Holiday Season

Sorry I have not been putting out reviews at a decent rate this holiday season is just a lot busier than I thought it would be and I just haven’t had the time. I will get back on track with regular reviews after Christmas so expect one near the end of next week, also I have a number of BIG changes to my blog coming up in the new year that will make looking for a game to add to your collection easy.

Anyways thanks for all the support and feedback it has been great, Happy Holidays!
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Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game

Call of Cthulhu:LCG Review by Todd Barker is a Living Card Game where players will use spells, characters and locations based on the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft to compete for the success of story cards Rating: 4


Call of Cthulhu is a very fast paced cardgame where your goal is to win three story cards. You win story cards by placing 5 success tokens on them. In order to place success tokens you must commit characters to a specific story. Once both players have committed you go through a series of challenges that will effect the outcome of the story, winning and losing challenges has effects on your characters. Here are the different challenges and what they do to the winning / losing player.


Terror Struggle:  The loser of the terror struggle must choose a character and turn that character 'insane'. An insane character can no longer participate in the story conflict, is returned to its owner's play area turned face down until the character is cured during a refresh phase.

Combat Struggle: The winner of a combat struggle places a wound token on an opposing character. Most characters can take only 1 wound, the exception is a character with the keyword TOUGHNESS +. The number that follows the + tells you how many additional wounds he can take, a character with toughness+1 can take 2 wounds.

Arcane Struggle  The winner of this struggle chooses and refreshes a character committed to the story (this character does not have to have an arcane icon) This allows that character to be committed during his/her opponents turn.

Investigation Struggle: The winner of this challenge places a success icon on the story immediately. If this is the 5th token you claim the story and immediately carry out its text.

How do you figure out who wins each type of struggle  It's easy! You simply count the total number of each icon and the player with the higher amount wins. If there is a tie nothing happens, unless a character has the keyword FAST, then they break ties for the icons that character possesses.

After you have done these 4 challenges in this order you total up the 'skill' of both sides and if they 'active player' (the attacker) has a higher skill he/she adds a success token. If the "defender" has more then nothing happens.

When a player fills all the success token slots available at a story, he/she gets to take the story card and immediately carry out the action written on it.

Now that you know how to win lets start with how you actually get to that point. Lets go over a player's turn in order:

> Refresh committed characters, turn 1 insane character back to sane, remove your statues from your domains.
> On a player's turn they will first draw 2 cards, they can choose to add any 1 card to one of their 'Domains' so that it provides additional resources.
> You may now play characters/support and or event cards from your hand by paying the appropriate resource cost.
> You choose which characters you are committing to each story, then the other player gets a chance to commit his characters to "Defend" a story.


Resources:

Most cards have a cost associated with them (in the upper top left corner), in order to play this card you must meet its conditions (characters/support can only be played on your turn, most event cards are self explanatory as to when they should be played) and you must pay the total resource cost. Note in addition to having the required amount of resources to pay for a card, you also need 1 matching faction symbol. To activate a domain to pay for a cost you place your Cthulhu statue on it this signifies that it cannot be used again until your next turn. Note when activating a domain you cannot split its value to pay for multiple cards, nor can you activate multiple domains to pay for a single card.


This is an example of neutral cards with no faction symbol, to play these you can use any type of resources.

Faction Symbols In a Domain


Components: The artwork on the cards are superb, even the backs. The tokens are double sided as wound or investigation this stops you from worrying about as many pieces. The board although a little small is very visually appealing. Of course the coolest part about the game are the statues you use to mark your domains as you use them, they are detailed and just plain awesome.


Card Types: All cards have their 'type' printed on the bottom left. Story and Conspiracy Cards do not, but their picture is much bigger and they are printed longways instead of like a traditional card.

Support: Once support cards are played they stay in play until destroyed by another card's effects or if the character they are attached to is destroyed.

Event: An event card is a one time use spell or action, it is played directly from your hand and discarded after its text is resolved. Event cards can be played at any time and lots of them are intended to be played on the opponents turn.

Characters: These are characters from the Lovecraft universe, they make up the core of your deck. Characters are used to win challenges and place success tokens onto story cards as well as destroy other characters and turn them insane.

