We really are living in a board game renaissance. Even documentaries are treating board games as their subject. I recently watched a documentary about Monopoly called Under the Boardwalk. Here’s the scoop.
Board Game Documentary Review Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story
Released in 2010, Under the Boardwalk tells the history of the world’s most famous board game while also following the 2009 Monopoly world championship. The documentary was created by relatively unknown Kevin Tostado who weaves his narrative between the history and culture of Monopoly and back to scenes of the 2009 championship. The documentary is like a dream come true for any Monopoly fanboy. Those who love the game will love this documentary. Those who don’t love Monopoly will still find it entertaining enough.
The History of Monopoly
The documentary does a very good job describing the history of Monopoly. The game began in the early 1900’s as a critique of landowners. It took 30 years for it to become published by Parker Brothers.
The original game did not come with game tokens. Charles Darrow wrote in his rules that people should take household objects such as thimbles and pennies and use them as your tokens.
When Parker Brothers bought the rights to the game, they asked Darrow what he would suggest be used in their game as tokens for the “official” game. Darrow recommended using charms. That’s why there are metal charms and thimbles in the game.
I won’t go into all the details the documentary does. But after watching it, I know more about the history of Monopoly than I ever thought I would.
The 2009 Championship
There are several interludes in the movie about the world championship game in 2009. Like chess, Monopoly has a worldwide following with large cash purses. The cash prizes are $20,580. Why such an odd amount? Because a standard game of Monopoly has this much play money in it.
The cast of characters in the championship are interviewed throughout the documentary. Among them is Ken Koury–the guy who wrote the book on Monopoly strategy. I was intrigued by Koury. I found him to be a bit like Billy Mitchell from the Donkey Kong documentary: fierce, almost villainous.
An elementary school teacher was also headed to the championship. Tim Vandenberg teaches 6th grade. He introduces his students to Monopoly. He uses it to teach probabilities, money management and expected values. He won an online tournament which allowed him to go to the national championships in DC.
The rest of the movie shows the US championships in Washington DC and then the world championships in Las Vegas. This part of the documentary was a bit of a drag. The cast of characters, other than the ones I mentioned above, were a bit boring or bland. Watching them play Monopoly was like watching a worse version of the World Series of Poker: there is no bluffing and the dice rolls feel very arbitrary.
Under the Boardwalk does a good job at telling Monopoly’s history. It shows what the tournament scene is like for Monopoly. Technical aspects such as sound and film editing were also well done.
My main gripe is: the documentary was not as interesting as it could have been. There was no humor in it despite several opportunities. The cast of players seemed to be interesting but that did not always get captured by the documentarian. This could be due to the subject matter. Maybe Monopoly is not that interesting of a topic. But I doubt it.
As I mentioned, the creator of the documentary is relatively unknown. The director is still feeling out his style. I suspect if he were to do more documentaries, we would see him hone his craft. Kevin Tostado did the subject justice. But some portions were considerably better than others.
The movie is available on Amazon prime and Netflix. The movies is 98 minutes long–and it should entertain you for about 75 of those minutes.
It’s always fun doing the Hits & Flops column. This is where I pan games after a single play or, less commonly, heap mounds of praise on them. This month we will look at Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, Legacy of Dragonholt and a Stockpile. Hope you enjoy!
Hits & Flops December 2017
Dusty loves social deduction games. They are his favorite genre. The typical attendees at The Gaming Annex, however, are lukewarm on the genre. To be sure, there are a few very good social deduction games: Werewords and Avalon for example. But there are some that fall flat.
The reason why I don’t care for games like Werewolf, One Night Werewolf or One Night Revolution is because I don’t know what team I am on. Typically in these games, you will get a role. Then someone could swap your role. And then you do not know what team you are on. So you could play the game thinking your are a good guy only to be surprised at the end that you are a bad guy.
Games where you have your role switched like this are problematic. Think Battlestar Galactica where you could become a cylon at the half way point. It’s rather annoying.
And there is role swapping in Crossfire. Uh-oh!
But the role swapping in Crossfire isn’t terrible. You get to see your initial role card. Then you pass it to the left. And then it gets shuffled and dealt to one of the players to your left. And then you get to see your new role. This fixes a lot. Players know what role they are. Players have some information about the other players but it’s scrambled. And the game only lasts 5 minutes.
We played it a couple of times. The game wasn’t terrible. But I’m not ready to say it’s a hit yet. There is a journeyman quality to social deduction games. And our group hasn’t made the journey yet.
2. Mansions of Madness 2
I’ve written about Mansions of Madness (1st edition) a few times on this blog. I was not a fan. I tried it three times and hated it each time. The game was dismissed by most of the people in our group in fact.
Our partner at Iggy Games owns the new edition of Mansions of Madness. He brought it over for us to try. And it was amazing. I rated the 1st edition a measly “3” on boardgamegeek. But I give the 2nd edition a solid “7”. Here’s why.
The 2nd edition is app driven instead of requiring a game master. This means there is no tedious set up where Jeremy (Scott) Pyne spends 30 minutes poring over which components to include or exclude.
Because there is an app, there is much less set up time, the game is fully cooperative and there is less upkeep. All of this helps make the game a bit better. But the app also has a sound track. And this is the real charm of the game. The soundtrack, when paired with a Bluetooth device, adds ambiance to the game. Every creaking door, every foreboding exploration and every lurking monster. Players will be fully immersed in the game.
The game play is so much better than the 1st edition, I should write another blog about “games that fired other games” Not only does Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition fire its first edition forebear, it fires Betrayal at House on the Hill as well.
Verdict: Unequivocal hit!
3. Legacy of Dragonholt
Fantasy Flight released Legacy of Dragonholt in Q4 of 2017. This is an immersion into their Runewars universe, a milieu they are fleshing out since losing their Games Workshop licenses.
Legacy of Dragonholt is an RPG/board game fusion. Players make characters. Then they read paragraphs from the book. They make decisions about what to do as a party based upon their characters’ quirks and the game’s narrative. The game encourages players to make character decisions more so than optimal game decisions. This will appeal to some players.
But not to me.
I prefer my games to have hard-and-fast objectives. I don’t find games like this or Tales of the Arabian Nights particularly good. I do enjoy Tales of the Arabian Nights because it is a game filled with so many laughs. But Legacy of Dragonholt is not filled with laughs. It’s a slog.
To be sure, this game is perfect for the right players. To the right group who wants to explore and create, Legacy of Dragonholt will be a great fit. To a player who wants a story experience more than a game experience, Legacy will find a place on the shelf. And FFG will undoubtedly support it with expansions.
But for me, the game was a flop. A rather loud one at that.
