Tag Archive: “gaming”

SAGRADA (Floodgate Games)

One of the most visually striking games we played at Gen Con last year, Sagrada’s Kickstarter is completed and finished games are now available. All of the promise from the already amazing prototype has been wonderfully realized for the finished boxed game – what will probably be the most eye-catching on your shelf.

Before talking any more about the art and components, let’s get to the game. Sagrada is a puzzle-centered game that scratches a similar itch to a Sudoku. Assorted colored dice are plucked at random from a bag, rolled, and then players take turns placing them into their stained glass windows. The only guideline is that dice have to be connected and that dice of the same color or number (shade) can’t be placed side-by-side. Gameplay expands with every game however from a deck of backing window pattern cards granting different amounts of favor, secret objective cards, and a deck of tool and public objective cards  where you only use three in any single game. Each turn’s actions take a lot of thought in considering future moves and private and public objectives, but the rules can be explained in under five minutes (there’s also a full play-through video by JonGetsGames that the rulebook provides a link to).

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Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a super fun and thoughtful game but back to those components.

With a rainbow of transparent colored dice for filling up beautifully illustrated stand glass frames, Sagrada will captivate everyone around the table. Floodgate Games is completely aware of this too and included a card encouraging players to take a photo of their winning window and post it to Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #SagradaGame. Pretty ingenious… and I do mean pretty. (Floodgate Games) by David C. Obenour

ORIGINS GAME FAIR, June 15-19 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Another year, another kick off of the tabletop games convention season with Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio! Fueled exclusively by Lan Viet‘s bánh mì sandwiches, we took advantage of the expanded exhibitor hall (stretching game demo space into two larger halls), manageable crowds and friendly volunteer playtesters, to get into a whole lot in those few days. So let’s get to what everyone actually cares about: the games!


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Salem (Passport Games Studios)

Kris: I didn’t get to play Salem, but I watched over Dave’s shoulder as he finished up his demo. It looks a lot like the dozens upon dozens of Are you a Werewolf? (Or Mafia. Whatever.) style games out there right now. The biggest difference between Salem and the rest of the crowd seems to be that while the rest are more focused on fun, lighthearted social play, Salem is a serious logic puzzle to be solved by serious players.

Dave: Kris is right that thematically, you would think that Salem sits alongside a number of party games already out there – but this is no party game. The research that went into Salem is nothing short of remarkable. The four trials that represent turns take place on the historic Salem Witch Trials and each of the 49 characters represented were real participants and have a few sentences back story written beneath their token. The art is also very dark and fitting of the concept, with heavy ink lines for deep shadows. As for the game itself, Salem plays out like a logic problem or Sudoku channeled through a more involved version of Clue. Having not used this part of my brain in years there was a rather bewildering learning curve, but that too added to the game’s experience as you were forced to make accusations and vote on guilt.


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TANKS (Gale Force Nine)

Kris: Gale Force Nine have been killing it of late. It’s truly surprising to me to see a company that began in gaming accessories churn out some very cool-looking and playable games. TANKS looks to continue that tradition with skirmish-level miniature battles that can be setup and played in a matter of minutes rather than hours. The models look great, with nice details and variable armaments, and the price point for entry is incredibly reasonable. I’m very excited to get my hands on the starter set and take TANKS for a test drive.

Dave: X-Wing has brought a whole new wave of gamers to the tabletop and with it a whole new wave of games. Taking its roots from Gale Force Nine’s Flames of War system (even sharing the same tank models), TANKS is a quick to pick up and play game of World War II tank combat. The core set is only $25 and comes with all of the rules and a Panther and Sherman tank. Is TANKS a cleverly marketed gateway drug for Flames of War? Perhaps. Do I care? Guys, we’re talking about battling tanks, here!


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Garbage Day (Mayday Games)

Kris: Garbage Day is elegance and simplicity in game design wrapped up into an instantly understandable product. Perhaps it’s just a case of rules overload, but I find it so refreshing to play these straightforward, streamlined games that absolutely anyone can pick up and enjoy. There’s very little depth to Garbage Day, but there doesn’t need to be. There’s the skill element of balancing cards on the trashcan and the gambling element of managing how messy a player’s room becomes. That’s it. This is a must play for everyone from family gamers to hardcore rules lawyers who need to be reminding of the importance of fun in gaming.

Dave: One of the greatest things about the rising popularity of board games is all of the creative concepts that publishers are willing to back. Now, from the gaming company that brought the West monkeys flinging rubber coconuts into plastic bushels, we have the game of avoiding taking out the trash! If that sounds like a dig at all, you obviously haven’t played Coconuts (read our summary from last year’s Origins) or Garbage Day yet. Packed inside a plastic garbage bin, Garbage Day has players drawing from a deck of trash, to then either store in their room, hide in their opponent’s room, or precariously balance atop of the bin. One of my favorite games of the weekend.


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The Refuge (B&B Games Studio)

Dave: The Refuge’s art really drew me in but after hearing the run through it sounded like… a more complicated version of zombie-themed checkers? That’s not entirely fair as we didn’t get to play this one. Honestly, Kris seemed a little more into it so I think I’m just going to let him take it.

Kris: It blew me away to learn that The Refuge was in development for two years. The game is incredibly straightforward. Think Frogger but with zombies instead of traffic. Get from one side of the board to the other without dying. That’s about it. There are weapons and ways to switch places with other players and a handful of other elements that ought to keep gameplay from getting too stale too quickly. There’s potential for a lot of fun here, but The Refuge isn’t going to replace Dead of Winter on anyone’s shelf. Hopefully that two-year development time meant that they play-tested the hell out of it in order to make it as balanced and smooth as possible.


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Avalanche at Yeti Mountain (Green Couch Games)

Dave: For just being a deck of cards, a couple of plastic holders and a handful of wooden pawns, Avalanche at Yeti Mountain does a great job of feeling like it’s more. Laying out a slope of 12 cards, players ski and rocket jump their way down the mountain, trying to avoid the yeti and outrun the avalanche. Adding to the affect, the avalanche is represented by a stood up card with a track on the top to indicate its speed (which increases with every rocket jump). It’s a fun and clever game designed in a fun and clever way.

