[Cue Generic Adventure Music]



“Lost Temple”

designed by Bruno Faidutti, published by Stronghold Games

Be the first brave explorer to find the mysterious lost temple in this role-selection game! Each round, players will choose one native from a common pool to help you move spaces on the jungle board towards the temple. Each native will grant the player special powers that may change the player position or steal from another player or allow her to pay gems to move a certain number of spaces. Players take turns according the number order of the card they chose (from 1 to 9) by taking one gem from the supply and then playing the card they chose and executing the special power on that card. End your movement on chance spaces and have something good (more gems or extra steps!) or something bad (lose gems, go backwards, or drop a machete) happen to you. Cut your way past deep jungle spots with machetes and cackle as you steal away someone else’s gems or weep as you are moved from first to last by the Shaman.

So, yes, it’s basically “Citadels,” but not as mean. By turning the game into race on the board rather than building a tableau, this games feels both different and more dynamic. The chance spaces on the board adds a fun random element while the deep jungle spaces provide an interesting additional challenge. The choice of cards even make thematic sense as you are engaging the help of the natives you move through the jungle.

One Line Verdict: This particular jungle is worth exploring.

(Check out the review for Citadels here)

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.

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.

Monster Mash


designed by Masao Suganuma, published by IDW Games

“Diamonsters” These cute little monsters want diamonds! A very quick and easy bidding game: flip a card, and try to win that monsters and add it to your collection by bidding with a card numbered 1-5. The same number card played by different players cancels each other out, and high number left wins, but 1 beats 5! Winner places the card she used plus the card she won into her face up “monster collection.” Repeat until one player has three of the same monster in her collection or has five face-up diamonds (which are printed on the cards). The winner of the round gets one plastic diamond piece. Repeat until one player gets five diamonds (or so, depending on the number of players).

More of a “what card do I think my opponents will play?” sort of filler, with surprisingly poorly written rules for the endgame. Because you take the monster you played and the one you won into your collection, there is some strategy. Not much, but some. Cute illustrations, giant box.

One Line Verdict: These monsters are easy to avoid. Unless it’s for like 5 bucks.

Martian Chronicles, Steampunk Style!


“Mission Red Planet” (2nd Edition)

designed by Bruno Cathala & Bruno Faidutti, published by Fantasy Flight Games

Send your steampunk astronauts to Mars to control areas and collect valuable resources. Pack your astronauts into a ship, blast a ship off, land on some section of Mars, move some of your Martian men, or even sabotage spaceships journeying to Mars. Score points for area majorities on different sections of the red planet. Simultaneous card selection to perform these actions: do you pick a high number to go first, but get a weak action, or do you wait to perform a more powerful action? Or do you watch your opponent blow up your rocket with three of your astronauts in round 2 of the game and watch all hope of victory escape your grasp? I would say the last one. Definitely that one.

A good introduction to action selection and strategic play. Light enough to learn, with just enough strategy to make things interesting.

One Line Verdict: sign up for this particular mission to Mars.

Cave Paintings Good


Designed by Dominque Ehrhard & Michel Lalet, published by Mayfair Games

Explore the wonders of Lascaux in this set collection card game. Cards are set out and each player secretly decides which cards they want. Bid stones to stay in and get first choice of cards: pass, and collect the stones in the pool, but you go to the back of the line in terms of choice! Force your opponents out, get first pick of cards, but you’re out of stones to stay in the next round! But, remember, you only score points if you have the most or tied for the most of one image: one point per card. It’s like “No Thanks,” only you’re bidding to stay in, and man, am I horrible at bluffing. Just. Plain. Horrible.

In short, this is a next level “No Thanks.”  Like that one, like this one.

Racing and Steampunk: Two Great Flavors

“Steampunk Rally”

Designed by Orin Bishop, published by Roxley Games

Take the role of a turn-of-the-century inventor or scientist, ranging from Nikola Tesla to Ada Lovelace, and then proceed on a wild road-race in your crazy steampunk vehicle. Draft cards to build energy, add parts to your vehicle, or get special powers. Use dice to power your different vehicle parts and fly down the course. But be careful, the faster you go, the more likely you will damage your vehicle and have to slough parts. And go limping across the finish line with literally only your cockpit left…

Draft, build, race: go for a spin!  I mean that both literally (that’s what you do in the game) and idiomatically (give it a try).