Board Gaming · Review for Two · Wargame Garrison

Review for Two – 878: Vikings – Invasions of England

Thank you for checking review #45 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.

An Overview of 878: Vikings – Invasions of England

878: Vikings – Invasions of England is a game designed by Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, & Jeph Stahl and was published by Academy Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 60-120 minute play time with a 2.56 weight rating on BGG.

The year is 878. For the past 75 years, Viking raiding parties from Norway and Denmark have been terrorizing the coasts of England with ‘hit and run’ attacks. The treasures and stories gained from these attacks have allowed the Norsemen to raise huge hosts of eager men seeking glory and riches. These armies now stand poised to thunder across England where they will settle and farm the fertile land they conquer. The divided English kingdoms are unprepared for this impending onslaught. The Vikings are coming!

In 878: Vikings – Invasions of England, players control the invading Vikings or the English nobles who are trying to withstand the invasion. Viking players either play as Norsemen Viking freeman or as the fearless Viking shock troops known as Berserkers. The English play as the Housecarl, the Kings’ household troops, or as the Thegns who were regional noble Leaders. The English players will also be able to call up the peasant levies, called the Fyrd, to defend their cities.

Players for each side strategize together in order to coordinate their strategies. Each side attempts to control Cities on the map to win. The English start the game controlling all of England but a Viking Leader will invade from the sea each Turn. The English players raise reinforcements from cities they control, while the Vikings must wait for a new invasion for reinforcements. The game ends when the Treaty of Wedmore is called and the side controlling the most cities wins the game.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The setup is the same regardless of player count due to 3-4 players simply divides the control of each side. In a standard game, each of the four player decks are comprised of cards numbered 01-12. Those are each shuffled and every faction draws three cards. If a faction draws no movement cards, they reveal that hand and shuffle into the deck, drawing three new cards. The Viking player separates their Leaders deck into A, B, and C and shuffles those, placing the B stack onto the C and the A card on top of that. Place a Viking Control token on each of the marked spaces along the bottom of the board and put the round track marker on Year 1.

The board populates with the Housecarl and Thegn units as shown on the board in the small circled spots. This will populate the board some, but leave plenty of territories throughout that are empty. No Berserker or Norsemen troops will begin on the map, as they have not begun to invade England yet. The Norsemen will always begin the game, with the other three turn cubes being placed in the black draw bag.

One the first Viking player’s turn every round, they will draw the top card of their Leader deck and that will (usually) bring a leader into play with reinforcements. This will also indicate the sea by which the leader must invade. A player must play at least one movement card from their hand, which will indicate the number of armies that can move and the number of spaces those armies may move. The armies chosen must contain at least one unit of the current faction’s turn. If an army encounters an enemy army during movement, it creates a battle. A leader army can use remaining movement after the battle, but an army without a leader ends its movement where the battle occurs.

Battle is simple. If the English players are defending, they draw a Fyrd card and bring that many Fyrd units into play in the shire where the battle occurs. The defending player then takes dice from each unit’s pool, up to the number of those units in the battle, and rolls them (Ex. an army with 2 Thegns, 1 Housecarl, and 3 Fyrd units would roll 2 Thegn dice, 1 Housecarl die, and 2 Fyrd dice). Hit results cause an enemy unit to be defeated (opponent’s choice, except if a Berserker is present and the Viking player is attacking. In the first round of battle, the first hit against the Viking player must be taken as a Berserker since they would rush into the thick of a battle). Command results allow those units to retreat to an adjacent shire, but only if there is a friendly army there. Flee results send those units to the Fled Units circle on the board. Players alternate rolling until one side remains in the shire. If the Viking player gains control of a shire containing a city, place a Viking Control token on the space. If the English regain control of a shire, the Viking Control token is removed and placed back on the track along the bottom of the board.


After movement, the player draws back up to 3 cards (revealing and shuffling/drawing if the hand contains no movement cards) and their turn ends. A cube is drawn from the bag at random and the shown color goes next. On each English player turn, reinforcements arrive on the map in some territories controlled by the English (shown in a small box printed on the map of that shire). Then any units in the Fled Units circle of that faction are retrieved and placed with any friendly army on the board.

The game ends in one of four ways:

The English win if, at the end of a round, the Vikings control no shires on the map.
The Vikings win if, at the end of a round, they control at least 14 city shires on the map.
The English win if both Treaty of Wedmore cards have been played on either side and the Vikings don’t control at least 7 city shires at the end of Round 5 or later.
The Vikings win if both Treaty of Wedmore cards have been played on either side and the Vikings control at least 7 city shires at the end of Round 5 or later.

My Thoughts

One side of the conflict begins with nothing on the map. There is 100% English dominance at the start of the game, although their forces are generally pretty thin to begin. This is important because the Viking side does need a chance to invade and maintain hold on at least a few shires early in the game, otherwise they’ll lose. I really enjoy that both sides are different in style: one favors the aggressor and the other favors a more defensive mindset. As a player who usually prefers the latter, this is a fun starting asymmetry.

There is a great feeling, as the Viking player, when you draw a new leader to start a round. Stacking all those troops onto that card makes you feel a little invincible. Of course, it never lasts. But for those first minutes the feeling is fantastic. “I will crush you English troops with my 20+ battle-hardened warriors!” quickly becomes “How can I take one more shire without leaving myself open for a counter-attack?”


Reinforcement phases provide some great relief for the English side, as well as tactical targets to keep in mind for the Viking player. Twice a round, the English forces replenish and they are spread throughout the map. Sometimes the Viking player might deem it worth going against a larger force to take over a spot generating more troops. Those are the battles that make this game even more exciting.

Speaking of making battles more exciting: the Fyrd. Yep, those pesky peasants and commoners can show up to make a difference when the English defend. But you never know how many. And boy, those yellow dice sure don’t seem to hit all that often. Many times the Fyrd end up simply absorbing hits, but that makes sense. They aren’t warriors, so they shouldn’t be dealing out death very often.

