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%
Product-Duhr: the Lesser Houses
Producer– Devious Weasel Games
Price– $25.00 here https://www.miniaturemarket.com/dwe4000.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&adpos=1o1&scid=scplpDWE4000&sc_intid=DWE4000&gclid=CjwKCAjwkYDbBRB6EiwAR0T_-hBpzyMP4YvWog65j9suM5TGfDH83ZBpJP8u00fsGxLE0pZEMCN1UBoCfUoQAvD_BwE
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (3-6 players)
TL; DR-I don’t have to win for you to lose! 91%
Basics- Why waste knives when words will do. In Duhr: the Lesser houses, each player plays a minor, lesser house vying for power as the king will advance one, and only one, house to a major house, so it’s time to get dirty! During set-up each player is dealt a secret goal that targets one or two players. Then, players take turns doing one or two actions. Houses that are favored (their house card upright) can take up to two actions, and disfavored or vilified houses can take only one. The actions favored and disfavored houses can do are to put a card matching a house’s color onto the house face down, play a scandal face down on any house, discard a card of your color to use your house ability, play an event card, or discard two matching cards to do a masterstroke. Masterstrokes are how you win the game. These reveal a card on any house, remove a scandal from any house, put scandals from the center on a favored house, or negate ANYTHING! This leads into house standing. When a house gets cards in front of it, it begins to lose reputation as unsavory things about the house come to light. If a house has five cards in front of it it becomes disfavored. And when a disfavored house has three of the five card in front of it turned face up, it becomes vilified. Disfavored houses can only do one action per turn, have to shuffle their hands, draw two for the turn, and hope those cards let them do something good! After a disfavored house takes its one action, it draws cards, shuffles them with its other cards, draws two of that pile, and plays its next turn with two cards. You now have less options but some effects can not target you. Vilified houses are hated by all, but they gain some awesome powers. A vilified house flips its house card over to a black and white side so everyone sees your status. Vilified houses no longer have a hand of cards. Villivied houses can just change a card in front of a house to a scandal, flip face up a card on a house, or play a scandal card face down on any favored house.
House powers radically change the game. These powers range from moving cards between players, flipping cards face down, or even removing cards from in front of players. This leads to people making friends quickly or you die even faster! Each player has an agent in another house. This person is a secret. On your turn, you can flip this over, gain a card in front of you and can now play cards of that house’s color to use their power. But, if you ever become disfavored, you instantly reveal your agent, and that house gains a card in front of it. That feels like it should as webs of secrets come to life and hit EVERYBODY!
Play continues like this until only one house or fewer remains favored, and then players add up points. Favored houses start with 10, then lose one point for each face up card of their color and two for each face up scandal. Disfavored houses start at nine and lose points like favored houses. Vilified houses start at 2 points and gain two points for each other vilified house! Finally, players add points for their secret objective. Player with the most points wins!
