That’s the name, and goal, of this interesting little two-player co-op hand management and movement puzzle game about two people trying to save their failing relationship. In a thematic twist, players may not discuss the game itself, yet need to be aware of each other’s board state (i.e. emotional state) and work together to help each other find emotional balance as individuals before coming back together as a better couple.
I love how the communication limitation makes the game one of reading your partner’s intentions and what they hope to achieve, emulating a troubled couple who aren’t openly communicating, but both really do want to better understand each other.
Because you can’t talk about the game, it also means this is a nice opportunity to chat with your partner, just spend some time together talking and enjoying each other’s company – which is what board games are really all about, having a great time with your friends.
So, how do you play?
You’re aiming to meet in the middle, at the same time, both in emotional balance. But to even get there, you’ll first need to – as a couple – make it through the 24 objective cards, dealing with or embracing emotions like sadness and anger, while seeking calm and happiness.
Both players get a hand of emotion cards, which both can see. You discard cards to move to corresponding nodes on the board, along the black lines. Thing is, you can discard from your partner’s row, too. Here’s where communication through reading your partner comes in. If you only focus on where you’re going, and not where they need to go, you may drain them of emotions they need to deal with their stuff, and then they’ll be stuck – in which case, you both lose. So, pay attention to your partner’s needs as well as yours.
Each time you make it through a stack of objectives, you unlock a new ring – the next one closer to the centre – where you and your partner can now move. It makes things both easier and trickier – more room to move, but smaller circles, and did I mention your pieces can’t move through each other?
Nevertheless, you’ll have to move to the next level to help your relationship.
It’s also important to keep your emotions balanced. Each time you move through a negative emotion – sad or angry – you move your glass marker to the left. When you move through happy or calm, you move the marker right. But if you need to move through anger or sadness and you’re already too far negative, you can’t make that move. Same thing on the positive side. And if you can’t move at all, you’re stuck, and both lose.
Each time you find yourself in balance, you have the emotional stability to weigh your options, letting you draw cards to refresh your hand. Even when emotional objectives are right within reach, you’ll often need to retreat to seek balance before you can continue your emotional journey.
One final thematic rule: when you move across the centre line, into a different half of the board, you can change your perspective.
Your emotion cards are always splayed out to left if you’re on the left side of the board, or right if you’re on the ride side. So, crossing the line and changing perspective lets you splay the cards differently. Literally, seeing the other side of the emotions you carry with you.
Each card is a combination of two emotions, indicated on the left and right borders, so splaying your cards in a different direction gives you access to a different set of emotions.
Remember what I said before about winning this game?
Once you’ve made it through all the emotional cards you’ll need to meet in the middle, at the same time, both in emotional balance. You may have the cards you need to get into the middle, but you might have to back track to get there at the same time as your partner, or to do so with well-adjusted emotions in balance.
Playing this great little game is rewarding, relaxing, stressful, fun and tricky. You always need to be aware of your partner and their needs, and in that regard – and with many other nice rules touches mentioned above – this game succeeds with flying colours at emulating the needs of a relationship.
It’s theme is light, but very evocative, and you’ll really need to work well with your partner to get through this game together. And if you manage to succeed, what then?
Burger Up is a competitive 2-4 player game about building burgers of epic proportions, made and published by fellow Australians! Burger Up is a game of truly mouth-watering art, engaging pattern matching, and emergent humour in the ridiculous burgers you build.
Customers place orders and you all race to complete the requested burgers. Orders will sometimes specify the burger size (minimum or maximum number of ingredients), some ingredients (or category of ingredients, like meat or sauces) that must be in the burger, and some that must not be in the burger. You start with four ingredient cards and two bottom buns to build on. Every round a burger top isn’t claimed, it’s worth another coin.
Fictionally, in the game world of Burger Up, I like to think that everyone is so desperate to get their burger order that the longer they wait the more they’re willing to pay to finally just get their bacon and egg roll, especially after seeing four people served before them. Also, there’s just one guy providing ingredients to the group of competing burger artists and that guy’s kind of a jerk. Sometimes he’ll just give you sauce, sauce and more sauce.
What’s great about customer orders, is you don’t have to uphold the spirit of the order, as long as you meet the letter of it.
You can add whatever you like as long as you meet the order’s criteria. This rule means you end up with monstrosities like this Mad Max burger, which only calls for three particular ingredients, but doesn’t say not to add to a whole stack of cheese.
Funny moments like this are common, especially in rounds where you have no ingredients that any of the current orders require, so you just stack up whatever you can in the hopes some useful ingredients will show up soon. “You know what this mustard could really use? Tomato sauce”.
Why would you add extra ingredients? Well, the heart of Burger Up is a pattern matching game. Each ingredient card has two ingredients on it, and can be flipped to act as either one before placing it.
