Check out our unboxing, how to play, and review of Magical Treehouse!
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 to 45 minutes (3-6 players)
TL; DR-Build a hero! 89%
Basics- Cards! Assemble! Custom heroes is another in the card crafting games lineup from AEG. This game is a trick taking game where one player will play any number of cards of one number, and every player after them will play cards of the same number or higher numbers until no one can play any more cards, and the last player wins the round. Then, the player who went last starts again. An example would be starting with three 4s, and then play continues to 3 10s. You can also skip other players by playing the exact same cards as the previous player, so even if that player has an awesome play, they might not get a chance get it out there! Players continue until they have no more cards in hand earning various rewards. The first player out in a round then earns victor points, power chips, and inserts, while the last player left in a round loses a point, but gains many more chips and inserts.
And here is where the game really takes off! Each insert will give you a new base number, add, subtract, or provide a new power. When the round comes to you, you can insert as many inserts as you want into a card, as long as they don’t cover ones already there, and then play these new custom heroes. The game starts with base cards numbering 1 to 10, but I have seen three 18s played on a turn! Powers have to be activated with power chips, but if you don’t use the power, you gain back a chip. While you modified that heroe, they are part of a common deck, so you might watch as the hero you made one turn is played by a different player a turn later
The game continues until a player has 10 victory points and wins. So you might be over the 10 victory point top, but unless you are the first one out with that many, play keeps going. Three way battles between players with 14 or more victory points make for some tense games!
Mechanics-I have a lot of trick taking games, but the custom nature of this one is really fun. You get a bit more choice in the game. Lots of games like this just screw you on the flop, but now you get the ability to build your own numbers should the ones you are dealt suck. But, what’s really fun is how much this little game will make you think. You really do send your time thinking about the different math combinations you can pull to make your next play. This is a simple game that hides a much deeper one! 5/5
Theme- Here is where this game gets screwed by my love of theme. Hearts is a fun game, but it has absolutely no theme. This game has some good art and the nature of how the inserts customize what the heroes are doing is fun, but there really isn’t a story. It feels like some anime world, but beyond that, there isn’t much here. This game has a fun, but not deep, theme. It tries! There are descriptions of things in the book, but again, this is like asking for a custom, story based, version of poker that doesn’t change the cards in any fundamental way. 3/5
Instructions– Did you see the instructions up above? That’s the rules! The book says it nicer, shows pictures, and reads quick. This game isn’t hard to get into, and the rules make that transition quick. 5/5
Execution-Overall, i really like this game! The art is cool with a nice anime vibe. The inserts are great quality, as they build awesome heroes. The one things I don’t like are the card sleeves. AEG has to walk a hard line here. The card sleeves are the game, so they have to be rough and tumble enough to be used over and over. BUT, they are a bit too tough. They stick to each other way too much! Often when I’m about to hand out the 10th card for the round, I have everybody count to see if I have given them 10 already because the cards are stuck together. It’s not game ending, but it’s a slight annoyance that will drive you a bit mad. You can see our unboxing of the games here: https://youtu.be/3TAXTdlFGWA 4.75/5
Summary-Custom Heroes is just fun. It’s a small box game that teaches quick, plays fast, and isn’t bogged down in being too much. The art is great, the rules read easy, and the inserts are a fun addition to a simple game concept. I’d like to see more of this. I wish there was a story that we could build upon here to make more theme, but this is a simple game that any card player knows what to do next. Overall, it’s a blast that you will want to replay as soon as you finish your last game. 89%
Check out our Review of Space Base!
Producer– Alderac Entertainment Group
Price– $45 here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DMZR1QU/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_0
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 60 minutes (2-4 players)
TL; DR-Not perfect but amazing none the less.90%
Basics- Only you can save the vales! In Mystic Vale each player takes the role of different druid clans attempting to restore the world after a magic calamity. Each player has a deck of sleeved cards. At the start of each of a player’s turns, he or she reveals cards until three spoils symbols are revealed. The last card with a spoils symbol is placed on top of the player’s deck of cards and is “on-deck.” Players can also push their luck and harvest their on-deck card. If they do, they can continue to reveal new cards on-deck, and place them in their field. If they do, they may get extra points, but if they reveal another spoil symbol, then their turn is over. This game has a built in bonus for when a player does this however. A player has a token that if they spoil, they get to turn this token over and it allows them to use it as an extra mana, or purchasing power, in a future turn. The on-deck card is not part of a player’s “field” or cards a player can use to buy cards or gain points.
