Category Archives: game review

Thunderbirds 50 Years: Co-Operative Board Game – 1st impressions solitaire

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Thunderbirds 50 Years: Co-Operative Board Game – 1st impressions solitaire

The kind folks at Modiphius Games sent me a copy of the new Thunderbirds game designed by Matt Leacock and I told them that I wouldn’t be able to do a proper review as since moving to London, I don’t have a regular game group or gaming buddies local.

Having said that, I thought that I would give you my impressions having played it solitaire a number of times.

A design by Matt Leacock, who is a leading light in co-operative games, is pretty much a sure bet for a good game that can be played solitaire very well. I hope to play with my family now that I’ve got the game mechanics down.

TB2Thunderbirds fans will surely enjoy it. It looks great and has quality components including the Thunderbirds models, YAY! It brings the theme out very well. The characters are there as is the Hood and sense of impending doom from a continuous flow of disasters they just keep coming.

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This is a tense game, similar to Matt’s game, Pandemic, and as the pressure ramps up and you are running out of options, it is stressful fun.

My sense is that you have to have the Virgil and Alan characters in the game as a minimum if you want to have a chance of winning. Getting the most out of Thunderbirds 2 (for transporting) and 3 (for space transfers of characters) is essential.

TB5Playing this game is a real balancing act and it will be with other players. Essentially you are mainly focused in countering disasters, conducting rescues and the like as you are coordinating how best to get the right characters with the right resources to the right location, at the right time. Sounds simple right?

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The Disaster cards keep coming and you will need to plan ahead with the other players to optimise everyone’s turn. Each has its own level of threat and requirements to save the day.Mixed in the Disaster deck are cards the move The Hood along his track which brings with it the threat of 3 levels of increasing danger from his nefarious schemes.

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You win by stopping the 3 schemes of The Hood. Trouble is, you have all of these other disasters to fend off. Its one thing to try this solitaire but it will be another with other players. We will have to listen to each other, plan well and coordinate effectively. I am really looking forward to more plays for sure.

All in all. I really like this game. It is a solid design, with lots of tension and fun. I highly recommend it for Thunderbirds fans!

Check out your local game shop or online suppliers for a copy or go straight to the publishers!

For more information go to Modiphius Games.

 

 

 

 

Boardgames in Blighty Game Review – The Last Spike from Columbia Games

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Boardgames in Blighty Game Review – The Last Spike from Columbia Games

Thanks to Columbia Games for providing a review copy of this game.

Designer – Tom Dalgliesh

Players – 2-6

Time – 45-60 minutes

Age – 10+

I haven’t done a game review in a while as I simply haven’t time anymore but I thought it would be worth investing time to do a review of The Last Spike from Columbia Games, primarily as it is certainly a departure from their usual wargame fare.

I will say up front that I am a fan of Columbia games and therefore there is a bias but I will try and give a fair minded review here.

First some background from the Columbia games website –

The Last Spike was first published in 1976 as a family game; the 2015 edition has been re-designed to appeal to strategy gamers, eurogamers, train gamers, and is still suitable for families.

In The Last Spike players cooperate to build a continuous railway from St. Louis to Sacramento. Different routes are possible and some towns never get a railway link. Each player competes to accumulate the most money from land speculation before the “last spike” is played.

Unboxing

The game components are up the the usual Columbia Games standard with –
Mapboard (card)
48 wooden track blocks and matching stickers representing the track pieces
Deck of 45 Deeds, 5 each of 9 cities.
Wooden Game Money
Rules

The game board depicts the USA from St Louis west to Sacramento. Routes for the railway may include Omaha, Dodge City, Denver, El Paso, Laramie, Yuma, and Ogden. The eastern part is relatively flat, but there are some wide rivers to cross. West of Denver are the high Rockies where track building budgets soar. I will say that I like look and art on the game board. My only qualm is that it seems more functional than geographically correct (although I could be wrong) which I would have preferred. Having said the board works perfectly for the purposes of the game.

The presentation and and quality of the components is very good. I really like that Columbia don’t over develop the components. They are functional and attractive without the need to overcook with ostentatious bling. The artwork is very nice, cards and sticker for the blocks are easy to read. The money is represented by coloured wooden discs. It all works just fine.

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Gameplay overview

To win The Last Spike, you must end the game with the most money.

The Last Spike is a simple game and is aimed at the family market. There are only 3 steps for the players in a turn.

  1. The player must place a rail tile on the board and payouts are made if a rail line is completed
  2. The player then has the option to purchase 1 property card for any city
  3. The player must then draw a new rail tile to replace the one they placed

It’s as simple and straightforward as that.

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Each player begins the game with 4 rail tiles drawn randomly. Each tile has a financial value ranging from 1k to 7K.

