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Shoot Kill Repeat!

pic3476604_mdAdrenaline Review
In video games, there is a game genre called first-person shooter, which basically playing a guy / dude with his point of view and shoot things up. If you are a video gamer, you will easily name some games with this genre, like Doom, Counter Strike, Quake, Call of Duty, Battlefield and such. And there’s a tabletop game that people think, is using the same mode of play. But not directly I guess, cause it’s different in a big way, though somehow it conveys the feeling for a fps game. It is called Adrenaline, one of some new released titles from Czech Games Edition, designed by Filip Neduk. So let’s get down to it and check what it has to offer us.

The Theme and Artworks
There’s nothing special on the backstory, it’s just a death match in a industrial world with characters in different appearance. Sounds simple and boring, but hey they are here to drop some bodies, not tell stories, makes sense to me. The artworks work fine and nicely made, not something spectacular but it’s drawn for purpose inline with the theme. The death match takes place in a locked compound with several rooms, the game board illustrated this map in eagle eye view, shows the different rooms with different colors to make it easier to recognize. In the other hand, the weapons look cool.

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The player figures

The Components
Miniatures, yeah it has minis, just 5 pieces but hey better than none at all. Players have their figures based on color (five colors, you can play up to 5 players in this game) and each figure is different in shape and model. There are a space soldier, a steam punk girl, a robot and two different alien races. The figure’s colors are very stand-out and easy to see, especially on the board, so this is good. The other components are hit point plastic tokens in each player color. These tokens are tear drop shaped, like a drop of blood. Players will pass these tokens when they hit someone with their weapons to mark their point for majority. Aside from the tokens there are plastic semi-transparent cubes for the ammo, ammo tiles, victory point tiles in many denominations and the cards. The cards have 2 types, Weapon cards and Power-Up cards. Weapon cards are unusually over-sized with 61×112 mm in size, while the Power-Up cards are small with 45x68mm in size. The cards quality is good, very smooth though it’s not a linen finish. The game box is unusual, a bit larger than the normal size box like Agricola. So it’s kinda bit hard to keep your shelf neat to store it side by side with another box.

The Game Play
First of all, the goal of the game is to get the most points, nothing else matter. So in this game players running around, grab weapons and shoot others. Before the game starts players get their own player board along with the hit point tokens, figure, ammo cubes and action tile of their color and also 2 random Power-Up cards. The board is set  based on number of players configuration (it’s flexible and you can use any preferable setup despite the recommended setup). Place a random ammo tile on each room space on the board that doesn’t show spawn or weapon slot, set aside the other tiles face down next to the game board. Shuffle the weapon cards, reveal and place the cards on the weapon spaces (there should be 9 weapon cards on the board, 3 for each weapon slot). Place the rest of the weapon cards on the weapon deck slot along with the Power-Up deck. Randomize the first player, and give him/her the first player tile. The game is ready to start.

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Deathmatch in progress

To start, starting from the first player, they need to play one of the two Power-Up cards they have to decide where their figure will spawn. A Power-Up card has a specific effect and cube with specific color. The color can be used during spawn or re-spawn, to determine where the figure will enter the board. The rooms are separated into 3 colors or more, the red blue and yellow color has a spawn point, the same color as the ammo type. During players’ turn they can take 2 actions. The actions are Move, Grab and Shoot. They can take the same action twice. After taking two actions, they reload and end their turn. Then next player clockwise take their turn.

A. Move Action
During the course of the game, players need to move around the board through rooms and spaces. The Move action lets players to move up to three spaces (single square space). They can move orthogonally adjacent from one space to another as long it’s not blocked by a wall. A room can constitutes from a single space or more than one space. A room is separated from another room by a door.
B. Grab Action
There are two things that a player can grab, a weapon card or ammo tile. Players can grab a weapon when they are on the weapon spot. The can choose one weapon from the available 3 (at most, can be less than) weapon cards on its corresponding slots. A weapon may have a cost to acquire and players can pay the cost from their available ammo supply. When they take the weapon card, they keep it on their hand, it is considered loaded and can be used when players take the shoot action. They can only have at most 3 weapons, so if they want to take the fourth weapon, they have drop one of theirs in the respected slot. When players take an ammo tile, they take ammo cubes shown on the tile from the their general supply and place it on their ammo box. A player can only have 3 ammo cubes from each color at any time, so any excess is wasted. If there’s a Power-Up symbol on the tile, players draw a Power-Up card from the deck (they can only have at most 3 cards by the end of their turn).
C. Shoot Action
Players can shoot other players if they have at least one loaded weapon and have a valid target. A target is considered valid based on several factor, the line of sight and weapon effect. Players can only shoot one weapon in a single action, shooting a weapon means place the weapon card from their hand to the table, the weapon is considered unloaded and need to be reloaded in order to take the card back to players hand.
Line of Sight, in general term is the range that a player can see a target. Players can see figures who are on the same room, while if a player figure in a space with a door, that player can see any figures located on the room connected with that door regardless their distance. Imaginatively that figure take a peek from the door into the other room and can see anyone inside that room. Beside the line of sight, valid target also decided based on the weapon’s effects. In this games, the weapons are one-of-a-kind and have various effects. When a player shoot a target, that target receives damage based on the weapon used. To mark this, the shooter give the target their hit point tokens which are placed on the life tracker of the target. For first blood (first damage to a target), the shooter get one point. When the amount of hit point token that a target has in their track equal as their hit points, they’re killed. When killed, the figure is removed from the board and scoring takes place based on damage majority. The killer gets to claim a spot on kill track by placing one hit point token on the track, or two if they overkill the target (by placing one more hit point than it’s necessary to kill a target). After the player already finishes his/her turn, the killed player draw one Power-Up card from the deck (even they already have 3 cards) and choose to discard one to determine where their figure will re-spawn. After get killed, that player place a skull token taken from the kill track on the empty left most point on their board, next time they get killed, the score gets less and less interesting.

