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.

Stone Age Board Game Review

Stone AgeStone Age isa light worker placement Euro game that uses dice to add an element of randomness to the game.  This is a great introductory board game for new players and plays in an hour to an hour and a half.

Appearance: Stone Age comes in a typical 12″ * 9 ” * 4″box with slots in the box for everything.  Fortunately it seems quite well designed and everything fits in nicely.  The game board is quite cute (watch the huts especially) and well designed with thick cardboard counters for the huts and player boards as well as good card stock for the cards available.  Of course, the most fun part is the leather dice cup that comes with the game for rolling.

Rules / Ease of Learning: A beginner Euro game, Stone Age is pretty easy to learn / teach.  Players start with 5 tribe members and take turns sending them to tasks each round.  Each task can fit a specific number of tribe members (ranging from 1 to 7 normally); so players have a lot of options available in the beginning.  There are 3 ‘special’ tasks (agriculture, tool making & the birthing huts which must have 2 tribe members sent) that provide in-game bonuses.  In addition, tribe members can be sent to gather food or resources or to build huts (cards for points with resources) or gather civilisation cards (resources and end-game points).

While gathering resources, players roll a die for each tribe member sent.  The resulting total is divided by the difficulty of the resource e.g. 2 for food, 3 for wood, etc.) and rounded down.  That is the amount of resources the player will get.  t the end of each round, players will need to feed their tribe members, so players will have to balance resource gathering for points and food gathering throughout the game.

The game ends when either the civilisation cards or a hut stack runs out.

Gameplay: Stone Age is quite a fast game to play with simple mechanics to teach.  The first round or two in a new beginners game will be slower, but after that most games pick-up.  There are a few distinct strategies that crop-up (buying civilisation cards, dominating the wood or agriculture developments) but part of the fun of the game is developing in areas that other players are not focusing on.

The addition of the dice helps make the games more interesting, adding a level of randomization and unpredictability to Stone Age.  In addition, with two differing methods for gaining points and only a small number of workers; players have to manage both the development of their tribe members, their feeding and resource collection while heading off potential problems (e.g. another player attempting to end the game early).

Conclusion: Overall, Stone Age is a fun beginner’s Euro game. It’s easy to teach, there’s a lot of replay value in the game itself and it plays fast so that it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.  It isn’t a very ‘deep’ game and more serious Eurogamers would likely find the game boring after a while, but it’s certainly one of  my favorite beginner board games.

Hansa Teutonica Game Review

Hansa Teutonica is a medium-weight, route building Eurogame with nearly no luck involved. It is however unlike most Eurogames quite interactive with a lot of strategic blocking and multiple routes to victory.

Appearance: Hansa Teutonica is a rather plain looking game – it uses medieval-inspired artwork for the game board and player boards and the perennial cubes. There’s nothing much to discuss in appearance – if you’ve seen one Eurogame, you’ve seen Hansa Teutonica.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Hansa Teutonica is quite an easy game to teach. Each turn, players have 4 potential actions – place a piece down on a route, move pieces on the board, clear a completed route (and acquire the city or ability and the special actions if applicable) or take income (pieces) from the bank.

How many actions a player has, the number of pieces they can take from their bank or move across the board, which offices in a city they can occupy or the number of points they will receive for their routes can all be ‘unlocked’ from their player board by completing set routes on the board. Unlocking these additional abilities provide players with additional pieces as well, so it’s quite an important aspect.

When players place a piece on the board, they may ‘bump’ an existing player out of their spot by paying an additional piece(s). The player so bumped may, at the end of the current players turn, place the bumped piece an additional piece(s) on the board on an adjacent route. In addition, when a route is cleared to occupy the city or gain a special action, all the pieces on the route are removed from the board and are returned to the player’s bank (with a piece placed on an office space if that is the chosen action).

The game ends when one of 3 events occur – a player reaches 20 victory points, 10 cities are completely filled or no additional special action tokens may be drawn.

Gameplay: Hansa Teutonica is a pretty fun game. There are a ton of different strategies available, with players able to focus on getting the special action tiles, controlling cities to get victory points, developing routes and developing their game board for maximum points / abilities. Knowing when to switch tactics based on what other players are doing is very important, as is the placement of your pieces to slow down other places and to gain the additional ‘free’ token when they bump you out.

