Thursday, 9 July 2015

Dungeon Quest

'What was that noise......aaaaaand I'm dead'.

Type: Strategy / Board / Dungeon Crawl
Players: 1 to 4
Time to explain to others: About 1 to 3 min
Time to play: About 15-20 minutes
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 9/10
Portability: Low (Loads of tokens and board tiles)
Overall: 9/10

What a game this is, readers. If Pathfinder is a perfect card version of D&D (as it is effectively a V3.75, long story), this is its board game soul brother. You start with an adventurer and you advance into a cursed dungeon . You are on a timer, as the dungeon seals itself at sunset. You need to go in, revealing tiles as you go, all the way to the dragon hoard in the middle, steal some of it and make your way back.

Also you will die.


Someone with better maths skills than mine has crunched the numbers. The probability of someone making it all the way back without dying is....


That's it.

It is an unforgiving game. Some traps just flat out kill you about 2 out of 3 times. Many animals just pop out and give you about 70 percent damage in one go. Also the dragon in the middle is usually asleep.


I have never seen the like. It is, however, amazingly fun. You do feel it in your core that the next revealed tile might (and probably will) be your last.

Rui's conclusion: A fast paced and unforgiving game. With a couple of adaptations (e.g. respawn) this might be a really great game for the uninitiated. Take 20 minutes and try and beat the dragon!

Monday, 8 June 2015


'If I don't get a fuel card next time, so help me....!'

Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2 to 4
Time to explain to others: About 1 to 3 min
Time to play: About 15-20 minutes
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: High (just a deck)
Overall: 9/10

This games holds a special place in our collection, as it was the first game me and the better half played together. I wanted to introduce her to card and board games, but coming from a place of interest but no other knowledge, she was - understandably - cautious of the complexity of some of these types of games.

Then I came across this game. Rockets, the pictures looked very unthreatening, so 'Huh, I'll have a go!'.

We were hooked from the first play.

You play opposing Space projects, trying to get as many of the rockets into space as possible. Each turn you draw cards: rockets (a sort of  blueprints, if you will), fuel and metal (to actually build the things), and the ever present action cards, that will accelerate you construction, sabotage your opponents', etc.

Said rockets need to go through 3 levels of contruction, and you need to draw the right technician to allow the machines to advance to the next stage. As per usual in these games, you are at the mercy of the cards. Tables can turn at the 11th hour, I've seen games change in 2 turns, as someone draws the right fuel card and/or the right tech, and leapfrogs ahead.

Rui's conclusion: A simple, visually pretty and accessible game. Not as strategic as others, but very easy to pick up. A great introductory game, as well as one for the kids. Great fun!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Oddball Aeronauts

Steampunk alien sailors. No word there I didn't like.

Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2 (with the expansion, up to 4)
Time to explain to others: About 1 to 3 min
Time to play: About 15-20 minutes
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: Very High (see below)
Overall: 8/10

This is a little gem of a game I picked up at Games Expo '15 in Birmingham. I couldn't tell you what drove me, I saw steampunk and airships and bought it on impulse.

I was not disappointed.

Now, if you go to Board Game Geek, this game has quite a low score. And I just about see what they mean, but I truly don't mind. Let me explain.

Oddball Aeronauts is effectively Top Trumps updated. You have a deck of cards, and individual cards have power numbers. You choose one of these powers, and compare it with your opponent. As you can see, typical Top Trumps. But here is where things change.

In this game, you can play one, two or three cards in one go, and you add the power of all of these. So brilliant, I hear you say, I'll always play 3 cards, meaning I'll always win! Well, not quite.

You have to discard the cards you play, so if you keep playing 3 at a time, you'll run out very quickly. And I need to add at this point, your deck is your life, the first person to run out, looses. Also, many cards have special powers, introducing the ever-needed randomness.

When you win the duel, depending on what power you chose (3 per card), the rewards are different, forcing the opponent to discard, recovering cards yourself, etc.

One of the main selling points of this game is that you don't have a discard pile, you simply flip the cards round and put them at the back of your deck. So you technically don't need a surface to play, as all you need is in your hand.

