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

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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

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

Top 10 Solo Games – 2017

I had posed a few ideas for a Top __ List to cover this month and the overwhelming majority were interested in a solo list. This is, by no means, a definitive list. I finally played Friday for the first time a few weeks ago and my only Onirim experiences have been via the app. I’ve played Mage Knight a grand total of two times, which is the same number as my Terraforming Mars solo plays and one more time than my Scythe plays. Like any list, these are pretty much capable of being in flux at any point in time.

#10 – Chrononauts – This one is going to be one of the bigger surprises on the list. Believe me, I didn’t expect to like this one as much as a solo game. Friday is threatening to knock it out of the Top 10 for me, as I really love a deckbuilder game, but at least for this year I will keep this where I originally planned to place the game. It provides a fun and challenging puzzle, given you have to align the timeline for eight different travelers in the time it takes to go through the deck once. I’ve gotten to 7 of them one time, and most times end with 5-6 getting aligned. This is a hard, fast, rewarding solo experience. I wish it was a little more Doctor Who-ish in feel, which is why I can’t wait to finally get around to the Doctor Who 2nd Edition Solo Game…

#9 – Terraforming Mars – I had my doubts about this as a solo game, but my first two plays have dispelled those doubts. This is a solid game, and one that has a ton of potential for replay. It will feel repetitive to some players because, in essence, you are trying to accomplish the same exact objective every play. The trick comes in how to maximize the usefulness of those cards you get, which is less than half the deck on both of the plays I’ve done. You could probably do a back-to-back session using the rest of the deck for the second game for an interesting and challenging experience. This will likely rise by the end of 2018 once I log more plays.

#8 – Sherwood’s Legacy – I really need to break this one back out to determine where this really sits on the list. It was a really fun game in a tower defense style. I played with the easy rules of ignoring the Wanted system and barely managed to pull it off. It is probably the easiest and least luck-dependent of the three Legacy games from Lynnvander so far, making it a perfect puzzle to play through. I’ve been really pleased with all three of those Legacy games, and this is the game for those who want to be able to plan out their turns in advance to maximize their efficiency.

#7 – Scythe – I really, really love the Automa system that has been implemented in a handful of titles. This one has a fairly steep learning curve for the movement, but I think I got it down and played it right. I squeaked out a win by a single point thanks to an extra turn I hadn’t expected to get – this one will provide a great challenge and variety thanks to the various factions in the base game. I can only imagine how that will increase with the Wind Gambit expansion coming in December. I need to make a point of getting this one back on the table soon because this was a great experience and probably a game that will move up further once I play it some more.

#6 – Yeomen: The 9 Card Agincourt Game – This is a gem of a game that every solo gamer should print out and play. It is fast, challenging, and a lot of fun. There aren’t a lot of things to print and cut, making it a fast thing to get ready for the table. The rules might be a bit of a challenge for the first play, but after a while it really starts to click. This is a fantastic solo game that can be knocked out, every time, in under 15 minutes once you get the game’s rules down. I can’t recommend this one enough – unfortunately, this is probably going to drop hard once Scythe, Terraforming Mars, and others get some more plays at the table.

#5 – Mage Knight Board Game – This is the solo game to end all solo games, or so I have heard. And with two plays logged, I can see the great appeal here. The biggest detractor to this game is the time it takes to setup, play, and tear down the game. There is one other game on this list that comes close to the time, and it has a little easier ruleset and a more appealing overall theme for me. I really love the progression of the character, though, making this my one and only “dungeon crawl” style of game on the list. The former RPG-lover in me craves that kind of experience at times and this one certainly delivers.

#4 – Viticulture: Essential Edition – If you read my review of this one solo, this placement won’t come as any surprise. Actually, it might be a little undervalued. This one was one of two games to really catch me off-guard this year in terms of how much I enjoyed the solo experience (with the other being Chrononauts). Worker placement is really my wife’s mechanic, although I do enjoy playing them. So when this one hooked me completely for play after play, I had to pay attention. Easily the best game to pick up if you want a game that plays well for 1-6 players, and I’ve heard the expansion makes the game experience even better.

