Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Outpost: Siberia

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

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

An Overview of Outpost: Siberia

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

Description from the BGG Page:

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

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Sellswords: Olympus

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

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

An Overview of Sellswords: Olympus

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

Description from the publisher:

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

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Fields of Agincourt

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

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

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

An Overview of Fields of Agincourt

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

Description from the publisher:

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

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

Playing Fields of Agincourt consists of two game stages:

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

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

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoever has the highest score wins.

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Gaming · 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.

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Crazier Eights: Camelot

Thank you for checking review #37 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

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

An Overview of Crazier Eights: Camelot

Crazier Eights: Camelot is a game designed by James Wallace Gray and is self-published. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 10-30 minute play time.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

This game sets up in a simple fashion: you shuffle the cards, flip the top card to start the discard pile, and then deal 7 cards to each player. On your turn a player draws a card and then is able to play a card and to discard a card, in either order. Played cards are either one-time effects (which go to the bottom of the discard pile after use) or they are Assets, which stay in play in front of that player (they have ongoing effects). Discarding a card requires the card to either match the color or number of the card on top of the discard pile.

Play continues around the table until one person has depleted their hand of cards.

My Thoughts

I’m a sucker for anything Arthurian, so that immediately drew me in for both this version and my previously-reviewed Avalon version. I really enjoyed the artwork and the names of some of the cards. While there were generic names for a few things (which do fit in thematically), there were also a lot of recognizable characters and places from the Arthurian lore. Any fan of King Arthur will enjoy this aspect of the game, although the artwork can be enjoyed by those who know nothing of King Arthur. This version also contained many more of the “traditional” characters from Arthurian lore: the ones that come first to mind when you mention King Arthur.

The game is very simple to teach, with a rules explanation taking 60 seconds. This allows you to grab new players into a game without a long, lengthy rules overhead. All exceptions are found on the cards themselves, and those are relatively straightforward in what they allow you to do. A player who has not played Crazy Eights is not at a disadvantage.

I have found there is a part of me that can appreciate smaller card games like this one (and its Avalon version) and The Fox in the Forest, which take a deck of cards and allows you to do something simple, yet more complex than what you’d get with the standard deck of cards. The essence is simple: draw a card, play a card, discard a card. But the text on the cards, with each one being different in some way, is what elevates this above the simplicity of a card game.

This game has the feel of a Fluxx game combined with a card game, but it is far less chaotic than Fluxx. The goal remains the same throughout, and there is a clear path to get there. There is some randomness in there, but it never feels like you’re winning or losing due to blind luck (which is something I’ve definitely felt while playing a Fluxx game).

The quality of the final version of the game, in terms of cards, was beyond my expectations. I had mentioned, in my Avalon review, that this was an issue in the prototype but could have been something that would be fixed by the time it was in a final version. I’ve held the final version of both the Camelot and Avalon versions in my hands and, rest assured, they are a great quality that do not demand to be sleeved instantly. However, if you are a compulsive sleever, you will need to get a different box for storing the game as there will not be room.

In my review of Avalon I was disappointed in the lack of numbered cards in that deck, Too many cards were either multi-colored or multi-symboled which made it feel a little too easy at times. This version takes that negative and blows it away, providing a far more solid experience. This is, of course, the set that would be recommended to begin with and the ideal situation is to add Camelot and Avalon together and play using both. While Avalon was able to function on its own, the Camelot version is the superior stand-alone product and will provide the real Crazier Eights experience that one might expect to find.

I had mentioned the theme as a nitpick in my Avalon review, claiming that apart from the name and the artwork that there wasn’t really any real tie between the powers and the cards. Some of them, I felt, required some creative imagining. Well, the designer blew me away by writing a pair of posts where he dove into that topic and demonstrated how the card powers themselves were thematic. Yes, sometimes you still really have to stretch the imagination to make that connection on the fly, but after reading these posts I gladly concede the point to him. The designer did a great job at working to put as much theme as you possibly can onto an Arthurian-version of Crazy Eights.

Read those posts:

Final Verdict

Overall, this game fits nicely in a niche category of games: small, portable, fast, easy games with a small footprint. These games are valuable to have in a collection, both because they are great for taking places (such as a restaurant)and perfect to play in those windows of time when you might only have 10-15 minutes to spare. There are many games that can’t even be set up in that amount of time, much less played to completion. And so that is an area where this game shines.

It shares striking similarities with two games in particular, merging the traits from two of them while discarding the random nature of one: Crazy Eights and Fluxx. This makes it a game I’d rather play over either of those, as it offers more than the deck of cards and a bit more stability to win conditions over Fluxx. This isn’t a game I’d pull out on a regular basis, but neither is Fluxx and so it fills that niche nicely in my collection. This quality was strengthened with the play of the Camelot version of the game, solidifying it into the collection alongside Avalon. Ideally, getting them both is the best way to go in order to bring out all of the fun combos and a whole varied spectrum of numbers to take in consideration.

