Broken Meeple Videos - Century Spice Road Review

This game was the hotness at the UK Games Expo and is being touted as the Splendor Killer - that's a bold claim, how much truth is there in that?


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Broken Meeple Videos - Barenpark Review

Here it is! The first review!!! It's a teething period, but I hope you all enjoy! Check out the new release from Mayfair and Lookout Games, Barenpark! Also bears are cool. Fact. 



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Broken Meeple Videos - UK GAMES EXPO 2017

2 videos already?! Well I did promise I would get my UK Expo roundup done soon didn't I? Now it's about an hour long and I know that long videos aren't a great thing, but this isn't going to be a norm for the channel. Reviews will be kept short, discussions will be kept to a max length and Top 10's will likely be the longest videos, but even these should be kept to a limit.

This video goes into detail about the UK Games Expo 2017. What games did I play and buy? Who did I meet? What else did I get up to? And to top it off, there's some information on the new DIZED app that I gained after sitting down with the founder during the Expo. Hope you enjoy and I'll see you on the next video, which should be the kickstart to my reviews.

04:45 - ALL THE GAMES!
39:11 - SMALL EXPO HAUL
45:22 - EVENTS AND GATHERINGS
49:50 - DIZED INTERVIEW
55:52 - CONCLUSION









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Broken Meeple Videos - Season 2 FAQ Promo

OH MY GOD! IT'S HAPPENED! IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! THE YOUTUBE CHANNEL IS BACK FOR SEASON 2!!!!!

This video is to give you some more insight into who I am, what I do, why I do it and where you can find me. Hopefully you'll enjoy it and look forward to more videos from me!

Oh and I know I'm a tiny bit out of focus compared to the background - my bad, easily remedied for future videos. Obviously the quality will improve as time goes on, but with the UK Games Expo over (my next video will be a chat about that) and the Top 100 deadline looming over the horizon, I felt I'd kept you all waiting long enough for me to tinker with equipment and editing software and I owe you some content! 

Once again, thank you for sticking with me for all this time. I appreciate all your support and I look forward to providing more video content for you to supplement my podcast and written reviews. 




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Season 2 Episode 14 - SOLO (Part II)

Recently the hosts of Every Night Is Game Night, also known as Jason Perez and Anthony Chatfield of Board Gamers Anonymous, invited me on for a Top Ten Solo Games collaboration. A really hard list to put together as I could have done a Top 30 really, but it had to be drilled down to 10.

It was great fun though and despite a tough time editing, there's a great show to be heard here. Part I dealt with the introductions and our list from 10 to 6. Part II deals with 5 to 1 as well as some ideas from contributors and the Peoples Choice poll we put up on the Solo BoardGamers Facebook group. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.



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Unfair Review - You Must Be This Mean To Ride!

Awww theme parks! Even though I've gotten bored with them now, I have so many nostalgic memories not only of attending theme parks including the wonders of DisneyWorld in Orlando several times as a child, but also iconic games such as Theme Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon. I wouldn't have the time or patience for them these days, but back then in the good old days where time wasn't at an extortionate premium they were just a joy. Building the rides, managing the sideshows and food stalls, deliberating sending trains of passengers to their fiery death on the rocket launch coaster, dropping complaining guests in the lake to keep them quiet...........wow I had issues then.

But we don't see this theme in a board game very often. Why not? Surely this is a theme that's just begging for a quality game. I've got my share of building villages and caves and I've had it with these really dry, dull historical settings lately, can we have a thematic Euro game about building a theme park? Get Vital Lacerda on the design, Days of Wonder or Stonemaier to publish it, Michael Menzel to do the card art and the board and make it worker placement and it could be the most amazing game ever! Keep to less than 3 hours though please and if Wallace or Feld tries to put their fingers on it, release the hounds!

Unfair is probably my first exposure to this theme in a board game and I'm unfamiliar with the works of Good Games USA (yes it has CMON on it but GG USA kickstarted it so I'm giving them the initial credit for publishing this). But it's had some controversy over the "unfair" part, where apparently there's a lot of potenial meanness in this game in screwing other players over. A little meanness is good, too much is a bad thing for me. Are the fears warranted or a false alarm?



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Innovation: 3rd Edition Review - Controlled Tactical Chaos

OK, technically this is a bit of a cheat! Some very astute readers may have read the title and gone "hang on a minute, you've already done this game!". Of course that means you've read my reviews since 2014, so when I say "astute" I mean, maybe the one lifelong member that reads this blog! However that one person would be right, because I indeed already reviewed the IELLO version of Innovation 3 years ago - but I won't say my opinion of it, you'll have to read it to find out!

Asmadi however were the original creators of Innovation and they use a more abstract approach to their graphic design and styling, whereas IELLO was more artistic and colourful. Both have their pros and cons, but most people prefer the look of the IELLO version. Well now Asmadi recently did a Kickstarter for the Deluxe Edition of Innovation to co-incide with their 3rd Edition reprint. It seems that very little has changed from before though aside from a few keyword tweaks and some minor alterations to the graphic design.

It's however very difficult to get hold of the IELLO version any more and no more expansions will be coming from them. So if you want to play Innovation, you need to look at this new 3rd Edition. But should you? How has this game held up since 2014? Let's give this one another look. . .  


Designer: Carl Chudyk
Publisher: Asmadi
Age: 12+
Players: 2-4
Time: 30-60 Minutes
RRP: £19.99


From Board Game Geek

This game by Carl Chudyk is a journey through innovations from the stone age through modern times. Each player builds a civilization based on various technologies, ideas, and cultural advancements, all represented by cards. Each of these cards has a unique power which will allow further advancement, point scoring, or even attacking other civilizations. Be careful though, as other civilizations may be able to benefit from your ideas as well!
To win, you must score achievements, which you can attain by amassing points or by meeting certain criteria with the innovations you have built. Plan your civilization well, and outmanoeuvre your opponents, and with some luck you will achieve victory!


I MISS MY ARTWORK


OK, let's not beat about the bush here. Asmadi has always stood on the foundation of being pretty basic with their graphic design and artwork. IELLO for the 2nd Edition on the other hand want everything to be pretty and made a very colourful version. For the 3rd Edition, we're back to Asmadi's norm, but there have been some improvements on the graphic design and look over the original. It's clean and easy to tell what's what on each card, but yeah, unless you're a Splotter fan this aesthetic won't be appealing.

Being cleaner however does mean it's a little easier to teach. . . mostly. The rulebook is pretty clear on all the key rules with very good pictorial examples of the dogma effects and what it means to splay cards left, right and up. I also would like to give Asmadi special credit for including a couple pages at the end giving a good example of how to teach Innovation to new players. I've not seen that before and I think other publishers could benefit from this, especially those who just dump a giant rulebook for a heavy Euro on us and expect us to sort it out.

However they've stuck to their odd terminology for basic actions, which is a pain. For example instead of "Play" which IELLO used, we have "Meld". . . . .why? Was "Play" really that bad or do royalties get paid on using the word "Meld"? The player aids are enough to ensure that there isn't too much confusion though so we're not talking Netrunner levels of obscurity. But really obscure terminology is something publishers should be avoiding in their games now.




THERE IS NO STRATEGY, AND THAT'S GOOD


Many games will involve tactics, but usually give you the opportunity to have a strategic game plan from the word go. For example you could play a civilization game going full military, but how you get there might be influenced. Innovation is just pure tactics throughout. You cannot form a strategy in this game period. Try it and see. The way the dogma effects interact off the players prevents you from setting long term goals. You have to be able to adapt on the fly, react to your opponents tableau and seek opportunities when they come up. And I can't get enough of it. This kind of game sings to me, I don't have to plan a hundred turns in advance and I don't have to spend 3 hours of my life seeing if one particular strategy works or not.