Mechanics-I really like the mechanics of this one, but you need to know exactly what you are doing! This game isn’t very forgiving, as social combat usually is. If you pick the wrong fight and do something stupid, you will lose quick! The advice most people will give you is you need to play maybe three times to have the rules down. I don’t agree. I honestly think you can learn the rules in about five minutes, but that’s kind of like saying you can learn chess in about five minutes. Now, you have to develop strategy. That takes time. But, I think that is time you will enjoy putting in. 4.75/5
Theme- This game does feel like noble houses knifing each other in the back. You get agents in another player’s house, and sometimes getting that hated appointment causes him to flip his agent and screw you in the process. That is a blast when it happens! I do feel like I am a Lord of a house fighting it out in the dark and in the streets to show that my house has its crap together and keeps our secrets safe. Half the players in my games walk away exhausted because this game isn’t your standard DnD knife fight, but social combat. The other half want to reshuffle the cards and start up as soon as the winner is declared. I’m in the reshuffle up and play again group! 5/5
Instructions– The instructions work, but you will need a few passes at it. One major issue is you really need to pay attention to how cards are played. Cards are played face down. That took me a few too many passes reading to get. But, once you get the flow of the rules, you can easily play the game. 4/5
Execution-First things first, I HATE SMALL ¼ CARDS! This game only has small cards, and I only have fat fingers! That said, my only other complaint is the action guide cards. They are awesome! They tell you what you can do what you can do on your turn, explain all the symbols, and are really well put together! The bad part is they are rare. You get about ½ the player count. It’s not bad, but you often have to share. And, I don’t want to share with people I want want to die! The other parts are great. I like nice chunky cardboard for the houses and secret agent cards. Even the dreaded ¼ cards are nice. I also like the symbols. There is no confusion on what each symbol is on the cards. You can see our unboxing of the games here: https://youtu.be/3B7ECFtGU8I 4.5/5
Summary-I don’t own too many games where you play noble houses and knife each other in the back. But, this game scratches an itch. It’s fun, it’s mean, and it’s quick. But it’s also not too mean. I don’t have too many feel-bads. If several people vilify your house in a turn, then you just start wrecking other people with abandon! Most games I’ve played, it’s not the favored house that wins! This game teaches you some fun lessons about politics. It’s not without its faults. I’d like bigger cards, more pages to the rule book, and some extra explanation cards. But, overall, this is a blast to play, and one that when you finish, you’ll want to start up right away. And, at its playtime, you can get this one back to the table easily. 91%
Producer– Cat Dragon Games
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 minutes to 1 hour (3-6 players)
TL; DR-Three way monster mash! 92%
Basics- There can only be one! In Bitten, players take the roles of Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves as they attempt to take over a city by working together and against each other. Each player is handed a lair card. This is a secret role that indicates if you are a vampire, zombie, or werewolf. From here, players are given five cards, and then in turn order, each player will either choose to play a card from their lair or from their hand. If they choose a card from their lair, the randomly discard a card from the hand of cards they were given. Then, a player chooses to play that card either to a location or to another player’s lair. This leads to the two ways players can win. Each card has one to three symbols indicating zombie, vampire, werewolf. Locations have a card number on them as well as a possible power. When the number of cards on a location equals the number written on the location, then you count the number of symbols on each card, and the most symbols wins the location (ties are possible). If at the end of any turn, a player has control of three of the five locations, they win! For lairs, a player may never look at the cards in their lair unless they spend their turn getting a card from their lair. But, after a player plays a card and they have at least three cards in their lair and they have the most symbols of their type in the lair, they alone win! If no one won the round, then players pass their hand to the left, and players continue to draft cards until they pass one card. If a player only has one card to draft from, then they draw four more, and play continues until one creature has control of the city and the night!
Mechanics-Overall, the mechanics of this game are really smooth! It’s a mix of a hidden roll and drafting game that almost always give you something to do. Have cards of your symbol? Play to locations! Don’t have cards of your symbol? Screw with players’ lairs, but be careful! There are also other action cards that remove cards and destroy locations, so that is a good mix for the game as the start locations are not what the game boils down to. That said, this game slightly suffers from a player balance issue as play is really great at 3 and 6, but 4 and 5 can get a bit lopsided for the person without a partner. Actions cards are maybe a bit overpowered as several turns can be blown away by one action card. It’s not horrible as this is a lighter game, but something to keep in mind. That said, this is a great game to get to the table, teaches quickly (honestly the quick run down above is 90% of the rules), and is a blast to play. 4.75/5