Rui's conclusion: Fast, cheap, quick and fun. Don't expect a hugely deep game, just something entertaining you can play on a plane or a train. Recommended for young ones, newbies and for travelling gamers!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Machi Koro


Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2 to 4
Time to explain to others: About 1 to 3 min
Time to play: About 30 minutes, possibly bit more
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: High to Medium (just a deck, but money tokens)
Overall: 8/10

This game came highly recommended as a simple, easy and accessible game. You are trying to develop the Japanese town of Machi Koro. The inhabitants need 4 landmarks, but these are way to expensive. The only choice is to build an infra structure, so the money rolls in, so that the landmarks can be built!

Each card represents a different building or area (Forests, Stadiums, Farms, etc). They will have a cost (that you need to pay), and a number at the top. You then roll a die(s). Whatever number comes out activates that card, and generates money, gets money from another player, etc. Whoever buils the 4 landmarks fastest wins!

Rui's conclusion: A fantastically easy game, perfect for newbies. Non-threatening, instinctive and fun. Very colourful and engaging, kids will love it. Recommended!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Epic Spell Wars Of The Battle Wizards, Duel At Mount Skullzfyre

                             'Die in the fire of my hatred!!!'

Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2 to 4
Time to explain to others: About 3 min
Time to play: About 30 minutes
Difficulty: To play 4/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: High, just a deck
Overall: 9/10

ESWOTBW,DAMS (even the acronym is huge!) is what Magic The Gathering would be if its creators had watched waaaaay too many early 90s cartoons, and then dropped some serious, serious acid.

You and your opponents are wizards, about to blow each other to smouldering tiny embers. With what, I hear you ask!

Lots of Spells.

You'll have a hand of 8 cards, and each spell is made of 3 types of cards, a Source, a Quality and a Delivery. The combinations are nearly endless. You can play 1, 2 or 3 cards, and then, Magic-style, you try and get the opponents' health below 20. Last one standing wins!

There are some strategy elements, if you play more spell parts of the same kind, you'll get bonuses, some spells hurt the opponent, some heal you, some do both. Also always try and say the full name of the spell in a Wizard-y voice!

Rui's Conclusion: Simple to play, silly, strategic, fun and entertaining. A good one for newbs. The alternative art might attract some. A must!

Monday, 27 April 2015



Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2 to 4 
Time to explain to others: About 1 min
Time to play: About 30 minutes
Difficulty: To play 2/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: Two small decks, high
Overall: 9/10

Guillotine is a fast and very entertaining game, where you simulate the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. There are many many necks to be chopped and only 3 days to do it!

At the start of the game, 12 random nobles line up in front of  Mme. Gillotine. The first noble in line will REALLY not have a good time.... But wait! All players have actions cards, that can make the nobles in line move backwards, forwards, randomly, etc.

Sequence of play could not be simpler: play an action card (reordering the line), collect the first noble in line, draw new action card, and the turn is passed. After the 12th noble loses his/her head, the day ends, and 12 more nobles are lined up. Each noble has a number of victory points, and at the end of the 3rd day, whomever has more points wins!

Rui's conclusion: A fast and easy game, perfect for young'uns and newbies. Strategic, but not overwhelmingly so, and very quick. Highly recommended!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Neuroshima Hex

'Target in sight. Do I have the order, general?'

Type: Strategy / Board
Players: 2 to 5 
Time to explain to others: About 1 min, although tile knowledge might take a few plays
Time to play: About 30 minutes, possibly bit more
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 5/10
Portability: Not great, many tiles, but the board is fairly small.
Overall: 8/10

In 2020, mankind developed a series of networked AI's to use in the military (what could possibly go wrong, right....?) These promptly rebelled and wreak havoc upon the world.

30 years have passed. The AI's have split, and evolved independently, now using technology and biology. The human survivors have banded together and organised themselves, using captured machine technologies. The game starts in the blasted landscape of a destroyed city. Two (or more) armies are there to destroy each other.

Welcome to the world of Neuroshima Hex.

I picked this up of the shelf last week and I am completely addicted. Onto an hexagonal-tiled board (see picture above), you play a Headquarters tile (one per player). You then get hands of 3 tiles, discard one and then play one or two.