Kris: I completely agree with Dave on this one. For such a tiny box, there’s a lot of goodness packed into Yeti Mountain. It’s about risk and reward and the balance between competition and cooperation. Players take the role of skiers testing out experimental rocket boosters. If everyone moves as fast as possible down the mountain, the avalanche speeds up and ultimately consumes them. If everyone plays it too safe, they quickly become Yeti chow. Don’t be fooled by its diminutive appearance. There are great times crammed into that itty bitty package. Kudos to Green Couch!


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The Networks (Formal Ferret Games)

Dave: Hire your stars, pay for new shows, solicit advertising and set that primetime schedule, in The Networks players fight for viewers as growing television stations. Turns represent seasons and each new season some shows get circulated reruns, reruns go into the archives, and a variety of new show, ad, star and action cards are available to add to your station. It’s a unique concept that’s translated very well through simple rules with a variety of decisions. I’m not sure how it would work out (for that matter, neither is the entertainment industry) but it could be neat to see an internet streaming expansion.

Kris: The Networks instantly won points with me for its lighthearted graphic design and stylish presentation. It’s a game that immediately looks fun to play. The titles and images associated with the television programs, stars of the small screen, and ridiculous advertisements will bring smiles to the faces of all but the most dour gamers. We only had time to experience two seasons out of the standard five season game length, but it was enough exposure to the game’s core elements to see there there’s a lot of variety in strategy and fun to be had with The Networks.


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Klask (Oy Marektoy Ltd.)

Kris: Klask is a weird one. I prefer to think of games of its ilk as games of skill as opposed to games of strategy or even luck. It’s more akin to foosball or air hockey or Subbuteo than to Catan or Axis & Allies. I see this as a positive trend. The more variety in gaming the better! Klask seemed fairly pricey for what it was offering, but I choose to assume that it’s hand assembled from quality parts. Dexterity, patience, precise movements, and a patient hand will all be key components of success for any Klask players. If we get our hands on one of these, I could see tournaments in the Ghettoblaster offices becoming fiercely competitive. I’m comin’ for you, Dave!

Dave: There don’t seem to be enough yet to call it a trend, but more parlor-type games have been showing up at conventions. It’s the logical progression too, after popular games like Space Cadets have reintroduced dexterity and physical challenges to gaming. So here we have Scandinavian publisher Oy Marektoy and their very Ikea-looking take on air hockey, Klask. As the box says, “Get your hand under that table! Try to score but watch out for the hole.. Klask!” Those are pretty much the rules. The magnetized pawn moves as you drag it along from below, trying to knock the ball into your opponent’s hole while also trying to avoid trapping it in your own. Three magnets sit in the middle and if two of them latch onto your pawn, it’s trouble. It was definitely fun, but its simplicity may land it on the shelf for stretches of time between playing.


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Bottom of the Ninth (Greater Than Games)

Dave: I didn’t get much more than a brief rundown of Bottom of the Ninth but this might have been my favorite designed game at Origins. The player cards resembled old Topps baseball cards, the tones are all done in a dusty, Middle of America coloring scheme, and there are two sets of double sided baseball discs – one with High and Low, one with Inside and Away – for the batter and pitcher to size up each other with on every pitch. The game only simulates those high stakes last three outs as it’s the bottom of the ninth and the game is tied, so play time is short and exciting.

Kris: Color me impressed. Most baseball simulations do absolutely nothing for me. My eyelids grow heavy and my focus wanders whenever hitting percentages and RBIs are even mentioned. Bottom of the Ninth, however, boils baseball down to the most exciting scenario in any game. It’s the last inning and the game is tied. It all comes down to one pitcher and a handful of batters. The player cards look phenomenal, and the pitcher/batter face-off component is smart. There’s a lot of potential for amazing showdowns here. I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time with Bottom of the Ninth.


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Crazy Karts (Portal Games)

Kris: A good (or bad) demo can make (or break) a game in the hearts and minds of gamers. That’s why it is unfortunate that our session with Crazy Karts felt manic and confusing. My heart goes out to those volunteers that spend hours on the convention hall floor dealing with gamers who cover the entire spectrum of interest, etiquette, and hygiene. Nevertheless, my experience with Crazy Karts was less than stellar. There seems to be a lot of spectacle and forced mirth around a concept that is, at its core, fairly barebones. I do believe that there is some potential for fun with this game, but I’m uncertain as to whether or not it’s worth putting in the effort. Just play one of the many versions of Mario Kart for your Nintendo console of choice instead.

Dave: It can be hard to judge a game on a demo because admittedly the play-testers are often running you through a simplified version to save on time. So it’s entirely possible that there’s more to Crazy Karts than what we experienced. What we did experience though felt a little too complicated to be so simple. The straight racetrack tiles were only broken up by intermittent obstacle spaces (without any twists or turns or jumps) and even though the racetrack tiles were double-sided, the illustrated terrain had no effect (the bridge spaces on one tile were effectively the same as the water spaces). The team dynamic of having two players on each kart lead to some exciting guesswork and the real time rush to distribute each turn’s power cards within five seconds of the first team’s completion kept things moving along. There were definitely things I like about Crazy Karts but maybe not enough to make room for it on the shelf.


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Beyond Baker Street (Z-Man Games)

Dave: A fun things games can do is take a well known concept but come at it from a different angle. In Beyond Baker Street players take on the role of not Sherlock Holmes or Watson but members of the Scotland Yard, continually embarrassed by this upstart detective always getting their man. Working together, players share evidence but there’s a leak and every time information is shared Holmes gets one step closer to solving the case. The designers execute this through gameplay in a brilliant appropriation of Hanabi’s core mechanic –holding cards faced outwards and giving clues based on the color or number. This was my sleeper hit of convention.