Here is where the game gets interesting. Each card has a number of symbols on it. These symbols are mana (money for extra card pieces), victory points, growth to counter spoils, and spirits (a second currency to buy vales or permanent cards). If a player doesn’t spoil, that player gains victory points, and then can spend mana to buy card inserts or spirits to buy vales. A player can buy two of each, each turn. Vales are placed in front of a player and provide a constant benefit and inserts are inserted into cards in a player’s field. Here is the major strategy of the game. A player doesn’t build as many intercard combos, but instead crafts intracard combos as new inserts unlock new abilities based on the symbols on the card. Additional symbols called guardians provide benefits only if a card has an ability that triggers off guardian symbols.
This game uses a victory point based mechanic to determine when it ends. Each game starts with victory point pool. When the pool is empty, each players receive an equal number of turns, but now take victory points from the box. After everyone has the same number of turns, players count count victory points on their cards, their vales, and the physical victory points they earned during the game. The player with the most points is leader of the best Druid clan and reigns supreme!
Mechanics-The card crafting mechanic of the game makes this an amazing game. I had a blast building different card combos. In addition, the nature of building your field means you can build off turn and have almost no down time. I’ve seen games take as little as 20 minutes when four experienced players hit the table. I also love any game that has two different markets. I get bored when the victory strategy is build the biggest card to win, and this game doesn’t have that at all. The drawbacks of the game are player interactivity and a runaway victory. I am basically running a race against myself. Other other players steal cards from you, but only from the buying pool. I really don’t need the other people at the table. Furthermore, if someone has the best card inserts due to the available cards, then that person will win. There is strategy, but if they play better, they will win and nothing you do will stop them. You can only just be better at the start and not fall behind. It’s not a bad game, but know that going in! 4.25/5
Theme- Mystic Vale has a ton of theme, but it is a theme you must find yourself. The game can be simply played as deck builder with a new mechanic of building cards instead of decks, and this will not detract from the game at all. However, if you are like me, you really want to have a massive amount of story to your game. It’s here, but you need to dig for it. From the terms like field being where you harvest your mana to the idea of spirits revitalizing the mystic vales, you get a story as you play. But, that means theme is not front and center. 4/5
Instructions-This is an awesome game that teaches quick, plays fast, and masters instantly. You don’t feel stupid stepping up to this game as you get a quick intro with enough introduction to get you gaming quickly. By the end of turn two you have the game down pat. Also the helper cards are amazing! They really do get you gaming faster. 5/5
Execution-I love everything in this box, but the game’s execution suffers from its main mechanic. The art is amazing. The cards are good quality. The box has beautiful dividers. This game is almost everything I want to see in a deck builder. But, every card has three sections. Since you want to have the new cards inserts work in each spot, you have to divide the card insert pool by one-third. That means the game can grow a bit stale semi quickly. Luckily two expansions have been announced already. It’s a minor problem, but it’s one worth mentioning. If you want to see a full unboxing check out our video here https://youtu.be/cPVRTU2h5bk 4.75/5
Summary-Mystic Vale is one of my new favorite games. It’s fun to get to the table. It’s phenomenally fast to learn and play. It’s gorgeous, and it’s fun to insert cards into sleeves and unlock their power. That said, it’s not without it’s faults. The game doesn’t fix common deck building problems. The theme isn’t as strong as I’d like, and you might get tired of seeing the same card after 10 plus plays. But if you play a game over 10 times, then the game is a win as it keeps you coming back for more. It does for me. Despite the faults, I’d recommend this over many other deck builders out there. 90%
Price– $20 here
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 20 minutes (2-4 players)
TL; DR-A great mix of a Euro and Yahtzee 94%
Basics- UNDER THE SEA! Octodice is spiritual successor of Aquanauts, a game where players battle octopods, research, and develop an undersea lab in a heavy euro game. In Octodice, players do all the same, but using dice to dictate the actions. At the start of a player’s turn, the player rolls six dice, chooses two to keep, then rerolls the rest, chooses two to keep, and rerolls the last two. These dice are divided into two groups-black and white. Black dice have a colored number on them or an octopod. The white dice have an action or an octopod. The active player then chooses two pairs of dice (each pair consisting of one black and one white die). The final pairs being used do not have to match the pairs made when rolling the dice. The player then uses the action on one and the color/number on the other. The actions are: collect gems (collect points based on the number on the black die), research (get points in order by moving down a color path using the proper color and the action die on each step), develop (improve your lab and get new dice options or end game points), get robots (earn points now, two robots per each color), and get subs (put the robots in the sub and earn points after every other round).