I thoroughly enjoy the game even if I haven’t won a single game out of the 7 I’ve played now. There’s a lot of tactics and strategy involved, with almost no luck in the game (beyond what special action tokens are drawn) so it’s all a matter of adjusting to the play styles of the other players. So far, I haven’t seen an optimum strategy – even if you don’t get 3 actions immediately, you can use the time to develop routes or your board in other locations. It’s also quite easy to teach and games go faster as people play it more.

Minuses include the fact that it can lead to Analysis Paralysis – there’s a lot of options and sometimes, trying to figure out what other players are going to do can cause certain players to take a very long time for their turns. In addition, if you start falling behind, it’s really hard to catch up. Lastly, some players can get a real boost depending on who they play after as certain play styles can greatly benefit each other. As an example, a player who focuses on clearing the Action Token track might make it really easy for the next player to get into that track as well.

Conclusion: Overall, I’m a fan of Hansa Teutonica. It’s a medium-weight game that has most turns moving pretty fast, very little luck and quite a lot of strategy.

More Mini Board Game Reviews (3)

Once again, I’ve been playing a ton of board games and not had time to review them in detail, so in place of that, here’s a ton of mini-reviews.

St. Petersburg: A classic card drafting strategy game, players go through multiple rounds purchasing workers, buildings, nobles and special cards to provide them additional points and money.  Quite quick to play, it’s definitely stood the test of time and one of my favourites at the moment.

Pirate’s Cove: A light family game, Pirate’s Cove has players deciding to move to one of six islands to ‘raid’ them for their points / treasure chests / doubloons and to upgrade their ships.  The powerful NPC pirate makes things difficult to deal with as do the opposing players whom you have to fight.  It’s a light, fun game – not one I’d choose to play every time, but one that I can certainly enjoy occasionally.

7 Wonders: I’ve only played this a few times, but so far, this is a must-buy if no more than to fit 7 seven players.   One of the few games that makes it easy to  run a fast 7 player game, 7 Wonders is a card drafting game where players hand their new ‘hand’ of cards to their opponents each round, choosing what to lay down based on what their opponents on either side has.  Fun, easy to teach and learn, it’s major problem has been the low-production levels of the cards.

Heroes of Graxia: Another deck-building game, Heroes of Graxia take on this popular new category has players taking on the role of a specific hero.  The major differences between Heroes of Graxia and other deck-builders is the addition of permanent playable heroes that can be equipped / upgraded on the board and the ability to score victory points / end the game by attacking fellow players.  Dealing with a common complaint about deck-builders, Heroes of Graxia is currently the most interactive deck-builder on the market.

Claustrophobia: A dungeon-crawler for 2 players, Claustrophobia comes with some cute painted miniatures and a modular gameboard.  Claustrophobia uses an interesting movement / activation system – the hero player rolls a set of dice equal to the number of characters he has available, assigning the dice and thus the hero’s stats for the turn.  Wounds taken by the heroes remove a line (i.e. a number) from the character sheet, creating an ever dwindling source of strength.  A good, fast to learn and play 2 player dungeon crawler, it might be a tad expensive for a pure 2 player game.

Alhambra: Another classic set collection and hand management game.  It’s not a bad game, and certainly easy enough to teach for beginners but there’s definitely layers of strategy in the base game.  Deciding which groups of buildings to purchase, which to buy to block and making sure to buy with exact change (or not) all make the game  move with an interesting flow.  However, we’ll have to play it a few more times to see if it has lasting power.

Puerto Rico: Strange that I’ve not reviewed this classic game before, but having played it a few times recently, I have to say I’m coming to like it a little better than my initial impressions.  It’s almost a pure information game; so there is a lot of analysis but there’s just enough variations in the plantations to make it random for repeated plays.  However, I’m still not that impressed with it as there’s just a little too little randomness for my liking.

Thunderstone the Deck-Building Game Review

Thunderstone‘s a deck-building game, the second to be released actually.  It’s an interesting game, though the rules have received a ton of revisions since it’s release to help deal with certain issues that cropped up during mass gameplay.  The latest editions all incorporate the change  though it’s worth noting this when reading other reviews. Overall, it’s still my favourite deck-builder; over that of Dominion mostly due to the higher level of theme.

Appearance: The card artwork in Thunderstone is average.  The artwork isn’t great or bad, it’s about average.  It certainly is more generic than say, Ascension; but it certainly is prettier than some of the work you’ll see in Dominion.  On the other hand, it’s not jaw-dropping great either.

