Traitors Hide In The Shadows (over Camelot)

Mr. Geekess and I differ in our opinions of many things – music, reading material, whether or not we should acquire a third kitten – but there are a good many things that we do agree on too! And one of those things is our love for Arthurian legends. They stem from different places – mine from reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series as a child, his from watching Excalibur – but when Mr. Geekess returned home from a business trip last year with a copy of Shadows Over Camelot, the origins of our excitement didn’t really matter. What mattered was that we were both bursting at the seams with excitement at playing it!

Board

The Skinny

Shadows Over Camelot is set, as the name might suggest, in Camelot and steeped in Arthurian legend. You and up to six of your friends play as Knights of the Round Table, each with your own special skill in areas like trading, questing and self-preservation. Working together, you defend the land from invading armies of Saxons and Picts, jostle the Black Knight in jousting, seek the Holy Grail, try to convince the Lady of the Lake to give you Excalibur and do battle against the nefarious Lancelot, all by playing relevant cards while making choices that could throw off the fragile balance of the land. Each turn involves a Bad action (playing an evil card, placing a cannon or losing a life) and a Good action (picking up cards, moving to a quest, adding to a quest, etc.) Some quests you can do as a group, others you must go at alone, but always heeding the advice of your companions, lest you be suspected of being the hidden traitor amongst the team.

Saxons, Excalibur and Canons

The Good

Unsurprisingly, the legend of King Arthur makes a fantastic theme for a board game, and the playable characters fit well into the legends, as do those who pop up from time to time in the Good and Bad decks of cards. My memory is constantly being jogged by cards that remind me of the stories I’ve read and movies that I’ve seen. In particular, we have had to forbid the quoting of Monty Python during games, otherwise we would never get around to actually playing!

The game itself is gorgeous – one of the prettiest that we own in my opinion. The models are wonderfully detailed, the boards bursting with colour and the cards not only look, but also feel well-made. It’s been put together wonderfully, but that’s no surprise – pretty is something that Days of Wonder always thrive at after all, and when buying one of their games, you know that you’re paying for quality.

Black Knight, Lancelot and Saxons

You can tell that the game has been well thought-out with every move you make (every breathe you take) being weighty and having the potential to turn the game in either side’s favour. You want to place cannons, for example, but not too many of them. You want to take cards from the Bad deck, but don’t want to draw too many quest cards of a particular kind, otherwise you’ll end up with too many black swords on the table and the game will be over before you know it! You need to get black swords to make up the numbers, but not so many that they outnumber the white ones, or even so many that a hidden traitor could turn your victory into defeat at the last minute by turning two white swords to black and overthrowing the kingdom. It’s a juggling game at the end of the day – trying to decide what would be best for the team as a whole, and not just running forward, swords blazing, into battle.

The Bad

I feel the need to start the bad off with an explanation. I’ve been wanting to review Shadows Over Camelot for quite awhile, but it was one of the games that hasn’t left the shelf simply because we haven’t had the numbers to really get it going. Last weekend, we had a big group of friends over, and it was the perfect opportunity. I had a craving for the game and really couldn’t see any reason not to play it. And then the game started and all the reasons came rushing back to me.

Quests

It is not an easy game for new players to get into. There are a lot of choices to be made, and trusting your team can have devastating results if the traitor is amongst them and is particularly convincing. Bad actions have to be taken, so it can be very easy for the traitor to justify doing one move over the other, and easy for them to convince you to do the same. If you don’t quite know what you’re doing, you’re an easy target and the game will become very frustrating as you find yourself in the midst of speculation simply because you’re unsure of what you’re doing.

There is a lot of strategising before, during and after turns, and this means that a turn which should be quick (you only need to pick two things to do, it really shouldn’t be that hard!) ends up taking forever. It means that the game involves less action and a lot more talking than I would have liked, though I suppose this is dependent on your group of friends as well and how well you work together. It is definitely the kind of game that can end friendships if you let it.

Grail Quest and Round Table

Finally, I have found the game to be quite unbalanced on the side of evil. Even if there is no traitor, you spend a good number of turns accusing everyone of being the traitor, flipping white swords to black when you’re wrong and accumulating either cannons or negative quest cards, or losing life points, as you do. When there is a traitor, we’ve found that they actually don’t have to do much to win the game – just let the others fight and speculate amongst themselves and at the end of the game let everyone think they’ve won (if it comes to that) only to turn over those last two swords and ruin their fun. Like Pand      emic, there are so many ways to lose, and only one way to win.

 

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

This was among the first board games we ever bought, and it was certainly the first to include a traitor mechanic. While I’ve since found other games with traitor mechanics that I prefer, there’s still a lot to love about this Arthurian game.

The first thing you’ll probably notice about Shadows Over Camelot is simply the quality and sheer beauty of the components. The little models are wonderfully detailed, each character feels unique and the catapults look as if they’re about to break down the walls of Camelot. The cards are high quality and beautifully illustrated and much the same can be said for the game boards.

Cards and Rewards

One of the best things about the traitor mechanic in this game is that there may not be a traitor at all – even in a full game, you may all be loyal knights! This had led to some spectacular losses as we paranoidly assume that someone must be the traitor (“Come on, the odds of there not being one have to be slim…”) only to find out that we’ve simply been working against ourselves and that everyone was in fact working towards the same goal.

That being said, there’s not very much to do as the traitor, you can influence the game in minor ways, but the game can be quite difficult to beat at the best of times that often all you need to do is bide your time and reveal yourself only as you play the final catapult or card to win the game. This means that there’s not much information to go on when figuring out who the traitor is, but finding out who it is is usually integral to winning.

Models

The end game also tends to drag out a lot and the win condition doesn’t feel terribly satisfying at times as you often need to purposefully lose quests just to get the game to end before one of the losing conditions is satisfied. The quests themselves consist mainly of playing cards and the only real tactics are to decide which of the ‘advancement of evil’ actions you’re going to take each turn.

I still find it a lot of fun, but there are a lot of other games out there with traitor mechanics that I personally prefer. I’m sure we’ll get around to reviewing some of them soon.

