Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Anthelion: Conclave of Power

Thank you for checking review #82 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: This game is live on Kickstarter! Be sure to check it out if this sounds interesting to you: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/239309591/anthelion-conclave-of-power)

An overview of Anthelion: Conclave of Power

Anthelion: Conclave of Power is a board game designed by Daniel Solis that was published in 2019 by Button Shy Games. The “box” states it plays 2 players in 20-30 minutes.

The sun is setting on one of the most devastating battles the Pocket Universe has ever seen. After years of fighting, it is becoming clear that this war will not be won on the strength of military victories alone. The leaders of the Dynasty and the Liberation turn their attention to some of the most influential figures in the galaxy to strengthen their cause. Who will be able to consolidate their power, gain new allies, and turn old foes to their side? Who can form a Conclave powerful enough to gain control of the Universe?

Anthelion is a game for 2 players who choose two unique special character abilities on their turn to manipulate the locations of the characters in play. Players seek to pull characters from all factions, good, evil and neutral to their side of the table (their Conclave), or push unwanted characters to their opponent. The player that can amass ten points of influence by getting enough characters to cross all the way to their side of the table will be declared the winner.

My Thoughts

The gameplay in this is an interesting tug-of-war between the two sides. In almost all aspects this game is equal, as there are very few Petition actions that are exclusive to a specific faction. Obviously there are faster paths to the ten stars than others, and most plays will likely see each side focusing a little harder on their specific faction since those offer an extra star when brought into their Conclave. But they are not limited to those decisions, which opens the game up for some really interesting gameplay.

The powers on the Character cards are all unique, making this a game about tactical decisions based on who is available and their current location. There is room for more strategic arcs in the game, but much of the tempo will be dictated by what is available at the moment rather than who you’re hoping to see appear.

The artwork in this game stands out on the table. It is everything I want in my Space Opera version of a board game, and it helps make every character in the deck feel like they have a deep, unique backstory to tell.

There’s a lot of decision space contained in the 18 cards in this game, which was one of the things I really liked about Liberation when I played it last year. Most people expect a light, simple filler game when hearing about these smaller game sizes, but this one definitely delivers an extraordinary amount of meaningful decisions among the small components and footprint of the game. This requires a little more space than Liberation, but this will go well alongside it as a game I always want to take with me when I am on the go.

A small decision in the rulebook is really key: you cannot completely undo the previous player’s turn. It is possible to get in an endless loop of moving the same person or two back and forth, but this key rule helps to prevent this from happening. The board state is always going to change, at least a little. You can undo some of what they did, but never their entire turn. Which also opens up the key decision: which of their moves do I counter, and what progress would I like to accomplish myself to provide them with the same type of difficult decision?

The game, in our first plays, has the ability to overstay its welcome. Once both players are within striking distance, it becomes a slow push and pull to try and be the first one to get that 10th star without opening it up for your opponent to get there first. With more plays, this may get better as part of the issue stems from the cards themselves.

Yes, you may find an issue because every card is unique in what it can do. Which means you may spend a lot of time reading what everything does as you try and figure out what two actions you want to do. And then the board state changes and you’re back at square one of puzzling out the next turn. This game can cause AP in players. It will have pauses during those first plays while you familiarize yourself with the cards. But this game opens up in a great way once you get past those learning curves – making it play much faster overall and providing a better experience for both players. This isn’t a fault in the game, but something worth knowing when you go in. Those first plays will take longer than you want because of the reading. But with only 18 cards, you’ll get them down eventually and things will improve.

Final Thoughts

Anthelion: Conclave of Power is a game that impressed me from the first play. It contains so many excellent decisions in a tug-of-war style of game, which helps it to stand out from the crowd. I’ve never played Avignon: A Clash of Popes, but my understanding is that it uses some of the same core concepts from there but cranked to 11. If that is the case, I’m even more interested in trying Avignon than before because of how much I enjoyed Anthelion.

This isn’t just a filler to pull out when you need to pass the time at game night. This is a game you could sit down and play a few times with a spouse, or gaming partner, and feel satisfied that you played something which rewards strategic decisions. Like all Button Shy games, this one is super-portable and can be played almost anywhere – you’ll need room for a 5 x 6 grid of cards essentially, and most tables should be able to accommodate that.

While I wish there was more room for long-term planning and strategy in here, that doesn’t detract from the great experience found in this game. Anthelion: Conclave of Power has the power to stay on the table for repeated plays – at least once players are more familiar with the various cards and what they do. I’d like to think that two really experienced Anthelion players would make for a really interesting match in this one, each trying to edge in an advantage over the other player.

I was a day one backer for the game, and with good reason. If this game was the standard 18-card game with the plan for a single small expansion to ship with the game, that would be good enough to warrant adding it to a collection. But there are several expansions in the works for this game, and I truly cannot wait to see how each of them alters the game in meaningful ways. This game is helping to revolutionize the way I look at the potential of that 18-card design space and gets me excited to try more of the games in the Button Shy line of games.

(**Note: This game is live on Kickstarter! Be sure to check it out if this sounds interesting to you: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/239309591/anthelion-conclave-of-power)

Advertisements
Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Professor Treasure’s Secret Sky Castle

Thank you for checking review #78 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 review copy of this game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Professor Treasure’s Secret Sky Castle

Professor Treasure’s Secret Sky Castle is a board game designed by Jason D. Kingsley that was published in 2018 by Level 99 Games. The box states it plays 2 players in 15-30 minutes and has a BGG weight rating of 2.00.

That dastardly Professor Treasure is at it again! This time, he’s stolen all the world’s treasures and hidden them away in a secret floating castle! As an intrepid treasure hunter, you and your friends have finally managed to track down the castle. However, another team of explorers is already here!

