One (More) Night

I used to hate traitor games. I used to go out of my way to avoid being a traitor to the point where, in one game, I did the sacrilegious – I actually stopped playing as soon as the cards were dealt because I was the traitor and I knew how terrible I would be at it. It was a terrible decision, and one that I got glared at for the rest of the evening over, but being the traitor just did not work for me. I found it stressful to the point of unpleasantness. So I surprised myself when, after playing a few rounds of One Night, I really started thoroughly enjoying it.

The Skinny

One Night: Ultimate Werewolf is a game based on the idea of Werewolf – where some players are assigned the role of werewolves and the others need to figure out who they are and kill them before they, in turn, are killed and the werewolves win. The beauty of One Night though is that there are a number of roles, all with different actions, and it is played out over the course of ten minutes – you have one round to figure out who is who, what has been done, and where the werewolves are hiding. The villagers’ cause is helped by roles like the Seer and Masons, who get to gather information about the other players, and made all the more difficult by roles like the Robber and the Troublemaker who switch cards around, or the Minion and Tanner who are on suicide missions, never mind those pesky werewolves just waiting to pounce. And then there is the Drunk who actually has no recollection of what he is at all!

Characters 3

The Good

I was worried when I bought the game that it was going to be too much like Avalon, since I actually bought a copy of that at the same time, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game is very different. Though there are similarities in terms of the traitor mechanic, that the game is played over one round makes it a different beast entirely. The variety of roles and that you can chop and change between them sets it apart and the time limit means that there is little time for bickering, and every modicum of information that you can gather is vital in discovering who the werewolves could be.

Characters 1

The components that are included are pretty simplistic, comprising of sixteen role cards and matching tokens, but the game itself is simple and there isn’t much more that you need to have a really good time with it. A smart phone app has been developed for it, which we found really useful for the period where your eyes are closed, and it solves the ‘problem’ that we were finding in The Resistance of a person’s voice changing when they look up (as the traitor) and then try to return to normal again. This may sound ridiculous, but has actually proven to be a pretty decent detection technique for one of our friends. The app also includes a timer which counts down to the final vote, and the time between the calling out of roles and the count-down to end game can be adjusted as necessary for your group. We found, for example, that in a group of 6 players, we rarely used the whole 10 minutes, and 6 seconds was enough time for each of us to complete our role actions, and we could adjust the timer accordingly. I was confused at first as to the role of the tokens, but after a few games found that they came in very useful for keeping track of who has claimed to be what and who our suspects are.

Characters 2

I found the artwork to be fun and vibrant, and I hate to mention it, but I loved that there were a good number of female characters (four roles are depicted as women, seven are men, and the werewolves are ungendered). It’s just something that a lot of games do overlook, and it just made me appreciate the artwork even more. I liked the simplistic look of the app as well (since I am mentioning it as a really useful tool for the game) and it all works together well. That the box is travel-sized is really useful, though it does bring up one small issue which I will be mentioning under the bad. The setup time is negligible, since all you really need to do is open up the box, pick some roles and, optionally, take out a cellphone.

Parts

The simplicity and speed with which One Night is played make it one of those addictive table top games that you just have to play over and over and over again, to the extent where the rules suggest playing it as a “championship” where the player who has won most after x number of games wins overall. We played at least 15 times in one sitting just because we were having so much fun with trying out the different role combinations, and we could have easily kept playing well into the night if hunger hadn’t gotten the better of us.

The Bad

I can think of very little bad with this game in all honesty. There are only two irk’s that I’ve had, and they are helluva minor. The first is the box. It is small, which is wonderful for travelling, but makes it a pain and a half to open. Remember that negligible setup time that I was talking about just two paragraphs ago? Well, most of that setup time is just spent trying to pry the lid open so that you can actually play the game. We have been contemplating ways to fix this, and so far have come up with gluing ribbons to the bottom so that we can just pull it open. We haven’t done so yet, and if anyone has better ideas, I’d love to hear them. I suspect that it may get easier the more we play and the more used the box gets, but it’s still a pain at the moment.

The second “bad” aspect is less of a problem and more of a suggestion, as playing in larger groups can make it quite difficult to perform the role actions without giving away who you are, particularly when your role action involves the switching of cards. We ended up playing on a bar counter-top and standing during the sleeping phase so that there would be no creaking of chairs and no bumping into each other when trying to reach across to switch or look at roles. We also ended up placing the cards into a pattern that would be easy to match so that it wouldn’t be as obvious if one card ended up being a little bit skew, indicating that it was tampered with.

App

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

 

“Everyone: WAKE UP!” A new day has dawned on your picturesque little village and the inhabitants are just now waking up to start the day, but not everyone was sound asleep last night. The Seer was up scrying late into the evening, the mischievous Trouble Maker was out causing havoc, and the Robber was plying his heinous trade in the wee hours of the morning. Much worse than even the most unsavoury of characters, you’ve discovered that there is a werewolf or two in your midsts, and like it or not, you’ll have to work with the rest of the village, even those of disreputable occupations, to track down and kill the werewolf by nightfall. Spend too much time arguing between yourselfs and you’ll surely perish, as one amongst you starts sprouting some hair in some difficult to explain places and develops a taste for very rare steaks.

Each game takes 10 minutes or less and after a brief run through of the general idea, all anyone needs to understand is that they should follow the voice prompts of the person running game to perform their role’s action. This is made all the easier with an optional and very well designed smart phone app that does all the prompting for you, so that everyone is free to play without having to worry about turn orders and what specific roles do what. Everyone starts the game by being assigned a role, each role is well thought out and even roles that have no night actions leave plenty of scope to impact how the game progresses. During the night phase cards will be swapped, traded or peeked at, so that by the end of the night, your role may have changed, and it’s up to you to figure out if you’re still on the same side. You have a limited amount of time to discuss what has happened and determine who is telling the truth and who might be lying. The information gleaned from this is vital to working out who each player has ended up as, and ultimately who will be lynched to secure victory for your side. Once the discussion is over, everyone votes simultaneously to kill someone and the person with the most votes is killed. If the victim is a werewolf, victory goes to the villagers; if not, the villagers are devoured by the werewolves (on a completely unrelated note, if you’re interested in my new cook book Sautéed Settler: 99 Ways To Cook A Villager, I’m now taking pre-orders in the comments).

Details

Never has a game been so well received by such a diverse group of our friends, with several espousing plans to order their own copies after the first session. This really is a fantastic party game and suggestions of one quick game to end off the night tend to result in everyone struggling to keep their eyes open while saying “Just one more”.

In our friend circle, we mostly only get one copy of games – we play together often enough that having more than one copy is unnecessary. With One Night, we’ve decided that all of us need copies to play with students, family and other friends. It goes to show what a fun, social game this is, and I’ve got to agree that it’s a game that deserves to be in every collection, no matter who you’re friends with!

Looking At TKG Arena: The Elemental Kings

 It has been a busy few weeks for Mr. Geekess, and he hasn’t had a chance to write his section for the upcoming game review. It’s unlikely to be ready too soon, since he is in Johannesburg, so I thought that I would take this opportunity to put up a post about a game that I was given to review by a game developer in Singapore, Mr. Chub Tan. It’s not going to be like my other reviews, in that the focus is going to be a little bit more on how the game is played rather than the skinny the good and the bad.
 
