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BETHESDA, MD - A recent round of the popular social deduction game Secret Hitler left a local game group horrified by the seemingly effortless deception skills of one of their friends. Karen McAdams, local interior decorator, completed an impressive twelve-game winning streak Thursday night, lying and manipulating without the slightest hint of remorse, leading some in the group to question just what else she might be hiding.

Karen’s friend Molly Vanderbelt was left blindsided. “Karen just obliterated all of us. It didn’t matter what side she was on; by the end of the game she convinced all of us to distrust and destroy each other, again and again. She convinced me to assassinate Bill three times in a row. Three times!”

Asked if Karen had a history of deception, Vadnerbelt grew suspicious. “I always thought she was truthful. She always listens and gives great advice. It’s Karen. I mean, I trust her, you know? Or at least, I thought I did. But now that I think about it, what if she’s just been lying all along? Like the advice she gave me when I dumped my boyfriend two years ago. She told me I could do better, which helped finally ditch the guy. What if she was just saying that? I haven’t had a date in six months! Should I have just settled?”

Karen’s husband, Bill McAdams, defense contractor for Lockheed-Martin, has also been looking at Karen with newfound suspicion. “You should have heard her. She looked me straight in the eye and told me she wasn’t fascist. The next turn, she assassinated me, right in front of everyone. You think you can trust someone, but I guess in life there are traitors. There really are no spouses in board games.”

Bill continued, “Then I started thinking about her 10 p.m. nightly Pilates classes. I looked online, and there isn’t a single studio in town open past eight. Where is she going every night? I looked at the bank account statement. Why are there so many transfers back and forth to Russia? We don’t even know anyone there.”

Nonstop Tabletop managed to track down Karen for an interview. When asked if her skill at Secret Hitler deception had disturbing implications for her real-world trustworthiness, Karen laughed. “What, that silly game? No, no, I just got lucky. Say, didn’t you write that awesome article on how to turn classic board games into drinking games? That was so clever; you must have won some sort of award for that.”

Karen giggled as the twirled her long red hair around her finger. “I like your shirt; it makes your eyes look so strong and radiant… Let’s continue this later. I have a Pilates class to get to.”

According to Bill, things with Karen weren’t always so mysterious. “I’ve always felt such a connection with Karen. Like when we first met at the grocery store. She just came up out of nowhere and started talking to me. We had everything in common. She liked all my favorite restaurants, she knew every obscure indie band I loved, and she’d even seen all of the 1940’s film noir movies I watched over and over again in college. She could quote Double Indemnity line for line. It was like she she could read my mind.”

Bill pulled out his wallet as he continued. “Here, let me show you a picture. Hey, where’s my security clearance card? Oh my God... Who did I marry?”

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Created by: Alastair Low and Giedre Olsauskaite
Players: 2
Time to learn: 5 minutes


Game Description/Game play

Peaks is a game of both skill and luck. Your goal is to match your board of black and white sided triangles to the middle board before your opponent beats you to it. Players begin by taking turns filling the middle board randomly. On your turn, you roll a die. This determines how many points you have to spend this turn. Each action has a various cost. You can spend your points any way you like:

  • (1 point) turn a piece on your board anticlockwise

  • (1 point) put a piece back in the pile

  • (2 points) tell another player to turn a piece

  • (3 points) take a piece from the pile

  • (3 points) swap a piece on your board with another on your board

  • (4 points) steal a piece from another player to empty space

  • (5 points) swap any 2 pieces between players

  • (6 points) flip the whole middle board

Verdict

Nonstop Tabletop found this to be a great two player game. There definitely was a bit of luck with the dice rolls and a bit of strategy by using your points in the best way. We enjoyed the freedom to spend the rolled points as we chose. Sometimes our dice rolls left us frustrated with a couple points short from a perfect move. We reviewed a prototype game so the components will be improve be publication. We would have a found a cheat card of the possible moves/point costs very helpful. We love that the game is small and easy to throw in your purse to play over lunch with a friend.

Pros
  • small and easy to play anywhere

  • simple and easy rules

Cons
  • definitely could have used a reference card for move/cost possibilities

 Gateway Game Score: 8/10Overall Rating: 7/10
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Publisher: Stuff By Bez
Players: 2-10
Duration on box: 2-45 minutes
Age recommended on box: 8+
Time to learn: 5 minutes


Game Description/Game play

Wibbell++ is a deck of 48 cards. The deck can be used to play a variety of words games. The game currently comes with five games and more games will be added as time goes on. Each card has a border, two letters, and a number. There are six borders. Some games use the various borders or this allows you to use a smaller deck while keeping the letters distributed appropriately. The letters are distributed throughout the cards with frequently used letters AEIONRS and T on the top and less frequently used letters on the bottom. A number on each card represents the number of times the less frequented letter appears throughout the deck.

