Whether it’s a board game or card game, nowadays, tabletop games are more than just Monopoly or Game of Life. There are thousand of new games being released every year from around the world.
These games can offer multiple different mode to play. From competitive, cooperative, multiplayer or we can even play some games alone.
This is the list of all of tabletop games that I have played and written a review for. Most of them are card games but there maybe several other board games coming.
Usually I prefer games in smaller box because they are easier to setup and play, fast playing time, affordable, and compact. Just because the game is big, it doesn’t always mean they have a better gameplay compared to the smaller ones.
Bigger games do have better chance on offering a more interesting and deeper gameplay because of multiple different components they can add. However, as a result the setup and the playtime will take even longer and some people like me, cannot always afford that.
People say that there are games for any kind of person. These are just a small portion of the game in the world that I find them interesting or that I have access to.
I will keep updating this article with more games and their review. So, stay tuned.
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List of Games
The list is in alphabetical order. Hopefully anybody can find some interesting games here.
Adventure of D (2nd Edition, 2020)
Genre: Card Game, Competitive, Cooperative, Solo Mode, Adventure – Fantasy Theme, Hand Management, Multi Purpose Card, Multi Use Card, Variable Player Powers, Modular Board, Diceless Power Card System, Racing Game, Player Elimination
Designer: Jack Darwid
Number of Players: 1 – 3
Playtime: 25 minutes per player
Official Website: Adventure of D (2nd Edition)
Adventure of D (2nd Edition) is another big game in a small box. It is a fantasy adventure card game that comes with just a deck of about 100 cards. It is very portable, compact and affordable.
Like the other game from Jack Darwid, the designer, the game can be played in several different modes, solo, cooperative or competitively up to 3 players. In this game, we will play as a hero trying to defeat Elzoof, an evil sorcerer in his Tower of Death.
Before we can enter, we need to train our character by increasing three hero stats, Strength, Intelligence, and Agility. To do that, we have to travel around the cursed island to meet some Masters, fighting against Monsters and completing quests.
The map of the island is made of cards that will form a 4 x 3 grid. How we lay down these location cards can be different from game to game because we can just swap the cards. These cards have two sided as well, so with this one variable we can already get a lot of replay value.
The game uses what they call as diceless power card system. It is basically a deck of 60 cards that can be a randomizer. However, these cards are also multi purpose cards with several features on each card, as item or as event.
These power card is also multi use cards. Players will take them as their starting hand, and use them for several uses. They can be the hit points or HP of the hero, as a move card, or play card using the Power value. Everytime we want to play these cards to take actions, there are a lot of things to consider.
With just a hand limit of 6, we have to consider as well what will be our next actions and which card to keep for that. Hand management combined with Multi use card mechanism makes this a very deep game.
The most interesting element of this game is probably the player interactions. Players can accept and reject new events that will come out. The idea is in competitive mode, since we have to be the first to beat the final boss to win, we can prevent other players from accessing some of the events. Especially an easy one.
But this idea can also be used in cooperative mode where we can help each other to have those easier events. There is not much of other confrontational or directly attacking other player. That makes the game really family friendly good for carebear players.
Sadly the solo implementation of this game remove this interesting element. The idea is there but not as good as the other two modes. For the solo and cooperative mode, the racing element is replaced with timer.
Somehow that makes the game a bit too restricting even in lower difficulty level. We may need to ignore a lot of things to win the game in those 2 modes. The competitive is probably the best way to play Adventure of D.
Other elements like items, Hero skills, can give more setup variables for different game experience from game to game, but only as minor things. They are not even necessary to win the game but some can be very powerful.
With a lot of randomness from multiple variables, luck can be a major factor of deciding how likely we can win. It is still acceptable but not with the timer element.
For the size of the game, with a deck of just about 100 cards, Adventure of D is an optimally designed game. It can deliver an experience of a big game in a small box. A very portable and affordable game but they have to sacrifice the production value.
Learn more from my Adventure of D (2nd Edition) Card Game Review.
Genre: Drafting, Resource Management, Set Collection, Tile Laying, Pattern Building, Competitive, Fan Made Solo Variant
Designer: Frank Critin, Grégoire Largey, Sébastien Pauchon
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Playtime: 30 minutes
Official Website: Ankh’or (spacecowboys.fr)
Ankh’or is the second game in the 2 player games series by Space Cowboys as the publisher. However, it is possible to play up to 4 players.
In this game, we will be collecting tokens in the shape of poker chips as our resources. There are 5 main resources and an Ankh token in this game and each turn we can only take 3 with a limit of 5 resources and 2 Ankh tokens.
On our next turn, we can spend the tokens to buy 1 tile from up to 6 available tiles in the market.
The market will have 6 slots and each slot will display the cost which can be 2 tokens or 3 tokens. Every game, we will have a different set of price for each slot by placing Price Markers randomly.
While we can always buy from the more expensive tiles and the main element of this game is to manipulate the market so we can buy them cheaper. We do that by using the Ankh Token.
In 2 player mode, the Ankh will remove one of tile on the left most space and refill the market until the market will have 6 tiles again. So, that is one of the unique thing in Ankh’or that the market doesn’t refill automatically after we buy it.
Because of that players will have to prepare themselves by having enough resources and spend the Ankh to reset the market at the right time. We want to be the first one to buy from the fresh market while preventing the other player to take advantage.
It’s like their previous game, Jaipur. But instead of we want to have empty hand of card, we need to make sure we have enough resources.
After we purchase the tile, we need to place it into our tableau. This is a tableau building, tile placement game. The restriction is that we need to place the tile adjacent to the existing one. Except of course, for the first tile.
Our goal is to create a set collection where only adjacent tiles that shares either the same color or the same animal icons will score. That gives the game a unique spatial puzzle.
The end game will be triggered once a player places their 13th tiles. This will be a very tight game to play competitively. To win the game, we need to figure out how to be more efficient so we can take less number of action just to take the resources to buy those tiles.
One way to play more efficiently is to place the tile on the upper level. Placing a tile on upper level will give us a discount of 1 less resource token. So, it is not just a plain 2D spatial puzzle but a 3D one.
Even the adjacency also works with the upper level tiles. So, at the base, the tile might be separated but they can be connected from the top.
The Ankh Token can also be spent to move the tiles. Depending on the random order of how the tiles will come out and our opponent’s progress, there will be times when we have to change plan and try to collect other things. That is how having the Ankh is always helpful.
Some of the tiles also have special power that we can activate one time, immediately. There are tiles that allows us to take 1 more action or tiles that let us store extra tokens and there are tiles that give us immediate 2 VP points.
During the game if we manage to collect a group of 5 tiles that share the same color or animal icons, we also get Bonus Tokens that give us 3 points. This is in addition to points we get per tile if we have a group of at least 2 tiles that share the same color and/or animals.
While the game have enough set up variables with the price markers and order of tiles, I do feel like the game has limited replay value. The spatial puzzle is still there but I don’t see better alternative than always going for the pyramid shape.
I do feel that the game is close enough to Jaipur but not as good probably because they try to accommodate more players. Ankh’or does a better job with the tactile feel and table presents with the production value.
We can watch our tableau grow slowly. It is a game in small box that we can take anywhere but probably not to play in public place. There are some small components that we can easily lose.
Like other filler games, it is nice to play once in a while.
Architects of the West Kingdom (2018)
Genre: Worker Placement, Competitive, Official Solo Variant, AI, Variable Player Power, Resource Management, Contract, Set Collection, Drafting, City Building, Medieval Setting.
Designer: Shem Phillips, S J Macdonald
Number of Players: 1- 5
Playtime: 60 – 80 minutes
Official Website: Architects of the West Kingdom (garphill.com)
Architects of the West Kingdom is the first game in West Kingdom Trilogy from Garphill Games. In this competitive game, players are Architects trying to build buildings and contribute to the construction of Cathedral while maintaining their noble status in front of the King.
This is a Worker Placement game where we will start with 20 Workers. We have to send these Workers to various different location to gather resources, trade them, hire Apprentices that can help us build some buildings.
The designers introduced a twist to the standard mechanism where in this one, all players can place multiple of their Workers on the same location. That way, players are not blocking or denying their opponents to access that location.
Moreover, there is a multiplying effect. Instead of getting just one amount of resources per placement, we will instead gain more resources the next time we add workers to that location.
The designer also introduced a capturing mechanism. In order to prevent one player to gain too many resources from a single location, their opponents can capture workers.
The captured workers can be traded into Silver later for the capturer. This is how the player interaction will come and force other players to diversify, spread their workers to various different location.
Or, they might as well push their luck to keep focusing on 1 location. That way the capturer can get more Silver instead just holding the Workers.
Another interesting element of the game is the idea of Virtue track. This is how players maintain their noble status. If their Virtue is too low, players can no longer participate in the construction of Cathedral but they can have access to free tax and Black Market.
On the other hand, if the Virtue is high enough, they lose their chance to access to the Black Market. They can build the Cathedral and at the end of the game, gain VP based on their Virtue.
There are multiple ways to gain or lose Virtue. This can come from building certain buildings and hire different Apprentices.