To place a tile, the player must pay the face value if it is placed on it’s assigned space on a rail line (as indicated on the board and the tile). The face value is payed only if the tile is placed adjacent to a city or adjacent to a previously placed tile. Otherwise, double the face value is paid.

All of the players are essentially cooperating in building the train lines. There is no “ownership” of any train line. As the players consider which of their tiles to play, they will need to consider how much they are willing and can afford to pay. Also, in the placement of tiles, the players will be considering where the other players may place tiles as they seek to complete train lines.

When a train line is completed by any player, players who have property cards for the 2 cities linked by the completed trin line are paid according to the value and number of cards for each city held.

It took me the first third of the game to get a sense of the need to not just place tiles, but to weigh up potential risk and reward compared to the potential for other players which raised the level of interesting and challenging choices.

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Players can optionally purchase property cards during the game. In fact, they need to as by collecting the property cards, the players are trying to put themselves into a position to get the most lucrative payoffs possible when train lines are completed. Like Monopoly, multiple cards for the same city mean a larger payout. Having said that, there are no guarantees that all of your carefully chosen properties will pay off as not all train lines are guaranteed to be completed before the end of the game. Cashflow may be an issue as the players have to consider when to buy, and when to hold off. Players may also need to consider how long they can hold out before completing train lines. If players run out of cash, they will need to sell back properties at half value to the bank in order to get cash to pay for placement of tiles.

The players will choose a tile randomly to refill up to their 4 tile limit. When the tiles run out, the players continue to play using the tiles that are left in their hand, until a routes is established between St. Louis and Sacramento which immediately ends the game. All of the tiles may or may not be used in the game. It is also not likely that every train line will be completed before the game ends.

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At this point, the money held by each player is totalled and whoever has the most wins. Ties are broken by the player with the highest total cost of the property cards.

Do I like The Last Spike?

Over a number of plays, I found this game to be a lot of fun as did my family members and friends. It has a solid design, is easy to learn and to teach. Overall the game plays smoothly and there is little downtime waiting for other players to take their turn. It plays quickly enough and easy enough for non-gamers to become engaged and so I would not hesitate to use it as a fun social game and also an introduction to games other than Monopoly.

What is really nice in particular is that as you get into it you can see that there are choices, some tough, and the mix of cooperation and competition is well balanced and interesting.

Some of you may have an issue with the blind randomness of choosing the rail tiles. I will say that I didn’t find it to be a problem as the game plays fast and simply enough. It works well. Having said that, I may experiment with a house rule of choosing 5 tiles to start and returning 1 so there is a bit more choice and say in your strategy. Also, I want to try choosing 2 tiles and keeping 1 to replenish your hand of tiles. Again, this will add a bit more control of your strategy.

The Last Spike is a fun game and the desire of my family and friends to play again says it all for me. A clean, tight design, nice components, straightforward gameplay means this is one to check out and play for sure.

For more information go to http://www.columbiagames.com/cgi-bin/query/cfg/zoom.cfg?product_id=2201

Boardgames in Blighty Reviews 12 Realms from Mage Company

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Boardgames in Blighty Reviews 12 Realms from Mage Company

Designer – Ignazio Corrao

Art – Michael Andresakis, Marvin Aure, Ignazio Corrao, Jerome Jacinto, Ginny Rosales, Carlo Rosales

Thanks to Mage Company for providing a review copy of this game

I’ve wanted to have a crack at 12 Realms for a while now. I really tend to like Fantasy RPG table top games and this seemed like one worth playing, just on looks alone as I will be right up front with you and say that 12 Realms has some of the most gorgeous art and components that I have found in any board game.

Being a co-operative game, 12 Realms can be played solitaire and  I have decided to give a review based upon solo gameplay as this is of particular interest to me and there are plenty of multi-player reviews available.

From the Mage Company website –

12 Realms A fantasy co-op miniatures game for 1-7 storybook heroes fighting to free the world from the Dark Lords. Siegfried, Snow White, D’Artagnan, Red Riding Hood, and the other legendary literary heroes team up for one last great adventure. Travel together or fight alone. Each realm board offers its own set of challenges, monsters, and treasures as part of a grand quest for an artefact to save the day.

Siegfried, Snow White, D’ Artagnan, Red Riding Hood, and the other heroes of the 12 realms are being reunited for one last great adventure. The Dark Lords have joined forces to completely conquer and subjugate all the known Lands, and only the combined efforts of all the greatest heroes can halt their nefarious plan.

All players must band together to stop the Dark Lords’ overwhelming hordes from pillaging the 12 Realms. Individual invaders can be defeated by using each hero’s different talents, but to vanquish the Dark Lords you must claim a powerful artifact. In their quest to stop the invasion, the Heroes can travel together between different lands, or they can try to single-handedly defend a Realm. Each of the 12 Realms is an individual land, with different treasures and events, and populated by unique creatures.

