Gain enlightenment during the Qin dynasty to become a Xian, an immortal “godly spirit” or manipulate tiles to gather cubes and create artifacts. In Sorcerer & Stones players try to create artifacts by using cards that manipulate the tiles on the board.
What is Sorcerer & Stones like like?
In the Sorcerer & Stones there is an introduction game and an advanced game, however the cooperative/solo version does not allow you to play with the advanced rules.
The goal of the solo game is to complete at least 6 of the 14 artifact cards. The board consists of five tiles in the shape of a cross with 4 cubes on each tile. To start the game each character (you can play solo with multiple characters if desired) gets a deck of magic cards which allow manipulation of the game components including the tiles, meeples and cubes. They also place a meeple on a tile of their choice to begin the game and lay out 4 artifact cards.
Each turn each character will play one or two magic cards and resolve their effect. The cards do a variety of different things including moving tiles, cubes and meeples. After playing the cards they activate the tile on which their meeple stands. When activating the tile you look to see if any of the cubes on that tile are next to a cube of the same color on a different tile. If so, then you take the cube from your current tile and place it on the leftmost artifact card if it matches the first color on that card. If it doesn’t the cube goes away. Once all needed cubes have been placed on the artifact card you collect the card and move to the next artifact.
Play continues until each character has used all of their magic cards. If you have completed at least 6 artifacts you win.
Let me start by saying that I am only reviewing the solo variant for this game. I haven’t played the standard multiplayer version. The game mechanics intrigue me so I wanted to see how it worked as a solo game. That being said, the box says it is a 2-4 player game even though a cooperative variant is included which allows the game to be played solo.
As a solo game, playing only one character, I find this game way too difficult. I love the idea of the cards manipulating the tiles and cubes allowing you to get cubes where you need them to be, but as a solo experience it is very difficult to have a big turn and you kind of need those to complete 6 or more artifacts. I played the cooperative game with two characters as well and it was better, but I personally do not like having to control two characters in order for a game to be a good solo game. I gave it a 3 because it can be played as multiple characters, but would have given it a lower score if reviewing it purely as a single character game.
That being said, I do love the puzzle aspect of this game. I like trying to find the best ways to get my meeple where it needs to be to collect the cubes I need for the current artifact. With the second character it is even better. I could see playing this as a cooperative game with 2 or 3 others and enjoying it quite a bit.
Manipulating the tiles and cubes makes for a fun puzzle
Plays quickly which allows for multiple plays in one sitting
The game is too difficult with only one character
The theme is lacking and doesn’t add anything to the game
Not having advanced options for the cooperative game seems lacking
The game is not difficult to learn or play. The magic cards are easily understood and you can pick up the basic structure of the game rather quickly.
What if I told you a tile placement game could be more than just building castles, roads and farms? What if you could play as a young hero going on an adventure to slay monsters, find magical artifacts, explore new places and find friendly characters, all while still playing a tile placement game? Sounds strange, right? But that’s more or less what Tales of Glory is.
What is Tales of Glory like?
You start of with just your hero tile and a few starting resources (combat power, magical power, potions and coins), and from then on, the fun starts. You’ll play 10 turns. Each turn you’ll have the option to add a new “adventure tile” to your board.
You’ll start with a set of cards numbered 1-8. Each turn you will choose (in secret) 1 of these numbers. The numbers match 8 “adventure tiles” displayed on a common board. Once everyone has chosen you all reveal what number tile you want. If you’re the only one with that number you get that tile (provided you can pay for it). If you picked the same number as one or more players, the player closest to the 1st player will get the tile and the others get to pick from what’s left.
The trick is of course deciding what the right tile is for you. There are 4 different types: monsters, characters, places and treasures:
Monsters require you to have a certain combat and/or magic level and generally gives you straight up prestige (victory points). So if you spend your turns acquiring more combat and magic power you’ll be able to defeat the more and more powerful monsters.
Characters do various things for you. Some provide you with extra combat and magic power, while others give you points at the end of the game for having a certain type of card or other conditions.
Places are interesting things. They normally don’t give you anything by themselves, but if you connect them to (i.e. place them next to) specific other “adventure tiles”, they will reward you with various bonuses.
Treasures gives your various resources (coins, potions, combat and magical power) and often provide locked chests you can unlock later.
So after you paid for one of the above tiles you get to place it somewhere connected to your already placed tiles. Placement can be very important here because some tiles have “half key” symbols. Matching up 2 of these will reward you with a key, that you can then use to unlock a chest symbol anywhere on any of your tiles, granting you various rewards. Placement of the tiles is also very important when you take the Places tiles into account.