Making a good stock market game is tough. How do you capture the idea of wheelin’ and dealin’ on a stock exchange, make it simple enough to learn while also making it fun to play? That’s a tall order.
But that is exactly what Seth Van Orden and Brett Sobol have done. They have made what will probably end up being my favorite stock game.
Players will get a handful of cards. They can look at them. Then they place them either face up or face down in the auction offering areas.
The “wheelin and dealin'” part of Stockpile has been replaced with a rigid auction mechanic like in Vegas Showdown. This works nicely in Stockpile.
Players will bid on an auction offering. Because some cards are face down, you will not know what cards your opponent put there. Most cards are good: additional stocks, the ability to move stock prices up or down, etc. But some cards are “broker fees” where you must pay $1 to $3. Since the object is to have the most money, these cards should be avoided.
Players also are given an incomplete forecast of the stocks. Each player will secretly know how one stock will perform. Plus another stock’s information is public to all players. And some stocks are hidden from players until the end of the round. This makes for speculation–just like in the real stock exchange.
Stockpile isn’t just a good stock market game; it’s a good strategy game and a good family game. Stockpile should find its way into most player’s collection. If you haven’t tried it, you should. And if you have tried it, you will likely buy it.
Verdict: it’s a hit!
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The board game renaissance has been marching on relentlessly. Great new games are being published and released every week. The “fillers” genre has not been overlooked by the deluge. I blogged about great fillers once before. You will have to go back into great antiquity to see that post: all the way back to October 2014. The games listed there are still good fillers. But several newer games are challenging that earlier blog of mine. Let’s take a look at some of my…
Favorite Board Game Fillers Part II
A game that Bruce, Dusty, Nick Sima, [name redacted] and I all enjoy has got to be special. And that game is Magic Maze. Magic Maze is truly magical. Players move a host of fantasy heroes around a shopping mall to find their respective gear. The shopping mall is a maze which must be successfully negotiated by the players in this 10 minute coop.
The shtick: you may not talk to your fellow players during the game.
Players are given a movement card. They can move any pawn the direction shown. The egg timer is flipped to start the game. The goal is to move the pawns to their individual exits.
The egg timer runs out after about 2-3 minutes. When a pawn is moved onto an hourglass space, the egg timer is flipped over–not necessarily reset. During this time, players may speak. But as soon as a pawn is moved, silence is again enforced.
The game comes with 17 increasingly difficult scenarios. The first scenario, you must get the pawns to their home base. In the second, you must get the pawns to their home base and then to the exit. And so on. This makes the game immediately accessible to non-gamers but also intriguing to hardcore gamers who want a challenge.
Nations: the Dice Game
In 2013, Lautapelit published Nations. It’s a civ building game for up to four players. Think Through the Ages without the soul–that’s Nations. Our group made the mistake of trudging through it a couple of times before falling back on our favorites: Clash of Cultures and the aforementioned Through the Ages.
When Lautapelit published their dice version of Nations in 2014, I was intrigued. I like dice games. And while Nations was a dumpster fire, the dice game proclaimed to last only 20 minutes. I can tolerate a 20 minute dumpster fire.
I was pleasantly surprised. Nations: the Dice Game boils down its bloated forebear into arguably one of the most strategic fillers out there.
Nations: the Dice Game somehow turned a dice game into a Euro. The whole game is about making the right tactical decision to scoop your opponent while also keeping your eye on the end game. You roll your dice. Then you may spend them to purchase one of the available tiles. These tiles will give you extra dice, victory points or other economic boons. You may only buy one thing and then the next player does the same. Players must be competitive in gathering food, swords and books–these are the primary ways to score points. But you need coins to buy more dice.
The expansion was just released as well. This should add lots of replayability. The base game is back in print so you don’t have an excuse to overlook this game anymore.
Werewords is the best social deduction game bar none. It has dethroned Avalon. Werewords fixes many of the minor problems you might have with Avalon and while reducing play time to five minutes.
Players are dealt a secret role: seer, villager or werewolf or mayor. Then, one at a time, the mayor, werewolf and seer will see the secret word. Then the 4 minute timer starts. The players will ask the mayor yes/no questions about the secret word. The goal for the villagers is to successfully guess the secret word. The goal of the werewolf is to prevent this.
Should the villagers guess the secret word, the werewolf reveals himself and guesses who the seer is; should the villagers fail to guess the secret word, they must guess who the werewolf is. It’s a play on the One Night Werewolf games. But the 20 questions aspect makes this game so much more engaging than trite One Night series. This game has been such a hit, it’s already on my h-index.
This game is accessible to non-gamers. It’s a hit with hardcore gamers. Werewords belongs in any game collection.
10′ to Kill
Are you looking for a deduction game that plays 3+ people in 15 minutes? Maybe one that is accessible to new gamers but will also be well regarded by hardcore gamers? Then La Boite de Jeu has the game for you. It’s 10′ to Kill.
Players get a secret character. Their goal is to use this character to surreptitiously assassinate other characters on the board. You score points for killing other assassins and for killing your secret targets. You lose points for killing bystanders.
You may move any piece on the board. But only your piece may do your killing. When you decide to kill, you must announce all pieces on the board which could be your assassin. To assassinate, you must use a knife (and be in the same space), a revolver (and be alone and adjacent) or a sniper rifle (and be alone with a line of sight). You can use deduction to figure out which characters are your opponents so you can kill them and score points.
The theme of 10′ to Kill may not seem suitable to families. But the characters are all anthropomorphic animals. The cartoonish nature of the game makes the theme palatable to families. The deduction and bluffing make it fun. The 15 minute play time makes it a great filler.
Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers
The more I play games in the Eminent Domain universe, the more I like it. I’ve written a review of Eminent Domain and Terra Prime on here. Now it’s time to add a brief review of Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers.
This is the first Eminent Domain game not designed by Seth Jaffee. This one was designed by Phillip DuBarry, designer of Revolution!, a great blind bidding game.
Players will have a deck of 5 to 8 cards, depending on how many people are playing. Everyone’s deck is identical. Players then will take one card and simultaneously reveal it. One effect takes place if you were the only one to select this card title; but a different, worse effect takes place if others played the same card.
The genius of this game is two fold: each card has two effects and there are two ways to win the game. You must try to score 15VP or eliminate your opponents. But you must weigh the two possible effects of each card. Once you play a card, it goes into your discard pile. You will take it back into your hand when you play your next card. This gives you some information about what cards your opponents cannot play and thus make an informed decision.
A game of Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers takes only 15 minutes to play. But it feels like a heavier game. This is because each decision you make is tense. You will feel like the game could turn at any moment. And if that wasn’t a strong enough sales pitch, this game comes with a huge deck of cards but you only use a subset of them in any given game. So this game has a Dominion like replayability.
