View Full Version : Decoys Review Thread

03-02-2013, 12:11
Ok, So I've written a few reviews for board games in the past, and I plan to keep writing them (I mainly write them to help people decide in my local shop what they might enjoy), So Ill be posting them in this thread.

My review style revolves around explaining how to play the game, as Without knowing how the mechanics work, you cant really make an informed decision, as well as how I feel they interact with each other, and finally how complicated the game is to teach to new players.

I also will Classify each game to make it easier for you to understand what each game will be like, a full glossery to come:

Ameritrash: Generally good components, the theme makes the game, generally has mechanics around dice rolling where player interaction is generally about impeding other players through direct conflict.
Multiplayer Solo: Although the game is designed to be played with multiple people, It generally equates to each player playing solitaire in their own little area with little player interaction, they often suffer from best move syndrome whereby there is always a best move making games somewhat predictable.
Resource management: The game's main mechanics focus on making sure you have the right combinations of the games currency's.
Bitchy: The game Mainly revolves around directly disadvantaging the other players.
Co-operative: The game's players will either win or lose as a team, generally working against a game clock, they often suffer from comity syndrome, whereby each player's actions generally get dictated by what the group sees as most beneficial
Semi Co-operative: The game involves players working towards a common goal, but some players may either be traitors or one particular player may be declared the winner, Either way the game will suffer less from comity syndrome (generally), where players would be more inclined to play for their own gain.
Euro: Generally suffers from being "multiplayer solo" heavy, and being more about risk mitigation. The games theme generally has no impact on the mechanics and also tend to use wooden meeples, playing cards and cardboard chits instead of miniatures and rolling dice.
Worker Placement: The game involves using pawns to take the most advantageous areas of the boards, usually denying other players from valuable resources.
Bridging: Games that tend to be easier to learn, with intuitive mechanics that are easy to teach to new players to help them bridge the gap from say monopoly and scrabble over to more specialized games.
Player Balancing: The game's balance sorely depends on the losing players beating down on the winning player in order to keep balance, if the losers don't co-operate to stop the winner, generally the winner cannot be stopped.
Meta: The games strategy will be affected over several sessions, whereby you can make plans based on your opponents established behavior from previous sessions or other games.
Wargame: The game involves 2 or more opposing army's vying for control of the map.
Racing: The game is literally a race, whereby the player who achieves the goal the fastest is the winner.

03-02-2013, 12:12
Android (Ameritrash, Resource Management, Bitchy)

Opening thoughts:
Android was one of those games I read about on the fantasy flight website and just skipped over; it really didn’t look that interesting at first glance. However, my brother read the rules for it, and told me a little of how it plays. Next I watched the trailer for it, my interest was peaked. I couldn’t get my hands on a copy fast enough after that, and when I did, I wasn’t disappointed.

So what’s it all about then? There has been a grisly murder, you choose one of six investigators, and you have to lock up the guilty guy. Sounds simple enough, but trust me, it never is just that simple.

Game Overview:
Android is a confusing game to watch at first, there are just so many things going on at once that it would seem extremely intimidating to the un-initiated. I will do my best to explain how the game works, but to do so; I feel I will have to explain each section in a different way.

The game is set over 2 weeks of your chosen investigators life, starting with day 1, the day after the murder. Each day represents a game turn, in which your investigator will be able to do several actions. At the end of the two weeks, Victory points will be counted, and the player with the highest total wins.

As an investigator, it’s your job to put the guilty party in jail; you do this by building a case against the perpetrator. The real genius with this game is that the guilty party is not determined until the end of the game, that might sound odd, but it makes perfect sense in context.

At the start of the game, each player will be dealt 2 different cards representing who they think is the guilty party (referred to as the players guilty hunch), and who they think is innocent beyond doubt (referred to as the players innocent hunch).

To determine the guilty party, at the end of the game, you simply count up the values of all the evidence against each suspect, and the suspect with the most damning evidence is declared the guilty party.

If a player’s guilty hunch proves to be found guilty at the end that player is awarded a substantial amount of VP, and if a player’s innocent hunch is not the guilty party, they will receive a small amount of VP.

A typical day for an investigator will allocate them 6 “time” (or simply just 6 action points). Your investigator can spend their time do actions such as, Moving to a new location, following up leads of evidence, spending time at a location to draw cards, try affecting their karma or the karma of the other investigators, or to use a locations printed ability.

Moving between locations is a simple affair; each investigator is supplied with a ruler representing their car, and how fast it can move. The investigator places one end of their ruler at the location they are currently at, and attempts to reach the desired location with the other end. Unfortunately for some of the investigators with slower cars, getting to your desired location may require moving through several different locations, thus eating up more of their time, to reach the one they want to go to, where as investigators with fast cars may be able to make it in a single move.

To build your case against your guilty hunch, you will follow up leads on the board represented by tokens that represent either documented evidence (such as paperwork, CCTV footage, or some other form of printed evidence), Physical evidence (that represents things like the murder weapon, finger prints, or some other form of evidence that the murderer left behind), or finally testimonial evidence (representing witnesses to the crime, character witnesses about the suspect or some other form of testimonial).

When an investigator follows up a lead they may take a piece of evidence from the evidence pool, on the back it will have a number ranging from negative 5 (evidence that proves the suspect is innocent) to positive 5 (practically damning evidence). After secretly looking at the evidence the player may place it on any suspects case files, however, depending on the type of lead you followed up, may impact how useful it is against certain suspects.

Now, all that might sound like a glorified game of cludeo, however there are several different elements to the game that make the investigation extremely hard, As well as building their case against their guilty hunch, each investigator will be responsible for following up their own plot, making sure each progression ends in a happy way, after all, what’s the point of locking up the bad guy if your entire family got murdered in the process?

The plots will have certain conditions for how it can accrue “good baggage” and “bad baggage”. Each players plot will progress every 3 days, and if you’re current leg of the plot doesn’t have more good baggage than bad baggage, your plot will resolve negatively.

Plots that resolve negatively are called sad endings, and will detract from your VP’s at the end of the game. Plots that resolve positively are called happy endings, which will result in bonus VP at the end of the game.

As well as that, each player may play “light” and “dark” cards in an attempt to influence how each characters plot will resolve, as well as hinder their investigation. Light cards are played by a player on their own investigator; these represent nice things happening to their character and events that work to their benefit. Dark cards are played on other investigators, which represents bad things that happen to other player’s characters, and things that just didn’t go their way.

Each card will have a shift cost, and to be able to play that card, you must be able to shift your karma meter in that direction that amount of times. Light cards shift your meter towards the dark side (using up their good karma) and dark cards shift your karma meter to the light side. So to be able to play light cards on yourself, you will need to play dark cards on other players.

As well as the plots, and karma cards, there is also a conspiracy pertaining to the murder, and players can choose to follow up this angle of the investigation as well. When a player follows up a lead, they can choose not to draw from the evidence pool, and instead draw a puzzle piece from the conspiracy pool. The puzzle pieces will have a Varity of different intersecting blue lines, and the object will be to place them on the conspiracy track so that the lines meet with certain parties.

When you manage to link up a party with the conspiracy, it will affect how VP are distributed at the end of the game, making hunches worth more VP, giving bonus VP for having certain favors, and bonus points for happy endings as well as making sad endings more crippling.

If that wasn’t enough to screw with your head, investigators can have suspects killed by trading favors they have acquired at board locations to have hit contracts taken out on suspects, and in doing so, eliminating that suspect from not only being in contention for the guilty party, but will also make that suspect worthless as an innocent hunch as well.

To win this game you will have to manage the evidence, your personal plots, as well as the conspiracy all at the same time, and believe me, you just don’t have enough time to focus on all 3.

At the end of the 2 weeks, the game ends. The evidence is counted up. The plots are resolved, and the conspiracy consulted on how it will change the VP distribution. The player with the most victory points wins. This could be the player with the correct guilty hunch, but the conspiracy could have altered the scoring in such a way, that the guilty hunch was practically worthless.

As I said, a lot going on at once.

Component Overview:
The components for the game are of fantasy flights usual high standards, the tokens are hardy, the board is durable and the cards are of decent quality.

One gripe however was that they decided to print the player’s strategy cards on paper, rather than card. When I saw this I immediately had them laminated, and as with any game that has cards, you will want to have them slipped in order to maintain their quality.

I have also had numerous remarks that the documented evidence looks more like a gun, than a camera, however I thought it looked fine. A couple of the pictures for the dark cards look too similar as well, and I have had more than one accident of drawing the wrong card.

Apart from that nothing game breaking.

Closing thoughts:
Android is a truly stellar game, it does however have a very steep learning curve. One of my favorite aspects of the game is that because there is so much to keep track of, you really can’t be sure who is winning until the VP are counted up. Also there may seem to be a big gap between players scores, however on closer examination, make a few adjustments on a few ending conditions, and you can see how quickly a players score can swing.

