Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part 10 (78-77)

#78 Long Shot The Dice Game

In Long Shot The Dice Game players roll dice to move horses around a race track. During the race you can use money earned from rolls to buy horses and then enable those horses to move when a different horse's number is rolled, increasing their chances of winning. You can also place bets on your and other horses and use special powers to move some horses further or other horses back. Long Shot The Dice Game is fast and fun and it's my 78th favorite game of all time.

#77 Targi

Targi is a two-player only game. Each player has three pawns that they are able to place around the outside of the game board which is a five by five grid made up of cards. When you place a pawn on the outside of the board it gives you a resource or other special benefit. And at the row and column intersection where your pawns meet you gain a card to add to your tableau. You should get two things each round. 

You can't place your pawn directly across from one of your opponents pawns or across from a special pawn which I think represents a tax officer, because this pawn travels around the board as a counter for the game, and each time it reaches a corner of the board you have to pay taxes. Your tableau is a three by four grid and creates your own little camp of different locations that will provide you victory points and other special powers.

Targi is an awesome, tight and challenging two-player worker placement game. Once the tax collector makes it all the way around the board, the game is over and scores are tallied. The player with the most points is the winner. Targi is my 77th favorite game of all time.

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Monday, April 29, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part 9 (80-79)

#80 Quadropolis 

Quadropolis is a city building game where players place tiles that represent different sections of a growing metropolis. Players place residential areas, shopping areas, power plants, parks, harbors and utilities. Scoring is based on how your areas are placed in your town.

Power plants provide power and residences provide population. Every tile has to have power and a resident in order to be active and be scored. Excess population represents overcrowding and counts against you. Excess power represents pollution and counts against you. Balancing these factors is part of the game's puzzle.

Building tiles are drafted using numbered pointers that allow players to select a tile so many steps inside a row or column. You must then place that building tile in your city in a row or column matching that same pointer. This unique method of drafting and then placing your tiles adds an additional layer to Quadropolis that elevates it above other drafting based games.

Before it became the "Sims" there was a computer game called Sim City. Quadropolis feels to me like Sim City the Board game. If that sounds cool to you then Quadropolis might be a good game for you. For me, Quadropolis is my 80th favorite game of all time.

#79 Gingerbread House

Gingerbread House uses domino type tiles that stack on top of each other. The tiles show types of gingerbread cookies. As you cover up cookies with tiles, you earn those cookies into your supply. Cookies are traded for cards showing different fairytale characters. You have to have the right treats to attract the specific cards that you want and these are worth points which will help you win the game.

Additional scoring objectives can be won by completing levels of your house. These objectives might reward you for collecting fairytale characters of a specific type of building up your gingerbread house in a particular way. Leveraging these bonus objectives is the key to victory.

Gingerbread House is a light breezy tile laying / tile stacking game. The art on the tiles and on the fairytale character cards is gorgeous. The theme is that you are all witches like the one from Hansel and Gretel and you are using your Gingerbread House to lure these various characters to you in order to eat them. It's morbidly funny and makes the game just that much more charming.

Gingerbread House is a great game, and it's my 79th favorite game of all time.

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Sunday, April 28, 2024

Simply6 RPG from EnWorld Review

What follows is a short review for "Simply6" from ENWorld Publishing. My goal is to put a really awesome RPG that you may not know about on your radar.

Simply6 is a rules light universal RPG designed to cover most any type of traditional RPG play experience. The types of experiences where one player is the referee, narrator, or game manager, and two or more other players are the protagonist characters in a shared story.

This one is pretty light and looks perfect for quick one-shot sessions when someone is unable to attend your regular weekly game session. The game offers a long list of traits as things you are good at like: Fighting, Thievery, Perception, Knowledge, etc. You pick a few and invest a few dice in them.

By default, most actions see you rolling 3 dice and trying to hit a target of 10. If you have invested in an ability then you will have more dice and you will be able to hit that target of 10 more easily. But that target can go up, especially in combat where the higher level a monster is, the higher you will have to roll to hurt them.

Players start with 3 dice to improve abilities but can't spend all three on one ability. Your level is equal to the number of extra dice you have. So, a brand new character is 3rd level. Your hit points are equal to your level, so new characters will have 3 hp. Most equipment is assumed, some will grant you extra dice when rolling to do things, but most is handwaved as something you will have when you need it.