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One-of-a-kind Weapons

After players take 2 actions, they end their turn by reloading, they can pay ammo cubes to take one or more weapon cards placed in front of them back into their hand by paying full the cost listed on the card.

The game continues until the last skull token is used and then one final turn takes place. When the game end, players tally up their points, player with most points wins the game.

The Replay Value
I honestly think that the game has little replay value. The variations come from different weapons, different board setup and game modes are not enough to bring the game fresh in each play. Basically you just running around trying to kill others. Even all the weapons are one-of-a-kind, you can find out and feel almost all of them in a single game. The game also comes in several modes to play. The basic one is Deathmatch mode is like free for all mode, where you can running around and kill everyone you encounter to get the most points. Aside from that, there are Domination mode and Turret mode. I have played Domination mode, once but didn’t see the good in it, the game feels too fast than it should in 3-players and found it to be quite quirky. Turret mode should be different, since players can set trap and hit the turret. It shifts the aim of the game and makes it more tactical if I am not mistaken by reading the rules. I think it is ease to expand the game, to add another new contents into the game. New various weapons would provide fresh taste to the old game, so it could be promo weapons or something completely different by offering new set of iconic weapons in games or maybe real life. There also different modes that the game can be implemented, such as tag team, zone, time based, capture the flag and others. These new different mode surely give new taste on the bud. Or maybe introducing character abilities as new element or new map setups would make the game more interesting.

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Victory Points

My Thought About The Game
I think the game does work well, it offers you new genre and feel to play. Maybe there are other shooting table top games out there, but none of them are just like this simple, easy to learn and yet so real to simulate the shooting genre. As people been saying that this game is a first person shooting game, well practically it’s different and not right to label it that way. For those who have not try the game yet might not agree with that since there’s nothing at all that describe the first person element. Yes you shoot people around, but not from the shooter perspective like an fps should. You still look it on the bird’s eye view, from top view of the game where you can see all the locations, all the figures and others. This is so oppositely different from a first person shooter. But, maybe in a way, you will feel there’s a slight taste or feel on the game play that reflects that first person element. For me, it is and after all, it doesn’t matter it is true or not, as long as you enjoy it. Personally I think the game does brilliantly convey the mechanic and theme into a very streamline and smooth shooting game while maintains or introduces new strategic factor into it by making the game as Euro game. Yup, I bet many of you didn’t see that coming. Taking from the visual, theme and style the game looks like, you would consider this game to be more of an Ameritrash game than Euro, it’s more make sense. But no, it’s an Area Majority euro game in disguise. Yes, killing and shooting people doesn’t feel gory in here, no blood splattered and no heads got blown off. There are only point crunching for majority, the rest are necessities. While you think the game is about killing and killing, it turns out to be efficiency and opportunity grabs. Your priority is getting the most points, not rolling heads, though killing your enemies sounds intriguing and fun. But in the end it’s about who has the most points. And last bu not least, there’s no player elimination (yes I know most of you do not like that, so its a plus right?).

dav

Playing the game

I think the game is very simple, you can explain the rules under 15 minutes and new players are able to pick the rules rather quickly than most games. The obvious obstacle is the weapons effect. Since all the weapons are one-of-a-kind, the weapon cards only provide icon descriptions on it, though I must admit they work hard to design it as clearly as they can, which I think they did rather splendidly. Though simple icons cannot equal the power of texts and sentences to convey the real definition of something, I believe with one play experience, players will easily pick up the definition of the iconography. So first play can be a challenge. They also try to design the game with balance in mind, since this game type can lead to bullying or player bashing, they use the point reducing for a solution. Each time a figures is killed, he/she is less worthy to be killed again. This create balance on players targeting another in a brilliant way. Okay, players can ignore this but the real aim for the game is most points, so ignoring the rules can lead the players definitely not winning. There’s also an interesting part in the over-kill aspect. When players get over-killed, they set revenge by placing one of their hit point to the tag area of the killer, this way, it gives them incentives to hunt down their killer to get an additional damage.

While the game has different map setups based on number of players, the game is free to be played in any map setup from small, medium or large. Even the large map with 4/5 players it doesn’t feel big. In short, while the game has dude running around the map shooting something, the real is that the game is about getting points from precisely timed shooting opponents. You won’t get lost in it, most of players turn they can shoot somebody because most of the location is reachable with a single turn. I think this is a plus, since it won’t be so fun chasing around people and cannot reach them. The compound is specifically designed to be compact and minimized the labyrinth / maze aspect of the map, avoiding long alleys and secluded area and also dead end. Yup no dead end, all rooms are connected.

So in overall I love the game, it feels new, fresh and very easy to play. I like how dynamic the game is, highly interactive and offers a lot of game changer during the game. I love the weapons and how keeping three of them can create combos, also using the Power-Ups. The components are okay, and in addition, this still an Euro game at heart. Sadly my wife doesn’t completely agree with me. Shooting each other around is not a theme she kindly favored. But for those of you who think shooting weapons is fun and want to add strategy element while shooting people, this might be a good choice.

dav

Crowded space, high conflict

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How Greed Are You? The Game

pic2773860Thief’s Market Review
This game was launched on Kickstarter by Tasty Minstrel Games, designed by Dave Chalker. It’s a small box game, for 3-5 players. But don’t be fooled, the game is not “small” at all. At first this caught my interest because of the price was cheap and the shipping was so affordable. So I was like “what the heck, let’s back it!”. Well let’s see how the game really is.

The Theme and Artworks
I am not particularly fond with the theme and artworks. It has an okay theme, about thieves doing business in their free time? Just kidding. The artworks are not really my favorite, but it’s okay and you can still enjoy the images, comical and fun. Okay, serious, the game is about splitting up the loot of your last job (remember, you all are thieves) and spend them to get what you want in the market. The back story is that players are a group of thieves, which have been back from their “interesting” looting activity and now the real deal takes place, they need to divvy up the loot and spend their shares to get what they need to help them carve their way to be the one and only, King of Thieves.

