Friday, December 9, 2011

New Poll Added

I've been playing around with Blogger's options and decided to open up my next review to the masses.  Let me know what you'd like to see me put the spurs to next by checking out the poll in the sidebar.  If you don't like any of the options I've tossed up there, then give me your two cents and let me know what you'd like to see.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

From the Wishlist: Dominant Species

This is a new kind of post that I've been kicking around for a while.  I've got a massive list of games on my wishlist and every now and then I have to go back and refresh myself on what I'm waiting to buy and why.  With that in mind, I thought a series of entries about some games on my wishlist might be enough to entice other people to take an interest as well as foreshadow some of my upcoming reviews.

For the first installment of "From the Wishlist", I'd like to discuss Dominant Species by GMT Games.  GMT is, of course, the company behind Twilight Struggle - a game which sits atop the charts over on Board Game Geek.  I have limited experience with their games, but they generally cater more towards complex themes using simple components.  Dominant Species is no exception.

The box art pretty much says it all.

The game chronicles an encroaching ice age and the struggles of various types of animals as they try and adapt and compete over resources that are becoming more and more finite.  Now, I'm a huge fan of biology and evolution so the theme for this game has got me hook line and sinker.  The mechanics focus on worker placement, tile placement and area control, but I haven't been able to see it in action yet.  The rulebook is posted online, but I generally get a better idea for a game when I have the components on hand to reference.  Speaking of the components, I've found a few images/videos of them online and...well...they're definitely the weakest selling point of the game for me.

Photo credit - Penteado,

I don't want to go too nuts posting other people's pictures of the game, but I feel that this one best encompasses the overall package that is Dominant Species.  For me, what you see here does not match what you see on the box.  The colors are muted and the components are all abstract representations.  If this were a Fantasy Flight game, you can bet that there would be about 250 little plastic insects, reptiles and mammals.  With that being said, I'm a sucker for wooden components and these little blocks and cones remind me a lot of Pandemic which is a game where the abstraction of the theme works perfectly.  Obviously, all I can do without playing the game is judge the pieces aesthetically.  While they might not be as grandiose as I'd like them to be, they do look well made and functional which is really all a gamer can ask for - everything else is gravy.

Dominant Species carries a hefty $79 price tag.  Obviously, online retailers can offer it for a considerable discount, so it's up to each gamer to decide whether they want to save some cash or throw a lot of support behind their friendly local game store (expect a post about that debate soon).  For my money, I could definitely see myself paying retail for this game.  While the components might be lackluster, the theme has me salivating.  Coupled with a strong position on the BGG charts and a number of favorable reviews, I find myself helpless to resist the call of nature to change, adapt and thrive.

Since this is a new "feature" on the blog, I'm anxious for your feedback.  Let me know what you guys like and dislike about From the Wishlist and the blog in general.  As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, November 21, 2011

First Impressions: Civilization and the Lord of the Rings LCG

This past Saturday was a good day for gamin'.  I got to head to my friendly local game store after class and spend the whole day playing games.  We started off with Civiliza...err, Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game, got to try the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game and ended on a high note with Red November.  Now, I've already reviewed Red November and both Civilization and LotR were learning games, so I'm just going to give some impressions and notes rather than any full reviews.

First up was Civilization.  Before I say anything else, I must once again give Fantasy Flight Games kudos for posting all of their rulebooks online.  Being able to skim the rules beforehand (as well as watching Drakkenstrike's excellent components breakdown) took some of the edge off of setting up the game, but we still took out time with the rules until we got used to the turn order.  The components lived up to Fantasy Flight's usual standard - especially the map tiles, which were rich and vibrant, and the market board, which hosted a lot of mechanics/components very efficiently.  I was particularly enamored with the combat system, but I'll save that analysis for the full review.  Overall, Civilization was a blast and I am eagerly looking forward to playing it again.

