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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 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.

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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.

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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 9: Dungeons & Dragons Dice Masters: Battle for Faerûn

Dungeons & Dragons Dice Masters: Battle for Faerûn came out this year. Base set was pretty cheap, I think $20, and I’d heard good things about this two-player game collectable dice game, so I picked it up. Hadn’t played it until today. Verdict: pretty fun!

In this game you are warlords opposing each other, sending minions, monsters and adventurers to do your bidding. It’s somewhat like Magic the Gathering in that your monsters are trying to damage the other player, who will use their monsters to block yours and damage you, too.

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You start off with just a handful of NPC dice, which you roll to get energy to buy prettier dice representing monsters/characters and spells (or the NPC dice may roll up a pawn character which you can use in battle). Once you’ve bought stuff, it’ll be added to your dice bag later to be drawn out and rolled for battle.

When you roll dice and they turn up as characters you can send them into the field with cool powers. I had a troll that hit hard and could regenerate after being killed. I also had a vampire that healed me when it drained other characters. Suz eventually managed to get enough energy to buy a blue dragon but she never got to use it and it’s scary breath weapon or hard-hitting attacks. Thankfully for me!

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We traded blows back and forth… well, forth, really. I was down to one point out of ten while Suz was still at 9. She had kept disabling my troll with spells so it couldn’t attack. Then I finally got my two vampires, a troll, and several NPC pawns all attacking with nothing much on her side to defend. I brought her down to 1 life in that one attack before defeating her with some pawns. It didn’t feel too swingy to me, it felt like a hard-won victory that was tense right up until the last turn, rather than a sudden overpowered roll.

Spells feel like D&D spells. Monster powers feel like monster powers. It was pretty cool, and the card artwork is cool and the custom dice are awesome to look at (with unique dice for each monster/character). Dice Masters is a collectable game, so you can buy expansions with more dice and cards.

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If D&D isn’t your thing, there’s Marvel, DC and even Yu-Gi-Oh versions. Apparently they can all be used together, too, so you can have Wolverine fighting a Red Dragon and Batman.

Overall, our first game was fun and interesting. It gave me a good enough idea of the game to be keen to play again with different dice/card combinations to build my own special party of minions!

Posted in Board Games

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

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

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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).

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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 6: Tokaido

Tokaido! A lovely Japanese-themed game so pretty I want to hang the board on my wall.

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You are travellers on Japan’s East Sea Road, trying to have the most culturally enrinching journey possible… while making sure no other travellers have a better trip than you!

Bathe in hot springs with monkeys, paint beautiful panoramas, meet samurai and other helpful folk. Collect souvenirs, donate to the temple, work the farm for coins, but don’t get to the inn last or only expensive meals will be left.

Tokaido is a little different each time thanks to lots of characters that give you different ways to approach the game. Suz was a painter tonight, able to paint extra panorama pieces while eating at the inn. I was a priest, giving me extra money to donate to the temple.

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One note from tonight: in the two-player version you both control a third dummy player which we found is basically used to block the other player. Not as good as actually having three or more players because the dummy doesn’t care what it gets from the spots it lands on, but real people will.

That said, it’s an easy and fun game for anywhere from 2-5 players, great for newcomers or experienced players. And again: so pretty! Just look at that box art!