This game has theme in spades. A lot of care was placed in providing a historically-rich experience in the game. Each faction has different dice, and the result proportion is accurate. There are cards that reflect the unique factions. The Viking leaders. The Fyrd units. The rulebook. And then if you dive into the expansion box, there is way more theme throughout there. This is a historical wargame done right, in my opinion. And I love this era, so that is something I was genuinely concerned about.

Dual end triggers. I first fell in love with that concept in War of the Ring. While not quite as thematic-feeling in this one (yet still thematic, if you think about it), this game has two ways that each side can win the game. I don’t think we’ve played a game yet that has lasted all 7 rounds, which isn’t a knock on the game design. Often one of us is pressing to end the game, trying to capitalize on our current advantage. Only once has it been forcibly triggered, when my only movement card was a Treaty card as the Viking player. I had a lot of work to do, and fell far short of it in Round 5… which taught me that playing that first Treaty card to “bring the threat of ending early” can totally backfire.


The card decks are small, which helps them to be manageable. You only have three cards in hand, and at least one must always be a movement card. This method can be really restrictive: first off, if you only have one movement card you end up with only one option for movement on your turn. You still get some decision about how to optimize that movement among your armies, but it stinks when you have no choices. The other side is if you draw nothing but movement cards. That was the case for me, as the Vikings, through 90% of the last play we had. I was stuck with all these movement cards and wasn’t getting any events to help swing things in my favor. My wife, on the other hand, kept using cards that pressed an advantage and I simply didn’t have an answer for it. So while I like the small deck, small hand, and the ability to swap in advanced cards, there is definitely room for this to improve. A deck of movement and a deck of event cards, perhaps, and you draw 2 from each. Or 2 movement and 1 event. Something like that to give movement options while also ensuring you have event cards at your disposal all game.

In terms of Wargames, there is a limit on the tactics you can try with this game. It might begin to feel samey after a while because the same shires will recruit, the same Viking leaders will storm in and try to take a few shires along the way. It never feels grand or epic in scope, and you rarely feel clever about something you did unless you had the luck of drawing a useful card. This is something I fully expect to be impacted in a good way by the mini-expansions, but it is worth nothing that the base game itself might run its course over time. It will remain a fun game, but might lose some of the interesting factors. There isn’t much you can do to impact/influence combat, so you’re at the mercy of rolling better and using enough troops to make sure you roll you maximum number of dice.

The Berserker units are fantastic and a lot of fun. However, you simply don’t get enough of them out to be useful. You need to leave enough behind so that when your berserker faction is up, they can actually move. If you are the aggressor as the Viking player, you are guaranteed to lose a Berserker if the defender rolls a hit. And they usually do roll at least one, and since they get to swing first you might lose that extra die you need (because those Berserkers hit often!). They never retreat, so you won’t get reinforcements that way. I just always find myself with them spread too thin and have had more than one turn where the Berserker faction could do nothing because they were all wiped out after a back-to-back English conquest to retake Shires. And that is the biggest issue: no Berserker units = no movement = no conquest for 1/2 of the Viking turns that round.


Let’s talk about those minis. They look really cool. But they aren’t practical. They are so small that they become difficult to stand on the board. My wife doesn’t even bother standing the Fyrd units, just dumping them down for the battle. They are just going away at the end of that battle, anyway. If the minis were a little bigger, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue. But for the size they are, the cubes would honestly have been a better option for gameplay. The minis give better photo opportunities and look cool and all. But man, they aren’t worth the hassle. I kinda wish I had paid the extra $5 (I think) to get the cubes so I could have that option. As a person who plays a ton of euro games, I don’t need the minis. And they just aren’t practical based on the size here.

Final Thoughts

This was the first, and perhaps will remain the last, game I ever Kickstarted. I enjoyed the process and was pleased with the results, both in delivery and in the game itself. I am yet to tear into the expansion content and start adding the mini modules into the game, but the game itself doesn’t need them to be a really good game. Those only serve to enhance the longevity of a game such as this one, allowing us to mix and match to play the unique setting we desire.

This is a really fun game, if a bit on the lighter side of things. My wife termed it to be War of the Rings Lite, and it does capture some of the aspects we enjoy about the battles in that game. There are a few cards that can be used to affect battles, making it so you don’t always know what to expect when initiating combat. Speaking of combat, I do like that each faction has custom dice, not just different in color but in the symbols and number of those symbols. Those berserkers never flee, the Fyrd rarely hit. Even those dice make thematic sense.

This game really captures the theme, even if some of the methods are a little abstracted. Yet you feel like invading forces of Vikings or the desperate mustering of the English trying to fight off those invaders. The win conditions on each side also make some sense, and I can’t wait to see how those expansions add in even more theme into the game.


This is the game I’ll grab when I have a War of the Ring itch but don’t have the time to play that game. It provides a fast and fun experience that doesn’t overstay its welcome. This fits perfectly in the camp of being a game we can play during a weeknight after the little one is in bed, and be finished and have it put away with time to spare before bed.

If you are interested in the period of history, in picking up a wargame, or want something that is fun, fast, and asymmetric in style then this one is a great game. I’d argue that 2 players is the ideal count, allowing you to control both forces on your half of the conflict. This game system turned out to be a pleasant delight, and has me very interested in checking out some of the others like 1754 – Conquest: The French and Indian War (which I know she’ll like, because of the Indians). This is a game that will definitely be sticking around for the long haul in our collection and has finally given me the Viking experience I’ve been looking for in board games.

Hopefully you found this review to be a useful look at how the game plays for 2-players. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon.