The dogma effects are what make the game and every single card is unique. Don't worry about the thematic connection because it isn't here, but deciding on the best way to utilise these abilities is fun in itself. Do you want to use your Atomic Theory knowing that the opponent is also going to benefit? Will it be better for them than yourself? Do you fear attack because they are hogging all the crown symbols, if so, do you muster a defence or take the hit and retaliate with something else? You'll be surprised how many important decisions you'll make over the course of one game and the game will differ depending on what cards come out and when.

I wouldn't go as far as to call Innovation a "mean" game, but be aware that there are a mix of co-operative and aggressive dogma effects. And there's nothing but your own cards to stop the opponent from utilising an aggressive dogma over and over again if it benefits them each time. So if you're down and don't think of a solution, you may get kicked in the stomach again. Games are usually quick enough though that you're not feeling the after effects for too long and you may even get a chance to repay them for their less than friendly card play towards you.



BALANCING CHAOS



Some tweaks have been made to the cards for 3rd Edition, but these are all very minor changes - in fact you would probably have to pain-stakingly inspect each card from both editions in turn to spot them and a lot of them are mostly to do with wording/phrasing as opposed to a balance fix. Certainly don't feel you need to get this if you own a previous edition already. I do wish perhaps they would have made some of the special achievements easier to get as they can be quite tricky. Sadly there's no extra cards compared to previous editions so you will see the same ones popping up in subsequent games - be on the lookout for expansions to assist with that.

Games of Innovation are very quick generally especially between two players. 30-60 minutes is pretty accurate for game length, but be warned about including any slow players. The tactical nature of Innovation and all the effects lends itself to analysis paralysis and it is for this reason that I almost never play Innovation with 4 players unless everyone knows what they are doing and it's a team game, which surprisingly is actually a cool way to play as it reduces the amount of chaos slightly compared to 4 players out for themselves.

Essentially the more players you have, the more chaos that may ensue from dogma effects. This is quite fun to witness however and so I don't mind a 3 player game for that reason, but Innovation is always at its best with 2 players or 2 teams. If you think that 4 players is all you'll do, then you won't get the best out of this game.



VERDICT ON INNOVATION


I loved this game back in 2014 and I still do now. It's a highly underrated card game that is wonderfully tactical in nature and great for combo builders among us. Games play very differently and repeated plays lead to greater mastery over the cards - if like me you like having to adapt within a game without being punished for it, this is as perfect as you can get. The theme is non-existant, but for a game that is done with in less than 45-60 minutes, that's something I can put up with. It's an abstract card game through and through and should be approached as such.

The graphic design is decent, but it's not going to win any artwork awards ever. The IELLO version looks a lot more colourful and if you prefer that and can find a copy, I strongly recommend you grab it, but if you're happy with Asmadi's stark look that admittedly is a little cleaner, then by all means pick up the 3rd Edition which is in a much smaller box for added portability - though sleevers will be frustrated at the lack of spare space.

For card game fans, this is a must-buy. But if your opponent is even remotely prone to analysis paralysis, don't say I didn't warn you.




BROKEN RATING - 9 SPLAYED RED CARDS 




YOU WILL LIKE INNOVATION 3RD EDITION IF:


You want a thinky abstract card game that rewards regular play.


You're keen on having multiple ways to win during the game.


You love pure tactical games - you can't form a strategy here, you have to adapt.




YOU WILL NOT LIKE INNOVATION 3RD EDITION IF:


You can't stand the bland styling that Asmadi uses.


You aren't a fan of abstract card games - there's no theme here to go by.


You play with anyone remotely prone to analysis paralysis.


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Season 2 Episode 13 - SOLO (Part I)

Look what I've got for you! Recently the hosts of Every Night Is Game Night, also known as Jason Perez and Anthony Chatfield of Board Gamers Anonymous, invited me on for a Top Ten Solo Games collaboration. A really hard list to put together as I could have done a Top 30 really, but it had to be drilled down to 10.

It was great fun though and despite a tough time editing, there's a great show to be heard here. Part I will deal with the introductions and our list from 10 to 6. Part II released later this week will deal with 5 to 1 as well as some ideas from contributors and the Peoples Choice poll we put up on the Solo BoardGamers Facebook group. Sit back and enjoy, because this is a good one!



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Ethnos Review - The Fellowship Of Area Control

Hang on a second here. What's this game doing with Cool Mini or Not's (CMON) name on it? There's no miniatures. No fancy art. No giant price tag. What gives? That tends to be the MO for this publisher with some exceptions that tended to be ports from other countries - a bit like how Rio Grande Games used to bring direct ports over from Germany many years ago. And I've always had a hit or miss relationship with them. Their games look amazing on the table, but never seem to give me enough enjoyment to justify the expense or storage space and yes that includes Blood Rage (takes cover to dodge a few incoming spears). To be honest my favourite games with CMON's name on it have been their non-miniature based titles like Unusual Suspects and The Grizzled.

Ethnos is another title that really doesn't look like something they would publish and I'd barely even heard of it before its release, but the buzz for this game just went off the rails and yet for reasons we'll get to later, it really didn't look like much. And despite being a respected designer, I've not latched on to most of Paolo Mori's gameography (can we use that as a word?) But a skim of the rulebook revealed much promise. Could this be a turning point for the publisher in my eyes?



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Season 2 Episode 12 - PRE-EXPO

A quick broadcast today, just to go over my plans and schedule for the upcoming UK Games Expo on 2nd-4th June 2017. Where can you find me and what games am I likely to make a beeline for?



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Sentinels of the Multiverse Bonus Guest Review! - It's Time For Some Answers!

I should be ashamed! No not because of that.........or that......or that........ok I get it, I have a long list of potential reasons, you can stop now! But in this instance I know that despite having rated it as my "spoiler alert" #1 game on my Top 100 for two years in a row, I've never actually reviewed Sentinels of the Multiverse.

I did a quick review of one of the expansions and when Oblivaeon arrives I will no doubt do a full review, but never have I written my thoughts on why I love it so much. Well it's about time I did and I'm surprised I didn't do it sooner. Yes, you're not exactly going to be surprised by the rating I give it, but it's time you knew why and knowing what I look for in a great game, it might make more sense now.

But you can't read it here! This is my bonus review, a guest post on Zatu Game's blog website, where articles on a lot of different board game related topics are shown. I look forward to contributing more to the website in the future.




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Golem Arcana Guest Review - The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword!

I’ve been an advocate for praising games that try to integrate apps within them and innovate to a new level. In recent years we’ve had fantastic implementations like X-COM and Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition setting the bar really high for future ideas. Previous to those we had Alchemists which did a fine job as well, though it was only “part” of the game and could have functioned without the app (though it would have been clunky and horrible to do so).
But we can’t forget what I believe to be the first game (or certainly one of the first) to really go full throttle in using an app to handle the majority of the tasks at hand, Golem Arcana. It tends to fly under the radar for most people, but occasionally this game crops up again and I felt it was time to see how one of the original innovators handled itself in the technological age.

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Arkham Horror LCG - Undimensioned And Unseen - You Go It Alone, You're Gonna Die!

10 out of 10 for the picture on the front of the pack alone. Can you imagine standing outside your house and seeing that looming over it? Got to love the Lovecraft universe for its creative horror imagery. Looks like all hell is beginning to break loose in Dunwich as we get closer to the final part of the saga.

Keeping to the previous format, these pack reviews are based on the scenario itself as well as my pick of decent, ridiculous or amusing cards from the player set. If you ever want to see the full player card list, you can check out Arkham.db, which has a comprehensive card list as well as quality deck lists posted by the Arkham LCG community - highly recommended.



