New: Wednesday Sales

In an effort to make room for some of the exciting new stock we have coming in, and to showcase some good games that have not gotten the attention they deserve, Starlit will be holding a small weekly sale every Wednesday!

Each week, we’ll be singling out a few games and marking them down dramatically. They will be available at the deeply discounted price until the following Wednesday (or until stock runs out), at which point any leftover stock will return to its original pricing. We’ve also adjusted how reward points apply to these items, so customers enrolled in our Citadel Citizens Points Reward Program will be able to save even more by spending just a few points.

We’ve added a new “Weekly Sales” button to the website front page and a Wednesday Sale category to make navigation easier, and will be posting sale updates to the blog each week.

Make sure to check out our first batch of sale games, available at a special price until next Wednesday, October 5th:

Guest Review : Caylus

Caylus Box CoverIn Caylus, you and your opponents play the roles of builders who are tasked with building a village and castle for King Philip the Fair in the year 1289. Caylus is a fairly heavy strategy game that revolves around a worker-placement mechanic. Resource-management is also a very important part of the game. Not a game for beginners to European-style board gaming – there is virtually no luck involved, accommodates 2-5 players, and games often run between 1.5 and 2.5 hours.

Appearance: This is a tricky subject, because there are actually two main versions of this game. In the original (blue box) version of the game, the board/tile art is merely average, and the coins are cardboard tokens. In the limited edition (black box) version of the game, the art is spectacular, the colours are beautiful – albeit dark – and the metal coins are a pleasure to handle. The limited edition also comes with nice cloth/felt bags for the wooden player tokens, building tiles and resources, and coins.

Rules/Ease of Learning: As I mentioned in the introduction, Caylus is not a game for beginners. There is a lot to keep track of in this game, and it can be frustrating for new players to fall behind in the early game and stay there for two hours. That being said, the rules are not terribly complex – there are just a lot of them.

The game is played over a number of rounds (averaging around 15), with seven phases per round. Players receive income to fund their worker placements in the following phase. Workers are placed along a winding track, populated with six squares that are printed on the board, six pink tiles that are randomly distributed, and a number of blank squares that are filled when the players purchase building tiles.

Each square has an action associated with it – some produce resources (wood, stone, food, cloth, gold) or money, some change turn order, some allow you to build new tiles to place along the track. Each round, players may pay to move a ‘provost’ marker that may prevent some tiles from activating at all. Players may also acquire royal favours that allow them to advance along one of four reward tracks (victory points, money, resources, or building).

Additionally, players may place workers alongside King Philip’s castle, in order to contribute to the construction of the castle dungeon, walls, and towers. Victory points are primarily scored for purchasing building tiles and building sections of the castle. The game ends when the ‘bailiff’ marker (a companion to the ‘provost’) reaches a particular square near the end of the building track.

Gameplay: Though the rules are rather complex, it is the strategy and resource juggling that makes Caylus so difficult. Deciding when you should purchase a new building, when you should build castle pieces, and when you should just take a turn to replenish your resources and money can be a headache. You may sometimes have to decide between placing a worker on a tile that benefits you and placing a worker on a tile just to prevent an opponent from reaping its benefits.

Like some other moderate- to advanced-complexity worker-placement games (Dungeon Lords, Egizia), Caylus can be quite frustrating when you make a mistake. Building tiles execute in order, and it is possibly – even likely – that you will forget that at least once in your first few games, resulting in you wasting a worker because you don’t yet have the cloth you need to joust, or the food you need to build a castle piece. However, since the game is played over more than a dozen rounds, making a mistake like this isn’t quite as devastating as in some other games.

One thing worth mentioning is that individual players’ turns are relatively short in Caylus. Since there is a worker placement phase every round, and each player may potentially place up to six workers, this is important. In my personal experience – even when playing with players who usually take a long time analyzing their moves – the phases move relatively quickly, and players will rarely find themselves waiting a significant time before it is their move once more.

It will certainly take a few games to get the hang of Caylus, but it’s well worth the effort. Gamers who have played several resource-management or worker-placement games should be able to figure things out with a minimal amount of difficulty. With no dice or cards, the only random element in Caylus is the initial six pink tiles – and the order of those tiles does modify the gameplay a fair amount.

Conclusion: Caylus is certainly one of my personal favourites. The almost nonexistent luck element and the moderate degree of competition (as players vie for turn order and choice worker placements) combine to make a game that is quite fun overall. The game works best with four players, though it plays fairly well with three or five as well. If you’re looking for a deep strategy game that will keep you and your friends busy for a few hours, Caylus is a good bet.

