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.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Arkham Horror

Who knows what evil lurks in Arkham....? The Investigators know!....

Type: Strategy / Board
Players: 1 to about 6
Time to explain to others: About 20 to 30 min
Time to play: A minimum of a few hours. Depending of number of players, 5 isn't unreasonable
Difficulty: To play 6/10, Game difficulty 9/10
Portability: Non-existent. Hundreds of tokens.
Overall: 9/10

Arkham Horror is a name spoken in whispers wherever two or more geeks meet. It is a name spoken in hushed tones, as you hear described how long it took to play, how many were killed by monsters.... And how amazingly fun it was.

The game is set in the Lovecraftian universe, in the titular town of Arkham, Massachusetts. Once again, it looks like the stars are right, for the Great Old Ones are restless in their sleep....

And are about to wake.

And they're hungry.

As the action progresses, portals start to open all over town. From these portals, nameless obscenities are crawling forth, heralding the coming of the End.

The players will have to move one or more characters around the board (both in Arkham and in other dimensions), fighting monsters, closing portals and trying their best not to die. Horribly. In pain. Pretty much forever.

To try and describe the intricacy of this game would be a disservice to it. There are layers upon layers and circles within circles of complexity, that just add atmosphere and depth to the game.

The fact that, like most Lovecraftian games, you feel like you're playing against unwinnable odds, has a tendency to unite players. That's another thing, you HAVE to play cooperatively. Even then it will be damn hard. There are a number of expansions, that introduce a number of SECOND town boards (more fictitious town in the area, like Innsmouth), taking the dial all the way to 11.

Rui's conclusion: Not for the faint hearted, it will last a bunch of hours. Oh you have hours? And a half dozen geek friends? And you're in the mood to go tentacle-busting? Then stop whatever you're doing and play this. Highly recommended.


'If only I had a green star... I NEED A GREEN STAR!'

Type: Strategy / Pieces
Players: 2 to 4
Time to explain to others: 1 minute
Time to play: About 20 minutes
Difficulty: To play 1/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: High (it comes with a travel bag (!))
Overall: 9/10

I hadn't yet covered the family of games to which Qwirkle belongs to (because to be honest, I don't own many), the abstract games. For no good reason, I hasten to add, a lot of them are fine and lovely games, and the absence of a narrative universe might even invite proper newbies into the game.

Case and point: my parents. My parents are not huge fans of board games, but they loved Qwirkle. It plays strategic and fast, you end up blocking other players by accident, more than by design, and it it simple and logical.

You have 5 pieces at any time. You play them so that you make a line. That line can be a) a line of same shape in all 6 different colours, or b) All 6 different shapes of the same colour. You cannot repeat either colour or shape in the same line (respectively). You win points for the longest line your piece made. When you make a 6-strong line (a Qwirkle), you get 6 points + 6 bonus.

And this is pretty much it, simplicity being its middle name, if it had one. 

Rui's conclusion: The abstract aspect of it is enticing, you can just relax and just follow the shapes and colours. Really good entry game for young'uns and newbies. A good family game, where everyone could get involved.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

King of Tokyo

'Run! Save yourselves! It's coming this way!' 'Grrraaaargh!'

Type: Board / Strategy / Combat / Dice
Players: 1 to about 4
Time to explain to others: 15 minutes
Time to play: About 20 minutes
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: Medium (some small tokes but not many)
Overall: 9/10

The scene: The Rising Sun capital 
The extras: The unfortunate inhabitants. 
The players: A succession of Daikaiju's (Big monsters) battling it out to see which one can become the titular King Of Tokyo.

The game is fairly simple: you control a giant monster and your opponents do the same. Your monsters (The usual, giant iguanas, giant apes, small bunnies in Mecha suits, cyber dragons, same old, same old....) battle it out, to try and reach 20 victory points as fast as possible.

Only one monster can be in the centre of Tokyo at any given time. Here, you earn more victory points per turn, but you don't regenerate. Also, you just became the bullseye for all other monsters. So you need to balance victory points and health.

Also, your regeneration and attacks are dice based, introducing a huge ammount of randomness to the proceedings. You can also gain energy cubes via the dice, with which you can buy enhancement cards and become more powerful, etc.

Rui's conclusion: A good, fast, fun game. Another good party one, but some guidance to newbies will be needed.


'Walkers! Behind us! Don't let them touch you!'