My impression is that 12 Realms is aimed at the family market. Don’t go looking for dark fantasy and perhaps more serious fantasy as in other games. Using fairy tale characters is a statement of its intended audience. So I was a bit disappointed as I prefer LOTR and D&D type fantasy. I struggle with the Fairy Tale stuff as it is to child centred if I’m honest and hard to take seriously. I would have preferred more serious fantasy characters. Had I young children to play with, I would certainly feel differently.

Having said that, it did look like a game worth playing.

Unboxing

Here is what you get in the box…

  • 4 Realms Maps
  • Over 230 Tokens
  • 88 Realms Cards
  • 8 Hero Cardboards
  • 4 Invasion Markers
  • 41 Town Square Cards
  • 2 Special Dice
  • 40 Gold Plastic Coins
  • 12 Miniatures
  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Reference Sheet

As stated above, the quality of all of the components is very high. The art is quite frankly, gorgeous. The miniatures are really nice and if you are good at paining miniatures, you will have a chance to create awesome looking characters.

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The cards are sturdy and the art is lovely. The icons are a good size and clearly illustrated.

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The maps are gorgeous and very sturdy. They each represent a realm.

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Each character comes with a double sided player board, each with different choices of attributes. Again, the art is consistently very nice.

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My only issue is that the miniatures don’t come pre-painted but that’s probably asking too much.

This is a top level production. Mage Company have done a sterling job on 12 Realms.

Gameplay

The essence of 12 Realms is that the player is fighting off increasing numbers of baddies that are invading the realm. While you are using your appropriate Talents to beat them down, you need to collect 3 artefacts in order to take on the Dark Lord. Think a simpler version of Defenders of the Realm.

12 Realms has basic and advanced rules. They are relatively easy to understand and even.

The set up details are clear with nice illustrations to support. Each game, you will choose the realm you will attempt to play. Each realm has its own dedicated Dark Lord and associated army of baddies. You will then choose the character who you will seek to defeat the Dark Lord. The double sided character card gives you slightly different sets of Talents to choose from which gives you more choices and challenges to win.

The basic game takes place over a series of turns, divided in three phases:

 

Phase 1 – Invasion –

Update Invasion Tracks – Each turn the baddies enter the realm. Also, the invasion marker is moved one space along the invasion track for every enemy unit on the board, bringing it closer to the point where you release the Dark Lord to enter the realm.

Resolve Powers: If there are any Invaders on any Active Realm’s boards with the following Powers: Curse, Marauding, or Summon, then their effect must be resolved.

Draw Realm cards: You draw 2 Card per Active Realms plus an Extra Card in the end. These cards bring enemies, treasures or 1 of the 3 artefacts that must be collected into the realm. The baddies come in a variety of styles, each with their own abilities which may be overcome. The icons make it very easy to understand what you need to do to defeat them.

Invaders Appearance: Place the enemies on the board.

 

Phase 2 – Perform Actions –

Your character moves and can “spends” various Talents to try and defeat the baddies. Each realm has their own dedicated enemies that are unique so there is a certain type of enemy character set for each.

You can also collect treasures and 3 artefacts that you must have to face the Dark Lord of the Realm. To defeat the enemies, your character effectively “spends” Talent tokens. You can also Trade artefacts with other players, Visit the Town to purchase useful things to build up your capability to defeat enemies and the Dark Lord and Travel to other realms.

 

Phase 3 –

Refresh – Spent tokens are returned to the attribute spaces of the player card.

Players continue to take turns until they manage to defeat every Active Realm’s Lord of Darkness.

There are other supporting rules but those in essence are the core aspects of the gameplay. Its pretty easy to get started and playing. Advanced rules and other in additional rules give you more options and raise the level of difficulty. I would advise playing the core rules first to become familiar with the system and then adding the other rules as you see fit is easy and makes the game more interesting.

The rules are well written and the game play of the core rules flows well. The turns move along nicely and quite quickly once you are familiar how it works. You can nail a game, certainly solitaire, in about 45 minutes which is very nice. I can see this game as being pretty easy to teach. A one page reference sheet would be useful but to be fair, I haven’t spent too much time having to referring back to the rules.

Did I enjoy 12 Realms?

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There is a lot I like about 12 Realms. The art and components are top quality for starters which is a delight to look at. No question that this makes the game attractive to play.

The structure of the rules is very effective. I found it easy to play and get into. I like the way you can add additional rules to increase the challenge without more complexity.

One thing I really like is that the game scales out for more players. Basically, you add more realms for more players. Its a very flexible system, scaleable. Having the additional advanced rules allows you to choose the level you want to play so you can adjust to your audience. Again, this is really user friendly.

