Board Gaming · Review for Two · Worker Placement Month

Review for Two – Raiders of the North Sea

Thank you for checking review #61 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 Raiders of the North Sea

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Raiders of the North Sea is a game designed by Shem Phillips and was published by Garphill Games, and later by Renegade Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 60-120 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 2.57.

Raiders of the North Sea is set in the central years of the Viking Age. As Viking warriors, players seek to impress the Chieftain by raiding unsuspecting settlements. Players will need to assemble a crew, collect provisions and journey north to plunder gold, iron and livestock. There is glory to be found in battle, even at the hands of the Valkyrie. So gather your warriors, it’s raiding season!

Aim of the Game

The aim of Raiders of the North Sea is to impress the Chieftain by having the most Victory Points (VP) at the game’s end. Victory Points are gained primarily by raiding Settlements, taking Plunder and making Offerings to the Chieftain. How players use their Plunder is also vital to their success. The game ends when either only 1 Fortress raid remains, all Valkyrie are removed, or all Offerings have been made.

 

Gameplay differences for 2 Players

There are no differences in setup or gameplay on this game based upon player count. The end game triggers also remain the same, regardless of player count.

My Thoughts

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 The first thing that I fell in love with in this was the use of worker placement. You will never have more than one worker. You place a worker, execute the action, then remove a different worker from the board and execute the action on the space it left. That mechanic right there is sheer brilliance, allowing you to plan ahead and to react tactically to moves your opponents make. This functions so differently from the standard “place all your workers then bring them back” approach that it feels genuinely refreshing every time I play it. I hope more games find ways to use this approach, because it is a really fun and interesting twist on the genre.

 Three colors of workers are in the game, each one capable of going to specific spaces on the board. This aspect works really well with the above worker placement mechanic, allowing you to swoop up that white worker they just retrieved from a raiding space (for you, no doubt) and placed down in the bottom section. I like the progression here, and that the black starter workers have a benefit with the money generation space. It almost is enough to tempt me to keep one around all game. Almost. I like the approach taken here, and the fact that they don’t have powerful abilities is perfect. This approach is just right, opening up higher spaces on the board that require more resources to raid.

 Artwork by the Mico is so fun and uniquely his that I absolutely love the life he brings to the games. It is a flavor all of his own, and it is stamped firmly upon this game. I couldn’t tell you if I prefer him or Beth Sobel, but they both are guaranteed to catch my attention with their artistic work.

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 Valkyries are the best resource I have ever seen in a game, hands down. Not only are they thematic as can be (okay, I wish they weren’t a black skull but I get it needed to be a similar shape to the other resources to help randomize drawing from the bag in setup), but they provide a big struggle for the player in terms of when to take a space with a Valkyrie (or worse, multiple ones) since it will cause them to lose some of the cards they paid to recruit. But those Valkyrie can be worth a lot victory points at the end of the game, and there is quite the swing in points if one person gets them and another ignores them. This can especially happen in a 2-player game where there is less rush to compete for spaces on the board.

 Multi-use cards are always a thing I enjoy. In this game, most of what you’re likely considering is the cost to recruit them and the ability they can provide for your group. Since you’re limited to 5 in play as a maximum, there comes a point where you need to be selective. Thankfully, those Valkyrie can help you cycle out cards that lose usefulness (such as ones that might provide benefits from raiding Harbours) so you can modify your group strategically as the game progresses. However, don’t underestimate the value of playing a card at the Town Hall location! Some of those abilities, although one-time use, can really help you get ahead or catch up to your opponent.

 Dice are a negligible component in the game. You can recruit a team of people with really high strength, and complement that with a lot of time pumping up the Armory, to where you are going to get points when raiding the higher spaces regardless. Or you can play it a little riskier, going through with just enough to get the space and hope the dice help you get a few additional points along the way. I appreciate it being able to cater to both crowds there, and that there are higher rewards in VP for those who can hit really high attack values.

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 I haven’t done it yet, but this game can be played in sequence with the other two in the North Sea Trilogy to make an overarching gaming experience. How cool is that? I can’t report on how it works or how well it plays, but I plan to eventually. Regardless, more games should have something like this, to where you can string them together in a small campaign of sorts that can be completed in a single game day.

 There are three ways for the game to end, something I really like. However, in a 2-player match, it has only ever ended when 5/6 Fortress spaces were raided. The same was true in a 3-player game we’ve played of this. We’ve come close on Valkyries before, as we both tend to try and max out those points (me moreso than her in the early game) but have never cleared them all. And we haven’t even come close to wiping out the stack of tiles, since you need to trade in resources to get those and sometimes those resources are better used in other places. So while I like the idea of three ways to end the game, I imagine that those other two really come into play with the full player count rather than with 2-players.

 The game can feel same-y after multiple plays on the board. Sure, there are small things that change: the resources on each space, the tiles you can gain at the Long House, and the cards you’ll draw into your hand. But, ultimately, you’re doing the exact same thing every time with minimal variance. That is the biggest downfall in so many worker placement games, where it becomes repetitive. If you like a fresh experience every play, this isn’t going to provide that (at least the base game alone). However, even within this weakness of the genre there is enough in the game to where you can make strong tactical plays to squeeze out points more efficiently than your opponent in order to win the game.

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 The game as a whole gets repetitive within a single game experience, too. Get money to recruit cards. Gain provisions. Go on a raid and pay provisions/resources/cards. Repeat, this time needing more of everything to go higher on the board. While the game is fun and exciting, there is a lot of repetition even as you get further into an individual game. That is its biggest weakness, as the spots that you go to outside of the town are all one-shot spaces. So you’re spending about 75% of the game cycling through the same handful of spaces in order to go to a single space up above.

Final Thoughts

There should be no surprises about my thoughts if you saw my Top 25 Games. This game appears there, and I see no reason why it won’t be there for the long-term as I gain expansions for this game and add the rest of the North Sea Trilogy into my collection. The unique approach to worker placement in this is a refreshing change from the others, and I’ll admit I love the theme and the artwork enough to give this game a slight boost beyond what it might otherwise earn.

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The base game here is really good. There’s no way around that. I’m excited whenever I get this game to the table. I’m even more excited to pick up the solo variant at some point so I can play (and revisit in a review!) the solo experience for this game. I’m looking at the various expansions out there and trying to determine which one I should pick up first to expand and enhance the experience…knowing full well that my wife is almost never a fan of expansions. I’m thinking Fields of Fame, since it adds enemy Jarls which should make things more interesting in trying to raid.

The progression arc in this game is enjoyable, even if it is predictable. How you approach building your engine is what makes this game fun, just like any deckbuilder or engine optimization game out there. The wrinkle comes with those Valyries, a resource that you shouldn’t completely avoid because of its end-game point potential but comes with a heavy cost in losing part of your team of Raiders. This is the aspect of the game that really shines, even moreso than the worker placement aspect, because it is where you gain some variety.

