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Subject: The Stars are Right! Review and Rules Summary in English rss

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Ben Kirman
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I was lucky enough to pick up the German (Pegasus) edition this game at Essen. Despite the lack of an English version, the theme was enough to make it an easy sell. With my limited German skills and the help of German-speaking BGG user HëllRÆZØR we've managed to work out the rules and play several rounds. The rules work for us but consider this a disclaimer that there may be a few errors in my summary below!

Rules Summary
In this game, each player represents a group of cultists trying to summon various beasties from the Cthulhu mythos of H P Lovecraft. The game centres around a play area made up of grid of 25 double-sided square star cards. Each star card shows one of 8 different celestial bodies on the front and back. The cards are repeated so you always know what is on the back of a particular card - e.g. the shooting star card will always have meteors on the back and vice versa. A summary card shows the possible combinations and also on the cards themselves the symbol on the reverse side is shown in the corners.

The 25 star cards are shuffled front and back and laid out in a grid before play. The deck of 75 beastie cards is shuffled.

Each player is dealt five beastie cards and then play begins:

In a turn, players may:
1. Discard a card to alter the playing field
2. Summon a beastie into their cult area
3. Discard one card out of their hand
Finally they must draw their hand back up to a total of 5 cards.

Play continues until one player manages to get 10 victory points worth of beasties in their cult area in front of them.

Beasties
There are several types of beastie in the game, split between 4 different pantheons of the Cthulhu mythos and some independent creatures. Beasties are worth different amounts of victory points based on how hard they are to summon - Independent creatures such as the Hounds of Tindalos are worth 0 victory points but are very easy to get into play, Great Old Ones (GOOs) are worth 4 victory points but are extremely difficult to get out.

Summoning a Beastie
Beasties can only be summoned if "The Stars are Right" and the constellation on their card can be found somewhere in the play area. For example, the Miri Nigri shown requires an L shape with a single star, a pair of stars and a shooting star. The dark empty space is wild and could be anything. This constellation pattern can appear in any orientation but may not be inverted.



Easier beasties sometimes require 2 or 4 separate constellations - these may be found anywhere on the board but both are required. For example the Hound of Tindalos requires two shining suns and two full moons be visible anywhere on the board, regardless of location.



The GOOs are the hardest to get out and require 5 symbols to be visible in a specific constellation pattern. Luckily there is some help available. Each GOO belongs to a specific pantheon according to the symbol on the top left of the card. If you already have beasties summoned in front of you that match this symbol, you may ignore certain parts of the constellation of the GOO according to the symbol on the top right of the minion. For example, the Miri Nigri above allows you to ignore the single star requirement of the matching Great Old One. Having multiple beasties that match different symbols for a specific GOO can bring down the requirements significantly.



This pantheon bonus only applies when summoning GOOs, and when used, you must discard the minions used for this bonus.
Because of these bonuses, you may end up ignoring a lot of the GOO's requirements. In this case, the "empty" squares may be off the playing board. For example if you had minions that matched the Hastur symbol as above, and could ignore the full moon and the empty moon symbols, the requirement is reduced to the constellation of three on the left (note the shaded blue space matches an empty space on the board). This constellation of three could then appear anywhere on the board, even if that would put the ignored moon symbols off the edge of the playing area. (There is a pictorial example in the rules)

Each player may summon the same GOO, but a single player may not have two GOO from the same pantheon at the same time.

Changing the Board
The first thing each player may do in their turn is to discard a beastie card in order to alter the board. In addition to other features, each card features a set of symbols along the left hand side which can be used to change the setup of the board.

"Swap"

allows you to switch any two adjacent (vertical or horizontal) star cards in the board.

"Nudge"

allows you to nudge an entire row or column by one card. The card that is nudged off the board appears in the same orientation at the start of the row, retaining the square playing field.

"Flip"

allows you to flip a single star card to expose its other side.

Some cards have multiple symbols on them, so if you discard that, you get to use all the features to alter the board.

In addition, many summoned beasties have powers along the bottom of the card. If you have that beastie in your cult area, you may use it to enhance the card discarded to alter the board. For example, a summoned Miri Nigri would allow you to swap a flip for two flips. This effect does not require you to discard the Miri Nigri, and it may be chained. For example, one of those two flips could be converted into a nudge using some other creature. The only limit is that each ability can only be used once (so you can't get infinite flips by chaining the Miri Nigri's ability to itself!)