Kris: Every nerd has his blind spots. One of my biggest blind spots encompasses all that is Sherlock Holmes. As with steampunk and Dr. Who, I just don’t care. I guess that goes to show just how much a theme can matter to a game. Ultimately, play mechanics and strategic depth and fun-factor keep us playing. But a good theme can draw in new players. It’s a shame too because the idea behind Beyond Baker Street is great! It’s the equivalent of GCPD to Batman. I’ll have to take a closer look.

— but wait, there’s more —

Come back later this week for the Games of Origins, 2016: Part Two – featuring Dead Last, Epic Card Game, Tiffin, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, Conan, Ruckus, Battlecruisers, Feuer Drachen, Wasteland Express and Last Friday!

 Super Hardcore Hamlet Builder Pro 5000 of the Stars! 1599 AD (The Game Crafter)

It’s incredibly difficult to please everybody when designing a game. Different gamers want different things; be it a challenging experience, a high fun-factor, an impressive tactical depth, a great story, or something else entirely. The folks behind Hamlet Builder Pro (The game’s full name is far too long and unwieldy to type more than once.) aren’t trying to please everyone. Instead, they created a fast-paced city-building game with plenty of randomness and customizable degrees of difficulty. Basically, they managed to make a tabletop game that feels like a PC game and can be enjoyed either alone or with up to five friends.


The game is played over seven rounds, each begins with the flip of a card, with different win conditions applied to each round. While revealing Bountiful Harvest allows everyone to collect their income twice, the Taxes card forces players to discard a number of coins equal to their Military and Culture values. Players then blindly draw three building tiles either from the 1-point or 2-point tile bags. Alternatively, they can choose a single 0-point value tiles from a stockpile that everyone sees. These tiles often end up being critical prerequisites to placing more expensive tiles later in the game. Players then use their accumulated coins to pay to place tiles in their hamlets. Once tile placement has finished, players pass their remaining unbuilt tiles to the person on their left. This seemingly adds a great element of randomness to the game but can also provide tactical opportunities to truly screw over opponents. Tiles offer ways to improve players’ Income, Military, Culture, and Coin Storage Limit. The winner is determined by adding up the point values of tiles in one’s hamlet plus Culture and Military values.

If Hamlet Builder Pro sounds incredibly straightforward, that’s because it is. Much of its brilliance is rooted in the game’s simplicity. Experienced players will easily fall into the flow of its gameplay after a few rounds. They’ll soon figure out when to stockpile coins, which 0-point tiles are crucial to their strategies, and how to make the most out of their randomly drawn tiles. There is, however, more depth than initially meets the eye. High cost tiles often require prerequisites or feature special rules. For example, the Blacksmith provides a terrific boost to both Military and Income. However, a Smelt must exist somewhere in a player’s hamlet before the Blacksmith can be placed. Additionally, the Smelt requires a 0-point Mining Camp in the hamlet. Inspired planning is easily thwarted by the luck of the draw, but not so much so that tactical thinking becomes pointless.


While there were a few misprints, such as special rules tiles and tiles with prerequisites displaying the same color icon, but I chalk that up to the version we tested being a pre-release game without finalized artwork or components. Speaking of components, the small white scoring rings are way too easy to nudge in the wrong direction or even blow off of the table with a quick arm movement or sigh. Nevertheless, these are very minor gripes for an incredibly fun game. Hamlet Builder Pro allows its player(s) to easily determine just how challenging the game experience ends up being. That, combined with enough randomness to keep every round interesting, is enough for a whole-hearted recommendation. If you grew up playing any of SimCity’s many iterations and are looking for a more streamlined tabletop experience, Hamlet Builder Pro was made just for you. (The Game Crafter) by Kris Poland

By David C. Obenour

It’s the 21st century. Being a nerd is cool and we’re all in a perpetual stage of adolescence… so you know what that means!? Wrrrrrrrrrrrrrestling is back! As noted in our review of Gen Con from this year we were treated to not one, but two amazing wrestling board games. The first one we’ll be taking a closer look at is Gale Force Nine’s WWE Superstar Showdown. Ring the bell!




For the cost of just more than five months of “the network” (I’ll let you do the math), you can conduct your own night of sports entertainment from the comfort of your own home with WWE: Superstar Showdown.

Now, if a licensed WWE game has you suspicious of a dolled up cash grab for easy marks, you weren’t alone. Gale Force Nine has a solid track record though, with well-designed games based off of Sons of Anarchy, Spartacus and Firefly and lucky for us, Superstar Showdown is yet another great adaptation.

Which isn’t to say the game isn’t dolled up! The miniatures for Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, John Cena, Big Show, Randy Orton and Big E are very nicely sculpted. Sure, armchair wrestling fans and game-designers will question who more deserved to be immortalized in game form. No Seth Rollins? No Dean Ambrose? But you’re going to include Big E? Maybe I should just be happy they didn’t shove Ryback down our throat like they seem hell bent on doing every RAW.

As for the game itself, after picking your superstar (Vince was very clear that they are superstars and not wrestlers), each player gets a deck of cards tailored to their particular strengths. From that, a hand of six cards is drawn and you’re ready to play! Each turn is divided into three rounds where players simultaneously reveal the cards that make up their in-ring actions. Cards battle out with a simple rock, paper, scissor (along with a grenade – the slam card) mechanic and the winning card grants its superstar the action listed on its bottom. This gameplay lets you Superman Punch, RKO and Attitude Adjustment your way to a knock-out or pin in about 40 fun-filled minutes.


Advanced rules allow for match stipulations (hardcore, last man standing, etc), different types of matches (tag team, gauntlet, etc) and even for multi-match events, where ranking points are earned from a number of matches to determine the winner. If that isn’t enough to excite you there are also already rumblings of expansions, including new wrestlers in a Legends release and a foreign objects release with chairs and hopefully, “DEVON, GET THE TABLES!” too.

Part Two will be coming soon, featuring Backspindle Games’ Luchador!.