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Sentinels of the Multiverse Strategy: Fanatic

A brief history on my experience with Sentinels of the Multiverse

My friend won me over to Sentinels of the Multiverse in the right way: he asked me what I liked to play as if I were playing a D&D campaign. Without hesitation I told him Paladin, and so he gave me two options: The Sentinels or Fanatic. I grabbed the Fanatic deck, took one look at her and a few of the cards to get an idea of her background, and knew it was meant to be.

That first play was everything I had hoped for in a superhero game and more. We quickly played a second, and I used Fanatic again. The next time we got together I pulled Fanatic out to continue testing her out. My friend sent me a code to get the base game on Steam. Every game I’ve played has included Fanatic.

Last night, for the first time, I used a deck other than Fanatic. When we quickly took down Baron Blade, I asked for a my buddy to set up a challenging scenario. Environment: The Court of Blood. “Good thing you aren’t playing as Fanatic”, he told me. Then he pulled out Apostate. “Really good thing you aren’t playing as Fanatic. This setup would wreck you hard.” I blinked and slid my KNYFE deck back across the table.

“Apostate? He’s my nemesis. I have to play as Fanatic now.”

He was right, that setup wrecked me. But I did survive…barely. And we won…barely.

I’ve played over a dozen games with Fanatic for sure. I’ve played once using someone else (well, on Steam I use 2-4 other decks but I always have her), and that was a Baron Blade slaughter. Her style fits me well, and I absolutely love filling that role of walking the line between taking damage and dishing it back out. I’ve had an impressive come-from-behind-victory when all hope seemed lost, all thanks to Fanatic. There are others who are probably more qualified to write this than I am, but I want to weigh in with my own tips on how to run this deck. It is unconventional at times, to say the least, and can definitely be a source of frustration to the person who isn’t prepared for her tactics. Therefore, this is the article I shall write:

The four Fanatics

Standard version Fanatic – 30 HP, Power: Exorcism – Fanatic deals 1 Target 1 Melee Damage and 1 Radiant Damage.

The Fanatic everyone should use first is rather unremarkable, yet surprisingly consistent. Being able to deal damage on turn 1 is a great benefit, allowing you to set up her board with other non-damage cards first if you happen to draw them. Splitting her damage across two types helps when running against enemies that can change their immunities. Boosts to attack power also get boosted twice in this way, so instead of a 2+1 = 3, you get a 1+1 and a 1+1 for 4 damage when pairing her with the standard Legacy. This role defines her well as someone who can consistently deal some damage, but usually as a supporting damager.

Redeemer version Fanatic – 31 HP, Power: Redeem – Fanatic regains 1 HP. Draw a card.

This role helps define the real benefit of Fanatic: by healing herself, it allows her to take more damage. The immediate thought is that you should be using her to take an enemy or environment attack whenever possible, and that isn’t a bad way to use Fanatic. However, the more optimal use of Fanatic is through her ability to deal damage to herself in order to dish out greater damage to enemies. This role is a good one to ease into the mindset of it being okay for Fanatic to get hurt. She can take it.

Prime Wardens version Fanatic – 29 HP, Power: Resolute – Fanatic deals herself 3 radiant damage. Play the top card of your deck. One hero may now use a power.

This is the version of Fanatic that really emphasizes the point that she is meant to absorb damage. There is a reason why she has so many healing cards in her deck, as well as a few that deal damage based upon damage received. This can be a very, very powerful ability depending upon the card that flips and the abilities of the team. There are plenty of situations where it is absolutely worth that 3 HP. Until you flip an End of Days as the top card of your deck. Just don’t write off this version when you see the first sentence of her power. It really is useful, and it could be argued that this is the best version of Fanatic out there.

Xtreme Prime Wardens version Fanatic – 28 HP, Power: Kill the Spirit – Fanatic deals 1 target 1 Radiant damage. Until the end of the next turn, redirect all damage dealt by Fanatic to that target.

If the above didn’t convince you that it was the best version, maybe this one will. Dealing 1 damage isn’t anything to celebrate, although it is nice having a way to do some damage from the start. The real benefit comes from the redirect. Have you ever drawn Sacrosanct Martyr and wondered why you would ever want to deal yourself 5 damage to deal 5 damage to an enemy? Wonder no longer: that damage is bounced, dropping 5 on the enemy while leaving Fanatic unscathed. The only downside is that you have to use this power every other turn, meaning you’ll average dropping 3 per round. Which is still nice if you haven’t drawn your Absolution yet…

Opening Moves

Obviously, with no way to mulligan a bad hand an the restriction of drawing 4 cards, there are limited ways to affect this. You’re at the mercy of the card draw. However, these are the cards that get me excited when I see them to open play and why they are great this early in the game.

Brutal Censure

This one is the most likely card to see in the hand, as there are 3 copies in the deck. Not only does this let you get a jump on dropping damage, it also allows you to draw a card. Few things are more valuable to Fanatic than getting extra cards in her hand (see closers section).

Final Dive

Most of the early games are spent trying to manage the board and keep it clean as long as possible. This one lets you instantly finish off a card with 4 or less health and deal up to 4 damage to the villain. Pound for pound, this is one of the best cards to open a game with unless the villain doesn’t have any smaller minions on the board. It doesn’t set her up for future turns, but it does slow down the enemy’s engine to allow everyone time to be prepared.


This is situational, depending on the villain you’re facing and their opening board. But if there is the risk of either smaller hits, or big damage drops, this one can really come in handy by reducing the damage Fanatic takes. Sadly, this is her only damage reduction card in the deck and it is very situational. But don’t let that prevent you from playing it early. Those 1 damage hits really add up over time.


This is, hands-down, the card I want to see early in the game. It opens up a combo with Zealous Offense (see closer section), which is one of the best ways she can contribute to the greater good in the game. If you aren’t playing the standard Fanatic, I’d even consider playing it if she hasn’t taken any damage yet simply because it is her best card to get out early. The ability to choose a damage type also comes in handy when facing certain villains.