After a player chooses his/her two dice pairs, every other player can also choose to use two of the dice in any combination, not necessarily the same combination as the current player. Players can do this twice per round. Finally after choosing dice, the player looks for octopods. The octopods destroy the station and gum up the works. If a player does not have two octopods on his/her dice by the end of that round, that player loses two points. However, if the player has two or more octopods in the dice pool, then they score extra points!
Play then moves to the next player. After everyone has two turns, players check to see if they knock out two or more octopods in the round and score points for each robot in the same colored sub. After players play a total of three rounds, having a scoring phase after each two turns, the player with the most and second most gems earns more points, players with extra developed labs score points, and the player with the most points is the best aquanaut and is the winner!
Mechanics– I hate Yahtzee. It feels like I don’t get a choice, my decisions don’t matter, and I just have to be bored while other players roll dice. This game has none of those problems! Sure, randomness is a part here, but the amount of options I have at all times makes me really enjoy this game. I’m seeing more and more games where the players have things to do off turn. Instead of spacing out on Pokemon GO, the other players get to see what I’ve done and still remain engaged with the game since they are looking for dice pairs to use. I get my euro, but there is still enough random to keep it fun. 5/5
Theme- This game is fun, but I don’t really feel like an undersea researcher. Most of the time, I never do the research option. I develop my lab most often and then send out robots and subs to make points. It feels like a slight disconnect between a game of sea scientists and what I do. 4/5
Instructions-If you understood the rules above, then all you need to play is to understand the rules for developing your lab. Beyond that, this is a game you learn in about one minute, then play in 15. The rules have enough to cover what they need to cover, and they don’t overstay their welcome. 5/5
Execution– I made an unboxing video of this game where you can see all the pieces at https://youtu.be/9gaHRrZs-qY. What’s in the game box is great. The pieces and the game footprint are small, but all well made and work for the game. Heck, on my anniversary my wife and I played this at our table in a fancy restaurant! The dice are nicely colored wood instead of plastic. I *might* like rewritable tablets as I might run out of game pads for scoring, but I know the PDF is online. Also, I would like pencils in the box! Much like other dice games, I hate when I have to scrounge up a writing device. But, my small gripes aside, this game is well put together. 4.75/5
Summary-I said above I hate Yahtzee, but this game is an amazing combination of Yahtzee and a euro. AND I LOVE IT! You get the fast pace of its American parent, the interaction of a great dice game, and the deep thinking of a euro. Sure, you can’t expect the depth of a much longer game, but what you get is a great experience. You can learn it quick from the rules and teach it even quicker to your friends. The theme might be off and I want some golf pencils with AEG’s logo on them, but those are only minor complaints to how much fun I have had. If you need a good gift for under $20 or you want a great pub game then this is the game you are looking for. 94%
Product– Game of Crowns
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30-45 minutes (4-9(!) players)
TL; DR-Love Letter Evolved. 94%
Basics-In the Game of Crowns, you manipulate, scheme, triumph or you die! Game of Crowns is the next step in the evolution of Love Letter. Players take the role of one of several different noble houses trying to take the top spot in the kingdom. This is done over the course of three turns. Each turn, a player will play one card or attempt to trade cards. Trading is simple. The active player offers one card. Then, all other players have to offer a card in response. The active player can add a second card to his/her offer, and all players have to follow suit. Any player can sweeten their deal by offering crows (the main currency in the game). Finally, the active player chooses one other player, and they exchange cards. Playing cards is equally as simple. On a player’s turn, that player selects one card from his or her hand, and plays it for its action. You start with coinage and knights. Coinage is just choose a player, steal a random card, and then give them coinage. Knights are the main combat power of the game. When you use a knight you choose a player. Then, all players choose secretly if the defender or the attacker is the winner. After all players reveal their chosen side, all players can then spend crows to increase the power of their chosen side. Whoever wins gets to look at the other player’s hand, choose one card, and steal that card or to take a card from a random deck of cards that provides new ways to score points. The knight that started the fight is then discarded, and the losing side gets all the spent crows. After three rounds, players score points based on the cards in their hands. Some cards only give you points such as the trader (coinage), princess (knights), and castilian (crows). Another card, feud, gives you points if you have the most of it compared to all the other players. Who ever has outmaneuvered their opponents the best and has the most points at the end is the winner and the new king!
