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 · 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.

Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Sellswords: Olympus

Thank you for checking review #40 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 Sellswords: Olympus

Sellswords: Olympus is a game designed by Cliff Kamarga and was published by Level 99 Games. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 15-20 minute play time.

Description from the publisher:

The gods of Olympus have gone to war! Who will heed the call? Skilled warriors from all across the land rally to fight, met on the opposite side by magical beasts and monsters from myth. Lead your heroes to victory and become the champion of Olympus!

Sellswords: Olympus is a fast-paced strategy game of drafting soldiers and deploying them to the field of battle. It takes only a few minutes to learn, but with fifty different heroes and monsters, each with their own unique ability to use and master, the possibilities for forming your army are limitless! Capture enemy units to turn them to your side in the battle. It’s not enough to simply control the most of the field, though; you have to choose your targets carefully to outflank your opponent! Four different terrain tiles provide alternate play methods, giving you new strategies to explore!

Sellswords: Olympus is a standalone sequel to the tile-placement game Sellswords that can be played alone or mixed with the original!

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

Choose one of the four location tiles and place it in the center of the table. Then shuffle the character tiles and draw 7 of them. Players take turns drafting one of the tiles until they both have 3 in hand, discarding the final tile. Repeat the process again so each player begins with 6 tiles.

Players alternate placing a tile orthogonally adjacent to at least one tile on the table. When a tile is placed next to an opposing-color tile, the numbers on the adjacent sides are compared. If the new tile placed has a higher number, the other tile is flipped to its other side. If it is lower, nothing happens. Each tile has an ability, whether in the form of a mandatory ability when placed, an optional ability when placed, an ongoing ability, or a scoring ability. Players continue to place tiles until their hands are empty, but must be sure to maintain their tiles inside of a 5×5 grid.

Scoring is based on the number of tiles of your color in each column and row. Having one tile gets no points, but they increase from there from getting 1 point for 2 tiles in the same row/column all the way up to 7 points for having all 5 be your color. After scoring, two more sets of 7 tiles are drafted like before and the game repeats with a play phase and a second scoring phase. The player with the highest score after the second scoring phase is the winner.

My Thoughts

 As is the case with every Level 99 game I’ve played to date, this game has a fun system. It plays fast, yet involves a lot of strategic depth and analysis along the way. This has smooth, simple set of mechanics that provide a game you can play to relax at the end of a long day but that also provides a lot of avenues for planning and strategizing. You can be totally causal and play to have fun, or sit down and have a strenuous battle over controlling parts of the grid. I love that this can fill both roles, and can do so in around half an hour.

 The artwork is great. This is another thing I’ve come to expect from Level 99 Games. I understand this art isn’t for every gamer – it can be downright off-putting for some gamers – but someone who grew up during the NES and SNES eras of video games will enjoy this (just like they’d enjoy that aspect of Pixel Tactics)

 The powers are where it is at in this game. Each of the four locations is different, and all 50 of the characters do something unique. That opens up replayability, since you are going to use a single location in a game and see only 28 of the characters (unless you get ones with the power to draw from the deck). You can’t bank on getting a certain character in the second half of the game because they may never appear. This guarantees that every game will have its own flair, as well as its own set of strategies that you’ll need to adapt to over the course of the game.

 The drafting is so key in this game. My wife forced me to teach her without using drafting in our first game. Let’s just say she was gifted the second half of that game, getting several overpowered cards that she wouldn’t have been able to hoard if we had drafted. It turned the game’s state from fairly even to lop-sided in the final plays and showed just how important those powers, and the drafting, are to this game.

 In spite of my love for the powers, they are not even close to being created equal. Sometimes the power of a card’s ability isn’t obvious until it is played, leading to moments of regret for allowing your opponent to draft that tile while you picked something that ended up being pretty unspectacular. This game rewards multiple plays, learning what the powers are, what they are capable of, and which ones you’ll want to target first during a draft. That’s a good thing, but it may not feel that way while you’re on the losing side of those hard lessons.

 The scoring system isn’t bad once you get used to it, but the first few times reading the rules it just wasn’t clicking. It takes playing a round and walking through the scoring, one row or column at a time, before it really starts to make sense. I don’t know that there is a better way to make it intuitive, though. It is one of those that simply makes more sense once you see it in action.

 The mid-game scoring almost feels pointless. You’re scoring a handful of points, single digits in every play I have so far. The winner in almost every game has been the person who was behind at the halfway point. It slows the game, adds bookkeeping, and seems to hold minimal impact. The only real benefit, which is why it gets a half star, is because it does let you see the scoring concept before the end of the game, allowing you to gun for certain combos in order to score effectively at the end.

 While the scoring system itself isn’t a complete negative, the one thing I really wish they included in here was something to keep score on. There is no pad of paper, so you’ll have to supply your own scoring method and writing utensil. And with there being two rounds of scoring, you’ll need a way to tally the scores during play. Plus there are ways to lose/gain points as you go, etc. I get that leaving it out keeps costs down, and I respect that, but for a game like this it should be included. You need a way to track the score throughout the game.

Final Thoughts

I became a fan of Level 99 Games when I first saw Pixel Tactics. That style of artwork evoked childhood memories that I was fond of, and I was eager to dive into that game. Since my first experiences with Pixel Tactics, I have branched out to several of their other titles and am yet to be disappointed. Sellswords: Olympus is another fantastic 2-player only title from the company that provides a fun and rewarding game experience in a short period of time. Much like Pixel Tactics, this game is not suited for those who dislike conflict or interference with the other player during the game. If you let your opponent live in their own little “bubble” on the grid, you will probably lose. The game encourages and rewards aggressive play, tactical timing, and usage of tile powers to turn the tide of the game in your favor.

At its heart, the game is simple. You play a tile and flip any tiles of the opposing color whose adjacent number is lower than yours. But anyone who has played a game with similar mechanics will know it isn’t nearly as simple as that. You have to consider the powers on the tiles, where that tile is weak (and thus allowing the opponent to flip it to their side), and many other variables that reward repeated plays of the game.

Players who dislike “building” things, as one of my friends detests, will probably not like this game because you are building a 5×5 grid of characters over the course of the game. The placement – where and the orientation – of the tiles matters and one small mistake could be the opening your opponent needs to run away with the match.

Players who dislike drafting could, in theory, remove that part of the game and simply deal out tiles and toss one into the discard each round. My wife wanted to play that way in our first game and she ended up with a series of vastly more powerful tiles in the final round, letting her gain a one-sided victory. The drafting is important for balance, but could be discarded if you are willing to accept that chance could favor one player over the other.

All in all, this is a very fast and fun game in a small box. It requires a fairly big footprint, but as long as you have some table space there shouldn’t be too much issue in playing. Those who like playing with just two, and don’t mind causing your opponents’ pieces to flip, should definitely check out this game.

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 – Fields of Agincourt

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

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

**Second note: The game is currently live on Kickstarter. Go check it out:…

An Overview of Fields of Agincourt

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

Description from the publisher:

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

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

Playing Fields of Agincourt consists of two game stages:

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoever has the highest score wins.

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

**Reminder: The game is currently live on Kickstarter. Go check 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 · Review for Two

Review for Two – The Climbers

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

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

An Overview of The Climbers

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

2) There can be no overhanging blocks.

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Verdict

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

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

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

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

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