FLUXX DICE (Looney Labs)

Fluxx is a great little game. The rules are simple: draw a card and play a card. The goals for winning change, the actions each turn can entirely reset the rules and overall it’s a lot of good, light-hearted fun. There are also a bunch of different themed decks (notably Batman and Adventure Time, which we reviewed just the other week) to mix and match to your hearts content.

Fluxx Dice is an expansion for any of your Fluxx decks that introduces a fun little trick with a draw and play die. These two dice are rolled at the start of each turn to determine how many cards are drawn and played. Not knowing how many cards you’ll be able to draw and play definitely limits the strategizing from turn to turn, but Fluxx has always been more about playing the game than winning it. Some people won’t like not being able to meticulously plan out their victory, but those people probably didn’t like Fluxx that much anyway.

If the game is in steady rotation at your table, it’s definitely a nice bit of randomness to shake things up (and then roll them). (Looney Labs) by David C. Obenour




By David C. Obenour

Any game that you can explain in a sentence and still be entertained by is pretty great.

In Fluxx the rules are draw a card, then play a card.

Just say that, let it hang there, and enjoy the befuddled look on your friend’s face.

“…but you spent like a half hour explaining the last game to me?”

That was the last game, pal and we all need a bit of a break from the high-stakes world of medieval farming and battling back ancient unspeakable horrors.

As Fluxx goes on, played cards introduce new rules, draw and play amounts, hand limits, goals for winning the game and a bunch of other actions to shake things up. It’s fun, it’s silly and as long as no one pulls any funny business, you’re pretty sure you’ve set up a plan to win in the next three turns. Spoiler alert: there will be funny business.

Taking this concept, Looney Labs has released a number of different Fluxx decks designed to excite nerds of all persuasions.


Batman Fluxx is the latest and probably greatest too. While other licensed product decks have been fun primarily due to the art and warm feelings of recognition with that art, the game integration for the Batman cartoon was really well thought out. The deck is full of villains (which any Batman nerd will tell you is the best part) and there are plenty of fun mechanics like the Bat Signal card you can exchange for Batman, or the Arkham Asylum card where villains are discarded underneath and if it gets cancelled, dealt back out around the table, or the Bruce Wayne card which must be discarded if Batman is ever played (plus, try reading “The Joker Got Away” goal card without humming another verse or two of “Jingle Bells”). Admittedly, comic book inspired art might have looked better, but that won’t stop you from having a fun time.


Next up is Adventure Time Fluxx that, while a fun game, does suffer from what I’d mentioned previously. It’s fun playing with Jake, Finn and Fiona, but most of the cards fit pretty well within the standard Fluxx format. One action card that’s a favorite though is “The Arena” which has all players submit a keeper or creeper for combat and then have a debate about who would win in battle. If you like Adventure Time, you’ll like Adventure Time Fluxx. It’s pretty much that simple.


Finally, with other licensed decks like Monty Python, Regular Show and Cartoon Network, along with nerd favorite themed decks like Cthulhu, Pirates and Zombies, it’s tempting to mix decks together to make your own crossover episode game. Finn and Jake mixing it up with Mordecai and Rigby against the undead? You know that sounds like a good time!

There aren’t exact rules for mixing decks though and doing so can present a few problems. First off, goal cards for winning the game are generally related to the deck from which they came in so finding a specific card requires more deck-digging. Second, sometimes rule cards from different decks may clash with each other. That said, as long as you don’t have a rules lawyer around the table (and really, it’s a fun 5-15 minute game) it’s nothing some good-hearted, on-the-spot playtesting can’t handle. (Looney Labs) by David C. Obenour

By David C. Obenour

For a long time miniatures gaming has been relegated to a niche community within a niche community. Numerous expensive models were required, complicated rules took up multiple books, battles could last for entire afternoons and the hobbying aspect of assembly and painting was fun for some but arduous for others. It wasn’t true for all miniatures games, but it did seem true for enough to scare off lots of potentially interested gamers.

But in 2012 Fantasy Flight released the wildly popular X-Wing game – introducing many new (and impressing many old) gamers with a small dogfight game set to understandable rules, scalable playing times and cool looking pre-painted and assembled miniatures (if you’re following along, that checks all of the previous paragraph’s concerns). They weren’t the first, but with a wildly popular licensed product they quickly become one of the most successful.

So with more people playing or at least open to miniatures gaming we’re taking a look at two tall ship games available, starting with Ares Games’ Sails of Glory.




Other than Napoleon, the name most recognized from the Napoleonic Wars is Admiral Horatio Nelson. Releasing its initial line of miniatures from the ships of that era, Sails of Glory is a ship-to-ship tactical war game pitting admiral against admiral (or a number of captains against captains) for naval dominance.

The rules offer three levels of play for Sails of Glory: basic, standard and advanced. This is a great way to ease into the game and ultimately find your preferred balance of strategy versus simplicity as each level builds on what is established from before.

As recommended, for our first game we played the basic rules “Enemy at Sight!” scenario, a fairly straight-ahead battle using all four ships from the starter kit. The set up might initially frighten the casual gamer as the ship mat and log looks more complicated than it is for the basic rules and there are over 500 tokens that come in the starter kit, but again – most of which aren’t utilized for the basic rules. After the first couple of turns spent figuring out how the rules actually played out, Sails of Glory flowed easily. Movement is handled through a simple method of checking your ship’s attitude to the wind, picking from a deck of ship specific movement cards, and then putting the card in front of your ship. Combat range and damage is established with a color-coordinated measuring stick, measured from your stem stern or broadside firing arc – cross-referenced with your ship log to check for firepower (also one place where damage is taken, lessening your firepower with each sustained hit). For all of the game we weren’t experiencing within the basic rules, it was surprising about how much it still had to offer – to hold your fire in hopes of better positioning, the frigate’s mobility, ships-of-the-line’s firepower, being taken aback and trying to maneuver to a more favorable mast facing while avoiding your opponents firing arcs. It came down to a nail biting, one-on-one slugfest, decided with some fortunate (for me, anyway) damage tokens.