There are a lot of variables so no two games will ever play out the same way. Choosing different characters to take on different realms is good fun. 12 Realms doesn’t take too long so you can play often. To be fair, as a simple game, its not overly taxing on the brain but its a good diversion.

The core game comes with 4 realms, and more are on the way in expansions so that will add more options in terms of Dark Lords and their armies.

All that being said, there is a downside for me. I actually think that 12 Realms is too light for me, even with the advanced rules. I enjoy playing it but its just not satisfying enough in terms of story and experience. Playing each character adds nothing in terms of story or sense of a world in peril. It looks to be epic but doesn’t feel like an epic adventure.

Each realm, despite having different Dark Lords and armies, feels the same to be honest. Yes, some characters are better to take on different realms but its just a focus on making the most on utilising enough talent. There is no story to progress through. No sense of a journey. Its just bash the baddies with no tension beyond when the Dark Lord enters. It works, and it can be tough to beat and thats fine, I just want to feel something about the adventure and the characters. It doesn’t feel like an rpg game. When I compare it to something like Runebound, for instance, 12 Realms lacks the depth and sense of a story being played out.

And sorry, I don’t like the fairy tale characters. It seems childish. But if you play with young kids, they might like that.

So as an entry point into adventure games, its not bad at all and definitely worth playing. Its fun for me and a nice, relatively quick diversion. But limited it is in scope and feel. Just disappointing in terms of what it could have been. So its a mixed result for me.

 

For more information go to – http://magecompany.com/ 

Boardgames in Blighty Review – Fleets – The Pleiad Conflict from Fryx Games

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Boardgames in Blighty Review – Fleets: The Pleiad Conflict from Fryx Games

Design: Daniel Fryxelius

Assistant design: Fryx Games & Thomas Fryxelius

Graphic design & artwork: Daniel Fryxelius

Many thanks to Fryx Games for a review copy of this game.

I’ve cut down a lot on reviewing games as you would have noticed due to changing priorities as well as life getting more in the way meaning I have less time. I was intrigued by the new project by the guys from Fryx Games though so I thought that I’d play and write up a review.

Fleets: The Pleiad Conflict, is a space conflict game. And yes, there have been a lot of these types of games. I’ve tended to avoid these as I am generally not interested in the resource collecting and empire building so much as the conflict stuff. Low and behold, the Fryx brothers, who have made some lighter fun Euro style games have come up with a space game that is ultimately a combat game with a bit of these elements, but just a bit, with the main focus on kicking 7 bells out of each other. Ok I am interested.

Fleets: The Pleiad Conflict

In 3400 AD, mankind has colonised the Pleiad star cluster where mighty corporations vie for control and influence. Each player equips fleets with escort ships and upgrades, and uses them to control star systems for victory points. Diplomatic leverage, cunning, and brute force will determine the victor.

In truth its about the brute force really, which suits me. The diplomatic stuff is a side show.

Goal of the Game

From the rules –

In Fleets – The Pleiad Conflict each player controls a corporation. Each system that is controlled by only one corporation at the end of a round gives 1 Victory Point (VP) to that player. The game ends when any player has 7 (or more) VPs. Then the player with the most VPs wins the game (ties are won by diplomacy points, or total
value of possessions if still equal).

 

Unboxing

In the box you get a die-cut pieces and cards with gorgeous art.

74 Escort Ships – these are bought to add to your fleets

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20 Fleet Boards – this represents your main ship, with space to add support ships

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28 Upgrade Cards – you can purchase upgrades for your fleet

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4 Player Boards – for tracking your reactor energy and megacredits for spending

1 Rule Book

58 Action Cards – there are combat and diplomatic cards with a good selection of bonuses and effects

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10 System Tiles – these become the “game board” and the number of tiles corresponds to the number of players +1. Each game will probably have a different game board as there are more tiles than players so random distribution will mean a new situation each game.

2 Rule Sheets

4 Player Order Cards

20 Fleet Markers – 1 for each Fleet

Fryx Games have art here which can stand up to pretty much any other space game. I would have preferred that the card stock for the Fleet boards, Player boards, Player order cards and the cards was thicker. I also would have preferred the cards to be larger but I assume that this was a cost saving decision which I can understand. The components should stand up to many plays and they do look lovely.

Gameplay

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Each round consists of these phases:
1. Player order – using randomly drawn cards, except for the 2 player version which has both players alternating start.

2. Building -1) Buy fleets and upgrades. There are a number of choices from support ships, each with their own abilities to upgrade cards for your fleets. 2) Equip fleets simultaneously. Each player, in turn buys and equips the purchased upgrades. You will be using your limited funds to beef up your fleets from amongst the various options between offensive and defensive measures.