Mechanics-This game is simple and quick. It’s the the speed of Love Letter’s draw one, play one, and the added depth of microgame Dominion. I like the variety of different ways that players can play this game by focusing on the different paths to victory. It’s not perfect; if your group of friends just won’t see how you losing to your other friend makes them all lose, you won’t enjoy the combat much. Pick your battles well, but keep in mind that the people shape this game to a high degree. 4.5/5
Theme-AEG is a great company for theme. Sure, you could play this game and ignore the theme completely, and some players will. However, AEG builds on this game by having a few pages that must describe the families in the game. They didn’t need to do that, but those touches help draw me in that much more. It’s not perfect as you’re still only do some minor story things in game terms, but I do feel like a noble family maneuvering through intrigue in this game. 4.5/5
Instructions-The game has great instructions with only one fault. I wrote the instructions out in one paragraph above, and that right there is all you really need. The rule book does that well, and give you a bit more. The only real problem is the Feud cards. There is some debate if Feud provides exponential points or just increases as you gain more cards. If you check Boardgamegeek, you find that those cards are just scored according to the most cards, but other sites say the opposite. I’d like a bit of clarification, but overall, if you decide among your friends how that is played, you will easily be able to pick up the game and play this out of the box no problem in under 10 minutes. 4.75/5
Execution-I’m going to complain about something I thought I would never say-the game box is too big! That’s pretty weird to hear me say, but this game almost fits in a Love Letter bag no problem. That said, that’s an awesome problem to have. Too many games don’t fit in the box they came in. This game has great card art, good card stock, and crow meeples! Top notch work, AEG! In fact, if you want I’ve made an unboxing video here (http://youtu.be/5B7hC3svWng) if you want to see all the components of the game. 5/5
Summary– I love AEG. They constantly put out top notch games that don’t require hours to play. Sure I love my 4 hour Euros, but this one is a simple game that plays quick, and can even include non-gamers without spooking them away like a round of some other games. And the player count is amazing! Up to nine people can play this game. That’s a true blessing. I’ve had way too many game days at the local store where they couldn’t handle the fifth player. Now you can run that fifth player and his friends. Good rules, great mechanics, and some well-written, if slightly flawed, rules all make this game a pleasure to play. This game isn’t that expensive and if you want a bit more meat on the bones then Love Letter gives you, Game of Crowns is an excellent addition to your library. 94%
I was at GenCon 2014 last weekend. I had a blast, so let’s go day by day and give you my thoughts.
This day was the start to the con. I woke up, exercised, and hit the con. I was able to see the Geek Preacher, the people at TMG, and my friends at Arcane Wonders. Then, it was off to work. To even go to the con (and since I love DnD), I worked for Wizards of the Coast running games of DnD 5e. This year I was able to get an All Access table. All Access is a GenCon program you can enroll in that gets you a guaranteed same GM for the con, access to all the adventures DnD is running at the con, and a ton of extras gifts. This year it was a signed copy of the DnD 5th edition Player’s handbook and a Monsters Manual over a month before it’s released to the public. My all access table was awesome, and then I ran two regular tables. All of that was a great time, and then I hit the hay.