Main

I grew up with card games. When I look back on my childhood, I have great memories of playing Rummy and ‘Bloody Knuckles’ with one of my cousins in my grandmother’s Sea Point flat, or of another cousin teaching us some variation of Snap which we’d play together for hours on end. My high school lunch breaks were spent holed up in a classroom with friends playing nail-biting sagas of Presidents which should really be documented in history books or something. My poker habits were less impressive, though one story does involve my beating a contestant in the annual Poker World Championship (pure luck, I tell you!), but what this boils down to is that cards were the gateway drug into the addiction that is board gaming for me. So, when I was asked to review a card game, I was more than happy to oblige. Thanks to the wonderful South African Postal Service, the game arrived later than I would have liked, which meant that it moved down the long list of reviews that I had in mind (sincerest apologies for keeping you waiting, Chub!) But it did mean that I had a little bit of time to get acquainted with the game, which was appreciated.

Elemental Kings

The turns of the play out a little like Poker, but the game overall is filled with differences, nuances and a theme that make it more interesting than your standard game of Texas Hold ‘Em. Instead of suits, the cards are divided between elements of fire, water, air and earth, represented by the Elemental Kings Ashw, Esbner, Ukelele and Ohif. Each player begins the game with 20 life, and the goal of the game is to hit your opponents for as much damage as you can by playing combinations of cards drawn from your deck. The combinations are essentially those of poker, ranging from a High Card or “Single” to a Straight Flush or “Super”. (Since there are no face cards as in a normal deck of cards, there is no Royal Flush in this instance.) Each of these are then given an attack value which is deducted from your opponent’s life total. But, this is where the game gets interesting.

Card Layouts

First of all, the hands that you draw from your deck, five cards at a time, cannot be altered without penalty. While you are welcome to pass up the opportunity to attack in a particular turn in favour of adjusting your hand by discarding and drawing, by doing so you give your opponent the upper hand and an opportunity to hit you with what they’ve got. Still, attacks aren’t always successful either, and if your opponent is attacking you, you’re far from helpless – you can defend yourself by playing a stronger combination of the same type (ie. if you were attacked with a High Card or “Single” of 7, you can defend with a Single of a higher value like an 8 or 9). And so the game continues with each player attacking, defending and adjusting their hands as they go until one player is whittled down to zero al la Magic: The Gathering.

Combinations

All in all, the mechanics that the game uses may not be original, but they have been put together in a way that is, and that works beautifully. The cards themselves may look like a standard deck from the back, but the beautiful artwork on the face of them brings the game to life. It’s definitely a game that will come out when I have a bit of spare time on my hands and to play with other card game lovers! For more information on the game and how to get it, see its Board Game Geek page.

Cards

A Study in Dystopia

It is the immensity, I believe. The hugeness of things below. The darkness of dreams.

– Neil Gaiman

So starts a wonderful, mind-bending journey into a realm shared by HP Lovecraft and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in equal measure, and threaded together in a way that only Neil Gaiman could manage in a short story called A Study in Emerald. And when Mr. Geekess found out that the Gaiman short story was being turned into a board game, we were quick to kick-start it, even before our board game addiction had properly kicked in.

Board2

The Skinny

Like Gaiman’s short story, A Study in Emerald is a game that is equal part Doyle and Lovecraft. It is based in time-period of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, but it is shared by Elder Gods like Cthulhu. The Elder Gods are considered to be Royalty, and are both revered and protected. But while everyone is aware of their presence, not everyone is happy about the positions of authority that they hold, and the game is split between the Loyalists who continue to trust and protect the Elder Gods, and the Revolutionists who want to see them assassinated and overthrown. Players travel around the world, from city to city, bidding for cities and items (represented by cards) that will further their cause and hiding their allegiance as best they can.

Pieces

The Good

A Study in Emerald is the perfect mix of bright and dark, it’s artwork at times jumping out at you and at times being understated. For example, it took countless games and an up-close photo session for me to realise that one of the main Agents is a woman. Which is both surprising and disappointing at the same time, because it shouldn’t be surprising that one of the main characters of a game is female. But I digress. It is mostly black and white or sepia, which colourful touches bringing life to it, and I love it!

Board

It is the kind of game where winning or losing matters less at the end of the day than how you play the game. And how you play the game could actually see you coming up from behind and winning when everyone thought you had lost! This stems from the beauty of the way that the winner is determined. See, you could be racing ahead, but if someone from your faction is lagging behind, they’ll pull you back with them and the other faction will take the lead. It’s happened on at least one occasion that I’ve won by simply sneaking around the city, taking cards that the other faction would want to have and using them to benefit myself, only to laugh maniacally at the end of the game when someone announces they’ve won, only to find that I’m not actually on their team and can steal the win right from under their noses.

Pieces2

The story lends itself well to game format, and I think that the game does it perfect justice! You feel very much like you are a secret agent with a hidden purpose, and even when you are working together to take down the other side and keeping your own above ahead of them, you’re also thinking of your own end game and how to make sure that you’ll stay ahead without leaving a team member in the dust to be dragged back by. It feels like you’re living a story, and one that you’re at all times both familiar with and estranged from. It’s a wonderful sensation!

Cards

While one friend suggested that the game’s mechanics make it imbalanced in favour of the Loyalists, another suggested exactly the same about the Restorationists, and I think that reflects a well-balanced game, when there could be a chance of either side being a little ahead just because of the decisions that are being made. While you may have more of one side than the playing the game, the win conditions mean that the added member both helps you get ahead, but also has the potential to pull you back should you run ahead without them. Many of the cities benefit the Restorationists more than the Loyalists, and it is a good deal easier to assassinate royalty than it is to hide them, but at the same time the Loyalists have the benefit of not trying to hide (they are considered to be the good guys, after all), while the Restorationists need to either come out immediately or sneak around trying to throw suspicion off themselves.

Details

The Bad

We got our copy of the game when it had just come out, having kick-started it, and this meant that we were susceptible to some beginner errors that may have been worked through before it was properly released. For example, our copy didn’t come with the correct number of components – there were too few influence cubes for some colours, too many for others. We also ended up getting a second copy of the game, which is less of a bad thing and more a side-note) purely by accident because they hadn’t realised that our copy had already been sent and, much as we tried to arrange for it to be returned to the company and redistributed as necessary, it ended up being too costly a mission and we got a second copy which ended up in the hands of some friends who really fell in love with the game. Still, these were errors with the production which may by now have been resolved and an easy fix was made by using pieces from other board games that we own to make up the influence cube shortage.

Board, Cards and Tokens

The box contains a lot of components, and the big board means that you need a fairly large play area. Setup can take some time, particularly for players who are less familiar with the game (once or twice is not quite enough to just jump into it) and have to keep checking the rules for setup. And speaking of the rules, they are less intuitive than I would have liked, and to find a particular rule can take anywhere between 2 and 10 minutes if you’re unsure of where to look. As pretty as the board is, it’s also cluttered. There is a lot going on and it can be easy to get distracted or to place an influence cube on a card or city and then forget to claim it until a few rounds later, just because you didn’t see it there. It just becomes too busy to be practical for game play, and it means that the take-down time is longer than normal since you’ll find pieces on the board that you missed after everything else has been put away.

