Board Gaming · Review for Two · Review for One

Review for One AND Two – Albion’s Legacy

Thank you for checking review #29 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.

**Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this game in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Albion’s Legacy

Albion’s Legacy is a game designed by Thomas Gofton, Aron Murch, and Cameron Parkinson and is published by Jasco Games and Lynnvander Productions. The box states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 90 minute play time.

Albion’s Legacy is a cooperative, modular-adventure board game for 1-4 players, expandable to 6.

The game allows players to participate as one of their favourite Arthurian characters ranging from the legendary wizard Merlin, the famous Lady of the Lake, the brave Sir Lancelot, and the great King Arthur himself. These heroes will champion all that is good in 90 minutes as the players travel across the realm of Albion and face dangerous roaming threats, mythical beasts and deadly encounters.

Collect lore-enriched relics, artifacts, weapons and special awards under a heated deadline while solving some of the most famous historical and mythical chronicles of the Arthurian legend.

This game will challenge you, excite you, educate you and if you’re not careful it will take you down (your character that is…) Everything you need is provided at the gaming table, just bring your friends, your love of Arthurian lore (knowledge of Arthurian lore optional) and your thirst for adventure! Onward! The Kingdom needs YOU!

Setup and gameplay for 1 and 2 Players

The setup is very similar regardless of the number of players. When playing this game solo, you control three characters. Playing with two players, each player controls two characters. So at all player counts there will be at least 3 characters maneuvering around the board, which is an essential thing.

The Virtue tile stack requires 6 tiles plus one per player. This is the one area where it could be interpreted as either one per character or one per player. Going with the former would give an easier experience than the latter, although in some games it may not become a relevant factor. If that pile is emptied, you lose the game.

The other key difference is the number of Quest Coins needed to win the game. This one is clearly mentioned as needing 3 coins per character (not player), so depending on your player count you need to obtain either 9 or 12 of these in addition to the Story Card’s objective in order to win the game.

The game plays simply: each character gets an activation where they can move up to 4 spaces (this can be increased once Mounts are unlocked), often exploring new tiles. Many of the tiles will have threat icons on them, triggering the spawning of various creature tokens that you’ll need to defeat in order to earn a Quest Coin. These encounters alternate between spawning generic non-named enemies and spawning a named threat. The latter are sometimes accompanied by non-named enemies, are harder to kill (requiring 4 hits instead of 3), and usually have nasty effects either when you move onto their space or at the end of a round if they are still alive.

After a character’s turn is done, play shifts clockwise to the next character. Once it gets back around to the “starting” character of the round, that character gets one more activation and then the key-turn triggers. This is where the enemies move, where the named enemies’ effects happen, and a Beacon of Hope is extinguished. If all ten Beacons of Hope are extinguished, the game ends and the players lose.

My Thoughts

Let’s start with the obvious: I am a HUUUUUGE Arthurian fan. I love to read the old stories from de Troyes, Malory, Tennyson, and others. I enjoy watching movies, no matter how bad, about Arthur and his knights. In my heart, I desire to be a knight of the Round Table and go forth on quests. And I can honestly attest that this game has a ton of Arthurian lore woven throughout. It is on the tiles, in the characters, the cards, the encounters, the threats, and the quests. Everything within this box evokes the theme, making this a must-buy for any Arthurian fan for this reason alone. Even if you don’t feel like a knight going on a quest, you will be able to find and appreciate so many subtle ties to Arthurian lore that it will leave you amazed.

My wife and I aren’t huge fans of cooperative games. However, I am far more likely to enjoy the game if it presents a challenge. Yes, I enjoy winning as much as the next person, but when you are collectively working as a team you want to go into the game with a high level of uncertainty. And this game delivers: it is hard. Soul-crushingly difficult at times. Those who dislike losing will want to steer clear of this game, but for those of us who want to be challenged every time we set up the game, this one will deliver. Even our last play, where all five locations we needed came out early, ended in a loss because we ended up losing a total of 3 turns via the Encounter deck (we actually lost 4, but were able to earn one back). I’ve had games where we’ve come close to winning. To where one more round could have been enough to seal a victory. But I’ve also had ones where we didn’t even come close. I’ve taken those as lessons learned: you have to be efficient and focused on what needs to be accomplished. Find ways to do things better. Winning has eluded me still with this game, and that is something I feel obliged to praise about Albion’s Legacy. This game defeats me as often as my wife does in competitive games.

Each character in the game is a little different than the others. Gawain can take an extra wound. Lancelot gets more Destiny tokens (usually used for rerolls). Guenievere can heal another character’s wound. King Arthur can take a wound in place of someone else. Merlin can draw two threat cards and choose which one goes into play. And they all have varying strengths and weaknesses with the symbols they can roll. Lancelot has very high Prowess, but his Loyalty trait is poor. They also have favored enemies, granting them an extra die when facing one of the two types of enemies they are favored against. So while they all operate in similar ways, each character does feel different. You’ll want to have certain characters keep back and let someone else clear out those witches or druids, whereas Lancelot should always ride into battle against dragons or knights.

There isn’t a ton of artwork outside of the characters, but I love the artwork on the characters. It evokes traits of those characters from the Arthurian legends. Those eight character cards stand out to me, and the standees still look good as they move around the board. I do wish those standees had been just a little bigger so that the artwork would stand out more during the game.

This game is great at all player counts. I’ve played with 1, 2, and 3 players and would imagine 4 to be just as good. You’re going to have either 3 or 4 characters during the game, and you’ll get a few more activations with 4 characters but also will need to gain more Quest Coins. The balance feels great at both character counts and, by extension, all player counts. The lack of player elimination also helps this one out a lot.

This is a game that rewards trying different strategies. What seems like a game where all you need to do is move around and explore, fighting baddies along the way, will surprise you along the way. Yes, those are still the basic mechanics. But there are ways to set yourself up to greater success. The Item deck seems like a useless deck until you start getting them and realize there are cards in here that can transport you to certain tiles and ones to search the terrain stack for a specific tile. Movement seems to be slow until you realize the importance of those Mounts that get unlocked as the game progresses. Relics and the Armory are clearly vital from the start, and even moreso once you find Relics that can gain you a turn back or restore Destiny tokens. Certain baddies seem like an immediate threat and turn out to be decoys, distracting you from your objective. There is a lot of stuff in here, and it will take many plays to be familiar with what you can find and where you should focus your efforts.

The death of a character is not quite as punishing as it could have been. The character is out of the game, you discard the top Virtue Plaque, and on that player’s next turn a new character begins at the Round Table. This is great, as it prevents player elimination. It moves one defeat trigger closer to the end, but that is often less punishing than if you lost a full game round. Defeated enemy tokens are also kept, which helps to alleviate the blow of losing any equipment, etc. that character may have accumulated.

