Review for Two – Fields of Agincourt

Thank you for checking review #39 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A copy of the prototype for this game went “on tour” and we were one of the spots on that tour. A free copy has not been sent in exchange for the review. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.

**Second note: I’m out of town for training and my current machine seems to have an issue trying to insert images, so images will be added on January 11th, when I am back home**

An Overview of Fields of Agincourt

Fields of Agincourt is a game published by Logos Games. The box states that it can play 2-5 players and has a 30-45 minute play time.

Description from the publisher:

October 25th, 1415 Artois, France
The woods were still and full of mist. Silent hills stood watch. A muddy field waited for the battle to begin. Near the small village of Agincourt, two armies faced each other in the chill of the early morning. Archers, Footmen, Scouts, and Cavalry ordered themselves for battle. The land was the prize that was sought. The cost must be paid in blood. Welcome to the Fields of Agincourt.

Agincourt is a combative tile-placement game for 2-5 players. The map will form as the game is played, with each player fighting for position for the final battle. The goal of the game is to defeat your enemies and claim the most victory points.

Playing Fields of Agincourt consists of two game stages:

Marshalling the Troops: Players take turns placing tiles, recruiting troops, and claiming Bastions. Once all the tiles are placed, the Final Battle will begin.

The Final Battle: Players are vying for superior battle positions within Bastions. Contested Bastions are resolved one at a time, with the winning player receiving victory points. The player with the most victory points will win the game.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

A smaller pool of tiles are used in a 2-player game. In the prototype, the tiles not used all had symbols on the backs of the tiles to indicate what player count to include them into the game (the final version may be different). Each player takes a player mat, places their meeple on the 2 spot of their recruitment board, and takes the eight tokens of their color. The stack of tiles are mixed up and each player gets three tiles.

At the start of a turn, four tiles from the stack are placed face-up. The first player takes one of those tiles and puts it into their hand and then plays one of their four tiles onto the table. The tile must be adjacent to another tile (except the first one), and cannot form a connection of 4+ forest, mountain, or kingdom tiles. If this is the third adjacent tile of one of those terrain types, they will get a free battle modifier token during that phase. They gain recruitment points equal to the number in the shield on the tile placed.

During the action phase, the player may move their cavalry (if recruited) for free as well as either recruit a new battle unit onto the tile placed or do a cavalry action. Either of those options will cost 2 recruitment points. Cavalry can move to any open plains tile on the board. Cavalry actions are to cure a plague cube from an adjacent tile (worth 2 points at the end of the game for scoring), insert a battle unit into an unoccupied adjacent tile of the appropriate type, or transport a unit from one terrain tile to a different one that remains adjacent to any plains tile. These are the only ways to get units onto a tile after it has been placed and to move a non-cavalry unit once it is place. Any modifiers on a tile remain behind when moving a unit.

The final phase is the battle modifier phase where a player can purchase a token for 2 recruitment points, as well as gain a free one if they completed a bastion during the tile phase. These are immediately placed face-down on a tile where a player has a unit and cannot be moved for the remainder of the game.

The second player does the same steps. Then, in reverse player order, the players place the remaining two tiles onto the map. These tiles do not score recruitment points and cannot gain units when placed, but they may place plague cubes on the board or activate the plague. Once each player has put the tiles out, the first player meeple passes and a new turn begins. Play continues until there are no tiles left in the stack or in either player’s hand.

Four graveyard cards are in the stack of tiles and, when placed, gain plague cubes. Once they have cubes on them, if a player places a tile with a plague activator (a cross) on them, the plague moves. Players alternate moving the cluster of cubes, leaving one behind one each tile except when moving it off the graveyard. The cubes reduce the shield value of the tile they are on (making it effectively a 0) and remove any battle modifier tokens on a tile.

Once all tiles are out, players flip their player board and score for the following:

Cavalry score points equal to the value of the terrain tile they are on.
Players score two points per plague cube cured during the game.
Other units score points if they control a bastion, regardless of its size (max 3). The value in points is the sum of the shields in the bastion, keeping in mind a plague cube makes it a 0. If two players both have units in the bastion, then a battle occurs. Add the value of the shield of the tile their unit is on, plus any battle modifiers on that tile. The higher value wins and scores the bastion. Ties are scored by both players.

Whoever has the highest score wins.

My Thoughts

This game takes the fun of building a landscape with tiles, like Carcassonne, and ramps it up a few notches. The placement rules are simple, yet it provides a lot of strategy for placement because you want to get your units out, win bastions, and complete a 3-tile bastion. The best feeling is when you are sure you’ve accomplished all three of those with one turn.

Eight units sounded like hardly any. I thought there would be a ton of rounds where I didn’t get to play units. It turns out that I never have gotten all eight out (most has been 7) and usually those final few come in the last turns. There are so many useful things the cavalry can do with their actions that I usually find the middle of the game is spent moving them around and curing cubes when possible for points. I think it ends up being the perfect number of units, having two of each type, one cavalry, and a “wild” mercenary.

The plague is one of the coolest mechanisms in the game. You know it will be coming. You know where it will originate from once a graveyard is placed and you’ll know its range. In a 2-player game, you’ll get to choose half of its movement to help steer it where you want it to end up. Maximizing its benefit to you (to be cured with cavalry) while maximizing its harm to your opponent (canceling the value of tiles in a bastion they are like to win or eliminating their combat modifiers) is a key to success in the game.

The survey phase, where each player puts the remaining tiles onto the board for no benefit, is a great idea for a mechanic. This speeds up the game and helps prevent a player from running away with victory. You can complete a bastion to prevent your opponent from getting the free modifier, trigger a plague activation so that your turns can be spent earning recruitment points, or starting a new bastion to build into on your next turn. Placements in this phase are usually faster than in the player turns, but this is as critical in placement and decision-making as your turns will be.

The drafting aspect of the tiles is a really important and good mechanic. I love drafting games, and this one is key to think about what you need, what the opponent needs, and what you might want to still see in the survey phase. This leads to some nice, weighty decisions in the space of only four tiles. The fact that you also have a hand of three tiles means you can pick up a tile you don’t intend to play for several turns, letting you set up future combinations.

Oh those tower cards, how I love them. They stack up on existing tiles of that terrain type, making them stronger or weaker. And you can place more than one down there. Your opponent makes their forest go from a 2 to a 4 with a tower? Place your own tower on there to drop it to a 1 instead. This is a clever twist that makes your hand of tiles more valuable when you are holding towers to boost, or destroy, tiles later in the game.

This was to be a negative, but it moves up to a neutral thanks to the preview I saw of the Kickstarter for this game. The artwork on the prototype was very bland, with only the forest tiles having any colorful art on there. The tiles looks much better in the final version shown, but it still has that ancient map-like background that might turn some people off to the aesthetics. My wife wasn’t a fan at all of the look, in spite of enjoying the game play. The final version does look to be much more appealing visually, though!