There is a lot of good to find in Shadows Over Camelot, but there are also of negatives. That being said, and considering that the bad aspects are the kind that would usually put me off entirely, they surprisingly don’t stop me from actually wanting to play the game, because I really do love it! It’s stressful, it’s unbalanced, it’s argument inducing, and it’s a wonderful way to pend a few hours 🙂

Dare to Escape?

The sounds of the rain forest surround you and your group of friends as you clutch boldly to your fistful of dice, nails digging into your palms waiting to hear that rumbling voice. Every breathe feels loud and obnoxious. Beads of sweat begin to form. And then it begins. “ESCAPE.” With that, a scrambling of dice commences as you and your friends race to beat the clock, rolling as quickly as you can and exploring this hidden temple to find the exit and escape alive.

Layout

The Skinny

Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a frantic, fun-filled real-time game that will leave you begging to play it again and again. You and up to four of your friends are trapped inside a temple and you have ten minutes to escape. To do so, you will need to roll certain combinations of dice to uncover rooms, explore them, break curses and get out, all while trying to help your friends do the same. Because if even one of you gets left behind when the temple collapses, you all lose.

The Good

Wow. Just wow. I wasn’t convinced when Mr. Geekess suggested that we buy this game – it was our 7th purchase, so you can understand my hesitation – but there is no doubt left in my mind that this is a fantastic game to have in our collection! It fits a niche in that it’s incredibly quick. You know those times when you only have a few minutes to spare and want to play something, but know that nothing is playable in the little time that you’ve got? There is no excuse at all with Escape. It’s really quick and simple to set up and there is no chance of it running over the time you’ve got, because if you aren’t out in ten minutes, you lose! The game is over either way.

Dice

The mechanics work well -frantic dice rolling just feels right when you are trying to explore a temple and break curses! It’s not hard to learn and it’s easy to teach to new players. It’s not easy to win, but it’s not too hard either. It took us three tries first time around, but with the right team dynamic we managed to beat it with a few seconds to spare, and considering how quickly the game plays, a few seconds is a lot!! We weren’t convinced by the idea of a soundtrack, but after reading a few comments saying that it really added to the game, we went for it, and it really does add an atmosphere to everything! It raises excitement levels to the max which makes the game that much more thrilling.

It’s also a game that you can easily learn by watching, and even though it only plays 5 players (which is a bit of a problem considering how much fun it is with a full group of people, and considering how many friends we’ve got who share our gaming addiction) the turn-around time is so fast that you can easily switch players without anyone feeling too left out. It’s also thoroughly entertaining to watch as people scurry around, and sometimes it’s good to have an outside party keeping track of who rolled what and when.

The Bad

It’s stressful. Do not play this game if you have a weak heart, because the soundtrack alone raises the heartbeat, never mind the franticness and the sense of racing for your life. That being said, the stress isn’t of the same sort as that of a traitor mechanic where you are trying to hide. It’s a stress that your fellow players are experiencing as well, and it’s pretty short-lived. There are moments of calm in the midst of the rushing when a gong sounds indicating that everyone should run back to the starting room, and I suspect that this was put in to prevent panic attacks.

Board

I’ve also noticed that with the frantic nature of the game, it can be easy to lose track of dice and get confused about what has been rolled and what should be used when. Black curses should only be rerolled once a Golden mask comes up, and friends can help you out with this, but sometimes a well meaning friend doesn’t realise that you’ve left their room, or you roll a Golden mask and pick it up before you’ve realised, or you roll a combination that you need, but the dice are spread too far apart for you to put two and two together in time and so you just reroll them all.

Finally, I am not thoroughly convinced of the replayability of the game. We’ve played it five times so far, and have only won twice, but I get the sense that if you get the right formula you may start finding the game a bit of a breeze. Then again, we haven’t even touched the two expansions that were included in the game… I may find it more challenging after trying it out a few more times!

 

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

This was a game I was really hesitant to get. It had been brought to my attention on my previous board game splurge in Cape Town, with a strong recommendation from the clerk at the store. At the time it sounded a bit gimmicky… “A real time board game where you all frantically roll dice? And it comes with a sound track on CD? Yeah, lets see what else there is.” It caught my eye again while we were out shopping for Small World on our recent trip to Durban (and ended up coming home with 6 other games and a considerably lighter wallet). I knew I had seen it somewhere before so I pulled out my phone and pulled it up on Board Game Geek. It had a surprisingly high rating so I decided to check a few reviews and see what people had to say.

Now this is really not my usual kind of game, I like lots of strategy and planning, chaotic dice rolling would normally be way down my list of mechanics I look for in board games, but the reviews were universally positive. In fact, it was difficult for me to find someone who had anything negative to say about the game at all, let alone someone who didn’t like it. So figuring it would be a nice filler with it’s 10 minute time limit, we took the plunge and bought it, and it turned out to be a pretty good decision.

The mechanics are simple – roll symbols which match those on the tiles to move around, explore the temple and find the exit. Work together with other players to break the curses (again by matching symbols) or try to break them on your own. It’s generally better to stick near other players, not only to help with curse breaking, but also because your dice can become stuck by rolling a dreaded “Black Mask” and you can borrow a “Golden Mask” from another player’s roll if they’re in the same room as you to unfreeze it. You also don’t want to stray too far from the beginning room, because twice during the game a gong will sound and you’ll need to rush back there before the doors slam shut or lose one of your dice for the remainder of the game. The game is as frantic as it sounds, with everyone madly rolling dice, trying to ensure enough curses are broken to escape, because you either all make it out or the temple collapses and you lose.

The game is a lot of fun and the difficulty can easily be tailored to suit the group of players and keep the challenge at the right level, coupled with the additional game modules “Treasures” and “Curses”, there should be plenty to keep you coming back often. It’s never going to be one of my all time favourites, but for the game it is, it does it extremely well. Great fun compressed into a small amount of time, you’re likely to hear “just one more quick game” whenever you pull this one off the shelf.

