Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Blood Rage and West Valley TableCon 2015

Way back in August I posted a wishlist of 6 games that were on my radar to play as soon as I could, the very next day our game group was joined by a new addict. Having read this blog he brought with him five of those games - Imperial Settlers, Baseball Highlights 2045, Tragedy Looper, Forbidden Stars and Arcadia Quest - I have covered all of those games over the past few months as I got around to playing them. This past week I finally got the chance to play my final game from that wish list, thanks to another member of our group.


Ragnarok has arrived and with it the end of the world as the vikings know it. Players take control of viking clans as they rush to claim stake to glory and earn a place at Odin's side in Valhalla. They can claim glory by dying valiantly in battle, invading and pillaging, completing quests and controlling regions of the land, and gloriously dying in Ragnarok itself.

The selection of a player's strategy is decided in the drafting phase, the first phase of the three ages that span the game. Using cards players create a starting hand of upgrades for their clans, battle cards and quests. This is followed by an action phase, each player starts with a limit of rage, and some actions may cost rage. In turn the clans will getting a chance to perform one action, such as invading, pillaging and upgrading. A player can no longer perform any more actions once they are all raged out.

What a game, I was initially too hyped up for this game and my first play didn't wow me as much as expected, but thinking back on it and the second play I had I feel part of the hype was warranted. The drafting at the start is a huge part of the game, deciding on how you want to play out each round, what gods you want to align with will be important. Thor brings you extra glory for winning, while Loki can give you victory in defeat, Tyr helps you strengthen during battle and Heimdal gives you foresight. Also keeping certain cards from opponents maybe even more important. Then how you use those cards during the action phase, the order in which you play deepens the strategy. Do you show your hand early, over loading on invades and burning up rage leaves you with less options as the map fills.

Also, I can't say enough about the minis that come in the box. Each clan has their own sculpts as well as a myriad of monsters. I got to play the blinged out Kickstarter version, but I'm sure the base box will be more than enough for most people. Seeing everything on the table can be overwhelming for some, making the game look more complicated than it really is. Extremely happy that I got an opportunity to play it.


For those of you who don't know, this past weekend marked an anniversary of my gaming group on facebook. West Valley Tabletop (link in the right column). To celebrate I wanted to put on something special, so I got with Jared at Game Boutique and hosted a weekend of games at the store. From 10am on Saturday to Midnight and then again from 10am on Sunday. 

I attempted to keep to a schedule which worked in part, starting the games off with Champions of Midgard. I got to teach this one, it is a gorgeously produced worker placement game, with a similar viking theme to Blood Rage. Players are battling to gain the most glory to become the Jarl of the village, to do thise they are sending out warriors to fight trolls, dragurs and other monsters. It is fairly light and plays like Lords of Waterdeep as you gather the resources needed to fight off the monsters. But instead of investing the needed fighters, the warriors are represented by dice and you have to roll to fight. There is enough mitigation to keep it fun, without making bad rolls to huge. Could easily see this become a staple and a replacement for Lords of Waterdeep.

After that plans fell apart, but it became more of a gathering of friends and a chance to play with new people. Introducing a few to heavier games then they had been accustomed to playing is always a join for me. Seeing that moment when someone's mind is blown by a simple mechanic that overlays a deeper choice. Speaking of which, I got to play Keyflower again, another awesome worker placement game where the workers aren't only assigned to actions but can be used as a bidding token for tiles to expand your village. Which in turn makes the placing of workers a harder choice because if you want to use an action that is now in another player's village they will get your used meeple at the end of the round.

Followed that up with a favorite of mine, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, certainly lighter but I enjoy the unique stories building up my castle can make. This game I was rocking the activity rooms, visitors would come to my place, leave their jackets in the cloak room off the foyer before being led off on an adventure that involved a train room, a theater and even a sewing room. Yeah you know it!

One of the highlights for me, was one fellow gamer coming along with part of his Heroscape collection and giving me the opportunity to play. Out of print at the moment and with great looking pre-painted figures this miniatures game was an unexpected surprise. Our two player game was feeling like a wash to me and I managed to turn it round to garner the win. I don't know if I'll ever be able to afford to get into this, but I thank him for bringing it along to give me a taste.

By then we were joined by many more, including the elusive Kohatsu, who once again brought with him Magnum Opus. A rather interesting unique deck-building race involving alchemy. Through the decks you have to collect up materials to transmute into more powerful cards and powers, as well as trying to find the three elements that make up the Philosopher's Stone. The first player to successfully gather this information and transmute will win the game. It was a fun experience and I was one good dice roll away from stealing victory but alas it slipped through my fingers. Again.

Between games throughout the first day we had people playing many other games, including Cosmic Encounter, Viticulture, Trains, Captains of Industry, Ghostbusters, Cash n Guns, Concordia, Isle of Skye, Favor of the Pharaoh, Marco Polo and some others. Over the day we saw 30+ people come and go, a great turnout.