You continue doing this for 10 rounds and then the game ends. The tiles are stacked in 3 ages, so the end of the game will bring more powerful (and more expensive) tiles.
At the end of the game whoever has the most prestige wins the game. Extra prestige is awarded for having the most coins, potions, combat power or magical power scores.
Tales of Glory is a great little game, combining simultaneous secret selection of tiles, with a little bit of tile laying, and set collection. It has charming art and a nice setting. There are multiple strategies to win the game and they all seem balanced. I really like it and I’ve enjoyed all my plays of it, with all of the player counts.
Only getting 10 rounds in each game makes it a fast and different experience each time. You quickly become very aware of what tiles are good for other players and what tiles you think are safe bets. Picking the same tile as someone else can be brutal if you are later in the turn order, so trying to predict what other people will pick becomes very important.
The tile placement is super interesting, especially if you have some of the Places tiles. But even without them getting the half-key symbols to match and unlocking a chest for rewards just feels so satisfying.
Another thing I really like about the game is how it scales. All tiles will show up with all player counts, so once you played the game a few times you know what tiles will show up later. You can of course not be sure that you will get them.
The game also comes with an advanced variant where all players start with 2 extra tiles at the beginning of the game. These tiles are not part of the pile you normally play with and are secret to all but you. You can play either or both on any of your turns. This gives you extra opportunities to score extra points at just the right time. These really add some nice depth and secret information and are great to play with once you know the game and the normal tiles.
Very nice setting and theme
Lovely and colorful art
Scaled well at all player counts
Some tokens are very small
Player order is critical at 4-5 player games
The rules for Tales of Glory are simply and easy to grasp. The rulebook is well written and has lots of nice illustrations. It’s a game that can be easily played with families but I still feel it has something to offer gamers too (especially with the advanced secret tiles).
Everdell is a worker-placement, engine and tableau builder designed by James A. Wilson and released by Starling Games. In the game players build their own forrest city in a fable world, that really comes to life through the beautiful artwork by Andrew Bosley. The game has gained some notability through the use of a 3D tree that only serves as a card standard and is of hardly any utility in the game. But is a show stopper at your gaming table. Everdell was the Runner-Up at the 2018 Golden Geek awards in the artwork and presentation category. Is artwork and presentation everything Everdell brings to the table or is there more that meets the eye?
What is Everdell like?
The most striking thing about Everdell is the tree that is placed in the center of the table and serves as a holder for the players’ workers and the objective cards. Even though the tree is purely cosmetic and a gimmick, it is a nice attention-grabber and works very well. In a 4-player game though the tree, because of its height, can prevent you from seeing what cards your opponents have played. Personally I haven’t been bothered by this too much.
The gameplay in Everdell is all about a large deck of cards that consists of Construction and Critter cards. Players are dealt out a starting hand of these cards, but there are also eight cards laid out on the board which players can also always choose to play. This is called the meadow and serves as an extended hand for all players. The game takes place over four rounds that are named after the 4 seasons. Players take turns taking actions; either by placing a worker in a forest location or playing a construction or critter card in front of them. This way players build their little forest-city. This so-called city may consist of a maximum of 15 cards, so players must take into account what cards they want to play in their city, due to limited space. Alternatively workers can also be placed on event cards to achieve the event bonus or on a construction card in a players city with a worker placement spot on them. After running out of actions players will move to the next season and regain their used workers, but also get additional workers to use. This way the game ramps up the possible worker placement options for players throughout the course of the game.
Collecting resources with their workers to be able to play construction and critter cards from their hand or meadow in their city is largely what players are after. Similar to the game 7 Wonders, Everdell also has a chain option, were each construction card allows you to play the matching critter card for free. This can help tremendously in speeding up your gameplay and will certainly cost you less resources throughout the game. However players waiting for that free critter to show op might get disappointed when this eventually never happens. Players should instead take a tactical approach and make the most with what cards they do have. Building up your city with cheap cards or saving resources to build the more expensive cards are both valid options. I have seen players with very different approaches win the game.
Interaction between players is minimal. Competing for cards from the meadow is certainly possible and there are constructions in you opponents cities your workers can visit for an action. There are even a few critters that directly interact with your opponent, but players are mostly building their own engine and city.
There is also a solo mode, where a single players plays against Rugwort an automated player who will build cards from the meadow. There are a few different Rugwort characters to play against. I have done so once and actually lost to him.