3. Deployment -all players take turns placing their fleet markers
on the systems they want to control this round. Only one Fleet per player can occupy a given system. VP’s are awarded for sole occupation. Battle must occur if opposing fleets are in the same system.  Your strategic decision as to where you place your fleets is at the heart of your success or failure. Although being the sole occupier brings a Victory Point, it may be more advantageous to place a fleet into combat situation. In fact, leaving an opponent alone in a system with a diplomacy action may hurt you more than engaging in combat so you will need to make the best choices that you can, knowing that there are no perfect choices.

4. Diplomacy -The players take turns doing 1 diplomatic action at a time. You may choose from the following actions: 1) If any of your fleets have a diplomacy effect, you may use it. 2) Play a diplomacy action card. 3) withdraw one of your own fleets. 4) force an opponent’s fleet to withdraw from a system.  5) Tax a system where you have a fleet. 6)You may pass

Generally you will spend Diplomacy points in order to do a diplomacy action. There are too many effects to list, nor should I. Suffice to say that diplomacy actions bring benefits directly or indirectly by effecting opponents.

5. Battle – Fleets in the same system must battle. Combat takes place in Initiative order. When a player performs his battle initiative he may also play battle action cards. For combat, you will be rolling dice (in some cases lots of dice) in order to score hits. Attacks take place in priority order, with the first player shooting first in each of the 4 priority stages. Its a good idea to have a good balance of attacking upgrades as well as defending or it will leave your main ship vulnerable. 

6. Rewards -The last phase of the round consists of collecting VPs, rewards, and new resources for the players before the next round begins.

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Winning

The first player to score 7 victory points wins although it is suggested that this should be reduced to 5 for 2-player games and shorter games.

Did I enjoy Fleets – The Pleiad Conflict?

I’ve only been able to play 2-player games so my comments reflect this. 

As a 2-player game, Fleets works really well and I found it to be good fun. The round moves relatively quickly with 2 players but I can imagine that with 4 players, the game will drag on too much for my patience. A head to head game is very attractive to me in Fleets for sure.

Thankfully, this game is pretty much about the conflict and battles. The building is solely about getting your fleets ready for the coming fight and not about building an empire or resource management. Its all about putting your fleet in the best shape possible.  Its not so much a brain burner which I don’t want its about spending effectively to gear up.

Now the combat is dice laden but I have no problem with this at all. Its just about scoring hits or not and makes it very easy to conduct the battles. There is a lot of variety between fleets and you do get to choose between 3 that are available when you are shopping. There are interesting choices between fleet sizes and capabilities. Each fleet has a special capability and different initiative values which keeps things interesting.

No two games will play the same which makes for a lot of replayability.  This may put off those who like to create an optimum strategy or a formula for the best fleet but this is not a puzzle to be solved. This is making the most of what you can leverage with restricted resources. And then when the battle is joined, lady luck has a part to play. To me, this is the unknown factor of battle which is actually realistic. Others may not like that.

I’m not so sure that the the randomness of choosing the start person works with more than 2 players as going first can give an advantage and if a player gets more than one turn in a row to go first, that could unbalance things. Not a problem in 2 player games as the players alternate being first player.

There are some small areas in the rules where more clarity would help. but nothing major at all. Once you get into it, the game plays and the process flows well.

Overall, I really prefer a game at this level. I’ve read about other space games and have often felt that they sounded much to heavy for me. Fleets – The Pleiad Conflict, for me, is challenging and not for beginners but its not about complex mechanics either. Its about fun! And fun is often missing from so many heavier games. It has just enough interesting decisions and complexity to get you to battle, where it all happens. you just better hope that you have enough shields and intercepters to delay the inevitable damage that your main ships will suffer before your fleet goes BOOM!

For further information go to – http://www.fryxgames.se/games/fleets/

Review – Hoyuk from Mage Company

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Review – Hoyuk from Mage Company

2-5 players, Age 10+

Designer – Piere Canuel

Art – Anthony Cournoyer

Many thanks to Mage Company for providing a review copy of this game.

In Hoyuk, the players clan leaders during the Neolithic period who are trying to build part of a village.  You will be building houses, pens for cattle,  shrines, ovens and populating your houses. Life isn’t so simple as you will be competing to build effectively and strategically as well as dealing with the effects of natural catastrophes.

In essence, this is a tile placement game with extra building twists.

 

Unboxing

The first thing that you notice about Hoyuk is the physical weight. It’s pretty heavy and the components are thick and chunky and will stand up to a lot of plays.

You get:

1 Game board

5 sets of 25 houses

40 pens, 20 ovens, 20 shrines, 20 villagers, 20 cattle, 1 shaman, 1 player marker, 5 player counters

24 catastrophe cards

15 construction boards

70 aspect cards

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The production quality is excellent. The art relates the theme well. The images are clear and illustrate what is required in a functional way. The colours are pretty reasonable although only the red is bright enough. The other colours of the tiles stand out against the game board which depicts the village area. Likewise, the art on the cards is attractive and effective.

