Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 13 – Burger Up

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.

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Serving suggestion.

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.

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Burgers have cool names and lots have cute toppers. Aww, look at that Meat-A-Saurus Rex!
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Too much cheese? You didn’t say nothin’ ’bout no cheese, buddy. Deal with it.

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.

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Orders are worth more and more each round, but can you be the first to build those burgers?

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.

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Chicken & Avo. Order up!

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 😉

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Perfect ingredients and big burgers give extra coins – if they match anyone’s order!

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!

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Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 5: Council of Verona

Council of Veronaas seen on Tabletop – is a quick, light filler card game where you’re all nobles who’ve noticed how the citizens of Verona are all so sick of that whole Montague vs. Capulet thing, so you’re making a council in the hopes that’ll help keep everything under control. Really though, you’re just leveraging the feud, your noble rivals, and the council, to increase your influence in the city. It’s fun and takes only a few minutes to play.

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You draft some cards, keeping some for yourself and passing others to your opponents.

At least one card will be removed from play without anyone seeing it.

Play couldn’t be simpler. Place one of your cards (there’s only 17 in the game) in the Council or Exile, use that card’s ability if you like, then decide if you’d like to place an influence token (numbered 0, 3, 5 – plus an 4 in the 2-player game). That’s it.

The key, though, is that the influence tokens you’re placing are face down, and can be on any card that’s been played. Romeo and Juliet don’t care if they’re on the Council or Exiled, as long as they’re together. Aww. Heads of the Capulet and Montague households want more of their people on the Council than the house. And the neutral Prince just wants an even Council or several Neutral people on the Council. Poor guy. He’s just trying to run the city. Meanwhile, Mercutio’s sick of everything and just wants more people Exiled than on the Council.

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You can throw your lot in with any one (or several) of these people and their agendas. You play your influence tokens face down, so it may look like you’re rooting for the lovers, but you’ve really given Romeo your 0 token, and don’t want them to get together. Doing this could fool others to add their more valuable influence tokens to that card, thinking they’ll be riding your coattails.

So there’s a bit of guess work to suss out whether your opponents actually want to see the agenda succeed, for the card they’ve just placed a token on, or if it’s misdirection.

Add into that a few cards that let you look at our even swap placed influence tokens, and suddenly that tricksey 0 you placed gets swapped with your 5 and your whole game plan changes.

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It’s a very quick game, nice card art – though that box cover is a bit weird – and the second edition comes with the Poison Expansion, which – very thematically – gives every player a Poison and an Antidote token that look just like the influence tokens. Any character with more Poison than Antidote at the end, is killed an their influence along with them.

This game’s great for when you want to play something, but don’t have too much time. Interesting decisions, but nothing too complicated. While they play very differently, and there’s certainly room in your game library for both, Council of Verona reminds me a bit of Love Letter, with the noble theme, deduction, some cards being removed, and trying to outfox your opponents. And it plays so quickly you may find yourself playing it several times in a row, like we did.

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 4: Star Realms

Star Realms is a sci-fi deckbuilding game where 2 players clash in space wars!

Also, space commerce.

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What makes this game shine is when you really get a good engine humming along. If you play your cards right, you can get crazy combos that let you draw more cards, do more damage, get more money, buy cards for free, discard opponent cards and more. It’s a great feeling when you pull it off – mostly…

We’ll come back to that in a bit. First, the basic premise and mechanics:

Both players have 50 authority (like health, but with no maximum) and the first to reduce their opponent to 0 wins. To do so, you as a galactic mover and shaker will be recruiting the ships and bases of four factions, the Trade Federation, the Blobs, the Star Empire and the Machine Cult.

You start with the same basic deck of cards as your opponent and draw 5 each turn. You build your deck as you play by buying cards from the communal Trade Row. You get money by playing cards with the yellow Trade coin near the bottom. For instance, in the photo below, the Trade Pod on the right initially cost me 2 Trade to buy, but every time I play it I get 3 Trade. Play a few Trade cards in a turn and you’ll be able to buy more useful and powerful cards.

