Category Archives: Blog

Blog posts about various topics of board gaming.

Themed and Holiday Gaming Tips and Tricks

With Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas around the corner, many of us gamers will be hosting gaming parties and get togethers.  These could range from anything to your normal game group to playing with your casual gaming cousins.  What are some of the best ways to make holiday gaming fun?  What are some good ideas for themed game nights?  Here are some tips and tricks from gaming over the years with a variety of groups and over the holidays.

Decorations, costumes, and food can add to a themed game night.
Decorations, costumes, and food can add to a themed game night.

Themed Gaming Tips and Tricks

Picking Games for a Themed Game Night

Choosing your games on a thematic night highly depends on your own group. Some groups like to go quite literal and if it’s a pirate night, it must be a pirate themed game, such as Libertalia.  Others are more relaxed, content if there is some semblance of piracy in the game, i.e. Firefly or Smash Up.  On Halloween night, the theme is more broad and you can do anything from Abyss to Cthulhu Realms.  Figure out what your group likes, then go from there.  And be okay with changing the game queue up if extra people show up or others aren’t into a certain game.

Ways to Make the Themed Night Immersive

Music, ambient lighting and themed food/drink can be some great ways to make the night immersive and fun.  Tabletop Audio has wonderful background/ambient music for almost every kind of gaming.  We use them on D&D night often.  If going for a Halloween theme, you could play the games by candlelight or flashlight for extra ambience.  Of course, any game night is not complete without food and drink.  Find out what your friends like, then go on Pinterest or similar to find ideas.  If you aren’t all that creative, even just buying Halloween cookies and pumpkin ale would do the job.

Custom Game Accessories can add to Themed Game Nights

Custom meeples, dice, and game mats can add great immersion to a themed game night.  Meeple Source is my go-to for custom meeples, and they have anything from sci-fi to fantasy and even Totoro meeples.  Custom dice is another way to add to a game night, instead of rolling boring D6s, you might have a fireball dice or dragon dice.  Game mats can also add to the theme and fun, especially if the game mats are specific to the game.

Themed game nights can be quite fun, especially if the group likes immersion and appreciate themed food and drink.  With so many games, accessories, and game music out there, it’ll take just a little planning to make an epic themed game night.

Playing games with family over hot chocolate is a great way to spend New Year's Eve.
Playing games with family over hot chocolate is a great way to spend New Year’s Eve.

Holiday Gaming Tips and Tricks

Gathering the Group

It’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years and you’re at a big family event.  Everyone is scattered around, eating food, chatting, or chasing after the littles ones.  How do you gather anybody to play a game?  The best way, is to go around the house, announce you’re playing a game, then start setting the game up.  You might have to remind some a few times to finish up their pie and head over to the table.  Sometimes, it may take a half hour or even more to gather people, if only a few come, start playing a short game with that group.  Once more show up, then you can start a big party game or whatever type of game you wanted to play.

Pick the Right Games

During the holidays, I’m mostly playing games with kids and casual gamers.  I’m not going to whip out Terra Mystica on Christmas Eve.  I may take out Rhino Hero or Wits and Wagers.  However, you may be spending Thanksgiving with a small group of euro gamers, so it may make sense to whip out La Granja after eating turkey.  You have to know the group you’re playing with and what they are willing to play.

Traveling with Games

Many people travel by airplane for holidays, and deciding which games to bring can be tough, especially if you aren’t checking luggage.  If playing with more strategy gamers, find games that fulfill the strategy niche but have a small footprint.  Arboretum, Isle of Trains, Eminent Domain can fit this.  If playing with mostly casual gamers, there are plenty of small games that can fit in a small roll bag.  Another option is to combine several games into one box, taking out inserts and sharing game pieces for much needed space.  Of course, you can always try and meet up at a game shop with friends or family, and play games they have there.

What are some of your themed and holiday tips and tricks?  Any that I missed?  Add them to the comments section or comment on Twitter.

 

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A List of Solo Playable Games

Top Left: Star Realms Top Right: Suburbia Bottom Left: Friday Bottom Right: Viva Java The Dice Game
From Top Left: Star Realms, Suburbia, Friday, Viva Java The Dice Game

We had an incredible discussion on Boardgamehour regarding solo games, and many people wanted suggestions on solo playable games.  Here’s a list I’ve compiled with the help Jacob Coon of games we both own that have solo play.

