Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two: BattleCON: Trials of the Indines

Thank you for checking review #59 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.

**A copy of the game was sent for review purposes. Opinions remain our own.

An Overview of BattleCON: Trials of the Indines

BattleCON: Trials of the Indines is a game designed by D. Brad Talton Jr. and was published by Level 99 Games. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 10-45 minute play time.

BattleCON is a board game that brings the tactics, strategy, and ferocity of 2D fighting games like Street Fighter to your tabletop. Each BattleCON Fighter features a Unique Ability–a combat subsystem designed specifically for them, giving them a never-before-seen fighting style that you will have to master, and that your opponents will have to play around.

Trials is a new medium-sized box in the BattleCON series, containing 10 new fighters, each with a complete range of all-new skills and abilities.

Trials is the fourth box in the BattleCON series.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

Each player selects one of the 10 fighters in the set and takes their tuckbox which will have their specific cards (including the base cards universal to all characters), the character’s standee, a reference card (which is given to the opponent), and any special token or card powers that might be unique to that character. Place the standee for each character on the board on the spaces marked with the red/blue dots. Players will then select a base and a style to go into their first discard pile and select another pair to go in their second discard pile (the cards have recommended ones marked for these!). Each player takes 20 life and 2 force and are ready to begin.

During a turn each player will secretly select a base and a style card and place them face-down in front of them. Once both players have made this decision, it moves to an ante phase where (in turn order), the players can ante in some temporary boosts to power, priority (speed), or stun guard (and some characters also have their own unique special tokens or cards that can be anted at this point). Once both players pass consecutively, the players reveal their combinations and compare priority. The player with the higher value becomes the first player for the beat. If there is a tie, the players CLASH and have to select a new base to replace the current base card. If it is still a tie after that, the process is repeated until they are either out of base cards to play or until one player wins priority. In the case of the former case, the beat ends and they move to the end of the beat without taking their turns.

Starting with the first player, each player resolves any Start of Beat effects. Then the active player does any Before Activating effects, makes their attack (factoring in range), resolves any Hit effects, and then resolves any After Activating effects. Then the reactive player does the same thing so long as they did not get stunned. If you take damage greater than your Stun Guard for the round, then the reactive player loses their actions and does nothing for the beat.

Finally both players (in turn order) resolve any End of Beat effects. Then they cycle their discards, bringing the leftmost pair into their hand, shifting the remaining pair on the board over one space, and putting the cards they just played into the right-most space on the board. Each player will gain one force token (two if they have 7 or less life) and play proceeds to a new beat. The game continues until one player is out of life.

My Thoughts

 The mechanics of this are simple yet the depth within the game makes it complex as well. You’re choosing two cards to pair together to try and damage your opponent, avoid their attacks, or boost power for a future beat. However, the dynamics within all of that space is mind blowing. Not only does that apply to the game in general, but every single character in this box is unique in ways that makes it so a one-size-fits-all tactic is difficult to execute.

 Which is why there is a point here regarding the characters themselves. They are 100% unique in their gameplay. I have played, or played against, all ten of them in the box and it never felt same-y. The best feeling is, of course, finding that character that is YOUR character. I enjoyed seeing a buddy of mine find it when playing Burgundy XIII. I felt it myself when playing as Amon, which happened to be the same exact match.

 The artwork on the characters is outstanding. I’ve instantly become a fan of Nokomento’s art, which happens to be featured in a good number of Level 99 Games titles out there.

 The ante phase can be interesting, even though a decent number of times it might just be both of you “passing” to get to the reveal. You ante to boost your Priority, which tells me you really want to go first. Or that you feel like your number is a hair too low and so I could probably ante back to maintain my order. But you might also be trying to get me to waste my own force. This becomes even more interesting if you have two characters who have special things they can ante into play. This phase is just a step in the process some of the time, but I love the times when you feel like that decision to ante or pass really matters. And few things are worse than anteing up a ton of power and priority only to have them gleefully reveal that Dodge card…

 The lore in the whole Indines universe wants to sweep my imagination away. There are nuggets to be found in the game, particularly the Character Guide book, but I really wish there was more. I would 100% read a novella about pretty much any one of these characters, or anything placed in that Indines world. There are tidbits dropped in the Level Cap podcast, but it’d be better if they did something similar to Greater Than Games’ The Letters Page, at least for delivering lore content. But this solidifies to me that I really want to write for Brad and his Indines world.

 All characters have the same set of bases, plus one character-specific base. While the flavor shines through in the styles, I want to take a moment to appreciate those base cards. Even the long range characters have some smaller range attacks. Even the short range characters have long range attacks. They can all dodge. They all have ways to get Stun Guard, to play something with decent power, or decent priority. It prevents them from being forced into a sour situation where they simply can’t accomplish anything – so long as you account for the two beats where the cards are cycling.

 And that card cycling system is perfect for this game. I can’t spam an attack over and over. I can’t dodge endlessly until I get enough force to drop my finisher. I can’t just sit back and blast you from across the board. I have to not only adapt to what I don’t have, but also plan for what I might want or need in a beat or two. The fact that a fighting game has long-term strategy that you can employ still baffles me in a good way. I love it, and having to account for it when trying to choose my cards.

 Overall the rules for the game are fine and functional. However, there are omissions that could lead to some frustration. My first few games, I thought that the Character’s special powers that could be ante’d had to be paid for just like the tokens. It wasn’t until I played BattleCON Online that I started to question this and, eventually, learned the right answer. The component listing was also a little iffy, as I struggled to place a few of the tokens in the right place because nowhere in the book did it mention that the staff went with Kimbhe or that these four tokens I had leftover went to Lucida. And what about resolving a Clash? Do the cards you replace go back to your hand or do they cycle in the discards? 97% of what you need to know is covered, but it is those few instances, some of them not even specific to a single character, that are missing in here.

 There can be quite the steep learning curve for the game, as you will benefit from knowing the character you are playing as and the one you’re playing against. This is a game, since there is no luck, where a skilled opponent should win the vast majority of the time over an unskilled one. If you dislike a game where there is a steep learning curve, and where you might get thoroughly thrashed for your first dozen learning plays, then you might be turned off by this aspect of the game. But if you can find at least one person of a similar skill level who is willing to play with you, both of you will benefit from that practice.

 One player with Analysis Paralysis might make this game drag. Two players with it definitely will make it drag. The decision of the combination to play can feel so overwhelmingly critical, especially late in the game when both players are jockeying to finish off the other. The other thing that can make a match run long? Stupidity and/or miscalculations. I’ve been guilty of them both. I’ve made dumb plays that, as soon as I flipped the cards, I realized were really bad decisions. I’ve flipped cards thinking I’ll be in range and find out that I’m 1 space too close or far to pull off my attack. A few rounds of whiffing is funny at first, but it can make it feel like the game drags on a little too long. 20-30 minutes per match is the sweet spot, but far too often I’ve been involved in ones that creep up to that 45 minute mark.

Final Thoughts

I was never very good at the arcade-style fighting games. I was a button masher, because I simply had no patience to try and learn all the special combinations to execute the right moves at the right times. I could usually luck my way through some tough match-ups, but I would never get progressively better at the games.

Thankfully, there is no button mashing necessary in BattleCON. You get all of the wonderful elegance of those fighting games in tabletop format, and all of your moves are unlocked and available for use…apart from that brilliant “cool down” system in here. It levels the playing field, so to speak, and makes it more about being able to read and adapt to the board state as well as learning how best to function with each different fighter in the box.

