We Got Fun and Games (and Orc and Goblins).


“Welcome to the Dungeon”

designed by Masato Uessugi

Can you defeat all the monsters in the dungeon with the “help” of your opponents? Choose an adventurer with lots of special powers and then look at a monster card: decide if it goes in the dungeon or if it goes out. If it goes out, take away one of the adventurer’s special powers. The net result: the dungeon gets more dangerous as the adventurer gets weaker and weaker. The next player does the same: until everyone passes and only one player remains. That player takes the poor, under-equipped adventurer through the now enemy-packed dungeon and hopes for the best. It’s mostly about playing your opponents: what do you think they will do? Probably go in just when you want to and win the game.

It seems so easy with such easy choices, but don’t timing is an issue and it becomes critical when it’s just you and your opponent: you know you can make it, but you have to force her out somehow before you lose the one thing you need…

Zen Turf War



designed by Jordan Goddard & Mandy Goddard, published by Renegade Game Studios

Get your Zen on in this gorgeously illustrated card-game of flower building.  Build flowers by playing cards in a clever circular pattern. Each round, place up to two petal cards to build up to five different kinds of flowers of five different sizes.  Then claim those complete flowers as points. However, you can also “control” flowers through adorable little bug guardian tokens. Control lets you take a five-point token or to upgrade your abilities.

Don’t let the cover fool or zen aesthetic fool you: best comment about the game isn’t even mine, but from my son: “it’s a pretty game for what amounts to a brutal turf war.”

Build your Kingdom with “Kingdom Builder”


“Kingdom Builder”

designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, published by Queen Games

Build your kingdom via strategic placement of your settlements!  A game of very few choices: you get one card, you play it, and build three settlements on the terrain type (flower fields, deserts, forests, mountains) matching that card. Note the strict building rules: you must build next to an already existing settlement if you can. Build next to bonus tiles which usually give you the ability to build, another settlement!  Try to score points at the end based on three randomly drawn goals that makes the strategy of every game different. Sometimes you need the largest settlement, or have the most separate settlements, or sometimes, score for both.  The four modular boards provide some extra variety as well.  But in the end, the whole affair feels a bit bland.

Not a whole lot of choices makes for a rather dry game at times.

Things Are Harder in German…



“German Railroads”

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…

In Soviet Russia…[insert extremely dated reference here]


“Russian Railroads”

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.


Crafty Card-Crafting down in the Vale


“Mystic Vale”

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.

Do You Know the Way to E-ly-sium?



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.

Play the Pax Romana



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.

Like “Bang,” but with Anime

“Shadow Hunters”

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.”

Space, the Final Frontier…

“Xia: Legends of a Drift System”

designed by Cody Miller, published by Far Off Games

Outfit your spaceship with engines, shields, and guns and go exploring the galaxy tile by tile. Roll dice to move, attack others, do pick up and deliver missions, mine, and make money to upgrade your spaceship to earn fame points! Earn fame points by doing almost anything: including rolling a natural 20. Lots of choices, but subject to a kind of wonky randomness as you depend on dice for moving, defending, shooting, mining, traveling through space barriers, and blowing up on your second turn after a bad roll.

Almost a sandbox game with great-looking components.  Seems complicated, but flows smoothly and quickly, but that gosh-durned randomness…