Professor Treasure’s Secret Sky Castle is a competitive puzzle game in which you and your opponent race to find keys, unlock treasure chests, and collect priceless treasures from around the world and history! Send out your team of treasure hunters, each with their own unique way to explore the castle. But beware! Your opponent will try to thwart your plans and grab the treasure for themselves!

—description from the publisher

Differences for two players

None, as this is a 2-player only game!

My Thoughts

 It will never be a favorite mechanism, but I really like the action programming in this one and how it is handled. Both players have the same 8 roles, of which 2 are randomly removed (potentially making both players using a different 6 roles). After the tiles are placed for the map, the players simultaneously break their cards into groups. The first player of the round makes 3 groups of 2, the second player makes 2 groups of 3. The the players take turns putting out a grouping at a time onto the board. I really enjoy this aspect of the game, and need more games with something similar.

 Pairing with the programming is that all characters have a determined order of activation, with the 1’s triggering first and ascending up to the 7’s. The first player’s card goes first when both players have the same card# in play. This adds a good, strategic depth to not only the placement of your cards, but also how you group the cards, when to put that group out, and more.

 I love that all 8 cards are unique in how they can be placed and what they do. Some are placed directly onto a tile and take that tile. Some are placed outside a column or row and can take any tile in that column or row. Some can shift tiles around, or thieve tiles as an opponent takes one. Since you don’t know up front what 6 cards your opponent is able to use in a round, the planning at the start can be an interesting game of trying to decide what to place and where with those first cards.

 Scoring in this game is far more intuitive than I expected from reading the rules. Since it is all done at the end of the game, there is no bookkeeping to do along the way. And since you keep the tiles you earn, there is no tracking it that way. There is also a pair of great player aids with how all three things score. Overall, well done.

 This game wouldn’t be as good without a measure of pressing your luck, and it comes here in the form of skeleton keys. You see, chest are worth a lot of points but need keys (1-4 per chest) to open them. Each key you have can be used once per round, which means if you need more keys than you have available you have to take Skeleton Keys to open that chest. Not only are they worth negative points (after the first one you take), but they become increasingly more impactful if you take too many (for instance, the 5th key would be worth -4 points, the 6th worth another -5 points) so you need to decide how aggressive you want to be on taking chests.

 This game could have been done using just cards. Given the production by Level 99 Games, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see all cards in there. However, the tiles in this box are fantastic quality and enhance the experience of building the map each round and the stacks made of tiles as you collect them is fun, too.

 Not enough good can be said about the artwork done by Fabio Fontes and Laura La Vito at Level 99 Games. There are big names in the board game art world, but these two (and Nokomento) are severely underrecognized as a whole. The art in this game is crisp and clean, and the graphical design is intuitive and complementary of the game design.

 This game has a little variety because you’ll only use 6 of the 8 cards each round and there is a good chance a few tiles won’t appear. But how I wish there was a little beyond that in this box – a few “advanced” roles to mix in after some plays, or more tiles than the exact number you’d need as a maximum. There’s a little room here to add a mini-expansion in the future, maybe adding 5-6 tiles of a set together where if you get 1-2 of them you lose points and move into some strong points if you get 5-6 of them.

 There is a small problem with the number of rounds in this game and the advantage it provides to the player who goes first. Since the first player in a round places their final cards last, they can make those last decisions with perfect information about what their opponent is doing. Granted, this requires grouping well and saving the right pair to place last, but this feels like a position of power. So with 3 rounds, the start player goes first twice in a game. Yet 3 rounds is the perfect number for the game, as it would get ridiculous (or really uninteresting) in a 4th round, and would end prematurely in the 2nd round. So while I don’t have a good answer for how to fix it, and it isn’t something that breaks/ruins the game, it definitely feels like the start player gets a small advantage over the course of the game.

 I hate the decision to have the rulebook to be a folded oversized sheet of paper, essentially. It isn’t really feasible to have it unfolded on the table while playing, meaning you need it folded up beside you and will need to unfold it to look rules up. I’d much prefer a small booklet, which would also be good for referencing things in an organized manner.

Final Thoughts

When I got my review copy at Gen Con, I knew only two things for sure about this game: it has an awesomely unique title and was produced by one of my personal favorite publishers. I also knew that my wife had yet to find a game (other than, finally, Argent: The Consortium) that she really liked from Level 99 Games. Enjoyed enough to tolerate? Sure, she hasn’t hated anything from Level 99 yet, but she hadn’t instantly liked any of them to want to play more. I’m happy to report that she really liked this one, an opinion that mirrors my own feelings about this game.

In fact, one of my favorite things about this game is that it uses a mechanic completely missing from our collection: action programming. I’ve played a very small handful of those games, and I think the only one my wife has tried has been How to Rob a Bank (leave me recommendations on non-cooperative ones to try in the comments, please!). So I was very interested in how this would pan out when it hit the table for us. This is a game that is going to exist in our collection for the same reason that games like Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft do – they are games that will never be our favorites, but are unique enough and small enough that we’ll want to pull them back out several times a year for a game or three (likely a best-of-three series). For the price on this one, there is plenty of game to keep us coming back for years to come without it growing stale.

While it would be great to see some more variety in the cards or tiles, the simplicity of everything in here allows the game to get out of the way and open things up to strong, creative play. I knew this was a gem when, during our first two plays of the game, we were both complaining about moves the other person made…in a good way. You’re going to get in each others’ way, resulting from clever (or lucky) placement or selection. If we had our own “Glory to Rome” board, it’d get filled with tallies over the course of a best-of-three play of this one.

And really, that is what I want from a filler game: a game that fills a unique niche in my collection, has quick setup/teardown time, and provides a very thinky and competitive game experience against my wife. For the small box this comes in, at a great price point, this is a quality 2-player game from a company that puts out a lot of excellent 2-player games. While all of their games may not appeal to every couple, this one will have a more universal appeal than most.

