Tag Archive: “board games”

ZIMBY MOJO (Devious Weasel Games)

Being a Zimby is to hunger. To hunger to rule. To hunger for magical powers. To hunger for the flesh of your fellow Zimbies. Everyone agrees that the king has outlived his use. Not everyone agrees who should replace him. Now you must lead your tribe of ferocious warriors into his compound, working with the others to get his crown, then working against them to keep it for yourself.

In a brilliant twist on the cooperative game, Zimby Mojo unfolds as two different games in one. To start, players work together to thwart the king’s thugs, unlock his protecting wards and take him down. Then, the game transforms into something else completely as players fight against each other in a mad dash to bring the crown back safely to their own tribe’s lands.

This all works so well because very few things in Zimby Mojo can be done on your own. Most fights require multi-tribal stacks of warriors to sway the odds or well placed magical barricades and mindless Zimby Zombies to break up escape routes. It demands cooperative play, but cautious and guarded cooperative play that leaves you in a better position than the others.

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The great game art and background information provided in the rules is an immersion into the vicious world of Zimby Mojo. The backstory is also a nice reassurance that no, this isn’t some outdated imperialistic view of the dark jungle continents and their “savage” inhabitants. Zimbies are entirely fictional humanoid-type creatures with their own cultures and evolutions.

Outside of this rich narrative, the main problem with Zimby Mojo does come from its rules. It’s not that it is an overly complicated game, but the mechanics can get a little sticky with all of the things you have to remember. The rules don’t do the worst job in conveying how to play, but they also fail to give a clear and concise rundown without having to rifle through a number of pages. Even a player aid that I found online was four pages long. This makes explaining the game to new players daunting and you almost have to approach your first game with a mindset of playing the game just to learn its rules. Our first play through was riddled with “Oh, you can do that?” and “Wait, you can’t do that,” and then looking back we still got a few rules wrong.

The complication with the rules mean that Zimby Mojo probably won’t appeal to casual gamers, which is a shame because it really is an enjoyable twist on the cooperative game that is bringing so many new folks to the table. It’s also a fun theme (who doesn’t want to be the cannibal king?) that works well with the mechanics of how the game is played.

If you are someone who can have fun while being confused Zimby Mojo is a game unlike any other on your shelf. You’ll be plotting two-sided team ups for a backstab, only to be backstabbed yourself before you’re even halfway through your original plan. No time for hard feelings though because last turn’s traitor is this turn’s only way to stop someone else from winning. (Devious Weasel Games) by David C. Obenour

BLOOD BOWL (Games Workshop)

Are you adequately prepared for some fantasy football?! Let’s hope so, because Games Workshop has released the long awaited update to one of its most popular specialty games, Blood Bowl.

In this game, players field their own football teams comprised of races from the Warhammer Fantasy setting. Aelves (elves), dwarves, orcs, and Skaven (rat-men) each have their own team which possesses unique strengths, weaknesses, and look. Speaking of appearance, Games Workshop again shows why they are a leader in miniature modeling. The figures included in the base game are incredibly detailed and dynamic. There is a great sense of motion to all of them. The box game comes with 12 figures each for a human team and an orc one. A small but greatly appreciated update is now the figure bases include a hole for the ball to insert into to signify which player is currently in possession of the ball.

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The double-sided game board is really well done too and printed on high quality, heavy duty cardboard. Offering home fields for both sides, with a muddy and gruesome orc side and the slightly better kept human grassy field, this breaks up the monotony of playing on the same game field each time.

The included accessory sprue is also a nice benefit, especially the improved passing ruler. Finally there’s not just one, but two sets of the specialty dice needed to play the game! Everything about the physical design of this edition just screams high quality.

As someone who played quite a bit of Blood Bowl in previous editions, I am glad to say that the rules remain basically unchanged. With the transition of the Warhammer Fantasy to the much different Age of Sigmar system, I was concerned that Games Workshop would attempt to “improve” the rules by further streamlining them. No worries here though as the tactical grid based system remain the same.