Love fillers? Or epic games? or anything in between? Join our group:
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I’ve had the chance to play Eminent Domain a few times in November. I taught the base game along with the Escalation expansion to several new people. It really is a gem of a deck builder. I have an on-again-off-again column called Overlooked Gems where I review games that are quite good but one that was usually dismissed by the gaming community. Long time readers may recall my post about Terra Prime. Now I’m reviewing another overlooked gem from the same designer, Seth Jaffee. Let’s look at why this is such a good game.
Overlooked Gems: Eminent Domain
Oh no! Not another deck builder!?
The deck building mechanic can trace its origin to the 2008 publication of Dominion. In a deck building game, players will start with their own small deck of cards. They will add cards to it during the game–the goal being to improve their personal deck’s efficiency and point scoring ability.
Dominion is themed around building a medieval town. With its considerable popularity (7.68 on BGG), it was only a matter of time before others took the deck building idea and applied it to other themes.
This is what Seth Jaffee did with Eminent Domain. Sort of.
Everyone starts with the same cards in their respective decks. Players will acquire additional cards each turn called “role cards”. Players will play cards from their hand to take their turn, presumably to further their point scoring efforts. The game ends when two piles of role cards have been exhausted.
So far, this sounds a lot like Dominion. You add cards to your deck on your turn, presumably to score points. The game end is triggered when enough piles of cards are depleted.
But Eminent Domain has a few things going for it.
Lifting the best from Glory to Rome and Dominion
Eminent Domain took the deck building aspect of Dominion. This is singularly the best part mechanic of Dominion. But Dominion is largely a 4 player solitaire game. Yes, with some of the expansions you will have to pay attention to your opponent’s purchases. But largely Dominion will come down to your own efficiencies and not your timely responses to your opponent’s decisions.
Enter: Glory to Rome. In 2005, Carl Chudyk authored the unlikely game Glory to Rome. This is a card game but it isn’t a deck builder. Instead, you have a hand of cards and you play them, usually one at a time.
But the cards have several uses. If the card is in your vault, it’s worth victory points. If it’s in your clientele, it’s a client. If it’s in your stock pile, it’s a resource. And if it’s in your hand, it’s a role. Suffice it to say, the cards are very busy.
In addition, Glory to Rome doesn’t feel like four player solitaire. During your turn, you will either play a role card or “think”. If you think, you draw a card. If you play a role card, everyone else can follow your role or “think”. This idea was lifted by Eminent Domain. And it works well when laid atop the deck building.
In Eminent Domain, you will take a role card on your turn. Your opponents will either follow, playing the same role card or they will “dissent” and draw a card. The effect this has is players will stay engaged when it’s not their turn.
Plus Eminent Domain has multiple use cards. Every card has icons on its top left corner. The more icons you play of the corresponding type, the more powerful the role is. It’s possible your opponent could select a role, you follow the role and you get a bigger benefit from following because you have more icons. This interaction makes Glory to Rome (and Eminent Domain) more interesting than Dominion.
More than the sum of its parts
I don’t want it to sound like Eminent Domain is just a merger of Dominion and Glory to Rome. Eminent Domain adds an important mechanic missing from both of these: the action step. In Eminent Domain you are obligated to take a role. But before the role step you may take an optional action. The cards in your hand all have actions listed on them. You may take a single action during your turn. And the actions you take are what will make you good at the game.
When you take the Research role, you will be able to get upgraded cards like Improved Colonize, Improved Warfare, etc. And these cards are similar to their standard counterparts except they have better actions on them. Finding a way to get the improved actions that synergize with your strategy is a key element of the game.
And the action step is a nice, simple difference between Eminent Domain and its counterparts.
Based solely upon base game, Eminent Domain is a 6 on a BGG scale.
It’s the Escalation expansion that bumps this game up to a high 8, low 9.
Eminent Domain: Escalation kicks butt and takes names
I was always lukewarm on Eminent Domain before the Escalation expansion. The game seemed to be on the cusp of greatness but needed a nudge. Escalation gives it a shove.
Escalation does what most expansions do: more stuff. There are more advanced cards you can research, more planets you can colonize, etc. Escalation also does what many game expansions do: adds some new mechanics. But Escalation avoids the “more mechanics” pitfall which besets some game designers. The new mechanics in Escalation patch the weak areas of the base game or breath fresh life into underdeveloped areas of the game.
The base game came with three different ship miniatures. But the pieces were all equal. This seemed odd. Well the expansion differentiates between them. You can acquire fighters, cash them in for destroyers and then cash in destroyers for battlecruisers.
Some planets you may scout out will be bustling planets or pirate havens. These planets have lush resources for you to harvest but will require a destroyer instead of fighters. And if you have a battle cruiser, you can spend it in lieu of any conflict cost to acquire a planet.
But the best new addition to Eminent Domain, bar none, are the scenario cards. Players are randomly dealt a scenario card at game start. Each is unique. Each gives you a specific planet. Everyone starts with a level 2 research card. And everyone’s starting deck is different. This makes the game so much better.
While your opponent might start with some advanced surveying technology, you might start with weapons emporium. Your path to victory will be quite different than your opponents. And the interactions and role choices matter greatly.
The nice thing about the scenario cards is: you don’t need to be an expert at the game to understand them. You might not be the most efficient at playing each scenario but the additional rules for the scenarios are not complicated. But the best part is the asymmetry. I love asymmetrical games.
There was another expansion for Eminent Domain: Exotica. It adds exotic alien planets along with asteroid planets. I haven’t played this yet. After doing this review, I will do my best to get it to the table in December.
And if that was exciting enough, Seth has announced the release of another expansion: Oblivion. This will add another mechanic along with turning the Political action card into an action/role card. This should keep the Eminent Domain universe fresh for many years to come.
And speaking of the Eminent Domain universe, you should try Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers. It’s a nifty take on games like Citadels or Libertalia.
And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Seth will update his Terra Prime game into an Eminent Domain universe game…
Ever since my dad took me to see Raiders of the Lost Ark, I’ve wanted to be an archeologist. Turns out engineers make more money so I followed my brain not my heart. Surely I can’t be alone in wanting to delve into a forgotten Maya temple, avoid its traps and plunder its wealth? What if I told you that a board game allows you to do this? Right down to the gigantic boulder that chases you out the door? That game is The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac. Here’s an overview of this gem.
The Adventurers: Temple of Chac a Game Review
Players take on the role of, well, adventurers in The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac. You will compete for the most points. Points are gained by plundering the treasures inside a long abandoned Maya temple. But beware, the more you plunder, the more weighted down you will become. And if you dilly-dally, you could end up being stuck in the temple forever!