Bits

In terms of the game-play itself, there is little bad about the game! I have found that it works wonderfully. It can be slow going at times and it’s not what I would call mindless – you have to concentrate on each move that you make, since your choices affect the cards and choices that you will have available to you later, and you need to weigh up at all times both what is best for you and what your opponent’s next move might be. I can guarantee that it’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes, but it is a great deck-building game that works beautifully with the theme and one that I always thoroughly enjoy playing. It’s not at the top of my list because of how long it takes to setup, play and pack away, but I rarely say no to a game of it!

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

This was the first, and as of now, only board game that I have kickstarted (though I’ve got my eye on another). A mashup of Sherlock Holmes and Cthulhu mythoses was just too good to pass up, and to top it off it was based on a short story by Neil Gaiman. The game is dripping with flavour, set in an alternative history world where the Old Ones (powerful and horrific deities) have taken over the world and have set themselves up as brutal monarchs. As always, there are those that benefit from the status quo, the Loyalists, who wish to keep the Elder Gods in power, and those that wish to topple the tyrants and bring about revolution, aptly named the Revolutionists. There are various agents out there, including Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty who you need to convince to join your side and work towards your ends.

The game is primarily a deck building game as you travel the world, recruiting agents or collecting magical artifacts to aid you. Each player starts with a deck containing the same cards and a certain number of influence cubes. These influence cubes are at the heart of the game and one of the best mechanics I’ve seen in deck building. You can spend influence to bid on cards, hoping to add them to your deck, but you’ll have to wait a turn to be able to claim any cards where you have the most influence, leaving your opponents free to outbid you in their turn. This can lead to bidding wars which go on for several turns, locking up your influence while other opponents are able to cheaply pick up cards. Once a card is claimed, the winner loses all influence cubes and has to spend actions and cards to reclaim them, while the loser gets all their influence back to start bidding again. Apart from bidding, you can spend actions (with the right cards) to gain more influence, assassinate other agents, offer protection to or even assassinate Elder Gods themselves.

Aspects

Here’s one of my criticisms though, the game just tries to do too much, on top of the already mentioned mechanics, there’s a war and revolution track, a special side deck, sanity tokens (though that’s fitting for a Cthulhu game), zombies and a few other things. It just feels a bit too cluttered, like someone tried to take every idea from a brainstorming session and make it fit into one game. Personally I feel the game would play a lot better with fewer, highly polished elements. Player loyalties are secret, but it feels almost pointless as just about any action you undertake is going to give away your loyalties. I would have liked to see more emphasis on secrecy, which could have been facilitated by small changes such as it not being revealed if you’ve killed an Elder God, or hidden them until the end of the game. Again, it feels like someone decided they needed to have secret identities without working them into the game properly.

A Study in Emerald is not a bad game by any stretch, and is in fact a lot of fun, it’s the all time favourite of a friend of mine and is always the one she wants to play when we get together. The visual design is wonderful and the bidding element is fantastic, but to me it just feels like they’ve tried to do too much. Which is a pity, because there is so much potential for this to be a great game, maybe they’ll make a second edition.

So, this game leaning towards the newer side of the spectrum, have you played it? What do you think, if you have, and would you want to if you haven’t?

Small (and brutal) World

We had been to every single shop that we could think of in Durban. We’d spent more money on board games than we had intended on a trip that neither of us could really afford but had decided to come on anyway. And we were still searching for one more game. It wasn’t like it was an obscure one – we probably could have bought it online without a problem, but we were in Durban, a city centre, and for Pete’s sake, somewhere had to have it! On the last day of our trip, we made one final attempt. It wasn’t even to a shop that we held out high hopes for – we’d been to other Exclusive Books branches with absolutely no luck, but we wanted one last try. And sure enough, as I wandered into the aisle of board games, I whooped loudly enough to make other readers glare as I caught a glimpse of the colourful box. “Baby,” I half-shouted, half-whispered, not wanting to irritate anyone else unnecessarily. “They’ve got Small World!”

Setup

The Skinny

So what, you may be asking, is this game that I was so excited to find. Small World is a strategy game where you and up to four of your friends battle it out to occupy as many territories (and defeat as many opponents) on the map as you can. You get gold at the end of each turn for the number of territories you currently control and for any bonuses that your race and your skill give you. The beauty of the game though, and what makes it different from other territory conquering games, is that your race is eventually going to spread itself too thin, and it’s up to you to decide when it’s time to throw in the towel and pick a new race or whether it’s better to stick it out for just one more turn (or two, or three). It’s a small world, after all… and a cut-throat one at that!

Map Pieces

The Good

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Days of Wonder really knows how to make a beautiful game! The maps are gorgeous and bursting with colour. The art work is the perfect mix of pretty and humorous, and the little details, like the sign in front of the Halflings’ holes in the ground which read: “Trespassers will be shot” or the human on a stick dangling in front of the Dragonmaster’s dragon just add up to make the game look and feel fun, even when you’re at each others’ throats and making death threats (nonchalantly of course). It’s also wonderfully put together in the box, which is something that I appreciate considering that I am usually the one unpacking the game and putting it away again. Everything having its place just feels right, and it’s again something that Days of Wonder are extraordinarily good at.

Pieces

Moving away from that though, and as you know, that’s a hard thing for me to do, the mechanics of the game are fabulous too. I love that you’ll rarely have a game where the same races will come up and have exactly the same skills as they did before. There are times when you’ll have the perfect mix, like getting Flying Sorcerers (which, let me tell you, actually works a treat), but there will also be times where the races and the skills don’t quite match up, and you’ve got to decide what the best decision for you is. It’s also great that the skills affect how many armies you get, so that even when they don’t quite match up the way that you want them to, they’ve still got a benefit for you to weigh up – do you go with the perfect race-skill combination that gives you fewer numbers, or with the race/skill that affords you the highest numbers to play around with?

Races

I also think it’s fantastic that you don’t end up getting attached to one race throughout the game, and that you need to chop and choose, deciding when it’s right for you to let go and when you need to hold on just that little bit longer. That it can mean the winning or losing of a game indicates what a big part of the game this mechanic is, and I find it wonderful. Knowing when to give up with a particular group can be a huge advantage, and can boost you from the bottom of the ranks to the tops in a matter of rounds.

The Bad

I am not a fan of stress and conflict, and this game is riddled with it. It can very much be a friendship breaker if you let it – I can recount tales of wars being fought over dice rolls and threats of sleeping on the couch when a particular move is made, but I will leave that all to your imagination. Instead I will tell you that the small world refers to more than just the game, and the outcome of this particular game can easily have real-life repercussions.

It feels like the game is supposed to be short – 10 rounds max. – but it actually takes a lot longer to play than you’d expect. This is because every little move is weighty, and one person’s turn can take quite awhile, particularly if they umm and aah about it, or if something has happened to make them rethink their strategy. So when there are four or five players, all taking their time with their turns, one round can easily end up taking 10-20 minutes, and a full game can easily last over two hours. So, while I really enjoy the game when it starts, by the time it ends, I’m pretty much ready to throw in my gold and call it quits.

Pieces on Board

Suffice it to say that if squabbling drive you nuts and you are inadequately equipped to cope with a bit of whining, this may not be the game for you. I have difficulties with both (though it could be said that I’m a hypocrite because I have a tendency to be the one squabbling and whinging on occasion), so Small World is not among my favourites of our collection. That being said, I really REALLY wanted it to be a part of our collection, and there are times when I am in a more forgiving mood that this is my first pick. I just have to be in a really good and patient mood, and it has to be played with the right group of friends…. but then, isn’t that always the case?

