Belfort Game Review

Belfort CoverBelfort is a worker placement / area control strategy game from Tasty Minstrel Games.  It’s a Euro game that seems to try to do too much and none of it particularly well.  Belfort ends up dragging and never being as fun as it should be, especially for the amount of time we spent playing the game.

Appearance:  Belfort uses a cartoony theme with fantasy dwarves, elves and gnome’s and a robust colour palette.  Unfortunately, some of the colour palette options aren’t very good (example – the violet pieces fade right into the Keep); while the board itself doesn’t have a lot of contrast to make it easy to find items.  In addition, the game comes with all its pieces unstickered so you’ll find yourself spending a good 10 minutes before playing placing stickers on your pieces.  Also, the pieces used are all plastic instead of the normal wood which makes the pieces slippery and annoying to play with.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Belfort plays in two parts – the worker placement first portion and the second area control / actions portion.  In the worker placement stage, players may place their elf or dwarf workers in the resource areas, guilds, recruitment center or flags for position. After that, they collect their various resources; with players with a majority in the resource centers gaining an extra resource.  During the area control phase, players must acquire property cards to play them to gain control of these properties.  By gaining control of these properties, players can score points during the scoring phase of the game.

Overall, there aren’t a large number of rules to learn and none of the rules are particularly complex.   You could probably teach the game in about 10 minutes to a group of experienced gamers.

Gameplay: Outside of the actual appearance of the game, this is the other location Belfort falls short.  By being both a worker placement and area control game and by splitting each portion up significantly; the game has a tendency to drag.  The entire game is played sequentially instead of in parallel and players have to evaluate their decisions constantly based on the actions of the other players.  In addition, as the game progresses each turn takes longer and longer as the number of decisions / placements players can make grows exponentially.

In the start, players only have 6 workers and can only likely build one building a turn.  By the end game, it’s easy to have 10 – 12 workers to place (with only 1 figure placeable a turn) and be building 2 – 3 buildings.  Each building must be carefully reviewed for placement to gain the most points, while ensuring it gives you the necessary income for scoring.

In the end, the game just drags; since each turn takes a while and players are left waiting.  Perhaps the game would have been better with the worker placement / area control portions better integrated.

Conclusion: By now, you can guess I’m not a fan.  I find Belfort to be a below average Euro.  If I want a worker placement game, I’ll play Stone Age.  For an area control game, Revolution just does it better.  And if I want a heavy Euro; Ora & Labora is faster and much more fun.

Revolution Game Review

Revolution is an area control board game by Steve Jackson Games that uses a blind-bidding element to let players gain control.  It’s a fast game to learn to play and a fast game to play, which makes it a great game for more casual board gaming groups or as a filler.

Revolution!Appearance: Revolution! comes in big, bright red and black colours and a cartoony design.  There’s really not much in terms of artwork here, and the design is mostly minimalistic and does the job it’s meant to.  Card, map and chit stock are all good so there’s nothing to complain about here at all.  It’s just not outstanding either.  I do like the fact that all the game rules are printed on either the player blind or the player boards as a handy reminder.

Rules / Ease of Learning: In Revolution, each player starts their turn with 3 Gold, a Blackmail and a Force. They then must place their bids on a maximum of 6 different characters on their own player boards.

Players then simultaneously reveal their bids with bids resolved in order from the top left right and down.  In Revolution, Force trumps Blackamil and Gold while Blackmail trumps Gold.  Multiple tokens may be used on a single character, with the player with the highest bid winning the character and his influence for that turn.  In the event of a tie for the highest bid, no one wins the character that turn.

Characters in Revolution! can influence the game in a number of ways from providing additional tokens (Force, Blackmail or Gold), influence in a location, points or other more devious options like removing influence tokens from the board or swapping them around.

Once all the character’s have been resolved, players who have less than 5 tokens collect the remainder in Gold; such that each player starts with a minimum of 5 tokens (all Gold if necessary!) and a new turn begins.  The game ends whenever the game board is completely filled.

Gameplay: Revolution! plays fast as there are only a limited number of options and generally only a limited number of tokens to bid with.  As such, each turn moves quickly.  The game is also easy to teach; with the majority of the strategy one of deducing what each other player’s strategy is for that turn.

The player who manages to pick (by luck or strategy) the most number of characters to influence unopposed generally wins.  The game format isn’t particularly difficult, with the democratizing effects of trying to guess everyone’s choices each turn sometimes destroying even the smartest players.  Unless you’re a professional poker player or psychologist, reading 3 – 4 players and deducing where they are going to place each of their tokens is going to be impossible.  As such, quite often you’ll just be guessing and going with the best possible option.

Conclusion: Revolution! is very much a filler or party game.  There’s just enough strategy to make it a good warm-up but not really enough for a serious gaming group for a long session.  On the other hand, it’s good to pull out with non-gaming friends and its simple ‘rock-paper’stone’ mechanics are easy to teach to anyone.