Combat involves rolling dice. The number rolled is based on your character’s trait, and you can usually use one of two against an enemy type. The dice have five symbols on there, plus a “wild” burst symbol that always counts as 2 hits. You get a 33% chance of hitting the enemy with a die roll, yet sometimes it feels far lower. There are ways to mitigate: Destiny tokens allow you to reroll a single die and breaking equipment can prevent taking a wound. The problem comes, not only through the random dice roll, but that there is no way to retreat. When things go wrong, and in this game they can and will, there is no way to avoid that certain defeat. Edit: As it turns out, you CAN retreat from a challenge, but you must discard an unbroken inventory item.

The game does boil down to exploring and then either do X on these locations or deliver Y to these locations. Each of the three Story Cards are different, yet very much the same. But so many games can be reduced down to simple, boring mechanics. It is the total package which should be evaluated, and this one delivers. My only nitpick is that I wish at least one Story Card felt different. I want to go and find the Holy Grail, to embark on some sort of grand adventure. Not to try and find these locations and do something on them to win.

There is no getting around the fact: this game is fiddly. There are a ton of tokens and tiny cards, and you’ll be flipping and moving and adding and removing them all the time. You’ll be seeking out specific named tokens with every other threat tile. You’ll be slowly building the map with individual terrain tiles that sometimes don’t line up and are prone to shifting if bumped. Moving enemy tokens from one tile to the next can also cause headaches with shifting tiles. This is one game that desperately needs organization solutions, and even then it can feel like there is just so much stuff to manipulate. The game needs these things, and uses them well. But if you hate that sort of thing, you won’t enjoy doing that with this game.

whistle There are a ton of expansions for this game, adding characters and enemies and story cards and much, much more. The problem? Only available during the Legacy game kickstarters, and only available as a complete package for over $100. Worth the purchase? I’m inclined to believe so because I really enjoy the base game and am dying to see what else it adds. But its lack of availability, and the high price since it is only sold as a full bundle, is something that makes me sad. This isn’t a negative against

Final Verdict

There was never a doubt in my Arthurian-loving heart that I would enjoy this game. It is not a perfect game by any means, much as I might like it to be, yet this is a game that gives an experience greater than the sum of its parts. For many potential negatives, there are offsetting methods for them. While rolling dice is a random element, there are Destiny Tokens for rerolls and the ability to break equipment to avoid taking wounds. Exploring through the stack of tiles is a random element, but there are items which can help you to find what you’re seeking faster. Travel can take a long time, but there are mounts and “connected” tiles that can come out to make travel a little faster.

The one thing that simply cannot be offset is the fiddliness of the game. There are tons of tiny tokens, and you’ll be putting them on the board often. The named ones, which appear with every other threat, are especially troublesome since you need that specific character. The map tiles are prone to being bumped and shifting, and don’t always perfectly line up after long paths explored. Almost everything you do involves you adding, or moving, tokens or coins or the tiny cards.

Yet in spite of all of these things, it remains a game near and dear to me as a gamer. Even without the Arthurian lore woven throughout the game (and this game does it better than any other I’ve encountered), the challenges and experiences of this game make it worth playing. I’ve lamented before the ranking of this game on BGG, and will continue to do so. This is easily the best cooperative game I’ve ever played for the pure fact that it is hard. Not just a “you’re going to feel like you are doing poorly, but will manage to pull ahead late in the game” experience that would present the illusion of challenge. I’ve played enough of those. This game will beat you down until your armor has so many dings and dents that it has become useless. It will evoke anger, frustration, and despair. It will also evoke excitement, tension, hope, and the thrill of putting yourself to the test.

This is not a game for those who cannot handle defeat. The game has beaten me every time I’ve played it and left me thirsting for more punishment. Even when all goes well, and sometimes it does, the game magically finds a way to remind you that you are in its domain. Regardless of player count, this is a game I would always be willing to play. It provides a fantastic challenge for solo gamers and for couples alike. Just don’t expect to find a happy ending at the resolution of the quest. Because despair will overtake the land more often than naught, and that is one of the best things about 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.

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

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Board Gaming · First Impressions · Gaming Recap

New-to-Me First Impressions: 8/1/17-9/21/17

While this isn’t an all-encompassing list, here are some brief first impressions of games I recently got my first plays with. I’m also including a “Replay rating” for each game on a scale of 1-10. 1 would be “I’d rather sit out and watch others play games than play this again” and 10 being “Save me a seat, I’d gladly play this any time!”

Terraforming Mars – A challenge to navigate on a first play with a group of very experienced gamers, especially while drafting cards. Yet it didn’t prevent me from being impressed and itching to play this one again. (9)

Rocky Road a la Mode – A light game of set collection, engine building, and the time mechanic I love from Patchwork. Enjoyable, but hardly memorable. (5)

King of New York – I hated my first play of King of Tokyo this year, and this one wasn’t much better. I’d play this over Tokyo, but… (2)

Honshu – A pleasant card game with a fun spatial element. Really enjoyed the two-player version on this one. (7)

The Fox in the Forest – Not usually a fan of trick taking games, but this one was fun. Loved the powers on some of those cards. (6)

Suburbia – I prefer The Castles of Mad King Ludwig, but this did some fun and interesting things. Definitely room to have both in a collection, as they share similar concepts but have very different executions of those things. Greater familiarity with the tiles in each stack will help to plan purchases a little better. (8)

Century: Spice Road – I never want to play Splendor again. Even when losing, you feel like you’ve accomplished something which makes it a game I can enjoy even though my wife will assuredly demolish me every time. (7)

Clank! A Deck-building Adventure – If only my wife loved this game as much as I do! That’s the only thing keeping this from being a 10. There is definitely some luck and some potential for take-that, but I enjoy the thrill of trying to press deeper and nab the treasure…but not knowing if that decision will cost you the game or will propel you to victory. (9)

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King – Good-bye Carcassonne. Hello to a thinky tile-laying game that I hope enters my collection soon. Enjoyed the bidding mechanic and the changing scoring methods. Although, other player’s AP almost killed my enjoyment of this one. (8)

Night of Man – The best wargame I’ve played to date, even though that number is very small. Really like the card system and hope to experience more plays soon. (8)

NMBR 9 – I was as underwhelmed by this game as I expected to be. It didn’t help that everyone was calling out the next number as I was still trying to place my tile. (3)

Codenames: Duet– Cooperative game + party game ends up not being our sort of game. Enjoy Codenames enough, but prefer to compete. (4)

Favor of the Pharaoh – Too many dice! This game seemed like it should have taken a lot longer, but one person was able to chain in dice early and obliterated us all. (3)

Seasons – I might actually have enjoyed this one a little more than I did Terraforming Mars. Another play would see far better drafting on my part. Really enjoyed the use of dice to gain the seasonal powers. (9)

Mint Works – Almost felt too light and simple. I want to try it again, but would question how many plays it could provide before collecting dust. (7)

Torres – The power cards are a muddled mess at times when trying to decipher what the card actually lets you do, but otherwise this is a fun game that I can’t wait to play again. I love building those castles! (8)

Nations – Best game I’ve played in nearly two months, which says a lot based on how much I loved both Terraforming Mars and Seasons. If I still had Sid Meyer’s Civilization, this would easily have replaced it. Not sure the game would be worth picking up for $100, though. (10)

The Game – An interesting puzzle and could be fun with the right people. Pretty sure I’d enjoy this most as a solo game, though it worked fine with two. (6)

Whistle Stop – I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the game, just that it had a lot of buzz. Went stock-heavy and didn’t get many trains off the end, but had fun competing in a game where I just barely fell short. Which means multiple paths to victory, something I like a lot. (8)

Harbour – Only played solo so far and that solo play has been underwhelming. Curious to see if an actual player enhances the experience of if this ends up falling flat. (6)

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Incantris

Thank you for checking review #28 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.

**Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this game in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Incantris

Incantris is a game designed by Heath and Seth Robinson and is published by RAINN Studios. The box states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 20-60 minute play time.

The Kingdom of Aldramere is in the midst of a long, brutal, and magical war that is threatening to tear the fabric of the world apart. Each side is too proud to concede, but they have agreed to settle the conflict though a battle of champions. The High Council of Aldramere has summoned its most powerful wizards to the ruins of Orleal on the Misty Moorlands to compete for the right to represent their kingdom in the battle.

Incantris is a game of magical combat set in the Kingdom of Aldramere. Each player controls a team of three wizards, each with unique spells and abilities. Rain down fiery meteors with the Sorceress, call upon the bear spirit to unleash destruction with the Shaman, strike from afar with the Shadow Weaver, or pummel foes with the Druid’s tempest. Decide how best to use these abilities to defeat the other players and become the champion of Aldramere.

Incantris is a fast-paced and thought-provoking game that pairs strategy with a beautiful gaming environment. Use the modular board and 3D terrain to create a different battlefield for every game. The game also features 25 different spells and abilities ensuring that each game of Incantris will be a unique experience. Set-up is quick with each player selecting a team of three wizards optimized for a particular play style.

The wizards wield magic from the Spirit, Elemental, and Astral realms. The spellcasting and warding system is intuitive and exciting. To emerge victorious, players will have to outmaneuver their opponents, use their wizards’ strengths, and take advantage of the opposing teams’ weaknesses.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The game board will consist of four full-terrain tiles and two half-terrain tiles. Most gameplays will have two full and a half on each side, kind of like this:

FH
FF
HF

Each player will start on one of the half-tiles with their three wizards situated however they like. 3D terrain can be added as seen fit between the players. I found I enjoyed using two per player, with each player taking turns to place one on the map. Each player takes their three wizard sheets and puts the life marker to their top value, and then the dice are rolled. Whoever rolls the most hits goes first.

With two players, the game moves quickly most of the time. The map is small, so there aren’t many places to retreat and hide. Clever use of the terrain obstacles and block line of sight for your foe while allowing you to still attack, but usually this is only an obstacle for a single turn. Many spells have a range of 4-6 hexes, which is much smaller than you think. Especially since most wizards move in that range as well.

There isn’t much to this: you activate a wizard, moving up to the number of hexes mentioned on the bottom of their player board, and then cast up to one spell from those listed on their board. Each spell has a range, as well as a number such as 2D+1. That would indicate you roll two dice, and add one extra hit above what you roll. Defending is shown at the bottom of each board, with each wizard having a number of dice they roll depending on the school of magic they are defending. Each ward they roll will cancel a hit from their opponent.

In most instances, play continues until all three wizards on one team are dead. A wizard only activates once each round, regardless of how many your opponent has to activate.

In a two player game, things move extremely fast. There are few things to consider beyond who you want to target, how you want to move into range, and rolling the necessary dice. This makes a simple and fast game, perfect for an evening of unwinding.

Carebears beware, though, as there is no avoiding conflict in this one. You will be attacking your opponent every turn, with almost every wizard you have. There is no avoiding that aspect in this game.

My Thoughts

I love the variety among the teams. Each color has three wizards, and not only does each team get a different trio of wizards, but even the shared wizards among them can have different spells. This adds variety in being able to play as all four colors, and also makes it so you can’t assume their Druid can do the exact same things as your Druid. I’m a fan of an asymmetrical game, and this scratches that itch with the preconstructed teams.

I enjoy the simplicity within the system of this game. Here are the number of spaces you can move with this character. Everything costs 1 move except moving through water. Here is the range of your spell and the number of dice you roll to hit. Here are the number of dice you roll to defend when the spell belongs to X type. This die result provides a hit. This die result provides a ward (block). Very simple, streamlined system that allows a player to dive in with minimal rules overhead, which makes this a game you could teach to gamers of almost any experience.

Setting the game up is also a nice, simple process. There are full tiles and half tiles to make up the landscape, and the setup is based solely upon player count and the match type being played. There is variability based on which ones you use – some add in a fair amount of water – but nothing complicated to consider. 3D terrain is fairly easy to construct and place throughout the map as well. I tend to use two items per player and it works well, but there is no set system on that. All in all, it takes about 5 minutes to go from box to having this ready on the table.

This box is packed with things that provide value. Not just because it has some nice miniatures, or the 3D terrain, or even the tokens. Those are all nice. This game is one that I can see using long after I am done with Incantris, being able to pull things from here to run through a game like Frostgrave without having to invest in minis and terrain for that game. This isn’t likely an intentional purpose behind Incantris, but it is one I am definitely excited about because I’ve had a Frostgrave book on my shelf, unplayed, for a while now. The point being that there is value in this box beyond the game itself if you have any interest in other skirmish-style games or even D&D campaigns where you have a visual set on the table.

Combat in this game is quick and simple. There are no numbers to crunch, no charts to check, just a dice roll for both parties involved. Any hits done by the attacker in excess of the wards by the defender drops their life value. Did I mention these dice are custom 8-sided dice with the two symbols on them? I like the dice and enjoy rolling them. However, the combat not only heavily favors the attacker, it also can be swingy based on dice rolls. Our most recent game played, I couldn’t stop rolling hits and it was a very one-sided affair because of that.

I want to enjoy the 3D terrain. It is fun to see the trees and walls and everything on the hexes during a match. They really add to the game and enhance both the visual and tactical aspects of the game. Sadly, it hasn’t taken long for the layers of cardboard to start to bend and peel. This means the lifespan of this terrain is questionable at best, something that is further compounded because you have to take them apart between games. The walls might get by with remaining together, but the trees have no space in the box to be stored unless they are broken down and flat.

The campaign system in this one is a great addition. With a higher player count, this would probably get full marks for the fun factor. However, with just two players there are a few of the matches that don’t live up to the full potential. The orb drain was more fun than I had expected, considering all you needed to do was race to the other side and use a single action to win. Easy, right? It wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t horrible. The race to nab a crystal and leave the board with it was a little more fun but, again, it lacked the fun that playing with more would have provided. So while I enjoyed “leveling up” and purchasing one-time-use tokens, the mode isn’t ideal for two players. But it also isn’t a bad choice to play through, at least once, to see what the other modes can offer. But I suspect we’ll be sticking to just trying to blast each other in the future.