Pre-Order Games List

SKU Name Release Date
BOARD GAMES
FFGDU14 DEADWOOD 9/21/2011
FFGMEC02 LORD OF THE RINGS LCG: “HUNT FOR GOLLUM” ADV-PACK 9/21/2011
FFGMEC03 LORD OF THE RINGS LCG: “CONFLICT/CARROCK” ADV-PACK 9/21/2011
GTM140 SENTINELS OF THE MULTIVERSE 9/23/2011
CZE 01212 WALKING DEAD BOARD GAME (TV) 9/28/2011
FFGMEC01 THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE CARD GAME 9/29/2011
FFGMEC05 LORD OF THE RINGS CG: “HILLS/EMYN MUL” ADV-PACK 9/29/2011
FFGTH16 TANNHAUSER: “MIZU” FIGURE 9/29/2011
FFGTH17 TANNHAUSER: ITAMI FIGURE 9/29/2011
ASMTIM01US TIMELINE 9/30/2011
BANREOUT RESIDENT EVIL DECK BUILDING GAME: OUTBREAK EXP 9/30/2011
FDD101056N CAN’T STOP 9/30/2011
FDD101059N BUYWORD DELUXE 9/30/2011
FDD101289N NUMBER PLEASE 9/30/2011
FDD101300N DRAGON RAMPAGE 9/30/2011
FDD101304N MONTAGE 9/30/2011
FDD101307N NEW ENGLAND RAILWAYS 9/30/2011
LOO040 ICE DICE 9/30/2011
LOO047 STAR FLUXX 9/30/2011
LOO048 LOONEY PYRAMIDS – RAINBOW STASH 9/30/2011
LOO049 LOONEY PYRAMIDS – XENO STASH 9/30/2011
SG2001 CONFUSION: ESPIONAGE & DECEPTION IN THE COLD WAR 9/30/2011
SG9002 SURVIVE: 5 & 6 PLAYER EXPANSION 9/30/2011
SJG5523A MUNCHKIN JUMBO D6 – RED 9/30/2011
SJG5523B MUNCHKIN JUMBO D6 – ORANGE 9/30/2011
SJG5523C MUNCHKIN JUMBO D6 – YELLOW 9/30/2011
SJG5523D MUNCHKIN JUMBO D6 – GREEN 9/30/2011
SJG5523E MUNCHKIN JUMBO D6 – BLUE 9/30/2011
SJG5523F MUNCHKIN JUMBO D6 – PURPLE 9/30/2011
SWPHGMS SUMMONER WARS: “MASTER SET”; 9/30/2011
TRG4003 A FEW ACRES OF SNOW 9/30/2011
TTT1002 HOMESTEADERS 9/30/2011
TTT1005 EMINENT DOMAIN 9/30/2011
TTT1006 BELFORT 9/30/2011
ZMG4075 DARK MINIONS 9/30/2011
ZMG7072 NINJATO 9/30/2011
ZMG7082 UNDERMINING 9/30/2011
SPM21101 SUPER DUNGEON EXPLORE 10/1/2011
BANSTDBG STAR TREK DBG: NEXT GENERATION PREMIERE EDITION 10/7/2011
ASMCLAU02US CLAUSTROPHOBIA EXPANSION 10/15/2011
ASMCYC02 CYCLADES EXPANSION 10/15/2011
CRS1001 CROSSROADS: ANCESTORS 10/15/2011
CRY01221 PENNY ARCADE DBG: GAMERS VS EVIL 10/15/2011
FFGDT030 DUST “TACTICS”: HEAVY-RECON GRENAIERS 10/15/2011
FFGDT031 DUST “TACTICS”: RED DEVILS 10/15/2011
FFGMEC07 LORD OF THE RINGS LCG: “RETURN TO MIRKWOOD” A-PACK 10/15/2011
FFGRW02 RUNEWARS: BANNERS OF WAR EXPANSION 10/15/2011
MNIMHP100 The MANHATTAN PROJECT 10/15/2011
QUG60221 DSCHUNKE 10/15/2011
TLC2003 BAG O’ ZOMBIES!!! 10/15/2011
TLC2012 ZOMBIES!!! 2 2ND EDITION 10/15/2011
TLC3900 LITTLE DEAD RIDING HOOD 10/15/2011
AEG5017 THUNDERSTONE: HEART OF DOOM 10/29/2011
AEG5303 NIGHTFALL: BLOOD COUNTRY 10/29/2011
AEG5401 NINJA: LEGEND OF THE SCORPION CLAN 10/29/2011
ASMECL01 ECLIPSE 10/31/2011
ASMQUE01 QUEBEC 10/31/2011
ASMSUL01US SULTAN 10/31/2011
ASMTAK01 TAKENOKO 10/31/2011
CMG1002 K2 EXPANSION 10/31/2011
CRY01212 WALKING DEAD BOARDGAME 10/31/2011
FDD101290N MIRROR, MIRROR 10/31/2011
FDD101309N EMPIRES: AGE OF DISCOVERY – BUILDER EXPANSION 10/31/2011
MFG3305 DISCWORLD: ANKH-MORPORK 10/31/2011
RIO454 DOMINION: HINTERLANDS 10/31/2011
ZMG7021E PANDEMIC: ON THE BRINK 11/1/2011
DOW 720113 TICKET TO RIDE ASIA MAP COLLECTION VOL 1 11/2/2011
ZMG7074 PALENQUE 11/15/2011
WZK 70474 QUARRIORS! RISE OF THE DEMONS EXPANSION SET 11/8/2011
WZK 70438 STAR TREK EXPEDITIONS EXPANSION SET 11/8/2011
GGS003 ASCENSION, STORM OF SOULS 11/25/2011
DOW 720114 TICKET TO RIDE INDIA MAP COLLECTION 11/30/2011
FDD101124 FOR SALE 11/30/2011
FDD101279N PASTICHE – 2ND EDITION 11/30/2011
FDD101305N ROAD TO CANTURBURY 11/30/2011
FDD101308N BAZAAR 11/30/2011
FDD101311 SANTIAGO DE CUBA 11/30/2011
FFGTI06 TWILIGHT IMPERIUM 3RD ED “REX”; 11/30/2011
FFGVA65 A GAME OF THRONES BOARDGAME 2ND EDITION 11/30/2011
HMS2000 JUMP THE SHARK 11/30/2011
IBCFPF1 FLASH POINT: FIRE RESCUE 11/30/2011
MFG4508 NIPPON RAILS (2011 EDITION) 11/30/2011
WOTR001 WAR OF THE RING 2ND EDITION 11/30/2011
FDD101306N ZONG SHI 1/30/2012

