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.

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.

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Outpost: Siberia

Thank you for checking review #41 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 Outpost: Siberia

Outpost: Siberia is a game designed by Daryl Andrews and Jonathan Gilmour and was published by IDW Games. The box states that it can play 2-6 players and has a 30-45 minute play time.

Description from the BGG Page:

Welcome to Outpost 1, the first science observatory located in the isolated frozen tundra of Siberia! You and your team have been investigating anomalous activities the region, and recently things have shifted for the worse. The coming storm is said to be the “storm-of-the-century”; it may last a month or more. Strange howls and buzzing fill the long nights, and yesterday a crew-member went AWOL… or worse. The call for evacuation was made, but it came too late. The long winter storm has set in. There’s no hope of getting help until it clears. Now your crew’s only hope is to use what little resources you have to survive the long winter cold (and whatever’s out there in it). Use your rations wisely, and you may see the sun again.

Outpost: Siberia is a fully cooperative, survival game that plays with a single deck of cards. Using an inventive dual-facing system, a single card in Outpost can be anything from life-saving supplies to cataclysmic catastrophes. By enduring relentless weather and defeating untamable beasts, players are rewarded with the much-needed tools and food to continually resupply their resources.

Outpost: Siberia keeps the tension high, as players will need to collect their wits and ration their supplies in order to make through the perpetual perils that lie ahead!

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

There are no differences in setup based upon the number of players. Each person selects a character and places the health token on their left-most spot on the health track. Sort out the Good Events, Bad Events, and Threat cards and shuffle each of them. Pull out a mix of good and bad event cards (this is how you can adjust difficulty – a greater proportion of good events will make it easier, more bad will raise the challenge) to add 12 total into the Threat cards to form the Expedition deck. Shuffle that deck, set it aside. Shuffle the remaining event cards and those form the Outpost deck.

On a turn players will draw two cards from the Outpost deck, placing one into their hand and the other into a central supply area. The only aspect of the cards used when drawn in this phase are the yellow text at the bottom (Food, Water, Flares, Ice Axes, Flamethrowers, First Aid Kits). The number (range of 1-3) is essentially an attack value, which only applies to those kept in your hand.

Next you can use attack enemies by placing cards from your hand beneath an enemy you’ve encountered. Once the sum of cards is equal to, or greater than, its printed health you can defeat the enemy in the next part of your turn.

After that you can play cards for their effect, such as First Aid Kits to heal 1 health on a character, Flares to ignore the effect of an enemy at the end of the round, and the Ice Axes and Flamethrowers to defeat enemies.

Then you have to endure an Expedition Card, which is flipping over the next card on that deck. Good and Bad events have a printed cost of either 1 Food or 1 Water which must be played from a hand or the supply. If that cost can’t be paid, one character must lose a health. Then the effect of the card is resolved. If a Threat is revealed it deals 1 damage immediately to either the current player or a character who has not taken a turn this round. Defeated enemies and event cards that are completed go into the Outpost discard pile.

Finally, you exhuast the character by rotating it 90 degrees and select the next character to continue play for the round.

At the end of a round, the enemies with active effects will trigger. Note that some enemies merely sit there once they’ve entered play.

The game ends when either the Expedition deck is depleted (players must still survive the effect of the final card). Should a character fall to 0 health, the game results in a loss for all players.

Updated setup/play rules, per Survival Guide posted by the publisher:

zombie Randomly remove 6 threats from the Threat deck and set them aside.
zombie As the final step of setup, deal each player a random card from those set-aside threats to serve as their starting hand. Place the remaining threat cards in the box.
zombie Draw 3 cards instead of 2 from the Outpost deck. Place 1 in your hand, 1 in the supply, discard 1.
zombie Card actions from the supply and attack cards can be done in any order, not just attack first, then abilities.

My Thoughts

My favorite thing in this game, and what really drew my interest from the start, would be the multi-use cards. I love the creativity a designer needs to have in order to create cards that serve multiple purposes. And every card in here has at least three uses: the effect as an event/threat, the CV value for attack, and the item itself. Depending on where you encounter/place the card, you will have a specific use for the card. The cards you defeat get added to your discards, making stronger cards appear in the Outpost deck. It is a really good use of a simple set of cards.