Now, halfway through Civilization, I noticed a brand new box sitting up on the demo shelf.  I gasped audibly and leapt our of my chair to grab it and peruse it's grim contents.  This was the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game - a game that I've been lustily eyeing for a while now.  It's good.  Very good.  Probably one of the best cooperative experiences I've had from Fantasy Flight.  The cards are stunning and I often found myself totally absorbed in reading the bountiful flavor text and staring wide-eyed at the beautiful portraits on each card.  If you like the idea of forming a fellowship consisting of your favorite characters from the books as well as a few unique additions provided by FFG, then check this game out - and bring a friend.  I'll be reviewing this as soon as I can get my Gollum-like mitts on a copy.  In the meantime, there's a wonderful introductory video series on the FFG page (at the bottom).

Lastly, as the store was closing, we broke out Red November.  For this game, we were joined by a few new recruits who had never served aboard a gnomish submarine before.  Due to time constraints, we ended up rushing a bit and there were a few turns that were dominated by one player or another dictating what someone should do (a classic problem with co-op games), but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves - despite the fact that the sub somehow caught fire and we all died.

Things will be quiet for the next week as I head out of town for Thanksgiving.  I've got a few posts in the works, though, so expect a lot more in the coming weeks.  Have a safe and happy holiday!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Now with 86% more links

Yesterday was a pretty busy day for me, gaming wise.  My after class meet-ups at the friendly local gaming store seem to keep bearing more and more fruit.  This week, I got a chance to play Eminent Domain by Tasty Minstrel Games and Earth Reborn by LudicallyZ-Man Games.  Both were very good and offered something unique.  I'm especially interested in playing more Earth Reborn as that game seems incredibly dense and meaty once you progress to the more difficult scenarios.

After a long day of deckbuilding and dice rolling, I headed home and got to work on rehabbing my Protectorate of Menoth army for the Longest Night event.  My Flameguard are now maxed out with the unit attachment and I grabbed a Vassal of Menoth to bend the filthy powers of the arcane to the Lawgiver's will.  I'm very much looking forward to getting back into Warmachine/Hordes and getting myself one of those Witchfire patches for attending the event.

In other news, my Rogue Trader game is on hiatus for pretty much the rest of the month.  Personal problems among my players and the approach of Thanksgiving have necessitated a recess.  I have no doubt that we'll be able to pick the game up and run with it once our schedules finally clear up, though.  In the meantime, we're planning on using this time to get a few more board games to the table.  This week - Fortune and Glory by Flying Frog Productions!

Also, I've taken the liberty of creating a twitter account specifically for posting my many, many gaming updates.  Check it out - @plus2cents!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Talisman: The Magical Quest Game

Last night I sat down to a game of Talisman.  This is becoming an annual affair for me - an itch that I feel the need to scratch once every 10-15 months.  Often considered to be something a classic, Talisman is a strange mix of mechanics that I have no reason to like, but that I still enjoy every once in a while.  But I don't want to spoil my review, so read on, intrepid adventurer and see if the quest for the Crown of Command is right for you...

Components: There's not a lot to say about Talisman's components.  It's Fantasy Flight.  The figures are top notch, the cards are sturdy and the board is absolutely gorgeous.  I'd like to point out the artwork on the board itself.  The board is laid out in fairly standard Ameritrash style (simply square spaces going around the board), but the artwork and layout do wonders in making it feel like a more lush and definitive setting than, say, Monopoloy.

Talisman's board injects a lot of theme and flavor into what is an otherwise very basic design

Gameplay: This is where Talisman suffers the most.  The gameplay is completely random.  Roll based movement means that you can never be sure where you're going to end up.  You do have the ability to move either clockwise or counter-clockwise around the board, but that often ends up just being a choice between landing on a space where something bad will happen or a space where something potentially bad will happen.  Much like Settlers of Catan, there is no meaningful strategy that one can apply to playing Talisman.  You're basically spending the whole game reacting to your opponents moves and your own luck with the dice and encounter card deck.

Rules: For what it is, the rules work very well in Talisman and are as balanced as they can be in a game that is based almost exclusively on chance.  Characters roll dice, decide which space to move to and then are confronted with challenges that largely consist of a random roll to see if they can reap their space's rewards while avoiding it's pitfalls or drawing from the event deck and hoping you pull a shiny new sword instead of a devastating dragon.

