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: The Oniverse Series, Dice Rolling, Cooperative, Fantasy Setting, Aviation Setting, Set Collection
Designer: Shadi Torbey
Number of Players: 1 – 2
Playtime: 15 – 30 minutes
Official Webpage: Aerion (inpatience.com)
Aerion is the fifth game in the Oniverse series by Shadi Torbey. All of the games in this series will have a unique main mechanism within the same size box. They will also include 6 expansion modules that we can add to the base game.
The goal is to build 6 ships before the time runs out. Every ship will require 3 Element cards which are a unique Blueprint, one of 3 types of Materials and one of the 2 types Crews in the form of resource cards in 6 separate decks.
We need to get the card from the Display area by having a Poker set using 6 dice. The required set can be 2 Pairs, 3 of a Kind, Full House, 4 of a Kind, 3 Pairs or Straight using any value of the 6 dice.
The main mechanism in this game is similar to Yahtzee where we roll 6 dice which we can set aside some, then reroll the rest. The bigger set can also work for the smaller one so know how to pivot from one set to another can help us win the game.
However, there is a cost which is for every reroll, we will have to discard one card from the Display Area. So, there is a tough choice the card that we want to get can probably get discarded for rerolling purpose. If all 6 decks run out of cards before we complete the ships, we lose the game.
Those cards in the deck serve as a timer and become a resource that we have to manage.
If we get the right set, we can acquire the card and place the card in one of the 2 Workshop areas. Each workshop can only hold the work for 1 Ship at a time. We need to finish the current set of ship before moving on to the next one.
With the random order of the deck, sometimes the card that we need for now will not show up. On the other hand, if they do show up, there is a chance that both Workshop areas are occupied and we have to let the card go for now.
There is a way to retrieve the card back using Book feature. This is also a card that we can acquire from the deck and we can keep one at a time in our storage. If we choose to discard this Book, it will give us some benefits.
We can either retrieve some cards back to the deck, reroll or reserve the cards we have just acquired in a Reserve area. This reserve area can hold any number of cards which is an addition from the Workshop.
As an extra challenge, we can only place Crew cards the last after we have collected both Blueprint and the Material. Because some cards can come from the deck with more difficult set, but they show up at the wrong time, we need to put them into reserve.
All types of cards are distributed equally to the 6 decks. Some decks may share the same cards. Understanding and pursuing cards from the easier deck and use the one from the harder for discarding can help us win the game.
Other than rerolling, we will also get 3 Pixie tokens. We can spend this at any time to change 1 die to any value.
That’s the basic mode to play Aerion which can be played within 30 minutes or less. There is also a cooperative variant for 2 players and a suggestion to increase the difficulty for this base game only.
The 6 included expansion modules will add new features with additional benefit and objectives that we need to complete in order to win. We can add one, some or even all of them to the base game.
Flagship module will have an extra ship that we also need to complete in order to win. This ship require a set of 3 Materials and 2 crews but no Blueprint that we can build outside the Workshop Area.
This module also introduce Factory cards that if we acquire them, can give us permanent abilities for the rest of the game. We can only have 2 of them at a time. One of them allows us to flip one die by discarding a card from Display, which is very useful in the game with a lot of randomness.
The Hourglasses module requires us to collect a set of 6 different Hourglass cards as additional winning condition. The challenge is that if we do not acquire them when they show up, they will automatically get discarded.
That will force us to chase them as soon as they show up. But after that, the remaining cards will be extra resources that we can discard.
The Stone Clouds module will add 6 Cloud tokens that we need to destroy by getting a total value of 30 from our dice in order to win. To help us with that objective, they add Hammer Bird cards that if we discard them from the display area will increase the value to destroy those Clouds.
The higher difficulty variant of this will make the Stone Clouds block the Ships we are trying to build. So, we need to destroy them first before completing the Ships.
The Piers module will require us to build 3 Pier cards. To do so, we need to get a 5 of a kind set. for each from our dice. We definitely need a lot of dice manipulation for that. The other part of this module will introduce Worker cards.
We can take one card of this from the Display and it allows us to reroll dice 3 times. However, by the end of the game, we need to have paid their salary by having a total value of 26 or higher from the dice or we lose the game.
While they can be helpful, we have to take them wisely or it will feel like a trap. Mostly because rerolling doesn’t guarantee a success.
The Eggs module is a bit different. These cards will also show up from the deck to the Display area. We can acquire them but we cannot discard them from the Display area. If the display area is full with these type of cards, we will lose the game.
On the other hand, after we have acquired them, later we can spend a number of Egg cards to reveal the same amount of cards from a chosen deck and choose them to be in the Display. This idea try to solve the issue with random order of cards from the deck.
This can be very helpful for the harder deck. Maybe we have the right set of dice but we don’t need the card that is available. We can switch the card using this feature.
The last module is the Hellkite with the signature pawn of Oniverse series. This Hellkite pawn will move in an additional row of 6 columns of cards each with 2 types of cards, The Outpost and the Lair card.
The Outpost card will determine which type of cards we cannot acquire when the Hellkite is on it. On the other hand, we can also destroy that card while the pawn is there.
Then the Lair card will show up. If we also destroy it, we immediately acquire one card from the display with the same type as stated by the Lair card. We have to destroy all of those 12 cards in order to win.
On the surface, it seems like each expansion module will work on its own. However, I find that the best way to play Aerion is probably to use all of the modules.
We don’t need to play using the higher difficulty setting of all modules. Just by adding the cards can actually help with the mitigation. But each module also behave differently between just using the module alone and using more or all modules turned on.
The problem is that using all modules is a completely different experience than just the base game. The playtime is longer. Instead of just rerolling and discarding, we will stop and evaluate every single objectives we can pursue on every turn.
The game also becomes more strategic while maintaining the tactical feel from the base game.
My problem with this game and this format is that even though the game seems to have a lot of setup variety, not every combinations will be equal or good.
Because a lot of random element, that Factory card to flip the dice is a must have in every session. Even using that from the start, there is no guarantee that the randomness won’t be frustrating.
Sadly, the rulebook doesn’t have suggestion or direction as how to customize the game while the potential is there. Players will have to do their experimentations or more research to find the best setup of this game.
Some may already have given up before even finding it. For those who are willing to look further, maybe they can get a great experience out of this.
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.
Biblios: Quill and Parchment (2021)
Genre: Roll and Write, Competitive, Official Solo Variant, Auction
Designer: Steve Finn
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Playtime: 40 minutes
Official Website: Biblios: Quill and Parchment (doctorfinns.com)
Biblios: Quill and Parchment is the reimplementation of a card game, Biblios by the same designer to a roll and write game. Like the card game, this version has 2 game phases. In the first one, players will be trying to collect resources which they can use in the second phase to win a bid. Each phase will have 4 rounds.
Because this is a roll and write game, instead of cards, players will roll 6 dice of 3 different types for the first phase. Each round players get to choose to either reroll 1 die or reroll all dice up to 3 times or stop and take the result.
Two of dice are Influence Dice, which is basically 2-standard d6 with a value from 1 to 6 on the faces. What we are trying to do with this is to collect as many Influence Points as we can. Later in the second round, we will spend them as the bidding power.
If we win the bid, we can choose a set of dice of resources first. At the end of the game, the leftover unused Influence points can become victory points.
