Army Vs Aliens

I decided I needed to pick up some more 2 player only games a couple weeks ago it was Lost Cities, I also realized I have no real "dice games" in my collection. Obviously being a Sci-Fi fan it was an easy choice between Army vs Aliens and Pirates vs Ninjas. Although I was a bit biased against dice games before even opening the package, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun Army vs Aliens is. Below I will cover how to play, my thoughts and why everyone should have a dice game in their collection.

Objective: The goal of the game is to destroy all of your opponent's dice. If 5 consecutive turns go in which no dice have been destroyed the game is considered over, players now count the total value of all units in their Scoring Area and the player with the highest total wins.

How to play:

Basically each player gets a handful of six sided dice. Instead of numbers they each have pictures representing different arsenals to be used by either the Army or the Invading Alien forces. To start both players will roll all their dice, then the player with the most Rank 1 - Trooper / Invaders gets to go first.

On a turn a player chooses either to Rally or to Attack.

Rally: 

When you take a rally action you roll all the dice from your Rally Zone and any dice you choose from your Combat Zone.
The "Rally Zone" are any dice that are inside of your cup, dice go in the cup when
they get "used" to attack your opponent's dice. Your Combat Zone is simply the dice
that you currently have rolled in front of you.

Attack: 

This is where the majority of the game takes place, each of your dice can be used to destroy your opponent's dice of equal or lesser value. Three of the same type may also be used to destroy an opponent's die of 1 rank higher value. After making an attack, all dice that you used are placed in to your Rally Zone. All dice destroyed are claimed and placed inside your Scoring Area.

Dice Results:


 Example Turn:
The player who rolled the most infantry starts, in this case the alien player begins.







The alien player starts by using his UFO to destroy one of the Army player's tanks. The army player then decides to rally and rolls everything except for his Nukes.
To stop the Army Player from launching his nukes, the Alien player uses his
Overlord to return 2 nukes to the Army player's rally cup.
The Army player answers by using an infantry to kill an alien infantry.




My Thoughts

When I read the rules I was less than thrilled, but I ended up impressed with the amount of choice you actually have to make. I was under the impression oh dice game, they can play themselves, not this one. The one thing I found odd is that the Green dice were the Aliens, shouldn't they be the Army? Either way this is an excellent filler game that is great with beer and pretzels.

Who Would Enjoy Army vs Aliens?

Everyone: Obviously everyone doesn't include everyone, there are those that detest dice, don't like 2 player games, games that can be played in less than 10 minutes, or games that are lighthearted fun. Army vs Aliens is great for vacations or traveling anywhere because it is super easy to store (it's just dice!) you can pretty much bring it and play it anywhere. You can teach the rules in under a minute to anyone, it really is that simple but you will want to play again. It does get stale after a while but I don't think this would be the game you would center your night around anyways. Great for in between games, and starting off or winding down your night.


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King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo has become one of my go to games lately, not because of how awesome it is, well kinda because of how awesome it is but mostly because of how accessible (awesome) it is. Confused? Thats okay because the rest of the review will be really straightforward, this is a very easy game great for kids to play on their own or with older folks as well. The theme is awesome, giant monsters fighting for ultimate supremacy in Tokyo City and the gameplay is smooth, first I will cover how to play and then my thoughts and who will get the most enjoyment out of King of Toyko.



Goal: Your goal is to mass 20 victory points or be the last monster standing. You are eliminated from the game if your life reaches 0 and the game ends immediately if one monster reaches 20 points.

Setup:
This is one of my favourite parts of the game and the main reason that it hits the table so often. Players simply select a monster, grab its cardboard cutout and black stand, then take the Monster Board, set their hitpoints to 10 on the heart dial and the star dial to 0.

Then shuffle the cards and turn 3 face up to form a "shop" of items available to the monsters.


How to Play:
Playing is simple, first you roll all 6 black dice. Following a press your luck mechanic you are allowed to re roll any number of your dice twice keeping and setting aside any dice you wish each time you roll. Here is an example turn:

After Rolling the 6 dice, Alienoid decides to keep 1 claw, 1 energy and 1 two.

After re rolling the dice two more times Alienoid ended up with 3 2s, 1 claw, 1 energy and a leftover wasted 3.
For being the first player to roll a claw, Alienoid takes control of Tokyo City, he is awarded 1 Victory Point for entering Tokyo City, each consecutive turn he spends inside the city will yield 2 Victory Points, however he may not be healed using hearts on dice.
The energy bolt yields 1 green energy cube, they are saved to purchase special cards, and the 3 twos awards 2 victory points
This brings Alienoid's victory point total to 3. 

