designed by Andres Seyfarth & Karen Seyfarth, published by Rio Grande Games
Players: 2-4; Playing Time: 60 Min; Good for: Mailmen, Eurogamers, and fans of “Ticket to Ride”
Return to the thrilling days of yesteryear as you compete to build the finest postal system in Bavaria and its surrounding regions! Each round, you must draw a card showing one of the cities on the board. Then, you must play a card down in front of you to either continue a route you already started, or if the city doesn’t link to your current route, discard that route and start a new one. Finally, you can score your current route by placing a postal house on the cities in that route: either a house in every city in one province, or a house in one city in every province the route passes through (more complicated than it sounds). Score point chits for building in all the cities in a province, or having one city in all provinces, or having routes of different lengths. Finally, collect carriages for building longer and longer routes. When the level 7 carriage is built or when a player uses up all his postal houses, the game ends, making sure all the players take an equal number of turns. Add up all the points scored from the bonus chits and carriage, minus the number of remaining cities, highest score dominates Bavaria and the mail!
It’s like a next level “Ticket to Ride” with the card-play driven route building, but with easily the most esoteric theme in all boardgaming. The Bavarian postal system in the 16th century? C’mon? Really? However, the press-your-luck aspects of building the route and chasing your opponents for the points makes for difficult decisions and tight gameplay: do I try for the longer routes to end the game, or the quick short routes to maximize points? Choose wisely, but still lose by two points. Ugh.
One Line Verdict: Push past the theme and pick up this great little gateway to complete your Spiel des Jahres collection. After all, when you control the mail…
designed by Sam Mitschke & Randy Scheunemann, published by Steve Jackson Games
Players: 3-6; Playing Time: 10-25 Min; Good for: Kids, cat-fanciers, people who like filler games.
Have you seen Simon’s Cat? He gets into all kinds of mischief in an animated webseries that I knew nothing about until I found this game. In it, players try not to take “messes,” or tricks. After all the cards in the deck are dealt to evenly to all the players, the player with the Cat 3 (or Cat 4) will start the round by placing it in the middle of the table. Players will then attempt to follow the previous card played down by either color or number. If you can’t follow, you take the “mess.” Play until the hands run out, and the player with the most messes will take a Simon card, the grumpy-looking owner of Simon’s Cat. Keep playing rounds until someone takes three Simon cards: they take the blame for all the mischief going on!
A very basic “trick-taking” game where you try to avoid taking the tricks. Differing number of cards in each “suit” – each illustrated by a different charming picture from the webseries – provides a bit of strategy to which you cards you end up playing to avoid taking a trick.
Otherwise, it’s kinda like UNO, but with an end.
One Line Verdict: Charmingly illustrated and a quick-filler, but not terribly creative or notable. Put this particular cat out.
You are all traders attempting to load all your goods onto one poor camel. The camel has a load limit of fifty and players will take turns playing one card, either adding or subtracting from the total load. Some cards, like Furniture will add 9 to the total, but the Flying Carpet will subtract anywhere from 2 or 9! Whoever plays the card that pushes the camel’s load over fifty breaks the camels back and gets nothing while all OTHER players will score the point values of the cards remaining in their hands. Except, if you play the Straw card. If the load is exactly fifty and you play the literal Straw that breaks the camel back, only you get points for that round and everyone else gets nothing! High score wins after playing as many rounds as there are players!
While the Straw card adds a nice bit of thematic strategy, the rest of the game turns into holding on to your high point value cards and only playing the bad cards (either 0 or negative points), causing the load to rise very, very slowly at times, much to the chagrin of the more impatient players in the group.
One Line Verdict: Not quite straw into gold, as the game turns to tedium pretty quickly.
Save your organs from horrifying Afflictions all the while spreading illness and disease to your opponents in this medically-themed cardgame based on the Awkward Yeti webcomics. Players get three or four different organs in front of them, ranging from such as well known ones as the Brain and the Heart to lesser known ones like the Spleen or the Pancreas. Luckily, each card is delightfully, humorously, and factually illustrated with original art by the makers of Awkward Yeti. Players will take turns playing Affliction cards against their opponent’s organs: specific Afflictions will affect specific organs or use Wild cards to affect any organ. Two Afflictions, and an organ is destroyed and you’re one turn closer to losing. Mix the game up with Immunity Boosts and Necrosis and other actions cards that both help and hinder. Last person with organs left wins! Just like in real life.
Specific Afflictions affecting only specific organs sometimes make you feel like you don’t have many choices, and the Sedate and Vaccination cards which either takes a player out or defends a player for two turns seems to allow the players using them a little too much sway over the game. And everyone else begging not to be attacked.
One Line Verdict: A little like “Munchkin” in its “take that” elements, only shorter, with less strategy, and more educational. Finally find out with a spleen actually does!
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.
Battle your enemies for supremacy on the battlefield in medieval Japan! In this card game, cards representing different battlefields are laid out between two different players; thus requiring players to win on two different fronts. Your units are represented by different cards and these units have different numerical values and different special powers. Cards are placed either face up or face down (depending on the type of unit) next to each battlefield, which also have special conditions that can affect how the battle plays out. Players alternate placing units, trying to outsmart both players. After all units are placed, the total values of units are compared, battlefields are scored, and the winner, with the most points is crowned! Generally not the person who got their most powerful unit wiped out by a lucky guess on the part of their opponent (that would be me).
Lots of strategic decisions to be made between all the powers, the battlefield conditions, and the fact that you have to fight two opponents. A little like the old classic “Schotten Totten”/”Battle Line” only without poker hands and a little gimmicky.
One Line Verdict: If you liked “Battle Line,” join this fight! More lateral move than next level, though.
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.