God Dice – a board game review

God Dice is a direct, combative player-vs.-player dice game which pit’s a player’s set of heroes against his opponents in a fight to the death.  Players roll a series of 9 dice to determine which attack they will be able to produce, but each battle risks the potential intervention of the Gods themselves, for better or worst.  A fun, fast moving dice game, this is a perfect filler and a must for those who love the thrill of the dice.

Appearance:  God Dice comes in a tiny tuck box that contains the set of dice and the character cards. The dice have a nice heft to them and the iconography on the dice is easy to distinguish.  Artwork on the character cards is average – the layout is functional and the character pictures are indicative of the characters, if not great.  Overall, it’s not bad, but it ain’t great.

Rules / Ease of Learning: The rules of God Dice are extremely easy to learn and teach.  It took us all of 2 minutes to learn the rules, with the majority of the time perusing the actual character cards.  Players must choose one of six characters for each conflict, with there only being two duplicates per character type.  Each character has a series of special attacks that dictate their play style and their standing in the group.   This ranges from the ‘Hero’ with his enormous amount of hit points but low damage attacks to specialised characters like the cleric, bownman and monk to the high damage Sage and Assassin.

Once characters are chosen, players may only attack the player to their left.  In each round, the attacking player chooses his attacking character and the defending player his defending character.  Then the God Dice are rolled to see who (if any) are favoured.  At that point, the remaining nine (9) attack dice are rolled.

Players may re-roll each symbol type once – symbols include Wild, Damage (5 points always), Red, Blue and Yellow Sigils.  To successfully launch an attack, players will need to match the dice rolled with the attacking characters potential attacks.  Damage from the successful attack is generally generated from the dice rolled as well as any special effects of the attack.

Gameplay: Now that the boring rules explanation is out of the way, is God Dice fun?  The answer is simple – YES.  It’s perfect for those who have no problem with dice games.  The numerous re-rolls available make it an interesting decision each turn, while the initial choice of characters dictates strategy for the rest of the game.  The numerous attacks available from each character in God Dice even plays to different play styles – from risk taking players who will go for high damage attacks to more conservative, low damage but almost guaranteed damage.

Each dice roll is a tense moment for players, and the God Dice themselves are a fun addition.  It might be a tad too random for some people, but the added randomness was a ton of fun for my game group – you never knew when you were suddenly ‘back in the game’ as characters were killed off, missed or potentially resurrected.

The only issue is player elimination if you do not use the optional ‘resurrection’ rules.  With the luck aspect of the game, it is possible for a player to be eliminated from the game quite quickly.  We still found it quite tense and fun though, as players watched the roll of dice for other players.

Conclusion: God Dice is a ton of fun. It’s got simple but good mechanics, a riveting game play and a ton of replay value for filler use.  It’s also certainly destined for an expansion, which in my mind is a good thing.  God Dice is a definite must have dice game.

Killer Bunnies And the Quest for the Magic Carrot Game Review

Killer Bunnies BlueKiller Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot is a perennial family card game meant for older children and large groups. This is not a high strategy card game, as it is filled with a high degree of randomness; but it is a great party game that shines for large group games.

Appearance: Like it’s title, Killer Bunnies is both cute and slightly morbid, with cartoon bunnies armed to the teeth and looking scared. The magic carrots are a chuckle, as are the various bunnies and the weapons the bunnies wield. Both the card stock and general appearance of the game is of average quality – the cards won’t be wearing out after a few games but overall, nothing to shout about. The front cover pretty much gives ay purchaser the level of art they can expect to encounter.

Rules / Ease of Learning
: Overall, the game is relatively fast to pick-up once you learn the rules. It’s not particularly hard to play, with the basic rules being that players have a hand of 5 cards and 2 ‘run’ cards which are turned over at the start of the player’s round. This forces players to ‘plan’ their actions 2 rounds in advance, adding a slight strategic component to the game.

It does seem however that because Playroom Entertainment were trying to keep the rules very simple, a number of important points were missed out in the rules coverage or were hard to find. Examples include – when can I buy from the Kabala Marketplace, should I continue to draw cards after an ‘Immediate’ card comes into play and when does the cyber bunny attack the next bunny?

I also add that the rules should have taken time to explain the iconography on the cards, since certain important aspects (e.g. the pink bar indicating a card can only be played with a bunny in play) are not covered straight away.