 

CARD GAMES

FFGCT14E CALL OF CTHULHU CCG: CONSPIR/CHAOS REVISED ASY PAC 9/21/2011
FFGCT48 CALL OF CTHULHU LCG: “CURSE/JADE EMPEROR” ASY PACK 9/21/2011
FFGGOT73 GAME OF THRONES LCG: “HERE TO SERVE” CHAPTER PACK 9/21/2011
FFGGOT36 A GAME OF THRONES CCG: CORE SET 9/29/2011
FFGGOT49E GAME OF THRONES LCG: KING/SEA “REVISED” EXPANSION 9/29/2011
FFGGOT66 GAME OF THRONES LCG: “KINGS OF THE STORM” DLX EXP 9/29/2011
FFGGOT74 GAME OF THRONES LCG: “QUEEN OF DRAGONS” DLX EXP 9/29/2011
FFGGW03 BLOOD BOWL TEAM MANAGER CARD GAME 9/29/2011
FFGWHC23 WARHAMMER: INV LCG: “THE INEVITABLE CITY” B-PACK 9/29/2011
FFGCT15E CALL OF CTHULHU: DUNWICH DENIZENS REVISED ASY-PACK 10/15/2011
FFGCT49 CALL OF CTHULHU LCG: “BREATHING JUNGLE” ASY PACK 10/15/2011
FFGWHC25 WARHAMMER: INV LCG: “THE IRON ROCK” BATTLE-PACK 10/15/2011
FFGGOT43E GAME OF THRONES LCG: CITY OF SECRETS CHAPTER PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT44E GAME OF THRONES LCG: TIME OF TRIALS CHAPTER PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT45E GAME OF THRONES LCG: TOWER OF THE HAND CHAP PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT46E GAME OF THRONES LCG: TALES/RED KEEP CHAP PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT47E GAME OF THRONES LCG: SECRETS & SPIES CHAP PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT48E GAME OF THRONES LCG: BATTLE OF BLACKWATER C-PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT51E GAME OF THRONES LCG: WOLVES OF THE NORTH C-PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT52E GAME OF THRONES LCG: “BEYOND THE WALL” C-PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT53E GAME OF THRONES LCG: “SWORD OF DARKNESS” C-PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT54E GAME OF THRONES LCG: “THE WILDLING HORDE” C-PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT55E GAME OF THRONES LCG: “A KING IN THE NORTH” C-PACK 11/30/2011
FFGGOT56E GAME OF THRONES LCG: “RETURN OF THE OTHERS” C-PACK 11/30/2011

