Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Board Game Top 100 – 1

1 – Ethnos
In Ethnos, players take the roles of future kings and queens vying for control of the various regions that comprise the war torn lands of Ethnos. The theme in Ethnos may seem very “war-gamey,” but Ethnos isn’t like that. Sure, you place troops into areas on the board hoping to establish a strategic advantage, but the game is nothing like, Risk. It’s more like, Ticket To Ride.
Ethnos is an area control game, but at its core is set-collection card play. Players begin play with one card in hand. On the table are a number of face up cards and a draw pile. On your turn you can either take one of the face up cards or take the top card from the draw pile. Your goal is to create a set from the cards in your hand. Cards have two features: a race, and a nation.
Nations match those on the board. Each Nation has a distinctly colored boarder and a suitably obtuse fantasy name to define it. The colors of the cards match the nations (the name is there too for the colorly impaired.) There are 6 different nations and 6 different matching suits in the appropriate colors on the cards. There are 12 different races, but you only play with 6 each game, chosen randomly. (This creates a lot of variability and replayability.)
A set is any selection of cards that feature either all the same nation, or all the same race. Creating a set is that simple. Playing your collected set, is where things start to get really interesting. First, you need to choose one card to represent the “leader” of your war band, and place that card on top. (The sets that you play represent war bands.) When you choose your leader, you need to take into account the leader’s race and nation.
Ultimately, you want to place armies in nations on the board. You can only place your armies in the nation that matches the nation of your leader card. So, this is one thing you must consider. Secondly, every race has a unique racial ability. The racial ability on your leader card will trigger when you play your set. So, this is also important.
Finally, once you play a set, all the other cards in your hand that are not part of that war band are immediately discarded down onto the table face up so that other players can draw them. Yeah, you heard that right. In many set collection style card games there is a tendency among players to hoard cards while they try to construct the perfect combination before finally making their move. Here, you have to balance that tendency with the knowledge that anything that you don’t use, you will lose, and what’s worse, your opponents will benefit from the wealth of partial sets that you started but weren’t able to finish.
This little twist on the “set collection” card mechanic sets Ethnos apart from its peers. It’s kind of “push your luck” but not really. You have to ask yourself, “How far am I willing to go?” How much is it helping you to draw one more card, versus how much is it potentially helping your opponents? One final aspect of this is that there is a hand limit. If you have reached 10 cards in your hand, you have to play a set.
The game is played over three eras. At the end of each era, scores are tallied based on who was the strongest military presence in each nation on the board, as well as additional points for playing larger sets of cards. Eras (rounds) can end unexpectedly, but you do get a warning. At the bottom half of the deck, three dragon cards are shuffled in. When the third dragon card comes out, the Era (round) is over. The dragon cards add an interesting bit of tension as players try to accomplish everything that they can before the round is scored.

All of these elements come together to create a very engaging and enjoyable game play experience, and I haven’t even touched on the powers of the different races yet. The races all provide important changes or exceptions to rules, and the variable combinations of these ensures that every game of Ethnos feels different.
Centaurs allow you to immediately play a second war band before discarding all of your cards.
Dwarves allow you to count your band as if it is one card larger during end of round scoring. (At the end of each round, large bands are worth substantial points.)
Giants give you bonus points if you have the largest band with a giant for its leader.
Merfolk add an extra board, their own little undersea kingdom, that you advance on every time you play a band with a Merfolk leader, adding an additional way to gain victory points.
Minotaurs allow you to place armies on the nations on the board with smaller sets of cards. (Normally in order to place your army on the board, you must play a set with a number of cards greater than the number of your armies that are already there. So, if you have 3 armies in a nation, you must play a 4 card band in order to place another army there. Minotaurs reduce this requirement by one.)
Unlike other races, Skeletons can never be the leader of a band, but you can add them to any band regardless of their color or race.
These are only some examples. There are 12 races total, but you only play with 6 at a time. The information about each race is printed on their cards. So, it’s not a problem learning what each one does. The combined special powers of each race creates variability of play and layers upon layers of options. This makes Ethnos a truly engaging game play experience.