Overall: Despite my harsh breakdown of the gameplay & rules, I still like to play Talisman - just not often.  The theme and overarching goal of the game is something you'd expect to see in a strategic, choice-driven fantasy game like Descent or Runebound, but the reality is that need to approach Talisman as a casual, goofy game where you may end up as a toad hopping around avoiding ghosts or a troll decked out in Holy Crosses and Crusading lances with a unicorn mount.  This game will often leave you feeling helpless and without any control over your own destiny in the game, but with so many tactical games that hinge upon a player's actions from turn to turn, Talisman offers the opportunity to just kick back, roll some dice and see what happens.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Who reviews the reviewers?

I've been working on my next couple of reviews, but I've also been sifting through my boardgame wishlist on Amazon and trying to slim the damn thing down.  As of right now, I have 50 games listed and I've been desperately searching for reviews, demos and insights on these games to determine where I can trim some fat.  This quest has led me to an excellent series of video reviews by Jeremy Salinas (aka Drakkenstrike).

Jeremy's components breakdowns have become my benchmark for learning more about a given game.  His reviews are unique in that they are concise, well put together and well executed.  Do yourself a favor and give his YouTube channel a look - and don't waste your time trying to find a better video. Trust me.  You'll get lost in a jungle of stumbling words, confusing rules explanations and monstrous neckbeards.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Super Dungeon Explore - Preview

I'm still working on how I'm going to format entries that aren't reviews (and how I'm going to format reviews that aren't just copy/pastes from, but for now let me go ahead and share this link to the D6 Generation Facebook page that shows off all the components of Super Dungeon Explore by Soda Pop Miniatures.

Ok, yeah.  That was basically an excuse to cram as many links as possible in as short a post possible, but the game looks really damn good.  I'm looking forward to the possibility of a D6G review and/or some video reviews on Board Game Geek.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chaos in the Old World

Chaos in the Old World is a competitive game for 3-4 players by Fantasy Flight Games. It's widely considered to be best with 4 players and I, for one, can't imagine why you would play it with any less. The game plays in about 90 minutes, with the usual addition of 20-30 additional minutes for first time players

Before I begin, an anecdote – Last winter, some friends and I got together to play Chaos in the Old World (CitOW) on a Friday night. We started around 9pm and did not stop until 5am. We played 4-5 consecutive games and would’ve played another had we not been starving. The game hits the table very often in my group and we always have a blast with it.

Components: Normally I’d just say “It’s Fantasy Flight” and be on my merry way to the next segment. CitOW has a fantastic set of components. The cards and tokens are top notch, sturdy stock. The board is a work of art consisting of a large map of the Old World that has been etched onto pieces of skin stitched together (the game is very grimdark) and the innovative dials that track the progress of each of the Chaos *s. However, there is one black mark against the game in this category and that is the figures – specifically, the cultists. Each of the Ruinous Powers has their own set of figures and the daemon and greater daemon models are very well modeled. The cultists figures, however, are the same sculpt for each faction and have a long banner pole that is topped with a very fragile 8-pointed Star of Chaos. This banner is very thin and fragile and after a few games, you’ll likely notice that many cultists are just carrying a stick rather than a banner. I have still given the game a 5/5 for components because everything else is so good, but those cultists pieces are worth pointing out.

Rules: CitOW stands out as one of the first Fantasy Flight games that has had an easily comprehensible and well laid out rulebook. Of particular note is the incredibly well written section that gives players pointers on how to play each of the Chaos *s and how to deal with their rivals. The mechanics for this game do an amazing job of creating a setting where dark *s plot and scheme against one another and after a turn or two, everything makes sense. I’ve had a chance to bring this to the table multiple times and not once has anyone I’ve played with before faltered with the rules – it’s like riding a bike.

Gameplay: One of the best features of CitOW is that each of the four Chaos *s is unique. Though they all follow the same rules, each one has a particular flavor and sphere of influence that they can focus on for victory. After my first play through I got a good feel for how each Ruinous Power played and in subsequent games my group and I were able to leverage our strengths to their fullest. Even with new players, the game never feels like it’s dragging and the unique dual victory conditions of the Chaos dials and the victory track give players strategic options for pursuing domination.