My one complaint is that the base game box only comes with rules for playing the human or orc teams. If you want to play as one of the other teams, such as dwarves, Aelves, or Minions of Nurgle, you will have to pick up a copy of their Death Zone: Season One supplement. You also need this extra rulebook for rule on league play. Blood Bowl is complete in what you get, there is just a lot more you can do but to do it you’ll need to look out for additional supplements.

For those who are long standing fans of the game or those looking for a skirmish level miniatures game that has a ton of character, Blood Bowl is a can’t miss. (Games Workshop) by Adam Talicska

ESCHATON (Archon Games)

There is no hope left for this world. Fanatics and acolytes run the street. Civilized religion has collapsed into cults of primal fear and aggression. Monsters and gods awaken to loose havoc. There is no hope left other than to embrace Armageddon’s arrival. The end is upon us, brothers and sisters. Join me!

A deck-building meets dudes-on-a-map game, Eschaton bares a number of similarities to wildly popular deck-building game, Dominion. Players draw a hand of five cards every turn and use those cards to draw more cards or buy others. Players pick and choose the new cards added to their deck to create machines (ongoing chains of plays to maximize each turn) that grant them advantages or deny them to their opponents.

Unlike Dominion, cards also give the ability to draw from a special divination deck of demons, relics and more, and move and fight their pieces on the map. Using the map as a game board, players send their cultists out in an effort to gain control of territories end game values and in turn advantages. It’s as fun in gameplay as it is thematically, as you spread your horrible cult in a hope to win the most favor at the last judgment.

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An aspect of Eschaton that more strictly strategic players might be frustrated by is the Events and Omens deck. At the beginning of the game three stacks of two Event cards are shuffled with an Omen card and a forth stack is shuffled with the Armageddon card that marks the game’s end. Stacks are combined and at the start of each round a new card is flipped. It isn’t the same shuffled 8 Events and 3 Omens either as those cards are drawn from two much larger decks of possibilities. The unpredictable boons and goals punish and reward with little or no warning. You may have just spread thin your cultists and now a foreign invasion forces you to remove one from each territory, you may have just marched to the island of The Old City only to have a plague break out there, an Omen of sacrifice may put your opponent in the lead through no prior planning on either of your parts.

However if winning the game isn’t the only reason you play, the Events and Omens deck is just another part of Eschaton‘s brilliant immersion into the volatility of a world on the brink of Armageddon. The theme is further established with an awesomely evil looking screen-printed cloth board and even darker card illustrations. The design isn’t always clearly indicative to the rules or gameplay, but it’s a small sacrifice in making a game that feels like the best metal album of the year.(Archon Games) by David C. Obenour

VIKINGS ON BOARD (Blue Orange Games)

Take control of the harbor and send your ships out to sea, filled with supplies (or at least gamble correctly on who else will be so fortunate) as clans compete for power in Vikings on Board!

For this game, players take turns over seven or more rounds selecting from the 11 available actions at the Village. Some of these actions are more useful than others, but fall further back in the order of the Village. It’s a pretty brilliant and easy to follow mechanic as players place their Viking pieces from one side of the Village (the current turn’s order) to the other (the upcoming turn’s order). Take a strong turn and you’ll be limited next time. Make small moves and set yourself up for a big next turn. Play continues this way until seven of the eight ships at harbor have set sailed at round’s end.

The 11 Village actions are primarily used to move, swap and rearrange your’s and other players’ ship segments to determine control. Sections contain one to three shields in one of the player’s colors, denoting power. The player with the most total shields when a ship is sailed is given control and in the case of a tie, the tied player with the segment closest to the front is given control.

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But having control may actually score your opponent more points… if they played it right! The actions not associated with ship segments include adding supplies to the ship, increasing the value of supplies, and gambling on which clan will have control. Having control of a ship gets you first pick of that ship’s available supplies, but then the second most picks, and the third the most and so on, circling back if supplies remain. Supplies won are worth one point at game’s end, but players can choose the market Village action to raise the value of any supply type to up to four points! Gambling is the final aspect of control looked at after sailing as players can place one of their four gambling tokens face down on a clan’s color and secretly score that token’s points if they gambled correctly.

For as simple as the rules are and with only two ways to score there are still a number of ways to play Vikings on Board. Do you focus on collecting a single supply type and raise its value? Do you keep a keen eye on ship control and gamble accordingly? Do you play spoiler to your opponents trying to execute their plan? Many games might have been tempted to add a deck of randomizing cards as an action, but the lack of chance involved makes every decision unfold many times over throughout the game.