 

Gameplay

Without going into great detail, here is how the core game works.

First player – An unusual feature of Hoyuk is the choice of first player. The first player who holds the starting player tile, must choose who will be the next starting player. And no player can be the starting player for 2 consecutive turns. This is an interesting rule as it brings a decision as to where the current starting player sees the most benefit to giving a carefully chosen opponent the start tile.

Each round has 4 phases –

Construction (x2) – Each player builds a set of 3 Elements in turn based upon the 1st Construction tile, which can include houses, temples, pens, or ovens. Once all players have used their first construction tile, they then do the same again with their 2nd construction tile.

Houses are the core building unit and can have a 2nd story built on top  or pens built alongside. Shrines and ovens are placed on houses. There are rules governing the placements. Adjacent houses of the same colour create families, Blocks are created of adjacent houses, pens and ruined houses, regardless of colour.

This all sounds a bit cozy but then there are catastrophes…

 

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Catastrophes

After the first round, the current round’s first player chooses a catastrophe card and all effects are applied. Yes, this is a random factor which you don’t find in too many Euro-style games and for me, it makes sense historically as Mother Nature is unpredictable and can be mean and arbitrary. Each catastrophe will affect 1 or more blocks in the village, ruining houses, an aspect card, etc.

Catastrophes include –

Bad Seasons, Droughts, Epidemics, Earthquakes, Fires, Floods, Locusts, Looters, Sacrifices, Tornados, Volcanos and Wolves. Each with their own effects.

Tip – No amount of planning will protect the players completely so it will be important to diversify and spread the risk by building in a number of areas.

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Aspect Cards

Each Block is inspected to determine which player(s) have the lead in each of the 3 aspects (ovens, shrines and pens). These players get an Aspect card corresponding to the aspect they lead in. Aspect cards are only awarded to regarding blocks where more than 1 player has built. So you must connect with other players to create combined blocks to score Aspect cards.

The Aspect cards start in decks for each of the 3 Aspects noted. However, when you spend your Aspect cards, you can place them in any of the piles as long as all cards spent by a player in a turn must be placed in the same deck during a turn.

Aspect cards let you build extra Elements. They can also be used to score victory points by collecting sets.

End of Round

All Aspect cards used are placed in decks. A new start player is chosen.

Game end

When a player places their 25th house, the last round is triggered. Then Final scoring determines which player has won.

Additional rules add villagers, cattle, a Shaman, more Aspect cards and construction cards and finally, individual clan powers.

I’ve only played the core rules version as this was plenty for me (see below).

 

Did I enjoy Hoyuk?

I must be honest and say up front that I am generally not a fan of most Euro-style games as they tend to do my head in. Having said that, I do tend to enjoy simple Euro games.

The feel of the game is logical and interesting as you are placing tiles and also other Elements in order to get points for majorities. So there are some interesting choices to make. The mechanics and game flow work.

The rules are a bit harder to get through than perhaps is necessary and it does take a couple of rounds to get into the flow of things so it is not an elegant game as such. A “quick start” sheet would not go amiss.

The use of Construction boards is a good mechanic. As you get them randomly, you have to work with what you get and I personally like this. If you like to develop a strategy and planning ahead, you are limited by this randomness.

For me, there are a perhaps slightly too many choices, even with the core rules with the construction boards and later as you build up the Aspect cards and have choices how to use them. It works, but it ups the complexity and slows the game for me.

I certainly wouldn’t add the extra rules beyond the core game as it would increase the time length and and “thinkiness”. I would hesitate to play Hoyuk with non-gamers, definitely not beyond the core rules.

On the one hand, I like the use of the random Catastrophe cards as they level the playing field for those of us who aren’t strategic planners. And they aren’t so much a “take that” mechanism as a risk to anyone or all.  Having said that, because there are a number of choices to be made, some players may feel frustrated with getting hit randomly after investing in a strategy.

So where do I stand regarding Hoyuk? Mixed, I’m afraid. I like parts of it, but I essentially wish it was simpler and more elegant. If I compare it to say, Carcassone, for example, I much prefer that game. Hoyuk has too many moving parts for me, even in the core game, for the type of game it is. It leans towards a heavier game and with more players, and advanced rules, is more than what truly works for me.

So overall, its definitely worth a play and some folks who enjoy having a lot of choices will like it more than me but with so many other games competing for my time, I personally won’t be in a hurry to come back to it.

For more information go to – http://magecompany.com/hoyuk.html

 

Review – Villainous Vikings from Victory Point Games

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Review – Villainous Vikings from Victory Point Games

Designed by Jeremy Stoltzfus w/ Graham Weaver

Thanks to Victory Point Games for providing a review copy of this game.

