Tag Archive: “Board Game”

DRAGOON: THE ROGUE AND BARBARIAN EXPANSION (Lay Waste Games)

This is a review of the upcoming Dragoon expansion The Rogue and Barbarian. Read our original review of Dragoon here.

For The Rogue and Barbarian expansion you can now extend your fun on Dragoon Island to up to 6 players with the addition of, you guessed it, a rogue and a barbarian player! Different than the four dragon players from the base game, the rogue and barbarian each have their own special ways to play, though the goal of reaching 50 gold first remains for all players.

For their turn, the rogue uses an assortment of equipment cards to grant special abilities. Having no more than four equipped at any one time and unable to equip more than one a turn, it becomes a timing game of trying to stay one step ahead of the others. You also have a series of tunnel tokens that allow you to steal tribute from other players and move quickly about the board.

The barbarian arrives to the island’s shore on a ship, bringing with him havoc… and a deck full of ability cards! Drawing an ability card at the start of each turn, the barbarian player needs to build up his level as cards come with a level requirement. The only way to knock the barbarian back down to level one is by defeating him in combat. Because the barbarian can quickly run away with things if he stays at level 5, it may be a good idea to save him for games of 5 or 6 players (he quickly ran away with things in our 3-player game).

The unfortunate oversight to this expansion is there really isn’t anything for the dragon players. Compared to a leveling system and havoc deck or a system of tunnels and equipment cards, playing as a dragon is kind of dull now. Part of the core game’s appeal lay in its simplicity of rules, but with the expansion the old way of playing feels a little two-dimensional by comparison.

The Kickstarter for both the expansion and a second printing of the game is live for just a few more days now, so head on over soon! Also included with the second-printing is a standard edition that substitutes plastic playing pieces for the initial special edition’s precious metals. The metal playing pieces are impressive, but it’s also $40 more. Decisions, decisions. (Lay Waste Games) by David C. Obenour

One of the biggest gripes hobby board gamers have about games like Monopoly is the so-called “roll and move” mechanic. I roll a die or two and move that number of spaces. Around and around the board we go in perpetuity, leaving the length of each movement entirely up to chance.

The games I’ve listed here are some of the best scenario-based board games. Rather than rolling-and-moving, players work to complete some objective, which will differ from game to game. While this is not, by any mean, an all-inclusive list, the games here will give you somewhere to start on your journey for a more fulfilling tabletop experience.

1. Descent: Journeys in the Dark—This wonderful semi-cooperative dungeon crawl pits up to four hero players up against one bad guy player known as “The Overlord.” While the heroes are hoping to complete their objective, the Overlord is setting traps and setting out monsters in attempt to thwart them. Gameplay is made up of several quests (one session each) that make up an entire campaign. The success or failure of the heroes determine subsequent quests. The recent creation of a Descent app means you no longer require the Overlord player to play cooperatively, and you can also play solo.

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2. Dungeons & Dragons: Temple of Elemental Evil—This game, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch when it comes to the D&D “big box” dungeon crawler games. Fully cooperative, ToEE is played over the course of 12 scenarios, some of which take place in a spooky dungeon, while others go down in the town. Your scenario might call for you to obtain some relic and survive long enough to get it out of the dungeon. This was one of my favorite games from 2015.

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3. Last Night on Earth—I don’t see this game getting a whole lot of love, and that’s a shame, because it can be a lot of fun. In Last Night On Earth, there are two teams of players—one plays as a horge of undead zombies, and the other are the heroes trying save the day. The scenarios in this game are a blast. There’s one where the heroes have to gas up a truck and find its keys in order to flee the town. Meanwhile, the zombie players are trying to eat the heroes’ brains. The standalone expansion, Timber Peak, adds a bunch more scenarios and makes the game even more fun by adding elements such as fire, which can burn of control. One of the best things about this game is it can play up to six, so if you have a big group, this one’s for you.