I have three categories: “Solo Only or Co-Op Games with Official Solo Options“, “Official Solo Variants of Competitive Games“, and “Games You Can Play Solo (Unofficial Variants)”.  The list is long, so keep that in mind as you scroll down. Feel free to add any solo games you own to the list via the comments!

Solo Only or Co-op games with Official Solo Options

My Games

  • Friday: A Solo Adventure – Shipwrecked! Friday must escape off the island by defeating the pirates.  Solo only deck builder where you must survive hazards and attacks from pirates to win.
  • Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp – Save humanity from a deadly virus in this solo only set collection game.  One must collect the right proteins in order to contain the virus in a lab setting.
  • Space Hulk: Death Angel – Set in the Space Marine Warhammer universe, players control heroes which must fight against aliens to survive.  Cooperative card game where the die rolls can be very unforgiving.
  • Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon – Cooperative Dungeon crawler set in the D&D universe.  Be a cleric, rogue, warrior, mage, or paladin that fight monsters and complete objectives with a modular board and miniatures.
  • Tiny Epic Defenders – Defend the Capital City from monsters and epic foes! Choose heroes and use their powers in order to move around the regions and defeat enemies before Capital City gets overrun.
  • Samurai Spirit – Take on the persona of the Seven Samurais and save the village!  Draw bandit cards and decide whether to fight, defend the village, or pass them on to another samurai.
  • Lord of the Ring LCG – Cooperative deck builder set in the Lord of the Rings universe.  Fight trolls, travel to locations, and complete scenarios in order to win the game!
  • Space Alert – Real time mission orientated science fiction game set in space.  Ten minute timer + soundtrack give a very tense game of launching missiles, fighting intruders, and coordinating turns that don’t conflict.
  • Onirim – Solo only or cooperative card game in which one must collect eight door cards before the deck runs out!  Beware of the nightmare cards, which have brutal effects!
  • Hostage Negotiator – Solo only dice game where you must press your luck in negotiating the release of hostages.  Too many bad rolls or card draws will cut your negotiations short!

Jacob Coon’s Games

  • Darkest Night – Control 4 characters in defense of their homeland against the evil forces of the Necromancer. Using the characters skills you select actions to gain relics that will help you defeat the Necromancer.
  • Airborne Commander – Set during D-day, you are in charge of an airborne unit that has been scattered throughout. Using troops that are available to you, you find more troops and fight against the enemy at the same time.
  • Legendary: Marvel Deck Building – Control Marvel superheroes in their fight against the evil mastermind. Each game you build a deck of cards from four different heroes while fighting against the mastermind and his henchman.
  • The Game – A Spiel des Jahres nominee, the Game forces you to play two cards every turn into one of four piles. Two piles are increasing and the other two are decreasing in numbers so playing as many cards as possible before you have no valid moves provides some tricky moments.

Official Solo Variants of Multiplayer Competitive Games

My games

  • Harbour – Worker placement where players take turns placing their worker on buildings, gaining effects and resources. Solo play is against an AI that has predetermined choices depending on the building.
  • Star Realms (Need Gambit Set Expansion for solo play) – Sci-Fi deck builder where you try to take out the other opponent.  Solo play is against an AI that does tough damage or effects based on what goes out in trade row.
  • Flip City – Microdeckbuilder about building up a city and winning by playing enough points or cards in one turn.  Solo option is about getting to victory without running out of time (supply deck goes empty).
  • Dungeon Roll – Dungeon dice delve where players choose a hero to help them fight monsters and dragons.  Solo play is about getting points and beating your own score.
  • Suburbia – Tile placement game about building up a suburb and getting good reputation and income for population (points).  Solo play has two options: Lone Architect and Dale the Bot.
  • Imperial Settlers – Card game where players build up their empires and fight their neighbors.  Solo play is against a virtual player with ways to attack your empire.  Try to get the most points.
  • Lewis and Clark – Based on the Lewis and Clark expedition, players race to get to the Pacific by using cards and actions.  Solo play is against a virtual player who moves every turn without penalty.
  • Viva Java: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game – Dice game based on Viva Java: The Dice Game where players try to make the best coffee blends.  Solo play is against one of two AI players.
  • Caverna – Worker placement in which players are building up their caves, feeding their families, and farming crops.  Solo play is a variant in which the player tries to get the most points from previous games.