I don’t recommend this game for anyone who hasn’t at least played 2 or 3 other fantasy flight games to get a feel for how they generally work, as well as to get a feel for the more complex rules sets that generally accompany them, however, anyone who can get their head around the sheer amount of things going on at once in this game will keep coming back again and again.

03-02-2013, 12:28
Arkham Horror (Ameritrash, Co-operative, Resource Management)

Opening thoughts:
Its been a while since I wrote my last review, and to be completely honest, I was trying to hold this one off until I got all the expansions for it, but FFG seems so intent of getting my money, that there is no end to the expansions in sight.

This game could possibly be one of the best I have ever played despite the fact it is nigh un-winnable, has more ways to lose than you could possibly imagine and takes up an entire 4”x8” table, it has also seen far more play time than anything else from my collection, and people just keep coming back for more, I’m fairly sure this goes down to the immense detail and flavor put into the game, as well as the fact that the game runs itself.

So to the meat of the subject, It is a co-operative game based on the original fiction by H.P Lovecraft, The game is set in the 1920’s in a small town in America called Arkham, the players have just discovered an ancient and mordacious being is awakening from an eternity of slumber, the disruption caused by this event is ripping portals open through which a legion of monsters spew forth to wreak havoc on the unwitting populace of Arkham.

Game Overview:
Keeping in mind I now own 6 of the 7 expansions (at the time of this writing) I will try not to let this get out of hand but there is a lot to go over, so first I will explain each section of the game and then at the end explain what the expansions add to the experience.

First of all, the group will need to decide which of the ancient evil ones is waking up, there are 8 to choose from, each with varying abilities for their cultists and game altering rules specific rules.

Each player must then choose a character; this in itself could take a while as there is over a dozen unique identity’s to choose from, all typical archetypes of the roaring 20’s, each with their own hefty back-story of how they came to be investigating the ancient ones cult as well as varying special powers, stats and starting items. Our experience has led us to categorize them into 3 different “main roles”
Portal closers: whose main job is to explore the other worlds and close portals.
Fighters: whose main job is to keep the monsters numbers in check.
Support: whose main job is to rack up money and items for the other players.

Each character has 6 stats divided into 3 groups, typically speed and sneak, fight and will, lore and luck, the genius part about this mechanic however is that each stat has a range of 4 potential numbers that can be adjusted throughout the game depending on what is needed at the time and balancing your stats will be a key part of the game experience because as you increase one stat, the stat which it is grouped with will decrease, for example if I increase my speed, my sneak will go down by about the same amount.

Each character also has 2 different types of Hitpoints, stamina and sanity, which if either reach 0, your character has met an unfortunate accident, and while not out of the game, it will slow you down considerably. Characters can die permanently, however this is rare.

Play consists of 5 phases: Upkeep, movement, Arkham encounters, other world encounter and mythos. Each player completes their actions for the phase before moving onto the next phase, so co-ordination and negotiation are king.

During the upkeep phase players may ready any items, spells and skills that where used in the previous turn, paying any additional costs required, Use any special abilities that must be used in this phase, and generally perform character maintenance. This is also the only phase in which you are able to adjust your stats, so you must plan your turn here or suffer the consequences.

The movement phase sees the characters moving about the game board, killing or avoiding monsters and grabbing clues to help seal gates, it is important that players co-ordinate efficiently so combat characters clear paths for portal closers and support characters to get where they are going, this can often be difficult due to the first player shifting to the player on the left at the end of every turn.

During the Arkham encounters phase, characters will have events occur at whatever location they are currently at, this will often involve a skill check of some sort to avoid bad things happening, or some sort of reward. Events are highly random, drawn from one of 9 different decks representing the 9 different districts in Arkham. Each card has the 3 major locations for the district on it with a different event on each card for each location so it is unlikely you will get the same events twice in a game unless multiple characters repeatedly go to the same district. Players will also travel through open portals in this phase.

The other worlds encounter phase is very similar to the Arkham encounters phase. Each player currently in another world draws cards from the other world encounter deck until they find one that matches one of the colour’s that represents the world they are in. Like the Arkham encounters card, the other world encounters card will have 2 different locations printed on it as well as a generic everywhere else event, these encounters, like the Arkham ones, will generally involve a skill check to get a nice reward or prevent something bad happening.

Finally the mythos phase is where the game does its own upkeep phase, A card will be drawn from the Mythos deck and it will contain all the information required to advance the game. Typically a new portal will open and monsters will spawn out of it, monsters will move about Arkham based on their type following either black or white arrows printed on the map, clues will appear at locations and some type of major event will occur, these range from monsters ambushing people in streets, the citizens of Arkham fighting back, items for sale in back alleys and imposing penalties and bonuses in subsequent turns. Particular nasty events will require the characters to sacrifice what seems like unreasonable amounts of items or resources within a turn limit or suffer crippling penalties.

The major mechanic which forms the backbone of the game is the skill checks, almost any action will require a skill check of one type or another in order to progress. Fortunately these are easy and intuitive. The player in question will be told to make a certain type of skill check for example an event may require the player to make a speed check to escape a monster chasing them. That player than tallies up his characters current stat for that skill, plus any bonuses conferred by items, skills, events or spells. Next the player collects that many D6’s and rolls them, each score of 5+ is 1 success. Most checks only require 1 success to progress, but harder ones like fighting tough monsters may require 2 or more.

There are 3 official ways to win: close at least 1 portal for each player and have no portals open, Sealing 6 gates or fending off the ancient one once it has awoken.

There is really only 1 way to lose, to have the ancient one awaken and the characters lose the battle against it, but there is many ways to reach this climax for example: having too many portals open, allowing the doom track to fill entirely, allowing the terror level to reach peak, and just taking too damn long to win results in the fight against the ancient one, and it’s hard, an uphill battle at best and a slaughter at worst.

Each expansion generally adds a new mechanic that if left unchecked will result in the ancient one awakening. Some add new characters and ancient ones, all add new monsters, some add mini bosses that speed up the ancient ones awakening one way or another, and all add new mythos, encounter cards and items. 3 add new boards representing the neighboring towns of Arkham; very few of them will add ways to help the players, and one of the later expansions makes the end boss fight much more involving, if not excessively difficult by adding random events to it.

Component Overview:
When you open the core box of Arkham it is full of FFG usual high standard and colourful cardboard chits and character sheets galore. There are a dozen or so decks of cards and a, what I feel, too large game board for what it is.

1/3rd of the games playing time will be in setup, so organization is a key factor to this game’s components.

I was disappointed by the fact that they chose to use cardboard markers for characters rather than miniatures, but I can also understand why this was done to keep the costs down.

Frequent use of all the components has seen little to no where on anything bar the character tokens.

Closing thoughts:
Arkham horror, especially with its multitude of expansions, is one of the best experiences you can imagine. I cant think of a better day spent than with a group of friends desperately scrambling about the board in a vein attempt to master the game. Despite the sheer difficulty of the game (which only gets harder with each extra expansion), this game is a winner in respect that the players are constantly negotiating and discussing the best course of action at any one time.

The game reeks of theme, the game is basically written in flavor text so each event is personal and involving.

The sheer customization will ensure that no 2 games ever play the same, after you pick up the expansions there are literally thousands of event cards, over 50 characters to choose from and at least 30 bosses to fight you’ll have plenty to keep coming back for, that itself however is one of the major drawbacks of the game, there are so many different decks of cards and mechanics, you are not likely to utilize even half of them in one game. Storage and transport becomes a real problem after the 2nd or 3rd expansion. The different expansions will dilute the core Arkham ones and so some expansions will go completely unused for entire games and book keeping becomes a major part of the game

With those quibbles aside, I would recommend picking up as many expansions as you can, they all add something different and keep the game fresh time after time, However I have easily spent over $500 on this game and its expansions as well as transport options and protective sleeves for the endless amounts of cards, so the cost will add up over time and this may deter many.

The game is defiantly worth a look, and more than likely worth your money.

NOTE: I have since the writing of this review, acquired ALL expansions for the game, and do plan to update this review in the future.

03-02-2013, 12:37
Battlestar Galactica (Ameritrash, Semi Co-operative, Resource Management, Bitchy)

Opening thoughts:
Ok, so when I first saw this game, I was kind of “meh” about it, I didn’t find the TV series very compelling, and the description on the back wasn’t very encouraging.

Still my brother picked it up, and coerced me into playing it, so I gave it a go. Needless to say, it’s a very good game, that however, is also its main weakness.

Game Overview:
As we have picked up the expansion “Pegasus”, I will explain what it adds and how its changes affect the core game at the end of this section.

The game is basically what falls under the “Committee” category, I.E the players all form a committee, and discuss the best course of action for any given challenge, however it should be noted that just because the committee has voted, doesn’t mean the player in question is obliged to follow the decision.