The end game scoring… oh how I hate it. It is brilliant, don’t get me wrong, but if you are the type of person who likes to know where they stand in a game then you are going to hate the uncertainty in this. I thought, in the last game we played, that I was doing pretty darn good. I lost every bastion battle, losing the game by 20 points overall because I drew 1’s and 2’s while she got almost all 3’s from the battle modifiers. This doesn’t make the game bad or unenjoyable, but it is worth noting that if that sounds like something you might not enjoy, you probably won’t like it when it happens.

Those battle modifiers are your real element of randomness, and when things go wrong they can really swing things in the wrong way. You can plan well, play well, and still lose because your opponent got the better “hidden information” tiles on their turns. Having an action available, or being able to use that mercenary tile, to “spy” and see a tile placed would go a long ways toward making this feel less impactful and random. I find the values to be just right – adding in a few higher numbers like a 5 could make it even swingier – but the inability to know where you stand can lead to some disappointing scoring.

Final Thoughts

I was initially interested in the game because of the name. I had just read books and played games revolving around the battle of Agincourt, so it was a right-timing sort of affair. I had high hopes for what could be yet another great game regarding this battle.

Unfortunately, this game doesn’t really feel like the battle of Agincourt. We Happy Few this is not. Both sides are equal in power and number. Rather, this is more of a tile-laying area control type of game. And there is nothing wrong with that. While it didn’t meet what I hoped the game would be, this turned out to be a really fun and interesting game. It takes the basic tile-laying of Carcassonne, a game many have played and loved, and ramps it up in several ways that makes it a better game overall. At least that is how I felt about it.

The restriction of 3 tiles in a bastion, and the reward for completing a bastion, was a nice touch. The plains, being the one area you can’t really fight over, are critical for movement of cavalry. They won’t score many points themselves, but they can clear plague cubes and move your troops into more favorable bastions later in the game. The limit on the actions you get each turn make it so you have a difficult choice on whether to use that cavalry or bring out a new troop. Getting all the troops out, or close to it, is important for maximizing your point potential.

Being able to stack tower cards onto existing tiles, to raise or lower its value, is another really nice touch. It doesn’t expand the map, but it allows you to affect the potential outcome of a battle. The plague is inevitable, and sometimes you really want it to happen so you can cure cubes and wipe your opponent’s modifiers. Not knowing what your opponent has for modifiers keeps things interesting and adds an element of the unknown to the end result.

All in all, if you like building landscape and a game with plenty of player interaction, this is an excellent choice of a game. It probably won’t fire Carcassonne from collections, but it is a nice alternative if you want something mechanically similar but far more interesting with two players. Adding more players to the game would make this even harder to predict the final scores. I would definitely recommend checking this game out, especially if you plan to be able to play it with more than two players from time to time. It is a solid 2-player experience, but it isn’t likely the ideal player count.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.


Board Gaming · Gaming Recap

End-of-Year Statistics and 2018 Goals

2017 has closed on us, and already my subscription box is flooding with other users doing recaps for 2017. I missed my November recap, having lost the motivation to dedicate the incredible amount of time it took to construct that recap and add in all the links. The latter is really the part that bogs things down, and so I’ll opt to skip that in here, but those who have been watching will know my wife had led all year in win/loss record for our head-to-head gaming. And that October saw me finally get even with her. How did the final two months shake things up? And did I pull up over 50% on my solo victories?

2017 Games played as a couple

7 Wonders Duel: 7 (David x 5, Nicole x 2)
878: Vikings – Invasions of England: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
A Feast for Odin: 2 (David x 2)
Aeon’s End: 1 (Co-op Loss)
Agricola (Revised Edition): 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Albion’s Legacy: 1 (Co-op Loss)
Argent: The Consortium: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn: 7 (Nicole x 3, David x 4)
Barony: 7 (Nicole x 4, David x 3)
Battle Line: 6 (David x 3, Nicole x 3)
Biblios: 4 (David x 3, Nicole x 1)
Blood Rage: 4 (Nicole x 2, David x 2)
Carcassonne: 1 (David x 1)
The Castles of Burgundy: 3 (David x 1, Nicole x 2)
Castles of Caladale: 3 (Nicole x 3)
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: 3 (Nicole x 3)
Catan: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Caverna: The Cave Farmers: 5 (David x 2, Nicole x 3)
Caverna: Cave vs Cave: 2 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
Century: Golem Edition: 1 (David x 1)
Century: Spice Road: 9 (David x 5, Nicole x 4)
Charterstone: 5 (Nicole x 2, David x 3)
The Climbers: 3 (David x 3)
Codenames: Duet: 1 (Co-op Loss)
Council of Verona: 2 (David x 2)
Crazier Eights: Avalon: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Cry Havoc: 2 (Nicole x 2)
Custom Heroes: 1 (David x 1)
Eight Minute Empire: Legends: 6 (Nicole x 4, David x 2)
Exile Sun: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Fairy Tale: 7 (Nicole x 4, David x 3)
Fields of Agincourt: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Fields of Green: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Firefly: The Game: 3 (David x 1, Nicole x 2)
Five Tribes: 5 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
Galaxy Trucker: 5 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
The Game: 1 (Co-op Win x 1)
Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Guilds of London: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Hanamikoji: 10 (David x 6, Nicole x 4)
Harbour: 5 (David x 2, Nicole x 3)
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle: 2 (2 Co-op wins)
Haspelknecht: 5 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
Herbaceous: 9 (David x 6, Nicole x 3)
Holmes: Sherlock x Mycroft: 8 (David x 3, Nicole x 5)
Incantris: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Istanbul: 1 (David x 1)
Jaipur: 1 (David x 1)
The King is Dead: 3 (Nicole x 2, David x 1)
Kingdom Builder: 8 (Nicole x 6, David x 2)
Kingdomino: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival: 4 (David x 3, Nicole x 1)
Legends of Andor: 2 (1 Co-op win)
Lignum: 2 (Nicole x 2)
Lords of Scotland: 2 (Nicole x 1, David x 1)
Love Letter: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Mint Works: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Mystic Vale: 9 (David x 5, Nicole x 4)
Niya: 2 (David x 2)
Odin’s Ravens: 4 (David x 1, Nicole x 3)
Patchwork: 4 (David x 3, Nicole x 1)
Photosynthesis: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Pixel Tactics 2: 3 (Nicole x 2, David x 1)
Queendomino: 2 (David x 2)
Scythe: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Seasons: 2 (David x 2)
Sellswords: Olympus: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Seven Dragons: 1 (David x 1)
Shahrazad: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Small World Underground: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Splendor: 1 (David x 1)
Star Fluxx: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Star Realms: 12 (Nicole x 5, David x 7)
Star Wars: Imperial Assault: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Sushi Go!: 1 (David x 1)
Takenoko: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary Edition: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 2)
Tiny Epic Galaxies: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Tiny Epic Kingdoms: 3 (Nicole x 3)
Torres: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Unearth: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Viticulture: Essential Edition: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
War of the Ring: 4 (Nicole x 3, David x 1)
Yokohama: 5 (David x 2, Nicole x 3)
Zero: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)