We ended out the first day with an epic couple games of 2 Rooms and a Boom, with 18 players and myself moderating. The essence of the game is hidden role with two competing teams. The President's Team (blue) and the Bomber's team (red). The teams are mixed up and placed in separate 'rooms', with a time limit a room leader has to choose a number of hostages to swap with the other room. The red team wants to end up with their Bomber in the same room as the President, thus blowing him up. The Blue team wants to avoid that happening. Roles start hidden, but you can make agreements with other players to reveal to one another, so slowly information will leak out into both rooms. It's a great game both in which to participate and watch as you see the segregation in each room.

Sunday promised to be slower day. Starting with an epic four hour, and unfinished, game of Forbidden Stars. Playing as almost a learning game for all of us we had to call the space epic at the start of the 6th round (of 8). A draw between myself and Mario for two of our four needed objectives. The game state at the end seemed to dictate a power shift was about to come as I had spread myself rather thin along the middle of the galaxy. One day I will see this game to a conclusion. Two player rematch perhaps?

I got to savor Blood Rage again, before finishing out my first TableCon with Roll for the Galaxy a staple of many gaming nights for us. Other games on Sunday included Dominant Species, Flick 'em Up and 7 Wonders.

Special thanks to my wife, Cindy and my family for coming along on the crazy ride; Huge thank you to Mario and Trevor for being in attendance all day both days, also for teaching games to others; Jared and Andrea for giving me access to the store for it; Cyndi for also being there all along, thanks for being a constant; Dr Dan for leaving Blood Rage in my hands; Gary for the orange whips; Kohatsu for keeping it real 'old'; Sara & Josh, Jeff C, Judy & Jim, Rob for being with the group at the beginning; Matt and Nicole - get better soon; Steve for learning the correct rules ;) ; Michelle for putting up with us; Shelly for the alcohol; Tom for being larger than life; Aubrey for the quiet moments and good luck with your training; Also thank you to all the others who came along during the weekend, it was a pleasure to meet you all and I hope to see many of you again soon.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

West Valley Tabletop: A Journey and Thank You

    This week marks a milestone and a celebration of sorts, it has been a year since I started up a facebook group in an effort to grow a community of gamers for the far west side of the greater Phoenix area. This is our origin story...

    My wife and I had fallen into hobby games a few years back, but we had only really played Catan, Ticket to Ride and the like. After a new local game store opened on our side of the city I started making the concentrated effort to get regular gaming going. Tabletop Tuesday was born. Many of our attendees came from these first few meetups, but unfortunately the store closed and a decision to move hosting to our home. With a little discussion we settled on a regular Wednesday get together and with that West Valley Wednesday became a thing.

    Wednesday night has become a staple of our lives and a regular turnout of at least 15 gamers each week is impressive and allows us to play many varied titles. I want to thank those that have joined us over the past weeks, those who have brought, shared and taught games. Also those who have kept us fed. It has been great to make new friends and share these great little cardboard experiences together. This past year has been alot of fun and we hope to continue this on for as long as we can. 

    Thanks to everyone around me I've had the opportunities to play alot of games that I wouldn't have had access to otherwise. As many who play with me know, I have been tracking my plays since the end of April and in the six plus months since I started doing so I have played almost 200 unique games. 
     I enjoy the experience of learning a new system each time, mechanics, card play, movement. I love to bury myself in a heavy euro as much as playing a strong thematic game with randomly high luck. There is so much choice and diversity out there in this hobby and so much that I have yet to get to play, both old and new that I look forward to every week to get together with my new friends and play.

     So with that, I am excited for this weekend and our first TableCon. Hoping we can introduce some new people to games we love and to this hobby.

     Keep on Playing!

     The previous year wouldn't have been possible without help from the following:
Cindy Coles and our kids, Theresa, Chaeli and Robert; Jared & Andrea Adamson, Mario Attilio, Trevor Shaff, Gary Pryzbocki, Cyndi Weaver, Nathan Kohatsu, Jason Washburn, Wil Sisney, Matthew Green, Nicole True, Michelle Brinker, Danielt Montgomery, Thomas Kirksey, Jeff Carroll, Kevin Kaye, Aubrey Hudachko, Michelle Bonk, Niki Stanger, Jason Schneider, Leo Vandenburg, Steve Rasmussen, Judy Ives, Darren Borquist, Rob Ruppert, Bridgette Sims and the many others who I have played with....


Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Weekly Route - It's back!

A little delayed this past couple of weeks, managed to play quite a bit over that time, trying to keep it short and sweet for everyone. In my side quest to play games that are sitting the BGG Top 100 I hit 47 games played this week.


Here is a lesser known game from the designer of Stone Age that I had the pleasure of playing. The abstracted theme has players taking control of various people throughout the Mediterranean as they spread out and build their monuments to the gods. Using hand management and set collection, players can play cards on their to spread out around the map or to claim god tiles that give you passive or immediate abilities. You earn the much needed victory points mainly by placing out your control columns in certain spots on the map, but also through bonus tiles and gods.

There is certainly randomness to how cards come out and what bonuses are revealed each turn but a depth of strategy can be reached. It doesn't quite live up to Stone Age's reputation, but it sits at the same family level with a little less seriousness than it's worker placement counterpart.