An overall tactic that I tend to employ with Fanatic is to conserve cards unless they serve a good purpose of building her board state or kill off minions. Card draw is important, and once she gets a few cards out she can coast on autopilot for a few turns without playing any cards. Unless you get lucky and happen to get an early copy of Desperate Prayer and Divine Focus in your hand together. More on that combination in the next section. You might be tempted to put out an Aegis of Resurrection as soon as it is drawn, but resist that urge until she drops close to 10 HP unless you know neither the Villain nor the Environment can make her lose Equipment cards in play.

If the team needs her to drop a Conscecrated Ground to get rid of a nasty Environment card, or a Holy Nova/Divine Sacrifice to ping a slew of enemies, then feel free to play those cards. However, the ideal situation is to hold those for either Divine Focus or until that 1 damage across the board is either boosted in some way or needed to really help clear the board.

Mid-Game Strategies

This is where Fanatic is a little harder to play at times. With the right opening board (a.k.a. Absolution), she can help chip away at all sorts of threats that pop out, or keep dropping damage on the main target. Here are a few of the cards that can be really good at this point:

Consecrated Ground

Sometimes those Environment cards can be brutal. Like, really brutal. If you have Fanatic going last, this is also a great way to wipe off those nice +1 to all damage cards that might pop out, letting you gain most of the benefit from your team but taking it away before the villains can utilize the boost a second time. If she is first, it can eliminate ones that interfere with card draws or reduce your damage dealt. Depending on the board, hitting 3 things (even for 1 damage) can be helpful, but this is mostly as a great way to remove otherwise-pesky Environment cards and should be held for those situations unless you can kill 2-3 minions.

Divine Sacrifice

My recent match with Apostate showed how important the irreducible damage can be in a game, so this one is already worth holding onto for that situation. But it can’t be overstated how important it can be to redirect damage. Especially if either: a) the enemies deal Radiant damage or b) Fanatic has her Aegis of Resurrection out. Keeping others alive can make a world of difference, and Fanatic exists to tank some damage because she has a way to heal a good chunk of it.

Smite the Transgressor

This is a very powerful card, and I wish so much that it wasn’t a One-Shot. Being able to use standard Fanatic’s power AND strike with Absolution? Yes, please. Absolution should absolutely be one of the two powers used on this, if at all possible, to help make sure you’re getting the best mileage out of the double actions.


This card is excellent for allowing you to remain focused on the big picture of defeating the villain. We all have encountered those cards that drop a ton of damage, making you stop and put 10-15 damage onto them instead of the big baddie. This card helps to put those on the back burner where they belong, either for a few turns while waiting on the right cards or until the rest of the board is in a better state to allow you to focus your efforts.

Sacrosanct Martyr

It never seems like a good trade: 5 damage for 5 damage. And it can feel very situational (unless Xtreme Prime Warden Fanatic is being used), but don’t underestimate the ability to choose how that damage is being distributed. Need to take care of a threat that will hit everyone for 3 damage? Putting 5 on Fanatic might just be worth saving the 9-15 spread across everyone. Is someone getting low on health and there is something in play that hits the person with the lowest HP? Let Fanatic take some damage instead and get it off the board. Is Fanatic close to death with an Aegis on the board? Let her finish herself to “heal” that damage before something takes that Equipment away unexpectedly. There are plenty of situations where this card can and should be used, not to mention that Smite the Transgressor could let you use this AND Absolution to drop 10 on the villain in one swoop. That is the kind of power Fanatic is capable of.

Zealous Offense

Absolution is the card that you want driving this engine, although Sacrosanct Martyr could serve as well. If Fanatic does at least 3 damage on her turn, you get to choose two targets out there who won’t do damage this round. Say, what? This + Absolution is such a powerful board-control combination that it almost feels unfair when you pull it off.

The mid-game Fanatic is fun if the right cards come out. Absolution and Zealous Offense is the ideal situation, and the earlier you can get those both out, the better everyone will feel about the situation at hand. This is the time when you’ll want to consider putting an Aegis of Resurrection into play, especially if you’ve been taking extra damage along the way, because you’re rarely going to be high on health. You want to strike a balance between managing your health wisely and spending it to deal some damage or prevent hits on other heroes. That makes her tricky to play at times, yet it presents a fun puzzle. How much can she tank before you’re becoming too reckless with her health? I’m almost certain this is the part of the game where most people toss their hands up in frustration with Fanatic and write her off as an unplayable, not-very-fun character. But you’d be making a mistake because this next part is where she shines the brightest.

Fanatic’s Closers

Here is where I’ve found Fanatic to be the most exciting, and there are a few cards that are the MVP in her deck at this point. She’s helped me to close out a battle a round or two early, helping to skip a chance for the Environment and Villain decks to strike and take things from bad-to-worse. She’s helped me come back from the pit of desperation, with everyone on the cusp of death, and delivered an unexpected victory. Those moments aren’t always required, but when they are they grant the most memorable endings to this game. She’s been my MVP enough times to cement her place in every lineup I will ever do because I know what she’s capable of. Everything in the game leads up to this point, and she can help you win when all seems to be hopeless.

End of Days

I was going to put this in the mid-game category, but this one is always so situational that it could potentially appear in any of the three. Being able to wipe the board is so, so helpful. Sadly, relics are immune (curse you, Apostate, and your horde of relics!) but otherwise she clears it down to your heroes versus the villain at the start of the Environment turn. Late in the game, that wipe might be the difference between victory and defeat. Knowing this card is going to be played can allow everyone to focus their efforts on the vital task at hand: defeating that villain. I always try to hold one of these for as long as I can, until it is desperately needed, because it can get you out of the worst situations.