Jacob Coon’s Games

  • Legacy: The Testament of Duke DeCrecy – Instead of building a family tree as in the multi-player game, now you are trying to research your family tree to prove you are the heir to millions. Managing your limited actions your must make sure the right people are found in your family in order to gain the support and reputation that you need.
  • Nations: The Dice Game – Build a civilization in less than 30 minutes while rolling a bunch of custom dice. Each turn you select an action to bring more into your civilzation and make it prosper, but the AI ( a simple die roll), limits what is available, so choose wisely.
  • Neuroshima Hex 3.0 – Neuroshima Hex imitates a battle in a future dystopian setting. The game comes with 50 puzzles to help you learn the game, but also provides a nice solo option.
  • Träxx – Draw a card, connect your line to the matching colors (as many as you choose) and you have Träxx. While simple in execution this game really has you weighing your options as you can’t back track, but every empty space is negative points.
  • Snowdonia – If you are looking for a meatier game with a great solo option, than Snowdonia may be the game you are looking for. This worker placement game plays very similar in solo and multi-player games having the players build train tracks through the Snowdonia mountains and with plenty of expansions you have a lot of variability.
  • Skyline – Using a Yahtzee-type mechanism you roll dice to create buildings of three different sizes. You can play it to get the highest score or attempt to recreate different cities provided by the rules.
  • Card City – The first in a trilogy by Alban Viard, this small card game puts you in the role of city planner. Each turn is very simply executed, but the tough choices make this quick game a surprising favorite of mine.

Games You Can Play Solo (Unofficial Variants)

My Games

  • Sentinels of the Multiverse – Cooperative superhero themed card game in which players fight against villains and try to survive tough environments. Solo play can be done by controlling 3 or more heroes yourself.
  • Pandemic: The Cure – Cooperative dice game based on Pandemic where you are trying to fight a virus that’s spreading across the world.  Solo play can be done by controlling one character for a more challenging game or controlling 2 or more characters for easier play.
  • Pandemic – Cooperative card game in which you must save the world from a deadly virus.  For solo play, you can control one character for challenging play.
  • Forbidden Island – Cooperative tile grid game where players are trying to find the four sacred treasure before the island sinks.  Solo play can be done by simulating a 2 or more player game.
  • Forbidden Desert – Successor to Forbidden Island, Desert gives more challenging play by having shifting tiles.  Players must find the pieces of their airship before the desert gets buried in a sand storm.  Solo play can be done by simulating a 2 or more player game.
  • Timeline – Competitive card game in which players place events in a the correct Timeline (dates are on back of card, hidden until a player picks a spot and reveals it).  Solo play can be done by placing three cards face up to form a timeline, then getting 3 chances to get their card placements correct.  If make 3 mistakes, then you lose.

Jacob Coon’s Games

  • Flashpoint: Fire Rescue – Instead of fighting diseases around the world like in Pandemic, Flashpoint: Fire Rescue puts you in charge of a firehouse where you can play from 1-4 characters to help put out the fire and save victims. Flashpoint: Fire Rescue is very similar to Pandemic in many ways, but it’s theme ends up being a little more friendly to some.
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SoloCon: Solo Games have come a long way.

This week, my friend Jacob Coon decided to have a SoloCon!  What is SoloCon?  It’s where gamers join together worldwide playing solo games.  You heard that right.  No, we don’t meet at a location and ignore everyone else to play solo games.  We are playing at home, at work, on trains, etc.  SoloCon isn’t a location, but it’s a time where gamers show their love of solo games by playing them and posting about them on social media!  Much like GenCant, it’s a digital phenomenon that has spread quickly among the gaming community.

I've played all of these games so far in SoloCon, with the exception of Onirim.  I do plan on playing it soon!
I’ve played all of these games so far in SoloCon, with the exception of Onirim. I do plan on playing it soon!

It truly shows how far solo games have gone in the past year or so.  Before, most would scoff at the idea of people showing their solo game collection.  But now, it’s something people are excited about and wanting to participate in.