Everdell is a highly tactical game. It is hard to pre-plan strategically because of the randomness of how the cards show up. Everdell does try to alleviate this with a shared ‘hand’ that is the meadow. Another great thing is that you won’t end up with useless cards in your city because every card you play in your city will be worth points at the end of the game. Everdell can create some analysis paralysis, especially in the beginning of the game because players have fewer workers and every action is so important. After the winter season the game becomes a bit more forgiving because players receive more workers. After every turn you have to re-evaluate your options because action spots or cards from the meadow you planned on taking might have been taken by your opponents.
Although Everdell doesn’t do much what other games haven’t done before Everdell does combines a number of game mechanisms in a fun way and gives you a sense of building something beautiful. Despite the slick appearance, it is a good game mechanically. Trying to combo a few cards to get that extra berrie to be able to play that Critter next turn. Snagging a card from the meadow right before your opponent can play it. Or building on top of a construction card with the Crane because it has had its use. Exploring the synergies between the cards is part of the fun. Are you very fond of the art style and does the theme of building a fable-city appeal to you immensely, then you will not be disappointed. Personally I let the slick appearance and great gameplay overshadow its shortcomings.
One of the most satisfying aspects of an engine builder game is to see your card synergies come alive. So to combat the randomness even more there is even a fan variant where the huge deck of cards is split into two separate decks. Players use 1 deck for the winter and spring seasons, and the other for the summer and spring. This way it is more likely construction cards and their ‘free’ critter card show up during the same half of the game, What this also does is create a focus on collecting resources and production first deck and then shifts to gaining points, events and end game scoring in the second deck.
Everdell shows some similarities with 7 Wonders, Wingspan and Imperial Settlers. But it also has elements of a light worker placement game. The complexity level is about on par with Imperial Settlers as there is quite some text to read on the cards. One slightly confusing concept of the game is that players could each be playing in different seasons. So one player could switch from spring to summer, while their opponent still has actions left in the spring and will switch to summer in a later turn. The essence of a tableau builder game like Everdell is that there is a slight learning curve to all the synergys and combos, and it might take more than one play to appreciate that. Everdell for me is more than the sum of its pieces. I love how simple the game is at its core, while it still lets players do creative things with the cards they are dealt.
Fertility is a very straightforward and charming game about placing domino style tiles on common board to obtain resources (Alabaster, Bovines, Papyrus flowers and Grapes), that you then spend to develop your own personal board with district tiles. Resources gained don’t carry over to the next round, so you have to have the right empty spots on your district titles to be able to store them.
What is Fertility like?
On your turn there are 3 simple steps:
Mandatory: Place a domino tile (Valley tile) and collect resources.
Optional: Build a District tile on your Metropolis (personal player board).
Optional: Supply Shops (on your District tiles) in your Metropolis (personal player board).
The first thing you do is pick 1 of the 3 domino tiles in front of you and place it on the shared common board. At least one of the resources has to match another resource already on the board. You’ll get resources based on how many adjacent resources matched the tile you placed, so matching more will give you more resources. Placing the domino next to wheat fields will increase your wheat holding, the more wheat you have at the end of the game, the more points you’ll score!
You now have the option of buying one of the district tiles on display. They’ll cost you 1-3 of the resources you just acquired. Why do you want to buy these? Well it’s simple, they will help you score points if you fill them up with the right resources. You have room to buy a total of 7 in the game. How these districts score you points is different.. Some are simple like putting t an Alabaster and a Grape here and score 5 points. Some will give you God statues, these are worth points based on the number of different ones you have at the end of the game. Others will score points based on how many resources you have placed of a certain type on your player board.
The last thing you do on your turn is to supply your shops (that are on the district tiles) with any resources you have left. You can’t store any resources for future rounds, so if you don’t have a spot for them on your player board they are lost.
Overall I had a great time playing Fertility. It’s a fun and interactive domino placement and resource management game. It’s easy to learn and plays pretty fast.
You spend your turns placing titles, gathering resources and spending them. It sounds a little too simple right? But I don’t think it is. There is a lot of interacting going on on the main board. At the start of the game just want as many resources as possible, but as you acquire district tiles for your player board, certain resources will be worth a lot more to you, than others. Also you quickly realise that placing your dominos in certain spots might give the next player a very good move (and we can’t have that can we?). Balancing how many districts to buy is also a fun puzzle. I like that there are multiple ways to score points, with the shops, wheat storage and God statue collections.
