Review: Power Grid – The First Sparks

Posted by James (admin) on 24th November 2011

In Power Grid: The First Sparks, players have stone age clans trying to expand into new areas.  The First Sparks is a simplified (and differently themed) version of the very popular game Power Grid – I’ll talk about how the two compare at the end but will write this review from the point of view that you haven’t played, or know, Power Grid.

During the game, players need food to feed their clans so they can expand into new territories.  Food is gained by clans in areas using tools and knowledge.  Food comes in various forms and each token of each type is worth different amounts of food  (crops=1, berries=2, fish=3, bears=3, mammoths=4).  The board is a landscape of hex zones each with a food type in the centre and split into 3 areas. Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Stalag 17

Posted by James (admin) on 22nd November 2011

In Stalag 17, players are prisoners of war assembling their escape plans – the first to have all 3 of their POWs escape wins.  At the start of each escape attempt, some dice are rolled which determines what equipment (food, uniforms, maps,etc.) will be required for this escape attempt as well as a normal dice (1-6) which is the runaway score that a player needs to equal or beat too.

Players take turns taking, discarding and placing cards.  One their turn a player can:

  • Play 1 card from their hand in front of them face-down (taking a replacement card from the draw deck)
  • Draw 2 cards (both from the draw deck or 1 from the draw deck and 1 from the discard pile)
  • Discard: any 1 card, or 3+ cards that are the same, or 5+ cards that are all different
  • Escape Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Drum Roll

Posted by James (admin) on 21st November 2011

In Drum Roll, players are putting on circus shows with the winner scoring the most prestige points (PPs) after three performances.

To score PPs, players need to hire performers (which costs cash) and give them the enough equipment, costume, etc. (represented by colour cubes) so that they can give great performances.  Each performer can give a 1-, 2- or 3-star performance; however, each performer needs a specific colour cube for each level of performance – so a 3-star performance requires 3 cubes of the exact colours.  Each of the 5 types of performer give different benefits (gaining cubes, generating cash, reducing salaries, etc.) and the better the performance, the better the ability.  Instead of delivering their 3-star performance benefit though, the player can flip that performer’s card which earns PPs (and reduces their salary each round) but means they player can not use their ability any longer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Mammut (Queen)

Posted by James (admin) on 15th November 2011

Not be confused with Krok Nik Douil’s game also called Mammut, this Mammut is a game by Queen Games.  Players try to gather tiles which all score in different ways.  This sounds very normal but the way the tiles are gathered is a very interesting mechanic delivering a funny and humorously evil game.

The game is played over several rounds – scoring occurs after each round and the player with the most victory points (VPs) wins.  Each round 31 double-sided tiles are mixed up in a bag and then dumped onto the table and spread out.  The tiles show fur, claws, axes, meat, fire and animals.  Some tiles have question marks on them and these will only get turned over to reveal their actual value when scoring starts.

On your turn, you can either (a) take some (or all) of the tiles in the centre (if any remain), or (b) you can take all of another player’s tiles but you must put one of them back in the middle.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Tournay

Posted by James (admin) on 8th November 2011

Tournay is a card-based game where players aim to score the most prestige points (PPs) by building their own town.  It’s by the same designers as Troyes (which was why I pre-ordered a copy) but, whilst it uses the same art style as Troyes and a couple of similar-ish elements, Tournay is very different to Troyes and not the card game version of it at all.

In the middle of the table are 9 decks of cards – levels 1, 2 & 3 in colours red, white and yellow.  The cards are buildings and characters – buildings can be activated to use their abilities; whereas, characters have effects when buildings are placed or triggered in the same row/column as the character card.  For example a character card may earn a player cash when they activate a white building.  Whilst you can build over placed cards, as your town can only be 3×3 in size, it is plain from the start that you need to find a good balance between buildings and characters and place them so they have synergy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Dragon Rampage

Posted by James (admin) on 4th November 2011

Dragon Rampage is a clever, dice-driven game by Richard Launius who has created games including Arkham Horror and Defenders of the Realm.  Dragon Rampage though is a bit more light-hearted as players are running from a dragon’s lair with as much treasure as possible.

