Birthday Board Game Gifts

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This past Monday I was reminded of how truly lucky I am. I celebrated my 25th Birthday and was overwhelmed with love and support from my friends and family. Well wishes, cards, phone calls, everyone who reached out in some way made me feel thankful. One of the ways people made me feel particularly appreciated was by giving me board games. I received 6 board games this year, all valuable additions to my collection that I look forward to playing. Here is a list of the games I received, along with some additional detail on each game and the people who gave them to me:

From my Parents:

Doctor Who Yahtzee- My folks are very supportivIMG_2862e of my passion for board games. The vast majority of my board game collection has come from my family, and since I played so many games with them when I was younger they have a good eye for what I like. They definitely knew what they were doing this time too, as they combined two of my favorite things in this gift. Yahtzee is a game that is pretty unpopular in some gaming circles, but it holds a special place in my heart because I remember playing it with my Gran whenever I visited my Dad’s family. Board games were always popular in the Dixon household, and Yahtzee was one of Gran’s favorites. In addition, Doctor Who is one of my favorite TV shows, so it has added value in comparison to the regular Yahtzee game.

From my friend Annie:

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Doctor Who Monopoly- Once again combining my love of board games with British TV
shows, my friend and neighbor Annie was kind enough to get me a gift for my Birthday. I haven’t known her that long but she’s a really sweet person and I appreciate the gift immensely. I’ve written about Monopoly numerous times so it’s well documented how much I enjoy collecting these boards, so this fits perfectly into my interests with board games.

From my Girlfriend Mary:

I’ve mentioned my girlfriend, Mary, before on this blog, but just to give you some perspective: Mary is into superheroes, board games, video games, is a movie buff, and overall is probably as big a nerd as I am. Basically she’s awesome, and so the fact that she got me 4 board games is just another sign that I’m with someone who really gets me. Here’s the full list of games:

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Zombiecide –The first game on the list is Zombiecide, which we’ve both heard great things about, but have never played personally. It is supposedly a pretty intense cooperative game with ten different levels with varying difficulty for each. I’m seriously looking forward to trying this game out- be on the lookout for a post on it sometime in the next few weeks!

The Resistance – I admittedly haven’t heard or seenIMG_2860 much about this game before, but from what I can tell The Resistance is a tabletop party game based around a dystopian universe where a group is trying to overcome a corrupt government. I love dystopian novels and themes, so that immediately stands out to me. Apparently the game relies on deception and misleading the other players, so it could be a Sheriff of Nottingham-esque game style. I’ll be sure to see what it’s like soon enough!

One Night Ultimate Werewolf- Known to my girlfriend as “The IMG_2859Werewolf Game”, I’ve been hearing good things about this for a while so it wasn’t surprising when I unwrapped it. A fast-paced game (only allowing for ten minutes of play), the game apparently has an app that links to it and the board game is an expansion of that. Everyone playing gets a specific role and then… something happens. I honestly don’t know yet, but I know it’s a lot of fun and I have a group of friends lining up to play!

Space Sheep- By far the best gift I got for my birthday this year, I saw this game at the IMG_2863board game store Games Unlimited in Pittsburgh and was immediately drawn to it. Unfortunately I had already decided on the game I wanted to buy, so in order to avoid spending too much money I didn’t get it. Luckily enough Mary was there, and she was kind enough to buy the game for me. Now, for those of you with a keen eye, you will notice that this game is a parody of Star Wars… that involves Sheep. Here is a basic description of the game: “You are a Sheep. You are a Defender in the Strategic Sheep Command. You have trained all of your career for this moment in history. You know how to defeat Wolf – Ewe’s The Force…” Another cooperative game with some obvious wit and humor, I can already tell that I’m going to have a ton of fun trying this one out.

 

Once again, thanks so much to everyone who reached out for my Birthday. I can’t wait to try some of these games out, and rest assured I will be keeping my blog updated with my experiences along the way!

