“Card City XL”
Designed by Alban Viard, published by AVStudio Games
The Quick Summary: With the cards at your disposal, you are in charge of building the highest scoring city. With a crafty card drafting system, where the first player creates small decks of partially hidden cards for other players to choose from, “Card City XL” requires some long-term planning to optimize your town by fitting the best cards within a 5×5 or 6×6 square. You can place cards to grow your city, but optimal card placement can allow some districts to develop by themselves and grow without actually using cards from your hand! The key feature of the game is that it comes with 240 different ways of playing. Some of them are pretty similar, just easier versions of the same game, but it does have a lot of possible variations.
A lot of potential variety when it comes to winning conditions and objectives.
Many different levels of difficulty.
Will appeal to both casual gamers and more strategic gamers.
Comes with a solo variant that allows you to try to create your own metropolis.
The nice combo of tile placement and organic growth of your city makes for interesting decision-making.
The many different levels and winning conditions can be confusing at first glance.
A good insert to store the cards would have been nice.
Solo variant only measures your success based on your score. You can’t lose. You simply compare your score to the chart in the rulebook.
The size of the city, once you reach a certain amount of cards makes it very hard to manage. You need a BIG table (or a lot of moving your city around) for 3-4 players games.
Keep it or leave it? This is a keeper since the more hardcore gamer can be satisfied because of the long-term planning required and it will also attract more casual gamers (just lower the difficulty).
designed by Satoshi Nakamura, published by Z-Man Games
Card-drafting? Set collection? Cool anime inspired fantasy art? All plusses, adding up to a neat little game that plays quickly with some neat strategies with the different card effects. Each round, players will get five cards, and then draft five cards. With their new hands of five cards, players will play cards one at a time in front of them, but they only have to play three. Cards are played for points, but some powerful cards will cause cards to flip. Flipped cards don’t score in the endgame, which occurs after four drafting and four playing phases. The key to the game is drafting scoring combos: some cards are “friendly” with other cards and require them to score, while others require a majority or type. Lots of scoring options transforms this into a next level “Sushi Go.” And watching players misread the text is always a hoot.
Multiple scoring options and wide variety of card effects really makes this a next-level card-drafting game. The visual style is a bonus. Well, for fans of anime maybe.
One Line Verdict: Don’t hesitate to enter into this gorgeous fantasy realm and leave the Sushi (Go) behind!
designed by Kristian Curla, published by Portal Games
Can you conquer the bizarre world of Lovecraftian mythos in this two-player, card-drafting, engine-building game? Begin by drafting one card from your hand of five and place it into your tableau in front of you before passing your hand to your opponent. Each card scores different points based on different conditions in your tableau: maybe you will score points for the majority of a certain symbol, or simply score for each symbol of that kind you have in your tableau. Or go for the big points by drafting Nyartholep, who requires one of each of the five symbols in the game. Or you can collect madness for an end-of-round scoring bonus. But be careful, collect nine madness tokens and you automatically lose! Three rounds are played, with one card left over from the previous round to help you in the next. Most points after the three rounds wins…unless you go mad by collecting nine madness tokens! Be careful, if you leave a card with madness in front of you, things escalate pretty quickly. As I found out the hard way…twice.
Card-drafting stripped down to its purest form: with two players, players quickly know what is available and it quickly becomes almost tactical as you try to develop the best combo for your hand while trying to prevent your opponent from developing theirs.
One Line Verdict: Take this descent into madness again with this different take on the Cthulhu mythos.
designed by Francois Gandon, published by Days of Wonder
Become the master planner as you build your very square city district. Each player has a separate 4×4 player board, and on your turn, use one of your four architects to choose a tile from the main planning board. The architect number determines two things: first, the building you get from the main board, and then the district on your own board you must place the piece. Build power plants to power your district, apartment towers to gain residents, parks to absorb pollution, and retail to keep your residents shopping! But make sure everything balances out: each extra power or resident counts as negative points! After four rounds and (hopefully) sixteen tiles, calculate the points: each building scores differently, the most points win! And just a pointer, diversification is a good thing.