On their turn, a player rolls the 7 special dice in a way similar to Yahtzee as a player can use 2 re-rolls to re-roll as many or as few dice as they wish (apart from dragon results which are instantly locked).  When the player stops rolling, they record how many of the 6 different results they scored.  The round ends when all players have had a turn and each of the different results is evaluated.  The players with the most of each result get a benefit.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Meltdown 2020

Posted by James (admin) on 3rd November 2011

Some years ago a friend of mine who is a teacher told me about a co-operative exercise he’d created for his students where they organised search-and-rescue operations.  It sounded great and we discussed how it had potential for a board game as he plays some Eurogames.  So, I was very interested when Meltdown 2020 was announced.

In Meltdown 2020, players are trying to evacuate their meeple from the area where reactors are starting to meltdown.  Each player starts with 3 vehicles which each have a speed (spaces it can move) and a capacity (max number of meeple it can carry simultaneously).  The vehicles are a bus (spd:2 cap:4), car (spd:3 cap:3) and a helicopter (spd:4 cap 2). Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Tschak!

Posted by James (admin) on 2nd November 2011

Tschak! is a small card game where players are trying to gain treasure and avoid monsters but the gameplay offers something rather clever.

The 40 cards consist of wizards, warriors and dwarves with different values on them.  Each player is dealt 3 of each, plus one artefact card making a hand of 10 cards.  Players will assault 4 towers (one per round) and the player with most victory points (VPs) at the end wins.

Each tower has 3 levels played in order and each level has a random treasure and monster placed on it.  For each level, players play a total of 3 cards and the player with the highest combined value of cards gets the treasure (VPs) and the player with the lowest gets the monster (negative VPs).   A couple of the cards have special abilities: one wizard’s value is only the same as the most powerful wizard played by another player, and the artefact card doubles your weakest card.

Each level is played slightly differently.  On level 1, players simultaneously play 1 card at a time from their hands three times to make their total.  On level 2, players simultaneously play 2 cards and then 1 card.  On level 3, players play all 3 cards simultaneously.  This leaves each player with 1 card and these earn their owners 3, 2 and 1 gold based on the highest card values (gold being worth 1 VP each too). Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Trajan

Posted by James (admin) on 1st November 2011

Initially, Trajan looks like a complicated game but it isn’t really – it just offers choices all built around a clever, but not over-powering, central mechanic.

Players are trying to score victory points (VPs) by fulfilling the people’s demands and furthering Roman power.  Each turn, a player gets to perform one of the 6 actions: building, shipping, forum, senate, military, and Trajan.  So, the overview is simple, but the mechanics and choices are what really deliver a great game.

Determining the Action to Take
On their turn, players can not simply choose any action they wish.  Instead, each player’s player board shows 6 pots each relating to one specific action.  In these pots are 12 coloured pieces (6 coloured pairs).  On their turn, a player takes all of the pieces from any one pot and distributes them one at a time into the next pots going clockwise from where they took the pieces from.  (This distribution game mechanic is widely known from the game Mancala – a traditional game in Africa and some parts of Asia dating back as far as 600 AD). Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Last Will

Posted by James (admin) on 31st October 2011

Last Will is a game where players must be the first to spend some money left to them by their uncle.  The first to prove they can enjoy such riches the most (fastest) will then be the sole heir to the rest of the massive inheritance.  In essence, the game is an interesting mix of worker placement with elements of efficiency engine too, but there are lots of things to balance.

Each round consists of several steps.  First, players take turns selecting their place on the actions chart – a player’s position on the chart determines the number of workers (errand boys) they will place (1 or 2), the number of actions they will spend (playing cards and spending money) and the number of cards they will take from the decks (giving them options on how to spend money or other abilities), plus it determines the order of play for that turn too.  This multi-dimensional choice is an excruciatingly interesting decision to make, especially as only one player can select each of the mixture of options.  (It’s a bit like the initial choice of what time to get up in Fresco but even harder to select.) Read the rest of this entry »

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