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Mystic Vale: Vale of the Wild Review - Take A Drink Everytime Vale Is Mentioned

Not much to say here really. Mystic Vale was an innovative card-crafting game from 2016, which despite being good, had the flaw of not having enough cards present. We've had one expansion to date to address that issue and now we have a second. However on this occasion, it's not just a bunch of new cards. Now you have leaders to use as well, or to put it in gamer terms, player powers. An improvement, a detriment or will you barely even notice them? 

Also AEG - Stop naming your expansions using the same name as your base set. You don't need to include the word "vale" in everything, you'll just confuse buyers! 



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Season 2 Episode 11 - GAMERS

A tongue in cheek episode for you today before I head down to Devon for a week's break. We all love playing games with the community, but I'm sure all of us have that small list of gamer types that we would all avoid if we had the chance or perhaps that one personality trait just rubs you the wrong way.

So as a bit of fun, after I talk about some new appearances I'll be doing at conventions and on other podcasts, I'll give my "tongue in cheek" Top Ten Annoying Gamers.



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Yamatai Review - My Eyes!! The Beauty Overwhelms Me!

If I was to name my Top 5 Publishers, it would be a crime to not include Days of Wonder in the list. They don't produce a hundred games a year or demand a million bucks off Kickstarter for half a game. Instead they take their time and put the effort into making each one a solid hit. Now they may not appeal to everyone and not everything published by them is a financial hit (Cargo Noir, Rails & Sails, hello?), but the majority of the time, their games will hit it out of the park. They seem to cover all the bases of what a decent game should include without leaving out any glaring faults.

So as I said, they don't release many games a year, so when they do, I'm always keen to get stuck in and see if the trend continues. Which reminds me, does anyone own a copy of Relic Runners, I want to try that as well? As for their older games, they become so sought after on the secondary market it's unreal. I got very lucky in obtaining a copy of Cleopatra which I'm never getting rid of and if only I could find a reasonably priced copy of Coliseum somewhere (note I'm not keen on the look of the new one. . . )

So Yamatai is here and from the cover . . . . no idea what it's about. I hear rumours of it being a "thinky" Euro akin to the same levels as Five Tribes. Good start, I love Five Tribes. And it's obvious at first glance that it's going to look gorgeous on the board. And Bruno's name is on the cover, always a good sign! Let's set sail for the ancient country of Yamatai!


Designer: Bruno Cathala & Marc Paquien
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Age: 13+
Players: 2-4
Time: 60-120 Minutes
RRP: £49.99


From Board Game Geek

In Yamatai, 2-4 players compete to build palaces, torii, and their own buildings in the land of Yamatai. The game includes ten numbered action tiles, each showing one or more colored ships and with most showing a special action. You shuffle these tiles, place them in a row, then reveal one more than the number of players.
On a turn, each player chooses a tile, collects the depicted ships from the reserve, optionally buys or sells one ship, then places the ships on the board. The land has five entryways, and you must start from these points or place adjacent to ships already on the board. You can't branch the ships being placed, and if you place your first ship adjacent to another, then that first ship must be the same color as the adjacent one; otherwise you can place ships without regard to color.
After placing ships, you can either claim colored resources from land that you've touched with new ships this turn or build on one vacant space. To build, the space must have colored ships around it that match the ships depicted on one of the available building tiles. If you build a personal building that's connected to others you own, you receive money equal to the number of buildings.

You can bank one ship before the end of your turn, then you can use any three resources or a pair of matching resources to purchase a specialist, each of whom has a unique power.
After all players go, you shuffle the action tiles, place them face down in the row, then reveal enough tiles at the front of the line to set up for the next turn, with the turn order being determined by the numbers on the tiles that players chose the previous turn. Once you trigger one of the game-ending conditions — e.g., no ships of one color or no more specialists — you finish the round, then count points for buildings built, specialists hired, and money on hand.



LIKE A DISNEY PRINCESS PRODUCTION


Even in the rare occasions that Days of Wonder make a dud game, they always look great. Great is an understatement here, Yamatai is just simply beautiful to look at. The artwork depicting Japanese ships, people and culture is stunning and the box art alone is going to pull in anyone noticing it on a shelf. I would actually want that box art on a canvas print on my wall.

Components wise, again did you expect anything less than great? Chunky wooden buildings, thick tiles, coins etc. Though as a nitpick, can we stop printing coins where you have to poke out a really tiny centre, it's really annoying? What's wrong with a solid round circle? I also really like the rulebook itself. Not only is it colourful, but it includes a fully detailed setup diagram, some of the clearest rule descriptions ever and a full list of all the abilities from the fleet tiles and specialists for quick reference. Learning this game and teaching it is simply a breeze.

And to round it off, Days of Wonder in the last few years have come around on their inserts. Simple and made of plastic, but they hold everything you need in place, not too much to ask. Yamatai stores quickly and easily, but a word of warning. If you feel you're going to stack it on its side, consider keeping one or two of the punch boards handy on the top. Just like you did with Quadropolis (if you've not played that, check out my review, then give it a try).


NOT A CLONE!


Yamatai takes Days of Wonder out of its comfort zone again with a game that's fairly taxing on the brain when trying to separate out your options on any given turn. Five Tribes was a similar excursion, however let me make it clear now that Yamatai is NOT a clone of Five Tribes. It is of a similar weight level and you're trying to spot combos as they arise, but other than that they both play very differently and use different mechanics.

Now as thinky as it is, it's not overwhelming. We're not talking heavy strategy here, but you've got choices for picking your turn bonus, your turn order, your fleet of boats, the specialists you want, the buildings you can aim for, certainly plenty to consider before you even start thinking about what your opponents are doing. And of course you're juggling all this while adapting to how the board changes each round. You'll need a backup plan if someone blocks your way, but sometimes the enemy is your friend when you notice the ships they've laid out for you on that uninhabited island.

At no point does Yamatai feel clunky. It flows super smooth and your player board is a near flawless rules aid to the phases in your turn with iconography that's simple to understand. I say near flawless because the "optional/mandatory" symbol on Phase 3 is a little ambiguous, but to be honest, I've never seen a turn where someone didn't place boats so it's pretty irrelevant.

It requires a careful look to realise that the paths to victory aren't just simply "build or hire". Generally players will do a bit of everything, but focus on one specific archetype. What do you choose to build? A large group of standard buildings for money and game-end rush or the big prestige ones? Or maybe forget about them entirely until someone pops a Palace near you and you take advantage of the bonus points. And the Specialists are no different. You could go for mass hire, but some of them will provide bonus points for various things supporting your initial game plan.


YOU MUST HAVE X INTELLIGENCE. . . . . 


The challenge in Yamatai is being able to spot the best combos that can benefit you points wise from placing ships down. Similar to how you have to spot the best moves in Five Tribes. Of course the inherent risk of having multiple options available is that anyone who likes to min-max is going to cause some analysis paralysis (AP) if you're not careful. I would say this game doesn't fall victim to it as often, but still best to keep them away or include them only in 3 player setups. I was afraid when the rules said each player plays through all of their 5 phases before the next, but in reality they flow through pretty quickly if you plan your turn.

Without those AP players though, Yamatai scales pretty well. The style of game changes slightly with a 2 player affair being more strategic and a 4 player being more tactical (more players = greater change of board state basically), but all those modes play pretty well and you'd be surprised how quickly a 2 player game can finish. Even a 4 player should typically not take more than 90 minutes to finish after teaching the game, again as long as you keep those AP players away. I had one game taken 2 hours, but we had a very slow player present. You've got 4 different ways the game can end, two of which are more common/fast (player buildings running out and exhausting a ship pile) and two which essentially stop the game from dragging out too long (running out of buildings or specialist tiles).