Three of the dice that each player will be rolling in first phase are Book Dice. These D6s will have 5 different types of books on their faces plus one Chapel Icon. Players will be trying to collect as many books as they can from each type, recorded on each Book tracks on their own Player Board.
At the end, whoever has the most Books of each type will get the highest multiplier factor that we multiplied to that Book value. It can be from 3x for the player at the highest position, to half the value for the fourth.
The Book value itself might be changed by players who get the access to Embellisment die. Like the card game version, the value is tracked by a colorful D6. With that Embellishment die, players can increase or decrease the value by one or 2 pips depending on which sides of the die is facing up.
Because of this system, having the most book of each type doesn’t mean we will get very high point. The losing players can just drop the value to close the gap while they are winning on the other type.
Therefore, the game seems to encourage players to pay attention with their opponent’s progress. They probably don’t have to keep adding books. As long as they can maintain the position, maybe it’s time to focus on the other type.
At the same time, the game will give more rewards to player who gets to the top of the Book track. The first to reach there will get higher bonus. Since this aspect is determined by the randomness of dice roll, most of the time, maybe only one player manages to get to the top of one type for the entire game.
The Chapel icon from the Book dice is to advance the player’s position on the Chapel track. This also serves as a tie breaker system for almost every part of the game. The closer the player can get to the altar, or the top of the track will win the tie breaker.
Also, for reaching certain level on that track, players will get bonuses. Either random roll of Book die or just one score at the end of the game.
The last type of dice that each player will roll every round in the first phase is the Travel Die. On the player board, there is a Map where we get to move a Novice figure from one point to another using the value of this Travel die.
The movement value is between 1 space up to 3 spaces, but most of the time, we will get 2 spaces. From the Map, we can find Book type icons and also Towns icons. Books will help players to their collections, but we will also try so that the Novice will visit more Towns.
They can get 2 / 5 / 10 points for reaching 1 / 2 / 3 Towns. Even with the lowest possible movement value, we will always reach the first town. While to reach the third one, we might need to take the shortest route, and hopefully get higher than average movement value. The Novice must move in a determined path but there are some branches.
The other way to move this Novice is by keep getting the same book type even after the track is already full. So, it depends on the luck of dice roll.
In the second phase, players are no longer roll dice. Instead, they have to bid for turn order to choose a set of dice. These set will have 2 Book dice and 1 Travel Die plus one Special action which all sets have different.
Embellishment die to change the Book value is one of them. The other special actions allow us to reroll Book Die, advance on Chapel track, or one additional move value for the Novice.
Those 3 dice are rolled every round so, result can vary. Maybe the special action is beneficial for one player but not the dice or vice versa. Of course, none of them can be good, in which all players must compete for the same set.
At the end, there will be 6 scoring categories from Chapel, Novice Map, Cross and leftover Influence point. But the most points will come from the Book Stack Multiplier which can be 75 to 90% of the score while the rest are around 10 points per category.
The game comes with 2 sides of both Player and Main Board. Players must use the same side of Player Board but can mix with the other side of Main Board.
These second side will have different rule as how we can move the Novice and dice set to win during second phase. Sadly, these second sides don’t work for the official solo variant.
In the solo variant, we will be competing against an imaginary opponent. We will roll their dice and make decision whether to reroll or stop. For the most part, the first phase works similarly to the regular multiplayer mode.
But for the second phase, it’s a different game. There is no bidding to win a set and just another rerolling. It is definitely inferior from the basic multiplayer mode but it does have an interesting take of how to use the same components.
The second phase or the bidding is definitely the most interesting part. We have to start comparing the potential score between players. There is a bit of learning challenge. Players must understand of how the Book value and scoring work which can fluctuate and change.
This is not the typical roll and write game where we will try to fill in many tracks to create combos. We don’t even need to have that many books of certain tracks to win because it is all based on the position between players. Even bidding a 0 is a reasonable choice.
While the second phase is interesting, the experience still depends on huge luck of dice rolling from first phase. We might still not get anything better after using those 3 rerolls. Even though the other features of this game tried to be some mitigations, they also depend on that dice roll and feels insignificant.
At some points those extra features just increase the complexity unnecessarily without really improving the main part of the game. I feel like this tried so hard to retain the experience of that card game version wh
Unlike most roll and write game, Biblios: Quill and Parchment can give a lot of player interactions instead of being a multiplayer solitaire. However, the design of the components seems to fail in supporting that idea.
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: Dice Drafting, Auction / Bidding, Dice Placement, Competitive, Portugal Setting, Age of Discovery Setting, Set Collection
Designer: Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Playtime: 75 – 120 minutes
Official Website: Coimbra (eggertspiele.de)
Coimbra is one of the Euro type board game for 2 to 4 players, set in the City of Coimbra, in Portugal during the Age of Discovery. The theme itself is just pasted on but I had fun learning the context.
The main mechanism is Dice Drafting. What makes it interesting is that the dice have two functions that work separately. The value and the color serves a different purpose and we will want to utilize both effectively.
Every round, players will take turns drafting one of the dice and then place them in one of the 3 rows up to 3 dice. The rows will either have Character Cards or Favor Tiles that we can acquire.
The value will determine the cost to acquire them and the turn order of who gets to acquire first out of 4 options in a single row. So, if our die has a value of 6, we need to pay 6 of the resources required by the Character cards.
Player whose die is higher of any given row gets to acquire character first. If there are 5 dice in a row, the fifth one may not have any cards left and has to take a consolation prize.
While players with low value dice get lower cost but they can get outbid even if they choose the row first. Because of that, there is no obvious good answer with either high value or low value dice.
Of course, since this is a resource management game, early in the game we want to save some resources preparing for the future rounds. One of the challenge is that maybe the dice roll result just doesn’t give the right value.
There is only one way to increase the value and that is from acquiring the one of the Favor Tiles. Even for that, we need to spend one of our dice and other players can take that tile first.
After we are done with the bidding using the 3 dice, then how we activate the dice to acquire the cards will give another challenge. We will always activate the dice from the top row and from the left most dice.
Ideally, we want to acquire 3 cards. But there is a chance that the first card will take all of the resources so that we cannot afford the third or even the second dice.
One way to mitigate that is to choose a different card that requires the other resources in the same row. The challenge is that maybe we need specific card of that row so we have to compromise the other row. That means, even if we get to go first for winning the bid, this is another layer of decision that might prevent us for acquiring that card.
The character cards that we can acquire may demand either Coin or Guards, the two resources for payments. They also come with 4 different classes, each with their own color which can increase our Influence power of the associated class.
The higher our influence of that class will generate higher rewards during income phase subsequently. There are Gray or Council class that will generate Guards, Orange or Merchants that will generate Coins, Cleric or Purple for Pilgrim Movement and Green or Scholar for Victory Points.
Sometimes we want to focus on probably two of these 4 tracks. However, since we have to pivot with how we acquire cards, diversify in 4 can be a better plan.
Aside from the Influence power itself, the Character can give additional bonus. Most of them will give one time immediate bonus which can be any of the resources with a few that can force other players to lose theirs.
The other type of bonus can be an ongoing ability or end game bonuses for points. On going ability can be handy but there is a chance that we may not trigger it at all. Those with end game bonuses can be crucial and there are only 7 cards in the entire 56 cards.
After the acquiring phase, we proceed to the income phase. This is where the color of the dice we chose previously become matters. The color of the dice will only trigger the income from the corresponding track with the matching color.