Card stock wise; it’s pretty good.  The cards will wear down; but it’ll take quite a few games before it becomes noticeable.  Our set has seen over 20 plays so far and there’s no real major damage to any of the cards.

With regard to the insert & sorting – it’s pretty bad.  The initial game box’s insert isn’t very useful, and the various ‘divider’ cards aren’t much better.  The expansion – Wrath of the Elements – takes a lot of steps to fixing this; but if you just get the base game, be prepared for a lousy sorting system.  Rubber bands are definitely recommended.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Thunderstone is a deck-building game, so players all start out with the same deck of cards.  They then must choose to either visit the village to purchase a new card for their deck or the dungeon to battle monsters.   The monsters in the dungeon are generally how you win the game as they provide victory points, but they also provide XP which can be used to upgrade your Heroes.

In the Village you can purchase Heroes, Spells, Items & Villagers who can add to your attack ability, provide more gold or Light or add more ‘Buys’ or other rule-breaking abilities.  As you develop your deck, you’ll be able to deal more damage allowing you to take on the more challenging monsters in the Dungeon.

In Thunderstone, players can choose to attack any one of three face-up monsters.  Monsters who are further away from the ‘entrance’ of the dungeon require additional light sources to fight without penalty.  If a player does not manage to beat the monsters, these monsters are discarded to the bottom of the deck and a new monster is drawn.

Gameplay: Thunderstone is quite a fun game to play.  It’s not quick though – where Dominion can finish in 20 minutes, Ascension in 30 – 45; Thunderstone generally ranges from an hour to an hour and a half depending on the Village deck.

I like the fact that you get to choose which Monster to fight as well as the Heroes that you choose to use.  The variety of strategies available will of course depend on the cards that come out, but with so many Village cards offered, there’s quite a huge replay value.  Turns in Thunderstone are also quite fast – there aren’t that many cards that allow you to ‘pull’ from your deck constantly unlike Dominion; which makes every player’s turn relatively quick.

However, there are certain issues with the game.  It’s quite obvious that certain Heroes are better than others, especially with certain Village cards.  In addition, depending on the monsters that arrive; combat can be atrociously slow (e.g. Doomknights that increase the light penalty when there are no additional light sources / heroes in the Village). Also, as the number of cards with the ability to redraw cards are low; bad luck can play a seriously adverse effect on a player’s chances of winning.  This really is an Ameritrash version of a deck-building game.

Conclusion: I like Thunderstone because of it’s higher themed content and to some extent, the greater randomness.  Playing the game, I feel that I’m actually building an adventuring party with a set goal – unlike Dominion which feels a touch themeless at times.

Sid Meier’s Civilization the Board Game Review

Sid Meier’s Civilization the Board Game has got to be my favourite new acquisition.  I’m a huge fan of Civilization the computer game, and have played from Civ II to IV religiously. So having a board game adaptation by one of the best publishers (Fantasy Flight) had me raring to play.  I have to say, it’s not let me down so far; though I will admit I’ve yet to play a 2 player game.

Appearance: Fantasy Flight has done a great job on the appearance here, with the pictures seemingly drawn straight from the computer game.  Everything’s easy to read and there doesn’t seem to be any major typos that we have seen.  There is, as always, a ton of chits so set-up time and break-down needs to be carefully done or else it could take a while the next game.  Overall, I’m quite happy with the pieces & the quality of the game.  As usual, you might as well toss the insert with any FFG game.

Rules / Ease of Learning: This is a complex game.  Let’s be clear about that from the start – just like the computer game, the learning curve is pretty steep.  I am not going to reiterate the rules here in detail, it’d take forever.  There’s a lot of information to grasp, though fans of the computer game will certainly have a head start on understanding the various rules and concepts.  To quickly summarise the game – players choose a specific race / governor (or are randomly given one) and start on their starting tile with their capital city.  They receive a Scout & Army Figure and 3 Army Units.  Exploration of the gameboard reveals new land tiles including barbarian huts & villages that can be visited / conquered for resources and potentially great people.  You also need to explore to settle in a new tile as there’s a minimum distance required for settling cities.  Players get a maximum of 3 cities in the game.  During each turn, players collect ‘Trade’ which is used for Research or hurrying Production of units / buildings / etc.  Researching gives access to new buildings, governments, units & special abilities.