This is all just the tip of Sails of Glory’s (hope my ship doesn’t hit it) iceberg too. Standard rules offer different options for ammunition (ball, chain, grapeshot), additional raking shot damage, the time to react rule (planning maneuvers ahead within the restriction of a ship’s veer rating) and collision rules. Advanced rules offer crew action options, different sail settings and special damage tokens (fire, leaks and broken rudders and masts). There are also additional optional rules for boarding enemy ships and rules that deal with entangled masting, exploding ammunition, changing wind strength and direction, and much more.

It’s a definitely a lot, but the beauty is that you don’t need to use all of the rules to play a game. Instead of unloading all possible variables and situations on players from game one, you’re able to build and customize your experience.

Finally, the rules also provide a number of ready-to-play scenarios as well as guidelines for helping to design your own. As you buy additional ships, a point guide is available online to help balance your fleets.


Throughout this review I kept wanting to just fanboy out about Sails of Glory. The ships are beautifully done and reasonably priced. The rules are fun to play at all levels of complexity and offer a game that lasts for anywhere between just under an hour to a weekend afternoon. They also seem keen on supporting it with continued space at their convention booths (having a single naval battle with over 79 “captains” at 2015’s Gen Con) and new ship releases, including a few US Revolutionary War ships making good on their promises to expand into new eras. The historical aspect will undoubtedly limit Sails of Glory’s appeal, but really shouldn’t for a game this well designed. (Ares Games) by David C. Obenour

Part Two will be coming soon, featuring Zvezda Games’ Armada Invincible. 

GEN CON, July 30-August 2 at the Indiana Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Gen Con is now but a memory, but it’s a memory you can continue to relive vicariously through part two of our totally awesome recap! So many games. So may gamers. So much social anxiety. So little time. Please enjoy this continuation of our summary of some of the highs, lows, and creamy middles of this year’s biggest event in tabletop gaming. We’ll catch you again next year!



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Kris: C.R.O.M. (Get it? Get it?) is about halfway funded on Kickstarter at the time of this writing. It’s a pre-painted miniatures game played at the skirmish level. There are starter boxes for the two factions, Conan’s Circle of Iron and the evil Legion of Set. The minis look very nice and have incredibly detailed paint jobs, especially compared to most other pre-painted miniatures. Of special note are the monsters in each set. The oliphant and giant snake will definitely be centerpieces for each army. Pulposaurus even licensed artwork from the Conan comics for the game’s cards and more, making everything about this game a feast for the eyes. The rules are easy to learn, and games should be fast-paced with plenty of carnage. C.R.O.M. has a lot of potential as a skirmish miniatures game. Fingers crossed it gets fully funded!

David: Bad news – Kickstarter funding of Conan: Rise of Monsters was cancelled three days ago. Good news – Reaper Miniatures have entered into a partnership with Pulposaurus and will be delivering us the game by later this year! That’s better than just good news as partnering with a company as well-established as Reaper bodes well for the game’s continued support and availability.


THE CAPTAIN IS DEAD (The Game Crafter, 2014)

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Kris: The Game Crafter embodies a really cool concept that allows anyone to turn their great idea for a card or board game into reality. They do custom, on demand printing that can turn anyone with an idea into someone with a physical product to share. The Captain is Dead is their superstar. It’s a cooperative game for up to seven players that puts gamers in a spaceship just as everything goes haywire. Players have to work together with their fellow crew members to repair the ship’s jump core and escape the hostile alien threat by completing actions in the ship’s different stations. It kind of reminds me of Red November in space and should make for a lot of fun with a sizable group of gamers.

David: Red November and Space Cadets were the two games that came to my mind when we were getting the short run-through from the folks at The Game Crafter’s booth. A hostile alien ship has driven you into an asteroid field and now it’s your job to, as a team, get the jump core back on line so you can get the heck out of there. Also, the captain is dead. Well done art with high-quality pieces – definitely worth a closer look! Good on The Game Crafter for seeing this game’s potential.


BLOOD RAGE (CoolMiniOrNot, unreleased)

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Kris: Upon entering the exhibitor hall first thing in the morning on Thursday, it seemed as if everyone there immediately bought a copy of Blood Rage. I saw it over and over again and again in the arms and oversized bags of everyone around me. Viking battles, Norse gods, and the pursuit of a glorious death seem to be key elements of Blood Rage. I’ll hand it to CoolMiniOrNot when it comes to visual appeal. The miniatures are very well designed, and the game board is colorful and attractive. We couldn’t get through the throngs of people lined up to play it, so we’ll do our best to procure a demo copy soon. As Dr. Rick Dagless M.D. once sang, “One day we’ll all meet in Valhalla.”

David: Yup, it sure seemed to be all the Blood Rage of Gen Con this year. Thank you, thank you very much. Seriously though, even without playing this one I know everything I need to know. As Kris said, “Viking battles, Norse gods, and the pursuit of a glorious death.” It’s called Blood Rage for Thor’s sake. Welcome Ragnarök with open arms, brothers.


MYSTERIUM (Asmodee, 2015)

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Kris: I know very little about Mysterium, other than it was once named Tajemnicze Domostwo. Good move on the name change! It’s co-op, and involves a friendly ghost in a haunted mansion. Sounds like fun to me!

David: Asmodee definitely wins for best booth at Gen Con. The only drawback was that for all of the ambiance their secluded booth created for those lucky enough to demo Mysterium, it also limited the number of tables they had and the amount of people that were actually able to play through the game. Even without a playtest or quick overview though, Mysterium seems like it’d be a whole lot of fun. A cooperative game for two to seven players, one player takes the role of a ghost dealing out vision cards from behind their GM-like screen to the attending mediums (other players) in an effort to solve their murder and achieve peace. It sounds like a spookier, more involved version of Clue. Not getting to play this one was probably my biggest regret of the convention.


