Category Archives: Hits & Flops

Board game hits and flops: October edition

We’ve managed to get a few new games to the table in the past month or so. A drive by of my impressions of these games is not only acceptable it is expected. Here is the latest installment of Board Game Hits and Flops from the crew at The Gaming Annex.


1. Inkognito

Inkognito from Ares Games
Inkognito from Ares Games

I managed to get Ares’ Games retake of Inkognito to the table not once but twice. And I am a bit disappointed. I was hoping for a game to scratch the much needed deduction niche. And Inkognito might not be it.

There is a logistical aspect to Inkognito like there is in Clue. The novelty in Inkognito isn’t roll and move. It’s “shake the Phantom of Prophecy” and move. And the novelty gets old.

Aside from the Phantom of Prophecy novelty, the game does have deduction at its core. And there is room for clever play. But there is also room for incorrect play. And like in Clue, if you accidently give someone the wrong information, it totally screws them. And in Inkognito, the chances of giving the wrong information is more likely than it is in Clue.

I’m hoping another play of Inkognito will resolve some of my doubts about this game. Until then…



2. Among the Stars

Among the Stars
Among the Stars

Rocky brought Among the Stars to the Annex a few weeks back. It was my first face to face exposure to the game. I had seen the game on BGG. I liked the artwork but the iconography made me think it was a soulless Euro.

Among the Stars was better than I thought it would be. It is a space themed version of 7 Wonders. If you like 7 Wonders, Among the Stars is a nice departure.

Among the Stars is really just a quick drafting game that can almost be a filler. You have a hand of cards, you keep one and pass the rest to the next player. This one simple mechanic is nicely distilled in Among the Stars. And the rules are easy enough to make it approachable for non-gamers.

Verdict: Hit.


3. Ca$h ‘n Guns (2nd Edition)

Ca$h & Guns (2nd Edition)
Ca$h¬†‘n Guns (2nd Edition)

My dictator night was this past Tuesday. It was an opportunity to get Ca$h ‘n Guns to the table. I’ve played the 2nd edition three times in recent weeks now. And the game is outrageously fun!

I liked the 1st edition as well. But the 1st edition was a flop amongst many other members of the group. But the group was very receptive to this new edition. And for good reason.

The new edition of Ca$h ‘n Guns fixes a few of the problems in the first edition. There are different treasure types available, giving players long term strategies. There is a Godfather mechanic. This allows a player to force another player to point their gun at someone else. And the special powers are really well streamlined. I was happy that The Muskegon Area Gamers were warmed up to Ca$h ‘n Guns. I think this game will be hitting the table on Tuesdays a few more times ūüôā

Verdict: Hit


4. Sewer Pirats

Sewer Pirats
Sewer Pirats

Nick Sima is really trying to contribute to the group. I’ve assigned him some rules to read. He read the rules to IELLO’s Sewer Pirats. We managed to get the game to the table on Thursday.

Sewer Pirats is kinda like Ticket to Ride but with more bells and whistles. You have a hand of cards. You play cards to move one of your sewer pirates onto one of the available boats. When the ship sets sail, players collect refuse from the sewers. Players win based upon how many points they scored from their refuse.

One of the mechanics in the game was counterintuitive, at least to us. How you move one of your figures onto the captain spot kept throwing us for a loop. But we soldiered on. The game lasted about 1 hour including rules explanation.

Overall, my impressions of Sewer Pirats was very favorable. It has enough depth with the different figures and with the optional drafting mechanic to keep hardcore gamers coming back. The rules are easy enough (except for the counterintuitive one mentioned above) that the game can be a good warm up game for an evening. All of us at games last night enjoyed Sewer Pirats.

Verdict: Hit.


5. Give Me the Brain!

Give me the Brain!
Give me the Brain!

It is unusual for a Steve Jackson game to be good. When I saw Dusty pull out a fuchsia colored box with the title “Give me the Brain!” from Steve Jackson Games, I wasn’t expecting much.

In Give me the Brain! players try to rid themselves of their entire hand like in Uno. Each card has some special text on it that allows the player to take some action. Some cards have actions available to the player only if he has the Brain. To get the brain, you must win an auction using the point values of your cards.