Gameplay: Killer Bunnies is first and foremost not a very strategic card game. This is a tactical, humorous card game meant for beginner gamers, children or large groups of friends looking for a light board game. The game is not meant to be taken too seriously and should not be approached with a competitive state of mind – there’s too much randomness for the game to benefit a highly strategic player.

This is however a perfect game for those who want a simple, light and humorous game to have around the house or for those who play board games occasionally. The sudden swings in fortune caused by the sometimes over-powerful cards, the constant murder of bunnies and the twist of fate brought about by the dice can be a roller-coaster of fun and humour.

In many ways, Killer Bunnies can be seen as the compatriot of Munchkin – both have a high degree of randomness and interaction, both are light card games that are relatively easy to teach and both should never be taken seriously. It’s just that Killer Bunnies targets a larger, less specialised niche of the population.

Conclusion: Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot is a great card game to have in the house to bring large groups of players to the table – either whimsical adults or children. While this will not be the game for serious gamers, it is a good starter game that fills the gap like Bang!, Citadels or Munchkin.

Vampire : Prince of the City Review

Vampire : Prince of the City is a game of Machiavellian politics, area control and backstabbing. Yup, it’s translated the RPG very well into a board game for 3 to 5 players, with players taking control of one of five Primogen in an attempt to gain sufficient prestige to be voted Prince of the city at the end of the game. A tense, backstabbing game of intrigue and politics, this is not a game for those groups who want everybody to play nice.

Appearance: Very good, with the artwork and miniatures all designed to coincide with White Wolf’s existing artwork. For those who have played their games, the artwork will help you fall into the theme of the game better. From a newcomers point of view, the work is rather dark and gothic and some of the colours might be a tad too close for those with colour blindness issues, but otherwise, the artwork on the board, cards and miniatures is of good quality.

Rules / Ease of Learning: This is perhaps Vampire: Prince of the City’s greatest flaw. The game breaks down into 5 phases per turn, with each phases rules being at first, simple to learn, but later on, quite complex due to minute errata and rules. The 5 rounds consist of Resource Collection; Movement; Challenge, Influence and Resolution Phases.

The Resource Collection phase begins with players able to take two actions from a list of 5; the majority actions being either to draw more cards, hunt for Vitae (blood) or raise a vampire (even yourself) from Torpor (unconsciousness). Players can only hold 3 cards and play 5 cards at any one time during this phase.

Movement is perhaps the simplest phase (but very important one due to how players can influence the board) as players can move to any location on the board. The challenge phase allows players to challenge individual characters or events that occur – with personal prestige being won for event challenges that are completed. Of course, if you fail a challenge, you can lose prestige or worst!

The Influence phase allows players to gain ‘influence counters’ to take over specific zones of influence. Control all the zones of influence and you gain a Domain, which provides more influence counters in the next game. Again here, there are minor errata on what type of areas you can influence. Finally, the Resolution Phase is where you resolve and count up the prestige with the Regent (first player) being chosen from the individual with the highest prestige.

The rulebook is written like a RPG book – a ton of text, with few bullet points to highlight exceptions or rules. This makes it hard to check for specific problems, and is perhaps the biggest failing of the game. Certainly it made our first game much longer than it should have.

Gameplay: You will have fun in your first game of Vampire : Prince of the City if you can ignore the constant searching for errata, since the base game is quite easy to get into and the events and challenges make the game intriguing. Also, the fact that this is a political game ensures that with the right group, the game is going to be thrilling.

It’s in subsequent games though that you will find true enjoyment as you realise the depth of strategy available, from backstabbing to specific challenges you can take to gain control. While the backbone of the game is area control, the ability to personally challenge and ‘hurt’ other players gives specific characters an interesting strategic dimension to these influence battles as they can potentially ‘force‘ another player to remove themselves from a region.

None of the characters seem over-powered and the fact that the characters each have their own series of ‘disciplines’ allow for quite a bit of repeat play value.

The game particularly benefits from a game group that has played it a few times, since (hopefully) they will all develop in their strategies and tactics, providing depth to the game through the gameplay.

Conclusion: Vampire: Prince of the City is a solid game that truly brings the idea of backstabbing and fighting to the fore, with players who enjoy the original RPG definitely being a fan of the board game. This is Vampire Diplomacy at its best with backstabbing, bestial battles and vitae hunting to the max.

Fairy Tale the card game review

Fairy Tale is a small card game released by ZMan games that has players develop their particular cast of characters through a deck building mechanic. While quite low on theme, the actual game play is fast ad furious and makes Fairy Tale a great filler card game.