Piece

All in all, I’ve found that Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a winner of a game that I am really pleased to have in my collection. I foresee hours on end of fun being had with it, and it’s already a hit amongst our circle of friends, so you just know that it’s going to end up being a firm favourite and possibly get played to death by the end of the year! Have you played it? What did you think?

Dare to Escape?

The sounds of the rain forest surround you and your group of friends as you clutch boldly to your fistful of dice, nails digging into your palms waiting to hear that rumbling voice. Every breathe feels loud and obnoxious. Beads of sweat begin to form. And then it begins. “ESCAPE.” With that, a scrambling of dice commences as you and your friends race to beat the clock, rolling as quickly as you can and exploring this hidden temple to find the exit and escape alive.

Layout

The Skinny

Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a frantic, fun-filled real-time game that will leave you begging to play it again and again. You and up to four of your friends are trapped inside a temple and you have ten minutes to escape. To do so, you will need to roll certain combinations of dice to uncover rooms, explore them, break curses and get out, all while trying to help your friends do the same. Because if even one of you gets left behind when the temple collapses, you all lose.

The Good

Wow. Just wow. I wasn’t convinced when Mr. Geekess suggested that we buy this game – it was our 7th purchase, so you can understand my hesitation – but there is no doubt left in my mind that this is a fantastic game to have in our collection! It fits a niche in that it’s incredibly quick. You know those times when you only have a few minutes to spare and want to play something, but know that nothing is playable in the little time that you’ve got? There is no excuse at all with Escape. It’s really quick and simple to set up and there is no chance of it running over the time you’ve got, because if you aren’t out in ten minutes, you lose! The game is over either way.

Dice

The mechanics work well -frantic dice rolling just feels right when you are trying to explore a temple and break curses! It’s not hard to learn and it’s easy to teach to new players. It’s not easy to win, but it’s not too hard either. It took us three tries first time around, but with the right team dynamic we managed to beat it with a few seconds to spare, and considering how quickly the game plays, a few seconds is a lot!! We weren’t convinced by the idea of a soundtrack, but after reading a few comments saying that it really added to the game, we went for it, and it really does add an atmosphere to everything! It raises excitement levels to the max which makes the game that much more thrilling.

It’s also a game that you can easily learn by watching, and even though it only plays 5 players (which is a bit of a problem considering how much fun it is with a full group of people, and considering how many friends we’ve got who share our gaming addiction) the turn-around time is so fast that you can easily switch players without anyone feeling too left out. It’s also thoroughly entertaining to watch as people scurry around, and sometimes it’s good to have an outside party keeping track of who rolled what and when.

The Bad

It’s stressful. Do not play this game if you have a weak heart, because the soundtrack alone raises the heartbeat, never mind the franticness and the sense of racing for your life. That being said, the stress isn’t of the same sort as that of a traitor mechanic where you are trying to hide. It’s a stress that your fellow players are experiencing as well, and it’s pretty short-lived. There are moments of calm in the midst of the rushing when a gong sounds indicating that everyone should run back to the starting room, and I suspect that this was put in to prevent panic attacks.

Board

I’ve also noticed that with the frantic nature of the game, it can be easy to lose track of dice and get confused about what has been rolled and what should be used when. Black curses should only be rerolled once a Golden mask comes up, and friends can help you out with this, but sometimes a well meaning friend doesn’t realise that you’ve left their room, or you roll a Golden mask and pick it up before you’ve realised, or you roll a combination that you need, but the dice are spread too far apart for you to put two and two together in time and so you just reroll them all.

Finally, I am not thoroughly convinced of the replayability of the game. We’ve played it five times so far, and have only won twice, but I get the sense that if you get the right formula you may start finding the game a bit of a breeze. Then again, we haven’t even touched the two expansions that were included in the game… I may find it more challenging after trying it out a few more times!

 

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

This was a game I was really hesitant to get. It had been brought to my attention on my previous board game splurge in Cape Town, with a strong recommendation from the clerk at the store. At the time it sounded a bit gimmicky… “A real time board game where you all frantically roll dice? And it comes with a sound track on CD? Yeah, lets see what else there is.” It caught my eye again while we were out shopping for Small World on our recent trip to Durban (and ended up coming home with 6 other games and a considerably lighter wallet). I knew I had seen it somewhere before so I pulled out my phone and pulled it up on Board Game Geek. It had a surprisingly high rating so I decided to check a few reviews and see what people had to say.

Now this is really not my usual kind of game, I like lots of strategy and planning, chaotic dice rolling would normally be way down my list of mechanics I look for in board games, but the reviews were universally positive. In fact, it was difficult for me to find someone who had anything negative to say about the game at all, let alone someone who didn’t like it. So figuring it would be a nice filler with it’s 10 minute time limit, we took the plunge and bought it, and it turned out to be a pretty good decision.

The mechanics are simple – roll symbols which match those on the tiles to move around, explore the temple and find the exit. Work together with other players to break the curses (again by matching symbols) or try to break them on your own. It’s generally better to stick near other players, not only to help with curse breaking, but also because your dice can become stuck by rolling a dreaded “Black Mask” and you can borrow a “Golden Mask” from another player’s roll if they’re in the same room as you to unfreeze it. You also don’t want to stray too far from the beginning room, because twice during the game a gong will sound and you’ll need to rush back there before the doors slam shut or lose one of your dice for the remainder of the game. The game is as frantic as it sounds, with everyone madly rolling dice, trying to ensure enough curses are broken to escape, because you either all make it out or the temple collapses and you lose.

The game is a lot of fun and the difficulty can easily be tailored to suit the group of players and keep the challenge at the right level, coupled with the additional game modules “Treasures” and “Curses”, there should be plenty to keep you coming back often. It’s never going to be one of my all time favourites, but for the game it is, it does it extremely well. Great fun compressed into a small amount of time, you’re likely to hear “just one more quick game” whenever you pull this one off the shelf.

Piece

All in all, I’ve found that Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a winner of a game that I am really pleased to have in my collection. I foresee hours on end of fun being had with it, and it’s already a hit amongst our circle of friends, so you just know that it’s going to end up being a firm favourite and possibly get played to death by the end of the year! Have you played it? What did you think?