 

Board Game Expansions/Alternates

At the risk of sounding like an old man, I’ve always preferred the good old days with games where it was a one-time purchase for the product and that was it. There might have been a few alternative versions to games, but they were separate from the main game and had their own style/content to offer. More recently, it feels like alternates and expansions are being made en masse as a way of capitalizing on a game’s popularity. Most of these expansions or alternates provide some additional perk or benefit, but if you really look closely it can sometimes feel like you’re paying just as much if not more to expand on a game when you’d rather it simply come with the original. This is especially true with video games; my N64 games had hours upon hours of content with no additional purchases associated with them. However, now when I’m playing on my PS4 it feels like every game is somewhat incomplete due to all of the DLC that you have to pay money for. Now, if an expansion is more than just a new outfit or weapon and actually significantly enhances the story then I will be much more likely to give it a shot, but I will always be slightly skeptical until proven otherwise.

Board game expansions usually have a different feel to them. Sure, they aren’t necessarily needed to play the game, but they always add a new layer, a new strategy, and sometimes even allows for more players. Alternate versions of games can also have a lot of cool new differences to their originals, adding different gameplay and new themes. These kinds of games are the reason why I try to keep an open mind when an expansion to a board game I love comes out, or there’s a new game based on one I’ve played before. So as a tribute to the games that keep on giving, here is my list of 5 great board game expansions/alternates:

1) Settlers of Catan: All of Them-This might be a bit of a cop out, but there are so many expansions and changes to Settlers of Catan thaSeafarer'st it’s impossible to choose just one. Other than the most basic expansion which bumps up the number of players from 4 to 6, you also have the Seafarer’s Expansion, then Cities and Knights, Traders and Barbarians, etc. Then on top of that there are alternate games that are separate from the original. As one of the premier board games of our generation, it’s no surprise that Settlers has found ways to grow on its success through expansions. If you haven’t tried any of the cool additions to the game, I definitely recommend them, especially the Seafarer’s expansion.

2) 7 Wonders: Leaders- An add-on that is actually less known than t7 Wonders Leadershe 7 Wonders: Cities expansion, Leaders adds additional regular cards and also brings in 42 historical leader cards, which you play at the beginning of each age. It also adds another Wonder so that 8 people can play rather than 7. Overall if you like 7 Wonders, the Leaders expansion does a great job of adding additional layers to it and also giving an extra person a chance to play.

 

3) Munchkin Card Expansions- One of the best parts about the game Munchkin is all of the hilarious cards that can be played. From monsters to power-ups toMunchkin Clerical Errors curses, each card has its own personality and is a great way to make you laugh. While the expansion packs don’t create any major changes to the
game, the added cards are a great way to keep the game fresh and add to the laughs. Expansion 3: Clerical Errors is my personal favorite of these expansions. The game also has a number of sequels (Zombies, Apocalypse, etc.) for anyone who wants to try out a different theme other than the original D&D spoof.

4) King of New York-When Iello created King of Tokyo, they made a game that is immersive and clever and yet somehow straightforward to play. The concerns I hKing of New Yorkad with King of New York went two separate ways: either they would make the game exactly like the original, or they would completely abandon the style and make a completely unimpressive game instead. Luckily enough neither of those things happened, and the game King of New York found a way to take the same principles of King of Tokyo and expand/revise them to make something different, but with the same feel as the original. Having both games in your board game collection is definitely worthwhile.

5) Ticket to Ride: Europe- Ticket to Ride is one of my all-time favorite gamesTicket to Ride Europe, so when I tried out Europe I was surprised at the subtle yet powerful differences between the two. It took some time to get used to the different geography, but the addition of ferries and tunnels plus the additional railroad markers made the game subtly more challenging. While this version might not be able to replace the original for me, it was a lot of fun and I plan on adding it to my collection soon.

 

Board Game of The Week- Hanabi

  • Game Title: Hanabi
  • Release Date: 2010
  • Number of Players: 2-5
  • Average Game Time: 25 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Cocktail Games
  • Website:  http://cocktailgames.com/en/cocktailgames/produit/hanabi
  • Game Designer: Antoine Bauza
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Uncommon but Yes

Hanabi LogoCooperative board/card games have been becoming more popular over the past few years, with games such as Pandemic becoming more common for mass consumption. Cooperative games can have varying types and nuances to how they’re played, but the major theme is that rather than playing against each other, you play together against the game as a common enemy. Usually this involves completing some type of objective in order to win, while not meeting the objective will cause you to lose. Hanabi is a cooperative card game that actually goes by a different objective- work together to earn as many points as possible, with a point scale giving your group a grade at the end of the game. There aren’t any official winners or losers, but the competitive nature of the game is still tough to beat as you attempt to get a perfect score.