Appearance: Fairy Tale is well designed and on great card stock, with images drawing from a more ‘anime’ themed background. That type of art appeals to me, though I know others who dislike that form of art, so be warned, it’s rather pervasive. Pretty much everything you need to know is on the cards themselves in well laid-out and distinctive icons, so picking up the game is pretty easy.

Rules / Ease of Learning: The main game mechanic in Fairy Tale is that of card-selection for each round. Players receive 5 cards at the beginning of each round and must choose one, passing the remaining cards to the individual seated next to them (left or right depending on the round). They must then continue choosing a card till all cards are selected. In the second phase of the round, all players play and reveal 1 card that turn, with any special abilities taking place at that time. There are only 3 major in-game abilities – Hunt, Unflip, Flip. Of the three, Hunt affects all cards played that turn while Unflip and Flip play out on all cards currently in-play.

Since only 3 of the 5 chosen cards are played in each round, players must decide how to balance their hands against potential aggressive moves by other players as well as gaining (or removing) the most number of points possible in each round. There are only 4 rounds in a game, with scoring occurring only at the end of the game. Points are scored for ‘active’ (or unclipped) cards that are in-play, with specific cards providing a conditional number of points. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Gameplay: Fairy Tales takes a different tack from other set-collection and card-drafting game, forcing players to work on their strategy one-hand at a time. While this creates a degree of ‘luck’ especially in the beginning hand, there are specific cards and strategies that begin to appear with repeated plays and as the game progresses. Certainly we found that more often than not, the decisions of which card to take were difficult. Each game we played showcased a series of denying actions, specific player targeting and blocking moves which ensured a highly interactive card game. This is an almost ‘opposite’ of Race for the Galaxy or San Juan where players are more focused on their own hands and gameplay area as there is little direct interaction.

With there only being 4 rounds and minimal issues to resolve when cards are played, the game flows very fast, especially with the right group. While ZMan estimated about 30-60 minutes, I would say that the estimate is on the high side. We found we finished games within 10 – 15 minutes.

Now, for the minor quibbles we had with the game. Initial explanation took longer than I would have liked, for what is really a very simple game. That’s partially because of how much information is attempted to be placed on the card. However, once you learn the symbols and play a round or two, it flows fast.

Secondly, luck is obviously an issue. In our games, we didn’t find it particularly onerous, but it is there. Partially touching on the luck issue, there seems to be a low number of cards(proportionally) that allow you to directly affect another player, which can be frustrating depending on the draw and player positions. It’s certainly not a major issue and could be due to game balance, but it did occur in a few games and few hands where no one was able (or perhaps willing) to affect another player beyond denying specific cards to a player through initial selection.

This might seem in contradiction to our earlier statement of more interaction; but it’s a matter of proportion. Compared to say Red Dragon Inn; another great filler card game, Fairy Tale has more depth but less ’damaging’ cards.

Conclusion: Fairy Tale is a fast playing card game that can be easily taught, highly portable and leaves players wanting more after they are done. While not introducing anything new, it makes for a great filler for your average game group with a good balance of interaction, luck and strategy.

Dominion Card Game review

Dominion Card GameDominion is the award-winning deck building game that has received a ton of rave reviews all over the world. While perhaps not as good as the hype, it‘s certainly a lot of fun with good strategic depth, chained actions and quick, quick gameplay. Dominion comes with 500 cards in the base game and another 500 cards in its expansion, making sure that this is a game that has immense replay value.

Appearance: Dominion’s appearance is mediocre – it’s functional, the artwork is good but not exceptional and the information and the way it is presented is clear and concise. Perhaps the biggest plus for Dominion in its appearance is the well thought out and useful box insert, where each set of cards has a specific slot. This makes keeping and setting up the game very fast, whether you store the game vertically or horizontally.

Rules / Ease of Play: Dominion is a deck-building game where all the players receive a similar starting hand. They must then use the starting hand on their turn to purchase additional cards for their deck, shuffling the used and newly bought cards when they are out-of-cards.

The cards in Dominion can be split into three type of cards – Estate cards (victory points); Gold cards (used to pay for the purchase of other cards) and Kingdom cards (which allow you to do everything else in the game including drawing more cards, buying cards, discarding cards and affecting other players). These Kingdom cards are where the main gameplay occurs, with cards providing additional draw, buy and discard actions each time they are used.