Desperate Prayer + Divine Focus

This is the combo that can speed up the end of the game. Fill up your hand with cards and then start chucking them at the start of every turn (other heroes, environment, villain) to drop 2 damage every time. Depending on the number of players and the cards in hand, this can be a lot of damage. Desperate Prayer will let you get back up to 6, either before the damage process begins or as a way to keep the chain going. This combo becomes less appealing if the villain gets some big-health baddies out there, as it targets the villain-target with the highest HP left. But it is beyond effective in closing a game out.

Wrathful Retribution

The deck has one copy of this card, but it could be the most valuable card in the deck. Tossing three cards to deal over 20 damage in one strike is the best trade you can ever make, and you definitely want to do more than 20 damage with this one. I’ve taken down an Omnitron, who had exactly 27 health left, when all I had remaining was a 3 HP Fanatic. I had written off the match as a loss about 5 turns earlier when my heroes were dropping off, but I had Fanatic and some Aegis or Resurrections, and was able to keep her in play long enough to draw and play this card. And oh, how sweet it was. That remains my best Sentinels moment, although I really wish it had happened with a group of friends instead so we could all talk about it. This is the card that makes it all click: you want Fanatic close to death so she can drop mega damage when this one turns up. Even if it leads to her sacrifice, that amount of damage helps ensure it won’t likely be in vain.

Overall, Fanatic is likely to thrive at this point if you’ve been holding back a few cards or get the right cards for the situation. Even in the worst case scenario, hopefully you have Absolution and an Aegis of Resurrection out and can chip away at the baddies with little threat of a final ending to Fanatic’s health. During those games she might feel a little unremarkable, but that is because she isn’t hitting her true potential. Those three cards in the closer game are what make her invaluable to the team’s effort. She can bring order and hope to a game where things spiral out of control.

Closing thoughts

In terms of power, Fanatic might fall somewhere near the middle of the pack. She is counter-intuitive to play at times, and often you’ll be setting up and then slow-playing the middle of a battle. She excels at control in the midst of chaos, as shown by cards such as End of Days, Zealous Offense, and Chastise. She thrives on bringing things to a close with cards like Divine Focus and Wrathful Retribution. While those can be far more situational than someone like Legacy, I know that if I left out Fanatic I’d be in a situation where I wished she was part of the team.

I don’t want this to be the last of my looks at the heroes in Sentinels of the Multiverse. There are so many of them out there, and even the core set offers enough choices to cover. So here’s a chance to vote: which core set Sentinels hero would you like to read about next?

  1. Legacy
  2. Absolute Zero
  3. Wraith
  4. Tachyon
  5. Bunker
  6. Haka
  7. Visionary
  8. Ra
  9. Tempest
Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Ars Alchimia

Thank you for checking review #44 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 game was provided in exchange for an honest review. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.

An Overview of Ars Alchimia

Ars Alchimia is a game designed by Kuro and was published by Tasty Minstrel Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 100 minute play time.

Alchimia — a land where the works of a single grand alchemist has caused alchemy to develop more quickly than other technology. The everyday lives of the people rely on the alchemy factories that this first pioneer built.

In Ars Alchimia, you work at one of these factories. As an overseer belonging to the Academy, you take orders from the people, gather resources, and transmute them — but you need to be more efficient than your competition.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The board sets up in a similar manner based on player count, except there will be fewer spots. There will be two assistants instead of three, one tier B orders instead of two, and two face-up gathering locations instead of three. Everything else remains the same upon the board.

The game is played over the course of four rounds, where players take turns placing one or more workers on a single spot on the board to take its action. These spots are: gather resources, take up an order, employ an assistant, or transmute at the alchemy forges. Each of these have multiple face-up spots to choose from, while the forge and gather resource spaces also have a space to take the top card off the deck for the action.

In order to use a space, the player must spend a number of workers equal to the number already on the space plus 1. For instance, if my wife uses a Gather Resources space and sends 2 workers there, I must spend at least 3 to use the spot on my turn. When I go there, her 2 workers are sent to the Fountain space on the board, where they remain until the end of the round. With the Alchemy Forge and Gather Resources spaces, you also roll a die to find out if you have a perfect experience. The die number needed is shown at the bottom of the respective card. When gathering resources, having a perfect experience gains you additional resources indicated on the card. A perfect day at the forge, on the other hand, provides additional points for every item created during that action (+1 point per elixir, +1 point for every C order, +2 points for B orders, +3 points for A orders). Only one die is rolled and only one time per action; however, a player may spend more workers when choosing the space than needed. In the above example, if I sent 5 workers instead of just the 3 needed, it would add +2 to my die roll when attempting to have a perfect experience. This allows you to spend your limited pool of workers to have a better chance of getting that die roll you need.

When all players have passed, the board is reset. Players retrieve workers, the cards on the board are “shuffled” then placed on the bottom of their respective decks, and new cards are flipped out. The person in last place on the score track selects the turn order card they desire (which also dictates the number of workers retrieved from the box, giving them more people if they go later in a round). Players who have assistant cards either discard those assistants or place 1 worker in the Fountain space for each assistant they wish to keep for the next round. Play continues for 4 rounds. At the end of that, players score one point for each elixir they have left, one point per assistant they have, and score points based on sets of orders completed with a matching symbol. Any uncompleted orders subtract half their value from a player’s score. The person with the most points wins.

My Thoughts

 I love, love, love the worker placement mechanic in this one. No space on the board is ever truly blocked from use, and you can even use the same space two turns in a row. However, the more you use the space the more costly it becomes. You need to strike a balance in how you use that limited pool of workers, as there will always be too many things that you need to do and never enough workers to do them all. Being able to overcommit on two of the spaces can give you an indirect way of overpricing a spot for your opponents while also reaping the reward of an easier die roll.