In terms of variety, there could have been some more interesting standard buildings rather than just the trading post, which is really only worth building if you have a large group already. There's a good range of Specialists though for a base game and Yamatai could easily be expanded in the future. You don't need another mechanic Days of Wonder, just give us more buildings, specialists and maybe some alternate fleet tiles to change up each game.



VERDICT ON YAMATAI


They've done it again! Yamatai is another solid Euro game for Days of Wonder that shows that Five Tribes wasn't just a fluke when venturing out of their comfort zone. It's utterly beautiful on the table, always catching a passer by's attention and yet challenges your brain as any good "thinky" Euro should. However you should be wary of any players who suffer from analysis paralysis as they might drag this out a bit too long, though it's not as bad as Five Tribes "million options" approach.

Multiple paths to victory combined with tactical game play and flexible turn order/end-game triggers make this an entertaining experience and one which doesn't overstay its welcome especially with 2-3 players. Those who enjoy spotting clever combos out of nowhere will also appreciate the mix of strategy and tactics give here. And yet it can be fully taught in less than 15 minutes so you're quick to get stuck in.

It's not simply a Five Tribes clone, it's that same level of weight, but it's a completely different game in its own right. At gunpoint I'd give the slight edge to Yamatai on the grounds of being easier to teach and quicker to finish. But I'm keeping both in the collection, alongside many other examples of why Days of Wonder's business model of quality over quantity....works.





BROKEN RATING - 9 FLEETS OF RAINBOW COLOURED SHIPS






YOU WILL LIKE YAMATAI IF:


You want a really "thinky" Euro that offers multiple options for how to play.


You want something that looks truly beautiful on the table.


You want to be able to teach it really quickly and get stuck in.





YOU WILL NOT LIKE YAMATAI IF:


You know any AP players - there's plenty of scope for an AP player to drag this out.


You want a thematic experience - it's a beautiful theme, but it's pasted on.


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Carcassonne Amazonas Review - The Meeple Sleeps Tonight!

I've always been a defender of Carcassonne as one of the great Gateway games. You want a solid entry point into tile laying and basic Euro mechanics and victory points, there's few that do the job so well. It's had a fair few spin-off's over the years and I've had a hit and miss relationship with them. South Seas was excellent, Gold Rush not so much. And Star Wars.....really? I feel bad I'll never get a chance to play Carcassonne: The City as that looks so good, but it will never see print again and no-one in their right mind is selling it on the secondary market.

Amazonas had me intrigued though. Incorporating a racing aspect into a growing map sounded great and the jungle landscape would make for hopefully a nice pretty piece of art to look at. But it was getting mixed reviews, therefore I had to find out what's what. Can I reccomend this over the original or South Seas, or will this be solely for die-hard fans?



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Tak: A Beautiful Game Review - Wow, Wood Is Expensive!

Sooooooooo.......this is an abstract game. That's born out of a book I've never heard of. That's barely mentioned in the book to begin with. And then nicknamed "A Beautiful Game". . . . what? This is a very bizarre origin story for an abstract game which would generally be thought of as moving solid blocks on a board. Obviously I have not read this book, nor intend to, nor do I believe it would have any additional bearing on this review so I'm just going to ignore it. It's going to take me long enough to read my Arkham Investigators book as it is.

This now allows me to focus on the game itself, which again does have a bunch of wooden blocks and requires you to place/move them around a board. No surprises there, but all of these abstract games are about the "how" rather than the "what" and I do love trying these out even though I don't have the means of regularly playing any of them to the point of supreme mastery. Let's just hope the name "TAK" wasn't simply a spelling error from "TAT".



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Arkham Horror LCG - Blood On The Altar - I Now Hate Owls

Well after yet another hurrendous train journey (seriously when is a train journey ever good, I hate trains) we get a nice kip in Dunwich - except when we wake up the next morning, people have gone missing and there's a disturbing amount of owls in the trees giving off vibes of impending death. Clearly something is coming and we'd best find those missing people quick!

If you ever want to see the full player card list, you can check out Arkham.db, which has a comprehensive card list as well as quality deck lists posted by the Arkham LCG community.




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Terraforming Mars Review - A New World, But Maybe I'll Just Visit On Occasion

Uh oh! I'm going to need my Fortress of Solitude again aren't I? Any time you review a game that's generated more hype than the 2nd coming of Jesus, you need your defenses set up. And that's even if you give it a 9 out of 10 rating. Anything less than perfect is seen as bad in the eyes of the internet, remember all the controversy from fanboys of Mad Max Fury Road? You even so much as point out one flaw in that movie and suddenly in your rear view mirror there's a horde of sand buggies chasing you.

This Euro generated a ton of hype, we're talking near the levels of Scythe here. And I agree with Tom Vasel that "hype" is a huge enemy of gaming. People go nuts over an upcoming release, which then results in wars breaking out over whether it met the hype or not. A friendly debate back and forth is fine, but I've seen things you wouldn't believe on social media and BGG. On paper it sounded pretty good though. Drafting, multiple paths to victory and theme (I'll be the judge of that), all decent parts I like in games.

Now even Scythe despite just hitting my Top Ten of all time, doesn't meet the hype it generated, no game ever can. So even if Terraforming Mars gets a 10 from me, it won't have met the hype.
So retract the drawbridge, raise shields and inform all plumbers in advance that the princess is in another castle, this is Terraforming Mars: The Review.


Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
Publisher: Stronghold Games
Age: 12+
Players: 1-5
Time: 150-210 Minutes
RRP: £59.99


From Board Game Geek

In the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. In Terraforming Mars, you play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things.



NASA'S BUDGET CUTS


This is a common complaint by many so I'm sure I'm not in a minority here, but it has to be said, the component quality is pretty subpar and the artwork varies between average drawings and random stock photos of anything from passing comets to the designers dog. The cubes, as neat an idea as it is to use a universal tracking system for resources, aren't that durable as I'm seeing dents/scratches everywhere and it creates one of the most frustrating player board situations I've encountered. You're tracking a lot on your board on these very small spaces, barely large enough to accomodate everything and one slight nudge of the table or brush of your sleeve and suddenly your income stream becomes a game of "Bluff".

The board itself is the best part though - nothing especially great, but it's clean and easy to read including all the milestones and goals and the basic action table (which you might as well cover with a sheet of paper as you'll practically never use it). Why the artwork on here couldn't have been done for the cards as well though?

Now using stock photos and low quality cards/cubes wouldn't be a problem if the price justified it. But copies of Terraforming Mars are selling for £60 plus. I mentioned Scythe before and look at what you get in that box for the same price. Players have solved the player board issue with 3rd party plastic tray accessories, but they fetch about £10 a piece. So die-hard fans who aren't versed in arts and craft are forking out £110 to bring this up to scratch. Even at base retail value though, I would have hoped for more.

It's not all bad though. Despite the stock photos, I was impressed with the graphic design used in Terraforming Mars. The board is pretty clear on what's what and each card not only has the iconography, which is pretty intuitive already, but also the text explanation of what the card does. Anyone used to Euro's with card abilities should have no trouble picking up the basics of this game or understanding the general jist of a new card discovered during play. And despite this, the cards don't seem cluttered. I didn't find myself having to check the rules much during the first play, which is quite an achievement.



