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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Posted by: gschloesser | October 4, 2018


Published by TCG
2 – 8 Players, 10 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Dexterity games continue to remain popular.  The most popular mainstream dexterity game is undoubtedly Jenga, although a case could be made for the classic children’s game Barrel of Monkeys.  Within the gaming hobby, titles such as Bamboleo, Hamster Rolle and Villa Paletti readily come to mind.

A lesser known game in the genre is Verti-Go.  Published by The Canadian Group, the game involves balancing cards (similar in size and shape to credit cards) atop a pivoting can.  The game has all the appearances of being aimed at the mass market, with eye-catching packaging, easy rules and visual appeal.

The 32 cards each depict four colors, one along each edge.  What makes the balancing of the cards possible are the slots cut into each side of the cards.  These slots are just large enough to insert a corner of a card—albeit just a bit—forming a teetering tower of cards that tends to fan out in all directions.

Making the proceedings more difficult is the can upon which this fan of cards is constructed.  Atop the plastic can is a card that is mounted onto a swiveling knob.  As players insert cards into the growing fan, this knob can (and will) tilt, causing the entire structure to tilt along with it.  Of course, this makes the structure unstable, making it increasingly more difficult to add new cards.  That is needed to challenge the players and make each placement perilous.

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Posted by: gschloesser | August 20, 2018

King Chocolate


Design by Stefan Alexander
Published by Mayfair Games
2 – 6 Players, 60 – 90 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

One of my many weaknesses is chocolate, which I find almost irresistible.  So a game about growing cacao and moving it through the production chain so it can become the delicious delicacy was bound to catch my interest.  The only other major game that I can recall that had chocolate as its central theme was Schoko & Co., which was released way back in 1987.  Unfortunately, I found that game to be a rather dry, economic affair with little taste.  Would Stefan Alexander’s King Chocolate be a choicer selection?

In spite of its rich theme, King Chocolate is a decidedly abstract game.  The feeble attempt at adding a theme really doesn’t stick and fails to add much, if any, atmosphere to the game.  Still, as an abstract game, it is decent and engaging to play.

The game board—which grows and develops as the game progresses—begins with a ring of connected hexes.  New hexes will be placed both inside and outside of this ring, enlarging the cacao fields and facilities required to grow and refine the cacao.  Each double-hex tile is color-coded and numbered to show which step in the six-step process it represents.  Further, each hex has space for one or two cacao cubes.  The idea is to produce cacao and progressively move them through these six steps, resulting in a bounty of chocolate.

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Posted by: gschloesser | August 13, 2018

Whistle Stop

Design by Scott Caputo
Published by Bezier Games
2 – 5 Players, 1 ½ – 2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Really?  Does the boardgaming world really need another train game?  The market is saturated with hundreds, if not thousands of train-themed games, and dozens more seem to be released each year.  I like trains just as much as the average guy, but don’t we already have enough games centered on the iron horse?

Normally, my answer to this query would be a resounding “yes!”  However, I continue to be surprised –and sometimes delighted—by the clever and original twists that designers can conceive to make a new train game feel novel and unique.  In the past year alone there have been several train-themed games that I have thoroughly enjoyed that were not a simple rehashing of old ideas.  Among these is Scott Caputo’s Whistle Stop.

Published by Bezier Games, Whistle Stop has some familiar train game aspects—tile laying, resources, stocks—but is actually a bit of a race game as opposed to a traditional track building affair.  Sure, track is built, resources are collected and stock is purchased, but the true spoils come to those who reach the west coast.

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Posted by: gschloesser | April 18, 2018


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


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


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


“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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