Guest Review : 7 Wonders

7 Wonders Game CoverIn this hobby, German-style games often fall under two broad categories:  the complex games for serious hobbyists, and the light, fast and fun games made for families and more social gaming groups. Occasionally, a Eurogame comes out that defies easy categorization.  7 Wonders is neither a typical “gamer’s game” nor a “gateway game”.  It is best described as a “filler for gamers”, and is perhaps the best of this small genre.

7 Wonders comes with three decks of large cards, seven double-sided player boards (each depicting one of the wonders of the ancient world), a scoring pad, and cardboard tokens representing coins and the victory points you may acquire during play.  Each player chooses (or is given randomly) one side of one of the player boards, and receives three coins to start.  The game takes place over three rounds, with a different deck shuffled and distributed evenly to all players at the start of each round.

Each card will grant you a benefit if played, either immediately or at the end of the game, and most have requirements, in the form of resources or previously played cards.  Players will choose one card and place the remainder on the table next to their neighbours; when all players have done so, they each simultaneously reveal the card they’ve selected and decide what they would like to do with it:

  • They may play the card face-up to their play area, if they meet the requirements of the card, and get the card’s benefit for future turns.
  • They may play the card face-down to their play area to help build their Wonder, if they meet the requirements of that stage of construction.
  • They may discard the card and gain 3 coins.

If a card is played and the resource requirements cannot be met, the player may give money (which cannot be refused) to a neighbour in exchange for a one-time use of that player’s resources.  Otherwise the card must be discarded for money.

Players then pick up the cards placed next to them by their other neighbour, and play continues, but now each player has a new set of cards to choose from.  Players continue to choose cards and pass to their neighbours until players are down to one card each, which is discarded unplayed.  This is the completion of one round; a full game consists of three rounds, each using a deck of cards with progressively increased benefits and requirements.  A full three
rounds will take between 30 and 50 minutes, depending on player experience.

There are many different benefits that can be obtained from the cards.  Brown and grey Resource cards help you meet the requirements of cards played later, and may be a source of money if your neighbours need that resource.  Yellow Commerce cards often award money or grant discounts for the purchase of neighbours’ resources.  Blue Civic cards
directly score you points at the end of the game.  Green Science cards display one of three symbols and score you points if you can complete sets.  Red Military cards increase your military strength, which you compare with your left and right neighbours at the end of each round — the player with a larger military will take points away from a
neighbour whose military is smaller. Purple Guild cards will score large bonuses based on a variety of endgame situations.  As well, the successful completion of each of the two-to-four stages of your Wonder will also grant points or a unique way to break the normal rules of the game to your benefit.

For such a short game, there are seemingly many paths to victory.  The key to success is to watch what the players to your immediate left and right are doing, so you can deny them the cards they need and so you can stake out a non-competing path to collecting victory points.  For example, if the player to your left is collecting green Science cards, you will likely want to keep from passing him the cards he needs to score big points — but what do you do with these cards?  You can build them yourself, but the player to your right may deny you the cards you need to make this a winning strategy for you.  The direction that cards are passed around the table changes each round, complicating matters.

7 Wonders Game Board

Even in such a short game, it is possible to change strategies mid-game, and in fact this may be necessary.  If your neighbour builds up his military, do you follow suit?  To not do so means he will take your points easily each round — but trying to prevent this can quickly lead to an arms race in which both of you waste precious turns.  So at some point, you should give in, let the player take points from you, and concentrate on getting points by other means. Deciding when you’ve reached that point, however, is not trivial.

While experienced gamers will welcome the different paths to victory, they would be wrong to conclude this is a very deep game.  I would suggest the game has breadth, not depth — it is difficult to strategize, as your play turn-to-turn is subject to the wildly varied cards you are given — but this does mean that there is a large tactical game space to explore, and trying different combinations can be great fun.  Like Dominion, the game is also easily expandable to increase the breadth and tactical possibilities even further; in fact, the first expansion, Leaders, is available now.