This combo ability will allow you to change a lot of the board quickly and hopefully set you up to be able to summon a creature later in your turn.

Independent beasties (Unabhängiger)
The independent beasties are worth 0 points and aren't aligned to a particular pantheon, so don't give bonuses to GOOs. Their main use is in their special ability. This is written (in German) on the bottom of those cards, and is the only non-language independent part of the game. Luckily there are only a handful of these and they are easy to remember (thanks to HëllRÆZØR):

HëllRÆZØR wrote:

- Dhole: "Discard the Dhole to add a card of your choice from the draw or discard pile to your hand."
- Ghast: "At the end of your turn, replenish your hand to 6 cards."
- Ghoul: "At the end of your turn, discard up to 2 cards from your hand."
- Gug: "Discard the Gug to swap a 'Diener' from your 'Kultbereich' with one from another player."
- Tindaloo: "Discard Tindaloo to swap a 'Günstling' from your 'Kultbereich' with one from an opponent."


Winning the Game
The game ends when one player manages to get 10 points worth of beasties in front of them. Note that if you have 6 points and manage to summon a GOO, you will win even if you must discard some minions for the summoning bonus.

Review Bit
I picked this game up based on the theme, and managed to figure out the majority of the rules using my limited German skills and the great pictorial examples in the rules. We played several times over the course of Essen 2008 with two, three and four players, and again back home with four players.

The box lists the game as suitable for 2-4 and taking 45-60 minutes. From our experience this is about correct. The rules are fairly straightforward and simple to explain and new players will be up and going quickly.

The game length is highly variable based on the number of players - two player games move very quickly at about 30 minutes, and I would estimate that each additional player adds another 15 minutes.

The theme is tightly linked with the rules and the illustrations of the various Cthulhu beasties are excellent. The box cover especially is great, with the Great Old Ones ready for dinner with knives and forks above a group of worshipping cultists! The star cards are clear and well designed - it is easy to see what is needed and because the symbol from the reverse side of the card is also shown in the corners, it is clear how your moves will affect the board. A slight criticism is that new players are sometimes confused between the single star, the shining sun and the full moon, but this is quickly corrected.

The quality of the components are good, the cards are solid and of regular size, and the square star cards are made from thicker card which is easy to pick up (i.e. to flip). The box is sturdy although small (slightly bigger than the Amigo double-width card boxes). In fact for 5 minutes after your first play you will be struggling to figure out how to fit the components back into the box, which seems to morph and change in shape according to some non-euclidian geometry!

We've greatly enjoyed playing, but by all means this game won't appeal to some people. In particular, if you don't have great spacial awareness and pattern recognition skills, you will be in trouble. A lot of the game is spent trying to find constellations in the board and then figuring out the quickest way to change the board using the different transformations (flip, switch and nudge). It has definitely got the potential to cause extreme analysis paralysis (AP) so if you are prone to this I'd advise you to try the game first.

This leads on to my main criticism of the game which is that it is almost impossible to plan ahead by a turn, especially with 4 players. For complicated constellations like the Great Old Ones, your best laid plans can come crashing down if another player nudges some rows around during their turn. This can be very frustrating, but if you keep your eye out, sometimes people do you a favour by making one of your other cards easier to play.

Overall
This is a medium-light card game that has several strong strategic elements tempered by a dose of frustration from other players. It is thematic but accessible to those unfamiliar with the mythos, well presented and does not outstay its welcome. I'd rate it higher for two or three players than for four simply due to additional length and frustrations.

four tentacles out of five: googoogoogoo
A perfect gift for the cultist in your family.

Ia, Ia! Cthulhu ftaghn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl ftaghn!

*edit* I strongly recommend you read the rest of this thread before playing. There are several rules clarifications that will save a few headaches (especially the tips on how to get it back in the box!
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Wouter Dhondt
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Thanks for the review and especially for the rules information. This game is high on my wantlist. Seems a lot of fun.
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Rich P
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Thanks for posting this. You just turned my copy from a bunch of cards with amusing art into an actual game!
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Nice done, that's a pretty good summary of the rules, Aelf! thumbsup


Just a few comments:

I think you listed almost every rule, but there are a few rules you didn't mention, which can easily be overlooked:

- When summoning a GOO, you may ignore up to 3 stars through the use of 'Diener' or 'Günstlinge' (more wouldn't be possible anyway due to the design of the cards). However, for each same GOO in the 'Kultplatz'* of another player, the maximum number of stars which can be ignored is reduced by 1.

