Posted by: gschloesser | November 16, 2017

Castellion

Design by Shadi Torbey
Published by Z-Man Games
1 – 2 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

castellion-cover

I am generally not attracted to solitaire games as I honestly do not have the opportunity often enough to play them.  Whenever I do find myself alone, I usually have household chores to do, game reviews to write, or other tasks to accomplish.  Further, for me gaming is a social activity to be shared with other people.  As such, I tend not to seek games designed primarily for one person.

Castellion by designer Shadi Torbey is designed for both one and two players, but my experience has been strictly solitaire.  I found myself alone and with a bit of time on my hands, so I played the game several times, trying the different difficulty levels.  The game has a decidedly puzzle-like aspect that may well appeal to those who enjoy those types of challenges.

The theme is a bit unusual:  the player (or players) must construct a fantastic, morphing castle to protect the realm against the dreaded menace which threatens to overrun the kingdom.  The challenge is to construct the castle in a fashion so as to meet the requirements on the three “ordeal” cards in effect for that game.

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Posted by: gschloesser | October 23, 2017

Zen Garden

Design by H. Jean Vanaise|
Published by Mayfair Games
2 – 4 Players, 45 minutes – 1 hour
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

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Japanese gardens are known for their symmetry and peaceful atmosphere they evoke.  The ones I have visited are always very pleasant and have the effect of cleansing the mind.  The game Zen Garden can be a quite a bit more stressful as players are challenged to construct a garden by forming specific patterns of various types of terrain and garden features.

The game has two versions or ways to play—Zen Garden and Rock Garden—with the latter game being a bit more advanced and, in my opinion, more interesting to play.  The base design is credited to H. Jean Vanaise, with Rock Garden being designed by Coleman Charlton.  Both versions involve the same essential mechanisms of laying tiles and attempting to form specified patterns.  I am going to concentrate on Rock Garden as it is the version that will undoubtedly be of greater interest to seasoned gamers and offers the most interesting choices and decisions.  The Zen Garden version will be described at the end.

zen-garden-tiles-frontAt the heart of both versions are the double-sided tiles.  One side shows a landscape—water, trees, rock, grass or lantern—while the reverse shows a pattern and type symbol.  Each side also indicates the color that is on the reverse of the tile.  The game begins with one lantern tile on the table as the starting tile in the garden and three set to the side as a “drafting” row.  Each player begins with five tiles (one lantern and four more drawn randomly) and twelve markers of her color.

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Posted by: gschloesser | October 12, 2017

Booty

Design by Alexander Cobian
Published by Mayfair Games
3 – 6 Players, 1 hour
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

booty-cover

Yes, another pirate game.  I guess the theme is just so darn enticing and somehow romantic that designers and publishers just cannot resist using it.  I would assume that at some point the game-buying public would become satiated with the theme and say “enough!”  But I also assume that publishers would recognize if the situation reached this point and cease releasing games using the theme.  I guess that has not yet occurred…or my assumptions are way off-base!

Booty is a recent offering in the crowded seas of pirate-themed games.  Designed by Alexander Cobian, players are nasty pirates attempting to grab the most lucrative booty (commodities, weapons, liquor, gold, silver, etc.), control ports in the Caribbean and Atlantic, and influence the market price of their illicitly-gained loot.

The game is primarily one of card acquisition and controlling ports.  Five island tiles, each depicting 3-7 ports, are arranged in a circle, along with the Commodities market tile and the turn order “Rank” board.  A number of cards (3 x the number of players) are revealed, sorted by color and placed in the center of the ring of islands, with the first card being kept face-down.  Each player receives a supply of “might” markers, two secret “legacy” tiles and a handful of coins.  Let the looting begin!

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Posted by: gschloesser | September 20, 2017

Mystery: Motive for Murder!

Design by Bruce Glassco
Published by Mayfair Games
1 – 5 Players, 30 – 90 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

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A murder has been committed at the stately mansion, and there appears to be a host of characters who have a motive for doing the dastardly deed.  The murder was sensational and the police are under considerable pressure to solve the crime.  The detective who solves the case and makes the arrest will have his reputation soar and perhaps even earn a coveted promotion.

Mystery: Motive for Murder casts players in the roles of these detectives attempting to solve the case by finding the person who had the greatest motive to commit the murder.  It is a strange little game that has some very unusual mechanisms that, unfortunately, just don’t seem to mesh smoothly into an entertaining experience.