Here are what your results could be:


3 of a Kind - Rolling 3 1s, 2s, 3s will yield the corresponding amount of victory points, each additional number (4th 5th or 6th of a kind) will award 1 victory point.
Heart - Each heart will heal your monster 1 point, you cannot go above the starting hit points (10) unless you have a special card that says so.
Energy Bolt - These award you 1 green energy cube, you stockpile these each round and can buy Special Cards when you have enough energy.
Claw - These are your attacks, each one you roll will result in 1 point of damage, who you do that damage to depends on where you are located . If you are inside of Tokyo (City or Bay) You will attack everyone not inside of Tokyo, if you are outside of Tokyo you will attack the Monster(s) inside of Tokyo.
That's it, you rinse and repeat until there is only 1 monster standing or someone obtains 20 stars.

Special Cards:
These can be game changers, but if you don't like the selection of cards for sale you can always spend 2 energy cubes to switch them for 3 new cards. As soon as a Special Card is purchased it is replaced with a new card.


Some Examples of Special Cards:
Gotta love the classics like Giant Brain and Extra Head.
Thoughts: I like King of Tokyo, there is enough of a game that you will have to make tough choices and form a strategy but I can set it up in under a minute, this is the key to its success you can grab the box and be playing in 5 minutes, regardless of how many players are new. King of Tokyo has quickly become popular among my regular gaming group, I doubt I will pick up an expansion but I might fool around and make a monster or two myself.

Components:
Although Tokyo could be cooler like a few 3D buildings or something I think the components are part of what makes the game so much fun. The monsters are all done in awesome cardboard cutouts, there was only one I didn't like. The dice are nice, my only real complaint is selection, why are monster choices limited to the number of players, kinda made me sad.



Who would like King of Tokyo?

Family Gamers: Most families are okay with giant fictional monsters like the ones you see in movies battling each other in a board game, obviously though not everyone has the same point of view. I like King of Tokyo as a family game because: kids can easily play by themselves after being taught, adults won't be bored while playing with kids, and it is extremely accessible (easily and quickly setup, taught, cleaned up, etc)

Casual Gamers: You and your friends take on the roles of giant monsters, some of them classics like Godzilla and the Kraken and then proceed to fight each other for supreme control of Tokyo City. Its gonna be fun no matter what the rules are, then add in room for up to 6 players, push your luck mechanics and awesome looking components and you have a masterpiece. And as mentioned above, it is very easy to teach, set up and play for pretty much anyone regardless of age.




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String Railway

I've never understood the whole train theme genre of games and haven't been able to get into them really. String Railways didn't really change that, but it brought "trains" to a tolerable level - a 20 minute light filler that is visually attractive and is unique from any other game in my collection.


Objective: Score victory points by placing your strings, representing your railroads, onto stations cards. The winner is the player with the most victory points at the end of the 5th round.

Setup:
The "game board" is created out of a large, looped, black string.

The smaller grey string is placed inside the board representing the mountain.

The blue string is similarly placed representing the river.

Players choose one of the marks on the black border string, and place their Starting Station card. They take five strings in their colour, four short and one long, and the game is ready to begin.

On a player's turn, they turn over a station card from the deck, place it anywhere inside the playing area, and then lay down one of their strings (railroads). Strings must begin and end on different station cards. After a player has placed a railroad, they score points scored based on the stations it is going through.



There are eight different types of stations, each with specific scoring rules - clearly indicated by consistent use of icons on the cards themselves. Most stations simply award points for an initial connection, and impose a limit on the number of players that can connect to that location. A couple of them award points to the owner (the first player to connect to it), but then remove points for any future connections by other players. Players also lose points for building over the river, mountain, as well as other player's railroads that are not inside a station card.
My Thoughts: I loved the creative feel to it, playing was fun, the components were surprisingly fiddly but easy to understand. I like how fast you can teach players and that it doesn't take too long also the vibrant colours. I think that String Railway works nice as a family or something to play at the start of your night.


Who Would Enjoy Playing String Railway?

Family Gamers: Choo Choo All Aboard, String Railway will do great in a family gaming setting, very colourful and visually attractive, rules are simple to learn, setting up and playing are quick, theme is neutral and teaches some math skills with both adding and subtracting involved frequently in the scoring.