The game is easy to teach… to a gamer; however, it can be hard for a beginner to work through.  There’s a lot to take in, and it’s difficult to explain the language-independent pictographs on the cards during play because turns are simultaneous and much information is hidden.  For people who have played many medium-weight German-style games (think Stone Age and that level of complexity), learning should not be difficult at all, and once learned, the game flows extremely quickly.  It works great as an end-of-night closer.

The only real gameplay drawbacks for hobbyists are its limited depth and that there is no interaction at all with players beyond your immediate left and right.  So for any player count greater than three, there are going to be opponents whose success you will not be able to meaningfully affect, which might be slightly frustrating for players used to greater control.  Also note that card quality is disappointing and does not hold up well over repeated plays — expect to replace your copy before too long if it proves popular in your group.

However, this could be the best “filler for gamers” ever published. Few German-style games play up to seven people within thirty minutes and yet be thoroughly engaging, with important decisions to be made at every moment.  The game scales amazingly well over the entire player range (ignoring the clumsy two-player variant) and is a surprisingly unique filler enjoyable for hobbyists of all experience levels beyond novice.  As such, this game is strongly recommended for game enthusiasts.  Your game group needs a copy of this.

Pre-Orders, Returns and Policy Changes

There recently has been a highly contentious thread on BGG on Return Policies for Online Game Stores.   I am not going to discuss the other store’s policies, though we thought we’d clarify our own thoughts on the matter and bring up a question that has been on our mind.

Return Policy

For those of you who haven’t read our Return Policy; it’s out of the norm it seems for the online game store industry.  I’ve rewritten it slightly to clarify some points that were clear in my mind but wasn’t so in the policy itself.

It seems that online game stores either provide returns 14 days from time of order (i.e. the count starts the moment you order) or when an order is received (after shipping).  The vast majority who do pre-orders do returns from 14 days from time of order; due to the potential concern it seems about returns for ‘older’ items held on the order.

I can actually see the reasoning behind that; but we’ve yet to have a customer ‘take advantage’ of our return policy in that way so far.  If anything has ‘cost’ us; it’s our willingness to take returns for opened products.  So far at least, we’re happy with our return policy as is and we’ll be keeping it as it is.

Pre-Orders

So let’s discuss pre-orders.  We like pre-orders; in fact, we go out of our way to encourage customers to make pre-orders by providing more points for pre-orders and creating a new section for them.  We’re in the process of putting together a blog list of pre-order release dates as well since it’s one of the major requests.

Why do we like pre-orders?

  • Indication of customer interest

Actually; that’s it.  Knowing what games are of interest to our customers helps us not order too many ‘dead’ games; which makes a big difference really.

There’s some talk of game stores ‘getting’ the capital beforehand – but we don’t charge orders till we ship them generally.  We allow for the possibility for this; but we generally don’t take advantage of it.

Policy Changes

Which does bring us to a potential problem.  We currently take pre-orders, do not charge the orders till they ship, and then take returns on these orders up until 14 days after receipt.  There are two issues here:

  • products ‘on-hold’; uncharged for months (in some cases like Catacombs, nearly a year!) that might actually be returned
  • inconsistent policies – due to the way PayPal functions, we can’t ‘hold’ an authorisation for very long and must charge the card immediately.  So some customers get charged and others don’t.

Which leads us to something we’ve been considering for a while – switching to charging all orders immediately to make it more consistent.

Why haven’t we?

  • potential customer dissatisfaction; though some indications are there that customers don’t even realise our policies of not charging or care
  • additional charges for cancelled orders and the need to refund customers

Of course, we could do it the way other online game stores do it; consider a sale final after 14 days of the order.  On the other hand, that brings its own host of issues including a counter-intuitive returns policy.  So what do you all think?

Guest Review : Battlestar Galacitca Board Games

Battlestar GalacticaBattlestar Galactica is a 3-6 player semi-cooperative game based on the re-imagined series. Players take on the role of one of the major characters on the Galactica trying to survive after the Cylon’s attack on the Twelve Colonies. Throughout the game, players must manage of finite resources while trying to identify and mitigate the threat of any Cylons among the humans. A game of Battlestar Galactica takes about 3 hours.