The games’ theme is preparing for a fireworks performance- in order to create the best fireworks display possible, the players are trying to play cards in order based on color. There are five cHanabi 1-5olors of fireworks, all with numbered cards of 1-5, and the objective is to play all five of each color before the time runs out. The big catch in this game is that instead of players looking at their own cards, they face the cards outwards so that all players can see the cards except for the person holding them. Rather than simply telling a player which card to play, the other players have to provide hints about how many of a certain color or number is in the player’s hand. A player can also choose to play one of the cards in his/her hand; if they chose a card that chronologically matches what’s already been played, the card is added to the stack of the card’s color. Otherwise, the card is discarded. You also have a certain number of clues that you can give, which can be increased by a player intentionally discarding a card. The game ends when there are no more cards to use, and then points are tallied based on what cards were played by the end of the game.

Hanabi has a surprising amount of strategy involved considering how few pieces it includes and how the game is structured. Each player has to use his/her turn wisely in order for the team to succeed, and the way clues are used will drastically effeHanabi Rowsct a player’s choice to play or discard cards. Memorization is also a key factor in the game, because you need to remember where each card is based on the clues you are given. The game is a lot of fun right off the bat as you are gathering information about your hand, and as more cards are played it is more difficult to play the cards in the correct order. There are also fewer of the higher value cards in the deck, so if you accidentally discard a 5 you can’t get a perfect score because there is only 5 card for each color available. All of this combines strategy combines into a game of subtle hints, careful decision making, and surprising amounts of tension whenever a card is played.

The biggest advantage of the game to me was that it wasn’t just a cooperative game, but individual play also was a heavy factor in success. In games like Pandemic, the most experienced player will sometimes take control of the game and tell others what to do in order to have a cohesive strategy throughout the game. The downside to this type of play is that players who are newer and aren’t a part of the strategy will be excluded and will most likely not have any fun. Hanabi doesn’t have this issue, because no matter what clues are given in the game ultimately the player who holds the cards is responsible for how they are played. A perfect combination of teamwork and individual merit, Hanabi allows for both working with others and making individual decisions in the same atmosphere. The game also has a great aesthetic appeal, as well a simple yet elegant design that is easy to travel with and use in most settings.

I didn’t find many downsides to this game, but one thing I did see a lot of was players trying to influence the game with facial expressions. A lot of the time when giving a clue, a player would talk really slowly or give a particular look in order to try and influence the other player’s actions.

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YOU HAVE ONE THREE! I REPEAT: ONE. THREE!!!

I found myself doing this a lot myself, mostly because it is easy to misconstrue someone’s intent when they are giving a clue and sometimes a player will accidentally discard a card he/she should have played, or vice versa. I felt like using this advantage, while entertaining in a way, took away some of the challenge. I think that in order to get the full experience, clues should be given in a straightforward manner and the player getting the clue should interpret its meaning without outside help.

If you like card games that involve a lot of strategy, I recommend this game as a good one to add to your collection. I also think it is a good option for younger audiences as a way of building memorization and teamwork skills.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 Stars

Board Game of the Week- Sheriff of Nottingham

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  • Game Title: Sheriff of Nottingham
  • Release Date: 2014
  • Number of Players: 3-5
  • Average Game Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Arcane Wonders
  • Website:  http://www.arcanewonders.com/sheriff-of-nottingham
  • Game Designer: Sergio Halaban
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

I am not a good bluffer. I like to think I am, but looking at it objectively I really don’t have the best poker face. So when I opened up Sheriff of Nottingham and realized the game is based around bluffing and misdirection, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to pick it up well. Luckily enough, the game is based on so much more than bluffing and there are many different types of strategy while playing, so I was able to find a strategy that works for me without too much struggle.IMG_2835

Sheriff of Nottingham focuses on merchants trying to bring their goods into the city to sell. The basic mechanic involves drawing cards and choosing what types you want to load into your bag. Everyone then declares what foods he/she put in his/her bag (4 apples, 3 bread, etc.) either truthfully or untruthfully if IMG_2837they have extra foods or “contraband”. The added twist to this is that every round someone acts as “sheriff” who then can choose to inspect each person’s bag. If you were truthful about your goods then the Sheriff has to pay you, but if not the extra goods get confiscated and you have to pay the Sheriff. This means that you can try and smuggle contraband in for big point totals, or you can tell the truth and hope that the Sheriff tries to catch you. A number of other nuances in how you draw cards and what goods you choose to play add up to a very inventive and interesting game.