But see the icons on the cards? Your next ingredient has to match. So, you might be looking to place some meat, but the only meat you have in your hand needs to be placed on top of a sauce card, so you buy a sauce card, but that may need to be put on cheese. And so on.
There are lots of different combinations of ingredients on the cards (some with the same ingredient type twice, letting you quickly make, say, a super salad burger)
Ingredient icons are also broad enough to allow some flexibility. The ‘meat’ icon is actually a patty icon, and veggie patties exist, so your salad burger’s not necessarily ruined just because you have that icon. And if all else fails, use a handy middle bun, which can be put on anything and have anything put on it. But it doesn’t count to the size of your burger.
Spatulas, which are worth 4 points at the end if you haven’t used them, add another sprinkling of strategy, as they let you discard an ingredient and everything on top of it, or move that stack of ingredients to another bun.
In play I’ve seen a new burger bun come out where another player’s towering burger already had all the required ingredients! Except they had a stack of meat on top. And the burger was a vegan burger. No worries! Spatula that meat stack onto another burger and you’re left with a perfectly serviceable vegan burger 😉
You’re encouraged to build bigger burgers, as they’re worth more when served up, but some burgers are specifically smaller sizes, so you have to keep your options open – or again use the handy spatula (you can use it twice, but that’s it).
When you build a colossal burger, you can forego the 10 coins you just earned to upgrade your restaurant, letting you place 4 ingredients a round, instead of 3 – it’s handy, but hard to tell how valuable or detrimental this option really is. We have usually had only one person take it, and they’ve trailed behind in score.
Burger Up is a fun time, with drool-worthy art, a fun pattern matching puzzle and player-generated humour through monstrous burgers you’ll be passing off as BLTs. Our main complaint is the the game has run a little longer than we’d like, sometimes. Solution? Just take out a few more top buns at the start to make this game fast food. Easy!
Or if you still haven’t had your fill there’s the Burgers of the World expansion with more top buns and ingredients like tofu patties, brie and beetroot. It doesn’t make the game longer – unless you want it to – but variety is the spice of life.
Had enough now and looking for a new flavour? How about Sushi Go, Hanabi, Between Two Cities or Galaxy Trucker? Along with an actual burger recipe, the Burger Up Game Recipe Book includes variants inspired by these great games. It even has rules for a solo mode and a 5-6 player version of Burger Up. A tempting buffet of gaming options indeed!
Samurai Spirit is based on the film Seven Samurai, and sees 1-7 samurai cooperatively defending a Japanese village against raiders by engaging in the ancient art of battle blackjack!
In real-world feudal Japan there were no women samurai and when a you took two wounds you transformed into an humanoid animal warrior. It’s the same in Samurai Spirit, which even has a note about it in the back of the manual explaining but not apologising for its staunch adherence to historical accuracy.
In this game you’ll Fight by drawing raider cards numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4, Confronting them by adding them to your Combat Line (the right side of your samurai board) trying to reach your kiai number. Think of it like 21 in blackjack. You want to hit it exactly, and not go over, or you’re out of the round and raiders burn down a village barricade.
Below, Kikuchiyo has a 3, 2, 1, 2, 2, which equals exactly 10, his kiai number. So, he gets to remove the first card (the 3) from his Combat Line, to stay in the round and give him another chance to reach his kiai number again. His special kiai ability also activates.
When you Fight, you can Defend instead of Confronting, which lets you place the raider to the left of your board instead, not suffering any ill effects of the card – but you only have three slots on the left, one for a card with each of these icons: hat, farm, family (doll).
Ideally, you’ll want to fill up the left side, to uphold the samurai code of honour and – more importantly – to avoid penalties at the end of the round. Without a hat, you’ll get a wound; lacking a farm or family icon means a farmstead burns down (flipping over to reveal yet another penalty) or a village family is killed (removing a round end bonus).
To help you deal with all these raiders, in addition to their kiai abilities, each samurai has unique talent, which can be used each round. Talents let you do things like put the next raider onto the bottom of the deck, pass certain value raider cards to a neighbour. Instead of choosing to Fight, each round, sometimes you may want to Support, which grants an ally access to your talent once their turn rolls around.
Raiders often have icons in their lower left, which are known as ‘battle penalties’ – basically the damage the raiders inflict to you and the village. Each turn, you apply the penalty in the lower left of the most recent card in your Combat Line. It might burn a barricade, prevent you supporting other samurai or let intruders sneak into the village (which also happens whenever you Support). Raiders, of course, can also wound you.
Wounds are really interesting in this game. You can handle 1 wound, but take a second one and your animal spirit is unleashed! You flip your board, which makes your kiai ability more powerful and increases your kiai number. Take another wound, and it’s fine. Take one more after that, and you die, the group loses morale and you all lose.