Combat is resolved by playing unit cards onto the board with the defender going first.  Units can trump / first strike specific other unit types (i.e. cavalary trump archers, archers trump infantry, infantry trump cavalry) which means they deal damage before the other unit types.  Damaged (not killed) units stay on the board, and count towards resolving the battle.

Lastly, of note are the numerous winning conditions – Culture, Wealth, Military and Technology.  It’s worth noting that whoever reaches the winning condition first wins the game immediately.

Gameplay: So how does Civilization play? The first game or two is slow and slightly over-whelming.  There’s just so many cool technologies, with most of them looking to be really relevant to your particular strategies.  There’s also the slightly confusing battle system that needs to be explained, and the difference between Army Figures & Units.  It’s a strange distinction that can take a while for players to grasp and it’s particularly important since you draw your Units for all your Armies from a single pool.   In fact, with a beginner player in the mix; it’s quite often easy to win by going for a military victory and exploiting that lack of understanding.  Not that I’vee done that. 😉

Once players understand the rules and gameplay, the game certainly goes faster.  It probably ranges from 2 – 3 hours with experienced players, depending on number of players.  Potentially 4 with slower groups; but we’ve mostly found it to average 3 hours with our group.

It’s a ton of fun to play and there’s a lot different strategies open with different winning conditions.  Because the world map is random, which buildings and technologies have to change depending on where your 2nd and 3rd cities end up going.

The use of a Technology Pyramid instead of a Technology Tree is very smart in my opinion, giving a ‘feel’ of growth without the need for multiple charts to understand what is going on.

I do feel that certain leaders force players into specific victory conditions.  It’s hard to choose anything but a Military victory if you’re the Germans and the Romans have a great headstart to a coin victory.    It’d be nice if there were more Leaders to choose from as well.

I also feel that the game could easily have had a 5th or 6th player added if more pieces were provided.  There’s no real reason there can’t be that many players involved, and I’m a bit disappointed that they weren’t included in the first place. I guess it keeps the play-time under 4 hours consistently.

Conclusion: I like Sid Meier’s Civilization. A lot.  I think it’s the best Civilization game out there, and I’d choose to play this any day over any of the others I’ve tried so far.  Yes, it’s even better than Through the Ages in my opinion.  Yes, there’s random elements to the game, but it’s meant to  have them and so far, none of it seems too broken.

Merchants & Marauders : A Game Review

Merchants & Marauders is the latest in a small line of pirate games.  There just aren’t that many to pick from – Jamaica, Blackbeard and Pirate’s Cove are the only serious pirate games that come to mind.  Of the group, Merchants & Marauders stands out for it’s high replay value and overall fun gameplay.

Appearance: Merchants & Marauders is made by ZMan Games and it comes with some great components.  A ton of miniature ships, lots of cards, multiple player boards and one huge game board depicting the Carribean Island’s all come in high quality detail.  The artwork is good if not stellar, with depictions of the various pirates on the cards and good use of symbols for the various mission and quest cards.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Merchants & Marauders has quite a heavy rulebook; with multiple areas to cover – from actions in a turn to three forms of combat (Merchant Raids, NPC/Player Ship combat & Boarding Combat).  So there’s a lot to learn; but it all meshes together quite well.  In addition, the handy player-aids help with the explanation.  Just expect to take between 10 – 15 minutes at least to fully explain the game.  And double-check the rules for things you might miss since there are a number of small details that are easy to miss.

To summarise the game, each turn a new event card is drawn.  These event cards can range from new Navy or Pirate vessels, weather affects or world events (like wars).  After that, each player takes his turn doing one of three possible actions three times (except for the Port Action which can only be done once a turn).  Move, Scout & Attack and a Port Action.  In Merchants & Marauders, players need one action to move into or out of port or across a sea space.  Scouting is based on a die-roll and players may then, if successful decide to attack the scouted vessel.  There are 2 types of combat – NPC Merchant Raids (dealt with by drawing cards) and NPC Vessel & PC Combat that involves lots of dice rolling. Lastly, the Port Action allows players to buy & sell goods, recruit crew, acquire a Mission or Rumour, repair or upgrade their ship or buy a new one. To win the game, players need to acquire 10 Glory Points; which can be won from Gold ‘Stashed’ away, sinking certain Ships, buying a better ship or completing Rumours & Missions.