Give me the Brain! was mostly mindless*. The game could conceivable go on for long stretches of time. This is because, like in Uno, there are so many ways to draw more cards. The actions on the cards seem like a neat idea. But their implementation was largely brainless*. We were left with the feeling that the game was silly, overly long and campy. And those three qualities spell doom.

Or in this case, it spells “Flop”

*zombie jokes are the best.

6. Kingsport Festival

Kingsport Festival
Kingsport Festival

Jeremy Pyne came by a few times in recent weeks. He brought over Kingsport Festival. I had heard this game was a lot like Kingsburg, one of my favorite intro games. I was excited to give it a try.

Kingsport Festival takes place in HP Lovecraft’s universe. All players play cultists who are trying to summon a Great Old One to devour the world. Like in Kingsburg, you chuck three dice.¬† You move your dice to areas around the board to take gain resources. There are three types of resources in the game. Then you can spend resources to build structures around Kingsport.

I have to admit that Kingsport does share a lot in common with Kingsburg. Even their titles are similar. I really liked the spell mechanic in Kingsport too. But the theme was not nearly as intuitive as that of Kingsburg. In Kingsburg, you collect wood, gold and stone. And then use these to build Guard Towers, Saw Mills and Markets. In Kingsport Festival, you collect Death, Evil and Destruction and use these to build things. The theme just doesn’t work. In Kingsburg, I could teach non-gamers about gaming in general. That would prove difficult with Kingsport Festival.

Kingsport Festival is not a bad game. It is simply a game that doesn’t fill a niche for me. I would like to try it again just to make sure.

Verdict: Undetermined.


7. The place were hits and flops take place

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
89 Muskegon 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…

Next Meetup

Sunday games

Sunday, Oct 11, 2015, 10:00 AM
4 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →


Board Game Hits and Flops: August 2015 edition

We’ve played several newer games recently. I was party to many but not all of them. Overall I was not terribly impressed. We will probably see more flops in this column than hits unfortunately. Let’s take a look.


1. Tokaido

Tokaido from Fun Forge
Tokaido from Fun Forge

In Tokaido, you play a hitchhiker who is traveling the East sea road in Japan. Evidently this is a very scenic route that caters to travelers and hitchhikers. Along the way, you will see sites, eat local cuisine and collect mementos of your journey. The theme is kind of interesting.

The game is not.

The game uses the ol’ Thebes mechanic of last place goes first but with the added twist of worker placement. Now this Thebes mechanic is quite good. But it’s getting tiresome to see it in other games. Work placement in Tokaido is not tiresome–it works okay. But the scoring mechanics are ho-hum.

When you “see sites” you are actually set collecting. When you “collect mementos” you are actually set collecting. And so. It’s a worker placement game with set collecting. I think we can do better than this in 2015.

Verdict: Flop


2. Tesla vs. Edison: War of Currents

Tesla vs. Edison from Artana Games
Tesla vs. Edison from Artana Games

In Tesla vs. Edison, players acquire the great engineers of the early 20th Century in order to spread their technological wares throughout the U.S. These engineers have stats such as invention, engineering, finance and public relations. Using these famous figures, players will complete residential, commercial or technological projects, edging out their opponents.

New inventors are added to the game at the beginning of each round. Players bid on them. The strategy here is to either specialize in one area or to address weaknesses your existing inventors have. Players use these inventor cards each game turn by flipping them over to exhaust them temporarily, and then completing a project, drawing an action card or to improve your technology.

Given that I am an engineer and that this period of history is fascinating to me, it’s odd that the game was not a hit. There were a few rules ambiguities due to weird choices in iconography. Our only play of the game was with three players–not a good number for a bidding game. We decided the game needs to be played with 4+ players next time. That will really determine if this was a hit or flop

Verdict: Indeterminate


3. Splendor

Splendor from Asmodee Games
Splendor from Asmodee Games

Splendor from Asmodee Games has received 13 honors, winning 5 of them. This incudes being a 2014 Spiel des Jahres nominee.

As with most Asmodee offerings, Splendor has excellent components. The art work is gorgeous. The money is heavy-duty poker chips with great art work.