David – 142/279 (50.09%)
Nicole – 137/279 (49.10%)

2017 Games played solo

9 Card Siege: 5 (1 Win)
A Feast for Odin: 1 (1 Win)
Aeon’s End: 1 (1 Win)
Agincourt: 1 (1 Win)
Albion’s Legacy: 2 (0 Wins)
Castles of Caladale: 2 (2 Wins)
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: 1 (0 Wins)
Caverna: Cave vs Cave: 1 (1 Win)
Chrononauts: 4 (0 Wins)
Dice of Arkham: 2 (1 Win)
Elevenses for One: 1 (1 Win)
Firefly: The Game: 1 (0 Wins)
Freedom: The Underground Railroad: 4 (1 Win)
Friday: 4 (2 Wins)
The Game: 2 (1 Win)
Harbour: 2 (2 Wins)
Herbaceous: 6 (4 Wins)
Imperial Settlers: 5 (4 Wins)
Legendary: 1 (1 Win)
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: 24 (10 Wins)
Mage Knight Board Game: 2 (1 Win)
Mini Rogue: 2 (2 Wins)
Neverland’s Legacy: 1 (0 wins)
Night of Man: 3 (1 Win)
Race for the Galaxy: 9 (4 Wins)
Scythe: 1 (1 Win)
SECRET Solo Game: 4 (1 Win)
Shahrazad: 5 (2 Wins)
Sherwood’s Legacy: 1 (1 Win)
Space Hulk: Death Angel: 3 (1 Wins)
Stamford Bridge: End of the Viking Age: 2 (2 Wins)
Star Realms: 1 (1 Win)
Stellar Leap: 6 (4 Wins)
Terraforming Mars: 2 (0 Wins)
Tiny Epic Galaxies: 3 (3 Wins)
Tombs: The Sword of Valhalla: 1 (0 Wins)
Valeria: Card Kingdoms: 1 (1 Win)
Viticulture: Essential Edition: 8 (4 Wins)
Yeomen: The 9-Card Agincourt Game: 6 (1 Win)

2017 Solo Record: 64/121 (52.89%)

So there you have it, I accomplished both of my goals for 2017 by having a 50% win record in solo games and a 50% record or better in 2-player games with my wife. In her defense, had our gaming not dropped a lot in the past two months I am certain she would have thumped me. Did she really win all three games of Kingdom Builder we played in the last two months? I need to fix that…

And so here are the things I am hoping to accomplish in 2018:

 Play all of our owned games (69 games)
 Play all of my soloable games solo (23 games)
 Eliminate my shame pile of unplayed games (10 games)
 Complete my 10×10 (Charterstone, Android: Netrunner, Kingdom Builder, 878: Vikings – Invasions of England, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, Scythe, Mystic Vale, Seasons, Innovation, Albion’s Legacy)
 Play 50 new-to-me unowned games
 Complete the Charterstone campaign
 Play all soloable print and play games (20 games)
 Find and print a new solo print and play game each month
 Beat all Lord of the Rings: The Card Game quests that I own/will own (24 quests)
 Purchase the Adventure Packs to complete the two cycles in Lord of the Rings that I’ve started (10 packs)
 Purchase no new games in 2018 (two exceptions, one game as a reward for hitting a weight goal, one for completing my 10×10. Expansions/add-ons do not count but will remain limited in purchase)
 Keep a better log of plays!

So how about you? What are some of your 2018 goals?

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – The Climbers

Thank you for checking review #38 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A copy of this game went “on tour” and we were one of the spots on that tour. A copy has not been provided, as we are paying the shipping to send it off to the next location. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.

An Overview of The Climbers

The Climbers is a game designed by Holger Lanz and has been republished by Capstone Games’ Simply Complex line. The box states that it can play 2-5 players and has a 45 minute play time.

The Climbers / Die Aufsteiger is an easy-to-learn, all-wooden, 3D strategy game with beautiful components, which include 35 colorful blocks of different sizes, a climber pawn for each player, a blocking stone for each player, and a short and a long ladder for each player. Starting with all the blocks in a random tower, players move a block and then climb up the tower gradually — without ladders for small steps up, and with ladders for larger climbs. Blocking stones keep the block in place and unoccupied for one round, but you can only use your blocking stones and each ladder once during the game. The winner is whoever gets to the highest point first when no one can go higher for one round. You can only climb onto surfaces that are the same color as your climber or beige (a neutral color any climbers can use).

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The game sets up and plays the exact same regardless of player count, which is one of the things I like about the game (more on that later). Either have one person, or work as a group, to construct the initial “tower” out of the blocks. The two tallest pillars stand up to form the core of the structure, and there are only a few requirements:

1) All of those two tall blocks must be covered, including the tops and all sides.

2) There can be no overhanging blocks.

3) There can be no blocks that form bridges over gaps.

Apart from those few rules, the construction of the initial structure is pretty wide open. You could house rule things, such as not having the same color appear in consecutive locations (providing someone a quick path up if they use that color) or having the colors for each player chosen at random after the structure is built.

The object of the game is to be at the highest point on the structure when no other players are able to move upward. During a player’s turn they may move their climber (never diagonally or downwards) to a block of the same color or the neutral color, so long as the block is on the same level or 1 higher (about head-high on the climber pawn). They have a one-time-use small ladder that can allow them to move onto a 2-high block, and a one-time-use large ladder that can allow them to move onto a 2, 3, or 4-high block from their position. Each player also has a one-time-use blocking disc that will prevent anyone from moving onto, through, or moving a specific block until it gets back to that player. The other thing a player may do is to move or rotate exactly one block that is unoccupied on the structure (and is also not buried under other blocks, nor can it be the block most recently moved by a player).

Turns are fast, simple, yet complex in a “race” to be the person to reach the highest point on the structure when no one else can move.

My Thoughts

The Climbers is a game that catches the eye when it is on the table. Everything in the box is wooden and colorful, and the 3D construction of the structure makes this stand out when compared to many other board games that are flat pieces of cardboard with some cubes or meeples. While there isn’t anything fancy about the game, it really grabs the attention of people when it is set up on the table. The choices of color in the game are also great.

This game is about as easy to jump in and explain as you could hope for. The rules overhead is really minimal, allowing you to fast-forward through long explanations and get to playing the game. I was able to read the rules within 10 minutes of my wife getting home and taught her that night. It played well, with no need to refer back to the rule book. I enjoy longer, more complex games, but I think we both appreciated being able to pick up and jump right into a game without spending a ton of time going over how to play.

The one-time-use nature of your three items are where the majority of your strategy comes into play. I’ve seen new players use them all right away to take an early lead, and I’ve seen players store them until a situation where nothing else can allow them to advance. Deciding what to use, when, and how, are some of the more interesting choices to make.

Call me crazy, but I love that this isn’t a game that you can just sit down and play. Literally. This game is usually spent standing up, walking around the table to see the entire view of the structure before deciding on your move for the turn. This can be avoided with a lazy susan, of course, but for some reason I actually enjoy playing the occasional game where I don’t have my butt planted in a chair the whole time.