So, if we want to get specific income, we need to choose the right color. But maybe that color only gives higher value and we have to pay a lot for the cost. Because of that, deciding which dice to choose becomes more complicated.
Most of the time, we want to get Coins and Guards as income because we need them for acquiring phase. The green one that will give VP is only useful during the final round as we have nothing else to spend the resources on.
That leaves us with the purple dice that will advance the Pilgrim. So, the game comes with a Pilgrim Map with a starting Castle in the middle. The castle is surrounded by Monasteries. We will want to move our Pilgrim token to those Monasteries and get bonuses.
The purple track will define how far the Pilgrim can move. The map will be filled with random Monastery tiles with 3 different levels. The highest level will give stronger bonus but there are only 2 of them each game. They are also the farthest from the starting position.
So, this Pilgrim Map and purple track become its own mini game. With the right setup, the bonus can be very powerful. Players cannot allow one of them to monopolize the purple dice.
Aside from the bonuses, at the end of the game we can also gain points from having our disks farthest up on the Influence tracks.
The last thing that players have to decide each round is the Investment element on Voyages. Each game will have 6 Voyages that we can invest in. The Voyage will have a task. If we can fulfill the task, we will get more points than the cost can give.
Some of them can give incremental bonuses that we can increase the bonus by doing more. So these 6 will define the overall strategy. The interesting part is that we can decide later whether to invest in or not depending on our progress of the game. But we have so limited time as when we can invest in them.
The game will end after 4 rounds with those decision space and players will count their score from 5 categories. With that system, during the game we probably can only get 1/6 of the total score but the final scoring will trigger most of our total score.
That means players really cannot tell for sure if they already winning or not. They might score more in some categories but only after we are done with all categories, we will find out the winner.
From the components that come in the game, we will see pretty much everything within a couple of plays. The randomness of setup variables will change the experience in tactical level. There are a few different strategies that we can pursue but very situational or not that different.
Playing with different player counts will also give different experience with the number of dice we use but the cards are the same.
The gameplay is simple and yet very deep decision space. During the first play, we can get overwhelmed by a lot of colors and icons and takes 2 hours in playing. But after a couple of plays, it gets easier and faster.
While I think Coimbra is a great game, maybe it is not the game that I will play often like multiple times in a row within short period of time. Despite all of the criticism that I have for it, when I do come back, so far I have a great time playing it.
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.
A Gentle Rain (2021)
Genre: Tile Laying, Solo Only Game
Designer: Kevin Wilson
Number of Players: 1
Playtime: 15 minutes
Official Website: A Gentle Rain (mondoshop.com)
A Gentle Rain is a simple tile laying game for mostly single player. There is a suggestion for 2-player cooperative variant. What makes this game unique is that it tried to offer a relaxing or meditative experience, not just a game.
The game itself is about walking along the lake under a rain to find 8 different lotus flowers. We do that by drawing 1 tile and connect it to the previous tile. If we can create a square with 4 connected tiles, we may place 1 of the 8 Blossom tokens in the middle of that square.
Each tile is an almost square tile with cropped corners so that if there are 4 connected tiles to form a square, there is a circle in the middle where we can put a Blossom token in it. On the edges of each tile, we will find 4 half flowers with 4 different colors.
We can only connect the next tile with the previous ones if we can complete the flower, shown on the edges. When a circle is formed by the 4 connected tiles, we will see up to 4 different flowers. From those, we can choose a token with the matching color with one of those flowers.
So, the main strategy to create that empty circle is to form an L-shape first. Hopefully we can find the right fourth tile to place the token. Obviously, we want to avoid having the same colors on the 2 hands of the L-shape pointing to that one corner.
None of the 28 tiles will have 2 edges with the same color. We keep doing this until either all of the blossom tokens have been placed or we run out of tiles first.
The challenge is that there is no guarantee that the next tile can match any of the L-shape we have created. In that case, we can only try to expand the overall tiles, possibly with just 1 connecting edge.
If we cannot place the tile by following the rule, we have to discard that tile. That is essentially losing a point. While all of the tiles have 4 different flowers on 4 edges, when it becomes part of the tableau, there is a chance that some colors might not be available.
This is also the thing we want to avoid or we have to discard the tile. So, there is much more to consider in this small game with tiny package. We cannot just close the grid and place the token as fast as possible but we also need to keep the balance by having multiple colors available to connect.
There is also some resource management. We have to choose which tokens to put first and how we can place the tile so the remaining tokens can be placed.
Of course, it is not comparable to other board games with big box and a lot more components. But maybe people should consider playing this as a tool for that meditative or relaxing experience.
The relaxing experience starts from the rulebook which was written like a guide in guided meditation. They will suggest taking a deep breath, play a relaxing music or wear a comfortable shirt before start playing the game.
From the game design itself, I think it helps by using a small objective as mechanism. After we have placed any of the Blossom tokens, we will just forget about it and focus on the other remaining tokens.
There is no build up tension because it’s one and done. While other games might give on-going abilities or produce more resources as in engine building game. A Gentle Rain immediately disengages player from overthinking about their previous decision.
With the abstract and repetitive form of square and circles, it kind of prevents the player from trying to memorize things. While we are trying to find the right color or pair of colors, I find that we won’t exactly memorize the right position of the same pair of colors.
What will happen is that the main experience is about scanning. We take a tile and circle around the edges of the tableau until we can find a place to connect the tile. After we find one or more available spot, we then have to evaluate whether it’s a good idea to place that tile there.
Like a lot of tile laying game, we will also try to place the tile neatly so it will create a good-looking tableau. That actually slow things down as we want to fix it instead of rushing just to place the next tile.
Some may argue that the incorrect size of the tokens which can be bigger than the hole created by the 4 tiles. However, in my opinion, that imperfect product makes us aware.
That is the point of mindfulness which is essential in meditation. We notice things that are not right or different than expected. If they are perfect, maybe we won’t care that much. To be fair, I don’t know if that’s by design or just a coincidence.
So, for me personally, the relaxing part is there but it depends on how people will accept it. Different people may have different threshold and some may not find it enough. Some even not care about the relaxing part and only look for games and how they can achieve certain goals or scores.
If player choose to engage in the competition and they become miserable when they fail, it’s on the player themselves. The game can only provide so much as a tool to help us and the rest is up to us whether we want to make it work.
I personally think that maybe they can remove that scoring idea and just say whether we succeed or fail with the objective. It’s leaning towards that competitiveness. They should just let the creative mind of certain players to turn this meditative tool into a game that they can compete one.
Overall, I really enjoy playing A Gentle Rain. I don’t always want to play heavy and complex game. Sometimes I need a relaxing one like this. With simple ruleset and small package, I can see that this can be a perfect gift for even non gamers.
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.
Kingdomino Duel (2019)
Genre: Roll and Write, 2 Player Only, Competitive, Fantasy Setting, One Time Abilities, Dice Drafting, Set Collection, Solo Variant.
Designer: Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc
Number of Players: 2
Playtime: 20 minutes
Official Website: Kingdomino Duel (blueorangegames.com)
Kingdomino Duel is a roll and write version of Kingdomino the board game. In both games, we will be using the rules from dominoes game where we have to connect the same icon from the domino tile to the existing one.
The difference is that in this dice or roll and write version, we have to build the dominoes first. We do that by rolling 4 dice and the face of the dice will determine the icons or for the dominoes.
This is a 2 player only competitive game, which is very rare for roll and write game. The game comes with a lot of sheets and two pencils
After rolling the dice, the active player will take one dice and the second player will take 2. The active will then take the last so both players will have 2 dice faces to create their domino tile.
There is definitely a tension with the drafting as the one we didn’t take will be given to our opponent. That might help them a lot so we will get a tough decision between choosing the one we want or denying the opponent from taking the one they need.
After the drafting, both players must draw them on their own sheet, following the connection rule as in a game of dominoes. There are 6 different icons in this game that we can get from the dice.
We have to make sure that we can still draw the domino while at the same time, keeping the option for future connection. If we cannot connect, we do not draw while the opponent can keep progressing.
The Map sheet that the each player will draw icons on has a total of 34 spaces. Players can trigger the end of the game if one of them fills the last spaces. Or, if both players cannot draw anything in the same round.
So, how we place the domino tiles is one of the challenge, the spatial challenge. Another challenge is to expand the domain or territory. The same icons should be orthogonally adjacent to each other.
Collecting them in the same domain won’t be enough. The problem is for domain to worth something, the icons must have a cross sign which is also from the dice.
So, from 6 different icons, we might find the same icons with or without a cross. During scoring later, we get points by multiply the number of same icon in the a single domain with the number of crosses in that domain.
Without any cross, even if we manage to collect the same icons adjacent to each other, the domain is worth nothing. In that case, we score nothing from that domain.
Because of that, most of the time, we might have to choose the dice with the cross icon even though we do not collect them yet. With the dice rolling mechanism, it does feel swingy.
Somehow the one we have been collecting just doesn’t show the cross sign if ever. Or, they do show up but we are not the first to draw.
As consolation prize, if we do not draw an icon with a cross, we are getting closer to access one ability or spell. These Spells are one time only that allows us to do a bit of mitigation like separate the dice, ignore the domino connection rule or rotate the dice to certain face.
They are very situational to use and only one player get to access it. Because the progress to access them still relies on randomness of the dice, we may not access them at all. Or even if we do, we even forget that it is there ready to be used.
With all of the randomness in this game, it kind of ruins the experience and makes it harder to play again right away. Even though the game is very portable, affordable and fast to setup.
In a way, maybe we will have more fun playing the game if we try to shoot for the moon, by collecting those rare shields.
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.
Genre: Solo only Game, Worker Placement, World War II Setting, France Setting.
Designer: Jake Staines
Number of Players: 1
Playtime: 30 minutes
Official Webpage: Maquis (sideroomgames.com)
Maquis was originally a self published game by Jake Staines from back in 2013 as a Print and Play game. It was so popular that Side Room Games as publisher picked the game and released a retail edition with a great production value.
This is a worker placement game for one player only set in France during World War II. We are playing as a Resistance group trying to dismantle Nazi from occupying their city in guerilla warfare.
Each game we have to complete 2 missions like destroying a train, assassinate patrols. We do that by first gathering the required resources from around the city and then deliver them to certain place. We do that while trying to avoid getting arrested by the Patrols.
Each round we have to place the Resistance pawn or worker on any of 16 locations on the board to either get resources or trade them into other resources. We start with 3 pawns but we can recruit more up to 5.
After placing 1 worker, we need to flip the Patrol deck and that card will tell us where the Patrol or Milice Pawn will occupy. We keep doing this until all active pawns have been placed on the board.
Like the standard worker placement game, each location can only be occupied by one pawn. So, if we do not send the worker to a location first, the Patrol might take that preventing us for placing on that spot until the next round.
The challenge is that the Patrol can arrest the Resistance. Each Patrol card has 3 locations and if the first one is occupied, the Patrol will go to the next one.
However, if all 3 locations were occupied, the Patrol will switch to arresting mode. Any of that 3 locations that has the Resistance on it, start from the top location, the Patrol will go there and capture that Resistance.
Once captured, the Resistance will not be available again for the rest of the game and make the game even harder. Because of that system, while we can predict the leftover cards to come out next, we cannot just consider the first location.
We have to make sure that the next couple of cards will still have empty locations for Patrols to occupy. Placing the Worker on that location first can definitely change where the Patrol will go.
In addition to that, we can also try to eliminate the regular Patrol so the previously occupied place will be open again. However, there is a cost to this.
For subsequent rounds, Soldier will take over the eliminated regular Patrol. We cannot eliminate the Soldier.
Also, we lose 1 Morale Level, starting from Level 5 and if it drops to zero, we will immediately lose the game. So, while working on the missions, we also need to maintain this Morale level.
That idea might be nice and possibly thematic, but most of the time eliminating a Milice is more like a last resort. Getting a Weapon is not cheap and there is no upside to that situation.
Another twist idea to the standard worker placement is that the Resistance pawn must be able to return to Safe House safely in order to successfully activate the action. What that means is, each location on the board is connected by a road.
There will be a couple more locations between the target location and the Safe House. If any of them is occupied by the Patrol, the Resistance cannot return and thus fail to bring the resources or progress on the mission.
Unless, the mission or the location has the Orange Shield icon. Even if the worker got captured, the work is still done.
So, placing the worker in this game is not just because we want to activate the action from that location but we also need to secure the Escape Route. This is very thematic but also very punishing.
There is also a time limit of 15 rounds to complete both missions. Ideally, we don’t want to waste time just placing the worker for securing the route with no action. But it is better than getting multiple workers arrested.
The game comes with a lot of different missions from 4 different difficulties that we can mix and match. Some of them just required different set of resources to complete but others require additional constraint like time limit just for that mission.
While that can give a lot of setup variety, the overall strategy remains similar. The main game board and their locations are very static. Where we get certain resources will always be the same.
There are 3 Spare room locations that we can convert to specific functions. However, there is a cost for each conversion and if the missions required specific special resources, it is probably from one of the Spare Rooms Tiles.
That is another limiting factor for the replay value of this game. As it is, I feel like the game kind of stuck for more content. Adding new element to the game will just replace the existing one without opening the same level of opportunity.
Despite all of that, I enjoy the challenge that this game offers and from learning the thematic reasoning behind every aspect of the design. It’s just that it is probably not a game that we want to keep playing multiple times in a row.
Micro City (2nd Edition, 2020)
Genre: City Building Theme, Competitive, Cooperative, Official Solo Variant, Hand Management, Modular Boards, Worker Placement, Dice Manipulation
Designer: Michał Jagodziński, Kamil Langie
Number of Players: 1 – 2
Playtime: 10 – 30 minutes
Official Webpage: Micro City (BGG)
Micro City, as the name suggests, can be considered as one of the micro game. With minimum and small component in a small box but it can deliver the same full experience as a bigger tabletop game.
It was originally designed as solo only game, introduced in 2018. With the second edition, now the game can be played with up to 2 players both cooperatively and competitively.
The basic idea in this city building game is that we will be trying to collect resources and complete a building construction through multiple stages. This has to be done in limited number of rounds.
We will be moving our Figure to various places in the city. We can activate actions of those places that allow us to gain resources, trade them and spend them for the building.
The city itself is made of 4 cards that form a 2 x 2 grid. Each card itself has 4 quarters, so each game, there will be 16 quarters. The Figure can move to any of them orthogonally, one or two spaces and activate the action of that quarter.