Mechanically, Splendor is a simple engine builder. You either collect some income (poker chips) or you buy a card (spend some poker chips). Each card has an easy to recognize icon on it that gives you a permanent discount (a phantom poker chip if you will). Players who cleverly manage their actions of collecting income versus buying cards will be successful in this game. The game also has a “layaway” action as Kate calls it. This layaway mechanic makes Splendor much more akin to Traders of Carthage than one might think. If you like Traders of Carthage, Splendor might be up your alley too.

Despite its simplicity (or maybe because of it), I found Splendor to be quite good. It’s got an average weight of 1.8 on BGG making it an ideal family game. The game would be a light/filler game for the hardcore group.

Verdict: Hit


4. Codenames

Codenames from Czech Games
Codenames from Czech Games

Vlaada Chvatil cannot do wrong. At least not on boardgamegeek. He has the strongest presence of game designer in the Top 200 with the possible exception of Uwe Rosenberg. His design credits include Mage Knight, Dungeon Lords and the much anticipated Star Trek Frontiers (yay!).

It’s no wonder that his party game Codenames has been so well received. It currently sits at 829 on BGG’s all time rank–definitely on the upward swing given it’s geek rating of 8.13. Look for this game to crack the Top 300 this year.

Two captains compete against one another in Codenames. They have a team of players who they give clues to. The team members try to guess the correct codenames from these clues. The first team to get correctly guess all of their codenames correctly is the winner.

At set up, 25 different cards, each with a codename, are placed onto the table. The codenames might be “bomb” or “giraffe”. The captains have a secret map that shows which codenames belong to which team (blue or red). The captains, when giving a clue, state a single word along with a number. The word is the clue to figure out the codename; the number is how many codenames that clue refers to.

Sample play of Codenames
Sample play of Codenames

For example, the blue team’s codenames might include “giraffe” and “eagle”. The blue captain might say, “Animal, two”. Then the blue team (not the captain) would have to correctly select the codenames that “animal, two” refers to. If they select a blue codename, they score it. If they select a red code name, the other team scores it. Some of the codenames do not belong to either team. They do not score for either team–they are just a deterrent. Also, there is a black codename. If a team selects the black codename, they immediately lose.

The game has some press your luck to it. I like press your luck in most games. The game also has team v. team play–another feature I typically like.

Unfortunately, I do not like Codenames.

Codenames is simply the old gameshow “Password” reinvented by snazzy board game designer. It’s a word game, not a social deduction game. I don’t find word games to have much strategy. Sure, you can get good at word games by having a strong vocabulary–but you can’t get good at them by out strategizing your opponents.

Verdict: Flop


5. Broom Service

Broom Service from Ravensburger
Broom Service from Ravensburger

Witch’s Brew is a neat trick taking game. Players select from a handful of actions. Then players decide to either take a weak version of the actions or to “take the trick” and take the strong version. Players access the likelihood of someone else taking the trick and make their decisions accordingly. The risk/reward in Witch’s Brew is nicely balanced.

Witch’s Brew has been out of print for many years. And copies were going for $90 used for a game that was published at $30 MSRP. Gamers have been begging the publisher, Ravensburger, to rectify this condition. Instead, they published a reimplementation of the game called Broom Service.

Rocky brought Broom Service over a couple of weeks. The game is very similar to its predecessor Witch’s Brew. The biggest difference is the addition of a game board. The game board adds a logistical element to the game. This adds some depth to an already cool game. The other changes to the game do not add or take away much. It’s really about the board.

This game was well received by everyone playing. I admitted that Broom Service was at least as good as Witch’s Brew. And I like Witch’s Brew.

Verdict: Hit


6.  Bring your Hits or Flops here!











Board Game Hits and Flops: The Gaming Annex’s Verdicts for June 2015

I think this is going to be an ongoing monthly column for this blog. Most people loves to hear about cool new games. And everyone loves watching me make a public spectacle of a board game I despise. So here is our second installment of Hits and Flops.


1. Witness

Witness from Ystari Games
Witness from Ystari Games

There was a Cold War era comic called Blake and Mortimer. I had never heard of it until I heard of the game Witness. Evidently the comic is a sci-fi/detective themed serial.