I found that this game can be a lot of fun, but how much fun depends on the company you are in. My friends and family are all very outgoing, energetic, and goofy, so when we started playing we immediately turned it intoIMG_2838 an improv show where everyone put on different accents and asked silly questions to try and get a reaction from the group. This caused everyone to be more engaged in the game and the enthusiasm built up as we went. I feel like if you were in a group of more straight-laced people that wanted to play it normally it could be less exciting, though the strategy and gameplay still appeal to the average player. The game tends to drag at times if the Sheriff takes a long time to ask questions, so 5 players can take a while. Playing with 3 players, on the other hand, adds an extra round to the game so it doesn’t exactly shorten things. I recommend the game with 4 players if possible as the best middle ground option.

Jack’s Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Appeal of Two Player Board Games

I’ve written before that board games are a very social experience for me, as they are for most people. Because of this, I usually associate board games with large groups of people, and 7-wonders-duelthe board game industry looks to be agreeing with me. Games of 3-5 or 4-6 players are becoming the norm in most cases, with plenty of games even exceeding those numbers. So when I was given my blast from the past board game set from my Grandpa it reminded me that a number of older games were actually meant only for two players. Games like Battleship, Guess Who, Stratego and even Chess and Checkers all focus on the one-on-one matchup. There are a few newer games, such as 7 Wonders: Duel, which still use a two-player format, but it feels like this type of game isn’t as common anymore. If anything there are more games now that can be played by two players, but can also include 3+ players, such as Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

After recently playing board games of all types over the holidays, I was reminded of some of the benefits of two player board games. While they might not be the best fit for all situations, they can be a lot of fun and have certain benefits that board games for larger groups just don’t have. Here are my top five reasons why you should play two player board games:

1) Easier to get the number of players you need– This advantage seems pretty obvious, but it’s more a testament to how difficult finding groups to play board games with can be at times. I’m lucky enough to have groups of friends who like playing tabletop games, and even I have difficulty finding enough people on a random Tuesday night a
t times. Finding one other person to play a game with you? That tends to be easier. Whether it’s a roommate, a sibling/parent, or a significant other, there are usually people around willing to try a game out with you or open up an old classic.

2) More direct competition– This does not mean to say that games with more than two players don’t have competition. I couldn’t imagine playing a game of Monopoly or Settlers of Catan without forming a grudge match against someone, and even if I don’t there’s enough competition to beat oubattleship-board-gamet all players and take the #1 spot. Board games are all about trying to win, so there’s going to be a high level of competition in any type of board game you play. Still, there’s something different about the competitive feel of a two person board game. You are essentially using your skills, wits, and strategy to defeat a single opponent; assuming the player is around the same skill level as you the intensity of that matchup can almost feel palpable.

3) More streamlined game mechanics– This is not always the case, but it seems like rules and procedures for two player games are generally simpler and more streamlined than ones with 3+ players. Adding in more players creates a layer of complexity to a game, because a game designer has to take more factors into account. Sometimes additional rules are created specifically for a larger number of Strategoplayers, to ensure that the game stays fair to all parties playing. In addition, most games with larger groups of players are meant to allow for different scenarios for each party interacting with each other, so the complexity only increases. A two player game is streamlined because a designer can create the game without worrying about the 3+ player effect and can focus solely on the game mechanics of two people going head to head against each other.

4) Great way to catch up with someone– Whenever I visit my Grandpa in PA we always make a point to play a game of Djinn before the trip is over. This has become a tradition between the two of us, and we use it as a time to have some fun and catch up with each other. I tell him about my work, my girlfriend, my plans for the future, and more as he mercilessly beats me in our favorite card game. The same benefit can be found in a two player board game. Sitting down and interacting with another person and learning more about his/her life is great, and a board game can be a great way to facilitate that.