Overall: I really don’t have enough good things to say about CitOW. The game has never let me down and is probably played more than anything else within my circle of friends. Being a fan of Warhammer definitely doesn’t hurt, but unlike other Fantasy Flight/Games Workshop games, CitOW doesn’t suffer from being exclusionary to folks who don’t know their Nurgles from the Tzeentches.

Red November

Red November is a cooperative board game for 1-8 players by Fantasy Flight Games. It plays in about 60 minutes, but can be significantly less if you have a group who knows how to play the game. That door swings both ways, though and new players should expect to add an additional 20-30 minutes for learning the rules.

Before I even begin, Red November is as frustrating as it is hilarious. I know several people who despise it because it never feels like you’re gaining any ground, but that’s what makes it so much fun for me. When you’ve got a bunch of drunk gnomes trying to keep a submarine together, things are bound to go wrong.

Components: My experience with the game was with the smaller, first edition. It is my understanding that the revised edition has a more streamlined rulebook, a larger board and new item cards. That being said, the first edition was just fine for me and my friends and had components that lived up to the Fantasy Flight Games pedigree.

Rules: Red November’s rules were a little hinky to grasp at first. The revised rulebook is laid out a bit better and streamlines many of the mechanics, but I’d still be aware that your first go through might take a little more time than the recommended 60 minutes play time.

Gameplay: The premise behind Red November is that your crew of gnomish sailors is racing against the clock to keep their sub together while they desperately try and surface so that they can be rescued. In this case, the mechanics fit the theme very well. The Red November is a hunk of junk that makes the Millenium Falcon look like a ship of the line. Using a time track along the perimeter of the board, each play has the option of committing themselves to as many actions as they please. Each action takes you a certain number of steps along the time track – which itself is dotted with various events and mishaps. As you progress along the track, you’ll be forced to decide whether or not you want to keep fixing things and moving around or stop and wait for the events you’ve accumulated so far to resolve. Often times, this leads to getting all the way across the sub to put out a fire only to have the chamber you left start flooding. As more players are added to the chaos, things can go very badly very quickly. Teamwork is key – unless of course one of your mates decides to jump ship and leave the rest to sink to the bottom of the sea…

Overall: It seems like a lot of gamers aren’t too fond of Red November, but as a portable co-op game with a fair amount of depth it truly shines. Even the new revised edition can be thrown in a backpack and set up on the fly and the game is always good for a laugh. Players almost always start panicking after the first turn and the games deft mix of tension and humor is unique for a game of it’s stature.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Future Past

My reviews so far are copy/pastes from with some edits. Expect me to tweak these a little more to include links and more information about each game in the next few days!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game

Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game is a co-operative card game for 1-6 players by Fantasy Flight Games.  It plays in about 30 minutes, but new players should be prepared to double that for their first time through.

Components: Fantasy Flight can always be counted on for solid components and this Silver Line game is no exception. The cards are a nice, sturdy stock, and the art is very crisp and fresh while capturing the grim darkness of the Warhammer 40,000 setting. The rulebook is another story and is definitely a step back for FFG in terms of layout and comprehension.  It's worth noting that the two Print on Demand expansions available for the the game use a lighter, more flimsy card stock that just does not match up with what comes in the base game.  This however, does not affect play.

Rules: The poor layout of the rulebook only adds to the confusion of a ruleset that requires at least one step by step turn sequence. After stumbling through a few turns (both solo and with friends) I finally got comfortable with how a turn is supposed to play. Once the ball gets rolling, though, SH:DA does a good job of capturing the feel of an elite team of Space Marines beset on all sides by horrifying alien creatures.

Gameplay: My experience with the game varies. As a solo game (once I got the hang of the rules) it plays quick and easy. With a group, things tend to run a little longer due to the small space the game occupies and the fact that players generally gravitate towards discussing the best courses of action. In both cases, SH:DA succeeds in delivering tense moments where success or failure hinges upon a die roll. The luck factor is mitigated some by the ability to gain re-rolls, but sometimes you’ll lose a team member in the blink of an eye.  If a player loses both of their team members, then they are eliminated from the game completely - a huge black mark for me.  