It’s fun. It’s fast. Its core mechanisms are simple yet engaging. It plays differently every time. Ethnos is just marvelous. It is my favorite board game.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Board Game Top 100 – 3-2

3 – Cosmic Run
In Cosmic Run, players take turns rolling a handful of 6 dice and then arranging sets from these dice to advance their player pawn rocket ships in a race against one another to be the first to land on new planets! On your first roll of every turn there is also a chance based on the values of certain colored dice that a meteor strike might damage or even destroy a planet before you can get there. So, players aren't only racing against each other, but also the fickle hand of fate! Die sets for movement are simple: a single die showing a “1,” or any pair, or any three, four, or five of a kind. Each time you roll, you only have to assign at least one die in order to roll again, but you can assign more. This means that you don’t have to create a set using the dice from a single roll. You can commit dice toward the creation of an incomplete set and hope that you get what you need before you’re suddenly out of dice and your turn is over. This is a lot of playing the odds, and reminiscent of the game play of Can’t Stop which is another game that we love. The board in Cosmic Run is made up of 5 tracks and the tracks are of varying lengths. The easiest track is the “1’s” track, and it’s also the longest track, with the smallest incremental improvement in victory points with each step along the way. The five of a kind track is the shortest track, and gives the highest awards in victory points with each step. When any player reaches the top of a track, they have discovered the planet there and the track is scored. Every player receives points based on their final position on the track at the point where the planet was discovered. The player who actually managed to reach the planet is in for a substantial bonus in points, while players lower on the track will score much less, in some cases even being penalized with negative points for lack of progress. Scoring of a track will also happen if any planet suffers three total meteor strikes. Once a planet is hit by its third meteor, the planet is considered destroyed and no one can discover it. When this happens, everyone is scored immediately based on their progress toward the doomed planet for good or ill. It’s a good idea to get part way up as many tracks as you can to avoid negative points. In addition to space travel, you can use your dice to befriend different alien races. Aliens give you powers that help you to mitigate your die rolls making it possible to roll the more difficult targets (like five of a kind.) One type of Alien is a mining race allowing you to mine for ore, which equals instant victory points. At the end of the game, sets of Aliens are also worth points depending upon how many different Aliens of each type you managed to befriend. Finally, if you don't have anything else to do, you can place a single die of any value into your personal tech tree to give yourself small one-shot benefits. Because of this, you always have options available on every turn. Cosmic Run is a fast, engaging, surprisingly strategic little dice game. It's quick to play and
and I always play at least two games every time we break it out.