Gameplay: Merchants & Marauders is a solid game, with a lot to offer gamers.  With multiple captains and numerous event, Rumor & Mission cards, there’s a lot of replay value here.  In addition, the decision to play as either a Merchant or Pirate is viable as a winning strategy – in fact, it’s possible to win staying in either profession.  Of course, it’s a bit faster if you switch professions after a while; deciding on when to do so is part of the overall strategy and will often be dictated by the Missions & Events that appear on the board.

There’s a lot of theme in the game, from finding rumours that depict lost treasures or playing Privateer for specific countries.  I also like the fact that you can upgrade your ship, though the lack of difference between various ships in terms of movement across the board seems quite unrealistic to me.  In addition, the pricing on the ships seems somewhat strange and probably should have been adjusted.  Lastly, the ability to only upgrade ships based on what tokens are available on the board is annoying as well – I wish that there was more flexibility in that area.

Your first game of Merchants & Marauders is going to take at least 3 hours (if not 4) with 4 people.  With more experienced players, it’ll certainly decrease in time as turns can be extremely short and planned ahead in some cases (e.g. move out of port, move, move into port). However, the Port Actions will always be slow since players often have to draw / roll to find out what they can do.  In addition, combat can be a quite drawn out, if fun affair, with numerous dice being thrown by either player.  I do like the combat system between vessels though, it is a good depiction of naval combat with the choice of duking it out via cannons or boarding.

Of note is the fact that luck is going to be a big factor in this game.  There’s a lot of dice rolling for combat, card drawing for merchant raids, Event, Mission & Rumour cards are all random and even your choice of starting captain is random.  It’s quite possible to be utterly run-over by the board (e.g. having a country go to war on the first turn and on the 2nd have a Man-of-War appear right on you), but the game is fun enough that it’s still worth playing even after getting sunk repeatedly.

Conclusion: Merchants & Marauders is certainly a good pirate game.  It strikes a pretty good balance between not being too light (like Pirate’s Cove); while not getting too rules heavy.  It sometimes feel a tad bloated, with too many rules (did we really need both Mission & Rumour cards, couldn’t they have been combined?), yet still offers a lot of strategic possibilities.  Just bear in mind that there is a lot of luck to this game and that it isn’t fast and you’ll likely enjoy yourself immensely.

Resident Evil Deck-Building Game Review

Having played a ton of deck-builders, I have to say that the Resident Evil Deck Builder is my least preferred game of that sort.  I have to admit I have only played this game once, but I’m not going to play it again so the review’s going to be a touch shorter than normal.  It also focuses only on the ‘Story mode’ of the game.

Appearance:  Resident Evil the Deck Building Game isn’t a bad looking game at all.  The graphic’s come from the computer game, so artwork is very nice anime artwork.  The rules can be slightly confusing – especially on the cards, but otherwise the cards are pretty good and good stock.  However the rulebook is horrible – it’s confusing and they obviously didn’t check for mistprints since there’s quite a fe.

Rules / Ease of Learning:  If you’ve played a deck builder, you’ll pick up the rules in Resident Evil relatively fast.  There’s a little confusion (thanks to the horrible layout) about what the actions are and when they occur, but once you’ve worked it out, it’s pretty simple.  Ammo is used as the equivalent of Gold for buying cards (and Ammunition for using your weapons); so you’ll be buying a lot of those, weapon cards and action cards.  Like most  deck builders, you have a series of cards that are laid out for use which can be randomised, and like Thunderstone you have a a separate ‘monster’ (aka Mansion) deck for doing battle in to gain points.

Gameplay: It’s in the actual gameplay that I have my major problems with Resident Evil.   A random monster deck sounds interesting; but the problem is that the game penalises you for losing battles to monsters quite heavily.  You lose 10 permanent hit points each time you die – which can mean you can die completely!  So instead of ‘trying your luck’ in the mansion, you instead try to boost your strength by purchasing cards till you feel confident in going in regularly.

However, to get a good ‘deck’; you need higher grade Ammo and Weapon cards.  The Action cards are useful; but can also slow your deck down.  So for the first 30 – 40 minutes; players are just consistently purchasing cards from the pile instead of going into the mansion.

The game sort of gets ‘fun’ in the middle as your deck finally gets going – you generally have enough ammo and weapons to do damage to kill most of the monsters in the Mansion, so players start burning through the deck fast.