The starting player rolls the dice. The game comes with five standard six-sided dice. You will get actions based upon the dice roll and the amount of treasures you are carrying. If you are carrying 0 to 3 treasures, for example, you will get 1 action for every die roll that is 2+. If you have 4 to 6 treasures, you will get actions for every die roll that is 3+. The information is on the back of your adventurer card.
The most actions you will have is five since there are five dice. You have a few options available to you for your action selection. You can move, look at glyphs, pick up treasure or unlock a compartment. Some actions are only available at certain positions of the board but moving is always an option.
Players start in the room with the shifting walls. There’s plenty of treasure in this room. Players can plunder this room like crazy. There is a danger, though. The walls may move inward. Any player who is in this room when the walls finally meet is killed.
There are also glyphs in this room. Players may spend an action to secretly flip it (for real) and look at the back side. On the secret side is a strange Maya hieroglyph. You will have 30 seconds to commit it to memory. You will use this information in the next room: the Lava Room.
You can safely walk along the main path after you leave the shifting walls room. But you can save precious time if you traipse across the lava tiles. Each time you walk onto one you will flip it (for real). If the icon matches one of the glyphs in the shifting walls room, it’s a trap and your adventurer dies. Otherwise, you safely move there and collect a treasure. The lava tiles allow you to cut across the room and save a few paces too.
The last room in the Temple of Chac is the underground river and waterfall. The river is laden with treasure. But can you escape the before being carried off the waterfall? You must chuck a bunch of dice, hoping to avoid a “1” to escape. You can jettison some treasure to make a reroll but if you roll another “1”, the river carries you away.
Players may opt to move across the bridge instead. The bridge comes with five removable planks. If you are too laden with treasure, the planks might break. You will fall to your doom if the last plank breaks.
After each player has taken a turn, the first player rolls the dice. On 3+, a boulder is moved from its starting point towards the exit. The boulder is deadly. Stand in its way and you will get squished.
The boulder is also a game clock. When the boulder reaches the exit, the game is over. Any hapless adventurers who did not make it out will be trapped forever.
Players who escaped reveal their treasure cards. While each card has the same weight for determining actions, the treasures have various victory point values. Players count their totals. The high score is the winner.
The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac has a lot going for it. It’s got cool minis. The 3D game board elements are also nice. The cards and cardboard are all good quality.
The game play is very good too. There are plenty of decisions to be made. The game is more or less one of press-your-luck. And that mechanic fits the theme here. Each time you narrowly avoid danger the excitement level goes up a notch.
The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac is a fantastic game. It plays quickly. The box says 45 minutes but you can get it in under 30 if you are assertive. The decisions are all meaningful. The theme is fun–who doesn’t like Indiana Jones? The artwork and theme are wholesome enough to make this a family game. The quickness of the game make it a good game for serious gamers. Not the night’s main course but this game makes a nice nightcap.
The Adventurers got a reprint from Fantasy Flight. The FFG edition is the same as the AEG edition with the exception of the insert (which is disposable in either case). The game also has a promo you can get: another character. A hard-to-find set of prepainted characters was also released by AEG. No other support for this game is forthcoming.
Pick up a copy and give it a try. Or come by here and play my copy…
Muskegon Area Gamers
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This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…
We had four over to The Gaming Annex about a week ago. After some hemming and hawing about what to play, Nick Sima pulled X-COM down from the shelf. It had been a while since we played. I’ve now logged 12 plays of this game. It’s about time I wrote a review of it.
Board Game Review: X-COM the Board Game
XCOM has enjoyed a successful run as a video game. It’s earliest iterations were DOS games in the mid 90’s from Microprose. It’s been updated, reimplemented and fleshed out many more times since then. The theme is always the same: extraterrestrials are threatening humanity’s existence. An elite force called X-COM has been developed to be mankind’s last, best hope for victory.
I’ve never actually played any of the X-COM video games. When the announcement was made that Fantasy Flight was going to release a board game version, I wasn’t terribly excited. Others in the group were, however. But the excitement was very cautious because board game adaptations of video games have been problematic. It was Dr. Steve who first taught us how to play…
X-COM the Board Game: the rules
The rules for X-COM the Board Game are light. Like super light. Like the size of a restaurant menu. The rules are just four pages in all.
Despite this, the game was quite frustrating to learn. The lightness of the rules was an obstacle to learning the game. We had substantial questions and difficulties getting started the first few games. The rules, being so scant, were not much help.
X-COM: the components
Being a Fantasy Flight game, you should expect top notch components. And X-COM delivers. The game comes with nice sculpted minis like the squad members and the fighters. The artwork is good. The game board gives the feel of a war room where you and your teammates are strategizing your resources on a global scale.
The game requires an app. It’s free. And the game cannot be played without it. The app works fine. It’s sound effects add to the drama. And the user interface is easy enough. And the app will either make-or-break the game for most game groups. More on that below.
X-COM is a cooperative game where players must work together to stem an alien invasion of earth. Each player has a job they perform. And there are four jobs to be performed. Because of this, the game is ideal for four players. If you play with fewer players, you will have to double up on some of the roles.
Each game round has two phases. The first phase is the frenetic “timed phased”. In this phase, the app dictates with player/role is active and what they have to do. The player will have 8 seconds to perform the action. If you take longer than 8 seconds, more aliens will show up; if you take less time, you get bonus time at the end of the phase.
The second phase is the “resolution phase”. This is where all of the decisions made in the timed phase are resolved. You will roll dice, mitigate your dice rolls with various special abilities, make some tough decisions when the dice don’t go your way, etc.
I noted above that the app will make-or-break the game for most groups. This is because of the timed phase. If you don’t like the timed phase, you won’t like this game. And the timed phase really does require an app. Nobody could manage their own role and keep track of 8 seconds without an electronic device. If you are a tabletop purist, you will probably frown upon the inclusion of an app.
As I stated, there are four roles in the game. Each role has control over different functions. There is the Central Officer, the Commander, the Chief Scientist and the Squad Leaders.
The Central Officer runs the app. He reads (quickly) the messages coming from the app. The other players must be Johnny-on-the-spot if they are to make sound decisions in 8 seconds. The Central Officer is in control of the satellite defense. These satellites will protect earth’s resources so you will get more funding each round. The Central Officer has a lot of mitigation at his fingertips. He can allow other players to reroll dice and he can move pieces on the board once per game round.
The Commander is in control of the X-COM budget and the fighter defense. With only 8 seconds to make each decision, the players may accidentally go over budget. The Commander has to guard against this because the results will be disastrous. The Commander has to also place fighters on any continents to protect from aliens that made it past the satellites. Aliens cause the continents to panic. If the panic tracks get too high, the players lose.
