Category Archives: New Favorites

Favorite Board Game Fillers Part II

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

Magic Maze

Magic Maze from Gyom
Magic Maze from Gyom

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.

Play through of Magic Maze
Play through of Magic Maze

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

Nations: the Dice Game
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.

Nations: The Dice Game
Nations: The Dice Game

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

Werewords from Bezier Games
Werewords from Bezier Games

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

10' to Kill
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.

Promotional for 10' to Kill
Promotional for 10′ to Kill

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

Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers
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.

Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers sample cards
Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers sample cards

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:

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
205 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…

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Dictator Matt

Tuesday, Dec 12, 2017, 6:00 PM
5 Attending

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Twilight Imperum 4th Edition is real

Twilight Imperium isn’t just my favorite game. It’s the game that really launched the Muskegon Area Gamers. The 3rd edition was published in 2005. In 2007 we got the first expansion, Shattered Empire. In 2011 we got the second expansion, Shards of the Throne. It’s been so long we thought Fantasy Flight would simply keep the 3rd Edition in print into perpetuity. Then last Friday they officially announced the upcoming release of Twilight Imperium 4th Edition. This is slated for release in Q4 of 2017. I’d like to take this time to go over the press release and pictures from FFG.

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition is real

The initial news hits the tabletop community

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

On Friday, August 11th, Fantasy Flight Games confirmed the rumors that they are indeed publishing a new edition of their flagship game. This caused a ripple throughout boardgamegeek and the tabletop community at large. The 3rd Edition has been out of print for several months. FFG has been promising to republish the expansions. Normally they sell for $60; when out of print they sell for $200+. To the chagrin of some players, this news meant their 3rd Edition purchases were no longer going to be supported.

But to the delight of almost everyone else this news was very welcome.

 

What you get for your money

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition is real
Twilight Imperium 4th edition components

The 4th Edition will come with a staggering $150 MSRP price tag. This is almost double the original cost of TI3 which was $80. Obviously things are more expensive than they were in 2005. But the game comes with largely the same amount of components as the base edition. It comes with player sheets, the same allotment of plastic pieces, tons of cards and cardboard counters.

The Brotherhood of Yin (4th edition)
The Brotherhood of Yin (4th edition)

Much of the expense is in the artwork. FFG did not skimp on the graphic design. This may not be FFG’s best selling game but it will be their prettiest game. The artwork on the race sheets is great. The graphics on the system hexes is immaculate.

But what about the material changes?

 

What else comes in the box?

Plastic components for TI4
Plastic components for TI4

TI4 will have the same plastic components as the base game of TI3. You will get, for example, 8 destroyers, 3 space docks, 4 carriers, etc. The game will also come with flagships, an item previously available only in Shards of the Throne. The warsuns will also have two halves. Gone are the days of the space boob!

The new edition does NOT include mech units. Perhaps this will be an expansion item? It’s difficult to tell but it appears that there will be no shock troops or space mines either. Again, this could be expansion material.

Some faction sheets for TI4
Some faction sheets for TI4

The game will come with a full set of 17 races. All the races including the races from Shattered Empire and Shards of the Throne are included. The artwork that has been previewed makes some of the details clear. The Sardakk N’orr will still get their single race advantage of +1 to all combat. The Mentak Coalition’s race sheet has been reworded. They still have their two racial abilities (pre-combat with cruisers and stealing trade goods), but the rules have been reworded to meet the new mechanical changes to TI4.

But what about the mechanical differences?

 

Differences from Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition

Strategy cards from TI4
Strategy cards from TI4

The 4th Edition is actually a lot like the 3rd Edition. This is a departure from the previous revamps of Twilight Imperium where 2nd Edition was considerably different than 3rd. The 4th Edition is so much like 3rd Edition that if you despised the 3rd Edition there is little chance you like the newest iteration.

The 4th Edition is played largely like the 3rd. There is a strategy phase where you select a Strategy Card. This gives you a primary ability and gives everyone else a secondary ability. This also gives your turn order.

There is command counters for fleet supply, strategy allocation and command pool. There are action cards, ships, combat and diplomacy. The ships are identical in combat abilities (with the exception of the flagships).

So what’s different?

Imperial Strategy card is new. It is an amalgam of Bureaucracy and Imperial II. It allows you to score an objective mid-turn. It allows you to score 1VP if you control Mecatol Rex. But it has another ability. It allows you to draw another secret objectives.

Objectives from TI4
Objectives from TI4

Which brings us to another difference: players will have several secret objectives. You can still only score one per round. But you over the course of the game you could score many.

Trade works differently. The Trade Strategy Card gives you three trade goods. Then you refresh all commodities. Then you have the ability to allow anyone to use the secondary for free. Then everyone has the ability to pay to use the secondary. The secondary refreshes all commodities.

Commodities are like the total of a race’s trade agreements. The Hacan, for example, had a pair of 3 trade agreements. Now the Hacan would have 6 commodities instead of two 3 agreements. These commodities can be traded to any player who has ships adjacent to your ships. You can wheel and deal!