The game will end after a certain number of constructions based on the number of players. For each constructions, we also need to permanently lose our Workers for the rest of the game.
So, overtime the more we built, the less efficient we become. The idea is to play long term or strategically.
There is a bit of racing element with the construction of Cathedral. Only one players can reach the top of construction stage and gain the highest VP.
However, maybe that is like the weakest part of the game. Players can still score more points from different avenues.
The game also comes with 5 different characters. Other than standard setup, these characters will have a unique ability and start with different resources and virtue.
These characters will definitely change how we play the game. The game also comes with an AI or Bot to support the solo mode or the 2P mode.
While the whole concept of the game with all of the twists is interesting, I feel like there are some parts of the game that are lacking. Like the Apprentice market can become very static, especially with lower player count or in the second half of the game.
The game does have a lot of set up variables but I feel like they don’t actually support the different possible strategies equally. Combined that with the luck of the draw from Building cards and Apprentice cards, some characters will have higher chance to win.
While the Virtue track opens more opportunities and different way to play the game, in the end, we are still chasing the same thing.
Higher virtue still means higher victory points. That’s the bottleneck.
The different variable setup from each characters only means just different starting point of the same strategy. We may feel a bit different in tactical level.
For the competitive play, the replay value may not be that good. But for solo play, this base game is a good one.
So far, none of the expansions has solved this issue for competitive play. But the cooperative mode from the Tomesaga expansion has some potential. More characters can definitely add more replay value.
The Big Book of Madness (2015)
Genre: Deck Building, Fantasy Theme, Sorcery Theme, Cooperative, Hand Management, Variable Player Powers, Player Elimination
Designer: Maxime Rambourg
Number of Players: 2 – 5 Players
Playtime: 60 -90 minutes
Official Website: The Big Book of Madness (www.iello.fr)
The Big Book of Madness is a multiplayer cooperative game for 2 to 5 players with a lot of interesting twist as a deckbuilding game. We can also play solo but we have to control two characters by ourselves.
Players are magician students who have to deal with a series of Monsters from The Big Book of Madness itself. Unless they can defeat the last monster to seal the book, they will lose.
In this game, we still build a deck, trying to put more powerful cards over the course of the game. However, those cards are just resources without any actions unlike most deckbuilding game.
The Elements or resources that we get, can then be spent to do actions like activate some spells. So, the way we do action is not based on the card and therefore, there will be no chain of reaction from one action to another. It is still possible but very limited.
Instead, the game offers a way for players to have a lot of interaction and interplay between each other. One of the spell allow us to give one action to another player. This way, players don’t just take turns in linear way, waiting until their turn again.
Another interesting deckbuilding element in this game is the idea of reserving the card. Here, we can take some important card out of the recirculation so we can use it anytime we need.
Also, these reserved cards can be used by other players as well. So, we are not just focusing on what we can do during our turn but how we can help other players in their turn later.
The problem with this game is the fact there are too many interesting things we can do but very limited actions we can do. It feels like we need can only do certain specific actions or otherwise we will lose the game, like a puzzle.
It is very easy for alpha player to try taking control of the entire gameplay, forcing other players to follow the alpha’s decision. Some people may not enjoy when that happens. That makes the game is less as cooperative multiplayer game but more a solitaire game.
The interesting interaction where players can discuss their long term plan, both strategic and tactical play is there. However, it will only work if the players share the same level of experience on playing the game.
There are a lot of aspects in this game that I think we need to learn about each of them in details. The game is considered as a bit hard and if we play recklessly, we will have no chance on winning the game. Even some of the rules are very easy to overlook.
The potential for interactive gameplay is there, but it can be very frustrating. If that is the kind of cooperative game your are looking for, then you should try to play The Big Book of Madness.
Genre: Card Game, Card Drafting, Auction, Engine Building, Tableau Building, Action Points, Coffee Theme, Industry Theme, Competitive
Designer: Róla and Costa
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Playtime: 30 minutes
Official Website: Café (BGG)
Café card game is one of many games that has the melding and splaying mechanism to play. We’ll be using cards that has 2 x 3 grid with several different icons on them and build our tableau using those cards.
In this game, we are company of coffee industry that will be producing, processing and delivering the 4 different beans to the coffee shops to score points. Along the way we have to expand the company and making it more efficient by using these cards.
To add new cards, we have to put the new one on top of the previous ones. We also have to cover 2 of the 6 squares up to 4. So along the way, we have to sacrifice some existing part of the company to grow. It is not going to be an easy choice when choosing the new card.
That is just the first half of the game. The other half is that we need to manage the operational of this company. Each round, we can have one or more action points and we can spend them to activate one of 4 possible actions.
Each of these actions allows us to either produce the coffee beans, dry them, roast them or eventually deliver them. We will be using small cubes of 4 different color to represent the beans.
These beans will be placed on the cards and moved from one square for one process to the next square with different process. This makes the game unique compared to other melding and splaying card game.
To increase the productivity of our company we need to choose the card from the first half with the right icons that represent each of these actions.
We have to keep all of the coffee processing aspects balance because the coffee has to go through a series of linear process. Since we will have more from one aspect and maybe sacrifice the other for a while, the production chain may get stuck if we don’t manage them well.
We can also increase the efficiency of the process by gathering the same icons in our tableau. By doing so, we can spend a single action point to activate more than one process.
Café card game is mostly a multiplayer solitaire game with almost no player interactions except if we play the advanced variant. At the end, we just compare our scores so there is a solo mode of beating your own score.
Still, the process of building our tableau as an engine which we can run it is a very satisfying process. As the game progress and our engine has improved, the actions can be very complex.
The game always ends after 8 rounds. It is a filler which we can play the game under 30 minutes but with more players, that can add the playtime.
I think the replay value is a bit low for this game but there is a potential for expansion. We get random of 3 cards which we can choose one each round. However, most of the cards are a bit equal. What really matters to win the game is how we play the card.
Players will start with almost identical cards. The overall strategy will be the same but the tactical play because of different order of cards from the deck will give a different feel between each game.
For its size, I think Café is a nice game to try.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game (2016)
Genre: Card Game, Card Drafting, Set Collection, Competitive, Medieval Theme, Hand Management, City Building, Multi Use Card, Multi Purpose Cards, Solo Mode, Push Your Luck
Designer: Stefan Feld
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Playtime: 30-60 minutes
Official Website: The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game is the simplified version of the original board game version, introduced in 2011. The board game version use dice, tiles, tokens and all of that is translated into 240 small cards for this version.
Some people say that this portable version does offer the same gaming experience from its bigger version but only like 80% and with some twist. The playtime is also faster.
I guess this card version will speak more to fans of the original game who knows every element of the game. It is rather hard for people who don’t know anything about the board game. It is still a great game though.
This card game version may successfully answer the portable issue but when we do play the game, the game will take a lot of table space. Which can be the same or even bigger than the board game version.
For the theme, the game is about City Building or Civilization Building game. We start by buying some plans and then build it to get some bonus. The bonus allow us to build more building or get more resources like Workers, Silver, Livestock and Goods. All of that can be traded into VP at the end of the game.
At its heart, we will do a set collection. We will not score from just building a single building but we need a set of three from the same type of building. There is also another set collection mini game from the Animal and Goods.
The game will be played in very limited amount of turns, 5 rounds with 6 turns each. It is also an elegant game, very simple to play. Every turn, we will draw 2 cards and choose from 6 possible actions to get the best result.
A simple game but it is very deep. There are a lot of considerations when choosing and taking an action in this game. Aside from the main mechanism, there are several elements to this game that will make it very interesting like push your luck, multi purpose card, hand management.
The game is also very rewarding instead of punishing. There are several bonuses that we can score and if we can plan correctly, we can even get several actions within a single turn.
The game may not offer that much direct confrontation between players like attacking cards. At most we will do hate drafting. But not because we want it to but more because there is no other option left.
With so limited turns yet rewarding actions, trying to sabotage the other player will not lead to winning the game.
The Castles of Burgundy The Card Game also comes with solo variant. We can play alone, competing against a virtual player, Aaron. While it is a good feature, I recommend trying some house rules or fan’s variant.
This is not a perfect game but it is still a great game for its size. If anybody looking for a small portable card game to play solo or multiplayers, The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game is one that we should try.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game (2017)
Genre: Roll and Write, Pencil and Paper, Dice Rolling, City Building Theme, Medieval Setting, Resource Management, Bingo Mechanism, Competitive, Official Solo Variant, Set Collection.
Designer: Stefan Feld, Christoph Toussaint
Number of Players: 1 – 5
Playtime: 15 – 30 minutes
Official Website: The Castles of Burgundy: THe Dice Game (ravensburger.de)
The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is the roll and write version of The Castles of Burgundy. This use the Bingo mechanism where one player will roll 5 dice and all players will be making decision based on that same result.
Each player will get a pencil and a sheet of paper as their player board where we can write on as part of the decision process. This board has giant hex made of 37 hexes.
Thematically, we will be building our duchy or castle area, starting with a chosen Castle and try to explore nearby area. In order to explore nearby area we need to use a combination of one color dice with the right pip value.
