Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Outpost: Siberia

Thank you for checking review #41 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A copy of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.

An Overview of Outpost: Siberia

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

Description from the BGG Page:

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

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten Games I Want to Play in 2018

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

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

1. A Capstone Games game – Three Kingdoms Redux

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

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

2. A Top 10 Game – Terra Mystica

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

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

3. A Train Game – Age of Steam

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

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

4. An Uwe Rosenburg Game – Ora et Labora

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

Let me know which Rosenburg game is YOUR favorite!

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

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

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

6. A Filler Game – Arboretum

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

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

7. Golden Elephant Winner – Food Chain Magnate

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

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

8. A Vital Lacerda Game – Vinhos

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

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

9. A Splotter Game – Antiquity

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

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

10. People’s Choice – Keyflower

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

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

The next 10

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

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

Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Sellswords: Olympus

Thank you for checking review #40 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A copy of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.

An Overview of Sellswords: Olympus

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

Description from the publisher:

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

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awards · Board Game Lists · Board Gaming

Cardboard Clash 2017 Board Game Awards

The old year has ended and we’re well into 2018 now. But there is still time, and reason, to look back to the previous year and reflect on the experiences in gaming for 2017. I threw together a post with polls last month, narrowing down to my top 5 nominations in each category and letting the BGG users vote on who they would pick as a winner based on the category among my nominees. How often do they line up? Read on to find out!

Check out the previous post and see who all of the nominees were in each category. If they made the list, they deserve the recognition!

Best 2017 Release

The Voters Picked: Lisboa by Vital Lacerda, published by Eagle-Gryphon Games

My Pick: 878: Vikings – Invasions of England by Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, and Jeph Stahl, published by Academy Games

Runner Up: Lisboa by Vital Lacerda, published by Eagle-Gryphon Games

This was a tough one for me to call, as I really liked my one play of Lisboa. Really, really like that one play. If I owned the game and played it a few more times, it probably would have taken this category because I am sure it is that great of a game. However, 878: Vikings is everything I hoped it would be and more. This game convinced me to back my first ever kickstarter. It delivered on time, and the production quality on everything is great. And the gameplay is really solid. They have a fantastic system implemented, with a ton of mini expansions to allow you to customize the gaming experience. The game reminded my wife of a lighter version of War of the Ring, and that description has stuck with me. It truly does feel like the combat aspect of War of the Ring to an extent, which is high praise indeed since War of the Ring is my absolute favorite game. This is a game that will be a staple of my collection for years to come due to the solid gameplay and the ability to customize with those expansions.

Best New-to-Me Game in 2017

The Voters Picked: Mystic Vale by John D. Clair, published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)

My Pick: Lignum (Second Edition) by Alexander Huemer, published by Capstone Games

Runner Up: Albion’s Legacy by Thomas M. Gofton, Aron Murch, and Cameron Parkinson, published by Lynnvander Productions and Jasco Games

I first encountered Albion’s Legacy in March of 2017 and it instantly was that one game which catapulted into my Top 10 list. I was convinced, for months, that it would be the game to take the honors here. It was a cooperative game that I actually enjoyed playing with others (and solo) because it was so crushingly difficult to win and because it is steeped in Arthurian lore. And then along came a review copy of Lignum, a game that I had no expectations for when I opened the box. I had enjoyed Haspelknecht, so I was willing to give another Capstone Games title a try. I was so blown away from the first play of this game. It is deep, challenging, and rewards successful planning seasons in advance. I couldn’t stop gushing about the game when I reviewed it a few months ago, and that hasn’t changed one bit since that time. Lignum is a game that blew me away in a way that few games ever have.