2 – Quadropolis
In Quadropolis, players are each responsible for city planning, arranging the construction of buildings in 4 zones of a city as shown on their player boards. There is also a shared central board that must be set up at the start of every round, and there are 4 rounds in each game. The central board shows a selection of the possible buildings that players can add to their own personal piece of the city. You don’t need to gather resources or pay money to add new buildings to your player board in Quadropolis. The game play here is focused on how you arrange the buildings on your board, and on a unique drafting mechanism. The first thing a player does on their turn is assign an architect to draw up plans for a building. Every player has 4 architects in their employ. These take the form of illustrated cardboard pointers numbered 1 through 4. You can use each architect only once each round, so a round is made up of 4 turns per player. You use your architects to draft building plans. Do this by placing the card board pointer next to the board pointing at the plan that you want. If you place the 4 architect pointing into a row or column for example, you will draft the 4th plan in the direction that you are pointing. If you place the 2 architect pointing into a row or column you will draft the 2nd plan in from the central board in the direction that the architect is pointing. This creates an interesting puzzle for drafting the buildings that you need, but the puzzle doesn’t end there. You can’t place your archetect in a location around the central board where another player already has an architect. Also, every time a tile is removed from the board a special figure is moved to sit in that location. You can never point an architect at that figure. So, the row and column that was just used by the player before you is always blocked, but the puzzle doesn’t end there. Now that you have drafted a building plan, you must place the tile on your player board to turn it into a building. Since you used the number 2 architect to draft this particular plan, you must now find a suitable location for the new building in your city that is in either the 2nd row or the 2nd column on your player board. Ah, ha! You have to choose which architect to use based not only on which building plan you want, but where you plan to build it! Tricky! Once a building is placed it will usually produce a resource. The resources in Quadropolis are population, represented by little blue meeples, and energy, represented by little red cubes. Most buildings won’t score unless they are first activated by either a population meeple or energy cube. Which type of resource is needed depends upon the building and this is another part of the puzzle. If at the end of the game, you have excess population meeples that aren’t able to be assigned to buildings this represents over-population and will damage your score. If you have unassigned energy cubes, these represent pollution and will incur a similar detriment. At the end of the 4th round, your 16th turn of the game, you will score your city. Your score will be based on the types of buildings in your city and their proximity to other buildings. Parks, for example, score based on how many residential apartment buildings they are adjacent to. Factories score if next to a shop or a harbor. Shops score based on how many little population meeples you are able to place on top of them (up to 4 max.) Harbors score when forming a continuous line or column. The game comes with helpful player aids that show the scoring rules to help you decide how to place your buildings. The absolutely amazing thing about Quadropolis is how elegantly and simply all of these things come together. There is a lot going on here, but it all works seamlessly and intuitively. Quadropolis is easy to teach, easy to learn, easy to play. It juggles elements of a much more complex game and manages to produce something that is approachable and fun. Quadropolis isn’t complicated at all while you are playing it. Players have options and these options equate to an entertaining and engaging game play experience. Quadropolis is a family weight game with a great theme, quick engaging game play, beautiful components, and a fantastic table presence, that
and I both love.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Sabotage Sinister

This is another short Green Lantern entry with art by Joe Stanton. This one originally appeared in Green Lantern #132, September 1980. I would have been 14 at the time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Board Game Top 100 – 5-4

5 – Red7
It’s not flashy to look at, but then Red7 doesn’t need to be. A modern card game that feels like a classic, in Red7 your goal is simple: win! “But, Jeff …” I can hear you protest. “Isn’t winning the goal of every game?” Well, yes, but in Red7 this goal is much more pronounced. On the table in front of all the players is a draw deck and a discard pile. On top of that discard pile is a face up card. That card like every other in the game has printed on it: a number, a color, and a rule. Because this card is on the discard pile, all we care about is, “the rule.” That rule is the game’s current winning condition. It might say something on it like: highest card, most even numbers, or most of the same number … things like that. In front of you is a tableau of cards. You have been placing cards down in front of you during play or onto the discard pile (or both) in order to satisfy the game’s master rule. When you end your turn you must be winning according to the win condition on the card in the discard pile. So, let’s say that the card on the discard pile said, “most different colors.” Your opponent placed that card so that they would be winning. They have 4 different colors in front of them. You only have 3 different colors in front of you. By the end of your turn, you have to be winning, or you’re out. Let’s say it’s late in the game and you only have one card left in your hand. It’s a red card, and you don’t have any red cards in front of you. If you play it then you will also have 4 different colors in front of you. “Isn’t that a tie?” I hear you thinking. In Red7 there are no ties. The core rule of the game, the rule rule that starts every game, is highest card. Highest card is always the tie breaker. You lay down your card. It’s a 7. The highest numbered card in the game is 7. Great! But, you opponent also has a 7. The Red7 deck is made up of cards numbered 1-7 in 7 suits for a total of a 49 card deck. (There are 6 other “7’s” out there in addition to the one that you just played.) Remember that I said that there are no ties in Red7? When considering which card is high card, numbers are first in the hierarchy followed by suit. “But, with 7 different suits won’t it be really hard to remember which one is high?” Again, Red7 has got you covered. The suits are all colors and their heirarchy is based on a common mnemonic: ROY-G-BIV. (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.) Red 7 is the highest ranked card in the deck. Violet 1 is lowest ranked card in the deck. No ties. In our example above, you just played the Red 7, the highest ranked card in the deck. You are winning. Game play is quick and easy to understand. If you can’t win by one rule you can play a card to the discard to change it. If nothing you can do will make you win, then you are eliminated. Normally, I hate player elimination, but Red7 is so quick and it plays so well at two and three players that I don’t mind it here. In fact, I love it. Which is why Red7 comes in at number 5 of my favorite games of all time.