If this game didn’t have the Arthurian theme, it probably wouldn’t appeal to me as much. There is not a lot to set this apart from other games, and it doesn’t do anything particularly well or innovative. It is a nice game that doesn’t take long to play and is easy to teach. This is a game I can have my wife toss in her purse when we leave the house, something to play at family get-togethers with gamers of all types, and a game that would function as a filler during a game day. There are many games to choose from which could fill those same needs, making it hard to advocate this over any of those others.

However, if you are a fan of the original Crazy Eights or of King Arthur, this would definitely be worth considering. Grabbing this by itself is a very inexpensive option, and tossing on the Avalon version as a pairing still makes this a very reasonably-priced game. It definitely provides a fun experience while playing it, so long as you don’t mind games where you need to read the card’s text in order to see what it can do. If you wanted to like Fluxx, but hated the random changes it enforced, then you might really enjoy this game.

You may order Crazier Eights: Camelot and find detailed rules and explanations at

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Lignum (Second Edition)

Thank you for checking review #36 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 Lignum (Second Edition)

Lignum is a game designed by Alexander Huemer and is published by Capstone Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 90-120 minute play time.

Starting with a limited amount of resources and workers, you set out to run your lumber mill as efficiently as possible. Savvy investments and proper planning will ensure that your mill will be the most profitable. Be cautious, however, for competition is fierce! You will need to secure the best cutting areas, make use of limited contract workers, and continually update and replace your equipment. Your competitors are not the only thing to worry about as you will also need to store enough firewood and food to survive the harsh winters.

Lignum is a strategic optimization game that portrays the logging industry in the 19th century. Each round, players travel to the nearby forest, picking up tools and hiring workers along the way. After felling timber, players must decide how to transport their wood to their sawmills and if the wood should be processed or sold immediately, all the while optimizing their entire processing chain.

The second edition of Lignum also includes the “Joinery & Buildings” expansion. In this expansion, players can visit two additional locations along the supply path. Players may now acquire special buildings that give them unique, special abilities for the remainder of the game. Additionally, players can acquire joiners to help generate more income each round; if those joiners are supplied with the appropriate wood, players can earn extra money at the end of the game!

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

There are only a few changes in setup for this player count. The starting wood supply in the center will have (2) firewood placed on four of the spaces and (3) firewood placed on the other two spaces, along with a player’s token going onto these two spaces so that each player will cut in a (3) wood area for the first round. The tokens placed along the track each round will consist of (2) X tokens, (2) rafts, (1) cart, (1) sled, (2) food, (1) money, (1) saw, and (3) random orange “building” tokens. These are randomly distributed throughout the empty spaces around the board track each round, and the big inclusion would be those X tokens which essentially shrink the board by two spaces.

Six bearers, eight cutters, and three sawyers are placed on their respective places on the board. Two task cards are placed face-up, and four planned work cards are used. If using the Joiners expansion, six random building tiles are also placed face-up along the board.

The game is played over the course of two years, with each year being broken into the four seasons. Spring, Summer, and Fall are all played in an identical manner. Players start by secretly selecting one of six areas where they will cut wood that season, revealing them at the same time and putting those tokens in the associated area. If there is food in the area, they get that food immediately – however, if two or more people select the same area the food is divided equally with any leftover remaining on the space. After that the players take turns moving their foreman around the board along the numbered track, taking the action associated with the space. This ranges from taking the token on the space and getting its reward (or putting it in their supply), hiring workers, planning work for future seasons, gaining tasks that provide a bonus at the end of the game if completed, and buying/selling goods.

After that comes the cutting phase, where players use their woodcutters to chop wood in their chosen location. The first player to reach the end of the track cuts first, etc. so if two players chose the same spot there is strong incentive to jump ahead in the previous phase in order to cut the desired wood. That cut wood is placed on the player’s supply area of the board. Then players can assign their bearers to transport the wood from the supply down to either the cutting or the selling area of their board. Then, players can assign sawyers to cut the wood (but they need a 1-time use saw token per sawyer) and either place it into the firewood storage space or into the selling space. Players then can assign wood to task cards, sell wood for money, and then wood remaining in the sale area advances one step along the drying track.

In winter, a lot less happens. Each player takes a wood of their choice and adds it to their supply. Then, they can use their colored meeple to either cut two firewood, transport wood from their supply to the cutting/selling area (but only if they have a sled), or to cut one piece of wood. In the second year only they can then assign wood to a task card. After that comes the time to pay the required food and firewood to feed and heat, which is determined by a 1st Year and a 2nd Year winter card chosen at the start of the game. Any wood or food that cannot be paid will cost 3 money per unit the player is short. Loans can be taken to help pay this debt, but must be paid back (with interest) at the end of the game.