Political has been changed. There is no political step when the Political Strategy Card is played. Instead, there is a political step during the Status Phase when Mecatol Rex is conquered. From then on, there is a political step. Players refresh their planets. The top agenda is flipped over (for real!). Then players vote on it by spending planets. Then the next agenda is flipped over (also for real!). Then players spend planets to vote on that agenda. Then all planets are refreshed.

Tech example in TI4
Tech example in TI4

Technology has been overhauled. There is no more tech tree with specific technologies. Players can use any technology as a prerequisite so long as it’s the right color. Light/wave deflectors requires 3 blue techs. It doesn’t matter which three.

The technologies that upgrade ships are now called, “Dreadnaught II” or “Dreadnaught III” for example. These techs are overlays for your player sheet so you can see at a glance the new abilities. All ship upgrades require diversity in your technology colors while going deep in a single field requires you to focus on one color.

Promissory notes from TI4
Promissory notes from TI4

They kept promissory notes (an addition from Shards of the Throne). However, they are not related to Political Strategy Card, unlike Shards of the Throne’s rules. It is unclear how players will be able to dole out these.

They modified how PDS’s and space docks are produced. There is a separate Strategy Card, Construction, that builds them. Thus, there is no more Production Strategy Card. Instead Warfare Strategy Card’s secondary seems to do what Production’s secondary did.

There are no more leaders, no more distant suns and no more mercenaries. They seem to be eliminating some of the components that were either unbalanced or were patches to the game. They must have fixed these problems so they don’t need these components.

 

Final Thoughts

Bound rule book and prints
Bound rule book and prints

I love the new tech tree. I love the new Imperial Strategy Card. I’m intrigued by the new Trade system. I think it might adjust for some of the issues with Trade in TI3.

I’m not sure if they fixed the political system, though. The new political step is intriguing. But the real problem with the political game in TI was the arbitrary agendas. Did Fantasy Flight fix the stupid weak and stupid powerful agendas?

I really like the fact that there are numerous Secret Objectives. And you can score several during a game. And they have various VP values. This will make the game very lively.

The artwork is immaculate. The plastic components look amazing. And the other components will undoubtedly be as good as any FFG game.

I’m looking forward to playing this as soon as it’s available! It will be bittersweet if it fires Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition.

 

Until then, you can play Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition here:

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
188 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…

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Dictator Joe

Tuesday, Aug 15, 2017, 6:00 PM
6 Attending

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Forbidden Stars: a new favorite

I had the opportunity to play Forbidden Stars for the second time. And that play has affirmed its status as a new favorite. It’s hard to really describe why I like the game. It just does a lot of things other games have done…it just does them better. What other games are we talking about? Let’s discuss.

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

 

 

1. Kemet

Muskegon finds Kemet to be a good entry for the genre
Kemet

Forbidden Stars reminds me of Kemet. Both are about attacking and winning battles. Once the victory point total is reached, the game ends.

New players may have the same tendency in both games to try to build big armies and stave off attacks. But the goal is to win battles, not stave off attacks.

Both games have a card driven combat system. Both have a tech tree of sorts. Both have tons of expansion possibilities. But Forbidden Stars does all of those things better.

I rate Kemet an 8. I give Forbidden Stars a 9.

Winner: Forbidden Stars

 

2. A Game of Thrones: The Board Game

Muskegon loves A Game of Thrones: the board game
A Game of Thrones

Forbidden Stars also reminds me of A Game of Thrones: The Board Game from Fantasy Flight.

Both have faction specific strategies. Both are asymmetrical. They both have a card driven combat system. Both have programmed movement.

I originally liked A Game of Thrones when I first played it. The 2nd edition is an improvement over the 1st edition. But the game mechanics in AGOT now seem so dated. This is where Forbidden Stars really breaks away from A Game of Thrones.

A Game of Thrones rating: 4

Forbidden Stars: 9

Winner: Forbidden Stars

 

 

 

3. Warrior Knights

Warrior Knights is Muskegon's favorite fantasy board game
Warrior Knights

Warrior Knights fired A Game of Thrones. Warrior Knights basically does everything AGOT should do but better.

Warrior Knights has much in common with Forbidden Stars as well. There is programmed movement, card driven combat and a tech tree option.

The card driven combat in Forbidden Stars is better than the system in Warrior Knights. That’s because the combat system in Forbidden Stars is absolutely inspired.

Having said that, I still think Warrior Knights is a bit better than Forbidden Stars. Who knows? Maybe I’ll change my mind in the coming game plays.

Warrior Knights: 10

Forbidden Stars: 9

Winner: Warrior Knights

 

4. Runewars

Runewars from Fantasy Flight is a Muskegon favorite
Runewars from Fantasy Flight

Despite it’s weak reception at CabinCon II, Runewars is a great game. The Muskegon Area Gamers have not given it the attention it deserves.

And this great game shares things in common with Forbidden Stars. Both have unique armies/units. Both have various types of resources you can harvest. Both have unique decks of cards for each faction, adding to the asymmetry. Both require players to win battles to score points. Both have modular game boards for unique experiences with each play. Both are exceptional 4 player games.