One of my favorite things to do is to let a new player build the structure before explaining any of the rules of the game. It is fun to see how they go about piecing everything together, which can provide some really interesting puzzles for the early game. It was much better than letting my wife build it for our second play, where she had set herself up with a nice purple pathway up the side of the structure. Which I had to work hard to disrupt early in the game in order to keep up with her initial advancements.

This game isn’t the best with two players. In fact, it might play its worst with just a pair of people. In spite of this, the game still provides a fun and exciting experience in most games. It really is player-dependent as you could theoretically both build up on opposite parts of the structure and not actively take pieces that your opponent needs in order to advance. We’ve had a game where it was literally two towers and it was a matter of seeing who ran out of a 1 x 2 piece to move first. Yet most games we’ve still been in each other’s way often enough to make it not feel like a solitaire puzzle/race.

The pieces are all really standard in shape. Imagine a stair-step style of piece with two different colors, or some other funky shapes pulled from the range of polyominos in a game like Patchwork. Because you’re going to be using either 1×2, 2×2, or 2×4 pieces (or, if you dig enough, those massive 2×6 ones), you can plan effectively for what you need. And, most often, it is a matter of fighting over the use of those 1×2 pieces in order to avoid using ladders, especially in the early game.

I wish there was the inclusion of the “official” variants that Mr. Lanz had designed, such as being able to use the ladders as bridges. That would open up the possibilities over the course of the game and make for an interesting decision when it comes time to use those ladders. It would also make it so you could jump to an adjacent tower with your long ladder and reap the benefit of someone else’s hard work. If they add to the rule book on the next printing, this would be the one thing I’d like to see included. Not because the game needs those to be great, but because the inclusion of them will add variety and additional plays for many gamers.

Final Verdict

This game was placed on my radar initially thanks to Edward Uhler at Heavy Cardboard. After all, if the guy rates this as his #1 Thinky Filler game of all time, a listener should be expected to take notice. So when I had the chance to become a stop along the path for this game, I knew I needed to take advantage of the opportunity. I didn’t really have any idea of what to expect prior to playing this game. And, to be perfectly honest, I was in love with this game as soon as the first play ended. And that was with 2-players, which is clearly not the ideal count for this game.

This is very much a game that sets up fast, plays relatively quickly, and cleans up easily. The type of game that you want to keep around for those night when you want a fast game. And while I don’t think this is the best thinky filler out there for 2-players, nor do I think it plays close to its best at two, I still have to admit this is a very solid experience with two players. The state of the tower changes only a little between turns, making it so you can really map out a progression upward. Until your opponent takes the block you were counting on and uses it in their own path going up. Which inevitably happens because there are only so many of the 1 x 2 blocks to go around that have the color you need in the place you need.

The real reason, though, that I would recommend this game for your collection is because of how much better it plays with 4-5 players. This is a fun and enjoyable game as a couple, yet we all have those times when family or friends want to get together. And it can be a challenge to find that game which they might be willing to try out. This game is one that anyone can grasp and do well at. There is ample strategy to be found in the simple mechanics of the game, yet it is approachable in a way that even Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, and the other “Gateway” games are not. Gamers and non-gamers can equally enjoy this game, and it is easy to get them involved right from the start with the construction of the playing area. So while this might be a game that rarely hits the table for us as a couple, this is the game I’d reach for first when we’re hosting another couple at our house. It’d be the first one I’d want to take to a family gathering. It’d even be one of the first I’d think to take along to a game night, because it has a table presence that will get people watching and welcome in those who don’t view themselves as serious gamers yet.

This game is the first in the Capstone’s Simply Complex line, and I think they really hit upon an excellent flagship game with The Climbers. This is the perfect game for every board gaming collection, which is not something that can be said lightly. But it truly is that defining game that can unify a diverse group of players and satisfy those who want a simple game as well as those who seek a complex game with some strategy. I can’t wait to find out what Capstone decides to push out next in their Simply Complex line!

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.


Board Gaming · Lord of the Rings LCG

LotR LCG Strategy: Where to go After the Core Set?

Welcome to what is the fifth post in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

Why listen to me when I am a beginner, too? Because I love to deckbuild, and I am at a starting level of this game like you. I’m not five years into playing and looking back on things. I don’t know much of the cardpool that is out there in current meta play, I just know the cards in this core set really well after building dozens of decks and running through Journey Down the Anduin more times than I care to share.

So without any more ado, I will dive right into the topic that I have seen repeated so many times in Facebook groups and other places in the past month: I have a Core Set so what should I buy next???

There are, of course, a multitude of approaches to this question. In a fully cooperative game, there is truly no wrong answer to the question. There are some excellent guides already out there dealing with this, but they are far more exhaustive in what they offer. For a shorter answer, looking at things from an overall approach rather than pack-by-pack, this should be a good starting point. I’ll link to the place I turned to down at the bottom. So here are the six choices on where to go after the Core Set:

The Traditional Purchase

The bit of advice that is thrown to the players most often is to start at the beginning: the Shadows of Mirkwood Cycle. That is a set of six adventure packs: The Hunt for Gollum, Conflict at the Carrock, A Journey to Rhosgobel, The Hills of Emyn Muil, The Dead Marshes, and Return to Mirkwood. These make sense as a first purchase because they were the first ones released for the game. They each add a new quest that can be used with the Encounter cards in the Core Set. They add solid Heroes and some staple cards that you’ll want to include in the decks you build. The scenarios are varied in approach, ranging from combat-heavy to quest-heavy. These six scenarios, plus the ones in the Core Set, will challenge your deck building abilities as it will be difficult to find that one deck to tackle everything as a solo player. It will encourage balance, either among your one deck or among the group of players, in order to tackle everything these throw at you. These are the only ones I’ve played outside of the Core Set (although I don’t own them) and they are a lot of fun because of the varied objectives and the varied difficulty. There is a good reason why this is typically the #1 recommendation you’ll receive on where to start.

The Alternative Traditional Purchase

Don’t want to dive into that first set of Adventure Packs? The “other” traditional recommendation is to pick up the first Deluxe expansion: Khazad-Dum and then add in the six Adventure Packs in the Dwarrowdelf Cycle: The Redhorn Gate, Road to Rivendell, The Watcher in the Water, The Long Dark, Foundations of Stone, & Shadow and Flame. The reason why this is a great starting point is because the Dwarves are still a very strong and popular type to build a deck around, and this set it bursting with Dwarves. This cycle is also rumored to have fun, memorable, and thematic scenarios in there which makes it an enjoyable first choice to expand.

The Current Purchase

This is something that isn’t recommended often, yet to me it makes some sense. Rather than collecting and playing through things that are 6 years old, jump in on the current cycle and get a feel for if you like where the game is at now. As a whole, there is no reason why you can’t dive into a new set and enjoy the experience; however, there is a chance that your limited card pool for deck building could raise the difficulty of some of the quests being encountered. If you don’t mind a challenge and want to see the newer keywords and combinations coming out in the game, the Sands of Harad Deluxe Expansion and the Haradrim Cycle Adventure Packs might be the place to start. Those packs would be: The Mumakil, Race Across Harad, Beneath the Sands, The Black Serpent, The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat, and The Crossings of Poros.

