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My thoughts on a specific game, module, or story.

Game Review: Hanabi

The festival has begun, but it is what is yet to come that concerns you. The finale for the day: the fireworks. Your fireworks. Well, yours and your companions’, of course. Together, you will make a show that will be famous for ages to come. On the other hand, putting on a fireworks show is a dangerous, complicated endeavor. One mistake too many and your show might be infamous for all the wrong reasons.

Maybe you are an illustrious firework manufacturer desperate to avoid ruining your own show… Or maybe you’re playing Hanabi.

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Designed by Antoine Bauza and published by R&R Games, Hanabi is a co-operative card game for 2-5 players. In it, you play as firework manufacturers who are trying to stop a mistake from ruining their show. Your dazzling “firework” display consists of cards, numbered one to five in different colors, being laid. There can only be one pile of each color, piles can only consist of a single color, and cards have to be laid in ascending numeric order. The higher the numbers get, the better your show!

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it would be… If not for the twist that makes Hanabi fairly unique. Each player can see each other player’s hands of cards, but not their own. You play with your hand of cards facing out, not in. So, how do you know what to play? The game comes with eight blue clock tokens and, instead of playing a card on your turn, you can spend one of the clock tokens from the team pool to give any other player a hint of what’s in their hand. There are only two types of hints you can give, and they have to follow some rules. A hint can be telling someone what cards in their hand are a certain color or telling them what cards in their hand are a certain number. In either case, you can only indicate this information by pointing at specific cards (i.e. “You have one red card in your hand,” while pointing to the red card) and you must indicate every card to which the information applies (i.e. you cannot only point at the one number 4 card you want them to play if they have more than one number 4 card). If you run low on the clock tokens, you can also, on your turn, discard a card from your hand to get a token added to the pool. You need to be careful, of course. Discarding the wrong card could make it impossible for your team to score as high as they want.

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Think it’s easy to tell what cards are in your hand?

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How about now?

And, of course, you can’t just play willy nilly without fear of consequence. Every time you play something illegally (a number that is not the next one that should be played, or a double of something already played), you take one of three black fuses out of the game, indicating the fuse getting shorter and you running out of time. After your team makes 3 mistakes, the game is over and you have to score with what you’ve successfully played on the table. The game also ends you run out of cards from the draw pile or (and this seems rare) you successfully make it to the number 5 card on each of the suits.

Hanabi is a hard game. The hidden information mechanic tied with the limits to what hints can be given make it difficult to play anything in certainty of safety. It’s also a hard game to follow the rules of, especially for new players. Habit may force you to accidentally draw your hand facing you or to give away more information than you are supposed to. It’s hard not to grimace when a fellow player takes what you told them and makes entirely the wrong decision with the information, or announces with certainty that they have deduced what’s in their hand, and is entirely incorrect. While it’s important to try to avoid those types of mistakes, making them doesn’t break the game. If you accidentally look at your cards, shuffle them into the pile and draw replacements (without looking this time, of course). If you accidentally say something that’s you shouldn’t have, just apologize and avoid doing it again.

Mind you, you should also be sensible about what consists of someone innocently, accidentally, breaking a rule. A player might accidentally gasp a profanity or shake their head when someone says something wrong. It is far more unlikely they accidentally shout “No, you fool! That card is a red three, not a green one! How could you be so moronic as to confuse the two!”…Or something like that. Besides, that person sounds angry and mean. You probably shouldn’t play with them, anyways.

If you’re a real masochist and the game is proving too easy, you can always make use of the built-in extra challenge that comes in many versions: a sixth suit of cards, which are multicolor. Depending on how much you want to punish yourself, this suit can work as simply an extra suit or can be a suit of “wild” cards, which have to be piled individually like any other suit, but which count as every color when giving information (i.e. you’d have to indicate them no matter what colors you’re hinting about).

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For those who like a challenge, or hate winning games.

Personally, I’ve never hit a perfect score in the normal, five-suit game (heck, I’m not even sure I’ve broken 20 points), so I don’t think I’ll be adding the multicolor deck to my game anytime soon.

Difficulty aside, Hanabi is still a lot of fun. The hidden information makes it unlike any other card game I know of. It’s also really, really satisfying to play. You never really lose in Hanabi, you just don’t succeed as well as you might have, and that seems to take some of the sting out of a poor performance. It doesn’t have the same level of stress as some other co-operative games (I’m looking at you, Pandemic and Forbidden Island), so it’s a good choice if you want to work together without that tangible sense of urgency.

Done right, your fireworks show will be remembered for a lifetime… And played well, a perfect game of Hanabi might be, too.

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Posted by on June 17, 2017 in Board Games

 

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Game Review: Dungeon Roll

You roll your shoulders. Things had not gone well. Your thief went down with a goblin arrow to the leg. Your mage used up all of her spells on the last group of oozes to swarm around you. And now… Another roar. The ground shakes. It is coming.

You look to either side of you. The champion next to you nods. The fighter unlimbers his sword. They are ready, as are you. The Dragon is coming… and you are waiting.

Maybe you make a career delving depths and fighting monsters… Or maybe you’re playing Dungeon Roll.

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Dungeon Roll is a dice rolling game designed by Chris Darden and published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It balances some press-your-luck mechanics (deciding how deep to go in the dungeon) with a little bit of hand management (deciding what dice to use when and how), all with a heavy sprinkling of fantasy theme. In it, players take the roll of heroes, leading a party of adventurers (rolled dice) into a dragon’s lair. They go as deep as they can before either returning to the surface with their treasure, or dying. Painfully. Possibly by being eaten by a dragon.

Ok, so the rulebook says they just “flee the dungeon,” but we all know what that’s code for, right? Dragon chow.

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It also comes in the best box design I’ve ever seen.

The game itself is pretty simple. Each players turn is one delve into the dungeon. They start by forming a party by rolling the seven white party dice. Each face is a different class or special item that is part of their party. Then, starting at level one (the game provides a ten-sided die to count how deep in the dungeon you’ve gone), another player rolls black monster dice for them: one die for level one, two dice for level two, etc. Using the party dice, the players have to deal with whatever comes up on the monster dice, but each party die can only be used once per delve. You have to be a bit strategic about what dice you’re using where, though. A cleric can only counter one goblin, for instance, but can counter any number of skeletons that come up in a roll. Ideally you want to defeat multiple monsters with as few party dice as possible. After you’ve dealt with all the monsters rolled for that level, you can decide to stop your delve and gain experience equal to your current level of dungeon, or go down one level to face fresh monsters. After every player has made 3 delves, whoever has the most experience points wins.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. One face of the monster dice has an icon for the dragon. If any dragons are rolled, they are set aside while the party deals with the level they’re on, and don’t get returned to the monster dice. If a total of three dragon dice get rolled in one delve, the dragon has been awakened, and the player has to defeat it in addition to everything else that has been rolled for that level. The dragon awards extra experience and treasure if it’s defeated, but it takes three different party dice (so it can’t be three fighters, or a thief and two clerics) to beat it. And, naturally, if the player ever finds it impossible to beat all the monsters of a given level, they get eaten have to flee, and gain no experience. You’re facing a constant tension, then, between going a bit further to get more treasure and experience, and playing it safe and taking what you’ve got.

Dungeon Roll adds some strategy that other press-your-luck dice rolling games lack through the inclusion of treasure and hero cards. Treasure – won by unlocking treasure chests rolled on the monster dice or by defeating dragons – is worth extra points if unused at the end of the game. In a pinch, though, you can also use the treasure in various ways to help. Is the sacrifice of the points worth keeping you alive for another roll? Maybe, maybe not, it’s a choice you have to make. The hero cards are even more fun. At the start of the game, each player is assigned one of eight unique hero cards. Each hero grants the players one Specialty and one Ultimate Ability. You can use the Specialty as often as it’s appropriate in a delve; you can use the Ultimate Ability once a delve. The Hero cards even level up, getting more powerful abilities after you hit 5 experience points. Picking the perfect time for the Hero card abilities adds a bit more critical thinking to the otherwise simple “do I or don’t I keep going” challenge of the game.

