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

royals-cover

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

villainy-cover

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

lords-of-vegas

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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Posted by: gschloesser | December 14, 2016

America

Design by Ted Alspach & Friedemann Friese
Published by Bezier Games
2 – 6 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

america-cover

Trivia games still remain popular, although probably not quite as much as when the Trivial Pursuit craze struck the world in the 1980s.  However, trivia games are often criticized for too heavily favoring those few who are trivia experts, leaving the rest of us to consistently feel inadequate.  Team play can help mitigate this somewhat, but a trivia expert will usually dominate any contest.

America is a joint effort between Friedemann Friese (Power Grid, Friday, Fresh Fish) and Ted Alspach (Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Suburbia, One Night Ultimate Werewolf).  It borrows heavily from Friese’s Fauna, a very similar trivia game that focuses on animal facts, as well as Wits and Wagers from Dominic Crapuchettes.  In all three of these games, close counts, and more than one player can earn points when answering questions.  Sure, nailing the exact correct answer earns more points, but being close will also earn points.  That is a refreshing breath of fresh air for those who are trivia challenged.

As the name suggests, all of the questions in the game are directly related to America (the United States, to be more specific). Each double-sided America card contains three questions related to a specific topic (Smores, Ferris Wheel, The Manhattan Project, etc.).  The three questions are always divided into three categories:  year, state and number.  There are 160 cards with 320 topics in total. Only six cards are used each game, so there are enough questions to play over 50 games.

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Posted by: gschloesser | December 12, 2016

Titan Race

TITAN RACE

Design by Julian Allain-Djib
Published by Fun Forge
2 – 6 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Titan Race - cover

Seems that every culture loves to race, apparently including fantasy cultures such as Titans.  In Titan Race, players attempt to maneuver their rider and his “titanic mount” through perilous terrain and be the first to cross the finish line.  Of course, this is a fantasy world, so those frightening Titans have magical skills and abilities that will make the journey extremely hazardous.  Titans are not known for their kindness or benevolence.

The game includes three small, double-sided boards, each with a different terrain and unique obstacles and perils. Unfortunately, in an effort to be compact, the result is boards that are dense, cluttered and difficult to decipher.  Larger boards would have provided more room, making the artwork and details easier to see and more pleasing to the eye.  As is, it is often difficult to see the pathway lines that regulate movement.

Each player receives a unique Titan card, matching board and highly detailed miniature.  The miniatures are impressive, but apparently fragile. There are some thinly attached appendages which can easily break.  My set arrived with a wing broken off one figure.  Each Titan has a unique power as described on the card.  The player board is used to track the Titan’s health and record which lap he is currently running.  A small deck of action cards and six dice with unique symbols to regulate movement  complete the components.

The race is conducted over three laps.  Titans begin at the bottom of the board and will move from point-to-point along pathways.  Each point has six pathways emanating from it, some of which, as mentioned above, are obscured by board graphics.  The board wraps on all four sides (forming a sort of globe), so traveling off the eastside will move the Titan to the west side of the board, one row up.  Exiting the north side of the board moves the Titan back to the south side and completes one lap.  This can initially be a tad bit confusing, but it becomes clear after a few turns.

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Posted by: gschloesser | December 6, 2016

ABOVE AND BELOW

Design by Ryan Laukat
Published by Red Raven Games
2 – 4 Players, 1 1/2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Above and Below - cover

NOTE:  This review was first published on the Opinionated Gamers website

Many gamers are familiar with Tales of the Arabian Nights, the story-telling board game designed by Eric Goldberg.  The game was mainly a humorous affair, with numerous  strange, bizarre and unusual encounters resulting in various stories being read, often causing unforeseen and sensational situations and scenarios.  Player decisions would direct them to a specific page and paragraph in a massive tome, with the resulting story further developing the game’s plot and direction.  The game was usually humorous and fun, but there was, as gamers would often comment, not much “game”  present.  Indeed, it is  usually considered an experience rather than a strategic or challenging game.

Above and Below is designer Ryan Laukat’s attempt to combine the storytelling feature of Arabian Knights to an actual strategic game.  Players represent refugees who recently fled a horrific barbarian invasion and eventually found a new land to settle.

While in the course of establishing their new village, a massive system of underground caverns and passages has been discovered.  The explorations of these passages results in a plethora of unusual encounters that, while dangerous, could result in the discovery of tremendous wealth and riches.