As an avid solo gamer myself, I decided to join in this week as much as I could.  So far, I’ve played Harbour, Dungeon Roll, Flip City, Suburbia, Friday, and Star Realms.  I’m hoping to get a few more games in today or tomorrow, if I can.  It’s quite fun seeing all these different games that can be played solo, through an official solo variant or a fan made one.  Most of my solo games are not solo playable only, but some of them are.  I’m really happy that more designers are making their games with solo players in mind.

There’s still a couple more days of SoloCon left, so if you want to join in, use the hashtag #SoloCon on Twitter or Instagram if you want to show off what solo games you are playing!

 

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Apotheca Kickstarter Preview

Note: I received a prototype copy for review.  Art, rulebooks, components are not final and subject to change.  Stayed tuned to the Kickstarter page for details.

Apotheca is a potion crafting board game for 2-4 players by Andrew Federspiel and Knapsack Games on Kickstarter now.  Players take on the roles of apprentices competing to become members of a secret potion society.  Players must make three potion matches to win the competition and become potion crafting masters.

Even with prototype components, Apotheca is a gorgeous game
Even with prototype components, Apotheca is a gorgeous game

The ultimate goal of Apotheca is to use deduction, logic, and spatial reasoning to match at least three potions of one color in a non-diagonal line and do this three times to win the game.  Players can use special apothecary powers which they gain by collecting gems and buying them in the apothecary alley.  Players also start with one apothecary power, which is essential for creating a match.  The powers range from swapping potion positions to moving whole rows of potions.  Having the planning and spatial ability to use the powers effectively is essential for victory.

Apotheca takes the classic match 3 mechanic and turns it into an exciting board game with amazing art and an intriguing theme.  Players get to use asymmetric powers in order to help them make matches.  There’s also a bit of bluffing involved, because a player may know more information about the facedown potions than the other player (because of the restock action) and may be goading their opponent into making a play that would help them.

The Apothecary powers are very essential for victory!
The Apothecary powers are very essential for victory!

Players have to decide to use 2 actions out of 4 possible ones.  They must calculate what will benefit them the most, while also trying to out play their opponent.  Restock is especially powerful when there are zero or one facedown potions because you have the possibility of drawing and secretly looking at potions that are put on the board.  Having more information than your opponent is a sure way to victory.

Apotheca is easy to learn but will take at least several games to figure out optimal strategies.  Apotheca will appeal to both casual and experienced gamers alike, especially those that enjoy puzzle and spatial games.  The game plays in about 30 minutes, so easily able to get in at lunchhour or after dinner.  I recommend Apotheca to anyone that enjoy abstract style puzzle games and can appreciate the theme.

Note: A solo variant has just been unlocked in the Kickstarter.  I don’t have any details on the gameplay of it.

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Bane Kickstarter Preview

Bane pic 1
Bane in the middle of an engagement. The center board is called “hunting grounds”. Prototype copy, artwork and components not final.

Bane is a card game for 2-5 players by Gamesicle in a post-apocalyptical world where only super humans, vampires, and werewolves have survived, on Kickstarter now.  Players control the war between these supernatural forces by playing cards and trying to prey on opponents, and not become prey themselves.  Each card has two attributes to them, speed and type.  Speed determines the priority at which the card receives in an engagement, 1 being the fastest, 8 being the slowest.

bane cards

Players take turns playing a card from their hand one at a time, trying to play a card with good speed and a type that targets an opponent.  The conflict is resolved in terms of speed and type.  The fastest speed card gets to prey first. The prey is determined in a rock, paper, scissors format (Humans kill werewolves, werewolves kill vampires, vampires kill humans).  Whoever wins the engagement (is able to prey an opponent’s card) gets to grab a card from that opponents trophy pile.  Each player gets 4 cards at the start of the hunt (a round of engagements) that are called trophies.  A hunt ends when a player has no more trophies left (has lost 4 engagements) or no more cards left in hand.  After a hunt is finished, players score 2 points if they have the most trophies, all other players get 1 point.  The game ends when a player has reached Mastery (6 points) and has the most trophies left at the end of a hunt.