 The board wipe at the end of each round is really helpful because it accomplishes two things: makes you dedicate your workers NOW if you want something out there and provide variety from round to round. This is especially important with the resource cards, but getting fresh orders can be equally valuable and rewarding. Not only do you get a new game experience every time you play, you get it every round which will make some spots more valuable and sought after than others.

 Those assistants can be super-critical. I don’t know why they have been mostly ignored by the other players I’ve gamed with on this, but I have found them to be invaluable. Whether granting more workers, additional resources when having a perfect gather, or manipulating die rolls, these assistants allow you to do things more effectively and provide victory points at the end of the game. The catch? You have to “pay” a worker per assistant each round to keep the cards you want. I really like that aspect as well, because it creates a tough choice.

 The elixir is another nice element in the game. It allows you to take any excess resources you don’t need (you can craft one by spending 1 cube of two different resources) and turn them into an item that can be spent as a wild, spent to fulfill orders needing elixirs, or save them until the end of the game for points. Even better is if you have a perfect day at the forge, as every elixir crafted nets you an immediate point.

 Turn order is important in this one, and is balanced through Turn Order Cards. Whoever goes first gets one worker from the box, second pulls two, and so on. So by going later, you have more workers to use and those workers hold over to the following rounds. So that pool of 9 workers will grow a lot over time, unless you happen to go first every round. I appreciate that, after the first round, players choose their turn order card in reverse order based on score. So if you’re losing, you get to choose whether you want to go first or get more workers. And sometimes that can be a difficult choice.

 Set collection is always fun, and the orders you fill have symbols on them. You gain exponential rewards for really gunning after a specific type of order. By the halfway point it becomes pretty clear who is collecting what. Which then leads into the choice: do you take the order for your set, or do you take the one your opponent needs? I’m yet to be convinced there is a right choice in that situation, especially since not filling an order costs you points…so if you take it, you’re going to want to fill it.

 There isn’t much reading to be done in this game, but the text on the cards is frustratingly small at times. We get in the habit of reading the assistants’ text as they flip out because it isn’t fair to expect someone to read what they do from across the table. Most of the cards have symbols, and those usually make sense, but the text itself definitely could have been increased. At least on those assistants.

 The die is a tricky thing to analyze here. I felt it played a minimal role in this game, especially since there are assistants who can affect the roll and you can place extra workers to improve your odds. My wife, on the other hand, felt it was a big deal because it led to players gaining bonus resources or extra points throughout the game. I don’t know that we’ll ever come to a consensus on this one, thus its placement here as a “neutral” point. If you’ve played the game, I am curious to hear your thoughts!

 The rulebook. Oh man, this rulebook is bad. Not horrible in the way that some are, but this one was a little rough. Thankfully it was four small pages so it wasn’t a long read. But this one could have used something to break up the blocks of text. Having everything out in front of me, so I could find the items as they were discussed, went a long way toward helping me grasp the rules and the setup of the game. I’d highly recommend doing that when you are reading the rules for this one, too, as it should speed up the process toward understanding.

 The pawns fall over. All the time. I’m not even kidding here. For a game where you’re placing multiple workers into tiny boxes that may also contain multiple workers, this makes things frustrating and fiddly. It never detracted from my experience as I accepted this as something that couldn’t be avoided. But replacing those pawns with meeples might have saved us from this headache.

Final Thoughts

This game far exceeded my expectations in every way. I thought this would be a nice, simple worker placement game that we’d play a few times and it’d wear out its welcome after that. Boy, was I wrong. I really enjoyed this game (far more than my wife, thanks to that die) and found the worker placement in here to be really interesting. The decision on how many workers to allocate can be a tricky puzzle to navigate, and those early decisions really can make a difference.

This game has a little bit of something for most people: press-your-luck, worker placement, recipe fulfillment, set collection. There is even a hint of engine building through those assistants if the right ones come out during the game. This one can check so many different boxes that it still blows my mind. For a small box, this game packs quite the experience.

If you aren’t a fan of rolling dice, though, beware. I felt the die was a minor part of the game and mitigatible, but my wife felt very differently about the matter. The right roll allows you to be more efficient at gathering resources, costing fewer workers to gain more resources. It also can boost you on the scoring track, especially if you get a really lucky break and have a perfect day when forging 2-3 tier A or B orders. And in her defense, I definitely see her point here. The ability to use more workers to help mitigate that is an important facet of the game, and there are some assistants that could help with this as well. So it doesn’t have to be completely random – it is a matter of deciding how desperately you need that perfect result.

This isn’t likely to be a favorite game in many collections, but it would definitely be a solid entry. If you want a game in a small box, with a small footprint, that can provide a pretty awesome experience in under 2 hours, this one will fit that niche for you and do it well. If you happen to really dislike smaller cards and tiny text, this one might be one to avoid. But otherwise I can’t endorse this one enough: Ars Alchimia is a hidden gem of a game that is worthy of being added to your game shelf regardless of 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 · Review for Two

Review for Two – Torres

Thank you for checking review #43 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 game was provided in exchange for an honest review. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.

An Overview of Torres

Torres is a game designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling and was published by IDW Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 60 minute play time.

Torres is an abstract game of resource management and tactical pawn movement. Players are attempting to build up castles and position their knights to score the most points each turn. Players have a limited supply of knights and action cards that allow special actions to be taken. Efficient use of pieces and cards, along with a thoughtful awareness of future possibilities, is the heart of this game.

Torres is considered by many to be an informal member of what is referred to as the Mask Trilogy.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

There is a Year Card for each player count showing how many Castle building blocks a player receives at the start of a year (round). In a 2-player game, both players will get 4 stacks, each containing 3 blocks on there, at the beginning of all three years. Also in a 2-player game, each year has 4 seasons (turns) instead of 3 that are given in games with a higher count.