Each quarter can be one of 3 different types or colors and has 2 actions the Basic and Advanced action which are different based on the type. The types are Residential, Industrial and Commercial.
Industrial is where we can gain one of 3 different type of Materials, either Wood, Coal or Steel. Commercial allows us to sell one of Materials for a different type and gain 1 Coin. Residential can give either 2 Coins or allows us to do Build Action. This Build action is how we can complete a Building and win the game.
The Advanced action of quarter is usually the better version of the Basic one except for Residential. However, to activate the Advanced action, we need to spend the die with specific values, stated by the quarter.
How far the Figure can move is determined by a hand of Project Cards. Each round, player can choose one of these 6 unique cards. Once played, the card will stay in the discard pile until we choose to spend a turn to retrieve all cards from that pile.
Each of these cards also has 1 Basic Action and 1 Advanced action that we can use one per turn. The basic action usually is free to use but for the Advanced action, we need to spend 1 die with specific face value.
So, each turn, we have a chance to do 2 actions, one from the card and one from the quarter. Considering that the game itself is so tight in time, trying to use both, or more over, the Advanced actions from both is probably the most efficient way to play. Which means, we need both dice to be the right face value.
At the start of each round, we will roll 2 dice. Right after that, we have a chance to manipulate the value. We can spend either 1 of any material or 2 Coins to increase or decrease the value by 1 each. However, we may need those resources to complete the objective.
So, there is a resource management we need to do. On the other hand, if we do not use the dice of the round at all, at the end of turn, we will get 1 Coin.
There is another resource that we need to manage, which is the Investment Markers. Every game, we will have 8 of these with no way to increase the number.
At the end of turn, we will place this in a quarter where we end the movement of the Figure assuming the quarter doesn’t have one yet. Actually, if the quarter has an investment marker, it prevents us from activating any of the action from that quarter.
We will also use the marker to mark off the construction stage that we have completed. As the game progresses, we will have less flexibility because we will lose these markers.
Markers on the quarters can still be removed using mostly the action from the cards. However, markers on the Building cards will stay there until the end of the game.
The game can suddenly end with a loss if we don’t have any available marker when we have to place one on the marker. We can also remove the markers from quarters at the start of each round by spending 1 of any materials or 2 Coins. Again, those are the resources that we may need to win the game.
The game ends with a win once we have completed the final stage of the building construction before the time runs out. While there are multiple difficulty settings which will determine the number of rounds, I feel like the game is really tight.
We cannot win with just do one action per turn. Trying to utilize both actions is the least we need to do. The dice roll can be swingy but there is enough way to mitigate that.
However, I find that we need to stay focus on the objective. If we just use the dice or do the action just because we can or the dice allow us to, we might end up just wasting time, moving around, gaining resources and wasting them.
Another negative point about the game is that there is no sense of progression about the action. The actions we can do during the game are static. We will do the same thing from start to end and won’t get stronger actions. While we lose flexibility with the markers, we don’t get something better in return.
It feels repetitive after a while. The game comes with a lot of setup variabilities from the different city cards, and different building objectives. For me, none of them change the game that much.
The same goes with the cooperative mode. We are still playing the same number of rounds for the same objective as in solo but divided into 2 players. The two players will use their own 2 dice and move their own figures but with still one set of Project cards. So, it’s like each round, we will have to think the actions of our next 2 rounds, resolved by one player each.
I personally think the best value comes from the competitive play. Players can try to block each other because both figures cannot be on the same quarters. The same as markers on quarters as we will try to utilize both actions and chase the empty quarters.
In this mode, both players will be competing to have the most points. This can be achieved from the Goal cards, which is similar to Building card in solo mode, and from Advantage cards. The difference is that with Goal cards, the markers can still be removed by either player. That way they can score the same stage multiple times for the same points each. But they need to make it empty first.
The Advantage cards is where the game becomes more interesting. Any player can take the cards, gain the stated points, if they can meet the requirements. Once taken, the other player cannot score from it again.
The requirements from these cards are not just about collecting resources as the Goal cards. But it can be about spreading markers on different city cards or no markers in the last 10 rounds. Also, they can come out in random order and random time.
Compared to what we do with the Goal cards, these requirements change the game significantly. Even though originally, the game is for solo only, this additional competitive mode is actually better. With that being said, even in competitive mode, one player can still feel like not progressing at all in the game.
As a micro game, Micro City does offer enough game with interesting puzzle while keep in small size and minimum components. It’s just maybe we cannot expect too much for the replay value.
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.
Genre: Tile Placement Game, Competitive, Polyominoes Tiles, Open Drafting, Japanese Garden Theme.
Designer: Michael Kiesling
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Playtime: 45 minutes
Official Website: Miyabi (haba.de)
Miyabi is a tile laying game for 2 to 4 players. The theme is about building a Japanese style garden.
In this game, players will play over several rounds. Players take turns choosing one of the face up tile and place it on their player board with 6 x 6 grid. The tiles have 3 different sizes and 4 different shapes.
From the smallest polyomino tiles, with 1 x 1 size, to the biggest one with 1 x 3 size with either straight shape or C-shape. Each tile also has one type of object in one of the tile’s spaces.
There is a restriction as how we can place the tile. The part where the objects are printed on the tile must be placed in the specific row of the game board for that object. There are 6 different objects and one row for each object.
Another restriction is from the column. After each tile placement, we have to place a Lantern token on the column where the object on the tile is placed. This indicates that that we cannot place another tile on the same column for that round.
So, players get to take and place tile up to 6 times, spread out to 6 different columns per round. But they can still choose tiles with the same object.
By still following that restriction, we can also build upwards by placing the next tile above the previous ones. We cannot place them hanging or with holes right below the tile.
After each tile placement, we will gain score that is worth the size of the tile times the level of the layer. So, if we place a tile with size 3 on third layer, we will get 9 points while on first layer, we will only get 3.
Ideally, we want to place the bigger tile on top but the bigger tile requires bigger foundation. Early in the game we have to spend times to build big enough foundations to give more flexibility later.
The challenge is that the order of how the tiles and their object will come out is random. So, we cannot just focus on certain objects or row to go high or otherwise, we will place the tile at the bottom in the last round which score very little.
That is actually still a better way to still be able to place any tile. If we cannot place at all, we are essentially out of the round while the other players can still play and get more tiles to choose.
While this can be a mean thing for players to do a hate drafting, it’s more the fault of the player who cannot place the tile. Also, with the restriction from rows and columns, it is not very beneficial with trying to just mess with other players.
Every round, we know all of the tiles that we might take and place. But the other player can take them out first. We need to come up with some short-term planning for the round. At least to make sure that we can always place the tiles.
Early in the game, with empty board, we will want to take the big one first as it helps cover more spaces faster. However, later, the big tile that can only fit on lower layer is worth less than smaller ones on higher layer.
There is also a bonus that we can get by reaching the 5th layer first for each row. So, there is a racing element between players.
At the end of the game, there is a majority bonus for each row based on the number of visible objects of that row. The player with the most object will get highest bonus of the 2 and the second place will get the lower one.
Because of placing a tile on top of another tile, those objects might get covered and we have less visible objects.
I think the game is more interesting with just 2 players. With 2 players, we play 6 rounds while we have less with more players. It is also easier to control which tile we can take and let go. With more players, we have more choices but it is less predictable.
The game also comes with 5 expansion modules that we can combine all or just some however we want. 3 of them are actually just extra scoring conditions for final scoring without changing the gameplay at all. However, combining those 3 will still change how we should place the tile.