The 'theme' for this euro is that players are each one of a great noble house in Europe during the 17th century. Using country cards that players acquire via drawing each turn, players can turn them in to gain influence with various titles. Once in with a title, players can be bumped out when intrigue cards are played on their spots. Points are earned as you move into each city, at the end of each round based on the most influence in each country and finally end game scoring based on who has the most sway with each title.

I put this game at gateway plus, easy to teach and the use of a Ticket to Ride like card drawing mechanic helps ease players into decisions. Card drawing can leave a lot to luck but otherwise this is a fairly decent game.


A month or so ago I got to play Glory to Rome, it was a brief play, but the multiple action selection for each card was a fantastic mechanic. Mottainai comes from the same designer, Carl Chudyk, and it's boasted as a refinement to his earlier design. 

Coming with only a deck of 54 cards at first it may not seem much, but there is a great variety choices and not too much to become overwhelming. The game is hard enough for most to wrap their heads around but with familiarity I could see playtime coming down alot. With multiple plays you will find your flow and ability to create cool card combos.


In Soviet Russia rail tracks build YOU! Well at least start earning you a truckload of victory points. Through worker placement players compete to build out their railway network, advancing the modernization of their rails and upgrade locomotives to further their reach across the country.

It is a true railroad race as players escalate up the scoreboard, building up to those final round combos that earn you big gains. I absolutely loved my first play of this and look forward to growing my railway reach again as soon as I can.



Trading in the Mediterranean is the very familiar core to this game. Players works as dynasties of the Roman Empire as they extend their reach sending out colonists and building up a trade network. To achieve this, each player starts the game with a hand of cards and their turn they play one out to activate an action on that card. As the game plays out you have opportunities to pick up more cards, which is encouraged as these cards double as end scoring at the end of the game if you meet the requirements of the Roman God on the card.

Strategy can be rewarded in this one, with little player interaction other than copying card plays. The appearance of cards can be variable but over the course of a game you will see all of the eventually, along with the variable board layout of resources adds to replays of the game. A deserved Top 100 game.


I thought I would add something new to bottom of my weekly posts, just to keep a comparison of all the games I have been playing over the past four weeks and how they stand in my wish to get them to the table again.

1. Manhattan Project
2. Concordia
3. La Granja
4. Arcadia Quest
5. Russian Railroads
6. Isle of Skye
7. Mottainai
8. Kemet
9. The Grizzled
10. Between Two Cities

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Kickstarting the Habit - Believe the Hype!

There is a lot of hype behind a certain title on Kickstarter this week, but there are still a other out there worth checking out.


Here is a co-op card game where the players are students at a school for wizards. You have to work together to pass tests and fight off the monsters invading the school.

This one may not be up to all tastes but cool cartoon style artwork and a Harry Potter-like theme is sure to appeal to many people.


Players work together to build up the city and defend it from the oncoming onslaught of natives and barbarians. You take on the role of outlaws attempting to atone for their sins by helping the King spread out into new lands and defend.

The game features to modes of play, PvP where one player can be the attackers attempting to break their way into the city, while the others have to defend. Then it can be played in a co-op mode becoming PvE as all players work to battle off the oncoming attacks.

This game has a great look, also interesting stretch goal unlock on the higher tiers with the potential of added miniatures to replace the wooden cubes. Keeping an eye on this one.


Looks like Scott Almes is doing it again. It is the nearing the turn of the 19th century and it is a boon time for paleontologists. Players take on the roles of these famous scientists as they attempt to be the first to dig up the most complete fossil sample. You rush to find the best bones and can also dabble in notoriety as you can steal other people's finds.

A fantastic dinosaur building system that rewards you points is the central mechanic of this game. Loving the look of being able to build up your own dinosaur before the end of the game.



The hype certainly precedes this one. Not much I can say about a game that picked up over $500,000 in backing in the first 24 hours. StoneMaier's proven track record with the likes of Euphoria, Viticulture and Between Two Cities before it speaks enough volumes to have the gaming community as a whole excited for this game.

Extensive playtesting and a knowledge of how you put a Kickstarter together is sure to help this one along. Absolutely gorgeous artwork and a unique, intriguing theme blows my mind.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kickstarting the Habit - Morrocan market stalls at the World's Fair

Even with Essen happening soon, there are still plenty to choose from hitting Kickstarter at the moment


An unique theme for this one, players adopt a teams of dogs and get to train them so they can compete in an agility competition against your opponents dogs.

Much like designer Brett Povis' previous game Morels, this is a two player game with the strategic intention of playing with planning and timing to beat your opponent to the finish line. Through hand management and some resource management you have to work your dogs through the courses on the way to victory.


Once again the team of Riddle, Pinchback and Eagle Gryphon games are here to give us their unique take on a Euro-style game. 

Using area control, players will be sending members of their family of artisans out to claim stalls at the market. There is plenty of give and take as players work their way into the market.

Of course the art design and components are top notch and well worth checking out if you have the time.


Harking back to the days of choose your own adventure books like the Fighting Fantasy series. This game is for 1 to 4 players working together to explore and discover the world of the 7th continent. 