Friday was my short day. I only had two tables to run today, so I woke up, exercised, and then looked for events to sign up for. While looking around, I found an event that only had one ticket left of 500 originally. It cost $32, and it promised swag and board games. Not having a clue I signed up for something called AEG Big Board Game Night. I run my two tables (having a blast) and then headed off to the Game Night-still without a clue as to what the heck it was. What I found out was the AEG Big Board Game Night is an event where everyone comes, plays every new board and card game AEG has out, and then gets a box of random games and the latest and greatest game from AEG at GenCon. This year, I got a copy of Doomtown, the awesome new card game about the Deadlands, the GenCon Exclusive copy of Smash Up, Romance of the Nine Empires, and Valley of the Kings. I played a TON of games, and had a blast. If you get a chance, sign up! I was lucky enough to get a ticket. Next year, I’m signing up as soon as I can.
Saturday was my long day. I had an 8AM game, a 12 Noon game, and then a 6PM game. I love DnD, but there wasn’t much time this day for any extra fun at the Con. It was an awesome day of games, culminating with the battle interactive. I LOVE battle interactives. I get a feeling of togetherness and of belonging when roughly 300~600 of my closest friends are all working toward a common goal. My table was amazing. I hit them as hard as I could, and they barely survived. Afterwards, we all exchanged contact information, and I said good bye to my all access table. They were a great bunch of people, and I forward to seeing and playing with them again. I ran from that game to the Secret Gaming Cabal Podcast meet-up. I love listening to this podcast, and at their meet-up they were giving away games, so why wouldn’t a board game and Podcast fan be there! Last year, I won a copy of Pixel Lincoln, and this year I won a copy of Guile and This Town Isn’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I’m slowly going deaf and it was way too loud in the bar where they had the event. I decided to grab a bit to eat then meet up with the other DnD judges to celebrate the end of a great con.
This was my day completely off. I started like most other days. I worked out, ate some food, and then headed to the Christian Mass at GenCon headed up by the Geek Preacher. I’m a Roman Catholic, but this mass is the most spiritual thing I experience every year. It’s the one mass I don’t skip out early after communion. This is a community I WANT to be part of. If your Christian and at GenCon, its free and an excellent use of your time. Plus, anytime a mass mentions Dr. Who, you know it’s going to be a wild ride. Check it out here http://ow.ly/AxTsM Then I hit the main floor. I played a bunch of Stronghold Game’s games hoping to bet a half price Voluspa for playing five games, but while I was playing my game, they sold out. Buonocore! I’LL GET MY COPY OF VOLUSPA ONE DAY! AND NOW I HAVE TO BUY PANAMAX ALSO! It was fun, but then I hit the rest of the floor and meandered around. I saw a few friends, made a few minor purchases, and then went home. I can’t wait till next year!
Next Year’s Geek Goals
Last year, I wrote down my geek goals. I got some done and some I didn’t. Let’s write down next year’s goals and this year we will add dates to help guide what I’m doing!
- Daily posts to Throat Punch Games-That’s been going well
- Monday board game reviews-Going well, too.
- Wednesday RPG reviews-Again going well, and lots of fun
- Friday opinion pieces-I’ve been ok, but I need to be better about this.
- Fix up Throat Punch Games-Site looks like crap, so I’m going to make it look pretty-goal-October
- Kick off a podcast-I want to get a few of my friends together to record a biweekly podcast-goal-November
- Kick off youtube review/instructions/unboxing videos-I’d like to move into reviews on youtube, and I’m hoping to do one every three weeks-goal-January
- Get writing more-I’ve been doing lots of reviews for my site, but I haven’t written many adventures. I’m going to submit more adventures for publication
- A PDF of Throat Punch Games on Drive Through RPG-We’re going to make a nice PDF of all of my ideas-goal-March.
- Post every game I play on Board Game Geek-Check my progress!
- Daily RPG suggestions on Twitter-I love RPGs, and I ‘ve been thinking about writing ideas/suggestions for the RPGs and groups. Let’s see what Throat Punch Games can do to help the RPG world in 100 characters? Goal-one week!
- KEEP PLAYING!
So those are my goals. What do you think? Like what I got? Hate what I’m doing? You tell me!