4. Dead of Winter—You’ve probably already heard of this semi-cooperative anxiety attack in a box. In Dead of Winter, players take the role of survivors of a zombie cataclysm. The team of players will have a group objective for each scenario. It might be something like, “collect 10 gallons of water for your camp.” But then, each player has their own individual hidden objective. Hidden objectives might be helpful for the camp, or they might be completely at odds with the group objective. A player might have a hidden objective of “poison the camp’s water supply,” which would screw all the other players. Dead of Winter is a serious nail-biter. The release of Dead of Winter: The Long Night earlier this year means there are even more scenarios to play with.

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5. Pandemic Legacy—This game is an absolute treasure to play with family. If you like the original Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy will only enhance your love of the franchise. The game is played over 12 to 24 sessions, each adding a new element to the gameplay. So, while the first session is basically just regular Pandemic, the next session you’ll add something, then something else, until the game becomes quite heavy. It’s almost like a game that includes 11 expansions right in the box it comes in. While not scenario-based in the same way as the games mentioned above, each session does have its own goal. The way that it plays out, I could really see this game being a movie or book, which makes me wonder if there is Pandemic Legacy fan fiction. If there isn’t, there should be!

 

RICK AND MORTY: TOTAL RICKALL (Cryptozoic Entertainment)

In preparation for this review, I felt the need to view the source material: Rick and Morty Season 2 – “Total Rickall.” Having not watched much Adult Swim since my teen years I was happy to find it much more funny than I remembered most of the shows being. Basically, the jist is that crazy alien parasites have come into the Rick and Morty home disguised as family and friends. Using powerful memory implantation, they are able to convince the family that they’ve always been around. The wacky parasite characters are mildly amusing. There’s the pork-adorned Japanese military noble, Hamurai; the anthropomorphic pencil man, Pencilvester; and the magical lamb with a rainbow unicorn horn, Tinkles. Need I go on? For the Rick and Morty gang, the only way to tell if these silly characters (and each other) are real-life friends or if they’re parasites is to shoot them. Are you seeing the dilemma here? If they’re parasites, they’ll die, but if they really are family, well, they’ll die. And that’s what Total Rickall card game is all about.

There are two variants included in the box. “Standard Mode” is fully cooperative. “Real” and Parasite” identity cards are randomly laid face down on the table, to be kept secret from players. Character cards are then placed on top of the identity cards. These are characters from the episode—there’s Hamurai, Pencilvester, Tinkles, and all the other zany characters. Character cards each have one of three different color backgrounds. Every round, players play action cards that correspond with one of the three colors (or are wild). Actions only work on characters of the matching color. Action cards might allow you to look at a character’s identity or mix up the identity cards underneath the characters. Players use deduction and memory to determine whether a character is real or a parasite. And of course, they can just start shooting, too—if they have an action card that allows them to do so, that is.

“Advanced Mode” switches things up a bit and makes the game semi-cooperative, adding secret roles into the mix. In this variant, each player randomly draws a character and an identity card and becomes part of the story. They will either be a parasite or real, which adds a bluffing element that definitely enhances the game. Does the person sitting next to you really want to help you take out the parasites, or are they full of shit?

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Ultimately, I found myself pleasantly surprised with Rick and Morty both as a game and as a show. While Total Rickall is far from essential to anyone’s collection, save for the late-night bong-on-the-table Adult Swim diehards, this simple card game makes for an amusing and fun little hidden-role filler while you’re waiting for the rest of your group to show up. (Cryptozoic Entertainment) by Josher Lumpkin

KLASK (Oy Marektoy)

I have to say, I’m not a major fan of games that require me to overcome my deficit of physical prowess in order to win. Often, my own hand-eye coordination takes on an adversarial quality when I attempt to harness it as a tool toward victory. If I were a D&D character, my dex modifier would be like -2. However, I am able to see past my deficiencies when it comes to the game Klask.

Klask is basically like air hockey or foosball in that it is played on a table and expects players to shoot a ball into their opponent’s goal. It is different from those games, though, in that players use high-powered magnets to whack a marble back and forth across the court. Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Magnets? How the fuck does that work?” Each player gets two magnets: one shaped like an oversized Sorry! pawn, and a second, cylindrical rod. Players control the Sorry! pawn, which sits on the table, by moving the rod under it. It basically looks like a haunted game controlled by ghosts or players’ telepathy, as the pawns appear to move hands-free.