The Hobbit Saga

The Saga sets are a fun and interesting place to begin because they will tread among ground familiar to fans of the books and/or movies. The Hobbit Saga is a great starting point because it consists of only two Deluxe Expansions: Over Hill and Under Hill & On the Doorstep. This will introduce you to the Campaign idea, where you can string together a series of adventures with minimal modifications allowed to your deck and some lingering effects occurring based on how you perform. This aspect will resonate with those who have played and enjoyed the Arkham Horror Card Game. The other nice thing about this as a starting point is that it will give you a healthy number of Dwarves, making it a great place to start and then dive into Khazad-Dum and the Dwarrowdelf Cycle (or a great place to go after that set).

The Lord of the Rings Books Saga

This one is the larger Saga Set, spanning six Deluxe Expansions: The Black Riders, The Road Darkens, The Treason of Saruman, The Land of Shadow, The Flame of the West, & The Mountain of Fire. These sets will provide Hobbit heroes, and a lot of strong synergy between them in a deck. This will also provide the same sort of experience as the Hobbit Saga Set, only with the ability to go much longer. These six sets are broken into pairs, so you could run a campaign through a pair (which are centered around one of the three books in the series) or string them all together for one really long experience. If you want to make your own Lord of the Rings adventure, this is one of the best places to start so long as you accept that some parts might be a challenge with a limited card pool. Buying all six before going on the long campaign may be the ideal approach, but each pair should be doable as they come up for the mini-campaigns.

The FLGS Purchase

Ignore everything above and walk into your local game store and see what they have on the shelf. Will it be exhaustive? Nope. But odds are you can find a deluxe expansion or two to choose from at least, and you might luck out and get some Adventure Packs that pair with that set. Unless you plan on purchasing multiple items online, I’ve not found much difference in price because of the inclusion of freight, etc. in ordering from online retailers. Plus you’ll be supporting your local game store which might help encourage them to stock more of the game, host events such as the Fellowship Event, and maybe even make them receptive to having a dedicated night to host players of the game. You might not be able to select your beginning path, and some cycles are going to be much harder to beat as the first step, but even just taking that expanded card pool will help you to be able to experiment with new decks, combinations, etc. to run through beatable scenarios.

My Intended Approach and Closing Thoughts

I have two things I plan to do: pick up the Lord of the Rings Saga Set and to go with what my FLGS has in stock. I picked up the one and only pack one store had, which was an Adventure Pack in the middle of the Dream-Chaser Cycle. So I’ll be picking up the Grey Havens Deluxe Expansion as well, which promises to be really interesting in terms of providing some fun and interesting scenarios and mechanics.

There are a ton of places to dive in and, ultimately, there isn’t a single wrong answer. If a cycle sounds like fun, then pick it up. Who cares if it isn’t the “recommended” place to begin so long as you are enjoying the game and the experience it provides? Just know that there is a chance, the further you remove yourself from those first two cycles, that you might encounter another Dol Goldur scenario in there (which I’ve deemed to be unbeatable solo…at least with the cards I have right now). The great thing about this game is that it is fully cooperative, meaning if you run into trouble you can find a friend to bring a deck and help play through.

For a more extensive analysis of the options out there, check out: https://talesfromthecards.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/new-playe…

Here are the other posts I’ve made so far in this series, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make later in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #1: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set:
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes:
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest:
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest:
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set?
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event

Board Game Lists · Board Gaming

Board Game Gift Guide – 2017

Everyone is coming up with a gift guide, and most of them I just tend to shrug and either pass by or stop and take a quick look. You usually see the same recommendations of games that fall into the same categories. But the one I had to listen to was from Low Player Count, because those guys always produce some really quality content. And they had a neat approach to the guide.

I hope they don’t mind, but I am going to borrow some of their categories from them and make my own gift guide recommendations, with a few added on at the end. Hope you enjoy!

Game for a New Gamer

Kingdomino – Forget the classic gateway games and look to this game by Blue Orange as being the ideal gateway game. This is perfect regardless of age and experience with gaming, and introduces some excellent mechanics that will appear in other games as they explore the hobby. For the price paid, there is an incredible amount of fun and strategy to be found in the box. Arguably, Queendomino could fill this position as well even though it adds just a little more to the game.

Game for a Returning Gamer

Century: Spice Road – This game encapsulates some simple mechanics and packs them into one fun experience. You work on hand management, resource management, and engine building while trying to race the other players to trigger the game’s end and score the most points. This game has a lot of easy-to-grasp mechanics that will allow them to ease back into the hobby while hopefully reminding them what they initially enjoyed about playing games. Another good candidate here is Clank! A Deckbuilding Adventure.

Timeless Classic

Kingdom Builder – This is the game that will always be on my shortlist of “desert island” games, as this is one that is real easy to get into yet it contains so much depth and replayability even without the addition of expansions. Kingdom Builder is a great game for gamers that are new as well as seasoned veterans to the hobby. For many, Donald X is applauded for Dominion. But I find that this is the game that stands the test of time.

Game for a Gaming Couple

Trajan – This was a tough one to decide, flipping between 2-player only games and ones that play really well with 2 but can also play more. Ultimately it was down to this or The Castles of Burgundy as stand-out games that are deep games with rich strategy, several paths to victory, and play in a reasonable time with 2 but are also great with 3-4. You can’t go wrong with either choice, and Castles is the friendlier game for the budget, but the personal mancala board and dice-free approach of Trajan makes it one worth seriously considering.

Game for a Budget

Hanamikoji – Pound-for-pound, this is the best value on the market out there for any board game. Period. This is that perfect travel game, the perfect stocking stuffer, even the perfect game for a new or returning gamer. It is 2-player only, making it a great game for a gaming couple. I can’t recommend this one enough, being my favorite 2-player-only game (since War of the Ring is technically 2-4 players) and it is at a price that is fantastic. This is a must-own game that will present the most agonizing decisions about when to use each of your four actions and what to use them with. It still blows me away how great this little game is.

Game from your Favorite Designer

Viticulture: Essential Edition – This was a tough one, as I didn’t know if I had a single must-have designer. And then I realized that Jamey designs most of the Stonemaier games, and his company is on my short-list of favorite publishers. And while I really enjoy Scythe and I think Charterstone is going to be incredible, the best game of his that I can recommend is Viticulture. It plays great from 1-6 and delivers a fun, satisfying worker placement experience in a thematic way.

Game from your Favorite Publisher

Lignum (Second Edition) – Since Stonemaier appeared under favorite designer, it only made sense for my other favorite publisher to get the nod here. Capstone has hit nothing but home runs for me so far, with Lignum prepared to cause major disturbances on my upcoming Top 10 list. I would gladly recommend all of their games I’ve played so far, but this remains the top of the heap so far from Clay over at Capstone. It might be a little heavy and intimidating to some gamers, but there is a fantastic experience waiting inside this box that everyone should try.