The Chief Scientist uses whatever funding he can get to research new abilities for the players. He might find ways to augment the satellite defense for the Central Officer. Or find new fighter technology for the Commander. Maybe the Squad Leader needs new weaponry for his troops. The Chief Scientist must read his hand of cards quickly. The long term strategy of the game will be dictated by what technology cards are persued.
A game of X-COM is won or lost by the Squad Leader. The Squad Leader must complete enough missions for the app to say, “reveal the final mission”. Completing the final mission yields victory. The Squad Leader has four different troops he can deploy. These troops are suitable for different mission types. However, the Squad Leader must also defend the X-COM base from aliens. If the base takes enough damage, the players lose.
The game flow of X-COM the Board Game is unique. The app will direct one player to do a thing in 8 seconds. This could be assign troops to the mission, assign a technology to be researched, or maybe place satellites to defend the globe. But the app is random. You might be placing satellites to defend the globe before all the aliens show up. If so, you may place too many satellites (and waste money) or not place enough satellites.
The game fixes one big issue with cooperatives: each player is engaged. In many classical coops, an alpha player can dictate the activities of the other players. While that may be optimal, it is not fun. In X-COM, it’s difficult to assess what is optimal because you only have 8 seconds. Your teammates might shout their suggestions to you, but it’s difficult to communicate and analyze in the time given. This is a very good mechanic. If you don’t like this mechanic, you will not like X-COM.
X-COM is ideal with four players. If you play with fewer players, someone will have to play more than one role. This is too much, given the time crunch. I would recommend this game as a four player game only.
But if you are looking for a four player coop, X-COM offers a welcome departure from Pandemic and that ilk. The frenetic play is exhilarating. It’s not a brain burner like Pandemic but you still feel like your contribution matters. The rules are not explicit but the app is quite well designed. Once you have the rules down, X-COM will be a nice game to get your blood pumping.
We had a few unscheduled attendees on Thursday, bringing our attendance to six. We hemmed and hawed about what game to play. We settled upon Glen Drover’s Empires: Age of Discovery. This was the first time in several months that this title made it to the table. The game was (and has been) a hit. I thought I would share with you why this is such a good game.
Game Review Empires: Age of Discovery
Glen Drover’s game Empires: Age of Discovery takes players back to the age of colonialism and exploration. Each player takes on the role of a European country. He musters soldiers, sea captains, merchants, missionaries and colonists to forge a New World empire.
Empires: Age of Discovery wins no points for originality. The theme of colonizing the New World has been a dozen times by major publishers. Indeed, the game was even loosely based upon a computer game, Age of Empires III. Eagle Games originally published the tabletop edition as Age of Empires III until they reimplemented it with this edition.
So if Empires: Age of Discovery is so unoriginal, why would the Muskegon Area Gamers be such big fans?
The trend at Eagle Games has been unmistakable: make games with heirloom quality components. Empires: Age of Discovery is another example of this.
There are six sets of plastic pieces, comprising 420 figures in total. There are six different sculpts. And the plastic isn’t the shoddy, rubbery plastic from earlier Eagle Games like War! Age of Imperialism. Eagle Games is making a play for Fantasy Flight’s customers–and they will likely get some.
The game also comes with the super large board that is typical of Eagle Games. It has to be big to accommodate the 420 figures and 10 plastic trade ships.
The other components are also nice. The cardboard is the high quality thick cut cardboard that lasts forever. The money is plastic coins in two denominations. I have the basic version. There is also a kickstarter version that has metal coins.
The MSRP for this monster is $120 so one should expect great components at the very least. But with that price tag, one should also expect great game play. And Empires delivers.
Empires: Age of Discovery is essentially a worker placement game with area control scoring. Again, it scores nothing for originality. But it does these functions better than any other game I’ve played.
There are several areas on the right side of the game board. This is where the workers are placed.
The top area, called Initiative, is where players select their turn order for the following turn. It also gives the player a small amount of money.
The next area is the colonist boat. Players place their workers here so they can move them to one of the discovered areas of the New World. Seating is limited so make sure you get your workers on the boat. The workers do different things when they get to the New World. The missionary converts a native, immediately granting the owner an additional colonist. The merchant gives you $5. The soldier allows you to use the war/battle space (see below). The builder is worth 2 to 4 VP each.
The third area is where players collect trade goods. Trade goods are the main source of income in the game. Seating is limited to four per game round so these suckers will go fast.
Below the trade goods is the merchant ship. Each game round exactly one merchant ship is doled out. The single player that has placed the most workers here gets the ship. However, some of the workers are worth more than others. The captain and the merchant are worth 2 of the other workers. The merchant ship is kept by the player who wins it for the duration of the game. Merchant ships act as wild trade goods, substantially augmenting one’s income. Seating in this space is unlimited but you may not get anything if someone spends more workers than you.
The next area is the capital building track. Each game round five capital buildings (cardboard tiles) are placed on this track. Players must pay for the buildings in addition to putting a worker here. The cost increases throughout the game. One of the workers, the builder, reduces the cost of the buildings by $5.
Each building gives a different special ability. The buildings generally give a once per round ability that will give players more workers, more money or some other flexibility.
The Discovery Box is right below the capital buildings. Players may place unlimited workers here. Players have the option to use some or all of their workers here to discover a portion of the New World. They select which workers they want to use. They select the discovery tile they wish to discover. Then they flip the discovery tile (flip it for real). If they meet or exceed the strength of the discovery tile, they have discovered it. They keep the tile and put a colonist on the territory. Otherwise, they lose their workers and get nothing.
Players may invest in better workers for the next game round in the training area. Players may place a worker (generally a colonist) onto one of the spaces. The space can turn the colonist into a soldier, builder, merchant, captain or missionary.
And finally there is the War space. Players may place up to four workers here. Workers here can be used to battle or go to war. When selecting a battle, the player chooses an opponent and a territory. In this territory, all your soldiers and all your opponent’s soldiers shoot. You select which enemy worker they are shooting and that figure is removed. If you select war, you must pay $10. Then you have a battle in every territory where you and the selected opponent have soldiers.
There are three scoring rounds. Players score 6 victory points if they have the most workers, 2 victory points if they have the second most. At the end of the game, players also score victory points based upon their income level. The highest total is the winner.
So why is this game such a good fit? The components are quite nice. They make the game worth $100 MSRP. But the game play would be fun even with different components.
The worker placement aspect of Empires: Age of Discovery allows for a good mix of tactics and strategy. You can place workers onto the board to get things now or invest your workers for a pay out later. A soldier or a builder is substantially better than a colonist. But you have to wait a game round to get him. Playing early is generally better than playing later. But it’s also good to wait until your opponent has committed some of his workers so you can respond appropriately.
The area control aspect is simple. Games with complex area control usually devolve into analysis paralysis. But that is not the case when you mix area control with worker placement. Players cannot min/max like they normally can in an area control game.
The output of the components and mechanics is a game that could be the centerpiece of most game collections. The components and presentation are impressive. The game is approachable to new or light gamers. And the strategy is deep enough to make hardcore gamers coming back for more.
I’ve redoubled my efforts to learn new games recently. I’ve learned about 10 games in the past four weeks. Now we just have to get these games to the table so I can find out if they are any good. One of the recent games I learned was Galakta’s King and Assassins. I’ve played six times now. And this game is going to be a keeper.
Board Game Review King & Assassins
Background and objective
King & Assassins is an asymmetrical game for two players. The game plays in about 30 minutes and takes about 5 minutes to learn.
One player takes on the role of the vile king and his knights. The king and his entourage try to force their way through throngs of people and arrive at the palace.
The other player takes on the role of the assassins who are hidden in the throngs of townsfolk. The assassin will move the townsfolk to obstruct the king and to move his hidden assassins closer.
If the assassin kills the king, he wins. If the action card deck runs out, the assassin wins. If the king kills all three assassins, he wins. If the king arrives at the palace he wins.
The game comes with a double sided game board. Players decide which side to use at game set up (the rules are a bit different for each side).
There are two decks of cards: one which is used to determine which townsfolk are the assassins and one that is the action card deck.
The rest of the components are cardboard standees of the king, knights and the townsfolk.
King & Assassins does not have nor does it require overproduced game pieces. Which is a nice change of pace. The game pieces are good enough as cardboard standees.
The game board has depicts the promenade where the king and his subjects begin the game. The areas marked by an X are where a townsperson starts. The areas with a • are where the knights begin. The square with the + is where the king begins.
After setting up the board, the assassin takes the townsfolk deck. There is a card for every villager in this deck. He secretly takes three of the cards. These cards depict which townsfolk are actually assassins.
The rest of the cards are removed from the game.
Now the players are ready to begin.
During each round of play, the top action card is flipped over. The king and his knights get action points equal to the number next to their icon. Once the king has completed all of his actions, the assassin player takes his turn.
Each action card has a different combination of action points for the king (usually 1 but occasionally 2), the knights (5 or 6, sometimes with the shackles icon) and the assassins (4 or 5 action points).
The king may only move on the streets with his action points. The knights may move on the streets or on the roofs. The knights may also push the townsfolk so as to make room for the king. The knight may also spend 1 action point to arrest a townsperson if the action card has the shackles icon. And lastly, the knight player may kill a revealed assassin for 1 action point.
The assassin may reveal one or more of the townsfolk to be assassins for no action point cost. The townsfolk move like the knights: on the roofs and the street. They cannot, however, push anyone. When a townsperson is replaced by an assassin, he gains the ability to kill the knights and wound the king. The assassin wins if he wounds the king twice.
King & Assassins is a keeper.
King & Assassins is a nifty asymmetrical game. The two sides have very different goals and different actions afforded to them.
King & Assassins is fast. It’s almost a filler since I plays in 30 minutes.
King & Assassins has value. Because the game isn’t overproduced, you don’t have to pay for unneeded miniatures. The game board is double sided. The rules for Side B are a little different in that the king has two starting locations. This gives additional replayability.
King & Assassins is a game that fills so many niches, I’m surprised it’s not better known. If you are looking for a 2 player game that you can learn in 5 minutes, that plays in 30 minutes and has about 50 games of replayability for around $30, I recommend King & Assassins.
You know what we haven’t done in a long while? An installment of “hits & flops”. We have played many new games at The Gaming Annex in the past couple of months. There have been several letdowns. But there have also been a few surprises. Let’s take a look.
Recent Board Game Hits & Flops
1. Crimson Creek
Crimson Creek is quite bad. The game is supposed to evoke the dread and horror of an 80’s slasher film. Instead, it evokes the dread and horror of a poorly designed and implemented game.
Players take on the role of a classic horror trope such as geek or jock. Then players must determine which location is the AI’s hideout. Players move about a chintzy game board. Taking certain actions causes cards to be drawn from a deck. If enough axes are drawn, a random location is drawn and all players there are eliminated. Otherwise, players must trudge onward. If you figure it out which location is the AI’s hideout, you will survive until the 2nd phase of the game–otherwise you are eliminated and can instead play a better game like Camp Grizzly.
The deduction aspect of Crimson Creek is not really all that deductive. It’s like calling Battleship a game of deduction. You have to eliminate everything in order to get the solution.
The artwork was pretty good. It did help sell the the theme a bit. But there was no real sense of suspense or doom. You have to get lucky to win the game or you have to work together with the other players. But if you work together with the other players, there is no more decision making–the strategy is completely rote.
Red Dragon Inn: Battle For Greyport
Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport is surprisingly good. I’m not a huge fan of cooperative games. But Battle for Greyport would be a rare exception, all the more surprising given that I’ve never played any of the Red Dragon Inn games.
Each player has a unique, specialized deck. Players work together, using their respective decks, to apply damage to bad guys. Each player takes a turn where they hire retainers, adding them to their deck. But when it’s another player’s turn, you are still engaged. The monsters attack every game round. So it’s advisable to play some of your cards to help crush the rampaging monsters.
Battle for Greyport is not a deep game from what I gather. But it does fill several areas in a player’s game collection. It’s Dungeons & Dragons friendly. If you have a few friends who play D&D, you could easily get them to play Battle for Greyport. Battle for Greyport introduces people to deckbuilding. And Battle for Greyport introduces people to coops. If any of these things apply to you, this game is a good fit.
Food Chain Magnate
Food Chain Magnate has taken boardgamegeek.com by storm. It’s now rated at #30 overall with a 8.2 rating. It’s artwork is highly stylized from the 1940’s and 1950’s ad campaigns. The components are mostly wooden, with bits for your cola, hamburgers and pizzas.
Food Chain Magnate is a heavy Euro. It’s rated 4.2 in weight at bgg. The game has lots of moving parts, tons of cards to choose from and lots of decisions to make. But it is a Euro. Thus it is low luck. In fact, the only randomness in the game determining the start player. After that, there is no randomness.
Food Chain Magnate is a procedural. This adds to the game’s length and heaviness. It’s what allows for the game’s lack of randomness. It’s also adds to the game’s learning curve.
I’ve had the chance to play it just once. And once is not enough to determine if it is a hit or a flop–especially given that Dusty blew us out of the water in that one play.