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Exceed Fighting System

Thank you for checking review #74 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 Exceed Fighting System

**Note: This is an overview of the fighting system as a whole, not a review of any particular box from the seasons of the game. Some of those may enter the pipeline in the future, though…

Exceed Fighting System is a game designed by D. Brad Talton Jr. and was published by Level 99 Games in 2015. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 5-30 minute play time.

Bring the fast-paced action of head-to-head arcade fighting games to your tabletop with the EXCEED Fighting System, which features fast-paced, intuitive mechanisms and gameplay that’s accessible to gamers and non-gamers of all skill levels. Choose your fighter from an ever-growing roster of diverse characters, each with their own deck of special moves and supers. Play your cards to unleash fireballs, dragon punches, and deadly combos on your opponents!

Titles in the EXCEED Fighting System come in one of two forms: standalone games that contain decks that allow two players to compete against one another, and individual decks. The standalone games are being released in “seasons”, with each season containing sixteen fighters from various franchises or worlds that are packaged into four-character boxes. Any deck can be played against any other deck, allowing you to compete across seasons and across worlds.

Season 1 of EXCEED features the art and characters of Jasco Games’ Red Horizon, which was first featured in the UFS Collectible Card Game. Season 2 of EXCEED features the monstrous heroes and villains of Seventh Cross, an upcoming game world from Level 99 Games.

My Thoughts

A huge change from BattleCON is that it becomes a “you go, I go” system and not every turn will consist of an attack. There are other things to do, such as drawing more cards or boosting your next attack or even moving around the board, and these add some nice, small decisions for the players. Attacking spends cards, all other actions at the least gain a card at the end of your turn. So eventually you’re going to either need to do something other than attack or just spam Wild Swings.

Wild Swings are what make this game exciting. Seriously. There’s something amazing about landing a strike that you couldn’t have otherwise done from your hand. I had a situation where I was 4 spaces away, my max range in my hand was 3. I gambled with the Wild Swing and flipped a card I didn’t even know existed yet that had a 4-6 range. It was an amazing feeling. I’ve also pulled off a finishing blow with a Wild Swing, as my opponent was at 4 health and both my hand attacks dealt 3. So I gambled on the Wild Swing and brought them down. Is it a reliable tactic to use often? No. But it is great to have that option for when you don’t have the right cards, or desire to keep your hand in-tact.

I love how thematic it feels to need to land hits in order to use your stronger attacks. Every successful hit is added to your Gauge, which is essentially a currency you can spend. Each character has a few cards (called Ultra Attacks) that can only be played by spending Gauge. It can also be spent as Force, providing more for fewer cards. It is like your fighter is using momentum throughout the match to hit harder and (usually) faster than a normal attack. While they lack any finishers, these are a close enough substitute that it feels right.

The Exceed mode on each character brings a nice decision into the game, as it also takes Gauge to flip your character. Gauge isn’t always easy, or fast, to come by. Spending 2-4 Gauge is a critical decision at times, as using it for Exceed will make it so you probably can’t afford an Ultra Attack. However, the continuous boost/change to your character might be worthwhile. Deciding when/if to Exceed is a critical decision at times, and one I enjoy having available.

EX Attacks are a fun twist to add in there, yet another thing that adds some flair to the gameplay and makes it exciting. When you play a strike, if you have two cards of the same name you can put them both down. What this essentially does is add +1 to everything but range on the attack, making it faster, stronger, and provide more defense. This has been the difference between being stunned and making a connection on an attack, and is a simple yet wonderful tactic.

There is balance in the game. Honestly, it felt like there wasn’t during my first two games as the fighters I used are polar opposites (one is all about ranged attacks, the other about being right next to the opponent). Yet as I played more, using the same matchup against the same opponent, that perceived disadvantage disappeared. Do they dictate some of the playstyle? Sure, which is the beauty of a game where there are currently 32 fighters, not counting bonus ones. You just need to find the one that resonates most with you.

These things are worth mentioning even though all I have is a demo deck. These could be things that have been changed/fixed already and I just don’t know it. But here goes: The board is 9 cards. While it isn’t a bad thing, having a board (other than via purchasing a mat) would be a nice bonus. I understand the cost savings of this method but it also leads me to wonder if there is a way to track health in the box. No board or mat leads me to have to find alternative methods for tracking our health.

The rules I have are disappointing. Yes, you can learn the game from them and play without much issue. The few questions we ran into in the last play session were either answered in the FAQ or quickly answered by the amazing fan community. However, they are a folded poster. Yes, that makes it portable. But I don’t want a massive rule sheet on the table while playing, and folding/unfolding it is annoying during play. I would honestly prefer more of a book – something I hope to discover upon opening a box rather than just a pair of demo decks…