It should be noted that only 10 sets of the over 20 ‘Kingdom’ cards are in play in any one game. This provides Dominion it’s vaunted replay value, as players can switch out one or two sets each game to keep the game ‘fresh’. And as any player can tell you, even switching out a couple of cards from the base game will alter the game flow completely.

A game ends in Dominion when all the ‘5’ point Estate cards are purchased.

Gameplay: Dominion fits its billing in many ways – the speed of each turn and each game is quite high, the rules are simple enough to teach most gamers in 10 minutes at most and each game has a tendency to leave players wanting more. There is also a lot of strategic depth and replay value, as players get a better understanding of the most appropriate cards to purchase each game and which actions to take each turn, along with how the combination of cards will affect their deck.

The challenge in Dominion is the card purchase decisions, with the necessity to ‘optimise’ your deck on the fly from the cards available. Deciding whether to ’junk’ cards, which card to purchase and when to switch over to purchasing ‘Estate’ cards (which are, in the end, the victory points after all) is the most difficult and thrilling aspect of the game.

Luck from shuffling and the draw is actually less of an issue than you would expect as it is possible to chain actions together to draw even more cards and your ability to optimise your entire deck to allow for bad draws. As such, while luck could decide a fight between two highly competitive players, over the course of the game, the overall effects are generally quite low.

What are the negatives of the game? Depending on the cards that are put into play, interaction between players can be quite low. When there is interaction, many of the cards in the base game make it almost a secondary affect on other players. This can frustrate certain players since an experienced player could get his ‘deck‘ really going without a problem. In addition, as always, the theme is rather low. It’s just not that engrossing and the cards, while okay, aren‘t written in that ‘tight‘.

Lastly, because of the way Dominion works, there is a decided advantage that more experienced players have. This translates into experienced players burning through their turns at an amazing pace generally, putting undue pressure on new players as well as allowing them to truly ‘chain’ their actions and rounds to purchase a large number of cards.

Conclusion: Overall Dominion is a great card game that combines some of the deck building elements of a CCG but makes it unique in its own right. With the ability to create your deck on the fly and adjust it to your opponents actions, the amount of reply value available in Dominion is very high. Dominion is certainly worth the game price and the awards it has been winning.

Arctic Scavengers Review

Arctic Scavengers is an independently printed and designed board game that combines the deck building aspect of CCGs within a controlled set of cards. Set during a period of decline for humanity, players in Arctic Scavengers are the leaders of their respective tribes, attempting to grow the largest and strongest tribe to claim resources and survive.

Appearance: As an independent, self-printed card game, Arctic Scavengers does not reach the same standards of artwork or finish quality as games produced by companies like Fantasy Flight Games or Days of Wonder. The artwork is amateurish, the box cover is pasted directly onto the cardboard box itself and the cards are wrapped in a plastic bag and taped shut. On the other hand, the rules aren’t badly written, the icons and information on the card are easy to read and everything works. Overall, I’d give Arctic Scavengers 2 out of 5 stars for appearance.

Rules / Ease of Learning: In Arctic Scavengers, players receive a set of 10 cards that are exactly similar – the starting tribes. Each turn, players can take one of five actions – Digging in the Junkyard, Drawing from their Deck, Hunting for food, Hiring new Mercenaries or Junking their existing hand. Any cards not used for any of these actions go into the ‘Scrimmage’ pile and will fight over the contested resources.

Generally, there are two major type of cards – tool cards and tribe cards. Tool cards must be used with tribe cards and each individual type of tribe card will have different specialities that aid them in the above actions. As an example, Scavengers can take any of the above actions, but do so at a 1 point while a Thug can ‘Dig’ and ‘Fight’ at ‘1’ and ‘2’ points only. He cannot Hunt or Draw cards however.

The winner is the player with the most tribe members at the end of the game which is triggered when all the contested resource cards are gone. It’s worth noting that some cards (e.g. Tribe Families) are worth more Tribe Members than others (anything from 2 to 5).

Having introduced the game to two different groups, I can safely say that it’s not a complicated game to teach to gamers. New gamers might take a few rounds to learn ad get a hang of the game, but even then, most of them get comfortable after these few rounds. And since no contested resources occur in the first few rounds, they would not be unduly harmed by this.

