Posted by: gschloesser | August 21, 2019

Smash Up!

Design by Paul Peterson
Published by AEG
2+ Players
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

In a world gone crazy, fantasy and historical races and clans all exist in the same time frame, and as can be expected, they do not get along well.  Indeed, they often violently contest for control of various bases, as these grant power (victory points). Garner the most power and your races will control the known universe … for awhile, at least!

Smash Up is a card-based game that is expandable with new races and groups.  Most expansion sets include four new groups, usually centered around a specific theme.  For example, the “Oops, You Did it Again” expansion set includes Egyptians, cowboys, Vikings and samurai, while “Monster Smash” features vampires, werewolves, mad scientists and, yes, giant ants (think the classic film “Them!”). Each expansion includes a few new rules that apply to the new races introduced, so the game does get progressively more complex as new expansions are included in the mix.

Players will each select two races or groups to play, and are free to choose from any of the dozens currently available.  Thus, two decks are required per player. Players make their selection of two races, and thoroughly mix those cards into a single deck, drawing five as their starting hand.  A number of bases are placed on the table (one more than the number of players) and play begins.

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Posted by: gschloesser | August 12, 2019

The Capitals: Cities Through Time

Design by Thiago Boaventura
Published by Mercury Games
2 – 5 Players, 2 – 3 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

City-building games have always held an attraction for me, as I enjoy watching the city (or cities) expand and develop.  Some are relatively simple and abstract—such as Manhattan—while others are more complex and involved (think La Citta and Suburbia).  One of the earliest I remember playing was Sid Sackson’s Metropolis, which I adored, mainly because of the impressive 3D pieces.

In recent years Suburbia by designer Ted Alspach proved popular, but I grew weary of constantly having to examine opponents’ cities in order to determine the effects and scoring of the tiles I played into my own city.  The absence of this constant examination of opponents’ cities is one of the attractions of The Capitals: Cities Through Time, a mostly overlooked city-building game from designer Thiago Boaventura and Mercury Games. The game has not received much attention from gamers, which is a shame as it is really interesting and challenging.

The theme is familiar: developing and growing a city.  However, the twist is that this is done over the course of three eras, very loosely progressing from the Victorian age to modern times.  Players each plan and develop their own city, mostly without any interference from their opponents. This is not really “multi-player solitaire,” however, as there is keen competition for desired buildings and features, as well as a fierce race to be the premier city in terms of cultural, financial and public service advancements.

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Posted by: gschloesser | April 5, 2019


Design by Rudiger Dorn
Published by White Goblin Games
2 – 4 Players, 45 minutes – 1 hour
Review by Greg J. Schloesser


Montana in the mid-to-late 18th century was still a vast, mostly uninhabited place.  Indeed, even though the gold rush and a desire for land and a new start brought an influx of settlers and entrepreneurs, the area is still one of the least populated regions in the United States.  Perhaps the harsh weather and vast open spaces serves as a deterrent for many. A shame, since it is a beautiful area.

Montana by designer Rudiger Dorn is set in the period when settlers begin moving to Montana in increasing numbers.  Players represent entrepreneurs attempting to establish a new life in this harsh, yet promising new environment. They must hire workers to help harvest grain and pumpkins, mine copper, gather stone from the quarries and establish towns and settlements.  To be successful, players must not only balance all of these needs with limited finances, but must also stay one step ahead of their opponents, who are also attempting to claim the most lucrative land.

The modular board is created by piecing together landscape tiles, each of which depicts seven fields.  These fields depict various types of terrain, as well as the resources that are needed to construct a settlement there.  Some areas reward a player with cattle when a settlement is constructed, while being the first to construct next to a lake gives the player a canteen (representing access to water), which can be used to take another turn.

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Posted by: gschloesser | March 18, 2019


Design by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling
Published by Eggertspiele
2 – 4 Players, 1 ½ – 2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Ever since discovering El Grande way back in 1995, I have been a fanboy of designer Wolfgang Kramer.  Sure, there have been a few “misses,” but for the most part I have adored his designs. El Grande, Princes of Florence, Torres, Tikal – all are masterpieces.  His collaborations with other designers—particularly Michael Kiesling—have also been wonderful. It is no surprise that I am eager to play and try any new designs from the master.

Reworld was released at the Spiel in Essen in late 2017 and is yet another joint effort from the duo of Kramer and Kiesling.  It is quite a departure from their usual fare, as it has a distinct “puzzle” quality that is unlike any of the creations in their vast catalog.  In a further departure, the game has a space setting, which I have always been told is not a popular theme amongst European gamers.

