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

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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

Board Game of the Week – Pandemic

Pandemic 5   This week, I am reviewing the critically acclaimed Matt Leacock original Pandemic. With multiple different awards from well-known game industries such as Board Game Geek and Boardgames Australia, Pandemic focuses on working as a team to stop a series of virus outbreaks from eradicating all of mankind.

Game Title: Pandemic

Release Date: 2007

Number of Players: 2-4 (4 recommended)

Average Game Time: 45 minutes

Game Publisher: Z-Man Games

Website: http://zmangames.com/product-details.php?id=1246

Game Designer: Matt Leacock

Expansions/Alternates: Yes

Available in Stores: Yes

There aren’t many board games out there that ask you to combine forces against the game itself. A lot of the fun of playing games is playing against friends and family so that when you win, you can claim superiority over them (at least that’s what I enjoy about it). Still, there are a few games out there that find a way to create some form of villain or obstacle, and the object of the game is to join forces and defeat it as a group.Pandemic 4 One of the games that does this best is Pandemic, where you have to communicate and work as a team to claim victory as a single unit.

The object of this game is to stop virus outbreaks from infecting the entire world and finding cures so that you can eradicate the virus from the planet. No pressure, right? You travel around a map of the world and try to contain the 4 different viruses currently infecting the cities around the globe. The more the virus spreads, the harder it is to contain it. While you work to contain the virus, your team will also be focused on finding a cure. If you are able to cure all four viruses within the allotted time, you win. If you take too long or allow enough “outbreaks”, you lose. There are a number of other factors involved with the game, including research stations to contain outbreaks and look up cures, Epidemic cards that when drawn add more of the virus across the board, and numerous different types of event cards that bring a level of complexity and variety to the game.

Pandemic 3By far the most appealing thing about this game is that it allows you to work as a unit, but keep an individual identity during the game. Each player starts off with a specific “role”. There are seven roles you can play in any given game, and each one of them has a specific skill that can be used to improve your odds at winning. For example, the player with the Dispatcher role is able to move the other players’ pawns across the board easily, while the medic is better than the other players at stalling outbreaks. A huge part of the game is working together in order to use your role’s strengths. The more you’re able to help each other, the easier it is to complete your objectives.

The game is definitely complex, not so much in how to play but rather in the strategy and decision-making that goes into a successful game. The more you know about the game the more fun it is, because you can try a number of different strategies and work with your team members to win. Replay value for this game is high, especially since you learn more as you go and get better at playing at harder difficulties. The only real flaw in the game is the beginning; learning how to play and the best way to use your role takes effort so it can be confusing to people playing for the first time. I definitely recommend for your first play-through trying to play the game with someone who has played before rather than having a group of people with no experience. Having someone who knows the game takes some of the pressure off since they know how the roles work and the best ways to win.

Overall this game is a nice change of pace from the traditional competitive games, and the art and game play are big positives. The rules are fairly complicated and game-play can slow from player to player, but Matt Leacock has found a way to motivate people to work together in an industry that normally pushes for competition against each other. Be prepared to do a lot of critical thinking and scheming with the other players to claim victory against the ultimate Pandemic.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars. pic1534148

The start of it all- Settlers of Catan

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I remember the first time I played the game Settlers of Catan. I was at my neighbor’s house and I sat down with my friend Kristina and her family to play. They proceeded to explain the rules of the game for the next 15 minutes and I nodded politely while not understanding anything they said. It took a while to get the hang of it, and even when I was playing the game I felt like I didn’t fully get all of the rules and strategy, but I ended up winning the game and then immediately going home and telling my parents we needed to buy a copy. Looking back on it, part of me has to wonder why the game caught my attention the way it did.

What is it about Settlers of Catan that makes people excited about board games? At first glance, this instant classic isn’t the type of game you would expect to completely revitalize the board game industry. Now I’m definitely not saying that Settlers is a bad game; it’s one of my all-time favorite board games, and I’ve taught many of my friends how to play with great success. But Settlers isn’t exactly the simplest game to pick up. It can be difficult to learn and the game starts off slowly while you build up resources, so in today’s fast-paced society the assumption is that nobody would have the time or attention span to learn something so complex. This game defies the stereotype of what we’re supposed to want, and yet against all odds it’s brought about a youth movement for tabletop gaming.