I’ve come to appreciate the art on the cards. A few of them are more horror-flavored than I usually prefer but are fitting because of the theme. The threats appear to be bad news, as well they should. Even the backs of the cards are colorful and help you to differentiate which direction the deck goes to help you draw the right ones.

Using the updated rule set takes this from an okay game and makes it a reasonably fun and enjoyable experience. You feel like you have a little more control. You have a starting item in your hand so you can contribute more things early in the game. The items get reshuffled more often. The deck is smaller. Those are all really excellent changes. If you’re going to play this game, those are the rules you need to be using from the first play. If you get to the point where you can win more often with those, then try playing with the original rules to increase the difficulty.

One of the coolest parts of this game is that the players determine player order every round. You get to, as a group, choose who starts. That person can choose who goes next. This is not only helpful with being able to adapt to what is out there, but makes you plan for those threats better. The damage can only be assigned to the active player or someone who hasn’t gone yet that round. Meaning those who are close to death shouldn’t be going late in the round. It also means the 2-health character is likely to be first every round (and with their ability, you want that anyway).

There is a little bit of asymmetry in here because the characters all have a different ability. Some of them are really generic, such as discard any card from your hand to count it as a water. Those are important. Even the one to count as a Flare can be really handy in the right situation. I like having each player feel unique in what they can contribute to the group.

Said characters also have an issue: health. Four health isn’t a lot in this game. One character in the game has just two health. In a game with more players, she’d be awesome to choose. In a two-player game, there are essentially two characters who are not optimal to select because of their lowered health. You need all you can get.

Playing the game without the updated rules doesn’t feel very fun or balanced unless you have a high player count. I’ve mentioned it a few times already, but two doesn’t seem like the ideal. It won’t be a great experience unless you love being miserable or like the idea of failing 99 times in order to succeed on the 100th attempt. Thinning the expedition deck, starting with a card in hand, and cycling the Outpost deck are all things that definitely make the game more enjoyable. So why weren’t those identified prior to the release and added to the game in the first place?

I understand: six players is the max number who can play so there are six characters. Adding more characters would likely increase the cost to produce the game. But I like variety, and four of the characters have essentially the same ability. No one likes being the last to choose a character and being “stuck with” a character because it is the last one left. Adding 2-3 more characters would have been a nice touch and added replay. More character combinations to try out against the game.

From a thematic perspective, it is baffling that the tiny threats are the ones that are the most harmful. They have low health, but they are the ones constantly interfering if you don’t kill them. The larger threats, such as the massive Yeti, look really scary but don’t actually do anything after they come into play. Yes, they sit there. On the table. Doing nothing. It was the thing that disappointed the initial play group, and it is the thing that still makes little sense. Yes, it’d be even harder if you needed to drop that 13 CV on the Yeti in a hurry. But at least it’d feel right to have it be a big threat while in play. I get that those are the ones that will add the 2 and 3 CV cards into your Outpost deck. But sometimes it isn’t worth dropping 6-8 damage plus using an item to kill them. Not when there is no penalty for letting them just hang out on the table.

Final Thoughts

This game is a tough one to gauge. My initial play of the game was with the full range of 6 players and, while I think we forgot once or twice to pay food/water on the event cards, we never completely felt like things were out of hand. It was a reckless decision in the final round to just bull forward “we can heal later” approach that led to our loss when victory was there on the board. Literally. We walked away talking about some of the head-scratchers in the game, such as the idle Yeti, Mammoth, and Tiger who just sit there. Not doing a thing. The consensus was also that it wouldn’t be nearly as easy with fewer players.

I finally pulled this back out and tried it as a 2-player experience. And boy, I got crushed in that first game. I think it might have taken longer to set up and refresh myself on the rules than it took to play. But in the interest of being a reviewer, I reset and tried it again. And found that, in spite of some of its flaws, there is still an interesting and challenging game here. So I am glad I didn’t write it off after my second play. I nearly did after the first play. There is definitely value in trying a game multiple times, and this game is a case where it benefits from repeated exposure.