This game is 100% fun right out of the box. Seriously, some of my best board game memories in the past month have come from this game and the laughter that can ensue. It is increasingly hilarious to state the names of your chosen combination in a fun voice, especially if you’re both getting into that aspect. It is fun to see both of your carefully-laid plans get foiled as you reveal cards and both move out of range so your attacks fail. It is epic to be beaten down to 1-2 life and come back to drop that last 10-12 off your foe to “steal” the victory when on the brink of defeat. Fun. Fun. Fun.

There is definitely a skill curve in this game, as you simply won’t know how to effectively pilot a character until you’ve played them a few times. Additionally, you won’t know how to counter a character until you’ve played them, or against them, a few times. And even then, you have to account for a person’s personal playing style. They might make choices you don’t expect because you’d play Combination X and they put out Y instead. This is a game of playing your opponent as much as it is playing your own game, and that makes it a brilliant design.

Had I played this game before my Top 25 was created, this would definitely have made an appearance on the list. It is in there right now, although I couldn’t tell you where or what game dropped off to make a place for this one. But this is a fantastic addition to my collection. Nearly everyone I’ve taught the game has expressed both a desire to play again and a desire to pick this game up for themselves. And with four boxes out, and a big release coming in July on Kickstarter, this is definitely a game to consider putting on your own radar.

Players who dislike direct conflict and the process of tearing down your opponent will not really enjoy this game. Nothing against Rahdo, but this is a game I don’t think he would play and that is a shame. Because as much as I like playing in a sandbox to build my own engine while my wife does the same in her sandbox, there is definitely a time and a place for a fun, beat-’em-up style of game. I can’t speak to others out there, but I played Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur growing up and this is everything I could want out of a game inspired by those. I’m beyond happy with the contents in this box, although I highly doubt it’ll be the only BattleCON title that will enter into my collection. Because while I don’t need more characters, I need more characters.

And that is a good sign for the game. I could play this box alone a hundred times and still enjoy using these ten fighters. But since they all play so differently, I really want to see who else is out there and find that one character that is so my style that I’ll play them like I play Fanatic when I bust out a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse.

***

Hopefully you found this review to be a useful look at BattleCON: Trials of the Indines. 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: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

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

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

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Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Herbaceous Sprouts

Thank you for checking review #58 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.

**A prototype of the game was sent for review purposes. Opinions remain our own.

An Overview of Herbaceous Sprouts

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Herbaceous Sprouts is a game designed by Eduardo Baraf, Steve Finn, and Keith Matejka and was published by Pencil First Games. The box states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 20-30 minute play time.

A FLAVORFUL DICE GAME
Everyone has a green thumb when playing Herbaceous Sprouts. Unwind while enjoying this beautiful and thoughtful game of collecting seeds, using tools, and growing sprouts in the community garden. Gather your seeds and tools from the shed, but don’t take too long or your friend might become the Head Gardner first.

OBJECTIVE
Become the Head Gardener by collecting herb and flower seeds and using your garden tools to plant in the community garden and scoring the most points. Each round, gardeners take turns collecting herb and flower seeds (represented by dice) which they place and save in their wheelbarrow, as well as tools (represented by cards) which they use to plant sprouts. Players can plant quickly for low point spots, or push their luck saving their seeds for premier spots in the garden.

—description from the publisher

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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Each player takes a Wheelbarrow Mat and the 15 Sprout Tokens of their color, along with a reference card. Place the Rival Sprout tokens by the gameboard. Put all dice in the Seed Bag and mix them up. each player takes 2 dice, rolls them, and puts them on the die spces on their board. Shuffle the tool deck and remove 10 cards back to the box without revealing them. Finally, place the Lemonade Card and the Tool Card Deck near the board.

Reveal 3 tool cards from the top of the deck, pulling dice and rolling them for each card and placing them in the appropriate space.

Regarding gameplay, I honestly can’t put it better than they have it listed on the game’s description on BGG:

GAMEPLAY
Herbaceous Sprouts is played over a series of rounds, each with a different Lead Gardener. When the last Tool Cards are used, the game ends the final score is tallied.

Each round has three phases:

  • Phase 1: Preparing the Tool Shed
  • Phase 2: Picking and Planting Seeds
  • Phase 3: Clean Up

PHASE 1: Preparing the Tool Shed
This phase is performed by the Lead Gardener of the current round. They set up the Tool Cards and Seed Dice for the round.

PHASE 2: Picking and Planting Seeds
In this phase, all players take turns picking resources from the shed and planting in the community garden. Starting with the Lead Gardener and moving clockwise, each player takes a turn.
Each player performs the following steps, in this order:

A. Take a Tool Card & Seed Dice from the Tool Shed
B. Add Seeds to the Wheelbarrow
C. Perform Special Actions
D. Plants Herb and Flower Seeds

PHASE 3: Clean Up
Players set up for the next round, or proceed to End Game scoring.

—description from the publisher

With 2 players, the final unchosen card each round will dictate where a Rival Sprout token is placed. It will show an area of the board and a numerical value to indicate where that token is placed. If there are multiple spots of that value shown, it is placed in the one worth more points.

Changes for a solo game

Setup is the same as a 2-player game, except in addition you Take the Gardener card and shuffle the deck of 9 Rival Cards. You get 10 turns, and each turn the Gardener card alternates between the Master Gardener and the Assistant Gardener. During the Master Gardener turns (the odd numbered rounds) you draw a die from the bag, roll it, and put it in your wheelbarrow. Then at the end of your turn, you place Rival Sprouts tokens on both spots indicated at the bottom of the two cards you did not take.

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During the Assistant Gardener turn you start by revealing a Rival Card to show which card they choose and place the Rival Sprout token according to that card. Then, tuck the Rivals card under your playerboard like a Sprout Pot. Finally, take your turn like normal.

If you score higher than the Rival, you win.

My Thoughts

 My first play of the game was solo and it started off on the right foot for me with the Rival Sprouts and how that populates the board as you play. This was not only a clever solo mechanism, but it also applies to 2-3 player games to help fill that board faster and to block those premium spaces over time. This solitaire version of the game is 100x more interesting than the one in standard Herbaceous (which isn’t a bad solo mode for that game, but rarely one I would reach for) and it really impressed me with what they executed here. This isn’t a game that plays 2-4 and you can kinda play a tacked-on solo mode. The solo play in itself is worth the investment.

 The dice in the prototype box were standard sized dice, but I hear that the actual final product will have Star Wars Destiny-style of dice in there. If that is true, then this becomes a huge boon for the game as those are fun and chunky dice to roll. Some people like different things, but if you like rolling dice at all you’ll enjoy those dice. Regardless, the dice in this game never really felt like they imposed a ton of randomness upon the game. Partially because they are almost always useful, partially because there are plenty of reroll possibilities to obtain, and partially because there are actions that can change die sides. My biggest fear in the game turned out to be a nice aspect rather than the dreaded random factor to negate any skill.

 While this game is very different mechanically from Herbaceous, you’ll still find some comfort in the familiarity of the artwork, and the need to collect pairs, sets of the same herb, and sets of different herbs as you go through the game. You just are collecting dice with those faces rather than herbs, and selecting said dice off a tool card rather than flipping a card at a time off the top of a deck.

