The Re-Review: Year End Sale!

Abyss

Abyss

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • Played before

Abyss is one of those games that plays really well, but unremarkably and that makes it hard to get to the table. It’s mechanics aren’t terribly new and there’s no big hook to pull people in, but it is smooth and easy to teach. Then there’s the art: beautifully illustrated underwater scenes and sea creatures. I just received Abyss: Kraken for Christmas and I can’t wait to see how it changes the game.

Recommended.

Best Treehouse Ever

Best Treehouse Ever

  • 1 play with 2 players
  • New to me

A friend of mine brought this to our weekly meetup and we tried out a two player game. With two players it felt like a matter of figuring out how to get one more point than the other player and then just cruise to victory, and in order to do that, you just need to diversify. That’s it. I’ll likely avoid this, maybe trying it at a higher player count.

Not recommended.

The Grizzled

The Grizzled

  • 2 plays with 2 players, 3 plays with 4 players, 2 plays with 5 players
  • New to me

You’re probably going to lose the first few games of The Grizzled, it’s a tough game. It’s going to let you think you’re doing well, getting very close to the end just before victory is snatched away from you. You’ll grimace as you place the card with all six threats on it and hope your comrades can remove it or handle it without withdrawing early. You’ll wince as you become mute, develop a phobia of whistles, and selfishly support yourself. You’ll cheer when it’s Christmas and one of your comrades gets just a little respite from the war. And you’ll know defeat as the war memorial becomes visible at the end of that last round. Yet, you too might get to feel that surprise as you look around at your nearly dead friends with no cards in their hand while the dove of peace is visible and question this very tenuous win. It’s a tough game, a fun game, and one worth trying.

Clash of Cultures

Clash of Cultures

  • 1 (half) play with 4 players
  • Played before

Clash of Cultures is a game that begs for a regular group that can internalize the rules and get down to business. It’s a long game that could likely become shorter once everyone knows what they’re doing, but in our case it was a learning game and we made it about half way in two and a half hours. Not too shabby, but it also means it’ll be a while before we can really play it. Which is a shame, it’s a great civilization game with a focus on your technology tree, allowing you to shape your culture as you see fit. Combat is simple, and player elimination means the game is over. I’d like to play this again, but it’ll be a while.

Recommended for fans of long games.

Room 25

Room 25

  • 1 play with 6 players
  • New to me

I’m a fan of hidden traitor games, but I’ve avoided playing Room 25 for a while now because it looked like Panic Station which caught a lot of flak. When I sat down to play it, I did have a good time, but there was nothing that grabbed me (like Abyss to some degree). It’s a perfectly average game and one I’ll play, but never suggest.

Not recommended.

Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game

Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game

  • 2 plays with 1 player
  • New to me

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game used to be one of my favorite games. I loved the theme, the deck building, and the game play of it, but once I got into Netrunner the idea of spending time playing-but-not-really-playing two games didn’t appeal to me. I sold my very large collection and moved on, only occasionally looking back at LoTR: LCG with rose-tinted glasses and a hint of regret.

Well, I can get rid of the regret (and I can’t quite pull off rose-tinted glasses) because Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game keeps the best parts of LoTR: LCG’s mechanics while ditching the giant, constantly changing card pool and deck building. It can be played with anywhere from 1-4 players out of the box (LoTR: LCG needed a second core set to play any more than two players) and each character feels unique and useful.

The addition of dice had me excited from the start. Instead of swingy shadow cards affecting the enemy, you now have dice to contend with and some of those dice benefit you and very occasionally those dice can really benefit you as they explode over and over again.

Basically, this kills any desire I had to play Lord of the Rings: The Card Game every again. It removes my chief complaints about the system (deck building, too-big card pool) while adding something fun and exciting (dice!).

Highly recommended for solo gamers.

Blood Rage

Blood Rage

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • Played before

This game keeps getting better and each play only cements my happiness that this is on my 10x10 list for 2016. The best thing I can say about this game is it feels like you’re getting way more out of this game than it deserves to have. It takes about 90 minutes to play a game and you feel like you’ve gotten way more than that out of it. So good.

Highly recommended. Top 10

Pairs

Pairs

  • 1 play with 6 players, 1 play with 5 players„
  • New to me

Again with the fillers! Yeah, I’m always on the hunt and I quite liked Pairs. My advice is to sit down with a group of friends and start dealing out cards, don’t explain the rules. Once everyone has a card, point to the person with the lowest card and explain their options: pass or hit. Explain what passing does, then explain why they want to hit and the risks they’re taking. Explain how there’s no winner, just one loser, and then go to town. The more you try to explain the game play of this one, the more you’re going to lose the group, so just dive in.

Recommended.