The tiles are the difficult part of the game. They represent units or events, and most are directional (damaging another unit in one direction, but not the other 5, for example). Some will be melee units, attacking neighbouring tiles, and some will be able to attack units at a distance. Some will do both. Some will prevent units from working at all. All units have a initiative number on them, from 0 to 3. This divides the units into the 3 phases of combat (3 attack first, 0 attacks last). So a 1 initiative unit might be destroyed by a 2 initiative unit before it has a chance to fire.

The game quickly turns into chess. A combat round only starts when special tiles are played, or when the board is full of tiles, or when a player draws the last tile. Location, orientation, distance, all of these issues need to be thought of. Your intention is to cause 20 damage to the enemy HQ. If no HQ is destroyed, the one with the most damage loses. 

All 5 armies are radically different, with different strengths and weaknesses, and they play accordingly differently. The 3.0 rerelease brings a series of cards, showing a number of scenarios (displays of tiles), that can be solved solo. Like you'd get a chess problem in a newspaper: 'White plays first and wins in 3 moves).

Rui's conclusion:  Not an easy game (due to difference of tiles, however the icons therein are easy to follow), and it might need a bunch of plays to get down. Intensely strategic, the closest to chess I've seen in years. Oddly, possibly one for chess and strategy loving newbies. The quick play time might also attract. Recommended!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Zombie Dice


Type: Strategy / Dice
Players: 2 to whatever (Elimination based)
Time to explain to others: About 1 min
Time to play: About 15 minutes, possibly bit more
Difficulty: To play 1/10, Game difficulty 3/10
Portability: High. Just a set of dice.
Overall: 10/10

You are a hungry zombie, in what looks like is a fairly busy part of the world. Some of your victims are, well.... victims, but others have fairly big shotguns. It is up to you to decide how many victims to attack, but watch out! The first zombie to get to 13 brains wins!

This game is as fun as it is simple. To dictate what your zombie does, and out of 13 dice, you randomly select 3 and roll them. You can get one of three outcomes, a blast (you were shotgunned), some footprints (the victim escaped) and a brain (Mmmmmm.... braaaainsss......). You hold on to shots and brains and reroll the feet, adding new dice if you need to always roll 3.

If you get to 13 brains you win! However, if you collect 3 shots in a turn, you're knocked out, losing all brains you collected on that turn.The game quickly becomes a race against time, with zombies pulling back, when they accumulate 2 shots (they reset at the end of turn), and pushing forward again and again, trying for those yummy brains.

Rui's Conclusion: Fast, entertaining and endlessly fun. A good warm up game, fun for all ages and abilities. A must-have! 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


'Draw one, play one, draw one play one, draw five play three, draw three play two... Wait, what??'

Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2 to about 5
Time to explain to others: About 1 min
Time to play: About 30 minutes, possibly bit more
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: High. Just a deck.
Overall: 10/10

Fluxx is the card game equivalent of watching 1980s british comedy. It is amazing, you laugh your head off, it's great fun, and the recipie could not be simpler.

Your deck has a bunch of cards. Actions, that perform actions, Keepers that you.... Well, keep. And goals, that you have to.... Reach.

The designers went out of their way to make a game that was as physically instinctive, non-threatening and reachable to newcomers as you can possibly make it. The cards are colourful and simple, they are colour coded, and there's only three different types.

And then the carnage starts.

The main rule is 'Draw one card, Play one card'. There are however many cards in the gamer that change this, making you draw more (yay!) and/or play more (boo!).

Also, the Goal can change at any time. So you finally have the missing Keeper to end the game (by completing the Goal), but the opponent changes it. Lovely. Oh! And the Goal you had in your hand, sorry but now you have to Play all your hand, so you now changed the Goal on the table!

There are a number of themed variations of Fluxx (Monthy Python, Zombies, Sci Fi, etc), all great fun, and with the same dynamics.

To have a strategy in Fluxx is to court madness. The game is literally evolving and changing before your eyes. This just makes it more fun than I could possibly describe!

Rui's conclusion: Simple, newbie friendly and great fun. A perfect party or after dinner game. A must in whatever of its variations!