5) Faster playing time– In today’s fast-paced society, an important criteria for a board game is how long it takes to play. Faster does not always mean better of course, but if you’re looking for a game to play that won’t take up your entire evening then odds are high that a two player game will meet that criteria. This is not always true, as there are some two player games that last a long time and there are plenty of larger scale board games that are meant to be finished quickly. Still, with less people in a game to eliminate and/or less people working to achieve a goal, the average playing time for a two player tabletop game is usually less than a larger scale game.

BONUS: Good for date night– This only really works if you have a significant other who likes board games, but a good date night for any couple can be found at the board game table. Board games create interaction and discussion that you don’t get in a movie theater. They are also a cheap alternative to most standard date nights, and are a fun way to make use of your time if you’re staying home rather than going out. It’s not exactly first date material, but it’s a great idea for a nice, relaxing evening with someone you care about. I am lucky enough to have a girlfriend that also likes board games (she’s a fellow blogger, check out http://moviesandmanicures.com/ when you get a chance!) and we played three rounds of Castles of Mad King Ludwig over Christmas. We had a lot of fun and it was a great way to spend time together, so I recommend it for any lovebirds out there as well.

 

Board Game of the Week- Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Before I start my first post of 2016, a quick note to all of my followers and readers out there- thanks so much for all of your support as I’ve started my blogging adventures in 2015. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I hope you all have too. 2016 has a lot of great stuff in store and I will continue to write and learn, so I hope even better things await in the upcoming months. For everyone reading this, I hope you have an amazing year and the future is bright for you. Now let’s get to it!

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Game Title: Castles of Mad King Ludwig

  • Release Date: 2014
  • Number of Players: 1-4
  • Average Game Time: 45-90 minutes (my games all lasted about 45 minutes)
  • Game Publisher: Bezier Games
  • Website: http://beziergames.com/collections/all-games/products/castles
  • Game Designer: Ted Alspach
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: No (available online)

I was lucky enough to receive a number of board games over the holidays, so I have a lot of great material to write about over the next few weeks. One of the gems of my new board game collection is the Bezier Games castle-building game Castles of Mad King Ludwig. For those of you who enjoy random historical tidbits, King Ludwig was actually a real king of Bavaria in the 1800’s who was known for spending ridiculous amounts of money on extravagant castles and construction projects. His penchant for spending money ultimately was used as justification for declaring him insane by his cabinet in an effort to depose him. In Castles of Mad King Ludwig, you channel your inner architect and try to appease the Mad King by building the most impressive castle possible.

King Ludwig

Looks pretty mad to me…

The object of the game is to score as many points as possible based on the rooms you play, along with special bonus points from completing certain tasks and gaining the King’s favor. The game setup is that every round, cards from the Room Deck are drawn to determine what size rooms will be played for the round. These room tiles, with varying points and effects for each, are placed in a “bidding” area with different cash values associated with them. One player in the round is the “Master Builder”, who chooses where each room goes in the bidding area which determines how much it will cost for that round. Next, the player to the Master Builder’s left buys IMG_2817any of the rooms he/she wants and pays the Master Builder for the cost, then plays the rooms in his/her castle area. Each room has a different effect after it is played, which can get you more money, points, or bonus cards that have different effects. Play continues to the next player on the left, until it is the Master Builder’s turn. The Master Builder then can buy whatever rooms are left (if there are any) by paying the bank. Once the Master Builder finishes his/her turn, the person to the left becomes Master Builder for the next round. Once all of the Room Deck cards have been used up, the game is over and points are calculated.

I must admit that when I first opened the box to this game, I was fairly overwhelmed at the sheer amount of pieces involved. In addition to all of the different rooms that are available, there are two sets of cards, 24 favor tiles, a Master Builder token, player aids and markers, 4 separate pieces to form the board, and 4 foyers whiIMG_2814ch act as the starting point to your rooms. The first time you play the game, expect to take a very long time organizing and setting everything up (once you’ve played the game a few times it gets a lot faster). Because of how many pieces are involved, make sure that you have a lot of space available to play, especially if you have four players.

