Posted by: gschloesser | September 9, 2020

CURIOS

Designer Uncredited
Published by AEG
2 – 5 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Curios is part of AEG’s line of games that are aimed squarely at the family and casual gamers market.  These are games that are designed to be fairly simple, easy to understand, and playable quickly.  The idea is to tap into the vast market of folks who aren’t nearly as into games as hobbyists, but do enjoy playing an occasional game around the dining room table.  Who knows which game will be the next UNO?

Curios casts players in the roles of rogue archaeologists, attempting to find hidden treasures and artifacts at various locations across the globe.  Players vie with their opponents to uncover and collect rare artifacts, hoping that they will prove the most valuable.  Fame and wealth awaits the cleverest…and perhaps the most unscrupulous…archaeologist!

There are four sites where these potential treasures can be uncovered:  The Great Pyramid, The Forbidden Temple, The Lost Shipwreck and The Ancient Colosseum.  Each of these locations is represented by a small board, each of which has five columns of spaces where players may place their archaeologists.  The columns range in capacity from one to four archaeologists.

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Posted by: gschloesser | July 29, 2020

Point Salad

Design by Shawn Stankewich, Molly Johnson and Robert Melvin
Published by AEG
2 – 6 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

AEG has introduced a line of games that are targeted squarely at the family and casual gamers market.  The games are designed to be fairly simple and easy-to-grasp, and can be played to completion in about 30 minutes or so.  While we gamers tend to ignore games such as these, the vast majority of Americans – and indeed, folks worldwide – fall into this demographic and are the target market for this line.

Point Salad by designers Shawn Stankewich, Molly Johnson and Robert Melvin is one entry into this field.  The game consists solely of a deck of cards (108 in total) depicting different vegetables on one side and scoring goals on the reverse.  The theme is to properly grow one’s garden so as to meet the demands of one’s customers.  Growing a vegetable garden is one that certainly has near universal understanding and perhaps appeal, so that is one potential success factor in terms of the game resonating with the general public.

The deck is shuffled and divided into three equal stacks, with the “point” side facing up.  Two cards are revealed from each deck and placed below with the vegetable side showing, forming three columns.  Players do NOT receive any cards to begin the game.

A player’s turn is quite simple:  he may either collect two vegetables from the face-up selection, or take one of the top point cards.  Cards taken are sorted by vegetable type in front of the player, while the point cards are placed in a row above the player’s vegetable garden.   In addition, the player may, if he so desires, invert one of his previously collected point cards, adding it to his vegetable garden.  Each point card does have icons on two corners indicating the type of vegetable on the reverse side.  This may be a wise move if a player feels it will help score more points as a vegetable as opposed to keeping the card as a point card.  When a player completes his selection, new veggies are revealed from the appropriate deck to refill the selection row and the next player takes his turn.

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Posted by: gschloesser | July 21, 2020

Mystic Vale

Design by John D. Clair
Published by AEG
2 – 4 Players, 45 minutes – 1 hour
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

 

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I appreciate originality in game design.  Most games will use existing mechanisms and combine them in various fashions in order to produce a game that hopefully feels somewhat fresh. Sometimes, a designer will tinker with an existing mechanism, giving it a new twist or facet that can also make the overall game feel a bit different from its predecessors.  It is a true rarity when a designer invents something brand new, as this is usually a breath of fresh air.  Of course, this new mechanism cannot stand on its own; it must be surrounded by a fun and entertaining game.

Fortunately, that is the case with John D. Clair’s Mystic Vale.

So what is this clever new mechanism?  It is known as the “Card Crafting System” and allows cards to be physically changed by adding new features and advancements to them.  It is a dramatic addition to the familiar deck building genre.

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Posted by: gschloesser | June 30, 2020

Scorpius Freighter

Design by David Short & Matthew Dunstan
Published by AEG
2 – 4 Players, 90 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Rondels in space.  Well, that isn’t the entire picture, but it is a large part.

Set in a galaxy far, far away, Scorpius Freighter by designers David Short and Matthew Dunstan has players fomenting a revolution in a planetary system that is experiencing heavy-handed control by an oppressive government.  Players attempt to skirt the law by fostering and participating in a growing black market.   While they share a common goal of ultimately overthrowing the government, each is also looking out for number one:  themselves.

Each smuggler receives a board representing their freighter, which has 16 spaces for various upgrades, cargo holds and equipment.  Three of these are filled to start the game, with the remainder being slowly but steadily constructed as the game progresses.  There is also space for the four officers of the crew, with each player receiving a unique set.  These officers give the players special powers and will earn victory points if they are upgraded.

The linear game board depicts three planetary systems around which players will move motherships (one per system) to determine the action available to them each turn.  Each planet is surrounded by six or seven spaces, each of which allows a specific action.  Players generally may only move a ship one or two spaces per turn, which does limit their choices.  Fortunately, each turn a player has a choice of three different motherships to move (one per planetary system), so there is usually—but not always—a viable and useful action to perform.