Personally I believe that Settlers is the type of game that is built for longevity. It has a compelling style and look that pulls you in, excellent gameplay and a strong social factor to keep you engaged, and an ever-changing layout to keep you coming back for more. Games last about an hour so you have enough time to learn the game and still get engrossed in fields of wheat and mountains of ore while you try and outmaneuver your opponents. Pretty soon you are buying the game (and its many expansions) and teaching your friends how to play, and the cycle continues.

Back in 1995, Klaus Teuber created a game that would change everything. Before Settlers, the only well known board games were older games like Clue and Monopoly that, while fun, have become more classic than groundbreaking. Settlers changed that. The game is complex, colorful and different every single time, and it spurred a new renaissance of board games that ultimately led to more popularity than ever before. The board game industry has begun to thrive, and a large part of that is thanks to Settlers of Catan. Sometimes it’s hard to see, but change can come from anywhere, including from the simple act of sitting down with your neighbors to try something new.

For more information on Settlers of Catan and all the different games and expansions, go to http://www.catan.com

Board Game of the Week – Ticket to Ride

Each week, I’m going to review a board game that I’ve played and post the full scoop. This week, I’m going to talk about the Days of Wonder hit Ticket to Ride.

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First, the basic details:

Game Title: Ticket to Ride

Release Date: 2004

Number of Players: 2-5

Average Game Time: 30 minutes-60 minutes

Game Publisher: Days of Wonder

Game Designer: Alan R. Moon

Expansions/Alternates: Yes

Available in Stores: Original version yes, alternates and expansions online

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Ticket to Ride is a game with a simple concept that involves 2-5 players trying to expand their railroads across the United States (or Europe or the Nordic counties if you play the alternate games). The object is to create railroad paths from city to city to earn points based on “Destination Tickets” acquired throughout the course of the game. Once a player has used up all of his or her train cars, each player has one more turn to complete his or her tickets. If a player doesn’t complete the tickets, he or she loses the points normally awarded for finishing the paths.

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I think the main appeal of this game is that it’s fast-paced but still requires a lot of strategy. Players can only complete one of three options each turn, and each turn goes by quickly so nobody sits around waiting for long. The strategy of where you place your train cars is extremely important; you can choose to either take direct routes from city to city or take an extremely long route to get to multiple destinations in one go. You can also block other players from getting to certain cities, denying them points they would need to win. Replay value is high because strategies and routes change, though it isn’t a game that you should plan on playing more than two or three times in one sitting.

Overall, I highly recommend this game for a small group with an hour or so to kill. Families will enjoy it, as well as groups of friends who are competitive and willing to give something new a try.

Jack’s Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Say Yes to Board Games

Hi – my name is Jack Dixon. I’m 24 years old, I live in Northern Virginia, and I love board games.

I’ve been a fan of board games ever since I was a kid. I played Monopoly and Clue with my family as far back as I can remember. I watched my parents play Scrabble when I was a toddler, and I was obsessed with this cult classic called The a MAZE ing Labyrinth. Whenever I visited extended family, we spent our evenings playing Yahtzee and laughing with my Grandparents. When I wasn’t outside playing capture the flag or kickball, I was usually sitting around a table playing some tabletop classic or exciting new game my parents found for me.

And then I got older, and fell into an age where board games weren’t as “cool.” I switched my primary indoor activity to video games, exchanging Connect 4 with N64 and hanging out with Mario instead of my folks. But here’s the thing – I never completely ignored my penchant for board games either. I always secretly wished that when my friends came over we could all sit around a table and play a game of Risk, and while that would happen every once in a while it was always the exception rather than the norm.

Then, the craziest and most unexpected thing happened: board games became cool again. Games like Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples (or Cards Against Humanity for the adult-minded), and Pandemic hit stores, and suddenly high school and college kids everywhere started going back to their roots. Now I am able to proudly display my board games in my apartment, and when people ask me how many Monopoly boards I currently own (the answer is 12) it starts up a conversation about all the cool new games out there and how well they are tailored towards the 20-somethings of the world. I’m part of three separate groups of friends that have “board game night” once a week. Last week I taught my roommates how to play Ticket to Ride (a game which I will talk about more in my next post) and we sat around our family room drinking a few beers and chatting while we played well into the night. Board games becoming popular again has completely changed how the youth of the world interact, and it’s a beautiful thing.

My name is Jack Dixon, and I’m a board game enthusiast. And saying yes to board games has provided me with endless joy and excitement. I hope that you get a chance do the same.