Most of the time, these 3 will matter probably in the last round. We are trying to make bigger group of adjacent spaces with or without objects or try to aim for 7 objects in either row or column.
We cannot do much in earlier rounds while in the last round, with these 3 it feels like we are just being lucky by getting that opportunity. Still, we can expand to increase the bonus.
The other two will use extra components and add extra steps of action and scoring within the game. With the Zen tile, we can get extra points by surrounding that Zen tile with objects. The scoring happens when we surround the tile based on the number of surrounding objects at that time.
The extra challenge is that we can only place the Zen tile on lower layer and cannot place any tile on top of that Zen tile. That will give restriction to how we place the tile later which doesn’t help us build upwards. On the other hand, if we build later, we might not have any space to place that tile.
The last module uses the Frog token that we can move on the board. We are trying to move the Frog up to higher layer and get points everytime it goes higher.
The challenge is that the Frog can only move to an empty space, one space on same level or upwards. This is true until it reaches the 4th layer.
We also cannot place any tile where the Frog is on. So, the Frog itself will become extra restriction but it can still move. But if we are not careful, it will get stuck and prevent us from building higher.
The rule and gameplay of Miyabi is very simple but there are more things to consider when placing the tile. Building upwards and the restriction from column and row is a step up in difficulty from regular tile laying game.
It’s a great game for those who love this spatial puzzle but some may not enjoy that.
Genre: Card Game, Competitive, City Building, Worker Placement, Tile Placement, Multi Use Card, Multi Purpose Card, Fantasy Theme, Card Drafting, Variable Player Power.
Designer: Carlo Lavezzi
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Playtime: 30 – 60 minutes
Official Website: Oddville (whatsyourgame.eu)
OddVille is a competitive game for 2 – 4 players. The theme is about building a city of OddVille in a communal board. It has a combination of tile laying mechanism using cards and worker placement mechanism using multiuse cards.
Each player will be playing with 9 worker pawns that they can use to mostly claim a resource spot. To use them, we need to play one of 4 Worker Cards.
The Worker cards are the Multiuse cards with 3 possible actions that the worker can do in varying degree. Either they can take some amount of Coins, draw a building card from central market or claim a certain type of resources.
All 4 worker cards are different. The weakest can only take 1 type of resources and the first Building card for free and no coin. While the strongest can take any of 4 types of resources, 3 coins, or the first 4 building cards for free. All players will have the same set of cards in their hand.
Once played, either we need to play the remaining cards in hand before they are returned to our hand. Or, we can pay some cost to recover them early.
So, we will be faced with a tough choice in this game. Which worker we should play first and which action we need them to do now? We need to be efficient and utilize the weaker cards as well.
The worker placement part is only about getting resources from the Resources board. There are 4 different type of resources, each with their own spot on the board. The board itself can be occupied by any number of workers but with a cost.
We can go for the cheaper spot or even free if we go early. Otherwise, we will need to pay up to 2 Coins.
We need those resources to play a Building card to the City of OddVille. Each card requires up to 3 resources. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing which Building card to take and play.
The first one is the spatial element. Not only we need to place them orthogonally adjacent to the existing cards but we also need to follow the edge, either connect them with the street or the surrounding houses.
Everytime we build them, we pay the cost by taking the workers from the resource board and we permanently lose 1 worker to place them on the card. The end of the game will be triggered after one player has placed their 6th worker in the city,
After building a card, we will also get the depicted bonus by the card, either the Resource Bonus, The Guild Bonus or both. If the card is connected by a street, then, we can also gain Resource bonus of the adjacent buildings.
So, we will try to make a combo so that the resources bonus can be used to build the next building. The Guild Bonus is getting the Character to our side but temporarily.
There are 4 different Guilds and each Guild can have up to 3 Characters in a game. By having them to our side will give us special power that only the owner can use.
The power can be about getting discount, more resources or coins in a turn or even additional action. Some are definitely more powerful anytime while some others are situational.
Once all Characters from 1 Guild have been taken, the next player to gain the Guild Bonus of that Guild will force all players to return all of the characters of that corresponding Guild. Having those Characters themselves can give us point at the end if we can keep them.
What makes the game interesting is the Scoring Conditions that each Building card can give aside from just their base value. Some can give points just from adjacent buildings, some others can give points from buildings in the same row or column.
There are also scoring conditions based on the Guild icons or even the VP of adjacent buildings. What that means is it is possible in this game to take advantage of the other player’s effort from building the City together.
If we don’t care about the other players, we can end up helping them more than ourselves. Sometimes we cannot take advantage and need to cut their progress so they will not get more points.
Players need to understand those Scoring Conditions and build a strategy around it. If we play this game mindlessly, just wait for the next cheapest option, we will not score that much and the game can feel boring and repetitive.
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: Roll and Write, Competitive, Modular Board, Tourism Theme, One time Abilities.
Designer: Eilif Svensson, Åsmund Svensson
Number of Players: 1 – 6
Playtime: 15 – 25 minutes
Official Website: ChilifoxGames.com
Riverside is one of the tabletop games with roll and write genre. The game is about tourism in a cruise. We will be inviting passengers to join in excursions to various different villages. Each village can have different local attractions like polar bear, reindeer, ice fishing, mountain climbing or local brew house.
What makes them unique compared to other similar games is the used of communal board. Each player still uses their own score sheet to fill and make decision based on the same set of dice each round.
This communal board uses modular tiles to create a long board with a grid of 2 rows and 5 columns, connected on both ends. On this communal board, we will place a cruise token at the starting points. The cruise will move across all tiles until it reaches the exit point.
Along the way, the cruise will come closer to various different villages. Each village has their own excursions with various value. We can score from them by having an excursion to this village which will happen once per round.
Before we can go to excursions, we first need to fill the seat of boats with passengers. Each round we will roll 5 base dice and 1 green die that can determine the number of seats of boat that we can fill in. All 5 base dice have their own color so we can only fill the boats of the corresponding type.
The value of the green one can be added to the based die of our choice but we need to spend 1 Fire symbols for each value. From these 5 dice, we have to sort them in ascending order and the third one will be the median value.
Any die with the same or lower value than the median will be free to use. On the other hand, if we choose a die with higher than median value, we also need to spend Fire symbols.
The goal is to fill up to 4 boats from each type. Only after the boat is full, we can send them out to a village with corresponding attractions to score excursion points.
Each village has a value and we can only score 3 times during the game for each type of excursions. Another restriction is that the next excursion of a type must generate higher score than previously. The score comes from the value of the village, multiply by the number of filled out tickets.
Because of this, we will have to examine the entire board and figure out the best time to score from various different places. It is possible that we have more tickets but since the value on the village is low, we cannot get higher excursion score. This gives a strategic feeling to the experience.
The overall layout will also dictate how we fill in the boat. We can fill smaller boat first so we can score immediately with excursion or we can choose larger boats that require more seats.
The 2 larger boats have royal Seats. If we can fill them, we will activate one time ability. Each type of excursion has their own Royal Power. The powers allow us to have second excursions, get 3 additional passengers, one ticket more, free green die value or extend the boat range.
The cruise itself will keep moving in one direction. While the boat for excursion can only reach village within 3 spaces from the cruise itself. So, that gives another challenge to when we score.
