designed by Seth Jaffee, published by Tasty Minstrel Games
Players: 2-4; Playing Time: 45 min.; Good for: Deckbuilder AND engine building fans, future galactic overlords.
Become the pre-eminent force in the galaxy in this space-themed deckbuilding game. Survey new planets, peacefully colonize them or attack by through force of arms, build resources on those planets, and then sell those resources to gain influence in the galaxy. Most influence at the end of the game wins. You begin each round by choosing to play one card for its action that only you can do. Then you choose a Role from the common stacks: Survey, Colonize, Warfare, Research, or Produce/Trade. You get to perform this action with a bonus, while other players will have the option to perform the same action, which players can boost by playing additional cards from their hand. The chosen card is then added to your discard pile, thus building your deck for later rounds. As your survey and settle planets, you will not only get the chance to generate resources, you can also Research more powerful cards to add to your deck. Once the influence points are distributed or one or two of the common stacks are used up, the game ends and the person with the highest influence from points previously earned, settled planets, and researched tech cards, wins the game and rules the galaxy in peace and prosperity. Unless you chose Warfare. Then you can pretend to rule the galaxy with an iron fist.
Clever combination of deckbuilding, action selection, and tableau/engine building. Depending on what you focus on, you can find numerous paths of victory: build up your armada to invade planets? Sure. Research new technologies to earn points? Okay. Generate resources and trade them in for points? You got it!
One Line Verdict: With numerous paths to victory and an elegant combination of various mechanics, definitely sign up to explore this distant star.
designed by Tim Fowers, published by Fowers Games
Can you write the Great American Novel in this clever word-based deck-building game? Play cards from your hand with letters on them to form words: letters used to form words will give you “money” to buy more cards with more (and sometimes better) letters or with special powers to add to your deck. Then as you draw those letter cards, spell even better words, and use that money to get even better cards or, more importantly, purchase the all-important point scoring cards, which are brightly designed pulp novel covers. Because those actually help you win the game. Just remember, you need vowels in order to actually spell words and sometimes, when you draw five consonants, you just sigh and wonder if you should playing this game in some Eastern European language instead.
Wild cards help you spell words and you usually get a few each draw, but the occasional wild draw of all vowels or all consonants can be frustrating. A very different and fun way of doing a word game with some fun art and challenging mechanics.
One Line Verdict: Great upgrade for those who love Scrabble, or an alternative for those who hate it, and at least a lateral move for fans of deck-building.
“DC Comics Deck-building Game: Crossover Pack 4 – Watchmen”
designed by Matt Hyra, published by Cryptozoic Entertainment
Hidden roles and traitors come to DC Comics Deck-Building with this expansion that adds the world of the Watchmen! Work together to defeat ridiculously hard challenges by contributing cards from your hand. Meanwhile the Secret Mastermind slowly acquires cards to unleash his Mastermind Plot! Then wait desperately to somehow play the right five cards (plus any extra cards you may draw during your turn) as required by the “Villainous Machinations” card to actually unleash the plot. Really hard to hide your motives WHEN EVERYONE CAN SEE THE CARDS YOU ARE PLAYING EVERY TURN. “Maybe I don’t feel like playing these cards” is never an acceptable answer in this particular game.
Maybe the problem is how we play discards: Just place all the discards in one stack onto your pile instead of spreading them out and saying “I have nothing.” So I guess this could work, but just seems way too difficult to both win the game and the traitor to, you know, be a traitor.
One Line Verdict: Maybe chuck this particular expansion out of a high apartment window.
designed by John D. Clair, published by AEG Games
Regenerate the blighted land in this fantasy-themed card game. Instead of just a deck-building game, features a “card-building” mechanic with clear cards that you slip into sleeves to power your cards on the way to gaining the most victory points. On your turn, flip over cards to see how much power you have. But be careful, if you reveal too many blight tokens, your turn ends and you get (almost nothing). Use your available power to buy upgrades WHICH YOU ADD TO YOUR ALREADY EXISTING CARDS. Build up your cards, buy more powerful card parts, then eventually buy lands for more powers and even more victory points.
Feels like “Splendor,” but with do-it-yourself cards. Might seem gimmicky, but it’s a solid system and provides lots of interesting possibilities and choices.
designed by Mac Gerdts, published by Rio Grande Games
Build your trade empire during the height of the Roman Empire. Using a hand of cards, send your traders out, collect resources, and sell those resources to buy more cards that gives you better versions of those beginning actions. In other words, build a more powerful deck of cards. The resources on the board are randomized at the beginning of the game, so you never know what each city will have. Like “Settlers of Catan” on steroids: more decisions, less randomness, and at times, achingly slow at the beginning as you watch your opponents range across the Mediterranean and you barely get out of Italy.
Quite the brain burner as you try to maximize your very few actions. One of these games where it seems like there’s always more to do then you’re able. But fun. Still fun.
“Attack on Titan: Deck-Building Game”
designed by Matt Hyra, published by Cryptozoic Entertainment
Strap on your Air Gear and get ready to fight off some titans! Two great tastes in one: based on the very popular anime and using the Cerberus deck-building engine, which is the core of the DC Superheroes Deck-building game. Defend the wall from rampaging Titans as you use new Thrust cards to scoot along the wall buyin’ cards and fightin’ Titans! Great wound system and an excellent spatial component: surely the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups of deck-building games.
Just the right balance between challenge and difficulty in this light to medium deck-builder. Plus, it’s Attack on Titan!