Shut Up and Join the Effort to Colonize Mars!


“Terraforming Mars”

designed by Jacob Fryxelius, published by Intrafin Games/Stronghold Games

The Quick Summary: You are in charge of a corporation who wishes terraform Mars and dominate it in the process. By building up your corporation, you will have to implement projects, plant forests, create oceans, and increase the planet’s temperature to make it hospitable to future colonists. A strong mix of tile-laying and engine building mechanics.

The Awesome:

  • Very fast. A solo game can be setup, played, and stored in 45 minutes. Time increases with more players, but set up and take down is still very fast.
  • Very good theme: you get the feeling that you are actually terraforming Mars.

The Good:

  • Multiplayer is very fun. A nice mix of strategy and planning with a little take-that.
  • Can be played solo. The solo option makes for a very tense and tight game. It’s NOT easy.
  • Not many tokens to deal with. Resources cubes are used to represent many different things, depending on where they are placed.
  • Easy to understand. Rulebook is well-designed.

The Bad:

  • Projects cards are so numerous they can be hard to shuffle. It’s a THICK deck.

The Ugly:

  • Component quality is below average. Cards are thin, many resource cubes are chipped, and the player mat only needs a slight bump to mess up your current production levels.

Keep it or leave it? Totally keep it. The engine building aspect of the game is very entertaining and the theme fits very well with the mechanics. I can play this with my wife, a casual gamer, and with more hardcore gamers.

[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)

Survival of the Meanest

30-Second Boardgames Reviews Survive! Escape from Atlantis!

“Survive!  Escape from Atlantis!” – 30th Anniversary Edition

designed by Julian Courtland Smith, published by Stronghold Games

Escape from the sinking island of Atlantis by putting your 10 survivors on boats while sending sharks, whales, and the dreaded sea serpent to your enemies. Each turn you move your hapless survivors off of the sinking island of Atlantis and closer to safe isles, either on a boat, or through an achingly slow swim. Then you draw a tile as the island “sinks.” Maybe a shark or whale or appear, or even a boat, or you can get a tile you can use later to speed your progress or impede your opponents by moving the whales or sharks out of your path and into theirs. Finally, roll the dice to move the shark to eat unfortunate swimmers, the whale to wreck their boats, or the dreaded sea serpent to devour both boats and swimmers. The game ends when the volcano tile is turned over and everything on the board is destroyed. Add up the points of the survivors on the safe isles, highest total points wins.

All kinds of fun as you try to maneuver your survivors onto boats while trying to avoid the beasties the other players are sending towards you. Special tiles give you special powers and adds a fine strategic element to the game. Lots of “take that” as you sink boats, eat swimmers, and watch people get sucked into whirlpools. And laugh at your own feeble attempts at sabotage that ends helping the other players: as in, “ha, fall into the water, and, oh, here’s a boat.”

One Line Verdict: Pay a visit to this particular tropical paradise. Just make sure you catch the first boat leaving.

Two by Two…


“Animals on Board”

designed by Wolfgang Sentker & Ralf zur Linde, published by Stronghold Games

Fill your ark with animals…in everything but pairs, because that Noah guy has already claimed that concept. Animals are drawn randomly and placed into a large group at the beginning of each round. All except one are placed face-up with one mystery animal to make things more interesting. On your turn, you can either split a group into two smaller groups, or claim a group and place it on your ark. Splitting a group earns you a food crate; loading animals onto your ark costs you a number of food crates equal to the number of animals you are bringing on board. Once you claim animals, you are out of the round, and the other players continue splitting or claiming. At the end of a round, new animals are placed for the next round, or someone has ten animals on their ark and the game ends with scoring! Herds (groups of 3,4, or 5 of the same animal) will give you 5 points per animal, single animals will give you the points printed on the card, while pairs are discarded without scoring. Most points win!

The key is splitting the groups: do you split to form a herd? Or make a non-scoring pair? Or do you mix things up with the face-down animal? And, of course, other players can’t see what you loaded into the ark already. A very clever use of the I-split, you-choose mechanic with great components: durable ark pieces and great artwork.

One Line Verdict: Don’t miss the boat on this one in this fast-playing, little cousin to, oddly enough, “Zooleroto.” Which is also about animals, but without the apocalyptic theme.

Coal, Glorious Coal

“Coal Baron: the Great Card Game”

Designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, published by Stronghold Games

Become a coal magnate in industrial Germany! Mine the coal, transfer it onto waiting coal cars, attach engines to the cars, acquire contracts, and deliver coal for victory points. All done with a clever worker placement that uses numbered cards! Play cards up in sequential order in order to do a task: the more people want to do a task, the more workers it will take. Since the worker cards have to be placed sequentially, careful planning is a must. Then watch one player destroy everyone else’s careful planning by blindly buying endgame bonuses.

A tricky, brain-burning, card-driven, worker placement game, where you feel like there’s a flurry of activity, and then you say, “that’s all I did?!”