PICK YOUR SCIENCE DIVISION


Terraforming Mars's strongest aspect is the variety in the strategies you can go for. I'm not entirely convinced some aren't better than others (tip: don't focus on comets and meteor's, it won't go well), but you do have a nice mix of styles whether it involves focusing on cards or more on the board itself. The cards themselves are also all unique so you'll never see the same card appear on someone else's tableau once you've taken it. Now again, balance is questionable, but with this many cards, you kinda have to expect that.

I do wish though that maybe there were some more endgame goals. There's only 5 available and that can't cover every type of symbol/resource in the game so you either pigeon hole yourself into going for them or ignore them completely.

The theme is actually interwoven better than I expected. The cards themselves mostly relate to actual scientific methods in the field of terraforming and colonisation whether from real life or pesudo-sci-fi. As the temperature and oxygen level rises, other cards become available and it's cool to watch the planet take shape as you go along.

Now good for some, bad for others (including myself), Terraforming Mars doesn't hold you by the hand. You're basically thrown in the deep end and forced to figure out how to use those cards right and it will not come immediately to you. So anyone who's played before is going to have a significant advantage. There is also no real catch up mechanism in the game either. So if you're falling behind by the half way point, you're going to be staying that way as it does feel very much like a "rich get richer" system - there's very few opportunities in the game to get in the way of the leaders without usually slowing yourself down in the process. Many like that kind of setup, but I prefer there to be some glimmer of hope for the losing players.



TOO LONG TO DRAFT?


You can play Terraforming Mars in two ways. Use basic corporations that are all generic and be dealt your cards without drafting each round, or use one of the special corporation powers and draft cards. Even if you are learning the game, using the basic version is completely the wrong way to do this. For starters, unique player powers and drafting are just more fun in general than being generic.

But there's also the luck factor to consider. Terraforming Mars hinges on the variety of cards and being able to use those cards to carry on your strategy. If you are simply dealt them, then the whole game becomes a luck-fest of who got the best hand. Drafting those cards mitigates that luck, however unfortunately it doesn't eliminate it. Drafting in games always carries an inherent element of luck because even though you are picking cards and choosing what to pass on, the initial distribution of those cards is still based on luck of the draw. If you get dealt or are passed cards you can use, you're in a much better situation and with new players you almost have a Puerto Rico scenario where sitting after the new player is really advantageous because they won't know what cards to not pass over. Some cards can even generate VP's over the course of the game and grabbing one of those will really help if you're fortunate enough to see them.

Now drafting luck is no new thing and even the likes of 7 Wonders, Sushi Go, Among the Stars, Best Treehouse Ever, etc. have the same thing. But here's the catch. Those games are short. We're talking less than an hour for all but Among the Stars and even that is usually capped at 90 minutes without AP players. Terraforming Mars has regularly taken anywhere between 2.5 hours and 3.5 hours to finish a game whether I'm in it or just from observations. It can even take longer, but yes I know some 2-3 player games can do it in 2 hours, but you need to be fast and know the game inside and out. That's already a bit too long for me normally, but when factoring in the luck from drafting combined with the punishing lack of a catch up mechanism, that's too much for me.

I feel this game would have been better capped at 90 minutes at most and if it took less time to meet the end-game conditions that would be probably be easily achievable. It seems to take forever for the planet to heat up and become breathable despite the fact that it begins to steamroll more near the end. But after 60-90 minutes the repetition of "draft 4 cards, pick them, play them, collect income" sets in and you realise that you're doing this A LOT over the course of 3 plus hours assuming you're not in downtime mode waiting for 3-4 other players to do their actions. I don't know why it's so hard these days for games to be capped at a certain length.

But if you do want a shorter experience, you can always try the Solo mode which is actually fairly enjoyable. You get to do something different each time, it doesn't take quite as insanely long as the main game (though it's not a short affair by any means) and you get rid of any downtime.





VERDICT ON TERRAFORMING MARS



It's madness that I can't say this without sitting inside a sealed fortress, but I'm afraid I was very disappointed with Terraforming Mars given all the hype it's received. It has a lot of ingredients I normally crave - drafting, good variety of options and a decent, if not exactly dripping, amount of theme. But a few aspects miss the mark for me. For the price tag, I expected a lot better in component quality. The board is probably the best looking thing in it and even then it's not amazing. But a mix of art/stock photos, thin cards, easily dented cubes and player boards designed to destroy games from a gentle nudge doesn't scream value for money. That being said, the graphic design is really good and makes learning the cards a lot easier to cope with.

It's also very long and gets repetitive as you're basically rinsing and repeating for 3 hours plus. Combined with the inherent luck factor from drafting cards, despite a degree of mitigation if no-one is new to the game, it overstays its welcome and would have been much better suited to a 90 minute time frame. I will never touch this game with more than 3 players again just from downtime alone between turns. But there is a good amount of variety here in strategies and the theme is fairly strong. If you don't mind the lack of a catch up mechanism, i.e. punishing games, then there's something good to find here.

I commend the concept and can see the appeal for many, but this will go down as one of my biggest disappointments and a poster child for why "hype" is a ferocious enemy of gaming.




BROKEN RATING - 6 DEGREES TOO COLD FOR MY HOT TUB





YOU WILL LIKE TERRAFORMING MARS IF:


You enjoy drafting - playing this game without that rule is just madness.


You enjoy having a variety of paths to explore.


You like punishing games.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE TERRAFORMING MARS IF:


You want a short Euro experience - for most people it's around 3 plus hours.


You feel the luck factor is a little too high for the time length invested.


You hate the lacklustre component quality and aren't buying the plastic trays.


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Smash Up: What We Were Thinking Review - Probably About Printing Money!

Are AEG trolling themselves now? I get the feeling the next expansion for Smash Up is discussed on an employee night out over a few drinks! It would explain some of the choices we've had over the years and certainly at last one or two of these ones. But it's Smash Up and anyone who plays and enjoys it, always loves to see another collection of factions to justify the acquisition of that Big Geeky Box! I kid you not, fully sleeved, it's not going to be long before that Geeky box runs out of space to hold everything. I give it. . . . 4 expansions tops, baring in mind you need room for tokens. What I really need though is a reference faction sheet that explains briefly all the different strategies for each as the box isn't designed to hold every single rulebook.

I still enjoy it though and even though it hasn't hit the table much in recent times, it's not going anywhere soon. It's biggest hindrance is getting people to sign up to the idea of playing it as it's very . . . unique. . . . and also because it's best played with less than 4 players so you're a little limited there. That being said, I still enjoy the game and at least it does all store nicely in a very tough box. Some of my games lately are showing wear and tear from being carted around in IKEA bags, sliding in my car boot etc, but that Geeky Box just takes it like a man. Or Dinosaur. Or Werewolf. Or Dinosaur Werewolf.



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Season 2 Episode 10 - STABCON

Well Stabcon was another success in early April, but maybe some of you haven't heard of it - well here's a chance to find out more. How did it go, what is it all about, when's the next one and what games, both old and new, did I get to play?


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Arkham Horror LCG - Essex County Express - No Ticket!

Oooh we get to ride on a train this time? I've been quite excited for this one from the previews as it could be a stand-out in the cycle in terms of thematic story telling. Everyone got your tickets?

Keeping to the previous format, these pack reviews are based on the scenario itself as well as my pick of decent, ridiculous or amusing cards from the player set. If you ever want to see the full player card list, you can check out Arkham.db, which has a comprehensive card list as well as quality deck lists posted by the Arkham LCG community - highly recommended.



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Arkham Horror LCG - Miskatonic Museum - It Begins With A Book Again

Remember when I used to do reviews on Netrunner data packs? Well sadly as I no longer can keep up with Netrunner, those won't be happening now. I'm also too far behind on Lord of the Rings LCG to start doing reviews for those. So instead, I'm focusing on Arkham Horror: The Card Game, the new LCG from Fantasy Flight that's being a solid hit since release. Co-operative LCG's are the way forward people, I'm telling you!