Story Cards: Story cards represent your goal in Call of Cthulhu, in order to win you must obtain three. Three will be face up at all times (after a player wins a story card a new one takes its place), and each turn players will 'commit' their 'characters' to engage in four types of struggles and hopefully win success tokens, when a player has 5 success tokens they win the story.

Conspiracy: Conspiricy cards work the same way as story cards except they are played from a player's hand instead of the story deck. Once won a conspiracy card counts towards the three required to win.


Who will enjoy Call of Cthulhu?

Casual Gamers: Call of C'thulhu is more casual friendly than say Magic the Gathering because it is not a ccg. LCGs are expandable and still release new card packs quite frequently so there is room to get heavily into CoC. However because the cards are not random and you can play a full interesting and fun game with just the core set this is certainly a more casual friendly option versus traditional collectible card games.

Gamer Gamers: Because of the vast amount of lore that goes alongside any game set in the Lovecraft universe there are a lot of expansions for this game. This is a good thing, a game rich in lore and theme is easier to get into, introduce new players and there is always room for the game to expand and grow. A 'hardcore' gamer can really get into this because of the amount of cards available and deep strategy involved. You can really customize your deck until it works just how you like or until it's featuring your favourite characters, card gamers specifically will love this one.

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Alien Frontiers

Alien Frontiers is one of my favourite worker placement games, I am a fan of dice rolling if it's done correctly and I tell you Alien Frontiers has a pretty awesome way of integrating dice rolling and worker placement into one game.

I wrote a session report in a short story format, if you have played Alien Frontiers I would highly suggest reading it :) Here.

Gameplay:

The goal of the game is to be the person with the most points when one player runs out of his/her colonies. You score points for each colony placed, each territory controlled and for having victory 'tech' cards. Ties are broken by the player who owns the most 'alien tech cards

Your workers (spaceships) are your dice, and at the start of your turn you will roll all your ships. Your ships can go to any location although some require doubles / triples, a certain number or a run. The location determines what action you will carry out, and the number on your ship determines the details of the action. The details would be how much of a resource you collect, the trade value of your resources, if you can launch a colony, and if you can buy an alien tech card.
This game has so many different strategies to it that there is a way to play that suits each player's personal style. There are 3 different ways to place colonies onto the planet and each of them can be activated by a different combination of dice and resources. In Alien Frontiers you are not 'screwed' by your dice rolls instead your dice rolls leave you with strategic choices and a good player can turn the crappiest rolls into a victory!

Each location however can only have a limited number of ships in it. This makes for even more strategic choices especially when you are blocked from the resource or location that you really want.

Locations at a Glance:
Adding a die here gives you fuel according to the die's value.

Each die you add here moves your colony 1 space along the track.
When it reaches the end you may pay 1 fuel and 1 ore to
launchthe colony token and place it on the planet.

The orbital market allows you to trade fuel for ore. You trade x
fuel for x ore where x is the number of your doubles. Example
The yellow player could trade 1 fuel for 1 ore any number of times,
the red player must trade 6 fuel for 1 ore any number of times.

Adding doubles here lets you construct a ship, the cost of a ship
increases with the more ships you have. Once constructed
your new ship goes to the maintnence bay and is collected
with the rest of your ships next turn.

Adding 1 die of any value here allows you to discard the current
alien tech cards and put 3 new ones up for sale. Adding 2 ships with
a combined value of 8 or more will allow you to buy the alien
tech cardof your choice.
Each die added to the lunar mine gives you 1 ore. You can only
add a die with a value greater or equal to the last die added
 (the die on the right), as players collect their ships shuffle the dice
to the left.

Placing 3 dice that make a 'run' allows you to steal 4 resources
from any player(s). You can choose to steal 1 tech card instead
and you can split the 4 resources between players.

Getting the Edge:

There are lots of mechanics that allow you to tweak the way you play this game and give you the edge over your opponents. This works great to counter 'being blocked' out of a location or resource.
There are two different ways to get the edge over your opponents other than building more ships (dice):

Alien Tech Cards: You can purchase these by docking ships with a value equal or greater than 8 at the alien artifact. You can discard the current cards for sale and get 3 new ones by placing any value ship in the alien artifact. In addition to granting you some powerful abilities Alien Tech Cards can also be worth victory points.