There is a page about magic, but it doesn't seem like a viable option for a one-shot. Maybe if a group was planning to play a short campaign using Simply6 they could have a magic using character. Magic doesn't start with the initial 3 dice that all other skills get. So, magic skill has to be built up from 0. That's going to require a few sessions.

There are two sample adventures included with Simply6. A fantasy adventure with an interesting twist, and a zombie apocalypse type adventure. I really like the fantasy one and might run it some time.

Simply6 is really well laid out and easy to understand. It's a great example of a rules light, accessible universal toolbox kind of system and one that is worth a look.

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Saturday, April 27, 2024

Adventurous Fantasy RPG from Dawn Fist Games Review

What follows is a short review for the fantasy RPG, "Adventurous" from Dawn Fist Games. My goal is to put a really awesome RPG that you may not know about on your radar.

Adventurous is written to be an introductory level game for players new to fantasy role-playing games. Within this context, the experience that it seems to deliver is very similar to one that a player might experience when playing Dungeons And Dragons for the first time. All the character classes sound like Dungeons And Dragons character classes, and all the powers and abilities of those classes have (for the most part) a focus on combat options. This is not a knock against the game. I think that it succeeds in everything that it's trying to do. It's just an observation.

While Dungeons And Dragons may inspire the contextual nature of Adventurous, the game system is very different. The game uses six-sided dice exclusively. I feel this was a smart choice for a game aiming itself at new and "non" players. Almost everyone can find standard six-sided style dice laying around somewhere.

The book spends a few pages up front going over the game system. Players roll a number of six-sided dice depending on an Attribute score. 5's and 6's on the dice indicate successes. A single success is known as a weak success, while two or more successes are a strong success. If two of the dice that contribute to a strong success are 6's, then you have a strong success with benefits. The player who rolled the double sixes gains an Experience Point, and if they don't already have it, the party gains Momentum. (More on that in a moment.)

A weak success is good enough for most things like making an attack or climbing a wall, but if the task is something that is impossible to do without specific training like reading a magical script or picking a complex lock, then a strong success is needed. In combat weapons do damage based on your level of success. A weapon's damage might be listed as w3/s6. This means that the weapon inflicts 3 damage on a weak success and 6 damage on a strong success.

Adventurous has its own version of Advantage and Disadvantage. If you have Advantage in doing something you simply add an extra die to your roll. If you have Disadvantage at doing something you take one die away. These effects can cancel each other out, but they don't stack.

In place of 5E's Inspiration, Adventurous has Momentum. A party gains Momentum when any player rolls double sixes. Momentum is a toggle value like Inspiration. You either have it or you don't. But unlike Inspiration, this is a party resource. Anyone can spend it, and then a roll of double sixes from any player can restore it. Neat! Momentum lasts until the party rests in any capacity. When you slow down and take a break, you lose momentum. Makes sense.

Characters have five attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Willpower, Knowledge, and Charisma. 1 is the lowest any attribute can be, and 5 is the highest. Five is the highest value possible even with magic effects and modifiers. Players will never roll more than 5 dice.

The first step of character creation is to choose your character's race. Your choices are Human, Elf and Dwarf. The options here are pretty slim, and they are also purely aesthetic. A player's choice of race has no mechanical benefit. Personally, I really like this. It sees players making a choice based solely on role-play, and I think that's a good habit to get into. Also, it means that if a GM wants custom races in their game as player characters, this is super easy to do. I can play that Holstaur that I've always wanted to play.

Following Race, the player must choose a Class for their character. There are eight Classes to choose from: Warrior, Rogue, Wizard, Paladin, Hunter, Cleric, Warlock, and Druid. Each class has a sort of "signature" special ability. And then every class has an "at will," an "encounter," and a "daily" power. One of each. 

Each level after 1st players gain one new special ability but there are only 4 such abilities per class, and max level in Adventurous is 5. This seems perfect to me for an entry level RPG, or for experienced players looking for a good low stress option for a short campaign. 