Final Thoughts

I got my first introduction to Exceed: Fighting System at Gen Con from the Level 99 Games booth. I distinctly remember talking to Brad Talton while playing Temporal Odyssey beforehand, asking him how he felt Exceed and BattleCON could co-exist while providing the same concept of fighting game. I simply didn’t understand how this game could be different enough from BattleCON, a game I had already played and came to love, to merit consideration in a person’s collection. But Brad was right – turns out the designer of the games knows what he is talking about – this game is different enough to co-exist in a collection.
Both of the games are going to scratch different playstyle itches. BattleCON is deep in tactical and strategic layers because you have a set of cards that are known to both players, and that are available in a cyclical system of rotation. This provides both its greatest strength and greatest weakness in the same blow, as it allows you to plan for every possible combination your opponent could play and to think ahead by several turns on your own moves.
Exceed, on the other hand, has elements of both but is a lot heavier on the tactical side of things because it adds in randomness into the mix. You won’t always have the exact card you need for the situation, and the number of specific moves is finite in that deck. While it loses the ability to plan with perfect information, it gains a lot more emotional moments instead. Rather than doing well because you outplayed your opponent, you gain the thrill of connecting on a hopeless Wild Swing strike and drawing the exact card you need at just the right time for your circumstances. It provides more of a roller coaster of excitement and layers of tension that are sometimes lacking in the BattleCON match. All the while feeling like a brand new system that still feels as though it will reward the experienced player.
My experience so far with Exceed is limited to two characters, those demo decks I picked up at Gen Con, and that is why I feel there is some value here in reviewing the system as a whole. This avoids diving into X is broken or Y is underpowered or Z is the best box to purchase because it has A in there. This is my taking a look at the mechanics of Exceed and providing a review of the mechanics alone.
And that is enough. Honestly, it doesn’t matter as much about which box you pick up or which season of Exceed you purchase because the core of the game is great. I’m still not sure if I prefer this or BattleCON, and I don’t know that I will ever make that decision. I know players who are likely to prefer the open information of BattleCON and the feeling of outplaying your opponent to win. I know others who prefer a little luck in their game and will really dig the use of a Wild Swing as a mechanic. I enjoy them both equally.
Which says a lot about Exceed, since my expectations were pretty low going into the game. It provides a faster experience, while opening up a lot more small decisions to the player because it is not just about pairing attacks every single turn. You can not only do smaller actions to help position your fighter or load your hand, but you can also Exceed to unlock your more powerful side and play EX attacks to boost your strikes. I love the tweaks made on this fighting system, and if you like a little luck in your game and a box that has an excellent entry price, then definitely check out one of the eight available boxes of Exceed.

***

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Exceed Fighting System. 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 · Kickstarter · Two-Player Only

BattleCON Unleashed on Kickstarter + Fanfic Preview

This post is long overdue. Really long overdue. The campaign for BattleCON Unleashed is literally in its final hours, and it is one that I 100% recommend. Whole-heartedly. I believe in Level 99 Games and the work they are doing, and the BattleCON system is arguably the best 2-player only game out there for your money. Yes, better than my hyped Hanamikoji because of all the variability, depth, and replay value contained in even one box of this game (yet you’ll want them all).

So go check out the campaign. Pledge if you want to – it’ll be great. You can get everything ever released from BattleCON, or just the newest stuff. You can’t go wrong either way, as BattleCON isn’t just fan service to the fighting genre of video games. What is in the box is a tight, fast, fun dueling game with a ton of strategy and tactics, complete with open information. It rewards new players, as well as mastery of the characters.

Curious about my full thoughts on BattleCON? Check out the review I wrote for Trials of the Indines back in June.

This month has been the hardest month in terms of time for me. I wanted a nice, long, complete fanfic to post up as part of their campaign. In my mind, I was still going to reach the end of it in time, but life is just too insane right now for me to dedicate the proper time and attention to make a polished product. So I’ll end this with a teaser – a very small sampling of what will eventually become a long, finished product. Something that I, and Level 99 Games, can be proud of. Even this scene has changed and expanded – but it will be enough for now. The lore in the World of Indines is incredible, and so much is unexplored that a writer could be content creating content for years and still have things to cover.

***

“Whoa, the Rubara Keep is massive,” said Magdelina. She brushed a lock of hair aside and shook her head, her long pigtails swinging from the motion.

“Focus,” replied Kallistar. “We’re here for a reason, remember?”

“Right,” Magdelina said, “to stop Rexan from being resurrected and casting a shadow upon Indines once more. Which means we need to find Hepzibah before she can use her resurrection spell. I was the one with the dreams showing the event happening, remember?.”

“And it is very important that we succeed.” Kallistar marched forward, forcing her two companions to catch back up.

“Success is important,” Vanaah replied in between breaths, “but we also can’t walk blindly into a trap or ambush.”

“A trap?” Magdelina echoed, stopping in her tracks. Her gaze darted around the massive chamber, scrutinizing the shadows being cast by torches hanging from the walls and pillars. Vanaah looked up toward the ceiling where a pair of balconies stretched out over the chamber, but neither contained any signs of movement. Kallistar continued her determined stride forward, eyes fixated on the double doors ahead.

Twang!

“Kallistar, look out!” Magdelina shouted. Her companion continued her march onward. Two arrows converged upon the pyromancer in the lead. Magdelina clenched her fists and two luminescent shields formed in the air, traveling alongside Kallistar. The arrows bounced harmlessly off the shields and Magdelina banished the shields.

“Finally,” Kallistar said as the double doors opened and waves of guards burst into the chamber. Spouts of flame burst from Kallistar’s fists, scorching the nearest guards.

“We must remain vigilant,” Vanaah said as she readied her scythe. She swept the weapon in a wide arc, the crescent blade slicing the shins of a nearby guard.

“This is a distraction,” Magdelina said, dodging an arrow. “We need to find Hepzibah before it is too late.”

The stream of guards continued to flood into the chamber. Vanaah danced through their attacks, striking back mercilessly with her scythe. Kallistar burned with fury, her flames growing hotter with every blow the guards land upon her as she battles back the swarm. She laughs as a heavy crossbow bolt pierces her shoulder and sends a bolt of fire racing across the room to strike back at the assailant.

Swords slashed through the air around Magedelina. She ducked under one strike and hopped aside to avoid a thrust. Thick blue tendrils of smoke rose into the air from a golden ball in her hands, growing thicker with every successful dodge. A blast of flame tore through the guards to Magdelina’s right and she rolled under another swing from the remaining guard.