Each turn the active player will draw skill cards based on their characters skill set, then they may move and perform an action. The actions players may perform depend on what location they are currently at, as well as what skills cards they have in their hand at the time.

After the player has performed their action, they will draw a crisis card, this will often result in what is called a “skills challenge”, but can simply be an important decision for certain players to make, as well as initiating cylon attacks. Each player in sequence, starting with the player to the active player’s right may contribute skill cards in order to pass the check. This is done secretly however, and the contributed cards are shuffled together and randomized so that no one knows who contributed what.

This is done because one or more of the players is likely to be a cylon agent trying to sabotage the team, and secrecy is the name of the game. The rules explicitly prohibit players from showing any of their cards to other players, saying what is in their hand, and even as far prohibiting the use of exact descriptions. The rules do however encourage cylon players to lie, mislead, accuse and misdirect the other players to further their goal and avoid detection.

Once the cards are randomized, they are flipped over and their strength is tallied, If the total strength equals or surpasses the crisis difficulty, the check is passed, otherwise the check is failed. Penalties for failing checks often result in the loss of one or more resources, which if any run out, the human team loses.

The crisis’ skill set will determine what cards count as positive, and any other skill type’s count as negative, so while players may not be able to tell exactly who put what cards in, they can see who was likely to have put them in by checking what characters have access to what skills, thus the cylon will need to be sneaky when deciding whether to sabotage or not, as putting in a in for a skill only they posses, will result in the other characters putting 2 and 2 together. There will almost always be an element of doubt however because 2 cards are put into every check from a random pile containing cards from all of the skill types.

The human’s goal is to warp jump to their destination without any of their resources running out, Galactica being destroyed, or the crew being wiped out by boarding parties. This generally takes between 3 and 5 jumps.

The cylons goal is simply to prevent the humans from getting there, and there are plenty of ways to do it.

Teams will be decided secretly via the use of loyalty cards, no player will truly know where the other player’s allegiance lies, and even if there is more than one cylon, they will not know who they are.

The game however uses sneaky mechanics to make sure the human players are never too sure of who the cylons are. There are twice as many loyalty cards as there are players, and only half of them get dealt out at the start of the game. The other half are only dealt out once the team is half way to their destination, activating what is called the sleeper phase.

The first half of the game sees people assert the position on the committee, as it is very likely there is no cylon player at this point, and the second half sees the committee turned on itself, as everyone knows there is defiantly at least one cylon onboard. This also produces a mental state where no player wants the team to do too well in the first half, as if it turns out they where a sleeper agent, it will make the 2nd half extremely difficult.

This also means that going against the committee, or even doing something sub-optimally will result in cylon accusation so the best way for the cylon player to remain undetected is to split the committee into smaller groups, and turn them against each other, forcing them to waste their skill cards and attempting to assume positions of power. A cylon president or admiral can be very dangerous indeed.

The Pegasus expansion adds more characters to choose from as well as the ability for one of the player to choose to be what is called a cylon leader at the start of the game. While everyone knows that this player is a cylon, the player in question will form their own team. They will have a very specific winning condition drawn at random, and it will require either the humans or the cylons to win the game, and have a specific criteria filled, for example Galactica must have less than 2 damage inflicted on it.

This adds a further element of distrust. Are they trying to help the humans or not? If they are trying to kill the humans, why did they just repair the armory? If they are trying to help the humans, why did they just launch some raiders?

The simple fact of the matter is, this player isn’t trusted from either side.

It also allows the players to fly with the Battlestar Pegasus as well, its locations have powerful abilities, but they all have the potential to hurt the Galactica as, it also adds new skill cards and a new skill type called treachery. The new skill cards make skill’s checks easier to pass, but make them reckless at the same time, allowing cylon players to use their treachery cards to inflict great damage.

Finally the expansion adds a little bit for after the end of the original game, once the humans reach their destination, they find that their new home is infested with cylons. The humans must evacuate the fleet from new caprica and escape.

I myself felt this part felt a little “Tacked on” and it defiantly was too short, however it may just be that we haven’t experienced it enough to pass judgment.

Component Overview:
The components to Battlestar are fairly good. Plastic raiders, vipers and the usual good quality cards that FFG is famous for are all found in the box.

I couldn’t help feel however that the plastics where unnecessary and could have easily been cardboard chits instead without any loss of theme or playability, which I’m sure, could have lowered the price tag by at least $10

Pegasus also added 2 plastic base stars to replace the cardboard ones included with the original game, which I also thought was unnecessary.

Closing thoughts:
With all of the secrecy and diplomacy this game entails, it’s important that the group you play with is able to think outside the box. If players can’t convincingly lie, or are too gullible, then game is too easy for one side or the other. The game is after all, all about player interaction

As I stated in the opening thoughts that the game is really fun to play, however, it is a lot more fun to play as a cylon than it is as a human. The comparison isn’t even in the same ball park. This leads to one or two players have a blast, while everyone else merely enjoys it. Coupled with the fact that the game has so much theme to it, fans of the show and newer players will want to play it again and again. If you’re unlucky enough to not draw a cylon card 4 or 5 times in a row, the game really starts to chug and more experienced players will just be going through the motions.

This is mitigated somewhat by the Pegasus expansion, but the game will defiantly burn itself out sooner rather than later.

NOTE: My brother has since the writing of this review, picked up the exodus expansion, which makes the game a whole lot more enjoyable, and I plan to update this review in the future.

03-02-2013, 12:45
Cave Troll (Euro, Bridging, Worker Placement ,Bitchy)

Opening thoughts:
Yet another of fantasy flights silver line range, Cave Troll is a quick board game of great strategic value.

The game also plays very quickly, and it wouldn’t uncommon to be able to get 2 or 3 games in an hour. The quick play appears to be a big bonus with the other players I’ve played with.

I myself prefer a long strategic game that could go for 3 or 4 hours, but that’s my preference, I just feel a bit more satisfied that’s all

Game Overview:
The game is extremely simple, which history has taught me time and time again is definitely a positive attribute.

Players take turns taking different actions, trying to maneuver their heroes through the dungeon into the most profitable rooms and attempting to heard there opponents heroes into less profitable rooms using their monsters, all the while attempting to trigger scoring rounds when it will profit themselves greatly, and not their opponents.

On each of their turns the players will take any 4 actions they wish, the actions are:
Moving a hero or monster from one room into an adjacent one.
Drawing a card and playing a card, the cards will generally spawn new heroes and monsters, but sometimes will score rooms, find artifacts and the like.
Play an artifact card that they have drawn, these will have powerful one off abilities that when used correctly will spell doom and death for your opponents when used in conjunction with other hero’s abilities.
Use monsters ability, these are generally just, killing opponent’s models or pushing them around.

After the player has taken their 4 actions, play passes onto the next player who will do the same thing.

The real genius with this game however is that it is not set in stone when a scoring round will occur, that is up to the players to determine, Some of the players cards have one or more hourglasses on them, if a player plays a card with an hourglass on it, it goes into a special “scoring” pile.

Once there are 5 hourglasses in the scoring pile, each room will score immediately, so players can control when they happen to a limited degree and once there are 3 or 4 hourglasses in the pile, it really becomes essential to limit the score your opponents will get as well as maximize your own. Indeed the entire strategy of this game is setting up the big pay round that will set you up for the win.

Play ends immediately when a player draws and plays their last card, where there will be one last scoring round. Bonuses will be handed out for any unused artifacts, and to the player that caused the game to end.

The player with the biggest score wins.

Component Overview:
The components in this game are all of FFG usual standards, although the game board defiantly could have benefited from being about 33% bigger, as could the miniatures, but that probably would have pushed the production costs up too high, so Ill forgive them for that little point.

That being said, there isn’t a whole lot to this game, 17 miniatures per player about 20 cards per player and a game board.

Closing thoughts:
The game is quite a lot of fun to play, and the backstabbing factor is set to 12. The short nature of the game means you can, and will want to play 2 or 3 games in a row.

That being said however the game can and will end suddenly, so some players may feel ripped off by how much they where able to achieve.

There are no useless cards in the deck, however the order you pull them might swing a game one way or another, this is very unlikely however, so luck will generally not be a factor and the better player will probably win, the beauty of that being that the game has a very small learning curve, and it will not take novices long to pick up the tricks of the game and compete with the big boys.

I recommend this game highly for the board game un-initiated, as well as a bridge game or a side distraction from the more hardcore games in your collection. After all this game plays so quickly there is no reason you wont be able to play both.

03-02-2013, 12:55
Chaos In The Old World (Ameritrash, Worker placement, Bitchy, Player Balancing)

Opening thoughts:
Chaos in the old world, A recent fantasy flight venture into the warhammer franchise, will obviously appeal to some people more than others, Mainly current warhammer enthusiasts.