A few changes though. Writing a whole paragraph about every single player card in a pack was not only time consuming, but it got tedious very quickly when you consider how frequently these packs release! So as this is a narrative campaign, I'm going to focus my review on talking about how the scenario in each pack plays out (of course keeping it spoiler lite as much as possible). But I will also talk about some of my favourite cards in the pack for players, whether it be for art, amusement or usefulness, maybe my Top 3. Most of you veteran players will have already researched the player cards and have your own opinions about how good the card is. For the rest, if you ever want to see the full player card list, you can check out Arkham.db, which has a comprehensive card list as well as quality deck lists posted by the Arkham LCG community - highly recommended. 



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YINSH Review - Abstracted Perfection

As much as I will defend the inclusion of theme with a giant Captain America shield raised, I do also adore abstract strategy games. Simplicity coupled with complexity, it's weird to put those in the same sentence, but that's how a lot of them feel. Quick to play, quick to learn, but highly replayable and a great test of your brains inner synapses.

The GIPH series is a string of 2 player abstract games designed by Kris Burm. Highly popular among strategy gamers and sharing the common link of having names that are probably illegal in a game of Scrabble, they've proven to be worth their weight in abstract gold. Some are better than others and it's hard to choose which one you're going to start with. Unless you watch The Dice Tower in which you'll hear Zee constantly mention YINSH as his all time favourite.

Well . . . .he's not let me down yet on these obscure, out of nowhere games. Hello YINSH.



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Insider Review - 20 Questions, One Complete Guess

Who remembers "20 Questions"? The old classic party game of trying to guess a clue word by shouting an insane amount of questions at some poor sap who can only respond by way of Yes, No or Maybe. It's not exactly one that's played much if at all these days, but most people will have at least heard of the concept.

Well now someone has taken 20 Questions and added a hidden role to the mix. As well as trying to figure out the clue word, you're also trying to suss out who in your group knew the answer to begin with. And that person is attempting to stay hidden while ensuring that the group guesses the clue word eventually.

Sounds like a weird combination, but could it actually work?



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Season 2 Episode 9 - SCALPING

A recent fun gaming weekend has brought me to talk about some of the great experiences and games played including Unlock, Jupiter Rescue and a variant on Resistance Avalon.

After that I need to give my thoughts on a practice I'm seeing too often in the board gaming hobby, which I wish would stop. And that is "Scalping" (no I don't mean the nasty gory practice), I mean where people buy Kickstarters/Pre-Orders solely for the purpose of selling on at over-inflated prices to unsuspecting people in the secondary market.



03:50 - Unlock
08:05 - Jupiter Rescue
10:18 - Resistance Avalon Role Variant
15:08 - Scalping - Right or Wrong?
26:34 - Conclusion
 

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Airecon - Board Game Room 101

At Airecon, I joined a group of UK board game media creators to discuss which aspects of the tabletop gaming hobby that we should put into Room 101. Most of them went for safe bets, booooooooooooo, I went for something a little more. . . . debatable.

It was a good laugh though, so tune in to Toucan's video and watch for yourself!



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Conan Review - The Challenge Comes Before Playing!

Whichever way you look, we seem to find a tactical skirmish miniatures game. Especially from Kickstarter, as apparently all you have to do to get a game funded is show off some fancy models and you're set. Conan however is a theme which I can get behind for this genre. You could play as your favourite heroes from the movies (of which I've only seen a couple of them once for Arnie nostalgia purposes so my knowledge is very limited) and face off against different enemies and monsters even though we've seen them time and time again in every fantasy miniatures game ever.

I wanted to get this played and reviewed at the start of the year, but I was held up not only by other games that needed reviewing but also a massive problem with the game, that being its horrific rulebook. It was no surprise of mine to hear that everyone was slating Conan for the low quality rulebook which made it a burden to learn and play. Bad rulebooks feature pretty highly in my Top Ten list of "things publishers annoy me with". Time is precious for me and if a publisher can't take the time to fulfill a fundamental requirement of every board game in existence then I'm less willing to take the time to play your game. I don't think I'm been fussy here. I expect a dentist to have suitable qualifications before he sticks a whirring drill down my gob and equally I expect a board game to have a functional, approachable rule book when I give you money for it.

Thankfully though the publishers did recently publish a revised PDF on their website that we could download as a revised rulebook and which would feature in an upcoming reprint. Reluctantly I decided that I would tackle Conan head on using this instead to see if it did the trick and if it was worth the wait and effort.



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Legendary Encounters: Alien Expansion Review - Mummy's Very Angry!

This one sure took its time! I've been waiting for more Alien content for ages! Not that I was bored with the base set by any means, it's still a Top Ten game for me, but who doesn't like adding more cards and variety to a deck builder? And here it appears that we're getting not only a bunch of new cards, but some tweaks to the difficulty rules and even a chance to play the Queen against the Humans.........oohh........

That last bit has me concerned. In the base game there were two variants that on paper sounded amazing. One was to have a player come back as an Alien to ruin everyone's day upon death and the other was to have a Corporation traitor within the group. Unfortunately, in practice, neither of these variants worked particularly well and I never use them. Some could argue I'm been therefore generous at giving the base set a coveted 10 rating, but they were minor additions and a game does not have to be pitch perfect to get a 10. The main focus of the game, being the full co-op thematic experience, was enough to get that ranking.

So even though I'm expecting good things from the added variety, will the Queen mode be simply another variant that never gets played? Also why couldn't they give this expansion an actual name? And given that Easter is fast approaching, is this really the best time to be reviewing a game that involves giant eggs with giant spiders in them?



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Arkham Horror LCG: Dunwich Legacy Review - We've Only Just Begun!

OK first up, no story spoilers here, I wouldn't be that cruel to you all, but I will mention briefly some of the mechanics involved so you might get slight spoilers of those, though to be honest, it's more about the story right?

Arkham Horror LCG has gotten off to a flying start, luring gamers in droves to the soft embracing tentacles of Cthulhu........err I mean to a quality card game set in the Arkham universe that Fantasy Flight refuses to let leave your subconscious. It even hit my Top 10 of 2016 on a podium position, that's how good I think it is. It even replaced Netrunner for me, not because they are similar, but because coupled with Lord of the Rings LCG, I can only carry on so many LCG's and co-operative play just suits the format so much better than a tournament meta heavy 2 player competitive game for my needs.

Well as with any other LCG, expansions are going to come out at a ridiculous rate, however co-op games are easier to get to the table so getting them played and reviewed for Arkham will be much easier (just a small delay currently due to having to catch up with a review backlog for Q1). Rather than just give us a bunch of new player cards, Arkham LCG (like with LOTR LCG) will provide us with new stories to dive into which hopefully will change up the mechanics over time. But an LCG has to get the first few expansions right to keep people interested, I mean they messed up royally with Game of Thrones LCG for me (too many factions, not enough cards, same old tournament dominating meta) so it's critical that Dunwich sets a high benchmark from the get-go.




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Mansions of Madness: Beyond The Threshold Review - Traumatized and Beaten And I Love It!

Mansions of Madness was a slow starter for me throughout its life. I was first introduced to the previous edition and I was a bit disappointed. It was long, very clunky, you had to have a DM and you felt very time constrained. Then the 2nd Edition came out with the app implementation and I was instantly grabbed by the amazing blend of technology and tactile pieces that made up the game. It was still insanely long, which was a worry, but we did have a full complement of players so I held on to my copy for further plays.

