Check out our review of Paper Tales below!
Check out our review of Paper Tales below!
Check out our video review of Fields of Green!
Producer– Stronghold Games
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 minutes (2-4 players)
TL; DR-A great mix of a Euro and a party game 91%
Basics- Yer, mateys it be time to crew the ship! In Piratoons, each player takes the role of different pirate captains trying to crew, equip, and build their ships. The game is played in six frantic rounds. First, three pieces of ship and five pieces of equipment and crew are placed face down on the cardboard lid of a treasure box. Then the bottom is put on, the box is flipped, and the pieces revealed. Players then have less than 30 seconds to place meeples as quickly as possible on the tiles. Players can place meeples on as many tiles as they can or want and even on tiles with other players’ meeples! After time is over, each unused meeples earns that player one coin. Next, the player with the most meeples that is not tied with another player wins that tile. After the race, the tiles are dumped overboard! Ship pieces sink (are discarded) while everything else remains available. Each player can then bid on the remaining tiles. Players secretly choose an amount of coins to bid and reveal. Players who are tied can’t bid, but all other players pay their coins, and in order of most coins to least, select one tile. After that, players rearrange their ship, and the next turn takes place.
After six rounds, players score and lose points. Players get points for the most and second most sails, ship pieces, tiles, and money, while unorganized ships, missing tiles, and open slots lose points. Players then spend tiles in pairs and three different tiles in an area for extra points. The player with the most points is the best pirate and winner!
Mechanics-This is a solid American game, but it’s mechanics gives it enough Euro-tendencies to keep this Euro-gamer entertained. I really love how this game plays. Honestly, the time you have to select pieces is almost too long, but it does give slower gamers enough time to place their pieces. The bidding phase is an excellent addition that adds some welcomed depth to the game. All together, this is a well executed game. 5/5
Theme- This is a great, fun party crew building game. You don’t necessarily feel like you’re building a pirate crew, but you feel like you’re building something in a frantic fashion. The rules do make the game fun, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that pirates don’t follow rules. These are only minor problems, but they do take away a bit from the game. 4/5
Instructions-What I mentioned above is all you really need to know. But, end game scoring could use a bit more work. I’ve had multiple people tie in the end game scoring, and some of those situations are not covered in the rules. Overall, the rules work well, but could use a bit more clarification. 4.25/5
Execution– I don’t play too many party games, but this is the best executed one I’ve ever played. The treasure chest that flips the tiles is the best example of the production quality. The layer of cardboard holds the tiles amazingly well. I’ve seen too many tile flip/party games where tiles fly everywhere during the reveal. The color of the tiles easily helps players see what they go on the ships. The art looks great and funny at the same time. And any game with nice, chunky cardboard makes me happy. It’s a well crafted game. If you want to see all the pieces of the game, check out my unboxing here http://youtu.be/0ZHSiAueMTA 5/5
Summary-I don’t really like party games, but this one gives me a party game with enough thinking mixed it. The mechanics are fun. But, the theme suffers a bit as players are pirates, but are penalized if they act like pirates. The rules are good, but need just a but more to be great. However, the execution is the best part. what’s in this box is amazing. Overall, if you’re looking for a party game, but need a hint of Euro, this is the game you’ve been looking for. 91%
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 90-120 minutes (2-4 players)
TL; DR-Eclipse by way of Among the Stars. 90%
Basics-We’ve gone Among the Stars, Expanded the Alliance, sent Ambassadors, and now have a New Dawn for the galaxy. In New Dawn, players take the roles of the same alien races from Among the Stars, but now have moved from the joint space station to exploring the galaxy for resources.
In terms of overall play, New Dawn plays a bit like Eclipse. This game has three resources that players must spend to dominate the galaxy: economic, science, and military. Each race/player starts with a player board with 15 bases in their color. Each base covers up a resource of that type with the fifth base covering up a resource and a victory point. Players choose one base to uncover and place on the central alliance start point. Then, each turn goes as follows: 1) draw up to four tiles to explore 2) place one tile and get its placement bonus 3)buy a research card 4)Move one of your military headquarters to any space 5) take three actions in turn 6) Send aid to the alliance. The tiles are the different sections of space to explore and are split between science, military, economic, and hostile (a mix of all three that is high risk/high reward). Each tile has a placement bonus which ranges from getting resources, placing more tiles, or attacking a tile for free. Research is interesting as each race has its own deck of cards that allows each player to customize how each race plays in each game and allows limited responses to other race’s/player’s actions. Military headquarters are the main movement pieces of the game. You start with one and use it to buy or conquer other tiles. You never lose them, but you can buy more to give you extra power and points. This all said, the main game itself is the actions. Actions are as follows: gain one resources of any type, buy a tile, seize a tile, use an ambassador, or buy a new military HQ and move all the HQs you have. The resources are self explanatory, but the ambassadors are new. Ambassadors are tokens that you place on any tile and then do the ambassadors action. These actions are all written on the cards themselves, but are mostly better versions of the actions discussed above. Of the actions you have, the two biggest and most important are the buy or seize a tile. Buying a tile is simple. Each tile has a cost in economic resources and a victory point cost. You just pay the economic cost. Seizing is more interesting and MUCH more random. If a tile is is not controlled, you add the victory points and the cost and then roll dice according to where your Military HQ’s are. For each military HQ’s on a tile you roll the yellow die (a d6 with numbers 2,3,4,5,5, and 6) and for each military HQ adjacent you can roll the white die (a d6 with numbers 1 through 6). Some powers and abilities give you a green die (a d6 with numbers 0,1,1,2,2, and 3) or the RED AWESOME DIE (a d6 with numbers 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, and 6). The attacking player must beat the defence, not tie. If he/she wins, then that player places a base on the tile of the same type as the one from his/her player board. Combat against a player works exactly the same way with a base on a tile giving you a yellow die in addition to all the Military HQ on or around the tile as above. This can lead to some epic dice roll offs as player can also get rerolls and bonus dice from other powers as well. If the defender loses, the he/she takes his/her base of the tile and covers up the right most resource on the player board and the winners get to place a base as before. In addition, at the start of the game four random bonuses are placed around the board. These bonuses range from extra defence, free movements of Military HQs, to rerolls and extra dice. Each tile typically has some arrows on it. When a tile is bought or seized, the player gets to change the direction in which it is facing, and the arrows the tile points to give a bonus to the owning player. The last action of each turn is to send aid to the alliance. This is buying victory point cards using the three different resources as printed on the card. After five rounds, the points for bases, aid, uncovered resources, and purchased tech and military HQs are added up, and the player with the most has conquered the galaxy and provided the most aid to the alliance!
Mechanics-First thing first, let’s deal with the elephant in the room-Eclipse. Eclipse is a great game, but not my favorite 4-X space game. This game and Eclipse both have the multiple bases and resources concept, tech trees, exploration, and color-based dice combat. And all of that is done a bit different but well by each game. However, Eclipse goes about one turn too long. This game is MUCH shorter, easier to recover from some early game problems, and actually provides much more player control. AND, this game at it’s highest price is $60 while Eclipse still retails for about $100. How New Dawn handles everything is fun, fair, and a great way to manage a galaxy. It’s something that new gamers can handle, and older gamers will enjoy. It’s not perfect as the randomness can honestly destroy your enjoyment of a game and combat is a bit more powerful than other strategies, but if you play American-style games, you know that pain all too well! Don’t let those minor problems keep you from this game. 4.75/5
Theme-This game changed a few key things that I think hurt the game a bit. The theme of the first game was alien races working against each other, but not on an overly aggressive scale as the war was fresh in their mind. This game is all about combat. It will be extremely difficult to win the game without conquering a single base or engaging in combat. It’s a massive departure from the first game. The second is the race descriptions. The first game Among the Stars is a pretty simple drafting and tile laying game, so the designers spent the second half of the rulebook describing the universe and the races within. This game is a bit more complicated, so the rules need a bit more description. But the races and world only get about a half pages description on the first page. I really miss the world building of the first game. The game itself is well done and you do feel like you’re conquering space and your friends’ bases. But, I’m not sure that’s exactly what I wanted from the second game in this series. 4.25/5
Instructions-I mentioned in the theme section, the rulebook doesn’t have as much description as I would like, but overall the rules are well explained by the book. There are a few problems that I think need a tiny bit more explanation like the arrows on location cards. The rules tell you about the different cards placed on the board at the game start, but they don’t give you as deep a working description of that mechanic. You will figure it out on your first play, but it’s a slight problem. If you can apply your best logic to the game, you will do fine with the rules in the box. 4.5/5
Execution– This game doesn’t come with a ton in the box, but what’s there is done reasonably well. To see all the pieces in the box, see my unboxing video here: https://youtu.be/EnMeLhB9Ods The board is two sided with a simple and complex game, which is a nice added layer of gameplay and replay-ability. The tiles all look like the same tiles from Among the Stars which is a nice call back to the first game. I even like the new plastic tokens in the game. What I don’t like is that the gameboard isn’t big enough. There are spots for some tiles but not others. I’d like one more row on all the sides to give enough places to place all the parts that game has. Also, I’d like the box to be a little thicker cardboard. Stronghold Games typically makes their game boxes of a lighter material which is nice when I carry five of them to a con to demo them, but the boxes don’t stand up to too much punishment. These are minor quibbles, but there are things to consider. Overall, it’s a beautiful game that has some good parts to it. 4.5/5
Summary-This might not be my favorite 4x game, but it’s quickly made a spot in the top few of them. It’s got all the things I love in a game: strategy, depth, speed, and ease of learning/teaching. I’d like a bit more story and cardboard, but that isn’t any reason to not pick this one up. If you like Sci-FI games, 4x games, or simply want a good game to play at any gameday that won’t eat the whole day, then this is an excellent game to buy. I can’t wait to play this again and to see the expansion that will come and further develop the ideas that came out of this game. 90%
Product-Space Cadets: Away Missions
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 60 minutes per scenario (1-6 players)
TL; DR-Simple, Sci-Fi Fun! 96%
Basics-And now another thrilling tale of the ROCKET PATROL! Enter the worlds of 60’s Golden Age Sci-Fi with Space Cadets: Away Missions. In this game, the players take the role of different members of the Rocket Patrol as they undergo some of their most famous missions. At the start of each game, a scenario guide instructs the players how to set up the game, what parts to use, what aliens will be necessary for this adventure, and an intro paragraph to set the mood of the game. After set-up, turns are pretty simple. First, players decide the player order, and then they take the tokens to signify that order. Next, players perform actions based on their available actions on their player board. Once all players have acted, the monsters all act in order of intelligence typically attacking the closest player and then attacking close players in reverse turn order. Each player has a different member of the Rocket Patrol who has a number of health and oxygen, action tokens, a IQ score, and a special ability. If ANY Patrol person runs out of health or oxygen, that player dies and all players lose the game. A player’s action are: move, attack, subdue thrall/brain-in-a-jar, heal, open/close/lock hatch, and some scenario specific actions. When you attack, subdue, heal, or do scenario specific actions, a player rolls a number of dice equal to the weapon strength at that range of the enemy (attack) or IQ (subdue, heal, som scenario actions) and counts the 1s, 2s, and 3s. Monsters attack in the exact same way. The key mechanic of the dice is overkill. For any action to succeed, you only need one success. However, if you roll more successes, you can spend these overkill successes to activate extra abilities such as one patrol person being able to take a free move action and another can attack another adjacent enemy. The enemies even have some overkill options that can be activated based on who the player hit. But, when the enemies score overkill, the also have options they can take to hamper the heroes. Play continues in these rounds until the heroes achieve the scenario goal or one player dies!
Mechanics– As you saw above, the rules are not complicated. They might even be a bit too simple, but that also means a much larger audience can play the game. I’ve already seen a six year old play this game and have a blast. In terms of difficulty, I would place this game solidly in the company of Mice and Mystics. That’s a good place to be! However, I do have one semi-serious complaint-this game doesn’t really do a campaign mode. There are some connected scenarios as they tell the story of the Rocket Patrol, but no real character progression and building. The items you get at scenario start are dictated to you (with some wiggle room), and you won’t really get a chance to keep anything cool you find. That does enhance a story a bit as you don’t have the crazy random events in some other boardgames, but you won’t find awesome stuff to carry with you or have a way to better your character over time. But without that, each scenario feels a bit like an old school Star Trek episode-you can jump in at any point, play, and not have to know an absolute ton of background to be involved. It is a double edged sword to not build character progression as the easy of jump in play and play, but hampers the hard core set as they lose a bit of their involvement. I’m a hard core RPG player, so I need my character improvement over time. That said, it’s a more minor thing. What is here is phenomenal and a blast to play through 4.5/5
Theme– This game oozes theme. You have awesome cards, sculpted figures, great tile art, and just enough rules to make things work. You feel like some old timey announcer will read out the intro paragraph to each adventure. Everything looks amazing, and that really puts you on board a old school rocket driving through the galaxy. The game itself feels like it should. Everything works together well making you feel like you’ve been sent out on an away missions to save the universe or destroy an alien menace. It feels like I’m riding shotgun with either Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon! 5/5
Instructions– This game has some great instruction with lots of explanation, but the length will intimidate a few people. What’s here is great, but then again, the rules don’t really need to be the complicated. The game has an absolute ton here, but it’s mostly compartmentalized. The rules explain it all, and that depth might put a few people off. However, don’t let it! The rules are honestly covered by two amazing inserts that the players use as a reference. If you can get past the fact that there is a ton of rules, you will see that it’s mostly clarifications of the fine points. There are enough pictures to help you understand how to play as well. I like what I see here. 4.75/5
Execution– 100 bucks for 100 minies is a price Reaper can’t match. Now throw in an entire game beside that. Add on top of that the art is great, the materials well constructed, and sparkly dice(!), and you have an amazing product. Heck, FOR THE MINIS ALONE YOU’RE MONEY AHEAD! The one minor criticism I have is I’d like a few more colors than green. Maybe a blue for thralls? That’s such a minor point, it’s barely a whisper. Even the brains-in-a-jars are green, but they come with some awesome plastic around them so they look like a brain-in-a-jar! Furthermore, this game put so much thought into the game that you don’t even realise when you start to play. Overkill is the big, cool mechanic for this game, so you need to know what dice came from whose attack. Normally you’d have to roll all the dice pairs separately, but in this game you get five pairs of differently colored dice. So, you can roll your dice pool and look to see if red hit you twice, once, or not at all. It speeds up the game in such a smart way, you won’t even notice it if you’re not careful! If you’d like to see all the part of this game, I did a unboxing of the game here:https://youtu.be/J4igYLjvVzU 5/5
Summary-I’ve never been a miniature gamer. Sure, I do like the co-op games out there, but I don’t like getting bogged down in a ton of random rules (I’m looking right at you Warhammer 40K!). This game has just enough rules to make it fun. You don’t need to break out some string to find range or if your shot is blocked. You get to take quick, fun turns to attack the alien menace as a team. This game doesn’t need a GM so everyone can play and be on the same side, and that right there sold me on this game. Everyone get’s to play, try to win, and have an awesome time. It has an amazing theme and a beautiful execution. My only real problem is a bit with the rules and no real progression. I’d like to build my character like in a RPG, but that would take away from the plug-and-play nature of the game. The problem I have with the rules is that some players will get frustrated before they begin, but if you crack the cover of the rule book, you clearly see that 70% of the rules clarify sticking points about otherwise simple rules. Overall, if you’re in the mood for an awesome, simple, and retro sci-fi game, Space Cadets: Away Missions is a great game to bring to the table. 96%
Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Diamonds
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30-45 minutes (2-6players)
TL; DR-Best parts of several trick tacking games. 92.5%
Basics-Time to throw Eucker, Hearts, and Spades into a blender! Diamonds is a trick taking game that combines the best of all of the above. Players are dealt 10 cards, and the dealer will decide to trade one to three cards. All players then choose that many cards from their hand and pass them to their neighbor. Next, the player to the left of the dealer will place one card down. These cards have values between one to 15 and have the four suits found on any normal deck of cards: hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs. Each player then has to place a card of the leaders suit, if they have any, or play any other card, if they don’t have the same suit as this trick’s lead card. Here is where the game becomes more than just a trick taking game. Each suit has a power associated with it. Diamond cards place a diamond behind a small screen called your vault. Hearts place a diamond in front of the vault in your vault. Spades take a diamond from the front and place it behind your vault. Clubs steal a diamond from in front of another player’s vault and places it in front of yours. Whoever played the highest card with the lead’s suit gets to take all the played cards and set them next to his or her screen and then take that suits action. If you couldn’t play a card with the lead’s suit, you just take the action associated with your suit. Playing off won’t get you cards for the round’s end, but it does get you whatever power the card you played has. Whoever won that trick then becomes the next lead player for the next trick. After 10 tricks each round, all players separate their cards into four piles based on the suits. Whoever has the most number of each suit gets to take that suits power again. If you didn’t get any tricks, and thus have no cards, you get two free diamonds placed right into your vault instead. Play then continues with a new dealer. After each player deals one or two times, depending on the player count, each player counts their diamonds with diamonds in your vault worth two points and those in front being worth one. The player with the most points wins!
Mechanics– I’m from Michigan, so I knew this game from another game called Eucker. Eucker is fun, but it lacks depth. This game is amazingly deep for a trick taking card game. Sometimes you do better by playing off than ever winning a single trick. Sometimes, you need to win every trick. That evolving strategy is amazing. Also, the game isn’t hard to play. I do love me some 8-hour, math fueled, Euros where I build cars, but you will learn this game in under 3 minutes, master it in 10, and have a chance of winning in 15. Honestly, this is a well done game. 5/5
Theme-Theme is a hard concept in your average trick taking game. What’s here is ok. There really isn’t a story here. But then again, I’m not really looking for one. I’d like more, as I’ve seen some reskinned trick taking card games with more theme, but I didn’t expect too much going in. The components are nice and do build a bit of a world, but don’t play this game if you need something like Dark Moon’s story. 3.5/5
Instructions-That paragraph above is all you need to play this game. The rulebook is as short as it needs to be. The game is an extremely simple to play game, so the rules don’t have to be too difficult or cover too much territory. The extremely helpful thing included in this game is a cheat card for every player giving some quick iconography on how the different suit powers work. Honestly, this is a slick, simple rulebook that will get you playing in about 5 minutes even if you’ve never played a trick taking game before. 5/5
Execution-This game is a small game, but not a poorly put together one. You can see all the components here: http://youtu.be/dugtHKid-Ko . The game is about a quarter the size and weight of most of my other games, but that doesn’t hurt its delivery. The game comes with cardboard standee vaults, a deck of cards, and plastic diamonds. What is here is well done and beautiful. The art is distinctive, but not distracting. The diamonds are nice plastic pieces that you want to collect. It’s a power-packed box. 5/5
Summary-Diamonds is the game I bring with me when I hang out with my family in Michigan. It’s got the simplicity of Hearts, but the depth I need in a great board game. It has great components and instructions. My only real complaint is the theme, and the only reason I ding this game on theme is I play too many RPGs, and I want theme in everything I play. If a games story isn’t the most important thing to you, then this is an amazing, easy to play trick taking game that’s a great game to add to any collection. 92.5%
Product– Kanban: Automotive Revolution
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 60-90 minutes (2-4 players)
TL; DR– Almost too complex…Almost 90%
Basics-Who can build the best car? In Kanban, each player takes the roll of a car designer in the Kanban Company. Under the careful eye of your supervisor, players choose what departments they want to work in each day for three weeks or until there are three companywide goal assessment meetings. I won’t go as in depth as the rule book, but here is a quick summary of the rules. The departments players can work in each day include: administration, design, logistics, the assembly line, and testing and innovation. Players can choose which department they want to work in and place a worker on one of two spots in that determent. These spots determine how many shifts a player can take in that determent, usually two or three, an in which order they get to work with the first having fewer shifts, but being first. Each shift in a department allows you to do a few different actions. Here is a quick summary of the different actions:
Design: get car designs and car designs with upgraded parts
Logistics: pick up car part cubes for yourself or place part cubes on the main board for all
Assembly: spend car part cubes to build cars
Testing and Innovation: spend car designs to get cars OR spend car designs with upgrades and a car part cube to improve a car part
Administration: use one other area’s abilities
Players also have the option to train in each area. By training players can unlock new abilities in each area as well as allowing more storage on their player board. In addition, when it comes time to score points later, players order is determined by who is the most training in more areas. The supervisor will move around the board, and if you take a shift in a location with the supervisor, the boss will evaluate your performance in that section. Here is where the game adds an extra layer with two modes of play. One mode the boss is nice and gives you extra points if you are being productive. In the other, the boss punishes you if you fall short! The boss also moves between sections to move the game forward. When she moves back to administration, she advances the week marker. When the game reaches the third week, the game is over.
Also, when players use car designs to put cars in their personal garage on their player sheet, this moves a pace car in testing and innovation depending on how far back the car they took was. When the pace car in testing and innovation moves to a certain point on the testing track, you have a meeting at the end of the business day. Meetings are the major way to score points. As you do other actions in the different departments, you will earn chairs at the business meeting. Some of the actions to earn chairs are building specific cars or training in a number of different departments. At the meeting, players can place chairs on goal point cards to score those points. Most cards will allow you to have multiple chairs, but the boss will want to hear less and less about the same topic, so scoring later on the same goal card will win you less points until no one can score on that goal at all. Also, each player can play one card from a hand of goal cards as a pet project that they and anyone else can now score on. The first set of public goal cards are random, but the second and possibly third set of cards all come from the players hands as you start with three, use one each meeting for a pet project and then play one as a new public goal before being dealt two more cards. The most important thing to know here is if you don’t have seats, you can’t score points! The game can also end when the third meeting happens.
The last thing the happens at the end of the game is players can use seats to score points on the game goal conditions. These end game goals can be scored by as many players as are out there and, as an examples, are having five cars, being training in so many departments and so on. Then, players get points for each car they have in their player board garages, and they score points for how upgraded each car they have, but only if they have they have the upgraded the car part in one of those cars he or she has. Players also get points for being first, second, or third on each sections training track and for how many resources they still have at the end of the game. Person with the most points in the end is the winner and best designer in Kanban!
Mechanics– WOW there is a lot going on in this one! But, honestly in a one page summary without the pieces to play with, it’s a bit harder to digest than when you sit down and play. It’s still a lot to digest, but it’s not nearly as bad. The hardest thing for me to wrap my head around was scoring. How to get the chairs at the meeting is really important, but you can make up for blowing a meeting if you have the right cars and upgraded car parts at the end of the game. It’s a ton of fun making sure you choose the right department and actions at the right time. It’s not too hard, and it is a lot of fun. But, it is a brain burner to understand initially. 4.75/5
Theme– Now, the theme of being an office worker in a car company might not sound like the most fun thing in the world (I’m from Michigan, I know this!). But, it does feel like you’re part of a company competing to be the best. Having to get seats at the meeting does feel like you maneuvering politically to get noticed by the boss at the right time. Having to move between the department really did feel like you were doing different jobs each day to make sure that you got everything lined up to succeed. Even the limits on the number of activities you could do feel like a really like job. I can’t work 30 hours in a 24 hour day. It all adds up to some positive stress that makes a good Eurogame fun! It’s not perfect though. While I know Ford gives some good discounts on cars to its employees, you don’t just get to take them home for free! It’s a few minor things that break some of the illusion of the game. It’s fun and feels like the real offices experience, in a good way, but some minor things do break the fourth wall a bit. 4.5/5
Instructions– The instructions to this game are good, but they are not perfect. The game comes with a link to an instructional video, and that really helps. Also, the designer is spending a ton of time answering anybodies questions on board game geek in a thread. It’s a really great effort by Stronghold to present this game to the players and to make sure everybody knows how to play it. That said, the rules by themselves are ok, but it’s got a lot going on! Even the rules themselves say that you have to read everything! That should go without saying, but if you skip a little bit of say the Splendor rulebook, you’re going to be ok. Miss or skim a paragraph in this one? You will be lost and play the game completely wrong. But, if you just want to complete board game experience without any internet guidance, the rule book itself will teach you how to play, but you have to make sure you really read this one! 4/5
Execution– As I’ve been doing lately, I made an unboxing video for this game! Here is a link to the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6628QbxggOs All I have to say to make my day with this one is: CAR MEEPLES! I love what’s in this box. It does come with some bags showing that Stronghold Games does love me! It also comes with a ton of cardboard for seats, tokens, and car designs. The car designs are nice chunky cardboard, which makes it hard to shuffle, but it also makes it easy to pick up and play with, so I’m happy. The art on the tokens and the main board is also great. It’s got a lot going on, but it also doesn’t overwhelm you. One problem I do have with this game is the same problem I have with many of Stronghold’s Eurogames. The box is somewhat thin. I’d like the box to be made of a bit more sterner stuff. Overall, this game has some top notch components that really stand out. 4.8/5
Summary– I really like this game. It’s truly a puzzle. Kanban has levels and layers that will make even the most determined and smart players have to really consider what they have to do next. That also makes it a bit harder to explain, teach, and understand. I love this game, but I had to work at it to get to that point. This game is almost too hard for me to understand. That’s the double edged sword of Eurogames. Too simple and no one will play it. Too hard and no one CAN play it. This might not be my favorite Eurogame of all time, but this is one I will keep going back to as, no matter what I do, I still see new options in this game all while having a blast playing it. If you want something simple to play game at the end of the night after you might have had too many beers to do calculus, then this is not the game for you. However, if you want a well done, extremely intellectually, surprisingly quick game, then this is for you. I know I can’t wait to get it back to the table. 90%
Been teasing this one for a while. Here it is, my review of Panamax!
Producer– Stronghold Games
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 60-90 minutes (2 to 4 players)
TL; DR– Lots of fun stress between your life and the company. 94%
Basics-All Aboard! Panamax is a game of becoming the best shipping moggle out on the Panama Canal. The game even gets its title from a shipping designation Panamax which means the largest measurements a ship can be and still go through the canal. This is a relatively simple to play Eurogame. During set up, players get personal stock and money, and their companies also get money as well as shipping contracts and starting boats. The shipping contracts are represented by dice on a small card with one to three numbered boxes. The numbers on the boxes are used to indicate the face up side of the dice placed on them of your color. Boats have numbers on them ranging from 2-5, 9-18, and so on. These are the minimum and maximum total dice value that can be placed on a ship. Players get a chance to load up their dice on ships on the proper sides of the canal during set up. When a player clears a shipping contract, either in setup or the regular game, they get to place a country flag marker on their companies’ board. The markers may cover extra powers such as adding shipment dice to the rail board, moving ships, buying stock, and loading extra dice. Then the main game starts. For a four player game, twelve dice are rolled, and the dice are placed in columns covering the die face it rolled to indicate different actions a player can take. At its most basic level, this game is an action selection game. Players select a die, do the action associated with it, and the turn passes. You draw three dice a round, and then pay for where your company’s cargo still is and get money from your stock options for the different companies stock you own. Sides one to three of the action dice indicate ship movements. When a ship has enough dice on it to cover its minimum value, the ship can be moved. There are two types of movements: lock and waterway. Each movement is well indicated on the board with different icons. When you select a movement die, you use a small tracker at the top of the board to show what movements you have left. When a player selects movements, they have to move all the ships that they can possibly move. Hidden in movements in a major factor of the game-pushing. The title of the game refers to how large a ship can be, and that’s the most important factor for pushing. When you move ships out of a large body of water like an ocean or lake, you can group ships together. The ships come in sizes ranging from one dice to four dice. The maximum size that can fit in one lock is four dice. So, if you would move a group of three wide ships into an area where a three wide ship already is, you push that three wide ship ahead one space. This can result in chain reactions where tons of ship will move through the canal. Mastering this will get you the win! When a ship crosses the canal, players earn money from the die’s values on the ship, and the player who owned the ship can get cards that give you extra moves, load cargo, or give you extra money at the end. Sides four to six of the dice represent loading cargo actions. Just like in set up, you take a card with different cargo values on it with the different countries. The dice you pick up will also show you how much cargo you can load this turn ranging from one to three dice. If you don’t load cargo from the warehouse, it costs lots of money per die, while having cargo waiting to go into the canal still costs a ton, but slightly less. Having cargo moving through the canal is slightly less expensive. And, just like setup, completing country cards will get you markers for each country. In addition, four more dice are rolled and these are placed on a separate area for executive actions. These extra actions allow you to buy more stock, have three unrestricted moves, load new cargo/take country cargo cards, and change the value of your stock. You can only take an executive action die after all the other dice of that number have been used up. While that’s a lot of words, this game is surprisingly simple, but deviously complex. Know when and what to do will help you maximize your income. There are also military ships, cruise ships, and rail cargo. Moving military ships will earn you a once per turn money bonus equal to the number of country cargo markers on your company’s board. Cruise ships earn your cruise ship markers that have values from 1 to 5, and you get to place that marker on your company board earning your permanent powers like extra loads and extra cargo cards to choose from. Some cargo has a rail icon next to it, and you place that cargo on a separate section of the board. Rail cargo dice number is used to change what player goes first and get you extra country cargo markers. After three rounds, you sell off your stock to the bank, count all your money, and just like life, player with the most money wins!
Mechanics– This is a hard Eurogame. Nothing is too difficult here once you get the hang of it. However, knowing what you need to do make this game some brain burning fun. This game has two levels to it: your personal money and your companies. You might be the best player in the game, but if you don’t invest wisely, you could lose. Those levels of the game make this much more interesting that just who has the largest company at the time. Also, these different levels of play make a player have to consider when that player will take stock market options to be selfish and when a player will take actions to better his company. Constantly having smart choices to make makes this an amazing experience. My only problem is you will most likely only get the option to buy stock on round one and round three. I haven’t found a way to buy stock all three turns. Wish there was a way to make a bit more personal money. 4.75/5
Theme- This game does make you feel like an executive at a cargo company. Do you better your own company or do you better your own stock portfolio? Focus too much on one you will fail. Focus too much on the other and you won’t have enough personal money to win. Choosing what to do makes you really have to think and adds a tension to the game you will enjoy. Also moving all the ships is fun and does make you feel like a shipping magistrate. All said and done, it’s a blast. 5/5
Instructions– This game plays like chess, and to win you need to really understand the rules. The rules do a decent job of communicating the game, but lots of little details are semi-hidden in the rule book. They are there, and after two read through of the rules, you will get them all. But that’s after two good read throughs. 4.5/5
Execution– Stronghold Games makes great games, but for some reason, their Eurogames tend to get light-weight boxes. My copy of CO2 is flimsy and this box is flimsy as well. My copy of Panamax even came dented up. Inside the box, the game is great. AND IT COMES WITH BAGS! That right there is worth a 4! I did have a small problem with the layout of the game. I would have liked an area where my personal stuff went besides just in front of me, not on my clipboard. All told, few small changes would easily get this up to a 5. 4.5/5
Summary– I love Stronghold Games and the hardest working man in board games Stephen Buonocore. I’ve been waiting for Stronghold to make some more hardcore Eurogames. And, when this one came out, I bought it as soon as I could. I’m happy to say this is an awesome game that gives you a great Eurogame experience. Choices on what to do each turn, how to maximize your actions, and still get enough money to be better than the Joneses dominate this game and provide the positive stress that makes Eurogame so much fun. Want a new game that focuses on ships and international relations? This game is well worth the price of admission. 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!
So those are my goals. What do you think? Like what I got? Hate what I’m doing? You tell me!