Sunday, 8 February 2015


'Where the hells is this road going to go....?'
Type: Strategy / Board
Players: 2 to about 5
Time to explain to others: About 1 to 3 min
Time to play: About 30 minutes, possibly bit more
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: Medium. Loads of board tiles
Overall: 9/10

Carcassonne slipped through my fingers like sand through the hands of a toddler. I had totally forgotten about this lovely and simple Eurogame (Eurogames or German Games are games that focus more on strategy and resource management to get victory points, and not Player v Player conflict). A soul brother to Catan, although even simpler (if that is possible).

In each turn in Carcassonne, you play a tile, and have the possibility to play a person marker (the ever iconic Meeple). Depending on where you play the Meeple, it might become a farmer (in a field), a highwayman (in a road), a knight (in a city), a monk (in a monastery), etc. The game comes into its own because every played tile needs to connect fully with a previous one (roads can't start and end in the ether, cities must be closed by walls, etc).

You only have half a dozen meeples and although you can claim them back once you score an area (city, road.... you get the idea), you are at the mercy of the tiles. If you need to finish a city with a city tile, with a diagonal city wall running from upper left to lower right.... You might be in a lot of trouble, as your meeple knight is now stuck there, in a place where it will still score some point at game's end, but a fraction of what it would if you actually finished the city. There are by now about a dozen expansions with new tiles and new types of meeples, that keep adding to the story. You can still have a lot of fun with the base box though!

Rui's conclusion: Fast, engaging, simple and fun. A good warm-up game, or one for newbies. A hit, and rightly so!

Friday, 6 February 2015


'The shaft of light! It's beaming onto the idol's hand! 
THAT'S where the switch to open the secret door is!'

Type: Strategy / Board/ Resource management (ish)
Players: 1 to 4
Time to explain to others: About 10 min
Time to play: About 45 minutes
Difficulty: To play 4/10, Game difficulty 6/10
Portability:Low, many tokens and board pieces
Overall: 8/10

Who has never wondered what it would be like, to wonder the jungles of South America, compass on one hand, machete on the other? To wonder into plazas where no man has walked for a millennium? To find the sacred Mayan plinths, dusty brown with the blood of a thousand slaves?

I came across this game as I was looking at the Spiel des Jahres winners (it won in 1999). These are the Oscars of the gaming world, and the winners are always the best of the best (on this blog, Catan and Quirkle come to mind).

Tikal is a very thematic game, where you play opposing teams of archaeologists, striving to bring out more wonders and plunder out of the Mayan Tikal site (in Guatemala). At the beginning of each turn, each player has 10 action points to use as he/she sees fit. The number of options is fairly extensive, but you can move archaeologists already on site, you can call more onto the site, you can excavate more levels of sunken temples, dig out treasures and many many others.

A couple of innovative mechanics make this a much more strategic game that it might at first look like:

a) the board is built from tiles as you go along (so far, so good), but a number of markers on said tiles will dictate how many action points it takes for characters to move around. It might take 3 points to cross the board, but 8 to get to the one next door, where you actually want to be. (This is explained in game by arguing that there might be say, a hill or a small cliff between certain areas of the board)

b) 2 tiles have a volcano on them, and are therefore named, originally enough, the Volcano Tiles. They have no intrinsic value, they merely signify the start of a scoring round. You only add victory points at these two times. So you might be well behind, but if you throw caution to the wind, and focus on points points points at these times, you might move up quickly.

c) you gain control of a temple by having more people there than your opponent. Due to the capriciousness of movement (see a) ) this is better said than done.

The board is massive and towards the end game it has the tendency to slow down to a crawl. There are some pretty amazing online rules for mini-Tikal, playing on a smaller fraction of the board, and these work beautifully.

This post obviously simplifies the rules and the game. It plays very strategically, almost chess-like at times (not scoring now, but making a new camp, putting me in a much better position over next couple of turns, for example).

Rui's conclusion: Very atmospheric, and strategic. Not very fast, but one to play slowly and think about. Newbies will like it, with guidance. A good after meal game, if you like to fly in and steal the other teams' treasure!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Shadowrun Crossfire

'You don't know where the weapons are stored?...I think you'll find that was a shocking answer....'