Where Forbidden Stars breaks away from Runewars is the inspired combat system and in time of play.

Runewars: 8

Forbidden Stars: 9

Winner: Forbidden Stars

 

5. Care for a game?

Muskegon Area Gamers loves Forbidden Stars
Forbidden Stars

Drop by The Gaming Annex and play a game!

 

Merchants & Marauders expansion: first impressions

I blogged a few months ago about pirate themed board games. Merchants & Marauders got some treatment there. I liked the game for what it was and that is an adventure game with a little bit of strategy. The expansion for Merchants & Marauders came out recently. I bought a copy. We managed to get this to the table last week. Here are my early impressions.

 

1. Game box and contents

Muskegon loves Merchants & Marauders
Merchants & Marauders Seas of Glory

Merchants & Marauders: Seas of Glory is a good value. You can pick up a copy for around $25 or so. And you get tons of stuff.

There are additional cards, effectively doubling the size of three of the decks. There is additional plastic: new ships for every player and NPC. There are three additional player boards for all four players.

The art work* and quality of the components is quite good.

Overall, I am very impressed with what the components.

 

 

 

2. What the game adds: Modules 1 through 4

Some Captains from Merchants & Marauders
Some Captains from Merchants & Marauders

The rules for the expansion add 11 modules and several optional rules. The first four modules are simply “more” of the base game. The size of the captain, rumor and mission decks have doubled. There are additional events cards too.

*Seen here is one of the new captain cards. Z-Man games photoshopped some of the playtesters’ picture onto a pirate costume. It looks like pirate cosplay to me. I am not a fan.

The game adds several new special weapons and ship mods. So “more” of the base game. The ship mods are a really good addition. They fix some things I had a problem with in the base game. It seemed in the base game that your captain’s skills and your ship’s stats were not related in a meaningful way with ship mods. Now there is a lot more interface between the two. The crow’s nest adds to your captain’s scouting ability; the carved hull lowers your opponent’s seamanship when fleeing. This is a nice addition!

NPC ships now can have ship mods and weapons. This is an okay addition. It doesn’t add much but it doesn’t hurt either.

3. What the game adds: Modules 5 through 6

Spanish Treasure Galleon
Spanish Treasure Galleon

New plastic has been added. Everyone has an additional ship type: the brig. The brig has good maneuverability (3). This means it can do merchant raids fairly well. The brig also has good cargo (4). So the brig can also do its fair share of being a merchant. The brig only costs 20 gold making it 15 gold cheaper than the frigate or galleon. The brig does not grant a glory point, however.

This makes the brig a good ship but not an obvious choice. If you need to upgrade your flute or sloop and you can’t quite muster enough cash for the frigate or galleon, the brig might be the right choice.

The Spanish Treasure Galleon sails around the Caribbean, collecting gold. This acts as a lightning rod, attracting the most intrepid captains to take her down.

The maneuverability of galleons has been reduced from 2 to 1. This was a necessary errata to keep the decision making about which ship to buy tense.

4. Wind & Weather

Wind and weather in Merchants & Marauders
Wind and weather in Merchants & Marauders

The expansion fixed one of my problems with the base game in a round about way. There were 35 cards in the event deck; about 7 were storms. This meant you were going to get hammered by storms regularly but also randomly.

The expansion added 15 cards to the event deck–none have storms. This dilutes the storms to a much more manageable situation. And to offset this, there is a permanent storm on the board. This is much more predictable than the random events.

Players spin the wind at the beginning of the turn and move the storm accordingly. The wind direction also helps or hinders the players. Players moving with the wind get one extra action; players moving against the wind get one fewer actions.

 

5. Notable Locations 

Notable Locations from Merchants
Notable Locations from Merchants

The coolest addition to the expansion is the new locations. While at a sea space, you will have the opportunity to visit a location. It costs an action. And each location does something different.

Or, you may raid the location and permanently remove it from the game.

This adds a lot more strategy and tactics to the game–something the base game really needed.

 

6. Mitigating Luck: Modules 10 & 11

Favors in Merchants
Favors in Merchants & Marauders

There was way too much luck in the base game. As much as I like adventure games, I really need there to be some strategy in my longish games.

The expansion helps address this. The favors track allows players to bribe local officials, grease some palms and get some dice rerolls or card redraws. It’s another way to spend some money and it’s a necessary luck mitigator

The last module is f0rces players to manage the loyalty of their ships. Since you can only move up one space per port action, players will not be able to outright buy “Fiercely loyal” crewmen. And if you start and end your turn in the same port, you will lost one loyalty. This prevents turtling.

 

7. Final thoughts

I think Seas of Glory is an exceptional expansion. It has all the things in it that make an expansion good. It patches a few things that annoyed me with the base game. It adds replayability and strategy. It adds lots of components at a good value.

 

8. Interested in playing this with us?

6. Interested in joining?

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
87 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…

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Thursday Night Games

Thursday, Oct 1, 2015, 6:00 PM
4 Attending

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