Sanssouci is your standard issue Euro. It’s a game with nice artwork, decent components and a tacked-on theme. It’s a drafting game that rewards efficiency.
All of these things make it a bad fit for my collection. Too many other games do these things already. Further, Sanssouci over stays its welcome, weighing in at 45 to 60 minutes.
Eminent Domain: Escalation
You may recall a recent blog post where I lamented getting rid of some games which I later decided to obtain again. One of those games was Tasty Minstrel Games’ Eminent Domain. I picked up the expansion: Escalation. I had the chance to give it a play with Jeremy (Scott) Pyne.
The game play for Eminent Domain sans the expansion is decent. It’s a cross between Dominion and Glory to Rome but with a new theme. It’s the deckbuilding of Dominion but the role following or dissenting of Glory to Rome. In space.
The expansion adds scenario cards. This allows players to have unique (asymmetrical) starting decks and technologies. There is also unique abilities for all the plastic ships in the game. These changes make the game fresh.
If you’ve played Eminent Domain and either liked it or were on the fence, you owe it to yourself to try Escalation. It also will set the stage for the newest expansion: Exotica!
Mechs Vs. Minions
Mechs vs. Minions has set the standard for successful kickstarters. Maybe not so much in total amount funded (which was impressive) but in actual value to the consumer. You get magnificently painted 50mm figurines–tons of them. You get heirloom quality components like an hour glass and modular game board. The game has storage space for all of these pieces: individual vacuum formed spaces for each figure. And the price was less than $100.
The game play is also excellent. It’s like Robo Rally but better. And that’s saying something! Players use programmed movement on their mechs, moving and shooting the minions while trying to complete the mission.
The rules are easy enough to learn but there is a lot scenarios that add depth to the game. Mechs vs. Minions is a must buy if you love miniature war games or if you like cooperative games.
Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk
I was so looking forward to the expansion to Betrayal at House on the Hill. Betrayal is a perennial classic at The Gaming Annex. It’s a goofy team game where players search a haunted house.
The expansion, Widow’s Walk, was an unexpected announcement from Hasbro, being released just before Halloween of 2016. I had the chance to play it during our Halloween Week at The Annex.
And it fell flat for me.
The expansion is just extra rooms and extra haunts. If this is what you are looking for, then the $20 is well spent. I was hoping for more. I was hoping for extra game mechanics. Something that would add depth to the game instead of adding more of the same.
King & Assassins
King & Assassins is a delightfully devilish two player game. One player is the king and his knightly escorts. The other is the townspeople who have three secret assassins in their midst. The king must move from one area of the board to the castle before the assassins kill him or before time runs out.
A card is flipped over. The king and the knights get so many action points based on what the card says. The king can move, the knights can move or push townsfolk. The knights can arrest people or even kill a revealed assassin. The assassin player then takes his turn. He moves the townspeople. He can reveal one of them to be an assassin. The assassins can kill knights or wound the king.
Kings & Assassins plays in 30 minutes. You can learn the game in about 10 minutes. If you need a two player game, this one will probably fit the bill.
When Steve brought Dice City over to The Gaming Annex a couple of months ago, I was eager to give it a go. I loved the cartoonish artwork and I love dice games.
Dice City is a very good game for anyone who likes Imperial Settlers. It’s a tableau building game of rolling dice to get resources. Resources are used to buy additional cards which will give you victory points or even more resources.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like Imperial Settlers. Both Imperial Settlers and Dice City overstay their welcome. They are fun for the first 20 minutes but then drag on for 30 more minutes. There isn’t enough meat on the bone to make Dice City fun for almost an hour. As such, I cannot justify adding it to the ol’ library
Star Wars: Destiny
I don’t have a love/hate relationship with Star Wars collectible games; I have a hate/hate relationship. I played Star Wars CCG from Decipher. (I will devote a blog post to this in the coming weeks). When I heard Fantasy Flight was releasing a Star Wars collectible dice/card game, I grimaced like Professor Mike when he hears us make crude jokes.
Dusty got a few copies of Star Wars Destiny recently. He taught me how to play.
And I was pleasantly surprised.
Very surprised indeed. Star Wars Destiny is everything I like in a dice game. It’s fast paced (about 20 minutes long). It’s a tactical game and a strategic game. There’s plenty of decisions to make but there isn’t any analysis paralysis.
Players take one action on their turn: either rolling dice, using dice or playing cards from their hands. Then their opponent takes a turn. This continues until all actions are spent and both players pass. Then a new round begins. When one player has run out of cards or has both of their characters killed, the game ends.
Star Wars Destiny is set in the Star Wars universe but doesn’t feel all that Star Wars like. But players will forgive this slight because the game play is quick and fun.
Verdict: a very surprising HIT!
Where these verdicts are handed down like social policy
Muskegon Area Gamers
Muskegon, MI 161Muskegon Area Gamers
This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…
It’s that time. Another installment of Hits & Flops. We take a look and take aim at the latest games to hit the tables at The Gaming Annex. With even a single play, we either accept or reject games on Board Game Geek’s hotness. This month we will be looking at Scythe, Star Trek Ascendancy, Vast: the Crystal Caverns along with a few other games. Sit back and have a read. Don’t take this too seriously.
If you had asked me earlier this week about Scythe, I would have told you how good it was. It has lots of opportunities for attacking your opponents while also trying to be as efficient as possible.
All actions are controlled by the player mats. There is a top half and a bottom half. The bottom actions require numerous resources so players will only occasionally perform them. But players will always perform the top actions. When choosing an action, players may do either or both actions.
Actions include: collecting resources, collect different resources, move units or collect yet another set of different resources. The bottom actions are: build a building, build a mech, improve the cost/benefit of these actions when you or your opponents take this action or improve the cost/benefit of these actions in a different way. Sounds Euro? Yep.
But if you had asked me earlier this week, I would have said this is a good game. Then we played last night. It was my third game. And it played very samey. I’ve now realized this is only a mediocre game. While Scythe currently holds the #13 position on BGG and has a rabid following, watch for its precipitous fall in coming years. There is no emergent game play in Scythe. It is a pure efficency/static game state game. Think Caylus with plastic mechs.
2. Vast: the Crystal Caverns
Vast: the Crystal Caverns is a wonderful, completely asymmetrical game. The game is so asymmetrical, that you have to play it five times to see all the different ways to play it.
One player takes on the role of the daring knight. She must defeat the dragon to win. One player is the goblin chieftain who must vanquish the fair knight. One player is the dragon who must wake from its slumber and escape the cavern. The thief tries to gather crystals and treasures. And the last player is the cave itself who must cause the cave to collapse before anyone else can win.