Theme- I feel like I’m gathering territory in this game! Do I sent my werewolf agents to take over the dance club or the park? Should the Vampires fight in the sewers? I do feel like an underworld fight for dominance is emerging. Zombies are a bit of a tougher sell as I’m wondering how hordes of zombies are not noticed in a city? But, that is me being pedantic. I do like the three sided nature of this fight. Locations where the undead would be get things that help undead like free symbols, and each race gets a place where two would do well alongside other locations where the race does well by sites. The lairs all have fun names for the different people using the monster from voodoo master to mad scientist for zombie and others for the other two sides of this midnight beatdown. There is not combat between the monsters, so that takes away a bit as the zombies basically wave at werewolves who move in next door. But that doesn’t break the game. The art also fills the theme as this feels like Sin City with a black and white noir style that feels like midnight. It’s a grim and dirty monster mash. 4.5/5
Instructions-The instructions to this game are short and easy to read. However, the instructions need a few more examples. In my first game, we ended up with a three way tie for our first location. You can tie, but can you triple tie? The rules did not cover that. We said yes and rolled with it. That said, the rules work. If you have an especially punctilious player, then you may end up going to board game geek to fight over rules clarifications, but honestly for about 90% of the players and games, the rules are fine. They could use a few more pages to describe things, but as written, you can play this game in about 5 minutes. 4.25/5
Execution-First things first, I HATE SMALL ¼ CARDS! This game has them, so that always makes me mad. But, once I learn to deal with my own, internal, mental issues, the rest of the game is really well put together. Nice sturdy box that fits the cards. The little cards are there to help players see who controls each area, and I’ll admit, even grudgingly, they work well. The art on the cards is really well done even for just being two tones. I can tell who is what from far away. The card stock feels great. It’s also a small game that you can play on a bar table with friends, and I think this is the place for it as this might not be a weekend killer. But, Bitten is a great game that is a fun fill between your four hours games or at the end of the night when you don’t want the fun to end. Finally, this game is less than 15 bucks! You can’t go wrong at this price. 4.9/5
Summary-I usually don’t like hidden role games. I’ve never gotten into bang, and Battlestar Galactica is still on my shelf in the shrink. But, this game is fun. You can manipulate the others or you can just get work done. I don’t feel bored by this game. I always have something to do, the cards feel great, and the art makes me happy. It’s just dark enough even though it’s mostly just black and white. The mechanics flow well, and the theme fits, even if you dig too deep into this one. I also like the portable nature of this game. This isn’t a perfect game as randomness can absolutely screw you and the hidden roles might not be fair, but if you need a game that goes up to six, plays quick, and is fun, then Bitten is a great game to get to the table. 92%
Check out our unboxing, how to play, and review video of Zombie Dice: Horde Edition!
Product-Cthulhu: The Horror in Dunwich
Producer– Wyvern Gaming
Price– Kickstarter October 3rd
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (1-6 players)
TL; DR– Not perfect, but really fun! 85%
Basics- Do you got the Moxie to take on Cthulhu? Cthulhu: the Horror in Dunwich is a stand alone expansion to the Cthulhu: the Deck Building Game. Players take the roles of different investigators fighting the old gods as they return. Each character has a different amount of health and sanity as well as a backstory, powers, and post death abilities. Characters choose what elder gods to fight, depending on the player count, choosing to fight one to two different gods. In the Horror in Dunwich expansion, new elder gods are available as well as new Mythic Location cards. These random locations drastically alter the game by changing how much moxie you get, spawning new creatures, or putting other effects into the game. Players then receive seven cards giving them one resource called moxie and three cards that when played deal damage to the player. With the god(s), mythic locations, and investigators chosen and the characters drawing five cards, you are ready to play.
Each turn is broken down into roughly two phases: preparation and fighting. During preparation, each player places cards on the table up to all the cards in their hand for Moxie. Moxie is the generic resource in this game functioning for both attack and currency for cards. Players might also have some initial damage dealing cards in their hands. You may choose to play those or just discard them at the end of turn, but some cards provide extra effects depending on the number of cards played. So, taking the extra damage might be beneficial to your characters depending on what you get! After choosing to play as many cards as they wish, they spend their moxie to get new cards directly into their hands from the cards available in the library or central purchasing area. Once this is completed, all played cards are removed, and new cards are placed in the library to buy next turn signaling the end of the preparation phase.
Fighting is straightforward. First the elder god goes, doing whatever it says on the card. Then a card is drawn from the mythos deck. The mythos cards are interesting effects that usually harm the players. After the mythos card is drawn and its effects done, a monster(s) is drawn and then each monster attacks the players, doing whatever it says to players, from attacking only one character to doing damage to all characters. Finally, the players can respond by playing cards to use more moxie to hurt the monsters, so moxie functions both as your money and as your attack power. Players then discard all played cards, can discard library cards to draw more and cycle the deck, and lastly draw five new cards to start the next round. Play continues like this until the elder gods are dispatched or the players have all gone insane or been killed.