Type: Strategy / Card / Deckbuilding
Players: 1 to 4
Time to explain to others: About 10 min
Time to play: About 90 minutes (mission dependent)
Difficulty: To play 4/10, Game difficulty 8/10
Portability: Medium to high, some cards
Overall: 8/10

Before I even begin this one, I need to admit my bias: I adore the Shadowrun universe. I played the card game, way back in the 90s, and I love every aspect of it.

In a nutshell, in the year 2012 (I know!...), magic returned to the World, in a big way. Some people realised they had magic powers, some mutated into elfs, dwarves, orks and trolls (they had the genes, but the lack of magic in the environment kept it latent).

It is now the 2060s, and we are left, after a lot of political and social upheaval, with the 6th World: A universe where elfs have cybernetic implants, orcs hack into the Matrix (a global 3-dimensional representation of the granddaughter of the internet), and dwarf street samurais kill you as fast as they hit you. In the knees. To start with. Its William Gibson's Neuromancer married with Tolkien. HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE IT!

Oh and the US president is a dragon. In human form. Did I mention that? I feel like I should.

Crossfire is the latest incarnation of Shadowrun. Like Battletech, this is a franchise full of potential, that somehow successive owners have struggled to pin down.

At its core, it is a deck building game. You have characters (Runners), and each runner has a job (Role). These are interchangeable during set up, although I like my runners to keep their roles (more on this later). Each role has a set of basic cards. As you defeat obstacles you earn money, and buy better/more useful cards. And so you 'enrich' your deck with better cards, as the difficulty increases, levelling up (hopefully!) your abilities as the baddies increase in power and number.

Obstacle cards have power numbers and colours in sequence at the top. Without being fastidious about the rules, all of the runners need to cooperate, to play cards to match numbers (play 3 cards of any colour), or colours (someone on their turn needs to play a blue Mage card). (See above image). When all the icons have been matched, the obstacle is defeated, and the runners score the credits.

It is a hard game, and you die more often than not. When one of your runners dies (it can happen like THAT!), if there is at least 1 other runner alive, it is like the team retreated. If all survive and all obstacles are defeated, it is a win! Experience points are attributed accordingly and may be spent on upgrades.

You are encouraged to play this game as a proper RPG. Upgrades cannot be changed back later on, you are - literally, as you are given stickers - stuck with them. I like to keep my team constant, same runners, same roles.

Rui's conclusion: Hard, strategic (with a touch of combat) and fun. If you're not a fan of the franchise, you will enjoy it, but might miss some nuances. If you want to explore a techno world with cyborgs, dragons, fire spirits and big guns, this is your stop. All change please!

Thursday, 29 January 2015


'I have maaaaany carpets!'

Type: Strategy / Board
Players: 2 to 4
Time to explain to others: About 1 min
Time to play: About 20 minutes
Difficulty: To play 1/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: Medium, some tokens
Overall: 8/10

In the soukhs of Marrakesh, the word comes trough the dusty narrow alleyways: a new caravan is arriving, loaded with gold from the south, silver from the east and metals from the north. They want but one thing, the thing north Africa is famous for above all else.


Ahead of the caravan, they send an agent, that will select the best carpets and give the exclusive rights to trade to the best seller. So the different artisans have but moments to make sure theirs are the best and most visible carpets!

Marrakesh is a lovely simple game I found quite by accident. It breaks down to two simple actions: a) roll a die, move the 'agent' that number of places, and b) lay down a carpet (lovely rectangular pieces of felt) touching the agents' place.

You can (and should!) cover opponents' carpets (to make sure yours are the most visible ones), and if the agent ends up in an opponents' carpet on your movement turn (depends on the dice, remember?), you need to pay that opponent an amount of gold proportional to the area occupied by that opponents' carpets.

When the last carpet is put down, all gold is counted, and every bit of exposed carped of a colour wins 1 extra gold. Whoever has more gold, is the winner!

This is a simple, fun, quick and engaging game. It plays fast, you delight in covering your opponents' work, and a bad decision might cost you the game.

Rui's conclusion: A highly thematic, quick and very simple game.  Highly recommended to young'uns and newbies. Perfect dinner party or games night game!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Castle Panic

'There might come a day where we don't crush Orcs, BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY!'