Durban Antics

I may or may not have gone a little crazy on my recent trip to Durban. I guess it depends on what you think is crazy. If you happened to think that scouring every gaming store and Exclusive Books that we came across was perfectly normal, then you’d be less inclined to think of my antics as irrational. You may change your mind though when I tell you that my scouring led to the purchase of six brand new board games and one expansion!

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To summarise… I am broke. And insane. And over the moon about the new games in our collection!! I may have been quiet over the last few weeks due to trip planning and adventuring, but reviews are going to be coming at you like wildfire, so be prepared!

Taking Back The Geek

“I’m not a geek,” she proclaimed loudly and indignantly.
“You’re geekier than I am,” I announced.
“No,” she exclaimed, horrified at the suggestion, “I’m really not.”

Geek
Definition courtesy of Google’s “Define” function

When I was growing up, being a geek was seen as a bad thing – it meant that you were otherwise, that you didn’t fit in. It was an insult that was hurled indiscriminately at anyone who focused a little bit more on school work or was just that little bit less social than the others around them. It was a label that I avoided, thankfully, by bordering on the social boundaries. I wasn’t outgoing, but I wasn’t a loner. I spent a lot of time on the computer, but not enough to raise a geek alert. And yet, there was no doubt in my mind that geek was the best description for me. I didn’t have it hurled in my direction or said with malice, but it just seemed to fit. It was like a dress that I wore under my everyday clothes, a label that provided me with comfort. I could call myself a geek, could accept it and see it as something that set me apart, without it being negative. Because believe it or not, being different is not a bad thing!

I was lucky I guess, because I came to terms with my geekiness early on. Even if someone had tried to use it against me, it would have run off my back without leaving a mark. Well, I like to think it would anyway, but hindsight is an amazing thing, and my teenage self was fragile and terrified of criticism in any shape or form. But by the time I came to university, my identity was more defined. I was less fragile and more determined, and my geekiness shone like a beacon, calling others towards me. It became the foundation for strong friendships and lasting relationships, like my one with Mr. Geekess. It became more than just a label, but an integral part of who I am and how I see myself.

Arrows

And yet, it’s still seen as something to be avoided. The word geek still has lasting negative connotations! People avoid the label like the plague, even when actively participating in activities that, for me at least, define what geekdom is. Take for example the friend in the conversation above. She loves playing Dungeons & Dragons, she has an affinity to all things Potter, Tolkien and Prachett. She only recently watched Firefly, but has become an avid fan. Though I wouldn’t class her as a board game fanatic (like me), she enjoys gaming and gets tinglingly excited at the prospect of a new Dr. Who episode. These are just some aspects that make me identify her as a fellow geek, and yet she runs from the term like it may just set her on fire.

Maybe it’s because labels in general are harmful. Identifying someone by any label, even one that you see as positive involves putting them into a box and expecting them to conform to the expectations related to that label. And I realise this, don’t get me wrong. I know that by saying “Oh, that person loves D&D, Harry Potter and Firefly and therefore must be a geek” I am expecting more from them than they may want to associate themselves with. But, I also think that it’s time to take back the geek! To make being a geek into a lifestyle that people want to aspire to rather than run away from. To see it as something that you celebrate and take pride in rather than something that you hide or keep on the low down.

Geekess & Proud

So, this being said… who’s with me??

Considering Citadels

I remember the day that we bought Citadels well. It was our last day in Cape Town and I had four people to see at different ends of the city. That, and Mr. Geekess and I really wanted to stop by Wizards’ one last time to see if there were any games that we had missed on our first trip. But time was short, and I left him to wander the shop on his own while I raced to meet a friend in Sea Point. I returned an hour and a half later cursing Cape Town traffic and holding thumbs that we’d make it to the airport on time to catch our plane since I still had to visit my gran and drop off the car and if I’d thought that time was tight before, it was practically throttling us now! Which meant that I barely had time to gawk at the two bags full of games that he bundled into the car before we were back in the traffic and heading to our next stop.

That Cape Town trip, we bought seven board games in total, most of which we’d never even heard of. Citadels was one of those – a last minute purchase that Mr. Geekess thought would fit in nicely with our collection and would sit well with our group of friends. And how right he was!

Components

The Skinny

Citadels is a card game where players try to build up cities by picking roles that will benefit them. Only, the fun in it isn’t really in the collecting and playing cards as much as it’s about reading the players around you and trying to pick roles that will affect them. Who will you assassinate, steal from, swap cards with; whose buildings will you destroy and who is the biggest threat to your city-building schemes?

The game plays 2 to 8 players, making it great for small and big groups, and is made up of 8 role cards and a lot of buildings that can make up your city. Each turn, the first player starts the round by picking a role and the cards are then passed clockwise until everyone has something to do for the turn. Each role is then called up in order with the Assassin going first, followed by the Thief, the Magician, the King, the Bishop, the Merchant, the Architect and the Warlord. Depending on the number of players, some roles may not be active in a particular round, and some may be affected by the Assassin killing them off or the Thief stealing from them. Each role has it’s own benefit which will either lead to you profiting in terms of cards, money, or just from the knowledge that another player can’t take a turn this round!

After roles are chosen, the player has the chance to make some money or get some cards (or both if you’re the Merchant, the Architect or have cards of a specific colour and have chosen the right role for yourself) and then build up your city by playing building cards from your hand (if the Magician hasn’t stolen them all). Then it’s on to the next role in order until you have a citadel of 8 buildings under your control, at which point players tally up their points and decide on a victor.

Roles

The Good

Where to start?? The artwork is beautiful, as is almost always the case with card based games. But in this case, I love not only the look, but also the feel of the cards. From the roles to the buildings, so much detail has gone into making them that it feels like you’re looking through a window into a city full of life rather than just playing cards. I also love that the “gold” you are playing with are pieces of pearly golden plastic.