Each area has one or more hexes with the same color or building type. There are 6 different colors each with its own requirement for pip values. We will be using 5 dice from which 2 are to determine the color and two for the pip value. One last dice is for the timer.
So every roll, we can get up to 4 possible combinations of one color and one value. If we can get a match combination with the requirement from nearby area, we can explore and build.
The main idea of the game is to keep sprawling so the nearby area will be bigger and have more variety. This way, we can reduce the possibility of a bad roll.
If we cannot use any of the combination, we pass and as compensation, we get a Worker. This is one of the bonus that allow us to change the pip value of one dice in later turns.
There are other bonuses that allow us to change the color and to take additional turns. We get them by completing a single area with one or more adjacent hexes with the same color.
That means, we cannot just exploring further. Sometimes we need to take time and complete an area in order to get bonus so it can give us more flexibility.
So, there is a bit of resource management. Everytime we get a bonus we make notes on the player sheet and cross them when we want to spend the bonus.
The challenge is that each turn, we can only activate one bonus from three different types of bonus that we can spend. If we change the color, we cannot change the pip value or do double action in the same turn or vice versa.
There will be times when the bonus will be useless because of both color and value are wrong and we can only change one of them. At the end, unused bonuses will not generate any points and just become a tie breaker.
A well known characteristic of Burgundy game in any version, is that the game is played in multiple rounds. If we can complete an area or objective in earlier rounds, we get more points with the same effort. That also applies in this dice version.
So, each turn, we have to make choice from three different considerations. Do we explore, complete an area to get more bonus or just to gain more points?
With the limitation of using just one bonus every turn and the randomness of dice rolling, while we can make a strategy, we will be mostly playing tactically. Unlike the other 2 versions, there is a bad roll in this dice version, which is not a good experience.
Some may say that the luck doesn’t matter because the playtime is short and we probably want to play again right away with very short setup time. I feel like it is more enjoyable if we don’t try to plan ahead.
However, we still will plan a couple turns ahead occasionally. Some turns is fast because it is the only option while others can take longer because it can open to more opportunities. It feels bad when the dice just doesn’t help us execute the plan.
The game comes with 4 variant of sheets and each time we can choose to start from 4 different starting Castle. Some starting Castles are better than others.
They also suggest some variants to play the game which don’t give any significant change. Like most of roll and write games, this one can be considered as a multiplayer solitaire game.
The only interaction is who gets to be the first on completing all hexes of the same color. We can play alone or with as many players as we can, as long as each of them has the sheet.
I don’t think the game has enough replay value. But it is very portable that we can play while travelling.
While it is not as good as the other version of the game mostly because of the randomness, The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game can still offer some depth in the gameplay.
Circle the Wagons (2017)
Genre: Card Game, Micro Game, Card Drafting, Set Collection, Melding and Splaying, Objective, Competitive, 2 Player Only, City Building Theme, American West Theme, Time Tracker, Tableau Building, Multi Purpose Card, Solo mode (expansion).
Number of Players: 2
Playtime: 15 minutes
Official Website: Button Shy Games, Quined Games
Circle the Wagons is one of the micro game in tabletop game industry. The game consists just 18 cards and it can deliver an experience like regular bigger size game.
All of the cards are multi purpose cards, using both sides of the card. One is when the card become objective or special scoring conditions and the other side is to play the main game.
The main mechanism of the game is melding and splaying tile laying game. So, it is a tableau building but instead of using cardboard tile, we use cards.
Each card has a territory side which has four quadrants each with background color and one of six icons in the game. Everytime we draw a card, we have to put the new one on top or adjacent the existing one.
Cards can be rotated upside down but we are not allowed to slip the new one under the existing one.
There are two things that we are going to do in this game that can help us gain victory points to win the game. The first one is we want to create a large group of the same color or background or territory.
The second thing is to score based on the special conditions using the icons. Sometimes we just need to have a set of one type of icons. Other times, we may need to have a set of 2 or more icons and/or colors.
By taking 3 cards from the play to become the scoring conditions of the game, we can have about 800 different variants. Some of them can be very easy to achieve but some can be counter intuitive of what we usually will be doing.
It makes the game really different, a great replay value. I think some people who are not really excel in spatial or visual element may not enjoy the game as much for this type of game.
Or, at least, they may need more time to figure out how to do very well. All they need is just to take the card and try to put it in the tableau to find the best result.
Another interesting thing about the game is the time track element. In this game, we will be taking turns with just one more player for drafting the cards.
However, we have to draw them in order. We can skip some cards and get the one we like more but the skipped cards will go to the other players for free.
This makes the game very interactive despite we mostly focus on building our tableau. We may not care about the card that we skip but that card may be a good one for the opponent.
Because of the skipping part, analysis paralysis is possible but in the scale of a micro game. We can always have multiple choices up to the 15th cards right away.
Circle the Wagons is intended for 2 players only. However, some fans have come up with variants to play the game with more players or even solo game if we purchase the expansion.
I thought a micro game, even though it can deliver a full play experience, still tend to lack of something compared to the larger size one. For the gameplay perspective, Circle the Wagons is indeed almost like a regular game.
It is just it can end so fast. It is definitely a filler which we will want to play a couple of times in a row.
The game is very portable. We can get the copy in either a small box or a wallet from different publishers.
It is definitely a recommended one for its size.
Genre: Card Game, Memory, Puzzle, Solo only Game, Hand Management, Office theme, Resource / Goods Management.
Designer: Friedemann Friese
Number of Player: 1
Playtime: 30 – 45 minutes
Official Website: 2F-Spielle
Finished! is a card game by Friedemann Friese for 1 player only. Some people consider it as a klondike or solitaire for gamers.
What we will be doing is similar, we will be sorting 48 cards in ascending numerical order but the card has only one suit. In each game we start with a random unsorted deck of cards where we will be drawing 3 cards each turn and try to sort them before sending them back to the bottom of the unsorted deck.
While doing so, we will take out cards with the lowest number possible to create a new deck for sorted cards. Each time we find the final card or #48, that indicates the end of the round which we have to remove one Coffee Token to the game box.
If we run out of Coffee tokens before we finish with sorting these cards, we lose the game.
Each of these 48 cards has an action that we can activate by spending a Sweet Token. These actions allow us to do several interesting things like get more Sweet Tokens, drawing more cards, exchange cards, draw back from the previous 3 cards or put some or all of the cards into a kind of reserved space which they are referring as Future Areas.
All of these action help us manipulate the order of the cards from the deck. By using them, even though we cannot immediately score cards or take the lowest cards into the sorted deck, we can still create an ascending order in the unsorted deck.
This is the different thing compared to klondike game. In that game, we can end up with nothing to do, just cycling through the deck over and over again with little to no progress at all.
The randomness of the starting deck is there but Finished! card game offers a lot of ways to mitigate the game. However, players do have to do a bit digging to actually figure out the best use of those action to solve this puzzle game.
There is even a way to prolong the timer of each round. If we can figure that out, we will have higher chance to solve the game.
The game also has an element of managing resources. Sweet tokens is the only resource in the game but they are considered as limited just to 10. We have the Active Stash where we can spend the resources immediately,
However, we also have to make sure to keep the supply in the Reserved Stash. Sometimes we will have to deliberately spend the tokens just to make sure this resource is cycling as well, not just the cards.
Each game session can take about 45 minutes. It can be a bit too long for some people for a solo game only, definitely not a filler. However, this is probably one of the game with the fastest setup time. It is like we want to play the game immediately.
It is also not that hard to pause the game and continue later. But it involves taking notes about the resources.
There will be times when we feel like we are done or actually finished with the game. But like klondike or solitaire card game, people will eventually come back to this once in a while.
FINISHED! card game is a kind of game where we know exactly what to expect, what is coming from the game and how to play the game. It is a puzzle but with enough randomness that can always give another challenge with satisfying result.
Genre: Card Game, Auction / Bidding, Hand Management, Multi Use Cards, Fishing Theme, Nautical Theme, Engine Building, Competitive, Solo Variant
Designer: Benjamin Pinchback, Matthew D. Riddle
Number of Players: 2-4 Players
Playtime: 30 – 45 minutes
Official Website: Fleet (Eagle Gryphon Games)
Fleet the card game is an auction game where we will be trying to build our fleet of fishing ships. It is a competitive game for 2 to 4 players. The game itself is very compact, with just cards and cubes within a small box that we can carry and play with others.
We start by acquiring some licenses which allow us to catch the corresponding fish or sea life. In order to do that, we need to engage in bidding and overbidding against other players to win that specific license. The right license will also give more bonus and probably essential to win the game.
The auction is not a blind bid and we can keep overbid until the other player choose to pass. To pay the auction we will be using boat cards which has multi use.
Aside from the cash value, the boat cards can become , well, the boat we will launch and catch fish. It can also become the captain we hire to lead that boat. Without the captain, the boat will not catch any fish.
So, there are a lot of things to consider before we use those boat cards. The two boat cards with the same cash value might have different attribute which we will need one more than the other later in the game.
