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!