The roles mechanic is well thought out and works perfectly. It brings a great player and role interaction element to the game, since with cards like the Assassin and the Thief, you are not targeting another player as much as you are targeting a particular role – the thief may want to steal from the Merchant for example, or the assassin may be planning a hit on the King. That you don’t know which player it is that you are actually targeting makes Citadels a bit of a mind game as well – trying to read which role your opponents may choose, and trying to factor in the possibility that the role you think they may have chosen could be in the discard pile for that particular round.

But I think one of my favourite aspects of the game is how simple it is! It’s quick to learn for new players and very easy to get into. It’s another one of those great teaching games that you can play with your less board-game-inclined friends and it can be pretty quick compared to some of the other options that we have, usually taking less than an hour to complete. It’s a very social game with players interacting with their roles as well as with other players. Take it from a person who was assassinated four times in a row by the same player but with a different role each time, it can also get frustrating. But it’s completely worth it!

Buildings

The Bad

To be perfectly honest, I am struggling to think of a single bad thing about the game! It has been designed well, it’s great fun to play and it’s the kind of game that you can play over and over again without getting too bored since it’s the players that make it as fun as it is – the roles giving the players a chance to act their part rather than being the be-all and end-all of the game. It’s even been thought out to the point that whether you play with 2 players or 8, the game works well with enough roles being discarded to make it a mystery what the other players have picked.

Our copy came with the expansion which we have actually yet to play with since we’ve just been having so much fun with the basic game! Included in it are a whole selection of new roles and new buildings, so I suppose that the inclusion of it will just mix it up a little bit and make the game that much more exciting for those who have been playing it for awhile. That being said, it’s been 8 months since we bought it and we’re not tired of the base game yet!

If I am nitpicking, and this time I really really am, I would say that it can get a bit hard-going at times with players taking their time choosing actions and picking buildings, only to have them destroyed by the Warlord or have their cards stolen from them by the Magician.  It also depends on the group of friends you’ve got, I guess, and how seriously they take the game.

Cards

 

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

This is another one of those games where some pokeresque skill is beneficial. If you can correctly identify which players have selected which role, both from what they may need and also from what cards were available for selection when you picked your own role, you can maximise the potential of the Thief and Assassin, since the targets have to be other roles and not players. You should also keep this in mind when selecting your own role, as you don’t want to be the target of an assassination or theft yourself. If you’ve read some of our other reviews, it should come as no surprise to you that I absolutely love this aspect of the game. The role selection is really where the majority of the game takes place, with the actual turn leaving you with a few minor choices, but mostly these will be no-brainers.

The game is beautifully crafted and the artwork is gorgeous and just adds a level of aesthetics to some great mechanics. It can be played with anywhere between 2 and 8 players, so it’s perfect for almost any situation, though it can drag out a bit with lots of players if your friends are prone to umming and ahhing over decisions (this is easily remedied by altering the end game conditions to fewer buildings).

So if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for the geeky friend in your life (is it too early to be talking about christmas?) or just want to treat yourself to a new game after a long week, then you can’t really go wrong with Citadels.

Pieces

So, as you can tell, both Mr. Geekess and I are big fans. Have you played it? What did you think?

Considering Citadels

I remember the day that we bought Citadels well. It was our last day in Cape Town and I had four people to see at different ends of the city. That, and Mr. Geekess and I really wanted to stop by Wizards’ one last time to see if there were any games that we had missed on our first trip. But time was short, and I left him to wander the shop on his own while I raced to meet a friend in Sea Point. I returned an hour and a half later cursing Cape Town traffic and holding thumbs that we’d make it to the airport on time to catch our plane since I still had to visit my gran and drop off the car and if I’d thought that time was tight before, it was practically throttling us now! Which meant that I barely had time to gawk at the two bags full of games that he bundled into the car before we were back in the traffic and heading to our next stop.

That Cape Town trip, we bought seven board games in total, most of which we’d never even heard of. Citadels was one of those – a last minute purchase that Mr. Geekess thought would fit in nicely with our collection and would sit well with our group of friends. And how right he was!

Components

The Skinny

Citadels is a card game where players try to build up cities by picking roles that will benefit them. Only, the fun in it isn’t really in the collecting and playing cards as much as it’s about reading the players around you and trying to pick roles that will affect them. Who will you assassinate, steal from, swap cards with; whose buildings will you destroy and who is the biggest threat to your city-building schemes?

The game plays 2 to 8 players, making it great for small and big groups, and is made up of 8 role cards and a lot of buildings that can make up your city. Each turn, the first player starts the round by picking a role and the cards are then passed clockwise until everyone has something to do for the turn. Each role is then called up in order with the Assassin going first, followed by the Thief, the Magician, the King, the Bishop, the Merchant, the Architect and the Warlord. Depending on the number of players, some roles may not be active in a particular round, and some may be affected by the Assassin killing them off or the Thief stealing from them. Each role has it’s own benefit which will either lead to you profiting in terms of cards, money, or just from the knowledge that another player can’t take a turn this round!

After roles are chosen, the player has the chance to make some money or get some cards (or both if you’re the Merchant, the Architect or have cards of a specific colour and have chosen the right role for yourself) and then build up your city by playing building cards from your hand (if the Magician hasn’t stolen them all). Then it’s on to the next role in order until you have a citadel of 8 buildings under your control, at which point players tally up their points and decide on a victor.

Roles

The Good

Where to start?? The artwork is beautiful, as is almost always the case with card based games. But in this case, I love not only the look, but also the feel of the cards. From the roles to the buildings, so much detail has gone into making them that it feels like you’re looking through a window into a city full of life rather than just playing cards. I also love that the “gold” you are playing with are pieces of pearly golden plastic.

The roles mechanic is well thought out and works perfectly. It brings a great player and role interaction element to the game, since with cards like the Assassin and the Thief, you are not targeting another player as much as you are targeting a particular role – the thief may want to steal from the Merchant for example, or the assassin may be planning a hit on the King. That you don’t know which player it is that you are actually targeting makes Citadels a bit of a mind game as well – trying to read which role your opponents may choose, and trying to factor in the possibility that the role you think they may have chosen could be in the discard pile for that particular round.

