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.

IMAG5139

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.

IMAG5138

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.

IMAG5142

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 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.

IMAG5028

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.

IMAG5033

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?

IMAG5029

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 14: Dead Man’s Draw

Dead Man’s Draw is a fast, fun card game of risk and reward for 2-4 players that can be setup and completed in under 20 minutes. Fantastic little game of strategy and luck. We recommend it.

11807314_10155938327195608_7459559807333104760_o

Dead Man’s Draw has pirate-themed suits of cards, all with different powers. On your turn, you draw a single card out of the deck and play it onto the table, activate its power, do what it says, then choose whether to draw another card to play. Repeat until you choose to collect your cards instead of drawing another one or until you draw a card of the same suit as one you’ve already played this turn – if that happens, you bust and don’t collect any of the cards you’ve just drawn. Bigger risks may equal bigger rewards or maybe mean all those lovely cards are lost to you.

If each card you got was worth points, one player could take a clear lead. But in this game, it’s only the highest card you have of each suit that counts. Suits go from 2-7 (or 4-9 for Mermaids, which have no other power in the base game).

Each suit’s power is interesting and affects strategy. The Kraken forces you to draw and play two more cards, Swords let you steal a card from another player’s Bank (cards you’ve collected), while the Cannon blows another player’s card right into the discard pile.

11872312_10155938328015608_5537021049789298675_o

Hooks let you put a card from your Bank into play. Why would you want to do that? Maybe so you can play an Anchor so everything else you’ve drawn can be collected even if you bust. Or maybe the Oracle, so you can look at the next card before deciding whether to play it. Maybe you’ll put in a Key to match up with that Chest you’ve drawn – they only have power together, letting you draw from the discard pile as many cards as you just collected.

Each player also gets a character card with a unique power. In this gameSuz‘s made her Anchors more powerful, protecting all the cards before the Anchor like normal, but also protecting the Anchor and the next two cards she drew after it. Very useful. I had more powerful Cannons, letting me blow a card from Suz’s bank into my bank, instead of into the discard pile like normal.

11807156_10155938327675608_8221230958853169064_o

On the box art you’ll see this is a special International TableTop Day version of the game. It has an expansion inside giving the Mermaid cards some powers, as well as giving different rules variations. It’s interesting stuff, but we haven’t felt the need for it.

Dead Man’s Draw is a good game, with nice art, easy to learn rules, and strategy deep enough to matter but not intimidating. You can play strategically, or just draw till it feels right to stop. In that way, it’s good for all sorts of players. We recommended it.

And with that, we end our final review of Game A Day Fortnight. Check out my next post for a summary and closing.

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!

11794492_10155930316105608_2836943136722327859_o

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.

11823012_10155930316180608_4628287225356754696_o

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 🙂

11794161_10155930316080608_1410334105523567622_o

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 10: Splendor

Splendor was a nominee for the 2014 Spiel des Jahres and 2014 Golden Geek Board Game of the Year Winner (as voted by users of BoardGameGeek.com). It’s one of Suz and my favourite new games.

11845060_10155922523595608_1145428843221375918_o

Splendor is a very pretty game about gems! You are rich Renaissance merchants “using resources to acquire mines, transportation methods and artisans to turn raw gems into beautiful jewels”.

In practice, that means taking up to 3 gems each round and spending them on said mines, transportation or artisans. The choice to take 3 gems, buy a card, reserve a card and get a gold wildcard token, or take 2 of a particular gem but none of any others is a choice that’s simple to remember but something to weigh up each time, without being overwhelming.

 

But what’s that? There’s not enough gems to buy the card you want? Well, every card you buy counts as a gem for the purposes of buying new cards. What this means is you spend money on cheaper things like mines then use the gems you make there to buy transportation methods (also worth points; your goal is 15) and then use those to buy the most expensive stuff: artisans. But the cards can be spent over and over each turn, never running out.

10927186_10155922523520608_8909303307750421358_o

It’s a great feeling buying your first card that you don’t have to spend ANY gems on at all. It’s like it’s free, but you’re using your cards you’ve bought to pay for it, which kinda makes you feel like a rich gem merchant, with enough investments that you have gems to throw around like it’s nothing. Great stuff 🙂

I have to comment on the poker chips. They’re fantastic! So heavy and they feel great to stack and play with. Again, it feels like you’re dealing in a currency that has value. We actually considered replacing them with little plastic gems but they just feel too good. All the art is great too and the game is easy to set up.

When playing, you can just piece things together and buy whatever you can afford, but the key is to make your investments build toward something else. Such as expensive cards or attracting nobles who are interested in perusing your collection! Once you have the combination of cards (not gems) listed on a noble tile (up the top there), that noble will swan on over and give you some points. Only for the first player to do it, though, so it’s a bit of a race which adds a lot to the game and some long-term strategy and goals. But they’re not a guaranteed win: I snapped up two nobles today, but Suz had been building a diamond horde which let her grab a 4 point card late in the game for sudden victory!

We love this game – it can be played in 30 minutes with 2-4 players, easy to pick up, but has strategy and replayability (with different cards and nobles each game). Highly recommended 😀

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2015 – Day 8: Carcassonne

Carcassonne‘s box says “Especially good for two players”. We agree 🙂

11794302_10155916059590608_2566246452808524247_o

Carcassonne came out in 2000 and has been a worldwide hit ever since. It’s a great, easy to play tile-laying game. You take turns placing tiles and maybe claiming them with your little meeples, to score points later on. You want to finish the feature you claim, and the other players probably want to stop you (or at least share your points by connecting up to your feature with a tile claimed by their own meeple).

11822948_10155916062305608_1750901722155010134_o

It’s simple and pretty quick to play (we just played in about 40 minutes), good for newcomers and experienced players.

Recommended for all board game collections 🙂

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2015 – Day 4: Tsuro

Tsuro is another great, fast game. It’s beautiful too, and sort of zen.

You play by placing tiles with paths to follow (anyone touching any of the paths must follow it), flying around and trying not to stray off the board (and lose) or crash into another dragon (both lose).

11816260_10155901898350608_7542358707753537111_o.jpg

At first, you just move a little way. Later, when tiles connect up, you’re zooming all over (and hopefully not off) the board. Whoever survives the longest, wins. You’ll always have a winner by the time the tile deck runs out.

I think it’s a better game with more people (can do 2-8 players), as you’re all passing by each other and it can get hectic. It’s a good game when you’ve got 15 minutes – though I find we’ll often want to play two or three times in one sitting 🙂