After both years are played there is one final selling phase and then players tally up their money. The player with the most money will win.

My Thoughts

 I’m all for variability in a game, and this has ample changes to allow a fresh experience from play-to-play and, to an extent, even within the game itself. There are five different Winter cards for each year, each card having two different sides. So your amount of food and wood will change each time you play. The task cards only have a few out at a time, and those only change when a person buys them. There is the variable reseeding of the forest areas between rounds. There are only a certain number of the planned work cards used each game, and only a certain number of the buildings used from the Joiners mini-expansion. And then, round to round, the position in which the tokens appear will be different. So there is a lot of freshness to be found even at the round level in optimizing your path in order to grab what you want first or get to the end before your opponents so you can cut first.

 The planned work actions are a fantastic mechanism in the game. There are only a few available for the game, so you can’t always count on a certain strategy being available but you’ll know from the start what you can use. These can be really powerful, such as getting food when shipping wood down the river. Food is usually in short supply, so any action that can provide food is a great one. You have three tokens to use, allowing you to plan either one, two, or three seasons in advance to use that action. But each season you can only use this space once, meaning you if you want to do two of the actions in the same season you need to go there two seasons ahead of time and drop a 2, then next season go and drop the 1 on the other card you want to execute. But some cards don’t do anything if used in winter, and if you’re like me and accidentally ship your logs down river in the Fall with a planned work action they won’t arrive until the Spring rather than the Winter because the river freezes in Winter. It is certainly possible to ignore the planned work and do well. It is also possible to do a little bit of it, using just your 1 token to plan for the next season. But this system rewards those players who are able to think 2-3 seasons ahead and plan accordingly. And I love that!

 The worker placement aspect of this game was what initially got me interested, as you are all traveling along the same 18-22 spaces on the board. Some spaces, such as where you hire workers, have enough space for everyone to stop there. Many of the spaces hold only one foreman, and most of them have a 1-time use token on there which means the first person to stop there gets it. Which means if you stop there, someone else is able to jump ahead of you, which brings about the internal debate on whether you need that item on the way or if you need that one six spaces down the path to make sure no one else takes it. You can jump ahead as far as you’d like with your move, but once you go there you can’t travel back. If you’re a fan of aggressive play, you can go as far as to take a spot you know the other person needs in order to force them to buy that food they are short on, and so forth, but at the risk that they might leapfrog you and get to that spot you really wanted. It all works magnificently, especially since the tokens will appear in a different location each turn, meaning that food you need might be near the very end and so you really have to agonize over when to start jumping ahead and how far you need to go to be sure to get that spot.

 It is a process to chop the wood, move it to the cutting area, and saw it down into the more useful pieces. This makes me appreciate the whole process, but also provides a great set of mechanics in the game. You need various numbers of each type of worker, although you may not need all of them on a given round. There are ways to be more efficient with moving the wood, although some come at the cost of a delayed delivery. You also have to provide saws for the sawyers to use, making it even more costly to do. You also have your colored meeple to account for, which I forget to account for more times than not and end up overspending. Did I mention that hired workers are only there for that season, which means every season you need to hire more if you want to do that action again! I really enjoy this aspect of the game.

 Money = victory points. And unlike a game like Five Tribes (which uses money as points), they final scores are usually low. Our average scores are 57-58 with the absolute highs coming on our last play: 69 for me and 80 for her. Most come around the 45-55 range, which means that every dollar usually counts. I haven’t won a game yet, but my first two games were lost by a combined total of 3 points. Yes, 3 points. You try telling me that my bad habit of hiring a worker I don’t need wasn’t a difference maker. This game forces you to be thrifty because it is not only a challenge to make money, but your essential actions of hiring workers, buying food, and buying saws all cost you money. Want a task card that can score you 18-23 points? It costs you money. Want to use a planned work action that someone else is already on? It costs you money! You start with 5 money, and for the first few seasons you’ll over between 0-10 pretty regularly. After all, it is quite the process to get that wood cut, moved, sawed, dried, and sold for a big profit! All of which feels like it pays off at the end of the game.

 The Joiner mini-expansion is an easy expansion to include. I left it out for our first two plays to learn the base game and understand it. After playing with the expansion, though, I see no reason to ever leave it out. Even when teaching new players, because it honestly does not add to the complexity of the game while opening at least one path to higher scoring. And a player, like my wife did, can completely ignore the expansion content and do just fine. It adds two more stops along the path. Easy to add, easy to learn, and it definitely enriches the game. Do yourself a favor and just learn it with your first game. You won’t regret it, as it adds in seamlessly.