#3 – Race for the Galaxy – I think nostalgia for my early years of playing this game solo has it holding on to a higher spot than it deserves; however, it could equally be argued to hold this spot because it is always a fun and challenging experience. This was the game that led me down the path of solo gaming, eventually leading to my decision to get rid of my video gaming systems. In the past year or so since that decision, I’ve found so many great games. Yet I always know that I can grab this one, set it up, and that dreaded robot will force me to fight for every point needed to defeat it. On easy…

#2 – Albion’s Legacy – I will admit that the theme of the game appeals to me far more than it might for others, boosting this game up at least a few slots higher than it might deserve on merit alone. Yet at its core this is still a solid exploration/questing game that provides crushingly difficult challenges every step of the way. It takes some time to set up, but nothing quite as extreme as Mage Knight. This one has a play time of around two or three hours to run through a quest, even though it has a time limit of ten rounds. There is so much Arthurian lore interwoven through this game that it makes me giddy inside every time I play it. Only one theme could excite me more, which leads me to…

#1 – Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Boom! That is the sound of this list exploding in the past month. I had owned and played this game in the summer of 2016 and eventually parted with it rather than purchase expansion content for it. After all, the Core Set can only be played so many times before it grows stale and begs to be expanded. I reclaimed the game and, since I got it back, I have logged 18 solo plays, taught a friend who then purchased a core set, starting writing a strategy series about the core set, built and rebuilt half a dozen decks, signed up for the 2017 Fellowship Event in December, and agreed to quest regularly in the game with the friend who I taught the game to. I’ve played it five times this weekend and I’m itching to reset and play a sixth time. And I still haven’t expanded the game beyond the core…something that will be changing in the next few days. If I had found the Black Riders deluxe expansion local (or online) then I would have already picked that up because this game is consuming my solo play time in a good way. It is only fitting, after all, that my favorite solo game is a Lord of the Rings themed game. My favorite 2-player game (and by extension overall favorite) is a Lord of the Rings game as well, and I don’t see either of them losing their thrones any time soon. Yes, the Core Set alone has its limits and its flaws. But if there is one game I will gladly dive into for the long haul, it is this one.

A Few Speculations on Games that Could Appear Here in 2018

Arkham Horror: The Card Game would be a very likely candidate to make this list if I picked it up. I imagine it would have the same note as the Lord of the Rings game, in that it needs to be expanded to keep it fresh and interesting. The game takes a different approach than Lord of the Rings while keeping some familiar mechanics and does some great things. It is probably, mechanically, a better game. But theme is king when comparing the two and I just love Lord of the Rings a ton more than the Lovecraftian mythos. But this would very likely be a top five, if not top three game if I picked it up for solo play.

Nations is a game that caught my attention when I played it with two others, and I’ve heard it has a really solid solo play. There are times when you just want to sit down and do some civilization building, and this would be one that I could see contending if I picked it up. The problem is that price tag is too high for the game. If it came with the game and the expansion for $100, I might be convinced.

Lisboa is a game I really loved my first play of. I know nothing about its solo version of the game, but I am nevertheless excited to test it out if/when the game enters my collection. It is a game I was excited about picking up eventually, and knowing that others are enjoying the solo play makes me have high hopes for this one.

Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain is a game I have been super-excited for. Being a COIN game, it has a solid system behind it. I haven’t tried a COIN game yet. Not many of them interest me with their theme. However, I have decided that will not prevent me from wanting to pick this up to play alone and with others. Will running three factions via their flowcharts make the experience clunky, or will it provide the fascinating and challenging gameplay that I am hoping for? I hope to find out in 2018, which is when I will realistically be looking to finally snag a copy of this one before it goes out of print.

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Codenames: Duet

Thank you for checking review #35 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

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

An Overview of Codenames: Duet

Codenames: Duet is a game designed by Vlaada Chvatil and is published by Czech Games Edition. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 15-30 minute play time.

Codenames Duet keeps the basic elements of Codenames — give one-word clues to try to get someone to identify your agents among those on the table — but now you’re working together as a team to find all of your agents. (Why you don’t already know who your agents are is a question that Congressional investigators will get on your back about later!)

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

From the game’s description:

To set up play, lay out 25 word cards in a 5×5 grid. Place a key card in the holder so that each player sees one side of the card. Each player sees a 5×5 grid on the card, with nine of the squares colored green (representing your agents) and three squares colored black (representing assassins). Three of the nine squares on each side are also green on the other side, one assassin is black on both sides, one is green on the other side and the other is an innocent bystander on the other side.