Appearance: The components of Battlestar Galactica are of high quality and fit in the 12” X 12” X 3” box with plenty of room to spare. While all of the tokens, cards, rules, and board fit easily in the box, the insert that comes with the game is not at all useful once the cards and tokens are taken out of their shrink-wrap. Even a simple tray that could be used to store the cards would have been a nice touch. That complaint aside, the tokens are made of sturdy cardboard and feature clear art identifying its purpose. There are two sizes of cards: Mini-American – 1 5/8”X 2 1/2” and Standard American – 2 1/4” X 3 1/2”. Both card types look great and feature images from scenes from the television show. The smaller cards sometimes have more writing than I’d like on them, making them hard to read, but making them full- size would be too large. It’s a minor complaint and only really affects maybe 10% of the cards – and I’d prefer a little crowded over too empty.

There are 32 plastic ships in sculpts of Vipers, Raptors, Raiders, and Heavy Raiders. The plastic is a little malleable, but doesn’t seem to warp or bend much if accidentally bent a little out of shape. The sculpts are quite good and significant detail is shown on pretty small models.

The board itself is a 24” X 24” square that is dominated by an overhead view of the Galactica, with small areas representing the Cylon fleet, Colonial One, dials to track key resources (Fuel, Food, Morale, and Population) and other Tracks and card deck locations. The board is well designed and efficiently uses space.

Character cards are perhaps the best item in the box. The cards are cut in the elongated octagonal shape of the paper in the television show, which shows attention to the little details. A prominent photo of the character is shown as well as skills, character type and special abilities. Easy to read and quickly gather information from.

Rules/Ease of Learning : The rules for Battlestar Galactica are not incredibly complex, and the rulebook is generally well done. An experienced player can easily teach a new player how to play in about 20 minutes. The goal of the human players is to reach the planet of Kobol by executing 8 units worth of FTL jumps. Cylon players must prevent the human players from reaching this goal by depleting a resource to 0, a centurion invasion, or destroying the Galactica.

To start the game, players must select a character. Characters come in four types: Political, Military, Pilot, and Support, which correspond to the skills and how the character can help the Galactica. For instance, only Pilots can fly Vipers to defend against Cylon attacks, whereas Political leaders are more likely to be President, and Military leaders are more likely to be the Admiral. Players pick characters in an order determined by the table, but players must select from the types that are most plentiful (or Support). This ensures that each player has a sphere of expertise and that the largest cross-section of skills is obtained. Title cards (President and Admiral) are distributed to those highest in the line of succession. The President is the political head and can utilize Quorum cards to help the humans survive. Quorum cards can increase certain resources, brig suspected Cylons, and the like. The Admiral is the military head and receives two nuke tokens that can be utilized against the Cylon ships attacking Galactica. Both the President and Admiral also are called upon to make choices throughout the game from Crisis Cards or selecting FTL jump locations.

With the characters in play identified, a Loyalty Deck can be constructed. The Loyalty Deck dictates whether or not you are a Cylon or a Human and your Loyalty may change mid-game! The number of players and the characters in play will change the composition of the Loyalty Deck. Cards are dealt out and the remaining cards in the deck are set aside. Halfway through the game, a second card will bedealt to the players, which might change their allegiance.

Loyalty Cards are kept secret, so no one knows if or who is a Cylon. Deft Cylons can subtly prevent success of the Galactica’s crew. However, a Cylon may be discovered and becomes a revealed Cylon. Revealed Cylons harass the humans from the Cylon Fleet locations.

A game turn typically consists of drawing skill cards, moving, performing an action, and resolving a crisis card. To additional steps: Activating Cylon ships and prepare for jump are completed if a Crisis Card dictates that they should take place. Crisis Cards are either a skill challenge or a Cylon Attack. Skill challenges have a difficulty value and skill types that can help to resolve the challenge. Each player may place cards into a check’s pile but any skills contributed that are not identified as valid forthe challenge are subtracted from the total. In addition to the player’s contributions, a Destiny Deckplaces two cards in every check. This deck provides a little randomness and allows a Cylon to operateundetected by providing a degree of deniability. When a skill challenge is failed, one or resources are reduced.

Cylon Attacks represent situations where the Cylon Fleet has discovered Galactica. Cylon ships are placed on the board and create a physical threat to Galactica and nearby civilian ships. Cylon ships on the board mean that civilian ships may be destroyed (which result in resources being lost), Galactica being damaged, or Centurions boarding the Galactica.

Battlestar Galactica backGameplay : Battlestar Galactica is able to capture the feeling of the television show very well. The distribution of Loyalty Cards and the Destiny Deck contributing to skill checks feed the feeling of mistrust of your fellow players. The Destiny Deck allows Cylon players can covertly contribute negative cards to skill checks, which will make checks harder to complete, or sink the attempt entirely, furthering the Cylon agenda.