Setup 2

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

This was a game that we initially bought as a gift for a friend of ours, and after the first time we played I immediately regretted not keeping it for myself and giving him a fancy bottle of booze instead. As a general rule we don’t buy games that our close friends already own since we have plenty opportunity to play them when we go over for dinner or drinks, though this was a game I was sorely tempted to break the rule for. However when they upped and left the country, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy as soon as I could and our recent trip to Durban presented the perfect opportunity.

Bits and Bobs

If you hadn’t guessed yet, I absolutely love this game, it’s got a perfect balance of ease of play and great depth of strategy. In order to keep the games competitive and the players vying for control of regions, the game comes with 2 double-sided boards, so that regardless of whether you’re playing with 2 or 5 players (or anywhere in between) the size of the board is perfectly suited to the number of players. On your turn you can select from six randomly dealt races, each with a random ability, which allows for a huge variety of combinations, meaning every game will feel unique. The races are laid out in a specific order with the first one costing nothing to select and each subsequent one requiring 1 additional victory point to be spent, which is then placed on the preceding races. This means you face a choice, spend some victory points for the ideal race/ability combination or save your points and go for an earlier race, even snagging some bonus victory points as others have had to pay before you, thus making the early races more enticing over time. This selection is an important decision and selecting the right race for the conditions on the board is essential to maximising your score. Once selected, you can start conquering regions, making sure to utilise your race and special abilities to their fullest and being careful not to leave yourself vulnerable to an attack by the other players. After each turn you score victory points based on the regions you control and your abilities. Victory points are kept secret, so there’s always the opportunity to try and throw the heat off you onto another player with some persuading of the other players. (Geekess note – Mr. Geekess is particularly good at doing this and I can’t count the number of times we’ve been convinced to pay close attention to another player who is “running away with the game” only to have him sneak in from behind!) Eventually though, you’ll spread yourself too thin and decide to put your race into decline at the beginning of a turn, removing all but one race token from each region and losing your special abilities. You still score points for each territory your declined race occupies on this and subsequent turns, but on your next turn you’ll be able to select a new active race in the same manner as before. This is the real heart of the game, deciding when to go into decline and what new race to select – go into decline too early and you don’t maximise the points you could have made with that race, go into decline too late and you’ve spread yourself thin to the point of extinction.

More Bits

This is a wonderful game, the boards and artwork are beautiful, the races and abilities are numerous and interesting with enough variation and differences to make each combination feel unique. There are also numerous mini-expansions to add more races and abilities to the game. If you don’t enjoy board games that pit players against each other in direct conflict, then this might not be the game for you, but for everyone else, new players and seasoned veterans alike, this is definitely one you should get.

So I know that there is at least one follower who is really not a fan, but I also know that this Small World review was also specifically requested by a friend of mine. Clearly the small world is divided in its opinion on Small World? Have I hit the nail on the head, or is Mr. Geekess closer to the mark? What do you think of the game?

Small (and brutal) World

We had been to every single shop that we could think of in Durban. We’d spent more money on board games than we had intended on a trip that neither of us could really afford but had decided to come on anyway. And we were still searching for one more game. It wasn’t like it was an obscure one – we probably could have bought it online without a problem, but we were in Durban, a city centre, and for Pete’s sake, somewhere had to have it! On the last day of our trip, we made one final attempt. It wasn’t even to a shop that we held out high hopes for – we’d been to other Exclusive Books branches with absolutely no luck, but we wanted one last try. And sure enough, as I wandered into the aisle of board games, I whooped loudly enough to make other readers glare as I caught a glimpse of the colourful box. “Baby,” I half-shouted, half-whispered, not wanting to irritate anyone else unnecessarily. “They’ve got Small World!”

Setup

The Skinny

So what, you may be asking, is this game that I was so excited to find. Small World is a strategy game where you and up to four of your friends battle it out to occupy as many territories (and defeat as many opponents) on the map as you can. You get gold at the end of each turn for the number of territories you currently control and for any bonuses that your race and your skill give you. The beauty of the game though, and what makes it different from other territory conquering games, is that your race is eventually going to spread itself too thin, and it’s up to you to decide when it’s time to throw in the towel and pick a new race or whether it’s better to stick it out for just one more turn (or two, or three). It’s a small world, after all… and a cut-throat one at that!

Map Pieces

The Good

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Days of Wonder really knows how to make a beautiful game! The maps are gorgeous and bursting with colour. The art work is the perfect mix of pretty and humorous, and the little details, like the sign in front of the Halflings’ holes in the ground which read: “Trespassers will be shot” or the human on a stick dangling in front of the Dragonmaster’s dragon just add up to make the game look and feel fun, even when you’re at each others’ throats and making death threats (nonchalantly of course). It’s also wonderfully put together in the box, which is something that I appreciate considering that I am usually the one unpacking the game and putting it away again. Everything having its place just feels right, and it’s again something that Days of Wonder are extraordinarily good at.

Pieces

Moving away from that though, and as you know, that’s a hard thing for me to do, the mechanics of the game are fabulous too. I love that you’ll rarely have a game where the same races will come up and have exactly the same skills as they did before. There are times when you’ll have the perfect mix, like getting Flying Sorcerers (which, let me tell you, actually works a treat), but there will also be times where the races and the skills don’t quite match up, and you’ve got to decide what the best decision for you is. It’s also great that the skills affect how many armies you get, so that even when they don’t quite match up the way that you want them to, they’ve still got a benefit for you to weigh up – do you go with the perfect race-skill combination that gives you fewer numbers, or with the race/skill that affords you the highest numbers to play around with?

Races

I also think it’s fantastic that you don’t end up getting attached to one race throughout the game, and that you need to chop and choose, deciding when it’s right for you to let go and when you need to hold on just that little bit longer. That it can mean the winning or losing of a game indicates what a big part of the game this mechanic is, and I find it wonderful. Knowing when to give up with a particular group can be a huge advantage, and can boost you from the bottom of the ranks to the tops in a matter of rounds.

The Bad

I am not a fan of stress and conflict, and this game is riddled with it. It can very much be a friendship breaker if you let it – I can recount tales of wars being fought over dice rolls and threats of sleeping on the couch when a particular move is made, but I will leave that all to your imagination. Instead I will tell you that the small world refers to more than just the game, and the outcome of this particular game can easily have real-life repercussions.

It feels like the game is supposed to be short – 10 rounds max. – but it actually takes a lot longer to play than you’d expect. This is because every little move is weighty, and one person’s turn can take quite awhile, particularly if they umm and aah about it, or if something has happened to make them rethink their strategy. So when there are four or five players, all taking their time with their turns, one round can easily end up taking 10-20 minutes, and a full game can easily last over two hours. So, while I really enjoy the game when it starts, by the time it ends, I’m pretty much ready to throw in my gold and call it quits.

Pieces on Board

Suffice it to say that if squabbling drive you nuts and you are inadequately equipped to cope with a bit of whining, this may not be the game for you. I have difficulties with both (though it could be said that I’m a hypocrite because I have a tendency to be the one squabbling and whinging on occasion), so Small World is not among my favourites of our collection. That being said, I really REALLY wanted it to be a part of our collection, and there are times when I am in a more forgiving mood that this is my first pick. I just have to be in a really good and patient mood, and it has to be played with the right group of friends…. but then, isn’t that always the case?