Bane pic 2

Bane reminds me of a trick taking game, but with the twist of the rock, paper, scissors conflict resolution.  There’s also the added mechanic of the Bane token, which players can use once per hunt.  The Bane token captures another player’s card which can be used in a future engagement.  Because each player gets a Bane token, there’s always a risk one of your best cards will get captured.  This increases the critical thinking that must be done in each turn.  Do you wait until most of the Bane tokens have been played, then play your best card?

bane pic 4
The artwork in Bane is consistent and reflects the end of the world theme that the game is based in.  My prototype copy had the laser etched wooden tokens which are a stretch goal.  They definitely added a cool component to the game, and worked very well with the theme.  Each speed and type card has different artwork, the super humans were my personal favorite in terms of the art style.

Bane pic 4
The human (who is faster) is preying on the werewolf. Other players still can play their cards and may change who is being preyed upon.

For those that enjoy trick taking games with an interesting theme attached, Bane will fit that niche nicely.  Bane adds more to the game than just trick taking with the rock, paper, scissors aspect and the bane tokens.  There’s also a fair amount of randomness in the game, as one person can get a fairly bad hand during an important hunt.  The Bane token helps this somewhat, but you only can use it once per hunt, so once it is used, you may still have to deal with a bad hand.

bane pic 6

Overall, Bane takes some classic mechanics and revitalizes them into a unique game with an intriguing theme.  Fans of vampires and werewolves will enjoy the theme, and classic trick taking gamers will appreciate the take on their favorite mechanic.

I was provided a review copy.

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May the 4th Be With You- My Star Wars Journey

I became a Star Wars fan in May of 1999.  I was 11 at the time and had watched the original trilogy with family before then.  I still remember my first showing of Star Wars Episode 1 in theaters, and the emotional impact it had on me.  I cried with Qui-Gon died.  I cheered along with the theaters during the podrace scene.  I gasped when I saw Darth Maul whip out a double bladed lightsaber.

This is me at Lucasfilms in San Francisco.  One of the coolest Star Wars experienced I had, and we only saw the lobby!
This is me at Lucasfilms in San Francisco. One of the coolest Star Wars experienced I had, and we only saw the lobby!

After that fateful and wonderful day, I was hooked on Star Wars.  I saw it 4 more times in theaters after that, and counted down the days when it came out on video.  Once it came out on video, I watched it anytime that I could.  In just one weekend, I watched it 5 times.  My parents were supportive of my obsession, being Star Wars fans themselves.  Although I got made fun of a ton throughout middle school, I never waned in my passion for Star Wars.

When I hit high school, Star Wars Episode 2 had already came out.  By then, I was crushing on Anakin, just like all my other friends.  We bought chips that had Anakin face on it and posed with it. It was a goofy time, but we all enjoyed it. This was also around the time I started writing Star Wars fan fiction with my best friend Ruth.  We made hilarious stories, usually involving people we knew.  We turned our some of our teachers into Sith Lords, and our high school crushes into the guys we fell in love with in the story.  I still have a few of the stories I wrote during that time, and they make me smile and laugh.

It was also in high school that I got introduced to the Expanded Universe.  I had a student teacher in Yearbook my freshman year, and she was obsessed with Star Wars as well.  She got me hooked into the New Jedi Order, which I got my hands on every book on the library that I could.  I also got the game Star Wars Epic Duels, although I only got to play it once.  No one was interested in learning how to play, so eventually I used the miniatures for my graduation hat.  Knowing how rare the game is now, I’m sad I got rid of it.

Star Wars Episode 3 came out when I was a junior in high school.  Word got around that we wanted to fill up the theater with only people from our school, so one of the seniors brought 100s of tickets and was selling them to everyone at school.  The same people that made fun of me for liking Star Wars in middle school were now going to the midnight showing of Star Wars in costumes.  I suppose I was just ahead of my time, as usual.  That was one of my best memories of high school, going to see Episode 3 with almost the entire Junior and Senior class (we went to a small school).  I saw it again later that day, and brought lightsabers to class.  My friend Ruth and I got in a lightsaber battle in the hallway, and I ended up cutting her lip on accident!  I felt bad, but she mostly thought it was hilarious.