CTHULHU WARS (Petersen Games, 2014)

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Kris: The only thing worse than an unimaginable horror from another dimension devouring our reality would be multiple unimaginable horrors from another dimension slugging it out to determine which one will have the privilege of devouring our reality. Enter Cthulhu Wars. It’s a strategy game that pits four Old Ones against each other (up to eight with expansions). The core set contains dozens of slimy, tentacled beasts from your worst nightmares. They’re all nicely modeled and will likely look even better once players take a paintbrush to them. If you’re into Lovecraftian horrors and battling with brightly colored miniatures, this one has your name on it.

David: Though this game is a couple of years old it still seemed to be one of the highlights of Gen Con. With a ginormous box containing 64 high-quality Lovecraftian (right up there with zombies, pirates and Dr. Who in nerd appreciation) miniatures it’s no surprise why either. Also not a surprise surprise, it comes with a completely reasonable for what you get but still hefty price tag. That didn’t seem to stop people. Along with Blood Rage, lots of copies were seen in bags and under arms (two, not one), and playtesting this game required getting on a list as long as that of a Michelin 3-star restaurant.



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Kris: Who hasn’t dreamed of casting off the constraints of modern day society and retreating to one’s secret lair to construct a doomsday device? All of us, right? If you haven’t already walked away from your screen to phone the authorities, this just might be the kind of game you’ll love! Perform research, spy on rival scientists, and protect your own creations to conquer the world. Victory is never guaranteed, as unique Twist cards randomly assigned to players at the beginning of the game make sure that no two games play out in the same manner.

David: That’s me. Dr. Buddy with a PHD in Friendship studies. While I hoped to kill the world with kindness, my fellow play testers seemed to have better luck with deathrays and wide-spread neurotoxins. Oh well, to quote Jake Chambers (for wildly different reasons), “there are other worlds than these” and I’ll be damned if I can’t put this degree in Friendship to use one of these times. At past conventions the major gaming companies such as USAopoly didn’t seem to quite get the level and style of gaming that Gen Con attendees thrive on. Nefarious however is perfect for both family game night and beer and pretzel night with your pals.


POCKET IMPERIUM (LudiCreations, 2015)


Kris: 4X style gameplay with only a handful of cards and less than an hour of playtime? That sounds incredible! Almost impossible, really. Designer David Mortimer must be one smart cookie. I’ll leave the meat of this one to Dave, as he was actually able to play Pocket Imperium. I’ll admit that I’m jealous and more than a little intrigued.

David: Sorry to say, but I was a little under-whelmed by Pocket Imperium. Admittedly, a 5-minute demo isn’t the same as a full game experience but what I did play felt a little too simple for its own good. As Kris said, the 4X gameplay of “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate” is what you’re promised and what you get. But not much else. Is Pocket Imperium like chess or checkers, where multiple plays would reveal more nuances? Totally possible. But in an exhibitor hall filled with the best of what’s out there it didn’t quite grab me.


SHINOBI CLANS (Posthuman Studios, 2013)

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David: This is just a game I sat down at because there was an open seat and I was waiting for someone else so why not demo a game? Boy am I glad I did too! Though Posthuman Studios might be better known for their Eclipse Phase RPG system, Shinobi Clans is a beautiful and tricky (in a good way) game. After drafting a hand of attacking, defending and wildcard ninja cards, the scene is set for – you guessed it – either attacking or defending any of the three dignitaries for that round. Ninjas, being ninjas, are placed in secret facedown, so you’re not sure if the other clans are assisting or clashing with your mission. With so many different card games out there it was fun to run into something so inventive while working so well within its theme.

Kris: When it comes to the whole pirates/zombies/ninja trifecta, I feel as if ninja get the short end of the nerd culture stick. You can’t turn around without seeing another zombie game, and thanks to Jack Sparrow there are still god damn pirates everywhere. Perhaps Shinobi Clans can change that. It’s a card game with couple of neat drafting mechanics, and the cards in question feature absolutely gorgeous artwork. There’s also an element of betting on who will survive and who will not after blades have clashed. I didn’t get to spend much time with Shinobi Clans, but I’m eager to dig deeper.


LUCHADOR! (Backspindle Games, 2013)

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Kris: Two great wrestling games in one convention? Have I died and gone to mark heaven? While both are inspired by wrestling, Luchador! couldn’t be more different from WWE Superstar Showdown when it comes to game mechanics. Luchador! skips the cards and goes straight to rolling dice. Players roll at the same time to see who gets the advantage and, possibly, the pin fall victory. The cool gimmick here is that dice are actually rolled inside a little cardboard wrestling ring. Any dice that fall out or are knocked outside of the ring by opponent’s dice are invalidated. It seems quite fast-paced with a good push-your-luck style of gameplay. I’m definitely interested in spending some time with this one.

David: The cardboard wrestling ring. I think even if this game proved to be a stinker (which it absolutely didn’t), that ring may have been enough to buy it anyway. We didn’t get to actually play this one, but we did get a great walk-through of it from a delightful English bloke who traded ridiculously obscure international wrestling references with Kris while I just stood back and nodded like I had some sort of idea about what they were saying.


BAD DETECTIVES (Forced Output, 2015)

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Kris: While I didn’t get the opportunity to play Bad Detectives, I love the idea of this game. Honestly, I’m kind of sick of so-called storytelling games that ask players to do all the heavy lifting. A lot of them feel half-baked in their attempts to creatively engage with their players. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. This isn’t just a matter of, “Tell the best story and everybody wins!” Instead, players play a detective who is horrible at their job. Everyone tries their best to muddle through a case, string evidence together, and connect victims to suspects and murder weapons. Only one detective gets credit for solving the case, so Bad Detectives seems to fit nicely into the odd competitive/cooperative genre. So stop bitching about season two of True Detective, and engage in some deducing of your own.

