Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 12 – Friday

You are Friday, an islander who’s trying to help the very weak, very stupid, very shipwrecked Robinson Crusoe get good at life, and survive long enough to get killed by the pirates – or to kill them, take one of their ships and get out of your life forever.

If I was Friday, I’d want this guy off my island ASAP.

Sometimes your boardgaming buddies are busy. Or you just want a quick game by yourself, a private island of play. More and more games these days also serve as solo games, but some are made especially for only one player. Friday is one of those games.

In Friday, you’ll be drawing challenges to see what the island throws at you – from exploring the island or examining the shipwreck, to wild animals and cannibals. Each card has a white number showing how many free cards you can draw from the Robinson deck – representing your hapless visitor’s sparse capabilities and many, many flaws.

The traffic-light coloured numbers are the goal numbers for the various phases, showing you the score you need to beat the challenge. You start in the green phase, then reshuffle and increase to the next phase each time you run out of challenges.

Friday’s components, all set up to play.

Robinson starts with a lot of 0, 1 and -1 cards, with an occasional 2. So, even just aiming for a goal of 1 or 0 can initially be difficult to achieve without drawing extra cards. Each extra card costs you a life point, which can only be recovered 1 or 2 at a time from some card powers.

You’ll fail challenges a lot at the start. But that’s good. Robinson may learn something! You have to pay a life point for the difference between your card score total and the goal. If you drew a 1, 0, 2 and -1 against a goal of 4, you have to pay 2 life points. Here’s the good part: for every life point you pay, you can destroy a card you played. Goodbye 0 and -1!


After drawing 4 cards for a total of 3, I pushed my luck too far. Robinson’s distracted… -.-

If you win, you can’t destroy any cards, but you get the challenge card and flip it over into your deck, representing what Robinson learned from the experience, and also giving you some cool ability, like being able to exchange cards you’ve drawn with ones in the deck, or healing life points, copying card abilities, doubling the value of a card, and so on.

You’ll need these powerful abilities as the phases increase, and against the pirates.

Because of this, you may sometimes want to fail challenges, just to slim the dumb from your deck. You don’t even need to draw all your free cards if you don’t want to. As long as you’ve got life points to spare, getting rid of excess idiocy is often a great idea.

It’s always an interesting decision: win and get a new card, or lose and remove bad ones, but have that same challenge come around again later, but during a harder phase.

Robinson does have his moments. He’ll have more, with Friday’s guidance.

Once you reach the bottom of Robinson’s deck, you shuffle an aging card into your deck without looking, representing even more debilitating effects due to the stranded idiot now getting older as well. He’ll get hungry, scared, and more, shown by negative card values and effects that make you lose life points or ignore the highest value card you’ve played.

And that’s pretty much the game. Once you finish all three phases, you’ll face the pirates. They’ve got super-slow ships, so you can see them on the horizon from the very start of the game, and try to prepare your Robinson deck to combat these specific threats.

There’s a bunch of pirate ships in the game, with all sorts of powers, from extra draws draining more life points, to variable draw and goal numbers, to just really high goals to hit – like in the 40 and 50s. When your cards are more like 3s and 4s if you’re lucky, you’ll need to use a lot of abilities that let you draw more cards, double their strength or copy other card powers to get you through these final boss battles.

Pirates are visible from the start of the game, and you need to defeat both ships to win.

If you haven’t realise yet, Friday is a funny game. It’s Robinson art is just so derpy, and even when you lose, you often can’t help but chuckle when you set Robinson to a challenge only to draw: weak, weak, distracted, eating. I think Friday invented facepalming.

He’s not the hero this island deserves.

He’s so pathetic and idiotic that trimming the fat of -1s and 0s and shaping Robinson up into a lean, mean deck of 2s, 3s, 4s and powers feel all the more rewarding. Especially when you combo a dozen or so cards at the end and realise you can beat the pirates!