Territory Bonuses: The player with the most colonies on a territory gains its bonus. If there is a tie the player who previously had the bonus must return it to the territory until the tie is broken. In addition to giving a bonus action, dominance over a territory also scores you a victory point.

Components:

Although the colony markets are kind of cheesy they serve their purpose. The tiles awarded to whoever asserts their dominance over a territory are good quality and they have their special ability printed right on them. The cards are fairly standard although they are a pain to pick up I would recommend sleeving them for sure. One thing that sets this game apart from others to me component wise is there is no colour I don't want to play. The dice / matching colony tokens are all a sort of off colour that I find more attractive than most games.


Alien Frontiers is clearly not for everyone, or is it?

Family Gamers: Although this is not family friendly where anyone can walk up and buy it off a shelf take it home and play with their kids, if your family is experienced with board games this one isn't too hard. After a couple turns pretty much anyone can get the hang of it and with the right guidance this can be a great game to improve critical thinking skills. The space theme works for some kids / families, for others it doesn't if your family is experienced with board games and or enjoys the science fiction theme you should check this game out.

Casual Gamers: There is a lot of strategy, planning and thinking in this game so if you plan on playing a game with some dinner guests this is not the one. However if you are trying to lead some casual gamers towards more in depth games this is a great game to use. It is pretty rewarding to see your strategy come together and after a couple turns, tech cards, more ships, and a territory bonus you can see your plan come to life. This is a great part of any game and is what gets people 'hooked' and wanting to play more of that game. There is enough customization / personal strategy that there is room for multiple play styles, however because there are a limited number of spots at each location you are sometimes forced into locations and this keeps the vast amount of choices available to you from becoming overwhelming.

Gamer Gamers: This is a great worker placement game, there are lots of different strategies that can be used to obtain victory. One thing Alien Frontiers does better than other worker placement games is it really gives you the ability to 'screw over' your opponents. In a family setting this would obviously not be your first choice of action however at the local games night with a group of avid gamers this is what turns this game from your typical worker placement into a game for strategic masterminds looking to find a balance between blocking opponents and scoring points yourself. Dice haters might be turned off but usually if you low roll in a game you are stuck with crappy results and thats why dice haters hate, however rolling low is not always a bad thing and tech cards allow you to add, subtract, flip or move points around your dice and your workers being your dice actually adds a unique element to Alien Frontiers.

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Warhammer Invasion

Warhammer Invasion is a thematic card game for 2 players. It is set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe and includes some of the most classic factions and cards! The goal is to set your opponents capitol on fire until two sections have caught ablaze.

To start each player selects a 'faction', takes their deck and capitol card. Shuffle your deck and draw 7 cards.

Lets take a look at the different types of cards that you will find in your deck.

Units: Units are the core of your army, depending on where they are placed in your 'capitol' they will either let you attack your opponent, produce additional resources and defending any zone they are in. The red hammers represent a unit's power.


Support: These are weapons, armour, buildings, locations and more. Some are placed right into a area of your capitol and others are played as attachments to cards already in play.


Tactic: Cards that can be played to alter the outcome of an event. They are played directly from your hand after paying the appropriate cost, then you carry out the text on them and discard them after they have taken effect.


Quest: These are long term goals players can pursue to gain additional benefits. Quest cards are played into a player's quest zone and after he can place a character directly onto the quest to complete it.
Lets take a look at how it plays.


Turn Breakdown:

Kingdom Phase: The active player returns all his unspent resources from his/her previous turn, then collects 1 resource for each power in his the 'kingdom' and gains 3 resources for the capitol.

Quest Phase: The active player gets to draw one card for each 'power' he/she has in their quest zone, quests have a power of 1 even without any units attached.

Capitol Phase: The active player is allowed to play quest, support and unit cards into one of his / her capitol zones.Cards costs are paid by cashing in the number of resources equal to the cost on the card. Each matching 'race' symbol on the card being played and your cards already in play will reduce its cost by 1. (cost can never be 0). The active player may also play a card face down as a development in any zone. Developments add 1 hitpoint to that 'zone' of the capitol in addition many cards increase in power as the zone they are in gains developments.