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 Tool cards are fantastic in this game. They range from having no special actions (but 3 dice) to having a horde of special actions and no dice. I appreciate that there is one additional card available each round, so that the last player to select isn’t stuck without making a decision. I also love that the card not chosen will be used to place a Rival Sprouts token on the board (except in a 4-player game), adding an extra layer of consideration when taking a card (almost like the decision on what dice to draft in Seasons). The player actions on the cards range from outstanding most of the time to situational, yet they are all important at certain points in the game.  Did I mention the tool card deck is also the game timer? Oh yeah, it is…something I also like seeing.

 I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the artwork here. It is Beth Sobel art. That sentence alone should be enough to tell you it is going to be good. Seriously, she’s easily one of the Top 3 artists in the industry right now and her work always blows me away.

 This game scales extremely well, thanks to those Sprout Tokens. This isn’t some fancy automa system, but its simple elegance works. It is easy to operate, takes no additional time, and no additional thought on the part of the players. Without those Rival Tokens, the board would be too wide-open and you could take your time storing up for that perfect high-score combo of sprouts. That pressure of knowing the deck could place a sprout there first is a nice added tension.

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 The turns in general are fast, the action selection simple, and the game doesn’t present many opportunities for Analysis Paralysis to rear its ugly head. I like the fast pace, the quick play time, and the ease of setup and teardown for the game. There is elegance in simplicity, something that the original Herbaceous possessed and this somehow maintains, even with the addition of layers of depth and strategy beyond the original game.

 The flowers are a tough thing to pin down my feelings on. A single flower can be potted for 2, 3, or 4 points. There are 3 different types of flowers in there. To do that, though, you need both the flower and a trowel tool at the same time, or two matching herbs and a watering can tool. Both of these are situational, requiring two circumstances to be true in order to use them, which makes a tool card or a die with the trowel or watering can either VERY desirable or a trash action, depending on the current board state. The points in here are small, yet it feels like it takes a lot more to make this align for those points at times.

 There is a lot of dice rolling. You’re pulling out dice as the setup for each round and rolling them, then placing the dice on the cards. Some people might love it, some will hate it, but most will fall in between. If there are a lot of dice spots on the cards, especially with a higher player count, this can feel like it takes a while. Plus, it is extremely easy to bump a die on accident, either while placing it or while retrieving it. Or even while trying to grab a different card. Those big, chunky dice may help, but they could also make the problem worse by being easier to bump. It isn’t an issue often, but some might find it to be a detriment and wish for those boards Scythe spoiled us with…

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 There isn’t a score track, which would be really helpful. Whether that is a shared track around the outside of the board or if it is printed on the reverse side of the Wheelbarrow Cards, this is one thing more than anything else that I think this game could benefit from.

 Do you want to know how many players used a reroll in a 4-player game I taught? One, me. Twice, and that was only to see if I could get lucky and not have to use my pot. I appreciate the abundance (or at least appearance thereof) of opportunities to roll those dice again, allowing you to perhaps shift your luck when stuck with garbage. But so far, in practice, that ability does not get used very often with the people I’ve played with. So I kinda feel bad for the person who gets stuck with a tool card granting 2 rerolls and one granting 3 rerolls, especially if his board is already empty of dice. Which leads into…

 Hate drafting can totally be a thing in this game. Especially because you can usually see what other players are aiming for, and take that die they need or that tool they need, even though you don’t really need it right now. This isn’t a problem for some gamers, but I know it might be a deal breaker for others. Be aware of the play style of who you’re going to play with if this is something you really dislike in a game.

Final Thoughts

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My wife likes Herbaceous a lot. Way more than I ever did. But when they announced the dice version of the game, I knew it would be a hard sell for her. The hatred she holds for dice games can never be overstated. They are the epitomy of evil in board games to her, and so I initially wrote this off as a game we’d never want to play.

Big mistake.

I’m beyond relieved that I had a chance to get the prototype version of this game because it was able to easily exceed my personal expectations for the game. Herbaceous is a light press-your-luck filler with small room for strategy, but Herbaceous Sprouts is a much more interesting game with much better decisions to be made over the course of the game. Not only did the game itself surprise me, but the solo mode for the game equally impressed. It is clear the designers took some of the core of the game of Herbaceous and tried to come up with a really fun and clever game that is uniquely its own game. This isn’t Herbacous with dice. This is Herbaceous Sprouts. It is fun and exciting and everything I would want this 20-30 minute game to be.

And, honestly, there isn’t more I need to say about the game. If you want a game that is borderline filler with some great and interesting decisions, set collection, and dice rolling fun then this will do a great job of filling that niche on your shelf. If you want something more press-your-luck like Herbaceous was, or a brain-burning game than this game probably isn’t going to satisfy you. But it still sounds interesting to you, then I definitely can recommend this one.

***

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Circuit Breaker. 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: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

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

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Hanamikoji

For the second time on this channel I’m doing something different: video content! I have two videos here, one where I teach Hanamikoji and play through a round of it, and one where I gush about a Top 10 game (*spoiler alert!) that is going to be reprinted by Deep Water Games. This will probably be the norm going forward, doing some in written and some in video format.

Are there games I’ve reviewed that you’d like to see a video pairing like this for? Be sure to leave me a comment and let me know so I can plan my queue properly.

 

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Harvest

Thank you for checking review #49 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.

**A copy of this game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Harvest

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Harvest is a game designed by Trey Chambers and was published by Tasty Minstrel Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 30-75 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 2.33.

Mind the fields of Gullsbottom! Plant and fertilize your seeds, tend your crops, and utilize the various buildings at your disposal. You’ll need to work smarter, not harder, as harvest season is coming to an end! Who will have the best harvest this year? Will it be you?

Each round in Harvest, you first draft turn order (and the benefits that come with it), then send your two workers into town and into the fields. Plant seeds, tend fields, and harvest crops to make room to plant some more! Utilize buildings and magical elixir to amass a bigger and better harvest than your neighbors at the end of five rounds of play.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

Put out the town board and then shuffle the Action Cards and count out five per player (10 total) into a central stack and put the rest back into the box. Flip up two of these and place them beneath the town board. Place the seed chits and wooden tokens within the play area. Shuffle the initiative cards and deal one to each player, then set the stack near the board.Randomly give each player two player boards, of which they will select one and put the other back in the box. Players will grab the resources shown on the bottom of their player board for their starting resources. Grab the two workers in your chosen color and place them in your player area, and give each player a farm board. Shuffle the Field cards and deal 6 face-up beneath the Action Cards to represent the buildings available for purchase, and set the remaining stack nearby. Place the expansion cards nearby as well.

A round begins with putting out Action Cards equal to the number of players beneath the town board (this is done as part of setup for the first round). The next phase involves flipping up three random Initiative cards. The player with the lowest initiative will take one of the three cards available and replace it with their current card, gaining the resources/actions shown on the bottom of the initiative card before tucking the initiative card under their player board. Each player does this, and then the initiative cards remaining are shuffled into the Initiative deck.

The third phase is action selection, where in turn order (lowest initiative to highest), players put out one worker and execute the action shown. Some involve gaining resources, others could be getting new fields or buying buildings, and yet others are to plant seeds/water crops/harvest crops. Each of the three town board spaces has a list of actions available for that space, and the first player to place a worker will get to choose 2 different actions. Additional workers can still use that area of the town board, but will get to only choose 1 action.

