Tag Archives: family board games

Review – Eruption from Stratus Games

Review – Eruption from Stratus Games

Designer – Chris James

Art – Andy Kurzen and Matt Plett

Thanks to Stratus Games for providing a review copy of this game

Ther are plenty of family board games out there and it certainly takes something special to stand out from the crowd in the crowded marketplace pitching at families. Getting shelf space and the attention of the masses is challenging for sure. What’s interesting about Stratus Games is that they make no bones about their target audience which is families and those who prefer rather simple board games. So you may not see games from them which will suit hobby gamers.

As you should be able to tell from previous posts, I am attracted to these type of games, primarily due to time constraints. They generally don’t take very long to learn, nor teach and they don’t take very long so they are good for introducing new or social gamers as well as families for the most part.

Eruption, a game for 2-6 players, age 10+ fits the bill here, at least on paper. The basic premise of the game is that each player has to defend their village from the on-coming lava flow from an erupting volcano as well as divert the lava flow so it attacks your neighbours’ villages.  Is Eruption worth your time and hard earned cash? Let’s dive in and find out.

Unboxing

Eruption comes in a sturdy box and you will notice that the board, tiles and cards are all nicely done. The cartoony artistic stle on the cover and components sets you up nicely that this game is meant to be fun, not a scientific venture about volcanoes. I found the whole package to be very attractive and very well made.

Inside the box you get –

1 game board – clearly showing the erupting volcano and surounding villages on the island as well as a victory point track. I really appreciated that space was also used to place a reminder of the game turn actions.

40 Lava tiles – used to control the direction of the lava flow

2 Eruption tiles – nasty problems are caused by these

48 wall pieces (straw, wood and stone) – used to try and slow the lava’s progress (yeah I know, straw isn’t going to stop much lava is it? But its a fun game, so go with it…)

36 Action cards – giving you a number of options to help yourself or hinder others and adding to the games replayability

6 scoring markers

2 dice

Gameplay

As Eruption is aimed at an audience who wants easy to learn and play games, you won’t be surprised to find that the rules aren’t very long. They are relatively easy to digest and it shouldn’t take you long to set up and get to playing.

Each player starets with 3 Action cards, one of each type of wall piece and the lava tiles are stacked and placed face-down on the volcano center. the 3 Explosion tiles are placed beside the board and points markers in the starting position. Depending on the number of players, players choose their village and matching points marker.

The Objectives are –

Prevent your village from being burned by incoming lava

Direct the lava toward other villages instead of your own

Each turn consists of the following steps, in order:

1. Assess damage for any lava flows in contact with your village

– Here you add Burn meter points to your score for each lava contacting your village (burning it)

2. Draw and place a Lava Tile

– you will look to steer the lava flow away from your own village if possible towards the other villages

3. Play as many Action Cards as desired (maximum hand is 3 cards)

– these can be very helpful in specific actions or to trade in for walls to stem the tide of the lava flow

4. Build a single wall, if desired

 – Hmmm… do I try and block a flow or build my village resources? And which material? Obviously stone is best but I only have straw!!!

 The turn steps move along quickly and there are a nice amount of choices for you to consider without burning your brain so definitely good for non-gamers and families.

As the temperature rises and enters a danger zone, the exploding lava tiles are triggered which can be placed to cause mayhem in the best strategies of your opponents who carefully protected themselves. I love this dynamic. You always have a chance to have a go at hurting another player. Tile placement is regulated with simple rules that call for alignment with other lava flows. Blocking walls are overcome if the die roll goes against you. The stronger the material, the better your odds of blocking. Obviously straw is barely helpful.

The game ends when either of the following events occurs:

1. A village burns up completely by reaching the last space on the Burn Meter and remaining there at the end of the player’s turn. The stack of remaining Lava Tiles is then removed from the board and all other players take one last turn.

-or-

2. The stack of remaining Lava Tiles is depleted. When the last tile is placed, the current player finishes his turn and every player takes one last turn, including the player who placed the last Lava Tile.

The player whose village is at the lowest temperature on the Burn Meter wins!

All in all, the whole process moves along well, is easy to get into and works very well.

Did it work for me?

Stratus Games has a very nice game with Eruption. The design has just enough meat for an entry to board gaming beyond a lot of overly-simple games out there. There is loads of replayability as the random choosing of tiles and cards as well as the luck element of the dice (which brings just enough luck to the experience) but isn’t too dominant a feature. You have to think about tile placement and minimise the threat to your village which isn’t easy at times as you are stuck with whichever tile you’ve picked.  The tension increases with the temperature of your village and the incoming threats. Interesting and fun, yes indeed.

Another aspect which is a both challenging and frustrating is that you can only pull more Action cards after you enter the 2nd danger zone and the cards then become a dominant feature through the last phases of the game. I didn’t have a problem with this really but it can swing things late in the game in particular, so if you are a planner and don’t like randomness you may struggle with Eruption.

Be aware , that this is an agressive game with loads of interaction and “gotcha” tactics required. Eruption is all about hammering your competition and burning them to the ground. So, some people may not like the in-your-face agression. Also, It is easy to feel picked on as you can be ganged up on quickly, and painfully. Over the long hall you can get your own back to a fair degree , however it may be a case of too little, too late if you are picked on early. Not a problem in the 2-player game but could get worse with more players, so this is an issue. One really nice remedy to that though is to play in teams and I think that this is where the game is at its best. In teams, you can always support and help each other and I think the team game is my preferred version and will be less threatening to those who don’t like “gotcha” games.