Do I want more people to recruit? Yes, so that the deck dilutes and you can’t count on getting 2-3 of X in order to reap a ton of benefits at a certain part of the game. The team you choose to hire, and the raiding spot sequence you choose, can make or break your chance of winning this game. The game’s mechanics are balanced on the edge of a knife, as you’re going to earn a lot of the same points in the same places. The difference comes in those smaller details. And that is something I really, really appreciate. It enables a veteran to be able to see that ideal path while also allowing for newer players to keep it a close game and potentially spoil the best-laid plans and steal a win.

If you like worker placement, you definitely need to try this game. If you like engine building, you should try this game. If you hate optimization games, where the more efficient player will win more often than not, then it might not be quite right for you. But this game I definitely cherish having in my collection, and I look forward to getting all of the North Sea line of product eventually on my shelves.

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Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Raiders of the North Sea. 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

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Bonus: Renegade Games is generously providing a giveaway for a NIS copy of Raiders of the North Sea. Be sure to enter to win!

Raiders of the North Sea giveaway

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Board Gaming · Review for Two · Worker Placement Month

Review for Two – Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Thank you for checking review #60 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A review copy of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

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Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is a game designed by Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone and was published by Stonemaier Games. The box states that it can play 2-6 players and has a 60 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 3.12.

You find yourself in a dystopian cityscape with a few workers at your disposal to make your mark on the world. Like most people in dystopian fiction, your workers are oblivious to their situation. This world is all they’ve ever known, and you may use them at your whim.

The world as we know it has ended, and in its place the city of Euphoria has risen. Believing that a new world order is needed to prevent another apocalypse, the Euphorian elite erect high walls around their golden city and promote intellectual equality above all else. Gone are personal freedoms; gone is knowledge of the past. All that matters is the future.

The Euphorians aren’t alone. Outside the city are those who experienced the apocalypse firsthand—they have the memories and scars to prove it. These Wastelanders have cobbled together a society of historians and farmers among the forgotten scrap yards of the past.

There is more to the world than the surface of the earth. Deep underground lies the hidden city of Subterra, occupied by miners, mechanics, and revolutionaries. By keeping their workers in the dark, they’ve patched together a network of pipes and sewers, of steam and gears, of hidden passages and secret stairways.

In Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, you lead a team of workers (dice) and recruits (cards) to claim ownership of the dystopian world. You will generate commodities, dig tunnels to infiltrate opposing areas, construct markets, collect artifacts, strengthen allegiances, and fulfill secret agendas.

Euphoria is a worker-placement game in which dice are your workers. The number on each die represents a worker’s knowledge—that is, his level of awareness that he’s in a dystopia. Worker knowledge enables various bonuses and impacts player interaction. If the collective knowledge of all of your available workers gets too high, one of them might desert you. You also have two elite recruit cards at your disposal; one has pledged allegiance to you, but the other needs some convincing. You can reveal and use the reticent recruit by reaching certain milestones in the game… or by letting other players unwittingly reach those milestones for you.

Your path to victory is paved with the sweat of your workers, the strength of your allegiances, and the tunnels you dig to infiltrate other areas of the world, but the destination is a land grab in the form of area control. You accomplish this by constructing markets that impose harsh restrictions of personal freedoms upon other players, changing the face of the game and opening new paths to victory. You can also focus on gathering artifacts from the old world, objects of leisure that are extremely rare in this utilitarian society. The dystopian elite covet these artifacts—especially matching pairs—and are willing to give you tracts of land in exchange for them.

Four distinct societies, each of them waiting for you to rewrite history. What are you willing to sacrifice to build a better dystopia?

Gameplay differences for 2 Players

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The game plays the exact same with 2 players as any other player count, with the only changes being the number of spaces covered in each of the four areas for star placement (one star per player can be placed, meaning 4 spaces get blocked off per area) and the number of workers that are needed to build a new building (2 workers in a 2-player game).

My Thoughts

 There was a ton of thought that went into the theme of this game. From the simple idea of knowledge (more on that later) and its thematic placement (your workers are becoming more aware of being in a Dystopian society and, if they realize it, they will leave to find a better life) to the names and costs associated with the markets: this is all excellent for thematic immersion if you’re willing to consider it. You can play without reading those things and noticing the theme (isn’t that true of most games?), but taking the time to see these details really helps bring out that thematic experience gamers seem to crave. It isn’t tied to the mechanics like Viticulture, but it is still strong throughout.

 The dice work in this game. Not just because they are the workers, either! You’re sending a team of people you’re recruited out to do the tasks, but there is a chance they will gain knowledge about the conditions of their world and walk away. It presents a clever system where you want more workers to do more things, but the more workers you have the higher chance you have of losing one of them (the highest # rolled, when it happens). 3 workers seems like the sweet spot for most of the game, with there being enough risk that you feel comfortable with the cost associated (as long as your base knowledge stays at or close to 1). Another great factor comes in how the main resource spaces are used: you can’t get the maximum quantity with just one worker on the space. You need 9+ to reap the best benefit, so every worker going in helps you get that much closer. But 1-4 is great, too, because it lets you advance that faction on their track (letting you get closer to possibly flipping your face-down recruit and place a star on matching recruits.

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 The best part of the dice comes from the doubles. Enough so that it gets its own entry. Roll doubles and you can place both of those dice on your turn. Same with triples. Or quads (if you’re lucky enough and roll low enough, of course). That back-to-back action can let you start and finish a market construction in a 2-player game if you have the resources, allowing you to get a star advantage on the board and granting them a temporary disadvantage. But it is an easy mechanic to forget about in the heat of the game, so some players may never take advantage of this due to forgetfulness…

 The bump mechanic, something I enjoyed in Charterstone, is something I enjoy even more in this game. Not only is there the chance to bump your own worker in order to keep cycling your worker pool back to yourself, but you can also be strategic in bumping an opponent. Why? because they have to reroll the worker when it comes back and, if they are sitting within 5-6 of that 16 Knowledge, this could make them lose a worker. Those who thirst for direct interaction in their games should take note of this. Bumping is a good thing when it happens to you…except when it isn’t…

 Component quality has always been a mark of Stonemaier Games, and this one is no exception. Nice cards, colorful artwork, wooden tokens, and custom dice. An easy-to-navigate rulebook, a reference sheet, player reference cards. If you’ve played any Stonemaier title, you know what level of quality to expect in here and it delivers.

 They found a way to make the player reference card a part of the game with the Ethical Dilemma card. I enjoy the concept, and the ability to turn it in at some point to either gain a star or a new recruit card. However, I can’t tell you how often I forget it is there until I am at a point where I am trying to find out what stars I can earn quickly in order to close up to 10 stars.