And if it all gets too easy, add in the -3 Very Stupid aging card, or try one of several difficulty settings included in the manual. Friday is like a training montage, of Robinson facing the same types of challenges over and over, getting slowly better until he’s ready – or not – for the inevitable finale which, excellently, always seems to come too soon.

Beating the pirates is oh so satisfying.

Friday has good strategy and choices, like which challenges to tackle, when to lose on purpose to destroy cards, when to spend life points to stretch for a potential win, and how to manage your overall deck. Various pirates, difficulty levels and striving to beat your previous high score means the game has a lot of replayability, too.

If you’d like solo games or would like to try them, you can’t go far wrong with Friday. It’s a cheaply priced, very small box with fun, easy to learn mechanics, interesting decisions and some laughs along the way. If you ever find your crew’s not around and you’re stranded alone, you’ll have a much better time if you seek out Friday.


Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 10 – The Big Book of Madness

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.

Small spindly guy or big thick guy. Sexy girl or sexy 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).

Each magician has a unique power that really mixes up how they play.

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).

Next time we see this blob, the win bonus and loss penalties will be different.

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.

The Big Book of Madness fits our new a coffee table, with two players.

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.

Multi-element curses show up later. Each curse has powers that activate on its round.

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.

Specialising in an element or two can really beef up your spellcasting.

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.




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.


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.


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).


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 2015 – Day 7: Doomtown: Reloaded

Doomtown: Reloaded is a Living Card Game (LCG). That means it’s like a collectable card game (CCG) but the expansions have set cards, not random cards like, say, Magic: The Gathering.

If you’re thinking about getting into an LCG, I’d recommend Shut Up & Sit Down‘s review/overview of the game and the Living Card Game community.


I haven’t played Doomtown much and we were relearning today. I like it, but it takes a bit of time (and the right people and mindset) to get the most fun out of the game. Doomtown is a supernatural Wild West themed LCG similar-ish to Android: Netrunner (which I haven’t played) where you build decks and have shootouts over a town that’s apparently not big enough for the 2-4 of you.

You build decks made of cards representing dudes (people), deeds (properties), goods/gadgets/weapons/spells and actions. You make your custom deck (or, like us so far, construct one of the starter decks listed in the manual) and start the game, placing and moving cards to try to gain more control than your opponents have influence (representing someone getting a more permanent stake in the town and taking control of it, basically).


Shootouts are the most fun part, drawing hands of cards and discarding down to the best poker hand you can make. Best bit is your deck is stacked, so you can make “cheatin’ hands” like the Full House (five fives!) that I won today’s last shootout with. Cards also have powers, so the Law Dogs faction gets things like bonuses when another player plays a cheatin’ hand. Being the nefarious Sloane Gang, I got some bonuses for cheating. Pretty cool. Shootouts also feel pretty fast and brutal, with some surprising turnabouts at times.


Issues we’ve had with the game are the not-that-intuitive movement rules and some of the not-entirely-explanatory card rules text. Doomtown does have a learning curve (I can’t say I’m past it yet – too few games and far between) but the fun is there, just not always immediately accessible. My brother and I played for hours one afternoon as I introduced it to him and had great fun! I’m looking forward to more plays of it.

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2015 – Day 2: Paperback

Tonight Suz and I played Paperback. I’ve posted before about this great deck building word game, sort of like Scrabble plus Dominion. Easy to get into, loads of variants, lots of replayability.

You never really feel stuck, as it’s always possible to spell *some* word. The trick comes in spelling long/valuable enough words to get more cents (to buy cards) or points (which are needed to win).


There’s heaps of variants included. Even a co-op variant and another where you can show other players your cards and ask for word suggestions. If you use their suggestion, they get a cube they can trade in for one cent.

Everyone starts with the same few letters and some wild cards to get you started making words and buying cards to build your deck. Longer words are worth more cents, letting you buy more letters worth more cents to spell more words worth more cents!

Oh, and the letters have powers, like double word score, draw more cards, stop another player using wilds this round, etc.

It’s a really cool game. Highly recommended.