Purchased seeds have grey stars showing how much fertilizer is required to plant them. When a seed is planted, it goes into an open field and flips to its crop side (which will usually have more stars, which are yellow instead of grey). Watering a field requires you to pay water equal to the number of yellow stars on a crop to pull a new crop chit from the supply and add it to your field. Each field can hold only one type of crop at a time. The harvest action allows you to remove any number of crops from your planted fields and put them in your supply, crop-side up. These three actions form the main sequence to follow in the game, as whoever has the most stars at the end of the game will win and the crops are worth a fairly sizable number of points compared to most buildings and seeds.

The final phase is to reclaim your workers, replenish the building supply to 6, and discard the action cards back to the box. The game plays over the course of five rounds.

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My Thoughts

 Turn order deck of cards. There are 15 cards, and the lower the number you take (from the three available at the start of the round), the earlier you go. But you also get a much smaller reward from that card than, say, someone taking a 13. When I pick my card, then the one I had from the last round goes into that pool to select from, meaning my opponent can take that exact same card/benefit I just used. And then the cards not active this round are set aside, shuffled, and three new ones come out the next round. Pure brilliance with this. One of the most important decisions in a turn can come from this selection, and it is also a way to make a game with only 2 workers to place feel like you’re gaining more with less.

 You have two workers. There are five rounds. That means you trigger ten actions. It sounds like so little, and it is, but with those ten actions you can do so much. It blows me away how much I can accomplish with that little bit, partially because of the turn order card benefits and partially because each of the three areas of the board have a spot that lets you do two of the listed actions. But only (in a 2-player game), if no worker has gone there first. If you beat me to that area, I can still go there but I have to go into the box which lets me take only 1 action instead of two. Which means my worker was far less efficient than yours.

 That small worker placement board isn’t all there is, though, because you have cards equal to the players that provide extra placement spaces each round. But they change every round, serving as the game’s timer as well. I like this mechanic, and I almost always try to snag at least one of those card action spaces (and many times two, when I can), because they usually provide multiple benefits that would require several workers to accomplish. Sometimes they come with a cost to pay, but other times they are free to use. I love the variability this adds to the game experience, and it helps make it so you can’t pre-plan the optimal moves for future turns.

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 Gather seeds. Plant seeds. Water plants. Harvest plants. While the watering aspect, mechanically, doesn’t make sense (I water the plant and it multiplies into more plants), everything else makes great sense. There is enough theme in this short game to enhance the experience for those who hate pasted on themes.

 Variable player powers. Sure, you could all play as Wil Plantsomdill, but what fun is that? We used the other side of the boards for every game and haven’t regretted the decision for a moment. The initial reaction on some is that they are very powerful (such as placing a “shadow” worker at the end of the round, essentially giving 3 placements vs everyone else’s 2) yet we haven’t had any massive margins of victory arise. I like the varied specializations, and that there appears to be at least enough balance between the 9 different player boards.

 I’m a big fan of multipurposing things, and the field cards also being the building cards is great. You need fields to plant more crops, but by planting that field you lose ever knowing what was on the other side of that card. The buildings are powerful, but most of them go onto a spot on your personal board where a field could have been placed, making it so you have to expand in order to get those field spaces back. It all creates a great balance of decisions.

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 Speaking of multipurposing, your “money” comes in the form of the stars shown on your plants (and the Snap Peas seed, since they are the same on that one). Yet those are also your VP at the end of the game. So in order to use some of the better action spaces (especially the action card ones), you need to pay some of that VP you’ve been gaining. Sometimes it is very much worthwhile. Other times it is a zero-sum swap, unless you do it early enough in the game. I like that difficult decision.

 The rules are small, yet I had to reread them three times to fully grasp the flow of the game and how it all was supposed to function. It isn’t a bad rulebook, as it is all there, but adding a little more to help make things clear would have been a good thing. I get wanting to fit it on one folded sheet. It is likely cheaper that way to manufacture. But if it can potentially be a barrier for playing and enjoying the game it should be evaluated. They provide good visuals to demonstrate the major actions you can take, but a page of images showing the turn playing out might be a helpful addition.

 Small detail, but several of the seed/plants are very similar in appearance because they share the same color. Yes, I’m looking at you ‘Scarrots and Phantom Peppers. It doesn’t help that they are the same size pieces, either. There isn’t much confusion, but it does make it so you have to look twice sometimes to make sure you grabbed the right ones.

 The game is a teeny bit fiddly, what with all the wooden pieces (90) and cardboard chit seed/plants (152) out there. It takes up a little more table space than expected, and the process of buying the seed, and then flipping it over when planted, and then watering to add more of that plant, and then harvesting said plants, can be a lot of moving pieces on your boards. It rarely is an issue, but those who dislike so much manipulation, especially of small seed/plant tokens, might find that part of the game doesn’t jive with them.

 The building cards replenish back to 6, but there is no way to wipe the board of them. So if there are buildings no one wants, they just sit there clogging the market for the entire game. It would be nice to have a small mechanic, such as place those in 2 rows of 3 cards and, at the end of the round, wipe the top row and slide the bottom row up and deal out cards to replenish to 6 buildings. It is a minor thing, but there are plenty of times we’ve had at least 2-3 building sit out there the entire game.

Final Thoughts

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Harvest is one of those games that really, genuinely can surprise you. I liked Harbour enough when I borrowed it from a friend, but it lacked a wow factor as a 2-player game and as a solo game. It wasn’t bad, and we’d like to get a copy, but it didn’t become an insta-buy game. Harvest, on the other hand, completely floored me with how great the game was. Which should not come as a surprise to me, considering the designer was Trey Chambers, who undoubtedly is one of my top designers in the industry right now.

The worker placement aspect of this game is simple, yet delightful. Choosing your turn order card, which also provides benefits, is a key part of the game and makes you struggle with the choice of what you can get now from the card or taking a lower number in order to go first and place your worker first. With two workers per round, the game is lightning-fast, yet it contains a lot of fun and meaningful decisions.

And yes, many people I’ve taught this to have been delighted at the poop tokens (as they unanimously call them)

Big things can come in small boxes, and this sits beside Hanamikoji as one of the best small-box games in my collection. This scales well and plays well at all counts, and I have a feeling I might just get an inkling to try and fashion an automa deck, or some other system, to run this one solo at some point. It is that fun of a game that the budding designer in me really wants to find a way to enjoy it at 1-4 rather than just 2-4 players.

There is a third game coming in the same universe as Harvest and Harbour, and I will definitely be checking that out when it arrives. Furthermore, if you haven’t done so already, I’d recommend becoming a fan of Trey Chambers and checking out his next big game, Empyreal. Both this designer and this game are worthy of investigation.

And if you want a nice game for 2-4 that plays in under an hour, even with 4, then I highly suggest you add this one to your collection.

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Harvest. 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: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

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

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Valeria: Card Kingdoms

Thank you for checking review #48 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 Valeria: Card Kingdoms

Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a game designed by Isaias Vallejo and was published by Daily Magic Games. The box states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 30-45 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 1.95.

The land of Valeria is under siege by hordes of monsters. You and your fellow Dukes must recruit citizens and buy domains to build up your kingdoms and slay the foul creatures that lurk in the surrounding lands.

Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a tableau-building game for 1-5 players and will feel familiar to deck-building fans. The cards you buy can work for you on your turn and on all the other player turns, as well. On your turn, roll two dice and activate citizen cards with the result of each individual die and the sum of both dice. Other players will simultaneously activate their citizen cards based on the roll. Next, take two actions from the following: slay a monster, recruit a citizen, buy a domain, or take 1 of any resource. The player with the most victory points at the end wins the game.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

To set up the game, players create a row of 5 Monster stacks, two rows of 5 Citizen stacks each, and a row of 5 Domain stacks. This forms the center supply, and when a number of stacks equal to 2x the number of players are empty (exhausted), that will be the likely trigger for the end of the game.

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Each player receives 2 Duke cards and selects 1 to keep. These cards provide end game scoring and should be kept secret. Each player also receives a starting Peasant and a starting Knight card.

The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round follows the same pattern:

meeple Roll Phase – The Active Player rolls two dice.
meeple Harvest Phase – The dice activate citizen cards with the result of each individual die and the sum of both dice. All players take their resources at this time.
meeple Action Phase – The Active Player takes two actions from the following: Slay a Monster, Recruit a Citizen, Buy a Domain, Take One of Any Resource.
meeple End Phase – The Active Player passes the dice to their left.

The game ends when:
sauronAll Monsters have been slain OR
sauronAll Domains have been built OR
sauronThe total number of Exhausted stacks is equal to twice the number of players (4 in a 2-player game)

My Thoughts

It goes without saying that the artwork in this game is beyond amazing. I’ve come to love The Mico’s artwork so much, and this game is no exception. Things are vibrant and the citizen cards somehow manage to give an impression of personality through the artwork on these cards. This is the sort of game you could just sit back and look at after setting it up.

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The rules for this game are really simple and laid out well. Designers and publishers should take notice of how this one is done and use it as an example of how to get a player from opening the box to playing the game in a little amount of time. The thickness of the book actually comes from suggested setups, the solo and 5-player variants, and other additional content. The rules themselves are concise and straight-forward. The only real vagueness is that it doesn’t clearly state an exhausted card should go out when a monster or domain pile are empty. My first plays were with it being just for citizens, which really made the game drag on forever.

There are two aspects that set this as the best roll-for-resources game I’ve played: every citizen gives different rewards for rolling the number on your turn vs. the number being rolled on someone else’s turn, and the fact that you gain something even if you don’t trigger any citizens. These things help keep players engaged, and at least give you the sense of making forward progress even when the dice hate you. Gaining for the individual dice, as well as the sum, is another helpful boost.

I love the scaling of monsters in each pile. They grow in threat and reward, and there is a great reason to focus on plowing through monster after monster. They are varied and I like that they are keyed to each environment/area so you might have varied piles.

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This game is so variable with its setup that you can make it where no two games played are identical. I love having the ability to get variety in what is available, from the citizens to recruit to the monsters you face to the dukes you have for scoring. Everything is really modular, which also speaks to how easy it would be to apply expansion content into the game.

The individual turns are simple and fast-moving…once you resolve what everyone gets from the die roll. You get to take two actions, from a small list of actions. It is a little like multi-player solitaire at that point, since what you do on my turn doesn’t necessarily affect what I can do on mine unless you recruit the last citizen in a pile, or purchase the domain I wanted, or kill the monster I was hoping to slay. If you like quick and simple player turns, this is a good one to look at. But if you want a lot of interaction, just know that outside of the dice rolls it might seem lacking.

The game runs a little longer than it should. Unless a player focuses hard on a specific pile, it is usually a gradual approach to depleting enough piles to trigger the end of the game. In a 2-player game, the only possible trigger is 4 exhausted piles because there are more monster and domain piles than the required number. You’d think that would make things go fast, but oftentimes it can be a challenge to build up for a big attack or purchase because there are only two players, so there are several turns spent “gathering” the necessary resources.

The abilities on the citizens vary. Some are really, really good. Some are okay. Others are situational enough that they tend to be the last ones purchased (whether right or wrong, that Alchemist just doesn’t get enough love!). I understand that some of the better ones are going to be 7+ because there is less chance of rolling those numbers than 2-6 (since you use both the numbers rolled individually and the sum of those numbers to trigger citizen abilities). It is just funny how there is a collective sigh when the Peasants trigger again and again.

Setup time is a bear. It never seems like it should be, since everything is organized with tabs in the box, but it will take a bit of time. The good news is that most of the cards don’t shuffle, saving some of the potential setup time. I imagine that it grows even more with expansions, much like a game of Dominion could, depending on the setup you want to go for. You’ll end up with a 4 x 5 grid of cards on the table, which also can take up a bit of table space.

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This is more of a “it’s me” complaint, but the whole roll-for-resources system makes the game feel like it minimizes your chance to plan effectively. Yes, you can buy certain citizens to increase your odds. Especially since you gain for each number rolled and the sum of those numbers. But it still boils down to chance. Too much chance for me, and it may feel that way to other gamers. If all I need to accomplish my task is for X to be rolled, but it takes seven rolls for that to happen, you’ve effectively fallen further behind the other player(s) in the game. This is also part of why the piles tend to exhaust slowly: you need to cover as many numbers as you can, buying 1 of each before really looking to stack up on a specific number.

Final Thoughts

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I really struggled to grasp my feelings about this game. On the one hand, I have discovered that I am really not a huge fan of the roll-for-resources system in a game. It was what drove me to hate Catan. It was something that convinced me to stay far, far away from Machi Koro after one play. It is a game I should absolutely say “nope, not for me” based on that alone.

Yet this game is easily the best implementation of that system. It does keep you engaged during everyone’s turns, although by the end it gets borderline ridiculous with the potential for stuff being earned by the entire table. I played it once with four, being the “banker” so to speak for the resource tokens, and never again. Even when the dice hate you, there is still a consolation resource you can earn and turn into buying new heroes in order to boost future turns. But it still suffers from the same problem as any roll-for-resource system: when the dice favor one player, it presents a runaway leader situation. And there is little you can do about it.

I think that, had the game actually played in the advertised 30-45 minutes, it might have been enough to propel this into a “I’m okay with this game” category. But every game, even solo, felt like it lasted about 30 minutes longer than it should have. Maybe it was just that no one ever went all-in with a specific citizen, or power-rushed through monster stacks, or purchased domains like crazy. All three end-game triggers always seemed to be on the verge of triggering, yet by that point usually one of us was trying oh-so-hard to end things because it had overstayed its welcome.

There is a lot of good in this game, and I know there is a right audience for the game. If you enjoy Catan or Machi Koro, this is arguably a better game with a similar flavor and a whole ton of variety. Family gamers and those who are seeking non-traditional “gateway games” to introduce newer players to the hobby should give this one a lot of consideration as well. This was definitely more of a not-for-me game than a “this is a bad game” situation. There is a ton of expansion content out there for the game that promises to add even more fun and variety to your experience, and anyone who enjoys the game will likely want to expand the content in the box to keep things fresh and variable for a long time.

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Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Valeria: Card Kingdoms. 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: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

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

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · Review for One · Review for Two · Solo Gaming

Review for One & Two: Fire in the Library

Thank you for checking review #47 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.

The Kickstarter is still live for a few more hours! http://www.fireinthelibrary.com

An Overview of Fire in the Library

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Fire in the Library is a game designed by Tony Miller & John Prather and was published by Weird Giraffe Games. The box states that it can play 1-6 players and has a 15-30 minute play time.

