Posted by: gschloesser | April 18, 2018

Ulm

Design by Gunter Burkhardt
Published by Huch & Friends
2 – 4 Players, 1 1/2 – 2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

The German city of Ulm has many attractions, but quite likely its most famous landmark is its impressive cathedral.  Constructed in the 16th century, it became the social hub of the city and at one time boasted the tallest steeple in the world.  It remains an architectural gem to this day.

Don’t worry, however, as Ulm by Gunter Burkhardt is not another cathedral building game.  Rather, it is a game of gaining influence and prestige with the city’s powerful guilds and patricians, hoping to rise to prominence and become one of the city’s most renowned citizens.  To accomplish this, players must excel in various facets of the life of the city, including shipping, gaining influence with guilds, winning the favor of powerful citizens, and more.

The extremely busy and cluttered board depicts eight districts of the city, separated by the Danube river.  Players may place influence shields into these districts to gain special favors as indicated in the districts.  Each district has limited space, however, and a player’s boat must be adjacent to a district in order to place a seal there.  There are also spaces where players may gain additional influence (victory points) by placing their family crests.

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Posted by: gschloesser | April 5, 2018

3 Secrets

Design by Martino Chiacchiera & Pierluca Zizzi
Published by daVinci Games
2 – 8 Players, 15 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Solving mysteries has been a fascination for most people quite likely since humans began to develop critical thinking capabilities.  This fascination continues to the present day and is possibly even more alluring, as the proliferation of crime novels, criminal investigation television series, and Escape rooms attest.  The gaming industry has also seen an increase in designs wherein players must discover clues and solve mysteries.

3 Secrets by Italian designers Martino Chiacchiera and Pierluca Zizzi is an unassuming yet excellent entry into this genre, providing an excellent detective-like challenge that is equally suitable for gaming sessions and parties.

3 Secrets is a simple game rules-wise.  Each of the 50 cards depicts a scene, atmospherically rendered in black and white.  Three features in the  scene are highlighted, and players must successfully decipher the three secrets that relate to the story the artistic scene depicts.  There is a time pressure, though, as players have a maximum of 15 minutes–usually less–to successfully piece together the story and reveal the secrets.

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Posted by: gschloesser | April 2, 2018

Bohemian Villages

Design by Reiner Stockhausen
Published by dlp games
2 – 5 players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

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I enjoy when boardgames teach me something new.  I grew-up in the hobby playing wargames, and remember the thrill I would get from reading the often extensive “Historical Notes” booklets included in many Avalon Hill and SPI games.  I often enjoyed those history lessons more than the game itself!  I recently learned something new from Bohemian Villages, the new dice-rolling game from Reiner Stockhausen.  This new tidbit of information is that there is a German saying: “This is like Bohemian villages to me.”  The background of this saying is provided in the introduction to the rules and harkens back to the days of the Thirty Year’s War when German troops encountered a foreign speaking population living in Bohemian towns with confusing names.  The resulting confusion led to the “Bohemian villages” term, which is the equivalent of the English saying, “It is all Greek to me!”

This interesting little bit of information likely served as a bit of inspiration for the theme and title of this latest Stockhausen design.  Players roll dice and attempt to inhabit various businesses and buildings in villages in hopes of achieving wealth and riches.  Each of the nine village boards depicts various buildings upon which players can place their dice, effectively inhabiting those buildings and deriving any benefits they may confer.  The objective is to generate the greatest wealth through a variety of building occupations.

A player’s turn consists of rolling the four dice and arranging them to create one or two totals.  In order to be valid, a combination must include at least two dice; a single die is not considered a combination and a player cannot use it to place a figure onto a building.  Once the player forms these combinations, he may place figures onto buildings that have the corresponding value.  For example, if a player forms a “9” and a “5”, he may place figures on an inn (value 9) and a tailor shop (value 5).  He may choose any unoccupied building in any village, splitting the two placements as he sees fit.  It is then the next player’s turn, who repeats this process.

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Posted by: gschloesser | December 30, 2017

Aurimentic

Design by Nikolaus R. Friedrich
Published by Nikamundus
2 – 4 Players, 1 ½ hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

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“Beware the Weather” is sage advice, not only in real life, but also in Aurimentic, the new game from designer Nikolaus Friedrich and Nikamundus.  Another appropriate old saying as it relates to this game is “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  In other words, little is certain in this game.

Aurimentic is a farming, building and territorial control game set in a far off land where players seek dominance over the islands and are also seeking to locate mysterious crystals.  The weather, as in most farming, plays a dominant role and is a fickle beast, determining not only the areas that can be cultivated, but also the types of crops that can be planted.  Players must also beware the weather, as it can suddenly and unexpectedly turn stormy and destructive.

The playing area is comprised of five separate boards, each representing an island in the realm.  There are seven different islands to choose from, each double-sided, so there will be some variety in the landscape in each game.  Each island depicts up to four different types of terrain (mountain, swamp, sand or grassland) and many spaces upon which players will plant seeds and/or construct buildings.  Some of these spaces have special symbols which will trigger certain benefits or actions when something is planted or constructed there.  The islands are seeded with a variety of resources, and each player places one of his farmhouses onto any of the islands.

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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

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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

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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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