As a seasoned Warhammer 40k player, I have also dabbled into its fantasy themed cousin, So this release caught my eye very quickly. Would fantasy flight do the warhammer world justice, or would this turn out to be just another generic war game? Rest assured however, this title packs plenty of chaos.

Game Overview:
Each player takes control of one of the 4 ruinous powers from the warhammer world; Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch or Slannesh. God selection is very important in this game as each power plays very differently and will be aiming at different objectives to shape the world in their own twisted vision.

Once each player has selected a god to control, Play will follow in a series of rounds, until the old world is completely ruined, or a god becomes powerful enough to claim dominance over the other 3.

The round is broken up into several phases:
The Old World Phase, Where the inhabitants of the old world attempt to force off the invading powers.
The Draw Phase, Where players draw chaos cards in order to change the rules of battle.
The Summoning Phase, Where players will take turns playing chaos cards and summoning their demonic soldiers for conquest.
The Battle Phase, Where your soldiers will wage war for dominance.
The Corruption Phase, where the ruinous powers warp the world
The End Phase, is basically a cleanup step and checking for victory conditions.

A god is declared the victor when one of two things happen: They are able to spin their threat dial to the victory marker, or they manage to accumulate 50 victory points.

The threat dial is an ingenious mechanic where gods are rewarded for playing in character, Khorne advances his dial by waging war and conquest, Nurgle advances his dial by corrupting regions of high population, Tzeentch advances his dial by corrupting regions with warp stones or high magic concentrations, and Slannesh advances his dial by corrupting areas with nobles and hero’s of the old world.

Victory points on the other hand are awarded for maintain dominance over regions of the old world, or by corrupting them beyond repair.

This means however dial advancements will be easier for Khorne than Tzeentch to get, but Nurgle has a much easier time getting victory points than any of the other powers, so to win the game players must balance out interfering with the other gods motives, as well as managing their own win conditions, for any sole god left to their devices will be in an almost unbeatable position after 2 rounds.

Component Overview:
For the first time I can honestly say Fantasy flight dropped the ball on the miniatures, everything else is of their normal hardy and high quality, however the miniatures are so small and flimsy they will break, not they might break, they WILL break, the chaos symbols on the cultists are attached by, I kid you not, 1/3 of a mm of a plastic rod.

The dials where also a bit harrowing to attach as well, because I was paranoid about tearing the board due to the fact that the plastic clips are too big for the holes.

Closing thoughts:
I would defiantly recommend Chaos to any current warhammer, or warhammer 40k fan, I would also point generic fantasy fans in its direction as well. Outside this niche players may have difficulty understanding the theme behind the game and why it plays like it does.

The game despite its looks, is not a war game however, so war game enthusiasts may be disappointed or feel mislead, if they are unfamiliar with the franchise.

I would say it is more like a role playing game, because the way the 4 gods play is so perfectly match to their character, and it has theme coming out the wazoo, So as a Warhammer fan, this game is defiantly one of the better one’s I’ve played.

NOTE: I have since the writing of this review picked up the the horned rat expansion, which makes the game considerably more fun to play, and plan to update this review in the future.

03-02-2013, 13:03
Cold War: CIA vs KGB (Euro, Bitchy, Bridging, Meta)

Opening thoughts:
Another of fantasy flights silver line range, Cold War is actually a stand alone card game rather than a board game, however I still feel that it suits the board game section better than the dedicated card game section.

With that in mind, FFG has done it yet again, As I am finding out more and more, These simple games have intense player interaction. And a screw over your opponent factor off the chart.

Exactly the kind of game we like.

Game Overview:
Each player takes control of either the CIA or the KGB, both sides are exactly the same, so unless you have a fetish for one side or the other, it wont matter who you choose.

Each side has 6 different spies at their disposal, each with a unique special ability that will either affect scoring, or do something useful in the following round.

An objective card is flipped over at the beginning of each round which will set the scene over what the powers are fighting over. The objective card will also set the parameters for this round, deciding the target number, as well as how many cards will be played, and of course, how many points the victor will score.

Then each player secretly picks one of his remaining spies (I.E Not dead, and not on leave) to send on the mission. This should be decided on, how important the objective is, what you think your opponent will choose, and of course, what happened in the last round.

After spies have been selected, the current losing player decides which player will draw first. Players then take turns drawing from the group’s deck and using their already recruited group’s abilities, or passing in order to try and get their influence level as close to the target number without going over. The amount of cards each player may have active at once is limited by the objectives “Population limit” (generally 3, 4 or 5 cards each).

Once both players have passed consecutively, the players then total up their influence and the closest without going over the target number wins this round. If a player went over the number, their spy is killed as a penalty. Then players reveal their spies and follow the instructions printed out on their spies agenda, this will be different for the 6 different spies, and vary depending on who won the objective.

Agendas vary from swapping who won the objective, getting bonus points, killing the opponent’s spies, to stacking next mission’s group’s deck. So picking the right spy is crucial, and what makes this game so great. Picking the master spy for example (who swaps who gets the objective), when your opponent has pick his assassin (who kills your opponents spy when you win) is possibly the worst outcome for you. You will lose either way.

Play then begins again with the next round, the spy you used last round is sent on leave, so you can’t use the same spy twice in a row. And your opponent knows this, so if you use your master spy (who you will want to lose on purpose with, as he swaps who gets the objective) this time, your opponent knows the next mission you will have to try and win, no matter what.

Component Overview:
The box comes with 2 large decks of spies (card size, not amount of cards), and 2 decks for the objectives and groups (both these decks are magic the gathering sized, so slips will be easy to fit)

It also comes with 2 score cards, and colored glass beads to keep track as well as 3 poker chips each with CIA, KGB or Balance on them.

Everything in this box is completely useless except the cards, and is only there for show, and possibly to justify the price tag.

I would have also preferred that the score cards be the same size as the spy cards, and not be double sided, and there is no excuse as to why this wasn’t done in the first place.

Apart from that the spy cards are gorgeous, the group cards are all themed appropriately, colorful and easy to read. The objective cards are also themed well and functional.

Closing thoughts:
This game has a lot of strategy involved, as well as a decent amount of luck. Careful use of your groups can mitigate the luck factor. Many times a player has been in what seemed to be a hopeless situation, only to come back and win, Careful use of your spies, bluffing your opponent into drawing just one more card, or to use that groups ability so it is wasted, Makes moments in this game very tense.

Much deliberation, counting cards, and a good poker face will be advantageous in this game, Which may unfortunately make more experienced players too hard to beat for new players, however, using the experienced players overconfidence can be a winning asset in itself.

All in all the theme of this game is outstanding, however, I can honestly say the price tag is probably more than double what it should be for the components. Given that however, the game is defiantly worth the time.

NOTE: Since the writing of this review, the game has been re-released with better quality components, and the price slashed considerably, which alleviates almost every bad point I had about the game.

03-02-2013, 13:12
Drakon (Euro, Bitchy, Bridging, Player Balancing)

Opening thoughts:
Drakon was one of my first board games, part of fantasy flights “Silver Line” range, which in layman’s terms is just the quick and cheep games range. They don’t take hours on hours to finish and wont break your budget. Despite this, Drakon has remained one of the best game’s I’ve played to date, and is an excellent stepping stone to one of the more advanced ones for the board game un-initiated.

Game Overview:
Drakons game mechanics are both simple, and fluid. The rules are short and easy to understand, and remain the most well thought out rules set I’ve encountered to date (hey guys, sometimes simple is just better).

The game resolves where every player takes a turn in clockwise order, each turn a player may take one of 2 actions: Expand the dungeon with a tile from his hand, or, Move his hero to an adjacent tile through an unlocked door.

Moving your hero is simple; you just choose an unlocked door (denoted by an arrow) and move through it to the next tile. Each tile however will more than likely have a special icon on it denoting the type of trap/benefit of said room (ranging from rotating rooms, destroying rooms, or even moving other players).

Placing a new tile for the dungeon from your hand is also simple, and only has to follow 2 rules, it must fit next to an already placed tile, and you cant have two arrows pointing at each other (so once you’ve walked into a new room, you cant go back the way you came)

The objective of the game is equally simple, the first player to find 10 gold wins, however achieving this goal is going to require a lot of pre thought, luck, and a healthy amount of deal making and backstabbing, as you will have to try and alter the dungeon against your opponents favor, and make the layout to your favor.

The way the game works means no 2 games will ever be the same, and the more players that join in, the better it gets.

Component Overview:
The game components aren’t anything flashy, but are functional and sturdy. The game contains 6 plastic hero miniatures, a plastic Drakon miniature, 72 different dungeon tiles, hero ability markers (for the variant rules) and 28 gold pieces (with a random number from 1 to 3 on them).