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 Icarus feels powerful. Twice I’ve been in a game where a player kept two Icarus recruits. Twice they’ve flipped and starred those recruits really quickly. Do they still need to expand out beyond Icarus in order to win? Sure. But they seem overpowered if someone focuses hard on them.

 I really like that there is a penalty tied to anyone without a star on a market when it flips. Honestly, I do. It adds incentive to try and jump onto the building spaces as soon as someone else places a worker out there. However, sometimes these can be absolutely punishing. Case in point: the Apothecary of Productive dreams. You cannot place workers in Icarus if you don’t have a star on here. That one market allowed me to close the gap and almost steal victory from her. Most of the time they are inconvenient. Other times they can really hurt.

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 With the 2-player experience, we just don’t see too much completion for the miners. I like the concept behind them. Those spaces can be a great way to pay small amounts of resources to gain cards and better resources. However, only once have we seen a miner reach the end. With more players, I imagine this would be far more common to see.

Final Thoughts

This game combines a thing I know my wife loves (worker placement) with a thing she loathes (dice). I had no idea if this crazy combination would work, or if it would be well-received. After our first play, she was so against playing this game because our friend won it while both of us had just 5 stars. She blamed the dice. I convinced her to try again the next night with the two of us. I won by 2 stars. She walked away bitter. I let it sit on the shelf for a bit. About a week later she was texting me the games she wanted to be sure I kept when looking to part with some of my collection. This game was on the keep list, much to my surprise.

So we played it again and she won, finally coming to embrace the nature of chance and press-your-luck that the workers-as-dice can add to the game. Every game has been enjoyed since, and this is a keeper game for sure now. That should be a ringing endorsement that she likes the game in spite of her aversion to dice.

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And honestly, I have a lot of great feelings about this game. I think Viticulture is probably still my favorite Stonemaier title to date, but this is a close 2nd. I enjoy the bump mechanic, and the die faces of the workers being useful both in the generating of resources and being able to use doubles to place both workers in a single action. Especially in a 2-player game, that can be super powerful. The theme is found in every corner of the game, and I absolutely love it. Seriously, take the time to read the locations and think about the costs associated. It enhances the experience.

One of the things I appreciate the most with the game is that the end of the game is likely to trigger just as fast regardless of player count, keeping a fairly consistent play time. There are a lot of shared stars to be earned, whether via construction of markets or through the stars placed on recruit cards. No single star is going to take a ton of time to gain once the game gets going, making it a game that is always churning out rewards for your actions. Even when something really awful happens to set you behind, it won’t take more than a few well-planned turns to clear the obstacle and get back into the race.

The recruits are the thing that add to the replay value of the game, providing variance through a fairly thick deck of cards. Most games you’ll have 2 of them for the game and make use of their abilities when face-up (only one starts that way). Recruits not only provide unique abilities (of varying usefulness), but also ways of generating some extra stars through heavy progression of their faction. They are the aspect of the game, apart from the unique dice-workers and the knowledge balance, that make this game stand out. However, I foresee the game becoming repetitive after a while as prominent strategies begin to present themselves. I may be wrong, as it will take at least another dozen or so plays with the same circle to see if the same winning strategies continue to play out, but I’m hoping the upcoming expansion (which is adding solo!) will help add variety.

That being said, most of my experiences with this game have been surprisingly positive. I’ve really enjoyed the game and, as mentioned before, it has earned its place in my constantly-culled collection. It does things that few other worker placement games (that I know of) contain, and that in itself makes it a worthwhile experience. If you like worker placement at all, or have any interest in the theme, this is definitely worth the time. And if you, like so many others, enjoy the other Stonemaier Games titles, you definitely don’t want to miss checking this one out. Just because it was one of their first games doesn’t mean it is an inferior game! Some designers take time to build up to their best games. Jamey and Alan came out swinging from the start!

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

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

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two: BattleCON: Trials of the Indines

Thank you for checking review #59 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**A copy of the game was sent for review purposes. Opinions remain our own.

An Overview of BattleCON: Trials of the Indines

BattleCON: Trials of the Indines is a game designed by D. Brad Talton Jr. and was published by Level 99 Games. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 10-45 minute play time.

BattleCON is a board game that brings the tactics, strategy, and ferocity of 2D fighting games like Street Fighter to your tabletop. Each BattleCON Fighter features a Unique Ability–a combat subsystem designed specifically for them, giving them a never-before-seen fighting style that you will have to master, and that your opponents will have to play around.

Trials is a new medium-sized box in the BattleCON series, containing 10 new fighters, each with a complete range of all-new skills and abilities.

Trials is the fourth box in the BattleCON series.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

Each player selects one of the 10 fighters in the set and takes their tuckbox which will have their specific cards (including the base cards universal to all characters), the character’s standee, a reference card (which is given to the opponent), and any special token or card powers that might be unique to that character. Place the standee for each character on the board on the spaces marked with the red/blue dots. Players will then select a base and a style to go into their first discard pile and select another pair to go in their second discard pile (the cards have recommended ones marked for these!). Each player takes 20 life and 2 force and are ready to begin.

During a turn each player will secretly select a base and a style card and place them face-down in front of them. Once both players have made this decision, it moves to an ante phase where (in turn order), the players can ante in some temporary boosts to power, priority (speed), or stun guard (and some characters also have their own unique special tokens or cards that can be anted at this point). Once both players pass consecutively, the players reveal their combinations and compare priority. The player with the higher value becomes the first player for the beat. If there is a tie, the players CLASH and have to select a new base to replace the current base card. If it is still a tie after that, the process is repeated until they are either out of base cards to play or until one player wins priority. In the case of the former case, the beat ends and they move to the end of the beat without taking their turns.

Starting with the first player, each player resolves any Start of Beat effects. Then the active player does any Before Activating effects, makes their attack (factoring in range), resolves any Hit effects, and then resolves any After Activating effects. Then the reactive player does the same thing so long as they did not get stunned. If you take damage greater than your Stun Guard for the round, then the reactive player loses their actions and does nothing for the beat.

Finally both players (in turn order) resolve any End of Beat effects. Then they cycle their discards, bringing the leftmost pair into their hand, shifting the remaining pair on the board over one space, and putting the cards they just played into the right-most space on the board. Each player will gain one force token (two if they have 7 or less life) and play proceeds to a new beat. The game continues until one player is out of life.

My Thoughts

 The mechanics of this are simple yet the depth within the game makes it complex as well. You’re choosing two cards to pair together to try and damage your opponent, avoid their attacks, or boost power for a future beat. However, the dynamics within all of that space is mind blowing. Not only does that apply to the game in general, but every single character in this box is unique in ways that makes it so a one-size-fits-all tactic is difficult to execute.