The cruise will move a couple of space determined by the median value of the round. It is possible that it may skip some villages that we want to visit. There is a way to extend the boat range but it is very limited. The game can end early or takes longer depending on this median value.
Aside from 5 local attractions, there is one more excursion that can happen, which is the Stave Church. For this, we can only score twice and this will affect the Captain Points. This one counts the number of tickets from all excursions.
The Captain Points is probably the only interaction between players. Whoever score the most Captain points will get extra 15 points bonus while the lowest one will lose another 15.
Those 30 point difference can be huge and players probably have to chase them. Sadly, this means limiting the chance to pursue different strategy and the game kind of lose a replay value.
We count the total score from all Guide or attraction boats, the Captain points with the bonus or penalty to determine the winner.
Riverside may sound more complicated than most games in this roll and write genre. But it is not. It is still a filler game with extra setup with the board. It plays very fast and with another sheet and randomize the board a bit, we can immediately play the game again.
The random dice value still significantly determines the outcome. However, it affects all players equally and I have never felt like losing the game because of keep getting bad rolls. We still have choice as how to fill different boat which can give different bonus seats. There will be some combos of actions from one type of excursions to another.
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.
Solar Draft (2019)
Genre: Card Drafting, Tableau Building, Set Collection, Variable Player Power, Once per Game Ability, Space Theme, Hand Management
Designer: Zach Moore
Number of Players: 2 – 5
Playtime: 20 – 30 minutes
Solar Draft is a competitive card game for 2 to 5 players. The theme is about designing a Solar System. We start with a Sun and then we will be adding cards to our tableau of solar system.
These cards can be Planet cards, Comets and Moon cards. It’s a hand management game where we start with 3 cards in hand. Each turn, players can either draw a card from the market, play a card or replace a card from their tableau.
To play the card, each type has requirement. Comets cannot be played right next to each other while Moons needs to orbit a Planet. We can only play a Planet from the position closest to the Sun and going further away in a single line.
There is a way to Terraform or replace the existing card, but we need to discard another card from our hand.
Each of these cards has a base points value that we can score just by playing the card but it also has an ability. For Planets, most of the abilities will give extra points if we meet the requirements.
The requirements can be about the position of the Planet in the Solar System, the total number of planets, the object adjacent to the Planet, the color, size or number of rings. Each planet can have one of the 3 different sizes and 4 different colors. Planets can also have no ring up to 4 rings.
With all of those attributes, each card is unique. We will be trying to find synergy between those cards. There are cards with high base value but almost no score from its ability. Some even cancel the scoring from adjacent cards.
Playing Comets can help us get additional actions after we play the card. It is also useful if we want to hold on from playing any Planet card.
Each player also has a one time ability from their Sun Mat. If we play with the other side of the mat, we can even use additional ability which is unique from one Sun character to another.
The game will end after one player has 8 Planet cards at the end of their turn. Players can get bonus for having the most Planets of any given color.
I guess the biggest selling point of Solar Draft is the cute illustrations for each card. Instead of just circular object with colors for the Planet, they put a facial expression. That is mostly just a gimmick with no affect to the gameplay.
There are a couple of issue that I have with this game related to the art and graphic design. Some parts are inconsistent and the icons are a bit unclear.
I also have an issue with the gameplay. It seems like players can just rush to be the first to trigger the end of the game and win. Not that it is a bad thing, but somehow, players can just ignore most of the interesting element that the game has to offer.
Maybe the game has too many ideas. From all 90 unique cards, we will remove some of them based on the number of players. There is a big chance that some cards that might work well with the cards in our hand may not be in the game.
Overall, I don’t think Solar Draft is a bad game. It does offer a lot of interesting choices. Maybe it just needs a couple of tweaks.
Genre: Tile Laying, Competitive, City Building Theme, Set Collection, Variable Player Power, Hand Management.
Designer: Haakon Gaarder
Number of Players: 1 – 5
Playtime: 30 – 60 minutes
Official Website: Streets (sinisterfish.com)
Streets is a competitive tile laying game for 1 to 5 players. The theme is city building where all players will build the city collectively.
Every turn, players will take turns playing one of the 3 tiles in their hand. The tile is a square tile bigger than most of the game. Each tile has a building illustration and a street or road that must be connected to the other tile when placing them.
We can either extend the Street or enclose the street by creating an intersection. The street cannot have more than 5 buildings in the same orientation.
After placing the tile, we will also place one of our Ownership sign to indicate that the building is ours. When the street is closed on both ends, we have to sell the property. This is how we get the money, which is victory points at the end.
Each building has a Valuation or Scoring Condition. It can be based on Symbols that appeared in the same street, the number of specific group of people, the Street size, adjacent buildings, number of buildings with the same owner or get the same value of another building.
The value can be increased by the number of people attracted by that building. Each building will have symbols or colors that indicates the type of people that will come and hangout in that building. So, we place one meeple on it per depicted symbol.
When the street is closed and the building is sold, these people will stay in the city but they will look for the next building that matches their type. As the game progresses, more and more people will hang out in several streets and increase the value of subsequent buildings.
The player who closed the street gets to choose how to move those people, obviously to that player’s next building. That means, before closing the street, players might want to be prepared of catching them by placing a tile with matching symbol.
Each players can only have up to 5 active buildings at a time, indicated by the limited Ownership signs. Since we always have to build a new building and put our sign on it, these signs become another resources that we have to manage.
We have to make sure to always have one of them unused and try to close the street where we can get back those signs. Because of this limit, working on our own street, while it’s possible is not a sustainable strategy.
We have to compete and try to take advantage of the other players by building in the same street. There is a timing aspect as where and when to play a tile, hoping that the opponent will help us get the signs back.
If we don’t have any sign, we have to abandon one of our building. We will not get any money from that abandoned building. The other way to get the sign is to steer the development of the city in an inward direction.
By doing so, we can use the previous street to help us close down one end of the street. We cannot just wait for the opponent to do it for us while trying to keep getting the most scores from any Street.
The game continues until all of the tiles have been played. For the remaining unclosed street, each player will only get half the value. Whoever has the most money wins.
That is the basic game. There are 2 modules that we can add, the Business Icon module and Consultant Module. Business Icons introduces another set collection. Each building tile has a Business Icon of 4 different type.
Everytime the street is closed, we can choose one of the building and take the depicted Business tokens. We get more money by having every set of 4 different icons. There is an additional player interaction where whoever has the most tokens of each type will get more money at the end.
I feel like this module doesn’t significantly change the game. We still have to focus on the building’s Valuation first. Considering that we will still get any token and the possibility of winning the majority, we probably don’t care that much, except maybe the last one or two buildings.
The Consultant module introduces unique Player Power. Each player will get a random Consultant cards with special power that only that player can use. This power can vary from adding more Symbols during Scoring, play and build two buildings every turn or score another building from hand.
There are two groups for this powers. One type can happen during Scoring and the other can happen during Building or playing a tile. Both of them are very limited in how the power can be used and very situational.
They kind of can make the game more strategic from the tactical nature of the base game. Unless the player is willing to explore, the impact to the game is probably not that much.
There is an issue of table space. We don’t know which direction that the city will develop. With a big tile, it can take a lot of space. Eventually we have to rotate the entire board, move all of the pieces that we put on the table near the playing area.
The problem is that sometimes it can affect where we place the tile or we have to slide even just the street so they can fit the table. Some of the Valuations may require specific position. So, it the tile is moved, the player may not get the same score. All of these don’t matter if we play on a large enough table.
The best part of this game is the solo variant where player has to compete against the bot opponent, the Grifter. Instead of randomly draw a tile for the opponent, we know exactly the next tile that the opponent will make before we do our own action.
This makes every turn very engaging because we can react or even take advantage from it. Since it is still not a complete information as we don’t know all of their tile except the next one, there can be some surprise moment.
In that case, we have to abandon or hold our plan or we are giving a lot of points to the opponent. There are suggestions for higher difficulty settings but we mostly play the same game but have to score even higher.
That engagement doesn’t happen with multiplayer as we still don’t know the exact tiles in the opponent’s hand, and which or where they will put next. For some people and with higher player count, the game can be very fiddly with the moving people and scoring.
Streets is considered as a lightweight game but with extra hidden depth from the spatial aspect.
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.
Tiny Epic Defenders (2nd Edition, 2018)
Genre: Medieval Fantasy Settings, Action Points, Variable Player Powers, Cooperative Game, Modular Boards.
Designer: Scott Almes
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Playtime: 30 – 60 minutes
Official Website: Tiny Epic Defenders (gamelyngames.com)
Tiny Epic Defenders is one of the game in the Tiny Epic Series by Gamely Games as the publisher. They can be considered as micro game, always come in a small package and a lot of content in the box. Each of them will have a different main mechanism and genre so anybody can collect them all.
In this one, the genre is a cooperative tower defense game set in medieval fantasy world. We will be playing as heroes or heroines trying to defend the Capital City from enemy’s endless attacks.
If we can defend it long enough, the final boss will finally show up and we can win by defeating that Epic Foe.
The game uses large region cards as the modular boards with Capital City being at the center surrounded by 6 Outer Regions. We have to move the character’s pawn around these cards to do many kind of actions.
The game also uses a Turn Deck system which is a collection of cards in random order that will tell us whose turn it is, either the player or one of the enemy. We have to resolve all cards one by one as a single round.
In subsequent rounds we will be adding one cards each. Depending on the difficulty setting, after certain cards, we will reveal the Epic Foe. If we can defeat th Epic Foe before they enemy destroy the City, we win the game.
On our character’s turn, they can spend their Action Points, between 3 or 4 AP to either MOVE, SECURE, USE ABILITY or FIGHT action. The characters also only have 4 or 5 Hit Points and when they reach 0 HP they become exhausted.
They need to heal first before they are allowed to continue doing certain actions. Healing is very limited in this game so we need to manage between the two resources.
Almost all cards in this game are unique. With the exception for the regular Enemy cards, almost every card also has unique ability. Some may just modify the standard value but others can increase the complexity as it interacts with other cards.
We can play with at least 2 of 10 unique characters in the base game. The characters will not level up, at least with just the base game. However, they might get 1 out of 10 random artifacts if they can defend against a Dire Enemy.
The character can also use an ability from the Outer Regions as long as the regions are not destroyed. If an Outer Region get destroyed, the next attack on that location will increase the threat level of the Capital City.
Once the City reaches the highest threat level, we lose the game. We have to defeat the Epic Foe before that.
Because of that, the game has two parts. The first part is about playing defensive, trying to mitigate and manage the attack of these regions.
Then, when the Epic Foe is revealed, we get to the second part. At this point we have to switch from playing defensively to a very offensive one. The longer it takes the harder for us to manage.
Tiny Epic Defenders can support up to 4 players. We can also play solo but always with at least 2 characters. It seems that playing with less characters will be easier.
The way they scale the game is that we will still play the same amount of AP every round. But with more players or characters, those AP will be distributed equally to each characters and make them less flexible.
The game also comes with 6 Epic Foes. Each of them will change the rule when they show up and we have to use different strategy to defeat them.
With a combination of unique variety of every card in this game, we will get a lot of replay value. It’s just some are not equally as good as the others.
The biggest issue with this game is the complication that can happen when some of these unique cards interact with each other. They need further clarification that the designer didn’t provide in the easiest way.
Tumble Town (2021)
Genre: Dice Rolling, American Western Theme, City Building, Competitive, Solo Variant, Contracts, Set Collection, Card and Dice Drafting, Dice Manipulation, Tableau Building.
Designer: Kevin Russ
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Playtime: 45 minutes
Official Page: Tumble Town (weirdgiraffegames.com)
Tumble Town is one of the tableau building game where we will be stacking dice to create a town in American Western setting. Each turn, players will have to draw 1 card alongside a set of 3 dice associated with the row of card that we take from.
So, sometimes we want to take the building but not necessarily the dice or vice versa. We can keep the building but storing dice has a limit and the drafting phase is the only way to get the card and most of the dice.
There are three building Levels, indicated by the number of cactus. The Level 1 is the easiest to build that will give low points but a very helpful power. While Level 2 or 3 require more dice but stronger power or more points at the end.
These powers allows us to change or manipulate the dice that we have so we can construct the buildings, following the requirement from the card. Each building may require certain aspect from the dice, whether the color, the amount or the pip value per dice or ranged of total sum.
If we have the power, we can increase or decrease the value by 1 or 2, flip or reroll the dice or discard one dice to get a different color or even more dice. There is also a card that allows us to get a token to change to any value.
Some of the powers from the buildings can also give one time benefit like get 1 or 2 dice from certain color right after the construction.
Each building card also have some background objects like cactus, tower, barrel or eagles. For each type of object there is a building that will give extra score per that specific object assuming we can find it and build that specific building.
There is also a power to trade dice that each player will have and can activate multiple times in a turn. However, most of the trade will make us lose a dice, so we want to be careful no to waste this.
We can still construct a building but without following the requirement, as long as we have the minimum of dice. However, for each dice that do not follow the requirement, we will have to take 1 Penalty Token which is worth -2 points.
The game of Tumble Town has two parts. How we get cards and dice and build them is just the first part. The second one is how we place the constructed buildings into our Main Street, which is the Player Mat.
This mat has 20 dice slot to create two rows of buildings that will form the Main Street. Each slot will have a requirement like certain color of dice in certain position , whether on first, second or third level.
If we can also meet this requirement, we will get extra points as well. There will be no penalty for not following the requirement of this one. Another source of point is if we can create an alley between building with just a single dice slot.
So, these dice placements is just an additional feature. We can even choose not to place in any of the spot if we think we can fill that spot with other subsequent building later.
At the end of the game we will see an interactive table presence using these constructed buildings made of dice with 4 colors.
The game will end after two colors of dice have been depleted and whoever score the most points wins. But that is just the basic variant to play Tumble Town.
The rule has other suggestions as how to play this game, including the solo variant where we will be competing against an automated player, the Outlaw. We can also choose to beat their score or the Outlaw will just remove cards from the market, replicating the experience of 4 player game.
I tend to agree with some people who say that this game ends too soon even using the surplus variant. There are other issues like lack of variety of cards because most of them are just variants for each of 4 style icons.
The gameplay itself is probably a solid one with interesting decision and a good amount of ways to manipulate the dice. This is a game that uses a lot of dice but I do not feel of ever getting too many bad dice rolls.
We can always find a way to utilize those dice by picking the right card to build next. This is more of a tight resource management game, mostly because of the number of dice with a minor part that can lead to engine building feeling.
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. The story 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. We can use the coin 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.