Codenames

Codenames

  • 4 plays with 7 players, 2 plays with 5 players
  • Played before

After Netrunner, Codenames is my most played game of the year and deservedly so. It plays a ridiculous number of people well, and is a lot of fun as you work out the clues and what they could mean. It’s easily taught and works for all sorts of people. If this isn’t in your colleciton, you ought to have a good reason for that.

Highly recommended.

Port Royal

Port Royal

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • Played before

Port Royal is in a tough spot in terms of games. It’s a small box with a deck of cards, but it’s a 30-45 minute game. It’s not quite a filler and it’s not a main event. It’s something in between, something you use when a filler would be too short, but you don’t have time for much else. Because of that, I’m hesistant that it’s on my 10x10 list. Yet, I’m optimistic that I can get 10 plays out of it, if only because the expansion adds some solo and cooperative play.

Recommended, but try it first.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

  • 1 play with 4 players
  • Played before

Hey, another 10x10 game for 2016! This one is one of those euro games where I don’t care about winning, though I am trying. I love how your castle comes out at the end and the story it tells of it’s crazy architect (hey, that’s you!). You may end up having a lot of basement rooms, a train room, and an audience chamber—I call this one the evil genius. Or maybe you have a lot of kitchens, a stable, a grand banquet, a larder, pantry, and servants quarters—“The Entertainer”. One way or another you’re probably going to have a fun time playing this one.

Highly recommended.

Between Two Cities

Between Two Cities

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • Played before

Between Two Cities continues to be a hit with my friends. It delightfully combines 7 Wonders, Suburbia, and an odd cooperation mechanic to create a beautiful filler that doesn’t feel like a filler. Just like 7 Wonders, it plays up to 7 players and does so without taking any longer than it does with 3 players.

Highly recommended.

7 Wonders: Duel

7 Wonders: Duel

  • 2 plays with 2 players
  • New to me

I had watched lots of reviews and play throughs of 7 Wonders: Duel before playing it, but I had a very strong feeling that I’d like it, and I can report back that I was right. Go me.

Take all of the tension of playing 7 Wonders and ratchet it up a bit as it’s a lot clearer how the other player is doing. Then add in a few additional ways to win (or lose) and now you’re balancing a few things in an attempt to stay afloat. Do you go for the military win and crush your opponent? Or do you go enlightened and go for the science victory? Then again, maybe you stick it out and go for points. All of those are viable, you just have to decide what you’re going to do.

Highly recommended.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 - United Kingdom & Pennsylvania

Ticket to Ride: UK and Pennsylvania

  • 2 plays with 2 players
  • New to me

With two plays, Shannon and I got to try both sides of this map collection. First, Pennsylvania. I wasn’t sure adding a stock mechanic to Ticket to Ride would work, it just didn’t seem to be a great idea, but after playing it, it’s probably my favorite, or maybe second favorite map for Ticket to Ride. It adds just enough of a wrinkle as you have to pay attention to the stocks other players are taking and diversify enough to earn points on multiple stocks instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket. Fantastic map, and worth the purchase alone.

Then we flipped the board over and played UK. This side features technologies that you have to build in order to create anything other than 1-2 length routes in England. You have to buy concessions for Wales, Scotland, and Ireland/France. You have to buy technologies that allow you to build 3 and 4/5/6 length routes. You want ferries? Get the technology. All of this is really great. But. But. There is a problem. There’s a route from Southampton to New York (yea, that New York) that earns a player 40 points. It requires 3 ferries and something like 10 total train cars. And no technologies. So, all that hard work you’ve been doing to earn a tiny amount of points all over Great Britain? Chump change compared to just drawing a ton of cards and building a 40 point route. Oh, and to boot you’ll probably end the game with that one play. I’m not bitter. I need to play it again, but I’m thinking that the Southampton-New York route doesn’t quite work with two players. I’m interested to try it with more players, but it makes me nervous, especially considering how you can just sit back, draw cards, and ignore the whole point of the map!

Recommended for fans of Ticket to Ride.

Colt Express

Colt Express

  • 1 play with 5 players
  • Played before

I used to own and enjoy RoboRally, but eventually sold it because it always overstayed it’s welcome. I enjoyed the silliness of the programming and how everyone’s plans went off the rails as soon as someone got pushed one tiny bit. However, playing for two or more hours was always a drag.

Colt Express offers a lot of what I enjoyed about RoboRally, but in less than an hour. You still get those funny situations where your plans are completely thrown off, but the game has a clearly defined length.

Recommended.

Rhino Hero

Super Rhino!

  • 3 plays with 5 players
  • Played before

This game is a always a fun one to bring out to end the night. Something both simple and silly and easily played in about five minutes with rules. Really, it’s an activity as winning or losing feels pretty arbitrary at times and at the whims of whoever started and the luck of the draw, but given the length and the laughs, I’m okay with that.

Recommended.