Very nice production and a fun game for sure.

Boardgames in Blighty rating 7.5

Family friendly?

Yes, but only if the kids are ok with the strong “gotcha” interaction.

For more information go to – www.stratusgames.com

Review – Gold Mine from Stratus Games

Review – Goldmine from Stratus Games

Designer – Chris James

Art – Andy Kurzen

note – thanks to Stratus Games for providing a review copy of this game

Having recently read an article about the top 10 selling family board games which includes the extremely tired, old “classics” such as Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, Game of Life, CluedoSorry, etc. I find myself feeling very frustrated that there are a lot more family board games out there that just aren’t being brought to the awareness of the public as they should.

Folks, listen… There are loads of new and different family board games out there beyond what you might find at the supermarket, the department store or Toys R Us. With just a little bit of effort, check on the internet and you will find local board game retailers such as our sponsor Rules of Play or online retailers, that can provide you with a wide selection of games that  breath life into your family gaming.

Here is a game that you may find fun and interesting called Gold Mine from Stratus Games.

A tile-laying game for for 2-6 players age 8+ (you can probably play with younger children actually), the object of the game is to collect gold nuggets.

From the Stratus Games website –

Gold Mine is a unique tile-laying game in which players build a maze of mine tunnels and control miners that traverse the mine collecting gold nuggets. Players race to be the first to collect enough gold to exit the mine and stake a claim. It may sound easy, but the greedy miners have several tricks up their sleeves in order to gain an advantage—including sneaking through secret passages, fighting for gold, and scaring away other miners with bats.

Unboxing

Opening the box, you will notice that that Status Games has produced a quality product. The tiles are sturdy and have very nice colourful art depicting the different sections of the mine that you can put together. The plastic miners are very nicely done as are the gold nuggets. The Bat Challenge and Gold Challenge tokens are also of good quality. It all looks  and feels very nice indeed so immediately I was keen to play.

Gameplay

There are 2 aspects to playing Gold Mine – Collect the required number of gold nuggets and exit the mine before any other player and prevent other players from getting rich instead.

There are different amounts of gold nuggets required to win depending upon the amount of players – •2 Players: 10 Gold Nuggets •3 to 4 Players: 7 Gold Nuggets •5 to 6 Players: 5 Gold Nuggets

The game flow is as follows:

I. Development mining- Place 20 tiles randomly to start the mine. The random placement means no 2 games will play exactly the same. The tiles are placed in alignment with other tiles to make sure that the mine pathways are connected.

II. Production mining Repeat for each turn:

(Each player places his Miner at the base of the ladder on the Mine Entrance tile, takes a turn (see Turns), and play continues in a clockwise direction)

A. miner movement may do one of the following:

1. Place 1 tile to build more of the mine (there are specific placement rules to ensure the tiles are placed correctly) and move to an adjacent tile

2. Roll a die and  move up to the number of tiles indicated

3. Traverse Secret Passage – Roll both dice and if you roll doubles or a 7, you can move from one Secret Passage til to another anywhere in the mine

4. You can Pass and not take any action

B. Miner action may do either/both of the following:

1. Collect Gold Nugget – Gold Nuggets are placed on the center of all Gold Chamber tiles immediately after they are played and players can collect them if they end they’re turn in the same space. Once a Gold Nugget is collected from a Gold Chamber tile, no more Gold Nuggets may be placed on the tile, except as the result of a Gold Challenge. So this makes for a real challenge as players will look to place the Gold Chamber tiles to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of the other players.

2. Initiate Challenge – This is where players can really interact with each other to prevent the other players from succeeding. Players can attempt to steal a Gold Nugget for from others by issuing a Gold challenge. Another way to make things difficult for other players is to issue a Bat challenge which gives you the chance to send bats in their direction to move them from their current position. Each player has a small amount of tokens to issue challenges so you need to be thoughtful as to when you use them.

Younger children may struggle initially with seeing these actions as “fair” so its an opportunity for parents to teach about interaction in games that can be done in a fun way.

The rules are written well, are easy to understand and have good illustrations to help with learning the game. There are also optional rules to add a layer of complexity and challenge for more experienced players.

Did it work for me?

Gold Mine, is a well designed game with an easy to understand and play mechanics system. It looks really nice and is fun and has a really good layer of interactive play where you can really get at each other in a fun way. The challenges are fun if luck based with the die rolls and thats fine in a family game.

Gold Mine is not meant to be a heavy strategic game and there is a fair amount of randomness but families should certainly enjoy it.

I have 2 issues though. First, with a lot of players, it just takes too long and I would recommend that a maximum of 4 players would be best. It all works well enough but it seems to take a long time for a game of this level of simplicity. Alternatively, perhaps a goal of 3 nuggets for 5-6 players would be better. Also, you can get trapped in dead end areas when using the secret passages which is a risk you take, but relying on the die rolls to escape can mean a long, boring wait. I would suggest a range die rolls would be less frustrating rather than doubles or a 7 which are rare.

Otherwise, I was happy with the experience of playing Gold Mine and would suggest it as a nice alternative to the typical games which are all too readily available.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6.5 out of 10

Family friendly?

Yes, this is a family game

For more information go to –http://www.stratusgames.com/games/gold-mine