Sometimes, taking a wound is a good idea, to unleash your animal spirit and give you more wiggle room if you’re getting close to your kiai number and know there are lots of high cards coming out soon.
After each round, any intruders that got past your samurai are flipped over. If they have flames in their lower right-hand corner they burn barricades (or farms, if the barricades are all gone). You win the game if you have at least one farm and family by the end.
But! Round 1 isn’t the end.
You play again, without healing wounds or caging your animal spirit. Instead, you add lieutenants (value-5 cards), shuffle the deck and go again. After that, you play a final round with the addition of value-6 boss cards, each of which has unique art and powerful battle penalties.
Samurai Spirit has a lot of gaming goodness packed into a box about half the size of most other modern board games. I only have two main criticisms with Samurai Spirit. One, I’ve mentioned: the lack of women, the ‘sorry if you feel that way’ non-excuse pseudo-apology in the manual.
The other criticism is a fairly significant rules oversight I’ll warn you about right now.
If you’re playing the 2-player variant, it’s very important you ensure you have enough family icons on the cards that form your raider deck. If there’s only one icon, the game is literally unwinnable (at least one of the three families will die each round). If there’s two, it’s very likely unwinnable.
I’d recommend checking your cards and ensuring you have more than 2 icons. 4 or more, perhaps? The game’s designer and updated rules PDF agree, but if the physical manual in the game box may not mention this critical, but easily-overlooked rule.
Samurai Spirit is a great game! For a relatively cheap price, the game packs a lot into a little box – basic mechanics are simple enough to grasp quickly, but the co-op powers make for interesting interaction and combos, the player count is great, and the three-round structure ratchets up the tension as the game progresses. It’s even short enough that, win or lose, if you’re anything like me you’ll be keen to dive right back into the fray!
gYou’re first year magicians impatient to learn proper spells. So you break into a chamber of secrets to read the Big Book of Madness, that your teachers have explicitly told you is off limits – of course, they’re only saying that because it’s filled with awesome spells!
Oh, wait… no. It’s filled with madness.
Madness and monsters, bursting out of the pages.
Now you and your classmates have to gather the elements and quickly learn spells from the other, less dangerous books around the chamber, in this co-op deckbuilder
You’ll need to quickly improve your magic skills to defeat the monster at the end of the book. If you survive the madness long enough to reach that particular battle.
2-5 players select a magician to play as: big earth guy, thin air guy, medium water guy, medium-big fire guy, or sexy earth girl, sexy air girl, sexy water girl, sexy fire girl.
I love almost everything about the game’s amazing, colourful art. It’s reminiscent of a Disney or Pixar and draws you into the world, making you want to see an animated film about these magicians – except the game takes the same approach to female body diversity as those studios. Which is, basically none.
Nevertheless, props to fire girl – she’s pretty badass (and note the burning desks).
Once you’ve chosen your magician – each with a different set of starting elements and a unique special ability – the madness begins.
You open the book to unleash the first monster, and curses along with it. The book’s really cool. It’s made of cards that look like pages with monsters bursting out! Monsters will be on the left, and immediately attack, for some effect like forcing players to discard cards or giving them madness (junk cards that clog up your deck).
Bonuses and penalties for winning and losing on the right card combine with the monster on the left hand to create a lot of variability each time you play. You also don’t use all the monsters, spells, or magicians each game – so replayability is fairly high.
You all start with four basic spells, but can learn new ones, which let you do more complex actions, like reshuffling your deck, or curing madness cards while drawing extra cards.
Madness is in the title for a reason. You get 6 cards in your hand each round, which you can spend on buying or casting spells, or destroying curses (which require four element cards to resolve). If you destroy all the monster’s curses within 5 rounds, you get a win bonus. If not, you get a penalty, and the page flips, revealing the next monster.
Madness cards clog up your 6-card hand, and if you get to the bottom of the madness deck, you all lose. If a player ever ends up with a hand full of madness, they’re eliminated! There is player elimination in this game. And some powers that basically skip your turn. Seems like both are fairly rare, though, and the communication between players means eliminated players can still help strategise.
Curses can mess you up, but sometimes they’re not so bad. Coordinating with your fellow wizarding delinquents is important, as that awesome wooden book token moves and activates the next card (or two cards in Round 3) each turn. So, while you might be able to resolve that Water Curse now, fixing the Earth Curse that’s coming up next round may make more sense.
On the right-hand page of the book, you can see the three elements that the next monster will curse you with. So sometimes it’s better to prepare for the next monster, especially when you realise this one’s curses aren’t going to get resolved.
Losing to a monster isn’t always that bad. And you only need to defeat the final monster to win. Which is great, and terrible. It means that failure or sacrifices early on are okay. But it also means that the entire game hinges on the final battle. So you need to use those earlier rounds to build up a better deck and spells to help you, but luck of the draw will still play a factor.