The rules found in the tin are hard. Almost impossibly hard for a 2-player experience. I dig a challenging cooperative game. Albion’s Legacy is my jam, and I still haven’t won in that one. Yet it feels like there is a lot less under the player’s control in this one. You’re at the mercy of the card draw, and a really bad stretch of cards out of either deck and completely wreck things. The benefit this game has, though, is time. It is a shorter game, and setup/teardown are really quick. It is a small box on the shelf and has a small footprint on the table most of the time. There are player powers (some better than others) that are scaled with the health. The difficulty of the deck and be tweaked, both with the ratio of event cards and with the new removal of threat cards. All of these things work in the favor of the game.

I had every intention of being scathing in my review of this one, yet repeated plays combined with the adjusted rules and consideration for time/price have swayed me over to the slightly-positive side. This game won’t be for everyone. It’ll frustrate you to no end, especially since the adjusted rule page also gives tips and one is to play at the max player count. Which makes sense, your group can suffer more damage before death hits and the threats revealed will trigger their abilities less often.

I don’t know that I would recommend this for those who only would play with two. But if you like playing cooperative games and want one that can play a good range of players in a reasonable amount of time, this isn’t a poor choice. So long as you don’t mind losing. Because lose you will. By now you’ll know, from the review, if the cons in this game are enough to turn you off. If that is you, then you should probably pass or borrow a copy and try it out. But if you’re still thinking this game sounds fun or interesting, it is definitely worth the pricepoint for this experience.

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

Board Game Lists · Board Gaming · Top Ten List · Wish List

Ten Games I Want to Play in 2018

Last year I made a list of a ton of games I wanted to be sure to play in 2017. Overall I did a respectable job at trying most of those games, although I did miss a few of them. I thought I would make the same approach this year, but going with ten games to fit into ten different “categories” of my choosing. There are so many great games out there, but these are the ones highest on my list to try right now.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to go to HeavyCon and knock a few of these off my list…

1. A Capstone Games game – Three Kingdoms Redux

This game intrigues me so much. A heavy game for exactly three players. Asymmetric sides. Shifting of power over the course of the game. A dynamic tension that will come from having the presence of three sides vying for power over the course of the game. This is a game that is likely to be difficult to bring and play at a random game night, but is the perfect game to coordinate a play. It is a Capstone title, which means I already am inclined to give it a try (thus the category for a Capstone game!) I definitely hope to play all of the Capstone games out there, but this one stands at the top of my list of their games I hope to play.

Which of the Capstone Games titles do you enjoy the most?

2. A Top 10 Game – Terra Mystica

As of this writing I have played only four of the top 10 games listed on BGG. I definitely want to try a few of the others in there, but the one that stands out most is Terra Mystica. It is that game I hear talked about so often, yet I am lacking a play of the game. It sounds like my type of game, one that I think my wife would enjoy playing as well. I know the new hotness is Gaia Project, but I would rather start with the game which paved the way for some of the other current games.

Which group should I play as for my first game? Let me know in the comments below!

3. A Train Game – Age of Steam

Hoo boy, I know I need to eventually tackle a train game. As in an 18XX game, not just Ticket to Ride or Whistle Stop. Before plunging into the deep end, I think it’d be beneficial to visit this classic in the genre. It is long out of print, but hopefully someone local has a copy that they’d be willing to pull out and teach. With around 160 maps to choose from, this is the ultimate game for variety out there.

Let me know which map(s) are best to learn on for each player count! I’m sure the teacher will already have an idea in mind, but if I could only play one map at __ player count, what should it be?

4. An Uwe Rosenburg Game – Ora et Labora

There are a handful of Rosenburg big-box games I haven’t played yet: Fields of Arle, Glass Roads, Le Havre. But the one game I want to try more than any other right now would be this out of print classic. I fully blame Edward and Amanda at Heavy Cardboard for this one, as their review of the game last year sucked me in and made me want to play this. The opportunity never came up last year, but I am going to work hard to get a chance to try it this year. I know at least one local player has a copy, which means there is a chance.

Let me know which Rosenburg game is YOUR favorite!

5. A COIN Game – Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain

Like the train games, this will be the year I try out a COIN game. There are plenty of them to choose from at this point, although only two of them have a strong theme appeal to me (Pendragon & Falling Sky). I was so excited about the release of Pendragon when I heard about it last year, and this one has a strong appeal with both a solo mode and what should be a great 2-player experience. I’m a huge Arthurian/Middle Ages fan, and that makes this the ideal game to reel me into the COIN system. I’m letting myself buy at most two games this year. This one has a very high chance of being one of those two purchases.