Setup 2

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

This was a game that we initially bought as a gift for a friend of ours, and after the first time we played I immediately regretted not keeping it for myself and giving him a fancy bottle of booze instead. As a general rule we don’t buy games that our close friends already own since we have plenty opportunity to play them when we go over for dinner or drinks, though this was a game I was sorely tempted to break the rule for. However when they upped and left the country, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy as soon as I could and our recent trip to Durban presented the perfect opportunity.

Bits and Bobs

If you hadn’t guessed yet, I absolutely love this game, it’s got a perfect balance of ease of play and great depth of strategy. In order to keep the games competitive and the players vying for control of regions, the game comes with 2 double-sided boards, so that regardless of whether you’re playing with 2 or 5 players (or anywhere in between) the size of the board is perfectly suited to the number of players. On your turn you can select from six randomly dealt races, each with a random ability, which allows for a huge variety of combinations, meaning every game will feel unique. The races are laid out in a specific order with the first one costing nothing to select and each subsequent one requiring 1 additional victory point to be spent, which is then placed on the preceding races. This means you face a choice, spend some victory points for the ideal race/ability combination or save your points and go for an earlier race, even snagging some bonus victory points as others have had to pay before you, thus making the early races more enticing over time. This selection is an important decision and selecting the right race for the conditions on the board is essential to maximising your score. Once selected, you can start conquering regions, making sure to utilise your race and special abilities to their fullest and being careful not to leave yourself vulnerable to an attack by the other players. After each turn you score victory points based on the regions you control and your abilities. Victory points are kept secret, so there’s always the opportunity to try and throw the heat off you onto another player with some persuading of the other players. (Geekess note – Mr. Geekess is particularly good at doing this and I can’t count the number of times we’ve been convinced to pay close attention to another player who is “running away with the game” only to have him sneak in from behind!) Eventually though, you’ll spread yourself too thin and decide to put your race into decline at the beginning of a turn, removing all but one race token from each region and losing your special abilities. You still score points for each territory your declined race occupies on this and subsequent turns, but on your next turn you’ll be able to select a new active race in the same manner as before. This is the real heart of the game, deciding when to go into decline and what new race to select – go into decline too early and you don’t maximise the points you could have made with that race, go into decline too late and you’ve spread yourself thin to the point of extinction.

More Bits

This is a wonderful game, the boards and artwork are beautiful, the races and abilities are numerous and interesting with enough variation and differences to make each combination feel unique. There are also numerous mini-expansions to add more races and abilities to the game. If you don’t enjoy board games that pit players against each other in direct conflict, then this might not be the game for you, but for everyone else, new players and seasoned veterans alike, this is definitely one you should get.

So I know that there is at least one follower who is really not a fan, but I also know that this Small World review was also specifically requested by a friend of mine. Clearly the small world is divided in its opinion on Small World? Have I hit the nail on the head, or is Mr. Geekess closer to the mark? What do you think of the game?

Cure the World!

“Can you save humanity?” the box asks in bold letters as a group of four stand side by side, poised for action. When playing Pandemic, most often the answer is “No,” but it’s quickly followed by, “That’s not going to stop me from trying though!” Which is both unsurprising and perfectly appropriate!

Board

The Skinny

Having been released in 2007, Pandemic is not a new game, but it’s built on a premise that doesn’t get old – save the world before it’s destroyed. It sounds a bit like one of those action movies alla Vin Diesel, but this time around it’s not terrorists that we’re saving the world from, but diseases. Four of them to be precise. And it’s not action heroes that we need – it’s researchers, strategists and medics – those who use more than brute strength as their weapon of choice. We don’t need gung-ho individuals who are going to run in and save the day – we need teams who can work together to get the situation under control before the diseases spread too far. Come to think of it, the premise is probably more relevant today than it has been in the years since it’s release.

Cards 1

The Good

The game’s mechanics are genius, replicating the way that disease spreads in such a realistic way. You start off the game by infecting the world, and then try to cure as much of the disease as you can before an Epidemic card comes out. Once the epidemic card appears, and the number that may come up will depend on the difficulty that you choose, you take all of the cards that had been infected before and, rather than discarding them to the bottom of the deck or putting them back in the box, you put them straight back on top of the pile, meaning that places that have already experienced the diseases will be more prone to reinfection. Cities can only hold a certain number of disease cubes before an outbreak occurs, causing the disease to spread to all neighbouring cities, which may in turn lead to further outbreaks if they’re at their capacity for disease cubes as well. It makes the game tough, but it really does reflect well the way that disease actually spreads from country to country.

Pieces

Everything about the game is actually well thought-out, from the mechanics to the pieces, to the roles that you are dealt which affect how the game is played and varies the strategy to allow for a lot of replayability. There are so many choices of action that the game could get confusing for new players, but the fact that you are working together as a team means that if there is just one player who knows the game fairly well, it’s very easy to jump into and get the hang of. The fact that there is rarely just one way to deal with the situation and one right answer to get to the end and win makes it both interesting and exciting for all players, and that the same cards keep coming up and reinfecting cities that have already been cleared keeps you on the balls of your feet, always having to rethink your next move with each turn that passes before you.

Traveling

This is the kind of game that you are going to play over and over and over again in one sitting, especially if you lost the first few times, and the likelihood is that you will. It’s so quick and exhilarating that it leaves you on a high that is hard to let go of. It’s also frustrating beyond measure, but that’s just part of what gets you coming back for more. It’s one of those addictive games that is practically impossible to only play once.

Oh, and did I mention how pretty it is? Because it really is. With brightly coloured disease cubes (who would have thought that disease could be so fabulous?), event and role cards that are designed to draw and keep your attention, and a board that is beautiful to boot, the base game is pretty on its own. But add to that some of the expansions, and you go from pretty to glorious with components that fit together beautifully in a box that makes the OCD in me jump for joy! Even if you don’t get the expansions, I highly recommend getting petri dishes to store your disease cubes for the added effect and convenience.

Layouts

The Bad

It can be really difficult to enjoy a game where there are more ways to lose than there are to win, and though I cherish the chase, there are those who will find the frustration and stress too much to bear. There are few things worse than coming oh so very close to winning, only to have victory snatched from your grasp because of a small aspect that you hadn’t been paying attention to. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been one turn away from winning only to have the player deck run out, or find that there aren’t enough disease cubes to be placed on the board, or have a bout of outbreaks just wipe us out in one go! The fact is, the further in you get, the more can and will go wrong.

Details

There is the potential for one person to come in and be too domineering, taking over everyone’s turn and essentially leaving the other players to twiddle their thumbs and go ,”Well then, why don’t you just take my cards and get on with it.” The fact that there is no traitor component (at least not in the original) makes this circumstance more likely than with some of the other co-op games, since there’s no real reason to stop one person from just taking over the situation. While some co-op games can accommodate the weak-willed or unsure, Pandemic is not one of them, and while you may want to discuss what is best for the team, you need to be able to make your own moves and choices otherwise you are going to be left in the dust, and are certainly not going to have much fun.

Survive

Apart from that, my only other gripe (and one that many of you can just dismiss offhand immediately) is that it’s a four player game, which means in our household that it’s a little exclusive – we tend to like having couple friends over as I have mentioned before, and since there are three of us in the house (myself, Mr. Geekess and our housemate), it means that one of us has to sit out each time the game is played. We’ve bought an expansion to help remedy this situation, but the expansion required the purchase of a further expansion (you need to have On The Brink in order to make In The Lab work), which just makes me feel like getting the game to the point where it can play five is like pulling teeth.