The miniatures are decent quality, and are easily distinguishable between each other. The tiles are made from thick cardboard (think at least 4mm) and will stand up to a lot of punishment, the dungeon is a bit drab and dull, and the game could easily have been set in any type of backdrop, but all necessary icons are very clear and distinguishable. The gold pieces are made from the same material as the dungeon tiles and are built to last.

Closing thoughts:
Drakon is a thoroughly enjoyable game that has unlimited re-play potential. It’s great when you don’t quite have enough time to play a more advanced board game, or when you just want something simple. A typical game can be knocked out in about 20 minutes, and more often than not, you’ll suffer from “Just one more game to even the score” syndrome.

03-02-2013, 13:16
Horus Heresy (Euro, Wargame)

Opening thoughts:
The second I saw this game on the FFG website, I knew it was one I was going to have to own, good bad or indifferent, My collection simply would be lacking without it.

Months of anticipation, reading the updates on the website, and generally just looking forward too it. Eventually however, my interest was spent, with still no indication of how long off the game was, it had already been six months, then I forgot about it.

Shortly thereafter, good news, the rules where up, I downloaded them quickly, and read through them. The game seemed strait forward enough, defiantly a solid rules set, and the release of the rules could only mean one thing. The game was right around the corner.

My interest was peaked again.

Game Overview:
In the Horus heresy, two players will take the roles of the emperor and the forces loyal to him, as well as the war master Horus, and those who turned their backs on the Imprium. Ill get this out of the way early too, this is a diceless game, no dice are used at all, it is completely card driven.

There are six scenarios included in the box, It recommends that new players start with the basic scenario “brother against brother”, I definitely echo this sentiment. This scenario is supposed to most accurately represent the story behind the siege of terra. This however, I have to disagree with.

Included at the back of the scenario guide is the story for the battle of terra, not one of my games has even come close to mirroring the events outlined here.

The other scenarios basically are just variations of the first one, with different event cards and more freedom of starting force disposition, but ultimately it’s the same game, re-skinned.

I’ll be quick to note that this game is fairly heavily stacked in the Emporium’s favor, but so does the rule book, so you shouldn’t be too surprised. The reasons for this are many.

First off, the imperial side has 3 victory conditions (one of which is basically just stalling), the traitor side only has two. Next, A decent proportion of the imperial units can be re-cycled (albeit not the easiest thing to do, but defiantly possible) where as if any of the traitors units are destroyed, they are out of the game, never to be seen again. Then the loyalist player also has static orbital defense guns that can shoot down the traitor players units before they even get a chance to deploy, forcing the traitor player to neutralize them or risk losing some really important units, Lastly, the imperial side has far more starting units on the board than the traitor who respectively only holds 4 locations on the entire map.

These advantages however are offset by the traitor player’s “dirty tricks” the traitor player can convert loyalist guard and tank regiments into traitor units, thus not only removing units from the imperial players force, but also bolstering his own with nice and easy fodder. The traitor player can also call down orbital bombardments, which the loyalist player has little to no access too. Finally the traitor players units are far more maneuverable, he has access to thunder hawks that can move faster than any other unit in the game, and even transport other units to boot, as well as engage in fights to bolster the traitor player’s numbers considerably.

Players take turns by spending “initiative” points and playing orders on regions they control, Initiative is tallied on a track at the bottom of the board, and whoever has used less initiative always takes the next turn. This means that both players need to plan each move carefully, as carelessly chewing through your initiative can cause the opponent to be able to take “several” turns in a row, leaving you helpless to do anything but watch.

Moving your units around the board isn’t just as simple as saying, I move this here, I attack there, you instead play order cards, each of which has an initiative cost, that will tell you how you can move your units, and if/how you can attack. Your orders can be played 2 ways, directly from your hand, or placed on a special mini map to be activated later. There are benefits and drawbacks to each.

Playing cards from your hand generally cost more initiative, and won’t be quite as powerful as when you play them from the mini map, but are resolved faster and can’t be blocked. Playing cards from the mini map will always cost 2 initiative (1 to put it down there, 1 to use it) and will often have secondary effects, but are slower as you can’t activate them until after your opponent has had a turn, and can also be blocked by other orders getting stacked on top of them.

In either case, assaulting a well prepared area (say the palace for example) will require a lot of preparation, several turns worth in fact, as just moving your forces will often render them unusable for another 6 initiative steps. And maneuvering is often more about surrounding your enemy so they can’t retreat, rather than just getting in a position where they can attack.

Combat works through a mini card game that will last for a predetermined amount of turns (often 4, but sometimes as many as 8), the quality of your troops will determine how many cards you may draw and the defender chooses who gets to go first. This is a big deal and going first or second is actually a very hard decision to make most of the time.

Going first means you can get some early damage in, but the counter attack will generally be worse. The reasoning behind this is because each turn only one player gets to attack and each player may only play as many cards as whatever the turn is (I.E 1 card on turn 1, 2 cards on turn 2, 3 cards on turn 3 ect), on top of that each combat card has a secondary ability, some of which can stack with other cards played that turn, that if the conditions are met, will have devastating effects on the opponent, these can range from outright just destroying an enemy unit, to simply making your own units harder to kill.

Managing your combat hand is also a tense affair, as your combat cards also have a defense rating on them, which can be played to prevent certain amounts of damage (ranging from 0 to 3 per card), and decisions have to be made whether to man up and take the damage so you can lay down a heavy offensive in your turn, or soak some of the damage, meaning your attack will typically be much weaker, as well as losing those powerful secondary abilities.

Hero’s add extra special ability’s, and special combat cards that are generally more powerful than the regular one’s, and will defiantly give a player an edge if his opponent doesn’t have a hero present.

The way the combat is structured means that with each passing turn, the tension rises quite considerably.

Component Overview:
As with almost every Fantasy Flight game I have played, the components are exceptional. The 3.D fortifications, factory’s and the palace are truly wonderful to behold, if not almost certainly unnecessary and defiantly too small by a good few CM, fitting 3 units plus an orbital gun, as well as the hero marker in one of them is almost impossible, and requires you to basically just stack them in a pile and hope they don’t fall out.

I also have some quibbles with the fact that the traitor cultists look almost identical to the chaos war bands, and I also don’t understand why they couldn’t have just included another 6 or so tank and guard regiments for the traitor player to have permanently, instead of having to pull them off their bases and swap them over to traitor bases.

Other than that, the FFG usual durable tokens, cards and fairly detailed miniatures.

Setup is something that will take time to begin with, but after only 4 plays, I was almost able set up the entire board without referring to the instruction guide 90%. The real kicker is the 3d forts and such, which will often take the longest to set up, however even this shouldn’t take long to master.

Closing thoughts:
So if all the scenarios are basically the same, I guess your asking where the replay ability factor is? Well I can assure you, just playing the “brother against brother” scenario has enough variation and tactics to make it both an engaging game all the way to the end, as well as keep you saying, “but if I do this differently next time…..”

I have likened it to chess. Your opening moves might not change much, but with each passing turn, you will be forced to react and alter your plans. No two of my games have looked similar after the first quarter is over, despite using the same opening moves each time.

Luck is also a huge factor in this game, however the nature of the destiny deck means that the luck is always evenly spread, you cant shuffle the deck until it is exhausted, and there is a 50-50 spread of traitor vs. loyalist centered cards, meaning that if the traitor gets bad luck with his opening conversions, his orbital bombardments are probably going to really hurt.

While your prohibited from looking through any discard pile without specific cause, counting the cards of each deck as they come up is defiantly a viable tactic, if not a little bit too easy to do.

I heartily recommend this game for anyone who is interested in war games, however warnings ahead to anyone who will have to teach others the rules. After 3 full games, and though I thought I had covered everything competently, one of my opponents was still telling me that “I didn’t tell them that they could/couldn’t do that”, Misunderstandings are a definite.

03-02-2013, 13:24
Monsters Menace America (Ameritrash, Bitchy, Worker Management)

Opening thoughts:
Ok, right from the get go, this game cannot be taken seriously. The cover art on the box depicts a fairly humorous fight between a Godzilla type monster and a giant eyeball. Turning the box over to look at the blurb doesn’t change this impression any, so people who like their game serious should stop reading now.

So what does this wacky game entail?

Game Overview:
Each player takes control of one of several monsters, and one branch of the military.

Monsters all include rip offs of mainstream movies monster, With their names changed to avoid any copy right issues.

Players can choose from a Godzilla type, a giant eyeball, a giant lobster, a King Kong type, a giant preying mantis, and a pile of goo.

They will also choose from either, the army, the marines, the air force or the navy.

The main difference between the monsters is their unique special ability. For example, the pile of goo has a better chance of developing useful mutations, whereas the giant lobster gains infamy faster.

The military factions have different units that have different strengths and weakness, for example the marines can deploy their forces the fastest, but their bases are located in two big clumps on opposite sides of the board.

