A Quick Straw Poll Says…No.



designed by Richard James, published by AEG

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.

Like Westworld, but Without the Robots.


“Bang: the Dice Game”

designed by Michael Palm & Lukas Zach, published by dv Giochi & Asmodee

Be the last man (or woman) standing in this Wild West duel. At the beginning, each player is assigned a role: sheriff, outlaw, deputy, or renegade, with each role having a different goal to win the game: the sheriff and his deputies have to survive the withering gunfire of everyone else, while outlaws win when the sheriff is eliminated, or the renegade wins when she is the last one left alive amid all the carnage. All roles are hidden, except for the sheriff. Then players are given a unique character with a special power to help when the lead starts flying. Players take turns by rolling dice (up to three times via the old Yahtzee mechanic) and then resolving the actions on the dice: shooting, healing (with a swig of beer), blowing yourself up, or maybe even calling down Indians to deal damage to all. Run out of life points, and you’re sent to Boot Hill (that is, you are eliminated), but your team can still win! Whoever is left (according to your win conditions) wins the game!

Plays quick and easy with the hidden roles adding a layer of strategy that keeps the game interesting and makes people really mad when you start shooting the members of your team. The quick play keeps the game moving and getting eliminated less sad and boring.

One Line Verdict: Strap on your six-shooters and draw (or roll, in this particular case) for a fun, quick-moving hidden role game that doesn’t require all that talkin’ and negotiatin’.

Up, Up, and Away…



designed by Aaron Weissblum, published by ABBA Games

Travel the skies as a steampunk adventurer as you attempt to collect the most valuable treasures! Players take turn being the captain of an airship: they roll the dice to determine the hazards – from lightning to fog to storms – and then the passengers decide: does the captain have the right cards to avoid the obstacles? If no, bail out now and get whatever rewards there are from the ship is currently at. If yes, everyone left on board sails on and sees if the captain actually does have the cards to save the ship from certain doom. If he doesn’t have the cards, the ship crashes and everyone on board dies and gets nothing and those who bailed out have a hearty laugh while savoring their treasure. Then the cycle begins from the beginning of the path. If he does have the cards, the ship sails on to the next lucrative stop and those on board laugh at those schmoes who had so little faith and bailed out early. Then the next player becomes captain and those left on board make the same hard choices. Special action cards also mix up gameplay and make those decisions just a tad bit harder. Stay or go? Or just make the wrong decision every single time and watch victory dissipate like the clouds surrounding the ship.

Part bluffing (on the part of the captain) and part press-your-luck makes for a fun, interactive game with great tension. The 3D cardboard airship also makes for a great visual.

One Line Verdict: Definitely climb on board and sail these clouds.

Analog Video Game



designed by Eric M. Lang, published by Cool Mini or Not

Based on the tough-as-nails video game. You and your fellow adventurers fight strange monsters through simultaneously selecting different tactics and weapons cards. However, the monster gets first strike and will most likely kill all of you. But if you survive, damage the monster, take its blood echoes (which are your victory points as well), and if you kill it, everyone who participated gets a trophy as well. But be careful, if you are killed and you didn’t “bank” your blood echoes, you lose those points! You can upgrade your cards with more death-dealing weapons, some which even mess up your opponents. Fun, quick, with a little bit of deduction…what will my opponents do, and can I kill this thing?…and yes, wildly swingy.

Great sense of player interaction as you balance between hurting your opponents and keeping them around to help you. Pretty quick and easy to learn: almost a filler.

One Line Verdict: Not quite a killer game, but definitely has its moments of tension and surprise.

A Game NOT About Scoring a Rich Husband


“Gold Digger”

designed by Reiner Knizia, published by Out of the Box

A Reiner Knizia designed game that plays QUICK. There are six mines: each turn you play a settler or gold on a mine. If you play a settler, you can stake a claim. But be careful, you only have three claims you can stake, and if you place it too early, people will fill your mine with fool’s gold, which score nothing. Play too late, and you won’t be able to score on a lucrative mine. A game all about timing and patience and knowing when to strike. Or strike out, as the case may be.

For fans of Western themed games with a strong press-your-luck element, with some good old-fashioned cut-throat action thrown in.

One Line Verdict: Drop a claim on this one for a fun little filler.

Pirates of the High Skies


“Sea of Clouds”

designed by Theo Riviere, published by Iello Games

Travel through the sea of clouds as steampunk pirates! Collect crew, treasures, and rum in order to amass the most points. Each round, the first player will look face down at a designated loot card: she can take it, or leave it. If she does, she adds one card to that loot stack and looks at the next loot card. Same decision, and repeat one more time for good measure. If she refuses all three cards, she can take the top card off the deck. The next player now does the same, but if the previous player left cards, they have more to look at and potentially take! But be careful, there are plenty of bad cards out there, and you can collect sets of items, but the first few of each item are almost always negative points! Oh, and you fight every once in awhile. Count up your points at the end of your voyage and rule the Sea of Clouds! Arrrrr.

Peeking at the loot is fun, but the turn progression seemed odd: you change start player and move the ship after every player has a chance to look at the loot, but the way player changed seemed harder to keep track of than it should. Light, fun, easy choices. But, if you don’t collect those sets, either because you passed on them or thye got snatched before you can even get them, you can seriously lose. Like me.

One Line Verdict: A must-stop for steampunk pirates, but others may want to keep sailing.

Run Away! Run Away!



designed by Kouji Kimora, published by Oink Games

Can you escape with the troll’s treasure? A simple action selection/deduction game that fits into a teeny, tiny box. The starting player looks at the troll who has a number between 5 and 11 (roughly), and then places a number between one and five face up. The higher the number, the greater the reward, but also greater the risk. The next player decides to either put a number down blind, and double their reward, or they can peek at the troll and make a better decision. If the total is higher than the troll’s number, then it will catch you! What is your opponent doing? Are they a jerk who will get you snatched by the troll? Probably.

Definitely a clever game with a pretty basic mechanic.  Almost pure bluffing, and there is room for strategic play, but that fact isn’t apparent right away.  And it feels pretty light.

One Line Verdict: Don’t bother with his Troll too much.  Unless you like trolls.  And bluffing.

Definitely NOT the Yellow Submarine


“Deep Sea Adventure:

designed by Jun Sasaki & Goro Sasaki, published by Oink Games

Go diving for treasure in this small-box Japanese game. Roll the dice and travel deeper into the ocean to pick up scoring chits. But be careful: everybody shares an air supply and the more chits you have, the faster the air goes and then the slower you go. Do you keep going for that one more turn to pick up a higher value chit? Or do you turn around and hope to make it back before the air runs out? If you’re me, you just sink and die every time. The winner got two chits and won by a point. That’s a tight game.

But it’s a fun game: a simple and challenging press-your-luck game that really makes you say, “just one more step…”

One Line Verdict: Dive into this one!

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…