 Which is why there is a point here regarding the characters themselves. They are 100% unique in their gameplay. I have played, or played against, all ten of them in the box and it never felt same-y. The best feeling is, of course, finding that character that is YOUR character. I enjoyed seeing a buddy of mine find it when playing Burgundy XIII. I felt it myself when playing as Amon, which happened to be the same exact match.

 The artwork on the characters is outstanding. I’ve instantly become a fan of Nokomento’s art, which happens to be featured in a good number of Level 99 Games titles out there.

 The ante phase can be interesting, even though a decent number of times it might just be both of you “passing” to get to the reveal. You ante to boost your Priority, which tells me you really want to go first. Or that you feel like your number is a hair too low and so I could probably ante back to maintain my order. But you might also be trying to get me to waste my own force. This becomes even more interesting if you have two characters who have special things they can ante into play. This phase is just a step in the process some of the time, but I love the times when you feel like that decision to ante or pass really matters. And few things are worse than anteing up a ton of power and priority only to have them gleefully reveal that Dodge card…

 The lore in the whole Indines universe wants to sweep my imagination away. There are nuggets to be found in the game, particularly the Character Guide book, but I really wish there was more. I would 100% read a novella about pretty much any one of these characters, or anything placed in that Indines world. There are tidbits dropped in the Level Cap podcast, but it’d be better if they did something similar to Greater Than Games’ The Letters Page, at least for delivering lore content. But this solidifies to me that I really want to write for Brad and his Indines world.

 All characters have the same set of bases, plus one character-specific base. While the flavor shines through in the styles, I want to take a moment to appreciate those base cards. Even the long range characters have some smaller range attacks. Even the short range characters have long range attacks. They can all dodge. They all have ways to get Stun Guard, to play something with decent power, or decent priority. It prevents them from being forced into a sour situation where they simply can’t accomplish anything – so long as you account for the two beats where the cards are cycling.

 And that card cycling system is perfect for this game. I can’t spam an attack over and over. I can’t dodge endlessly until I get enough force to drop my finisher. I can’t just sit back and blast you from across the board. I have to not only adapt to what I don’t have, but also plan for what I might want or need in a beat or two. The fact that a fighting game has long-term strategy that you can employ still baffles me in a good way. I love it, and having to account for it when trying to choose my cards.

 Overall the rules for the game are fine and functional. However, there are omissions that could lead to some frustration. My first few games, I thought that the Character’s special powers that could be ante’d had to be paid for just like the tokens. It wasn’t until I played BattleCON Online that I started to question this and, eventually, learned the right answer. The component listing was also a little iffy, as I struggled to place a few of the tokens in the right place because nowhere in the book did it mention that the staff went with Kimbhe or that these four tokens I had leftover went to Lucida. And what about resolving a Clash? Do the cards you replace go back to your hand or do they cycle in the discards? 97% of what you need to know is covered, but it is those few instances, some of them not even specific to a single character, that are missing in here.

 There can be quite the steep learning curve for the game, as you will benefit from knowing the character you are playing as and the one you’re playing against. This is a game, since there is no luck, where a skilled opponent should win the vast majority of the time over an unskilled one. If you dislike a game where there is a steep learning curve, and where you might get thoroughly thrashed for your first dozen learning plays, then you might be turned off by this aspect of the game. But if you can find at least one person of a similar skill level who is willing to play with you, both of you will benefit from that practice.

 One player with Analysis Paralysis might make this game drag. Two players with it definitely will make it drag. The decision of the combination to play can feel so overwhelmingly critical, especially late in the game when both players are jockeying to finish off the other. The other thing that can make a match run long? Stupidity and/or miscalculations. I’ve been guilty of them both. I’ve made dumb plays that, as soon as I flipped the cards, I realized were really bad decisions. I’ve flipped cards thinking I’ll be in range and find out that I’m 1 space too close or far to pull off my attack. A few rounds of whiffing is funny at first, but it can make it feel like the game drags on a little too long. 20-30 minutes per match is the sweet spot, but far too often I’ve been involved in ones that creep up to that 45 minute mark.

Final Thoughts

I was never very good at the arcade-style fighting games. I was a button masher, because I simply had no patience to try and learn all the special combinations to execute the right moves at the right times. I could usually luck my way through some tough match-ups, but I would never get progressively better at the games.

Thankfully, there is no button mashing necessary in BattleCON. You get all of the wonderful elegance of those fighting games in tabletop format, and all of your moves are unlocked and available for use…apart from that brilliant “cool down” system in here. It levels the playing field, so to speak, and makes it more about being able to read and adapt to the board state as well as learning how best to function with each different fighter in the box.

This game is 100% fun right out of the box. Seriously, some of my best board game memories in the past month have come from this game and the laughter that can ensue. It is increasingly hilarious to state the names of your chosen combination in a fun voice, especially if you’re both getting into that aspect. It is fun to see both of your carefully-laid plans get foiled as you reveal cards and both move out of range so your attacks fail. It is epic to be beaten down to 1-2 life and come back to drop that last 10-12 off your foe to “steal” the victory when on the brink of defeat. Fun. Fun. Fun.

There is definitely a skill curve in this game, as you simply won’t know how to effectively pilot a character until you’ve played them a few times. Additionally, you won’t know how to counter a character until you’ve played them, or against them, a few times. And even then, you have to account for a person’s personal playing style. They might make choices you don’t expect because you’d play Combination X and they put out Y instead. This is a game of playing your opponent as much as it is playing your own game, and that makes it a brilliant design.

Had I played this game before my Top 25 was created, this would definitely have made an appearance on the list. It is in there right now, although I couldn’t tell you where or what game dropped off to make a place for this one. But this is a fantastic addition to my collection. Nearly everyone I’ve taught the game has expressed both a desire to play again and a desire to pick this game up for themselves. And with four boxes out, and a big release coming in July on Kickstarter, this is definitely a game to consider putting on your own radar.

Players who dislike direct conflict and the process of tearing down your opponent will not really enjoy this game. Nothing against Rahdo, but this is a game I don’t think he would play and that is a shame. Because as much as I like playing in a sandbox to build my own engine while my wife does the same in her sandbox, there is definitely a time and a place for a fun, beat-’em-up style of game. I can’t speak to others out there, but I played Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur growing up and this is everything I could want out of a game inspired by those. I’m beyond happy with the contents in this box, although I highly doubt it’ll be the only BattleCON title that will enter into my collection. Because while I don’t need more characters, I need more characters.

And that is a good sign for the game. I could play this box alone a hundred times and still enjoy using these ten fighters. But since they all play so differently, I really want to see who else is out there and find that one character that is so my style that I’ll play them like I play Fanatic when I bust out a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse.