After all the players have chosen a monster and military faction to play, they take it in turns moving their monsters and military units around America, Stomping cities (for additional hit points) and landmarks (for infamy, which can be traded in for extra attacks in combat) with their monsters in preparation for the monster fight at the end, and attacking and weakening their opponents monsters with their military units.

Fights are quick and easy affairs with players simply allocate attacks to units, then roll as many dice as they have attacks allocated to that group of units, and any dice that equal or beat the opponents defense rating deal damage.

If military units can survive 2 rounds of combat with a monster, they will force it to retreat, Thus earning valuable resources to their branch of the military, making it easier to attack in the future.

There are several special locations on the map where the monsters can mutate as well, gaining more powerful abilities to help them ward off attacks and crush their foes.

After a preset amount of areas have been smashed and stomped by the monsters, the monster challenge begins. Starting with the player to smash the last location (or the first to make it to the monster challenge site) Monsters will take turns fighting each other, and the last one left standing is declared the winner of the game.

Component Overview:
The components are nothing flash, everything is of average quality, but the preprinted monsters are quite nice and cartoony.

The cards are of average quality, without slips they will bend and wear easily. The military units are small, but functional, and the game board may rip if not cared for properly.

Closing thoughts:
As a small side distraction this game is great, as a tactical thought provoking exercise, it is not. It would defiantly be aimed at the younger gamers, who wouldn’t be bothered by its simplistic rules set, or one dimensional game play.

The more hardcore gamers might wish to avoid this one, except as maybe a bridge to more solid games.

03-02-2013, 13:30
Red November (Ameritrash, Co-opertive, worker managment)

Opening thoughts:
Red November, another of fantasy flights silver line range, looks promising when you read the game description. However when you open the stupidly small box, you can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by the contents. One can’t argue however that the box is so crammed full that you can’t actually get the lid on properly, its just that it doesn’t look that impressive. Fortunately the game play is far from dull.

Game Overview:
The goal is simple, keep the submarine “Red November” in one piece long enough for the rescue boat to come and save everybody. The execution however is anything but. Each player will take control of one of the submarines gnomish sailors, and they will take turns running frantically around the submarine fixing the numerous disasters that arise.

The turn structure in Red November may seem a little odd at first glance, however, when one thinks about it for more than a second, it makes perfect sense. Players do not take their turns sequentially like in most other board games, to work out who goes next, you need to keep track of how much time has passed in a players turn and the player who has spent the least amount of time always goes next, this means that players could potentially take two or three turns in a row, depending on how much time they spend on their turn.

Time is kept track of with plastic timekeepers placed around the board indicating how much time has passed, each timekeeper (one for each player) will represent how much time that player has spent performing different actions on the submarine. The game will end when all the players timekeepers reach the end of the track (indicating that the rescue sub has come), or if at any time the submarine is destroyed for one reason or another.

When a player takes their turn, they will use a special time keeper to plan his turn placing it as far ahead on the track as it takes for their turn to complete, moving for example takes 1 minute per door opened, and 1 minute to enter a room if it is full of water.

Fixing problems that occur require time, and the more time a gnome spends trying to fix the problem, the more likely they will succeed. Of course the gnome might also have an item that will aid in fixing the particular problem, meaning the gnome will not have to spend as much time fixing it.

Problems range from fixing the oxygen pumps, putting out fires, to fixing leaks. When a gnome attempts to fix a problem, they decide how much time they would wish to spend trying to fix it, as well as what items they would like to attempt to use to aid their attempt. They then roll a d10 and if the result is equal to or under the amount of time spent, as well as any bonuses then the gnome is successful.

If a gnome has consumed any grog in their turn (it provides a very nice bonus to all actions), they must test to see if they pass out. Passed out gnomes will burn 10 minutes on the track, which could prove deadly especially if that leaves their marker way out in front as they can burn, or drown to death very easily.

After each gnome has taken their turn, the player’s time keeper is advanced to the turn timer, stopping at various symbols on the track, representing events. Each event potentially means a new problem, so spending too much time on one task might see 5 more spring up in its place. This forces the players to gamble, spend their items frequently, and above all else keeps the game exciting.

Component Overview:
The game components are almost certainly the games major weak point. Each miniature is barley 1 cm tall, and the game board is smaller than an a4 sheet of paper, it also seems to warp easily, and doesn’t sit flat very easily on the table.

The tokens and cards however are of the usual FFG high standards. I would have liked to see more flavor text on them however.

The rule book is also a little confusing, but after about 15 minutes of pawing through the rules, it finally made sense

Closing thoughts:
The game is light hearted enough to be tons of fun, yet strategically stimulating enough to keep the more hard core players interested.

Make no mistake, your gnomes will probably be lucky to survive, however through careful planning, teamwork and a lot of luck, the sub might hold together just long enough. Be assured though, there will be plenty of tension, and laughs as you make your attempt.

A nice addition to the rules is the ability to abandon your shipmates (given the right items) when there is less than 10 minutes left on any players track. The players that abandon ship will then win if the submarine sinks, but lose if it holds together.

All in all, an easy game to pick up, and the turns move along at a brisk pace so players shouldn’t get bored unless their gnome passes out from getting too drunk, but they will probably still enjoy seeing the mayhem unravel and there is plenty of reasons to keep coming back for another play.

I recommend this game for the more experience players, as although the game play is simple, and it is easy to teach, the rulebook will require a fair amount of common sense to work out, something that may frustrate players that are not used to FFG’s and their mechanics.

NOTE: Since the writing of this review, the game has been re-released with a bigger board, cards instead of chits for items and a better laid out rule book, which alleviates some of the problems this game suffered from.

03-02-2013, 13:38
Robo Rally (Euro, Racing, Bitchy)

Opening thoughts:
Robo Rally was a game I played once back in the glorious days of my youth, and it left such a good impression that when I saw it in Avalon hills catalogue, I ordered it strait away. Suffice to say, after all these years, my memory had not let me down.

Game Overview:
The goal of Robo Rally is simple; Get your robot to all the flag markers, in the correct order, first. The execution however is where the challenge and skill comes into it.

Each player chooses a robot (while there are several different robots to choose from, each with their own back story, Each robot is completely identical in game terms) and puts their robot at the start location.

The play then proceeds with each player being dealt 9 movement cards. These are randomly distributed and each card will have a move order printed on it any one of, move forward 1, 2 or 3 space, rotate left and right, u turn, or back up. As the cards are random, maneuvering your robot relies on a certain amount of luck, but skillful use of the movement cards and game board can drastically improve your position.

After looking at their movement cards, all players choose 5 movement cards and place them on their allocated robot sheet. These cards will form your robots next 5 movements. It takes quite a bit of forethought about your turn, as you wont be able to change what’s happening until your robot has completed these 5 moves, and believe me, A LOT can happen in 5 moves.

Once each player has placed each of their 5 cards play continues onto the movement step. Players flip over their movement cards in order and resolve their moves, until all 5 moves have been resolved for every player, where robots paths may intersect; each movement card also has a “priority” value to determine which robot moves first. But ramming isn’t an uncommon tactic to push competitor’s way off course.

Now, if that weren’t enough, the board also has several distinct tiles on them to help muck up your plans even further. Traps such as conveyer belts (fast and slow), pits, lasers, rotating gears and walls will all wreck havoc on your carefully laid planes. After each movement has been resolved the board elements all work their magic, and finally all the robots also have a laser fitted to their front arc which will fire and damage any other robots in their path.

As your robot takes more and more damage it becomes harder and harder to program your moves, for each hit you have taken. You are dealt one less movement card next turn. If you suffer 5 hits then your last movement will be “locked in” until you repair, meaning your robot will keep performing that movement every turn. 6 hits and your last 2 moves will be locked in ect, ect. You can repair your robot by stopping on the special tiles on the map or powering down your robot and missing a turn. Powering down can be a dangerous move in itself however, as your robot is a sitting duck to everyone else’s lasers, as well as being rammed into puts ect.

Component Overview:
The game board is split into about 4 different double sided square maps that can be placed next to each other to form a bigger map; however, I have found that only one map is necessary for a tense game. Each map is made of fairly sturdy cardboard, so shouldn’t ware too quickly.

There are several tokens for various things such as health, lives, power status ect. All are of standard quality.

The game also comes with a miniature for each robot, as well as plastic flags which you have to stick the numbers on yourself, I found that the stickers didn’t quite fit properly, however this is a minor niggle.

Lastly the game comes with a movement deck of cards, and an upgrade deck of cards. They are of average quality as well, I placed mine in card slips to prevent wearing.\

All in all, all components are minimal, but very fictional. I feel however the makers could have made them slightly sturdier.

Closing thoughts:
Robo rally is an excellent game for the entire family. It is engaging enough that the more hardcore gamer will still have to use their noggin to get through, however easy enough to pick up that some of the younger crowd will still have fun.

This is defiantly a group game however, and gets a bit tedious if there are only 2 players. If you can manage to round up 8 for a game, I guarantee this to be one of the best game experiences you’ll ever have.