Questing: Once a quest card is played its owner may send a unit on the quest, to do so simply attach the unit to the quest like you would a support card to a unit. While on the quest that unit is considered to be 'questing' it may still defend the zone if attacked and contributes power to the zone it is in but by 'questing' the unit allows resources to build on the quest. Once the quest has reached its desired number of resources it   is completed and its owner may execute the quest's effects. Note: The resources added to a quest do not come from the player's pool gained during the kingdom phase but come from the 'center of the table' the neutral pool that both players grab from.

Battlefield Phase: This phase is broken down into 5 steps. In between each step both players have the opportunity to 'take action' this allows them to play tactic cards from their hand or use abilities on cards already in play.
1. The active player declares which capitol zone he/she is going to attack.
2. The active player declares who will be attacking that zone. Note: Only units in the 'battlefield' zone may attack an opponent.
3. The defender declares which of his/her units IN THE ATTACKED ZONE are going to defend.
4. Damage is assigned, both players total their 'power icons'. The attacker must do enough damage to destroy ALL 'defending units' before he/she can damage the zone they attacked. Both player's place damage tokens near the cards they wish to place them on but do not put them on the cards yet. After the attacker has assigned damage the defender gets to do the same. Note: Sometimes it is smart to assign more damage than needed to kill a unit in anticipation that its controller will play a card or use an effect.
5. Both players assign damage, any units with wounds equal or greater to their hit points are discarded. If the capitol now has wounds equal or greater than its hit points place a burning token on it. When 2 sections of an opponent's capitol are burning you win the game. Note: A burning zone functions the exact same as it did before it was set on fire the only difference is you are half way to winning/losing the game.

After damage has been applied play passes to the next player and he/she becomes the 'active player'. Players alternate who is the 'active player' until someone has set two capitol zones on fire.


Components: Although there are no cool Cthulhu statues the art work is simply unreal. The 'strongholds' are pretty neat they are a perfect size for the game and have good artwork aswell. The tokens in the game are good too except I feel the blaze tokens should have been a rectangle piece instead of a slightly larger but still small fire token, either that or make them the same size as the wound tokens and use multiple tokens to track each section's damage.


Warhammer Invasion brings back many fond memories of playing the tabletop Warhammer Fantasy, the fact that Dwarfs are included as a faction in the base game is only a added bonus for me. All that aside I still feel that Warhammer Invasion is a fantastic game that not only captures its theme in a awesome way, but mechanically works and flows very smoothly. Lets talk about who's going to like this one.


Family Gamers: Although combat and violence are not the most family oriented theme, Warhammer is enjoyed by kids as well as adults. I would recommend this to 'family gamers' with some experience under their belt, having played other card games is definitely a plus and will make it easier. I think where this game fits fantastically is if you have a family member who is really into Warhammer, if they take to the game you are going to save a lot of money and hopefully its a good bridge to get someone that enjoys tabletop gaming to expand and try more boardgames.

Casual Gamers: Warhammer Invasion is a two player game, because of this it generally isn't a great casual game however they do such a great job at capturing the fantasy theme that this game can be appealing to lots of people. Even if a casual gamer isn't into the Warhammer world as long as they appreciate a good fantasy theme this game is great, orcs, dwarfs, humans and mutated humans and the last one standing is the winner? I think so.

Gamer Gamers: More serious gamers might first overlook Warhammer Invasion because its a card game and even the word "Warhammer" might be a turnoff. I'm telling you there is so much strategy to this game, sure there is the luck of drawing your 'good' cards, but you also need to know when to play 'development cards' combine that with having to burn down different sections of your opponents capitol and having to place units into different zones of your own capitol leaves you to make some heavy strategic decisions.
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A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

In this strategic card game players take on the roll of one of the 'Houses' from the Game of Thrones series, the base game features the Starks, Lannisters, Targaryens and the Baratheons. The game is a race to collect 15 power tokens by winning challenges and meeting the conditions on certain cards.

There are multiple types of cards involved in the game so I will quickly explain each of them and then get into the game play.