The unique abilities do lead to some problems with Dungeon Roll. First, the wording of the abilities of the heroes is… minimal. Many of them are pretty straight forward, but some seem a bit trickier to understand. You can find clarification online pretty easily, but the need to look up that clarification in the first place is a point against Dungeon Roll. The variable powers of the Hero cards can also seem a bit unbalanced. In my opinion, some cards are simply better than others.

The other problem with Dungeon Roll comes from the somewhat isolating experience of it. Sure, the game supports up to 4 players (more than that and the treasure reserve starts to be strained), but it really only plays one person at a time. When its your turn to delve, you’re making decisions, rolling dice, fighting monsters, and everyone else is… Watching? Waiting for their turn? Talking to each other and not paying attention anyways? Ok, so one other player can roll the monster dice for you (and what a thrill that is), but besides that, you’re playing by yourself. If you’re ok with that – a game where you play for a bit and then socialize until your next turn – than that’s great. It’s not really a group experience though.

Maybe that makes sense, though. Maybe Dungeon Roll is meant to be enjoyed most as a challenge to yourself, independent of what your rivals do. After all, when your back is to the wall, when your Cleric is spent and your Thief is missing, when you hear the dragon coming, what do you have but yourself? Well yourself, and maybe a Vorpal Sword or an Ultimate Ability up your sleeve…

 

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2017 in Board Games

 

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Game Review: Dungeon Petz

Well. This isn’t your best showing. The Dungeon Lords are coming to see your pets, but your pens are knee-deep in manure, your Snakitty has escaped, and your Cthulie has somehow mutated an extra eye. You’d like to purchase the Direburnny to add to your shop, but your only available employees (good-for-nothing cousins you only hired because they were related to you) are laid up in the hospital (no doubt perfectly healthy, but enjoying the free meals and attention). Life is hard for a Pet Shop owner…

Maybe you should have avoided nepotistic hiring practices… Or maybe you’re playing Dungeon Petz.

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Dungeons Pets is a worker-placement game designed by Vlaada Chvatil and published by Czech Games Edition and Z-Man Games. In it, 2 to 4 players take on the roles of industrious Imps opening monstrous pet shops, rearing and showing the pets for eventual sale to Dungeon Lords. Using a limited amount of employees, you have to attend your pets needs, do your shopping, present your pets to prospective customers, among other tasks, all in the hope of raising the perfect pet to fit the needs of a Dungeon Lord to get rich selling it.

Now this is the point where, normally, I’d describe some of the basic rules of the game, or go over what happens in a turn. I’m not going to try to do that with Dungeon Pets. The truth is, despite whimsical art and a theme that seems fairly light, maybe even kid-friendly, this is a complicated game. I think any attempt at summarizing the rules on my part would either: (a) make it sound more confusing and complicated than simply reading through the (admittedly quite lengthy) rulebook; or, (b) push me way, way over the type of word count I aim for in these reviews. Suffice to say, a turn consists of placing your workers on specific areas of the board to achieve desired tasks, such as purchasing new pets, food, or pens; earning more money; then playing cards to meet your pets various needs, such as hunger or a desire to play; then showing off your pets in exhibitions to try to gain extra reputation as a pet shop; and finally trying to sell the pets to make some money for the next round and earn even more reputation. At the end of the game, the player whose shop has the highest reputation wins.

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It’s a busy board, even with only a few players taking actions on it.

