designed by Michael Kiesling & Wolfgang Kramer, published by HABA Games
Defend the kingdom from the rampaging fog creatures by collecting swords, magical herbs, gold, and bold companions, lots and lots of bold companions! Everyone starts with their 8-10 (depending on the number of players) on the top left corner of the board. Each turn, each player will draw two cards that will direct them to place one of the items (sword, herb, companion, gold, or fog monster) by grid coordinate (A-K, 1-10) on the board. Then players have two moves. They can move one adventurer twice, or two adventurers once. Here’s the catch: players can move their adventurers any distance down or to the right on the board, but they can’t move up or to the left. In other words, everyone heads inevitably to the bottom right of the board. Once an adventurer stops in a space, he will pick up the item in that space: swords and herbs help in combat, gold scores points at the end of the game, and companions will join the player’s meeple, forming a party that moves with that adventurer, making it easier to fight monsters along the way. Or he’ll fight a fog monster! Once the companions and swords run out, the game ends, and scoring begins!
Three different scenarios offer different scoring and different strategies, giving this game lots of different strategies, with the first scenario easy enough for kids, and the last is a clever area control game. Even though the same objects will always appear on the same space, the order that they appear is random from game to game and thus forces interesting strategic decisions, especially since your adventurers can’t go back or up once they pass a space. But invariably, someone just gets a massive army of dudes that end up chilling in the castle at the lower right of the board.
One Line Verdict: Gather your friends, the grand adventure awaits!
designed by James Ernest and Mike Selinker, published by Mayfair Games
Journey back to the beginning of the Strip and wheel and deal your way to become the only Lord of Vegas! (Not on the box. Maybe they should use this). Players vie for victory point supremacy by owning lot, building casinos, making cash to convert into larger casinos and swallowing up their smaller rivals. Each round players will draw a card representing one lot on the board and one of the five casinos. Then they get ownership of that lot, money if they have casinos of that color, and victory points for the total size of that casino of that color as well. They then take as many actions as they can afford: build a new casino, sprawl an existing casino and take over an empty lot, remodel a casino to change the casino color, gamble to make some extra spending dough, or even re-organize the dice on the casino tiles to change who the boss is, and who ultimately controls that casino and scores those points. Most interestingly, the game offers open negotiations among players for nearly everything in the game to really mix things up and give that the game that freewheeling vibe of Old Vegas. The true Lord of Vegas is determined when the “Game Over” card is drawn, everything is scored on more time, and the player with the most points comes out on top!
With its use of randomly drawn lots determining ownership, the game resembles Z-Man’s “Chinatown.” While that game emphasizes the importance of negotiation more, the extra mechanics here offers paths other than negotiation. In fact, the freewheeling nature of the negotiation is almost under-emphasized, being the next to last section in the rules. Nonetheless, there are plenty of deals to be made as you trade, consolidate, and hope you guessed right about the next payout.
One Line Verdict: For players looking for a game that is equal parts luck, strategy, and negotiation. Just like going to Vegas…not really.
designed by Koto Nakayama, published by Quick Simple Fun Games
Journey to the mysterious geisha district of Edo in this gorgeously illustrated two-player card game. Seven geishas are lined up between the players, valued between 1 to 7. Each geisha is lured by a specific element: maybe a flute or a fan or some other appropriate item. Players take turns taking one of four actions: saving a card from their hand, discarding two cards from their hand, or more importantly, placing cards matching each geisha to influence her to your side. Two actions let you place cards, but the catch is, they also let your opponent place cards from your hand! Players take turns until they each perform all four actions, and then scoring takes place. Players will lure the geisha if they have the most cards featuring that item on their side of the table. Whoever has either four geishas or 11 points in geisha value wins. If not, repeat until a winner is determined!
With so few actions and the “I split, you choose” mechanism, the gameplay is very tight and strategic. You have to make difficult decisions almost every round trying to anticipate what your opponent will do. Except for a little vagueness in the end of round rules, this is a thrilling little game in a small box.
One Line Verdict: Take this particular trip to the mysterious and ancient Orient and spend some time with these pretty ladies.
designed by Matthias Cramer, Louis Malz, & Stefan Malz, published by Eagle Games
Go behind the scenes of the grand court of King Louis as the dressmaker for Parisian nobility. Begin each round by choosing three employees from your unused employees and then send them one and at time to perform one of five actions: hire a new worker, buy some dressmaking materials, add to the fabulous décor of the hall, or, make a fancy dress to sell for income or to clothe a courtier and send them to the hall to show off your fine work, or even fire or “depute” your employees for some quick extra cash. Plus, each worker can provide you with a bonus action, so between 4-8 actions per round over seven rounds As you get more workers you will get more actions, but it will take you longer to cycle through your workers to get the ones you need. Fill the grand hall with the most dresses, claim the most decorations, and earn points, and bonus points, for practically everything. Scoring is clever, but man, it takes a while.
Can’t get more Euro than this: Action selection? Check. Point salad? Check. Area control? Check. Resource management? Check. Limited actions in limited turns? Check. Analysis Paralysis? Double Check.
One Line Verdict: Seriously, for fans of Eurogames only. All others sign up for the Revolution (French, that is) instead.
designed by Daniel Skjold Pedersen & Asger Sams Granerud, published by Jolly Roger Games and UltraPRO
Stare your opponent and bring the world to the brink in this recreation of the Cuban Missile Crisis! Basically “Twilight Struggle” –lite with dual use cards, play influence onto different battlegrounds, try to avoid nuclear war. Each round, players choose a secret objective out of three for that round: maybe to build up on one of the DEFCON tracks, or to control a certain battleground. Your opponent knows which areas you may be going to, but not the one you actually chose. Players then use the historically accurate cards for either Command, placing down or removing influence markers, or for their special power. But be careful, you can play a card designated for your opponent for the command, but she will get the special power, which will most likely wreck you. Score the round, move the score marker between the two sides and repeat three times and try not to blow up the world in between!
