Mini Board Game Reviews (4)

World of Warcraft the Adventure Game
The World of Warcraft Adventure Game is surprisingly good. It’s a solid game that balances the need to develop your characters with interesting abilties, skills and equipment with the need for fast gameplay very well. You each get an individual character to use, with their own special ability deck. As you gain experience, you gain access to more cards from the deck and new portions of the board to explore. Interaction with the board is quick and intuitive; there’s no major restrictions on movement due to bad die rolls and the game’s quests and monsters are fun take-on. Overall, I’d say it’s probably the best adventure game out there at the moment.

Zooloretto
A board game version of the hit Coloretto; players must slowly ‘stock’ their respective zoos by taking orders from the trucks arriving each turn. Of course, you’ll need to know when to take a truck with some animals that you want and when to push your luck in the hopes of getting just the right mixture. The addition of a game board that limits both the type of animals you can take as well as the number makes Zooloretto a tighter resource management game than Coloretto. Add the cute animals and Zooloretto makes a lightweight Euro strategy game perfect for introducing beginners to.

Glory to Rome
If you liked Race for the Galaxy, you probably will love Glory to Rome. Taking the role choice aspect of Puerto Rico and Race; Glory to Rome makes you cards work triply hard. Each card can be a role, building, client or resource depending on the phase of the gameplay and where it’s situated. This is an advanced strategy game that requires players to think 2 to 3 steps ahead each turn at a minimum and benefits from multiple plays. Even after 10 times playing it, I’m still finding more to this game each time I break it out.

Dungeon Lords
I like this game. As a fan of Dungeon Keeper; I’m tickled pink by the homage to the original PC game; but don’t let the ‘cute’ graphics fool you. There’s a serious game here, with quite a lot of thinking required. It might be a touch too heavy for some players, and a bit too fiddly for others though as you’ve got to control your command cards, the order of your commands, the monsters and traps you’ll purchase as well as the dungeon rooms you place (and where to place them); along with balancing your evilness to ensure the Paladin doesn’t come visiting. There’s a lot going-on; but it’s well worth the playing.

Tanto Cuore
Ooooh, I like this game. My favorite deck-builder thus far; it has just the right mixture of interaction and strategy for my taste. You can get nasty and throw Illnesses and Bad Habits at other players or play purely defensively, attempting to buy up points to win the game. Of course, the art might turn some people off but if you can get past that, Tanto Cuore is an extremely solid game.

The Legend of Drizzt
The Legend of Drizzt is the 3rd D&D Board Game and introduces both team and competitive play scenarios. In addition, there’s even more heroes that you can play with than ever before with new Events and improved (and more interesting) monster AI. Legend of Drizzt is the perfect gateway dungeon crawler and introduction to 4th Edition as well as a great stand-alone board game by itself.

Lords of Vegas : Dust, Dice & Dollars
Lords of Vegas is a family strategy game. There’s too much luck in here for a pure Eurogamer; but if you’re looking for a simpler filler game that you can introduce the family to; this light-hearted game of casino building is a great bet. Fast turns, easy rules and lots of dice makes this a pretty solid family board game.

Revolution
Revolution is a game of area control and blind bidding where players are attempting to gain sufficient influence to ensure it’s their opponents who go to the guillotine; not themseleves. They’ll need to bid for control over a variety of powerful individuals in the game, with each successful bid providing a combination of points, territory and influence for the next round. There are 3 types of influences, with force trumping blackmail which trumps gold. However, certain individuals may be immune to certain forms of influence so deciding where each players goes each turn and what they’ll bid is key to the game. Revolution’s a ton of fun, it’s quite light and with a good group can flow very fast.

Small World’s Tunnels – When Free Isn’t Free

We recently received our first copies of Small World : Tunnels. For those of you who do not know, it’s an expansion to Small World’s that links the Small World base game and the Small World : Underworld stand-alone expansion together into one large board. It’s actually quite a good mini-expansion, and certainly something worth putting out.  Once we got it in, we put it up for $5.00.

Then we were informed by a customer that Days of Wonder was letting customers know that they could pick up the Small World expansion for free from retailers.  Contrary to what DOW is impressing on customers; getting these expansions is not free to retailers. We are allocated copies based on purchases with our distributor. Following is the relevant text we were sent.

Game retailers who purchase products from the Small World line during the 4th quarter can get their copies as follows:

– Purchase $100 in Small World products and get 5 free copies of Tunnels

– Purchase $200 in Small World products, get 10 free copies of Tunnels

– Purchase $500 in Small World products, get 20 free copies of Tunnels

– Purchase $1000 in Small World products, get 40 free copies of Tunnels

A few things to note:

  • this is only available for retailers who purchase Small World line items in Q4
  • quantities to retailers are extremely limited
  • no consideration is provided for past purchases of Small World items throughout the year

Putting a quantity minimum to get these items isn’t free. It’s an incentive to buy more of their products and a transfer of holding cost, which is how we’re treating it.   If DOW feels that’s unfair, I’m more than happy to distribute for free any expansions they send us.

Inflection Points

The most dangerous time for a business is during inflection points – either from internal or external factors.