The game book includes rules for exploration, hirelings and social encounters. It also includes a bestiary and various examples of treasures, mundane, magical, and cursed. There's even an example campaign setting: the Westlands. This setting is both small in scope and light in details. This is just the kind of thing that I like to see. I like a loose framework to get me started that I can then build on. The Westlands are perfect for this.

The game book doesn't include a sample adventure, but there are some good ones available from Dawn Fist Games on their DriveThru RPG page. I like Adventurous a lot. This is a great game to just jump into and start playing. For beginners and for seasoned gamers looking for a comfort food RPG experience Adventurous is awesome!

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Friday, April 26, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part 8 (82-81)

#82 Dingo's Dreams

Dingo's Dreams is part BINGO and part slide puzzle. There are four sets of 26 tiles in the game and two kinds of cards. There are the location cards, which your "BINGO Caller" calls out during play, and there are objective cards that show a pattern that players are competing to finish to win a round of the game.

Tile sets (called Dreamscape Tiles) are assigned to players and show locations (Dreamscapes) on one side and an animal on the other. Each player picks an animal and gets that matching tile set. The animals are cute and have an Australian focus, but practically speaking I think that this is because Dingo sounds like BINGO. So, this theme provided a fun play on words. The "theme" serves no other purpose, but the art is beautiful.

The tiles show locations on the back. There are 5 locations in 5 colors for a total of 25 tiles. Each player also has a 26th tile that has their animal on both sides. Players shuffle their set of the 25 tiles with locations on them and then create a 5x5 grid of those tiles with the location sides turned face up. This 5x5 grid is your BINGO card. (Your Dreamscape)

Each turn of the game has two phases. First is the Walkabout Phase. In the Walkabout Phase the caller (the Dreamer) flips the top card of the location deck of cards (The Walkabout Deck) and calls out that location. All players then simultaneously flip that location tile in their personal Dreamscapes (BINGO Cards) so that their animal side is now face up.

That was the BINGO step of the game. Now comes the slide puzzle step. 

Remember I said that each player has 26 tiles and that one has their animal on both sides. You made your board with the tiles with locations, and that 26th tile was extra. Now, you slide that extra tile into your BINGO card, slide puzzle style, pushing a different tile out the other side. (This tile is now your spare tile.) You are doing this to move the tiles that show your animal side into the positions shown on the objective card. The step of the turn is called the Dream Phase.

Dingo's Dreams is light and breezy. You could play this with anyone, gamers and not gamers alike. I just love it! In fact, Dingo's Dreams is my 82nd favorite game of all time.

#81 Disney Lorcana

Disney Lorcana is a collectable card game. Collectable Card Games are games where players buy packs of cards and then use their card collection to create a deck and play a game against other players. In Lorcana the cards are themed around Disney characters and all the cards are bright and beautiful.

Gameplay is fairly simple, play a card face down in front of you. This card represents ink. Ink is what artists use to draw animated characters. So, in this game, "ink" is what they call the resource in the game that is used to play cards. Cards have an ink cost on them. You just put down one ink at the start of your turn. So, you can play a card that costs one ink.

Used Ink replenishes at the start of every turn and you can keep adding to it. This will enable you to play better and better cards. The cards are mostly Disney characters. These characters can go on quests (which earns you Lore Points which is how you win the game) or they can challenge other characters. When one character challenges another character, the loser of the challenge is embarrassed and has to go home (is discarded.) 

Game play is simple, but cards break the rules in different ways (which are always clearly described on the cards.) It is these "exceptions" to the rules where games like Lorcana really shine, and it's what makes the construction of new and interesting decks and the collecting of new cards so interesting.

Julie and I played a ton of Lorcana when we first got it. The game is so much fun and is so engaging. There is a cooperative version of the game that Julie and I are really looking forward to. (It features Ursula the Sea Witch!) Until then, Lorcana is my 81st favorite game of all time.

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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part 7 (85-83)

#85 Fallout Shelter: The Board Game

Fallout Shelter is a worker placement game played with cards. Players are collectively contributing to the building of an underground shelter following a nuclear holocaust. This is the comic book type of holocaust which has left the earth covered with mutant monster things. 

Every player has their own level in the shelter and then there is a shared level at the top which begins pre-built to start the game. Players go to areas to collect resources and build rooms to add to their part of the shelter.