Who doesn’t like Vikings right? And yet, there aren’t a load of notable games out there about Vikings. I wonder why. I mean, the Vikings provide a rich historical flavour as well as the exploration, conquest let alone the mythology. It’s a strange one in board gaming that there isn’t a robust library of awesome games covering this topic.

Well with Villainous Vikings, Victory Point Games have entered the arena so I will tell you what I think about it.

Villainous Vikings is a game for 2-4 players age 13+ that takes about 45 minutes and covers the Vikings at a strategic level with additional elements reflecting the operational raiding and trading aspects as well as the tactical level of battles.

From the rules-
A Viking’s Mission
Your goal in Villainous Vikings is to amass as many Valhalla Points as possible so that after Ragnarök occurs your Captain has the best seat in Valhalla to tell his tales of battle and drink his mead. You will gain Valhalla Points by raiding, trading, and battling the other Captains who are also vying for Odin’s favor.

Unboxing

Here is what comes in the box.
1 Game board with a very nice map depicting Europe and North Africa

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13 counters
4 Shield markers 1 Trade Network token
3 Draugr tokens 1 Conquest Legacy token 4 Longship standees

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The cardboard is thick and sturdy and the artwork is excellent whilst remaining functional. The board comes in 5 parts which are put together in puzzle fashion. The Longship standees stand out in particular as they give the players a 3D ship to move around the board which looks great.

103 cards
9 Asgard cards – these are special gifts from the Nordic Gods which can come in handy
1 Ragnarök card – this card triggers the end of the game

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50 Map cards – these are the locations that the players travel to to attempt their Viking adventures

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23 Hero cards – certain locations have Heroes, Mercenaries or Bosses assigned to them

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12 Longship Crew Section cards – each player has 3 cards which represent 3 crew sections

8 Viking Captain sheets – each captain has their own set of actions, one of which is guaranteed

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The art really stands out for me here. Very thematic, the art really brings out the feeling of the Viking era without being overly cheesy or ultra-authentic. I love the look and feel. The card content is easy to read and clearly laid out. The cards are sturdy and will withstand many plays.

6 dice with stickers
The weak spot in the components if there is one. And this is just about taste. I would have preferred etched dice for the cool factor only. The dice are big and chunky and you have to put stickers on them. The stickers are well done. So the dice are functional and they do the job they are supposed to.

Gameplay

Villainous Vikings is relatively easy to get into. It’s not a complex game and I taught it to a 10 year old who completely grasped the gameplay pretty quickly.

Player Turn
At the beginning of the Current Player’s turn, she may choose to permanently expand the Journey Card Pool by one card if it is not at the maximum of eight cards; the cost of expanding is as follows:
6th Card . . . . . . . . 1 gold
7th Card . . . . . . . . 2 gold
8th Card (Max) . . . . 3 gold

The journey card pool is the game engine and drives the process. Each turn, the players are constantly traveling and looking to conquer, trade or influence, or to replenish crew. The deck mostly has locations which progress in difficulty. Sprinkled into the deck are cards which give you assistance from the Norse Gods.

A starting set of 5 cards are laid out from which to choose from. Each card chosen is replaced with a new card from the deck. A 6th, 7th and 8th card can be bought and added to the available cards displayed.

Each turn, the player takes one of the following actions:
Use a Map card – Raid or Trade – players travel and conduct a Raid or seek to trade. If there is another captain already at the location, a battle between the players might take place
Interact with the Gods via an Asgard card
Regroup in the Northlands to replace crew that have fallen in battle.
Replenish the Journey Card Pool.

The process is easily learned and works very well. There are choice each step of the way and the players don’t always get their own way.

For each Raid, dice are rolled and you will compare attack and defense values to see who wins. If you roll a Hammer, it is usually applied to a captain’s special ability. Each location has its own individual strength and as you proceed through the deck, they become progressively more difficult to overcome, especially as you find locations with Heroes, Mercenaries or Bosses.

A really nice feature is that there is a limit to the number of cards in the deck during a game with plenty of spare cards for future games which means no 2 games will ever be the same. Lots of replay value here.

As an alternative to Raiding, you can opt to trade and this gives you the chance to hire crew and mercenaries and bribe local officials to increase your chances of conquering a location later. There are some really nice touches.

Another nice touch is that the cards have multiple uses including the ability to spend them to aid in a raid or battle for instance and just push you over the top to victory. Trouble is, it’s a trade off as you then lose a card in your hand which might come in handy for victory points.