The board game Witness is set in this comic world. The game is essentially a structured version of the telephone game with a narrative. Players read a case aloud. Then players silently read their own clue book. Then they follow a rubric that says to whom they whisper their clue. The thing is, the clue is usually a picture not a word or sentence. As such, what I see in a picture and what will later be important are not necessarily aligned. After the rubric if followed four times, players are asked three questions. Players score their answers individually but are working together to get a high team score.

The game should NOT work. But it does. It works very well in fact. The game has been well received by the Muskegon Area Gamers.

The game comes with 64 cases so you get your money’s worth. And the game has a strong following, suggesting a series of expansions modules will follow.

The Gaming Annex’s Verdict: Hit.


2. Penny Press from Asmadi Games

Penny Press from Asmadi Games
Penny Press from Asmadi Games

Penny Press harkens us back to the turn of the century when Hearst and Pulitzer were twisting the news into yellow journalism. The US went to war with Spain, McKinley was assassinated and New York surpassed Chicago to be America’s largest city. It’s one of my favorite periods in history. And it plays in 45 minutes. This game should have been a hit.

It wasn’t.

It was mediocre to bad. It works mechanically to a point. There is a potential of a stagnating game if people do not progress. It might be in people’s best interest to stagnate to force someone else to make a bad move.

But thematically the game is weak. The news stories are not nicely implemented with the mechanics. Teddy Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill? That makes the Spanish America War worth more points. How is that fun?

The Gaming Annex verdict: Flop.


3. Colt Express

Muskegon loves Colt Express from Ludonaute Games
Colt Express from Ludonaute Games

We played Colt Express during my recent dictator night. I had grave concerns about the game’s fit for our group because of how light it was.

I love the bits. The game looks cool with its 3D train cars. And the box does an excellent job storing the pieces.

We played Colt Express as our last game of the night when everyone was wore out. As you may know from a previous post, the timing of game based upon its heaviness is of prime importance. And I think this is why Colt Express was a hit.

Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves as they moved their cowboys from car to car. Bruce and I emptied our chambers on each other. And Jon picked our pockets while we did so. The game looks and feels cinematic. And that’s all I can ask of a lark.

The Gaming Annex Verdict: Hit


4. One Night Werewolf

One Night Ultimate Werewolf from Bezier Games
One Night Ultimate Werewolf from Bezier Games

We played Ultimate Werewolf at Dusty’s about two or three years ago. It went over like a lead balloon. I had little hope for One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf works much better than its needlessly longer sister game. But that’s not saying much. ONUW has substantial problems. There seems to be no algorithm for how to play the different roles. On the surface this would seem to be a positive. But for the life of me I do not know HOW to play this game despite being very familiar with the rules and having played it about 15 times.

The game feels like it should be a social deduction game but is really an instinct game. A game where you read people and maybe you get it right and then the game is over five minutes later. Since a game only lasts for 5 minutes, maybe I am asking to much but ONUW just doesn’t give me the meal I am after in a game. Mongo has been having lots of frustrations with this game too.

The Gaming Annex’s Verdict: Flop.


5. Forbidden Stars

Forbidden Stars from Fantasy Flight Games
Forbidden Stars from Fantasy Flight Games

It didn’t take for Dusty to read the rules and to Forbidden Stars. And once read, it didn’t take long for four of us to agree to play it.

I had played the game this was based upon: StarCraft the Board Game. We played it at Club Sternberg several years ago. I was not impressed.

But Forbidden Stars blew me away. It is far and away my favorite game of 2015. It is absolutely amazing.

The order system is interesting. The combat is fantastic. The card mechanics are great. And the synthesis of these mechanics is a sublime (a word my niece seems to use a little too much for a 6 year old).

Forbidden Stars is a game that will scratch the same itch as A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. But this game is way better. Forbidden Stars will also scratch your TI3 itch when you only have 3 or 4 players. Yes, I am comparing Forbidden Stars to Twilight Imperium already.

The Gaming Annex’s Verdict: HIT!!!!