The game feels like an engine building game. Getting the license will help us generate more resources in the form of boat cards, which we need to manage and turn them into the boat we can launch, generate fish and score VP.
This Fleet game may seem complicated at first to learn but the game is very fast and it will take like probably 30 minutes to play. While the game offers an interesting way to play but it requires more content than we can get from the base game.
We might not have that many choice for the best way to win the game. Some of the licenses are more powerful than others and makes them essential to win the game.
The designer already offered a lot of expansions to fix this issue and that includes a way to play solo mode by introducing virtual players. The best part is that they offered a PnP version for this module, so with just the base game, we can already play it.
Most of the expansions are just cards. It will be worth it to purchase any copy of them if we look for a great production value. We might want to check the developer’s Kickstarter accounts for future offer which usually includes older games an add on.
If we include the expansions, Fleet the card game is probably something we shouldn’t miss for its size. I understand that this is on old game. Even I only got a used copy of it.
Genre: Card Drafting, Tableau Building, Engine Building, Competitive, Fan-made Solo Variant.
Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Number of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 40 – 50 minutes
Official Webpage: Gizmos 2nd Ed. (cmon.com)
Gizmos is a competitive engine-building card game for 2-4 players. We will be using marbles with 4 different colors as the resources in order to pay the cost to build Gizmo cards.
Each Gizmo card has an effect if we build them from just gaining VP tokens or it can trigger another action. If we can find a good combination of those Gizmos, an action during our turn can lead to multiple different actions.
This can help us gain more Energy, build faster, and gain more points. The 4 basic actions that we can do at the start of the turn are FILE, PICK, BUILD and RESEARCH.
File allows us to reserve a Gizmo cards so other players cannot build it. Pick means to pick the Energy or resources. Build is building Gizmo and put the card into our tableau. Research is like the blind draw a number of cards and choose 1 to either build or reserve.
The Gizmos can enhance those 4 actions or lead to more of those 4 actions. Each turn we can activate as many Gizmos as we have but only once per turn.
The game will end after we have 16 Gizmos or 4 Gizmos from Level 3. By using separate decks for each 3 Level, it is very easy to predict which card level we should go for.
The best part of Gizmos is the game offers probably the best system for the typical issue of any engine-building card game with too many cards. Not only we have more cards in the display area with 3 separate decks, the game also allow us to explore the deck with that Research action.
It’s even better that we can improve that action. That action is like a push your luck mechanism that we may still get bad cards. However, the game has a system to mitigate that we can also improve.
At least if we choose to reserve any card, we will get an Energy. With the right Gizmo cards, this can be another action, another Energy or even VP token.
It makes the game very fun to search through the deck. The chances to get bust is very low, assuming we are prepared for it and it’s not that hard to improve it.
The game comes with marbles and dispenser for the marbles which is mostly just a gimmick. But definitely will make a good table presence. We can simply just use a standard playing card to replace the marbles.
Unfortunately there is no official solo variant. But there are two fan made variants that allows us to compete with one or more Bot.
While the game is very fun to play once in a while but it doesn’t seem to have a lot of replay value with no major expansion at this point. The game may start rather slow but can get very complex with all of the chain reactions that can happen.
Goblins vs Zombies (2013)
Genre: Card Game, Hand Management, Multi Use Cards, Tower Defense Game, Solo mode, Cooperative, Competitive, Fantasy Theme
Designer: Jack Darwid
Number of Players: 1-3
Playtime: 15 minutes per player
Official Website: Goblins vs Zombies (jackdgames.com)
Goblins vs Zombies is a tower defense card game. We will have to set up a line of Goblin’s defense defending their village against the wave if incoming Zombies.
The designer is known to design a big game in small box. The entire game is just deck of less than 110 cards, with even paper tokens, making this game very affordable.
With that limited number of cards, there are two decks in this game, the Goblin deck and the Zombie deck. Each Goblin cards and Zombie cards has their own unique traits and how they work in the game.
To deal with some of the zombies we can only use several specific Goblins. Through hand management, we need to play the right Goblin cards by discarding the other cards. So, the card is a multi use. Every turn, we will have to consider which of the cards to keep and which to discard.
Each of those cards is also two sided which gives another consideration in the game. The generic side of the Goblin allow us to draw more cards which is essential to play the other cards.
The game is almost feels like a puzzle because we really need to play the right card to deal the right zombies. Understanding how each Goblin and Zombie works can really help winning the game.
The problem of this game is the luck swing, the randomness of drawing the card from both deck. We can keep getting very hard Zombies and very weak Goblins in a row. In the longer play, discarding in the right order is also as important as the hand management element.
Some people may feel like this is a very hard game, typical for tower defense style cooperative game. Luckily this is a fast game, even if we lose, we can immediately start over the game.
Goblins vs Zombies can be played both solo or multiplayer up to 3, and both cooperative and competitive. Based on some of the Goblin’s action, the game will be at its best in multiplayer. Some cards allow us to help the other player dealing with Zombies.
Even though most of the time we will be focusing on our own playing field, in multiplayer mode, there is a way to hand over certain cards. This is very important and can make the game way easier.
We can consider the other player as extra room to have more than the hand limit of 9 cards and to store some essential cards. The multiplayer mode is also a way to mitigate the luck swing of drawing very hard zombie cards in a row.
The solo mode is definitely a way to make the game harder, aside from the three Bosses module that we can add to the basic mode. Each boss mode also have two different difficulty settings.
Most of the time, we will be playing just the same game. The other mode where we can play competitively, while they give some interesting ideas but they are mostly just twist to the regular mode. They are more like mini games.
While Goblins vs Zombies may not be the best card game out there, I have to admit that regarding the design process, this is a great attempt for what they are trying to achieve.
For it’s size and price, nowadays, we will only get a micro game but this still can offer something more. Unfortunately the game only got limited print run but for those who are interested, they can try the PnP version from the designer’s website.
Hero Realms (2016)
Genre: Card Game, Deckbuilding, Competitive, Fighting Game, Hand Management, Card Drafting, Take That Element, Fantasy Theme
Designer: Darwin Kastle, Robert Dougherty
Number of Players: 2-4 players
Playtime: 20 minutes
Official Website: herorealms.com
Hero Realms is a deckbuilding card game which we can play against other players up to 3 other. Like any other game with deckbuilding genre, we start with 10 low value or weak cards. We can use these weak cards to buy a better one.
While doing so, each player will start with a 50 health points which once it reaches zero, the player will be out of the game. The last player standing wins.
Each card will grant the player either one of, some, or all of the additional health points, Gold to purchase cards or Combat Points to take down their opponents. Player can also have some Champions or Guards which will stay around even after the player’s turn.
The other cards will go into recirculation which might take a while before the player can use it again. Which is why we don’t just get more cards, we need to efficiently buy possibly the stronger ones.
There is no other components but cards, at least for the base game, including the health tracking system cards. This makes this game relatively cheap and we can easily carry around, playing with friends anywhere.
Hero Realms is considered as unbalanced, which we can play in relatively short time like 20 or 30 minutes. This is because the game will depend on luck. A player can get stronger cards over and over again and instantly defeat their opponents while the other could get stuck with lower value cards.
However, there are ways and some factor of the game that we can still modify to minimize this randomness. From the market deck, starting hand, starting health points, from which we can get a lot of variants.
Hero Realms is also meant for expansions. At least, with a couple of character packs, they already add new elements to the game. Up to this time, we can purchase more cards, some campaigns to fight against several different bosses.
It’s possible for even a free one, where we can just add a couple of rules, no need for additional cards. Like against Tibus or Hydra, we can even play solo with just the base game. Those are just the official ones, with the community and fan, they could even add a fan made campaign.
So, with $20, 144 base game cards, we already have a couple of game modes. From solitaire game, battle against several players or even cooperative plays against a boss.
If we consider to buy the expansion where we can add from $5 of a character pack, the possibility for more game modes can be endless. We can play this game seriously, strategically or just a fun, fast game to kill some time like while waiting for a flight.
Since they are just cards, very easy to set up, no special or big table to play the game. For those who likes a card game with a fantasy theme, Hero Realms could be a good investment.
Imperial Settlers (2014)
Genre: Strategy, Card Game, Engine Building, Variable Player Powers, Civilization Building Theme, Competitive, Solo Mode, Hand Management, Tableau Building, Multi Use Card, Take That Element, Card Drafting.
Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek
Number of Players: 1-4 players
Playing Time: 45-90 Minutes
Official Website: Imperial Settlers (portalgames.pl)
Imperial Settlers can be a great board game for those who like engine building kind of game where player will try to generate resources and use it further to expand their board. Since they use civilization as the theme of the game, players will have to build their empire.
The artwork is great but might be childish or rather cute that some people might not like it or think the game is for kids. It might be easy to teach the game but need more serious player to master the game.
The goal is to build more buildings than the opponents, collecting points and those who score the most points over 5 rounds with 4 phases each will win the game. Each round, players will take turns multiple times to make some decision with their cards until every player has passed.
The game uses cards to determine which part of the engine or building to build, from either Production, Feature or Action Location.