Collectively, you need to reveal all fifteen agents — without revealing an assassin — before time runs out in order to win the game. Either player can decide to give the first one-word clue to the other player, along with a number. Whoever receives the clue places a finger on a card to identify that agent. If correct, they can attempt to identify another one. If they identify a bystander, then their guessing time ends. If they identify an assassin, you both lose! Unlike regular Codenames, they can keep guessing as long as they keep identifying an agent each time; this is useful for going back to previous clues and finding ones they missed earlier. After the first clue is given, players alternate giving clues.

My Thoughts

Let’s dive right in, shall we? This game, in spite of its cooperative reshaping, remains the game that so many people have come to love and enjoy. At its root, this is still a version of Codenames. However, its most brilliant twist comes in the key card. What you see as an assassin on your side might be the clue I need you to guess on my side. That throws people off so hard when they are trying to guess a clue, and I love seeing that happen. It is a struggle to wrap your brain around the idea of picking a word that you are convinced will make you lose. Bravo for this change.

The components are all of the same quality you found in the other Codenames games. The cards are nice and durable, the tokens are a good cardboard, and everything is built to be played often. The box is a little oversized compared to what it needs to be, but this could probably hold another version or two of Codenames in one box for those who like to condense and save shelf space.

The length of this game is a good one – perfect to get in several plays on a night after work or even to get a round or two in during a lunch hour. Add in the fact that you really only need a handful of the components to play a few rounds and that can make this both portable and playable in those windows of opportunity that arise for gamers. Being a cooperative game designed for 2 players, it also tends to be less loud than a full game of Codenames, making it something you could even play at a restaurant while waiting on your meal.

The time tracker is an interesting, and challenging, mechanic. I definitely think it is necessary in a cooperative game – otherwise you’re just playing until you win or hit an assassin every time. The campaign (below) throws in a few wrenches, making it so only X number of turns can end in a wrong guess before you “lose”. It also forces you to get creative with your clues, because there are not enough turns to give all 1-word clues and win. This can lead to some frustrating situations where you need to give a 2-3 word clue but nothing pairs together by any stretch of the imagination.

When you hear the word “campaign”, you might start to get some impressive and grand ideas about what that will provide. Prior to the game’s release, I heard about them developing a campaign mode and it raised my excitement for this game. And what they have is certainly a functional campaign, complete with a map and locations to try and win under varying conditions. Some places are easy, others would be incredibly difficult. It isn’t what I was expecting, as all it does is mix up the number of tokens you use to track time and how many of those can be spent on wrong guesses and still have you win. But you, like me, might find it to be less-than-interesting.

Part of the fun of Codenames is playing with a large group of people and working with a diverse set of viewpoints and interpretations. This can lead to some wild clues, crazy reasoning for guesses, and many other memorable moments. This can be played with more than two, being possible to play on teams, but the core concept of a 2-player Codenames has the possibility of losing some of those moments that made Codenames so great as a party game. For instance, if you sit down to play this with your spouse then you are playing with someone you know fairly well. You can give clues that no one but they would understand. You can read body language that nobody else could interpret as they agonize over a clue to give or a word to guess. Dropping the player count removes so many of those great dynamics that it simply doesn’t always feel like Codenames. Much like Super Mario Bros. 2 was the odd game out of the NES Mario games because of its unique approach, this one could be that Codenames game that just never becomes a huge hit for you because it presents completely different dynamics. It won’t feel that way for everyone, but it runs that risk. There are great things to be said for exploring new options and player counts for a game like this rather than sticking to just a bunch of rethemes like Disney and Marvel. Some people will really, really love this one. Some people might really dislike it. Most will probably fall somewhere in the middle there. Which leads me to…

Final Verdict

This one is ultimately not a game that fit well for us. I enjoyed my few plays of Codenames well enough, but I am far from being a person who plays and enjoys party games. In fact, I haven’t been back to a certain FLGS game day event ever since I was roped into playing a whole bunch of party games because it was the opposite of what I was looking for in a game day. But Codenames was the exception to that rule, and I was really interested in how a 2-player only version would work. The concept of a campaign really interested me.

My wife tends to like some of the lighter games on occasion, and it seemed like Codenames might be a fun change from all the other light fillers on our shelf. It really surprised me at how good she was at the game, as well as how much she enjoyed many of the core Codenames concepts. However, she’s gone on record before as preferring to play a game where she is trying to defeat me, not work together. Some cooperative games she has come to enjoy as of late, but this one was not one of them.