Ragnarök (game end)
As soon as the Ragnarök card is chosen from the Journey Card Pool, the game ends and the players are summoned to their final showdown in front of Odin the All-Father. Each player has an opportunity to replenish their crew as if trading (two gold per Crew Section to be replenished) before all of the Viking Captains enter a free-for-all Battle against each other. This is very cool. After this you then add up gold and victory points including extra set collection bonuses.

Did I enjoy Villainous Vikings?
For me, a good Viking game has to have the feel of an epic Viking saga along with a sense of the historical. If it’s too silly and reliant upon the myths, I’m not sure it would be as interesting.

Villainous Vikings really gets the balance right. It leans more towards the historical feel which makes it more interesting. You certainly get a feel for the strategic scope of exploration a and raid and trade aspects. The mythology aspect is there but just enough.

This game is easy to play and teach and plays relatively fast but it gives you a nice set of choices. If you just look to raid, you won’t win. You have to pick your battles and also trade effectively or you will be in trouble. There is a push your luck element as you have to ask yourself how far do you risk losing your crew.

Luck plays a reasonable part in the dice rolls and cards but to me this adds to the fun. This is not a simulation or a game for heavy strategists. But you have a nice balance of choices and decisions to make. The dice and cards keep you surprised and having to rethink. This is not a game that allows forward planning. The test is how will you deal with a changing situation.

This game has to be played with 4 players for sure to get the most out of it and guarantee player interaction which is a must in a Viking game.

I would say that Villainous Vikings is a really fun and interesting game which doesn’t lose it’s bite after a number of plays. The design is sound with an emphasis on fun play rather than the detailed minutiae. Combat and trade are nicely abstracted and quick. The pace is good. The tension high as you seek the right combination of conquests to build a strong combat position.

The bottom line? Villainous Vikings is one of my favourite games of 2014 and I highly recommend it if you are interested in the theme and a lightish game with a good balance of luck, choices and player interaction. It would not surprise me at all if this game become one of VPG‘s stronger sellers.

For more information, go to the Victory Point Games website.

http://www.victorypointgames.com/games/villainous-vikings.html

Review – Dragon Slayer from Indie Boards & Cards

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Dragon Slayer: The Odds are in your Favor

by Benny Sperling

Note – This review is of the Kickstarter edition, the retail version may differ.

Dragon Slayer is a push-your-luck dice game with a twist. That twist? Direct player interaction! Or at least 1 round of it for each player. I’ll explain the game first, then we’ll talk about the player interaction.

Unboxing

Dragon Slayer has 12 custom dice, they are embossed so there is less chance to get worn out (I’m looking at you first edition of King of Tokyo). There are 3 Hero dice with 3 axes, 2 shields and 1 flame per die. The odds are in your favor as you’ll need Axes more than anything. The flames are bad and need to be shielded, the axes are used to kill a dragon. Any flames not shield cost the player one of their dice. This is where it can get bad, lose all three dice and you are dragon chow.

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Speaking of dragons, there are 3 dragons, each with its own set of 3 dice.

Gameplay

The player must assemble the whole dragon and have an axe in order to defeat it. 

The Blue dragon, considered the easiest and worth 2 points, has a head die, a wing die and a tail die. Each die has 4 of its body parts and 2 mountains. , odds are still in your favor, the Blue dragon isn’t scary as the only damage you’ll take is from your own hero dice. The Green dragon, worth 4 points, still keeps the odds in your favor though there is 1 flame, 1 mountain and 4 of the body parts per die. Even the Red dragon worth 6 points, is still basically in your favor to get the parts assembled, but 2 flames per die can be deadly! In a recent game, I rolled the 3 Red dragon dice and the 3 hero dice… 3 flames, 3 axes. That was the end of my turn.

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Each turn you can try to fight as many of the dragons as you want, you only score if you defeat a dragon and stop. If you engage a dragon, you must defeat it or lose all of your hero dice. If you defeat all 3 dragons, you can then continue and fight each one again, but you cannot fight the same dragon until each of the 3 are defeated.

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But that’s not all, remember the player interaction? Once per game, you can challenge an opponent to press their luck. They can stop and score, but you earn 5 points. If they keep going and lose, you earn 5 points. If they keep going and win, they earn double the points for that Dragon! And you get 0. This can be a well timed move, but only when played carefully.

The game ends when a player earns 40 points, each player gets an even number of turns.

Verdict

Overall, I quite enjoyed Dragon Slayer, it’s short, about 15 minutes, the dice are great, the scoreboard and cubes are nice to keep track and the reverse of the 2nd scoreboard shows a map of the dragon and what dice get rerolled. It fits nicely with the other Press-Your-Luck games like Zombie Dice or Incan Gold. I would take this one over those two though. Sold game, well done Indie Board and Cards.

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Note: this copy was received as part of my backing the Kickstarter campaign.

 

For more information – http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/158243/dragon-slayer