Since then the fire has stoked and grown brighter and brighter to the point where it made the upper half of my Top 10 of 2016. It's a fantastic, thematic, immersive co-op experience which I have just as much fun playing solo as I do with friends, if only so that I can keep the time length down, which is still a bit of a pain. Might try to get a video review of that done when I get back to YouTube as I feel like that's slipped the net.

But there's already been a few extras you can pick up for the game. The content from the 1st Edition was re-printed for 2nd Edition and I'm throat punching myself for not buying them when I did, now I have to wait for them to get reprinted, at which point I'm grabbing them immediately. But Beyond the Threshold is the first official new expansion for Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, which promises more content and more scenarios. So more of the same then? Fine with me, that tends to make the best kind of expansions anyway. . . .All Hail Cthlulhu!!  




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Season 2 Episode 8 - AIRECON

Well AIRECON was a blast, surpassing the previous one in October. Now an annual convention, it's only going to try to expand and be bigger and better.
On today's episode I talk about the convention itself, what new board games I got to play and a couple of particular highlights from my experience.


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The Colonists Review - Long Term Storage

Before obtaining a game for review, naturally it's worth doing a bit of research into what other gamers and content creators have to say. You'll usually get a mix of mountain-top praising and horror stories from doing this, but having that information going in can be a great aid. It gives you aspects to look forward to, but also helps to mitigate that sense of disappointment if there's parts you don't like.

Most of what I heard about The Colonists seemed pretty appealling. It looks the business, it's essentially a resource management / civilization game (technically a colony, but same feel), which I tend to like and offered a lot of variety. Sounds pretty sweet so far. Then I noticed a more scary trend among the stories. 3 hours, 6 hours, anywhere up to 9 hours for a potential game length. My reaction to that was basically a homage to The Angry Joe Show....<slo-mo>..UP TO NIIINNNEEE HOOOURRRSS?!?!!

What on earth?! I'm not the biggest fan of games that outstay their welcome and rarely does any game justify more than 3 hours of my time to indulge in it. But six to nine?! I have other committments in life you know, chores, a job, a relationship, etc just like most people, it's not like it's easy to find nearly half a waking day to play a single game and even then that game has to not just be good, it has to be outstanding and keep me engaged the whole time. I hoped that it was simply a case of learning the ropes or maximum player count, which rarely is a good idea in any Euro game anyway (seriously why do some people play Through The Ages with 4 players, are you just insane?), because if these horror stories are true. . . .



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Gateway Games With Board Gaming Ramblings

Back in February I was fortunate enough to be invited on Board Gaming Ramblings to talk about Gateway games with another board game podcaster - Johannes Lindrupsen. The two of us had a blast chatting, bantering and talking about everything to do with Gateway Games.

What makes a game "gateway"? Why do we love them so much? How do we teach these games to new players? And if we ignore the staples that dominate this genre, what alternatives do we suggest for your collection?

You can find the episode at the link below, I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did recording it.





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Time Stories: Endurance Spoiler Free Review - Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

Seems like ages since the last Time Stories expansion was released and my set has just sat on my shelf waiting impatiently. I've had concerns with the last few expansions that Time Stories was on a downward spiral as I wasn't blown away by Marcy Case or Prophecy of Dragons. Under the Mask was ok, I liked the story and I loved the cool twist with the characters. But overall nothing ever seems to come close to Asylum - is that because it was the original and there was all that buzz? Maybe, but I think when it comes to art, story, mystery, choices, challenge, puzzles, combat, etc Asylum beats all the rest.

So after a bit of a delay, we've got Endurance, set in Antarctica. This opens up some cool possibilities and made me think of The Thing, a film which to this day still traumatises me to no end. I really shouldn't have get curious when I was younger. But in a board game setting, this could be really cool and the extreme cold could add a new twist. I didn't know what to expect, but I was just glad of another adventure to try. I grabbed my two companions from "The Game Shelf" and we tackled it head on, hoping that we wouldn't need a giant FAQ this time. . . .




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Season 2 Episode 7 - EXCEPTIONS

OK, first of all I said I was doing this before Rahdo did! :P

A quick explanation regarding AireCon this weekend and my games played with The Game Shelf on 5 March including Time Stories: Endurance (no spoilers) and Coliseum.

And then the meat of the episode, my Top Ten Games that are Exceptions to the Rule - games I normally shouldn't like for various reasons, yet managed to impress me enough to either like them or in some cases, adore them.




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INIS Review - A Clash Of Styles

INIS (the Irish/Celtic word for Island apparently) was a miss for me at Essen 2016. But I was involved in a game with 4 of us and nobody to teach who understood the rules. Seriously a note to publishers, if you're going to make a big deal about particular games at a convention, make sure your volunteers know the game inside and out, just saying. So it was essentially self taught by me and we ended up calling it mid-way anyway. Since then I wasn't paying much attention and I figured I'd wait until full retail release to look at it properly.

Well that time has come and yeah I got to admit, I can see why people struggle with the box cover, but we'll get on to that later. Reading the rules within my personal mind palace made for a much easier learning experience and reminded me of some aspects that I do recall liking from my initial demo - a twist on the drafting mechanic, gorgeous land art, tactical gameplay, multiple winning conditions. . . . did a poor demo drive me away from a potentially good game?




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Eldritch Horror: Dreamlands Review - Fantasy Flight, Take Five!

Oh my word Fantasy Flight, SLOW DOWN!! It's no surprise that they chuck out expansions at a greater rate then they do actual games, but it's getting ridiculous now how unbalanced some of the devotion seems to be. Now of course you would beef up your big sellers that's understandable. But only one X-Com expansion and over 6 for Eldritch Horror and a 7th announced for the next quarter (Cities In Ruins)? Surely we can take a break and spread the love a bit? As much as I love Eldritch Horror, it's not like I can get it to the table that often in between releases!

Every single expansion to date has been a case of "more of the same", which is always a good thing for an expansion to do, but very few additional mechanics have been introduced or variations on Ancient One scenarios and I'd like for something fresh to pop up. The whole "destruction of cities" mechanic from the upcoming Cities In Ruins sounds cool and exactly what I'm looking for. A quick skim of Dreamlands doesn't seem to reveal anything new.

Big boxes mean lots of cards so give me a couple hours to figure out how I'm going to store everything and I'll be right with you. . .



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Star Wars Destiny Review - Seduced By The Dark Side Of Gaming

I thought we were past this. I know there are some very popular CCG's (Collectible Card Game) around like Magic the Gathering and Pokemon, but I was hoping that LCG's (Living Card Game) would now take over as the norm. 

For the unitiated, a CCG is one where after you have the initial starter box full of fixed cards, you have to purchase additional booster packs to obtain more cards and each pack will be different in accordance with whether a card is common, uncommon or rare (and beyond). In contrast an LCG starts off the same, but instead you purchase expansion packs which contain the same fixed cards in each one so that every regular player is on the same level. There are no common, uncommon or rare cards. Both can be expensive to maintain, but it is no surprise that a CCG will always end up more expensive especially if you're desperate to collect every single card or obtain the rarest, most powerful cards for tournament play.

I personally am done with CCG's and only maintain two (originally three) LCG's now. But Fantasy Flight have brought out Star Wars Destiny, a dice/card game to rival Marvel Dice Masters that both use the CCG model. Assuming Destiny is good enough in the first place, is there enough value in the original starter box or is this going to be a huge money-sink for anyone wanting to take it up competitively?  