Type: Board/Strategy
Players: 1 to about 6
Time to explain to others: 15 minutes
Time to play: About 1 to 2 hours
Difficulty: To play 4/10, Game difficulty 9/10
Portability: Low (whole box of models and boards, the boards themselves are enormous)
Overall: 8/10

This was one of the 1st games to break Kickstarter. I found it quite by accident, waited for months for it to get out, the demand was such that it overwhelmed the publishers, there weren't nearly enough boxes for everyone. I ended up buying it through eBay, from a small game seller in the US. And it was well worth it.

The principle is simple. Zombies. The living dead. Hungry for human flesh. The board tiles assemble a post apocalyptic town, filled with broken buildings, abandoned cars, barricades and the undead. Lots and lots of the undead.

What makes Zombicide stand ahead of the curve is the leveling up system. For each zombie killed, your experience goes up one. 15 killed (it happens QUICKLY), and you are in the Orange zone, and each turn, more and more dangerous zombies spawn than before. A couple of dozen more, and you're in the Red zone, where things go pretty loopy. And there are now official rules for when you go off the chart, after killing scores of zombies. I'll just mention the name: Ultra-Red zone....

The game is filled with nice details, from the weaponry used, to the fact that the characters themselves can be zombified (with the respective model to boot!) and carry on fighting, even as they turn.

The game is as geared against you as any Lovecraftian nightmare, the are scores of zombies, all running towards sounds (i.e. you) and you are severely limited in movements, as you just stand there and try to scythe them down. And as you do, your XP increase, and more appear from every corner.

Rui's conclusion: Zombicide is hard, unrelenting and great fun. Not for the faint hearted as it can last for hours, but a great exercise in zombie killing. If you like zombie movies, this is the closest you can get! Recommended!

Pathfinder (Card Game)

'What was that noise? A mammoth?? DAMN IT! Not again!! 

Type: Card / RPG
Players: 1 to 4
Time to explain to others: 20 minutes
Time to play: About 1 hour to several weeks (For a full Scenario Campaign)
Difficulty: To play 4/10, Game difficulty 6/10
Portability: Variable. A gaming 'deck' would be unusually small, in fact, but the source cards to build said deck number in the hundreds. Low or High
Overall: 7/10

One of my main failings as a proud geek, is that i never played Role Playing Games, namely because in my geek troupe, we didn't know anybody else that was into it. Dungeons and Dragons, in particular,  always always held an aura of mystique that I found irresistible.

Then I moved country, leaving the geek troupe behind. And it is not only an impossibly to play D&D solo, it is always highly stupid.

Then Pathfinder came out. I really don't know how they did it, but the game is remarkable. At it's core, it's a Dungeon Crawler, with the adventure unfolding itself before you as you advance, but with cards. I could not believe it myself. D&D has dice, and Dungeon Masters and character sheets and monsters and.... I have no clue who the genius was that came up with this game dynamic, but give that person an award. The fact that there is a Pathfinder original game which IS an RPG might help.

Each adventure is set in a handful of locations (the numbers of these locations will be dictated by the number of players), and each location has a location deck, with a set number of monsters, artefacts, allies, etc. These cards are selected randomly from a pool of cards that, after a half dozen expansions, now number in the hundreds. Effectively, you're making a couple of really small decks (one for each player and one for each location), out of a huge batch, giving this game the biggest replayability of any other I can think of.

Other than the cards, it works like D&D would, you explore the location (by flipping over cards from the corresponding location deck) you find treasure, you fight monsters, all using the many-sided-dice. You character accumulates XPs (experience points), that can then be used to upgrade his or her abilities. As I play informally, I use these as I see fit, sliding and adjusting the difficulty as I go along. There is also a kind of timer, that forces you forward and to be aggressive with your explorations.

Rui's conclusion: For RPG fans, you can't do better, as it even allows for solo play. You could play it a hundred times and never repeat the same beasts and gems. And if you want to play a full-blown campaign, you actually can, and it will delight you for weeks. Perfect for dragon-slayers, wannabe sorcerers, and play-at-rogues.

T I M (The Impossible Machine)

...and the the ball fall on the cat, the cat runs, hits the switch, letting the balloon go, and...

Type: Card / Strategy
Players: 2 to 4
Time to explain to others: 1 minute
Time to play: About 15 minutes
Difficulty: To play 1/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: high
Overall: 8/10

If I mention the name Rube Goldberg, you probably won't recognise it. However, if I describe what a Rube Goldberg device (or machine) does, you'll see what I mean instantly.

You've seen it in movies a thousand times. Someone flips a switch, letting a ball roll, ball hits plank, plank, hits toy car, toy car falls down incline and hits bulb, which breaks.... And so on...