I lament when I get a game that has so much empty space that it felt a waste. I own many such games which could fit into smaller boxes with ease: Splendor, Battle Line, Fields of Green. This game suffers from the opposite problem. I wish it had a larger box. Yes, everything fits. But there is hardly any room to spare, and that room could have allowed the trees and other terrain pieces to remain constructed. While I respect that this game isn’t trying to hog an obscene amount of shelf space, I would have gladly settled for a larger box.

I mentioned as a positive that the teams, spells, etc. are all prepared and ready to go right out of the box. That makes for an excellent game to jump into quickly and a great game for nights when you don’t have a lot of time. However, that also severely limits the replay value from this box. Sure, there are four teams that are all slightly different, but they’ll start to feel similar enough after a while. There can also be teams who have a spell, like Teleport, that make certain matches feel unfair and imbalanced. Because things are pregenerated, there isn’t much you can do to fix or avoid these situations.

Final Verdict

Overall this is a fast and fun game. My wife enjoyed this game about 300 times more than I ever imagined she would, which was a huge win for me. I wasn’t sure how moving around and blasting each other would go for her, but she enjoys dominating me during most of our plays of this game.

As with any dice-dependent combat system, the rolls can lead to swingy matches. However, the game plays fast enough that it is rarely a deterring factor. If this game was doubled in scope and length, then it might present a bit of an issue. But it ends up being right for what this game tries to do. There are no complicated charts to consult, no dense packets of rules explanations to flip through. Everything is simple and streamlined, providing both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness as a game.

This game serves as a fantastic starting point for someone new to skirmish games and looking to test this style of game out. It is ideal because the teams have been constructed, the spells have been selected, the terrain is fast to put together, and the arenas can be built within seconds. So, in addition to someone looking for an introductory point, this also is a great game for anyone looking to have a skirmish game they can set up and start playing in a short amount of time. A match or two can easily be played during an evening, even on a work night or after the kids are in bed.

But this game could be a disappointment to some gamers. If you are a seasoned veteran in the skirmish category of games, this is likely to be too light and preconstructed for your tastes. That type of gamer might want to skip this title, unless they want something that is fast to get going, could be played in under an hour, and light enough to bring others into skirmish games. Or if they are interested in repurposing the contents of this box after a few plays of the game.

Overall, I’m glad we got this game. It is fun on its own, and also serves as a great starting place for us before we take the plunge into something larger. It is perfect for us, because we can set it up and play it during any evening due to the game’s quickness. Had we jumped to something more complex, I’m not sure it would have hooked my wife like it did. If you are new to skirmish games and interested at all in a wizard-dueling fantasy theme, this is definitely worth checking out.

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

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

Board Gaming · Review for One · Solo Gaming

Review for One – Stellar Leap

Thank you for checking review #27 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.

**Disclaimer: I was provided the print and play files to help playtest the solo version of this game. Photos used were provided by the publisher, Weird Giraffe Games, and any components and/or gameplay items contained in this review may be different when the final game is released in 2018.

This game launched on Kickstarter on 9/18/2017. You can find a link to it here and at the bottom of this review: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/weirdgiraffegames/stellar-leap?ref=preview&token=56424aeb&utm_campaign=720b0da637-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_09_09&utm_content=KickstarterPage&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Weird+Giraffe+Games+Newsletter&utm_term=0_398cfe025e-720b0da637-133444817

There was no compensation provided in exchange for the playtesting or for the honest review.

An Overview of Stellar Leap

Solo1

Stellar Leap is a game designed by Carla Kopp and is published by Weird Giraffe Games. The box states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 40-80 minute play time.

Explore the galaxy in Stellar Leap! Take on the role of an alien species as you discover new planets and complete missions in this family-friendly space exploration game. Become the most prestigious alien species in the galaxy by completing missions, discovering new planets, increasing population, and fulfilling your hidden trait’s objective.

Objective
Be the player with the most prestige at the end of the game.
During your turn perform two High Command actions such as increasing your population, taxing for more resources, discovering a planet, or attacking your opponents. You also have the following Division Actions at your disposal that can be activated once per turn: Labor, Intelligence, and Mining.

These Actions may be taken in any order you choose.
Variable Player Powers mean that you can manipulate the planets that generate resources each turn in different ways than your opponent can, which leads to different strategies for each power. Are you going to team up with your opponents so that everyone gets resources on your turn or will you attack them and cause them to scatter to other parts of the galaxy?

Game altering events are triggered by player actions and can have minor or lasting effects, usually being better for the player that triggered the event.

Game End
The game ends after the sixth event and the round is completed.
The player with the most total prestige is declared the winner!

Setup and gameplay for 1 Player

Solo3

(For more on the setup and gameplay for 2+ players, check out Eric’s excellent preview: https://whatsericplaying.com/2017/09/11/stellar-leap/)

All of the setup for the solo game is the same as you’d do for a 2-player game, except you add in a player board and instructions for one or more AI opponents. You’ll get to place your home world first, which can go under the numbers 1-6, and then the AI will take the first open spot to the right. So it will select 6, unless you took that number in which case it selects the 5.

Like the standard game, Stellar Leap in played over the course of a series of rounds until six events have been triggered and resolved. Both you and the AI will complete an equal number of turns and then it will move into the final scoring.

Gameplay is simple. For your own turns, the game proceeds with no changes from the standard game. You will take two High Command actions, as well as up to three division actions. You may also complete the Move action any number of times, provided you have the necessary resources. After your turn ends, the play shifts to the AI and here’s where I’ll go into a little more detail:

At the start of the AI’s turn, you roll the dice for resource generation. Since there is no die manipulation on their turn, the roll is what it is. You also reduce the highest-valued Asteroid by 1, and then you move on to the AI’s actions for the turn. Each of the three AI that I playtested followed a similar formula: complete X number of actions, following an order of importance. You simply go down the list and take the first action whose requirements are met, then mark its action space to show it was taken. Repeat the process until you’ve completed all of the AI’s actions. Each AI had its own unique objectives they focused on: one was trying to generate and spread its population, one tried to be an aggressor and attack every chance it could, and the last one tried to end the game as quickly as possible.

Playing the AI’s turn is easy and becomes intuitive. At the end of the game each AI will score bonuses based on their player board (for population, discoveries, and attacks) as well as their own special scoring conditions. After your score and the AI’s scores are tallied, the higher score wins.

My Thoughts

One of the most important things about a solo game is to consider how much work you are required to do during the AI’s turn. This game nails that aspect, providing a simple and easy-to-complete list of possibilities to happen during the AI’s turn. While this does allow you to know and plan around the AI during your turns, it also makes it so you aren’t dedicating a lot of time and thought to how the AI will act. This will allow you to enjoy the experience of playing your turns while providing the challenge of figuring out how to outmaneuver what the opponent will do next.