At the heart of the game are a collection of “suspect” tiles, each of which depicts a character, his or her name, and four relationship or motives (“caught spying by”, “generous lover of”, “mother of”, etc.) listed along the sides of the tile.  Most sides also depicts a value ranging from 1 – 6, as well as a color (red – hate and/or blue – love).  Each player receives three tiles and one is dealt face-up to the table; this is the victim.

A turn is quite simple:  play a tile to the table, aligning it with a previously placed tile, and place your marker upon it.  No tile can be placed further than two spaces away from the victim.

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Posted by: gschloesser | September 13, 2017

Fool’s Gold

Design by Joshua Balvin
Published by Passport Studios / Rock Paper Scissors Games
3 – 5 Players, 1 – 1 1/2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

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There’s gold in ‘dem ‘der hills!  Yes, there is gold…and quartz, topaz and benitoite, too!  Folks can get rich staking a claim and digging in those mountains and waters.  Of course, they are much more likely to go bust.

In the mid-to-late 1800s, gold fever caused a massive migration westward by folks seeking to strike it rich by discovering gold and other precious gems and minerals.  Some did, indeed, make a tidy fortune, but most merely subsisted or went broke.  Fool’s Gold by designer Joshua Balvin recreates–at least in part–the frenzy to discover gold and minerals in the great western regions.

The square game board rather blandly depicts a section of the west, with tracks leading from the central mining town to the hills, forest, mountains, river and lake.  Each of these locations has its own unique deck of cards with a mixture of gold, gems, hazards, false alarms and, of course, worthless silt.  There is a specific number and type in each deck, which is listed on the player aid screens.  This is important information as astute players can somewhat calculate the odds of finding gold or gems as opposed to silt.  Of course, dice and the luck-of-the-draw are involved, so luck plays a heavy role.

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Posted by: gschloesser | June 29, 2017

CV

Design by Filip Mitunski
Published by Granna
2 – 4 Players, 1 hour
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

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Ever want to change your life? How about a new occupation, or perhaps a better relationship?  Want to start a blog or improve your health?  Which one of us wouldn’t want to change something about our life?  Well, now you can do it without any degree of effort or significant investment.  All you have to do is play CV by designer Filip Mitunski!

CV is short for “curriculum vitae”, which is Latin for “resume” (as in job resume).  In CV, you will be forming your life by acquiring and forming knowledge, skills, jobs, health, relationships and more.  All of this will be done by tossing and re-rolling dice in a Yahtzee-like fashion and using the results to acquire and improve all facets of your life.  If only real life was as easy as this!

The game consists primarily of dice, cards and tokens.  The cards are divided into three main categories:  early adulthood, middle age and old age.  These are further subdivided into seven “life” categories, including health, knowledge, relationship, life goal, work, possession and event.  These are color-coded for easy identification, and helpful icons generally match the symbols on the dice or indicate special card features.  Each card is appropriately named (Blood Donor, Blogger, Athlete, Marriage, etc.) and all have humorous artwork comically depicting the subject matter.  Don’t overlook the delightful artwork as it often elicits some chuckles.

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Posted by: gschloesser | May 26, 2017

Royals

Design by Peter Hawes
Published by Abacus Spiel
2 – 5 Players, 1 – 1 ½ hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

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Many years ago I had the opportunity to play Peter Dawes’ excellent prototype Heads of State.  I was completely enthralled by the game and couldn’t wait for it to be published.  Unfortunately, the published version differed from the prototype, and for me, the changes not only did not improve the game, but diminished the fun, as well as my excitement.  I was disappointed.

The game was later revamped and simplified into Royals.  While initially skeptical over a distilled version, I was pleasantly surprised at how much better and enjoyable the game is in this new edition.  It plays much faster, is easier to understand and flows seamlessly.

Set in Europe in the tumultuous 17th century, players assume the roles of powerful noble houses vying for power and supremacy.  Players will draft cards and use them to take control of influential positions in the noble houses and governments of the major European powers (Britain, Germanic States, France and Spain).  Power is not guaranteed, however, as influence can change quickly and dramatically.

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Posted by: gschloesser | May 3, 2017

Villainy

Design by Nicholas Trahan
Published by Mayfair Games
2 – 4 Players, 90 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

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Superheroes are all the rage, with seemingly an endless array of television series and movies focusing on even minor characters.  That is just fine with me, as I have always been a superhero fan, with a strong favoritism towards the DC world.  I am still waiting on the ultimate superhero game to be produced.  Some have been good, but most have been sorely lacking punch (heh, heh!).  So, it was natural that I would be attracted to Villainy by designer Nicholas Trahan.