Fire in the Library is a press-your-luck game in which players must try their best to rescue books and accumulate knowledge. The game is played in rounds with a variable turn order in which earlier players have more risk but a higher possible reward. Everyone starts with tools to help mitigate their luck or change the probabilities for their opponents! Gain more tools when your luck runs out or if you take the safe route and exit the library before things get too risky. Hurry, as the game ends immediately when any one wing of the library completely burns.

Take your chances, be the bravest, and save books in Fire in the Library!

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

Recommended play has an “AI” player, so take the first three turn order cards and put the others in the box. Seed the bag with 7 red cubes and all white/black/yellow/purple cubes. Set the 10 remaining red cubes aside. “Build” the library by making the stacks of book cards in descending order, so the smallest value of each color is on top. Place your meeples, and the AI meeple, by the score track. Shuffle the tool cards and deal two to each human player and flip the top three to form the “market” of cards. Setup is now complete!

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There are four phases to the game. In the first phase, going in order of lowest score to highest, each player selects a turn order card. This will determine both what order a player takes their turn, but also how safe or risky their turn will be. The AI player will always select the highest-available turn order card when it is their turn to select.

The next phase is the saving books phase, where the player pulls a cube at a time from the bag, placing those cubes on the left-most empty space of their player card. A player can stop saving books at any time and move to scoring books, or they can press their luck and try to save more books. If the player either places their second red fire cube on the card or has to place a fire cube on a risky space, their time saving books is at an end and they skip the scoring books phase and go into the fire spreading phase.

If a player voluntarily stops saving books before placing any books on a risky space, they will score points for each book saved (the values shown on the top-most card of that book’s color) and will get to take a tool from the market.

If a player stops saving books after placing one or more books onto risky spaces, they score points for each book saved PLUS the points on the turn order card printed beneath the last risky space with a book on it (ranges from 2-8).

If a player goes into the fire spreading phase, then sections of the library burn. The top-most card is removed for each section matching books they have on the turn order card. If a player pulled only red cubes, then the card with the lowest burn value is removed.

When it is the AI player’s turn, flip the top-most card of the tool deck. The banners at the top indicate which sections burn, causing you to discard the top card of those decks. Then, there are small circles located next to the tool’s name. Those are the color of books the AI saved this turn. They will score points for each color of book shown, plus any bonus points from a risky space (i.e. if they saved purple, yellow, and white and had the 1st Turn Order Card, it would be as though cubes were on the first three spaces and thus they’d score the 4 bonus points under the 3rd space).

At the end of the round, the card with the lowest burn value is removed. Play continues until one section of the library is completely burned (no cards left in that pile).

Changes for 1 Player

Instead of a Turn Order card per player, use all six. At the start of each round, select a card that has not already been used. Take your turn as normal. The AI goes after you and will operate similar to the AI in a 2-player game, except it scores 2 bravery points for every book beyond the first saved on its card. At the end of the round, set aside the Turn Order card used. You can’t use it again until all 6 have been used.

My Thoughts

The artwork. Oh my, I love Beth Sobel’s artwork so much! She first hooked me with Herbaceous, and I’ve been pleased ever since. I’m 99% certain she’s my favorite board game artist, and I always enjoy looking at her art. They also happen to make fantastic photographs to share on Instagram. And the art is just going to get even better, as the Kickstarter has unlocked unique art on a lot of the library cards. That means the flames grow as those card decks deplete, something I think is really cool!

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The turn order cards are great because they give you different incentives. If you get the 1st player card, then you’ll want to press your luck over and over to try and maximize your points. The 5th player card, on the other hand, is relatively safe and rewards you with a guaranteed tool whether you fill the card, stop early, or draw two red cubes. They also become really important near the end of the game, as the game will end immediately when one of the library piles are emptied. The simplest phase of the game can have a big impact on how you play your turn, and can help to offer ways of catching up to the rest of the players.

Tool cards are what make this game a great press-your-luck game. They are a reward, depending on your turn order card, for ending your turn early. They are also a consolation prize for pressing too far and losing your chance to score points. These cards range from ways to stop burning (and go back to collecting books), placing cubes on each turn order card before selecting them, to saving books to score again at the end of the game. There are a lot of great reasons to like these tool cards, and the effective use of these cards can help players leap back into the midst of the scoring action.

The AI system for the game is simple, yet vital. It serves two very real purposes: setting the bar for points scored and speeding along the end-game trigger. Sure, you could reduce the number of library cards instead based on player count to emulate one of those two factors. But you wouldn’t prevent the “I’ll play it safe and keep this one book for 3 points” tactic. Suddenly that AI is scoring 12-20 points on some turns and puts the pressure on to press-your-luck to keep up. After all, this is a press-your-luck game. There isn’t much difference between the AI used in a 1-player and the 2-player game, and both are extremely easy to operate. Which is exactly what you want when operating a non-player portion of a game. The best thing it can do is be user-friendly and fast.

The rulebook is easy to understand. I’ve started to watch this more frequently, as I have spent a little time helping to proofread rulebooks. Therefore I greatly appreciate a rulebook that I can read through a single time and walk away without any questions about how to play.

While it has no real relevance on the gameplay itself, I do really love the theme for this one. I envision being back with the Library of Alexandria, and all those books. Of course we need to save them! Historians would love to have a chance to go back in time and save those scrolls and books.

The points go up as the game progresses, but so does the chance of pulling red cubes. You’ll never add more book cubes into that bag, although there are some tools that could remove a few of them until the end of the game. But over the course of playing, you’ll add in 10 more red cubes. Which suddenly makes it a lot closer to a 50/50 chance of pulling a red cube during your turn. Thankfully, the cubes you pull do go back into the bag at the end of your turn. I couldn’t imagine going 6th and seeing a whole lot of books on everyone else’s cards.

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There is a catchup mechanism in here, at least kind of. Points increase. If you’re not scoring well, you are likely collecting tools. That means you can get to where a turn could net up to 50 points and average around 25-30. So even if you’re falling behind, you can leap back into the midst of the scoring race. Unless you play against someone with ridiculously good luck, like one of my local gamers. He tends to win about 85% of the games he plays, no matter who he plays with and how unfamiliar he might be with a game. A guy like that will probably never draw a red cube, and there isn’t a darn thing you can do to keep up with something like that.

The game does automatically progress, and the AI really helps that with 1-2 players. It is worth noting that with 3+ players there is a chance it could run really long if people are never burning. This is a filler press-your-luck game and it has a certain amount of time it should take on the table. Once you creep over that 30 minute mark, it starts to overstay its welcome. It won’t happen all the time. It might not even happen often. But this game could feasibly last close to 20 rounds if no one burns.

That feeling when all you seem to pull is red. Oh man, it really stinks. This isn’t the game’s fault. It rewards you with tools that should, in theory, help you do better on future turns. But nothing is worse than Red Cube -> Red Cube -> Use the Bucket, return to saving books -> Red Cube -> Use the Slingshot, return to saving books -> Red Cube. There goes all of your hard-earned tools, back to square one with nothing to show. And then the next player pulls nothing but books. A few of those turns in a row for you can really suck the fun out of the game.