Monsters attack and their cards get placed over random rooms in the shelter making those areas unavailable until the monster is defeated. Defeating monsters is worth points and building onto the structure is worth points.

Players can buy gear to make their character more powerful for fighting monsters. They can also go search outside the shelter and sometimes bring back awesome stuff. Fallout Shelter is a worker placement game with adventure game elements. It's my 85th favorite game of all time.

#84 Akrotiri

Akrotiri is a pick up and deliver, sailing, tile laying, exploration game. Players travel from islands collecting goods and delivering them to other islands to sell for money and points. It's really fun, and it's my 84th favorite board game of all time. 

#83 Mandala

Mandala is a two player only card game, where players place cards out on a shared board, to collect sets and to score points. Cards are played to one of two regions, called Mandalas. Each of the two Mandalas is split into three areas. There are two fields. One is your field, and is the area of each of the two Mandalas that is directly in front of you. The other is your opponent's field, and is the area of each of the two Mandalas that is directly in front of them. Between the fields in each of the Mandalas is an area called the Mountain. The Mountains separate your fields from your opponent's fields.

These areas are all illustrated on a cloth game "board" that is kind of like a big handkerchief. This is an interesting choice. The cloth seems weird as a game board at first, but it is very attractive and surprisingly functional. The cloth surface makes picking up the cards much easier than it would be on a slick hard cardboard game board.

On your turn you can play cards to your field or to the mountain. Cards on the mountain will eventually be drafted for scoring. Cards in your field are not scored but make up a sort of area majority contest with your opponent, because the player with the most cards in their field gets first choice in the draft to take cards from the mountain, and this can be really important.

Players can place cards in either Mandala on their turn, but for each Mandala, each of the six card suits can be represented only once. If your opponent plays the yellow suit in the Mountain of the left Mandala for example, you cannot play yellow in your left field. You can only play yellow to the Mountain to add to the existing yellow that is there.

Once all six suits are represented in a Mandala, that Mandala is scored. To score a Mandala, players draft cards from the Mountain. As I mentioned, the player with the most cards in their field will get to draft first. When you draft, you take all the cards of a single suit. If there is a large number of cards in a given suit, this can be a very desirable choice, which is why choosing first can be so important.

One last feature of the cloth play mat is the row of seven card spaces directly in front of each player that spans their side of the "board." These spaces tell the player what the cards that they draft are worth. When you take a suit from the mountain, you must place the first card of that suit face up in the first open space in this row. Now all other cards of that suit are worth 1 point each. 

The first card from the next suit that you draft goes face up into the second space in the row. Now all cards of that suit are worth 2 points each. This continues until all six suits have been assigned values. Each of the first six rows only holds one card, and these must all be of a different suit. All other cards that were drafted, but weren't required to occupy a scoring designation spot in the row are placed face down in the seventh space of the row. These cards are the cards that you actually score.

Mandala feels like a classic card game. It's a puzzly little abstract game for 2 players. The cards are beautiful, the cloth "board" is beautiful. The gameplay is engaging, challenging, and fun. This makes Mandala my 83rd favorite board game of all time.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part 6 (88-86)

#88 Marrying Mr. Darcy 

Marrying Mr. Darcy is a hard game to recommend. I absolutely love the game, but … let me see if I can explain. Based on the Jane Austen novel "Pride And Prejudice," Marrying Mr. Darcy sees players take the roles of female characters from the novel as each tries to earn the hand of their favored suitor.

On a player's turn, they draw a card from the Event Deck and they do what it says. This almost invariably involves drawing cards from a second deck of cards called the Character Deck. The Character Deck is mostly made up of favorable qualities like, Wit, Beauty, Reputation, and Friendliness. When you draw cards, you usually draw several but must choose to keep only one. This you add to your tableau to build up your character to make you more appealing to your chosen suitor.

Each character scores differently based on the fella she likes from the novel. So, players will be trying to win the hand of "their guy." Other factors to consider are Dowry and Cunning. Some suitors expect a dowry of a minimum level, and while most don't want a woman of high cunning (heaven forbid) the player with the highest cunning is able to roll for her marriage proposal first.