The architects make it seems like you are constrained choice-wise, but there are so many options: not good for the analysis paralysis prone. And there’s a Expert game too! The very definition of “elegant” gameplay.
designed by Sergio Halaban and Andre Zotz, published by Arcane Wonders
Try to smuggle goods past the corrupt sheriff in order to stock your shopping stall and earn the most points. Easy enough: place goods and/or contraband in your bag (contraband scores much more points then the goods), and the bag to the player who is currently Sheriff and, give a number of goods and one true item. Bribe the sheriff to get him to look the other way and let the contraband through, of if you are the sheriff, try to convince people to make it worth your while not to look and bust their smuggling. Players take turns being the Sheriff and smugglers. So, there can be give/take dynamic as you bribe, cajole, and convince the other players to let you through. But when you can’t bribe/smuggle correctly nor guess when someone’s lying to you, you’re not winning this game. Like me, in this case.
A game all about social dynamics and the strategy of when to smuggle, when to bribe, and when to tell the truth.
One Line Verdict: Cut it out with a spoon. At least for me. But if you like bluffing games, it’s quite nice.
designed by Theo Riviere, published by Iello Games
Travel through the sea of clouds as steampunk pirates! Collect crew, treasures, and rum in order to amass the most points. Each round, the first player will look face down at a designated loot card: she can take it, or leave it. If she does, she adds one card to that loot stack and looks at the next loot card. Same decision, and repeat one more time for good measure. If she refuses all three cards, she can take the top card off the deck. The next player now does the same, but if the previous player left cards, they have more to look at and potentially take! But be careful, there are plenty of bad cards out there, and you can collect sets of items, but the first few of each item are almost always negative points! Oh, and you fight every once in awhile. Count up your points at the end of your voyage and rule the Sea of Clouds! Arrrrr.
Peeking at the loot is fun, but the turn progression seemed odd: you change start player and move the ship after every player has a chance to look at the loot, but the way player changed seemed harder to keep track of than it should. Light, fun, easy choices. But, if you don’t collect those sets, either because you passed on them or thye got snatched before you can even get them, you can seriously lose. Like me.
One Line Verdict: A must-stop for steampunk pirates, but others may want to keep sailing.
designed by D. Brad Talton, Jr., published by Level 99 Games
A board game that simulates the buying, selling, trading, and playing of collectible card games. Using stacks of paper money (to make you feel rich), buy and sell fun cards with great parodies of popular franchises and try to build the best hand for use in the upcoming tournament. Buy from the main marketplace, or sell the card on the secondary market, or trade cards for more powerful bonus cards. Collect cards for fighting, or even keep cards for your collection and earn bonus points. All this takes place in a slightly frenzied 20 minute, real-time trading round. Then pick some cards to fight in a tournament! Do this for two more rounds, with ever more powerful cards appearing. Trade, fight, rinse and repeat. Most points earned from collecting cards and placing in tournaments win! But mostly stare at the cards and try to build a good deck with combos that make sense and watch the whole thing get undone anyway by your opponents during the tournament.
So much variety in this game with all the different parodies of famous franchises. So much symbology as you try to put together a small tournament deck that actually makes sense in the limited time allotted. It’s almost overwhelming, but you really get to live out your fantasy of buying and trading all those CCGs! Oh, wait, not your fantasy? Never mind.
designed by Matthew Dunstan and Brett J. Gilbert, published by Asmodee Games & Space Cowboys
Call upon the powers of the Greek Gods and build your legends! Yes, it is a resource management game, and yes, it is a set collection game, but never done like this. Choose from a variety to different gods to start the game: some gods have attack powers, while others are far more peaceful. Each round, draft a card from a central pool and knock down one of four pillars, but make sure the pillar you knock down doesn’t stop you from taking a future card. Then use card powers, but only score them once you transfer them to your Elysium…and then you score points by sets. And it’s maddening in you only get five turns to do all this!
Hard to wrap your head around the mechanic at first, but once you figure out, it’s an elegant system of drafting and building. The variable god powers will set the level of player interaction as well. That’s a good thing.
Designed by Orin Bishop, published by Roxley Games
Take the role of a turn-of-the-century inventor or scientist, ranging from Nikola Tesla to Ada Lovelace, and then proceed on a wild road-race in your crazy steampunk vehicle. Draft cards to build energy, add parts to your vehicle, or get special powers. Use dice to power your different vehicle parts and fly down the course. But be careful, the faster you go, the more likely you will damage your vehicle and have to slough parts. And go limping across the finish line with literally only your cockpit left…
Draft, build, race: go for a spin! I mean that both literally (that’s what you do in the game) and idiomatically (give it a try).