Gameplay: Arctic Scavengers provides solid gameplay with easy to learn rules and sufficient variation to make the game interesting. Immediately, there are a few strategic options available to players – go aggressive and slow down other players, focus on burning through your deck for numbers or focus on winning the contested resources with lots of thugs. This makes the first few games quite accessible for everyone, eve against more experienced players. In turn, more experienced players have a better understanding of the deck, the options available and timing each action.

In fact, one of the more interesting aspects of the game is that players might not necessarily care to take part in the vast majority of skirmishes. With only tribe families offering 3 to 5 tribe members, the other cards offer between zero (for items) to 3 tribe members. A player could easily gain the same number of tribe members without risk by purchasing the specific mercenary, guaranteeing an increase in their points without risk (both in the randomness of the contested resource and the chance of losing). I addition, the bluffing element is quite amusing and can make a bad hand of cards quite, quite effective, especially if you are fortunate enough to take a peek at the contested resource card that turn.

I should also mention that the theme is very well integrated into the game. The idea of hiring mercenaries with medicine and food, of contesting resources and digging through the junkyard (which gets more and more ‘junky’ as the game progresses) is very post-apocalyptic and the gameplay elements suit all these aspects well, making the game easy to pickup.

Now, on to the bad points. Luck is a major factor in the game and can seriously wreck or derail player plans. In one game, one player had all the luck and managed to get all but 3 medicine cards. This put her at quite an advantage over other players (though I should point out that she did not win). It certainly made hiring other mercenaries much more difficult for the rest of us. In addition, the luck factor can force players to go down specific strategies that they might not prefer (e.g. beefing up on Scavengers because of the lack of Hunt abilities). It sometimes felt that even if you decided to choose a specific strategy, a bad series of draws on your card could force you to make tactical decisions that could dilute that strategy (e.g. being forced to dig for items even though you’d prefer to constantly contest resources). Of course, a lot of this can be mitigated by planning what to do with your deck, but it is an element of the game design that gamers should be aware of.

Another concern I have with the game is the repeat play value. The game certainly does not have the same level of replay as for example, Dominion. Since all the cards available must be used in play, the strategies at a certain point will become quite clear and the game could become ‘stale’. Of course the game costs about 2/3rds of Dominion and an expansion is already in the works.

Lastly, let‘s tackle the most common comparison.  Dominion provides more replay value, flows faster, looks prettier and feels ‘tighter’ as a game than Arctic Scavengers. On the other hand, Arctic Scavengers has more direct conflict and a more integrated and interesting theme. I would have to say that Dominion overall is a better game, but Arctic Scavengers doesn’t hold up badly to it at all.

Conclusion: Arctic Scavengers is a deck-building card game that has a well integrated and interesting theme, easy to learn rules and good gameplay. It’s artwork and presentation could have been better, but it’s not bad and rarely detracts from the actual gaemplay. If you’re looking for a more interactive, more aggressive deck building game, Arctic Scavengers should be right up your alley.

Galactic Emperor Board Game Review

Galactic Emperor first came to my attention as ‘Twilight Imperium-lite’. Now, having played Twilight Imperium, and realizing that my opportunities for 7 – 8 hour long games were few, this sparked my interest. And Galactic Emperor really does have many of the mechanics of Twilight Imperium, it just doesn’t have the same epic level of confrontation. It feels more like players are battling in a single solar system, a smaller, more intense and faster conflict than the galaxy-spanning battles of Twlight Imperium. On the other hand, it does what it does well.

Apperance: I have the second edition printing of Galactic Emperor, which means that all the components are pretty good looking. There’s nothing exceptional about the components, from large tokens representing the various roles and technologies, to simple chits for victory points and cash. The best components in the game are the ships, and while there have been complaints about the ships being too large; we just move ships off the board when combat starts. Frankly, small ships would be a minus point to the game, so overall Galactic Emperor receives a bare pass. There’s really nothing to complain about or laud – it’s average.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Okay, for any experienced gamer, many of the rules will feel very familiar – role choice, resource production and combat are the main rules used in Galactic Emperor, so teaching the rules to such gamers is quite fast. The biggest hurdle is remembering the new names and the technology cards.

For beginner players, there are quite a few rules in the game, though they are easy to learn and the vast majority make sense within the context of the game. The only confusion is the role-choice, which really has little thematic element to the game, but does of course provide strategic decisions.

In brief, each round players have six (6) roles to choose from, with each role only being able to be taken once per round. However, all players may take the action associated with the role during the turn it is taken –with the player who chooses the role receiving a special benefit.