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

Pandemic is a game that will be familiar to a lot of people, and those that do know it will also know that it can be brutally difficult to beat the game, even on the easiest setups. The world is in panic as four deadly diseases threaten to anhihilate the human race, the only hope is a handful of globe trotting specialists working to stem the tide of disaster whilst they research the cures that can save humanity. That’s where you come in, you take on a randomly selected specialised role, with a unique ability, and travel the world, setting up research stations, collecting the information that you’ll need to create a vaccine and treating those you come into contact with in the hope of containing the outbreak. You can see the appeal. Who hasn’t wanted to be the hero that swoops in and saves the world, in fact it’s my second most frequent dream, the first of course being world domination. The world quaking as I rule with an Iron Fist, minions to do my bidding and bring me those cute drinks with the tiny umbrellas… wait, what was I talking about? Oh, Pandemic.

Disease

This is a game that a lot of my friends enjoy, and while I think the concept is fantastic, I’m not really sold on the execution. During your turn you can take up to 4 actions, but these usually amount to move some where and remove disease cubes from that country, given that you’ve often got very limited movement (building research stations in strategic places can help with this) I often feel like I’m just going through the motions of moving my piece about the board without having to make any meaty decisions. The game mostly boils down to which cards are drawn, and while there’s something to be said about preempting and managing the diseases, often, even with the best planning, things can snowball quickly out of control. I also find that the game doesn’t scale very well with the number of players, with 2 players being very easy to beat and 4 players being nigh on impossible. This is because each player needs to collect a certain number of each type of card in order to research the cure, and since there’s the same number of cards no matter the number of players, the fewer players the easier it is for them to collect sets before things get messy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun game, and the components and board are beautiful, I just feel they’ve not quite hit the mark on the gameplay.

Overall, Pandemic is another game that I think needs to be in every decent board game collection, though it would seem that Mr. Geekess disagrees. It is fantastic, quick and fun and it’s the kind of game that you can (and will feel the need to) play over and over and over again until you’ve won at least as many times as you’ve lost. But it is not for the faint of heart or the quick of temper!

What do you think?

Cure the World!

“Can you save humanity?” the box asks in bold letters as a group of four stand side by side, poised for action. When playing Pandemic, most often the answer is “No,” but it’s quickly followed by, “That’s not going to stop me from trying though!” Which is both unsurprising and perfectly appropriate!

Board

The Skinny

Having been released in 2007, Pandemic is not a new game, but it’s built on a premise that doesn’t get old – save the world before it’s destroyed. It sounds a bit like one of those action movies alla Vin Diesel, but this time around it’s not terrorists that we’re saving the world from, but diseases. Four of them to be precise. And it’s not action heroes that we need – it’s researchers, strategists and medics – those who use more than brute strength as their weapon of choice. We don’t need gung-ho individuals who are going to run in and save the day – we need teams who can work together to get the situation under control before the diseases spread too far. Come to think of it, the premise is probably more relevant today than it has been in the years since it’s release.

Cards 1

The Good

The game’s mechanics are genius, replicating the way that disease spreads in such a realistic way. You start off the game by infecting the world, and then try to cure as much of the disease as you can before an Epidemic card comes out. Once the epidemic card appears, and the number that may come up will depend on the difficulty that you choose, you take all of the cards that had been infected before and, rather than discarding them to the bottom of the deck or putting them back in the box, you put them straight back on top of the pile, meaning that places that have already experienced the diseases will be more prone to reinfection. Cities can only hold a certain number of disease cubes before an outbreak occurs, causing the disease to spread to all neighbouring cities, which may in turn lead to further outbreaks if they’re at their capacity for disease cubes as well. It makes the game tough, but it really does reflect well the way that disease actually spreads from country to country.

Pieces

Everything about the game is actually well thought-out, from the mechanics to the pieces, to the roles that you are dealt which affect how the game is played and varies the strategy to allow for a lot of replayability. There are so many choices of action that the game could get confusing for new players, but the fact that you are working together as a team means that if there is just one player who knows the game fairly well, it’s very easy to jump into and get the hang of. The fact that there is rarely just one way to deal with the situation and one right answer to get to the end and win makes it both interesting and exciting for all players, and that the same cards keep coming up and reinfecting cities that have already been cleared keeps you on the balls of your feet, always having to rethink your next move with each turn that passes before you.

Traveling

This is the kind of game that you are going to play over and over and over again in one sitting, especially if you lost the first few times, and the likelihood is that you will. It’s so quick and exhilarating that it leaves you on a high that is hard to let go of. It’s also frustrating beyond measure, but that’s just part of what gets you coming back for more. It’s one of those addictive games that is practically impossible to only play once.

Oh, and did I mention how pretty it is? Because it really is. With brightly coloured disease cubes (who would have thought that disease could be so fabulous?), event and role cards that are designed to draw and keep your attention, and a board that is beautiful to boot, the base game is pretty on its own. But add to that some of the expansions, and you go from pretty to glorious with components that fit together beautifully in a box that makes the OCD in me jump for joy! Even if you don’t get the expansions, I highly recommend getting petri dishes to store your disease cubes for the added effect and convenience.

Layouts

The Bad

It can be really difficult to enjoy a game where there are more ways to lose than there are to win, and though I cherish the chase, there are those who will find the frustration and stress too much to bear. There are few things worse than coming oh so very close to winning, only to have victory snatched from your grasp because of a small aspect that you hadn’t been paying attention to. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been one turn away from winning only to have the player deck run out, or find that there aren’t enough disease cubes to be placed on the board, or have a bout of outbreaks just wipe us out in one go! The fact is, the further in you get, the more can and will go wrong.

Details

There is the potential for one person to come in and be too domineering, taking over everyone’s turn and essentially leaving the other players to twiddle their thumbs and go ,”Well then, why don’t you just take my cards and get on with it.” The fact that there is no traitor component (at least not in the original) makes this circumstance more likely than with some of the other co-op games, since there’s no real reason to stop one person from just taking over the situation. While some co-op games can accommodate the weak-willed or unsure, Pandemic is not one of them, and while you may want to discuss what is best for the team, you need to be able to make your own moves and choices otherwise you are going to be left in the dust, and are certainly not going to have much fun.

Survive

Apart from that, my only other gripe (and one that many of you can just dismiss offhand immediately) is that it’s a four player game, which means in our household that it’s a little exclusive – we tend to like having couple friends over as I have mentioned before, and since there are three of us in the house (myself, Mr. Geekess and our housemate), it means that one of us has to sit out each time the game is played. We’ve bought an expansion to help remedy this situation, but the expansion required the purchase of a further expansion (you need to have On The Brink in order to make In The Lab work), which just makes me feel like getting the game to the point where it can play five is like pulling teeth.

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

Pandemic is a game that will be familiar to a lot of people, and those that do know it will also know that it can be brutally difficult to beat the game, even on the easiest setups. The world is in panic as four deadly diseases threaten to anhihilate the human race, the only hope is a handful of globe trotting specialists working to stem the tide of disaster whilst they research the cures that can save humanity. That’s where you come in, you take on a randomly selected specialised role, with a unique ability, and travel the world, setting up research stations, collecting the information that you’ll need to create a vaccine and treating those you come into contact with in the hope of containing the outbreak. You can see the appeal. Who hasn’t wanted to be the hero that swoops in and saves the world, in fact it’s my second most frequent dream, the first of course being world domination. The world quaking as I rule with an Iron Fist, minions to do my bidding and bring me those cute drinks with the tiny umbrellas… wait, what was I talking about? Oh, Pandemic.