03-02-2013, 13:46
World Of Warcraft: The Board Game (Amritrash, Semi Co-operative, Resource management, Racing)

Opening thoughts:
To play World Of Warcraft: The Board Game [WoW:TBG] is a daunting task, the gargantuan box, is packed to the brim with all sorts of goodies. Picking up the box in a store and flipping it over, you will be able to feel the bulk within, and it will be easy to be dazzled by the promise of the sheer content within. That being said, once you actually open the box, it will be difficult not to be a little intimidated by what you behold. With over one hundred plastic miniatures alone, and possibly thousands of components, you may well wonder what you have gotten yourself into.

In this particular review, I will talk about the basic board game, and then follow up with how the two expansions (The Shadow War [TSW] and The Burning Crusade [TBC] add/change to the core game. Beware however; this is going to be a monster of a review, I will do my best not to lose focus on any one point, however the very nature of the game will make this difficult.

Game Overview:
If I hadn’t already gotten it through to you, this game is BIG, and you will require a very large area to play it on, A standard dining table will probably only just be big enough, and after adding TBC, you will be requiring at least a 5”x8” table. Make no mistakes about it, you will have to get out of your seat often in order to reach various components, stat sheets and of course the game board.

After setting up (you will require a lot of zip lock bags and elastic bands to organize everything, or this step alone could take at least 45minutes), the players are split into two teams, the hoard and the alliance, each player takes turns picking a character (or two in the case of a two player game) until there are either 4 or 6 characters on each team. There is only one character per class and the character sheets are double sided (one for hoard and one for alliance) so there is only ever going to be one of any said class in the game at one time.

Once you have picked characters, the hoard place their characters in Brill (the hoard starting area and safe zone) and the alliance in Southshore (The alliance starting area and safe zone) and then they draw their starting quests. Each quest is basically the same, go to a specific region and kill a few creeps, so each quest will tell you to spawn one or more “quest specific” creeps, either red or green monsters, or purple in the case of some of TBC’s quests at a region. These creatures are the ones the players need to kill in order to claim the quests reward. It may also tell you to spawn some generic blue creeps to get in your way. Blue monsters are considered “random creature encounters” and yield no benefit for killing, unless you have TSW in which case they will give you a small reward instead.

Starting with the hoard side, each team takes an entire turn and then passes control over to the alliance team, with 30 turns in total for a complete game, that means each side will only have 15 turns to complete as many quests and earn as much XP, while gathering the best loot they can and still manage to slay the boss monster before turn 30, a daunting task to say the least. TBC removes the 30 turn limit however and the game will keep going until one team slays the boss monster, but the boss monsters that come with TBC are a lot scarier and hide in dungeons (A mechanic not found in the basic game) so the game could go for a lot longer.

On each teams turn they advance the turn marker on the turn track, if it is a special turn (denoted by icons on the track) something special may happen, a random event perhaps or more loot added to the merchant deck. TSW also adds a persistent timed event deck that will range from making the end boss’ harder if not tackled in time, or may make you gain xp faster, or give bigger rewards for killing blue creeps. After resolving these events the players may take their turn.

During their turn the players may each take two actions, these are defined by: Travel, Town, Train, Fight or Rest and once each player has made their two actions, they may do some character management and their turn ends.

A travel action allows the character to move through 2 adjacent regions, or utilize a flight path (two flight paths basically just count as adjacent regions). However if you move into a region containing a blue creep you cannot move any further. Some items or abilities may allow you to ignore certain restrictions, or to move slightly faster. In TBC a travel action also allows you to enter a dungeon.

A Town action may only be imitated at a town (go figure), and allows the user to buy equipment from the merchant deck, gain HP and/or Energy back, as well as buy new abilities.

A Training action allows the user to buy new abilities anywhere on the board.

A fight action must be initiated in an area with a blue creep, or at an area containing one of your team’s quest monsters (you cannot kill your opponent’s monsters)

A Rest action allows the user to regain a lot of HP and/or energy back (even more if initiated in a town region)

During character management you can equip new items and abilities (if you are high enough level to use them), and you cannot change this configuration until the end of your next team turn. TSW does add a few items and abilities (mainly dealing with blue creeps and opposing players) that may be equipped at the start of any action however.

Fights are simple affairs (albeit sometimes time consuming), each participating character takes a turn to fight, each character completing their combat round before the next participating character has theirs. The first step of the combat round is called the dice pool step, the active player goes over their character sheet and picks up as many dice as they are aloud to roll, (paying appropriate energy costs for any abilities used) and rolls them. The dice are divided into 3 colours, Blue for ranged damage, Red for melee damage, and green for amour.

They then look at the creeps stats for the threat value, for each die that equals this number or beats it is put to the side. Some abilities or items may allow the player to roll more dice, or add more damage if they can spot certain numbers (generally 8’s) on certain coloured dice and certain monsters will have abilities that will trigger when the player rolls certain numbers (generally 1’s), they then roll all bonus dice and trigger monster abilities, putting all new success to the side (which may result in even more bonus’).

Once a player has finished rolling all the dice they are allocated, the next step begins, and this is called the re-roll step. Like the name suggests, the player will go over all his abilities and items and tally up his re-roll value (paying appropriate energy costs for new abilities they are using). They may then pick up as many or little dice as they wish (up to their re-roll value) and rolls them again (no die may be re-rolled twice, however certain abilities and items may allow certain dice to be re-rolled before the re-roll step begins, not counting towards their re-roll quota). The new values may trigger new monster abilities, or new item abilities juts like in the dice pool step, and once all of these bonuses are resolved and new successes added to the success pile, the next step begins.

The last step of a combat round is called the place token’s step, the Active player will put an amour token in the defense area of the combat area for every green success, a damage token in the defense area for every red success, and a damage token in the damage area for every blue success, they will then go over their character sheet for the last time and tally up any attrition they may deal (once again, paying any energy costs for abilities they are using this step), and places a damage token in the attrition area for each attrition they may deal. Repeat for every participating character.

If there is enough damage in the damage area at this point to kill a monster (as denoted by its health on its stat sheet), you remove that many damage tokens from the damage area and remove the monster’s miniature from the board. After that any surviving monster attack back, look at the surviving monsters attack values and combine them, then take out 1 armor token per hit until you run out of tokens, then start removing damage tokens for the remainder of the damage, if at any point during the attack process you cannot remove a token, the characters lose 1 health per hit divided equally among them. After the monsters have attacked, move all remaining hit tokens into the damage area from the defense area and attrition area, if there is enough damage in the damage area to kill any more monsters, remove that many tokens and remove the monsters miniature from the board.
Once all the monsters are dead or the party is wiped out the combat ends.

As soon as your team has killed the quest creeps any players that participated in the slaying of said creeps gets a dividend of the reward (divided as evenly as possible). The reward typically has a certain amount of XP, some gold, and a draw from the item decks, some quests may reward specific Named items from the Epic Deck. Finishing quests is the only way players will be able to earn XP, so you will often ignore the blue creeps unless they are absolutely unavoidable, and due to the limited time available to earn XP, your time will wholly be devoted to finishing as many quests as you can, in the most efficient manner possible.

TSW does add some small rewards for killing blue creeps, as well as the persistent event deck that will often force you to eliminate a threat, but this will just add to the tension as even more time must be rationed, and deals may even be made with the opposing team in order to ensure that said threats are eliminated. TBC removes the time limit altogether, and in doing so encourages players to take side quests, be a bit more liberal on how they move, and pursue actions that would otherwise be deemed too inefficient.

Once a player has accrued enough XP, his character will level up(Max level 5, or 6 in TBC), regaining all HP and Energy as well as increasing their stats. They will also be able to pick a new Talent. Talents are like abilities but are persistent and often buff certain abilities allowing the player to specialize his character (there is generally 3 specializations per character) or just to improve the abilities that the player likes.

Play continues back and forth until turn 30 or a team defeats the boss monster. If neither team has defeated the boss monster at the end of turn 30, the two teams fight each other to establish who gets the “minor” victory. With TBC play will continue past turn 30 and continue until one team manages to defeat the boss monster.

Component Overview:
The box is packed full of countless miniatures, cardboard tokens, cards and reference sheets left, right and center equaling over 500 easily, and after numerous games all the components have stood up to the punishment quite well, Although the smaller tokens are fairly easy to lose if one isn’t careful. As mentioned above a large collection of elastic bands (to keep the cards together), and zip lock bags (to keep the components separate) are a must to things organized, or the game would be an absolute nightmare to set up and pack away.

Both TSW and TBC add even more cards, miniatures and reference sheets to the mix, and all are of the same standard that came with the original game.