The differentiation of borders, letters and numbers allows players to choose from a variety of games:

  • Wibbell: the fastest word game in the West, 10-25 minutes, 4-7 players, display two cards, players race to shout a single word containing a least one letter from each card

  • Alphabetickell: assemble an alphabetical sequence, 15-35 minutes, 2-5 players, players score points based of the number of cards they can put in alphabetical order by using a card from their hand, center table or passing

  • Faybell: a co-operative storytelling activity, 15-30 minutes, 2-5 players, players use the two letters on a card to develop a story

  • Phrasell: inventing amusing little phrases, 15-30 minutes, 5-15 players, players races to use the letters on 2 cards to invent the a four word phrase

  • Grabbell: silly, speedy recognition and slams, 2-3 minutes, 2-7 players, players each flip over one card, when turned over; all players are free to grab a card that matches one of the letters on their card

Verdict

Nonstop Tabletop would recommend this game to Word Lovers. There are variety of ways to play with this deck of cards. You can even get creative and invent your own games. While this game did have a lot of variety both with game play and number of players, the game fell a bit flat for us. All of the options were a bit overwhelming for our group. We do think this could be great in an academic setting. It would be a great way for kids to think outside the box and get the creative juices flowing.

Pros
  • Lots of game play options

  • Accommodates a large variety of player counts and ages

  • easy for newbies to learn

Cons
  • may be a bit too open ended for some groups

 Gateway Game Score: 6/10Overall Rating: 5/10
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Publisher: Garphill Games
Players: 1 player
Duration on box: 30-50 minutes
Age recommended on box: 12+
Time to learn: 10-15 minutes Game Description/Game play

* This is a review of the solo variant of Raiders of the North Sea not a review of Raiders of the North Sea.

The solo variant is plays very similarly to a standard game of Raiders of the North Sea. Setup remains the same as a 2 player setup. Your opponent does not require the normal start up Silver, Townsfolk cards, or worker. You take the first turn as you would in a standard game. Your opponent follows by playing a scheme card. The expansion comes with 23 scheme cards. At the beginning of your opponents turn, you turn over the top scheme card.  They will always choose to raid if they are able to. The scheme cards have Armor strength, and required Provisions listed at the top. If there is an available set of Plunder at the location on the card, along with your opponent have the required Armor strength and Provisions in their possession, they will raid.

A raid is carried out by returning the required Provisions to the supply and moving their score marker the required number of points on the victory points track. They take the Plunder from the location. If a Valkyrie is taken they move their Valkyrie token on the track and down one Armor on the track. The Valkyrie, Plunder and the worker are returned to the supply. 

If the opponent is unable to complete a raid, they will work. The scheme cards also have Armor, Provisions, or an Offering Tile to gain while working. The last thing on the scheme cards in a Village location on the bottom of the card. Regardless of whether your opponent raided or worked, the listed location is blocked in your following turn. The game ends the same as it would in a standard game. 

Verdict

WOW! I'm not sure I could love this variant any more! When I received the variant, I was surprised by it's small compact size. It initially worried me about how good it was going to be while playing. With only 23 cards, it fits easily into the standard box. As I broke out the game and dug into the rules, I realized there was a lot of information and possible playout on the cards. The rules were easy to understand and I was able to start immediately. The scheme cards are well laid out and easy to understand. I absolutely loved that the solo variant felt like I was playing a standard game of Raiders. I loved that there were options for the opponents turn depending on their current state in the game. If you are fan of Raiders of the North Sea, and enjoy playing solo game, this is a must buy!

Pros
  • compact sizes if easily in the standard box
  • plays like a standard game of Raiders
Cons
  • none... it's just awesome! :)
Gateway Game Score: 8/10Overall Rating: 10/10
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Publisher: Phil Schadt
Players: 2-4
Duration on box: 30-45 minutes
Age recommended on box: 9+
Time to learn: 5 minutes Game Description/Game play

In Cheese Quest, players are mice that have finally found a place to call home. The good news: lots to cheese and perfect place for a family. The bad news: other mice have also discovered this great location. The extremely bad news: CATS! Cats are lurking around every corner. With all that aside, your hunger keeps you focused on the real issue, getting two pieces of cheese back to your nest. 