Gameplay remains the same with each turn granting 5 action points to spend to:

Place a knight (2 AP)
Move a knight (1 AP)
Expand a castle (1 AP per block)
Buy an action card (1 AP per card)
Play an action card (0 AP)
Move your scoring-track knight 1 space (1 AP per space)

Players are trying to position their knights on the castles being constructed by the players. Castles cannot be joined together, and they can never go higher in levels (# of blocks high on a stack) than the size of its base. The higher your knight is on a tower, the more points will be scored (the level of the tower your knight is on is multiplied by the base of the castle). You can only score each castle once per player, so having several knights on the same castle provides no benefit. There is also a king figure who remains immobile during each year. You are awarded bonus points for having a knight on the proper level of the king’s castle (this changes each year, and he also gets repositioned each year by the person who is in last place).

After three years, the person with the highest score is the winner. Within the simplicity of the game’s concept comes a lot of depth and strategy.

My Thoughts

 I really enjoy the action point system, where you have 5 AP to spend every turn and you need to manage it wisely. This is a nice system that I don’t really see in too many games. It is different enough from having X workers to place, yet similar in a sense to a worker allocation concept. It works nicely in this one to provide some tension as to what actions to use because you’ll want to get out more knights, spread them around, and place castle pieces. But you’ll never be able to do as many of those as you’d like.

 The gameplay itself makes a visually appealing presence, much like The Climbers. You’re building 3-D structures on a flat board, which is going to command attention if you take this along to a game day. If you aren’t a fan of wooden discs and oodles of cardboard, this is a game that will really appeal to you. The production on this one is really well done.

 The height requirement of a castle being tied to the base size is a really neat thing. It prevents a person from making a really, really tall structure that is only 2-4 squares along the base. Add in the inability to connect the castles to each other and you have a really solid set of confines in which to build in this game. Without those two limitations, this game would likely fall very flat. So while there will be times when those limits frustrate your plans, you can respect their importance in the design.

 The action cards are an interesting concept. Many of them are powerful because they allow you to break the rules of the game. It costs a point to draw cards and choose one of them. Playing the card after that is free. But you don’t get to hand-pick the card you need, but you also don’t necessarily need to use the card right away. I’ll revisit the cards a little later on a different point, but I do like that there is a cost to gaining the cards. It makes it so there is some risk to trying to get them, but they usually pay off eventually. But it also reduces the amount of things you can do that turn.

 It sounds crazy to weigh this as a positive option in the game, but the ability to spend an AP to gain a point is interesting to me. This ensures you never have to waste a turn or use it in a way that only benefits the other players. Satisfied with your current board state? Take some points! There isn’t a lot of scoring to be found this way, but that is the point. It isn’t a winning strategy, but rather a situational option.

 Those wonderful structures you are building over the course of the game? Fiddly is the word. I forgot just how easy it is to bump things in just the wrong way. The castle pieces interlock well in theory, but they have a hard time remaining perfectly solid on the table. And those tiny knights? They fall so easily. One of this game’s best assets, the 3-D play area, can be a huge source of frustration. Especially for a player who likes things to be aligned perfectly.

 One thing that is interesting in the game is that you can carry-over some leftover castle pieces from year to year…unless you’re playing a 2-player game. Your stacks are already maxed out, making it so you have to use all the pieces in your stack or lose them at the end of the year. And you use a different stack per turn, so really if you want to maximize the placement of pieces you will have to dedicate 3 of your 5 AP every turn to placing castle pieces.

 There comes a point where language independence on cards can be a barrier to entry, and this game has an example of that. This card above shows the ability, and once you understand the ability it makes sense. You move in a “door” on a lower level and come out a “door” on a higher level of the castle. That higher level you come out onto has to be orthogonally adjacent to the spot where you started. Simple in theory, but this one really gave us fits. My wife cursed at me every time she tried to play this card because every time she moved with it, she did it wrong. Because it isn’t as simple to execute as it seems. Some words on the card could have gone a long way toward helping her understand it better. Or, at the very least, having four player aids rather than one where the cards are described. Passing that one sheet back and forth can be annoying.

 I’m okay with games that have little player interaction. Lots of worker placement games have that sandbox feel where each person can play in their own corner and pursue their own strategy. The problem with the 2-player game is that you feel very isolated from the other player. It is not uncommon to each be building your own structures and spreading your knights to those structures for a good portion of the game. Yes, you’ll want to get onto the opposing main structure to poach some of that hard work, but really that is all it amounts to in this game for interaction. The game feels repetitive and it never feels like there are more interesting strategies to pursue. You want to build tall structures and have exactly one knight on the structure, positioned at the tallest spot. You want to have one knight on the right level of the king’s structure. Build castles, spread your knights, and get those points. Granted, it might be due to not being a fan of abstracts to begin with, but this game simply doesn’t seem to have a lot of avenues to pursue in a 2-player game. With more players, it becomes a lot “smaller” of a map and makes it more tense and exciting even if it is still the same sets of actions.

Final Thoughts

This is a game that I was really excited about when it arrived. Castles are my thing, and so the theme hooked me. My wife is usually on board for that theme as well. However, it completely fell flat for my wife which made it hard to have the game hit our table. The frustration with the action cards, which she struggled to understand that one card’s effect every time we played, ruined any enjoyment she might have otherwise had with the game. And I can’t fault her on that one; it took me repeated tries to fully grasp what that card intended and its limitations. And I still tried playing it wrong myself when executing the card.

The action point system makes for an interesting set of decisions. You essentially get 15 points per round to spend (some action cards can increase that), making 45 overall. Which means you need to plan ahead and use that resource wisely. You need to get guys out and spread them among the castles being built, but you also need to build your own castles. You want to position yourself as high as possible on each castle, except the King’s castle, which changes every round. Castles can’t touch, limiting how far they can grow. All of these are great and interesting.