* the place where a player lays down his/her cards

- If a player uses the services from beasties to alter the firmament, he must use all of the resulting actions. For example, if the player combines some cards so he/she can swap and flip twice each, he must use all actions, and isn't allowed to drop any of these, like swapping twice but only flipping once. However, it's perfectly legal to flip a star marker twice, to swap 2 adjacent star markers twice, or to shift a row up and then down again, allowing to drop pairs of actions from the same type.


Aelf wrote:
HëllRÆZØR wrote:

- Dhole: "Discard the Dhole to add a card of your choice from the draw or discard pile to your hand."
- Ghast: "At the end of your turn, replenish your hand to 6 cards."
- Ghoul: "At the end of your turn, discard up to 2 cards from your hand."
- Gug: "Discard the Gug to swap a 'Diener' from your 'Kultbereich' with one from another player."
- Tindaloo: "Discard Tindaloo to swap a 'Günstling' from your 'Kultbereich' with one from an opponent."

I have to amend 2 things I wrote here:

First, the term used in the rules is 'Kultplatz', not 'Kultbereich'.

Second (and more importantly), my translation from the Dhole card was a little inaccurate (and probably wrong), a more exact translation would be:

"Discard the Dhole to take a card out of either the draw or discard pile (your choice), and add it to your hand."

This leads to (at least) 2 interpretations:
a) Draw the top card from one of these piles.
b) Choose a certain card from one of these piles.

I suppose it's a), but I have to play a few games first to see which one works better.


I hope this helps!
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Rich P
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We tried a game this evening using the rules posted here. It was mostly successful! There's one thing I'd like to clarify: on your turn are you only allowed to summon one creature, or can you summon more than one if the stars are right for each?
 
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I asked in the Pegasus Spiele forums about the Dhole, and they said it works like following:

Discard the Dhole, browse the discard and draw pile and choose a card which you add to your hand, then shuffle the draw pile.

woodnoggin wrote:
We tried a game this evening using the rules posted here. It was mostly successful! There's one thing I'd like to clarify: on your turn are you only allowed to summon one creature, or can you summon more than one if the stars are right for each?

You're not allowed to bring more than one card into your cult place ('Kultplatz') during your turn, even if you have more than one card showing a constellation which matches a part of the firmament.
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Rich P
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Thanks for clarifying. The Dhole is pretty powerful under those rules.
 
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Klaus Westerhoff
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HëllRÆZØR wrote:
Nice done, that's a pretty good summary of the rules, [...] However, it's perfectly legal to flip a star marker twice, to swap 2 adjacent star markers twice, or to shift a row up and then down again, allowing to drop pairs of actions from the same type.

Though the rules don't state it explicitely - did we really forget that during production...? - you are not supposed to take to subsequent actions that cancel each other out just to get rid of extra action symbols you have.
Maybe this may go into the german FAQ, along with other things...
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Merimac wrote:
Though the rules don't state it explicitely - did we really forget that during production...? - you are not supposed to take to subsequent actions that cancel each other out just to get rid of extra action symbols you have.
Maybe this may go into the german FAQ, along with other things...

The rules passage which made me think it's possible was this one:

Quote:
1) Anrufung (optional)

Mit einer Anrufung kann der Spieler das Firmament verändern.
Dazu spielt er eine Karte von der Hand aus. Er muss alle Symbole
nutzen, darf sie aber auf dieselben Sternenmarken anwenden.
 
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Aelf wrote:
In fact for 5 minutes after your first play you will be struggling to figure out how to fit the components back into the box, which seems to morph and change in shape according to some non-euclidian geometry!


That is so true. Have no clue how I could put them back in a proper way... goo
 
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Klaus Westerhoff
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leaxe wrote:
[...] Have no clue how I could put them back in a proper way... :goo:

A Pegasus supporter had to tell me as well: Divide the cards into three stacks, place two vertically next to each other and the third horizontally above; and then you have enough room for the star tiles spilt into two other stacks.
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Aelf wrote:

Winning the Game
The game ends when one player manages to get 10 points worth of beasties in front of them. Note that if you have 6 points and manage to summon a GOO, you will win even if you must discard some minions for the summoning bonus.


Not true. see the other thread about the language dependency. Klaus Westerhoff explained that it's design intent was actually to check the victory condition (when summoning a GOO) AFTER having discarded every helping Diener (Servants).