As she got to her feet, she spotted a flash of red hair beneath a black pointy hat. It disappeared beyond the open doors. “Hepzibah,” Magdelina whispered. Her companions were busy fighting off the guards. Kallistar looked like she was finally enjoying this quest for the first time since they embarked, and Vanaah was surrounded by a circle of troops. Magdelina knew Vanaah needed her help, but the mission had to come first. The fate of the entire world was in their hands, and the revival of Rexan would cast a shadow over the world. Hepzibah needed to be stopped at all costs.

She walked across the room, the turmoil of battle remaining on either side of her. The double doors began to close and she dashed forward. The opening grew smaller and smaller as she approached and she dove forward, rolling to her feet on the other side as the doors slammed shut. She looked around but could see no one who might have shut the doors. Goosepimples spread up her arms and she turned to examine the dark hallways.

To be continued…

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Microbrew

Thank you for checking review #70 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 review prototype of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

The game is currently on Kickstarter until September 31st: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1707132801/microbrew-a-full-sized-board-game-in-a-tiny-tin?ref=bggforums&token=c6e1c6e8

An Overview of Microbrew

0913182127

 

Microbrew is a game designed by Nigel and Sarah Kennington and was published by One Free Elephant in 2018. The tin states that it can play 2 players and has a 50-70 minute play time and a BGG Weight Rating of 3.00.

Gameplay differences for 2 Players

There are no differences, as the 2-player experience is the core experience packaged in the game.

Rules Rating

The rules are done relatively well overall, with minimal barriers to teaching the game upon reading. There are a few areas I had to continually check, such as trying to interpret if there are two action spaces on the Brew space of the board. Ultimately, reading between the lines, I went with “yes” on that since there are two icons for it whereas every other location has one. It makes a huge difference, given you cannot bump your own worker. It would also have been nice for clarity that some regional/flavor objectives are worth two loyal customers (the rulebook states one, but some clearly show two faces on there). However, the minor omissions do not interfere with the core of the game and getting an understanding of how best to play. Overall I’d give it a solid 8/10.

My Thoughts

0908182125

 The puzzle aspect of the game is the real star of the show. Don’t let the appearance of a worker placement game fool you, this part is hardly tacked on and can really add some tactical layers to the gameplay. Thank goodness you don’t need to have them in the right order to bottle them effectively, as just getting the worts you need into the correct row can be an incredible challenge in itself. This is the part of the game that really elevates the gameplay and makes it stand out when compared to its competition.

 There are a few ways to upgrade your ability to do things, including getting a third worker and adding a fifth row into your copper for gaining worts. Both of these feel priced well, but are rarely both used in the same game. You can also give your workers overtime, paying to remove one off the board, and an option to look through more recipe cards. This is one of the action spaces we undervalued in the first play, but quickly realized how great all four of these options can be.

 

 The worker placement aspect of this game is nice and simple, yet provides plenty of an interesting challenge. Mostly because you cannot bump your own workers, so planning accordingly is important. You cannot just spend the entire turn bottling unless your opponent does the same, bumping you off. Only having 2-3 workers adds to the challenge, as you will rarely be able to do everything you want to accomplish in a turn.

 There is a fair amount of player interaction available. There are face-up recipe cards open for the taking, and whoever bottles it first adds the recipe to their hand after it is served. Paying attention to the recipe they are working toward can allow you to bottle an imperfect beer and take that out from under them. The same applies to serving beers to customers – if they are about to gain a loyal customer you can serve a ready beer to that customer and cause them to flip. At the very least you’ll force them to waste an action to flip them over or wait for the next round to be able to serve that customer. And in the meantime you’ll get at least some cash in pocket from serving that customer.

 This game encourages tactical planning in relation to your opponent. Staying a step ahead of them can allow you to gain extra actions if they are bumping your worker back off a space. This especially happens in the first and final turns of the game when both players are typically trying to accomplish the same things.

0908182125a

 I love that you can advertise to gain those customers rather than needing a perfect match to their drink of choice. This opens up new strategies, and the scaling cost of that advertise action helps make it easier for a player to use either early, or when they are behind. It helps you to feel like there is a chance to come from behind, and also lets you have a way to gain the loyal customer if you don’t have a matching recipe in hand.

 I love the idea of the brewmaster and his ability to give the opponent a free brew action when they go to his space. But I can still count on one hand the number of times he interfered with our movement during a game. His placement onto Bottle of Serve would be far more impactful in terms of providing those free Brew actions.

 This would benefit a little from player aids for both sides. A quick reminder about the spaces, and how the worts move via the Brew action, would be a great thing for players to reference. As well as what the brewmaster does when he moves to a specific space. Those two things, in particular, were needing referenced often as we played.

 Packaging the components into that tin can be a real challenge. Seriously. If you don’t want a game that requires methodical packing when you are finished, this game will drive you nuts. But if you are tired of opening boxes where the components can fit into 10% of the space…you’ll love this game and how they’ve packed it about as tight as it could possibly fit into this tin.

 Variability. Yes, you’ll have cards flip over at different times in the game but you will almost certainly see every card in the game at some point. In addition to that, there is no variety from game to game apart from the bonus scoring, of which all but two are used each game. Having more customers and recipes would be nice to see in the game, as that would prevent a player from sitting on a brewed recipe until the exact customer flips out. I don’t think that tin can really hold more cards, though. Also, having an odd number of customers should help prevent a tie from being as common since the majority of our games ended in a tie overall.

 A negative from my wife: the player’s coppers and the action board are all on two cards, meaning they don’t fit together perfectly and can easily be bumped and shifted over the course of the game. It adds to the fiddly nature of a game that some would already define as fiddly through manipulation of pieces. It appears the kickstarter is somewhat solving that by having these on the back of some beer mats, which can double as a coaster when not playing the game.

Final Thoughts

 

I knew that the theme wasn’t one in our wheelhouse going into the game, as neither of us really drink. Then again, we both enjoyed Viticulture and I’ve enjoyed Vinhos and we don’t drink wine, either. The theme itself isn’t really a barrier to entry so much as it is the seasoning added to enhance the experience. From that perspective, I really enjoy what Microbrew tries to accomplish.