Characters: Characters are used to win challenges, there are ways that characters can gain their own 'power tokens', these count towards your 15 needed to win, however they are discarded if the character is destroyed. Character cards are the easiest to tell apart because they are the only cards with a strength value, this is located on the bottom left of the cards artwork.
Game of Thrones LCG characters


Attachments: These cards are used to enhance cards you already have in play, the majority of attachment cards go on characters however some can be placed on locations. You can tell an attachment card apart because they have a 'chainmail' border around their cost and card name.
Game of Thrones attachment cards


Locations: Locations are used to provide you with additional abilities, gold income and some lower the cost of playing other cards, basically they are used to make your 'house' more powerful. Locations are played in your area and are semi permanent, (they do not get removed unless another card says so) they are easy to tell apart from other cards because of the map border surrounding the cards name and cost.
Game of Thrones LCG location cards hbo



Events: Event cards are played from your hand to alter or change a situation. After the 'text' on the card is resolved it is immediately discarded. You can easily tell them apart by the bird border that runs up the left hand side of the card.
Game of Thrones LCG hbo events


House Card: These simply act as a representation of what house you are playing, you will place power tokens on your house card throughout the game. In addition to these functions your house card will also tell you the turn order.
game of thrones house cards lcg ffg cardgame boardgame


Plot Card: Plot cards are kept in a separate deck from the rest of your cards. At the start of each round both players will select one of these from the deck and play one simultaneously. You can only have 1 revealed plot card at a time, they provide you with income, initiative and a "claim" value that determines the effects when you win a challenge.
Game of Thrones LCG


Agendas: These are a modifier to your House Card, you can only have 1 and you must select it before the game starts, once selected it may never be removed during the game. Agendas provide both a benefit and a drawback for the entire game.

Game play Varies Slightly depending on the amount of players you play with, this review will focus on the 2 player game but near the end I will touch on what is different with more players. The game goes something like this:

Plot: Both players select and reveal a plot card from their plot deck, this is placed over top of their previous plot card and if you reveal the last card from your deck all plot cards except the revealed one can be reshuffled.

Draw: during the draw step players draw 2 cards, if their deck is empty you cannot draw cards but nothing else happens.

Marshalling: The marshalling step is completed by one player and then the next until all players have completed the marshalling phase. During this step players determine their gold income by adding their 'plot card' to other bonus incomes. Then they place 'character and support' cards from their hand by paying the gold cost. Note: If you play a card from a house that is not your own you must pay 2 additional gold.

Challenges: There are three different types of challenges and they each provide the winners with different benefits. Note that if the 'defender' wins a challenge no action is taken.
> Military Challenge: The loser must choose and kill the number of characters equal to the attacker's 'claim value'. Note: These characters do not have to be characters that were in the challenge.
> Intrigue Challenge: The loser of this challenge must discard at random cards equal to the attacker's 'claim value'.
> Power Challenge: The 'attacker' takes power tokens equal to his/her claim value from their opponent's house card.
If a player wins a challenge and the defender's strength totals 0 then claim an additional power token.
Once the first player has had a chance to initiate challenges it becomes the other player's turn to do so. Note that once you have 'attacked' a challenge your character is considered to be 'kneeling' and is spent until your next marshalling phase. To signify this, turn the character sideways, Note: A character that is not 'kneeling' is considered to be 'standing'.

Dominance: During this phase players count the total of all their 'standing' characters and add 1 for each gold coin leftover from your marshalling phase. The player with the highest total is awarded 1 additional power token. If there is a tie no power is awarded.

Standing: During this step both players 'stand' all their characters, locations and attachments.

Taxation: All players must return any unspent gold to the treasury to stop you from stockpiling.

Once you have gone through these steps, you repeat them and the player who was the 'active' or first player last turn now goes last and the player who went last goes first.

Multiplayer Games: In a game with 3 or 4 players there is an additional rule of 'titles', players take turns selecting them during the 'plot' phase. These titles provide you with a benefit, and force you to support or oppose another title. You cannot start challenges with a title that you support; also you may block or 'defend' for the player whose title you support. If you win a challenge against a title that you oppose you gain 1 additional power counter. Titles are returned during the 'taxation' step and are chosen again during the plot phase. In a 3 player game the titles are not returned until they have all been chosen, in a 4 player game they are returned right away at the end of the taxation phase.
Game of Thrones LCG
house pieces statues


Components: How great can the components to a card game be? Well when it includes 3d markers to signify your title and the titles are directly related to the games lore or theme the answer is pretty awesome. The artwork on the cards is great, the gold and power tokens are nice and the title markers are awesome.

