch and that will make you happy. There are also times, though, when they'll take the exact spaces you needed and leave you taking an inferior turn to what you would have preferred. Playing with the variant requiring them to be on 2+ spaces each season helps make it feel tighter and more restrictive, but it still isn't quite the same as playing an opponent who might be able to block your first move, but you can swoop in and do the other one you need before they take that from you. You don't get that chance against the Automa. You just have to sit on your Grande worker, using it for the one action you definitely need to perform this year.



There will be games when the randomness seems stacked against you. For instance, you might be drawing all white grapes to plant and all orders needing red grapes. That Automa might decide to pull, round after round, the cards that place them exactly on the spaces you need to get things moving forward with what you have. That can be really disappointing. Any game with drawing cards has that random factor in it, but like most card games you'll find the majority of the plays will come down to how well you can maneuver and adapt to the cards you are given. There are paths to score points apart from filling orders. With a time crunch in effect, you can't sit back and draw cards every turn until you get what you want. You have to find out how to make what is in your hand become the cards you need. Which is what I love about the game - in spite of those occasions where it all feels like you lost due to random chance.

Final Verdict

This game really surprised me. I knew it was a highly-rated game and that a ton of players have heralded it as being a great game. I knew that, being a worker placement game, there was a really high chance that my wife would enjoy the game. I had hoped that the theme might even be something to draw in non-gamer in-laws. We still haven't tried that out, but I still am clinging to the hope that this might be the sort of game I could use to broaden the hobby.

What I had not hoped, nor expected, was just how much I would come to enjoy the solo play of this game. The solo system is seamless without a ton of rules overhead and without making the player choose from a list of options. The Automa's turn, quite literally, is done in under a minute. This allows the game to get out of the player's way and allow them to get back to their next turn where they try to strategize and plan around what the Automa has placed. What seemed remarkably simple and uninteresting has become my favorite method of playing a solitaire game because it simulates possible decisions from another player.

Even better is when you embark onto the campaign, playing through a series of eight challenges where you have different conditions that you need to overcome while working your way to 21 or more points as a final score. In seven rounds. Add in the variable starting with the Mama and Papa cards. And, if that isn't enough for you, there are ways to make it harder such as drawing Automa cards until at least two spaces in the season are blocked, or by setting point requirements you need to reach by the end of each year or else you lose. And this is all available without forking out extra to pick up the Tuscany Essential Edition expansion, which I understand makes this game have an even longer replay value for gaming solo and in a group.

To put things in perspective, I find that every time I consider playing a solo game this is one that pulls my attention. I always want to play it again. I can usually set up, play, and tear down in around 45 minutes which is a perfect length for a solo game. It resets quickly, making it easy to string together 2-3 plays in a row. And every game turns out differently based on the Automa, the cards drawn, and the Mama/Papa cards you begin with. It provides a challenging and enjoyable experience every time I play it, and I still have many more plays to go. I will probably only log around 100 solo plays in 2017, and it is very likely that this game will be at least 10% of those plays.

In 2018, that will probably continue to be a trend as I will hope to find a copy of Tuscany under the tree.

If all this isn't clear enough, I will end with this: if I could recommend only one solo game to a gamer without knowing anything about their taste/experience/preference in gaming, this would be the game I would recommend. It gives clear objectives to complete, a simple-to-navigate solo system, and a challenging puzzle to complete every time you play the game. This may not be my favorite solo game, nor the best solo game out there, but it is definitely high up there. It is the type of solo game everyone can enjoy and should try, and belongs in every solo gamer's collection.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas...
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Wed Oct 25, 2017 9:12 pm
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