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There are four ways in which players score points in Klask. Obviously, one of those ways is by hitting the ball into your opponent’s goal. However, this is a game played with magnets, and therefore requires some magnet-centric ways to screw yourself. Therefore, if you erroneously navigate your pawn into your own goal (a folly known as a “Klask”) your opponent scores a point. There are also three small white magnets that start the game in the middle of the table. During the course of normal play, these magnets will get banged about and will end up all over the place. Where you do not want them is stuck to your pawn. If you get two white magnets stuck to you, your opponent scores a point. Finally, if you lose control of your pawn to the point where you are unable to retrieve it using your magnet (like if it flies over to the other side of the table), your opponent scores a point. First player to 6 points wins.

The table is quality, too. My wife (who is the reigning Klask champion in my house) posited that if the designer had stained the wood a darker color and opted for Helvetica or Times New Roman instead of the whimsical scrawled-on-in-white-Sharpie font, they could easily market an expensive version to affluent boardgame hipsters.

Klask is a shockingly simple kind of game. I admit, my first glance at the box had me thinking, “this is stupid.” But once I got it out, it was surprisingly fun and addictive. So much fun, that I completely disregard my ineptitude when it comes to these types of games. I suck at Klask and I don’t care. This is a five-minute game that you can play all night. I can see Klask tournaments happening at parties and game nights everywhere. Highly recommended. (Oy Marektoy) by Josher Lumpkin

DEAD LAST (Smirk & Dagger)

MR. PINK: C’mon, guys, nobody wants this. We’re supposed to me fuckin professionals!

JOE: Larry, I’m gonna kill him.

MR. WHITE: Goddamn you, Joe, don’t make me do this!

JOE: Larry, I’m askin’ you to trust me on this.

MR. WHITE: Don’t ask me that.

JOE: I’m not askin’, I’m betting.

Down to the colored aliases, Smirk & Dagger’s Dead Last gets you in all of on the action of Reservoir Dogs iconic mexican standoff scene. Deals. Desperation. Double-crossing. Double-double crossing. Double-double-double crossing. You get it.

The rules are simple. Four loot cards of unknown value are up for grabs every turn, but there are a lot more than four of you grabbing. On each turn, players spend about a minute and a half or less deliberating on how things are going to go down. After time is up or minds have been made, everyone reveals who they choose to go after. Only the players in the majority-voting group survive that round… unless whomever they went after knew it and played an ambush card. The group continues to whittle down this way until there’s only one or two players left. If one player makes it, they get all four loot cards. If two players make it the game heads into “final showdown” where the pair decides whether to share, try to steal or just grab one and go from the loot. The first player to 25 points of loot (or 24 in a 10-12 player game) wins.

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What isn’t simple is that tense minute and a half or so of interaction each round. Dead Last encourages you to scheme by whatever means necessary – kick feet under the table, send out a text, catch an eye and give a wink, find creative ways to repeatedly fit PINK into your conversation – whatever gets you in the majority without letting your victim know. The ambush card is a great twist as it never lets any player be overtly victimized. However, if you do play the ambush card and weren’t the one people we’re gunning for, you’re out.

Though party games that encourage improvisation on the players’ behalf sometimes reveal a case of incomplete or lazy game design, Dead Last thrives in its looseness. After a few rounds, players will start to pick up on ways to secretly communicate votes, but then so will other players and new ways will have to be devised. It might not be the best game to play with thinner-skinned friends, but this is definitely an easy to pick up, fast and fun party game. (Smirk & Dagger) by David C. Obenour

ICE COOL (Brain Games)

Ice Cool might be one of the cleverest games out there now. The name is a fun little wordplay off of “high school.” The packaging is an ingenious boxes-within-boxes nesting doll that fits inside a surprisingly compact game box. Finally, the theme of penguins cutting classes by skittering around their “Ice Cool” as executed through flicking wobbly pawns across glossy box surfaces is a great marriage of game and gameplay. Of course clever doesn’t always equal fun… but don’t worry, in this case it does!