David: Hah! Oh poor True Detective, season two. Anyway, I was lucky enough to get the 10-15 minute spiel from designer, Zach Barton (in cop uniform) on how Bad Detective plays out and man, what a well-designed game! Taking inspiration from the well-known HQ tac-board, players string together evidence (or “evidence…?”) tiles between the victim and culprits, weapons and locations. You don’t have to be right, you just have to look right. Being right is one way of looking right, but discrediting your fellow detectives and their work is another. It’s not so much a story-telling game but a game that as it plays out tells a story – which means, sure you can just play it but you can also get into character and read out your tiles in a gruff “I’m getting too old for this shit” voice. Maybe a dozen donuts and a pot of coffee too. Damn, now I really want to play this game!


THE GRIZZLED (CoolMiniOrNot, unreleased)

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Kris: It’s a testament to the quality of The Grizzled that I still want to play more of it after having the worst play-testing experience of the entire con with this game. Despite our rude, obnoxious, task-master of a playtester, The Grizzled felt special. Perhaps it’s because both Dave and I have a passion for WWI history. Perhaps it’s the artistry and care and familial ties linking the game’s creators to the Great War. Perhaps it’s the fact that this game never asks players to fire a weapon or kill another human being. There’s something incredibly special here in a game about surviving the horrors of war through friendship and sacrifice. The Grizzled is not to be missed.

David: All due respect to volunteers, who are after all, volunteers, but Kris is not wrong. I really hope that our playtester wasn’t on the table too long for The Grizzled because she was doing it a huge disservice. After buying a copy (the last one – thanks to the random gamer who had it before me but took pity on my visible dejection) and playing through it a few times I can honestly say that this is the best example I’ve experienced of a game as art. Making that even more remarkable is how much The Grizzled is able to convey in such a short playing game with such simple rules. There are six kinds of threats, you’re dealt task cards that have different combinations of these threats, you’re never allowed to have more than three of the same threat showing or you as a team have failed that mission. In the half-hour playtime, you begin to feel a small bit of the anxiety, fear, hopelessness, but mostly camaraderie that made up the experiences of those who served in the Great War.

GEN CON, July 30-August 2 at the Indiana Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Oh shit, dog! It’s Gen Con time! Well, it was last week. It’s over now, but don’t fret. Your pals from Ghettoblaster were there and are back with impressions from the biggest gathering of gaming geeks in North America. After being packed into convention halls with over 61,000 other gamers, we’re both relieved to be back and excited about new developments in the tabletop gaming world. Please keep in mind that Gen Con is way too massive for just a few of us to cover everything that’s on offer. What follows is a list of things that caught our attention, explanations and demos that we were privy to, and some other stuff. Enjoy part one, and check back soon for part two!


FLEET ADMIRAL (Castle Games, 2012)

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Kris: I watched over Dave’s shoulder as he toyed around with this one. It looked pretty neat. That’s about all I can say with any certainty.

David: The thing about Gen Con – as I’m sure you picked up from the intro – is it’s insane how many people are there. Getting a demo can be hard and so can just getting a few minutes of an exhibitor’s attention. The guys at Castle Games came up with a pretty ingenious way around that for Fleet Admiral. As I looked down at their table with interest at the game before me I was greeted with, “roll a die!” and handed a dice to roll. Intrigued and admittedly, not one to really question orders, I did so and then played through a quick turn of this fun and inexpensive “push your luck” cooperative game. The whole thing was over and done in less than two minutes and while that’s a pretty small sampling, it was a really enjoyable one.


ONE NIGHT REVOLUTION (Indie Boards and Cards, 2015)

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Kris: Take The Resistance and condense it down into a single, paranoia-fueled round. That’s One Night Revolution. Rather than going out on multiple missions, the rebels get one shot at finding the informant(s) in their midst. Just like Mafia/Werewolf, this is a party game that gets more interesting and exciting the more players who take part. Not only are players assigned identities as Rebels or Informants, they also play roles that take different actions during the night. For example, the Investigator can look at a single player’s ID. Despite its name, there’s nothing really revolutionary here. However, this could be a good time if you have too many people over to play other games or are looking for a time-filler to play between longer, more involved affairs.

David: I’m a pretty horribly liar. I don’t mean that as some kind of, “Oh, I’m such an honest guy” #humblebrag, it’s just to let you know that I normally have a hard time keeping a straight face during games like The Resistance and Werewolf. I can, but I really need to psych myself out. A fun mechanic for One Night Revolution is that even though you get to see if you’re a Rebel or Informant at the start of the round, during the night your alignment card may have been switched by one of the other players’ abilities and you’re not allowed to check until the game’s over. Confusion, deceit, deduction, “Hey, my card was to the left of me when I closed my eyes!” – it all plays into it and it’s all a lot of fun!


COUP: REBELLION G54 (Indie Boards and Cards, 2014)

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Kris: Coup was always a good game, but with only a handful of characters its variety and extended appeal were quite limited. Rebellion G54 addresses that very issue expertly by increasing the number of characters from 5 to 25. There are still only 5 character types in a single game session, but they can be any combination of the 25 characters included. Where I would normally have had enough Coup after two or three 15 minute rounds, Rebellion offers enough variance to turn those multiple 15 minute rounds into an entire night of gaming. I guess it’s true that often the simplest solution is the best one.

David: Yeah, pretty much exactly what Kris said. While a lot of party games benefit from not having to explain overly complex rules, they also can get old way before someone finally says out loud, “So… do we still want to play this, guys?” Rebellion G54 gives you simple rules with added variety from a number of new characters and roles. Figured out how to win with the Farmer? Too bad! We’re not using the Farmer in the next round.


DEATHFEAR (Travesty Games, 2012)

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Kris: Deathfear traps players in a dungeon with a dismembered demon. The only way to escape is to collect powerful pieces of this demon’s body and murder everyone else in the dungeon. Movement is handled via rolling 2D6 and allows for a re-roll of one die if desired. It’s such a simple idea that really speeds up gameplay. Attacks are automatic when the active player lands on an opponent and result in stealing either demon parts or spirit items from one’s victim. There isn’t a ton of complexity here, but it certainly is an enjoyable romp. The good folks at Travesty definitely know good visual design, as exemplified in their hand-crafted wooden boxes for this game. The playmat is also screen printed on black fabric. These extra touches are what can make a relatively simple game such as Deathfear stand out from the crowd. Good show!