Which COIN game in the series is your favorite so far?

6. A Filler Game – Arboretum

Let’s go ahead and blame Heavy Cardboard for this one as well. Out of print? Check. Thinky filler? Check. You can never have, or play, too many fillers, especially of the variety which engage your brain. I’ve heard nothing but strong responses about this one, and I can’t wait to try this out. There were a few others that came close to stealing this spot, especially after watching a little of Heavy Cardboard’s live stream of Iron Curtain last night. But I decided to stick with my initial resolution of seeking a play or two of Arboretum. Maybe this will be a game that Capstone can bring back into print on their Simply Complex line…

What are some of your favorite filler games? Let me know in the comments below!

7. Golden Elephant Winner – Food Chain Magnate

This game was going to make the list already, but I decided to shift it here in order to open #9 for a different title. I have heard a ton of great things about this game, and I know of a few locals who own the game and at least one person who proclaims it as their favorite game. This might be among the easiest games on this list to get a chance to play. This is one of those games that, initially, I had no interest in playing when I heard about it. Thankfully, my tastes and interests have grown over time and now this game easily makes my list of ones I can’t wait to try out.

Let’s have some fun with this spot…2017 is in the books and soon we’ll learn the games Edward & Amanda will be nominating for their Golden Elephant awards. Any guesses on what games we might see as finalists for the award?

8. A Vital Lacerda Game – Vinhos

I played my first Lacerda game last year when I tried out Lisboa. I still crave a second play of that game. I’ve heard mixed opinions on which of his games are the best, but the one that seems to be universally proclaimed as being good is Vinhos. I really enjoyed playing Viticulture, which is that other wine-making game out there. And yes, I know the two games are as different as can be. This game will probably melt my brain, much like did during Lisboa, and I can’t wait to experience the game that kicked off Vital’s career as a designer. I am reasonably certain this should be an easy game to find a willing teacher for, and I have a feeling that 2018 might turn into a quest to try all of Vital’s games so far.

Which Lacerda game is your favorite? There seems to be a great divide over this question, so I am curious which one you love most and why!

9. A Splotter Game – Antiquity

Splotter is a company that holds a high reputation for games in the industry. I haven’t played a single one yet, and if this list works out I will have played at least two when I finish these ten games. It was a struggle to decide between this, The Great Zimbabwe, and Roads & Boats for the spot. TGZ was just mentioned by Edward as a Gateway to Heavier Games. Travis at Low Player Count sings the praises for Roads & Boats on pretty much every other episode of their podcast. At least it feels that way! But I think the recent reprint of Antiquity signals a good time to try this one out. I’ve seen a few locals posting about the game, which means it is being purchased and has people who would likely want to play the game. The theme grabs me more than any other Splotter title, as well, so I’ll be looking forward to trying this one out.

You know the drill by now: which is your favorite Splotter title?

10. People’s Choice – Keyflower

Yesterday I created a poll with ten games. Essentially, the next ten in consideration for this list. The ones that didn’t quite make the cut. What I didn’t expect was for one of the games on that list to win by a landslide. It was an overwhelming majority voting for Keyflower, which was a game I hoped to play in 2017 (it made honorable mention on my list) but the one time I cam closest to playing the game, it didn’t pan out. Too many people wanted to play a game and, rather than splitting into two groups, we played Bohnanza with 7 players. Oh, how I wish it had been Keyflower instead. This is one I know my wife would enjoy, too, as it is a unique worker placement game. What better way to hook her onto the Key-series, just like she’s hooked onto Rosenburg, than by playing this title with her?

Wide open question on this one: if someone said you could play only one game this year, which would you pick and why? It could be a new game, something new to you, or your overall favorite game!

The next 10

Here’s the next ten that would make the list, not sorted in order or by category:

11. Twilight Struggle
12. Caylus
13. Le Havre
14. Rococo
15. Dominant Species
16. Trick of the Rails
17. Iron Curtain
18. 1846: The Race for the Midwest
19. An Infamous Traffic
20. Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia