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Product-Crazier Eights: Camelot
Producer– James Gray
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 20 minutes (2-4 players)
TL; DR-Fluxx and Crazy Eights! 92%
Basics- Need a lightweight game, but also need a bit of depth? Crazier Eights: Camalot is an awesome mix of the simplicity of Crazy Eights and Fluxx. Each player starts with eight cards. Then on a player’s turn, they draw a card. That player can play a card and discard a card that matches to top card of the discard pile either in suit, number, or an eight. The cards players play range from effects which are one time events that might cause a player to draw cards to assets that are permanent things in play that might destroy other assets, cause a player to draw a card, or even change how the game ends. Then, the next player goes. The game ends when a player gets to zero cards and wins, an asset makes that player the winner, or there is only one person left. Long live the king!
Mechanics-I like the simplicity of Uno and the zannynes of fluxx. This game is both. It’s fast, simple (you just learned all the rules above), and easy to play. My wife and I learned this game in the time it takes to order at Outback, and had played a full game before the appetizers came! It also fits in a pocket, so it’s a blast all around. 4.75/5
Theme-The game doesn’t have perfect theme, but for a simple card game it’s about as much as I can ever hope for. The cards do semi-appropriate things for the name and art on the card. It’s hard to symbolize the holy grail in Uno, but this game does the theme enough justice to keep it going. The game also has some great art, so that always helps theme. 4.5/5
Instructions-The instructions are one page, front and back. I had a review copy, so there may be more pictures in the normal game, but it’s enough to get the point across. I will admit something here, I never learned Crazy Eights as a kid! But, this game taught me how to play and added on its own crazier rules, so that speaks well of the rules as written. 4.5/5
Execution-I like what I see here. The art on the cards is good. The cards layout is nice, and the cards are not too wordy. I’d like the cards to be a bit thicker, but overall, it’s a well put together game. 4.5/5
Summary-You read my deep confession before, so this game should tell you how well done it is. I like its simple nature, the rules work well, and the art and theme tie things together. It’s not perfect, but the flaws are few and far between. I think the fluxx comparison is a good one. It doesn’t have the humor of Fluxx, but the serious art drives home the theme and keeps me in the game. And for 10 bucks, you can’t lose on this one. 92%
Product-Mansions of Madness, 2nd ed.
Producer– Fantasy Flight Games
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 60-360 minutes (1-5 players)
TL; DR-Great, but the price is a bit too steep! 89%
Basics- Can you survive the Mansions of Madness? Step into this fully co-op board game as different investigators trying to uncover secrets best forgotten and lore never found! The game is very easy to learn and basically teaches you how to play as you go. First, the players choose a scenario that they want to play from a computer, iPad, or android device. That is the first thing to note here- you MUST have a device to play this game. These scenarios range in difficulty from one to five with the intro scenario being a two. After scenario selection, players then choose different character to be with different powers. With that done, the game will then give the players different starting items and the players divide these up as they see fit. Then the computer will layout the story and world telling the players where to put icons on the map, what map to build, and what other actions they can take.
Turns are fast and easy to do. Each investigator takes their turn in whatever order they choose. On a player’s turn, they do two actions. These action range from moving two spaces, interaction with different icons on the map/computer, interacting with puzzles, casting spells, and attacking creatures. Interaction with some icons expands the map and story. Sometimes when you interact with an icon on the map, you have to roll a number of dice equal to one of your skills to discover something. The dice are eight sided with blanks, clue icons (magnifying glasses), and elder signs. Elder signs are always successes, but clue icons indicate you could succeed if you spend a clue token. You only get clue tokens when you explore or uncover something which makes the clue economy extremely important! Also, some skill checks will require multiple successes to to succeed.
Attacking is interesting as when you attack a creature, you must tell the game how you attack. Then the computer randomly assigns you an attack method that depends on a skill roll. Sometimes the skill is obvious like strength for a punch, but other times you might end up doing agility when you swing a hammer. Again, sometimes you only need one success and other times you might need multiple. If you succeed, the computer tells you how much damage you do to the target.
Spells vary from attacks and player buffs. Each spell is a deck of cards where you draw one card and keep it face up in front of you. When you cast the spell, the computer or the spell will tell you how to cast it, what skills to roll, and then it tells you to check the reverse side. Some spells cause you to have to make another skill check to avoid damage or insanity and some just go off without a hitch. After you cast your spell, you then shuffle the spell back into its deck and draw a new, random version of the spell.
Puzzles are one of the most intriguing additions to this game. Unlike other games where players have to just roll a die to uncover the family mystery, in this game, the players have to do sliding tile puzzles, math puzzles, and even picture puzzles to uncover secrets. All are done on the computer, so there’s no fuss or muss on setup and clean up.
After all players have taken their turns, you tell the app or computer you are done, and the computer takes control, possibly spawning monsters, doing horrible events against some of the players, and advancing the story. Monsters are the biggest threat as they move around the map directed by the app. The app will tell you to move monsters and then attack players in their spaces. Monsters’ attacks are resolved like player attacks. The target of the attack rolls a skill. Unlike player attacks, each success on this roll only removes one damage, not ALL damage. After attacks are done, the app directs the players to make horror checks against the monster with the highest horror stat within three spaces. This is another skill roll that only removes one insanity for each success the player achieves.
Damage is interesting in this game. This game builds on Fantasy Flight’s other games with damage cards being both normal damage and special damage. When you take damage or insanity, you get a card face down of the type. Some cards and events will direct you to randomly flip one or more cards face up. Now, you get special effects like being lame or agoraphobic. When your damage equals your health, you discard all face down cards and gain a wounded condition card. You can’t do the move action twice in a turn, and if you gain the wounded condition again, you are dead and out of the game! If you gain insanity equal to your mental stat, you go crazy and gain a secret goal. Now, you might not win by helping the other players but might only win if you start enough fires! It’s a fun, fresh twist on the game.
Once all the monsters are done, then the players take over again the the cycle continues until the players win or horror descends across the land!
Mechanics-Overall, I like what I see here, but the computer part is a bit of a pain sometimes. The hardest part is that the app is slow and there’s limited options on it. If I attack with a 2×4, odds are I will see the same attack roll five times in a game. That wasn’t bad in the first edition when I as the bag guy shuffled four cards for an attack, but now with the computer app, I’d like more options and descriptions. The computer tends to slow down game play a bit. However, I do like the general speed of human play. A turn is quick as a human, and it is not overly complicated. All the fun different things I want to do are easy to do, and I enjoy that immensely. 4.5/5
Theme-My wife and I can’t stop playing this. It’s fun, and I feel like I’m in a Lovecraft story. It’s even got a modified version of my favorite short story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”! Things feel right, the toys are nice, and the look is great. 5/5
Instructions-Fantasy Flight Games has been doing this new version of game instructions where the simple instructions get a short book with pictures and the nitty gritty get their own book with an index. That’s ok, but I end up needing to cross reference things, and it feels clunky. Also, I feel some things were not explained as well as they could be, like how horror and monster attacks are not blocked with one success, but they need multiple. Those details are pretty important, and I think it wasn’t emphasized enough. I got the feeling of missing key instructions until later a few times playing this game. 4.25/5
Execution-Ok, here is the bitter pill to swallow-this game is not worth $100. I like what’s here, but I feel I got more from the first edition than the second. Sure the app is nice, but I got more cards in the first edition, more books, and just more stuff. Now, I get more generic cardboard, monsters, and the app. What makes me give this a “4” is the backwards compatibility of the starter box. Fantasy Flight was a class act by giving me a conversion kit to get my old stuff into the new. I think what I get here is fair for $80, but for the $100 it went for, maybe that’s a bit much. Everything is great, but maybe not that good. If you want to to make that choice for yourselves, check out our unboxing here https://youtu.be/HK3Mb369xoA 4/5
Summary-I like this game, but it’s a game that you have to invest in. What’s here is good, but too expensive. If you NEED your Cthulhu fix, then this is a great continuation of the Arkham Horror games from Fantasy Flight Games. It’s a solid set with nice monsters, good cardboard, great stories, and easy mechanics. But, if you can’t drop the equivalent of a small car payment on this box, you might want to wait till this thing goes on sale. It’s a great game, but at this price, I’d like a bit more in the app, the box, and the game overall. That said, I’m still glad bought it, and I plan to buy the expansions. So, it’s gotta be good. 89%
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%