Type: Strategy / Board
Players: 2 to 4
Time to explain to others: About 5 min
Time to play: About 30 minutes, possibly bit more
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 6/10
Portability: Medium (Loads of cards) and tokens
Overall: 9/10

Once upon a time, there was a mighty castle in a clearing, in the middle of a forest. Then one day, a horde of rampaging Orcs, Trolls and Goblins burst out of the undergrowth and attacked! (The reasons behind their grievances were not registered. Possibly a political disagreement, mayhap a border dispute). There's scores of them, and they are very angry.

And here the game begins. You assemble a little castle (6 towers, surrounded by 6 bits of wall) in the middle, and then, each turn, you take a number of triangular pieces from a bag, to represent our nasties jumping out of the forest. Each turn, more nasties spawn, the already in play ones advance one level towards the castle.... And then you have to kill them. 

You have a number of cards in your hand, of three types: Swordsman (hits in circle closest to castle), Knights (hits 2nd circle out) and Archers (hits furthest circle). Each of these types has 3 colours, representing the three arcs on the clearing, Blue, Green and Red. So to hit a hostile say, in the second circle out, on the blue third of the circle, you'd need a Blue Knight. 
Most of your enemies will need more than one hit to die. 

At this point, I hear you cry at the screen: 'But Rui! It's too much! 3 arcs and 3 circles, that's 9 sectors! Statistically there is no way you can have THAT ONE card you needIT CAN'T BE DONE!' But wait! All is not lost! Castle Panic is a cooperative game through and through, if you don't have the card you need to kill the closest enemy, you can trade cards with another player. 'Does anyone have a Green Knight or Swordsman??? Now-ish would be good!!!' 

(I heard recently that the game's difficulty drops dramatically if you play with 4 players, as someone is bound to have THAT card you need. I've never played with more than 3, but I would recommend drawing less cards, or only drawing on alternate turns)

Some nasties randomly spawned will be specials (tougher to kill, different powers to other nasties), but some of your cards will also be more powerful. If you kill them all and there is ANY part of the castle still standing you win, Otherwise....

Rui's conclusion: The game is fast, funny and non stop fun. Really good strategy games for young'uns, people that like shouting at board pieces, or people that like to have inane amounts of fun for 30 minutes. Highly recommended.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Smash Up

Ninjas, and Robots and Aliens, Oh My!

Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2 to 4
Time to explain to others: About 5 min
Time to play: About 30 minutes, possibly bit more
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: Medium (Loads of cards)
Overall: 9/10

There is a question on the minds of Humanity for as long as Man has wondered about the Universe. More than survival, taming energy, the transference of information or the quest for a mate, this question has crossed the ages and remains as important today as it always has been.

Which are better, pirates or ninjas?

Smash Up attempts to solve this, by combining them. You start with a couple of dozen half-decks of cards, and you combine any two to play. So, you might end up playing Zombie Robots, or Pirate Aliens, or Steampunk Dinosaurs. Or Wizard Ninjas. Because, you know, who wouldn't?

The game dynamic is simple, each turn you play a character (here called a minion) and a special card (boost your minions, kill the opponents' minions, recover minion from discard pile, etc). Minions are played onto Bases, mission cards, if you will. Each minion has a power number, as does the Base. When the Bases's power is equalled or exceeded , the Base 'breaks', and it is scored. Whoever has more combined minion power on that base gets 1st prize (and an x amount of victory points), the 2nd highest minion power gets 2nd prize (and y amount of victory points, usually smaller than x, but on a few bases, bigger, making things pretty complicated, as everyone wants to get 2nd prize on these bases), and so on. Whoever reaches a pre-determined number of victory points wins.

The game is pretty simple and incredibly silly. All affiliations play differently, and when you combine them, about 70% of the combinations work well, 20% of them get ridiculously powerful, and 10% of them kinda cancel each other out (e.g. Wizard (some cards allow for special cards to be taken back from discard) and Robots (have fewer special cards)).

Rui's conclusion: Fast, fun and silly. For geeks and newbies. Perhaps not a first tier introduction game, but easy enough to get and play well. A perfect match for aggressive players!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Call of Cthulhu

Not an octopus pooping. It is in fact the Great Cthulhu. Fhtagn.