Roles are that of the Regent (first player choice and political influence), Scientist (technology), Steward (production), Merchant (selling goods and food production), Explorer (galaxy / tile placement) and Warlord (movement and combat). The various functions of each are relatively self-explanatory. More details can be found in other reviews.

Gameplay: Each game of Galactic Emperor plays at about 30 minutes per player, with the first game with new players adding about another 30-60 minutes to the entire game. Games flow quite fast, with players always engaged because they have something to do with each role choice. In addition, with so few turns available in the game, each turn is very important for players and quite intense.

The game seems to break into two sections quite well – the initial exploratory and growth phase where players attempt to develop their empires as quickly and efficiently as possible and the second phase; normally after the appearance of the black hole, where players begin to aggress.

Currently, there seems to be two major methods of winning – diplomacy and combat. The first requires players to gain specific technological cards that provide an advantage in diplomacy, allowing them to purchase a large number of influence markers and ‘steal’ galaxies from other players during the Regent phase. This particular strategy is weaker towards the end game where a diplomatic player is limited by the low number of influence markers he has left.

The second method – combat is quite a viable strategy. Space fleets in our games have ranged from large, destroyer and fighter-backed armadas with increased movement to hard hitting swarms of fighter fleets. Unlike Twilight Imperium; combat in Galactic Emperor is a great strategy. Obvously, it has to be begun with care since starting too soon can leave a player vulnerable to retaliation from other players.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in gameplay is the fact that there seems to be only a few options in terms of winning – both because the board is so small and the options for gaining victory points so limited, you are forced into one of these two strategies to gain victory points.

In addition, the technology cards are rather limited. While it makes sense to keep the game short, I’d be really interested to see what an expansion could do with both the victory conditions as well as the technology options.

Conclusion: Overall, we’ve all had a ton of fun playing Galactic Emperor, and while it is not Twilight Imperium, it’s a fun, galactic spanning sci-fi game that most importantly plays quite fast. It’s definitely a game that will hit the table more often than Twilight Imperium – if nothing more than because of player schedules.

Neuroshima Hex Quick Review

Neuroshima Hex is a fun, tile based wargame that will scratch the itch for a quick, tactical wargame.  There is little overarching strategy in this game, as players cannot build new forces and control such production and the entire battle is fought on a small, hexagonal board.

However, if you’re looking for a pure tactical wargame, Neuroshima Hex will be hard to beat.  Able to manage up to 4 players, this is a great little tile-playing wargame that is quite quick, especially after players learn the various tiles.

Each of the 4 armies are unique, providing variety and replay value.  The small board and the random tile drawing will force players to rethink their tactics each turn, with some advantage given to experienced players.  However, in a multi-player game, this could quickly get rough for runaway leaders will be ganged up on.

Overall, if you are looking for a multi-player tactical wargame, this should be on your radar.  There just aren’t that many games that provide this kind of value and play style.

Carcassonne board game review

Carcassonne , like it’s biggest rival Settlers of Catan, is an award winning ‘Euro-game’ that has many adherents and a large number of expansions. The basic game is very simple to learn but takes an innovative approach to the creation of the board, thus altering the ensuing game-play.

In Carcassonne , players turn over a new randomly chosen tile at the beginning of each turn. The player must then decide where to place the newly revealed tile on the growing board, each tile having to fit to the existing features of adjoining tiles (roads to roads, fields to fields, cities to cities). This both limits how a tile can be placed as well as dictating a structure to Carcassonne . After placement, players may then choose to claim the tile with one of eight followers or to leave it empty to save their followers for more useful locations.

An interesting addition to the rules is that any connected feature already claimed by another player may not be claimed again. The only method to gain control of a new feature is to first, claim an unconnected feature of the same type (e.g. a new road) and then connect both features together through placement of a new tile.

Scoring is simple – each time a specific feature has been fully developed – roads that meet, cities and monasteries that are completely enclosed – the player with the most number of followers claiming that feature scores all the points. At that time, followers return to the players hands except in the case of farmers who are only scored at the end of the game.

This feature provides the additional strategic element to Carcassonne – place too many followers down on unfinished features or as farmers and you’ll not be able to compete against other players. Don’t play them at all as farmers or concentrate on too few farming locations and you’ll lose as players claim highly prized fields.

Carcassonne is a very simple, easy to learn game that has good replay value and quite a bit of fun included. It’s biggest disadvantage (for some) is the lack of player interaction – competition of features must be through multiple placements and as such, you rarely need to interact with players. Also, some players do complain about the ‘luck’ element of drawing tiles; though in our opinion, this can be managed through proper use of the followers.