If some of that sounds lengthy or complicated… Well, it’s because it is. A game is only 5 (4 players) or 6 (2 or 3 players) long, and is still likely to take an hour and a half or more. It’s also worth noting that the rulebook is a good, text-packed 20 pages long. While it’s helpful for explaining everything in details – including a 3 page appendix that goes over all of the various customers, exhibits, artifacts, and pets in detail – it’s a heavy enough read to be discouraging to people looking for something light and quick to pick up. I think you’re going to need at least two or three playthroughs of the whole game before you’ll feel comfortable enough with it to not double check every other decision in the rulebook, let alone try to teach it to somewhere else.

Perhaps the strangest thing about Dungeon Petz being so heavy is that, looking at it, you wouldn’t expect it. The theme of the game seems quirky and lighthearted: raise pets (albeit monstrous ones) to sell. The artwork also seems to suggest a comical game. David Cochard’s illustrations – especially the pictures of the 18 unique and original pets – are just silly. In full disclosure, even though I’m not a big fan of worker-placement games to begin with, I bought this one knowing nothing about it just because the name and the boxart grabbed me so. Who wouldn’t want to raise a one-eyed, one-horned, hair-covered vegetarian monster named Trollie?

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The Pets are cute…

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And, somehow, so are the Dungeon Lords.

As I said, I’m not typically a fan of worker-placement games and this one seemed more… work than most. There’s only so often you can choose between going shopping or cleaning the manure out of your pet pens before the tasks start to seem more like chores than a game. Combined with the fact that the humour found in the theme and through the joke-filled rulebook doesn’t actually seem to appear in the play of the game itself, the jump from admiring the cute monsters to working through another round of decided which chores you can and can’t spare an imp to do seems particularly jarring.

In all, Dungeon Petz is a very heavy worker-placement game. It is rules-intensive and does not lend itself to quick learning or quick play. That being said, if you enjoy that kind of game, this is a good one. The rules are detailed enough to avoid any situations where things get blurred, and the high need for constant decision making and prioritizing makes it a strategist’s dream. Don’t let the artwork or the cute theme fool you, though. Like the dreaded pets you sell, it might seem cute and cuddly on the surface, but it’s dangerous under the skin.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2017 in Board Games

 

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Game Review: Forbidden Island

The water is rising. The Earth Stone is safe in your backpack, and the Ocean’s Chalice is within grasp, if only you can make it to the Coral Palace before the marsh your wading through floods entirely. You’ll have to trust your team-mate’s to have succeeding in their tasks, getting the other treasure’s. You’re all due back at the helicopter soon, because the water is rising, and this island will soon be lost to the ocean… Along with anyone still on it.

Maybe you should invest in some scuba gear… Or maybe you’re playing Forbidden Island.

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Forbidden Island is a co-operative adventure game designed by Matt Leacock and published by Gamewright. For 2 to 4 players, the game has players explore a constantly-flooding island through an action point allowance system, with the players trying to collect all four of the island’s treasures and escape before it is lost below the water. Through unique player powers and item cards, players can take some steps to slow the sinking of the island, but in the end they’re in a race against time for treasure… And survival.

Like many co-operative games, Forbidden Island has a single victory goal and several ways to lose. Tiles containing the treasure you need sink? You lose. The helicopter pad you need to escape sinks? You lose. Water gets to high? Lose. Player dies? Definitely lose.

You can only win if you and your team get all the treasure, then you all make it back to the helicopter pad, and you all escape with a helicopter lift card. With so many things that can go wrong, Forbidden Island can be a stressful game. Interestingly, though, I think it’s actually a lot harder to lose than it sounds. Yes, there’s lots of ways you can lose, but there’s also lots of steps you can take to mitigate those risks. In all the times I’ve played, I’ve only ever lost by the water level rising too high, which is the only thing you can’t directly prevent through abilities or cards… And even that I’ve only seen once or twice. So while it can be stressful, it’s not necessarily a hard game to win. And the adrenaline-fueled feeling when you push through the stress and reach victory is a rush.