Best 2-Player Only Game

The Voters Picked: Star Realms by Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, published by White Wizard Games

My Pick: Hanamikoji by Kota Nakayama, published by Quick Simple Fun Games

Runner Up: Android: Netrunner by Richard Garfield and Lukas Litzsinger, published by Fantasy Flight Games

There is a certain elegance in the design of Hanamikoji that draws me in and makes me a huge advocate for the game. It is the perfect 2-player game because it is small, simple, fast, and incredibly deep with its strategy. It amazes me how much game is packed into so few components, something I always enjoy seeing, and this is a game that is priced so well that there is little excuse not to have this in a collection. Netrunner, on the other hand, has a barrier to entry in terms of how much content exists for the game. It is daunting. You’ll want to feel like you need to own all of it. It might just be worth the price to enter, because this is a game that continues to impress me with its asymmetric play, the creative deck construction you can tinker with, and the overall fun that is had regardless of which side you’re playing.

Best Cooperative Game

The Voters Picked: Arkham Horror: The Card Game by Nate French and Matthew Newman, published by Fantasy Flight Games

My Pick: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games by Nate French, published by Fantasy Flight Games

Runner Up: Albion’s Legacy by Thomas M. Gofton, Aron Murch, and Cameron Parkinson, published by Lynnvander Studios and Jasco Games

This is another one of those categories where some new titles made a late push onto the scene and one of them disrupted Albion’s Legacy’s hold upon the title. I became a huge fan of playing Lord of the Rings LCG solo. It became my #1 solo game over the course of 2017 once I reacquired the Core Set. I didn’t expect it to be as fun playing with a friend, but time spent playing quests with a new friend has convinced me otherwise. The Fellowship event further solidified this as an outstanding game to play with others. Albion’s Legacy appears again because it is a great benchmark for what a cooperative game should be: challenging, contain rewarding moments, contain moments of despair, and have a strong theme woven into the box’s contents.

Best Worker Placement Game

The Voters Picked: Viticulture: Essential Edition by Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone, and Morten Monrad Pedersen, published by Stonemaier Games

My Pick: Argent: The Consortium by Trey Chambers, published by Level 99 Games

Runner Up: Lignum (Second Edition) by Alexander Huemer, published by Capstone Games

This was a tough one to choose between the two games. Both of these are fantastic and a lot of fun. The ultimate factor, though, was weighting how much of a component the worker placement is for the game. The placement in Argent is a far bigger piece of the game, giving it the edge here. The modular “board” from tiles, each with different power and various spots, adds a ton of replay and a lot of importance to what “worker” you place on which spot on the board during each turn. Lignum is a worker placement game that rarely feels like worker placement, even while moving the foreman along the numbered track and placing hired workers into the appropriate areas of your player board. Yet the worker placement in Lignum is one of the most important aspects of the game, making it a sneaky-good use of the mechanic.

Best Game in the BGG Top 100

The Voters Picked: Scythe by Jamey Stegmaier, published by Stonemaier Games

My Pick: War of the Ring (Second Edition) by Robert Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello, published by Ares Games

Runner Up: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games by Nate French, published by Fantasy Flight Games

There are so many excellent games in the Top 100, both that I have played and those I am yet to experience but I know I will end up loving. Early in the year, Scythe would probably have been my runner up here as I really fell in love with the game. It is the right balance of so many things and plays well regardless of the player count. I knew my #1 would be War of the Ring – nothing can dethrone that game for me. It is epic, balanced, and feels like a tense tug-of-war with every game of it that is played. As a huge Tolkien fan, there isn’t much surprise to me that there was a second Middle-Earth game that could steal my heart. It is the best solo game out there and is fun as you add in more players. It requires you to be willing to adapt, sometimes completely scrapping a deck and building something solely to conquer the challenge of a specific quest. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all path to victory when it comes to decks, making it an impressive game that has so much content released that a person could play for a long time without the game getting stale.