The rules of the game are fairly straightforward, though it does take a few rounds to understand the strategy of playing certain rooms in certain areas. Ultimately you can play any room pretty much anywhere you want as long as there is an entrance from another room and no rooms overlap, but you get added bonuses for having certain types of rooms adjacent to other types (bedrooms next to a hallway, living rooms next to food rooms, etc.). I once had a castle which had a Sauna attached to the Master Bedroom, while my girlfriend’s castle didn’t have a single place to sleep by the end of the game. Ultimately the structure of the castle doesn’t really have to make sense, though the more you follow a straightforward placement of rooms the easier it is to add on to your castle in the later rounds.

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I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game- the style feels like a mesh of games like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and 7 Wonders, while also adding in new elements to it. I’ve played the game three times with two players and once with three, and there were major differences between those two game types and the strategy you need to use to win. I would like to try it with four players soon, as I’ve heard that it is the recommended way to play. Every game you play will end up differently, since there are more room tiles than room cards so you will have a different set of rooms available to you at different times each game. The types of rooms available are fun to look at, and seeing what you’ve built when the game is over is a lot of fun (my sister and her fiancé actually recommended we use it as a D&D Dungeon randomizer). The complexity of the setup and initial mastery of the rules does take some time, but once you get the hang of it games go by quickly and are great to play. I would recommend the game to more advanced board game enthusiasts as opposed to the casual player, but all types of people will enjoy the thrill of the game’s mechanics and theme.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- King of Tokyo

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  • Game Title: King of Tokyo
  • Release Date: 2011
  • Number of Players: 2-6
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Iello
  • Website: iellogames.com/KingOfTokyo.html
  • Game Designer: Richard Garfield
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

I once read an article that discussed the idea that a number of successful games are usually centered on themes that aren’t particularly interesting in real life. There is some truth to that: games like Settlers of Catan, Monopoly, etc. all have fairly straightforward concepts based around tasks or stories that are mundane and unimpressive outside of the board game realm. King of Tokyo takes this idea, smashes it into the ground, and sets it on fire while laughing gleefully.
The theme of King of Tokyo is this: you are a giant monster trying your best to infiltrate and destroy Tokyo all while undermining the other monsters trying to do the same thing, ultimately powering your way to the top and earning the title of the King of Tokyo.  Sounds simple enough right? In reality, the game is a predominately dice-rolling game with inIMG_2756tense amounts of strategy and some power-up cards sprinkled in for extra fun. The game starts off with everyone at 0 victory points and 10 health. The object of the game is to gain 20 victory points all while keeping your health from dropping to 0. You can victory points by rolling the dice, paying for victory point cards, and surviving inside Tokyo where you’re more likely to be attacked.

The dice rolling mechanic is very similar to Yahtzee- you have 6 custom dice which you roll all at one time, then geIMG_2755t two additional dice rolls where you can choose to pick up and roll any of the dice you had thrown previously. After you’re done with your three rolls, you immediately “resolve the dice” by taking any necessary actions that come about from the dice you’v
e rolled. Each die has 6 numbers/markings on it, and the goal of your dice rolls is to either match up the same number together to earn victory points, stockpile health/energy, or attack your opponents. After the dice have been resolved, you can buy any of the face-up cards to power up your monster and then use any effects from cards you want, and then your turn ends.

Ultimately this game is a lot of fun- there is a lot of strategy revolving around spending your time in or outside of Tokyo. Staying in Tokyo gets you victory points, but also means yKingOfTokyo_3Dboxou are a target for opponents to attack you. You can only stay in Tokyo when you have 5 health, so stockpiling health and energy is important. The cards bring an additional layer to it, and while the game can take some time getting the hang of it’s a lot less complicated than it originally looks. I particularly like the strategy of the dice roll, where you have to decide what to focus on during a particular turn. Choosing between victory points, health, energy, and hurting your opponents can be the difference between progress and defeat. Artistically the game is also very appealing, with six individual monsters that all look really cool (they somehow find a way to make mecha-bunny particularly impressive) and the cards each have a unique cartoon picture that makes the game engaging to the eye. I would have liked to see each monster have their own special ability to make your choice of character more important to the overall strategy, but even without that there are plenty of different paths you can take to claim the title of King.