Designer: Corey Konieczka, Lukas Litzsinger
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games Age: 10+ Players: 2 Time: 15-30 Minutes RRP: £14.99 / £3 per booster From Fantasy Flight Games Captain Phasma and Count Dooku battle Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Jango Fett and Jabba the Hutt attack Rey and Finn as they pass through the frozen wastes of Starkiller Base. Play out your own epic, saga-spanning, “what if” battles in Star Wars™: Destiny, a collectible dice and card game for two players! In every game of Star Wars: Destiny, you’ll gather your small team of iconic characters and battle to defeat your foes, using your dice and the cards in your deck. The last player with characters left standing wins the game, but to successfully outmaneuver your opponent, you’ll need to carefully consider your options and enhance your deck with new dice and cards. If you ever wondered who would win a duel between two teams of heroes and villains from the Star Wars universe, there’s no better way to find out than with Star Wars: Destiny. Each character in Star Wars: Destiny comes with a corresponding premium die. These large, full-color dice are different for each character, and by rolling the dice and spending their symbols, you’ll strengthen your forces and deal damage to your opponent’s characters. Each character’s health is shown in the card’s upper right-hand corner, and once you’ve dealt that much damage to a character, it’s defeated! Of course, the dice aren’t the only tool you have as you duel your opponent—you also have a thirty-card deck of cards that you’ll draw throughout the game. On your turn, you can take an action to play a card, paying the resources in the card’s upper left-hand corner as you can see below.


The cards in your deck are divided into three major types: events, upgrades, and supports. Events offer an immediate effect when they’re played, and are then discarded. For instance, you may use an event to stage a Daring Escape from an enemy attack or remove your opponent’s dice with The Best Defense. Upgrades like Force Choke, on the other hand, attach to one of your characters, giving them dangerous new tools and skills. Support cards such as the Millennium Falcon remain in play, independent of your characters but still contributing to your overall plan. 

Many upgrade and support cards have their own dice associated with them. When you play these cards, you can bring the corresponding dice into play, giving you more dice and thus more options for outwitting your opponent! Finally, it’s important to know that the cards in your hand all have more than one use—as an action, you can discard a card from your hand to reroll any number of dice in your dice pool, giving you a better chance of getting the results you want.

Star Wars: Destiny invites you to command a team of iconic heroes and villains from throughout the Star Wars saga and face your foes in a massive duel. Whether you join the heroes or villains of the galaxy, the only limit to your battles is your imagination. Tell your own Star Wars story with this collectible dice and card game!



I LIKE THIS GUN!


You've got two starter decks to pick from depending on your Force preference. Kylo Ren for Dark and Rey for Light, naturally based on the recent Star Wars Episode 7 movie (which I still defend as being better than Rogue One). Each of the boxes contain a pre-made twenty card deck with two character cards, a battlefield and six dice and of course all the various rule sheets and tokens. As with all pre-packed starters you'll forget how to repackage it afterwards to make it all fit snugly again! 

Each dice has some great imagery to depict the card it relates to and thankfully they're not just stickers - could you imagine how bad a reception that would get if it was? They are larger than your average D6, and have a very nice weight to them, solid and chunky. Not quite the level of "Seasons" awesomeness, but still pretty decent. The cards are of equally impressive quality, but it's Fantasy Flight, so what's new?

So the production quality is higher than your typical CCG and certainly higher than Dice Masters, but then each booster pack is 3 times the cost of its competitor and you only get one die in each. But at least these ones don't require ironing the minute you take them out of the booster (seriously WizKids what was up with that, how did you ever expect that to fly?)


NOW THAT'S ONE HELL OF A PILOT!


With Dice Masters, the dice were really the main driver of the game. The cards themselves had abilities, but I felt that the synergy wasn't that strong. In Star Wars: Destiny it's a different story with the dice and cards synergizing very well together. There's also a decent amount of player interaction durin gameplay. Players can force their opponents to discard cards and resources, manipulate their dice results and of course lay the smackdown on their characters. 

Knowing the best times to pull these tactics off will aid you considerably. Now we're not talking deep levels of strategy here, overall Destiny is a fairly light game, but you can't simply auto pilot yourself to victory.

Blowing away your opponents characters isn't the only way to win though. The game also ends if you run out of cards in your deck. I like alternate victory conditions and this is something you don't get in Dice Masters. It's perfectly feasible to simply let their characters live, but force them to discard cards constantly. Not only does it deny them useful cards, but suddenly the option of drawing cards becomes a liability.

Even with the balance of different tactics to employ, you are playing a dice game at the end of the day, so from time to time, luck is going to be the crux here and sometimes a flukey or unlucky set of die rolls will swing the game, however you knew this going in and Dice Masters wasn't exactly short of luck with the bag aspect on top. Destiny games are also nice and short so if luck was a factor, just play again, we don't mind too much luck when it's for a short period.




IT WAS SAID YOU WOULD DESTROY THE SITH, NOT JOIN THEM!


Now I've enjoyed the game and if I could end it right there, happy days. But I'm sorry and I know I'll get flack for this, but hey, a review is a review, but here comes a rant. Those 3 letters that are stapled onto the end of the title "C-C-G". They alone single handedly destroy any intention of me wanting to continue playing this game and may be an automatic turn off for some of you as well. Why Fantasy Flight have taken this route after having so much success with the LCG model I don't know. 

You have to know that going in, this will be an expensive game to continue. The whole tension and excitement of opening a booster and seeing what you earned is all well and good, but that feeling died in the 90's for me. And more often than not you're met with disappointment instead of cheer. And at £2-£3 per booster it's too much to spend just to get the deck you want. I know of people who have paid £20+ just to get a specific legendary card in their deck from the secondary market. Really? There's disposable income and then there's being too young to appreciate what a mortgage payment is. 


I got a few booster packs with my copy of Star Wars: Destiny to see how deck building would fair. Each booster has 1 rare/legendary card, 1 uncommon card and 3 commons. I had a duplicate of something in my starter set and the other cards weren't really that cool either. Certainly I didn't see no Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader in my packs, hell I'd have settled for C-3PO. They added to my array of cards, but I didn't feel any would make any significant impact on my starter decks. And as fun as the game was, it will not last long enough with just a starter deck to entertain you. If you're keen on this game, you've got to go in properly. 




VERDICT ON STAR WARS DESTINY


If we were to simply take Star Wars Destiny by itself without outside considerations, it would be a cool game that's good fun to play. Games are quick, so it won't take long for the rules to absorb, there's a good amount of tactical depth and the component quality is solid. The luck aspect is going to be a big factor for some though as in other similar dice games I feel there is more you can do to mitigate it whereas here you may simply get hosed because you can't roll well.

But we can't simply take it by itself, let's face it. This is based on a CCG model, one which I consider to be outdated and basically a source of generating money for a publisher. You have to unload a ton of funds into this game to reach the level of variety required to make it last. Simply grabbing a starter and a few boosters isn't enough, it's good as a test drive, but you'll quickly get frustrated that you don't have access to your favourite characters.

If you don't mind the CCG model and have the cash to spare, it's a good game to sink your teeth into and you'll have fun, certainly I know I would if I owned every card and had the choice available. But if money is tight or you have other CCG's and LCG's on the go, I'd think very carefully before heading to the store to grab this one.  


     

BROKEN RATING - 5 Chasers for Unpaid Debts (7 Lightsabers if you're happy with the CCG model)




YOU WILL LIKE STAR WARS DESTINY IF:



You enjoyed Dice Masters, but prefer a Star Wars theme.


You like the synergy aspect with the cards and dice and having an alt win condition.


You like the quality of the dice themselves.




YOU WILL NOT LIKE STAR WARS DESTINY IF:



You hate the CCG model - this will be an expensive game to collect, period.


You feel the luck aspect is too high.


You wanted something a bit more involved and strategic.


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