 You can play this game and do well without paying attention to other players. You can have a great experience even if you intentionally avoid taking the things they need. However, your game will get better if you take note of their needs and try to disrupt them. Our last game as lost because I didn’t realize she had her wood set up to be able to pick up and score two additional task cards in the final seasons of the game. Her three completed tasks blew past my one task + triple joiner combo and I didn’t see it coming. Don’t want a multiplayer solitaire game? Good, because this is a game where paying attention to the other players can make a big difference. I would gladly have spent one money to prevent her scoring an extra 20+ from that last task card!

 I need to find a way to have myself not be the banker in this game, as I could see it really slowing things down in a game with more players. I’m very interested in the new insert that Meeple Realty just announced for the game, as it might make the distribution of money/wood/food an easier process. The game is a bit fiddly, but never in a way that really detracts from the game experience. If anything it adds to the experience of seeing the wood progress from area to area, and going from cut wood to sawed wood, etc.

 If you dislike a game where feeding and heating are a mandatory requirement, a mechanic seen in games like Agricola, then you won’t be a fan of it here. Overall, this never feels out of place, however, it definitely has a chance of slowing you down in your money-making engine because you need to get wood for year-end heating while also getting wood to sell for profit. You need food, and there are only two spaces each season that get food tokens and two spaces in the wood-cutting area that get food cubes added per placement card. It can become a hard thing to gain, making you have to consider purchasing food in the Fall rather than lose 3 coins per food you are short. So while it is a requirement each year, I did find it easier to accomplish overall than Agricola.

 Let’s face it, the color scheme of the game isn’t spectacular unless you really love browns and greens. The board and components don’t pop when on the table but, as far as I am concerned, they don’t have to. The color schemes make sense in terms of the theme. But if you need a pretty-looking game than this one might end up leaving you disappointed.

 On behalf of my wife: she doesn’t like how long the drying process takes. See, before the wood gets to the spots where you can sell them at an added profit, it has to take a season to advance to a spot that is the same as when it enters the selling area. So that wood you need to get to the +2 area for your task card really takes 3 seasons to get there. As for me, I think this is fine as it stands but my wife wasn’t a big fan of that initial “add no value” drying space. I think she should just get some huts and then she can zoom those right along as she pleases.

Final Verdict 

This game has hit me in a way that few games accomplish. I fell in love with this game from the first play, and I can’t stop thinking about Lignum. I am pretty sure that, if I had no restraint on time, this is the game I’d be pulling out almost every time someone asked what game I wanted to play. And I am still trying to wrap my head around the full scope of strategy that this game has to offer.

There is so much going on in this game, yet it all ties together in a manner that feels like it should be easy. I still find myself failing in my attempts to plan work effectively, wishing I had a certain token still available or choosing to do an action in the wrong season so that I don’t reap the rewards in time. Yet rather than being a source of frustration, this actually has me excited to try again and do better the next time I play.

Victory in the game has eluded me, something that could be a source of frustration as well. Yet I find myself enjoying the experience even when I lose. Most of the time I don’t lose badly – my first two games I lost by a combined total of 3 points – but the last game we played I got crushed by her clever planning that I didn’t see coming. I obliterated my previous high score only to watch her take things a notch above even that.

Lignum is that perfect game that provides a fulfilling game experience, although I’d always be willing to reset and play again after finishing. This is the sort of game to play when you only have time or the desire to play one game. I’d gladly travel to a game day to play this and nothing else and consider it time well-spent. It plays reasonably well for the timeframe – our latest game took around 90 minutes for the two of us – which means it could even be played on a weeknight after the little one goes to bed.

It can be hard to read through the positive excitement written in many reviews out there, so let’s be completely transparent for a moment about Lignum. I’ve played a lot of great new games this year. I’ve reviewed three dozen games so far and, looking at that list, I’d put this above any one of them. Yes, even my much-loved Kingdom Builder and my newer-loved Mystic Vale. Both of those games will appear on my year-end Top 10 list, but neither will be as high as Lignum. There is a very real chance that this game is in my Top 3. It is that excellent of a game.

Edward at Heavy Cardboard likes to state “Theme schmeme” and I agree – don’t let a lack of interest in woodcutting put you off from a game that is excellent mechanically. There are a lot of great, tense moments throughout the game. This is one that, when it hits the table, leaves me feeling satisfied. It plays well with two, and we’ve tried it with three and enjoyed that experience as well. I imagine it scales just as fine with four, being a great game to add to your collection because it can be used for any of the advertised player counts.

If you like euro games and either enjoy heavier games, or want to try something that is mechanically different than an Uwe Rosenberg game but similar in weight, this would be an excellent choice. I’ve played two excellent games from Capstone this year, and this one secured them as one of my top publishers. There are other games they produce that don’t play 2-players, but I intend to at least play, if not own, them all at some point in time.

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

Board Gaming · 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.