Overall: This game is well worth the price of entry for something to pack up and play either with a few people or by oneself – especially if you’re a 40k fan. However, there are several other games that will scratch the same itch with less frustration at the rules and without the possibility of player elimination.The aforementioned Print on Demand expansions (Marine Pack 1 and Mission Pack 1) add some nice new options to the game and are well worth picking up, but do little to mitigate the luck/elimination factors.

Pandemic: My gateway game of choice

Pandemic is a co-operative game for 2-4 players by Z-Man Games.  It plays in about 60 minutes with a very easy ruleset that adds roughly 10 minutes to play time for new players.

Components: Given the scope of Pandemic’s theme (worldwide disease outbreaks), Z-Man has put together some very appealing components. The board (and box) are a hefty, matte cardboard. The cards feel sturdy, have a nice satin finish and can handle being shuffled. The disease markers are simple colored wooden blocks, but they work very well. Visually, the game is simple, crisp and striking.
Rules: Pandemic’s rulebook is laid out well and easy to follow. At just 8 pages, Z-Man has been able to not only explain all of the games mechanics, but also lay out a number of fantastic examples and illustrations.  The rules themselves do a good job of abstractly capturing the theme of the game with diseases sometimes raging out of control despite the valiant efforts of the disease control team.
Gameplay: As simple as Pandemic’s rules are, the game definitely requires players to strategize. Epidemics, outbreaks and infections happen at random, so you may find yourself scrambling to get halfway across the globe to administer a cure. Careful planning of your team's actions is crucial, but may open the game up to one player dominating the actions of others.  Z-Man states a 45 minute play time and I have found this to be pretty accurate, although new players may run closer to an hour.
Overall: Pandemic is a fantastic co-operative experience with mechanics that fit its theme very well. The game will work with hardcore and casual gamers alike and can be a great gateway to more complex boardgame concepts for the “Monopoly & Battleship” crowd.

Rune Age: Fantasy Flight Games' entry into the deckbuilding arena

Rune Age is a deckbuilding game for 2-4 players by Fantasy Flight Games.  It takes about 45-60 minutes to play a game with an additional 15-20 minutes allotted for new players.

Components: Being as big a fan of good components as I am, I have to say that Fantasy Flight has never let me down and Rune Age is no exception. Their cards have a nice, sturdy feel to them with a fantastic satin finish. The Runebound universe has always been populated with fantasic art pieces and Rune Age is no exception. Every piece of artwork jumps off the cards and the overall layout of each card is very clear and crisp. Of couse, since this is a FFG release, it comes with a nice set of heavy card stock damage tokens and a proprietary “attrition” die.
Rules: As with all other games in the genre, Rune Age’s primary mechanic revolved around drafting cards using in-game resources in order to create an effective deck. Where this game deviates is in it’s use of faction specific “barracks” (pools of cards for each of the game’s 4 factions) as well as neutral cards (which can be purchased and used by players of any faction). In addition, the game ships with a number of scenarios which will effect how players interact with one another as well as the game itself. Scenarios determine which cards make up the event deck and this in turn provides challenges beyond the other players in the game.
Gameplay: For all it adds/changes/tweaks to what may be considered the “classic” deckbuilding format, Rune Age is very easy to pick up and play. Each faction has it’s own quirks and playstyles which shift between the different scenarios and the event deck adds a nice layer of neutrality during some of the more cutthroat and competitive scenarios. It may take players a few turns, or perhaps even a few games to fully grasp all of their options and understand how both faction and neutral cards can be combined to produce the most advantageous effects, but from my experience, each and every turn spent learning the game is just plain fun.
Overall: Rune Age is a wonderful addition to the burgeoning deckbuilding market and a worthy carrier of the Runebound mantle. FFG did a very good job of creating a game that will be familiar to fans of the genre and fans of the IP without forcing the marriage between the two. Every time this hits the table, I am excited to play it and I sincerely hope that FFG will continue to support the game with future expansions including more units for each faction, more neutral cards and (most of all) more scenarios.