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This game is suited for people of all ages and groups of all sizes- Iello really knocked it out of the park on this one. Plus, giant fictional monsters fighting each other in a large populated city should always be enjoyed no matter what the context.

Jack’s Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Tabletop Monthly, Hardcore Subscription

IMG_2745As mentioned in a previous post, I recently received two subscriptions from the company Tabletop Monthly with some cool board game goodies and nerdy accessories. I’ve been looking forward to diving into them for some time, and this week I’ve finally had some time to check them out in more detail. I focused on the “Hardcore” box set, with the more competitive and complex games as opposed to the “Family” subscription. Here are the items I received in this month’s box:

Board Game, Car Wars- A Steve Jackson Games creation based on gladiator style automobile combat, Car Wars is highly focused on dice rolling and maneuvering vehicles around a track. The game is highly customizable and complex, with a comprehensive rulebook and a number of different types of vehicles and weapons. Games can be played either in a single duel format or a multi-session campaign style, depending on preference. Average price is around $16, so it is a majority of the value in this box set.IMG_2746

Expansion Pack, Star Wars E-Wing– One of the more popular competitive games on the market, the Star Wars Miniatures game is a war game with a number of expansions available. I currently don’t own the core game for this expansion, but it is on my wish list so this is a good opportunity to start my collection of miniatures. The E-Wing miniature is worth about $10 and is helpful add-on to what looks like a cool game.

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Heroes of the Storm mystery mini- This was the one extra in the box I didn’t have any information on, but it looks like Heroes of the Storm is a miniatures set created by Blizzard Gear which has a number of different cute minis for collection. I got the Clear Variant mini character Nova, from the StarCraft set. A cute little addition as part of another “collect them all” series, I personally won’t have a strong urge to collect more but still think it’s pretty cool. Each miniature is part of a random draw, and cost about $10 per mini.

So now that I’ve given a rundown of the items in the box, here are some of my thoughts on the box and its contents:

  • The contents of the box are worth close to what you’d pay for them normally, with a slight discount overall (shipping is not included in this pricing breakdown). Ultimately you’re not saving an insane amount of money with this subscription, but they do provide you with a fairly good deal. I’m sure the totals will vary slightly from month to month, but it looks like the boxes will be worth the $30 subscription for the items you receive monthly.
  • The mystery of the box is part of the charm of the subscription, but you might have to be prepared for getting one or two items here and there that you simply won’t use. Still, of the 3 items I received I plan on using two of them quite regularly, so there’s definite value there. There is also a chance for receiving something that you already have of course- this is more likely to occur with people who have large gaming collections, but it could happen to the casual gamer as well depending on the situation.
  • I would definitely recommend finding the right box for you early, because not everyone would want to play the hardcore games and not everyone would want to play the family games. There will be some people who would like the idea of getting both boxes, and that is certainly an option. However, you would be paying $60 a month so depending on how much you budget out for board games a month you may have to pick your preference.

Overall I was quite happy with the mystery box I received for “Hardcore” games- I will be reviewing the “Family” subscription later this week, and am hoping to have the same results!

Board Game of the Week- 7 Wonders

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  • Game Title: 7 Wonders
  • Release Date: 2010
  • Number of Players: 2-7
  • Average Game Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Repos Production
  • Website: http://rprod.com/index.php?page=description-22
  • Game Designer: Antoine Bauza
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

Some board games have a simple style that you learn quickly and then play, without any additional strategy involved. In contrast, there are games that take a lot longer to learn and even once you’ve learned, there is still an opportunity to learn and improve because of the strategy involved in mastering the game. 7 Wonders definitely falls into the latter type of game. I’ve tried to explain the game multiple times to new players and have always received looks of confusion and frustration right away. However, once they start to play and get the experience of “learning by doing”, it all starts to make sense.