But I think one of my favourite aspects of the game is how simple it is! It’s quick to learn for new players and very easy to get into. It’s another one of those great teaching games that you can play with your less board-game-inclined friends and it can be pretty quick compared to some of the other options that we have, usually taking less than an hour to complete. It’s a very social game with players interacting with their roles as well as with other players. Take it from a person who was assassinated four times in a row by the same player but with a different role each time, it can also get frustrating. But it’s completely worth it!

Buildings

The Bad

To be perfectly honest, I am struggling to think of a single bad thing about the game! It has been designed well, it’s great fun to play and it’s the kind of game that you can play over and over again without getting too bored since it’s the players that make it as fun as it is – the roles giving the players a chance to act their part rather than being the be-all and end-all of the game. It’s even been thought out to the point that whether you play with 2 players or 8, the game works well with enough roles being discarded to make it a mystery what the other players have picked.

Our copy came with the expansion which we have actually yet to play with since we’ve just been having so much fun with the basic game! Included in it are a whole selection of new roles and new buildings, so I suppose that the inclusion of it will just mix it up a little bit and make the game that much more exciting for those who have been playing it for awhile. That being said, it’s been 8 months since we bought it and we’re not tired of the base game yet!

If I am nitpicking, and this time I really really am, I would say that it can get a bit hard-going at times with players taking their time choosing actions and picking buildings, only to have them destroyed by the Warlord or have their cards stolen from them by the Magician.  It also depends on the group of friends you’ve got, I guess, and how seriously they take the game.

Cards

 

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

This is another one of those games where some pokeresque skill is beneficial. If you can correctly identify which players have selected which role, both from what they may need and also from what cards were available for selection when you picked your own role, you can maximise the potential of the Thief and Assassin, since the targets have to be other roles and not players. You should also keep this in mind when selecting your own role, as you don’t want to be the target of an assassination or theft yourself. If you’ve read some of our other reviews, it should come as no surprise to you that I absolutely love this aspect of the game. The role selection is really where the majority of the game takes place, with the actual turn leaving you with a few minor choices, but mostly these will be no-brainers.

The game is beautifully crafted and the artwork is gorgeous and just adds a level of aesthetics to some great mechanics. It can be played with anywhere between 2 and 8 players, so it’s perfect for almost any situation, though it can drag out a bit with lots of players if your friends are prone to umming and ahhing over decisions (this is easily remedied by altering the end game conditions to fewer buildings).

So if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for the geeky friend in your life (is it too early to be talking about christmas?) or just want to treat yourself to a new game after a long week, then you can’t really go wrong with Citadels.

Pieces

So, as you can tell, both Mr. Geekess and I are big fans. Have you played it? What did you think?

Conquering Puerto Rico

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a settler? A conqueror? An explorer? Planting crops, managing workers and trying not just to succeed, but to prosper is what Puerto Rico is all about.

Bits and Bobs

Considered by many to be the worker placement game to end all others, Puerto Rico throws you back in time to an age when life was both simpler and far more complicated. And to think that a few hours of desk-warming at my day-job is the worst of my worries…

The Skinny

The game revolves around picking roles each turn and managing your plot of land as best you can. Each role kicks off a round of actions and gives the chooser a particular benefit. But choose your roles wisely, because everyone else can benefit from your choice too and you wouldn’t want to choose one that would benefit them more than you.

Player Mat

The Good

Puerto Rico is the kind of game that you can get lost in for hours on end without even realising it. It’s intensive and time-consuming and you’ll become invested in the outcome. It’s not the kind of game that you can play while watching a game of soccer – it’s something that you have to focus on. And while this all may sound like a minus more than a plus, it’s something that I really love! I like playing a game that I can lose myself in.

Wind Rose, Captain's Ship and Explanation

Another big plus is that there are so many ways to win. There is no one strategy that is better than any other – you need to juggle roles to benefit you in a given turn and make the best of every situation that you find yourself in. Maybe you’re better at farming than others, perhaps you’re better at managing your buildings or knowing when to stockpile and when to ship or sell, but there will always be a way for you to win. Little in the game gets left to chance aside from which plants come out in a particular turn. The rest is all about strategy and choosing what role is best for you at any given point in time.

Roles

All-in-all, the game is well thought out and great fun to play, as long as the people you play it with are into worker placement games and take take a good whipping to heart or hold it against you (the first time I played, I beat the others by what can only be described as a landslide.)

The Bad

Having said all of these wonderful things, I have a confession to make. I am not big into my worker placements games. I usually find them a bit boring, tedious, hard to get into. But I can easily be swayed by pretty, shiny things – I’m a magpie that way! And in that department, Puerto Rico falls short – it is neither pretty nor shiny. It is basic as basic can be in terms of components – almost all cardboard cut-outs and not an animeeple in sight! It is an aspect of the game that I was highly disappointed in.

Pieces

Another minus for me is the setup time, probably because the setup often ends up being done by me. You know what’s more painful than shuffling tons of cards like you have to do in Arkham Horror and Firefly? Having to find the exact spot for tons of small components, having to divide them up and place them neatly on top of each other. But then, maybe that’s just a bit of my OCD shining through.

Layout

Finally, the game involves a lot of reading, especially when you’re not familiar with its mechanics. They have done a good job of making sure that the rules are well displayed – after all, you have a reminder of how to play on the player mat right in front of you – but it gets a bit much! In my mind, having to read over every role you choose and every building you buy detracts from the game. It also ties in well with my dissatisfaction with the look of the game, detracting from the beauty of it really, making it stark and cold rather than bright and colourful and interesting in and of itself.

Components

This all being said, Mr. Geekess has an entirely different opinion. Let’s hear what he has to say!

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

Puerto Rico is one of those games that takes an obscure premise, in this case running a plantation as a colonial governor, and turns it into a simply amazing game. The game is easy to teach to new players due to the simplicity of the mechanics, but this simplicity belies the exquisite complexity of a game where every decision you make has an impact and the only thing standing between you and victory is how well you’re able to make decisions and read the other players.