And then the end game comes along and it all slows down.  To kill the Boss; you need to do 90 points of damage.  Outside of getting very lucky or having one of the 2 major weapons; it’s nearly impossible to kill him.  So players would draw their hand, look at the total damage and then either buy more cards or pass.  Mostly, they’d pass.  The end game literally took 30 minutes trying to finish the last 4 monsters.  Remember – you didn’t want to go in if you didn’t have enough points since you’d take damage and ‘die’ again.

Worst, all this passing did nothing to ‘fix’ your deck.  Unless you have the card that allows you to ‘discard’ cards from your deck (the one’s available were one use) and there are no rules for discarding cards like Thunderstone.  So you’d have a ton of so-so weapons and ammunition that would clog up the deck.

Sure, some of my characters have special abilities – but they just don’t seem to make that much of a difference in actual gameplay for us.  To activate the abilities, you’d have to kill enough  monsters; but to do that you have to venture into the mansion with all the inherent risks.

Could this be fixed? Sure.  If we had more control of who you fought (e.g. Thunderstone); it’d make the go faster.  If you had no penalties for dieing; you’d be able to go faster.  If you could ‘pass’ and discard a card, it’d go faster.

Conclusion : There’s literally nothing in Resident Evil that another deck builder hasn’t done better in my view.  Want a dungeon crawler – get Thunderstone.  Want something fast and simple to learn – get Ascension.  Want a game with higher interaction – Arctic Scavengers or Heroes of Graxia.  Just want an overall good deck-builder? Dominion.

Zombie State : Diplomacy of the Dead Review

Zombie State : Diplomacy of the Dead Review is an interesting board game that has players controlling continental nations in a battle to end the Zombie plague.  The game starts out in catastrophe and keeps getting worst, with players having to decide which countries to sacrifice to conserve limited resources and actions.  Zombie State is a fun game that takes just a little too long; but still worth trying out.

Appearance:  Okay, this is my largest gripe about Zombie State.  It has one of the worst graphics I’ve ever seen on a board game.  The world map is horrendously designed; with colours that are hard to read and worst to look at; while the rulebook looks like a first year Graphic Design Student knocked it out.  It’s bad.  The only saving graces  are that the quality of the components are great (the tanks/armies are cute) and the well thought out player aid.  That’s about it.

Rules/Ease of Learning: Zombie State is broken into a few different phases in each turn – starting from receiving resources & actions (known as Freedom Points); random events, the Zombie Action Phase, Player Action Phase & Upkeep Phase.   Of those, the meat of the game is in the Zombie & Player Action Phases.

An interesting take on the action points is the ‘Popularity Track’.  As players lose regions; they remove the dice that indicate the population of that region onto their player aid Popularity Track.  The track indicates the number of actions a player gets a turn as well as the number of armies they can draft.  So, as players lose more regions, their options reduce.

In the Zombie Action Phase, the Zombies Eat, Move & then Fight in that order.  Eating is relatively simple – one Zombie token eats one population and creates another Zombie.  Movement is more complicated; with Zombies moving towards the highest population regions first in groups.  However, not all Zombies move together; 3 then 2 then 1 to regions with populations of descending amounts.   At which point Combat occurs; with armies and zombies canceling each other out.

In the Player Action Phase; players can research technology; generate new resources, create and move armies and use any technologies that are appropriate.  The focus of a the player’s decisions are here – which technologies to research, where to build armies and whether to move or fortify the armies, what regions to evacuate or abandon if possible.

It’s worth noting that because players fight zombies; they have almost no direct interaction with other players.  Most of the interaction is via deciding how to deal with the zombie movement, mostly by channeling the zombies into another player’s region.  However, you can’t send armies into another region nor can you ‘steal’ resources.

In the last phase; the mutation markers move ahead.  Acting as a game timer and a zombie mutation & outbreak timer; the mutation track just makes things worst for everyone continually.

Overall, the game takes about 10 minutes to teach.  None of the rules are particularly complicated for a gamer; though there are quite a few details.  The hardest part to learn / understand is the numerous technologies that are available and how zombie movement occurs.

Gameplay: Zombie State is fun to play.  In the beginning, the game starts out with zombies in 2 regions and multiplying.  It just gets worst as the next turn, another outbreak occurs and in 2 more turns, another outbreak.  Within a few rounds, you have multiple zombie outbreaks that are chewing through your population.