Collecting wheat seems to be a very straightforward way to score a lot of points and it is very powerful. So if you let someone get away with getting all the wheat they are in a good position to win the game.
There is also monument building, that can be very powerful if you manage to surround and empty field when placing a domino title. If you have the most (or second most) of these placed at the end of the game you get a very nice chunk of extra points.
The only real minor letdowns of the game are the tiny resource tokens and the iconography that could also be better (specifically the God statues symbols that look very similar). This can make it hard to track what your opponents are going for in their districts.
Works well with all player counts
Multiple paths to victory
Great artwork and colours
Resources tokens and the domino tiles are a little too small
The God statue symbols are very similar
The theme of the game could be pretty much anything
Fertility is an easy game to pick-up and teach. But it does offer a little depth and strategy too.
Tiny Towns is a quick puzzle of a game, featuring pattern matching and town building. Players take turns choosing 1 of the games 5 different resources that they then place on their own 4 x 4 grid. Every other player has to take the same resource and place it as well. So why are people doing this? To build various buildings. After you placed a resource on your board, you can build a building, if you have a matching pattern of resources. The buildings will, for the most part, score you points in various ways. Once your board is filled up you’re done.
After my first play of Tiny Towns I wasn’t really that impressed. Sure the game was well designed, had great components, played pretty fast and could support up to 6 people. But I just didn’t really connect with it. Normally this is the end of game for me, but fate had other plans this time.
A few days after my initial 5 player game I was home sick, and decided I should give the games solo rules a shot, since it was a short game and I was curious to try out some of the other card/building combinations…
…And I’m so glad I did, because I had a blast!
Even with a slight fever I played 4 solo games of it, back to back. It was really a completely different experience once I knew what to look out for and how the game worked. I loved trying out different strategies and the different combinations of the buildings. The solo implementation is one of the best I’ve tried. Super simple, yet it will cause you some headaches (in a good, not feverish kind of way).
I’m now excited to try the game out again, both as a solo game, and together with other people.
If this tongue twister of a name doesn’t yet grab your attention, I hope the name of the designer will! Wolfgang Warsch has skyrocketed the game designer scene with several successful titles in 2018. High time for me to have a taste of Warsch’s awarded boardgame brew: The Quacks of Quedlinburg!
What is The Quacks of Quedlinburg like?
In The Quacks of Quedlinburg players pose as miracle doctors selling homebrewed medicinal potions at the city’s bazaar. Smelly feet, upset stomach or aching heart? There’s a fix for every infirmity. Players spend their turns concocting cures by means of bagbuilding and push-your-luck. Better potions generate higher income, which in turn can be spent to gain valuable ingredients. But adding one Cherry Bomb too many to the mix will cause a player’s pot to explode!
The Quacks of Quedlinburg consists of 9 rounds. Players start the game with identically composed ingredient bags which they can fill up with more quality ingredients at the end of each round.
The brew pots have a spiraling numbered track on which the ingredients are to be laid out. To prepare their potions, players draws chip after chip from their bags and place them on the appropriate numbered space. The further a player advances along the track the more points and income are up for gains.
The ingredients all exist in varying qualities: chips of values 1, 2, 3 or 4. Each subsequently drawn ingredient is placed ahead of the previous one and the ingredient quality determines how many spaces to skip. Thus higher quality ingredients propel players faster along their potion track. Except for the white Cherry Bombs and the orange Pumpkin Spice the ingredients grant additional actions. Blue, red and yellow ingredients grant actions while brewing. Green, purple and black ingredients grant actions during scoring.
Every player ingredients bag holds from the start seven white Cherry Bomb chips with values varying from 1 to 3. These white chips add a little fizz to a player’s mix, but If the sum of white chips drawn exceeds the value of 7 the player’s pot blows up.
Once everyone has decided to stop drawing chips – or has been forced to stop because of an explosion – players move on to the scoring.
All players look at the spiraling potion track and determine their potion value by looking at the first uncovered space after their last placed ingredient. Who didn’t cause an explosion will gain both points and money depicted on that spot. Players that did explode need to choose to gain one or the other. Earned money can be spent to buy a maximum of 2 ingredients. Unspent money is lost. Some spots on the potion track gift players precious rubies. These are worth points at game’s end or can be traded for potion brewing benefits.
Divinations and Rat-tails
At the start of every round a divination of the fortune teller is read aloud. All cards in this deck trigger unique effects every round.