Who will enjoy a Game of Thrones the card game?

Family Gamers: Unless your kids are older or you're already experienced with board games and like fantasy themes I would stay away from this one. Violence, double crossing and conquest for power are not traditional family game qualities, there is also a lot of text and rules.

Casual Gamers: A Game of Thrones the card game is set in a universe widely enjoyed by so many people, from books to games and a HBO TV series there are lots of people who at least know what it is. A good theme can make or break a game for casual players even if the game itself is awesome. If you are a casual card gamer, or are in love with the theme then this game is for you.

Gamer Gamers: Especially once you add in the multiplayer components A Game of Thrones becomes a deep strategic card game of treachery, deceit and short term alliances formed for personal gain. Even if you don't count deck building as part of the strategy this is still a very deep game which is good for gamers who are not 'card gamers' and just want to play right out of the box. This game will appeal to 'serious' strategy gamers, card gamers and anyone who is familiar with A Game of Thrones setting.




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Game of the Year 2012


Kingdom Builder recently won the Game of the Year award (2012) and was the subject of some pretty heated debate, did it really deserve to win game of the year? My answer is yes, it is a game that can be played over and over and enough will be different every game that keeps it from getting boring or stale. The mechanics are easy enough to learn and teach to someone, but there is still enough room to perfect your strategy and create some in-depth plans.



kingdom builder game of the year spiel des jahres board game geek

Objective: All points are tallied at the end of the game, the winner will be the player with the most victory points. For details see 'Scoring'. The game ends when one player runs out of blocks, all the other players finish their last turn then you count score.

Gameplay:

On a players turn you play a card. Then you carry out your 'basic action' followed by ALL extra actions. You might be asking what the heck is a basic action or what is and how to I get an extra action? Don't worry that will all be explained.

Basic Action: Play 3 wooden blocks on the terrain type that matches the card you played. (Place 3 blocks in the desert if you played a desert card.)

Extra Actions: In order to use an extra action you must have the corresponding extra action token. To obtain one of these tokens you simply place a block next to a "Location" where there are available tokens (there is a limited supply at each location). Your extra actions are as follows:

kingdom builder game of the year spiel des jahres board game geek farm
Farm: This extra action allows you to place an extra settlement
 block onto a grass lands every turn.


kingdom builder game of the year spiel des jahres board game geek oasis
Oasis: This lets you place an extra block on a desert every turn.


kingdom builder game of the year spiel des jahres board game geek paddock
Paddock: This allows you to move any existing block two
spaces in a straight line, you can jump over an existing
block but cannot end in the same hex as one.


kingdom builder game of the year spiel des jahres board game geek tavern
Tavern: This allows you to place a 4th block on either end
of your three basic blocks IF you build them in a straight line.


kingdom builder game of the year spiel des jahres board game geek harbor
Harbor: The Harbor allows you to move any settlement block
 to a water space, this is the only way to build on a water hex.


kingdom builder game of the year spiel des jahres board game geek tower
Tower: The Tower allows you to place one additional settlement
 block onto a hex on the edge of the game board. Terrain type
does not matter.


kingdom builder game of the year spiel des jahres board game geek barn
Barn: You can move one settlement block to the same
type of hex as the card you played this turn.


kingdom builder game of the year spiel des jahres board game geek oracle
Oracle: The Oracle allows you to place an additional settlement
block onto the same terrain type as the card you just placed.


  
Now all this seems pretty straight forward, how does all this add up to game of the year? There is one major twist/golden rule and that is: If you can place adjacent to one of your pieces already on the board you HAVE to. After you have completed placing all the blocks you can on your turn, you draw a new card.