We can all name the majority of external inflection points – recessions, logistic changes, new laws, etc.  All these effect the business and can potentially ruin them or at least seriously damage them.

The less obvious inflection points are internal.  They can appear due to logistical, staffing, financial or marketing reasons.  They can strangely enough appear from growth as well.  And that’s what I’d like to discuss – inflection points due to growth.

Businesses often have processes & capital that work for them at certain sizes – bureaucracies or lack of them, physical space or financial capital.  However, at a certain point, they no longer work because the business has outgrown them.

However, the next ‘step’ in the business – whether it’s a larger space, more employees or more processes is often too onerous for the current size of the business.  You are in no-man’s land and it’s at this point of the business that errors are most likely to occur.

We’re currently transitioning through a few inflection points – in employees & processes and the resulting error rate in mis-shipped orders or customer miscommunication is frustrating.  Sometimes, all you can do is take a deep breath, tell yourself that this will past and get down to managing the chaos while you (hopefully) transition through that point and move onto the next stage of your business.

Game Review : Sid Meier’s Civilization – Fame & Fortune Expansion

Civilization : Fame & FortuneSid-Meier’s Civilization: the Board Game – Fame and Fortune is the expansion for Fantasy Flight’s Civilization game.   It introduces a 5th player, a few modular expansions and tweaks to the gameplay of Civilization to help streamline flow and adjust the balance issues.  Note that I’ve only had a chance to play this once, I’ll probably amend this review once I’ve had a few more plays.

Appearance: Fame & Fortune comes in a smaller square box, slightly larger than what is required to keep all the pieces in, which is a nice change.  The designs and tokens, like the original Civilization board game draw from the popular computer game graphics, providing a good flow-through and great designs.  The new cards provided are of decent quality, as are the tokens.  Overall, the expansion meets FFGs high standard of materials and appearance.

Rules / Ease of Learning: As this is an expansion, I’m going to concentrate only on the new rules, technologies and civilisations that have been added and will not reiterate basic rules or just pure additions like new terrain cards and new wonders.

Firstly, there are a series of new technologies (and an amendment to the Flight technology card).  The new technologies include Agriculture, Ecology, Plastics and Mysticism.  Agriculture add a ‘Metropolis’ to your capital city; making it 2 squares large with 10 hexes it can draw resources from.  Ecology makes it easier to advance on the culture track while Mysticism provides the ability to slow-down a coin victory.  Plastics allows players to build a unit, figure or building for free on their turn.

Secondly, Great People have a new deck that provides special abilities to the Great People drawn, which makes them significantly more powerful and worthwhile to acquire.

Thirdly, battle wins / losses have now been clarified and expanded.  There’s even a small summary card that summarises the changes.

Fourthly, investments have been added which allow players to ‘invest’ in new abilities that provide a benefit in achieving any of the four victory tracks by ‘investing’ a gold coin token onto one of the four abilities.

Lastly, there are 4 new civilizations – many who take advantage of the new rules (e.g. the Indians get a Metropolis at the start of the game while the Greeks can draw 2 Great People cards to choose from).

Gameplay: We played with all the new additions to the game including a 5th player and 3 of the 4 new civ’s (we didn’t have India in-play).  Overall, we felt it was a very good expansion that fixes some of the balance issues and made some of the other victory tracks easier to reach.

The Great Person’s cards make the civilization track even more important to get on-board with, with the Great Person abilities ranging from mildly useful to amazing if received during the start game. E.g. Orson Wright gives the player a free Airplane card at the game start.  That’s a huge advantage over both the barbarians and other players.

The new Civilisations are fun to play, and are all quite different in their play styles.  The Spanish with their ability to build any ‘basic’ building might be a bit over-powered as they get a major lead in the start game.  The Greeks’ ability to keep their trade is interesting, since while seeming over-powered at first glance can actually limit technology choices to a ‘secondary’ path.

Investment cards during our game were sparingly used; but definitely provided a bonus to each of the other victory tracks.  We had our first technology victory resulting from this; with a player using the Public Education investment card and culture cards to get a ‘jump’ on technology with a culture victory close behind.

Perhaps my favorite amendment has been the addition of coins to the battle victory rewards and culture cards that can take away coins.  This is particularly important because it used to be impossible for a player on the coin victory path to be slowed down, and seemed to have imbalanced the base game to that particular victory path.  The new amendments now allow players to slow-down most other tracks (other than Tech, which is generally slow anyway).

Conclusion: Overall, I have to say Civilization – Fame & Fortune is great.  I like the new additions and amendments, and I feel that each of them adds a lot to the game.  It does slow gameplay down slightly with all the new choices, but it’s not as if Civilization was a fast again in the first place.  My only real grouse is that they didn’t just add a 6th player to this expansion immediately instead of forcing us to purchase another expansion.