Also from round 2 onwards – before the brewing starts – players behind count on the scoreboard how many rat-tails are between them and the leader(s). As a catch-up-mechanic these rat tails are to be added to their brew for the round, to thrust them further along their potion tracks.
In essence The Quacks of Quedlinburg toys with possibilities, probabilities and players’ aspirations. Every draw turn could be a simple consideration of how many good ingredients remain in relation to bad Cherry Bomb chips. The game lures in calculated players with a manifold of ingredients effects and possible combos. However, multiple game elements impede level-headed decisions. One important rule adds a lot of sparkle: players are never allowed to look inside their ingredient bags! So as the game progresses players start to lose track of their acquired chips, while the stakes gradually get higher. I love that some ingredient effects pit players directly against one another in a struggle for the majority. This tricks even the most calculated players into taking risks. The Quacks of Quedlingburg was crowned “Kennerspiel des Jahres” and I do feel Wolfgang Warsch mixed up known game mechanisms into a new and refreshing board game experience. Just be warned this game is fairly arbitrary and for players that can’t stomach bad luck it’ll sometimes turn sour.
Lots of variability
Great graphic design and clear iconography
Cool catch-up mechanic
Option for simultaneous play resulting in little down-time
Draw bags are a bit flimsy, especially in the early rounds with only few ingredients inside
The Quacks of Quedlinburg’s distilled gameplay makes it easy to teach and swift to play. The various and interchangeable sets of ingredients allow tailoring a game to different levels of players. A neat catch-up mechanic prevents a runaway leader; thus keeping all players on edge the full 9 rounds. Mastering The Quacks of Quedlinburg is to evolve from a grab-happy player to a skilled risk manager. But lady luck will sure come toy with players their strategies.
Wingspan is the newest game from Stonemaier Games. That is enough for some to be interested in this game. The game was designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and has beautiful watercolor-like illustrations by Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas and Beth Sobel. A complete women’s team! Wingspan created a lot of interest and hype among board game enthusiasts in the first quarter of 2019. The game, but also the designer got a nice spotlight article in the New York Times.
What is Wingspan like?
Players take on the role of bird lovers or researchers, who try to find the best birds and attract them to their forest, meadow or water habitat. There are three different habitats, each with an associated action. Each of which is part of this engine builder game: The forest habitat provides players with food through food tokens, that one can grab based on the available dice in the bird feed dice tower. The meadow habitat allows players to lay eggs on birds that have space in their nest. And finally, the water habitat yields new bird cards that ties in with the last possible action of playing a bird card from your hand to your tableau. For this you have to pay for them with the food tokens. Every bird offers an advantage in its appropriate habitat. Some offer this advantage upon placement in the habitat and others activate every time its owner activates that habitat action. There are also some public and private goals to give players a number of strategic choices in every game in every round and before the end of the game.There a some other rules but that is basically how Wingspan plays.
The game has a simple ruleset and gives players just enough meaningful options to keep gamers interested. The game has a few strategic elements but is mostly tactical. Players have to try and make the most of the bird cards they gain throughout the game. Yes, players can get the exact bird cards that fit their engine or they might struggle to get a matching bird card. But it is never that frustrating as it sometimes is in other games like Terraforming Mars where some cards are just dead draws. The habitat actions also improve no matter what bird cards you play in that habitat.
Wingspan comes with 170 unique bird cards with realistic artwork, although there is some overlap in card abilities on the bird cards. It is the nice balance between collecting similar birds versus a variety of birds that contribute to the achievement of public / private goals. In every game of Wingspan I played I had the feeling I accomplished something. In fact, I even enjoy what my opponents are building in their habitats or what engine they are building. Wingspan is not a confrontational game and the interaction betweeen* players is limited to three things; taking resources your opponent needs from the bird feeder, taking bird cards you opponents might need. And lastly there are bird cards which react to certain actions you opponents take. For example, one of your birds has an ability which lets you take a food token from the bird feeder when an opponent takes a food token.
*Pun intended (The English version has misspelled the word; between, on several bird cards)
The production quality of this game is through the roof. The card holder from Gametrayz, the birdfeeder dice tower, plastic eggs and the linen finished rulebooks. It’s all quite a production. So if you are enamoured with all high quality components this game is easy to like.
On the other hand, Wingspan does not bring really innovative game ideas to the table. But it knows how to mix the game concepts very smoothly into what it is. There is a lot to explore and there is room for improvement and extension through expansions. Some valid criticism is that the bird cards come out a bit random and could favor one player over the other. It also feels that some birds are stronger than others, but usually this depends on the phase of the game. In the beginning food is important and later in the game eggs are more useful as they count as points as well. Drawing the right birds at the right time can really help your strategy. Just as drawing the right bonus cards for which you automatically score their points can cause a point swing players have no control over.