Best Game Outside the BGG Top 1000

The Voters Picked: 878: Vikings – Invasions of England by Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, and Jeph Stahl, published by Academy Games

My Pick: Lignum (Second Edition) by Alexander Huemer, published by Capstone Games

Runner Up: Albion’s Legacy by Thomas M. Gofton, Aron Murch, and Cameron Parkinson, published by Lynnvander Studios and Jasco Games

Don’t judge a game by its number on BGG! There are so many gems out there that don’t make the top 100, much less the top 1000. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lignum makes the top 1000 some day, as it is a game very much deserving of the recognition. 878: Vikings is another game I fully expect to see make it there at some point because it is a newer release. What makes me sad is that Albion’s Legacy may never even come close. I know it had issues upon release, but those don’t detract from what is an exceptional game in the box. I think if Jasco/Lynnvander ever decided to split the expansion content for the game into a pack or two and sell them at retail, that might give this game the needed boost to propel it up at least a little higher.

Best Heavy Game

The Voters Picked: Scythe by Jamey Stegmaier, published by Stonemaier Games

My Pick: War of the Ring (Second Edition) by Robert Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello, published by Ares Games

Runner Up: Lignum (Second Edition) by Alexander Huemer, published by Capstone Games

When I think of a heavy game, I think of something with long-term planning, weighty decisions, and an experience that will leave me satisfied by the end regardless of the outcome. War of the Ring always delivers in spite of the presence of dice in the game because they aren’t completely dictating the game and the decisions you should make. Lignum checks all the right boxes on this one, being a brain-burning game that rewards planning and adaptability. I am just starting to explore the heavier end of the spectrum, but these have quickly become my favorite style of games.

Best Filler Game

The Voters Picked: Star Realms by Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, published by White Wizard Games

My Pick: Eight Minute Empire: Legends by Ryan Laukat, published by Red Raven Games

Runner Up: Hanamikoji by Kota Nakayama, published by Quick Simple Fun Games

This was a tough one for me to choose from, as there are different reasons to choose from the games on this list. They all play in a quick amount of time. Hanamikoji is great because it provides a fantastic 2-player experience with a lot of weighty decisions. However, Eight Minute Empire: Legends gets the narrow edge here because of the higher player count. Sometimes you want a filler that can bring more players to the table, and so this fits the requirement. It has a fast, fun, and rewarding experience as you spread throughout the map, vie for control of territories, and purchase cards to give you the actions you want while providing the scoring you’ll need at the end.

Best Work Night Game (plays in 60-90 minutes)

The Voters Picked: The Castles of Burgundy by Stefan Feld, published by Ravensburger

My Pick: Kingdom Builder by Donald X. Vaccarino, published by Queen Games

Runner Up: Mystic Vale by John D. Clair, published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)

Yes, I enjoy playing Castles of Burgundy as a work night game, although it only qualifies when playing with two. It is a fantastic game and one I hope to play plenty of times this year. However, my go-to game will always be Kingdom Builder when looking for a game that finishes in about an hour. Some try to argue that you’re too restricted by having one card to play each turn, but my response is to plan better. My last game of this went so poorly, but I could look back to my first two turns and see how, if I had played elsewhere, I could have done far better. I went for the wrong opening power, and as a result the rest of my game suffered. With a modular board, differing powers, and changing end game scoring conditions, this is one game that will never ever grow stale in my collection. Mystic Vale is a newer entry to this list, but it takes my favorite mechanic (deck building) and does something innovating and interesting with it. Plus it is a deck building game my wife actually enjoys, which still blows my mind!

Game I’d Most Want to Play with a Game Group

The Voters Picked: Shadows Over Camelot by Bruno Cathala and Serge Laget, published by Days of Wonder

My Pick: Shadows Over Camelot by Bruno Cathala and Serge Laget, published by Days of Wonder

Runner Up: The Speicherstadt by Stefan Feld, published by Z-Man Games

Sometimes a game plays better when you have more than 2 people at the table. I am not convinced I’ll ever own either of these – I might get the Viking rethemed Jorvik rather than Speicherstadt – but they are both games I’ll always love to play at a game day. Shadows Over Camelot provided me my greatest game-day experience of all time in my first play. I thrived as the traitor, earning just enough trust to avoid being accused and then flipping at the end to win the game for myself, stealing it from the other six fools at the table. I still get a smile on my face from thinking about it. This was a far better traitor-cooperative game than Dead of Winter, which often fell flat. The Speicherstadt is one that I could see being interesting to a degree with two, but the more people you add into the mix, the higher those prices can climb for cards. With one of the most interesting placement/bidding mechanics I’ve ever seen in a game, I love playing Speicherstadt with a group.