The Cheese Quest board is set up by placing tiles around a central location, the Nest. Mouse traps, cheese and cats are placed by icons on the tiles. All players begin in the Nest. A deck of cards, referred to as the Pantry, are shuffled and each players is dealt two cards. The cards allow players to manipulate play in some way, hide your mouse, move a mouse outside of typical rules, move a cat etc... On your turn, you may perform up to three actions. These actions can be completed in any combination, even repeating the same action multiple times. You have five choices: move your mouse one space, pick up a piece of cheese, steal a card from the pantry, play a card from your hand, or disable an obstacle (traps or debris). Play continues between players until one mouse is able to bring two pieces of cheese back to the nest. This mouse is able to claim victory of the Nest and live with a full belly!

Verdict

Nonstop Tabletop loved this game! While playing, you were forced to sabotage your opponents but also make progress toward cheese collection. There was a good balance as the game progressed and at times you had to make tough decisions about what was more valuable to you. We loved that this game is great for the family. We enjoyed playing as a light filler game with adults only on our game nights but we also enjoyed playing this game with our families. The rulebook was easy to understand and well laid out. The components were nice. There are ADORABLE cat meeples. However, the adorable cat meeples left me a bit disappointed that my mouse and cheese was simply round dots. However, it did make it easy to carry my cheese by simply stacking. There are also extra tiles to create the board. This allows for lots of replayability and also allows the difficulty to be manipulated a bit. Overall, Nonstop Tabletop loved this game and would recommend it anyone that enjoys light filler games that are fitting for all ages. 

Pros
  • Easy to learn
  • Great for all ages
  • Adorable cat meeples
  • Well balanced
Cons
  • None! 
 Gateway Game Score: 10/10Overall Rating: 9/10
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Publisher: Puzzling Pixel Games
Players: 1 player
Duration on box: 5-15 minutes
Age recommended on box: 14+
Time to learn: 5 minutes Game Description/Game play

The Abandons is solo underground labyrinth adventure. There is a bit of press your luck in this card drafting game. To begin the game, you start with the labyrinth entrance card laid on the table. From here you choose which exit you would like to take. The cost of the exit is marked in diamonds. The cost is paid by drawing this many cards from the deck. Each card is drawn face down. The last card is turned face up and is your new card to place in the labyrinth or any item card.

Item cards are to be collected along your journey. You can choose to play them immediately or save them up. A map card allows you to look ahead in the deck, a bomb can blow up a dead end or a wall and a magical mirror can allow you to return to the entrance and explore a new path. You may also find a set of stairs which allows you to start your journey on a new level or ignore it and continue on your current path. The last item card is a collapse card. This means you must clear your entire path and start fresh. You continue on your path through the labyrinth until you draw the exit card. This means you have managed to escape - congrats! The game may also end if you find yourself in a dead and and are unable to backtrack. This means you are a permanent figure of the labyrinth - yikes!

Verdict

Nonstop Tabletop loved this light solo play. The rule book and artwork are both great. The rules were easy to understand. The artwork is beautiful. I loved the simplicity of the game while still enjoying a bit of mystery and excitement as the adventure moved on. There is not a lot of strategic and heavy thought with this game. In our opinion, the appropriate age is lower than 14 as there is little to no reading involved. My 9 year old daughter picked it up quickly and it's great beginning solo game for her to try out. If you enjoy a light solo play with a bit of mystery this game is for you!

Pros
  • Easy to learn
  • Fast play time
  • Solo play
Cons
  • Solo only play
 Gateway Game Score: 7/10Overall Rating: 9/10
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Publisher: 2D6.EE
Players: 2-4
Duration on box: 30-60 minutes
Age recommended on box: 10+
Time to learn: 5 minutes Game Description/Game play

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's off to work we go.... Dwarven Traders is a jewel miners treasure. Each turn, each player, or dwarf, is given the opportunity to take two action, mining and selling gems. Players can do one or both actions in any order. Each players mining cart can hold two gems. As gems are bought and sold, their worth also changes. Mining gems decreases their value while selling gems increases their value. 

The game is played over four rounds. Each round consists of a varied number of turns. Players continue taking turns mining and selling gems, until one player can no longer mine or sell. At this point, all players gems are sold for the listed price and players are given gold as victory points based off of their riches. After the fourth round, players count their gold. The richest of them all is the winner!

Verdict

Nonstop Tabletop enjoyed playing Dwarven Traders. The artwork was really intriguing. We loved the dwarves artwork and you also got to play with gems. The game play was simple and easy to learn. Each move is very public so there is little room for secret strategy. You can definitely sabotage your opponents plans by mining or selling before they get a chance. If you enjoy playing light family friendly games. This is definitely one to check out. We love the components and were excited to check this game out!

Pros
  • GEMS!!!!
  • Great artwork
  • Easy to learn
Cons
  • Possibly a bit repetitious in play
 Gateway Game Score: 7/10Overall Rating: 8/10
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