Producer– Stronghold Games
Set-Up/Play/Clean-Up-35 min per player (2-5 players)
TL; DR-A few problems mar an otherwise good game. 83%
Basics-The world is in trouble, and you have to fix it through capitalism! In CO2 you play a company specializing in green/renewable power starting in the 1970s. Each round starts with players gaining money, coins or both based on how much research their companies have in each type of green energy. Then, each of the six areas of Earth gains more CO2 producing power plants if they do not have enough power plant in that region for each decade( 2 in 1980, 3 in 1990 and so on). Each CO2 producing power plant increases the global CO2 parts per million rating and can lead to ecological disasters on a continent. After that, in each decade you are given a number of turns based on the number of players. On a turn you can do one of three actions: propose, implement, or build a green power plant. When you propose a power plant, you place a project token in one of three sections that either gives you money, technology cubes, or scientist meeples. When you implement a proposed plant you spend a carbon credit to gain resources depending on the type of plant with resources ranging from technology cubes to money or both. If your company has enough research in a particular type of plant and enough money, you can build an implemented plant gaining more research in that plants type as well as victory points. Also on your turn, you have several free actions where you can move a scientist meeples, buy/sell carbon credits, and play cards. Scientist meeples can be moved to an implement or proposed project, from one project to another, or from a project to a research convention with the same energy type as a project the meeple was on. If all the spaces on a convention are covered, all companies gain research in each type of energy the scientists were on as well as one research in any type of energy from that meeting. If you implement or build a project with another player’s meeple, that player gains one research in that type of energy, get to move that meeple for free, and you must pay them an extra dollar for the privilege. In the center of the board are the carbon credits. On your turn you can buy or sell credits, but not both. The cards are UN mandates give you bonus points if you build specified types of power plants. The cards in your hand give you bonus money, credits, tech cubes, or scientists if you do an action specified on the card. You may only perform one free card action each turn. At the end of your turn, you gain one research in one type of energy based on a project one of your scientist meeples is on. And the game continues like this. After each player has taken a turn, and the first player advances the action counter. When there are no more action spaces left for this decade, the decade advances, and research points/money are given out, disasters happen, and then the turn counter is reset based on the number of players. The game continues like this until a few events happen: 1) the CO2 level gets high enough that mankind dies/everybody loses 2) the decade is 2030 or 3) the CO2 level drops below 350. At the end, players who controls the different areas of the board based on number of power plants in each area gain carbon credits based on the region, the players spend those for money, get research money/points one last time, sell money for points, and the player with the most points wins.
Mechanics- When you get past the instructions (see below), this game is really fun! The game makes you think on your feet a lot while having to make smart choices based on what the other players are doing. You CAN’T build stuff alone. You need to work with the other players to get the power plants built and experience to do it, but if you let the other build everything, you will lose. This game does semi-cooperative really well, maybe almost the best I’ve seen for a while. 5/5
Theme- The game does do some justice to the theme of different green energy companies working together/against one another. The mechanics do enforce the theme of needing other to help you and the theme of environmentalism. An example is the ecological disasters. When an area of the world has a problem, each company WITHOUT power plants in the area has to pay a cube to the region or be seen as callous. These cubes can be used by other players who build in the region because now grants are available to help fix the damage. I do have some problems with the theme as the components could use a bit more to make things a bit more thematic. Yes, this is a euro game, but that doesn’t mean it has to have cubes. Give me some other kinds of meeples like little computers or something. 4.5/5
Instructions- This game was written by a lawyer. The rules are divided into sections and subsections that make this game not fun to read. The rules are several pages of three columns of words with few pictures. The pictures that are in there are awesome and really help to explain the rules. But, there are not many! The rules reference sections like 2.2.1. DON’T DO THAT! Have a nice flow that invites me to read! I’ve been sitting on this game for a long time (six months) because I couldn’t make it through the rules. When you do read the rules, you see the game is pretty standard euro-game fare, so it’s not too complicated. But even after the several subsections in the rules, I and my gaming group were still left with questions regarding scientist movement and other important aspects. Overall, it’s not the worst set of rules I’ve read as I was still able to play the game without a visit to Board Game Geek, but only just. 3/5
Execution- The game components are not bad, but I would have liked a bit more. The game uses small, half standard cards for all the cards in the game. That’s not bad, but there are less than 60 cards in the game. So, the cards are more of a pain. Adding to the pain, the cards don’t have any words and unless you know what cards you’re looking for, it’s really a pain as you need to constantly look at the rules to find which cards are separated into which piles. Bigger cards with different colors would have really helped distinguish the types of cards. Also, the box is kind of flimsy. The board is well done and the iconography is good, except where the rules fail it. Overall, it’s the product is ok, but some minor problems hamper the whole. 4/5
Summary-This is a fun game. The game itself is a great Euro game. The theme is fun as it’s a controversial subject-global warming-while being executed well. This game is semi-cooperative worker placement on two different levels-projects and scientists- which I haven’t seen for a while. If you love worker placement/development/resource management euro games and can get past the dry, boring instructions, you will have a blast trying to outwit your opponents on a global scale. 83%