Most Surprising Game Played

The Voters Picked: Sentinels of the Multiverse by Christopher Badell, Paul Bender, and Adam Rebottaro, published by Greater Than Games

My Pick: The Speicherstadt by Stefan Feld, published by Z-Man Games

Runner Up: Sentinels of the Multiverse by Christopher Badell, Paul Bender, and Adam Rebottaro, published by Greater Than Games

I’m sure that my first impression of The Speicherstadt was similar to most who see if for the first time: we’re going to play a game about a warehouse? It doesn’t look interesting, whether looking at the box or at the board, but what it lacks in chrome it contains tenfold in gameplay. It blew me away and became a game I tried to play again so my wife could experience it. I went from scoring 40 in my first game (the track only goes to 39) to scoring less than 0 in my second, but I had a blast both times with this interesting game. Sentinels of the Multiverse was a game I had little desire to play. I had seen people sitting around playing it and thought “meh” time and again when I saw it. It looked long and fiddly and I had been so disappointed by Marvel Legendary’s eventual flame out in my collection. I finally got roped into the game and had a tough choice to make on who to choose for a character. He asked what class I liked to play as in RPG games, I mentioned Paladin, and I was suggested two decks. I chose Fanatic and boy, she has made me a fanatic for this game! This one deck made me fall in love with the game, as she fits my play style perfectly. I’ve tinkered with others from the base game since then, but I will always and forever be a Fanatic player.

Best Tile-Laying Game

The Voters Picked: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King by Alexander Pfister and Andreas Pelikan, published by Mayfair Games

My Pick: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King by Alexander Pfister and Andreas Pelikan, published by Mayfair Games

Runner Up: Between Two Cities by Matthew O’Malley, Ben Rosset, and Morten Monrad Pedersen, published Stonemaier Games

My first experience with Isle of Skye should have sent me running far away from the game. I played with the full count of 5, two of whom were very prone to AP. The game took well over two hours to play 5 rounds. Let that sink in, for those of you who have played this. Isle of Skye should take roughly an hour. But the core of this game still impressed me enough to keep it on my wish list. I got this one for Christmas and have played it four times in the past three days and that confirmed: this is a really good game. Two isn’t its best player count, but it still is a lot of fun. Between Two Cities is a game I’ve experienced just once, but it was so unique in the joint building aspect that I fell in love. I really want to get this one in my collection, but my self-imposed ban on buying new games will probably not allow that to happen in 2018. However, this is one I’ll definitely try to play a few times at game nights because this was a fun, fantastic game experience.

Best Wargame

The Voters Picked: War of the Ring (Second Edition) by Robert Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello, published by Ares Games

My Pick: War of the Ring (Second Edition) by Robert Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello, published by Ares Games

Runner Up: 878: Vikings – Invasions of England by Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, and Jeph Stahl, published by Academy Games

Before 2017, my only wargame experience had been War of the Ring. And bless my wife for suffering through so many incorrectly-played rules over the course of our plays of that game. It remains the game which all other games are measured by, both wargame and otherwise, because it is the pinnacle of board games for me. 878: Vikings, as mentioned earlier, feels like the conflict of War of the Ring to an extent. It takes a longer epic game’s feel and compresses the scope and play time in a way that Battle of Five Armies failed to do. We really enjoy both of these games, and I look forward to both hitting the table more often this coming year while trying out at least a few new wargames in 2018. Hopefully starting with Pendragon and Twilight Struggle.