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The Components
The dice are what make the game really interesting. The dice are plenty inside a box of that size and they’re custom black dice with colorful symbols. What’s not to love? Though the symbols shown on some of the dice were not really painted well enough, so some icons do not have solid colors compared with others. The cards are in good quality, though they’re not linen finished, but you still can fit them in the box even after you sleeved them (I used premium Mayday sleeves). The coin and point tokens are okay. The small box is good enough to fit all the components, fully packed, and I love the smooth laminated finished on its box.

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The Game Play
The main idea is to get the most infamy points at the end of the game, he/she will be crowned as King of Thieves, it has a card for it, not a real crown, so please be content with just that. Before the game starts, shuffle the cards based on the alphabet shown on its back, place it face down to form three separate decks (A,B,C), draw 5 cards from deck A. Choose a first player and give him the first player marker. The game starts with the first player rolls the available loot dice, and place the first player marker and all the dice roll results to the center of the table as a loot pool. Then the first player choose what to take from the loot pool. He can take anything, all or just some. He even can take the first player marker back. Then the player to His left, choose to take from the loot pool or from any player who has any loot in front of them. If He decided to take from a player, he takes all but 1 from the player’s loot, and return it to the pool (it can be a loot die or the first player marker, if it’s a loot die, He re-roll the die first). So this process is repeated until everyone has a loot in front of them. Then the next phase is to spend those loot, starting from the player with the first player marker and continues clockwise. Players can spend their loot to buy a card from the display, they return all the dice used to buy the card back to the center. In addition, they can spend one or more coins to be any symbol to buy the card. And then they can cash in their infamy symbol with points and gold bag symbols with coins. After all players finish their turns, more cards are revealed, if the current deck is depleted, five more cards from the next deck are drawn and available for next round. If it’s the last deck, the game will end.

So what are the cards do? Some give infamy points but most of them give passive or active benefits that can help players during their turns. This is also one of the many interests about the game, the core idea here is to build your tableau the best you can to gain the most points. The cards are divided into 3 decks, with labels from A to C. It uses cards from deck A and then as the game progresses continued to deck B and C. As the decks changed, the cards get better and eventually offer huge potential points for players.

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The Replay Value
It has some replay value, since all the cards are usually not used in a game, so there often some cases that some cards will not come up in a game. This gives probability and a bit of adaptability with the available cards to build the tableau. Aside from the cards, which is common in tableau building games, one thing that really stands out in this game is the dice mechanic. Okay, it’s just a dice-rolling mechanic but what makes it really interesting and unusual is its distribution. Players have the chance (especially the first player) to get all the dice they need, but there’s a catch. The designer made a brilliant system to incorporate interactive mechanic for players to get their dice. So basically the first player, can and may take all the dice, but that’s not the wisest thing to do, since other players will eventually loot them from his possession. Even if he took only some of the dice, others will decide whether it is okay or not to let him be. The dice amount are limited based on number of players, this what makes it interesting, since in equal perception, there should be an average amount of dice that a player can get, for example in a 5-players game, the game uses 13 dice, which in average there should be 2.6 dice available for each player (not to mention the first player marker). Getting more than the average amount would incite interesting decision by other players, and another factor is what symbols are available in this round relates with the cards available. To some extent the game really has flexibility aspect in the form of what dice and cards available. But aside from all of that, the ugly truth is that people sees things very simple and with the competitive nature of the game, it’s not easy to get away with more dice than the average without other players screwing while they have the chance.

My Thoughts About The Game
I think the idea of splitting the loot dice is very novelty and adds unique aspect to the game in a very big approach. The game is so simple, presented in a very small box but contains a good deal of “contents”. Personally I love the splitting loot mechanic, it stands out very well to represent the game or as it’s identity. The dice allocation and tableau building are nice, they’re just labeled as necessities to form the game. Aside from what components that you get from the game, the price is also affordable from what you really get (in short, it’s very cheap).  What I do not like is the dice, not that really matter to me, but the quality from each die are not consistent and it shows quite apparent.
So in overall, the game is good, you can play in 30-45 minutes with 4 players and it offers interesting choices, tactical and highly interactive. Easy to store with a very small box, even you can put it on your pocket and bring it anywhere.

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What Your Dream House Looks Like?

pic3176771_mdDream Home Review
Dream Home is a game published by Portal Games and designed by a Polish designer (I think he’s new to game design and this is his first game), Klemens Kalicki and illustrated by Bartlomiej Kordowski. Right from the start of its inception, this game has already gained a spotlight with the cute, bright-colored and beautiful art, thanks to the artist. It’s like a children’s game which I must admit that it is partly if not whole, a children’s game. It can be played with 2-4 players from 20-30 minutes (you can play this under than the time mentioned, trust me, or you are that worse). The game was published last year in 2016 which I just managed to get early in 2017.

The Theme and Artworks
In Dream Home, players are trying to build their dream home by choosing cards from the available options and place it on their boards. The cards are rooms in the home and can be placed in various spots depends on players’ taste and also basic physics. A good home should have its necessary rooms such as bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, the rest are complementary.
For the artworks, I must give a salute for Bartlomiej Kordowski. His works are superb and really succesfully give the game a very appealing soul to convey the purpose of the game. It really clicks and you know it does.

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The Components
The game is basically a card game, with a central board and some tiles. It has medium square box and of course cute and beautiful art cover. Inside there’s a plastic insert to hold all the components, and it works well, but the cards and tokens are easily scrambled when transported in many positions, so you need a small foam to cover this issue. The cards are small sized, maybe mini Euro size, placed well in the tray even when sleeved. There also a special first player marker, an over-sized orange house-shaped wooden token. There are 4 player boards and a central board, thick and good enough.

The Game Play
In the game, players get their own board as a foundation of their home. The board consists of a drawn image of a home with spaces to place cards. These spaces are drawn with 3 stories, 5 columns except there’s only 2 columns in the bottom story. So in total there are 12 rounds in the game. After 12 rounds the game ends and players sum up their scores. There are mainly two type of cards in the game, room cards and resource cards. During the game, each round players will take a room card and a resource card or the first player marker.