Does this make the difference between a good and a great game is for each to decide. Personally I find the randomness not disturbing enough to less appreciate the game. All in all a very satisfying tableau builder
Wonderful smooth gameplay
Great solo mode (via the Wingspan Automa Helper app)
Some might find it a bit repetitive
Not a lot of interaction
The rule book could be better
Wingspan is easy to teach, but I would advise learning the game from a explanation video. Although everything is written in the rulebook, things didn’t immediately clicked for me and after watching a rule video things were much clearer . Turns are simple and players choose between 4 actions; play a bird, collect food, collect eggs and draw cards. Choices come from playing correct bird cards in their habitat to create an engine to be able to gain small advantages. For example collecting bonus eggs, cards or save an action so that 1 of your 26 action in the whole game can be used more optimally.
Players: 1 – 5
Playing time: 45- 90 minutes
Suggested age: 10+
The fan created app Wingspan Automa Helper makes playing Wingspan solo a breeze:
2018 was yet another great year for board games. As the industry expands and more and more people get into the hobby so does the selection of great and diverse games. There are fantastic games for every taste now. It is just a matter of finding out what you like and then trying them out. These are my Top 6 Games of 2018.
Architects of the West Kingdom
If I were to describe my favourite style of game I would say: “A thematic, medium weight euro with great art and some unique elements”. This is also how I would describe Architects of the West Kingdom. Lovely art by The Mico always peaks my interest in a game, and when it’s the same publisher who brought me one of my all time favourites Raiders of the North Sea I knew I couldn’t pass this one by.
What makes this game truly stand out is the way the worker placement works (or worker investment as they call it). Instead of starting with a few workers you start with 20! Each turn you only play 1 of them, but the actions they trigger will grow more and more powerful over time. As you accumulate resources to construct buildings you’ll also need to hire assistants, decide if your virtuous or sneaky. It’s all amazing fun! I had the pleasure of demoing this for Essen SPIEL ‘18. I loved to teach it to new people and see how different they approached it.
Without a doubt KeyForge is the game I played the most in 2018. Created by the legendary Richard Garfield, this game is in many ways an evolution of the collectable card game Magic the Gathering. With one very key difference: You can only buy randomly generated decks that you can’t mix together. This sounds crazy right? And it is, but crazy in a good way. It has a fun and wacky theme that I love with a great art style, and on top of that it has a super interesting design.
There’s so many things I love about in addition to the unique decks. I love how the game has removed all kind of resources that you normally have in card games like, how you can only play and activate cards from one of the 3 houses in your deck each turn and how it’s a race to forge 3 keys first (hence the name KeyForge). It will feel familiar to other card gamers yet accessible to new players. I can’t wait to see what Fantasy Flight Games have in store for KeyForge.
Ganymede is simple, light, streamlined, great looking, offers a lot of options and a great engine / tableau building feel. It’s such a well crafted experience and I absolutely love it. The premise of the game is simple. Launch shuttles from Ganymede (a moon orbiting Jupiter) with specific coloured meeples on them. Your meeples start on earth, of course. From there you have to get them to Mars before they can make the final stop to Ganymede (and their shuttle that will score you points). You do this by selecting different cards and titles that get more and more powerful the more of the same colour you collect. But collecting different sets is also rewarded, so there is always a constant push/pull of what is the best option.
While the theme is not super apparent, I still think the art style and setting makes a great abstract game feel thematic. An expansion (called Moon) will also be released for it, adding more thematic components.
Chronicles of Crime
Who doesn’t like a good mystery? I know I do. I really like the idea behind the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective games, where you try to solve a case by searching for clues, talk to suspects, witnesses and other people. But my main problem with that series of games is that it can just be to much hard work to read through generic text blocks and try to extract the important information. I wish I could ask specific questions to specific people and actually see certain locations with my own eye.
As if by magic Chronicles of Crime actually grants all my wishes. With the help of a great app driven system. I can now ask a suspect if they’ve seen the murder weapon before, if they know a specific person and stuff like that. It feels great. Add to that a certain time pressure. Things can change based on time passing. It is a truly remarkable experience, that I highly recommend to anyone that likes to solve mysteries.