Players will have to draw the faced down cards so there is going to be some random factor or luck. Just like similar engine building game, making just one mistake in earlier round will almost guarantee to lose the game at all.
To even the odds after getting bad luck with drawing a card, there are multiple ways a player can do with so many type of resources like food, wood, stone, and several more tokens to get other cards. Trading workers into 1 card would be one of them.
The cards can be used in multiple ways. Players can either build them, use it to make a deal or raze them and in return will immediately get resources needed to build the location.
The bad thing is, with so many information on the cards, the font size is considered as too small. Players can enjoy the great artwork on each of their card but not the opponents, diminishing the idea to build interaction between players.
Players will most likely to focus on building their own empire. The only interaction between players would be when one player trying to raze other player’s building or location which could change the victory points those players will get at the end of the game.
There are some special cards or building that could also generate interaction. Some action allows players to steal, take over or reactivate but very limited.
Towards the end of the game, players would have built enough building for them to create chain of actions that could drag the game longer. Playing with 4 people competitively, the game could take like 4 hours to play.
Some people say that the game is best played with two but we can even play Solo mode with just the Imperial Settlers base game. With the additional Campaign Mode instruction online, the solo game becomes very interesting.
Probably the best thing about the game is that we can play different Factions, 4 options from the base game and each has different set of cards and characteristics, even tokens. Some would be make the game harder without understanding how they work. This features will add some varieties to the gameplay even for solo mode each time.
Probably endless possible new factions and expansions cards can be introduced to the base game. Making Imperial Settlers some kind of investment for long term board game. It has been 5 years with several expansion releases and the developers stated that the game is not done yet.
Just like any game, people can have their own house rule implemented. Some would say they could play over 30 times with different gameplay with the base game only.
If longer play time is not an issue, with expansion packs, we can even play more than 4 players. Having friends with also the base game is also possible so we can actually have a match using the same factions.
Genre: Card Game, 2 player only, Card Drafting, Hand Management, Set Collection, Competitive.
Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
Number of Players: 2
Playtime: 30 minutes
Official Website: Jaipur (spacecowboys.fr)
Jaipur is probably one of the most popular modern tabletop game for only 2 players, first released in 2009. It already got a new edition and become the first of the 2 player game series by Space Cowboys.
In this game, players will collect goods in the form of cards. Players take turns collecting them from the market that always have 5 cards. The cards are random and we don’t know what will come next.
There are 6 different type of Goods. The challenge is that we can only hold up to 7 cards in our hand.
We can sell this card and in return we will get a token that is worth points. Each type of Goods will have a different set of tokens with descending value. Whoever can sell first can get the higher value.
On the other hand, player can also choose to create a bundle of goods of the same type and sell those in bundle. If we can sell 3, 4 or 5 of the same type at a time, we can get the corresponding Bonus Token.
These Bonus Tokens will give random amount of bonus points. However, the bigger the bundle will give us higher range of points. So, even if the Goods tokens are worth very low like just 1 point, we can still score very high from the Bonus Tokens.
Another challenge of the game is that each turn, we can only take 1 card from the market. If the market offers several cards that we need, we can only make an exchange.
We can exchange using cards in our hand or using Camels Cards that we can also take from the Market. Camels will not necessarily give points at the end unless we are the one with the most.
So, having Camels will give flexibility of controlling the market, an extension to our hand limit. The game is about managing these cards between our hand, the Camels and the market.
Selling is the only way to gain points. However, it still takes a turn while giving the opponent access to the market.
The key of this game is about timing. We need to know when to take cards, sell cards or exchange cards while building a set to gain Bonus Tokens. Our choices are just to sell cards immediately or push our luck hoping that the same type of cards will come out.
The game will be played over 3 rounds. Each round we will setup the game, play and count scores. Whoever wins 2 out of 3 rounds wins the game.
The round will end either if the deck of cards runs out or 3 Goods Tokens have been depleted. Each round can take like 10 minutes to play, so 30 minutes for 3 rounds.
Jaipur is indeed a filler game. It is also very easy to teach and learn. It comes with good production value and in a small box. Which makes it an ideal for portable game to play anywhere with anybody.
Genre: Card Drafting, Set Collection, Area Control, Hand Management, Competitive, Card Game, Abstract, Solo Variant
Designer: Trevor Benjamin, Brett J. Gilbert
Number of Players: 2
Playtime: 20 minutes
Official Website: Mandala (lookout-spiele.de)
Mandala card game is one of the two player only card game. The components are just a deck of 110 cards and instead of a thick cardboard, we have a linen playmat which makes the game very portable.
The theme comes from sacred ritual of Buddhist monk where they create a sand sculpture as part of meditation and tool for training to be focus. Instead of using sand, we will be playing cards with 6 different colors trying to complete two Mandalas.
There is a rule of color that the player has to follow where each Mandala can only have the same color in one of 3 areas of that Mandala. One area is called the Mountain where both players can take turns to add cards here.
Cards from here will become victory points at the end. The other two areas are the each player’s field which only that player can add cards to this field. If the player can have more cards in their field than their opponent, the player win the control of that Mandala.
Unlike other area control game, the winner of that area will not take all of the cards but only become the first to choose which type of cards they will score. Then the losing player will choose from the leftover and they keep going taking turns until all of the cards have been claimed.
These cards they claimed will go to their own Cup and River. The River is where they set the value of that color, starting from 1 point per card up to 6 points per card.
As the game progresses, each player will have a different set of value of colors for up to 6 colors from each other and from each game. This will be the replay value of Mandala card game.
Since players will take points from communal area, this introduce a zero sum idea to the game. The points we don’t take means the points we will give to our opponent.
Because of the different set of value, the colors that is worth very low point for us maybe highly valuable to the opponent. That means, the choice is not as obvious and this will affect how we try to dominate the Mandala.
With the idea of sharing the result, the losing player over the control of that Mandala can still get something. In fact, they can easily balance and get almost the same point as the winner of that Mandala.
With all of that in mind, we cannot play the game aggressively. Each action we take even when choosing the color to score, there are a lot of things to consider. The game is rather simple, easy to teach and fast to play but it has depth deeper than most similar filler games.
Also, with the idea of sharing the result, the game becomes very less direct confrontational. This is ideal if we play with our significant other who doesn’t like too much conflict.
However, like other set collection card game, there will be some issue where we need to shuffle the deck thoroughly and the use of square card doesn’t help. Especially if we want to play it again immediately considering how fast the game is.
Some people say that the game feels like a timeless classic. For me, the value of this game is not just from the beautiful components but from the rule. I think it is not that hard to come up with different game idea using these components.
Mandala card game is probably not for everyone mostly because the game feels like an abstract as well. Also, like most 2 player only game, Mandala will be more interesting if both players has the same experience.
Mandala may not be the best game overall but it may be one of them in its genre.
Mint Works (2017)
Genre: Card Game, Industrial Setting, City Building Theme, Worker Placement, Card Drafting, Official Solo Variant, Competitive, Resource Management, Race Game.
Designer: Justin Blaske
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Playtime: 10 – 20 Minutes
Official Website: Mint Works (playpoketto.com)
Mint Works is one of the micro tabletop game out there that started the Mint Series. It was originally an entry to a game design competition where all of the components need to fit in a mint tin.
The fact that the game is portable, easy to teach and play, with small footprint but still offers a bit depth of experience to the gameplay has made the game very well received. The designer then used crowdfunding platform to produce the game for wider audience. with more games as the sequel.
For each game in this Mint series, they always take a single basic game mechanism so even new gamers can easily learn the game. As the title of the game suggests, for Mint Works, they use Worker Placement mechanism.
In other bigger game with the same mechanism, they usually use a big board, and different player’s pawns. Players can deploy their own workers to various worker spot to activate some effect.
The unique thing about Mint Works is that all players shares the same workers, the Mint Tokens. These tokens also work as resources of the game. When we place a worker, we have to place the same amount of tokens that is required by the space.
Players will not necessarily get their workers back at the end of the round. Instead, they have to do some resource management so that they can generate more Mint Tokens to do more actions in future turns or rounds.
The theme of the game is city building. Aside from gathering more workers, players have to send their workers to buy building plans and build those buildings.
There are 21 unique building cards in the game each with its own effect. These buildings will help us get more workers and victory points.
Mint Works is also a racing game. For one, with the nature of worker placement mechanism, players need to be the first to use any of the available space.
We know our opponent’s resources and how likely are they going to take certain space. The other is, whoever gets 7 Stars or victory points will trigger the end of the game but not necessarily win the game.
The game can finish very fast within just 5 rounds so each player need to pay attention to their opponent instead of just focusing on building their engine. The engine that can produce a lot of Mint may be very powerful but it will be useless if there is no next round.
Buying the right building plans while doing a good resource management is a way to win the game. Getting to be the starting player in the next round may or may not help us win the game.
The game also comes with 4 different AIs each with a side of card to support the solitaire mode. This card will tell us how each of them will take action, their special game setup and which of the building they will more likely to buy.