The board builds up using numbered event and terrain cards to create a story as you move around. Promising over 1000+ minutes in one campaign and a story save feature much like video games, so you can drop out of the game anytime.


It's almost the turn of the 19th century and in Chicago a historic event took place. The World's Fair featured many achievements in science, technology, culture and entertainment. As organizers of the fair, players have to use their influence to get the exhibits that will be on display when the fair opens.

I think it is fantastic when game designers can take a part of history and involve the player in it's creation. This looks like it implements the theme into the game seamlessly. Looking forward for a chance to play it.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rincon 2015

This past weekend I took a physical trip for gaming, headed down to Tucson with friends for RinCon 2015. Today I'm going to take a look at some of my experiences playing over the weekend and my first convention.


I started my con playlist with a highly regarded civ-builder. Players compete to build up their civilization through history through the drafting of cards, using resource management you can garner better technologies, new leaders and even build up wonders to improve your empire. You have to balance growth in all areas, if you concentrate too much on science or resources you may leave your military side weak and open to attacks from the other players.

This game is a solid commitment and I hope to get to play it again as unfortunately we only managed to get about half a game in as one of our players had to leave early.

As a side note, Essen this year will see a new edition of this, which includes rule tweaks and streamlining.


As I will get into more later, dexterity games rule the Con for me but it all started with this wild west inspired flicker. With many scenarios included in the base game players take turns as either lawmen or outlaws shooting out around town. 

The one I got to play was the outlaws robbing the bank and the lawmen trying to stop them. It had a king of the hill style win objective that at the end of the game whomever had the most money in the saloon (outlaws) or the bank (lawmen) would win the game. So it had this back and forth as you had to shoot across town to each location grabbing money and bringing it back, all the while at the constant threat of getting taken out by your enemy.

To make matters even more thrilling it came down to the wire as the game was tied and the final lawman had to shootout against the remaining two outlaws. His first shot ended one of the outlaws, but the other outlaw's final bullet ended the hopes for the good guys and the last standing bandit rode off into the sunset.


This takes a design that took Battlestar Galactica and crammed it down into a game that only lasts around 90 minutes, then re-theming it in a remote research station that is on the brink of falling apart, that makes it feel like you are in the center of John Carpenter's classic The Thing. 

As a team you are trying to work together and survive until you can get rescued, the life support keeps needing repairs, the shields are beginning to flake out and the central control systems are unreliable. But now there is an unknown virus that has infected some of the crew, they have become unpredictable and violent toward the rest and will hinder all attempts of escape.

Even without the threat of the infected, this semi-coop would be hard enough to keep the team alive. The added paranoia and suspicion can put the wrong person in quarantine or make an infected the commander. Definitely moving up my wishlist.


This was my unexpected surprise of the Con, finding myself between games I had sat down to chat with a fellow attendee when someone else walked up and asked if we wanted to play. Stupid question! So I got introduced to Super Motherload.

This is a tile-laying, deck builder. Players a competing crews of miners on the surface of Mars, each turn you can play cards to dig deeper into the ground and mine the precious resources as you go. The income from these minerals can be spent to improve your deck of cards. As you digger deeper you have opportunities to pick up achievement cards for victory points.

It has the look and feel of an old school video game, such as Dig-Dug, the scrolling board as you dig and the awards give enhance that sense but it has enough to entice lovers of all styles of games.


One player takes the role of the Godfather, he holds his precious cigar box which has a false bottom that contains his stash of diamonds. He entrusts his surrounding henchmen with the care of this box and passes it around the table. As the box reaches you, you have two choices, either become a robber and steal diamonds from the box or take one of the loyalty tokens that remains. Once the box has made it back around the table to the Godfather, they must begin the questioning to find out who he can trust and who he should accuse to recover all his diamonds. But don't be to hasty in those decisions as making the wrong ones will allow the robbers to win the game and the Godfather to lose face.

It takes alot in the modern age of board games to come up with a hidden role game that has a different and unique feel. This is one that can be added to that echelon of games you know how to play but never know quite how to play.


Each players takes control of a nation in the nuclear arms race. By sending out your workers to collect resources, build facilities or even attack your opponents you compete to be the first to reach 50 victory points. Victory points are only garnered by building bigger and better bombs, testing them and even loading them onto your bombers. 

Using a great worker placement mechanic, with no rounds or end of round scoring the game just flows around the table. It has an awesome puzzle type aspect to how you send out workers or pull them back to your pool. It's all about being efficient and taking your chances when you can. While the theme could likely put people off, it is softened with the cartoon like artwork.

Of all the new games I got to play while at the Con this was easily my favorite.


My final experience of the Con was getting Kemet to the table. This is a hefty box of a game and one that looks wonderful laid out on the table. This is essentially area control, players compete for regions of the board and the first to amass 8 points at the end of a round win the game. Unlike alot of empire building type games, you get to start out with enough resources to dive straight into battle if you wish. Alternatively you may want to suit back and build up your pyramids to help purchase power tiles to improve your followers and even add creature to your troops.