***

Hopefully you found this review to be a useful look at BattleCON: Trials of the Indines. 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 – Herbaceous Sprouts

Thank you for checking review #58 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**A prototype of the game was sent for review purposes. Opinions remain our own.

An Overview of Herbaceous Sprouts

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Herbaceous Sprouts is a game designed by Eduardo Baraf, Steve Finn, and Keith Matejka and was published by Pencil First Games. The box states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 20-30 minute play time.

A FLAVORFUL DICE GAME
Everyone has a green thumb when playing Herbaceous Sprouts. Unwind while enjoying this beautiful and thoughtful game of collecting seeds, using tools, and growing sprouts in the community garden. Gather your seeds and tools from the shed, but don’t take too long or your friend might become the Head Gardner first.

OBJECTIVE
Become the Head Gardener by collecting herb and flower seeds and using your garden tools to plant in the community garden and scoring the most points. Each round, gardeners take turns collecting herb and flower seeds (represented by dice) which they place and save in their wheelbarrow, as well as tools (represented by cards) which they use to plant sprouts. Players can plant quickly for low point spots, or push their luck saving their seeds for premier spots in the garden.

—description from the publisher

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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Each player takes a Wheelbarrow Mat and the 15 Sprout Tokens of their color, along with a reference card. Place the Rival Sprout tokens by the gameboard. Put all dice in the Seed Bag and mix them up. each player takes 2 dice, rolls them, and puts them on the die spces on their board. Shuffle the tool deck and remove 10 cards back to the box without revealing them. Finally, place the Lemonade Card and the Tool Card Deck near the board.

Reveal 3 tool cards from the top of the deck, pulling dice and rolling them for each card and placing them in the appropriate space.

Regarding gameplay, I honestly can’t put it better than they have it listed on the game’s description on BGG:

GAMEPLAY
Herbaceous Sprouts is played over a series of rounds, each with a different Lead Gardener. When the last Tool Cards are used, the game ends the final score is tallied.

Each round has three phases:

  • Phase 1: Preparing the Tool Shed
  • Phase 2: Picking and Planting Seeds
  • Phase 3: Clean Up

PHASE 1: Preparing the Tool Shed
This phase is performed by the Lead Gardener of the current round. They set up the Tool Cards and Seed Dice for the round.

PHASE 2: Picking and Planting Seeds
In this phase, all players take turns picking resources from the shed and planting in the community garden. Starting with the Lead Gardener and moving clockwise, each player takes a turn.
Each player performs the following steps, in this order:

A. Take a Tool Card & Seed Dice from the Tool Shed
B. Add Seeds to the Wheelbarrow
C. Perform Special Actions
D. Plants Herb and Flower Seeds

PHASE 3: Clean Up
Players set up for the next round, or proceed to End Game scoring.

—description from the publisher

With 2 players, the final unchosen card each round will dictate where a Rival Sprout token is placed. It will show an area of the board and a numerical value to indicate where that token is placed. If there are multiple spots of that value shown, it is placed in the one worth more points.

Changes for a solo game

Setup is the same as a 2-player game, except in addition you Take the Gardener card and shuffle the deck of 9 Rival Cards. You get 10 turns, and each turn the Gardener card alternates between the Master Gardener and the Assistant Gardener. During the Master Gardener turns (the odd numbered rounds) you draw a die from the bag, roll it, and put it in your wheelbarrow. Then at the end of your turn, you place Rival Sprouts tokens on both spots indicated at the bottom of the two cards you did not take.

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During the Assistant Gardener turn you start by revealing a Rival Card to show which card they choose and place the Rival Sprout token according to that card. Then, tuck the Rivals card under your playerboard like a Sprout Pot. Finally, take your turn like normal.

If you score higher than the Rival, you win.

My Thoughts

 My first play of the game was solo and it started off on the right foot for me with the Rival Sprouts and how that populates the board as you play. This was not only a clever solo mechanism, but it also applies to 2-3 player games to help fill that board faster and to block those premium spaces over time. This solitaire version of the game is 100x more interesting than the one in standard Herbaceous (which isn’t a bad solo mode for that game, but rarely one I would reach for) and it really impressed me with what they executed here. This isn’t a game that plays 2-4 and you can kinda play a tacked-on solo mode. The solo play in itself is worth the investment.

 The dice in the prototype box were standard sized dice, but I hear that the actual final product will have Star Wars Destiny-style of dice in there. If that is true, then this becomes a huge boon for the game as those are fun and chunky dice to roll. Some people like different things, but if you like rolling dice at all you’ll enjoy those dice. Regardless, the dice in this game never really felt like they imposed a ton of randomness upon the game. Partially because they are almost always useful, partially because there are plenty of reroll possibilities to obtain, and partially because there are actions that can change die sides. My biggest fear in the game turned out to be a nice aspect rather than the dreaded random factor to negate any skill.

 While this game is very different mechanically from Herbaceous, you’ll still find some comfort in the familiarity of the artwork, and the need to collect pairs, sets of the same herb, and sets of different herbs as you go through the game. You just are collecting dice with those faces rather than herbs, and selecting said dice off a tool card rather than flipping a card at a time off the top of a deck.

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 Tool cards are fantastic in this game. They range from having no special actions (but 3 dice) to having a horde of special actions and no dice. I appreciate that there is one additional card available each round, so that the last player to select isn’t stuck without making a decision. I also love that the card not chosen will be used to place a Rival Sprouts token on the board (except in a 4-player game), adding an extra layer of consideration when taking a card (almost like the decision on what dice to draft in Seasons). The player actions on the cards range from outstanding most of the time to situational, yet they are all important at certain points in the game.  Did I mention the tool card deck is also the game timer? Oh yeah, it is…something I also like seeing.

 I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the artwork here. It is Beth Sobel art. That sentence alone should be enough to tell you it is going to be good. Seriously, she’s easily one of the Top 3 artists in the industry right now and her work always blows me away.

 This game scales extremely well, thanks to those Sprout Tokens. This isn’t some fancy automa system, but its simple elegance works. It is easy to operate, takes no additional time, and no additional thought on the part of the players. Without those Rival Tokens, the board would be too wide-open and you could take your time storing up for that perfect high-score combo of sprouts. That pressure of knowing the deck could place a sprout there first is a nice added tension.

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 The turns in general are fast, the action selection simple, and the game doesn’t present many opportunities for Analysis Paralysis to rear its ugly head. I like the fast pace, the quick play time, and the ease of setup and teardown for the game. There is elegance in simplicity, something that the original Herbaceous possessed and this somehow maintains, even with the addition of layers of depth and strategy beyond the original game.