Disease

This is a game that a lot of my friends enjoy, and while I think the concept is fantastic, I’m not really sold on the execution. During your turn you can take up to 4 actions, but these usually amount to move some where and remove disease cubes from that country, given that you’ve often got very limited movement (building research stations in strategic places can help with this) I often feel like I’m just going through the motions of moving my piece about the board without having to make any meaty decisions. The game mostly boils down to which cards are drawn, and while there’s something to be said about preempting and managing the diseases, often, even with the best planning, things can snowball quickly out of control. I also find that the game doesn’t scale very well with the number of players, with 2 players being very easy to beat and 4 players being nigh on impossible. This is because each player needs to collect a certain number of each type of card in order to research the cure, and since there’s the same number of cards no matter the number of players, the fewer players the easier it is for them to collect sets before things get messy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun game, and the components and board are beautiful, I just feel they’ve not quite hit the mark on the gameplay.

Overall, Pandemic is another game that I think needs to be in every decent board game collection, though it would seem that Mr. Geekess disagrees. It is fantastic, quick and fun and it’s the kind of game that you can (and will feel the need to) play over and over and over again until you’ve won at least as many times as you’ve lost. But it is not for the faint of heart or the quick of temper!

What do you think?

Man or Munchkin

Role playing games – you either love them or hate them, there is no in-between. They can lead to fun-filled fantasy adventures with your best mates, or endless arguments about minuscule details that really don’t matter in the larger scheme of things. They can be friendship makers or breakers. Some people take them so seriously that it’s really easy to take the mickey out of them, and that is where Munchkin comes into play.

The Skinny

Character

Munchkin is a card-based role-playing game where you and your friends are adventurers of varying races, classes and sexes kicking down doors, battling monsters, looting treasure boxes and trying to be the first to reach level 10, all while trying to stop others from getting there before you. And while this might sound like a pretty average role-playing game, what makes it better than average is the humour in it. Munchkin in no way tries to take itself seriously – it is filled with references to popular culture (or references that used to relate to popular culture back in the day, since the game was made around 2001) and the monsters that you face are as likely to be intimidating pot plants and gazebos as they are to be dragons and goblins.

The Good

The humour. Oh, man, the humour! Perhaps it’s because I’m exactly the right age for the references to be pertinent, but they really get me every single time. Whether it’s the Gazebo coming up, leading to endless retellings of Eric and the Dread Gazebo for those who aren’t acquainted with it, or giggling at the Lawyer’s professional courtesy of not attacking thieves, every game is filled with fits of laughter and loads of fun. Even if you know all the cards and are prepared for when they come up, there is always a high likelihood that you will be playing either with someone who has not come across a particular reference before, or who has developed inside jokes with their own group of Munchkin-playing friends which will cause a good deal of amusement.

Cards 3

What often makes the humour even better is the artwork for the game, which has been done in such a way to complement the humour. The leather armour, for example, wouldn’t be nearly as funny if it wasn’t accompanied by a drawing of a woman in a BDSM outfit. Crabs may sound like a typical low-level monster that you might face, until you realise that those aren’t quite the types of Crabs that the game intends. It’s these small touches that add to the humour and make the game what it is.

Cards 1

But, stepping back a bit and looking at what actually makes Munchkin a good game, I’ve got to say that a big part of it is the simplicity. You all start on equal footing as level one humans, and have to work your way up to level 10’s in whatever way you can. There are very few components to the game – the base one including just a deck of Door cards, a deck of Treasure cards and a D6 (albeit quite a pretty one). While the Deluxe game, which was used for this review, does include a few extras including a board, character models in 6 colours and gender indicators to match, those aren’t actually necessary to play the game – they just make it a bit easier to keep track of things. The simplicity makes it very easy to teach and/or learn and also means that it’s really easy to travel with, which is useful in and of itself!

Setup

What’s also great is the number of expansions that have been developed for the game, and the way that they all fit together neatly. If there is a particular theme that you enjoy, say for example Zombies or Lovecraft or a pre-apocalyptic future complete with seals opening and the end of the world looming, well then you can just buy one of the stand-alone expansions! But even better than that, if you have more than one Munchkin game, you can merge the two of them to make things that little bit more interesting. To me, that indicates a game that’s been well-designed to encompass any future expansions that may come out, but also made so that even the base game on its own is thoroughly enjoyable.

The Bad

Much as I would love to say that Munchkin is all positive, it’s not for everyone, and I can see why. It may be a satirical RPG and a casual RPG, but it is still a role playing game at heart, and gamers who don’t enjoy role playing are not going to be as into it as those who do. They may giggle at some of the jokes, but you’ll know that their heart isn’t in it, and that has the tendency to bring a mood down. So, if you are hoping to use Munchkin to entice those who are anti-RPG over to the dark-side, I’d say think again. If, on the other hand, you are trying to get someone into role-playing, this may be the game for you!

Board and Cards

Like a typical RPG, Munchkin has the potential to make or break a friendship. Much as you may enjoy working together to thwart other players and stop them from reaching level 10, there will come a time when your alliance will break – when you or your ally will be on that pivotal level 9 and need taking down a peg. I have known this to cause bitter rivalries between brothers and friction between couples, and while it’s all fun and games at the end of the day, some grudges are hard to relinquish.

While there is a good aspect to having a large number of expansions, there is a bad part too, and I’m afraid that Munchkin is no exception. Some of the expansions just feel lacking when played on their own or don’t fit in with the others well, and at times the expansions can detract from rather than add to the game. As an example, Munchkin Apocalypse is part of our collection, and while it was fun to play the first couple of times, it just didn’t feel like the real Munchkin, which is why we ended up buying the Deluxe edition – mostly actually for the base game, though the addeed bits and bobs really didn’t hurt.

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

Munchkin reminds me a lot of my varsity days, getting together with friends in the evening to play some DnD. Sure we’d delve into some dungeons, fight some monsters, but the thing I always enjoyed the most was the banter, the in-jokes and just the sheer silliness of things, and Munchkin captures this perfectly. Munchkin is your typical hack and slash dungeon crawler, you play a brave hero who bursts in on unsuspecting creatures while they’re lounging about at home and either turn them into swiss cheese with pointy things or flatten them with blunt ones. You then proceed to search the room for anything that’s not nailed down and make off with their life’s savings, leaving a newly widowed Mrs. Monster to explain to the little monsterlings about why daddy isn’t coming home and why they can no longer afford to live in such a splendidly dank dungeon anymore.

Though the monsters you face are not your typical Orcs and Beholders, you’re far more likely to face such terrifying creatures as the Lawyer, the Stoned Golem (he probably won’t notice you if you just wander on by) or Crabs (Itchy!). Though my personal favourite is the Gazebo – if you don’t know why, go read this, I’ll wait.