4 – Istanbul
In Istanbul players are merchants traveling around selling goods for money, and ultimately rubies. The first player to get 5 rubies wins the game. Locations provide various actions like in a worker placement game, but Istanbul is more about worker “movement” as you have to walk your worker and their assistants around the board. There are many different locations and actions available, such as: warehouses where you can fill your wagon up to its maximum with a specified good, a wainwright where you can pay to increase your wagon’s capacity (which starts the game with a capacity of only two for each good,) markets where you can sell your goods for cash, various locations that allow you to acquire rubies (usually requiring cash, or goods, or both in trade,) and mosques where you can train to learn new skills that will help you during the game. There’s even a hidden gambling den in a tea house, a post office where you can get your mail, and a jail where you can bail your ingrate in-law out (again) in exchange for a favor. Movement is a big part of Istanbul’s game play. Players are represented by a chief merchant and their various assistants. This takes the form of a stack of discs. A thicker disk at the top of the stack has the merchant’s image silk screened on it. Discs under this are thinner and match the player color, but with no image. Every time that you take a step in Istanbul you must stop and take the action of the location where you find yourself if you can, (and you want to, because maximizing your action economy is important.) In addition, when you move, you must either pick up an assistant disc at your new location, or drop off an assistant disc at the location you just left. If you can’t do one of these things, then you can’t move to that location. This movement puzzle is interesting and a big part of the game. There’s a fountain location where if needed you can call all your assistants back to you, resetting your stack. If possible it’s best to try to plan a circular path that gives you an optimum selection of actions where you can drop off assistants and then pick them back up on your second trip around, but that’s easier said then done. Then there’s that no good low life in-law that I mentioned. When you go to the jail location, (provided your in-law is there) you can move the in-law anywhere on the board and take the action. Just don’t ask too many questions about how they managed to complete the requested task. The in-law piece stays at the work location where you sent it until another player’s pawn arrives at that location and sends them back to jail. (They are honor bound to do so, but this makes the piece available to you again.) Istanbul is a fantastic twist on worker placement! Both
and I love it! As an added bonus, every time that you play, you have that song running through your head!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Board Game Top 100 – 10-6

10 – Sentient
Entering the top 10, we have: Sentient. In Sentient players roll a set of differently colored dice and then place those dice according to their color onto their player board. The core of the game play is in drafting cards to set between the dice in various positions on your board. The cards score points based on the values of the dice next to them, but cards will also alter the values of dice as they are placed, sometimes increasing a die, and sometimes decreasing a die’s value. You have to plan carefully to get the most benefit from each card as you place it, without harming the value of a card that you’ve already placed. Sentient is challenging, thinky fun!

9 – Archaeology the New Expedition
Archaeology is a simple set-collection card game. Gather cards into your hand looking for sets to score for points. The cards represent the different treasures that an archaeologist might uncover during a dig. Selling these treasures to a museum is thematically what you are doing when you “bank” a set for points. But, you won’t want to do that too quickly, because larger sets score higher than lower sets. There is however, a catch. Mixed into the draw pile of treasures are sandstorm cards. When a sandstorm card comes out, you lose a substantial portion of the cards in your hand. You don’t want that to happen. Cards lost in this way go to the center of the table. This is a market. Anyone can buy cards from the market by swapping cards from your hand for the one’s on the table that you want, and every card has a monetary value for this purpose. Set collection and press-your-luck are two of my favorite game mechanisms. Archaeology is one of
's favorite themes. All in all this one real favorite.

8 – Century Spice Road
In Century Spice Road players collect cubes to buy cards to get more cubes. The clever stuff here is the way cards play off each other and how the card play works. Instead of a deck-builder, Century Spice Road is a “hand-builder.” Cards that you buy go directly into your hand. When you play a card it leaves your hand and it’s gone. You don’t get it back until you use one of your turns to “rest.” When you do this, all the cards that you have played and all the cards that you have purchased throughout play return to your hand. Now, you can perform any of these actions because all your cards are available to you all at once. Planning your hand so that you can play several turns in a row without having to rest is key to winning the game. It’s simple, but very engaging. Ultimately, you want your engine to produce enough resources to allow you to buy special cards worth points. Some of these cards have bonuses above them in the form of gold and silver coins. The coins are real metal and a favorite game component.

7 – The Quacks of Quedlinburg
In The Quacks of Quedlinburg, players brew and sell potions to make money to buy better ingredients to make and sell more potions, all for victory points. Potion brewing takes the form of pulling ingredients (tokens) from a bag and placing them on a track on your player board. The track is shaped like a bubbling swirl inside your player board which is shaped like a cauldron. One ingredient in your bag is a dangerous sort, and if you pull out too many of these your potion will explode. Having a potion explode will limit your options, but isn’t the end of the world. The game does a great job of balancing the risk and reward. All the different ingredients have special powers that will effect your progress through the game. Some will help you avoid explosions, some will grant you bonus victory points, many help to fill your cauldron even faster, because the more full you can make your cauldron without it blowing up, the more points you will get. Obtaining the right combination of ingredients for you bag is a big part of the strategy of the game. The Quacks of Quedlinburg is wacky push-your-luck fun.

6 – Chronicles of Frost
Chronicles of Frost is a deck-building adventure quest card game. Players play competitively to complete quests and score points to win the game. Each player has two quests to complete. These will require the player to go to specific places on the board (made up of cards) and spend specific resources (more cards.) As soon as one player has completed both of their quests, this triggers game end, and victory points are tallied. Players get victory points for completing quests, fighting monsters, and for the cards that they have added to their decks. Adventure Quest themed games are a particular favorite of mine and Chronicles of Frost is my favorite of these. I like how every player has their own unique goals and objectives as they adventure through the shared world. The board is built as you play, with new areas added to the game world a card at a time as the players discover them. The cards are interesting in that they all have a weaker and stronger option depending upon what skills your character has. Yes, you have characters, each with their own unique starting decks of cards and unique skills. These things come together smoothly. Chronicles of Frost provides a rich complex experience with simple mechanisms and game play. It’s excellent!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Express To Nowhere

This story from Batman 327 is cool because it has Robin in it. Robin and Batman team less and less as time goes by, but I always liked the Dynamic Duo together. I admit to not being a huge fan of Nightwing (unless you are talking about the one from the bottle city of Kandor) because he signaled the end of Batman and Robin. Oh, I know there have been other Robins, but these and the grouchy Batman they worked with were never "my" Batman and Robin. This short story by Mike W. Barr also features art by Dick Giordano, which I love!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Board Game Top 100 – 15-11

15 – Castle Dice
Castle Dice is this great dice drafting game where you roll dice to gain resources to build up a little medieval community. You build parts of a castle and buildings in your medieval town. You train farmers and guards and workers and merchants. You raise chickens and pigs and cows and horses all by rolling dice. We have an expansion for this one that gives every player a custom draw deck so that the buildings you construct and the abilities that you gain from them will be a little different for each player so that everyone’s town has its players own personal flavor.

14 – Explorers of the North Sea
In Explorers of the North Sea players take the role of Vikings traveling from island to island gathering livestock, fighting enemy ships, raiding settlements, and discovering new lands. During each turn of Explorers of the North Sea, players place large hex shaped tiles to the table. Each hex shows some water, and some land, and a special feature of some kind. Hexes fit together to form a puzzle piece island network. Each hex has a feature on it, like some kind of livestock, a settlement, or an enemy ship. When you place a new tile, you also place a token matching the depicted feature. For example: if there is an image of some pigs on the land portion of the hex that I just placed, I would take one of the cute little pink wooden pig meeples from the general supply and place it on the hex over the top of the pig artwork. Later, any player might use a Viking meeple to load the cute little pink pig into their long boat. (The meeples really sit in the boats. It's so cute!) Once the pig is delivered back to the mainland, the pig is placed on that player's personal player board for scoring at the end of the game. Settlements for raiding, and enemy ships for battling, work similarly, with defeated enemies being stored by the victorious player for later scoring. After placing your hex tile (and its feature token) you get to take 4 actions on your turn. This could be moving your ship through the water, moving your Vikings over land, moving Vikings to or from ships, transporting livestock, or establishing outposts. All of this stuff gains you points toward winning the game.

13 – Sentinels of the Multiverse
Sentinels of the Multiverse is a cooperative adventure card game about superheroes!! (So, I love the theme obviously, but what about the game play?) In this cooperative game each player selects a superhero to play and that player gets a unique superhero deck of cards that represent that hero's powers and abilities. You also select a villain and a location for your game. (I have many to choose from.) Like the heroes, the villain and the location each have their own unique deck of cards to represent them. First the villain goes. That means, doing anything special indicated on the villain card that happens at the start of the villain turn, then drawing a villain card and resolving that. And finally, doing anything special indicated on the villain card that happens at the end of the villain turn. Then it's the Heroes turn to go. We each get to play a card from our hand, then activate a power that we have (as indicated by cards we have in front of us) and then, to end our turn, we draw a card. Lastly the environment gets to act. Well, not "act" so much as players need to check in with the environment to see what's going on. These are things that you’ll have to deal with thematic complications. For example: in on game we played the environment card revealed that the Paparazzi had arrived on the scene and that we couldn't use our powers until we got rid of them. ("Not now, Lois! I'm kind of in the middle of something!!) These elements: Heroes, Villain, Location mix and match together to create a story like one in a comic book!

12 – Abyss
Abyss is set in this sort of fantasy undersea world where sentient undersea races vie for supremacy. Players play cards to gain the favor of the undersea factions and in turn take control of locations in the undersea kingdoms. The board is set up in three tiers. At the top is a card row where you can draw faction cards to add to your hand, but there's a catch. You must first offer up each card that you draw to your opponents to buy. That might not seem fair, but if your opponent does buy a card that is drawn during your turn, you get the money! Currency in Abyss is represented by pearls. (Which are actual pearlescent plastic spheres that look like pearls! Cool!!) In the middle of the board is another place to gather cards. These cards you get to keep uncontested, but they are made up of the rejects from the draw phase of the previous tier. Still once the stacks of these cards gets big enough, they are certainly worth taking! The bottom tier is the Diplomat row. It's made up of large tarot sized cards featuring fantastic artwork that represents different examples of the undersea peoples. These grant different powers and victory points. You purchase them using the smaller faction cards that you gathered in the upper 2 tiers. Some diplomat cards also have a special key symbol on it. If you get three of these you automatically gain a location. Locations are worth extra points at the end of the game, but they take away the powers of the Diplomats (with the key symbols) that you used to purchase them. So, there's a bit of a push and pull there as you try to get the most use out of your diplomats before they become assigned to a location. The game play of Abyss is intuitive and fast. It's full of interesting choices and the production is drop dead gorgeous!

11 – Gizmos
Gizmos is a game with marbles where you collect marbles to buy cards to collect more marbles to score points. It's what is known in the biz as an “engine building” game. Your goal is to acquire benefits (through the cards that you buy with your marbles) that compliment each other. Gizmos is a “marble dispenser” game like Potion Explosion, and is by the same publisher. The dispenser here provides a selection of 6 marbles at a time. When one is pulled out, the marbles slide down and a new marble from the dispenser is revealed and available to pick. Sure, this can all be done with cards, and there are games that do that. But, the dispenser does it automatically. It’s maintenance free, and it really speeds up game play. Game play is all about getting marbles, and about using marbles to make “gizmos” that get you more marbles, that score you points. This is one of those games where effects cascade. Where one thing causes another thing, causing another thing, to happen. It’s all very satisfying and fun! Gizmos is a favorite, and the marble dispenser looks so cool!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Star Trek: Lower Decks

Now that we are back from vacation, Julie and I have had the chance to watch the last few episodes of the CBS All Access exclusive - Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Lower Decks is set in the world of Star Trek just after Next Generation, during the time of the TNG Movies. It tells the story of some of the crew of the USS Cerritos (NCC-75567) a California Class starship. Lower Decks was inspired in part by the Next Generation episode: Lower Decks, and tells the story, not of the bridge crew, but of the ensigns and lesser enlisted men and women in Star Fleet as they labor behind the scenes.

I admit to being quite apprehensive about this series going in. Animated series of this type tend to adopt a frantic style of story telling that approaches sensory overload for an old-fogy like me. The series was created by Mike McMahan who also wrote and produced the first two seasons of Rick and Morty.

I actually enjoy Rick and Morty (old-foginess not withstanding) but was this super-kinetic method of prose right for Star Trek? It turns out that the answer is, "yes." Mike McMahan is a super nerd. This is evidenced by Rick and Morty, but perhaps even more so in Lower Decks. McMahan approaches the Star Trek franchise with a genuine reverence that is apparent in every frame of the show.

Much as Seth MacFarlane has done with The Orville, McMahan is a Trekkie and Lower Decks is a love letter to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unlike, The Orville, however, Lower Decks is officially Star Trek. Lower Decks can make references to Kirk and Spock and Picard and Riker and Cisco and O'Brien. Lower Decks exists in the Star Trek Universe. Lower Decks is funny, but it's not parody. This is real Star Trek, and it's awesome!

and I agree that the Orion Ensign Tendi is our favorite character on the show, but all the characters are really strong. With the exception of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek 2009 movie (which I discount out of hand,) Tendi is the first time an Orion has been depicted in Star Fleet, and this is no slave girl. Tendi is intelligent, open minded, ambitious, and ... well, amazing. The whole show is amazing. Lower Decks shouldn't be as good as it is.

With season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery starting on Thursday, a full season of Picard, and a full season of Lower Decks waiting for you, there is really no reason not to pay the money for CBS All Access if you are a Star Trek fan, because this is good Trek. It's a great time to be a Trekkie!

And, I haven't even mentioned: The Ready Room! The Ready Room is an Interview show both hosted, and (I am pretty sure) scripted by Wil Wheaton. Watch the Ready Room after you watch the episodes that it features because there are spoilers, but this show is great! And it's awesome to geek out with Wil after watching an episode. It feels like Star Trek is being created by its fans, for its fans, and they are getting it right.

(Also, in the last episode of Ready Room, Wil Wheaton films in his personal game room to create his backdrop, (It looks great!) and Wil has more board games than me!
, we need to get to work!)

Board Game Top 100 – 20-16

20 – Horrified
Breaking into the top 20, we have Horrified. Horrified is almost my most favorite cooperative game. (There is one other cooperative game that makes it higher on the list.) In Horrified players work together to battle various classic Universal Monsters! These old movie monsters are more cheesy than scary, and they make perfect villains for a family board game. There are 7 different monsters in total. Players face two of the iconic Universal Monsters at a time, and the game advises ways to mix and match these combos to adjust the game’s difficulty. You have Frankenstein's Monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy, Dracula, the Invisible Man, and the Wolfman. Each monster carries it’s own unique victory conditions that are thematically based on the monster’s original movies. The theme is rich and beautiful and perfectly implemented. Players work together to protect the innocent citizenry of the fictional 1940’s period city represented by the game board, and to overcome the threats posed by the individual monsters. Horrified is a new game to my collection, but it was an instant hit with me and
. (Thanks,
Lisa Medley
!) As a bonus, Horrified is inexpensive and available everywhere. You should pick a copy up for your family now!