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You can have cards from any combination of factions, but playing two cards of the same faction allows you to use additional abilities (in the photo above, the 2 red Combat on the Trade Pod and the “Draw a card” ability of the Battle Blob – they’re both useable because I’ve played two green Blob Faction cards this round). And because you can’t hold onto cards from round to round, focusing on a single faction can be useful – though when it comes time to buy from Trade Row, cards from your favoured faction may not be available, so you may have to branch out a little.

So, your opponent’s got a handful of ships and they’re damaging your authority. What do you do? It’s all about that base. Get some bases into play and they’ll act as shields, taking damage before you do. And your opponent has to do enough damage in one round to destroy them – they can’t just whittle them down over time.

Some bases are outposts and those bases have to be destroyed before your other bases. So you can have two lines of defence. Ships are played then discarded until they’re shuffled in again when your deck depletes. Bases, though, stay in play. So, every round you’ll already have some faction card (like my Blob Wheel below) that you can use to activate the ally abilities of your ships. Also, the base’s powers are active each round, too. (Below, Suz is getting 2 Authority or 2 Trade each round and I’m getting 1 Combat each round).

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With only 128 cards and a rules sheet, Star Realms is a tiny, portable package. There are expansions, and they won’t all fit in the box. Removing the rules, we managed to also fit one of the games many expansions, the Gambit Set, which gives new surprise abilities and provides some foes to tackle as a team.

And it looks like we may need to move onto that cooperative mode for a bit, as our last few games have been very one-sided. It could be that Blobs are just awesome, or one of us is getting good draws and the other bad. It didn’t seem like either of us was too diversified.

Either way, our last game had a 30 point difference and when you start with 50 points each, a score gap that wide is disheartening for the one on the losing side and the victory is bittersweet – the Death Star versus a helpless planet. Is it really a victory to celebrate?

So, we’ll play more games of Star Realms and we’ll definitely try the Gambit Set co-op options (not to be confused with the Cosmic Gambit set). I may update these impressions (or add a new article) once we’ve tried the co-op.

Despite our misgivings, we still recommend this game and will be playing a lot more of it. The combos you can get going in your deck are so satisfying, the game’s easy to teach, turns are very fast, and when games are closer, it’s very fun. Especially for only 30 Aussie dollars, this little game packs a big bang!

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 2: Best Treehouse Ever

dCome play with me in the Best Treehouse Ever! It’s got a bowling alley, a petting zoo, and an observatory! What? Yours has an ice cream shop, a hammock room, and a hot tub? Maybe yours is the best treehouse ever!

Best Treehouse Ever is a fun little game for 2-4 players with a free half hour.

You’re all competing to build the best treehouse ever, by selecting cute coloured rooms (each with unique art!) to add to your treehouse. Keep the tree balanced, though! Build on the left and your balance marker (an acorn) shifts left, so you have to build on the right to balance it again.

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Complicating the process further is a kind of kiddie feng shui, as all rooms of a colour must be touching. If you block one off, you’re done with that colour.

Players pick one of the coloured rooms from their hand, everyone places their room, then passes their hand to the next player. So, like in other drafting games like Sushi Go, you have to keep an eye on what other players seem to be collecting, and weigh up taking a card you want or a card they need.

Guiding your overly ambitious carpentry efforts is a hidden goal card, different for each player. If you can build these coloured rooms in this pattern, you get extra points at the end of the game. In the meantime, at the end of each of the three rounds you get one point for each room. Or, you would. But before scoring, each player selects a colour that will be worth no points this round. In 3-4 player games they can instead select a colour to double.

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So, you want the most rooms of a colour, but not so many more than other people that they will stop that colour from scoring. Diversifying is good, too, so at least you’ll get most of your points, but if you happen to block off a colour in your tree, you can never build it again. In some ways, that’s a good strategy. Culling down and focusing on a few colours.