Bestsellers & Hottest Pre-Orders : November

The latest pre-orders and bestsellers for the month of October is now up on the site. Here’s September’s numbers as a comparison:

Bestsellers

Elder Sign

1. Elder Sign

2. Dixit Odyssey

3. Lord of the Rings LCG : A Journey to Rhosgobel Adventure Pack

4. Settlers of Catan 4th Edition

5. Quarriors

6. A Few Acres of Snow

7. Forbidden Island

8. King of Tokyo

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

10. Star Trek : Fleet Captains

Hottest Pre-Orders

Risk : Metal Gear Solid Collector's Edition

1. Risk : Metal Gear Solid Collector’s Edition

2. Blood Bowl : Team Manager

3. Twilight Struggle : Deluxe Edition

4. A Game of Thrones : Board Game 2nd Edition

5. A Few Acres of Snow

6. Summoner Wars : Master Set

7. War of the Rings Second Edition

8. Dungeon Run

9. Confusion : Espionage & Deception in the Cold War

10. Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 2 – India & Switzerland 

Guest Review : Mansions of Madness

Mansions of Madness cover Mansions of Madness is a game of investigation and horror based in the Cthulhu Mythos. Mansions of Madness shares the theme of Arkham Horror and Elder Sign, which are also based upon the works of H.P. Lovecraft. This highly thematic game is a semi-cooperative game for 2-5 players and plays in 2-3 hours.

Appearance:  The box for Mansions of Madness is the standard 12” X 12” square, but is 4” deep, which is to provide enough room for the large monster models. The cardboard components are a very good quality and include 15 double sided map tiles that are used to construct the modular board. There have been some reports of some warping of these tiles, but nothing to the extreme of the problems that faced House on Haunted Hill. Overall, the cardboard components are of the quality one expects from Fantasy Flight Games. The art is enjoyable and invokes the setting, but if you’ve played Arkham Horror, there’s plenty of recycled art (but, it’s still good).

Rules/Ease of Learning: Mansions of Madness is of moderate difficulty, but most of this difficulty can be carried by the player who takes on the role of Keeper. The Keeper role is that of the antagonist – they make decisions that affect how the story plays out and how the Unnameable Horrors try to keep the Investigators from preventing their escape into Arkham proper.

Investigators have the job of exploring the Mansion and trying to unravel the mysteries that it hides. As an Investigator, your turn is comprised of two movement steps and an action step. An action step involves one of a number of actions, including, using card abilities, investigating a location, and attacking monsters.

The Keeper’s available actions vary in each scenario. The actions the Keeper may perform in a turn are printed on Action cards, which have a point cost. The game automatically balances for the number of players by providing the Keeper with a number of Threat tokens equal to the number of investigators, so in a two investigator game, the Keeper must ‘save’ threat up to unleash a powerful action that costs 3 threat, but in a four investigator game, they can perform that action each turn, if so desired.

There are several situations that have specific rules on how to handle specific tests (such as Horror and Evade tests) which overall, are not complex rules, but because there are a fair number of these situations to recall. A Keeper who is well versed in the rules can shoulder much of this burden without changing the pace of the game signifigantly.

 

Gameplay: Mansions of Madness has five scenarios to play though. Each of these scenarios involve a different mansion setup and also contains a number of choices for the Keeper to make that influences how the plot cards are seeded within the Mansion. This process is rather time consuming and is probably one of the biggest drawbacks for the game. There could also be concern for replayability, but as there are roughly three choices with two-three options, one could conceivably play the same scenario around 9 times before returning to the ‘original’ solution. The plot doesn’t change massively, just where major clues are found. However, Fantasy Flight has already released 3 single-scenario expansions for the base game, plus a large expansion that will add investigators, scenarios, rules, and locations.

Once the board is setup, the theme starts to ramp itself up. The keeper reads a short story aloud to set the scene. This story includes clues on where to begin the investigation. As investigators explore, they’ll encounter locks and puzzles which must be opened or solved. Mansions of Madness has an unique puzzle mechanic which adds to the theme of the game. Puzzles are setup as per card instructions and investigators must solve the puzzle by creating an image, completing an electrical circuit or matching symbols. There are components that the investigators can move/rotate/swap, but the investigator can only do so many actions on his turn, which is driven by the intellect score. This helps to model the skill of the investigator very well and adds to the immersion.

As time passes, the Keeper will reveal Event cards, which result in effects related to the choices made by the Keeper and add to atmosphere of the story read at the beginning of the game. While playing, it feels like you’re exploring a creepy haunted house, and as the eldritch horrors begin to reveal themselves, the race against time becomes more apparent.

There are some mechanics that might take a few plays to really solidify, simply because there are several little things to remember. Of those minor things, there isn’t anything that really makes the game less enjoyable.

Overall, the theme really shines, perhaps giving an even better thematic experience than Arkham Horror. It feels like you’re approaching the Whateley home, with some unknowable horror waiting within. The game mechanics work to reinforce the theme. There’s opportunity within Mansions to take your board gaming a step further and treat it as a mini-roleplaying game, which would only add more immersion within the game.

Conclusion: Mansions of Madness is an enjoyable game. If it’s the only game you play, sure, the replayability could go down due to fixed nature of the scenarios. While it’s firmly a boardgame, the story-driven play could allow those who want to give roleplaying a try could probably have a good time using Mansions as a trial run. There’s some interesting puzzle mechanics and lots of theme to go around.

If you’re a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos, you’ll get a healthy dose here, even if Cthulhu doesn’t make an appearance.