Space Alert Game Review

Space Alert is a co-operative board game that plays in real time and resolves only afterwards.  In Space Alert, you are barely trained space cadets sent to gather information on a nearby galaxy and must survive the 10 minutes of hostile space before you warp back home.  Unfortunately, hostile is definitely the word to describe where you’ll be warping in.

Space Alert Cover

Appearance:  The art in Space Alert is vintage sci-fi and quite fun to look at.  The pieces are adequate and of good card stock, though the cards are a touch flimsy and definitely do begin to show wear after a few game plays.

The rulebook on the other hand is very well laid out and a ton of fun to read like most Czech Games reproductions.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Space Alert is a real-time board game.  The game takes place in 2 major parts – the main game board where players attempt to chart their movements and actions as well as the threats they face and their personal player’s table where they will play the cards that indicate their character’s movement and actions on each turn.

In Space Alert, a CD plays in the background calling out the threats of each mission (there are 10 that come in the game box) as well as other occurrences.  Each mission is 10 minutes long and is broken into 3 intervals, with players able to play 4 action cards during each interval.

To indicate what action or movement you take, you’ll need to place your card face-down on the appropriate slot.  Using your movement and actions, you’ll need to arm and fire weapons, charge shields, run battlebots and use Interceptors as well as keeping the computer running.  Every action needs to be co-ordinated with your teammates in real time and only when it’s over do you check your cards to ensure that each action is taken appropriately.

Gameplay: Space Alert is a ton of fun.  The fact that the entire game plays in 10 minutes (with resolution taking another 20 – 30 minutes generally) means that you can often fit a few games in one gaming sessions.  You’ll need it too since even the simplest mission can be quite difficult to accomplish.  Even one mistake can cause havoc in your plans, with one player attempting to fire a lasser that has no charge while another heads in the wrong direction.

There’s also a ton of replay value here.  Each mission will take you numerous times to actually complete and the randomness of the threats ensures that no single mission replay will exactly be the same. Just make sure you enter this game with a touch of humour and you’ll do well.

Conclusion: Space Alert is one of my favorite co-operatives; being beaten by Ghost Stories by just a smidge.  Don’t play this game with a sleeping baby around and make sure to enter the game with a sense of humour and you’ll thoroughly enjoy this.



Heroes of Graxia Game Review

Heroes of Graxia is a deck-building card game that is entirely combat oriented.  The focus of Heroes of Graxia is to gain vicotry points by either defeating the montsers on the board or other players.   Players have heroes and allies that can aid them and to win, must equip their heroes and allies sufficiently to stave off attacks and win through the battle.

Heroes of Graxia Front CoverAppearance: Heroes of Graxia has interesting art.  You can see a taste of it on the box cover to the left here.  I personally do not like it, but some others do enjoy it so I’m going to stop there.  I will say that the design of the cards is overly complicated and can be a touch too busy for easy ‘reading’.

In addition, the card stock and storage is adequate.  There’s nothing special here, and the fact is the cards would be better served with a more complex sorting mechanism to help with set-up.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Heroes of Graxia follows the basic deck-building rules so I won’t bother going into too much detail here.  I will state a few of the major differences from Dominion in this section though and admit there’s a lot of fiddly rules in this card game.

Firstly, instead of a series of set cards, in Heroes of Graxia you rotate through cards that are laid out in rows.  As each card in a row is bought, a new card is revealed.  This changes what is available from turn to turn, adding a slightly more ‘tactical’ feel to the strategy.

Secondly, players have Heroes and Allies.  You will be buying additional allies and equipment from the laid out cards on the table and equipping your hero and allies who stay in-play from turn to turn (unless they are killed).  As such, there’s a series of more ‘permanent’ gameplay elements than in Dominion and provide a more RPG feel.

Lastly, and most importantly, you gain points from either killing monsters or other players.  The rules for scoring is rather complicated; but it’s worth noting that a player who has his heroes ‘killed’ can come back the next turn even more powerful than before.

Gameplay: We’ve only managed to get Heroes of Graxia to the table a few times.  There’s a few reasons for that. Firstly, this is a very violent game – the fastest way to win is often by picking on one player when they are down and thus gaining points that way.  Secondly, the luck factor seems quite high in our plays with players who manage to buy the right cards / equip the right heroes gaining a great lead that can be hard to catch up with.  In addition, the rules are not particularly well laid out nor are they easy to read through.  Frankly, there seems to be quite a bit of rule bloat here.

Now, for the good parts of Heroes of Graxia.  It’s quite a bit of fun with the right group and once you get used to the rules.  It certainly has a lot more of an RPG feel than Thunderstone as you are building up your Heroes and Allies directly on the board.  It can also be quite a good vindictive game and some of hte combinations of powers can make it quite humorous.

Conclusion: Heroes of Graxia is not a bad deck-builder.  I’m just not sure it merits that much time on the game table with so many good deck-builders out there now filling the same roles.  The new Thunderstone: Advance has cleaned up some of the issues with Thundrestone, while Rune Age does RPG deck builders quite well too.


Rattus Game Review

Rattus is set in the Middle Ages as the onset of the Black Death begins.  In Rattus, players are in control of various population groups in a number of European countries and must attempt to save as many of their people as possible from the Black Death through the aid the various occupations of the Middle Ages.