When I hit college, an awesome thing happened.  I found other obsessive Star Wars fans.  People that quoted all the time.  I remember playing Star Wars trivial pursuit with my friend Lane, and her absolutely dominating me.  That was when I vowed to start watching the original trilogy more, and since then, I haven’t lost a game of Star Wars trivia to any of my friends and family.  I didn’t have much time to read for fun in college, so I didn’t get to consume much Star Wars stuff other than the movies.

Another Star Wars milestone was finding my husband in my college years.  Before we officially dated, we had gone on a beach trip with friends.  While everyone else was off hanging out, James and I started talking about life.  Before I knew it, he was quoting from Star Wars Episode 2!  My admiration of him grew that day, especially since by that time, the prequels were not talked about.

When we got married, we walked out of the ceremony to the Star Wars theme song, and had a lightsaber battle at our reception.  Now that I was married with tons of free time (I had graduated college just 2 weeks before), I started to delve more into the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  I soon discovered the Thrawn Trilogy, and then the Thrawn Duology.  Also around this time, Star Wars the Clone Wars was out.  I really like some of the episodes, although I definitely like Star Wars Rebels more.

I found as many Star Wars books as I could at Goodwill, and then started to discover more video games!  I got Star Wars Jedi Academy on a Steam sale and played through both games.  They are so solid, and so much fun.  My husband and I also discovered Star Wars the Card Game around this time, which soon became on of our favorite games.

Fast forward to about a year ago, and I got super into the comic books.  I had never been much of a graphic novel reader, but one day I decided to take a chance on some Star Wars comics.  I instantly fell in love, and started getting every Star Wars Omnibus that I could get.  More recently, I’ve gotten into the X-Wing books.  They are awesome, and up there with the Thrawn Trilogy for awesome.

When we heard that they were started over on the canon, I was disappointed.  Mara Jade is one of my favorite Star Wars characters, so I felt very disappointed that she wouldn’t be mentioned in the new canon.  However, with the introduction of Star Wars Rebels, the new novels, and comics, all fears about new canon have been quelled.  They have even included some EU stuff in their new books (like having Interdictor Cruisers), so I know they aren’t just shutting everything EU down.

Now, as a 27 year old, I consume everything I can Star Wars.  I play Imperial Assault, Star Wars Rebellion vs Empire, Star Wars: X-Wing.  I read every new comic that comes out, plus I still grab any old ones that I haven’t gotten.  I read any Star Wars novel I can, even the young adult and kid ones that have come out.  Star Wars has always been my fandom since I was 11 years old.  I may have become a fan when the prequels came out, and I still appreciate those.  I may not watch them often, but I can’t deny the impact they had in me in my formative years.  I hope that the new generation of kids can love Star Wars as much as I do.  I know I’ll be hoping my son becomes a huge fan (right now we have him hooked on Star Wars phineas and Ferb, but he’s only 2, so we’ve got some time).

What is your Star Wars journey?

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The Siblings Trouble Kickstarter Preview

The Siblings Trouble is a Goonies-style cooperative adventure storytelling game for 2-4 players, by designer Ed Baraf and artist Kim Robinson, on Kickstarter.  Players take on the characters of Adventure, Danger, Mischief, and Mayhem to sneak out of the house and go on a backyard adventure worthy of heroes.  Each character gets to take one treasure item on the adventure, which is represented by a treasure card.  These treasure cards can be anything from a comic book to a garden hose, and before going on the adventure, players explain to the group why they brought that treasure.

TST pic 1
Reference card, Character Card, and Treasure Card, shown above. Artwork not final and subject to change.

The game begins by setting up the adventure deck, adding path cards, big secret, bosses, and location cards.  Once set up, the active player draws the first card, and begins the story.  As the game progresses, players will not only have to hone their storytelling skills for bonuses, but also encounter creatures and investigate locations.  They will roll dice for this, often getting help from a sibling (another player).  If the player cannot match the encounter number, they are sent home!  However, the game can still continue, and there are even some cards to bring back a player from home to join up the adventure.

TST pic 2
I received the weird contraption treasure card, which aids us in our quest! Artwork not final, subject to change.