This game does so many awesome things. We don’t usually play abstract games, but this is one I could really envision myself enjoying. Unfortunately, the game is far more interesting with more than 2 players. While it still provides a fun experience with 2, it pales when compared to having a full 4-player game going. Early rounds are spent on opposite sides of the board, building your own couple of castles. There might be a little invasion when a castle grows big enough to make it worthwhile, but the early turns are played in your own sandbox. There is enough room for everyone to build and expand and score without trying to compete. Except on the king’s castle.

Fans of abstract games should really enjoy this one regardless of player count, and those who often can hit that 3-4 count might really like having this in their collection. While it didn’t build enough interest to win us over to the game, I can see and appreciate the design. It is a good game. Really good for the right gamers. If this one still sounds interesting to you, I definitely recommend checking it out.

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 Inserts

Mini-Review of The Shire Insert from Meeple Realty (for War of the Rings 2nd Edition)

My favorite game of all time is War of the Ring (2nd Edition), and it is one I always enjoy playing. Setup and teardown have always been a beast on this game, and for years we’ve gone with the “baggie” solution. My wife was clever enough to use a sharpie to give each starting location a bag and have it marked with what unit(s) go in the bag and where they start on the board. But that makes for a ton of bags, not counting the extra reinforcements on both sides, expansion material, and more. All told, I’d believe we had close to 100 baggies in this massive box. Now? 0.

This was the non-game Christmas present I wanted more than any other. Sadly, it didn’t come. So when I had a little extra money I decided to pull the trigger and pick up this insert, knowing that it would likely pay for itself over the course of repeated plays of this great game.

Ordering and Shipping

I had very few issues navigating through the Meeple Realty website. It is very user-friendly, and I love how they have a section to search by compatible games. That makes it so you can find this insert by either knowing its name (The Shire) or the game it partners with. Ordering took a matter of minutes to complete online, having to set up an account since it was my first purchase. Within minutes of placing the order I had a confirmation in my email, followed shortly by a tracking number for my shipment. I was beyond impressed with the process, and delivery was prompt and everything arrived safely.

Assembly Guide

The instructions for putting the insert together were laid out really well. Items were clearly shown in images and marked well to correspond with the pieces in the package. They even have an illustrated guide on how to fit everything into the base game box, which is excellent. The one area where it fell just a little short was on the Dice Tower/Card Holder construction. A few extra images would have helped tremendously with what was, easily, the most complicated part of the construction process.

Ease of Assembly

The wood pieces all popped out with minimum difficulty and, once I got used to how everything was intended to “snap” together (I caught on by the time I finished assembling the first piece: the free people’s storage box), everything was relatively easy to construct. As mentioned with the above section, the hardest thing was the Dice Tower/Card Holder. The pieces fit well together to form a sturdy set of structures even without the use of wood glue. The instruction guide led through things really well, making it clear what went where in the assembly process. No complaints overall about this, especially considering I’m not a particularly handy person and this was my first insert to construct.

Customer Service

I ran into an issue. There are four pairs of screws that go to the Dice Towers/Card Trays (see a trend here?). I got eight of the pieces where the screws would screw into, but no screws themselves. Which meant I couldn’t have a sturdy, secure connection on those trays. And boy, it needs that because this is the piece that can fold up to form the dice tower. I filled out their replacement parts form and had the screws sent out within days. It took longer to get them than it had with the unit itself, but the process was easy and painless. Plus it isn’t like I’m playing the game daily (as much as I might want to!)

Impact of the Insert

Here’s the important thing: what impact does this have on the game experience overall? We’ll start with the portion I’ve talked about the most: the card tray/dice tower. The process to convert it is relatively easy, however I did have a few issues fitting it into the bottom tray (where the factions from the Warriors of Middle-Earth expansion are stored). This may have been due to not having the screws yet, but once it got in there it stayed well. The dice tower functions really well, although it is rather loud. Since we were playing at 11:00 at night, we stopped using them after that first roll. But if noise isn’t an issue, these are a great addition.

Setup and teardown are both markedly improved by the storage trays. The “cheat sheet” printed on the lids is a wonderful addition, and the trays also function really well during gameplay for pulling reinforcements. My one wish, if it was a perfect world, would be to have a “graveyard” for the defeated Free Peoples units, since they can’t be reused during the game. For now, they just went off to the side on the table when dead.

The token trays were really handy, allowing each player to have access to the tokens they might need for the game. We didn’t use any expansions, since it was my buddy’s first time playing the game. Which did, unfortunately, mean that I had all of the Warriors of Middle-Earth factions scattered on the kitchen counter to construct those Dice Towers that I never used due to noise. So that is one minor drawback: there is no good way to use that bottom portion of the Dice Tower without having to pull out all those figures. Even when using the expansion, that means you likely need to stack them on the table until you need them. Or forego using the tray for the Dice Tower.

Overall, I really enjoy the product. I was impressed along every step of the way: the purchase, shipment, resolving the missing parts issue, and the construction of the product. This is going to help the game hit the table more often because it reduces some of those excuses to choose something else instead. If you own the War of the Ring (Second Edition), I can’t recommend this highly enough.














Board Gaming · Review for One · Solo Gaming

Review of Terraforming Mars on the Board Boys Podcast

Last week I was the featured guest on the Board Boys Podcast. They invited me over to play and discuss Terraforming Mars by Stronghold Games.

Download episode #10 on your favorite podcast platform and listen to us discuss this excellent game, including some of my thoughts on the solo experience in Terraforming Mars. You can get some initial impressions now, at least a month in advance of my full written review of the solo play for Terraforming Mars.

Be sure to check these guys out by subscribing to their podcast, Follow them on Twitter (@TheBoardBoysPod), stalk them on Instagram, and Like them on Facebook.