Favorite Game Designer

The Voters Picked: Jamey Stegmaier

My Pick: Jamey Stegmaier

Runner Up: Thomas M. Gofton

Jamey continues to hit home runs for me. I love Viticulture. I love Scythe. I am really loving Charterstone so far. I hope to love Euphoria when I get a chance to play it. They have solid gaming mechanics, good themes, and a nice depth that encourages replay as well as the ability to adapt strategy as the game plays out. Thomas, on the other hand, is part of a team that creates the type of cooperative games I love: challenging and rich in theme. Each of their games are unique in the style of game, while sharing some similar design and mechanics. These are two designers whose games I’ll always at least want to try.

Favorite Publisher

The Voters Picked: Stonemaier Games

My Pick: Capstone Games

Runner Up: Stonemaier Games

This one amounts to a coin flip. I’m yet to encounter a game from either publisher that I dislike, and both of them have a brand and presence as a company that I can get behind. Clay is a fantastic face for his company, and I love that they are finding out of print heavy games and making them available again. Jamey and his team not only produce excellent games, but they all have outstanding solo mechanics which increases their value in my collection. I don’t want to have a massive game library, but these two companies are ones I will probably end up owning most, if not all, of their games that end up being released. That, in itself, should be high enough praise since I’ll be aiming to keep my collection around 50-60 at most.

Favorite Podcast

The Voters Picked: Heavy Cardboard

My Pick: Heavy Cardboard

Runner Up: The Board Boys Podcast

This is such a hard category, and Low Player Count missed by a hair. I love the work that Edward and Amanda do, both for the hobby and as a whole for the content they produce. Their reviews are thorough, honest, and insightful. That is everything a consumer can ask for in regards to a reviewer. The Board Boys are fun to listen to, and even after only 8 episodes they have become one of the best podcasts out there. Each episode they tackle a game in, or close to, the Top 100 on BGG and give thoughts and impressions on the game. They’ve put a few on my list of games to check out after I had initially dismissed the games as “not interested”. They also bring in a guest for each episode, adding an extra voice beyond the banter of the three hosts. Definitely check them out!

Favorite Reviewer

The Voters Picked: Drive-Thru Review

My Pick: Heavy Cardboard

Runner up: Katie’s Game Corner

It should be no surprise that those elephants trampled into this category as well. While I enjoy most of the content they produce (I’m still end up skipping many of the Daily Diaries from when Edward is at a show), the reviews are the episodes I always listen to. I’ve gained interest in so many games, and had a few others fall off my radar, thanks to their thoughtful reviews. Katie Aidley, on the other hand, is a newer voice in the industry and she is fantastic. She provides great insight with her impressions on games, and she is an advocate for mental health as well as women being equally important to the hobby. Her growth and talent make me envious, and I always make time to read her new posts when they appear.

Most Anticipated 2018 Release

The Voters Picked: Root by Cole Wehrle, published by Leder Games

My Pick: Empyreal: Spells and Steam Train by Trey Chambers + Seventh Cross by D. Brad Talton Jr., published by Level 99 Games

Runner Up: Coal and Colony by Thomas Spitzer, published by Capstone Games

This one isn’t really fair, as I’m sneaking in a second pick that wasn’t on the original poll. But, after listening to the Level Cap podcast for the past month, the level of excitement I have for Seventh Cross is unbelievable and it was enough to push the pair of Level 99 Games up to the top spot. A fantasy-themed train game with special powers on one hand, and a paragraph-based legacy-style adventure with boss fights and exploration on the other. Those both sound like my type of game. And, of course, I am really excited to pick up and play the final game in the Coal Trilogy this year from Capstone Games. I really enjoyed Haspelknecht and I’ll be playing The Ruhr before too much longer.

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Fields of Agincourt

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

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

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

An Overview of Fields of Agincourt

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

Description from the publisher:

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

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

Playing Fields of Agincourt consists of two game stages:

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoever has the highest score wins.

