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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Posted by: gschloesser | November 16, 2017


Design by Shadi Torbey
Published by Z-Man Games
1 – 2 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser


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


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


Design by Alexander Cobian
Published by Mayfair Games
3 – 6 Players, 1 hour
Review by Greg J. Schloesser


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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