You might have guess that I’m a sucker for beautiful games. Beauty, however, can not stand alone. A beautiful game that I don’t enjoy the theme and mechanisms of, will never find a place in my collection. Solenia will get a place. It’s one of those rare gems that I think is both beautiful to look at, has great mechanisms, a nice theme and to top it all of it just feels great to play.
Technically this could be described as a “pickup and deliver” game (a genre I don’t normally like). But Solenia features quite a few unique and great innovations to this genre. As you travel around a world with one side in eternal darkness and the other side bathed in light, you play cards with holes in the middle. You slide and flip boards so that your options always change as day turns to night. Your cards that “fall of the board” will gain you different bonuses. It sounds weird, I know, but it creates a really great light game experience that I can’t wait to revisit. Also this is a great quick game suitable for casual gamers too.
I’m normally very wary of heavier games. If a game takes longer to play and has a higher complexity I have to like it that much more for me to add it to my collection. Underwater City is on of those heavier and more complex games that I truly adore.
In Underwater Cities you, yes you guessed it, build cities under water. So there is a certain spatial aspect to the game. But the truly great aspect of the game is the “worker placement”. Instead of placing a worker on an action space you play a card on it. If the card matches the colour of the action space you get to do both the action and the effect on the card. So very often you want a certain action on the board but dont have the right colour card for it or the other way around. It’s a simple, but great concept. that adds a lot of great tension to game about building the best city network under water, producing the right resources and scoring the most points. It’s great stuff.
Choose and order, pick a hero and build your deck to take down your opponent in Lightseekers by Playfusion. Lightseekers is a dueling game that brings something new to the CCG duel genre.
What is Lightseekers like?
Collectible card games (CCGs) are either loved or hated by most board and card gamers because of the business model behind the game itself, which consists of buying packs of random cards hoping to find what you want inside. Lightseekers is no different than other CCGs in this regard, but that is not what I want to talk about in this review. Does Lightseekers bring something unique and interesting as a game itself?
Lightseekers is primarily a one vs one card game, but it can also be played multiplayer where you attack the person on your left and defend against the person on your right. For the most part the game plays very similar between multiplayer and two-player. For the purposes of this review I will only be looking at the two-player option of the game.
Lightseekers is primarily a one vs one card game similar in idea to other games such as Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon and Yu-gi-oh. Each player brings a deck of cards that they have constructed from their collection of cards. In Lightseekers you bring a deck of 36 cards including a hero card, 5 combo cards and 30 additional cards (which may include action and item cards). The hero card gives you your starting health, the elements available to that player (which determines what you put into your deck) and a potential ability as well. The combo cards give you a strong action that requires more than a normal action card to play. The action cards give a wide variety of options to help you as well as hurt your opponent.
Each turn the players get 2 actions. Players can either draw 2 cards, play 2 action cards, play 1 action card and draw 1 card, or play a combo card (this costs both of the player’s actions). There are a myriad of different types of cards and abilities on the cards that can change what you are allowed to do that turn, but for the most part you play the 1 or 2 action cards you want on a turn and then, if you have any remaining actions, you may draw 1 or 2 cards. When playing action cards you must have access (shown on your hero or item card) to the element at the top of the card and can only play 1 of each element unless you have superior access to that element allowing you to play 2 of that type. In order to play a combo card you use both actions of that turn and return cards to your deck matching the element symbols on the top of the card.
There are several different types of cards that can be played. Item cards attach to your hero and potentially give you access to different elements and/or abilities. Buff cards stay in play and rotate each turn giving you bonuses, dealing damage or healing you as they turn. Defend cards give you health or protect from attacks and attack cards boost damage dealt or deal damage themselves.
Once a player has been reduced to zero health, the game is over.
As much as I struggle with the idea of collectible card games, mostly because they can be very expensive in order to compete, I do enjoy Lightseekers quite a bit. The game has a pretty low barrier to entry, other than cost. The toughest part is building a deck, but there are lists online and playing with a starter deck is a great way to begin. After only a couple plays with a starter deck a player can see what kinds of things they would do to change their deck.
The most unique thing that really adds to the fun of the game are the potential combos you can do with the Buff cards. Buff cards are cards that stay out in play either until they are removed or rotate out. The cards normally rotate 90° every turn, but some Buff cards never rotate and others only rotate when certain things happen. The Buff cards give you more ways to hurt your opponent or help you on each turn and playing Buff cards at the right time can be really exciting when you are able to do much more than on a normal turn.