FredhoT
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Frederic Taton
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Two additional questions to Klaus:

- Is it allowed (using a Gug or a Tindaloo) to swap a Diener or a Guenstling with another player if one has used this Diener/Guenstling service during phase 2 (when rearranging the stars) (when it has been rotated 90°)?

- Is it allowed to use a Diener/Guenstling help to summon a GOO if this Diener/Guenstling "service" has been used during phase 2 (when rearranging the stars) (when it has been rotated 90°)?

Thx

Fred
 
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FredhoT wrote:
- Is it allowed (using a Gug or a Tindaloo) to swap a Diener or a Guenstling with another player if one has used this Diener/Guenstling service during phase 2 (when rearranging the stars) (when it has been rotated 90°)?

I know this question is directed to Klaus, but the rules give a clear answer to your question:

Phase 2 (Dienste nutzen):
Quote:
Ein Wesen, dessen Dienst bereits genutzt wurde,
kann der Spieler in demselben Zug nicht tauschen.


...so no, you cannot swap a creature after using that creature's service / rotating it.

FredhoT wrote:
- Is it allowed to use a Diener/Guenstling help to summon a GOO if this Diener/Guenstling "service" has been used during phase 2 (when rearranging the stars) (when it has been rotated 90°)?

I suppose this is perfectly legal as I cannot find a rules passage which states otherwise, but I cannot say that for sure...
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Klaus Westerhoff
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FredhoT wrote:

- Is it allowed to use a Diener/Guenstling help to summon a GOO if this Diener/Guenstling "service" has been used during phase 2 (when rearranging the stars) (when it has been rotated 90°)?

By all means YES. The rotating is not to be confused with the tapping-mechanic made so popular by Magic: The Gathering, it's just supposed to give you a better overview which action-conversions you have already used this turn.
Both Diener/Guenstling can still provide star symbols to help summon a GOO afterwards.
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Frederic Taton
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Merimac wrote:
FredhoT wrote:

- Is it allowed to use a Diener/Guenstling help to summon a GOO if this Diener/Guenstling "service" has been used during phase 2 (when rearranging the stars) (when it has been rotated 90°)?

By all means YES. The rotating is not to be confused with the tapping-mechanic made so popular by Magic: The Gathering, it's just supposed to give you a better overview which action-conversions you have already used this turn.
Both Diener/Guenstling can still provide star symbols to help summon a GOO afterwards.


Thanks. Now I think I've a clear and correct french translation.

Fred
 
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Frederic Taton
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FredhoT wrote:
Merimac wrote:
FredhoT wrote:

- Is it allowed to use a Diener/Guenstling help to summon a GOO if this Diener/Guenstling "service" has been used during phase 2 (when rearranging the stars) (when it has been rotated 90°)?

By all means YES. The rotating is not to be confused with the tapping-mechanic made so popular by Magic: The Gathering, it's just supposed to give you a better overview which action-conversions you have already used this turn.
Both Diener/Guenstling can still provide star symbols to help summon a GOO afterwards.


Thanks. Now I think I've a clear and correct french translation.

Fred


Mmmh, I have one more (last?) question:
how do you deal with the situation when you have 6 creatures already present in your Cult Place and you want to summon a new one? Do you first choose which to discard and then summon, or can you use the star symbol of one (at least), summon the new one and then discard the one used?

 
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FredhoT wrote:
Mmmh, I have one more (last?) question:
how do you deal with the situation when you have 6 creatures already present in your Cult Place and you want to summon a new one? Do you first choose which to discard and then summon, or can you use the star symbol of one (at least), summon the new one and then discard the one used?


That's an interesting question. Until there's an official answer, I'll play it the following way:

When a creature is conjured and one or more creatures have to be discarded, this is done immediately before that creature is placed in the cult place. Then, either servants ("Diener") used to ignore a star are discarded, or a single creature if there are already 6 ones and a 7th one is going to be conjured, but never both.

This ensures that
a) creatures are only discarded if necessary (used servants / limit cult area to 6 creatures)
b) used servants are discarded before a Great Old One ("Großer Alter") enters play, which should avoid confusion wether you win when having 6 points and using a servant to summon a GOO.

...however, this may differ from an upcoming official ruling, of course.
 
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Klaus Westerhoff
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FredhoT wrote:

Mmmh, I have one more (last?) question:
how do you deal with the situation when you have 6 creatures already present in your Cult Place and you want to summon a new one? Do you first choose which to discard and then summon, or can you use the star symbol of one (at least), summon the new one and then discard the one used?