I’m not going to go into all of the details of how to play the game (I would be writing a 10 page essay), but the basic premise and rules I can try to explain. To start, each player randomly chooses an individual board with one of the 7 wonders of the world: Babylon, Gizah, Rhodes, Alexandria, Halikarnossos, Olympia, and Ephesos. These boards each have different resources that they provide as well as different “wonders” that have additional benefits as the game goes on. Gameplay is completed through a series of cards that are distributed evenly through three “ages”. There are multiple different types of cards, such as resource cards, science cards, army cards, and more. Using the cards that fit with your Wonder and your overall strategy is the key to win.

To play the game, each player takes his/her cards, chooses a card to play, and plays it at the same time as the other players. The hands are then given to the player directly to the left, which becomes the hand used to play the next card. This process continues until each player has two cards left, when the players each choose one card to play then discard the other. Finally to end the age, each player goes to war with the players directly to their left and right, providing points to whomever has the most army cards. The second age follows the same process except the players hand their cards off to the right, and then the third age switches back to the left. After all three ages are completed, points are calculated based on the cards played, along with war points and points from Wonders. The player with the most total points from all of these factors wins.image2

Reading my explanation of how the game works probably doesn’t do it justice, but I hope that it gets across the vast number of strategies and cards that are involved in every game. That’s the biggest benefit of 7 Wonders by far, is that you can use countless different strategies to succeed. You can build up armies, improve your sciences, create more culture through monuments, or build your wonders to gain points, and any mix or combination and more will lead to your total score. Another advantage of the game is that once you get the hang of it, it isn’t a particularly long game. You can feasibly play the game 3 or 4 times within a two hour period, which gives you the chance to try out new Wonders and strategies and keep things fresh.

Ultimately the downsides of the game are focused around the steep learning curve. I’ve had friends who tried to get into the game but didn’t have the patience to learn the rules and ended up losing interest before they got the hang of it. It’s also a game where you will be constantly checking the rulebook because the card descriptions are extremely vague. I’ve played the game dozens of times and still don’t remember what certain cards or wonders do. Finally, the game is fun with any number of players but when you get to 5+ it gets harder to keep your area organized because so much space is taken up with your board, cards, coins, etc.

While the game may not be for everyone, 7 Wonders is a great game to play in the right setting. It’s also a good game to have as a staple in your game nights. I also recommend taking a look at the expansions out there, because once you expert the game it’s fun to add in additional layers to it.

Jack’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Tabletop Monthly Subscription


One of the most frustrating parts about board games for me is purchasing the games. I don’t mind spending money on a good game of course, but I have a very long list of board games that I want to play at some point and games can be expensive. It’s hard to justify buying more than a few games a month, especially around Christmas time when you’re buying gifts for your friends and loved ones. One of these days I hope to find a way to rent board games for a limited time (if someone ends up creating this, I want in!), but until then it’s either playing your friend’s games or buying them yourself. With all that being said, I was recently contacted by an up-and-coming family business that could potential make buying games a lot more interesting.

The company is called Tabletop Monthly, and it works just like it sounds. You subscribe to their service for $30 a month and once a month you receive board games, card games, and accessories for your enjoyment. Whatever games you receive are your forever, and you never know what games you will be receiving on any given month. There are two different types of boxes, one for “hardcore” games and one including “family” games. The hardcore games are more technical and competitive, whereas the family games lean towards simpler themes that you can pick up easily and play with anyone. This isn’t the first board game subscription service in the market, but it’s a good price and the different types of subscriptions allow any type of tabletop gamer to enjoy the games they deliver.

The company is owned by a family of gaming enthusiasts (who own a pizzeria as their main job) and they were kind enough to give me two sample boxes to try out and review. Initial impressions are good- I received one game and two miniatures in the hardcore box and three travel sized games in the family pack. One of the most important things to mention about the games I received is that I didn’t own any of them; in fact, I had heard of some but there were others I didn’t know existed until I opened the box!

I haven’t gotten a chance to play any of the games yet, but I plan on doing so soon and writing up an in-depth review of everything I received. Until then, if you’re interested in learning more about Tabletop Monthly you can find them at tabletop.cratejoy.com or on Twitter @tabletopmonthly. They’re currently doing a promotion where if you provide them with your E-mail address, you’re entered into a drawing to receive a lifetime subscription for free!

That’s it on Tabletop Monthly for now. Be on the lookout for more posts soon with additional details about the new games I got!