I was surprised to see that TIM is not a popular game. I've found it to be quick, strategic and interesting. You cards represent pieces of a machine, and each piece needs to snap into place, extending the mechanism and synchronizing with the piece on the left of it and on the right of it. Each card has one arrow going in (Input) and one or more arrows going out (Output). Any output needs to agree with the next cards' input, and so on and and on.

Some cards allow you to eliminate existing cards, but without breaking the sequence (you need to provide a new card that will slot into the existing space perfectly, making a link with all inputs and outputs).

After a number of cards (pieces of the machine) are played, it activates and we assume the machine is lumbering away, turning switches, dropping balls, etc. At that point, it is a race against time to put down as many parts as possible before the wave of motion reaches you. The winner is the one with the biggest number of parts played into the machine.

Rui's conclusion: Very similar to 7 Dragons in both simplicity and accessibility, albeit perhaps more strategic. A good, exciting, quick little game. 

Tsuro and Tsuro of the Seas

What paths will your dragon follow....?

Type: Board / Strategy
Players: 2 to 6
Time to explain to others: 1 minute
Time to play: About 15 minutes
Difficulty: To play 1/10, Game difficulty 3/10
Portability: Board, cards and tokens. Medium.
Overall: 8/10

Tsuro is a quick and fun game, that pretends to be an allegory for life (laying the path in front of you, following difficult paths, etc). In reality, it is a quick, fun and dynamic game.

Each player had a dragon token, placed somewhere around the edge of the gaming area. You will then place a tile, displaying paths and your dragon needs to follow that path to its end, being placed on some opposite side of that tile.

And this is effectively it (told you it was easy). The game does take a couple of turns to kick off.

The interesting part begins when you place a tile, and an opponents' dragon is on the edge of the space that will be filled by that tile. In that event you move your dragon and theirs.

Any dragons that are forced to follow a path off the gaming area are eliminated. The last one, wins.

Tsuro of the Seas follows the same dynamic, just in the oceans, with Sea Serpents. And there are a number of dreadful sea monsters, moving randomly around the board, eating you as they go (which makes things more exciting). 

Rui's conclusion: Fast, quick and exciting. A good introductory game. Possibly one amenable to young'uns.

Seven Dragons

Perfect if you're in the market to buy a dragon. Several colours available.

Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2 to 4
Time to explain to others: 1 minute
Time to play: About 20-30 minutes
Difficulty: To play 1/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: High
Overall: 8/10

Seven Dragons does to card games what Ticket to Ride does to board games. It is possibly the simplest game you can possibly imagine, but it is done in a really intricate way and with stunning artwork.

The game is effective dominoes. You get a secret card, showing the colour of a particular dragon. You then need to play cards to try and make an unbroken chain of seven images of that colour dragon. Said cards might have one, two, three or four different colour dragons in them.

It is very easy to block an opponents' chain, so a degree of bluffing at the start is of the outmost importance (starting a chain of a different colour, for example). And then, you are at the mercy of the cards, if you are supposed to make a green chain, and all you have are red, blue and yellow dragons, you're not going to have a nice day.

You also have special cards, that allow you to move cards, eliminate cards, etc, providing the ever necessary element of randomness to the game. Also you have two other dragons, the aptly named Rainbow Dragon (all colours at once), and the silver dragon, the first piece of this dragon-y puzzle, whose colour continuously changes as the game evolves, giving you another dragon of your colour....Until your opponent changes him to something else.

Rui's conclusion: Seven Dragons is possibly the best introductory card game I've come across. The instructions even cover introducing the game to toddlers, starting them on the artwork, and then moving up in complexity as they age. Fantastically simple, entertaining, and very pretty!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Battletech (Collectible Card Game)

10 meters high, and armed with lasers. What's not to love?

This one will be a quick entry, as the actual game is long gone into the dust of being a non-Magic The Gathering-card game. I enter it here, for the simple reason that it was the first card game I ever played, the one that got me hooked, and into what and where I am today. It was a good and exciting game, albeit flawed. It was:

a) Too complex (big learning curve)
b) If there wasn't a huge push in each turn towards a fight, both sides could get huge armies and sit there in a stalemate
c) If you didn't know/didn't love the Battletech Universe, nothing would make any sense to you. Ok, I hear you say, but Magic has dragons. Fine, says I, I can imagine what a dragon looks like, can YOU imagine what a Hatchetman with a Large Pulse Laser conversion, painted in the colours of ComStar looks like? Exactly.