The hardest part is aggressive play leads to raising your DEFCONs and the last round is mostly players desperately trying to lower DEFCON and not blow the world up. So, in many ways, historically accurate.
One Line Verdict: Bring the world to the brink with this great, zero-sum two-player game. Plant flowers instead of you feel otherwise.
Rebuild the Ruined City of Blue Moon! At least that’s what the box says in this area control game where you play cards to rebuild different buildings in different districts of, well, Blue Moon City. Each district requires a certain number and color of cards: on your turn move your pawn to that space and then turn in matching cards to place a marker on that district. Earn crystals, dragon scales, and cards from the district you helped build as well as from completed surrounding districts. Or use the special powers on the various cards to move the dragons or help you in your building task. Use crystals to build the obelisk at the center of the city: but be careful, the different pieces of the obelisk get progressively more expensive. First to put four (five or six, depending on the number of players) blocks in the obelisk wins! Just make sure you don’t burn all your cards in one turn: it takes a while to get them back as you watch your opponents blow by you.
Modular board keeps the game fresh; the board movement adds a nice tactical feel to your overall strategy; and multi-use cards inject just enough options in this challenging and clever area control game.
One Line Verdict: An oldie (in boardgame years) but a goodie. Take at least one visit to this fantasy city.
Designed by James D’Aloisio, Austin Rucker, & Craig Van Ness, published by Hasbro
Yes, it’s by Hasbro, but that’s okay: a fast-moving, card-driven, dice-chucking recreation of the Battle on Endor on three fronts: fight in space, advance towards the bunker on Endor, and fight the duel between Luke, Darth Vader and the Emperor. Each turn players pick three cards to play which allows them to take actions on one of the three fronts. The Rebel player controls the Millennium Falcon and squadrons of X-Wings, B-Wings, and Y-Wings which offer different attack values. The Empire has TIE Fighters and the mighty Super Star Destroyer at her disposal, not to mention the sector-smashing power of the Death Star. Advancing on the Endor and duel tracks earn the winning player extra cards to play during their turn, perhaps changing the tide of battle in their favor. The Empire wins when all the attacking Rebel fighters around Endor are destroyed; the Rebels win when they advance to the end of shield generator track and destroy the Death Star!
The cards provide just enough strategy as you try to figure which scene to advance on, and the dice provide just enough randomness so the Death Star doesn’t toast your entire fleet. Admittedly, after several plays the Empire has never one, but that’s movie accurate, right?
One Line Verdict: The Force is strong with this game for a quick, light re-creation of this epic battle.
Lock and load and blast your opponents to little tiny bits in this boardgame version of a first-person shooter. Every turn you take two of three possible actions: move, shoot, or pick up either a weapon, an upgrade, or ammo. Cards represent different weapons: play cards to shoot, expend ammo to overcharge certain weapons for added mayhem, and spend ammo to “reload” weapon and bring the card back into your hand for continued death-dealing next round. You do damage by placing your damage counters on their player boards, and they on yours. The more you get hit, the more adrenaline (roll credits) you get, and the better your actions become. When you receive enough damage to die, points are scored: whoever has the most scores the most points, doing the first damage gets a bonus point, and everyone who hits you gets something. Repeat until the skull timer runs out, most points wins! Avoiding combat gets you not killed, but also you don’t actually score any points either.
Great self-balancing mechanics throughout the game, from the fact you are worth less the more you get killed to the way your actions improve the more damage you take. Moreover, the fact you can get points wherever you damage encourages equal death-dealing amongst all players.
One Live Verdict: Lock, load, gear up, and load out (plus any other first-person shooter clichés) for this one.
designed by Mark Corsey, published by Breaking Games
“The Game of 49”
Bid for spaces as you try to get four in a row! A pure bidding game as you bid for spaces that come up for auction on a 7×7 grid. Flip a card, bid on it. That’s about it. Win the auction and place a marker on the board. The more markers you have, the more money you can make in later rounds when these Payoff cards are flipped. But there is a careful balance in this game as you try to get the spaces that you need, but have enough left at the end to get that space that will win you the game.
Next level Connect 4, as you try to outbid and outfox your opponents for coveted spaces. Admittedly, a better game than that with a clever twist for payout cards. Basically a pure bidding game.
One Line Verdict: If you like auctions and bidding, this is a must. If you don’t, then pass on this one.
designed by Bruno Cathala & Bruno Faidutti, published by Fantasy Flight Games
Send your steampunk astronauts to Mars to control areas and collect valuable resources. Pack your astronauts into a ship, blast a ship off, land on some section of Mars, move some of your Martian men, or even sabotage spaceships journeying to Mars. Score points for area majorities on different sections of the red planet. Simultaneous card selection to perform these actions: do you pick a high number to go first, but get a weak action, or do you wait to perform a more powerful action? Or do you watch your opponent blow up your rocket with three of your astronauts in round 2 of the game and watch all hope of victory escape your grasp? I would say the last one. Definitely that one.
A good introduction to action selection and strategic play. Light enough to learn, with just enough strategy to make things interesting.
One Line Verdict: sign up for this particular mission to Mars.