During each round of Ice Cool players flick, push and hop their penguin pawns through the connected game boxes that make up the board. Some box connections contain fish and it’s the player’s goal each round to collect as many of their colored fish as possible. The catch being that for one round each game a player has to take on the role of hall monitor, careening their penguin around in an effort to tag all other players and grab their student IDs. It’s sort of like poison in croquet. At the end of each round, fish and student ID cards are each worth a victory card. Cards are valued between 1-3 points, but two 1-point cards can be exposed to grant you a valuable extra turn! And that’s pretty much the game of Ice Cool.

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As has been mentioned in some of our recent convention summaries, games of skill seem to be experiencing a resurgence in popularity with the modern gamer. As more people come to the gaming table more styles of gaming are being explored. The only problem for games of skill is that often times after a few plays the novelty wears down to expose an all too simple game. While Ice Cool is by no means complex in its rules, the skills needed are varied and challenging enough that it’s one that demands to played again and again – not so much to beat your opponent, but to get that crazy through-three-rooms shot down. So limber up those fingers and pull the chairs out and away from the table – class is in session! (Brain Games) by David C. Obenour

AVALANCHE AT YETI MOUNTAIN (Green Couch Games)

It’s been a rough semester, but the long weekend is finally here and it’s time to go try out those literal jet skis on Yeti Mountain. Why’s it called Yeti Mountain? Don’t be so suspicious, bro! Load up the SUV. It’s time to thrash some tasty powder!

Avalanche on Yeti Mountain is a racing game that pits 1-5 engineering students against each other and the forces of the mountain. 12 mountain cards make up the new-each-game slope and the remaining 48 cards make up players’ starting hands and the draw pile. A speed limit is established based on the number of players and then you’re off!

On each turn, players pick and turn in card(s) to move their skier down the slope. If you’re the fastest one who exceeded the speed limit, you wipe out. If your card matches the color of your slope space, you rocket jump ahead (and speed on the rumbling avalanche behind you). Oh! And there’s also a cranky yeti knocking people down that the player who’s furthest behind gets to control, so don’t get cocky!

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It all makes for an exciting game with just the right amount of luck and decision-making. Rocket jump too often or too early and risk burying the entire party in an avalanche. Hold on to your jumps for too long and risk being left in the trails of your less cautious opponents. If the cards have you down, the addition of the yeti also serves as a nice equalizer. Whatever your fate though, it’s all over in an exhilarating 20 minutes or so. We approve and Ducky Powell does too:

Finally, it’s also worth noting that Green Couch Games bucks a trend in gaming of extra packaging justifying higher prices. There could be other reasons but there’s no denying that throwing a regular-sized deck of cards into a 8.5” x 6.5” x 2” box helps make that leap of, “sure, I’ll pay $25 or $30 for that.” Green Couch Games on the other hand happily fits all of these components into a 5.5” x 4” x 1” for just $15! It’s a great deal on a great game that’s not going to fill your shelf with potato chip-like vacuumus packaging. Good things come in reasonably sized packages. (Green Couch Games) by David C. Obenour

FIRE DRAGON (Haba)

Every thousand years a mighty volcano erupts, spewing forth precious rubies amidst fire and ash. These rubies are more than just precious gems to be traded, but a powerful supplement for dragons too. So summon your courage and mount your dragons, it’s time to play Fire Dragon!

With rules that can be explained in fewer words than I’ll use for this review, Fire Dragon is a simple and fun game that’s been beautifully produced. Players command two dragons and spend their turns stoking and circling the volcano. Rolling two six-sided die, one die is used for movement and one is used for tossing rubies into the two-piece aluminum volcano – on an eruption roll the volcano’s top is lifted, spilling out rubies onto the game board to later collect. With a few clarifications, that’s really all there is to it!