Scoring: Each time you play Kingdom Builder you will have 3 'random' cards that determine how you will score victory points for the entire game. In addition to these cards you will score 3 points for every 'City' you have built at least 1 block adjacent too. The reverse sides of all the board tiles have a scoreboard on them use one of the extra tiles to track score.
kingdom builder game of the year spiel des jahres board game geek
Components: The game tiles are good quality, and it’s hard to make a poor wooden block. The cards are all well printed, the game has nice artwork. There are some 'waste' pieces that we never end up using they are the First Player Marker, and the slightly bigger tiles that show what each location does. Also the little 'Location' tiles that give you your extra actions are a little too small / hard to pick up. Kingdom Builder is fairly quick to set up, I think the best part about the components is how many variations there are. For example there are 10 victory condition cards but you only use 3 per game.



Overall I believe anyone can have a good time playing Kingdom Builder so lets move on to who will enjoy Kingdom Builder and why:

Family Gamers: The game does have some more complicated victory conditions and extra action tokens but instead of randomizing these you could choose the easier ones, for example placing a 4th block instead of moving existing blocks, and victory cards like miners: 1 point for every wooden block built next to a mountain. There is no violence or adult theme to this game its very Euro style and if you start with a easy setup I believe you could then teach this game to just about anyone. Recommended for families with a little gaming experience.

Casual Gamers: Because some of the victory conditions are more complicated than others this is a great bridge game for casual gamers, play with easier conditions at first till they understand the game then swap to the ones that really make you strategize and think to get people hooked on this game! Lots of the mechanics in Kingdom Builder exist in other games and learning them now in a 'lighter' game allows someone to get the hang of other games quicker and easier.

Gamer Gamers: Although lots of hardcore gamers despise 'random elements' I still think this is one to check out. I am the hugest fan of random elements in games however when a game forces to you make the best moves you can out of a not so good situation that is when it shines for me. This is how you really separate the pros from the amateurs, a good strategist can think on their feet and make a solid plan out of almost any situation. The random setup I think is a huge bonus for avid gamers that way you cannot use the same strategy every game or preplan your strategy depending on who you are playing with, overall I would recommend checking this one out
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Escape: The Curse of the Temple


With all the buzz on the internet about this game I decided it would be a great target for my next review. I've now had the chance to play both the base game and the expansion several times with all different numbers of players. It doesn't really matter how many you play it with this game is pure gold. It plays like no other all the hype about it on the internet is not for no reason, and people who say it’s not for them I can almost guarantee never gave this one a chance!
Overview:
My favourite part of this game that makes it pretty unique is the fact that there are no turns. Players will participate in ‘one big turn’ simultaneously and constantly for 10 minutes. Your goal is to escape the cursed temple. To do this you must ALL make your way to the exit tile with all the gems from the “gem depot” placed on their magic altars.
Gameplay:
This is a cooperative game and you either win or fail as a team. Although there are several different strategies to win, it is best and easiest if you stick together and really help each other out. Being a lone wolf is not an option as you will soon find yourself trapped without help and no way back to the safe room when you hear the gong.
The 10 minutes is kept track by a sound track, 2 times during the game a gong will sound, that is your que to get back into the starting ‘safe room’ if you do not make it back by the time the sound of the door slamming shut is played, you will lose a die for the remainder of the game.
Now that those rules are out of the way you’re probably asking ‘how do I play?’ It’s fairly simple; you roll dice. The game comes with some custom dice and each face represents an action you are able to perform or store.

In order to get a magic gem off the depot and onto an altar you must roll the required number of keys or torches. Some rooms have multiple altars with different values, however you may only fill one of them per room. The required number of keys or torches required to unlock the altar is collective, meaning everyone located on that room’s tile can contribute.
In order to place a new tile you must roll 2 green running men.


In order to move into a new room you must roll the matching 2 symbols in that room. For example if the players wanted to move onto the tile before the exit tile it would cost a green running man and a key, if they wanted to move onto the exit tile it would take a running man and a torch.