The best part about The Siblings Trouble is how immersive the game is.  The theme is just engaging, with having a backyard adventure that many of us dreamed of as kids.  You can almost hear the crickets in the backyard and the breath of the goblins in the cave.  The storytelling aspect is highly dependent on the players, but there is a guide to storytelling in the game, in order to help new players in the genre.  Players may also need a game or two before delving fully into the immersion and storytelling aspect.

TST pic 3
Will we survive the next encounter with my trusty comic book?

The artwork on The Siblings Trouble is simply amazing.  You can see the dripping caves and creepy mad scientist lab just pop out from the cards.  Each card is easy to read and spurs on imagination.  The artwork allows the players to get even more immersed as it sets up the scene of each part of the story.

TST pic 4
I’ve encountered a dark troll, and now I must roll to see if I survive the encounter!

The Siblings Trouble would make a great introduction to Tabletop RPGs, especially for new gamers or kids.  However, the game isn’t only a novice game, as seasoned gamers will also enjoy the gameplay.  Adding any immersion such as background music or low lights can heighten the tension and excitement of the game. The game itself does have ways to increase the tension, by revealing the boss early and being able to add fear counters on the boss to make them scarier and stronger.

Overall, The Siblings Trouble is a fantastic storytelling adventure game.  One can see this easily at the table of families and also at experienced game groups.  The artwork is amazing, and the nod to movies like the Goonies and Spirited Away makes The Siblings Trouble shine.

I was sent a prototype copy for this review.

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Valeria: Card Kingdoms Kickstarter Preview

Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a dice rolling, engine building card game for 2-4 players set in a fantasy world by Isaias Vallejo and Daily Magic Productions on Kickstarter.  Your goal is build up your kingdom, protect the realm from monsters, and conquer domains.  To do this, players take turns rolling two dice and receiving bonuses based on each individual die value and sum.  The active player gets two actions in which they can buy new citizen cards, slay monsters, or buy domains.  The other players get to harvest based on dice rolls, the bonuses being on the right side (instead of the left for active player).  Play continues until a certain amount of piles are exhausted, all monsters have been slain, or all domains have been purchased.  The game ends immediately.  Players count up their victory points, whoever has the most wins.

In Valeria, you take the dice roll as individual values and the sum.
In Valeria, you take the dice roll as individual values and the sum.

When I was first introduced to Valeria: Card Kingdoms, its comparison to Machi Koro made me a bit wary of the game.  However, it was quickly clear that Valeria is much deeper and much more fun than Machi Koro.  One difference that is huge is being able to start with two dice, and taking bonuses based on the individual die roll and the sum.  This allows you to build your engine quickly, and be able to buy citizen cards or slay monsters pretty easily.  Also, because the cards all have a bonus that you get on other players’ turns, you will almost always get a few bonuses before your next turn.

Example of some of the citizen cards.  Prototype version shown.
Example of some of the citizen cards. Prototype version shown.

Another aspect I love about Valeria is having two sets of cards that you can swap in or out, depending on what experience you want.  There are some “take that” citizen cards that let you steal resources on your rolls, or other cards that just give you resources without stealing any from players.  I personally like the cards that do not have the take that aspect, but having those options greatly helps the replay value of the game.valeria card anatomy

Valeria: Card Kingdoms also boasts gorgeous artwork from artist Mihajlo Dimitrievski and iconography that is clear.  There are no colorblind issues that we have seen.  The components we have are prototype plastic tokens, but the published game will have cardboard tokens for the resources.  The cards will also be standard, with a stretch goal towards ivorycore.

Slowly building up my engine.  Prototype shown.
Slowly building up my engine. Prototype shown.

Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a great light to medium weight engine building game, that is easy to explain, quick to play, and has great replay value.  The art is wonderful, and we’re excited to see the completed components.  We highly recommend this for those that like quick strategy games that you can mitigate the randomness of dice rolls with engine building.