I came close to victory in this one, but good push from a fellow player plucked the win from my hands and earned it for him. A great game that is well worth the time giving a shot.

As stated earlier, dexterity games became the defining event for me at the Con. Late on Saturday evening there was to be a dexterity triathlon, hosted by Trevor Kvaran.

We all started with Tumblin' Dice on a custom made board, not my shining moment as my dice just kept on tumblin' or wouldn't tumble enough. I need more practice at this one.

Then I was introduced to Crokinole, a Canadian bar game, that has solidified itself a spot in the BBG Top 100. It can be likened to a mini version of shuffleboard, that you can sit at a table and enjoy. Again the board we played on was custom made by Trevor K. So awesome looking, I wonder how much he would charge to make one for me? Anyway I digress. Players take turns flicking wooden discs into the center, attempting to score, only rule is that if an opponents disc is already on the board you must make contact with that first or your disc will be removed from play. Awesome fun.

Finally we moved onto Konexi, a word creating, letter balancing game. For this you take turns choosing letters and then placing them onto the ever growing tower on the table. With placement you score for any word you can create from the connecting letters. If you knock over the tower in lose points and start again. 
The completed tower

The game did begin out as competitive, and word scoring was taken and building was aimed at making it difficult for the opponents. But around two-thirds into the alphabet the game changed and competitive turned to co-op. Scoring was left at the wayside as we aimed for getting all 26 letters balanced in one perfect tower. 

Collective sighs and deep breaths were taken as each letter was placed with the greatest of care. Concentration was high and a group of cheers was raised around us as the final letter was placed. Thanks to the two Trevors and Dori for making this a Con memory we won't forget.

The Konexi tower building team - Trevor Shaff, Trevor Kvaran, Dori Lovers and Me

Finally, this was a great experience for me, getting to meet lots of awesome new people with the same love for the hobby as me. Learning lots of new games. Thanks to the organisers from SAGA for putting it all together. 

I look forward to getting the chance to head to Tucson again next year and also to my plans for my own local con here in Surprise, AZ.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Weekly Route - From the search for artifacts to surviving the Great War


With awesome looking sculpts this is a hard game to not get into as you play. It feels like an old school coin-op given life, much like Gauntlet, you fight you way across a monster infested arena picking up gold and power-ups. Except this time other players can be attacking you as they try to complete their quests.

You are fully at the mercy of the dice, which in a game such as is this is part of the fun. You can go from epic critical hits to rolling morale dampening blanks.


Another type of quest continues as I strike one more off the BGG Top 100 must play list. The design of this game effortlessly blends many mechanics, auctions, tile-laying, worker placement and pick up & deliver. 

I loved the decisions this game puts before you as you have to decide how to use the many workers you have either as action activators or bidding tokens in the auctions. Then at the end of the game you have open bidding for end scoring tiles, this can get mean as you take away points from someone if you get the bids right. Can't wait to play again.


Doing for a board game what Indiana Jones did for a film, this one embodies the pulp adventures of the 40s. Car chases, collapsing bridges, hidden artifacts in temples and Nazis span the globe as players take on the roles of a variety of adventurers racing to get their hands on the hidden treasures. 

My first playthrough was co-op as we worked against the common threat of the nazis, and boy did we cut it fine in the end, squeaking out a victory. This is a singular experience, reeking with theme, random events and dice rolling that can cost you everything. 



Inside the rule book for this is an intention note from the desginers about how this game was created out of respect to those who fought in the Great War. And that this game is representative of the struggles they dealt with everyday. I feel they succeeded in providing that in the amazingly small package of a co-op card game. Players feel the ups and, more ofthen than not, the downs  of being entrenched. Pushing forward often feels futile as a mission failure will cause you getting deeping in the hole.

This game has to be played at the full five player count to be fully appreciated, as that offers the greatest and almost impossible challenge. Try it, you won't be disappointed, but expect to be beaten.

Got my first taste of Tiny Epic Galaxies... Ran off to the Isle of Skye again... Got a chance to complete in the Camel Up SuperCup... A fun full table game of Wits & Wagers

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Kickstarting the Habit - Spirit Guardians against the Deadly Sins

Another trio of picks for you to kick this week!


Eric Lang and Cool Mini or Not are at it again. This time they are setting us up to battle the Seven Deadly Sins, players will take on the roles of members of FAITH (Federal Authority for the Interdiction of Transdimensional Horrors) a paranormal organization tasked with battling the evils corrupting the town of Haven.

With awesome miniatures and a horror campaign that doesn't involve the oncoming arrival of Cthulhu, if you have the money to burn this is certainly a campaign to get behind. As always with their campaigns it has funded and then some opening up almost all of their stretch goals.


Arthursburg is under attack, the residents and wildlife of the town are transformed into monsters out to destroy the town. Now it's upto you and your friends to rise up and battle the oncoming evil. You are The Guardians. Players have to draft cards to build up a deck to help them fortify locations around town. The game has a semi-cooperative aspect as each player will have their own secret quests to complete along the way to become the True Guardian.