Under-the-Radar Game

Albion’s Legacy – Any of the Lynnvander/Jasco Games Legacy-series of games would fit this role well, but my personal favorite is the Arthurian one that started it all. It is the longer and fiddlier of the games, but it is always a blast to play and it has incredible challenge for a co-op game. These games are never going to compete with the Pandemic or Forbidden Islands of the world, but they are by far the superior cooperative experience in board games. These are the best games that no one is talking about, and I look forward to seeing how their upcoming Gastony Legacy turns out.

Game to get if Money Wasn’t a Concern

War of the Ring Anniversary Edition – I hadn’t even considered this one until Travis mentioned it on the podcast, but as soon as I heard it I knew there was no other option out there. When this was coming out in 2016, they had a limited run of 2000 copies running around $400 with shipping included. My understanding was that this was a one-time thing, but it came with everything painted, a larger board, a special box, a hardcover rulebook and companion guide, unique dice, and updated player references. This is now going, on the secondary market, for around $750-$1000 with the special 1000-copy release of Lords of Middle-Earth expansion for about $400-600 on the secondary market. Which means the current run of Warriors of Middle-Earth, at $130 plus shipping, is an absolute bargain if you jump in now for one of the final 400 copies to reserve. Bottom line: If I had $1500 to drop on a game, it would be to pick up the Anniversary Edition, Lords of Middle-Earth deluxe expansion, and order the Warriors of Middle-Earth set to round out a set of beautiful Tolkien goodness. It might hurt, but it would be the gem in the collection of any Tolkien enthusiast who happens to think this is the best game ever created.


Game to get if Time Wasn’t a Concern

Lisboa – The easy answer here would be Mage Knight, but I wanted to feature something a little less conventional for a pick. Lisboa is a game that, like Mage Knight, has a long set-up time. Like Mage Knight, it can play 1-4 players. But unlike Mage Knight, this game shines with other people at the table with you. Vital Lacerda made a masterpiece of a game which honestly can be boiled down to “play a card, draw a card” for your turn. It is what comes as a result of playing a card that makes this game so great. Besides, the artwork on this one is downright impressive.

Expandable Game to Get

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – No surprises here, I am a huge advocate for this game. Others might steer you toward the newer model (Arkham Horror) or a competitive model (Netrunner or Legend of Five Rings). Yet others might push you toward X-Wing, Armada, or Imperial Assault as the ultimate game with an unimaginable amount of content to purchase. Yet Lord of the Rings: The Card Game remains the one I enjoy above all of those. It is an excellent solo game, gets better when playing with others, and you don’t have to feel obligated to rush out and buy everything. This is the sort of game you can expand a little at a time, slowly building your pool of cards while exploring new quests and revisiting old ones with your new decks.

Collectable Game to Get

Final Fantasy Trading Card Game – Let’s be honest here, there is something inherently flawed about the collectable game system. It is a money sink and a half because it takes a lot of packs to chase down the cards you need. It is what ultimately drew me away from Star Wars: Destiny. So why feature this here? Because some people really enjoy chasing those rare cards. And I really have been enjoying the Final Fantasy Trading Card game lately, using the cards a friend owns. With five different starter decks and four sets of cards, there is a lot out there. The system itself of the game is fun and the characters bring back lots of fond memories. If you are, or were, a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise and you want a game to collect cards from, this is the one I’d choose…especially now that they have the Final Fantasy VI characters in Opus 4. And while you can include up to three of a card in a deck, this one doesn’t demand you do so which makes it easier from a gameplay perspective than Destiny was.

Gaming Accessories

Meeple Realty or Broken Token Inserts – I’m the sort of gamer who uses baggies and tosses the standard cardboard inserts in the box. They are usually not good anyway. But I have recently seen a few inserts that truly help in setup, teardown, and with the overall experience during gameplay. The Big Damn Crate, for instance, for Firefly: The Game was a great investment because it saves a ton of time, table space, and makes it all really awesome when stored. Games like Scythe, Mage Knight, Caverna, A Feast for Odin, Terraforming Mars, War of the Ring, and many others have inserts you can purchase which will improve the quality of your experience. Is it a good investment for a game you don’t play often? No, but it’ll help some of the games in your collection hit the table more often due to better storage and organization which is invaluable.

Game-Free Gift Idea

Heavy Cardboard T-Shirt and/or Patreon – Depending on your gaming tastes and/or interests, you can fill in the blank. Low Player Count has stuff you can buy. Lots of podcasters and YouTubers out there have a Patreon or other avenue to show support. For me, the top-of-the-list of ones I would support is Heavy Cardboard. What is cool about them is they have some great-looking shirts, mystery swag boxes filled by Edward and Amanda, and more. And they now have it so you can either pledge monthly on Patreon or do a one-time annual pledge to support them and get some things in return, such as access to their slack channel at the $5/month level or access to their teaching notes for games at the $10/month level. But really, it is just great because you can help show them the support they deserve for what they are doing for the gaming hobby as a whole. Find out more at http://pledgehc.com/

So there you have it, some ideas to get for those gamers in your life. Leave a comment and let me know some of the games you’d nominate in these categories (or, in the case of the final two, what non-games!)

Board Gaming · Lord of the Rings LCG

LotR LCG Strategy: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest

Welcome to what is the fourth post in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

Why listen to me when I am a beginner, too? Because I love to deckbuild, and I am at a starting level of this game like you. I’m not five years into playing and looking back on things. I don’t know much of the cardpool that is out there in current meta play, I just know the cards in this core set really well after building dozens of decks and running through Journey Down the Anduin more times than I care to share.

So without any more ado, I will dive right into the topic that many of you are probably really curious to know: how to construct a deck that is capable of faring well against a specific quest. Sometimes that jack-of-all-trades deck in your arsenal just isn’t quite capable of handling everything a certain quest can throw at you.

In fact, this is one of the most rewarding aspects about the Lord of the Rings LCG, in my opinion. If a single deck was all you ever needed to build in order to win the game, there would be a lot less excitement. It’d be that deck versus the quest every time. What we have instead is a puzzle with every new quest that comes our way. Sometimes we’ll get lucky and our favorite deck will steamroll right through. Sometimes you’ll never see a glimpse of the really nasty cards waiting inside that encounter deck. Other times the quest will smack your heroes around and leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Which is where specialized deck construction comes in, where there are a few very important questions to ask yourself:

What are the cards that I definitely need to be able to overcome?

The one thing that I love about the Journey Along the Anduin is that it makes you have to answer this question. Some quests there is a chance of a certain card appearing. This one has an absolute certainty: the Hill Troll.

If you ever advanced to the second part of the quest, which means you placed your 8th progress on the quest while there was no Hill Troll in play then you’ve seen the other guaranteed challenge: you flip two encounter cards per player in Stage 2 of the quest. Which means that, not only do you need to place a whopping 16 progress on the quest, you need to be able to do it while taking care of up to two enemies, locations, or treacheries per player every round. This is the area where my constructed Aragorn/Theodred/Dunhere deck struggled mightily after being able to reliably take down the Hill Troll.