Set in the distant future when mankind is traveling the far reaches of the universe and attempting to colonize new worlds, Reworld is played in two distinct phases (“chapters” in game parlance).  During the first chapter—which lasts five turns—players gather various modules, attaching them to the five docking rows on their carrier ship. Multiple modules can be attached to each row. During the second chapter, players will unlock these modules and send them down to the planet Eurybia.  The challenge is doing this in the correct order, as the planet’s terrain must first be prepared and settlements founded before other modules can be offloaded. This takes careful and sometimes clever planning and execution during both chapters of the game.

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Posted by: gschloesser | February 13, 2019


Design by Scott Almes
Published by White Goblin Games
2 Players, 20 – 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Shortly after discovering German-style games, I was introduced to the “trick-taking” game genre.  I did not grow-up in a card-playing family, so I had little exposure to traditional card games.  Thus, the trick-taking concept was new to me, and frankly, I didn’t understand it. The rule that required one to follow the lead card seemed restrictive, removing the ability to choose which cards to play.  As I gained more experience with the genre, I learned more nuances and began to understand and appreciate the trick-taking mechanism.

A recent development in the genre is the introduction of 2-player designs, a concept which initially perplexed me.  All of the trick-taking games that I have played up to this point were for multiple players, and I feared that the dynamic when playing with numerous players would be lost when only playing with two.

The first (and so far only) game in this relatively new 2-player genre that I have played is Claim by designer Scott Almes and published by White Goblin Games.  The game has a familiar fantasy setting wherein the king has died, and now five different races are vying for control of the realm.  The deck of 52 cards features goblins, dwarves, undead, doppelgangers and knights, with most groups having values from 0 – 9 (the knights range from 2 – 9).  The cartoon-like illustrations and card colors make it easy to determine the race of each card.

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Posted by: gschloesser | January 8, 2019

Justice League: Dawn of Heroes


Design by Buster Lehn & Fran Ruiz
Published by Abba Games
2 – 6 Players, 1 hour
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

I was an avid reader of DC Comics’ Justice League of America series from my youth until well into my 40s.  The League went through so many changes during that period, as did the writing and art style in the books.  Some of this was good, some not so good.  Through it all, I stuck with the series, even though I grumbled when favorite characters were excluded, second-and-third string characters added, and the core line-up all but vanished.  Through it all I maintained a strong preference for the original line-up of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter.

As a board game aficionado, I have a keen interest in any board game featuring superheroes, particularly those featuring characters from the Justice League.  Unfortunately, no superhero game has been published that was to my liking, certainly none involving my favorite characters from the League.  So, I was intrigued when I learned of this new title from Abba Games, which features six of the original Leaguers.

Justice League: Dawn of Heroes is a major undertaking which leads players through various missions.  Each mission is divided into chapters, allowing players to progress at their leisure through the chapters and ultimately complete the mission.  This can be done in one sitting, which would take about 3 – 4 hours to accomplish, or spread over several game nights, playing a chapter each time.  Each mission tells a story that gradually unfolds, similar to reading the actual comics.

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Posted by: gschloesser | December 12, 2018

Road Hog

Design by Randall Hoyt
Published by Jolly Roger Games
2 – 5 Players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

The road to getting a board game published can be a long and arduous one, more often than not proving to be a dead end.  While I have never designed a game—nor do I have any desire to do so—I have many friends who have traveled this road and all confess that it is a very difficult and trying journey.

In the documentary film The Next Great American Game, producer Douglas Morse chronicles the story of Randall Hoyt and his tireless efforts to get his board game published.  Hoyt was convinced that his design would become, as the title of the film suggests, the next great American board game.  After years of fruitless pursuits, the game has finally been published by Jolly Roger Games as Road Hog: Rule the Road.  Does the game live-up to the designer’s aspirations and expectations?  Let’s take a look.

The theme of Road Hog will certainly resonate with anyone having to drive through a busy city.  Players are challenged with navigating the many road hazards–particularly traffic congestion—in order to successfully exit the busy city ahead of their fellow commuters.  Unlike the defensive driving skills we should all practice in real life, here aggressive driving is the key…including blocking and impeding the progress of one’s opponents whenever possible.