Out of the box the game comes packed with cards and great artwork. The theme sounds a blast, with card drafting being a a fantastic way to build up your hand. This is definitely worth considering.


Set in an alternate history of 1700AD, players take on the roles of different spirits of the land, using unique powers the object is to protect your island from encroaching colonists in a strategic area control co-op game.

I love to see games designers still managing to create unique themes for their games. In a world where civ-building plays a big part of board games, this game puts in the other side of the story as you protect your land from the building society around you.


Friday, September 25, 2015

The Weekly Route - From LV-426 to Mallorca


Theme bleeds from every pour of this game, Upper Deck have really hit on a winner with this. Pushing their Legendary deck building system into a movie franchise that reeks of tension and fear. As you play through each of the movies that come in the core set for this, every card turn can cause collective cringing and gasps of relief. I finally got a chance to teach it to my wife, at first she didn't seem too enthralled but as we built toward the end of scenario she came around and was riding right there alongside the movie's heroes.

If you enjoy deckbuilders you'll love this, if you have a love for the movie franchise you'll love this. Looking forward to getting Predator and the future expansion for this.


In my quest to play my way through the Top 100 on BGG I rarely turn down plays of games currently occupying it. On the lower end comes Glory to Rome, a game that I have heard alot of mixed feelings for. It is a card driven city building game that features a very unique mechanic of playing cards, every card in your hand can be used in multiple ways. It really brings about a depth to game that is simple in it's mechanics, giving you alot of choices on each turn. You can use them to build up roles in your tableau so each time you have a turn you can use certain powers multiple times. Scoring comes from the buildings you complete, along with resources you managed to store along the way.

I played with original cartoon style artwork, which detracts from the game itself as it gives it an old look on the table. Definitely a game that should be reworked with new art.


Crossing another one off the 100 list here, hadn't really heard much about this before playing but came away feeling I got to play something a little different. The theme places you as competing companies trying to make theirs the most profitable by building up plantations on colonies during the 16th century. Each phase of the game starts with a auction, players have the chance to put certain items up for bid, if one of your opponents win they pay you, if you decide to take the item you get it for cheaper than the highest bid. Once that is over you have a very limited number of actions to level up their technologies, grow on plantations, gather ships and build up colonies.

Once the game is flowing it plays rather quickly and a nice feel to the engine building that doesn't overstay it's welcome. Certainly would like to play again.


Controlling farms on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean, players compete to deliver their goods to market and earn the title of "La Granja" for their estate. Taking a heavy influence from Glory to Rome and many other Euro games from designers such as Stefan Feld and Uwe Rosenberg. This is a game of great depth and decision each turn, multi-use cards, resource management and turn manipulation are all things you have to keep track off. With an element of timing over the seemingly short six rounds of play make every choice you make huge.

Initially the game will seem to have a high AP level, but I think over time and familiarity with the cards that will level out with multiple plays. A contender for game of the year for sure.


Taking an elegant puzzle design like the original Lewis & Clark and turning it into a shorter playing dice game and carrying over a similar feel is a hard task, but one that Discoveries is more than upto. Taking the journal aspect of their journey across America, Lewis & Clark and other members of their expedition wrote page after page of new species they discovered and maps of the lands they traversed. Using the dice to help you push your expedition along and collect as much knowledge as possible in your journal is key to winning the game. With just two choices on your turn, place a die or pick up dice to add to your pool it converts the original into a different kind of puzzle.

Excellent all round, art is fantastic to look at and there is enough dice mitigation to not get stomped by bad rolls each turn.



Set on the beautiful shores of Scotland's gem, the Isle of Skye, players compete to build up the best kingdom. Each round players place land tiles up for auction to each other and once they are purchased they are laid into a personal tableau of the isle as it builds up. Each game has a selection of 4 objectives to score points of, from a potential pool of 16, creating a different feel each game as how you build your kingdom will change from game to game.

Personally this game could replace Carcassonne and Castles of Mad King Ludwig as it fills the feeling of each of these in a tight clean package, that plays in under a hour. Also the art is bright and colorful creating a great look on the table once everyone is finished.

Dug up fossils and went on expedition into the jungle with Artifacts, Inc... Went to Medina to build a city... Travelled to San Juan to sell tobacco... Voyaged to the new world to mess with the Spanish Main alongside Francis Drake... Became an Istanbul gem hoarder... Finally ran my way around London to find Mr Jack and defeat my wife for the first time.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Weekly Route - From castaway to finding my way to the Pacific

The Weekly Route is never planned, sometimes there may be lots of stops and occasionally just one or two. This is where I like to take a look back at the previous week and check out the stops my gaming hobby took me to.

As always thanks to all that make this journey possible each week through my gaming groups.

7 Wonders
A couple of weeks ago I got to revisit Small World, this week I managed to pull to the table another old favorite. This is a fantastic drafting game where you are building up your wonder with locations that can earn you victory points. The simultaneous nature of the game play makes any player count run over the same amount of time once all the players know what they are doing each turn. There is a fun balance between keeping something you need while also not passing on cards that would be helpful for your neighbor. We played this with six players and it seemed different strategies earned victory each time and my wife even seemed to enjoy a play of a game she isn't really that into which speaks volumes for how this game is with the right group of people around the table. Also I need the practise as I just signed up for the tournament they are hosting at Rincon this year.