I don’t know how the regular Codenames game plays at two, but our consensus after multiple plays of this was that we’d both prefer the standard Codenames over the Duet version because we’d rather compete in this game. There are some excellent things this game does, and I really love the twist with the assassins and how each side of the key card is different. Other couples may find this to be the ideal game for them – someone like Rahdo, who loves playing a game with his wife where they have to be a team, will be the perfect pair of gamers for this version of Codenames.

If you really like Codenames and want a unique way to play with fewer players, you might want to check this out. If you enjoy, or prefer, a cooperative game then this is one you won’t want to miss out on. It retains enough of the Codenames flavor to make it a good, solid entry into the Codenames line.

This is best expressed by one of the ratings on Heavy Cardboard’s 6-point rating system: “It’s not you, its us.” Essentially, this is a good game. Probably even a great game. It will get a lot of great, glowing reviews and will deserve those. But it won’t get them across the board, because this simply isn’t the game for us.

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 – Portals and Prophets

Thank you for checking review #34 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 prototype of this game was sent to me in advance of the Kickstarter campaign in exchange for an honest review of the game. The Kickstarter launches on November 1st, and a link to that will appear here once it goes live.

An Overview of Portals and Prophets

Portals and Prophets is a game designed by Andrew Harmon and is published by Harmon Games. The box states that it can play 2-5 players and has a 30-60 minute play time.

The year is 2200. The Alpha and Omega time travel company is looking to hire a tour guide and you are on the short list. For your last test, you and the other finalists will be sent back in time to prove you are the best candidate to lead future time traveling expeditions. Players will score points by experiencing biblical events. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Portals and Prophets is a Bible themed set collection and hand management game that features difficult and meaningful decisions. You must decide which events to attempt to witness, how to manipulate the time capsule to benefit you, and how to plan your travels so that you arrive to locations at the right time in history to experience events.

With a setup time of less than 2 minutes, and a perfect blend of simplicity and strategic depth, Portals and Prophets is a game all ages will enjoy.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The setup for this game does not change based on player count. Each player gets three Genesis cards, there are five revealed Old Testament cards on the board, and three portals are placed onto the map.

On a player’s turn, you get to do four actions, in any combination, from this list:

a) Move a space
b) Score a card (if you are in the right location and within the proper date range)
c) Draw a card (either from the face-up stack or a face-down from the top of a deck)

There are also fuel icons on some cards, and you can discard a card as a “free” action to increase the fuel gauge by the number of icons on the card. You can discard more than one card, but only one card of each fuel color. The fuel gauge is vital, as it ranges from Low-Full with 1, 2, and 3 in between. The number which the marker is by determines how far around the current round you can visit. For example, if the gauge is at 2 and the round is in the 10th century, you can score a card in the 12th-8th centuries (+2/-2 from the current date). When the gauge is at FULL, you can score any date range on the card, provided you are in the right location, and at the end of your turn the fuel drops back down to LOW.

You will be traveling around the map, collecting cards, and trying to score cards by being on the right place around the right time chronologically. Cards will not only score the points printed on them, but there are two additional methods of scoring at the end. You will get 10 points for every set of five colors you have scored, and there are six different symbols printed in various combinations on cards (such as Ancient, Miracles, God Speaks) where the player who scored the majority of cards with each symbol will get 7 points.

The game ends when one player has scored their third New Testament card and the round has ended (all players get an equal number of turns).

My Thoughts

Not only is this a Christian game, which is a rarity in itself, but it is also a surprisingly good one. There is a lot of depth to a game that is short on rules and quick on explanation. There are many variables to consider, such as dates on the timeline, physical location that you need to visit, the collection of sets of all five colors, the desire to win majority in as many symbols as you can, and maximizing your use of the fuel gauge when it is getting high. There is plenty of game here to keep everyone engaged and provide a great experience.

The use of the portals, which can either be placed as you desire or in the recommended locations mentioned in the rule book, is a key element in maximizing your scoring potential. Drafting cards from the board that are located near portals provides an advantage and is something that should always be considered. The portals also make it so the map feels a bit smaller at times, since you can leap across huge tracts of land.

