Shoot ‘Em Up: Euro Style!



designed by Filip Neduk

Lock and load and blast your opponents to little tiny bits in this boardgame version of a first-person shooter. Every turn you take two of three possible actions: move, shoot, or pick up either a weapon, an upgrade, or ammo. Cards represent different weapons: play cards to shoot, expend ammo to overcharge certain weapons for added mayhem, and spend ammo to “reload” weapon and bring the card back into your hand for continued death-dealing next round. You do damage by placing your damage counters on their player boards, and they on yours. The more you get hit, the more adrenaline (roll credits) you get, and the better your actions become. When you receive enough damage to die, points are scored: whoever has the most scores the most points, doing the first damage gets a bonus point, and everyone who hits you gets something. Repeat until the skull timer runs out, most points wins! Avoiding combat gets you not killed, but also you don’t actually score any points either.

Great self-balancing mechanics throughout the game, from the fact you are worth less the more you get killed to the way your actions improve the more damage you take. Moreover, the fact you can get points wherever you damage encourages equal death-dealing amongst all players.

One Live Verdict: Lock, load, gear up, and load out (plus any other first-person shooter clichés) for this one.

Empire Builders (not trains)


“Imperial Settlers”

designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek, published by Portal Games

Play as one of four ancient races: barbarians, Romans, Japanese, or Egyptians. Each race gets their own personal deck of specialized buildings, as well as having a common draw pool of more standard cards. Begin the round by drafting cards from a common pool. Using your resources, build buildings in your civilization, or use those cards to make “deals” and produce more resources for your burgeoning civilization. Or, simply raze the card in your hand for an instant hit of resources. But be careful, any resources that aren’t spent are lost at the end of the round. Production is key to this game: get stuff, buy stuff, get even more stuff, and earn enough points to win the game! Or lose, because you just got a lot of dudes and not enough stuff.

Deeply satisfying game as you ponder all your different strategies: do I build this building, or do I use it to make a deal? Which buildings should I raze in order to build this other, more powerful building? Or do I just raze this card and take the quick resources? So many choices, so many paths to victory. Not for those prone to analysis paralysis.

One Line Verdict: Make a deal and settle into this game!

Built on Rock and Roll and Squares



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.

One Line Verdict: Build this city, you squares.

Choo-Choo-Cha Boogie…Take Me Right Back to the Track, Jack!


“Ticket to Ride: First Journey”:

designed by Alan R. Moon, published by Days of Wonder

At last, a “Ticket to Ride” game designed specifically for kids! Fewer routes which all more or less connect to each other SOMEHOW, so you’re never quite cut off, yah! On your turn, draw two cards at random each time instead of choosing from face up cards, or play cards down to claim a route.   Win by earning six tickets through connecting designated cities and even earn a special ticket by connecting your line from Coast to Coast!

In the end, you have a TTR game that’s still fun, and somehow, just as cutthroat. Choose your routes carefully though because you may place all your trains and not be able to complete enough tickets to win.

One Line Verdict: All aboard for a game that adults and kids can play together…unless you hate regular “Ticket to Ride,” then just keep walking.

Alan Moore Would be Suitably Pissed Off


“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.

Stick-It-To-’em Dungeon


“Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The Dungeon of Dorukan”

designed by Kevin Brusky & Rich Burlew, published by APE Games

A game based on the popular stick-figure web comic about fantasy adventurers. Move into a dungeon, place a room down which may result in some special rules, meet a monster, but your opponent chooses the monster from their hand, add up bonuses, solicit help from other players, avoid “Screw This” cards from other players, roll the dice, defeat the monster (hopefully), and collect loot. Wash, rinse, and repeat until you defeat the dreaded lich Xykon! Plays a lot like Munchkin but with a build-it-yourself-board, but which lasts a little too long. Plus, because the other players choose a monster from their hand, they could totally mess you up.  Which happened to me.  A lot.

If you like Munchkin and the snarky humour of the “Order of the Stick” web-comic, this would be great. If you like neither, then not so good.