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Posted by: gschloesser | November 14, 2018

Beasts of Balance

Design by George Buckenham and Alex Fleetwood
Published by Sensible Object
1 – 5 Players, 15 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

There are stacking games…then there is Beasts of Balance.  Beasts of Balance takes the stacking game genre to a completely new level, one that uses modern technology (you need the free downloadable app for your phone or tablet to play) to recognize the pieces that are being stacked as well as provide incentives for stacking other specific pieces.  Points are earned for not only stacking pieces, but for arranging pieces into certain orders so that they evolve and earn even more points.

Most stacking games require players to balance blocks of various shapes. Beasts of Balance has the same challenge, but the pieces themselves are made of bulky, sturdy plastic and mostly represent various animals and elements.  There is a bear, shark, giant bird, toucan, octopus and warthog, as well as more than a dozen other pieces representing elements (water, fire, etc.) and artifacts.  Each piece has multiple colors (which is important when playing the game) and are huge and very oddly shaped, making stacking an incredibly difficult challenge.  A standard stacking game using these pieces alone would be fun, but the digital game system offers so much more.

The base upon which these items must be stacked is called the “plinth,” which actually contains an electronic device that records the pieces played upon it and syncs with the app, which must be downloaded to one’s phone or tablet.  During the game, players will take turns stacking pieces upon the plinth, but before each piece is placed, it must be passed in front of the plinth’s sensor, which records the piece being placed and provides this information to the app.  Points will be scored for the piece placed, but the app will soon begin providing incentives for placing other pieces.  Certain animals require land, air or water, otherwise they will perish and the player (or players, if playing as a group) will lose points.  Others will morph into an entirely different animal if certain other animals are placed nearby.  This morphing will usually earn the players even more points.

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Posted by: gschloesser | October 23, 2018


Design by Ignacy Trzewiczek
Published by Wydawnictwo Portal
1 – 4 Players, 2 – 3 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

NOTE:  With the recent release of First Martians, which is based heavily on the system pioneered in Robinson Crusoe, I though another look at the original was in order.  This review is of the original First Edition.

As a child, I remember being fascinated by the Robinson Crusoe movie and subsequent British television series.  I was horrified over the thought of being stranded on an uncharted island, but at the same time thrilled to the adventures he experienced.  It was only recently that I actually read the original novel and didn’t find it nearly as exciting.

Polish designer Ignacy Trzewiczek’s cooperative game Robinson Crusoe is an attempt to capture the excitement and life-or-death struggle of being shipwrecked on a hostile island.  Unlike the novel, however, this time there are multiple survivors of the shipwreck, and the players must cooperate to survive and hopefully be rescued.  It certainly is an intriguing premise and setting.

The action primarily takes place on only a small section of the large board, where terrain (hexagonal tiles) will be uncovered as players explore the island.  Tiles may show resources, food or hunting ground, all of which the party needs to survive.  The rest of the board is mostly dedicated to turn phase diagrams and for providing space to display the large variety of cards, most of which are items the players can construct when assembling the proper resources.

The game includes six different scenarios, each telling a different story and requiring the player to accomplish various tasks in order to achieve victory.  Not all of them result in the players escaping the island, but all do allow the players to survive…provided, of course, they are successful.

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Posted by: gschloesser | October 16, 2018



Design by Karl Marcelle
Published by Geek Attitude Games
2 – 5 Players, 1 ½ hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

I guess fantasy creatures such as dwarves, elves and orcs enjoy a good tavern and party as much as humans do.  Indeed, in the world of Taverna, on Saint Averna’s day the denizens of the realm gather in the capital city to party, which usually involves drinking copious amounts of ale and mead.  Capitalism thrives in the capital, as the tavern owners pull out all the stops to attract these visitors to their establishments.  Care must be taken, however, to meet the demands of the Royal Court.

Taverna by designer Karl Marcelle casts players as these innkeepers.  Their goal is to attract visitors and dignitaries to their taverns, attempting to seat their guests at the proper tables and take advantage of their special abilities.

The large board depicts five taverns, each with seating for the various guests.  Apparently it is best to keep the races separated, as the tables are color-coded to indicate the type of guest who should be seated there.  Taverns also each have an affinity for a particular guild, but this can be expanded as the game progresses.  The board also depicts the four “people” tracks upon which players will progress to earn various benefits.  One race is randomly determined as the king’s “preferred” race and marked with the king’s crown token.

Before the game begins, each player purchases two property deeds, claiming an interest in two different taverns, which can have up to four owners apiece.  Deeds cost various amounts, and convey a different amount of victory points when purchased.  Having an interest in a tavern means that the player will receive money whenever a guest visits.  Four customer cards are revealed to form a drafting row.

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