I really like the board mechanics and physical parts of this game. The tiles comprising the island are sturdy, beautifully drawn, and seem like the kind of thing you’d find in adventure books like Treasure Island. The Crimson Forest, The Coral Palace, The Cliffs of Abandon… The tile names are just fun, and the way they are shuffled and laid out at the start of the game means the board is different every time you play. The inclusion of plastic figurines for each of the four treasures is also neat. Mechanically, “claiming” the treasures could have been accomplished with cards or even just a check list, but the three-dimensional figurines somehow make it seem more of an accomplishment.

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You need to claim all four treasures and escape alive to win.

The only complaints I have about Forbidden Island are small ones. As I said above, the game seems easier than some other co-operative games I’ve played, to the point where – as long as you don’t make any serious mistakes and don’t get very unlucky – it’s rare to lose. Now, the game does allow the difficulty to be adjusted by changing how high the water is at the start of the game, allowing it room to rise 9 times at the easiest, and only 6 at the hardest. Since, in my experience, the water rising is one of the most likely causes for defeat, and the higher it starts the faster it goes, this changes the game from fairly easy to quite difficult very quickly. The step from the “normal” setting to the next difficulty up can make the game harder and more stress-filled to the point of not being fun anymore for some players, so you’ll need to try it out to find what starting point is most fun for you. My other problem comes in the six unique character roles players are randomly assigned. Each role grants a unique ability… But some just seem more useful than others. More than once, I’ve heard (and given) sighs of disappointment at an assigned role.

Those small complaints aside, though, Forbidden Island is a fun game, and it’s co-operative nature makes it a nice break from more competitive games. The immanent threat of the rising water makes for an interesting sense of stress, of the need to win, without (usually) getting too frustrating. It’s also fairly quick to learn and easy to teach, which is good…

After all, it’s really a matter of sink or swim on the Forbidden Island.

 

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2017 in Board Games

 

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Game Review: Sheriff of Nottingham

The law is after you… again. What else is new? Others might be willing to live under the thumb of the law, clawing out a profit with what little goods the law allows them, cheese and apples, bread and roosters… But not you. The things you plan on selling may be illegal to bring in without paying the exorbitant taxes the Sheriff has put on them, but hey, business is risk, right? You’re sure you can smuggle in the best merchandise. And, even if the Sheriff does get suspicious, it’s nothing that a gold coin or two can’t fix.

Maybe you’re a criminal smuggler, trying to make a quick buck under the eye of corrupt law… Or maybe you’re playing Sheriff of Nottingham.

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Sheriff of Nottingham– no, you know what, I’m going to just call it Sheriff from now on and save myself some typing. Sheriff is a bluffing and negotiation game with a solid sprinkling of card drafting and set collecting. Originally designed by Sergio Halaban and Andre Zatz, the game plays 3-5 players. In it, players are merchants trying to make the most money by secretly bringing in goods to the town. Players also take turns, however, taking on the role of the titular Sheriff, who can confiscate any illegal goods they catch other player’s bringing in under their watch. As no one can see what a player is bringing in until they are allowed to proceed, the game revolves around the Sheriff trying to guess when someone is bringing in something illegal and the merchants trying to bluff their way past the Sheriff. Of course, when bluffing doesn’t work, bribes and deal-making is allowed, too.

The rules are a bit complex to explain, but prove a bit simpler than they sound in play. On a turn, players:

  1. Go to market (exchanging a number of cards from their hands for fresh ones).
  2. Load their merchant bags (putting a number of cards they want to bring into town, or to score, into their bags).
  3. Declare their goods (tell the Sheriff what is in their bags; this may or may not be the truth).
  4. Inspect the bags (the Sheriff may, but does not have to, look for contraband in any of the merchant bags; finding contraband is good for the Sheriff, accusing someone of having contraband and being wrong is bad for the Sheriff. And of course, the Sheriff can be bribed or negotiated with, to affect his decision).
  5. Bring in goods (any legal goods and any contraband that the Sheriff did not find is placed in the player’s merchant stand; everyone draws back up to a full hand of goods, and the Sheriff position is passed).
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Who says that corruption doesn’t pay? Being the Sheriff means you can get a cut of the profits.