Villainy, however, is set in the opposite world.  Players are not superheroes, but rather assume the roles of minor villains hoping to make it to the big time.  To accomplish this, they must commit a series of crimes, from the petty to the severe, in order to increase their infamy and recruit henchmen to their cause.  Like any good villain, a player must complete his master plan, but first must deal with the pesky do-gooder Fantastiman.  Defeat Fantastiman and one becomes a villain worthy of notice.

Villainy has a 1960s cartoonish style that will either attract or repel you. This isn’t the dark and gritty atmosphere evoked by The Dark Knight or Batman vs. Superman.  Rather, it would be more on par with the Super Friends cartoon series.  Players begin with a villain wannabe, and can even give them clever names by choosing from over 100 villainous name tiles.  Fancy the name Dark Walrus, or perhaps Lord Commander Sloth?  How about Pain Head?  Or, you can take the lazy approach and simply keep the original name on the villain card (I kinda like the name “Rat Lady”!).

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Posted by: gschloesser | March 27, 2017

Helios

Design by Martin Kallenborn & Matthias Prinz
Published by Hans im Gluck
2 – 4 Players, 60 – 90
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

helios-cover

In a land far, far away …

That would be Helios by designers Martin Kallenborn and Matthias Prinz.  Players are high priests forming and developing their lands, hoping to secure a virtuous place in the history of their people.  Success is dependent upon the movement of the sun god Ahau, for the sun is necessary for the land to produce the resources needed to construct the fabulous cities.  Will Ahau be merciful?

Players will construct their world on their personal circular board by acquiring and placing hexes representing different types of terrain (redwood, granite, bamboo, obsidian or springs) and temples.  They will take actions to move the sun, which produces resources on the lands upon which it shines.  They will then use these resources to construct buildings, which will give them various abilities, mana stones (used primarily to recruit characters) and victory points.

In each of the four turns, one of each of the five types of terrain are made available, plus one random terrain tile.  Three rows of six action tiles are revealed.  These action tiles will allow the player to perform the major actions of the game:  create land, add a building or temple, or move the sun.  A player’s turn consists of taking the bottom tile of one of the three rows and performing the corresponding action.

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Posted by: gschloesser | December 16, 2016

Lords of Vegas with UP! Expansion

LORDS OF VEGAS

Design by:  James Ernest and Mike Selinker
Published by:  Mayfair Games
2 – 4 Players, 1 – 1 1/2 hours
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

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NOTE:  I originally reviewed Lords of Vegas when it was first published many years ago.  That review is below.  The new “Up!” expansion prompted me to revisit the game.  My original review appears first, followed by my description and analysis of the “Up!” expansion.

****

Today, Las Vegas is considered a glitzy Mecca for lovers of gambling, night-life, entertainment and sin of all types.  Is it any wonder that organized crime had  (and apparently still does) have its tentacles intertwined throughout the fabric of the city?  Gambling and Vegas are synonymous, so I figured a game entitled “Lords of Vegas” would incorporate aspects of all of Vegas’ sins and seedy sides.   However, most of these aspects are absent.  Instead, we have a game loosely concentrating on the founding of casinos, with a huge dose of luck that pays tribute to the “make or break” lifestyle of Sin City.

Designers James Ernest and Mike Selinker have teamed to produce Lords of Vegas.  Set at the birth of Vegas when the area to be occupied by the neon city was still barren desert, the game casts players as visionaries determined to create a city founded on the bedrock of gambling and entertainment.  Players will build and improve casinos, attempting to take over their rivals’ casinos in order to control the Strip and emerge as the kingpin of Las Vegas.

The board depicts the center of the emerging Strip of Vegas, divided into six distinct blocks.  Six-to-nine casinos can be constructed in each block, but it is possible for a block to be dominated by just a few casinos, or perhaps even just one.   Each casino space in a block depicts the price to construct a casino at that location, as well as a number, which is the starting level of a player’s boss once he constructs a casino there.  Players begin the game armed with a multitude of small chips, which will be placed on plots to indicate ownership.  In addition, each player has twelve dice, each of which will represent ownership and the expertise of one’s boss in a casino.  Players will begin the game owning two plots, and have financial coffers of $4 – $7 million.  How can any self-respecting developer survive on such a paltry sum?

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