One Line Verdict: For a small slice of fans, indeed. All others keep moving past this particular dungeon.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, Keep those Dice Rolling…


“Biblios Dice”

designed by Steve Finn, published by Doctor’s Finn’s Games

Run your very own medieval monastery! Collect the various supplies (scrolls, manuscripts, pigments, quills, ink) you will need to produce magnificent illuminated manuscripts by rolling 6 (or 7) resource dice. Choose one set of results and move up that number of spaces on the associated resource track. Or get gold. Or move up on the bishop track and get bonuses. Or manipulate the value of some of the resources. Unless of course it’s market day, when the active player divides up the dice (5 in group, 3 in the other) and everyone secretly bids, one card at a time, to win the right to a group of dice. The game ends four markers reach the top of the resource tracks, or one player reaches the top of the bishop track. Points are added up for first, second, and third place based on the value of each particular resource. Most points wins! But be careful: not moving up on a track means you get negative points for being at the bottom. And in a game where the winner and 3rd place were separated by 4 points, that’s a big difference.

A game where randomness is not so bad, as there is always something good to do. Just choose wisely and you advance at least a little on all tracks. Use clever strategy in timing the manipulation of the value of the resource, but watch for the abrupt end.  Light enough for gateway, deep enough to make for interesting choices.

One Line Verdict: Don’t take a vow of silence on this one. Scream it from the abbey roof about how good this game is.

Monopoly Boiled Down to its Cold, Dark Heart


“High $ociety!”

designed by Reiner Knizia, published by Uberplay

A pure bidding game where you try to buy the most stuff. Start with a limited number of dollar amounts in your hand: simply bid on items, ranging from artwork to basketball teams and castles worth different amounts of prestige, as they are turned over. But be careful: once you spend the money card, it’s gone. And the cards vary in their amounts, so there’s no change. As the game goes on, you begin to lose your flexibility with your bid amounts. And watch out for misfortune cards: bid to NOT get these. At the end of the game, the person with the least money in hand is instantly eliminated, and the remaining players add up their point totals. And win by only winning three items.

A game of tight auctions, steely gazes that rewards the cold-hearted and cut-throat.  The limiting of bid cards in both amount and use is very smart and requires clever strategizing in your bid.  But most of all this game is about reading your opponents and forcing them out.

One Line Verdict: Great filler for feeling what it’s truly like to be rich. In other words, totally evil.

Dead Men Walking


“The Walking Dead Card Game”

designed by Wolfgang Kramer, published by Cryptozoic Entertainment

A re-theming of the excellent “6Nimmt” with zombies. The players all simultaneously pick a card from their starting hand of 10 cards, reveals it, and each player then plays their card into one of four rows, starting with the lowest number first. Your card is placed to the highest number it is closest to. If you place the sixth card in a row, you end up taking that whole row of cards. Each card will have between one and six bullets on it: the more bullets you collect, the worse off you are. Gasp in horror as all four rows fill up with five cards and just pray that your opponents will take rows before you…and oddly thematic as you see hordes of walkers slowly build up as cards are placed down and more and more bullets show up…Three rounds later, the person with the least number of bullets wins!  There’s also a hero mode where you try and TAKE the most bullets, but that one seems lame and tacked on.

Great for people who like “6 Nimmt” and zombies (or walkers, if you prefer). Great even for people who don’t like the latter.  But the pictures on the card might be too scary for the little ones.

One Line Verdict: solid game, tacked on theme, but still fun because the core game is great.

Evolve This!



designed by Dominic Crapuchettes, Dmitri Knorre, & Sergey Machin, published by NorthStar Games

Help your species survive in this Darwinian adventure! Play cards to give your species different traits, or discard cards too grow their population or body size. Traits will range from the defensive, to the symbiotic, to the dangerously carnivorous.  Then feed your burgeoning species food which become victory points. But be careful: you and the other players seed the watering hole at the beginning of each round, so make sure there is enough food to sustain your population, or purposefully create a food shortage to winnow everyone’s numbers. And watch out for predators…But once you fall behind in this game, because you draw new cards equal to the number of species you have, it is very hard to catch up. And that Alpha Predator can really, really wreak havoc on a bunch of poor herbivores.

A relatively straightforward game without a whole lot of picky rules, but lots of ways to sabotage your opponents. Or play cooperatively. Or it’s just an arms race to see who gets the biggest, baddest predator first.

One Line Verdict: Truly, the survival of the fittest.  All others need not apply.