The Battletech franchise struggled from the start. From its RPG origins, to PC games, to miniature games. It finally died about 10 years ago, and I do find it a pity.

In a way, I am thankful to this game for being so complex. For years after, whenever I picked up another game and I looked at the rules, I was like.... Is this... It? Wow. 

Alas, Battletech, we hardly knew ye. 

Magic, the Gathering

What colour will YOU be?

Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2
Time to explain to others: 5 to 10 minutes
Time to play: About 20-30 minutes
Difficulty: To play 4/10, Game difficulty 5/10
Portability: High
Overall: 10/10

As hinted at on my last post, here we go.

*deep breath*

Amongst the multitude dimensions, there is a place. In the centre of a storm-battered plain, rolling purple-grey clouds above, there is a huge, dark, dusty temple dedicated to all card games that didn't work. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of niches, each one with the skeletal mummies of games past. A place filled with brilliant but over complicated, or too simple, or badly drawn card games. Or good ones that simply could not reach up to the Leviathan.

I'm talking about Magic The Gathering.

Starting in the mid 90's, this game has managed to live, expand, evolve, and leave all others behind it. And it did all of this in just one way: Simplicity

The first time you pick up a Magic deck, you might feel a bit daunted, but don't! Starter decks are still published CONTINUOUSLY (like they have over the last 20 years). And inside most of them, there are simple rules for you to start playing. (that failing, their website has the same quick intro)

You and your opponent are wizards, fighting each other. Your decks have 3 types of cards, Creatures, Lands and Spells. Creatures fight other creatures (or failing that, the opposing wizard), lands give the resources to 'build' creatures or spells, and spells give the game a measure of unpredictability, boosting or killing creatures, injuring the wizard, defending creatures, etc.

Each card has a text box, filled with instructions. Some of the keywords might take a couple of games to get used to, but even the rookiest of players can start being decent at magic in a couple of games. And seeing your opponent play a card you've never seen, is an excuse to engage in conversation: 'What card is that? What does it do? Can I have a closer look?'

There are 5 factions in Magic (green, white, red, blue and black), each with radically different playing techniques. Finding the one you like is half the fun. And most decks have more than one colour (for balance and optimization), which then create issues with the type and number of lands....

Reams of paper and Terabytes of information are available out there on Magic tactics and deckbuilding. Some might complain about Magic's incessant expansion and how you continuously need to buy new decks and new boosters. All I will say is this: as I only play Magic informally, my investment to date has been modest. 

Rui's conclusion: The game is wonderful, flows fast and is really exciting. If you have 30 minutes to spare, you can do no worse.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Boss Monster

Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2
Time to explain to others: 2 minutes 
Time to play: About 20 minutes
Difficulty: To play 2/10, Game difficulty 5/10
Portability: High
Overall: 9/10

Boss Monster is the first card game I'm covering, as I draw a deep long breath before I cover the Leviathan that is the card game to end all card games, I mean of course....

But I digress, that is talk for another time.

Boss Monster is a fun and fast cardgame, originally funded by Kickstarter, the haven of everything that is kitch, retro and 80's. Instead of being a hero fighting its way into a dungeon, you are the boss monster at the end, building you neat little dungeon, to try and obliterate any incoming heroes.

Keeping with the 80s look, the cards are pixelated, and the dungeon works linearly, from left to right, like on a 2D scrolling arcade or early ZX Spectrum or really early PC game. There are a handful of rules, that can be explained in a few minutes, and then its Hi-oh, hi-oh, to build our dungeon we go.

Rui's conclusion: Fast, easy and visually compelling. The retro look will attract the 1980-early 90s generation, as well as the more curious kids. Ultimately, really entertaining!

Fortune and Glory

Will our heroes get to the Spear of Atlantis on time? Stay tuned, folks!

Type: Strategy / combat
Players: 1 to about 6
Time to explain to others: 20 minutes (basic rules are very simple, though)
Time to play: About an hour and a half,
Difficulty: To play 4/10, Game difficulty 6/10
Portability: Not without a car and/or porters and/or a van
Overall: 9/10

This is an epic game, on several different levels. The board is HUGE (the type of board that might need a bigger table, requiring a trip to IKEA), and by the time you displayed all the necessary cards and tokens, you are going to occupy a serious area. Let this not dissuade you, this game is insanely good.