Final Thoughts

I first came across Weird Giraffe Games on Twitter back when Stellar Leap was being designed. It stole my attention as I watched Carla post pictures of the game and talked about her design process. I knew it was a game I’d enjoy, and I was so thankful to play a small part in testing the solo system for that game via print & play. But libraries, well, those are really my thing. I am an author and I’ll always want to save books. Fire in the Library intrigued me from the start because of the theme, but I tempered my expectations. I’ve never been a big fan of press-your-luck games and knew my wife felt the same (but more extreme – she hates dice, after all). But then I saw the Beth Sobel artwork (she’s my favorite artist, I think!) and that sucked me in more. Reviewers I follow started to get copies of the game and the raving impressions poured out on social media. Suddenly I knew I had to at least try this one out, and was only too happy to say “yes” when Carla asked if I wanted to get my hands on a prototype for a review.

I am rarely the type of player who favors the aggressive playstyle needed for a game like this one. I am more of a defensive-minded person, and it showed the other night when playing a round against my wife. Her and the AI were rows ahead of me in points, partially from unusually bad luck at draws and partially from stopping early to get some tools. Yet even I felt a thrill when I filled the 1st Player card up and leapt ahead of them both in one perfect turn. The lead didn’t last long – I ended in last place – but that one turn was demonstrative of why this game is successful. No matter how bad your early turns are, there is still hope because those books increase in value and those tools can help you to claw back into the race. For a press-your-luck game, it excels at making a player remain invested regardless of score.

I could sit here and wish for less randomness, but that would make this game lose its identity. Taking the right tools, when you can, will help to mitigate some of that randomness. You can score when other players burn. You can slingshot a fire cube to another player’s card. Pressing your luck too well will keep you from getting those valuable cards, allowing those playing it safer, or getting burned by the cube draws, to have a chance to claw back in.

The artwork in here is fantastic. The gameplay is perfect for the timeframe of this game. The AI is smooth and easy to pilot much like the Automa from Viticulture. My wife hates using automated players but, even though she’d prefer to play without it, didn’t have much to complain about at the end of our games using it. It definitely has a place in here, forcing the players to keep up with a pace while also helping to cycle through those library cards. And involved about 12 seconds of work to operate that AI player’s turn each round, which is perfect for solo players.

At the price point they are listing this at on their Kickstarter, Fire in the Library is a downright steal. My wife and I are definitely not the usual intended audience for a game like this, yet we found ourselves enjoying this one. It is a game I wouldn’t mind having in our collection as an option for those times when we want a 15-20 minute game. And it is the perfect starter/finisher/filler during a game night, as it plays fast and doesn’t take long to setup or tear down.

They are down to less than 48 hours left on the Kickstarter for this game, and you don’t want to be kicking yourself later for missing this one. If you aren’t one of the 2,059 backers (at the time of this writing) who are currently backing this game, then what are you waiting for? This undoubtedly plays well at all player counts, as I’ve played 1-3 and see no reason why it wouldn’t also excel with a larger group. Even if this isn’t your type of game, it offers enough to make this a press-your-luck game worth owning.

The Kickstarter is still live for a few more hours! http://www.fireinthelibrary.com

 

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Fire in the Library. 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: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

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

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Charterstone (Spoiler-free)

Thank you for checking review #46 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 Charterstone

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Charterstone is a game designed by Jamey Stegmaier and was published by Stonemaier Games. The box states that it can play 1-6 players and has a 45-75 minute play time with a 2.79 weight rating on BGG.

The prosperous Kingdom of Greengully, ruled for centuries by the Forever King, has issued a decree to its citizens to colonize the vast lands beyond its borders. In an effort to start a new village, the Forever King has selected six citizens for the task, each of whom has a unique set of skills they use to build their charter.

In Charterstone, a competitive legacy game, you construct buildings and populate a shared village. Building stickers are permanently added to the game board and become action spaces for any player to use. Thus, you start off with simple choices and few workers, but soon you have a bustling village with dozens of possible actions.

Your journey through Charterstone’s many secrets will last twelve games, but it doesn’t end there. Your completed village will be a one-of-a-kind worker-placement game with plenty of variability.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

Each player takes their individual charter’s box and removes the components. Place the resource tokens and coins in close reach of the board to form supplies. Shuffle the objective deck and the advancements deck and put those on the respective boards and flip over cards in the remaining spaces on those boards. Roll the charterstone die until it comes up with the color of a player in the game, who is the start player.

Setup, at least in the beginning, is a breeze. Don’t worry it grows from there. As does gameplay, but at the beginning of them game it follows this:

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During your turn you place one of your two workers on the board to trigger the action of the space, or you take all of your workers back to your supply. If you place a worker on a space where another worker is located, it “bumps” that worker back to that player’s supply. This essentially gives them an extra move before having to spend a turn to recall their workers, so while you aren’t blocked out of the space you give them a benefit to use the space.

There are three things that trigger the movement of the progress token (which is the clock to trigger the end of a game): building a building in a charter, unlocking a crate, or fulfilling an objective. The only other way that this advances is if a player is out of influence tokens at the start of their turn. In each of these cases, the marker will advance by one space.

Influence tokens are spent completing objectives, building buildings, unlocking crates, scoring on the reputation track, meeting quotas, and (eventually) as costs to use some buildings. They are a limited resource (12 per player), and serve as the key resource to manage as they are typically gone once spent.

Once the end game is triggered, players will fulfill the guidepost then move into scoring additional points based on their placement in the reputation track, earning glory, increasing capacity, and more.

The winner from game to game does not determine the overall campaign winner (so winning the majority of the campaign games does not necessarily equate to winning the campaign)

My Thoughts

This is one jam-packed box of stuff. Opening it up for the first time gives a feeling of money well-spent because there are sooooo many things in here. Charter boxes with six different player pieces, a Scriptorium with coins and resources, an index with over 400 cards, and several special tuckboxes (including an archive for cards that are no longer needed as you progress). People like to complain about the MSRP of Terraforming Mars and the quality/amount of things you get in that game. For the same price, this game delivers the goods. And they are all really good in quality. I don’t know how Jamey can pack all this in here and sell it for under $100, but I am sure glad that he can! This may be the game out there that provides the best value for its MSRP in terms of content inside the box.

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I really love that the winner of a game isn’t necessarily the one who gets to scratch off and make the decisions on the guidepost cards for each game. Those guideposts usually have two choices listed, and the person to decide is the player who did best at the individual criteria (which changes every game) such as “have the most resources”. My wife got to choose on probably 10/12 of those guidepost cards, and so that was really cool to see her get to make those choices even during my early streak of victories.

The artwork on here is outstanding. I really enjoyed the look, not just of the characters that you control but also of the cards, the buildings, the board itself. This is a visual masterpiece of a game, and I am utterly disappointed that I can’t share much of it with you because of spoilers. You’ll enjoy the process.

Finally there is a legacy game that plays 1-2 players and isn’t Pandemic. I wanted to play Seafall, but it is 3+. She has no interest in Risk, because we’ve had a really bad Risk experience (it’s all about those dice!). Neither of us were impressed with Pandemic itself, and she’s not a fan of cooperative games in general anyway. So when I heard there was a legacy worker placement game, I knew this was the one. And boy did it deliver. There were exciting moments to be found, and some things that really impressed me as we unlocked some special stuff in there. The legacy experience of this one set the bar high. That packed box is full of great things to enhance the experience and gameplay.