The first step, in building the deck, is to answer these questions, which leads you to:

How can I overcome the Hill Troll?

This can be a tricky thing to consider because there are several potential avenues. There are five important things to note about the Hill Troll:

His 30 Threat-engagement
His 9 Health
His 6 Attack
His 3 Defense
His ability

What this means is you will need to hit him hard, early, and often. You will also need a viable way to absorb his attacks or else be prepared to accept the surge in your overall threat. There are a few options to consider here:

Chump block with a weak ally and try to drop 12 damage in one round on the Troll. This is possible, but not easy to do and almost always will require multiple rounds to get your board set up to accomplish this. Your block will prevent it from being an undefended attack, but the excess threat will roll over. Furthermore, anyone dedicated to questing that round will not be likely to participate in damaging the troll so that is something to consider.

Block the first attack with Gimli and then block with a weak ally the next round. This is one situation where Gimli, whose attack increases with damage, can be really helpful. His defense and health are high enough that he can absorb a single attack from the troll and still live, making his attack stronger in the process. When one hero is swinging for 6, it is easier to take that troll down fast.

Keep your threat low and chip away with Dunhere. This isn’t a very viable strategy because there are not enough ways, in the core set, to increase Dunhere’s base attack. Yes, he can attack for 3 when attacking alone…but the troll’s defense is 3. The best attachments will only increase his attack by 1, making it a long process to chip away…

Gandalf the troll – bonus points for being sneaky about it! Gandalf can drop 4 damage right on the troll when he comes into play. He can also either defend the attack, leaving your other guys free to hack at it or else he can swing for 4 damage himself. Gandalf is expensive, requiring most of two turns’ resources to pay for him. And he only stays out for a turn. But he remains one of the best ways to drop damage on this beast. Sneak Attack + Gandalf is a devastating combo, allowing you to blast it even if it hasn’t engaged with you yet while bringing Gandalf right back to your hand.

Snare the troll and keep it idle. Damage mitigation central. The obvious method is using a Forest Snare on the troll, which will require 3 Lore resources and for the troll to be engaged with a player. But this makes it an idle threat, something to chip away at as you are able to while allowing you to focus efforts on questing and other enemies if you need to. Unless you are running two Lore heroes, it can be really hard to afford this card when you need it. Alternative option would be the use of Feint, which prevents it from attacking for a turn.

So you can see, there are many possible answers to the Hill Troll. Every deck will have Gandalf in there, but you can’t count on drawing that Gandalf early enough to make a difference. You should have at least one other plan in place, since most decks will get only a few turns at most to be set up before the troll engages you.

How Can I Overcome the Addition of Two Cards Per Player?

This is a hard one to answer because those cards will be variable every time. You could get lucky and see a pair of treacheries that whiff completely. You could see small, easy-to-kill enemies. You could get really unlucky and see two locations. The best way to plan for this is to look at some of the nastier cards in the deck and have an idea of how you could blast through those.

sauron Eastern Crows is a card that seems innocent enough. Low threat in the staging area, one attack, no defense, one health. The problem comes with its surge effect, which has you reveal another card. Yep, this one will make you see three cards per turn. There is one real counter to them in the Core Set: Thalin’s ability to deal a damage as it is revealed will trigger before the surge, eliminating the card and its nasty effect.

sauron The Brown Lands is a location that, in a perfect world, you’ll see only when you have no active location. It is easily quested through by traveling there, making it so that 5-threat only applies once. There are two other good answers for this in the Core Set: playing a Snowbourne Scout from your hand to put a progress on it, or questing with a Northern Tracker while this is in the Staging Area. If none of these are true, and the Brown Lands makes it so you didn’t successfully quest through your previous location, then this one can be a game-ender with that high threat to overcome.

sauron Goblin Sniper seems innocent enough. High engagement cost, reasonable threat, weak defense and health and attack. The problem is that you cannot optionally engage him if you are able to engage anything else. Which means your one engagement has to go elsewhere every single round that at least one enemy appears. Which means his other effect, dealing a damage to a hero at the end of each round, will chip away at your health unless you can plow through enemies. Being able to optionally engage only one enemy per turn will make it hard to get through everyone. The best answer to him, of course, is Dunhere because he can attack the staging area. He doesn’t even need the attack boost from attacking alone, making him ideal to take this goblin down.

Hordes of enemies will be appearing, both small and large. Being able to deal with them, especially if two are appearing each turn, is essential for success. Getting overrun by enemies in the staging area is a very real threat, and pairs with the next thing that has to be answered. You don’t even need to necessarily kill all the enemies at once, just be able to engage and survive as long as possible. A second Hill Troll, the Marsh Adder, and the Chieftain Ufthak are the biggest baddies in there and can wreck even the best-laid plans.

The ability to quest exceptionally well is essential. The best way to get past this part of the quest is to get through it quickly. The more rounds you spend getting that 16 progress, the more bloated the board will become. And, yes, the harder it will be to get those progress tokens out there. This is where Eowyn, Faramir, and Legolas all become stars. In fact, Legolas might be one of the more useful heroes here because he can hack at enemies (especially if equipped with a Gondolan Blade) and place progress tokens at the same time. The other reason it is essential to quest well is that failure will bring about a rise in your threat. Get to 50 threat and it is game over.

So where do you begin with the deckbuilding?

As you have seen, every sphere has a benefit that it can offer in here. Lore is great for drawing cards, healing damage for survival, and using the Forest Snare. Tactics can deal with the Hill Troll and the threat of an endless horde of enemies. Leadership can boost willpower, resource generation, and Sneak Attack to get even more uses out of your Gandalf. Spirit can blast through the questing phase, allowing you to move with all haste through the quest.

Using the Core Set only, I would say that either Eowyn or Glorfindel will need to be in your deck for their pure questing. Eowyn would get priority, but if you really don’t want to use Spirit then a Glorfindel/Theodred/Aragorn combo might function well enough but at the cost of a high starting threat.

I’ve run Tactics/Spirit using Gimli/Legolas/Eowyn and had a reasonable amount of success with the deck even into the Mirkwood cycle quests. This group is almost ideal for the Anduin quest, as you have plenty of tools for handling and defeating the Troll and a way to get progress on the quest even if the staging area gets a little flooded. I threw pretty much every Tactics card in there, and then filled the rest in with low-cost Spirit and a copy or two of the higher-cost cards.

I’ve run Spirit/Lore with Denethor/Beravor/Eowyn and had reasonable success by being able to stall long enough to Forest Snare onto the Troll. It isn’t a fast-killing deck, but it proved capable of managing if given the chance. This was probably the hardest of the decks to play successfully, as Gandalf is really your only consistent way to drop batches of damage.