David: This game looks epically awesome. The demon parts adorning the top of its all black wooden box, the rolled-up cloth dungeon map, apparently it comes with a narrator DVD too that we didn’t get to experience at the con – the only thing that’s missing is a copy of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality. Deathfear might be a little overly simple on repeated plays, but it’s nothing that a few thought out house rules couldn’t improve on (I’m thinking some sort of sanity cost as you attach more and more of these demon parts to your flesh).


WWE SUPERSTAR SHOWDOWN (Gale Force Nine, 2015)


Kris: Dear god. The WWE have gone and made a tabletop game. They’ve also managed to somehow swerve us all. How? It’s actually incredibly fun to play! Gameplay is handled through an easy to understand rock/paper/scissors mechanic that keeps things simple but still allows for tactical planning. The included wrestlers are Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, John Cena, Big Show, Randy Orton, and (for some unknown reason) Big E. The miniatures are nicely detailed and their accompanying card decks to a decent job of covering each wrestler’s in-ring repertoire. Unfortunately, the free promo piece for those who purchased the game at the con was supposed to be Hulk Hogan. For obvious reasons, those promos never made it to Indianapolis. The good news is that expansions are already in the works. Play testers spoke in hushed tones about folding chairs in future releases. I’m most excited to play as legends like Savage or Flair or Mankind. I also want Cesaro and Owens and the entire NXT roster. There is huge potential for this to be a real cash cow for both WWE and GF9. Just give the people what they want: more wrestlers whom they love.

David: I’m always afraid when it comes to licensed products and doubly afraid of WWE screwing up something that could have been great (for the most recent example, see Kevin Owens’ current bewildering storyline and win/loss record). Those fears were immediately erased by the fun and simplicity of Superstar Showdown. Even Ghettoblaster’s lead designer (and my wife), who could barely care any less about wrestling, enjoyed it. The only drawback is for the 2 and 3 man tag games the players outside of the ring are left just watching. Still, there’s plenty of action within the squared circle to compel everyone. I’m holding my hopes for the Mick Foley’s Cactus Jack, Dude Love and Mankind expansion!



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Kris: This is a triumph. Seriously. I was very cynical when I first learned about the Portal board game. Slapping the name of one of the most beloved video game franchises in the last decade onto a board game seemed like a guaranteed way to separate nerds from their money and nothing else. I’ve never been so glad to be so wrong. Players take turns sending test subjects into Aperture Labs, moving portals, a turret, and a companion cube across test chambers, all in an effort to get the most cake (and incinerate opponents’ cakes). Rules change as players activate different abilities, so tactics must be altered on the fly. It’s fun, quick-paced, and retains the fantastic deadpan humor of the video games. Plus, it comes with a free copy of Portal 2 on Steam! Simply put, this one is a no brainer. Buy it when it comes out this holiday season.

David: Spot on! Again, fear of licensed products, but Cryptozoic’s got a pretty great track record so far with their games based off of the Locke & Key comic book, FX’s Archer and Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time (sorry, haven’t and don’t have any plans on playing their Castle or Big Bang Theory games). One thing Kris didn’t address that I wanted to talk to is how aesthetically pleasing this game is. From the turret piece to the pieces of cake pieces, this game was sharply designed.


MONARCH (Tiltfactor, unreleased)

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David: Honestly, I was really drawn in by the gorgeous art and while Kris was paying attention to the explanation I was staring at the cards. I’ll let him handle this one.

Kris: Who will reign? It’s a simple question with an often complex answer. Players in Monarch attempt to answer that question by gathering favor, assembling the best possible court, and ultimately impressing their matriarch. The main mechanic involves pulling together the most glorious individuals and treasures to ensure one’s future rule, all while figuring out the most advantageous ways to tax and/or harvest from lands. Its playtime is less than an hour and should provide a good time for three to four players. Monarch’s most impressive trait is its scratchboard art by Kate Adams. There’s a certain beautiful darkness to her fantasy artwork that adds a lot of atmosphere to the game. Monarch should be available in September.


AGE OF SIGMAR (Games Workshop, 2015)

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Kris: Oh boy. Where to begin? I only started playing Warhammer Fantasy a couple of years ago. I’ve grown to love it, and now they’ve pretty much killed it. GW’s presence at Gen Con was pathetic. They had a tiny booth displaying the models from the Age of Sigmar starter set and two terrified employees who seemed desperate to sell people on this… thing. Ghettoblaster’s experience here can be summed up in a simple interaction. Dave and I asked what AoS meant for Warhammer Fantasy. One GW rep confidently said, “Age of Sigmar is its own thing. It’s totally different.” The other GW rep then approached us and stated, “Age of Sigmar is Warhammer Fantasy.” I expressed my dissatisfaction with that statement, and we walked away.

David: I keep typing things out, sighing heavily, and then deleting them. There’s no way around it, Age of Sigmar is a huge disappointment. I’m not saying Warhammer up until now was without flaws, major ones even, and if internet truth holds any water, it didn’t sound like it was staying financial feasible for Games Workshop – though the End Times campaign sure did seem to get a bunch of people (me included) very excited. But to so suddenly and seemingly so decisively change everything about the way the game plays and how the game looks even (put a new Stormcast Eternal up next to a High Elf spearmen and try to tell me we’re still playing the same game) and then refuse to give a clear answer about what Age of Sigmar is and about what that means for Warhammer? Sigh, just… just fuck you Games Workshop.


Stay tuned for part two of The Games of Gen Con, featuring Blood Rage, Mysterium, Cthuluhu Wars, Nefarious, Pocket Imperium, Shinobi Clans, Luchador!, Bad Detectives, The Grizzled and The Captain is Dead!