Closing thoughts:
WoW:TBG is a wonderful experience to complete if you can find a few gamers with enough patience to complete a full game, with a minimum game time of 4 hours (yes you wont be finishing it any faster) and a minimum of 8 hours if both expansions are included, this could easily lead into a whole weekend activity. Not a game to be taken into lightly, you probably wont play this one as much as others in your collection due to the sheer amount of time it takes to finish, However when you do, you will be left with a feeling of achievement few other games can rival.

This game is probably best suited to players familiar with the online game of the same name, as the board game does a exceptional job of emulating the feel of an online RPG. Others players may be left wondering what the point is.

05-02-2013, 22:41
Great stuff, nice to see the board games getting some love! One small suggestion: Would it be possible to post a picture of the box and contents with the reviews?

15-04-2013, 13:50
Dungeon Lords (Euro, Resource Management, Worker Placement, Multiplayer Solo)

Opening thoughts:
So this one caught my eye instantly, I was big on dungeon keeper back in the day, and lo and behold now there was a board game using the very same premise, The fact that the game was pretty much sold out everywhere also increased my desire to try and own this little gem, needless to say, when I finally found a copy, I couldn't play it fast enough, Glancing over the rules, they iterate, and re-iterate several times that this is a hardcore game for hardcore players, the rules are fairly well laid out, but can be a little confusing even for veteran gamers, and needless to say, they weren't kidding about the difficulty of the game, this one is damn right unforgiving to noobs, fortunately they include an intensive training tutorial to help break in new players. Fortunately the game is so full of character and thematics that most will probably push through the harsh learning curve and have a lot of fun regardless.

Game Overview:
In Dungeon lords, each player takes the role of an aspiring cadet in training, The game itself is the final dungeon lords test, to prove that they are worthy of running and maintaining their own dungeon, which is played over "2 years", at the end of the game, players with a positive score pass the test and earn their spikes, chains or whatever denotes a dungeon master's rank, and the player with the highest score is the dux of the academy and the overall winner of the game.

The game itself is designed for exactly 4 players, and although you can play with 2 or 3, it really works optimally at 4, requiring "dummy players" to fill any absent players by randomly assigning order cards to take up spaces on the main board so other players cannot use them.

The game area consists of The Main "Town" board, a turn track board, a graveyard board(Completely superfluous) and each player also has their dungeon board. The main game board has 8 areas where players can perform various actions by sending out their 3 minions: The town market to buy food, Mingle with the local populace to improve relations and spy on the adventurers, to the department of planning to get permits for some your imps to dig new tunnels in your dungeon, to the labor office to get permits for some your imps to mine gold from your already established tunnels, to the imp city to round up new workers, to the trap emporium to purchase new traps, to the tavern to hire some monsters to help defend your dungeon, or to the dungeon furnishing shop to buy equipment for your dungeon (also known as the room shop).

Each year consists of 4 seasons (Or turns) and each turn is broken down into several phases, which admittedly is mostly book keeping, at the end of winter (the 4th seasons naturally) The parties of the local heroes enter each players dungeon looking for conquest and spoils.

Once per season Each player will secretly choose an order to give to his each of his 3 minions to carry out as well as what order to resolve them in, however each area on the town board only has 3 spots available, meaning if all 4 players want the same thing in one turn, the last player to carry out that order will miss out. In addition to the threat of missing out on a hotly contested space, each space in an area pays out differently depending on the sequence in which each players minions arrive with the 2nd spot generally the best outcome, but the 3rd space is still better than the first. In addition each space is also thematicly tied to its payoff so you can quite easily forge a narrative for each turn should you be so inclined, for example the markets first space pays out by trading one gold for 2 food (The first minion to arrive simply pays for the food and leaves), the second space however pays out one evil point on the evil meter and 3 food (The second minion arrives and is refused service, apparently they want to keep some food to feed the villages, so your minion threatens to burn their houses down, so they grudgingly give half of whats left of their supply), Finally the third and final space pays out 2 evil points on the evil meter for 3 food and 1 gold (The next minion arrives and the villages refuse to give him anything even after he threatens them, so He does what any good minion would do, and follows through on his threats, he then takes whats left of their food, and pillages some gold while he is at it while they attempt to put out the fires), when the last minion arrives he finds the village is half burned and no more food or loot to be had.

Last but not least only the first order you resolve each turn may be used again next turn, These 3 factors make the sequence in which you choose to resolve your orders a very tough choice, if you resolve an order too early you might not get the result you wanted, if you resolve it too late you may well miss out all together.

Each season also reveals which heroes are meeting in the towns local tavern, which are assigned to each players dungeon party based off of their ranking on the evil meter, The most powerful heroes go after the most evil players, and the weakest heroes brave their luck in the "Easier" dungeons, So managing your position on the evil meter is important to trying to get the heroes your dungeon is good against, for example, You don't want a party full of thieves if your only defense is traps (they are very good at disarming traps) There is also one paladin, who is like a "super" hero (basically counts as every type of hero) that will go after the most evil dungeon that crosses a certain threshold of the evil meter.

Finally in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th seasons of each year the players will have to contend with one of 2 standard events or a mystery event resolved in a random order each year, The 2 standard events are A) paying your monsters and B) paying your taxes (both of which are actually entirely 100% optional, of course penalty apply to those who don't), the mystery event is chosen from a deck of about 10 random events so is generally different every game (one example is any imps that you didn't put to work that season desert you, (they really don't like being idle), in all 3 cases you will know the turn before which event is coming up next turn so you can prepare for it, this is one of the reasons that some spaces on the main board are so hotly contested.

At the end of each year, the heroes invade each players dungeon, There are 5 types of heroes each with their own special ability, The fighter, who has the most hit points so he will push his way to the front and tank for the party, the Cleric, who will heal the party after each battle (apparently they don't like their role as the parties healbot, so they stick to that ethos very strictly, if there is no battle, they will happily sit idly by and watch the rest of the party perish to traps and fatigue), the Thief, who disarm traps, the wizard who conjures powerful magics and lastly the aforementioned paladin, who does everything. Each party will consist of a mix of any 3 of the 4 types of heroes, and additionally the paladin if you have crossed the evil meter threshold.

The dungeon invasion is carried out over 4 turns and each turn the heroes will move from the entrance into the closest unconquered area in the dungeon, the players will select 1 (or 2 if its a room) monsters and a trap to defend the area. The encounter is then played out, First The traps get sprung, For example the rolling bolder says the first adventurer takes 3 damage, Thieves reduce this damage by 1 for each level they posses. Next the spell for turn is revealed, Spells are either Fast or slow, which determines whether your monsters get to attack before it goes of or not (assuming the remaining wizards have enough mana left to cast it, they can cast 1 spell per level they posses) Spells can be devastating at worst, but at very least will throw your attack plan into disarray, after your monster(s) have attacked they are automatically knocked out, and if there was a fight, the clerics proceed to heal the party 1 HP per level they posses, if any heroes are left they proceed to conquer the area, suffering damage (or fatigue as its known) in the process, then the next round begins. Any hero that is reduced to 0 HP's is captured and thrown in your dungeon for points at the end of the game, any surviving heroes escape after 4 rounds and the next year begins.

at the end of the second year the test is over and players accrue and lose points based on how many rooms they built, how many heroes they captured, how many areas where conquered and how much taxes they avoided, as well as various awards for having the most of various categories, for example the most imps, So it is quite possible to have an entirely conquered dungeon and still win because you where the most evil, and had the most treasure ect. There doesn't seem to be any hard and fast strategy that's best, However if you miscalculate and happen to miss out entirely on an action for any one turn, it WILL put you at a very big disadvantage that is hard to recover from.

Component Overview:
The game is no fantasy flight production, that is certain, the Imp miniatures are cute, if a little out of place amongst the other components that are all either cardboard chits or meeples, The boards are all decorated in a cute cartoonish fashion, and are almost all double sided, with very little space wasted. The cards are of acceptable standard and apart from the rule book, everything is represented with icons as most Euro games are, which makes it quite intuitive to play once you know what each icon means. The rule book itself continues the theme splendidly, explaining some of the thematics behind the mechanics, and is filled with all sorts of jokes and explanations that not only make the rules easier to understand, but engages the reader making them want to read all the little comments through out the book.

Closing thoughts:
Dungeon lords is a nifty little game that despite its challenging learning curve, oozes so much theme that anyone who is interested in the idea of running a dungeon will probably want to push through and learn the nuances. Despite the learning curve and unforgiving nature of any mistakes or misfortunes, The game itself is simple and intuitive after a couple of play through. Its main problems lie in the Multiplayer solo syndrome, where by the only real random elements in the game are the other players, orders for that turn, everything else, from what other players cannot play this turn, to what the next event will be are all open information, A puzzle to be planned around, and certainly after a dozen or so plays with experienced players you will usually be able to work out what everyone is planning to do, because there is certainly a best move always available.

So I heartily recommend this one, my wife even begs me to play this one, and thats certainly always a bonus.