The fun thing about it (or not) is that players will have to choose the cards they need to get for their home from the available ones that drawn on the central display. The problem is there’s the turn order, yaaay… yeah, the one who pick the first cake always get the best and bigger ones. So each round the cards are drawn and displayed on the board, which there are 5 columns and 2 rows but the the first column only draw 1 room card, where the top row is placed the first marker token, you remember the orange house-shaped token? The first row is for resource cards, while the second row is for room cards. Room cards are obviously placed in the player board to occupy the spaces, while resource cards are more, how to say it? Complicated. The resource cards have different types such as experts, roofs, tools and decorations. These types work differently to help players make their dream homes.

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Now let’s take a look into the player board, players have a player board to hold all the room cards they already chose during each round. This player board represent a home with 3 stories (a basement, a level 1 and two stories). The basement only consists of 2 columns, which can accommodate 2 rooms (basement rooms only). Each room must be placed in legal / valid ways, it must have a foundation (a room below it, whether in any type or empty room, not an empty space). So in the first story, at first player can only build three rooms since the 2 right most spaces need basement rooms to be the foundations. Where the second story rooms need foundations from the rooms placed in the first story. Each type or room gives players a certain amount of points that will be scored at the end of the game. Some rooms can be expanded (more than 1 card which expand the room) to get better points. While a fully expanded room cannot be expanded again, so placing the same type of room next to fully expanded / finished room is not valid, hence that room card must be placed in another place or else the room card must be placed face down to show an empty room. Empty rooms will not be scored at the end of the game.

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Resource cards give players flexibility or better points. For example specialist / expert cards, can help you to manipulate one or more elements in the game, whether they can give you better options or additional points. Tool cards work similar like Specialists but the only different is that they have one-time effect, play-and-discard kind of cards. There are also Decors on the resource cards, this kind of resource give you additional points that can be placed on a specific type of room (not always), when placed, the room is considered finished even though it still can be expanded later. So placing a room expansion later is not a valid move and it must be placed face down as an empty room next to it. The fourth type is roof, where players need to collect at least four roof cards during the game to score at the end of the game. There are four colors in the game, brown, purple, red and orange and some roofs have windows on them that gives an additional point to the roof scoring.
At the end of the game, players tally up their points from the room cards, 3 pts from at least 4 roof cards (if they have at least 4 cards of the same color, they gain additional 5 points) and 1 point per window, Specialists that give them points and also additional points for the home functionality, 3 points if they have at least 1 Bathroom in each story and another 3 points if they have at least a kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom in their home.

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The Replay Value
Honestly, this game lacks replay value. The game is simple, easy to understand, straight-forward and have a decent light decision making that is interesting for casual players or children. But the replay value just on vacation in this game, it never came back and you will have to live with it. So after several plays, the game is beginning to feel samey over and over again (okay honestly, after 2-3 plays). There are no card variations, different setups or random encounters in each play. So there will always be the same cards in one play to another the only difference is just when the cards will come out. So with this as a crucial factor, the game does get fixed after one play and the rest are just obvious choices.

My Thoughts About The Game
I think that game is a sweetheart. Love it, the presentation is so amazingly cute and beautiful. The theme is simple and really targeting children and girls. It’s like when you’re a child and you play houses. You can introduce this game to totally new players and children, it’s very straightforward and simple you can explain the rules in 5 minutes. Players pick a column and take the cards on that column, place the room card on their board and move on. Yes, move on to the next round and do the same thing repeatedly 12 times. Though at first there seems to be a definitive decision making I must admit that it doesn’t really have decision making since most of them are obvious choices. I can picture myself playing this game several times in a row, since it’s very simple and takes about 10 minutes per play, but playing this for 5 times in a row, I could yawn and sleep accidentally. But aside from that, I think this game attracts children to learn good how to make decisions, because of the visual presentation and nature of the game. This one is totally a filler, overpriced one I suppose. After one play I realized that there are two important things in the game, which are the first player and the basement room cards, And others can be sort out later and easily. Getting first pick of the available cards are surely powerful, to be able to sort out the good cards and combinations, and it sucks to be the last player since what you get is basically trash (or not). In my plays I found out that the first player usually got hold by the same person most of the time. And the basement room cards are so damn important that even 9 points living room cards look like shit (pardon my language). But it’s true, the power of basement card is so damn great, because without these two cards on your basement, practically your movement ends halfway of the game. So the first thing to do is get that basement room cards while you can and if you cannot, take the first player marker for next choices. That simple.

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Aside from the game play, I think it has nice production quality, good small cards, simple wording on the card effect, thick player board and nice insert. If you have kids (early educational age) this might be a nice choice, or maybe girls, they love beautiful things like this.

 
 

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You Can Get Choked Drinking This Potion

dav

Potion Explosion Review
Warning, choke hazard, if you drink any potions on the game! They come in marbles, colorful marbles (okay only four colors, but still…)
Potions do explode, which based on my experience, I know none of this thing, never ever I brew a potion, worse make it explodes. So, when a potion explodes, what that leaves us, a good thing or not? In this game, explosions are always good if it’s your turn. Others, not so much. The game is about making potions (that’s obvious). The game had been on my wish list since last year, which the game had made it’s debut in Essen 2015. Finally I got the game from an online store in Italy (it’s an Italian games, so that explains), which I gave up to wait for English version, and got the Italian instead.

What made me drawn into this game anyway, aside from the marbles? Well, the marbles, I mean the dispenser (they call it that) that hold all the marbles looks spectacular from my seat or anybody’s. The dispenser is unique not also in form and shape, but also how it works. It holds all the marbles and can slide them over for game purpose, so a design with purpose is always a plus on my side. Plus the game play seems simple enough to produce fun with casual friends (when I don’t do heavy Euros but need something to occupy my time around 60-90 minutes).