The turn mechanics are simply stunning, with the role you select allowing all players to take the same action (although you do get a slight bonus as the one choosing the role). You have to weigh up what you need with how much it might benefit or disadvantage your opponents. Every decision feels weighty – when to ship your goods, what goods to produce and what role to select, amongst so many others.

Though it’s not without it’s faults – the game is finicky to set up and can take a fairly long time to play – these are minor inconveniences for such a wonderful game. It’s no surprise that it ranks amongst a lot of people’s favourites (it certainly does mine), and if you enjoy a game with a lot of strategic thinking, then this is a must have for your collection.

Buildings, Plantations and Resources

As you may be able to tell, I’m in two minds about the game in general, and Mr. Geekess is pretty sold. There are certainly good aspects to it, things that make it great fun to play, but the negative aspects stop the game from featuring in my top picks (though not in his). Have you played it? What did you think?

You Can’t Take Firefly From Us

To me, Nathan Fillion is Malcolm Reynolds. I know that I must have seen him in roles before, and I have certainly seen him in roles since, but they are nothing but hollow shells compared to the gun-slinging, insult-hurling, honour-driven space cowboy that I have come to know and love. And if the poll that I put up is anything to go by, I’m fairly sure that I’m not alone in my love for Mal and his crew aboard Serenity. Firefly may have been a short-lived series, but it’s one that has left a legacy blazing a trail behind it’s untimely demise. The real question then is this – How does Firefly: The Board Game live up to this legacy?

IMG_4697

The Skinny

Firefly is a board game that follows the series fairly closely. You spend your game doing jobs for Patience, Harken, Amnon Duul, Niska and Badger, trying to get by and make money, and all the while working towards the end-game which, funny enough, you choose as a group at the start. This can involve anything from looking for trouble by misbehaving to stashing your cash, although they usually include both. Navigate your way across the verse, picking up crew and supplies along the way and making some cash from the odd-jobs that you can find. Try to steer clear of the Alliance Cruiser and the Reaver Cutter, though it isn’t always possible considering how sneaky they are!

Game to Series

The Good

The game sticks to the feel of the series incredibly well. It’s in part the flavour text on the cards and in the rule book, but it’s also just the small touches that have been added. Things like including a cardboard dinosaur as a first player marker, and including a recommendation in the rules that it be replaced with a real dinosaur because “it’s fun to have a plastic dinosaur sitting on the Ship’s dash on your turn!” It’s also things like Yolanda, Saffron and Bridget being included and a rule being listed on their cards that if either of the other two are in play, that card needs to be discarded (since she’s clearly found a better target). And playing the series in the background does allow for a good deal of amusement when what’s happening in the game just so happens to coincide with what’s happening on the screen. I also love that with a small upgrade to your ship and a lot of scowering the different markets, you could end up playing a game with the entire crew of Serenity – Mal, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, Jayne, Inara, Simon, River and Shepherd Book. Most ships can only support 6 crew members to begin with, but with Expanded Crew Quarters, it’s just possible to fit them all in!

Player Station

It’s not just the resemblance to the series that makes the game good though. It’s some genuinely backstabbing, nerve-wracking fun! Racing your friends to complete a goal and holding your breathe with every flip of a card in the hopes that it will send the Cutter or Cruiser in their direction makes for a good, competitive atmosphere. The game is well designed and well put together – aside from a few issues with the ships’ “feet”, the components have a good, solid feel to them without being too finicky.

Figurines & Dice

The Bad

Because there is always going to be some bad – no game can be perfect after all! I have found the time estimations for the game to be completely off. Games that are supposed to be an hour long end up taking 2 or 3, and I’m not sure that it is because of a steep learning curve or just a tendency for people to be slow in general. I suspect that they considered this when putting the game together since the rule book includes suggestions like having players look at discard piles so that they can decide what they want during other players’ turns, but this doesn’t stop the game from taking quite awhile. And I’m talking quite aside from the setup time which is another negative aspect. There are so many bits and pieces to the game that the setup for it takes almost as long as Arkham Horror (which, for those who haven’t played Arkham, takes forever)!

Bits n Bobs

That being said, the time is the only really big negative for me. Some people may not be a fan of the paper money, but that doesn’t bother me… probably because it’s just so damn pretty! Some may be bothered by how much space it takes up, but hey guys… it’s a space game! The ‘verse isn’t just going to collapse down to the size of your coffee table, okay! I like that it’s a game that takes up room, personally. There’s a time and space for small games, and it’s not when you’re trying to explore the ‘verse and live out your lifelong dream of being a space cowboy. The whole flipping cards every time you went full-burn bugged me in the beginning, but I’ve gotten used to it now and it feels very much like an integral part of the game. I don’t know how you’d pull in the reavers and Alliance and a PVP aspect without it really.

ShipsCards

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

I’m a huge fan of the series, so when I saw the game sitting on the shelf, I had to use every bit of restraint not to buy it on the spot! I took a bit of time to research it and read some reviews, but of course it didn’t take too many positive reviews before I was convinced, and I can’t say I’ve been disappointed.

fry-take-my-money

They’ve really done a great job of making it feel like Firefly, and the mechanics are borne out of the theme rather than having the theme tacked on to a generic game. With items like Jayne’s gun, “Vera” (which adds to persuation as well as fire power), and “Mal’s Pretty Floral Bonnet” the game is absolutely dripping with flavour and humour from the original show.

There are numerous win conditions and coupled with the large variety of customisations available for your ship and crew, each game feels new and fresh. There’s really very little to find fault with in the game. Personally, I prefer games with less luck and more strategy, but proper planning and a well rounded crew mitigates a lot of the luck factor, and certainly doesn’t detract much from the overall enjoyment I get from the game. It can be a little slow at times, particularly while learning, and player interaction is pretty minimal. The recently released expansion “Pirates and Bounty Hunters” attempts to address this by adding adding missions to raid other players ships or turn them in for a reward (I look forward to shouting “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal”), as well as a slew of new cards and even two new playable ships. Having only just gotten it however (a gift from a wonderful friend), I can’t say much about the expansion just yet.