Finally, the attention that Blue Orange Games put into the production of Vikings On Board is brilliant. Being pretty purely decisions-over-luck in its gameplay, the mood is set with great game board art, cartoony Viking miniatures and smartly crafted cardboard ship segments. Whether you’re playing with younger gamers or are just someone who appreciates more thematic games, the game itself keeps the Viking theme central and saves play from feeling too strictly puzzle and strategy based. (Blue Orange Games) by David C. Obenour

THE NETWORKS (Formal Ferret)

From just filling the timeslots on cable access to landing ad spots for the country’s latest hit crime show, The Networks puts you at the head of programming. Will you bring in viewers by signing the biggest stars to host your sports shows or by developing large budget dramas or by unifying programming around a single genre? The choices are endless, but your budget is not!

As a game, The Networks is played over five seasons of quick single action turns from diminishing options. On a player’s turn they can develop a show, sign a star, land an ad, take a network card (game advantage), attach a star or ad to a show in their lineup, or drop out and budget to end their season. With the actions related to shows, stars, ads and network cards, each season only provides so many available cards to choose before the season change. As more turns are taken so are the better cards, leading to hard decisions on when’s best to drop and budget, giving you better positioning for the next season. After all players have dropped from the season, income and expenses from active cards are determined, show viewership is added to your total, shows age into their next season (usually with fewer viewers) and the cards for the new season are dealt. After five seasons the player with the highest viewership wins!

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As a fan of thematic play one of the best things about The Networks comes from the genre bonuses. After programming the 3rd show of the same genre, players immediately gain five viewers and can draw and pick from a number of star or ad cards, and on the 5th show players gain 5 more viewers, can draw from star, ad or network cards, and can exchanged money for viewers. This rewards creating a network that makes sense in the real world. People watch ESPN because they like watching sports, SyFy because they’re interested in sci-fi shows and TLC because they… well, I don’t really know why people watch TLC.

As with most all games, the first few turns of The Networks may be a little rocky as you try to understand the different options and advantages that come with each available action. The rules aren’t complicated but the changing options that come with each season’s new show, ad, star and network cards take careful consideration. It’s just accessible enough that anyone who’s interested should be able to not get lost and just complicated enough that serious gamers have plenty to weigh out too. Tune in! (Formal Ferret) by David C. Obenour

AGE OF CONAN (Ares Games)

Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian inhabits a world completely void of the mundane. The rippling muscled champion set off on scores of adventures filled with treacherous villains, mesmerizing beauties, the fury of the wild, high-stakes politicking, countless treasure and much more. Tattered paperbacks transport readers to the heart of this swarm of sword and sorcery. It was awesome when it first came out over 80 years ago and it’s maybe even more awesome today.

Beautifully capturing this setting, Age of Conan provides another entry to this world as players take charge of one of the four main kingdoms vying for power and influence in the time of Conan. The game is divided into three ages, each comprised of four adventures by Conan. To start his first and each following adventure, players secretly decide on bids for Conan with their bidding tokens and strategy cards. The game then begins with the winning player taking control of the hero and rolling the seven fate die that will determine the next actions available to players on their turn. Turns unfold with military and diplomatic campaigns against the neutral provinces and other kingdoms, savvy collection of strategy and kingdom cards to amass benefits and the thoughtful guidance of Conan as he sets off on adventures. At the end of the fourth adventure, the age change phase gives players a chance to collect gold, build cities and raise troops, complete objectives, take control of artifacts and set up play for the next age.

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While that is a broad overview, the rules for Age of Conan are rather long and involved and it’s very likely your first game may take more than two or three hours after set up and explanation. Released earlier by Fantasy Flight (and experienced gamers probably already know what I’m about to say) the rules can be a little dense to navigate. They aren’t poorly written or particularly hard to follow, but something about their games always seems to take a little longer in the learning. Just have fun with it though and count the first play through as a learning experience.