The Theme
This is very abstract, so don’t expect much but it’s theme is applied perfectly. Players are chemistry students learning about the reaction of mixing potions. Now the test begins and they will compete with each other to prove that they’re the best among many in front of the professor. Player with the most points at the end of the game wins the game to be the most talented student of the professor.

dav

Inside the Box

The Game Components
Marbles (of course), the dispenser, some tokens and potion tiles. The marbles come in four colors (blue, red, yellow and black) and the colors are not solid, so they are kinda different from each other. The game comes with two extra marbles for each color, substitutes if you lose a marble or two, a nice gesture from the publisher. The potion tiles are fun to look at, colorful, but a bit thin than it should, but then again, if its thicker than it is, the pile would be very high and won’t fit into the inserts. Sadly the holes in the potions weren’t cut perfectly in place, many misses that some OCD players will find them annoying. The marble dispenser need to be assembled for the first time, and it’s quite fragile, so glue it down is a good solution, since you can store the assembled dispenser back into the plastic insert (yes they provides a very useful insert) without the need to disassemble it again. And the in-game issue I have with the dispenser is that, your playing surface need to be totally flat, a degree tilt makes the marbles deviate slide through one of the slots.  One last thing is, the box quality is not very good, I own the first Italian edition from Ghenos / Horrible games and it’s kinda thin, flimsy and easily torn, luckily the game is not that heavy.

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Playing The Game

The Game Play
It’s very simple, on your turn you must take one marble (ingredient) from the dispenser, and you take any explosion caused by your action (2 or more marbles of the same color collide with each other and explode). These marbles go into your hand and you must allocate these marbles onto your available potions (which you will always have 2 in your brewing desk) based on the matching color. When a potion tile is complete (all the slots are filled with matching marbles), you flip it face down and remove it from your brewing desk and return all the marbles on it back to the dispenser.
This complete potion can be consumed (aside giving you points at the end of the game) to gain it’s effect (which could be varies depends on the potion types). Once you consumed it, you turned it upside down to remind that you already drink it.
You also can (once per turn) ask help from the professor, which allow you to get additional ingredient from the dispenser (but keep in mind, no explosion will happen even if 2 or more marbles of the same color collide with each other) to help you finish your potion during your turn, but of course it’s not free, you must take a -2 token which will count against your points at the end of the game.
You can also get achievement token by completing 3 potions of the same type or 5 different potions. Each achievement token will give you 4 points at the end of the game, and these achievement tokens also what trigger the end game aside from the available potions from the pile. So once the game end is triggered, each other players will have one final turn, including the player who triggers it.

dav

Brewing Dry Potions

My Thoughts
It’s a very fun game, light and easy to play. What you do is take a marble and see the magic from marble explosions. Then try to complete your potions, maybe with the help of the professor or your own arsenal of potions. Though its quite straightforward, there are some way to arrange your moves to get the best chain combos outcome, timing is essential. Either by asking help or using potions in the right time can change the outcome  of your actions big time. Because of this reason, some might found this game prone to AP players. Personally I take this game as it is, a light game that you can play with your family, non-casual gamers and other friends who thinks winning is not the real purpose but to have a great time playing and seeing marbles explodes (not literally). I found the game to be very easy (or not punishing) since you still count the points from completed potions even if you already consumed it for its effect. I think you can try the game without counting the points from used potions, that could be more challenging.
But not to ignore the fact that there are many interesting combos based on the mixture of player’s action, potion uses and professor’s help which timing plays a great part of it. So given the small scope of constraints in the game, players can really work the game out based on what options shown in front of them, a very good plus if you are into that sort of combo thing.
Talking about practical time for setup and tear down, I think this one has a problem (at least for me), since preparing the game is kinda fiddly and long when it comes to sort all the potions when you randomize potions to use in the game. There’s no other way, you have to choose either take more time to setup or more time to tear down. Or maybe you can play it with all the types (in which I don’t know how it affect the balance of the game).

Replay Value
The game comes with 8 different kind of potions and you only play it with 6 potions, so 2 random potions won’t be in the game. Aside from that, there’s no other element to add the replay value.

dav

8 kinds of potions

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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Rock Paper Scissor With A Bull

IMG_20160401_191716[1]Rodeo Review
My friend gave me a review copy of the game. It’s not a final copy, still prototype (but the arts are already final). He designed this game for quite some time, never take part in the process but I am quite honored He asked me to review his (first) game. He published it under his own banner, Red Vanilla Games which still has a very small print run. The game is now available only through pre-order with minimum quantity.

The game comes with (mostly) cards, tokens and rule set. It has a compact small box size like the box of Citadel or Red November (small). The art is simple, grunge brush style from Ivan Pratama (also a friend of mine), pretty neat. But sadly I thought the game title could be better in terms of font choices and colors. The rules also suffers the same fate, to crowded and the font for body text is not very easy to read. I think the rule structure can be improved, and it might be better with more examples of the game play. I do believe the rules can be greatly improved to make it more attractive and clear.

dav

Game Contents

How To Play
Each player gets a deck of movement cards and a set of duel cards. One player will starts a the bull (each player will be the bull once in a game). They shuffle these movement cards and draw a number of cards (6 for cowboys, 8 for the bull). The movement cards has 4 directions, UP, DOWN, LEFT and RIGHT. The bull play a card first, then other players must follow the bull movement on the card by playing a card with matching direction. If they cannot, they can discard any card and draw a card from the pile hoping it matches. But if not, they fell down (eliminated from the game) and the bull gets some points for it’s overwhelming effort to knock down the cowboy. But no worry, the player’s out but he can participates again in the next round.