It’s a quick game, and it’s always fun seeing the art of the different cards. Even if you don’t win, it’s nice you end up with your own treehouse to admire. Why are these kids drinking coffee, and what’s cooler, a water slide or movie room?

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I can see the 3-4 player game having more decisions – in a good way – but the 2-player game is a fun, if more limited experience. Best Treehouse Ever is cute, easy to teach, quick and easy to play, hard to master. Nothing we’re dying to get to the table, but certainly a keeper – a good, quick, filler game.

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2015 – Day 12: Boss Monster

ardBoss Monster is a 2-4 player card game where you play as the boss monsters lurking in the final room of retro 8-bit video game dungeons, luring heroes into your trap-filled and monster-infested dungeon to kill them and claim their souls (first to 10 souls wins). Heroes can be dangerous, but your real competition is the other boss monsters!

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I love retro games and tabletop roleplaying games like D&D, so this theme (and the retro videogamey art) was a big draw for me. Even the box looks like an old Nintendo game box.

You start with your boss monster card on the right, and build the dungeon to the left. Once you get to five rooms your boss monster activates a powerful and unique once-off ability, so there’s a bit of variety depending on which one you are.

Each trap or monster room has one or more treasure types: coins for thieves, magic weapons for fighters, spell books for mages, and religious items for clerics. Heroes go to the dungeon with the most treasure of the type they are interested in.

So, a sort of bidding war occurs. You want to attract the heroes to your dungeon keep their souls away from your opponents. But you also have to have a dungeon strong enough to handle them or you won’t get their souls, you’ll get wounded.

You can also use spell cards to make your dungeon tougher (like making your monsters more damaging, or teleporting a hero back to the start to move through all your rooms again). Or you could use spells to make things nasty for your opponents (like freezing one of their rooms that they needed to kill the tough hero they just attracted).

You can only build 5 rooms wide, but advanced rooms can be built on top of a room with a matching treasure type, and usually hit harder. You can destroy rooms, too, or build a normal room over any other normal room to mix things up. If you destroy it later, the original room is still below!

Rooms have powers, too, which can be very useful, doing things like letting you draw spells instead of room cards each turn, healing you, making neighbouring rooms more powerful, or even messing with your opponent.

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Suz and I encountered a few fun-reducing issues. One was having a hand of cards you can’t do much with (you can only redraw once during setup). If you’ve only put down thief and fighter rooms and your hand is full of advanced rooms that don’t match those, you can’t use them. Unless we missed it, there’s no general rule letting you discard cards to draw more. Some of the cards have powers that let you do that, and this is how Suz eventually got better cards later in the game.

Something else we should probably do is focus more on spells. You can’t draw them regularly – again, it’s card powers that let you do this – but the abilities they have are pretty cool and give you more interaction between the two players and dungeons, which is a good thing. I don’t think we cast a single spell this game.

Boss Monster isn’t one of my favourite games ever, but I do like it. I’ve played it a few times and enjoyed it. I do wish there were more ways to cycle cards more often, but I think I’ll need to play some more games of it to work out if this problem is a common one. And I’m certainly looking forward to doing that 🙂

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Interestingly, the developers have recently made Boss Monster 2, which is on it’s way to me from America. It’s a standalone expansion, meaning it can be used with Boss Monster or by itself. I hear it’s more interactive and it sounds like an overall improvement, but I can’t speak from first hand experience… yet.

Finally, if you want a better idea of the gameplay check out the designer’s How To Play:

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2015 – Day 11: Penny Arcade’s Paint the Line: Red Tide

dcarPaint the Line: Red Tide is an expandable “Cold War era ping pong card game” which accurately reflects the ridiculousness of Penny Arcade‘s Paint the Line comic arc on which it is based. You’re playing ping pong for the fate of the world.