Like I said, some of the finer points of what is and is not allowed can seem a bit intimidating in explanation. In what order are cards drawn from the discard pile or deck? How many cards can be drawn or loaded into the bag in a turn? How are penalties are if contraband is caught or if a false accusation is made? I think, in particular, the rules that govern the bluffing can be tricky for new players. You can lie, but only in very specific ways: you must declare an accurate number of goods, you must only declare one type of good, you must only declare legal goods. Once people become familiar with the rules, though, they’re easy enough to follow.

I’m a big fan of the physical parts of this game. The cards are all well made and good looking. The merchant bags add a nice touch to the act of bringing items in; realistically, it would be just as effective to play cards face down, but having the bags allows people to handle them without risk of peeking, and that’s somehow more fun.

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What’s in bag? What’s in the bag?

Of course, the real fun of this game is in the social aspect of it. Merchants bringing in goods can bluff about what is in their sacks, or can try to negotiate a deal or a bribe with the Sheriff to make sure they don’t inspect the sacks. Of course, since it benefits the player for the Sheriff to inspect their sack when they don’t have contraband, sometimes players will try to double bluff their way into getting inspected. The whole situation can range anywhere from intense to downright silly.

Of course, having such loose rules about what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to negotiation can lead to a slowed down game. If your Sheriff has a bad case of analysis paralysis, the inspection phase can take a looooong time. If you are finding that’s the case, you may want to house-rule a time limit for this phase.

The other odd thing I found in this game is the fact that, for a game that seems to focus on bluffing and contraband, it is often seems a better plan not to use any contraband at all. Yes, the contraband is worth more points than legal goods at the end of the game. But, because there are large amounts of bonus points for bringing in the most of each legal good, you can often make up the difference by focusing on those. There is no end-game bonus for amount of contraband snuck in. Not to mention bringing in only legal goods avoids any risk of penalties on your part and gets you a bonus if the Sheriff inspects. All in all, in the games I have played, I tended to end up with a far better score at the end of it when I played legal as much as I could.

Of course, maybe I’m just a bad bluffer. Could that be it?

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…Nahhh.

In any case, Sheriff of Nottingham is good, social fun. Just remember that the backbone of the game is lying, so maybe make sure you play it with people who aren’t likely to hold a grudge. They’ll get their turn as Sheriff, too, after all. And we all know that, in truth, there is no honor among thieves.

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2017 in Board Games

 

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Game Review: Tsuro

The wind caressing your face, greeting you like an old friend as you glide through it. You’ve been soaring the pathways of these skies for millennia, you know them as you know your own home. You are not in them alone, though. Others have come. Others fly your skies. You allow it, peacefully. There is no conflict between you and the others, so long as your paths do not collide. For if they do, if you meet another in your flight, neither can survive.

It’s time to take to the skies, to soar as a dragon. It’s time to play Tsuro.

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Tsuro is a tile-laying game for 2 to 8 players, designed by Tom McMurchie and published by Calliope Games. I’ve played a fair amount of games, and yet Tsuro may be the most peaceful board game I’ve ever come across. In it, players take on the roles of dragons in flight. They take turns laying tiles, each with a unique set of paths on them, and following the path they are on. If they encounter an already placed tile, they continue along it’s path as well. If a player is forced to follow a path off of the game board, they are eliminated. If two players follow paths that make them collide, both are eliminated. That last dragon still in flight is the winner.

The game is simple. A turn has you draw a tile and place a tile, then move your dragon stone along the path you’ve laid (and move any other dragon your tile has affected along the path, as well). Every one of the 35 tiles are unique, and can be placed in any orientation, so it benefits players to think a few moves ahead, to make sure you don’t end up cornering yourself. Since you have to lay a tile that connects to the path your dragon is already on, it’s rare that your tiles directly affect another player (though it is possible, if you are close enough to one another); because of this, you don’t really conflict with others. You’re trying to share the board with them, not really force them off of it. That adds to the peaceful, almost meditative, play style.