Robinson Crusoe
This was my first playthrough of this supposedly brutal co-op game. Players are all castaways, awaiting rescuing on a tropical island. You must explore your surroundings and collect resources to help battle the elements and the island's wildlife, while at the same time trying to complete the objective for the unique scenario you are currently playing. This is certainly unlike any other co-ops I've played, it has many decisions for you to make each round and an excellent implementation of dice rolling if you decide to do a task alone. As I said I was warned about how hard it would be to win at this, which we managed to do in my first sitting, I think a large amount of good luck helped along with playing it with two very experienced members of our group. Thanks Matt and Nicole couldn't have made it off the island without you.

Panic Station
You are sent to a remote space station to investigate an alien presence there, now one of your team is infected and you don't know who it is. Working as a team and against a traitor in your midst you must search the station looking for the alien hive to defeat the threat. Although the game seemed to have some clunkiness in the rules and needs to have printed player guides for what cards do, for me at least the game instilled a frantic level of paranoia as we got closer to the end. The major mechanic of the game is that when you enter a room with another player you have to essentially 'swap-spit' by trading cards in your hands, in the process of this any infected player has the chance to pass off an infection card and in turn infect another member of the team. At points during the game you can scan all the players and through the secret playing of cards it can be revealed how many people are already carrying the alien parasite. Just imagine The Thing as a board game and you are getting there.

It can be a rare thing when a game is equally beautiful to look as it is mechanically sound, but in the case of Lewis & Clark we have that rare joy. At the heart of it this is a race game, as players lead expeditions across America, trying to be the first to reach the Pacific coast. To achieve this you use a unique card playing system mixed with worker placement, you lay a card from your hand to activate it's action but to use that action you may have to use another card face down to power it. So as you go you turns become a puzzle of what cards to use and what to lose the chance to use that turn. Need to get my own copy of this one for sure.

Other stops
Got Chibis to the table with Takenoko... Tried a hand at 3 player Brew Crafters... Made a wonderful steam powered machine in Steampunk Rally... Spyfall inspired a hunt through a submarine... Robbed the Colt Express

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Weekly Route - Travelling through time and crafting brews

The Weekly Route is never planned, sometimes there may be lots of stops and occasionally just one or two. This is where I like to take a look back at the previous week and check out the stops my gaming hobby took me to.

As always thanks to all that make this journey possible each week through my gaming groups.

Gaming as a learning and teaching tool is certainly something that is often unique among many games but a method that can open gaming upto families and new gamers. I had never played the Timeline series before, put off by it's simplicity but I was won over by the detail in the artwork on the tiny cards and the way the game can get a family around the table together playing. The game is simple, you have a hand of cards that represent events during history and you have to play all of your cards correctly into an ever growing timeline on the table. There are several versions of the game dealing with unique themes and they can all be potentially combined into an uber-game. Looking forward to an new announced version called Timeline Challenge, which includes a player board and tokens but no details on the rules yet.

Yee-arrr! It's a pirate's life for me! Sailing the seven seas and fighting other ships for the share of the booty. This card placing and semi-trick taking game brings out the theme fantastically with take-that rounds as cards are revealed. Players secretly play role cards to choose order in which they can grab at the booty each day, but some special powers can change what was played or even kill off opponents crew members. Over 3 separate campaigns you attempt to amass the most booty. At times the game feels a little stretched but with the right group and attitudes it'll be fun, keeping the player count down to four may also help.

Arcadia Quest
Imaging Gauntlet the arcade game as a board game where there are teams of adventurers fighting one another for gold, then you have Arcadia Quest. There is a light back story to the game involving the rise of a Vampire Lord who is bringing turmoil to the city of Arcadia. Each player runs a guild of heroes fighting one another for renown in cleaning the streets of goblins and orcs on their way to defeat the Vampire Lord. Each scenario has a mix of PvP and PvE objectives for your guild to complete, achieve a mix of 3 of these and you win that round. The combat system is fun and tense, helped by exploding dice, where rolling critical hits mean you get to re-roll dice and add to your damage.  This game is an absolute blast and a close 2nd choice for my game of the week.

An absolutely solid second play of this game last night, for those who I played with I apologize for my grumping while playing, definitely not a game to play when you're tired. But my choices each turn were consuming my brain. I went for a heavy tech and building strategy which meant trying to keep track of alot on my turn. In the end it paid off and garnered myself a win, certainly need to run at this again and see if it would work a second time. As a worker placement game I don't feel it does anything new but with this one it is the theme that comes through strong, you get the feel that you are brewing and pushing through sales and growing your brewing empire. The game itself is a work of master craftsmanship.