Cowboy’s movement cards have 2 arrow icons to trigger a special action when these arrows match the bull’s two latest movements. With this special action cowboys and the bull can get points by playing a duel card. Before dueling with the bull, the cowboys can even play a matching movement card to add multiplier. Duel is basically a Rock-Paper-Scissor game. Players involve in duel play a duel card (either Rock/Paper/Scissor) and reveal simultaneously.
After the duel, the round continues again with the bull playing another movement card. Each player will take turns as the bull once, if the last player already finished the round as the bull, the game ends. Player with the most points, wins the game.

dav

Playing the game

My Thoughts
This is a very simple, light-hearted game. Basically it’s a RPS game (Rock-Paper-Scissor) inside a hand management game. It plays quick and easy and guess what you don’t even have to think. I have quite some fun with the game, though I must say that it’s not my kind of game. There’s not real decision at all in the game, since everything is about luck and random. When you’re dueling, you choose one card to play, either a Rock, a Paper or a Scissor card. This turns out doesn’t work at all, based on my plays we decided to shuffle the three cards and draw one (yes, that random), the positive thing you can get with this way is that you add a surprise element to the game. When we simultaneously reveal the cards, we have a good laugh over the result. I recommend this game for children or playing with family. It’s simple, easy to learn and also plays fast. So if you’re looking for a 30 minutes game with a lot of fun and easy to learn, this could be it. Why don’t you give it a try.

dav

I love this cute Cowgirl character, kudos to Ivan Pratama

I just thought the game deserves some improvement, in terms of components and design aspects. The VP chips should be in different denominations, in order to keep the supply small. And the rules could do a rework with body copy fonts and more game play examples. Also, different card backs could help a lot.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2016 in Card Games, Reviews

 

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Above and Beyond Expectation

pic2398773_mdAbove and Below Review
Red Raven Games hit the Kickstarter again with their title, Above and Below early in 2015 and it’s a huge success. It had garnered more than $ 142,000 from the expected goal of $ 15,000 (that’s a huge success I tell you that). Ryan Laukat is the man behind Red Raven Games and the game itself and managed to get himself  a quite established fan base in the board game hobby. I pledged this one right like instantly just because I knew in my heart and mind that it was the perfect time to back one of his game (after missing out Empires of The Void, City of Iron, and The Ancient World). Maybe partially because that his illustration skill was totally developed into an amazing one and the other was because the game offers something unique than other games in the market.

dav

Unboxing the game (Kickstarter Edition)

So what is this Above and Below and what kind of game is it? As it is on the title, Above and Below is a storytelling board game, and what I mean by storytelling it’s not like Dixit in any way (that’s the first thing came to my mind in the first place, Dixit). It’s a different storytelling than Dixit but honestly come to think of it, I failed to understand why Dixit is called as a storytelling, it’s a bit far off I think. Yes, you can tell a story, but the real essence is giving out a clue. That clue might be a story. But enough about Dixit and more about this game.

In this game, storytelling may be the strongest factor of the game, which makes it unique from other games aside from the simple worker placement and resources collecting. The storytelling aspect comes from a specific action in the game, which is explore / exploration. When players decide to do an exploration action, they will be read a specific story from the encounter book by on of their fellow players. From this story / encounter they will choose to react / what to do given the options available to them. Though each story / encounter that players have is short and unrelated to each other, it’s up to players imagination and will to make up a connection to those encounters they have for more better immersive game play (but that’s not affecting the game play in any way), in fact you can even ignore the stories and just go for the mechanic (though this isn’t the real intention from the designer).

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The Theme
Above and Below offers a mesmerizing world of fairy tale and imaginative world with beautiful universe created by the designer himself. His illustration style has brought him the title of Hayao Mizayaki’s of Board Games and it’s not exaggerates at all. The background story (might be a follow up from his previous game, The Ancient World) is that each of you lead a runaway villagers from their beloved home which had been invaded by either titans or maybe disasters or ravagers. In search of a new home, you’ve come to a place where you think it’s suitable / best to be your new settlement. As you starting to settle in that place, you found that it has an underground tunnel system that already been there for quite  a long time before your time. Now the sense of adventure engulf you with excitement, hence the game begins. So you will send some of your villagers (or all of ’em, it’s all up to you) to venture the underground hoping it will gives you fortune, interesting results and such.

dav

My first play

The Artworks
Another compliment to the designer, Ryan Laukat for making such a breathtaking universe, his own original universe. What I like the most about it, aside the beautiful scenery (peaceful blue sky and dark blue underground walls) is the villagers. The villagers have their distinctive feel in each one of them. They’re not only human, there are many other interesting races, Hogman (I guess this following the same universe from City of Iron), Glogos, even robots. The way that it’s made to be uniquely general makes it uncommon in the worlds of races (like elves, dwarfs or orcs and such) which I found it to be more masculine but not this, this can be enjoyed rather by anyone, male or female or children.

The Components
Aside from having a beautiful artwork, the game also comes with a top notch component quality. The cards are linen finished, tiles are smooth and the box is very sturdy (love it very much). And for the KS edition, it has exclusive custom shaped wooden resource tokens that replace the resource tiles (and you still get the tiles). Of course this upgrade the game components by a mile, since the presence of the wooden resources really add a stunning vibe on the game presentation, and gosh touching wooden instead of cardboard tiles are definitely way way much better.
But of course not all components are perfect, I consider the player mat and game board have minor issue on the finishing. The surface is smooth, which is good, but unfortunately it is not durable, easy to worn out by scratches and frictions (so be sure to keep it safely when storing and playing them).

dav

Wooden Resource Tokens from Kickstarter Exclusive

The Game Play
Though the game centers on the story-telling side, it also offers interesting good mechanic for players. The game last 7 rounds, yes too short. I am not talking about the play time ‘short’, but more about how short players to build their engine to get really started, but that’s make the challenge in the game. I just feel it’s not enough, want to play more and more, finish too soon. In each round players will take turns taking an action with their active / ready villagers. They can send 2 or more villagers to explore the underground tunnel or recruit another person as new a villager, send them to work labor to gain coins, harvesting resource from one of your buildings or build a structure (building or outpost) in your village. The round ends when all players already pass. Villagers that already used to take an action are send to the exhausted area in player’s board (or injured area).