I’ve also run Aragorn/Theodred/Eowyn using pretty much the same deck as last time. One simple change, from Dunhere to Eowyn, takes that deck to a whole new level which was why I left Eowyn out…so that you could see how a deck functions without that super-questing power. I found the deck did just fine against the Mirkwood quest, going 2/3 on there, but when I faced Anduin it fell short. The troll was a non-issue for two of the games but the Stage 2 part of the quest flooded the board with too many locations both times and not even Celebrian’s Stone was able to salvage the attempt.

Closing Thoughts

This is a game, especially when playing solo, where you are likely going to have to tweak and rebuild decks often. Every quest is different, and certain quests are going to require different approaches in order to overcome the obstacles they throw at you. My preference so far is to use a deck that can handle a little bit of everything and then, after a few losses on a particular quest, to try and build around that specific quest once I’ve seen what nasty cards it has in store. You could, of course, look at those ahead of time and build that deck before ever running the quest. But the key, if you are stuck on a specific quest, remains to plan a way to counter the nasty cards in that deck. Sometimes those are simply planning ways to overcome those things you know will come out every time (like the Hill Troll). Other times you might need to have a specific way to handle something that could appear but might end up never showing up, such as the Hummerhorns in the Mirkwood quest. The game isn’t meant to be “I have a deck here and I can use this 100% of the time and find a great success rate”, but rather it is designed to push you to test new cards and decks and be willing to adapt. Which I think is great, because that means there are many cards in the pool, once you purchase more, that might seem useless but become critical for success in certain quests.

Here are the other posts I’ve made so far in this series, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #1: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/lotr-lcg-str
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2017/11/20/lotr-lcg-str
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/lotr-lcg-str…
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set?
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Crazier Eights: Camelot

Thank you for checking review #37 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this game in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Crazier Eights: Camelot

Crazier Eights: Camelot is a game designed by James Wallace Gray and is self-published. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 10-30 minute play time.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

This game sets up in a simple fashion: you shuffle the cards, flip the top card to start the discard pile, and then deal 7 cards to each player. On your turn a player draws a card and then is able to play a card and to discard a card, in either order. Played cards are either one-time effects (which go to the bottom of the discard pile after use) or they are Assets, which stay in play in front of that player (they have ongoing effects). Discarding a card requires the card to either match the color or number of the card on top of the discard pile.

Play continues around the table until one person has depleted their hand of cards.

My Thoughts

I’m a sucker for anything Arthurian, so that immediately drew me in for both this version and my previously-reviewed Avalon version. I really enjoyed the artwork and the names of some of the cards. While there were generic names for a few things (which do fit in thematically), there were also a lot of recognizable characters and places from the Arthurian lore. Any fan of King Arthur will enjoy this aspect of the game, although the artwork can be enjoyed by those who know nothing of King Arthur. This version also contained many more of the “traditional” characters from Arthurian lore: the ones that come first to mind when you mention King Arthur.

The game is very simple to teach, with a rules explanation taking 60 seconds. This allows you to grab new players into a game without a long, lengthy rules overhead. All exceptions are found on the cards themselves, and those are relatively straightforward in what they allow you to do. A player who has not played Crazy Eights is not at a disadvantage.

I have found there is a part of me that can appreciate smaller card games like this one (and its Avalon version) and The Fox in the Forest, which take a deck of cards and allows you to do something simple, yet more complex than what you’d get with the standard deck of cards. The essence is simple: draw a card, play a card, discard a card. But the text on the cards, with each one being different in some way, is what elevates this above the simplicity of a card game.

This game has the feel of a Fluxx game combined with a card game, but it is far less chaotic than Fluxx. The goal remains the same throughout, and there is a clear path to get there. There is some randomness in there, but it never feels like you’re winning or losing due to blind luck (which is something I’ve definitely felt while playing a Fluxx game).

The quality of the final version of the game, in terms of cards, was beyond my expectations. I had mentioned, in my Avalon review, that this was an issue in the prototype but could have been something that would be fixed by the time it was in a final version. I’ve held the final version of both the Camelot and Avalon versions in my hands and, rest assured, they are a great quality that do not demand to be sleeved instantly. However, if you are a compulsive sleever, you will need to get a different box for storing the game as there will not be room.

In my review of Avalon I was disappointed in the lack of numbered cards in that deck, Too many cards were either multi-colored or multi-symboled which made it feel a little too easy at times. This version takes that negative and blows it away, providing a far more solid experience. This is, of course, the set that would be recommended to begin with and the ideal situation is to add Camelot and Avalon together and play using both. While Avalon was able to function on its own, the Camelot version is the superior stand-alone product and will provide the real Crazier Eights experience that one might expect to find.

I had mentioned the theme as a nitpick in my Avalon review, claiming that apart from the name and the artwork that there wasn’t really any real tie between the powers and the cards. Some of them, I felt, required some creative imagining. Well, the designer blew me away by writing a pair of posts where he dove into that topic and demonstrated how the card powers themselves were thematic. Yes, sometimes you still really have to stretch the imagination to make that connection on the fly, but after reading these posts I gladly concede the point to him. The designer did a great job at working to put as much theme as you possibly can onto an Arthurian-version of Crazy Eights.

Read those posts:



Final Verdict

Overall, this game fits nicely in a niche category of games: small, portable, fast, easy games with a small footprint. These games are valuable to have in a collection, both because they are great for taking places (such as a restaurant)and perfect to play in those windows of time when you might only have 10-15 minutes to spare. There are many games that can’t even be set up in that amount of time, much less played to completion. And so that is an area where this game shines.

It shares striking similarities with two games in particular, merging the traits from two of them while discarding the random nature of one: Crazy Eights and Fluxx. This makes it a game I’d rather play over either of those, as it offers more than the deck of cards and a bit more stability to win conditions over Fluxx. This isn’t a game I’d pull out on a regular basis, but neither is Fluxx and so it fills that niche nicely in my collection. This quality was strengthened with the play of the Camelot version of the game, solidifying it into the collection alongside Avalon. Ideally, getting them both is the best way to go in order to bring out all of the fun combos and a whole varied spectrum of numbers to take in consideration.

If this game didn’t have the Arthurian theme, it probably wouldn’t appeal to me as much. There is not a lot to set this apart from other games, and it doesn’t do anything particularly well or innovative. It is a nice game that doesn’t take long to play and is easy to teach. This is a game I can have my wife toss in her purse when we leave the house, something to play at family get-togethers with gamers of all types, and a game that would function as a filler during a game day. There are many games to choose from which could fill those same needs, making it hard to advocate this over any of those others.

However, if you are a fan of the original Crazy Eights or of King Arthur, this would definitely be worth considering. Grabbing this by itself is a very inexpensive option, and tossing on the Avalon version as a pairing still makes this a very reasonably-priced game. It definitely provides a fun experience while playing it, so long as you don’t mind games where you need to read the card’s text in order to see what it can do. If you wanted to like Fluxx, but hated the random changes it enforced, then you might really enjoy this game.

You may order Crazier Eights: Camelot and find detailed rules and explanations at craziereights.com.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.