The fuel gauge and time travel aspect is an interesting mechanism. I’m fairly certain there is no way to max out the fuel in one turn if it begins at LOW, meaning if you raise the gauge someone else will get to take advantage of it as well. It also may mean they get it to FULL before it comes back to you, making it a balancing act of trying to figure out when to use those cards for fuel and when to wait and try to let someone else bump it up for you.

As a Christian, I love the presence of Scripture at the bottom of each card. I love the vast array of events in the decks, ranging from the well-known such as the Birth of Jesus or the Parting of the Red Sea and going into more obscure characters and events. This will provide a learning experience for even the more mature Christians, as they may encounter and get to revisit some of the smaller stories and characters in the Bible. Although I have a weakness…every time Joshua Stops the Sun or Elijah Challenges the Prophets of Baal appears face-up I immediately grab them even when it doesn’t make sense to do so. I want to visit my favorite scenes!

In a loosely abstracted way, this game actually does succeed at providing a thematic experience. See the last point: I actually want to go travel to visit certain events as they come up in the deck.

It really surprised me as to how close the games ended up being for points. You would think the person to trigger the end would have a clear advantage in the game, but there are a lot of points to come from the set collection aspect. Which makes it important to not only pick cards for the point values listed on them, but also to grab cards that will mesh well with what you’ve already scored.

There are wild cards in the Old Testament deck, providing a boost either on a symbol or the colors to a player. They seem really powerful, especially the symbol cards because they not only add one to counting majority on that symbol, they also score the owner an extra point for each of that symbol they collected. These cards have been the deciding factor in a game.

Artwork is subjective, and the vast majority of it I really love. There are a few I’m not as crazy about, but the designer has told me there are some which are still being changed before the final production. So this was an issue with what I got but shouldn’t be an issue with the final produced product.

But the one area that everyone commented upon was the board itself. It is a simple map of the area, with various regions shaded in a color that matches the color on the card for that region. It makes a lot of sense for the color-coding on the board and it is usually appreciated during the gameplay, but it really doesn’t appeal to the eye for a first impression.

The New Testament cards are 100% blind draws. You’ll never know the card you are going to get, although you’ll always know the era in which it will be scored. You need to draw them early in order to plan for them, but if you are behind and racing to catch up then your draws could either make you really lucky (if they are all close together) or place the game out of reach (if they are very distant).

Each player gets 3 Genesis cards, and the rest are never to be seen during the game. I almost would prefer it if they got shuffled in with the Old Testament deck, allowing you the chance to get more of them, especially when you need one more Ancient symbol to boost your collection.

Final Verdict

I was initially interested in reviewing this game because of the Biblical theme. It promised to be a strategy game, and so I was more than happy to give it a try. When the game arrived, I looked at the board and the rules and was only lukewarm about the experience that I was going to be having with the game.

I’ve never been so glad to have my expectations exceeded.

This game isn’t going to provide a heavy, brain-burning experience. Yet there is ample room for depth and strategy in how you approach the game. Early decisions, even as simple as choosing your starting location, can have an impact on the gaming experience. A poor decision can leave you needing to travel for turns in a row in order to arrive where you need to be for a second scoring card. The presence of other players on the board, and where they end their turns, can force you to reroute for a round or two or to take a complely scenic trip through an area you don’t really need to visit. The multi-use cards provide incentive for grabbing something you might not need. The symbols and area colors provide set collecting, but only for those you score by the end. All in all, there is a lot more going on here than you first expect.

And increasing the player count increases the number of times you might get blocked, which is why some will really prefer to play with two. You can interfere, but not in drastic ways that could leave someone completely boxed in for a round or two. The board state will change, but not so radically that you can’t try and plan a few turns ahead. The fuel gauge will reach full, but not as often which will allow you to build upon and capitalize upon what your opponent has done.

There will be those who read the word “Bible” in the game’s description and move along without giving it a second glance. But if that word doesn’t scare you away, you’re in for a good surprise with this game. It plays well with two, provides an interesting experience for newer and experienced games, would make a perfect next-step game after a gateway game for newer gamers, and would be outstanding when used in a homeschool environment. Churches could place a copy of this in their kid/youth rooms and have it there for teaching and learning opportunities that will arise.

And even the common gamer, who isn’t looking to use this in any educational manner, will find that there is a surprisingly rewarding play experience in 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