Your character(s) are pulp heroes, occupying the same sort of universe of Prof Henry Jones Junior (of Indiana fame). It is the early 30's, the nazis are becoming a force to be reckoned with and a number of artefacts have been found across the globe. It is now a race against the clock, to collect them before they do!

Well.... Not quite.

Fortune and Glory plays in a number of different ways. You can either play against each other and the nazis, or you can team up against them. There are two other evil factions, the Mafia (?) and the Brotherhood of the Crimson Hand (in a separate expansion), a really pervasive and influential cult.

A lot of the rules are so flexible, that not only can you adjust them, but you can - almost literally - make house rules that you like. There were a number of tokens in the game that didn't seem to account for anything, so, upon consulting the rulebook, it turned out that.... There wasn't a point to them. They just included them as 'hey guys, here are some tokens with piles of skulls. See what you can make of them!' Absolutely brilliant.

The random way in which the artefacts appear (they respawn upon being collected, so that there are always 4 in play), and the way in which more nazis keep showing up means that a) you need to travel and b) you need to travel FAST.

To reach the artefacts, you need to go through Danger cards. If you pass a danger, you can choose to stop, or to continue to the next one. If you fail....

If you fail, you not only lose any accumulated passed dangers, but you flip the danger card over to its Cliffhanger side. Yes, if the heroes are crossing the bridge, and the bridge starts to collapse, the actions stops FOR A TURN, in a cliffhanger, before it can be passed. You can just see the heroes hanging by a thread and a scratchy voice narrating 'Will our heroes survive the Bridge of Sorrows? Stay tuned and don't go away!'

Rui's conclusion: Although perhaps not an introductory game, Fortune and Glory is still simple enough to be played by newbies, under some guidance. The sprawling feel and the atmosphere are hugely fun to play, and the choice to be cooperative or competitive opens a lot of possibilities. If you liked Indiana Jones, and you have a big table, this one of for you!


Lovely panda. Also, gardener and garden. And pond.

Type: Strategy
Players: 1 to 4
Time to explain to others: 2 or 3 minutes
Time to play: About an hour
Difficulty: To play 1/10, Game difficulty 3/10
Portability: Board, pieces, tokens, cards. Medium.
Overall: 9/10

The emperor of China gave the emperor of Japan a panda. Not knowing what to do with the beast, but still loving it, the Japanese emperor put it in his garden. The panda then found himself surrounded by yummy bamboo! So it is a race, between the gardener (growing bamboo) and the panda (eating it).

The above gives you the flavour of this cute and cuddly game. It is another good introduction to BG's, as it looks innocent enough. You're playing for points, as you complete 'tasks' (panda must eat 'y' units of bamboo, you must grow 'x' units of bamboo), so there is some rivalry, but you don't have to fight and destroy opponents. That said, there is nothing more frustrating then setting up the panda, so you can eat the variety of bamboo you need, and an opponent does exactly the same, moving the panda to the other side of the garden.

The board grows as you play, so the number of configurations is unpredictable and not necessarily in your favour. Also, it helps if you give the panda a silly, squeaky voice. For no good reason.

Rui's conclusion: Again, a good party game. As simple as Ticket to ride. A good, easy, visually cute game, both for the uninitiated, and as a relief from some hardcore killing game. 

Ticket to Ride

Lining up Europe (gettit?)

Type: Strategy
Players: 1 to 4
Time to explain to others: Under a minute
Time to play: About an hour
Difficulty: To play 1/10, Game difficulty 4/10
Portability: Board, cards and hundreds of pieces. Low.
Overall: 10/10

Ticket to Ride is a spiritual son (or daughter) of Catan. Simple to the point of idiocy but with layers upon layers of strategy. Here is a game with the (unofficial) tagline of: It takes longer to set up the board (2 minutes) than it takes to explain the rules. And it is true.

You play railroad magnates, building trainlines across the globe (about 10 maps are available, US, Europe, India, Africa, etc). You get cards, the cards have colours, combination coloured cards (5 blue, 6 pink, etc) allow you to build segments of railroad between major cities. You get 'ticket' cards that will tell you what lines you need to build, and in a nod to Catan, you get extra points for the longest line.

That's it. 
That's the game.

And herein lies the fun. If you need to build through a town an opponent is also building through, you might scupper his/her plans. The line you had the cards for in now taken by a rival company. Your London to Brighton line now goes through Edinburgh. Lovely. It plays fast and sometimes dirty. And you are at the very mercy of the cards.

Rui's conclusion: A great party game, perhaps the greatest for the non-initiated into board games. Fun, engaging and fast. A must in all BG cabinets!