The worker placement is, of course, what initially excited us about this game. Anytime there is that mechanic in a game my wife is certainly going to demonstrate at least some interest. However, the real star of the show is the puzzle component to add extra layers of strategy to an otherwise straight-forward game of recipe fulfillment. There have been times when the stars aligned and allowed us to immediately fill multiple recipes with minimal adjustment. There are other times when the required moves to get things aligned are not worth the time spent doing those actions. It all leads to a great challenge on deciphering what you need to do now in order to earn those loyal customers.

I like that there are multiple approaches you can take, primarily going for the perfect beers in order to win over loyal customers or making inferior product to boost money and then advertise those loyal customers into your fold. Both approaches have some strong merit, and your approach can change from round to round. Being able to use that advertise action to win over customers, even without an exact match in beer, makes this feel a lot more balanced.

Ultimately the biggest detractor for this game comes down to variability. You’ll always use the same 12 customers and the same stack of recipe cards. You’ll always see those 12 customers and usually see every recipe at some point, so an experienced player can plan in advance for later turns. In fact, there is no real penalty for brewing that perfect bottle early and having it prepared for when that customer finally flips. It’d be nice to have a greater number of both, and to use only X number of them so you can’t be certain to see a specific customer every game.

But there is not really much room in that tin to add more content in the way of anything, really. It is so packed full of stuff that you feel like you are getting great value…until it comes time for the game of putting it all back into that tin. If you prefer games where you can just toss stuff back into the box then you might go crazy with the required precision for packing this game away.

Overall I really enjoyed this, and my wife became a fan once she realized the worts didn’t need to be in the exact order as the recipe called for. It was fun seeing her go from struggling early to coming back and throttling me game after game. Even in my best game where I managed to snag 7 loyal customer cards, I ultimately lost thanks to her fulfillment of those extra scoring cards (which I fell short on) and the tiebreaker. That went to prove that early dominance in the customer battle doesn’t necessarily equate to a victory, a fact that was disheartening to me but also encouraging overall. Due to its portable size and intriguing combination of puzzle and worker placement, this game is capable of earning a place in many collections that might already have worker placement games – or even ones that already have other small, portable worker placement games. Even without variability in cards there is the unpredictability of the order in which things appear and the way in which your worts will be sorted in your copper. There is far more game in this tin than in many bigger boxes, making Microbrew a steal at the price it is being sold for.

You can check out their Kickstarter, running now through September 31st: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1707132801/microbrew-a-full-sized-board-game-in-a-tiny-tin?ref=bggforums&token=c6e1c6e8

***

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Microbrew. 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: Circle the Wagons

Thank you for checking review #69 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 review copy of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Circle the Wagons

 

0803181445

Circle the Wagons is a game designed by Steven Aramini, Danny Devine, and Paul Kluka and was published by Button Shy in 2017. The “box” states that it can play 2 players and has a 15 minute play time and a BGG Weight Rating of 1.73.

Gameplay differences for 2 Players

There are no differences, as the 2-player experience is the core experience packaged in the game.

Rules Rating

The rules are simple, laid out well, and makes for an easy-to-teach game. There is a little vagueness about the scoring of territories at the end, and a few key things (such as what happens in a tie) are missing. It would also help if there was a small section to clarify some of the scoring cards. Overall, a solid rulebook with marginal room to improve, mostly through including a little more explanation.

My Thoughts

The most incredible part of this game is the selection mechanism in the game. Seriously, I love this aspect so much. On your turn you can select any card available in the circle of cards; however, every card you skip over immediately goes to your opponent to add to their tableau. Really want that card with 3 cattle on it? Take it now and your opponent gets those two cards you skipped. Sometimes it is worth it. Other times it is a questionable decision. And part of me really wants to open a game by picking the last card…just because it’d be fun.

 

Mixed in with that above point comes the most important decision the 2nd player will get to make: where Player 1 begins on the circle of cards. I really enjoy this idea, as this decision could have a strong impact on how many cards they get before they even get to take the first turn. Which seems really weird, when typing that out, but it is so true. This is a nice touch to offset the “disadvantage” of being second.

Building rules are straightforward. There is no rotating of cards, no tucking of the new card underneath an existing card (I wish you could tuck, though!). It simply has to be adjacent in some fashion, whether touching or covering an existing card in your territory. The simple rules for construction allow you to simply dive into the meat of the game without worrying over complexity.

 

0817181231~2

All 18 cards in the game have a different scoring condition on the back. I think we’ve used all 18 at some point in time by now, but I can’t promise that with any certainty. Sometimes they have some minor synergy, allowing you to compete for several in trying to accomplish one of them well. Other times they seem to work against each other, to where you can make progress on one but not much on the other. The goals are varied, some of them quite clever, and they all help make each play feel fresh and interesting.

There are six different terrain types, spread across (18 cards x 4 territories per card)… 72 different territories. There also happen to be 6 different symbols that appear on those territories. The terrain matters every game, the symbols may matter in some games. I like that there is variety built into these cards, not just the scoring mechanisms. What you need for one game might vary wildly from what you need to focus on in the next one. However, you’ll always want to have at least half a mind toward building a large terrain for 1-2 types.

This game, like every Button Shy game, wins on portability. It comes in a literal small wallet, which I rarely notice having in my pocket when I take it with me. The game takes minutes to set up, plays and scores in under ten minutes, and can be reset in a minute or two. So not only is this perfect for being portable, it is also lightning-fast for playtime. Huge wins for that, making this the game I’ll slip into my pocket any time we head out and there’s a chance to game.