Good one - once again we should have put more thought into the wording then...
This should summorize the intended order:

1a) Show the necessary constellation of the creature you want to summon for everyone to verify.
1b) Declare which creatures provide Star Symbols if summoning a GOO.
2) Discard any Servitors (Diener) that provided appropriate symbols in step 1b).
3) Check if you have already 6 creatures on your cult site, if yes: Discard one of your choice. This will of course *not* be the case if you had to discard a Servitor in step 2)
4) Play the newly summoned creature.

How terribly complicated...
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Tony Lindman
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Merimac wrote:

This should summorize the intended order:

1a) Show the necessary constellation of the creature you want to summon for everyone to verify.
1b) Declare which creatures provide Star Symbols if summoning a GOO.
2) Discard any Servitors (Diener) that provided appropriate symbols in step 1b).
3) Check if you have already 6 creatures on your cult site, if yes: Discard one of your choice. This will of course *not* be the case if you had to discard a Servitor in step 2)
4) Play the newly summoned creature.

How terribly complicated... :what:


May I suggest a slight rewording (obviously SJG will have someone write the "official" english version, but for now this might be less cumbersome):

1. Show the constellation of the creature to be summoned. Once the constellation is verified, discard any servitors which provided Star Symbols for summoning a GOO.
2. If at this point you have six creatures on your cult site, discard one of your choice.
3. Play the newly summoned creature into your cult site.

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Escher13 wrote:

May I suggest a slight rewording (obviously SJG will have someone write the "official" english version, but for now this might be less cumbersome):

1. Show the constellation of the creature to be summoned. Once the constellation is verified, discard any servitors which provided Star Symbols for summoning a GOO.
2. If at this point you have six creatures on your cult site, discard one of your choice.
3. Play the newly summoned creature into your cult site.

I think that's a pretty good summary! thumbsup

...however, I find one thing a little ambigous:
In step 1, it could be understood that you would discard any servitor that shows a star symbol when summoning the associated GOO, not just those you declared to be used to ignore a star.

@Merimac: Thanks for the clarification!
 
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Merimac wrote:
FredhoT wrote:

Mmmh, I have one more (last?) question:
how do you deal with the situation when you have 6 creatures already present in your Cult Place and you want to summon a new one? Do you first choose which to discard and then summon, or can you use the star symbol of one (at least), summon the new one and then discard the one used?

Good one - once again we should have put more thought into the wording then...
This should summorize the intended order:

1a) Show the necessary constellation of the creature you want to summon for everyone to verify.
1b) Declare which creatures provide Star Symbols if summoning a GOO.
2) Discard any Servitors (Diener) that provided appropriate symbols in step 1b).
3) Check if you have already 6 creatures on your cult site, if yes: Discard one of your choice. This will of course *not* be the case if you had to discard a Servitor in step 2)
4) Play the newly summoned creature.

How terribly complicated...


Thanks, it is now clear. I'm going to finish my french translation of the rules and post it on the BoardgameGeek.

 
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HëllRÆZØR wrote:
Escher13 wrote:

May I suggest a slight rewording (obviously SJG will have someone write the "official" english version, but for now this might be less cumbersome):

1. Show the constellation of the creature to be summoned. Once the constellation is verified, discard any servitors which provided Star Symbols for summoning a GOO.
2. If at this point you have six creatures on your cult site, discard one of your choice.
3. Play the newly summoned creature into your cult site.

I think that's a pretty good summary! thumbsup

...however, I find one thing a little ambigous:
In step 1, it could be understood that you would discard any servitor that shows a star symbol when summoning the associated GOO, not just those you declared to be used to ignore a star.

@Merimac: Thanks for the clarification!


It's not actually ambiguous in English. "Which provided" (past perfect tense) literally means only those servitors which were used would be discarded. If it had been stated "which provides" then it would be ambiguous. If I understand correctly the ambiguity is because modern German does not have a "perfect" aspect related to tense--"perfect" meaning "a state of completion of the action." I think this is often at the root of many of the translation issues when you see questions asked about using *any* something rather than a *specific* something.
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Old thread, but the tiles and cards fit fine into the SJG box.

More importantly, play this game with counters! You'll find them useful for keeping track of which cards you used to move tiles, which tiles you moved if you play takebacks, etc.

Best played with two players and there's definitely a learning curve. Played one game and rarely used the combo ability of the played cards. Maybe arranging the cards into a pyramid to see what moves you can gain would help?
 
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