 The flowers are a tough thing to pin down my feelings on. A single flower can be potted for 2, 3, or 4 points. There are 3 different types of flowers in there. To do that, though, you need both the flower and a trowel tool at the same time, or two matching herbs and a watering can tool. Both of these are situational, requiring two circumstances to be true in order to use them, which makes a tool card or a die with the trowel or watering can either VERY desirable or a trash action, depending on the current board state. The points in here are small, yet it feels like it takes a lot more to make this align for those points at times.

 There is a lot of dice rolling. You’re pulling out dice as the setup for each round and rolling them, then placing the dice on the cards. Some people might love it, some will hate it, but most will fall in between. If there are a lot of dice spots on the cards, especially with a higher player count, this can feel like it takes a while. Plus, it is extremely easy to bump a die on accident, either while placing it or while retrieving it. Or even while trying to grab a different card. Those big, chunky dice may help, but they could also make the problem worse by being easier to bump. It isn’t an issue often, but some might find it to be a detriment and wish for those boards Scythe spoiled us with…

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 There isn’t a score track, which would be really helpful. Whether that is a shared track around the outside of the board or if it is printed on the reverse side of the Wheelbarrow Cards, this is one thing more than anything else that I think this game could benefit from.

 Do you want to know how many players used a reroll in a 4-player game I taught? One, me. Twice, and that was only to see if I could get lucky and not have to use my pot. I appreciate the abundance (or at least appearance thereof) of opportunities to roll those dice again, allowing you to perhaps shift your luck when stuck with garbage. But so far, in practice, that ability does not get used very often with the people I’ve played with. So I kinda feel bad for the person who gets stuck with a tool card granting 2 rerolls and one granting 3 rerolls, especially if his board is already empty of dice. Which leads into…

 Hate drafting can totally be a thing in this game. Especially because you can usually see what other players are aiming for, and take that die they need or that tool they need, even though you don’t really need it right now. This isn’t a problem for some gamers, but I know it might be a deal breaker for others. Be aware of the play style of who you’re going to play with if this is something you really dislike in a game.

Final Thoughts

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My wife likes Herbaceous a lot. Way more than I ever did. But when they announced the dice version of the game, I knew it would be a hard sell for her. The hatred she holds for dice games can never be overstated. They are the epitomy of evil in board games to her, and so I initially wrote this off as a game we’d never want to play.

Big mistake.

I’m beyond relieved that I had a chance to get the prototype version of this game because it was able to easily exceed my personal expectations for the game. Herbaceous is a light press-your-luck filler with small room for strategy, but Herbaceous Sprouts is a much more interesting game with much better decisions to be made over the course of the game. Not only did the game itself surprise me, but the solo mode for the game equally impressed. It is clear the designers took some of the core of the game of Herbaceous and tried to come up with a really fun and clever game that is uniquely its own game. This isn’t Herbacous with dice. This is Herbaceous Sprouts. It is fun and exciting and everything I would want this 20-30 minute game to be.

And, honestly, there isn’t more I need to say about the game. If you want a game that is borderline filler with some great and interesting decisions, set collection, and dice rolling fun then this will do a great job of filling that niche on your shelf. If you want something more press-your-luck like Herbaceous was, or a brain-burning game than this game probably isn’t going to satisfy you. But it still sounds interesting to you, then I definitely can recommend this one.

***

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

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

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Hanamikoji

For the second time on this channel I’m doing something different: video content! I have two videos here, one where I teach Hanamikoji and play through a round of it, and one where I gush about a Top 10 game (*spoiler alert!) that is going to be reprinted by Deep Water Games. This will probably be the norm going forward, doing some in written and some in video format.

Are there games I’ve reviewed that you’d like to see a video pairing like this for? Be sure to leave me a comment and let me know so I can plan my queue properly.

 

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Harvest

Thank you for checking review #49 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**A copy of this game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Harvest

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Harvest is a game designed by Trey Chambers and was published by Tasty Minstrel Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 30-75 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 2.33.

Mind the fields of Gullsbottom! Plant and fertilize your seeds, tend your crops, and utilize the various buildings at your disposal. You’ll need to work smarter, not harder, as harvest season is coming to an end! Who will have the best harvest this year? Will it be you?

Each round in Harvest, you first draft turn order (and the benefits that come with it), then send your two workers into town and into the fields. Plant seeds, tend fields, and harvest crops to make room to plant some more! Utilize buildings and magical elixir to amass a bigger and better harvest than your neighbors at the end of five rounds of play.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

Put out the town board and then shuffle the Action Cards and count out five per player (10 total) into a central stack and put the rest back into the box. Flip up two of these and place them beneath the town board. Place the seed chits and wooden tokens within the play area. Shuffle the initiative cards and deal one to each player, then set the stack near the board.Randomly give each player two player boards, of which they will select one and put the other back in the box. Players will grab the resources shown on the bottom of their player board for their starting resources. Grab the two workers in your chosen color and place them in your player area, and give each player a farm board. Shuffle the Field cards and deal 6 face-up beneath the Action Cards to represent the buildings available for purchase, and set the remaining stack nearby. Place the expansion cards nearby as well.

A round begins with putting out Action Cards equal to the number of players beneath the town board (this is done as part of setup for the first round). The next phase involves flipping up three random Initiative cards. The player with the lowest initiative will take one of the three cards available and replace it with their current card, gaining the resources/actions shown on the bottom of the initiative card before tucking the initiative card under their player board. Each player does this, and then the initiative cards remaining are shuffled into the Initiative deck.

The third phase is action selection, where in turn order (lowest initiative to highest), players put out one worker and execute the action shown. Some involve gaining resources, others could be getting new fields or buying buildings, and yet others are to plant seeds/water crops/harvest crops. Each of the three town board spaces has a list of actions available for that space, and the first player to place a worker will get to choose 2 different actions. Additional workers can still use that area of the town board, but will get to only choose 1 action.

Purchased seeds have grey stars showing how much fertilizer is required to plant them. When a seed is planted, it goes into an open field and flips to its crop side (which will usually have more stars, which are yellow instead of grey). Watering a field requires you to pay water equal to the number of yellow stars on a crop to pull a new crop chit from the supply and add it to your field. Each field can hold only one type of crop at a time. The harvest action allows you to remove any number of crops from your planted fields and put them in your supply, crop-side up. These three actions form the main sequence to follow in the game, as whoever has the most stars at the end of the game will win and the crops are worth a fairly sizable number of points compared to most buildings and seeds.

The final phase is to reclaim your workers, replenish the building supply to 6, and discard the action cards back to the box. The game plays over the course of five rounds.