Mechanics– I like the mechanics on this one. It’s simple enough to be quick, but not too simple to be dumbed down. It’s an interesting mix of using the same currency for both attack and defense. That might drive some players away as you can cast spells to buy stuff which feels strange, but the division of card types means you can focus your character in one way or another. The library of cards feels like Ascension and Dominion had a baby. It does have it fault as it can get a little simple at times, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you want a challenge at all, you NEED to play this on the hard difficulty. The easy difficulty might be a bit too easy for some gamers who crave a little more pain in their games. 4.25/5
Theme- Theme in deck building games is a tough one. It’s hard to keep monsters in the right place and all kind of other issues that are just random in nature. This game has the problem, but deals with it admirably. Mythos cards work regardless of the elder god involved, but each elder god has its own chosen set of monsters. If you draw mythos cards related to the elder god in play, more bad things happen. If you draw creatures with no relation to the elder gods in play, then only slightly bad things happen. It’s a simple way to focus on the gods in play. It’s still completely random, but it does add bits of story in to the game. I also appreciate the detail for each investigator as their story, power, and background will really bring you in at the start. It’s an uphill batter to put story in a deck builder, but this game does it well. 4.25/5
Instructions– Overall, the instruction work well for this game, but they do have a few issues. You will have to reread the instructions a few times. Overall, the rules are extremely simple, which is appreciated, but I feel they need a bit more polish in the final product. The pieces are all there, but some things like how the mythic locations are placed are not as explained as well as they should be. Once you know the rules from the base game, then you know how to play the expansion easily. But, the new elements need more explanation. Everything here works, but its something that will require a few passes for you to really work through to see how all the pieces work. That said, the rules are about three pages, so reading through the rules again won’t be a several hour endeavor. 4.25/5
Execution– Oh execution … this game will drive you to one of two camps. I was immediately drawn to the art, the card stock, text fonts, and even the box itself. All those things feel like Hellboy or Darkest Dungeon. I loved everything I saw with this one and really enjoyed the life counters as little slide on the card indicators. Really cool! I even love the box itself. It’s awesome thick cardboard that harkens back to the old Fantasy Flight coffin boxes. HOWEVER, my wife….she is an English an English as a Second Language teacher…she was IMMEDIATELY drawn to the errors in English grammar and spelling. And THERE ARE A LOT OF THOSE SMALL ERRORS. So, if you just love to see awesome art on nice cards this game will be an amazing addition to your collection. If you can’t stand a card that has a few grammar and/or spelling errors on it, then this will drive you up a wall. I live and die by spellcheck, so this didn’t bother me, but your mileage will vary! You can check out our unboxing video of both the base and expansion here:https://youtu.be/3PvRMR7MwPo 4.25/5
Summary– This game reminds me of a B movie that you love, even though it has a few faults. My family watches Flash Gordon each year. I watch Flash when it comes on TV when I’m looking to see what’s on. I play the fight scenes in the background when I write random stuff for my blog. The music is on my youtube work mix cue, so I’ve graded quite a few student papers to Hawkmen fighting on Warship Ajax in the background. Flash Gordon is not an Oscar worthy movie, but it’s fun, it’s campy, and it feels right. It has flaws, but that doesn’t make it bad. This game is the equivalent of that. Are there other Cthulhu games that might have more polish? Yes. Will those get to my table as often? Probably not! This stand alone expansion plays shorter than the box time says. I have to sort fewer cards than other deckbuilders. My favorite mythos god is Yog-Sothoth. All the stars align for this one. My wife and my favorite game to play together is Eldritch Horror. But, even the lightest set up for that game is 20 minutes if you are lucky, and play time can easily be three hours. This game gets an Eldritch Horror experience into about 20 minutes. Is it a perfect match? NO! Is it enough that on a weeknight when we have half an hour and just want to fight some horrors from beyond time this is going to come out? Absolutely! 85%