Casual Gamers: Everyone likes playing a fun new game with unique mechanics, String Railway provides some light gameplay where you don't have to be paying that much attention. Turns go around quickly and you can easily enjoy conversation, company, and beer without grinding the game to a halt. That being said there is still enough of a game that is enjoyable to play, making routes with string is actually pretty fun and a very different mechanic that makes String Railway leaves a refreshing taste in your mouth.

Gamer Gamers: Do you own every train game that exists? Then maybe string railway is for you. Seeing as luck is a big determining factor of who wins and there are not any real tough decisions to be made I would not recommend this to a serious gamer. On the other hand "Gamer Gamers" tend to have collections and non serious gaming friends. Because of the uniqueness of String Railway and lower price point I would recommend it even if you only get a few plays here and there.
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Lost Cities

Occasionally I get asked why I don't write more negative reviews, I guess the answer I should have been giving was that I hadn't had a chance to play Lost Cities. Since I do a fair amount of 2 player gaming with the Mrs I figured why not pick up this "classic" renown as a "couples game" or just a generally fantastic game for 2 players I thought what could possibly go wrong. Now don't get me wrong, this will not be an entirely "negative review" because I do see the attraction, I mean playing the game is pretty fun, you have to make some tough choices and the mechanics are good, even your goal seems feasible, so where does Lost Cities go wrong? I can share the sour taste in my mouth by quoting one sentence from the rule book "Thus, an expedition's value is between -80 and 156." In a round, you can have up to 5 expeditions and you must find the total value, rarely do you actually have 5 but you can see how scoring can be a little hard to keep track of. My main issue is that the scoring feels like it is too much work for the actual game you just played, even if you do it quickly with a calculator or pad of paper it is still a chore.



Objective: 
To have the highest total expedition value when the draw deck runs out of cards.



Setup: 
Shuffle the deck and deal each player 8 cards.

Gameplay: 
You have 2 options on your turn, discard or play an expedition card, after either action you must draw a new card.

Playing an Expedition Card:
You simply place an expedition card of a higher value than the current expedition card on your side of the board where the corresponding expedition is located. You may never go back and add a lower value card, and Investment cards must be played before any numerical expedition cards have been placed.

Discarding an Expedition Card:
Each Expedition has it's own discard pile, when you discard a card simply place it in the matching discard pile on top of any previously discarded cards..

Each expedition has a matching discard pile located
between the two sides of the game board.


Drawing a Card:
You have two choices, technically 6 choices as to where you can draw your card from. You can draw from the draw deck or the top card of any expedition's discard pile. Keep in mind that drawing from the draw deck causes the game to move closer to its end.


Game End / Scoring
This is where you need to get some scrap paper, a calculator and a Tylenol or two because shits about to get intense.
* First you add the numbered cards in an expedition together
* Then subtract 20 from the sum of the expedition
* Multiply the new value of the expedition by (1+# of Investment Cards)

Note: Expeditions that do not have any cards in them at the end of the game count for 0 points, they do not get the -20.

The blue expedition would be worth -60
while the yellow would be worth 0.
Artwork
I thought it was important to mention that the artwork on the cards is really cool. The numbers show an expedition in sequential order and each of the Investment cards feature the same people in front of a different ma. I felt that the artwork was very connected to the game thought they picked a good set of colours for the cards.

Why Didn't I enjoy Lost Cities?
As I mentioned above mostly the scoring, I felt that the game played good to okay but it wasn't "fun" for lack of a better word. I think my problem is it reminds me too much of standard card games, not to say that I don't enjoy Crazy Eights but when they start to get too serious I would rather play something with a board and bits.

Who Would Enjoy Lost Cities?

Casual Gamers: I do think some casuals will find love in Lost Cities, I think if you enjoy standard playing card games then you will really enjoy Lost Cities, if you do not, and consider yourself a casual gamer I would make sure to physically try this one before buying regardless of how great you think it sounds / looks.

Gamer Gamers: If you are considered an "alpha gamer" or any synonym for the term then I think you will find enjoyment in Lost Cities, unless of course you do not enjoy number crunching. There is lots of deep decision making and lots of replay value. When two people who are experienced with the game play it is totally different and way more intense, a game of wits, these are why I would recommend Lost Cities to a serious gamer.
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