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Oh my Gods! Kickstarter Preview

Oh my Gods! (OMGs) by Tim Blank, is a mystery, deduction style game for 3-5 people set in Mythological Greece, on Kickstarter.  Players investigate other players’ hands in order to deduce who has stolen Zeus’ lightning bolts.  Each card is an Ancient Greek god, that has special powers when played.  These can steal cards from another player, allow you to look at another players’ hand, or even cancel a card effect.  Gameplay ends when a player correctly guesses the thief, or you are the last one standing.

oh my box contents

At setup, a card from the deck is set randomly facedown aside, this determines the thief. Players are given a number of cards for their hand based on the number of players.  Extra god cards are put in the center, called Olympus.  On your turn, you have the opportunity to investigate players’ hands.  You do this by asking if they have a card with a specific trait or even specific god.  If they do, they secretly show it to you, if they don’t, then it goes to the next player around the table. This information is marked on your score card secretly.  You then have the opportunity to guess the thief.  This is optional, because if you are wrong, you are eliminated from the game.  The third thing you can do on your turn is play a god card from your hand.  While this does give other players’ information (since you play it face-up in front of you), it usually benefits you more than it does other players because of the power it yields.oh my all the cards

OMGs does have quite a bit of “take that” mechanic, because of the Zeus card.  Zeus is placed in front of the player who drew it at the beginning of the game (who then gets to draw a card from Olympus).  Many god cards have powers involving the Zeus card, which typically hurts the player who has Zeus in front of them.  A player might get targeted multiple times because of a Zeus card, especially in a 3 player game.  However, if played right, the Zeus card can be used to slow down a player who has gained quite a bit of information.  oh my cards

OMGs is a good game of logic and deduction.  For those that like logic games, this will be a fun game for you.  We weren’t big on the theme, especially the name, since some of our game group was uncomfortable saying “oh my gods” when they were to guess the answer as it bears closely to using God’s name in vain.  You can house rule this though, and not require players to use this term (we simply said, “ready to guess”).  Other than the title, the game is quick, enjoyable and works well for players that like a Clue-type feel that is much more fun than the classic title.

We were given a prototype copy of the game.  Photos are from the press kit sent to us by the designer. 

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Friday: A Solo Adventure Rule Clarifications

Every time I post about Friday: A Solo Adventure on social media, I find many people who say that they have never won a game, even on level 1.  This is more common than what would seem to be normal, and I realize that a big problem seems to be the rulebook, and not the gamer themselves.  When I first started playing Friday, I browsed the BoardGameGeek rule clarifications.  I immediately found quite a few things I was doing wrong, which ultimately made the game more difficult than it needed to be.  What seems to be the issue is a loss in translation.  The game rules were translated from German to English, and it seems the English rules were missing some key words or using wrong words in describing a rule.

Also, the rulebook isn’t always clear on the timing on effects, which can cause confusion.  So, I’ve complied a list of BGG rule clarification links that have helped me in understanding the game better, enabling me to win some of the time.  I even found a rule clarification today (due to a loss in translation) that would negate a few of my wins.

Hopefully, these help many of you with winning your first game.

Translation error on Doubling cards. 

English rules use the word “value” instead of card, which may confuse some gamers.

According to the original rules in German, the restriction is that you can’t double the value of the same card twice, in other words, you cannot stack the doubles, making a card 4x its value.

BGG Link: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1135923/single-use-limitation-double-card

Removal Abilities and Their Effect on Removing Cards

These explain that you don’t take the aging cards effect until scoring the hazard card, so if you remove it using exchange, destroy, below the stack, they are not in effect.  Very useful to be as I first started playing.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1105709/removal-abilities-and-their-effect-removed-cards

Winning and Losing against the Hazard Clarifications

Explains winning and losing against hazards, and using the spent life to destroy cards if losing a hazard.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1046602/winning-and-losing-against-hazard-clarification

Half Your Cards Pirate

Can only use half the fighting points, but doesn’t say anything about only being able to use half the special abilities.  Makes this Pirate actually possible to beat.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1016314/half-your-cards-pirate

Scared and Double

This is a recent rule clarification that I just learned today.  The English rules use the word “unchanged” while the German rules use the word “printed” which greatly changes the rule of when you have a Scared card and a Double card.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1001230/highest-card-0-and-doubling

Copying a -1 Phase Step Card

 

If in red phase and you have a copy card and a -1 phase step card, you can use the copy to have it go down another step, down to green.  However, both the copy and -1 phase step card must remain in play during scoring, or else the effect is negated.

 

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/775180/copying-step-card

 

Good luck everyone!  Feel free to include any other rule clarifications you found useful in the comments.  And let me know if a rule clarification helped you win a game! 

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