If you’re a fan of the series and you love board games, why are you still reading this? Go buy the game now and don’t let any power in the Verse stop you. 

Components

I agree, Mr. Geekess!! Weighing up the good and bad, I’d say that Firefly: The Board Game tackles Whedon’s world better than we’d expected. Even thinking about it makes me want to play it again. Anyone keen?

You Can’t Take Firefly From Us

To me, Nathan Fillion is Malcolm Reynolds. I know that I must have seen him in roles before, and I have certainly seen him in roles since, but they are nothing but hollow shells compared to the gun-slinging, insult-hurling, honour-driven space cowboy that I have come to know and love. And if the poll that I put up is anything to go by, I’m fairly sure that I’m not alone in my love for Mal and his crew aboard Serenity. Firefly may have been a short-lived series, but it’s one that has left a legacy blazing a trail behind it’s untimely demise. The real question then is this – How does Firefly: The Board Game live up to this legacy?

IMG_4697

The Skinny

Firefly is a board game that follows the series fairly closely. You spend your game doing jobs for Patience, Harken, Amnon Duul, Niska and Badger, trying to get by and make money, and all the while working towards the end-game which, funny enough, you choose as a group at the start. This can involve anything from looking for trouble by misbehaving to stashing your cash, although they usually include both. Navigate your way across the verse, picking up crew and supplies along the way and making some cash from the odd-jobs that you can find. Try to steer clear of the Alliance Cruiser and the Reaver Cutter, though it isn’t always possible considering how sneaky they are!

Game to Series

The Good

The game sticks to the feel of the series incredibly well. It’s in part the flavour text on the cards and in the rule book, but it’s also just the small touches that have been added. Things like including a cardboard dinosaur as a first player marker, and including a recommendation in the rules that it be replaced with a real dinosaur because “it’s fun to have a plastic dinosaur sitting on the Ship’s dash on your turn!” It’s also things like Yolanda, Saffron and Bridget being included and a rule being listed on their cards that if either of the other two are in play, that card needs to be discarded (since she’s clearly found a better target). And playing the series in the background does allow for a good deal of amusement when what’s happening in the game just so happens to coincide with what’s happening on the screen. I also love that with a small upgrade to your ship and a lot of scowering the different markets, you could end up playing a game with the entire crew of Serenity – Mal, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, Jayne, Inara, Simon, River and Shepherd Book. Most ships can only support 6 crew members to begin with, but with Expanded Crew Quarters, it’s just possible to fit them all in!

Player Station

It’s not just the resemblance to the series that makes the game good though. It’s some genuinely backstabbing, nerve-wracking fun! Racing your friends to complete a goal and holding your breathe with every flip of a card in the hopes that it will send the Cutter or Cruiser in their direction makes for a good, competitive atmosphere. The game is well designed and well put together – aside from a few issues with the ships’ “feet”, the components have a good, solid feel to them without being too finicky.

Figurines & Dice

The Bad

Because there is always going to be some bad – no game can be perfect after all! I have found the time estimations for the game to be completely off. Games that are supposed to be an hour long end up taking 2 or 3, and I’m not sure that it is because of a steep learning curve or just a tendency for people to be slow in general. I suspect that they considered this when putting the game together since the rule book includes suggestions like having players look at discard piles so that they can decide what they want during other players’ turns, but this doesn’t stop the game from taking quite awhile. And I’m talking quite aside from the setup time which is another negative aspect. There are so many bits and pieces to the game that the setup for it takes almost as long as Arkham Horror (which, for those who haven’t played Arkham, takes forever)!

Bits n Bobs

That being said, the time is the only really big negative for me. Some people may not be a fan of the paper money, but that doesn’t bother me… probably because it’s just so damn pretty! Some may be bothered by how much space it takes up, but hey guys… it’s a space game! The ‘verse isn’t just going to collapse down to the size of your coffee table, okay! I like that it’s a game that takes up room, personally. There’s a time and space for small games, and it’s not when you’re trying to explore the ‘verse and live out your lifelong dream of being a space cowboy. The whole flipping cards every time you went full-burn bugged me in the beginning, but I’ve gotten used to it now and it feels very much like an integral part of the game. I don’t know how you’d pull in the reavers and Alliance and a PVP aspect without it really.

ShipsCards

4i9kg84iE Mr. Geekess Says 4i9kg84iE

I’m a huge fan of the series, so when I saw the game sitting on the shelf, I had to use every bit of restraint not to buy it on the spot! I took a bit of time to research it and read some reviews, but of course it didn’t take too many positive reviews before I was convinced, and I can’t say I’ve been disappointed.

fry-take-my-money

They’ve really done a great job of making it feel like Firefly, and the mechanics are borne out of the theme rather than having the theme tacked on to a generic game. With items like Jayne’s gun, “Vera” (which adds to persuation as well as fire power), and “Mal’s Pretty Floral Bonnet” the game is absolutely dripping with flavour and humour from the original show.

There are numerous win conditions and coupled with the large variety of customisations available for your ship and crew, each game feels new and fresh. There’s really very little to find fault with in the game. Personally, I prefer games with less luck and more strategy, but proper planning and a well rounded crew mitigates a lot of the luck factor, and certainly doesn’t detract much from the overall enjoyment I get from the game. It can be a little slow at times, particularly while learning, and player interaction is pretty minimal. The recently released expansion “Pirates and Bounty Hunters” attempts to address this by adding adding missions to raid other players ships or turn them in for a reward (I look forward to shouting “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal”), as well as a slew of new cards and even two new playable ships. Having only just gotten it however (a gift from a wonderful friend), I can’t say much about the expansion just yet.

If you’re a fan of the series and you love board games, why are you still reading this? Go buy the game now and don’t let any power in the Verse stop you. 

Components

I agree, Mr. Geekess!! Weighing up the good and bad, I’d say that Firefly: The Board Game tackles Whedon’s world better than we’d expected. Even thinking about it makes me want to play it again. Anyone keen?