Cards 2

 

The game tends to start out amicably enough, with players willing to help each other out for a percentage of the spoils, however the end game tends to devolve into all out war, with curses flying this way and that, monsters being equipped with all manner of weaponry in the hopes that they will vanquish your opponents and increasingly desperate players looking through their cards for anything that can help. Of course it wouldn’t be much of a role-playing game if there wasn’t some meta-gaming, and with cards that allow you to bribe the DM with food or invoke obscure rules to gain a level, you should feel right at home.

Cards 4

All in all, Munchkin is a great game, the humour is fantastic and the game play is solid, though it can take a little long at times. Any board game collection certainly couldn’t be considered complete without at least one version of Munchkin in it.

All this being said, I believe that Mr. Geekess and I are in agreement that the good is worth the bad, and the game is a riot to play with friends. Definitely worth having the base game and at least an expansion or two in your collection!! Have you played? What did you think?

Details

King for a Day

Ever wonder who’d win in a fight between Godzilla and King Kong? I know that they made a movie about it and all, but really, who has the time to see silly movies anyway… especially when you can act out the action yourself!

Cast your mind back to the good ol’ days, when horror movies were less about the special effects and more about the story-line; when Godzilla and King Kong ruled the silver screen and everyone marveled at how awful the acting was? Feels just like yesterday, doesn’t it? Well I can’t cast my mind back that far – since I wasn’t actually born in that golden era – but the monsters from those classic movies were Richard Garfield’s inspiration for King of Tokyo.

 

Box and Board

The Skinny

King of Tokyo is a dice-rolling game where you and up to five of your friends try your best to take and keep control of Tokyo City (and Tokyo Bay if there are enough players) by smacking your enemies down and maximising your victory points, energy cubes and bonuses gained from buying cards. You’ll get to play as some of the “classic” Japanese monsters, who’ve apparently gone into witness protection and changed their names to things like The King, Gigasaur and Meka Dragon. You’ll also find some more generic monsters like a Kraken and an Alienoid, and some more original monsters like, my personal favourite, Cyber Bunny. Learn when to stand your ground and when to run for the hills and lick your wounds, when to spend and when to save and you may just find yourself the last man standing or the most victorious!

The Good

It’s dead easy to learn and to teach, and even if you’re all first time players, it’s easy to just jump right into and get the hang of. Once you know the basics of how the numbers and symbols work, it’s all pretty straight-forward. This makes it a fantastic game for new gamers or for converting people to the wonders of board games. It’s quick too – it’s pretty rare for a game to take more than half an hour to 45 minutes – so it’s a great way to pass the time or to play when you only have a few minutes to spare. Chances are, though, that you’re going to want to play more than once – it’s that addictive kind of game, and there’s nothing worse than losing when you were JUST about to win. Best out of three, perhaps?

Characters

It’s got a fabulous cartoony feel to it, which diverges from the monster movie theme significantly, but works so well that it’s hard to be bitter about it! You look, feel and act more like a super villain from a Marvel comic than like a wild, frenzied beast, and I think that works perfectly for a board game. It almost feels like there should be comic-book-esque dialogue clouds (“WHAM!”, “BAM!”, “WHOOSH!”) popping up when hits are rolled… but I guess my sound-effects will just have to suffice! The art is done really well, and the dice are gorgeous! Which you may think is weird thing to say about dice, but considering that we have a treasure box filled with them and keep trying to find ones that match the King of Tokyo quality… yeah, okay… we’re weird.

Characters 2

The board and the components are simple, which make a nice change from some of the other games we own. Playing doesn’t take up much space unless you have a tendency to roll like a crazy person, as some of our friends do. The board is literally a square a little smaller than the box itself which doesn’t fold out at all, and most of the space on the board is simply there for the effect – there’s a small circle on it to designate the current “King” and another small circle over Tokyo Bay for when there are two “Kings” in there at the same time (ie. if you have 5 of more players), but the rest is just artwork. Aside from the board, there’s a deck of cards, your monsters, their boards, some energy cubes and the dice. And that’s pretty much it! Setup time is negligible and you can pretty much jump straight in when you’re ready without trying to unpack and organise bits and pieces.

Board and Cards

Best of all, the game is just really fun. It’s not trying to take itself too seriously, and it works because of that. It’s not something that you’ll focus on for hours on end like you would in a game of Shadows or Puerto Rico. It’s silly, and it makes fun of itself. You can tell by the names of some of the cards that the purpose of building this was to add a bit of good humour to board gaming, and it really does.

The Bad

Looking for bad things to say about King of Tokyo is like trying to find a needle in a haystack – there really is so much positive to say about it! The turning mechanism for the life and victory points on some of the cards was unevenly placed on one or two of the boards which made them marginally more difficult to turn, but really now… if that’s the worst thing that you can say about a game, then you’ve got to know that it really is a goodie!!

Monster Boards

I am sure that it won’t be for everyone – those who prefer co-op will prefer not to have to fight against each other, some may really hate dice rolling games (we have one or two of those in our friend-group as well) or it just might not be the right game for the mood that you’re in for whatever reason. But in general, I can find absolutely nothing to fault the game on. This is just an example of a game done really, overwhelmingly right!

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

Richard Garfield should be a name familiar to most people who enjoy table top gaming. I myself spent many hours (and much more money than I’d care to admit) building decks and playing Magic: The Gathering over the years. While I no longer play, feeling that board games are just far better bang for the buck, when I saw that he was the creator of King of Tokyo, I knew it was something that I needed to add to our collection. Though of course the idea of masquerading as a giant monster tearing through the city didn’t hurt either.

At its core, King of Tokyo is a dice game – you roll the dice, choose which to keep and are able to re-roll those that you don’t. You win the game in one of two ways, by raining down destruction on your fellow monsters and becoming the last monster standing, or through the accumulation of 20 fame points which presumably lands you a lucrative movie deal. While you’d think a game based on dice rolls would be decided almost exclusively by luck, there are a lot of important ways in which you can influence the outcome of the game. Choosing which dice to re-roll is the obvious one, but with two re-rolls, you can steer the dice towards your intended goal – want to be all out aggressive, just roll for attacks; want to build your fame, roll for point combos. Or maybe you’d prefer to build your power first before making your move? This is where you can really differentiate yourself from the other monsters in Tokyo, you can roll the dice to accumulate energy cubes, which can be used to purchase cards from the pool. These cards have a huge variety of effects, from minor once off gains in fame to permanently giving you an extra dice, and choosing which cards to buy, or even just preventing other monsters from buying power ups by spending your cubes to clear the board, can make a huge difference. Finally, choosing when to stand your ground and fight in Tokyo or when to turn tail and lick your wounds can be the difference between winning and an untimely death.

Bits

I can’t think of anyone that I’ve played this with that hasn’t enjoyed it, the dice are beautiful, the artwork and cards are great… Really the only thing to find fault with is that apart from the aesthetic, there is nothing to differentiate the various monsters. However, as it happens, there’s an expansion which addresses exactly that, one that we’ve recently acquired. King of Tokyo: Power Up! introduces a new monster and adds some extra flavour to each of the existing ones, giving you the choice to roll 3 hearts to evolve your monster which adds a monster specific ability to it.

Even with just the base game, King of Tokyo is a lot of fun, the games are relatively quick and the large deck of power up cards ensure that each time you play you’ll get a unique experience. Add in the expansion to give each monster their own unique city crushing personalities, but either way, you’re sure to get hours and hours of enjoyment out it.

In summary… get it. Get it now. Don’t wait… just go! Have you played? Who was your favourite character to play?