The Combo cards bring with them some massive swings in momentum. Each deck must contain 5 Combo cards and when played at the right time they can make you feel powerful by sealing major damage, heal you from the brink or something else that is potentially game-changing.
Another thing I really enjoy are the difficult choices. You only have so many cards in hand and deciding to pass and draw cards may not sound like an exciting turn, but even that can be what sets you up to win. Sometimes you have cards of one element and you want to play them all, but you can’t because your hero can only play one of them per turn, so determining the order can be a tough decision and determine the outcome of the game. There are so many tough decisions every turn which makes Lightseekers a very good game.
Another unique aspect to the game that I did not discuss is that each physical card you have can be scanned in and used in an app version of the game. I personally love this as it allows me to build and try out decks more often than I could otherwise.
Barrier to entry is low and the starter decks provide a good jumping off point
Each turn you face tough decisions
The Buff cards provide a unique opportunity to create game-changing turns
The collectible aspect will turn people away
There is a lot of text on the cards, so knowing each card is vital
The gameplay is pretty straightforward and the basics are easy enough to understand. The difficulty lies in the deck-building and strategy behind when to play what card. Players from a pretty young age can grasp the rules of the game without a problem, but it takes a good mind to master the game.
Build your fleet and destroy your opponent. As with most good space themed games or movies, Star Realms: Frontiers puts you in the middle of a battle for space. You command a space force consisting of one or multiple different factions to take on the enemy. Will they bring others from similar factions or unite the remaining factions to stake their dominance?
What is Star Realms: Frontiers like?
To put it simply, Star Realms: Frontiers is just like Star Realms. If you’ve played the original, then you can pick up the new standalone version and start playing immediately.
If you haven’t played the original, then Star Realms and Star Realms: Frontiers are deck-building games where you go head to head with your opponents in an epic space battle. Each turn you draw your hand of cards and use them to purchase new cards from the trade row, attack your opponent, defend your fleet or increase your health.
Using the trade accumulated by your played cards you can purchase cards from the trade row, placing them in your discard pile. Most cards that you add to your deck belong to a specific faction and can trigger faction bonuses when played with other cards from that faction. Each faction specialises in something different. The blue faction gives you health, the yellow lets you draw more cards, the red helps you get rid of weak cards and the green hits your opponent hard. Of course, each faction can also allow you to do other things as well.
Attacking your opponent is as simple as seeing how much attack strength you have and your opponent decreasing their health by that same number. That is, unless they have bases. There are two types of bases in the game. No matter the type of base it has a defence amount that determines the attack needed to destroy it. If it isn’t destroyed it stays in play until it is. Outpost bases are a little different in that they must be attacked first whereas other bases can be ignored and damage dealt straight to the opponent bringing them closer to destruction.
After you have added any health accumulated from the cards you discard cards and draw a new hand of cards. Play continues until one player is reduced to zero health.
While Star Realms is primarily a two player game there are modes for more and fewer players. The solo challenges involve playing different bots which have simple rules to follow on their turn. The game plays similar to a two-player game, in fact your turn is the exact same. On the bots turn you do whatever the challenge card says and that is it.
I’ve enjoyed Star Realms since it originally came out and Star Realms: Frontiers improves on the original. The whole Star Realms series is a solid deck-building game, but what you get in this box is flexibility. Want to play solo? Cooperative? 2-4 players? You can with only what comes in this box. Of course, you can also add a variety of other expansions to spice up the game and give even more options.
What I love most about this game is it is solid for new and experienced players. Since the trade row only consists of 6 possible cards to purchase, players don’t have a lot of options when trying to determine what is best to buy. Experienced players can enjoy the base game by itself, but all of the small expansions give so much more depth to the game that they could play it over and over without getting bored.
My favourite aspect, though, are the solo challenges. I play a decent amount of solo games and Star Realms: Frontiers has several things going for it as a solo option. The ease of setup and play makes the game a great option for when you only have a short amount of time to play a game. It’s also easily transportable making it perfect for taking on trips. The best part is the different challenges that are included in the box. Each challenge can be played at a different difficulty, but they also are very different from each other, providing a nice variety making each game potentially very different.
New and experienced players can easily enjoy this game
What comes in this box provides great depth for old and new Star Realms players
It seems infinitely expandable since you can combine the original, colony wars and all of the small expansions as well
Storage for anything beyond the box can be a pain
The gameplay is pretty straightforward and the basics are easy enough to understand. While the game is recommended for players 12 and older, I think younger kids could easily pick up the rules. Where they might struggle is knowing the best cards to buy to maximise their deck.