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Gaming · Gaming Recap

End-of-Year Statistics and 2018 Goals

2017 has closed on us, and already my subscription box is flooding with other users doing recaps for 2017. I missed my November recap, having lost the motivation to dedicate the incredible amount of time it took to construct that recap and add in all the links. The latter is really the part that bogs things down, and so I’ll opt to skip that in here, but those who have been watching will know my wife had led all year in win/loss record for our head-to-head gaming. And that October saw me finally get even with her. How did the final two months shake things up? And did I pull up over 50% on my solo victories?

2017 Games played as a couple

7 Wonders Duel: 7 (David x 5, Nicole x 2)
878: Vikings – Invasions of England: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
A Feast for Odin: 2 (David x 2)
Aeon’s End: 1 (Co-op Loss)
Agricola (Revised Edition): 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Albion’s Legacy: 1 (Co-op Loss)
Argent: The Consortium: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn: 7 (Nicole x 3, David x 4)
Barony: 7 (Nicole x 4, David x 3)
Battle Line: 6 (David x 3, Nicole x 3)
Biblios: 4 (David x 3, Nicole x 1)
Blood Rage: 4 (Nicole x 2, David x 2)
Carcassonne: 1 (David x 1)
The Castles of Burgundy: 3 (David x 1, Nicole x 2)
Castles of Caladale: 3 (Nicole x 3)
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: 3 (Nicole x 3)
Catan: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Caverna: The Cave Farmers: 5 (David x 2, Nicole x 3)
Caverna: Cave vs Cave: 2 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
Century: Golem Edition: 1 (David x 1)
Century: Spice Road: 9 (David x 5, Nicole x 4)
Charterstone: 5 (Nicole x 2, David x 3)
The Climbers: 3 (David x 3)
Codenames: Duet: 1 (Co-op Loss)
Council of Verona: 2 (David x 2)
Crazier Eights: Avalon: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Cry Havoc: 2 (Nicole x 2)
Custom Heroes: 1 (David x 1)
Eight Minute Empire: Legends: 6 (Nicole x 4, David x 2)
Exile Sun: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Fairy Tale: 7 (Nicole x 4, David x 3)
Fields of Agincourt: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Fields of Green: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Firefly: The Game: 3 (David x 1, Nicole x 2)
Five Tribes: 5 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
Galaxy Trucker: 5 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
The Game: 1 (Co-op Win x 1)
Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Guilds of London: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Hanamikoji: 10 (David x 6, Nicole x 4)
Harbour: 5 (David x 2, Nicole x 3)
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle: 2 (2 Co-op wins)
Haspelknecht: 5 (David x 3, Nicole x 2)
Herbaceous: 9 (David x 6, Nicole x 3)
Holmes: Sherlock x Mycroft: 8 (David x 3, Nicole x 5)
Incantris: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Istanbul: 1 (David x 1)
Jaipur: 1 (David x 1)
The King is Dead: 3 (Nicole x 2, David x 1)
Kingdom Builder: 8 (Nicole x 6, David x 2)
Kingdomino: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival: 4 (David x 3, Nicole x 1)
Legends of Andor: 2 (1 Co-op win)
Lignum: 2 (Nicole x 2)
Lords of Scotland: 2 (Nicole x 1, David x 1)
Love Letter: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Mint Works: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Mystic Vale: 9 (David x 5, Nicole x 4)
Niya: 2 (David x 2)
Odin’s Ravens: 4 (David x 1, Nicole x 3)
Patchwork: 4 (David x 3, Nicole x 1)
Photosynthesis: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Pixel Tactics 2: 3 (Nicole x 2, David x 1)
Queendomino: 2 (David x 2)
Scythe: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Seasons: 2 (David x 2)
Sellswords: Olympus: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Seven Dragons: 1 (David x 1)
Shahrazad: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Small World Underground: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Splendor: 1 (David x 1)
Star Fluxx: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Star Realms: 12 (Nicole x 5, David x 7)
Star Wars: Imperial Assault: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Sushi Go!: 1 (David x 1)
Takenoko: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary Edition: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 2)
Tiny Epic Galaxies: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)
Tiny Epic Kingdoms: 3 (Nicole x 3)
Torres: 1 (Nicole x 1)
Unearth: 4 (David x 2, Nicole x 2)
Viticulture: Essential Edition: 3 (David x 2, Nicole x 1)
War of the Ring: 4 (Nicole x 3, David x 1)
Yokohama: 5 (David x 2, Nicole x 3)
Zero: 2 (David x 1, Nicole x 1)