Each character’s special abilities and rules feel right and make them come alive. For instance, Baltar has the Cylon Detector once-per-game ability, which allows him to view all of one player’s Loyalty Cards. Baltar is also a coward and starts the game with two loyalty cards which increases his chance of being a Cylon and immediately makes him more suspicious. Another example is Starbuck’s Expert Pilot ability, she can make two actions when she starts her turn in a Viper; Insubordinate makes it easier for her to be thrown in the brig. Not only do the characters feel right, they seem to be well balanced against each other.

When the Cylon fleet arrives the space battles are furious and often very challenging. Strategically selecting how to manoeuvre in space to protect the fleet and Galactica is very important for the Viper pilots. Vipers are the main way for humans to prevent Civilian ships from being destroyed or Centurions boarding the Galactica.

Secrets are important in Battlestar Galactica. The cards contributed to a skill check are shuffled before revealing them, Loyalty Cards, and the Destination selected by the Admiral are all examples of secrets kept in the game. Again, this drives the tension and mistrust among the players skyward.

As a Cylon player, you need to weigh the risk of staying undercover too long against the damage you can do while unrevealed. Revealed Cylons cannot contribute as many cards to skill checks, but can activate the powerful Cylon Fleet locations. The most devastating parts of revealing yourself as a Cylon do not take place if you are in the brig – so choose when to reveal carefully.

There are a few minor issues with the game. First off, the sympathizer loyalty card is confusing and does not seem to add much to the game. The second issue revolves around the brig. If a human player is suspected of being a Cylon and is thrown in the Brig, influential players can keep that player in the Brig by convincing others to keep them there. A true Cylon would likely reveal themselves after an attempt or two to get out of the brig. A human player can only be released from the brig on a successful skill check, so particularly paranoid groups could leave a human player in the brig for the entire game – which isn’t much fun for the affected player. If the Cylons are able to get all the humans in the brig, well…game over.

Conclusion: One doesn’t need to know the television show to enjoy Battlestar Galactica, but it does help to really appreciate the game. The themes of trust and a race against limited resources are well showcased, and the characters are well designed and feel like their small-screen counterpart. If you’re a fan of the show or like games with hidden traitor mechanics, Battlestar Galactica should be on your game shelf.

Bestsellers & Pre-Orders Games for September

The latest bestsellers and pre-orders games list have gone up on the site. A surprising number of Lord of the Rings Adventure Packs sold last month; and we have excluded all accessories since otherwise, they’d dominate the list (in terms of quantity sold).

As a reference; here’s July’s pair of lists:

Bestsellers

Forbidden Island

1. Forbidden Island

2. 7 Wonders

3. 7 Wonders – Leaders Expansion

4. Pandemic

5. Settlers of Catan 4th Edition

6. Dominion

7. Small World : Underground

8. Battleship Galaxies : the Saturn Offensive Game Set

9. A Game of Thrones LCG Core Set

10. Lord of the Rings LCG Core Set

Pre-Order List

Twilight Struggle : Deluxe Edition

1. Twilight Struggle : Deluxe Edition

2. Dixit : Odyssey

3. Quarriors

4. Catacombs

5. Catacombs :Caverns of Soloth

6. Lord of the Rings : Conflict at the Carrock Adventure Pack

7. Summoner Wars : Master Set

8. Dungeon Run

9. Rune Age

10. 1830s : Railways & Robber Barons

September 2011 Newsletter

Guest Bloggers & Conventions

We recently made a request for some guest bloggers to help us write and review more games. We currently have 3 writers rotating through on a weekly basis. Let us know if you are enjoying reading the new guest reviews and who you enjoy reading the most – that includes Tao too!

We have a short Cos & Effect Con Report. Overall, not a bad first year though sadly there wasn’t an actual gaming location unlike what they promised us.

Lastly, we have VCon occuring between September 30 – October 2, 2011 and Bottoscon (a local wargaming convention) on November 4 – 6, 2011;  both of which we are sponsoring and attending.

Read more on our blog

Upcoming Games

Dixit : Odysey finally arrived on September 2, 2011 and all pre-orders have shipped. We still have a few Dixit pre-order cards available so we are shipping them with Dixit : Odyssey orders till we run out. The Twilight Struggle reprint has been pushed back again to mid-October.