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The game may start off with some clear paths…

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…only to get pretty crowded by the end.

The game is beautiful. The tiles are well made, the dragon tokens solid and almost smooth in your hand like a worry stone. Even the instructions are artistic, made to look painted onto thin rice paper. The whole thing seems as much an artistic pursuit as a game.

I mentioned the game simplicity, and I do think it cannot be overstated. It’s a very basic game, with little to no player conflict, only the smallest touches of strategy, and relying mainly on luck. Unlike some other games I’ve played (and reviewed), though, I don’t think the simplicity of this one hurts its replayability. Don’t get me wrong, I think you need to be in a very particular mood to enjoy Tsuro to it’s full extent; if you’re looking for an active, strategic game, this one might fall a bit flat. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something calm, something somewhat soothing, then Tsuro could provide hours of peaceful enjoyment.

The skies over the board might not be endless, but your enjoyment of Tsuro may just be.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2017 in Board Games

 

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Game Review: Zombie Dice

Brains…. Braaains… Brains good. Meat run fast. Catch meat. Eat most braaaaains…

Boomboom? Uh oh…

Maybe you need to up your vocabulary… Or maybe you’re playing Zombie Dice.

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Zombie Dice is a dice-rolling party game by Steve Jackson Games. In it, players (as many as you want) take the rolls of zombies, each try to get as many delicious brains as possible before taking too many shotgun blasts to the face. It’s a press-your-luck style game; a player’s turn consists of a series of dice rolls, each one increasing the chances for more brains, but also upping the risk of getting shot and getting nothing at all. With it’s thirteen custom dice and it’s simple rules, Zombie Dice is easy to learn and quick to play.

On their turn, a player takes 3 random dice from the dice cup without looking. Dice are color coded by risk; green are the safest, yellows are medium, and reds are the riskiest. Players roll the dice, setting aside Brain results (needed for victory) and Shotguns (3 of these end the turn). Players can choose to score (taking points equal to the number of rolled Brains) or continue. If they continue, they re-roll any dice that came up Footprints on the first roll, along with enough fresh dice from the cup to total 3. If at any point a player gets 3 Shotguns, though, their turn ends immediately and they score no points. Players keep going until someone gets 13 points; then everyone finishes a last round, and whoever has the most points wins.

The real beauty in Zombie Dice is it’s simplicity. Players can learn it by the first turn and jump right in. Aside from deciding when to push on and when to play it safe and score your points, there’s no real strategy. This can be a draw, especially for newer gamers who aren’t after heavy games, or for anyone looking for a quick, light game. The unlimited number of players makes this game a nice one to include as an option for a large group, since it allows people to drop in and out of it fairly quickly and smoothly.

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You have a chance for more than 3 points, but do you risk just one more shotgun?

Of course, the lack of real strategy might make the game bore some players. Certainly it’s not a game to play over and over again in a short time. There’s only so much you can stretch the fun of rolling the same dice again and again and again. The other real downside of the game is that it has no inherent social elements about it, which I think is strange for a “party” game. Sure, you can talk to the other players, but not only is there not anything in the game requiring it, there isn’t really anything in the game even prompting it. When I played, we would try to convince one another to keep going (often trying to push each other into riskier and riskier plays), but that was really it. Nothing you do can affect other players or interacts with anything other players have. It’s almost like the game is a bunch of people playing a solitaire dice game at the same time, rather than a true group dice game.

Still, lack of strategy and social elements aside, Zombie Dice does well what it’s supposed to do. It’s quick. It’s simple. It’s a little macabre and silly without being gory. It’s fun, as long as you don’t try to stretch it out too far. Like the runners the Footstep dice signal, the game is fast food (get it?): good, but not necessarily filling. Still, there’s nothing wrong with fast food once in a while… It’s better than shotgun-wielding food, at least.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Board Games

 

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