Small World board game review

Small World is meant to be a reworking of Vinci, but not having played the game before, I won’t comment on that aspect.  In Small World by Days of Wonder, the players control a variety of fantasy civilisations, growing them and gaining with their victories before finally abandoning them for a stronger, newer, more vital civilisation.  It’s a ton of fun, with some great production values that offers immense replay value.

Appearance: Small World is one of the most lavishly produced games that I  have seen.  With 16 different civilisations, each requiring their own set of counters and 2 double-sided game boards, Small World comes chock full of counters, items and fun.  An interesting (and useful) addition is the removable counter tray for the civilisation counters and the pre-set locations for the inserts.   The rulebook even has a recommended set-up for the civilisations and counter pieces, which makes things easy to set-up and pull from during the game and makes this one of the few board games whose insert actually made sense.  Both counter card stock and artwork is of the highest quality (so long as you enjoy that type of art) and leaves nothing to complain about.  Even the player aids are both useful and well designed.

My biggest complaint lies in the removable counter tray.  During gameplay, as civilisations grew and fell, counters would occasionally drop; lying flat in the bottom of the tray.  Once that happened, it became a problem actually getting the counter pieces out again because they were designed to keep the counter relatively snugly.   Admittedly, I’m not sure how else they could have designed the tray (well, without involving springs) but it is an annoying feature.

Rules / Ease of Learning:  The rules in Small World are quite easy to learn.  Players begin the game choosing from one civilisation.  Since each civilisation has its racial ability and a special power (randomised through a series of special tiles); each game is going to be different.  Once chosen, players will receive a specific number of population tokens (a number that is dictated by the race and special power) to begin the game with.  They then begin conquering locations on the board.

Conquering is a very simple matter – each new space costs 2 tokens plus any modifiers on the space plus any population tokens.  Generally speaking, it ends up costing 3 tokens normally to take over a new location, though careful placement can pump up this number to 5.

Once that is complete, player score and gameplay moves onto the next turn.  An interesting point of the game is that the first player does not change at all during the game – there doesn’t seem to be a need for this.

While the general rules are pretty easy to learn, because the game has a ton of special powers and racial abilities, it might take a little while for a new player to get comfortable.  The extremely useful player aid is a great help here, as well as the fact that each game finishes quite fast.

Gameplay: So what’s the gameplay really like?  The special power and racial combinations will definitely draw a chuckle at times (Berserk Dwarves and Pillaging Halflings come to mind) in Small World and gameplay balance is very good as well.  Certain combinations (e.g. Sorcerers and Flying) that seem to be particularly powerful at first can be quickly countered by other players which ensures that no single race/power combination is over-powering.  In addition, combinations that seem to be underpowered can often be exploited to great potential (Underworld Skeletons were a great hit!).

Strategic and tactical decisions occur quite regularly – from developing a single, powerful starting race and ‘turtling’ them to gain a constant stream of points even after retirement to which location to enter the board from.  Even the choices of the races and when to retire your race is very important, with players often caught on the horns of when to cut their losses and run.  This is particularly important towards the last few rounds when not retiring a race can leave a player severely outnumbered and out powered as new races surge onto the board in the final round.  However, if you’re gaining a good slew of victory points, it might be worth holding on ‘just a little longer’.

Small World is not a game where you can play alone; and there might be some problems for game groups that dislike high levels of direct interaction.  It’s a Small World out there and sooner or later, players will be forced to attack competing civilisations and harm other players.

Gameplay on each of the four game boards provided varies widely.  A three player board feels extremely crowded, even in the beginning rounds, while the five player game board becomes more strategic as players can avoid interaction for a while due to the sheer size and number of provinces to take over.

That is perhaps the most important part of Small World – the huge replay value.  With racial and special power combinations that vary each turn, and with forced interaction (but good mechanical balance), the game is definitely going to have a high replay value.  Add the cartoonish design and easy rules, and you could introduce this to most beginners and guarantee a good time.

Conclusion: Small World is a definite winner from Days of Wonder.  If you’re looking for a board game that is easy to learn, has a lot of replay value and just looks good, you won’t be disappointed.  Just make sure that those you introduce it to understand that this is an aggressive game of conquests, and be ready to play a second round so that players have a better ‘feel’ for the game.