Rattus CoverAppearance: Rattus goes for a faux medieval design for most of their artwork which seems to work quite well.  The card stock and pieces are of good quality and are suitable for repeated uses and all the inforation you need can be found on the various cards, making the game language independent and easy to reference.

Rules / Ease of Learning: In Rattus, each turn players take turns placing down populat cubes.  They may place as many population cubes in a country as the number of rat tokens present.  In addition, they may take one role at any time and use the roles special ability on that turn as well as the special ability of any role they currently own during their turn.

Roles provide a number of abilities that break the game rules; ranging from allowing players to move a single cube to a safe haven in the Palace (the King), to moving three cubes to an adjacent location (the Merchant) or adding more population cubes or driving the plague token further from them.

At the end of a player’s turn, the player may move the plague token one space (or 3 if they own the Knight).  If the plague token lands on a space that has a rat token, they first spawn additional rat tokens in adjacent territories and then flip over the rat tokens in their location.  If the population number on the rat token are equaled or exceeded, the rat token takes effect and removes a population cube for each symbol represented on the token.  The symbols range from All or Majority to the specific role symbols.

Gameplay: Rattus is basically an area control game with a twist of continual death.  It reminds me a lot of Pompeii as players attempt to build their population bases while at the same time driving down the population of their opponents.  At times, you’ll be sending the plague marker into territory your population cubes inhabit just to hurt another player.

The twist of the role cards is interesting as well.  While the role cards can provide some great benefits, the more role cards you own the more chance that you will lose population cubes when the plague hits.  As such, balancing which roles tot ake and when is very important to winning.

In addition, while the rat tokens are distributed randomly; much of that randomness can be mitigated by the careful use of role cards and placements, ensuring that players with a good strategy aren’t completely hosed by Lady Luck.

Conclusion: I like Rattus.  It reminds me very much of the classic Euro gateways – a clean set of rules that are easy to teach but with quite a bit of strategy and tactics in the game itself.

Candamir : The First Settlers of Catan Game Review

Candamir : The First Settlers of Catan is a role-playing adventure game based in the Catan universe.  In Candamir, players are the actual settlers who are attempting to grow the settlement and are competing to see who can contribute the most to the settlement.

Candamir front coverAppearance: Candamir’s game board and pieces are of good quality with some great layouts to make the game easy to learn and pick-up.  Most of the information you’ll need is right there on the board, keeping the game simple.  However, the actual art is not particularly good as you can tell from the box cover.  It’s not horrible – it’s just not good.

Rules / Ease of Learning: The rules for Candamir are not particularly complex and thus easy to teach.  Each player receives one of the four character boards; who each have different skills in one of 4 skill sets.  Which character you receive dictates your strategy for the rest of the game quite often.

Players start in the centre of the board where the settlement is and move through the larger game board’s forests, plains and mountains in search of lumber, hides and ore.  Each of the squares on the board are covered by tiles which contain resources, experience points to upgrade your attributes, and victory points.  Deciding on which tile to move to is much of the strategy of the game.

The actual movement in Candamir is dictated by the movement cards that you play, and depending on where you move to you will be forced to fight the animals that populate the island of Catan. This can be potentially beneficial as you can gain hides and experience from such combat, but it is also dangerous as you can lose health doing so.  In addition, you can encounter Candamir and help him chop wood or take part in an Adventure which is drawn from the adventure card.   All tests in the game are dealt with by an attribute + die roll difficulty challenge.

When you’ve collected sufficient resources, you can then aid the other NPC settlers on the board by fulfilling their wishlists.  If you are able to do so, you get to place your points on the board.  Each wishlist must be fulfilled in order, so sometimes you’ll have to wait for another player to complete his tasks before you can fulfill yours.  You can also use the various NPCs to build additional items to aid you in your tasks.

Gameplay: Playing Candamir : The First Settlers of Catan is very muc an RPG version of Settlers of Catan. There is some limited interaction between players, but with such a large board (respectively); it’s mostly a race to get to the right tiles before the other players.  The real strategy of the game is deciding where to go and how to best get the resources you need with both the abilities your character has and the items they might find.

There is a lot of random luck in this game though – from what tiles you draw to the movement cards you get to the die rolls to succeed at tasks.  This can make the game frustrating for some players as the best laid plans can fall by the way side.  However, the interesting adventure cards and the fact that the game doesn’t last that long (an hour to an hour and a half for 4 players) makes sure that the pain doesn’t last too long.

Overall, Candamir seems to fill a strange RPG / Development niche that isn’t very populated.  There’s a lot less ‘combat’ than pure RPG adventure games like Runebound or Talisman have and yet it provides the satisfaction of character development that are the major source of fun for these games.

Conclusion: I’d definitely recommend trying out Candamir if you can get your hands on a copy.  This isn’t a game for everyone and while the mechanics are solid, there’s also nothing exception here either.  Still, it can fill as a gateway game to more hardcore adventure games for Eurogamers or a good family game as well without the multiple-hour commitments of other adventure games.