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My Thoughts

 Turn order deck of cards. There are 15 cards, and the lower the number you take (from the three available at the start of the round), the earlier you go. But you also get a much smaller reward from that card than, say, someone taking a 13. When I pick my card, then the one I had from the last round goes into that pool to select from, meaning my opponent can take that exact same card/benefit I just used. And then the cards not active this round are set aside, shuffled, and three new ones come out the next round. Pure brilliance with this. One of the most important decisions in a turn can come from this selection, and it is also a way to make a game with only 2 workers to place feel like you’re gaining more with less.

 You have two workers. There are five rounds. That means you trigger ten actions. It sounds like so little, and it is, but with those ten actions you can do so much. It blows me away how much I can accomplish with that little bit, partially because of the turn order card benefits and partially because each of the three areas of the board have a spot that lets you do two of the listed actions. But only (in a 2-player game), if no worker has gone there first. If you beat me to that area, I can still go there but I have to go into the box which lets me take only 1 action instead of two. Which means my worker was far less efficient than yours.

 That small worker placement board isn’t all there is, though, because you have cards equal to the players that provide extra placement spaces each round. But they change every round, serving as the game’s timer as well. I like this mechanic, and I almost always try to snag at least one of those card action spaces (and many times two, when I can), because they usually provide multiple benefits that would require several workers to accomplish. Sometimes they come with a cost to pay, but other times they are free to use. I love the variability this adds to the game experience, and it helps make it so you can’t pre-plan the optimal moves for future turns.

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 Gather seeds. Plant seeds. Water plants. Harvest plants. While the watering aspect, mechanically, doesn’t make sense (I water the plant and it multiplies into more plants), everything else makes great sense. There is enough theme in this short game to enhance the experience for those who hate pasted on themes.

 Variable player powers. Sure, you could all play as Wil Plantsomdill, but what fun is that? We used the other side of the boards for every game and haven’t regretted the decision for a moment. The initial reaction on some is that they are very powerful (such as placing a “shadow” worker at the end of the round, essentially giving 3 placements vs everyone else’s 2) yet we haven’t had any massive margins of victory arise. I like the varied specializations, and that there appears to be at least enough balance between the 9 different player boards.

 I’m a big fan of multipurposing things, and the field cards also being the building cards is great. You need fields to plant more crops, but by planting that field you lose ever knowing what was on the other side of that card. The buildings are powerful, but most of them go onto a spot on your personal board where a field could have been placed, making it so you have to expand in order to get those field spaces back. It all creates a great balance of decisions.

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 Speaking of multipurposing, your “money” comes in the form of the stars shown on your plants (and the Snap Peas seed, since they are the same on that one). Yet those are also your VP at the end of the game. So in order to use some of the better action spaces (especially the action card ones), you need to pay some of that VP you’ve been gaining. Sometimes it is very much worthwhile. Other times it is a zero-sum swap, unless you do it early enough in the game. I like that difficult decision.

 The rules are small, yet I had to reread them three times to fully grasp the flow of the game and how it all was supposed to function. It isn’t a bad rulebook, as it is all there, but adding a little more to help make things clear would have been a good thing. I get wanting to fit it on one folded sheet. It is likely cheaper that way to manufacture. But if it can potentially be a barrier for playing and enjoying the game it should be evaluated. They provide good visuals to demonstrate the major actions you can take, but a page of images showing the turn playing out might be a helpful addition.

 Small detail, but several of the seed/plants are very similar in appearance because they share the same color. Yes, I’m looking at you ‘Scarrots and Phantom Peppers. It doesn’t help that they are the same size pieces, either. There isn’t much confusion, but it does make it so you have to look twice sometimes to make sure you grabbed the right ones.

 The game is a teeny bit fiddly, what with all the wooden pieces (90) and cardboard chit seed/plants (152) out there. It takes up a little more table space than expected, and the process of buying the seed, and then flipping it over when planted, and then watering to add more of that plant, and then harvesting said plants, can be a lot of moving pieces on your boards. It rarely is an issue, but those who dislike so much manipulation, especially of small seed/plant tokens, might find that part of the game doesn’t jive with them.

 The building cards replenish back to 6, but there is no way to wipe the board of them. So if there are buildings no one wants, they just sit there clogging the market for the entire game. It would be nice to have a small mechanic, such as place those in 2 rows of 3 cards and, at the end of the round, wipe the top row and slide the bottom row up and deal out cards to replenish to 6 buildings. It is a minor thing, but there are plenty of times we’ve had at least 2-3 building sit out there the entire game.

Final Thoughts

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Harvest is one of those games that really, genuinely can surprise you. I liked Harbour enough when I borrowed it from a friend, but it lacked a wow factor as a 2-player game and as a solo game. It wasn’t bad, and we’d like to get a copy, but it didn’t become an insta-buy game. Harvest, on the other hand, completely floored me with how great the game was. Which should not come as a surprise to me, considering the designer was Trey Chambers, who undoubtedly is one of my top designers in the industry right now.

The worker placement aspect of this game is simple, yet delightful. Choosing your turn order card, which also provides benefits, is a key part of the game and makes you struggle with the choice of what you can get now from the card or taking a lower number in order to go first and place your worker first. With two workers per round, the game is lightning-fast, yet it contains a lot of fun and meaningful decisions.

And yes, many people I’ve taught this to have been delighted at the poop tokens (as they unanimously call them)

Big things can come in small boxes, and this sits beside Hanamikoji as one of the best small-box games in my collection. This scales well and plays well at all counts, and I have a feeling I might just get an inkling to try and fashion an automa deck, or some other system, to run this one solo at some point. It is that fun of a game that the budding designer in me really wants to find a way to enjoy it at 1-4 rather than just 2-4 players.

There is a third game coming in the same universe as Harvest and Harbour, and I will definitely be checking that out when it arrives. Furthermore, if you haven’t done so already, I’d recommend becoming a fan of Trey Chambers and checking out his next big game, Empyreal. Both this designer and this game are worthy of investigation.

And if you want a nice game for 2-4 that plays in under an hour, even with 4, then I highly suggest you add this one to your collection.

Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Harvest. 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 – Valeria: Card Kingdoms

Thank you for checking review #48 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

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

An Overview of Valeria: Card Kingdoms

Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a game designed by Isaias Vallejo and was published by Daily Magic Games. The box states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 30-45 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 1.95.

The land of Valeria is under siege by hordes of monsters. You and your fellow Dukes must recruit citizens and buy domains to build up your kingdoms and slay the foul creatures that lurk in the surrounding lands.

Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a tableau-building game for 1-5 players and will feel familiar to deck-building fans. The cards you buy can work for you on your turn and on all the other player turns, as well. On your turn, roll two dice and activate citizen cards with the result of each individual die and the sum of both dice. Other players will simultaneously activate their citizen cards based on the roll. Next, take two actions from the following: slay a monster, recruit a citizen, buy a domain, or take 1 of any resource. The player with the most victory points at the end wins the game.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

To set up the game, players create a row of 5 Monster stacks, two rows of 5 Citizen stacks each, and a row of 5 Domain stacks. This forms the center supply, and when a number of stacks equal to 2x the number of players are empty (exhausted), that will be the likely trigger for the end of the game.

