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 Steffen Bogen, published by Z-Man Games
Can a game about racing cartoon animals around a pyramid and then betting on what is basically a randomly determined result really be a Spiel des Jahres winner? As it turns out, yes. On your turn take one of several options: bet on the winner of a leg, try to sneakily influence the movement of the camels by placing a desert tile in their path, bet on the OVERALL winner or loser of the race, or move a camel randomly by pulling a die out of the pyramid. The camel matching the color of the die that appears from the pyramid will move that many spaces around the track. But, if a camel ends his turn on another camel, he will create a stack of camels, and the whole stack moves together, creating an insane image of a pile of camels moving around a track. After all five camels have moved, winnings are collected by according to the betting tiles, and the next leg begins!
Great movement mechanic that keeps the game tense and picking up betting tiles really amps up the excitement in a sort of chunky, fun way. But it really is about playing the odds and understanding how the camels will move.
One Line Verdict: If you hate randomness, avoid this game like the plague. All other will have some light, gateway fun cheering, and guessing, and betting.
designed by Yves Touring, published by Z-Man Games
Use dice to build buildings in this clever little dice-drafting game. Each round, players will get a secret blueprint for building a small building composed of six dice. Roll the dice, and choose one to add to your building. Numbers indicate if you can build on top of existing dice, so put low numbers on the lower levels. Colors indicate different building materials. Following the blueprints is actually optional: you score extra points if you do. After all six dice are placed, buildings are scored; points are awarded depending on material, dice face, and placement. VICTORY points are then awarded for first and second place buildings, as well as for completing runs or using the same material or building high towers or having the same number dice. Three rounds, add up the victory points. Best plan: carefully choosing between maximizing your building points and end round bonus victory points. Worst plan: not following the blueprint and not getting the end round bonus.
A tricky little dice-drafting game that offers lots of strategic decisions that is the perfect length. Just hard enough to get you thinking, but light enough to serve as a filler.
One Line Verdict: Just the right length and very satisfying.
designed by Florian Flay, published by Z-Man Games
My vote for one of the most ridiculous titles I’ve ever seen…but a clever sci-fi themed co-op where you fight off invading alien hordes in several different scenarios. It even has a three-dimensional board with raised platforms for multiple level combat! Roll dice to allocate actions, trade among players, activate special abilities in your rooms, and blast the multitude of rampaging aliens to satisfying bits. The aliens are simply programmed through cards to move and attack, and it’s up to you and your team to maximize your own dice in relation to their actions. It’s like a complicated puzzle that you need to solve. A complicated puzzle to avoid your horrible, brutal deaths from withering alien attacks.
A good game for fans of the equally punishing “Ghost Stories” where success is both hard-won and satisfying. But that name…oh, that name…
One Line Verdict: Join the fight! Much more intellectual than the theme and title suggest.
designed by Helmut Ohley & Leonhard Orger, published by Z-Man Games
An expansion to “Russian Railroads”: replaces the original player boards with new player boards that are modular, so you can customize the rewards you get as you expand your lines. In additon, adds a powerful new currency: coal, that lets you power your trains, increase your industry, and get fantastic new additional actions. But it also just gives you even more choices and increases the analysis paralysis as you try and combo and plan and score.
Who knew building railroads could be so hard? So many more choices…
designed by Helmut Ohley & Leonhard “Lonny” Orgler
It turns out that in Pre-Soviet Russia the railraod rides you as well. A complex worker-placement game where you race on your personal player board to complete up to three rail lines while increasing your industry. Go further on different lines to get bonuses and to increase your scoring: but choose wisely, you only have 7 turns to do everything you need to do. Definitely a brain burner becasue you need Plan A, B, and C as people WILL take what you need. And Scoring is, I guess appropriately enough, quite a bear.
An extremely tight game that forces to make hard decisions. The between round scoring is the hardest part: different rail will give you different point values and they are multipliers as well. But, a great brain-burning, strategic worker-placement game.
designed by Yasutaka Ikeda, published by Z-Man Games
Players take a hidden role of either Hunters, Shadows, or Neutral characters in this anime-themed card game. Each role has a specific win condition: Hunters must eliminate all Shadow characters and vice versa while Neutral characters will have unusual conditions. Roll dice, move around the board, and play cards to deduce the identities of the other players before you attack them and utterly kill them. Or get killed yourself by an anime girl armed with shotgun, rusty axe, and chainsaw.
Love the art, love the theme, and the deduction cards make the game more focused and less random than “Bang.”