Type: Strategy / Combat / Card
Players: 2
Time to explain to others: About 10 to 15 min
Time to play: About 30 minutes, possibly bit more
Difficulty: To play 5/10, Game difficulty 6/10
Portability: High
Overall: 9/10

I absolutely love this game. Oh no, I hear you grumble, another Lovecraftian game. Shush, says I, just listen.

CoC is a simple (?) duel game, a great-great-great-grandson of Magic. The overall dynamic is similar, you need to spend resources to 'build' creatures and support cards, and then you use these to fight over Story cards. If you win, you take the card. 3 story cards and the game ends.

And here is where CoC starts to come into its own. A few things start to takes us away from Magic: a) Most creatures (about 2/3) are weak, and will die with only one hit, b) Each fight over a Story breaks down into 4 struggles: Terror, Combat, Arcane and Investigation, and c) You need to sacrifice cards from your hand to turn them into resources (teaches you not to fill your deck with only amazing cards).

No creature in CoC is a jack of all trades. Most, if not all, will be better at some struggles than others. Without going too much into the rules, my point is this: A weaker character(s) might be more than a match for a huge creature, as it might have strengths in different struggles, as the fights for the stories progresses. I've lost count on the number of times I've won Stories from under the nose of huge monsters, whilst playing aged Librarians. True, each turn 1 or 2 of them would crumble to dust, but as the monsters won the struggles of madness and death (the 1st two), the old guys would win the 2nd two (readying tapped characters and adding more success tokens to the story, (you need 5 to win)).

There are about 8 different affiliations in the game, and you are more than encouraged to make different experiments with different combinations in your deck (1 or 2 colours being the norm).

At times, in a kinda of odd, more complicated way, I like this game more than Magic. It is not what your creature is that matters, it is what it can do.

Rui's conclusion: By no means a simple game, but with really nice and smooth mechanics. Perhaps one more for fans or more experienced players, but a great one nonetheless.

Lords of Waterdeep

Every alley has a knife, every palace a cup of poison.

Type: Strategy / Resource management / Board
Players: 1 to about 6
Time to explain to others: About 5 to 10 min
Time to play: About 30 minutes, possibly bit more
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: Very Low. Dozens of tokens.
Overall: 9/10

In one of the multitude worlds of the Dungeons and Dragons universes, there is a place. A city of gleaming temples and shady ale-houses. Of slimy alleyways and fetid harbours. Stretching from the sunny Field of Heroes to the murky labyrinthine corridors of the Undermountain.

The city is called Waterdeep.

Lords of Waterdeep is a resource management game. It might look a bit odd at first, but when boiled down to its core, it is actually fairly simple. You are one of the titular Lords of Waterdeep, vying for control of the city. To grow in power and influence (in our case, victory points) you need to complete missions, ranging from assassinations to helping other inhabitants, to fighting invaders, to exterminating pests, to breeding Owlbears (bears with the heads of owls, cuter than it sounds).

Being a son (or daughter) of the nobility, you will of course NOT get your hands dirty. Of course not, perish the thought! You will send your agents, to hire fighters and wizards, to then do the job for you.

This is how the game works. Each turn, you have a number of agents (about 5, as it can increase or decrease). In turns, you will send your agents to different areas of town (Ale-houses, The University, The Temple, etc), and in each place you will hire a number of people (represented by small coloured cubes).

Each mission will require a number of these cubes. When you have the corresponding numbers and colours, you can claim that mission (and its victory points).

The only problem is that, although there are a number of cards that actively impact your opponents (negatively), the main issue of the game is one of the locations on the board. Only one agent can be in any location at any one time. So it is really easy to block the opponents and make it as hard as possible to get those coloured cubes (either by accident or on purpose).

And this is pretty much it. Some other elements add the all important element of randomness, like the lord you play will have a bonus for some missions and not others, and The Builders Guild, that will introduce new and different buildings and locations in every game.

Rui's conclusion: Although heavier than other games, LoW is still simple enough to explain in a few minutes. The resource management is a new dynamic, but one that is straightforward. You don't need to waste too much time on the intricacies if you don't want, just collect the cubes you need! It will please both newbies and veterans. Highly recommended.