More Pre-orders

Guest Review : Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries

Ticket to Ride : Nordic Countries box cover
Ticket to Ride : Nordic Countries box cover

Ticket to Ride hardly needs an introduction. The family strategy board game has won numerous awards around the world, including by far the most important, the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year in Germany), and is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of families all over the world. As is natural for a game that has had so much success, a number of spin-offs have been published to offer long-time fans greater variety.

Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries is a stand-alone game specifically designed for two or three players only, and due to its focus, is better than the original game for those numbers. The game introduces several new concepts and challenges to overcome.

In all variations of Ticket to Ride, the goal is to score the most points by claiming train routes on the board and completing secret objectives assigned at the beginning of the game. The board depicts a map showing dozens of cities, and routes connecting nearby cities to each other. Players are given several goals each to join two
non-adjacent cities on the board via a connected network of train routes; bonus points can be scored at the end if successful, while those points are subtracted if not. This is an element of risk if the player chooses to obtain additional goals during the game.

Players can connect adjacent cities by playing train cards. There are eight colours of cards, plus a wild (depicted as a locomotive), and a route will typically require a number of a specific colour of train card in order to claim it. Most player turns consist of drawing face-up cards (or blind from the draw deck) or playing these cards to claim routes. Once claimed, a route cannot be connected by another player — which can cause frustration for those who hoped to make that same connection!

There are two ways to play Ticket to Ride. Many families will concentrate on their own secret goals and only claim the routes they need; if such claims cause problems for other players, this is accidental. However, some people who are more competitive and confrontational may deliberately claim a route they do not need if they believe another player will need it. The game works great either way, but to avoid frustration for casual players, I recommend discussion and agreement before the game on what sort of experience you wish to have.

The game is however very simple and is otherwise very, very suitable for families. While the original game is excellent for four or five players, a lot of the challenge comes from the crowded board and the interference (accidental or otherwise) caused by other players, so the game loses something when played with fewer participants. Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries is an alternative experience for those who wish to have a more challenging Ticket to Ride experience with smaller player numbers.

The Nordic Countries board depicts cities in northern Europe, in the countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The experience is similar to the original game, but introduces some additional challenges:

  • Wild cards can only be used on special routes, of which there are two types: tunnels and ferries. One can now not play these on regular routes.
  • Tunnels are special routes that may need more cards than required for a normal route. A player declares her attempt to build a tunnel of a colour, then draws three cards blind from the draw pile. For every card of the same colour (or wilds), the player must play additional cards (or wilds) from her hand beyond the original cost. If she is unable to, her turn is forfeit, though she can try again on a later turn.
  • Ferries are special routes. For each locomotive depicted on the route, the player claiming the route must play a locomotive (wild) card. For each of the remaining spaces, the player must play either a matching colour card, or a wild card, or any three cards.
  • Many of the more valuable secret-goal cards require building into the far north, where the few connecting routes are more difficult special routes.

The game is very recognizable as Ticket to Ride, but the additions give it its own character. The special routes are more difficult to claim, certainly, but because of the change that wild cards are not usable for most routes, now even the basic routes are tougher to complete. If you wish to complete a basic orange route, for example, you absolutely need orange cards, and woe to you if you need this route and are unable to draw any. It actually gives an advantage to card counters — to have an idea of how many orange cards have already been drawn and so to know whether more will be easy to find.

The western coast of Norway and the extreme north of the map are simply brutal to work in. It would be a challenge for one player to work in this area, but if two are competing there to complete their goals, one or both are going to lose many points at the end. Because of this, Nordic Countries is a very unforgiving game, and final scores between players can differ wildly.

Compared to the original, Nordic Countries has rules exceptions which are difficult to teach and remember. You can only use wild cards on tunnels and ferries, but any three cards will also work as a wild — but only for ferries. Wilds cannot be used for basic routes, except for one particularly long route, but here (and only here) you can substitute four cards as a wild, not the three as with the ferries. This is not a game one should teach new players — for that you should stick with the original game.

For experienced “Riders”, though, the restrictions make the game more tense and cutthroat, and for like-minded players, this is very welcome. The original game is one I will happily pull out for new and casual gamers, but Nordic Countries is my preferred choice for small groups already familiar with the game. The increased difficulty makes the game more engaging and adds many important decisions to consider.

Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries is not a game for casual players new to the Ticket To Ride series. For hobbyists, experienced Ticket to Ride players looking for a greater challenge, and those wanting a better experience than the original for two or three players, however, this is a game I can safely recommend. It is a great way to play Ticket to Ride in an all new way.