The strategy comes from spacing out your dragons to cover more ground and choosing whether it’s more valuable to go for the rubies on the board or control how many rubies are thrown into the volcano. As an ages 5-99 game admittedly strategy comes after luck and design. But the quick game play (15 minutes) and fun theme and components should keep anyone from grumbling too much about unfortunate rolls.

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Of course you can always introduce a few easy house rules to deepen game play. On our part, we’ve been playing with carbon gems as negative resources (as opposed to just valueless) and allowing stealing from all players sharing a space instead of just a single player. These variations reward paying a little more attention to what your fellow players have been collecting on the board and from each other, weighing out if it’d be worth reaching into their bag for a steal.

There are a lot of other ways you could build off of Fire Dragon, though it’s important to keep insight that much of the game’s charm lies in its simplicity. In an era of more involved and tactical gaming, this is a great reminder of those family classics from your relative’s attics and basements that can still excite you. (Haba) by David C. Obenour

IMHOTEP (KOSMOS)

Whether it’s with a new box of Legos or a worn box of wooden blocks rediscovered from the attic, we all still love playing with blocks. Maybe it’s the connection with an innate desire to build. Maybe its simple joy is made greater in an age of complex screens. Or maybe I’m completely alone on this.

In any case, Imhotep gives us a fun new way to play with blocks again. Taking on the role of a master builder in ancient Egypt, players compete with each other for monumental legacy as they construct great structures… built out of neatly stacked blocks.

At first glance it would seem that Imhotep’s gameplay would be centered around the worker placement mechanic. Players collect stones to stock on ships before deciding which construction site to sail towards. But what leads play is that each site can only be docked at once per round. This forces decisions of value to you as well as value to the other players. Is it more important for you to score for the burial chamber now, to try and load another block on for your next turn, or to sail a different ship and prevent your opponent from scoring for the pyramid? It’s a great mechanic for breaking up the sort of simultaneous solitaire that can exist with other games.

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The rules are easy to understand and very well-written, only taking up two pages outside of play preparation and rule clarifications. There’s also a wealth of variations available with the double-sided construction site tiles allowing for a mix and matched number of twists on the game.

Easy to understand, thoughtful to play and smartly designed, there’s a lot to like about playing with these blocks. (KOSMOS) by David C. Obenour

HIGH HEAVENS (Wild Power Games)

Clash the ancient pantheons of Mount Olympus and Asgard and attempt to crumble your opponent’s kingdom in Wild Power Games’ High Heavens. Got your attention now? Good, let’s delve into it!

Right out of the box, the miniature sculpts for this game are gorgeous. Two dozen mid-action poses of Thor, Ares, Odin, Zeus, Loki and more make for a striking tabletop. The only thing that could be said against them is for the kind of plastic used, similar (if not the same) to Reaper’s Bones line. It’s not as brittle as some plastics, which make sense for pieces toted around in a game box, but it’s bendable nature can curve spears and swords or bend poses. It’s really a small complaint as other plastics would increase the price and most bends are fixable with the careful use of warm water and repositioning.

As for the game, the rules are short and well written and really can be read aloud during the first game without too many interjections of, “Wait, no… lemme check on that.” Turns are governed by three action tokens that can be spent invoking, moving and attacking gods, using gods’ special abilities and playing divine power cards.

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The centerpiece mechanic introduced by High Heavens is the stacking ring system. Six different colors of rings account for the invoked god’s health, armor and weapons as well as any set traps and acquired poison, and finally placed architectural obstacles. For the gods, it works brilliantly as a quick way to assess their status without having to peer over at character cards.

The main concern for the game comes from the limited player decks. Each deck contains only 24 cards with 12 gods and 12 divine powers. After repeated play-throughs certain cards and combinations are sure to stand out as the most effective way at winning, guiding play around it. The luck of the draw partly addresses this with random 5-card hands, but more cards would make for more choices and a richer game. If High Heavens is one you’ll be playing frequently, consider the expansions of the Egyptian pantheon or the Bloodied Deck with alternate god cards for custom deck building. (Wild Power Games) by David C. Obenour