Board Game Hits and Flops: May 2015 at The Gaming Annex

I think¬†a new column is in order. This one will discuss recent new games we’ve played. I will give a quick hit-or-flop rating to games based upon a single, unqualified play through. If this sounds unfair–welcome to the blogosphere. Also–this is par for the course at The Gaming Annex. We try new games, chew them out and then condemn them after a single play all the time. I hope you enjoy the pilot installment of Hits and Flops. –Chris

1. Homeland

Homeland from Gale Force Nine--Muskegon Area Gamers
Homeland from Gale Force Nine

Homeland is (another) IP-based board game from Gale Force Nine. The company that owns the rights to Firefly and Sons of Anarchy board games gives us their take on Showtime’s hit show.

According to the game box, players take on secret roles each with secret goals. Players take turns trying to both achieve their goals while also trying to deduce the roles of the other players.

This sounds great. But the execution is abysmal. The game is a tedious exercise. It’s high rating on BGG is a genuine curiosity.

Muskegon Area Gamers: FLOP!



2. Relationship Tightrope

Muskegon walks a Relationship Tightrope from Uberplay
Relationship Tightrope from Uberplay

Reiner Knizia is a German mathematician. He also spams games. Relationship Tightrope is a Knizia work of spam that is quite good.

Relationship Tightrope is a simple trick-taking game. If you play the highest card, you gain blue tokens. If you play the lowest card, you gain pink tokens. Players are not allowed to have tokens of each color so the blue and pink tokens cancel each other out. After a round of play, the goal is to have zero tokens.

The rules are that simple. But the game has subtlety and craft. My friend Bruce gave me a complimentary copy ta-boot.

Muskegon Area Gamers: HIT!

 3. Fortress America (2nd Edition)

Muskegon played Fortress America from Fantasy Flight Games
Fortress America from Fantasy Flight Games

I played the original Fortress America in the late 80’s to early 90’s. The game was mildly fun with the unfortunate caveat that the United States always won if the US player focused all his laser shots on the Eastern Invader.

I was quite excited to hear one of my favorite game publishers was reimplementing Fortress America, fixing the problems I had with the original game.

Fantasy Flight’s Fortress America rebalances the game. The components are also top notch.

The game play sucked.

As a game group we have simply moved beyond games like Fortress America–both the original and the new.

Muskegon Area Gamers: FLOP!



4. Robo Rally

Muskegon loved Robo Rally from Avalon Hill
Robo Rally from Avalon Hill

Magic: The Gathering designer Richard Garfield is another prodigious game designer. He went on to design Android, Pecking Order and Robo Rally.

We had the opportunity to try Robo Rally last night. Players have a hand of cards which state how their robot can move. Players lay out five cards face down in a specific order. Then players reveal the cards in order, resolving how their robots move.

Robots fire lasers, push each other and possibly fall into pits. Jon fell into three pits last night. The goal is win the race or to destroy the other robots.

Robo Rally was very well received by the group–with the possible exception of Mongo. The game is a hoot. The game encourages some deep strategy while also inciting uproarious laughter.

Muskegon Area Gamers: HIT!

 5. The Great Dalmuti

The Great Dalmuti visited Muskegon
The Great Dalmuti

Magic: The Gathering designer Richard Garfield is another prodigious game designer. He went on to design Android, Pecking Order and The Great Dalmuti.

The Great Dalmuti is a convoluted trick taking game with uninspired theme and artwork. Garfield, a mathematician like Knizia, just doesn’t have what it takes to make a simple card game.

Muskegon Area Gamers: FLOP!





6. XCOM: The Board Game

Muskegon adores XCOM The Board Game
XCOM The Board Game

Evidently there was a video game named XCOM. And evidently it had a cult following. And evidently I am so absorbed by board games I didn’t know the above two facts.

But Fantasy Flight Games got the rights to this IP and made a board game version. Then Dr. Steve came to The Gaming Annex and exposed me to XCOM. This game was a huge hit (with the notable exception of Jon who hated it).

This is actually four mini-games. Players must work together to be efficient. One player runs the bank. One player controls the tactical actions. One player fights the orbital ships. And another develops technology.

There is an Ipad app you must use to play the game. The app has a timer so the action is always on the clock. This makes the game very tense. And very good. It actually solves one of my biggest complaints with cooperatives: the alpha player dictates what others should do. If you haven’t tried XCOM, please go to Out of the Box Games and buy it, bring it over to the Annex and I’ll teach you to play.

Muskegon Area Gamers: HIT!