A black mask represents a cursed die. You leave this die black mask facing up in front of you and cannot roll it again until the curse is lifted. A curse can be lifted by rolling a golden mask or if another player in the same room as you rolls a golden mask. Each gold mask cures TWO black masks, however you CANNOT split the cures between two players.
All the Specialty Dice
Now reading the above this may not sound like the most amazing game, sure it’s different but does it really work? Is it really that great? The brilliance comes from two mechanics that are embedded brilliantly into the game. You can keep or ‘store’ a die if you like / need the symbol on it. Say you are trying to reach a cursed friend a couple rooms away and you are having trouble rolling the correct symbols to get there, you can keep any gold masks you roll for when you finally reach your friend. Say you are a few tiles away from that big 10 key gem altar, any keys/torches you roll on your way over there you can keep and use to unlock the altar. The trouble is finding the balance between how many dice to keep / which ones to keep and how many you want to roll. The other mechanic is the timed pressure. Not only does the game give you a mere 10 minutes to escape, but twice you must make it back to the safe room or you are now rolling 1 less die for the remainder of the 10minutes, between this pressure and the constant 10minutes of game play creates a very intense cooperative game that leave players shouting in pure excitement.
Once the exit tile is drawn you simply have to get all of your gems into a magic altar, then each player must get onto the exit tile. If you all make it before the final sounds of the temple sealing shut play through your speakers you all escape and win, if even one person is left behind you all fail.

Components:
Okkay the adventurers are not that impressive, they are wooden and serve the purpose for the game quite well although they could be a little bigger / easier to grab so you can move quicker. The tiles are great, good quality they don’t tear easy and you can actually shuffle them perfectly or maybe I’ve just got the perfect size hands, but lots of tile games ask you to shuffle and you can’t really or they give you a bag to draw out of and that would only slow you down in a game like this.
The cd the game comes with not only includes the soundtrack for playing the game but it has a track on it that tells you the object / backstory of the game and then explains in full detail how to play. Alternatively if you cannot play the soundtrack the game comes with an hourglass timer.
As if the game isn't enough fun already they throw in a full expansion that allows for a lot of replay and defiantly makes the game more interesting for more experienced gamers or people that just know how to work well together. I will do a full review of the expansion later.


Let’s talk about who would enjoy this game and why.
Family Gamers: The rules are simple enough that kids can play although if they have never played a cooperative game before this could take some extra explaining. But it is defiantly a game that mom and dad can enjoy while playing with their kids without feeling ‘dumb’ for lack of a better word. This game has no violence or adult theme and if there are any Indiana Jones fans in your family this is sure to be a big hit!
Casual Gamers: Most of my friends would be considered casual gamers, they have only tried a handful of games but do enjoy trying and learning new ones and I can tell you they loved this one. I had them intrigued right from my words “try this game there are no turns and we work as a team”. There is a lot of table talk in this game I think more then I have seen in any other game even other cooperative games. The game lasts only 10 minutes (maybe 15 if you include setup) so if time is an issue for you it won’t be with this game. You win or lose as a team and either way your group will want to play again and because the game has some elements from more complicated games (tile placement, specialty dice, and cooperative game play) it can work as a bridge to other games, perhaps dungeon crawlers and other team games.

Gamer Gamers: Although there are exceptions to every rule or statement I do believe that even most hardcore gamers have not played that many cooperative games. There are less of these games to choose from and they just seem to be catching on. I think that the uniqueness of this game allows it to appeal to gamers, the sheer intensity of the game is eye catching and enough to make even dice haters give this game a try. The ‘sharing’ of dice with players in the same room as you as well as the time limit/pressure of the game does a great job of making people who hate the randomness of rolling dice forget they are rolling dice all together! The game itself is hard enough that without a solid strategy you will fail, and the expansion makes even a solid strategy fall apart! Although the basic game might not keep a ‘gamer’ interested the included expansion sure will.
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Board Game Barker Charges Into Week Two

This past week I finally decided to not be lazy and take my blog live. I reviewed two games; Safranito and Fresco. I don't know a lot about blogging but I think 350 views my first week isn't awful so thanks for the support! I would love some more feedback and comments as well as some help getting my blog noticed anyone who has any ideas would be a great help.

This upcoming week I am planning on reviewing 3 games! Escape, Alien Frontiers, Kingdom Builder
All are great games that have been seeing a lot of play action at my house but my personal favourite of the three is by far Escape!

If you happen to be a member on Boardgaming.com  you can check out my profile there http://boardgaming.com/author/toddbarker please take a moment to vote up my reviews and follow me if you like them I could really use some more exposure.

And if you want to keep up to date with me you can follow on twitter @todd_barker
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