There is resource generation via die rolls, much like Catan, but the system here is considerably better. It is typically a system I dislike because it leaves you feeling like too much is left to chance. A few things contribute to this being a good system: Planets generate resources for the columns based on the individual numbers rolled AND the sum which means that low and high rolls are great for the 5-6 slots, there is a community die power that can be used by everyone to manipulate the dice on their roll, and each player has a unique die power to further manipulate the dice on their turn. Not only that, but one of your High Command actions is to gain 2 resources of your choice, meaning you can always use that to get what you really need.

The missions require a decent number of resources, but always pay back a smaller number of resources in addition to VP. This is helpful because it means you aren’t losing all of those hard-earned resources, but rather converting some of them into a different resource. This can help open the path for selecting one mission in order to get the resources needed to complete another mission on your next turn. Another nice thing with the missions is they ramp up nicely in point value without feeling like they give too many points. Some may feel overcosted in Tier 3, but they should be hard to purchase.

This game feels like a light 4X game, which is a very desirable trait. Those are among my favorite types of games, and to have another nice, quick, soloable 4X game option is a great benefit. If you like 4X games, or want to explore your first title in that category, this one would serve as a nice entry point or an excellent addition. Outside of dungeon crawlers, there aren’t enough soloable 4X games out there.

I really enjoy the action selection choices. You can choose two High Command actions, which allow you to grow population, gain resources of your choice, attack, and discover new planets. You can even use the same one twice. You also can use any or all of the three Divisions on your turn, allowing you to complete a mission, mine an asteroid, and exhaust a population for resources. So you get up to five actions, although three of them cannot be repeated. All of this provides valuable decisions while preventing someone from being able to overuse certain actions. Careful planning, and a willingness to adapt, are important.

PB

Speaking of action selection, the player boards are fantastic and I have no doubt the final cards for the AI will be equally great. You can see and track everything you need to know right in front of you. Some might call it fiddly, and I could see that, but overall this is a great addition for this game.

The events are fun and have a nice mix of benefits and bad things. They can elevate you for a late push, or they can set you back. Since the AI doesn’t use resources, sometimes the event drawn will only affect you. This is arguably the biggest element of randomness in the game, but it is also fun seeing what will come about as a result.

The names on some of the mission cards make me smile. I always think of Wash from Firefly when I see the Leaf on the Wind card, and that is a good thing. It doesn’t affect the gameplay, but it makes the geek in me happy.

Leaf

There were certain traits that, if you used them against the right AI, felt extremely overpowered. In particular, there was one which scored 5 VP for every mission you completed. That made the cheap missions, worth 2 VP, more worthwhile and the Tier 3 missions ultimately worth 10-11 VP rather than the 5-6. Almost every turn I was able to complete a mission during each solo play which meant I was scoring at least 7 points every turn from the start. The obvious decision, after learning which trait is powerful against which AI, would be to choose the other trait when this one is dealt to you (since you get 2 and choose 1 at the beginning of the game).

One of my biggest issues is that the game against the AI can drag on for too long. There is no incentive to take more than a single Tier 1 mission, and once the Tier 3 get out there is no incentive to finish out the Tier 2 missions. The planet decks have yet to deplete, and sometimes asteroids are few and far between. Which means many games see events triggered by just population growth and the completion of solar systems. By that point, my own engine is built so well that I can take a Tier 3 mission every turn, allowing me to outpace the AI. The Game Ender AI fixed that issue, and is the one I enjoyed playing against the most. Without using this one, it can feel like you get too much time to make sure you’ve secured a victory.

Solo4

Attacking in a solo game has minimal value. Unless you want it for the points, or just have an overabundance of fuel and oxygen, the cost to attack is never worthwhile. Some of the AI get to spread back out onto planets without using one of their actions, completely rendering your attack useless apart from the minimal VP gain. This is still a fun and enjoyable solo experience without the use of attacking, but I’d like to see it become a viable tool in solo play. Right now, attacking would set the player back more than it does the AI. There is more benefit to using those High Commands to explore or grow your population. Adding in more AI will increase that action’s value, but a standard solo game with one AI will rarely see a good time to attack.

Final Verdict

As a solo game, this is a fantastic experience. It can be set up, played, and torn down in under an hour for sure and usually closer to 30-40 minutes. It offers some meaningful decisions, and it has several difficulties to adjust your preferences. Had it been just the three AI challenges themselves, it might have been a pass on getting this as a game only to be played solo. But the ability to play against more than one in a single session makes this into a really challenging puzzle that is definitely worth the price tag. Even moreso if you plan to play it with other player counts.

There are some traits that are clearly more powerful against certain AI than others, but I have no knowledge if they end up being better-balanced with more players. But because you get dealt two of them, you can choose the less-powerful option in order to increase your challenge. That allows you to adjust the difficulty even within the game itself.

My respect for Carla is really high, given that she specifically sought out blind testers for the solo play and responded really well to feedback along the way. Some of the tweaks made certainly helped to benefit the solo experience, taking it from fun yet unremarkable and turning it into an excellent game experience. It reminds me, in a good way, of Race for the Galaxy and that solo gameplay which hooked me onto solo gaming. While the easier AI in Steller Leap isn’t quite as brutal as RftG’s Easy Robot, the ability to add extra challenge while operating the same basic system makes this a game anyone could try solo. There are no complex rules or changes, no lengthy system of charts or puzzles to solve when taking the AI’s turn. You know what it can do and the order it is likely to do those things in. That makes it so you can plan your own turns accordingly, feeling at the end of the day like your victory or defeat was due to your own skill at playing rather than the unfortunate swings of chance.

I very much recommend this one as a solo game, and have full confidence that it will be just as fun at higher player counts. Be sure to check it out on Kickstarter, starting on 9/18/2017.

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign. I’d be more than willing to answer any questions you might have before you decide to back, based upon my experience with the game: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/weirdgiraffegames/stellar-leap?ref=preview&token=56424aeb&utm_campaign=720b0da637-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_09_09&utm_content=KickstarterPage&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Weird+Giraffe+Games+Newsletter&utm_term=0_398cfe025e-720b0da637-133444817

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

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Caverna: Cave vs Cave

Thank you for checking review #26 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.

**Disclaimer: We received a copy of this game from Mayfair Games in exchange for an honest review. All opinions below are my own and were not purchased nor influenced by receiving a copy of this game.

An Overview of Caverna: Cave vs Cave

Caverna: Cave vs Cave is a game designed by Uwe Rosenberg and is published by Mayfair Games. The box states that it can play 1-2 players and has a 20-40 minute play time.

In the two-player game Caverna: Cave vs. Cave, each player starts the game with only two dwarves and a small excavation in the side of a mountain. Over the course of eight rounds, they’ll double their workforce, open up new living space in the mountain, construct new buildings and rooms in which to live, and dig for precious metals.

In more detail, each player starts the game with an individual player board that’s covered with a random assortment of face-down building/room tiles and only one space. Some tiles are face up and available for purchase at the start of play. Four action tiles lie face up as well. At the start of each of the eight rounds, one new action tile is revealed, then players alternate taking actions, with the number of actions increasing from two up to four over the course of the game. As players excavate their mountainous player board, new building and room tiles are added to the pool; some rooms can be used immediately when acquired, whereas others require the use of an action tile.

After eight rounds, players tally their points for buildings constructed and gold collected to see who wins.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

Each player gains their player board and six resource tokens, placing them all on the 1 space on their shelf. Mix the dark-backed rooms (they show a pickaxe) and give each player nine of these which are placed face-down on the player board on every space except the starting space and the one with a no pickaxe sign. The six rooms with a light gray back are placed face-up to form a common purchasing pool. Sort the remaining tiles by number (the four with a dwarf on the back form the first four available actions) and mix them up, placing them with the three 2s, then the four 3s, and finally the 4, all face down on the action board.

Players will take turns selecting an action to activate, making it unavailable for use for the remainder of the turn. During the first three turns each player will get two actions, the next four turns each player takes three actions, and in the final round each player takes four actions. At the end of a round, all of the used action tiles are replaced face-up on the row and the first player marker passes to the next player.

In essence, the game is about clearing space in your cave, gaining resources, and then using those resources to furnish your cave with rooms. The unique mechanic is that each room not only has a cost, but it has a required layout of walls that have to be around the room in order for it to be built.

With two players, this game sets up, plays, and tears down rather quickly. In later rounds the turns tend to slow a little as players are calculating their options and the sequence of selections needed to get there, but overall this game moves at a fast pace. The alternating of actions helps to keep any downtime to a minimum.

My Thoughts

This game manages to take a few of the aspects of Caverna: The Cave Farmers and implements them well in a shorter, more streamlined game. This is the type of game for those who dread the time it takes to setup, play, and teardown the traditional Caverna, or who might want to play Caverna but lack the time to do so. This is not an equivalent game – you don’t get the same experience but in a condensed time span – but it does hit on some of those mechanics to provide a comparable version that can be played in a shorter timeframe.

The wall requirements for building a room is a neat addition that, most of the time, works really well. I really enjoy most aspects of it (see further below for some on the negative) because it forces you to think and plan ahead on where to build things, etc. The orientation of the tile itself isn’t important, which is a good thing, so if it fits turned sideways than it works. This part makes some of those stronger, and higher valued, rooms a little harder to obtain. Which is a good thing.

I really enjoy how things ramp up throughout the game. Early on, it costs 2 food to build a room. However, as the game progresses that cost also increases to 3, and then to 4 in the final round. The rooms you’re building in those first turns are likely the weaker, low-point rooms that provide the foundation to generate a resource engine. Which is vital to get in place, as you’ll need more and more resources as the game progresses. It works well, and forces you to keep the generation of food in mind as an essential aspect.

I really like the blue rooms. It wasn’t until the last game we played that I experimented with them, and I found they really helped out my engine. There have been plenty of games where they come out too late to matter (more on that later!), but if they come early they are essential. Unlike the orange rooms, these are active at all times and provide a bonus that ties to the gaining of a certain resource or the completion of a certain action. They tend to be low in cost and low in points, requiring few walls as well, so they are easy to get out. But gaining that free resource can be the difference between an efficient turn later or having to spend extra time getting the resources you need to make those plays.

You can generate six different resource types throughout the game. Some are easy to come by. Some are difficult to gain. All of them are important in some fashion, spendable via rooms or actions to make something better. An efficient engine has a good way to produce at least 1-2 of those resources in addition to food (needed to build rooms) and gold (pure VP). Yet, at the end, only one of those is worth points if you have any left over. At first I wasn’t a fan of this, but it has grown on me. You need to have ways to generate those other resources otherwise you’ll end up way behind. Yet focus too much on those and you’ll miss the chance to gain the only thing that matters at the end (apart from the rooms you’ve built). This is a fun and interesting approach that I have come to enjoy.

There is a bonus “room” space you can gain if you are the first to fill your player board. I am yet to do so, but I’ve come close! It gives me something lofty to shoot for. And I like having a goal like that to angle for, at least once.

I love excavating the cave. But I hate that you don’t know what rooms will come available and when they come available. If you, or your opponent, don’t excavate often early in the game, it can lead to a cluttering of subpar or expensive rooms in the pool. Which means it can be harder to get that optimal engine going in your own cave. The not knowing what will be out there is important, but at the same time it is really frustrating to not see those rooms you need or to see all those blue rooms finally flipping in the final rounds when they won’t add much value.

It is a challenge to build a great engine with your rooms when almost every action selection allowing you to use your rooms’ actions provide a single action. There is a single action that lets you use 2 rooms, and one that lets you use 3, but almost everything else gives a 1. This slows your production down from what it could be, especially when you get 2-4 rooms that synergize with each other. I never feel like I was able to accomplish everything I could have, but I also never end up feeling like it was a barrier I couldn’t overcome. It just ends up taking a little longer to do some things than I’d like, and makes it so you almost need to take that 2 or 3-action tile when it is available at the start of each turn.

I understand that building walls should be something that is hard to come by; however, since there are many rooms that require one or more walls added to the cave, it surprises me that there is only one action which adds a wall. At least, until the final round of the game. Depending on when the action comes in the tier-two actions, you get anywhere from 6-8 chances to build a wall. Assuming your opponent takes that action half of the rounds, that means you’re looking to get at most 3-4 walls to add in your cave. Few things are worse than seeing a room flip in the final rounds that you need to add 1-2 walls in order to build.

I hate the final round’s action. Seriously, I rage inside every time it flips up. Why? Because only the player with the MOST gold gets to use that action. You’re in the lead on gold, so here: add a wall and a free room. Wait, what? Shouldn’t that be the person who is BEHIND on gold gets to use that room? Nope, better luck next time. Don’t let yourself get behind in the gold race. Don’t spend that hard-earned gold to build a room worth extra points. Sit and horde it like a dragon, because then you can block your opponent from using the best action in the game. Finally, in my very last game played of this, I was able to use that action. It felt great, but it also felt wrong. Because, as you’d expect, I was clearly winning at that point and this action secured that victory. The player who uses this action wins the game more often than they will lose, and it is no wonder why.

Final Verdict

Overall I enjoy this game. It has been months since we played Caverna: The Cave Farmers and this game has me itching to get that back to the table. My wife claimed we no longer need the big game, but I think I may end up disagreeing with that decision. This game is small and fast, but it is missing some of the key elements from the larger game that I enjoyed. I can see there being plenty of want to have them both in a collection, just like Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small doesn’t replace Agricola or Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game doesn’t replace Castles of Burgundy. The experiences between them, while sharing similarities, are different enough to merit having them both. Unless you really just like building rooms to furnish a cave and nothing else about Caverna.

This game also falls into an awkward spot compared to some of the other 2-player only games we’ve picked up and played this year. It is different enough that I can see keeping Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft, 7 Wonders Duel, and Patchwork (among many others) in our collection. They are all excellent games with 2 players that can be set up, played, and torn down in under an hour. It doesn’t set itself apart as being better, nor worse, than any of those mentioned games because they all provide different experiences. I’m finding that some of the best 2-player experiences are coming from games that play just two players, probably because those have been playtested extensively at that player count.

Having not tried it solo, I cannot speak to how that aspect stacks up but I have a feeling it will be much like any Rosenburg solo game: try and top your high score from the last game. With the removal of one action, you get fewer turns to accomplish that feat which would help the scores range similar to what you might get in a 2-player game.

I wouldn’t proclaim this a must-buy for everyone who wants a 2-player game, but neither would I say this game is one to pass on. This is a great game and a ton of fun. If you enjoy Uwe’s games, or Caverna itself, then this is likely a must-buy for you. If you want a game that is light on take-that effects to play with one other person, this game would fit that requirement well. If you enjoy building things and finding combos to set up a small engine, this game will scratch that itch. It won’t be perfect for everyone, but it is a solid game that few gamers would regret adding to their collection.

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

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Mystic Vale

Thank you for checking review #25 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 Mystic Vale

Mystic Vale is a game designed by John D. Clair and is published by Alderac Entertainment Group. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 45 minute play time.

A curse has been placed on the Valley of Life. Hearing the spirits of nature cry out for aid, clans of druids have arrived, determined to use their blessings to heal the land and rescue the spirits. It will require courage and also caution, as the curse can overwhelm the careless who wield too much power.

In Mystic Vale, 2 to 4 players take on the role of druidic clans trying to cleanse the curse upon the land. Each turn, you play cards into your field to gain powerful advancements and useful vale cards. Use your power wisely, or decay will end your turn prematurely. Score the most victory points to win the game!

Mystic Vale uses the innovative “Card Crafting System”, which lets you not only build your deck, but build the individual cards in your deck, customizing each card’s abilities to exactly the strategy you want to follow.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The setup on this game has only two changes when playing with two players: the Level 1 advancement cards deck has only 12 random cards, and the VP token pool has 23 VP in it. The implications of these changes are so that the Level 1 cards are gone faster, encouraging the purchase and use of more powerful card inserts (when the Level 1 deck is empty, those slots will fill in with Level 2 cards), and so that the game will end quicker. There are more VP tokens per player out there, but a smaller pool overall does mean that the game can and sometime will end quicker than in a game with more players.

Gameplay itself is fast and furious, especially since you are supposed to prep your field each turn while your opponent is playing. With 2 players, it isn’t uncommon for the other player to finish their turn while you are prepping your field. We actually find it is beneficial to do this part during your own turn so you can actually see what your opponent purchases, etc. since it still goes really fast with two players. All you are waiting on is whether they’ll push or not, and for them to purchase up to two advancement cards and up to two Vale cards during their turn. What they purchase has no direct impact on you, but it can inform future purchasing decisions if you know they have X advancement and so this one for purchase now would make that card even better.

My Thoughts

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way: the card crafting system. I love this aspect of the game so much! It is so much fun trying to plan ahead for a card, picking it up knowing that cards X or Y would go great in there, but also having to adapt to what may or may not be present in the Commons area over the course of the game when that card is in your field. You can’t always pull off those ideal pairings, but when you do it provides a great feeling. I also like that you can’t overwrite a slot if it has something there, meaning those Cursed Lands and Fertile Soils from the beginning will still be a present factor.

Not only is it fun to add those clear advancements into your sleeved cards, but it gives this deckbuilding game something that I haven’t seen elsewhere: a deckbuilder where the deck doesn’t grow! You both start with that same crappy 20-card deck, but by the end you have unique 20-card decks that are (hopefully) filled with one or two combinations that you hope to pull off. That static deck size is what appeals most to my wife with this game, and is something I really appreciate as well.

The smaller Level 1 advancement deck, based on player count, is a great idea because it encourages the purchasing of more powerful and expensive additions. It also means you cannot count on a certain card, or at least its arrangement, to appear over the course of a game. There are certainly some nice Level 1 advancements in there which I usually try to grab if they appear, but I wouldn’t want to dwell there for the entire game. They are there to get your decks started, but not to endlessly add to them.

The press-your-luck element in this game is something that elevates it from great to outstanding. Choosing when to flip one more card can be the difference between winning and losing, and knowing when you can push is equally important. Since you know how many Cursed Lands are in your deck, there are opportunities for safer risks. Yet that greed can also cost you dearly if you spoil, making the entire field get discarded. As a consolation, you get to refresh your mana token (if it has been used) and there are times when I’ll push just to get that back for a future turn.

I love the Vale cards. When I was being taught the game, I was told that no one won by getting those. So I ignored them my first few plays. And then I discovered their power – not only for the abilities on some of the cards but also for the pure VP at the end of the game. It isn’t an essential thing to focus on, but if one player is going for these cards then you almost certainly need to do the same. Otherwise they might just outpace you, being able to buy up to four things (two of these plus two advancements) on a really good turn. Don’t undervalue them!

The advancements themselves feel really well-balanced. I don’t know that I can think of many cards that seem over or under-costed, and many cards that are just “okay” on their own become great given the right combination. Some of the most powerful cards in the game add decay symbols, while those with growth symbols are usually unimpressive with what else they have to offer. Letting you get more cards played into your field is a strong enough power, after all!

There is only one endgame trigger: the VP pool is emptied. Each player gets the same number of turns and you pull out any additional tokens needed for further gains, which makes it all even. But if no one is buying the advancements that give VP tokens, or if none come out early? This game can run long in that scenario. It also enables one person to end the game fast if they get a very early Level 3 advancement, giving 4 or so tokens each time it comes out. I enjoy the longer games than those which end when everyone else’s deck just seems to get started. I don’t know what other trigger could be used, but this one can be a downside in some plays.

Mana and spirit symbols can be tough to track over the course of your turn. I’ve had to recount my field several times on turns to make sure I remember what I had. Especially with the symbols. I actually got some tokens for these at a promo event a few weeks ago and I don’t know that I’d ever want to go back to playing without them. They help make tracking what you gain, and what you’ve spent, so that there is a lower risk for errors while buying those cards. This doesn’t detract from the game itself, but be prepared to triple-check sometimes to make sure you’re actually spending what you have available in your pool.

There isn’t really a way I can think of to fix this, but you can usually see what card is next to flip up in each stack. The pictures are visible enough even through the back of the cards, making it so you can plan ahead using information that should have been hidden. Especially since images are in one of three places, allowing you to be able to see three of the upcoming cards if you really wanted to. That is just a challenge of the clear cards, and could really only be fixed if they printed something on the back of those images.

Final Verdict

This game has been the biggest surprise hit of 2017 for us. I was reasonably certain that I would enjoy the game because I am a big fan of deckbuilding games, so it isn’t a shock that I dig this game. But my wife is not a fan of deckbuilding games in general, although she can enjoy the occasional play of a deckbuilder and will usually get better at them over the course of repeated plays. Getting her to try the game was a struggle, but once she did I knew we had found a good thing. She not only wanted to play again immediately, but also wanted to borrow the game and play it several times daily during the short span that we had a copy here. That has never happened with another deckbuilding game.

This game has so much variety in it because you are crafting the cards as you play. The advancements you purchase must go onto the cards in your field, so there is no guarantee it will ever be able to connect onto the card you really need it on in your deck. That innovative system, along with the static deck size of 20 cards, makes this a standout in the field of deckbuilders. There is no thinning of your deck, but neither is there a risk of having a bloated deck. The thinning and/or bloating comes from the symbols on your advancements, either adding in more decay symbols so you can player fewer (but often stronger) cards or from adding in growth symbols so that you can offset those decay cards.

I’ve won games with few Level 3 advancements. I’ve won games without buying Vale cards. I’ve won games while gaining only a few of the VP tokens. There are several strategies that can be pursued in this game, which makes it a great one for replay. This game is fast and fun, and is the game I plan to pull out any time we have another couple come over for dinner and a game. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see this appear on one, or both, of our Top 10 lists at the end of this year. If you are looking for a deckbuilder, or a game with unique takes on familiar mechanics, then Mystic Vale is definitely one to consider.

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 · On the Table

August 2017 Gaming Recap

Over on BGG I provide a more detailed list of what games we play each month, who won/lost those games, and a full list of the games played in 2017 under three categories:

Games Played as a Couple

Games Played Solo

Games Played in a Group

For this blog, I want to approach my monthly recap posts a little different, and I will link to the BGG post at the bottom in case you want to see the more detailed list of data. I’ll still give the overall records, but my focus here will be to select a game that fits under each of several categories.

2-Player Gaming:

August Couples’ Record:
David – 12/22, 54.54%
Nicole – 10/22, 45.45%
9 Unique Games

2017 Couples Record:
David – 93/191 (48.69%)
Nicole – 100/191 (52.36%)
57 Unique Games (+3)

Most Played 2-Player Game: Hanamikoji – There was a tie between two games, each having six plays. That is over half of our games played as a couple this month. We made up for it with a boatload of group games, whether me playing with others or from having game nights with friends. My copy of this FINALLY came in last week, and we’ve pulled this out on those nights when we don’t have much time for anything longer. It is nice, quick, yet thinky. And I love it!
Favorite 2-Player Experience – Mystic Vale – We borrowed this from a friend for a few days and played it six times. I was torn between playing in a Destiny tournament or playing in a play-and-pay-for-promos event of Mystic Vale (I ended up being able to do both!) This game has hooked us both, and I’ve got promos on my shelf with no base game to put them with yet. But that won’t be the case forever. This may end up a well-worn game after we get a copy.
Best New-to-Us 2-Player Experience: Incantris – For the sake of variety, I won’t repeat Mystic Vale here but focus instead on the other big hit. My wife enjoyed this enough to bring it to a game night and teach it twice while I played a much bigger and longer game. And she’s really good at it. I love that there is a little campaign of matches you can play. Not surprisingly, she has won the first two of the four and now I need to win out to claim the victory…
Most Surprising 2-Player Experience: Mystic Vale and Incantris (tied)– Not surprising to me, but rather surprising at how much my wife enjoyed both of these games. Mystic Vale is a deckbuilding game, which is a category I love way more than she does. She resisted trying it because it was a deckbuilder, and ended up hooked. Incantris was a game that I hoped she’d enjoy, but it used dice. She had no interest in trying Warhammer because of dice, and I’ve been dragging my feet on trying Frostgrave with her because it was a skirmish game with dice. She’s enjoyed Incantris, which gives me hope for the future of skirmish games with her!
Next Unplayed 2-Player Game to be Played: Unearth – We played this the other night with a friend and had fun with it. We need to review the game, so it only makes sense to cycle this one onto the table next so we can see how it plays with just the two of us. Our friend wished they used something other than dice, and my wife really dislikes dice games, but I think there is enough here that we’ll end up enjoying the game.

Solo Gaming:

August Solo Record: 6/11, 54.55%
5 Unique Games

2017 Solo Record: 31/63 (49.21%)
24 Unique Games (+4)

Most Played Solo Game: Stellar Leap – This game is going on Kickstarter in September and won’t ship until 2018. but this is one you should keep an eye out for. The solo play is going to be solid, and the designer has been very receptive to some feedback regarding the solo play. It not only enhanced the game, but she also added a third difficulty to enhance the game. This will be a game that is great both with a group and to play solo.
Favorite Solo Experience:  – Albion’s Legacy – There is just something about this game that I always enjoy when it hits the table. It runs far longer than you’d expect, it is fiddly, and the quests are all three essentially exploring until you find these X tiles and do something there. But man, I love love love this game. Part of it is the Arthurian fan in me. Part of it is because this game delivers a super-challenging experience. And some day I will win one of these scenarios.
Best New-to-Me Solo Experience: Mage Knight – It was only a matter of time before I had to play the solo game that is heralded above all other solo games. And yes, this one hits everything I would love in a solo game: character progression, exploration, clear objectives to accomplish victory, and so much more. I played the intro campaign without a dummy player, but even that was enough to convince me this game will hit the table quite often in the future.
Most Surprising Solo Game: Night of Man – I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a card-driven wargame. Especially playing both sides of the combat. But it was a lot of fun, and the deck of cards made it so you never knew quite when the round might end. Sadly, the human forces did not triumph due to a few very fast rounds near the end, but it left me satisfied and ready to play again.
Next Unplayed Solo Game to be Played: Asgard’s Chosen – I got this a few months ago in a Math Trade and haven’t pulled it out to try yet. I’m still waiting for a Viking-themed game that really blows me away. This could very well be that game…at least I know it can’t be a bigger personal disappointment than Blood Rage turned out to be.

Group Gaming:

August Group Games:
25 Unique Games

2017 Group games:
70 Unique Games (+19)

Most Played Group Game: Star Wars: Destiny – Still no surprise that this game reigns at the top of this yet again. It plays fast, and I am always looking to play more games of this. Despite my flop at my first tournament in August, I’m really enjoying this and looking to build a new deck to test out!
Favorite Group Experience:
 Argent: The Consortium – I enjoyed my few plays of this earlier this year with my wife, but the Influence track as a tiebreaker made it not such a hit with my wife as a 2-player game. I got to play it with four and, wow, what a game! The players caught on fast to the mechanics, although the end game scoring is something you really need to experience before it truly clicks.
Best New-to-Me Group Experience: Terraforming Mars – I felt like I was in way over my head – we drafted cards for the game and it was my first play while the other three were very experienced players. Yet in spite of that overwhelming feeling and a terrible ending score, I was left desiring a chance to play again. This is one that I’m certain rewards repeated plays.
Most Surprising Group Game: The Fox in the Forest – I’m not a fan of trick-taking games. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t own a single one. But you try things out at game days, and they had a demo copy of this one. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this little game, which has since convinced me that there are trick-taking games that I might like to play.
Group Game I Want to Play Most: Ora et Labora – My wife is a huge Rosenberg fan, and after listening to Heavy Cardboard’s review of this game, I really really want to get a chance to try this one out!

Be sure to check out the full slate of games played over at the BGG Blog by following this link: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/68647/august-2017-game-recap