This game can be taught to a new player in minutes. Literally. I had about 5 minutes at Gen Con after playing Liberation with Jason Tagmire, and he was able to teach me the game AND we played a round of it in that window of time (and yes, I won! Revenge for that loss in Liberation!). Yet in spite of the small set of rules and quick gameplay, this one is FUN. Genuinely fun enough that I want to play again and again when finished with a round.

This isn’t a massive table hog, but you’re going to need a fair amount of table space to have the 3 scoring cards, the circle of 15 cards to draft from, and room for both players to build their town as they gain the cards. So while this doesn’t need a massive space to play the game, it does need a moderate space to comfortably play the game.

0818182035~2

As mentioned in the rules review above, there are a few things that simply aren’t mentioned. In a 2-player competitive game, leaving out a tiebreaker baffles me. Ironically, it was our very first game against each other that ended in that tie! Thankfully, BGG held the answer and my town was smaller, granting me the victory.

It isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, but some will complain that this game has no method for keeping score. Yes, it could have included a small pad for scoring, but I imagine that would have inflated the cost by quite a bit. I personally find that a Magic: The Gathering Life Tracker app works perfectly in this situation for tallying up scores at the end. It can be easy to lose track of what your score is across the 9 scoring mechanisms.

Final Thoughts

 

Sprawlopolis was a game that took the board game media by storm in 2018. Every single review I saw of the game was positively glowing, and my own review held it in pretty high regard. It was definitely a good game packaged in 18 cards, and I loved the win/loss condition being tied to the scoring mechanisms exclusive to that setup. And therefore the burning question on my mind was: which game would I prefer, Circle the Wagons or Sprawlopolis?

And the answer is definitely Circle the Wagons, for reasons that have everything to do with our preferences as a couple. We’d rather compete than cooperate in a board game, and therefore our tendency will always be to take a competitive game if all other things are equal. There are great things about both games, and reasons to love both. One could very easily enjoy them both and have them existing in the same collection because they scratch very different itches.

I love the quick playtime of this game, coupled with the extreme portability. I don’t notice it in my pocket – something I can’t say about a game in a mint tin. I love that it takes less than a minute to get set up and ready to play. I can teach the game, including scoring for a specific setup, in well under 5 minutes. It takes a minute or two to reset for a new game. All of those are strong positives.

Which is why we have played this game nearly a dozen times already since it entered our collection at Gen Con.

The cleverness of the game comes from the card selection, and the tough decisions it can create. It can make you feel great when choosing a card 5 down the line and watching your opponent realize they need to place all of those cards, in order, without messing up their plans. A game can end abruptly with one bold selection, tossing every plan out the window. There are several ways to win, as we’ve had victories where almost no points came from territories and victories where almost no points came from the three scoring cards.

This game is wonderful for what it sets out to accomplish. It may never make a player’s #1 game spot, but I find this is the game I’ll reach for first to toss in my pocket if there’s a chance we’ll be eating out or have downtime somewhere. To be able to play a game with meaningful decisions in 5-10 minutes and the game literally fits unnoticed in my pocket…that is a feat worthy of including in the collection.

For those keeping track, this is the third Button Shy game I’ve reviewed so far and, if you don’t own a Button Shy game yet, any of those three (Circle the Wagons, Sprawlopolis, Liberation) would be excellent choices as a first game to introduce you to the wonderful games they produce.

***

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Circle the Wagons. 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 – Liberation

Thank you for checking review #66 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 this game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

((Check it out on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/239309591/liberation-an-asymmetric-hidden-movement-game?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=liberation)

An Overview of Liberation

Liberation is a game designed by Jon Simantov and was published by Button Shy in 2018. The “box” states that it can play 2 players and has a 20-25 minute play time.

For hundreds of generations, the tyrannical Intercosmic Dynasty has ruled the galaxy with a titanium fist. Their power and reach is spreading, but so is word of their misdeeds. A band of resistance fighters known as the Liberation has begun striking at the Dynasty from a hidden base. Will you help the Liberation gain enough support before their secret base is discovered, or will the you wield the awesome power of the Dynasty to hunt down these traitors and bring them to heel?

Using a tiny deck of only 18 cards, Liberation plays out a miniature rebellion of galactic scale on your tabletop. An asymmetrical game of cat and mouse, the Dynasty player expands their web of power, occupying and exploiting planet cards, while the Liberation player strikes from the shadows, sabotaging the Dynasty’s hand and performing daring missions. The odds are long and the stakes are high. Can you stall long enough to cycle through the deck 3 times, earning enough support to topple the Dynasty, or will you scour the galactic map, tightening the noose around the secret base of the Liberation to attack and destroy them? The future of the galaxy is at stake!

Gameplay differences for 2 Players

There are none, as this is a 2-player only game!

My Thoughts

 

 You want tension in a game? This has it in spades. You never feel as though you’re safe as the Liberation, and you rarely feel as though you have enough time to find and attack them as the Dynasty. That is exactly the sort of balance you want to find in this sort of game. Every minute of the game is capable of gripping you and holding your attention firmly in place.

 

 I love asymmetry in games, particularly of the 2-player flavor. This succeeds better than most, providing different actions for each turn, different missions on the cards, and very different objectives to win the game. Both sides, when you play them, feel like they are starting at a disadvantage. Both sides, when you play them, will have you feel like the other side has the better and more powerful missions they can use on cards. I’d say this game was pretty successful at the asymmetry based on these reactions.

 It is a small detail, but I appreciate the idea to have the Dynasty choose their starting planet from their opening hand before the Liberation gets to choose their face-down base from their opening hand. This allows them to see where the early focus will be for the Dynasty and try to choose a planet that isn’t literally next door to the Dynasty. Unfortunately, I’ve been dealt a hand that had 2 adjacent and 1 within two spaces of the starting Dynasty planet. That opening hand sucked…more on that later.