So, the solo mode is more of a puzzle for each of these 4 AIs. After we solve it, know how to outmaneuver them, the challenge and replay value comes from the order of the building cards.
The designer said that it is possible to use the AI for the multiplayer mode as well. Anybody can even create their own variant of AI by following the same set of rules as these AI.
Some of the expansions introduce more AI cards. There is also a cooperative mode where players can work together to defeat the AI in the expansion.
I do have some issues with the game that I think can be solved with just minor tweaks. For example, I think the starting player of the game really have huge advantage over other players. The scaling doesn’t work very well for different player counts.
While there are a lot of interesting ideas from the buildings or the location cards, they are very situational and don’t work very well.
However, I guess it is a bit unfair to expect too much from a game of its size. It was not meant to be a bigger game.
As it is, Mint Works has successfully delivered a portable filler game with easy to learn and some depth to the gameplay that even a new gamer can enjoy.
Oh My Goods! (2015)
Genre: Card Game, Hand Management, Engine Building, Factory Building Theme, Push Your Luck, Competitive, Set Collection, Multi Use Card, Multi Purpose Card, Tableau Building, Medieval Setting, Worker Placement, Fan Made Solo Variant
Designer: Alexander Pfister
Number of Players: 2- 4
Playtime: 30 minutes
Official Website: lookout-spiele.de
Oh My Goods! is one of the engine building type card game with push your luck as the main mechanism. It is also a competitive tableau building game where players will have to manage their factories.
We start with a Charburner building and based on whether the resources are available in the market or not, we can send our 1 Worker to start producing goods. The Worker, also in card form, can work either efficiently or sloppily and choosing a wrong the work mode may result not producing at all.
If we can produce enough goods, it can be converted into coins. With money we can pay to build another factory or buildings or hire assistant, increasing the productivity. The other building let us produce different type of goods with higher value.
Aside from starting a production, there is an element of production chain where we can spend one of our resources cards to boost the production result. Even if the worker work sloppily, we can still boost them as long as the required resources to start the engine are available.
To win the game, understanding the production chain of the possible production line is essential. Production chain also means that the goods from one building can supply and boost the production of another.
We have to know what we can produce at the start and what it can supply, what will be the final product of the production line is. That is the key to win instead of just trying to build anything.
There is a central Market but there will be no drafting by players which makes the game very unique. We don’t have to worry about other players taking the resources from that market but at the same time, there is a minimum amount of player interaction in this game.
The Market will only reveal a random number of resources with different types in two parts. Players will have to make decision how they are going to run their factories based on the first half of the market and in the hopes of what will be in the second part of the market.
We do get a hand of cards which has several functions. They can either become resources to spend or as factory building to build. Hand management is also one of the mechanism here coupled with multi use card and the uncertainty of the market. There are a lot of things to consider when doing the action.
With a lot of things that can happen in this game, I think we do need more cards or contents of this game. The possible production lines are limited and there is a clear winner of which of them is the easiest to be build.
Without any expansions, the strategy will tend to be the same from game to game, especially for lower player count. It is typical for any card game with just 110 cards.
There have been two expansions so far but both of them don’t necessarily address this issue. However, they both offer a story based campaign and change some of the core rules. This makes the game even more interesting.
Oh My Goods! is not the best card game out there but for its size, it offers an interesting gameplay. What we do in this game is very simple but with a lot of considerations for each action, the game can be a deep one.
One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows (2017)
Genre: Adventure Card Game, Roll to Resolve, Variable Player Power, Cooperative, Stand Alone / Expansion, Fantasy Theme, Multi Use Card, Multi Purpose Card, Dice Manipulation, Player Elimination, Exploration
Designer: Chris Cieslik
Number of Players: 1-2 Players
Playtime: 30 Minutes
Official Website: OneDeckDungeon.com
One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows is the sequel stand alone game of One Deck Dungeon. It is a dungeon crawl experience with just a deck of cards, some tokens and dice. Very compact and in just a small box that we can take and play anywhere
We start with one or two characters, each at level 1. Then, we choose the dungeon / boss that we want to fight. We have to face against monsters and overcome perils along the way to level up and get more items and skills, before we eventually face against the boss of the dungeon.
The deeper we go the stronger our characters get but at the same time, the more difficult the dungeon can become. The way we defeat the obstacles is by rolling up to 4 colors or types of dice, starting with 7 dice for single character.
Each encounters will have what the game call as challenge boxes that we need to cover with our dice if the value and the color match. So, it is mostly based on luck. However, the game does offer multiple ways to manipulate the value of the dice or to gain additional dice.
Some of the skills and potion effects that allow us to do so are essential to win the game. That is assuming we can find the right encounter with the right skills or loot that can be used to develop the character.
These encounter cards, shuffled to form a single deck that will give a different experience from one game to another, one dungeon to another. Sometimes we can face against hard level encounters, very rewarding but also with high consequences. Other times we can get a series of easy level ones which will not be enough to defeat the boss.
With 6 characters and 6 bosses or dungeons, we can have multiple set up variation from a single copy. We can also mix and match with the original game and possibly the future sequel. This gives the game a very high replay value. That also includes mixing the standard encounter cards.
It even allow us to play up to 4 players or more like 4 characters that will be split into two teams throughout the game, switchable from one encounter to the next one. But it will make the gameplay even longer than it already is.
Moreover, the amount of rolling dice, picking, moving and placing almost 20 dice per encounter can be considered as too much. It is physically exhausting.
There are several new things that the Forest of Shadows introduced that are not available from the original. Poison, potion effect are the interesting addition to the game that I think are not implemented very well.
The game is already hard enough because of the luck factor to win and the poison feature makes it even worse. The potion effect feature is almost useless due to very limited ways to earn the tokens in the first place.
The game also come with a campaign sheet. This allows us to develop our character from one game session to the next. Everytime we reach certain point of the game, we will get check marks for that character, even if we lose the game.
These check marks can be used to unlock some talents, like skills. If we unlock the talents, that character can use the talents from the start of the next game.
This is probably the solution that the designer offered, after they realize how hard One Deck Dungeon game can be. While the talents are nice, but I really doubt that can significantly help the overall gameplay.
On the other hand, the designer also add free story mode. We can find that from their website that makes the game even harder. Luckily, One Deck Dungeon series has enough fan base that some of them even created an unofficial expansions.
On the forum, we can find these fan made 10 new characters and 10 dungeons. The developer themselves has not done working on the game to add more contents for One Deck Dungeon.
For me, One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows is an interesting game. I really love the theme and the fact that all of the characters are female. But considering how hard it is with the luck and random factor, it is really hard to get back to play the game again.
Maybe it’s just me who don’t really know how to play the game correctly. But if you don’t mind with every issue that I have described with this game then maybe you should give it a try.
Peloponnes Card Game (2015)
Genre: City Building, Civilization, Ancient Greece, Tableau Building, Auction / Bidding, Card Drafting, Variable Player Power, Multi Use Card, Solo Mode
Designer: Bernd Eisenstein
Number of Players: 2-5 players
Playtime: 45 minutes
Official Website: Peloponnes Kartenspiel
Peloponnes Card Game is the simplified version of Peloponnes Board Game, replacing tiles and coins into just cards within a compact, small box. Some people who have played both version said that this version capture almost the same experience from the bigger version. It is just more laid back.
Both version offer a city building or civilization building genre. We start with a civilization card out of 10 from the game, building our tableau by adding more development cards that we can buy.
To get the development, there is a bidding element to this game. Players will have to compete with each other to by making sure that they pay higher than the others.
The unique thing about bidding in this game is that we can’t increase our bidding value. That means, we have to make sure that the other player can overbid us or the amount is enough to purchase something else.
We will need to consider several steps ahead. There is also a way to purchase the card by paying more without the risk of getting overbid.
Unlike just regular city or civilization game, not only we have to compete against other players but we also have to deal with the threat from the game. One of them is in the form of 5 different catastrophes which will occur slowly but randomly. We can predict as it builds up each round and try to mitigate.
Fail to collect some protection, we may lose some parts of our civilization. Even if that happens, we can still prepare ourselves to lower the impact or save them later.
The protection can come from the development card that we can get through bidding. Since the catastrophe will hit every player, players may have no choice but to compete to get specific cards because only that card will give the protection.
The second threat from this game comes in the form of Supply phase. Since this is a civilization game, we will have some population. The population will generate income for us but at the same time, there are some points in the game that we have to feed them.
Failing to do so might cost the player their development card. Moreover, this will happen randomly that we can still predict and try to mitigate.
With those two element, most of the time, we will see some progress of developing our city but at the same time with a risk of losing them. Surviving is probably the main idea in Peloponnes Card Game.
Another concept of this game is balancing. At the end we will get two score points from the building and population in our civilization. We will only get the lowest of the two as our final score. That means, we can’t just focus on one and ignore the other.
The game also use a multi card mechanism from the coin card which also works as one of the 4 resources. As a coin they all work the same but as the resources some may be more valuable depending on the situation. So, most of the time, we will also have to think which card to spend.
With the game setup, I think we will have different experience between playing with 2 players and 5 players. As a two we will have more building options to buy.
For 5 players, sometimes we will end up relying on the mortgage feature in this game and probably screwing each other. Unless we manage it, this mortgage will be another threat from this game that we have to deal with.
With so many things that happen in this game, Peloponnes Card Game can be considered as difficult or heavy game. Most of the time, especially with higher player count, we will only focus on our own progress. We will not even know for sure until the scoring phase, whether we win or lose compared to other players.
The gameplay itself is very streamlined, very elegant. We just bid and pay to build our city once per round over 8 rounds. But choosing which one to buy with all of the considerations of managing the threats and economy makes this a very deep game.
The art may not be that appealing but somehow it does capture the feeling of crisis and dry because of the disaster. They use a lot of icons and very language independent but has some room for improvement for the rulebook.
For me, Peloponnes Card Game is a great game in a small box. It’s just maybe not for everyone.
Quests of Valeria (2017)
Genre: Card Game, Competitive, Solo Mode, Card Drafting, Hand Management, Contract, Fantasy Theme, Set Collection, Multi Use Card, Multi Purpose Card.
Designer: Isaias Vallejo
Number of Player: 1-5
Playtime: 45 minutes
Official Website: Quest of Valeria (dailymagicgames.com)
Quest of Valeria is the third game from the Valeria series of tabletop games. It’s a competitive card game where we will be trying to hire CITIZENS and send them on quests to gain Victory Points.
A quest may require a certain number and type of Citizen roles and probably several amounts of up to three different type of resources. All of these can be provided by Citizens.
A single citizen have a single role and may provide more than one resource. So, the Citizen alone is a set of multiple resources. Most of the time a single citizen is not going to be enough to meet the requirements for a single quest.
We might want to play efficiently but sometimes we have no other choice but to deploy one Citizen just to meet one of the requirement. The challenge is that we can only have up to 8 Citizens in our Guild at a time.
It is possible to experience where we have more than enough strong cards with a lot of resources. But we are missing just one role so we cannot complete a quest.
Removing and replace a card may not necessarily fix the problem. Losing a citizen means losing a set of resources. So, we need to find another set.
We can just play slowly but this is a race game. Once a player has completed the fifth quest, that will trigger the end of the game.
The main mechanism is the hand management. We start with 3 Citizen cards in our hand that can go up to 8.
The hand of cards itself is another resources that we need to manage because discarding the cards is a way to pay the Hiring cost. Other than the Citizens in a communal market or referred as Tavern Line, we can also hire citizen from our hand of cards.
It is not cheap though. By having that multiple uses, players then have more options and the game has more uncertainty element.
Aside from the resources that a Citizen can generate to complete a quest, they also have a one time ability called Hire Power. This allows us to do more of 4 possible actions in the game that creates opportunity of action combos.
Combined that with player doing 2 actions consecutively makes this simple game to have more depth in strategy. What we will be trying to figure out how the end of the first action can generate enough resources to trigger the action of the second.
I do feel the similar experience of hand management from a standard deck building game. I think it is more interesting because we don’t have our own deck.
We need to make sure that our last action can generate more cards or resources. Moreover, with the hand and Guild limit, the resources are really tight.
Trying to hold or reserve cards may not be an ideal strategy. We will cycle the cards constantly from both the hand and Guild. It is very tactical.
I feel like the game might be best with higher player count. With 2 players the game works fine but players will become more aggressive towards each other. Mostly because we don’t see a lot of change in the market since we still use the same amount of cards regardless of the number of players.
There is a solo variant which is basically just trying to beat our own score. In this mode, we will see through all of the cards from a deck because the deck becomes the timer.
It is like a puzzle. We are trying to make the most of our cards.
I do think we need more variety of cards, whether the Citizen, Quest or even the Guild Master cards. But as a whole game itself, with the randomness of how the cards will come out from two decks, it is still enough to offer different experience from each session. Even for the solo play.
Quest of Valeria is not a game we will want to do multiple plays in a row but we probably want to seek out again.
Genre: City Building Theme, Nautical Theme, Card/Tile Drafting, 2 Player Only, Solo Mode (Official), Resource Management, Competitive.
Designer: Ian Cooper, Jan Gonzales
Number of Players: 1 – 2
Playtime: 30 minutes
Official Website: Seastead (wizkids.com)
Seastead board game is one of the 2 player only game. We will be trying to do a city building with being Seasteaders as the theme or setting.
In general, this is a race game with point system with many ways to trigger the end game. Mostly, players will try to build their 12 buildings as fast as they can on 24 different locations within 4 Flotilla tiles, or something like artificial Floating islands.
The game can be considered as elegant, where all we will be doing each turn is doing either of 2 actions, DIVE or BUILD. The action is rather simple but the effect after the action is what makes this game a deep one.
Diving is the main way to get some resources which we can spend to build. When a player choose to Dive, they will have to share the loot they get between players.
Which of the indicated resources will be beneficial for the active player? While at the same time, we have to make sure that the opponent will not get a lot from the other half of the card.
Resources is very tight in this game. Managing resources carefully is another aspect of the game.
Building, as the other possible action is simply just pay the cost to build using resources and place the build token on the available locations. However, there are several considerations that we should take that makes this game rather deep.
Each of the three building types will trigger some bonus after they get built which can also be beneficial to the other player. Shipyards allows us to deploy ships which can give discount for future building to the location where the ship is on.
Port will increase the value of not just the location we build the Port on but also the locations adjacent to that port. That is if any player can match the building type as indicated by the dock tile of the Port.
These two building types will definitely give a lot of interaction between players. The player that can take advantage of both players’ effort will have more chance on winning the game. They cannot just focus on theirs.
Building academies, as the last type may not be as interesting as the other two because it only allow us to recruit some Specialists. With 16 different Specialists that will come out randomly, they have unique ability that can only be activated once and mostly for the benefit of the recruiter.
The location we build our buildings on will also have an effect that we can resolve after we build the building. These allow us to get victory points or resources that we can use to build again right away next turn.
Trying to get those combos is probably the best strategy to play Seastead. Another element of the game that can generate more player interaction is the drafting element for either the Specialist cards, dock tiles or decree cards.
Denying the other player to get specific tile or cards can be a better option rather than getting the one that can give benefit to us.
So, Seastead is a very interesting game if we are looking for games with a lot of player interaction. The problem is probably the replay value, or at least with the current official rule.
There are a lot of setup variables that can make the game different from one play to another but most of them are not that significant. Some of them will work to make the game a bit different but only in specific condition.
The 16 Decree cards are the ones that can change the rule of the game. The change is not in strategic or long term play but more in tactical way.
Seastead also have an official solo variant but with even worse setup variability. They introduced a virtual player with a very simple way to run it.
The problem is that they even turn off most of the interesting part that we can get from the regular 2 player mode. It becomes a puzzle that once we solve it, we probably need no reason to play it again even if the tension is still there.
I feel like with a very simple house rule of how to use the decree card can definitely become a replay value for both the regular and solo mode.
With the rule as it is, if we are looking for a game for 2 player with a lot of player interactions that can be played once in a while, we should try Seastead board game.
Genre: Worker Placement, 2 Player Only, Competitive, Official Solo Variant, Resource Management, Modular Board, Card Drafting, Set Collection, Tableau Building.
Designer: Andreas Steiger
Number of Players: 2
Playtime: 60 minutes
Official Website: Targi (kosmos.de)
Targi is a 2 player only game which got nomination for the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2012. The main mechanism of the game is Worker Placement. Each round, players will take turns deploying 3 of their Figures one by one.
We can only place them on the Border Cards of this grid of 5 x 5 cards. Except for the corner cards. What makes this game unique is how we access the Central Area of the grid. Every two figures we placed on the Border will create an intersection on the central area.
That means, if we place the figure in the right way, we can get up to 2 additional actions.
Like the standard worker placement game, choosing a card to place our Figure also means blocking the opponent to access that same spot. What makes Targi more interesting is that we also prevent the opponent from accessing the card on the opposite side of the grid.
Because of those additional twists, each round, players can engage in a very tense player interaction. We need to find out not only where to place our workers and how likely the opponent will take the others.
Another obstacle of placing our Figure is the existence of the Robber. We can still place the figure on the opposite side but not on the same one as where the Robber is.
Every 3 rounds, there will be RAID event that we need to pay the Robber’s demands or lose some VP tokens.
The goal of the game is to get more points either from displaying Tribe cards in our own tableau or by getting Silver or VP tokens. Either way, we need to have a set of Goods and/or Gold to pay the cost of those actions.
Somehow that kind of the only strategy we need to pursue and makes the game rather have low replay value. Once we have enough resources, we will get more options to different tactics.
There is a limit to the amount of resources that we can have each round. It is not a hard limit but every round, we really need to plan ahead all 5 actions so the goods will not go to waste.
That is probably the most interesting part of the game. As an example, with the first 3 actions we will try gain a lot of Goods and the other 2 is to spend them. We can get a lot of combination with those up to 5 actions.
Each Tribe card can also give us advantage, a power that can be either one time only, permanent or gives additional VP at the end. We will be displaying these Tribe Cards in our tableau of 3 rows and 4 columns.