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It’s a two-player game with an escalating back and forth rolling of a twenty-sided die. First, you only need to get 6 or more. Then 8, 10, 12, 18, 20. Getting rolls that high is unlikely without the use of your cards. Each card represents a type of shot you can make, a way to modify the shot, or Stamina to spend on cards.

When you play cards, they may give you a bonus on your shot, give the other player a penalty or their next shot, or both. There’s a rock-paper-scissors mechanic (lob-spin-drive) built into the cards which provides much needed variety and strategy. If you play a card type that beats the card type your opponent just used, you get advantage (increasing the bonuses/penalties your card grants).

Many cards also have text abilities on them, which range from dull to potentially overpowered. That last one is because it only takes two rounds after playing a card till it’s back in play. Most cards don’t make you discard Stamina, either, so you can play your best card every two turns. By the end we both had heaps of cards and plenty of Stamina to use them. It got a little samey at times. The lob-spin-drive mechanic was the main thing that had me switching up my shots.

Once you do have plenty of cards and Stamina the game escalates more frequently, which is where it gets better. When you’re trying to roll a 14 on a d20 with a -5 penalty and your best card isn’t ready till next round, it starts to get tense and fun.

There is a Coach cards per player (Tycho or Oksana), but we didn’t end up using their one-off abilities. There are also a few cards that seem too powerful. They just give you great bonuses or give a good bonus and a hefty penalty to the other player, with no real lasting cost. I’ve attached a picture, with Moon Shot and Wrist Shot being two cards guilty of this (which made the game less fun and strategic for both of us). Below them you can see Impossible Return and Hero of the CCCP which had real costs and felt great.

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Suz didn’t have much Stamina for the first half of the game, so things felt frustrating on her side and easy on my side. It also meant the game didn’t escalate as often (i.e. didn’t get to the best bit as often). Yet, we were still neck and neck for a while. I think this was because of the range on a d20.

Early on when you have few cards and little Stamina, sometimes you’ll roll and there’ll really be nothing you could’ve done to succeed. You served and it went straight off the table. Felt a little like real ping pong, but also felt out of your control.

Once I started using my +6 and +8 cards to serve I couldn’t lose the first turn, so that was great. It did sort of feel like we were using better and better moves as we went on, which was somewhat thematic, the ping pong players breaking out their best moves as things heated up.

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But, it didn’t really feel frantic enough for ping pong. That back and forth is good, but when you’re looking at card text to decide which shot to play it doesn’t feel fast enough. With a timer or some more knowledge of the card text to facilitate faster play (this was our first game), it’d feel more tense and kinetic, which I think would really, really add to the feel of the whole thing. I’d love to see this played like chess with those little timer things they hit. I think it’d feel great.

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Overall, if you get a good mix of Stamina and low-cost cards early on (you can redraw your first hand, which helps) and if you can keep the speed up, the game is pretty fun. It’s not like anything else I’ve played, which is a plus in this case, as it was fun. We’ll definitely play again and try to recreate the fast pace of *real* Cold war era ping pong

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2015 – Day 3: Love Letter

Love Letter, a game everyone should own.11741277_10155898597995608_2730347409736956519_o

Cool little felt bag contains the entire little game and draws interest from even non-gamers. It comes with red cubes for its “token of affection”, but we bought love heart replacements from meeplesource.com. Very quick, easy, fun deduction game for two to four players.

Get the highest card to win. Usually, though, you win some other way (getting someone to discard the Princess, comparing hands mid-game with the Baron and having the highest card, using the Guard to guess someone’s card, etc.)

Theme-wise, I love this game: the players are suitors to the Princess. You send her love letters through your connections in the palace (the card characters in the game).

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Each card is numbered, and the higher numbers are closer to the Princess. The Princess is the highest card (getting your love letter directly into her hand), the Countess is second highest, Guards are the lowliest and furthest away from the Princess. It’s interesting, and fun to roleplay a little. The game has a story in the manual, as does each character. Something lots of games don’t have.

Quick fun in 15 minutes, good opener or closer for a game night.