David – 142/279 (50.09%)
Nicole – 137/279 (49.10%)

2017 Games played solo

9 Card Siege: 5 (1 Win)
A Feast for Odin: 1 (1 Win)
Aeon’s End: 1 (1 Win)
Agincourt: 1 (1 Win)
Albion’s Legacy: 2 (0 Wins)
Castles of Caladale: 2 (2 Wins)
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: 1 (0 Wins)
Caverna: Cave vs Cave: 1 (1 Win)
Chrononauts: 4 (0 Wins)
Dice of Arkham: 2 (1 Win)
Elevenses for One: 1 (1 Win)
Firefly: The Game: 1 (0 Wins)
Freedom: The Underground Railroad: 4 (1 Win)
Friday: 4 (2 Wins)
The Game: 2 (1 Win)
Harbour: 2 (2 Wins)
Herbaceous: 6 (4 Wins)
Imperial Settlers: 5 (4 Wins)
Legendary: 1 (1 Win)
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: 24 (10 Wins)
Mage Knight Board Game: 2 (1 Win)
Mini Rogue: 2 (2 Wins)
Neverland’s Legacy: 1 (0 wins)
Night of Man: 3 (1 Win)
Race for the Galaxy: 9 (4 Wins)
Scythe: 1 (1 Win)
SECRET Solo Game: 4 (1 Win)
Shahrazad: 5 (2 Wins)
Sherwood’s Legacy: 1 (1 Win)
Space Hulk: Death Angel: 3 (1 Wins)
Stamford Bridge: End of the Viking Age: 2 (2 Wins)
Star Realms: 1 (1 Win)
Stellar Leap: 6 (4 Wins)
Terraforming Mars: 2 (0 Wins)
Tiny Epic Galaxies: 3 (3 Wins)
Tombs: The Sword of Valhalla: 1 (0 Wins)
Valeria: Card Kingdoms: 1 (1 Win)
Viticulture: Essential Edition: 8 (4 Wins)
Yeomen: The 9-Card Agincourt Game: 6 (1 Win)

2017 Solo Record: 64/121 (52.89%)

So there you have it, I accomplished both of my goals for 2017 by having a 50% win record in solo games and a 50% record or better in 2-player games with my wife. In her defense, had our gaming not dropped a lot in the past two months I am certain she would have thumped me. Did she really win all three games of Kingdom Builder we played in the last two months? I need to fix that…

And so here are the things I am hoping to accomplish in 2018:

 Play all of our owned games (69 games)
 Play all of my soloable games solo (23 games)
 Eliminate my shame pile of unplayed games (10 games)
 Complete my 10×10 (Charterstone, Android: Netrunner, Kingdom Builder, 878: Vikings – Invasions of England, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, Scythe, Mystic Vale, Seasons, Innovation, Albion’s Legacy)
 Play 50 new-to-me unowned games
 Complete the Charterstone campaign
 Play all soloable print and play games (20 games)
 Find and print a new solo print and play game each month
 Beat all Lord of the Rings: The Card Game quests that I own/will own (24 quests)
 Purchase the Adventure Packs to complete the two cycles in Lord of the Rings that I’ve started (10 packs)
 Purchase no new games in 2018 (two exceptions, one game as a reward for hitting a weight goal, one for completing my 10×10. Expansions/add-ons do not count but will remain limited in purchase)
 Keep a better log of plays!

So how about you? What are some of your 2018 goals?

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – The Climbers

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

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

An Overview of The Climbers

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

2) There can be no overhanging blocks.

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Verdict

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

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

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

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

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