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Each player receives 2 Duke cards and selects 1 to keep. These cards provide end game scoring and should be kept secret. Each player also receives a starting Peasant and a starting Knight card.

The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round follows the same pattern:

meeple Roll Phase – The Active Player rolls two dice.
meeple Harvest Phase – The dice activate citizen cards with the result of each individual die and the sum of both dice. All players take their resources at this time.
meeple Action Phase – The Active Player takes two actions from the following: Slay a Monster, Recruit a Citizen, Buy a Domain, Take One of Any Resource.
meeple End Phase – The Active Player passes the dice to their left.

The game ends when:
sauronAll Monsters have been slain OR
sauronAll Domains have been built OR
sauronThe total number of Exhausted stacks is equal to twice the number of players (4 in a 2-player game)

My Thoughts

It goes without saying that the artwork in this game is beyond amazing. I’ve come to love The Mico’s artwork so much, and this game is no exception. Things are vibrant and the citizen cards somehow manage to give an impression of personality through the artwork on these cards. This is the sort of game you could just sit back and look at after setting it up.

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The rules for this game are really simple and laid out well. Designers and publishers should take notice of how this one is done and use it as an example of how to get a player from opening the box to playing the game in a little amount of time. The thickness of the book actually comes from suggested setups, the solo and 5-player variants, and other additional content. The rules themselves are concise and straight-forward. The only real vagueness is that it doesn’t clearly state an exhausted card should go out when a monster or domain pile are empty. My first plays were with it being just for citizens, which really made the game drag on forever.

There are two aspects that set this as the best roll-for-resources game I’ve played: every citizen gives different rewards for rolling the number on your turn vs. the number being rolled on someone else’s turn, and the fact that you gain something even if you don’t trigger any citizens. These things help keep players engaged, and at least give you the sense of making forward progress even when the dice hate you. Gaining for the individual dice, as well as the sum, is another helpful boost.

I love the scaling of monsters in each pile. They grow in threat and reward, and there is a great reason to focus on plowing through monster after monster. They are varied and I like that they are keyed to each environment/area so you might have varied piles.

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This game is so variable with its setup that you can make it where no two games played are identical. I love having the ability to get variety in what is available, from the citizens to recruit to the monsters you face to the dukes you have for scoring. Everything is really modular, which also speaks to how easy it would be to apply expansion content into the game.

The individual turns are simple and fast-moving…once you resolve what everyone gets from the die roll. You get to take two actions, from a small list of actions. It is a little like multi-player solitaire at that point, since what you do on my turn doesn’t necessarily affect what I can do on mine unless you recruit the last citizen in a pile, or purchase the domain I wanted, or kill the monster I was hoping to slay. If you like quick and simple player turns, this is a good one to look at. But if you want a lot of interaction, just know that outside of the dice rolls it might seem lacking.

The game runs a little longer than it should. Unless a player focuses hard on a specific pile, it is usually a gradual approach to depleting enough piles to trigger the end of the game. In a 2-player game, the only possible trigger is 4 exhausted piles because there are more monster and domain piles than the required number. You’d think that would make things go fast, but oftentimes it can be a challenge to build up for a big attack or purchase because there are only two players, so there are several turns spent “gathering” the necessary resources.

The abilities on the citizens vary. Some are really, really good. Some are okay. Others are situational enough that they tend to be the last ones purchased (whether right or wrong, that Alchemist just doesn’t get enough love!). I understand that some of the better ones are going to be 7+ because there is less chance of rolling those numbers than 2-6 (since you use both the numbers rolled individually and the sum of those numbers to trigger citizen abilities). It is just funny how there is a collective sigh when the Peasants trigger again and again.

Setup time is a bear. It never seems like it should be, since everything is organized with tabs in the box, but it will take a bit of time. The good news is that most of the cards don’t shuffle, saving some of the potential setup time. I imagine that it grows even more with expansions, much like a game of Dominion could, depending on the setup you want to go for. You’ll end up with a 4 x 5 grid of cards on the table, which also can take up a bit of table space.

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This is more of a “it’s me” complaint, but the whole roll-for-resources system makes the game feel like it minimizes your chance to plan effectively. Yes, you can buy certain citizens to increase your odds. Especially since you gain for each number rolled and the sum of those numbers. But it still boils down to chance. Too much chance for me, and it may feel that way to other gamers. If all I need to accomplish my task is for X to be rolled, but it takes seven rolls for that to happen, you’ve effectively fallen further behind the other player(s) in the game. This is also part of why the piles tend to exhaust slowly: you need to cover as many numbers as you can, buying 1 of each before really looking to stack up on a specific number.

Final Thoughts

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I really struggled to grasp my feelings about this game. On the one hand, I have discovered that I am really not a huge fan of the roll-for-resources system in a game. It was what drove me to hate Catan. It was something that convinced me to stay far, far away from Machi Koro after one play. It is a game I should absolutely say “nope, not for me” based on that alone.

Yet this game is easily the best implementation of that system. It does keep you engaged during everyone’s turns, although by the end it gets borderline ridiculous with the potential for stuff being earned by the entire table. I played it once with four, being the “banker” so to speak for the resource tokens, and never again. Even when the dice hate you, there is still a consolation resource you can earn and turn into buying new heroes in order to boost future turns. But it still suffers from the same problem as any roll-for-resource system: when the dice favor one player, it presents a runaway leader situation. And there is little you can do about it.

I think that, had the game actually played in the advertised 30-45 minutes, it might have been enough to propel this into a “I’m okay with this game” category. But every game, even solo, felt like it lasted about 30 minutes longer than it should have. Maybe it was just that no one ever went all-in with a specific citizen, or power-rushed through monster stacks, or purchased domains like crazy. All three end-game triggers always seemed to be on the verge of triggering, yet by that point usually one of us was trying oh-so-hard to end things because it had overstayed its welcome.

There is a lot of good in this game, and I know there is a right audience for the game. If you enjoy Catan or Machi Koro, this is arguably a better game with a similar flavor and a whole ton of variety. Family gamers and those who are seeking non-traditional “gateway games” to introduce newer players to the hobby should give this one a lot of consideration as well. This was definitely more of a not-for-me game than a “this is a bad game” situation. There is a ton of expansion content out there for the game that promises to add even more fun and variety to your experience, and anyone who enjoys the game will likely want to expand the content in the box to keep things fresh and variable for a long time.

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Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Valeria: Card Kingdoms. 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