How the knight moves, levels up and performs actions is completely different than the goblins–which is completely different than the dragon. It’s like five mini-games merged under one undeniably charming theme that really works well.
The knight has action cubes that can be assigned to do different tasks. These tasks include buffing her strength, using the ancient map, moving, girding the shield or attacking the goblins. The goblins must increase their strength to damage the knight, acquire secret cards to lay traps for the knight or the dragon or acquire powerful monsters to aid in their quest to kill the knight.
The dragon has a hand of cards. And the dragon can level up to increase its hand size. These cards are spent to do different actions like firewall, feeding on the goblins or ultimately waking up completely from its slumber so as to leave the cavern. The cavern is the game clock. New tiles are laid and new event cards are drawn. The cave player decides which treasures to give the knight–to either slow down the goblins or the dragon player. But the cave can also spin walls around, confounding the knight, giving the cave enough time to begin the collapse.
Every player has a way to interact with each other. And the asymmetry is a work of pure brilliance. This game is my favorite new game of 2016. As such, the verdict is obvious.
3. Star Trek Ascendancy
Long time followers of this blog will recall our posts about Star Trek’s impact on board gaming: see here and here. Due to the sheer scope of the subject, I had to break it into two parts. The post ends with an exciting announcement from Gale Force Nine games about an upcoming game called Star Trek Ascendancy. That upcoming game hit the table at The Gaming Annex recently.
In Star Trek Ascendancy, players control the governments of the Federation, the Klingon Empire or the Romulans. The goal is to get 5 Ascendancy. Players buy Ascendancy with 5 culture tokens. The first to get to 5 Ascendancy is declared the winner.
Players build the map as they go. There are circular systems connected by space lane straightaways. The board is built in a bit of a miniature wargaming fashion with a tape measure used to ensure the board is the right size.
Players spend their command tokens to take actions like move ships or attack their opponents. Other actions include conquering planets or building nodes (resource producing elements) on planets. Players will take their three resource types to either build stuff (with production tokens), buy tech (with research tokens) or buy Ascendancy (with culture tokens).
The game play is similar to Eclipse except it’s much worse than Eclipse. The combat system is a lifting of Eclipse’s weapons +1 and shields -1 system. But Star Trek Ascendancy does not have any way of tweaking the ships like the ship blueprints in Eclipse. A Federation ship is identical to a Romulan ship. Both roll one die in combat and both require the same hit roll.
The galaxy building and discovery aspect of the game is also like Eclipse but much worse. Players have a say in where they place a system but first must roll the die to see how big the space lane is. Then they draw a card that tries and fails to evoke the theme of Star Trek.
In my one and only game of this, the game lasted 9 hours. Which is about 7.5 hours too long. And the only reason it ended was because of a few tactical mistakes that Nick Sima and I would not make if we would play this a second time–which we won’t.
In the long, proud history of Star Trek board games, this game falls woefully short. But what did you expect from Gale Force Nine? These guys published dreck like Homeland: the Board Game and Firefly: the Board game.
Verdict: Sadly, a flop.
4. Camp Grizzly
In recent weeks, I’ve been on a game trading kick. I’m getting rid of games we just don’t play. And I’m much better now at gauging what will be well received by the Muskegon Area Gamers. I recently traded Tiny Epic Kingdoms and Tiny Epic Galaxies (both owned by other members of our group) for Camp Grizzly.
Camp Grizzly lifts the theme of 80’s slasher movies and turns it into a semi-cooperative board game. Players take on the role of a camp counselor. I got Kevin, the lifeguard, who bore more than a passing resemblance to 70’s hunk Parker Stevenson. Each counselor has individual stats and special abilities.
Players move their counselors around the game board which is an aerial view of the fictional Camp Grizzly. Along the way, players may acquire important items, find lost campers (the children under our care) or may even encounter the dreaded Otis.
Otis is the antagonist who, like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, wears a terrifying mask. Otis’s shtick is a bear mask, a nod to the eponymous Camp Grizzly–itself a play on words for grisly. When Otis strikes, the campers die and the counselors take damage. If you die, you are eliminated from the game, so be careful.
Players must work together to get all the items needed to unlock the Finale. Then players move to the Finale and roll dice to see if they escape. This game is a semi-coop. That means some players can win while others lose. Players may work together but if C.J. is lagging behind at docks, you and the rest of the counselors may need to radio for help without him!
The artwork in Camp Grizzly really evokes the horror theme. Which may seem strange given that it’s comic book art. But it really works for this game. You get the sense of gore without the gratuitous scene. Indeed, the artwork is what ultimately drew me to make this trade. And new artwork for the upcoming five expansions(!) is what is delaying Ameritrash Game’s release dates.
We played this with a captive audience a couple of Thursdays ago. And it was very well received. Ben said it was very cinematic and evocative of the theme. And I agree. It’s light but you need an occasional light game to end the night.
5. Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor
There is a new genre of game: the one-and-done adventure. We discussed an example several months ago when T.I.M.E Stories hit the shelves and hit our table. Escape the Room is another example. Escape the Room is a new series of games from Think Fun. Players work together to solve the puzzles in order to eventually “escape the room”.
We made our first foray recently. After a brief rules explanation–which is very brief because there are virtually no rules–we delved into the mystery. The mystery is wrapped up in different envelops which you are not allowed to open unless you solve the required puzzle. The envelops then are opened, revealing another puzzle, which when solved, opens another envelop.
These puzzle games can be entertaining. But Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor was a bit too easy. Brandi, Tasha, Ben and I solved it in 30 minutes. A week later, Dusty, Jon, Kevin and Old Ben solved it in 35 minutes. This is way too easy for a $30 game.
The next game in the series, Secrets of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat, is supposed to be more challenging. That would fix my issue with the anticlimactic Stargazer Manor.
6. 27th Passenger
I’ve been on the hunt for a good deduction game. A good deduction game requires logic, has good player interaction and plays quickly. And 27th Passenger fits the bill.
Players are dealt one of 27 different secret roles. Each round players secretly select an action to take. These actions are used to learn about the other player’s roles, gain valuable defense cards or learn about the other NPC roles (the balance of the 27 roles not taken by players). Players will narrow down which roles their opponents are in order to kill them, thus eliminating them from the game. The last player standing is the winner.
Each role has three separate characteristics. The three characteristics are appearance, their voice and their scent. There are three of each of these types of characteristics. And each role has a unique combination of them (3X3X3 =27 passengers). Using simultaneous order selection, clever play and a little intuition, you will figure out who your opponents are first.
We’ve played 27th passenger twice now. It’s grown on me. And I think I was the only curmudgeon at the table.
Where the Hits keeping on coming
Muskegon Area Gamers
Muskegon, MI 139Muskegon Area Gamers
This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…