 There is a higher cost on the Dynasty actions, which feels really thematic. Their stuff packs a punch, but they can’t spam the actions apart from Recruit Spy. The Liberation has a lower cost, meaning they will need less to play cards, but that is because they aren’t occupying cities and therefore don’t have a tableau of cards to exploit. I’ve mentioned this several times already, but this manages to feel thematic and somehow balanced. The Liberation feels the advantage early in the game (usually) while the Dynasty ramps up in power as the game progresses (usually).

 Discards are face-down, hiding some information from those who are able to take absurdly good mental notes over the course of a game. Every card drawn by the Dynasty and every mission played by the Liberation provides some information for the savvy player to exploit in trying to narrow down the possibilities. I’m horrible at this, but others would be really good at tracking those things. The only saving grace comes in those face-down discards.

 The artwork for the cities, as well as the map itself, are fantastic. I’m not sure if this is final artwork or not, but I really like the look and feel of these cards during gameplay.

 The four cards making up the map are double-sided, and therefore the side showing and the cards they connect to will make for a different map every single time you play. Cities that are adjacent in one game might be on opposite ends of the galaxy in another. It is a small detail, but a critical one that enhances replay value and prevents a “always start on X city as the Dynasty” strategy from being emergent.

 A gamer who likes to be active and aggressive may find the Liberation side of the game to be a complete bore to play. I didn’t have the issue, finding both sides to be equally exciting to play. However, the Dynasty is clearly the aggressor of the game as their win condition requires that approach. Which will make them the interesting side to many players, simply because they control the tempo of the game with action while the Liberation is trying to dodge via reaction.

 This is courtesy of a friend I taught the game to, who raised the concern even before we started playing. The Liberation has an Evade action, which lets them return the base card to their hand and secretly put down that same card or an adjacent card as their base. His concern? There is no way to make sure the opponent plays honest here. I’ll grant him that point, and others might feel the same concern. But if you can’t trust your opponent to not cheat in a 20-minute game, that’s a player problem rather than a game problem.

 While the length of the game prevents this from being a dealbreaker, it is disheartening if the Dynasty has unusually good luck early in the game. I had a game end before we even finished the deck one time because he attacked the right city, which was within 3 thanks to Launch Fleet. Will it happen often? Probably not. Will it happen sometimes? Yep. Lucky guesses can end the game before it really gets going. Thankfully, it takes very little time to reset the game and it is short enough that it should be no issue to try again.

 This game needs player aids. Desperately. I felt that from my first play, and my friends have confirmed my own belief. Is it something planned? I don’t know, and I’ll gladly provide an update once I find out. But this game demands a reference to remember what exploit, directive, occupy, mission, sabotage, and evade all mean and the sequence of actions. One card for the Liberation, one for the Dynasty. If not cards, then extra sheets on the paper that the rulebook will be printed out on. Something more than the rulebook itself is needed here, for the benefit of the players.

Final Thoughts

I have played this game more times than I have played Star Wars: Rebellion. So many feel that is one of the best games ever made, thus its place in the BGG Top 10. However, Liberation manages to distill the overarching conflict in Rebellion into an 18 card game that you can play several times in one sitting. You could probably log in 6-10 plays of this in about the time it would take for two players to get in one round of Rebellion, and this one is ultra-portable and ultra-affordable.

Will it replace Rebellion in a collection, you ask? If you are that player who absolutely loves Star Wars: Rebellion, then it is likely you love the minis and the battles and the missions and everything else. So the short answer is no, it probably won’t “replace” Rebellion in most collections. However, this is that game you will definitely want in your collection to help scratch the Rebellion itch when you simply don’t have several hours to set aside and play the game. Both can easily exist in a collection because they don’t compete in terms of length or portability.

Now that the obvious is behind us, let’s talk about Liberation. This game is good. So very, very good. It has tension regardless of which side you are playing. The map is small enough that the Liberation can never feel completely safe, and as the Dynasty you always have this sense that those Liberation scum are right under your nose (and oftentimes they are!) if you could only find it. The deck makes the Dynasty feel like they have all sorts of time, until the Liberation goes and discards half of it with one card. And then the pressure is on, and desperation ensues. Everything builds up for one grand attack, launching superweapons. And then the Liberation manages to exploit two of the Dynasty’s occupied cities, setting them back a turn. And then they do it a second time, which is enough to allow the Dynasty only one shot before the game ends. With a gut feeling of two possible parts of the map, the Dynasty fires on one duo and misses, allowing the Liberation to secure victory and reveal the other city in mind was their base.

That right there happened in the last game I played of Liberation and holy smokes, it was amazing. Even in losing, this game is way too much fun. How this can happen without chits or resources or meeples simply blows my mind. This is a game that impressed me from my learning session against Jason Tagmire of Button Shy Games himself, and continues to amaze me with every play. This is the game I want to always have with me, so that when it is just me and one other person I can pull this out for a nice, tense 20 minutes of gaming. Every card’s ability, in the right situation, feels amazingly powerful, You’ll never be able to pull off everything you want to as the Dynasty, as the costs are high to launch your mighty effects, but you’ll always feel that growing sense of power and it is awesome.

The fear when you are the Liberation is high when you realize they can strike at any planet 3 away from one they occupy and that contains pretty much the entire map between all the cities they control. Simple turns with simple actions that lead to tense, exciting gameplay. For less than the cost of a fancy dinner. Skip the dinner for a month and get this game, then take this with you when you go to said fancy dinner. You don’t need a ton of space for this one, and it’ll be exactly what you want while waiting for ages to get your food. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. This one has earned the “keeper” status for my collection, and I look forward to getting many more plays out of the game.

***

((Check it out on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/239309591/liberation-an-asymmetric-hidden-movement-game?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=liberation)

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Liberation. 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