Other stops
Got my first win in Tzolk'in... Just couldn't find my rolls in Roll for the Galaxy... Played on the small side with Tiny Epic Kingdoms and The Builders... Introduced my family to Trains... Had my first run at Mr Jack.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Kickstarting the Habit: Caverns packed with gems and booze

With Essen around the corner it is a fairly slow time for Kickstarter, but there are still a few I think could be worth checking out.


From Overworld Games the publishers behind the hugely successful and fun Good Cop Bad Cop comes another hidden role and deduction game. Set during the time of US Prohibition, 3 mobs compete to be the most profitable. With no player elimination everyone gets a chance to try and figure out who is on their team and sell alcohol on their way to victory.

This campaign also features a chance to pick up another recently funded and well received Kickstarter in the form of New Salem. Also if you are feeling it you can bling out your copy of Booze Barons with an awesome custom made Game Trayz insert.


At first glance Trove may look like just another dungeon crawl where players are adventurers running through a cave or two collecting up gold and killing the monsters within. But this one takes a unique take on the roles given to the players.

In this game you can choose to be the Knight, who must kill the dragon, or the Goblins, who are trying to end the Knight's quest, the Dragon, who is just trying to to escape, and finally the Cave itself, who is trying to expand and then collapse. This promises to play like nothing else out there and no two games will feel the same with a tile laying mechanic to building the cave.

Definitely worth checking out, with most of the stretch goals hit already and a fifth player option waiting to be unlocked.


Eduardo Baraf is back on Kickstarter, after his fun alien escape game Lift Off! he returns with a gorgeously cute family card game. In this game upto 5 players will be collecting geminos and completing sets to earn the victory points to win.

Like his previous game this looks like it will be a perfect gateway game with the use of bright primary colors to help attract players to the game. There is also a version available on iOS which plays like a puzzle game as you help the little geminos blast off on rockets.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Weekly Route - From occupied France to laying track in Japan

The Weekly Route is never planned, sometimes there may be lots of stops and occasionally just one or two. This is where I like to take a look back at the previous week and check out the stops my gaming hobby took me to.

As always thanks to all that make this journey possible each week through my gaming groups.

Imperial Settlers
I did get a chance to learn this the week before, but managed to sit down for another play after my first game went for a little long. From designer Ignacy Trzewiczek this is a re-working of another game of his 51st State. It is a civ-building card game with an endearing cartoon style art that belies the deep yet mean gameplay below. As you build up your own tableau of locations before you, you have opportunities to raze your opponent's to gain valuable resources and take points away from them. My second play of this was a two player against my wife, the game played easily in under a hour, with a great feeling of back and forth between us. Certainly want to pick this up for myself.

Operation F.A.U.S.T.
Deep in occupied France during World War II a war inside a war raged as independent art partons tried to prevent the Third Reich from plundering all the cultural valuables. Through bluffing and deception players must attempt to acquire works of art with the help of spies, allies and the French Resistance, the player who recovers $1,000,000 worth first is the victor. The game uses a hidden role mechanic similar to Coup, where each player has at least two roles in front of them and they can choose to use the abilities of the ones they have or bluff something from one of the other roles. Unlike Coup though, there is no elimination if you lose a role through a challenge you just draw a new one, keeping you going.We just got a couple of playthroughs of this in and it felt like lying wasn't absolutely necessary as you tried to attain the paintings. I feel more plays will surely be needed to get into the depth of this one.

I had seen this game being played within my group over the last week and I finally got a chance to
get in on a game last night. It is revised and expanded version of a 2002 game, players buy and sell railway stock, trying to outsmart opponents through a push your luck bidding system and stock retention. The more stocks on the table, the more they are worth, but as other's sell the same stocks ones in front of you will become worth less. I see this as a gateway game to bigger stock manipulation type games, easy to understand what you can do, but not quite as easy to understand what you should do each turn. Just need to mention the one component that really makes this game is a wooden bowl that you use to drop your bids in each round, it is a unique head turning that gets people interested in this one.

Small World
Need to make a honorable mention to one of my early tastes in the hobby gaming world. Been a while since I had gotten this to the table, often distracted by the new and shinies that cross our tables each game night. If you want to get a non-gamer who thinks RISK is the be all of area control, then this is the game that can get them into our wonderful world. Small World takes an easy to understand system to attacking opponents, just have more units and you win the area. The game is filled with fantastic fantasy races with crazy powers that you manipulate to your benefit as you run rampant through the lands, spread yourself thin, then kill off your race and start up a new one. So glad I got to visit this old friend again this week.

Taking a deckbuilding mechanic and tying it into laying tracks across Japan doesn't sound like the most fun but this is far from it. Gameplay is so smooth and quick as you use your hands to lay tracks, build stations and purchase more powerful improvements for your deck, as you race to collect points across the map. Each game will have a random selection of cards to purchase, so the variability inspires repeat plays. 
I like trains. I enjoy deck building. I love Trains! 

Other stops
Heard a gentle rapping at my chamber door, Nevermore... Anger the gods in Tzolk'in... Searched the depths in Abyss... Built, collapsed and re-built with Rhino Hero... Attempted to protect a village with our Samurai Spirit... lied to my friends as a Good Cop Bad Cop and in the courts of Avalon.