The main disappointment for Age of Conan however is the titular champion’s limited role. While he can affect outcomes, often times he just seemed to wander about between starting location and his adventure’s goal. You can put out raid tokens and he can help your armies in battle but really, when you play a game with Conan in the title you want more Conan in your gameplay!

Thankfully, an expansion entitled Adventures in Hyboria is available. This expansion provides all of the flavor and adventure that thematic gamers will be looking for from Age of Conan. It introduces new, more interactive adventure cards for Conan, story cards that can alter the hero’s path and an evolving mood and experience track for Conan. It would have been hard to include all of these rules in the initial game, along with the introduction of spies and prisoners rules, but after you’ve mastered the core game’s rules, this expansion really is a must have. (Ares 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!

 

TINY EPIC WESTERN (Gamelyn Games)

Well, howdy there, partner. You ain’t from around these here parts, are ya? Well, saddle up. We’re gunna talk about Gamelyn Games’ new one, Tiny Epic Western.

I’ve been a fan of the “Tiny Epic” series for quite a while now. These are small-box games that play in a half hour and have surprising depth of play. Notable entries in the series include 4x fantasy area-controller Tiny Epic Kingdoms and sci-fi dice masher Tiny Epic Galaxies.

With Tiny Epic Western, one can see that designer Scott Almes has improved at his craft in the years since the series launched. There’s a bit more going on with this one. The game is alive with its theme. From the wagon wheel layout of the play area to the characters’ special abilities, you can practically hear the spurs rattling.

At its heart, TEW is a worker placement game. Of course, like all such games, players have meeples (here called the “posse”) that they will assign to spaces on the play area to collect resources. Resources include law, force, and gold, and are used to purchase buildings where posse members could be placed in future rounds. These purchased buildings are also worth victory points.

Before you groan at the buzzwords “worker placement” (I’m getting sick of the mechanic, too), let me explain the ways in which TEW is different. First of all, many of the placement spots allow players to choose between taking either an immediate effect or waiting until the end of the phase. If instant gratification is your thing, you collect just a little something. If you prefer the long game, waiting til the end of the phase will result in a tastier reward than going for the immediate effect.

Unlike other games in the genre, cowpokes also have the option to duel if they want to try and steal a spot away from a player who has already placed their posse member there. The deluxe edition comes with four d6s that are shaped like bullets, for the purpose of gunning down your opponents. Dueling is mostly a contest of who rolls the higher number, with some opportunities to reroll or modify your roll.

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There is also this whole poker element that makes TEW quite unique. At the beginning of each round, poker cards are dealt face-up between each building. Players are dealt two cards. They pick the one they want and discard the other. After the placement phase, each player uses their poker card to make a 3-card hand with the cards on either side of any buildings where they have posse members assigned. Though the hands are typical poker fare—pairs, straights, flushes, etc—the suits are unique to TEW. Players compare hands if there is more than one posse member assigned to a building. If only one player’s posse in on a building, their hand is compared to that of the “rival,” a dummy player who also gets a card at the beginning of the round.

During the final play phase of each round, players make a 3-card hand out of their card and the cards shouldered on the sides of the building that matches their posse color. Whoever has the highest hand gets to advance one of three industries, which will give players bonus victory points at the end of the game.

Tiny Epic Western is played over the course of 6 rounds. Once players are acquainted with the rules, a game takes about 30 to 40 minutes.

I very much enjoy Tiny Epic Western. Fans of poker will certainly take the most satisfaction from the game, but even those who’ve never gambled can get into it. There are a few rules that I personally found a little shaky and weak, but for the most part, TEW is a solid game with smooth gameplay. Though I was hoping it would be my new favorite in the series, I’d rank TEW as much better than Tiny Epic Kingdoms, but not quite as good as Tiny Epic Galaxies. With Gamelyn’s Zelda knockoff, Tiny Epic Quest, coming to Kickstarter on October 28, we may have a new contender for best Tiny Epic game.

So YEE-HAW! Don’t miss out on this fun little game. It fits in your pocket and plays fast. You can’t really go wrong with Tiny Epic Western. I give it 4 out of 5 cattle prods. (Gamelyn Games) by Josher Lumpkin

BATTLECRUISERS (TMG)

Amidst the chaos of battle, every member of a ship’s crew has a role to play and a time at which to play it. Taking charge of a space battlecruiser, it’s your job to lead this team in outplaying or outlasting your opponents. With a lot of planning for strategy and a little luck for timing, you just may do it too.