Oh, also make sure you remember this key rule – when you destroy a curse, you add a free 2-value element card of your choice to your discard. It’s very easy to miss this rule, and it isn’t in the player aid. Playing without it will really drive you mad, and make the game much harder, even on the lowest of its three difficulty settings.
So, you’ve got really beautiful and detailed – if not entirely unproblematic – art, a co-op deckbuilder with lots of variability and replayability, all wrapped up in easy-to-understand mechanics. All in all, a great game. Hopefully someday we’ll win.
Or more likely, flick your soldier right past the defending army and into oblivion.
Cube Quest is a laugh-out-loud funny dexterity game, where each player’s physical ineptitude, fluke shots and the sheer silliness of the gameplay create the humour.
Any cube knocked off the board is defeated. You win by using your cubes to knock your opponent’s King off the board. The rules indicate that, if you accidentally defeat your own King, your opponent wins. Just like in real war.
First, both sides secretly assemble their armies. Your King starts in your castle, but you can form up your other forces however you’d like. Then reveal and start flicking, once per turn. If your King is ever knocked out of the castle, but still on the board, you can spend your turn to place him back in the castle.
All cubes, except the King, have shadowed faces on some sides. If your cube lands in enemy territory with a shadowed face up, it is captured. You roll it, and if non-shadowed face comes up, it escapes back to your castle. Otherwise, it’s out of the game.
Grunts, the orc-like warriors, are plentiful and expendable. They’ve got lots of shadowed faces, so are likely to be captured. When not hurtling them to their likely death in enemy territory, they’re good as meat shields, living walls of flesh protecting their King.
Strikers have only one shadowed face, so they’re far more likely to survive in enemy territory, or escape capture. You only have four, though.
The King, having no shadowed faces, can never be captured. So your King can rampage with impunity across enemy territory, giving the game a high-risk, high-reward scenario of a King taking the battle straight to the enemy King. You’ll never be captured, but the risk of defeat is dangerously high!
Other cubes come with the game, such as healers that revive defeated cubes, ice monsters that freeze enemy cubes in place, knight’s that can give you a headstart by moving twice (if the first move ends in your territory), and skulks that can hide in enemy territory.
Cube Quest is simple, and great. However, some warnings: the big mousepad-like play mats that come with the game don’t fit in the box without folding. We’ve had ours under heavy books for a year to get out the creases, and there are still bumps that won’t go away. This affects the gameplay, obviously, as the play mat is intended to be flat, not wavy.
Also, while the cubes are very light (much lighter than a standard die) the flicking may still hurt a little for delicate fingers.
Lastly, dice will fly off the table. Play somewhere uncluttered where you can easily find the stray dice.
Those things said, we encourage everyone to at least try this game. You’ll be laughing very quickly, as your solider charges into enemy territory only to pull up right in front of the enemy King, whose forces proceed to pile onto the grunt and fling their King off the map.
Cube Quest is not deep, but is very silly and very fun. Again, like in real war, any strategy can quickly go out the window as chaos ensues as soon as the battle begins. It’s a fun game, quick and light, silly and simple. Sometimes that’s all you want in a game.
The Sultan has decreed that whoever builds him the most amazing palace will be named Grand Vizier.
Sultaniya is a game for 1-4 players. Everyone starts with a different palace base displaying large, gorgeous character art, with an equal gender spread, which is a big plus.
Each palace base also has a few different rooms already placed and different ways listed to get points. Perhaps you get points by planting palm trees in your palace, where someone else scores towers or domes.
But all palaces need good security – so everyone competes to have the most guards.
You also have two secret goals each. These might be having a certain feature aligned on as many floors as you can, or having lots of a certain type of feature on a single floor.
Some tiles have sapphires on them. As well as these symbols being involved in some of the secret goals, whenever you place a tile with sapphires on it, you get to grab that many big plastic sapphires from the sparkling pile of wonders.
Sapphires are the only currency the Djinn Union accepts. You can hire these beings of phenomenal cosmic power for such menial jobs as: revealing new tiles, removing a room and replacing it with another one, building two rooms at once, looking though all possible rooms for a single floor and building one.
The more tiles you add to your palace the harder it is to place new tiles. You see, the art has to match up, adding a puzzle-like element. So Djinn powers are very helpful to deal with this.
Sultaniya plays pretty quickly, decisions each turn are easy to understand but meaningful. And while competitive, it’s not cutthroat – there’s not much direct interaction with the other players, aside from taking tiles they may want. You only score at the end of the game, and scores can be pretty close – our latest game had only 1 point difference.
Each of the tiles is beautiful, and details on the rooms are varied, with nice little touches like parrots, monkeys and fountains – there’s some especially flashy stuff on some of the roof tiles. As you build your palace, it’s just a nice time where you’ve got the fun of tackling your own little puzzle, while enjoying the art and the other players’ company.