If we can have a completed row with either all of the same tribes or all different tribes, we can get additional points.
The game will end after one player have displayed 12 cards or if the Robber have reached the 4th Raid event. Whoever has the most points wins.
Targi may sound complex but it is actually very easy to teach. Like a lot of 2 player only game, the excitement mostly come from our opponent. It can be very casual or a bit heavier, depending on the player’s experience.
The designer has shared a lot of variants for free including the solo mode and alternative border cards. If we use the expansion, the complexity may increase offering the same way to play but totally different experience.
Tybor the Builder (2017)
Genre: City Building, Tableau Building, Medieval Era, Card Drafting, Set Collection, Multi-use Card, Hand Management
Designer: Alexander Pfister, Dennis Rappel
Number of Players: 2-4 players
Playtime: ~30 minutes
Official Website: lookout-spiele
Tybor der Baumeister or Tybor the Builder game is one of the card drafting game that use just cards as the components. With 120 cards in the box, we can play with 2 up to 4 players, competitively.
The game comes with 2 languages, English and German, in the same box. It is language independent but the game comes with a story narrative which could add the experience and can be translated into additional rule to make the game more interesting.
These stories come as Chapter or Scenario cards which we can use the combinations of the two each play. We can have 32 different combinations from just the base game of Tybor the Builder.
The theme is more about civilization building in medieval era and less than a city building. The focus is not just to build buildings but also recruit characters to become a citizen or workers. Each character has unique ability to eventually help the players to build a building and score more points.
The game is rather simple to play, or we can say elegant and it will take only about 30 minutes per session. We just choose the card and use it. However, with the card drafting element, the game will encourage players not only to consider their own goal but their opponent’s as well and how to prevent them.
So, even if we can just focus on our tableau, but the mechanism will still trigger the player interaction.
Another interesting element to this game is the multi-use card. Each time we choose a card, we have to consider three possible uses. That means the decision we have to make will not be that obvious.
Players also start with their own secret objective which would be different from one to another and if they can meet the requirements, they can get additional points. The secret objective is based on the type of buildings we built.
The building the city or the building element is not that complex. Four types of buildings which can just score points or more points, or even give like additional turns that could change the game. Another interesting element regarding the building thing is that we can only build certain number of buildings each round from a communal market.
So, not only we will be competing with other players, but also with time. Those building are only available for that round.
With all of those consideration for playing the game, Tybor the Builder card game is not just a light Euro style game. But it is very easy to teach, simple and fast to play and very compact with just small box and cards.
It is rather unfortunate that the designer doesn’t come up with official solo rule. But, we can easily bring the game anywhere, play with anyone.
The game is also rather rewarding instead of punishing for the objective. So, we can feel the sense of tableau building.
Villages of Valeria (2017)
Genre: Card Game, Civilization and City Building, Fantasy Theme, Tableau Building, Action Following, Hand Management, Multi Use Cards, Solo Mode, Competitive
Designer: Rick Holzgrafe, Isaias Vallejo
Number of Players: 1-5 players
Playtime: ~45 minutes
Official Website: www.dailymagicgames.com
Villages of Valeria is a civilization building game with fantasy theme. Not only we will add buildings into our village or tableau, but we will also recruit Adventurers. The setting takes place in the same universe as other Valeria games but this is a stand alone game, with different mechanism.
Daily Magic Games as the publisher has stated that they want to offer casual game, a gateway level game but layered with deep decision to make. I think they have done a good job with this Villages of Valeria.
The multi use card mechanism, action following mechanism and card drafting mechanism will create great interaction between players. They make the game really fast to play. Combined that with resource generating and conversion can make the players not only focus on their progress. They also think what the other player can do.
This games offers a lot of non cutthroat or indirect player interactions. Players can just focus on their progress, but if they consider the what the other players are planning, they can make more interesting choice. It is also rather friendly.
Villages of Valeria is also a competitive game. Players will be racing to reach the number of development to trigger the endgame. The one that scores the most points will still become the winner even though they didn’t trigger the endgame.
With so many things that can happen in the game, players can have a totally different game experience depending on the player count. With higher or full players count, the game will feel more like a race.
While with just two players they can have a longer game, but focus on tableau and engine building game. The Solo mode on the other hand, becomes like a puzzle.
We need to find the best way to add the limited number of buildings and adventurers to the village. No need to worry about other player taking the card or triggering the end game.
It’s true that we won’t get the same interesting element as in multiplayer mode. However, the solo will give a totally different game but with the same level of entertainment.
The game comes with just a small box, using just cards and a small amount of tokens. We can play and finish the game within 30 minutes or about 45 with full player counts. The art is great and very colorful even though some buildings can have too similar illustrations.
Overall, I think Villages of Valeria is recommended to have and play. But we might want to consider some expansions to get more unique cards.
Walking in Burano (2018)
Genre: Card Game, Card Drafting, Set Collection, City Building Theme, Burano (Italy) Theme, Competitive, Solo Variant, Resource / Hand Management, Tableau Building.
Designer: Wei-Min Ling
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Playtime: 20 – 40 minutes
Official Website: Emperor S4 / AEG
Walking in Burano is one of the card game by a Taiwanese designer. As the name suggests, the theme comes from the city of Burano in Italy. Burano is mostly known for the canal tourism city. Another notable aspect is bright colorful landed houses with each house has its own color.
This is essentially a set collection game where we will be drafting up to three floor cards each turn. Then, we will use them to create our tableau of 5 houses each with 3 floors.
Like in the city of Burano, there is a rule where each building can only have a single color. It cannot be adjacent to another house with the same color. If we ever break these rules, we have to pay a penalty by losing some regulatory tokens which can happen up to 4 times.
These tokens are worth 3 points each at the end of the game. We might try not to spend them. However, there is a chance that we can score higher points overall even with the wrong color.
In most set collection game, we will be trying to collect several single objects to score later. That is not the case here. Each floor cards has several different objects like a set collection within a set collection game.
What we will be trying to do is to attract some Tourists and impress the Inhabitants from our urban design. Each of these characters has their own preferences of what they like to see in a house or series of houses. The objects can be cats, streetlights, pedestrians, chimneys, curtains, plants and flowers, etc.
Everytime we complete a house we will get a visit from one of them. Then we take their card and put them as part of our tableau. They will define the score we will get at the end of the game. If we have as many objects that the characters like, we can score higher.
Essentially we will be trying to plan our strategy and tactics around these characters. The problem is that this is a racing game. Those characters are not going to stay there forever because our opponents can get them first.
We can end up getting very low points or no points at all. The potential of hate drafting for both floor cards and character cards is there. However, drafting is the only interaction between players.
Whoever complete 5 houses and get 5 visitors will trigger the end of the game. However, the winner will be the one who score the most points.
There is also a minor resource management. We will be managing hand of cards and coins that we can use to pay for the construction of the house. It is not that difficult to understand but because of the racing element, we have to be very efficient.
The game can support up to 4 players to play competitively. Since most of the game is about building our solitaire tableau, with a small tweak, the game can be played in solo mode as well.
The solo mode works but in my opinion, it is not as good as the multiplayer mode. Especially compared with full player count as they introduce the element of timer. Maybe the game is also lack of player scaling for lower player count. We still need to use the same number of cards like full player count.
This is a typical issue with most card games with a lot of cards. The cards we are looking for might be buried at the bottom of the deck.
Even though the game comes with 72 floor cards but that should be divided into 3 parts which cannot be mixed. Then with the rules of color that we need to follow, the possible combination is even less.
If we even focus our strategy based on the characters, the best way to play are rather obvious and limited. So, the replay value may not be that high, especially for lower player count.
Maybe the designer can improve it by adding more cards with more variety. But considering how complex each card can be with their objects, it may require a big box expansion or such which very unlikely to happen.
As it is, Walking in Burano is still a good game with beautiful art. We might want to play once in a while.
Those are all of the games that I have played so far and written a review for. I have more games that I haven’t gotten the time to write the review for or because I only played once and it is not mine.
I think tabletop games are a good way to spend our time without looking at the screen of our gadget. Unlike other entertainment industry like movies or music, tabletop games have a larger portion for the player to engage actively with the game or whomever they are playing with.
We as the player are not just consuming information but actively make plans, considerations and decision to win the game. Some people say that the social aspect is the best part of tabletop game even if with just a single person closest to us.
If you cannot find any games that pick your interest here, you might want to try find more games on BoardGameGeek.com. It is the largest database for tabletop games. Currently there are over 100,000 games in their database.
For some of these games, the designer even offered a Print and Play file so anybody can give it a try first before buying the actual game. Some designer even offered a full game for free and we just need to print the game.
All we need is to create a BGG account for free. BGG also has a forum section where we can ask the community for game suggestions by posting the question.
I’m also still relatively new to this tabletop gaming world. But don’t hesitate to ask anything related in the comment section below.
Or maybe if you know similar or even better games to those that I have on this list, please share it in the comment as well. I would love to learn more about these games, assuming I can get a copy.
Thanks for reading.