19 – Luxor
In Luxor players are Archeologist Explorers racing through the dangers and mysteries of a newly discovered pyramid to gather lost treasures and reach the central chamber where the greatest of all treasures awaits (a bunch of victory points!) Luxor has a big beautiful game board that you set up and fill with treasures (tiles) prior to play. The board is a track that moves in a spiral toward the center chamber, and every other tile represents another chamber in the pyramid, and another chance to uncover valuable riches. Each player has a team of explorers represented by meeples. You begin play with only two, but you gain more as you delve further into the pyramid. Explorers move by means of cards played from a player’s hand. Luxor uses an interesting hand management/restriction system. In Luxor you never rearrange the cards in your hand. You keep them in the order that they were dealt to you. You always end your turn with 5 cards. On your turn you must play either the left most end card or the right most end card from your hand (so you always have a choice of two cards.) Now, with 4 cards remaining in your hand, you draw a new card and must always place it in the center of your hand between the two sets of two cards. This means that any new card that you draw will always take at least 2 turns to come into play. This card mechanism is part of the interesting puzzle of Luxor as you plot your movement turns ahead trying to get the right card to come up just when you need it. As you remove tiles from the board each time you explore a chamber, those chambers are cleared. Future meeples that enter the pyramid later will skip right over the cleared chambers allowing them to move through the pyramid more quickly. Treasures score points on their own or contribute to sets that score points collectively. You can even discover secret passages that allow later explorers to move through the pyramid more quickly (like the secret passages in Clue.) Luxor is another game that nails it’s theme. It looks great. It plays great. (And, I think this one is another of Julie’s favorites!)

18 – Raiders of the North Sea
Raiders of the North Sea is a worker placement game. It’s the highest rated worker placement game on my list. (So, it must be the best!) In Raiders you place a worker in a spot on the board, just like in any other game of this sort, but then after you perform the action of the location you just occupied, you take a second action by removing a different meeple from the board. (You will always have one meeple in hand.) You start with limited action spaces in town, but open up more spaces when you sail your vikings across the water to raid. Use your meeples to work in town to gain resources and hire new crew (cards that grant benefits.) Raid to gain more resources and glory (victory points.) Raid spaces have new meeples of a different color that you can then take off the board to use. Certain spaces require that these new differently colored meeples be placed on them to work, so now suddenly through raiding, you’ve grown more powerful. But, not just you, your opponent too can now take these meeples once you’ve placed them out on the board, so raiding benefits the whole village, not just you. This progression is thematic, and happens organically during play and is part of the design brilliance of Raiders of the North Sea, my favorite worker placement game!

17 – Kingdom Builder
In Kingdom Builder players place little wooden settlement tokens out on a board that is a map made up of hexagonal tiles displaying differing terrain types. The game comes with several double sided boards that can be placed in a variety of arrangements to ensure that each game is different. In addition, goal cards determine how victory points can be scored, and these too change from game to game. Game play is deceptively simple. You have a single card in your hand that shows a terrain type on it. You must place a settlement on the board on that terrain type. If possible this must be placed next to another settlement of your color. While that may seem limiting, your choices are usually quite varied. Placing settlements next to certain features on the board will grant you special powers that will let you break some of the placement rules or place additional settlements. These powers, once obtained, stay with you from turn to turn and chaining the effects of your powers can lead to very satisfying turns. In addition to these features, you must play to the goal cards which might give you victory points for having settlements near mountains or water, or for settlements arranged in a straight line, for example. Kingdom builder is a great, puzzley game with simple mechanics and engaging game play. It’s awesome!

16 – Lost Cities the Board Game
There is also a card game called, Lost Cities by the same designer, but that one is two players only. The board game plays up to four. In this game you are explorers trying to find four lost temples in the jungle. (Maybe these are the same explorers from Luxor, or Karuba, or Quest for Eldorado?) You move your meeples along paths towards the temples by playing cards from your hands. The cards that you play are arranged by suits in sets in front of you, and you can only ever play a card that has a higher number value than the one that you played before! The suits are colors that match the paths to the temple. Play a blue card. Move your meeple one step on the blue path. There are things that you can pick up from the paths along the way for bonuses and at the end of the game you get victory points based on how far along each path each of your explorers has gotten. Every player also has one boss explorer that is a bigger meeple than the others and that meeple earns double points for the location that it is on. This one is easy to teach and quick to play. The set-collection and card play are the core aspects of the game, and they are interesting and fun.