For each game of Battlecruiser a set of cards is determined for all players to start with. Players then discard one card from their hand at random face down and put another card at random into the recovery zone face up, with the remaining cards making up each player’s starting hand.

After setup, each turn follows with players selecting a crew member action card. Once every player has selected, the cards are revealed simultaneously and resolved from lowest to highest number. Players who solely selected their crew member take the described action, but players who selected a crew member also selected by another player must resolve the negative “clash” described action. After all cards have been resolved, this turn’s cards are moved to the recovery zone and any cards previously in the recovery zone return to the player’s hand. This continues until only one player remains (having forced the other players out through discarding their entire hand) or until one player reaches 15 victory points.

…and that’s Battlecruisers!

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For as much as this is a light, 20 minute, in between game, it has a lot going for it. First, with over 30 cards to choose starting hands from, there’s a ton of replay-ability, similar to that offered by Dominion. The designers went ahead and suggested a number of starting hands that are fun to explore the different mechanics, though players are sure to want to pick their own combinations to amp up different aspects. There’s also the kind of classic card game mechanic of having to figure out what card your opponent is going to play. Far from just a blind bluff, there’s keeping track of which cards were played last round, who’s discarded and what do you think they might have sacrificed, which cards could best help your opponent, and which card would hurt you the least if a clash action were to take place. Finally, each game has two ways to win – do you want to try to destroy your opponents or do you want to be the first to 15 victory points? Some decks are better suited for one way than the other, so your answer might change with each game.

I liked this game after playing it at Origins this year. It was fun, had nice enough art and we had a pleasant group of gamers to learn it with. That said, it did have the feeling of the sort of “inbetween game” that so many games seem to execute all right enough, but usually rather unremarkably so. After playing Battlecruisers a few more times the stigma of being a short-playing card game in a small box fades to reveal a remarkably fun game that’s just similar and different enough to keep you coming back. (TMG) by David C. Obenour

ESCAPE FROM THE ALIENS IN OUTER SPACE (Osprey Games)

Trapped in a badly damaged spaceship that’s plunged into a powerless darkness and is beset with aliens, you have no choice but to make a go for the escape pods. Whether or not they’re still functional, you’ll deal with that when you get there. Whether or not your shipmates can make it out too, that’s on them. The only thing that’s certain is that you must Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space!

Two to eight players are stranded in this situation for Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space. Half of you are humans, racing desperately to the escape pods, and the other half of you have been transformed into aliens, hunting down your former shipmates. Identities are unknown as the ship has been plunged into an inky darkness and all communication has been severed.

On both an alien and human turn, players secretly record a movement – end on a white space and it’s “silent sector” but end on a grey space and you have to draw a card. Cards either denote a stealthful move for “silent sector,” a fortunate distraction for “noise in sector (choose a space)” or a clumsy move for “noise in sector (the space you’re in).” Alien players are allowed to attack into squares, then exposing themselves as aliens for the rest of the game, and will consume anything they attack (killing another alien or assimilating a human player). The aliens’ goal is to eliminate all human players and the humans’ goal is to reach a working escape pod. That’s right. Working. Upon reaching the escape pod there are more tense moments yet as you draw from a deck of operating systems cards – one of which is busted.

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The rules also offer the addition of player roles with special abilities and items scattered throughout the card deck. After a couple of introductory games with the basic rules, these add-ons really expand how the game is played – offering harrowing escapes or fateful mistakes.

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space was both associating gaming editor, Kris Poland and my favorite game from Origins and getting a few more plays in didn’t change any of our thinking on the game. It’s brilliantly simple in its rules and captivating in its tense game play.

Starting as a print and play game, you can still download a copy for only $1.49 from the game’s website (though Osprey’s Ultimate Edition is definitely worth the $40), as well as utilize their editor to design your own maps and make use of other players suggestions on rules variants. The online community seems to have dropped off over recent years but here’s hoping Osprey’s new edition spurs creative minds back to the internet. This is a great example of what a game can be in 2016. (Osprey Games) by David C. Obenour