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Posted by: gschloesser | March 25, 2020

GINGERBREAD HOUSE

Design by Phil Walker-Harding
Published by Lookout Games
2 – 4 Players, 30 – 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Who hasn’t grown-up listening to and reading fairy tales, particularly those by the Grimm Brothers?  My childhood was filled with stories of Rapunzel, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel und Gretel, and many other fantasy characters that allowed my imagination to soar.  Even as an adult, I still enjoy movies based on these fairy tales, and am hopeful that these stories will continue to be read, told and shown for generations to come.

So, it is no surprise that I was eager to play Gingerbread House, the new game by Phil Walker Harding and Lookout Games.  The theme casts players as witches attempting to lure and capture fairy tale characters who have been helping themselves to tasty portions of their gingerbread houses.  One can understand the witches’ frustration, as they are quite literally being eaten out of house and home.

Each player receives a board depicting a 3×3 plot whereupon they will construct their gingerbread homes.  Each of these nine spaces depict either a type of gingerbread—not-so-cleverly named red, yellow, blue or green—or a special symbol that gives them certain abilities or tokens.  Along the edges of this plot players will place trapped and imprisoned characters, tokens and bonus cards.  Players also each receive 15 double-tiles and one stairway tile.  The double tiles depict two symbols—either gingerbread or special symbols—and will be placed onto the player’s construction site to build their home.  These tiles are shuffled face down and three are revealed.

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Posted by: gschloesser | February 12, 2020

Bali

Design by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede Published by White Goblin Games 2 – 4 Players, 45 minutes – 1 hour Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Games–like many films–continue to be recycled and reinvented, sometimes receiving a major overhaul, while other times receiving nothing more than just a simple tweaking or re-theming.  I guess this is a good way to bring a former title to the attention of a new generation of gamers. However, many times the re-release is only just a few years after the publication of the original version, which seems a bit premature.  Do gamers really have that short of a memory? Or perhaps the reason is more noble. Perhaps it is because the original game was lost in the avalanche of yearly game releases and another publisher–or perhaps even the same publisher as the original–felt it would be good to give the game a second chance, quite likely with a shiny new veneer and/or theme.

 

Such appears to be the case with Bali from award-winning designer Klaus-Jürgen Wrede (Carcassonne) and publisher White Goblin Games.  Bali is a re-release of Rapa Nui, which was first published in 2011 under the Kosmos label. The original game was set on Easter Island, which is famous worldwide due to its mysterious moai, the large stone carvings which appear at various locations around the small island.  This latest version of the game has a new setting: the island of Bali. Bali’s past is also mysterious and, according to game lore, laden with superstition and spirituality. Islanders attempt to appease the gods and spirits of their ancestors by sacrificing much of their harvests.  Priests help ward off the evil spirits, while the erection of shrines pleases the gods.

 

Game play in Bali is essentially the same as that in Rapa Nui, with a few minor tweaks and the addition of two new variants.  A deck of cards consisting of farmers of four types (rice, peanut, banana and pepper), priests, shrines and stonemasons is mixed, and four columns consisting of four cards each are displayed as the “offer.”  Each player receives one each of the four types of “sacrifice” cards–rice, peanuts, bananas and peppers–with the remaining decks separated and set aside. Players also receive a starting deck of three farmers and one stonemason, as well as a few “stones” depending upon their place in the turn order.

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Posted by: gschloesser | January 2, 2020

Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy

Design by Ryan Lambert Published by Adam’s Apple Games 2 – 6 Players, 45 minutes Review by Greg J. Schloesser

I have often bemoaned the lack of creativity and overindulgence in terms of themes used in board game design.  Dragons, dungeons, dwarves, castles and even medieval cities – all have been overused as the setting for games.  So, I am always pleased when a game is released that has a fresh or seldom used theme.

Truck Off by designer Ryan Lambert and Adam’s Apple Games certainly has a unique theme:  food trucks in search of customers at various venues. Players assign two of their fleet of trucks to different venues, then attempt to manipulate the customers and trucks in hopes of reaping the most money.  Dice and card play are the central mechanisms, but a healthy dose of luck also plays a major role.

Depending upon the number of players, up to six different venues are set out, each corresponding to a specific sided die (4, 6, 8, 10, 12 & 20).  Each venue is named, and includes locations such as the Brewery, Sporting Event and Gaming Con. Each player receives a fleet of six trucks, one for each of the venues.  Each player’s fleet has a clever name, such as Fry Hard, BeeBeeQ and Fig Town. Players also receive a hand 12 action cards, but the group mutually decides to discard two from their hands.  There are two recommendations provided, depending upon whether the group prefers less or more “take that” during game play.

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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

Montana

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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