Of course, you only have a limited number of resources; so you have to decide to either slow down the zombie plague by sacrificing expensive units or focus on researching technologies to win.  Stay focused on or the other path too much though and you’ll end-up over-run by the zombies.  The crux of the game is figuring out when to switch between the two paths.

Like any other good game; there’s a lot of choices but unfortunately, there might just be too many in Zombie State.  Between analyzing where the Zombies are moving; the decisions on the technology track and the allocation of armies on the board; the beginning few rounds are slow.  Players are all engaged during this period for the most part; but after 3 – 4 hours players begin to wear down.  While the later game is faster as there are fewer actions and fewer regions to concern yourself about; by this time player fatigue is catching up.

Lastly, there’s a bit of a  problem with player elimination.  After 2 – 3 hours; its certainly possible to see who the winner (or potential winners) are.  Quite often, there’s a few players in the lead and the others are stuck behind, either due to bad luck or bad decisions.  Unfortunately, there’s still at least another hour or two left of gameplay at this point; and while there’s still a lot of fun left, it is a bit of a let-down for the players stuck behind since there’s really no way to turn it around completely.

Conclusion:  Zombie State is a lot of fun; don’t get me wrong.  It’s not a Risk game as players aren’t fighting each other, instead they are combating zombies.  On the other hand, the game does suffer from a high play length and player elimination.  It’s still a game I’d keep in my collection to take out once in a while.

Mini Reviews

Lots of board games have been played recently, unfortunately I’ve not had time to write full reviews for them or I’ve not had enough experience / plays to give a full review.  So here’s a ton of mini-reviews for the games.

Parade: Light card game that has players drawing and playing cards down onto a line of cards (the Parade).  Cards that aren’t protected by the card played must be taken by the player if they are either lower than the card’s number or the same colour suit.   Points on the cards are negative points, though players only receive -1 point for each card that they have a colour majoirty in  Parade’s an interesting take on the set collection game that takes a game or two for you to get an idea how it plays, but it’s fun even if it is light on theme.

Hansa Teutonica: Supposedly about developing a network of trade merchants in Germany, however, truthfully the theme is extremely low.  Mostly, it’s a game about route building and area control, where players build routes on the board to unlock additional abilities (workers,additional points, increase refreshed, etc.) and score points.  It’s actually quite a fun game that is highly conflict oriented in the Euro-game way.

Terra Prime: A science fiction, exploration and colonisation game; Terra Prime’s an interesting game.  It’s very much a Euro take on an AmeriTrash game, with somewhat simplified rules and quick gameplay.  It’s not a bad space exploration game, though I’m going to have to play it a couple more times to make a full judgment.  Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the game is the quality of the pieces – we had cardboard tokens literally coming apart on us as we punched it.

Zombie State – Diplomacy of the Dead : Okay, let’s get my biggest grouse out of the way – the graphics are horrendous.  Seriously – the board uses a ton of non-primary colours that contrast very badly on the world map.  This game desperately required a graphic designer.  Note however that while it uses a world map, this is not a Risk-clone.  In Zombie State, players are fighting the Zombies; not each other.  In addition, you are limited to your own regions (which are hard enough frankly to keep populated).  However, there is some minor conflict by careful planning by sending the Zombie hordes into other player regions or via foreign aid.  There’s also a tech tree and lots and lots of zombies.  It’s actually quite fun, though gameplay takes a lot of time – figure about 4 hours for a first game with 3 players only.

Castle Ravenloft:  Now in sharp contrast – this is a game that got the visual presentation right.  Actually, more than right – this game’s miniatures is absolutely gorgeous.  Now, not having played D&D since Basic, I can’t say anything about how simplified or not this is compared to D&D 4.0 but compared to Descent, it’s incredibly simplified to make gameplay fast.   There are only a few characters and the dungeon is all randomly generated.  It’s a great light adventure game for those looking for something that sets-up and teaches faster than Descent, but there is rather a lot of randomness in the game (dice rolling for combat, random dungeon creation, random monsters per dungeon, random events, etc.)

Anima: the Shadow of the Omega: In contrast to all the great games we’ve played and discussed, this isn’t a good game.  No, seriously it’s a bad, bad game.  The game is entirely too random, with almost no real control over what characters you get, what events you face and what quests you are required to complete.  Other than pretty pictures on the cards, the game just doesn’t play well and takes too long anyway.