There are benefits to winning games. You get more glory (stars marked on the box) which can help you unlock start-of-game bonuses faster. The loser(s) of a game increase capacity by one, which lets you keep more items after the game. That is a really good balance there, and it started to really level the playing field toward the end of the campaign. My early victories helped me grab things to start, yet I couldn’t keep much at the end of a game. My wife, on the other hand, started most games with a plethora of things and was able to use that to her advantage (and come back to win the overall campaign due to some really strong performances in the final games!) It feels very balanced because of this, something I really appreciated.

There is a certain level of satisfaction in constructing and unlocking things in this game. You’re transforming the map as you build new things, and bringing out new cards (sometimes buildings, other times new rules and other goodies!). The game experience is enhanced with every progression made, regardless of who unlocks it or which charter it is placed into. While the early games can feel bogged down from stopping and unlocking crates and reading the new rules, it is something that does slow down (eventually) as you get most of the rules into play and focus on just unlocking better stuff.

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Speaking of the unlocking, I like how every player’s color has several “forks” built into the content. You unlock a crate and you might get two new buildings. Now you have to build them and then unlock them, and thus you are faced with a decision of which to unlock first. Which then gives you more things, providing even more options to build and unlock. This means that your game of Charterstone, even with 6 players, may not play out the exact same as mine. With 2, this is especially true.

Building in even more on the above, there is something called capacity. You start with 1 in everything for capacity, which simply means that at the end of the game you can keep 1 coin, 1 resource, 1 card, and 1 “mystery” thing that will be unlocked later. So remember how you unlock a crate and get two buildings. If that triggers the end of the game, you can keep at most one of those. Which means the other gets shuffled into the advancements deck for anyone to draw later. So your stuff isn’t necessarily going to remain your stuff. Which is part of the beauty of the game, because you aren’t tied down to what is your color’s stuff. However, it also means your opponent may get to build/unlock your top-tier stuff later in the game.

I’m sensing a snowball effect here, because this point ties into the above as well! While your opponent(s) are building your stuff in their charters, there is no real downside here because every space on the board is open for anyone to use. So let them build your new pumpkin building in their wood-based charter. That means they’ll have to come to your charter in order to gain said pumpkins in order to trigger the cost of that new, shiny building they placed. And if your worker happens to already be on that pumpkin space, it bumps them back to your supply which saves you an action.

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I am torn on how I feel about the bumping mechanism in the game. I really like, during the game, that every space is open to place my workers on. However, it never makes the game feel challenging in figuring out what to do. Even with more players, the board would never really feel restricted at any point. Sure, there would be a higher chance that bumping would occur with more players. And there are reasons why you would want to avoid doing that. I think if it was restricted to only your larger worker could bump people, that might have made your placement matter just a little more. Kind of like how you have to hold back and plan well on how to use the Grande worker in Viticulture. I don’t dislike the mechanism, but it does feel just a little too “nice” in a worker placement game.

The story is interesting but overall didn’t wow us. That may be partially due to spreading out the campaign across three months of play. I imagine if you binge-played the campaign in under a week it might feel like the narrative was stronger. It wasn’t bad, by any means, but not memorable. I’ve heard Pandemic Legacy builds a strong narrative, but I haven’t played it so I can’t compare the two. There were some nice touches along the way, and some interesting decisions that get made without full knowledge of how that will affect things. The campaign experience was memorable. I just wish the story was a little bit stronger to be on par with the rest of the experience.

The Automa. My wife hated them. They scored way too often and way too early, making it feel like there was no point in trying to win. We dropped them out after 3/4 of Game 3 (the first game we tried to implement them). They are easy to run and help you unlock things. They unlocked a ton of stuff in that 3/4 of a game. But they also ruined the fun factor for my wife because of their easy scoring. You may like the challenge. I look forward to it when I solo the other side of the board (once I buy a recharge pack, of course). But they do give you a sense of hopelessness in those early games when there aren’t many ways to form an efficient VP engine.

If you don’t like naming things, you will have some moments of frustration. My wife is one of those people – and some of the names she created for things reflect her lack of enthusiasm. I, on the other hand, relished the role of namer for things. There will be many opportunities to provide names that serve no purpose other than giving them a unique name. But hey, you could skip that and still be okay.

Maybe it was just us, but that archive box was way too small to hold everything by the end of the campaign. Small nitpick, sure, but with a game this spectacular (overall) you have to find those little things to complain about. My wife thinks I should just throw those things away. Maybe she’s right. At least about most of it. But it is nice that you don’t have to destroy the components, something that a lot of gamers might appreciate.

Final Thoughts

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Charterstone was our first legacy game we played, and I have to say that it was a really great experience. The storyline was good, although forgettable to my wife, and the gameplay itself was fantastic. Watching the charters grow and evolve over the course of the campaign was satisfying, and there were more than a few times that we would be more excited about unlocking new crates and building new buildings than trying to generate points to win the individual game. That speaks well to the experience of the campaign and the system Jamey designed.

And let me tell you, there are some fantastic surprises along the way when opening things. We had more than a few “what?” moments when things were coming out and being revealed. Game 9 was very memorable, although it would have been a lot more tense with the full 6 players. Every single time the crate would have us open a tuckbox, I knew we were in for something special.

My wife wasn’t a fan at first, but by the end she had warmed up. The early games saw us unlocking a host of rules with crates, so the time spent reading those new rules and adapting to them kept her from feeling immersed in the experience. However, that eventually slowed down enough to where most crates unlocked pure content without needing to add in additional rules and that is when she really got into the game. And our win/loss ratio, I think, reflects that change. I won a lot of early games, but she came roaring back at the end and obliterated me in Game 11’s score, making it the most lop-sided game we played. It was enough to give her the overall campaign victory, too, even though I won more individual games along the way. We both really, really enjoyed the experience.

If you’ve been on the fence about this as a 2-player game, get off that fence and plunge right into Charterstone. It is fantastic, even at just 2. We used the Automas for 3/4 of a game (Game 3) and then retired them and still had a fun and competitive experience. By the end of the campaign we still had a completely full board for all of the inactive charters, although things did unlock at a slower pace than if we had used the Automas. But there was nothing wrong with that, in our eyes.

We haven’t played yet with the board post-campaign, but after reading through the updated rules I am confident that it will provide a fun and exciting experience for many future plays. This is a difficult thing to discuss, just as it is a difficult game to review, as I don’t want to spoil a single thing for you. But rest assured, you’ll be able to get more than your initial 12 plays out of this game. It is a worker placement that I would put about on par with Lords of Waterdeep in terms of complexity (and we do enjoy some Lords of Waterdeep!). Because no space is ever actually blocked from use, this is a friendlier version of a worker placement game than Viticulture or Agricola. You’ll always be able to do what you need to, although it may benefit your opponent if you use a space they are on.

Overall, once again, this is a game I would strongly recommend to everyone. In terms of the overall experience, this is the best thing Stonemaier has produced so far. We’ve logged more plays of this than Viticulture or Scythe so far, although part of that was wanting to finish the campaign. But our plays won’t stop here, and I’ll eventually be picking up a recharge pack so I can test out the other side as a solo experience with a few Automas. Yep, it was fun enough that I’m wanting to do it all over again and, perhaps, make a few different decisions along the way. It won’t be the same experience, which makes this campaign one that can be replayed. So what are you waiting for? Go out and pick this one up. Fantastic game!

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

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas