Board Gaming · Game Design

Advice to New Game Designers

I took to Twitter a few times in the past weeks to seek some advice from current game designers. After all, now that I’ve been bitten by the design bug, I want to try and avoid some of the same pitfalls that others may have encountered along the way. I wanted to soak in their wisdom, as much as possible in the character limit that Twitter restricts (although some completely ignored Twitter, such as the wonderful and prolific Tom Russell from Hollandspiele). But rather than hoard their advice for myself, I thought it would be a fun thing to pass it back to the community as a whole.

Also, at the end, I am sharing the game I’m currently working on along with the other game ideas that have come my way. The massive project in there will be a slow undertaking, which is why there are some smaller and a mid-range design in there to keep things progressing.

So here is the advice that I was given for a new designer, courtesy of these great designers:

 

From @tomandmary

Everyone’s process is different, sometimes radically so, so good advice is of necessity going to be idiosyncratic & might not apply to your “friend”. (Bad advice, like “find the fun!” abounds and you don’t need my help finding it.) That said…

I don’t tend to start serious work on a project until I have a reasonably clear picture in my head of what I want the game to be and to feel like. Then I start working on it, and I keep working on it until it looks and feels like that picture.

I design wargames, which depend on historical research. The best advice I can give about that is to avoid going into the research phase looking for mechanisms or things to jot down. Too often you end up distorting further research to fit those things…

… it’s better to let it simmer for awhile, so that when it’s time to start putting together mechanisms, you’ve already got a good grounding in the topic and can now go deeper as needed. And that being said, only go as deep as you need to at that point;

if each turn represents a year, you don’t need to track what was happening week-to-week. A big problem with first time wargame design in particular is that the designer tries to cover details that aren’t appropriate for the game’s scale.

IMHO, strong game design has a focus and a point of view, looking at its topic through a particular lens (e.g., in the case of one of my games, looking at the American Revolution thru the lens of supplies/logistics).

Two final pieces of advice, the first of which sounds goofy and useless: design the game that only you can design.

The second piece of advice is either very, very good or very, very bad, and that is not to be afraid to be weird, idiosyncratic, even off-putting. It’s very, very good in that it made me a full-time game designer. Very, very bad in that it probably doesn’t work for most others!

From @WeirdGiraffes

Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work or isn’t great to start out with. Don’t focus too much on how things look, things will most likely change a lot as you iterate. If you keep at it, your game will be great, but it could take a lot of time!

From @erik_a_sunden

Try to make a prototype as soon as possible, rather than pondering on the idea too much. It is so valuable to be able to play with the game bits and it will make the progress rate increase by so much!

From @AwithoutP

And if the game is big, playtest small chunks on their own. That way, when it breaks down, you know if it’s Chunk A, Chunk B, or the interaction between the two.

From @Level99Games

Build a roadmap to make sure you remember what the original concept, vision, and desired play experience is. It’s often easy to get lost in mechanics and forget what experience you were trying to create once you get into prototyping.

From @ReflectiveTree

Don’t worry about starting off too complex. In fact, go for it. Make it as complex as you possibly can, then whittle away at that mass of complexity until you find the sculpture in the marble.

From @SeventhSonGames

Get your idea into prototype form as quickly as possible so you can get it on the table in front of others. A LOT of time can be wasted between initial design and this step.

From @rf_seattle

There is no one process for designing a game. What works for others may not work for you. What works for one game may not work for another. Even the best advice from amazing designers will need to be ignored or flipped around at some point.

From @anarchytabletop

I am the only game designer I know who does big upfront design. All of the others tend to iterate quickly.

Designing a game is similar to writing a novel/novella for me. Most of the same ideas apply. I imagine it might also be similar to a making a painting or a sculpture. Two ideas come together in my head, and they propagate more ideas. I create space for them and feed them energy.

Then I get to work developing them.

From @Gregisonthego

Make the game you love! It may lead to / spin off into something else, it may not be marketable, it may be a sprawling mess, but something pushed you to get into design, and you gotta roll with that thing.

From @PhongOdin

Read three blogs: James Mathe’s, ‘s and they’re all chock full of great information.

From @asislavender

Write things down and save older iterations. You never know when yoy want to revisit an idea. Also bring in friends to playtest as soon as you get a prototype working. Even if it’s not for the whole game.

From @Dravvin

Prototype it a soon as you can. Ideas that are great in your head can be awful on the table!

****

And now for my design concepts. These are all in the pre-prototype phase with code names in quotations to represent initial concept titles. Hopefully at least one of them sounds interesting to you. Let me know which one(s) you’d be most interested in. Would you be interested in design updates as blog posts?

 

1. Monster Hunters – (1-4 players) A deckbuilder game with a worker placement mechanic. You are one of the hunters working to defend a town from monster attacks. Each “level”, so to speak, would have three monsters to face, each having their own small deck of cards they play from at the end of the round (think Sentinels of the Multiverse), except only one starts in play and more get added over time. There are progress markers for both players and the monsters, representing the successes of the hunters/the growing threat of the monsters. If the monster threat grows too fast, the players could be facing 2-3 monsters at once instead of the one. Players move from area to area, doing actions to improve the cards in their deck by recruiting allies, finding equipment, or gaining events (discarded cards can be placed in any order, the deck isn’t shuffled much like Aeon’s End). Players win by killing all three monsters, at which point they can thin down their deck to a preset number and advance to the next “level” (three total in the game). Monsters win if all hunters are dead, if the town is too damaged, or if the threat grows too far once the third monster appears.

2. “Out of Gas” – (1 Player) Tentative name stemming from the Firefly episode that inspired the theme. Solo sci-fi game where you are injured and regain consciousness in your ship to find that you’re locked in the back part and all life support systems here have been shut off. There is a limited supply of oxygen, you’re bleeding out, you need to find a way to regain heat before you freeze, and there are some goons you’ve got to get even with who have commandeered your ship. This will combine the excellent deckbuilding design of Friday and add several levels of resource management, movement throughout the ship, tough decisions to make, and all leading up to one big battle.

3. “The Battle of Hattin” – (1 player) A historical wargame recreating the historical Battle of Hattin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hattin). It would be fun to dive into the history of this, and challenge myself to come up with a solo wargame that can be played using either 9 or 18 cards (see the microgame contests that are held annually. I missed the official timeframe for the 9-card contest, but that shouldn’t stop me from trying this out!

4. “Viking Raiders” – (1 player) A semi-historical game representing Vikings landing on the shore and raiding into the countryside/towns. You have multi-use cards to let you move/interact as you raid in deeper onto the map. It would borrow an element from Clank in having plunder on spaces of the board to try and gain, and the further you go in the higher the value but also the greater the risk in making it back to your ship. There will be “guards” patrolling the paths whose movements are dictated through a very small deck of multi-tiered cards that increase in threat as the deck gets reshuffled and serves as the timer. I’m thinking something like an 18-card microgame here, or another candidate for a Mint Tin design as this could conceptually be done with a few cards and some cubes.

5. “Wreck-It Ralph” – (1-2 players) Not going with this as a name, but as a placeholder name for the poll. A twist on your typical dungeon crawl game – instead of being heroes fighting monsters to level up, you are monsters invading towns and fighting heroes to level up. Beyond this initial twist, I haven’t given any thought to the design or system, but it could be fun to do in a small format (mint tin design, perhaps?)

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

Review for One & Two: Fire in the Library

Thank you for checking review #47 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

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

An Overview of Fire in the Library

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

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changes for 1 Player

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Fire in the Library. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

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

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Charterstone (Spoiler-free)

Thank you for checking review #46 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

An Overview of Charterstone

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

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

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

IMG_0839

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 · 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.

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