Since the core of the game is about exploring, I will start with that first. Exploring action is the only way to develop your underground area. By exploring new caves, you can build outposts available in the center of the table. To explore the main requirement is having at least 2 villagers, they’re too scared or maybe not that stupid to go venturing to uncharted tunnels (and dark) alone. The player rolls a die and consult on the result table listed on the top most card from the cave pile. This will point out what encounter that player will have. Another player will have to go through the encounter book and find that paragraph, read it aloud to the active player. This paragraph contains a short backstory of the encounter to set up the scene and gives the player a set of choices to make (without saying the rewards and penalties). The player must choose one and resolve it. This usually requires the player to gain a specific number of exploration points in order to succeed, by rolling  a die per villager that participate on the exploration. If the result is equal or higher than the required amount, it is a success, but even if it not, the players can still  choose to exert their villagers (work extra hard) to get 1 point from each villager to count toward the result. But, as consequence those exerted villagers are injured (players will have to heal them with potions during the end of the round). Villagers have different values and chances of success, some of them also have special bonus for certain actions. If the exploration is a success, the player gets the card and the rewards listed, if its a failure, the action is wasted.

dav

Player’s Villagers, Ready and Exhausted

Another action is to recruit more villagers. In their turn, players can send a villager with a scribe icon to recruit one of the available villagers by spending a certain amount of coins listed. The new recruited villager cannot be used until next round, they place it on the exhausted area.
Another action is build. Players can choose to build a building (above the ground) or build an outpost from their completed exploration cards. Yes, outpost can only be build if there’s an empty exploration card in the player’s table. Players can choose from the available buildings, the starting star buildings, key buildings or from the draw lines. Players can also pay one coin per turn to discard all the cards from a line and draw another set of cards before or after doing this.
Another action they can do is to send villagers to harvest resources from their buildings. Some buildings provide resources and they need to be harvested first in order to be used or considered owned.
They also can send villagers to do labor. Labor is getting a coin per villager sent to do labor. The first player to do this action on a round, gets a cider token from the main board.
Once a player do not want or cannot do any action, they can pass for the round.
Once the round ends, players will get income based on their resource tracks. And they can spend potions to heal the injured villagers. And then the villagers that have a bed can sleep and rest to be ready in the next round. If there are more villagers than the number of beds, the rest are not be available next round.

dav

Playing the game, very enjoyable

Aside from the storytelling, the game also emphasizes about the village building aspect. Players can do actions to make their village better and generates points for them in the end game. So basically players get points from building that they’ve built, end game points from buildings, reputation track and advancement track. Let’s focus on advancement track. In this track each space contains 2 different information, points and coins. As I already mentioned before the coins are generated during income phase in the end of each round. Points from this track are only counted at the end of the game. This points work by set collection. Players can place one kind of resources in each slot. The slots are limited to eight, as many as resource kinds in the game. These slots aside from opening your income raise but also worth points at the end of game based on the number of resources in the slot. The more slots you occupied the more income you will get (up to the maximum of 8 coins). You open these slots by placing one kind of resources in each slot. For example you place a fish token on the first slot, and the next slot you must place another resource that has not yet been placed in previous slots. So if you get an already placed  resources, you place it on the specific slot.  At the end of the game, each resource worth points based on the  value listed on that space. So getting many resources in slots further along the track would give you a lot of points.

dav

Resources comparison between KS Exclusive and Retail version

My Thoughts
I definitely love this game. All of my plays were amazing, with lots of stories, interesting encounters and fun simple resource collecting. I like everything about the game, nothing less. Even down to the box quality I just cannot hold myself to not give out my thumbs.
The game is simple, easy to play for casual and non-gamer but also offers a good deal of Euro style game of worker placement, set collection and tableau building. I always thought that the game really answers on two sides, the casual side which leans heavily on the story telling aspect of the game and the avid side with enough meat inside the game. But getting only one of them is still balance throughout the game. You can totally ignore the Euro aspect of competitive game and just focusing the story you are trying to complete in the game or you can ignore the story and just dive in to get maximize points from your actions. For me I like the story aspect so much, you can get very immersive with the story. Even though the encounters are not related to each other, but you can relate them with you own ways, to make it more interesting. There are a lot of encounters in the book to build your own story in each play, but if that’s not enough for KS edition, its backers have a small expansion that consists of a separate book for new encounters. This should keep you busy to arrange a good and interesting story by yourself.
I like the choices that players must take during encounters and the consequences and rewards behind them. But of course you want to win (but that’s not priority for me in this game), by doing things right.
So the game really fits for casual players that really want to enjoy the story, and for gamer that also demand some meat inside it.
So for me this game is easily one of the best games out there, definitely one of the best in 2015. Lets just hope there will be more encounter expansions, I hope in PDF so you can just download it.

dav

A quite successful village

 

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But It Says Five on its Title

pic2055255_mdFive Tribes Review
The very first time I heard a game called Five Tribes, I thought you can play the game up to 5 players, which it couldn’t. Did you think the same like I did? The truth is you can only play the game up to 4 players. Five tribes only represent the five tribes in the game, shown as 5 different colors that can be used by any players and have different abilities. So in the game, we are a powerful merchants trying to influence the five tribes to support you as their new leader (or whatever). The game is designed by Bruno Cathala and published by Days of Wonder (you can expect great quality components from them).

The Theme
Not really important, the theme integration is somewhat just flavor. In this game you try to be ___ with the most ___ (so common). Anyway in this game you win the game by collecting the most points (from coins and end game bonuses). To get those points, you need to cleverly bid your turns and getting most profiting tiles, Djins and Resource Cards. You are a foreign trader / merchant, trying your business endeavor in the world of mystical power and camels and also vast desert. There are five different tribes that you can influence to your benefit, each with their own specialties. The tribes are Viziers (Yellow), Elders (White), Merchants (Green), Assassins (Red) and Builders (Blue).

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The Artworks
Days of Wonder is the one behind this game, a guarantee for the art to be stunning and beautiful. The tone is vibrant with colors, thematically middle-eastern and full of decorative elements. Though some people has an issue with the thematic element of slave trade in the specific historical background reflected in the slave cards. Which was  changed by them in later prints with Fakirs instead. I found them to be purely historical which you couldn’t ignore or forget, but some people thinks that this brought up the issues at hand about slavery and how the industry salvage from that unpleasant topic (mostly in Europe).