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Posted by: gschloesser | November 22, 2016

Warehouse 51

Design by Bruno Faidutti, Sergio Halaban & Andre Zatz
Published by Fun Forge / Passport Game Studios
2 – 5 Players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Warehouse 51 - cover

At the end of the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark film, an anonymous clerk is seen wheeling a large crate containing the fabled Ark of the Covenant into a cavernous warehouse that is filled from floor to ceiling with thousands upon thousands of other crates.  One can only presume that these crates also contain treasures and artifacts from antiquity that have somehow made their way into the hands of the U.S. government.  As one would expect from the obese government bureaucracy, this newly acquired priceless treasure will likely be stored and quickly forgotten, lost in mountains of records that will go unseen for eternity.

Designers Bruno Faidutti, Sergio Halaban and Andre Zatz have borrowed this premise in Warehouse 51, an auction-driven card game wherein players represent investors vying to get their hands on history’s precious relics and antiquities.  Warehouse 51 itself is a mythical U.S. storage facility where these relics are stored.  So just why are these relics being sold?  It seems that the U.S. government is bankrupt (sadly, a not-so-fantastical premise) and is breaking open the doors of Warehouse 51 and selling the relics contained therein.  But, there is a potential downside:  some of these relics are cursed (which may explain why they’ve been hidden for all these years), while some may ultimately be proven to be counterfeits.  Let the buyer beware!

Warehouse-51-Art-6Relics are depicted on cards and are divided into four varieties (colors):  Western Fantasy and Literature, European Mythologies, Near and Middle-East and Eastern Cultures.  Each relic has a value of 1 – 3, and there are incentives to collect the greatest value in each category as well as having relics from each category.  The relics are separated by category and each deck is placed face-down.  Players begin the game with 10 Ingots and a player aid card, which depicts the number and value of cards in each category.  This is important knowledge when deciding which relics to pursue. Between each player is placed a face-down counterfeit card.  Players may look at the cards to their left and right, but the identity of the other two is initially a mystery.  These cards will ultimately reveal which artifacts are proven to be fakes.

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Posted by: gschloesser | November 16, 2016

Quilt Show

Design by Judy Martin & Steve Bennett
Published by Rio Grande Games
2 – 4 Players, 1 1/2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Quilt Show

I am not a crafty person…in either sense of the word.  What I am speaking of here is designing and making crafts.  Be it painting, sculpting, sewing, quilting or any other form of artistic craftwork, I have neither the talent nor the interest.  As such, a board game about making quilts and displaying them in quilt shows is quite likely one of the least appealing themes I can imagine.  However, I am sure there are legions of dedicated quilters who would feel differently.

Quite to my surprise, two games using the quilting theme were released last year:  Quilt Show and Patchwork.  As I have already reviewed the latter, this review will concentrate on Quilt Show, published by Rio Grande Games.

The game is designed by the married duo of Judy Martin and Steve Bennett.  Martin is an internationally renowned quilting designer and has authored over 20 books on the subject.  Conveniently, they are also both avid boardgamers.  So, it should come as no surprise that they have combined their two loves in their first published game.

In Quilt Show, players will acquire fabric cards that they ultimately turn into pattern blocks for their quilt creations.  A deck of cards represent a variety of different fabric colors, including single and dual colors, as well as a dozen dye goods, which can be used as any color.  Six are revealed into a face-up display.  Pattern blocks are depicted on the tiles, which are sorted by the six different patterns.  Interestingly, each type of pattern has a formal name within quilting circles, and these names are used in the game.  The top tile of each stack is revealed.  Depending upon the number of players, a specified number of time and prize markers are used.

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Posted by: gschloesser | November 8, 2016

Sun Tzu

Design by Alan M. Newman
Published by Matagot
2 Players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Sun Tzu - cover

Back in 2005, Alan Newman’s Dynasties was published by Jolly Ranger Games.  I was pleased to see the game finally published, as I had played it during the development stages and rather enjoyed it.  The published version was in a very small box with basic components and artwork.  I thought at the time a nice enhancement with miniatures and professional artwork would make the game far more appealing.

It only took about ten years, but that more eye-appealing version is now available from Matagot.  While the rules are essentially the same — there are a few minor changes — the main difference is the upgraded treatment.  The map is still rather basic, but the troops are now represented by detailed plastic miniatures.  The artwork is not stunning, but certainly an upgrade from the original version.  The score displays for each of the provinces are now tri-folded cardboard, which are rotated to change the values of the provinces after each scoring round. None of these upgrades are necessary to play the game, but it sure does make it more appealing and adds to the enjoyment of playing.

So what exactly is Sun Tzu?  As anyone with a modicum of military history knowledge will surmise, the game is rather loosely based on the legendary Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu.  His military tactics and writings are still studied today by militaries around the world.  The game is set in China during the time of Sun Tzu, when he was a military strategist during the war between the Chinese states of Wu and Chu.  Each of the two players takes control of one of the States and attempts to gain control of the five provinces depicted on the map.  Nine rounds of bluffing and conflict will determine the victor.

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