The Game Components
Days of Wonder always produce good quality games, that includes the components. The game comes mostly with square tiles, resource cards (small size), square Djinn cards, lots of colorful wooden tokens (meeples, palm trees, camels, palaces and pawns) and money tokens. Also included in the game is a score sheet to track points in the end game and a black cloth bag to keep the meeples. The biggest eye-candy would be the vibrant color components from meeples and also camels and palm trees and palaces. The wooden camels, palaces and palm trees, aside from being unique in shapes, also in colors and sizes. They’re colorful and huge.

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The Game Play
First of all you need to set up the game. Randomize the tiles and create a 5×4 tiles map from it. Place all the meeples and into the black bag and randomly distribute them into the tiles, 3 meeples on each tile. Shuffle the spice cards and reveal 9 cards. Shuffle the Djinn cards and reveal 3 cards. Each player gets money tokens with the value of 50 and pawn and camels of their own color. Place the turn tracker board beside the tiles.
Randomly place player pawns into the track. The game starts with an auction to determine the turn order for a round. Player with the highest bid can decide their turn in the round after paying the bid cost. The  bid is not once around, so you can always outbid your opponents as long as you have the money. After the auction phase determines the turn order, players take their actions based on the new turn orders. Their action is to choose a tile with at least one meeple on it and distribute each meeple from the tile to an adjacent tile subsequently. The tile that they place the last meeple will be the target tile to do the action. There are 2 actions that players can do in the target tile, these two actions depend on the last meeple they place and the tile action itself. Players will take all the meeples in the target tile with the same color as the meeple they place and take the corresponding action of the meeple color. Viziers (Yellow) are used for end game scoring, Elders (White) are used mainly in conjunction with Slave / Fakir cards to purchase Djinn cards, Builders (Blue) are used to generate money based on the blue based tiles around (and include) the target tile, Merchants (Green) are used to get resource cards from the available line, and the last are Assassins (Red) which is used to kill meeples. From this main mechanic, you can feel that the real gist of the game is about moving meeples in mancala style. A classic mechanic used from a traditional game with the same title, Mancala. You can found this mechanic in Trajan by Stefan Feld, not sure what other games use this, it’s not commonly used in modern board games.
Before the meeple action is resolved players need to check control, if the target tile is empty after players do the actions, they place one of their camels on it (which secure that tile from anyone else and will give points to the owner in the end game scoring). If later other players target this tile, the owner will get a coin from the supply.

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The tiles also have an action that you can use, there are tiles that you can buy resource cards (Small and Big Market), purchase a Djinn card by paying Elders and / or Slave / Fakir cards (Sacred Place), place a palace (Village) and place a palm tree (Oasis). These actions are optional.
Before players end their turn, they can sell their resource cards to gain money / points, though the points are counted in the end game, there’s a reason why you want to cash in those sets mid game, to give you more capital to bid for your next turn. The set is for each different kind of resource and each resource type has different amount of cards in the deck, this create different rarity / common value to that specific type. Hoarding rare resources usually good to block your opponents set collection to grow more.

In this game, basically you are moving around meeples to get the most points. The catch is to get most points / benefit by doing three things altogether in your single turn (not really), moving meeples and activate the last, activate the target tile and then claim control over the target tile if possible. In order to do that there are 2 things you need to consider, Bidding phase and what will you do in your turn. Know what other people do also helps big deal, but you already have enough in your platter, so usually I don’t really care. Just check your situation and do what gives you max points or benefit.
You collect Viziers for end game points, Elders also gives you points but mainly you spend them for Djinn cards (it’s has higher points and then you can use their abilities during the game or gives additional end game points). Merchants help you collect resource cards, where you can get a lot of points from collecting sets. Builders give you big points based on strategic activation of the blue based tiles. Assassins in the other hand, are more complicated than the rest. They serve more tactical options to give you indirect benefit, whether to reduce your opponents Viziers or maybe remove a meeple on the board that could lead to your advantage.

The game ends when one player already place all of his camels into the tiles, or there is no legal movement available. After that the final scoring takes place, accumulated from total money left, points from Camels, Djins, Viziers and Elders, Palm trees and Palaces and resource card sets.

dav

My Thought About The Game
I find the game to be simple, bid your turn, move the meeples and activate actions. The meeple and tile actions are also simple. But I believe the game has serious AP prone issue. The combinations and possibilities can really give you headaches. You need to consider and calculate all the options before you and in addition, you can only do that after it’s your turn. You need to wait after all your opponents move because they will drastically change the situation. Okay, you can plan ahead but you need make more than one plan to survive.  So in short, it’s more like a puzzle game that encourage you to get the best move from what’s in front of you. Sort of puzzle-move-activation tile game.
And then there is the bidding part. Personally I am not a fan of bidding mechanic, that’s why I less like Power Grid, which has strong bidding / auction mechanic that really affecting the game play. In this game, bidding is very important, it determines player turn order and turn order is essential for players to get what they want before taken or screwed by other players before them. The tricky part is players bid with their money, which also their points. So if you bid high, you waste your points.
The game usually takes longer than it is, because downtime between players cannot be mitigated because they need to wait other players before they can come up with possible options during their turn.
The 2-players game mode has a different game play, since each player will get two turns in a single round. Each has 2 bidding markers, this means they bid twice, each for one of their marker. This changes the game, minor change on the game play but really affecting how players plan their moves.

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Replay Value
I doubt that it has some meaningful replayability. There’s no variation in the game else than the Djinns availability, which is random. You can try different strategy but everything almost viable to get in a single play, whatever you choose, there’s nothing that drastically change how the game feels.
I find the game to be fairly simple but holds lots of combinations to ponder through your turn, so it takes quite considerable amount given the vast possibilities, but the game still within the same scope of simplicity of moving meeples, activate the meeple and then the tile.

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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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