Ah, you saw that didn't you? "... roll for her marriage proposal … " So, yes. You draw random events in order to draw more random cards in order to roll the dice at the end of the game to hopefully win the hand of the suitor that you want. Marrying Mr. Darcy is very random. As a game, it is a little bit of a mess. As an experience, Marrying Mr. Darcy is amazing! It's so much fun. But, if you are a hyper competitive gamer looking to out strategize your opponents. You should probably turn around and walk the other way.

For me Marrying Mr. Darcy is amazeballs! It even has a zombie expansion! (You heard that right!!) Marrying Mr. Darcy is a great thematic experience that is super light and easy to table. The game is more about enjoying the experience than the game play. So, it's one for themers, not thinkers. For me, it's my 88th favorite game of all time. 

#87 Fabled Fruit

Fabled Fruit is a campaign card game about jungle (and other) animals making fruit juice. Cards on the table represent action spots and Fabled Fruit is a worker placement game. Each player has only one worker. You choose your spot and you take your action. Those actions put fruit cards in your hand. When you have the right combination of fruit cards you can make juice. The first player to make a certain number of juices (based on player count) wins the hand. 

The trick to the game is the worker placement spots. These are cards. At first you have six spots. These are each made up of six different cards. These different stacks are made up of four identical cards. So, worker spot one might be a stack of four identical cards and each of these cards instructs the player to draw three fruits into their hand. Worker spot two is a stack of four different cards that tells the player to do something else … and so on.

On the bottom of the cards is a formula consisting of different combinations of fruits. You can go to a location if you have the correct formula and make fruit juice. If you do this, you take the card from the top of the location showing the formula that you just completed, and you place it in front of you face down. The face down side of the location card shows a juice bottle. (It looks like a wine bottle. I think all of these animals are really making wine and getting drunk.) Tahdah! You have made juice. You are on your way to winning the game.

Don't worry, even though you have taken one of the location cards from the stack, there are still three left. So, the location is still there to be used on future turns. However, everytime a location card is removed, it is replaced with a new one from the location deck. Now there is something new that players can do on their turns. 

The location deck is numbered so the locations are in a specific order. Every location has four copies. When you add a location from the deck, if there is already a copy of that location in play, you put the new card on top of its matching location. If there isn't a copy of that location in play, you add a new location spot to the board. This gives Fabled Fruit its campaign quality.

You can play as many hands as you want, and then save your progress when you put Fabled Fruit away. So, that way the new locations come out to start your next game. The location deck is huge, and you will play many game sessions before you complete it. 

Julie and I have played all the way through Fabled Fruit once. I am not sure that we will play through the whole campaign again, but this one holds some really fond memories for us, and it's a lot of fun to just pull out and play every once in a while. That's why Fabled Fruit is my 87th favorite game of all time.

#86 CV

CV is a card drafting game where players roll dice to gain resources to buy cards that represent important events during different stages of a person's life. 

Cards will often provide permanent resources (like the cards in Splendor) that will improve your ability to get better cards later. Events on the cards are things like, getting a job, going out to dinner, buying a house, getting married, and having a baby. 

Like Marrying Mr. Darcy, the dice rolling in CV make this one feel pretty random, and a large part of the enjoyment of the game is in the experience as you watch this fictional life unfold in front of you. 

It is an experience that I really enjoy and the art on the cards is lovely and funny and it often tells its own story. All of this makes CV my 86th favorite game of all time.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part 5 (90-89)

#90 Livingstone

In Livingstone, players are part of Livingstone's expedition, moving down the Zambezi River in Africa, collecting precious gems and meeting with indigenous peoples to gain the favor of the Queen.

Livingstone is a light dice drafting game. Each round you roll a number of dice equal to twice the number of players. Players then take one die on their turn to perform an action. The higher the die that you choose, the stronger the action, but there's a catch. When it comes around to your turn again, you can only take a die that is higher than any you have taken on a previous turn in that round. So, do you take a few weaker actions or one stronger action? Actions include pulling precious gems from a bag, placing a camp, drawing a card, or just getting money. 

Gems have different values, including several that are worth nothing. Gems pulled from the bag stay out (until the single white gem is pulled that puts all sold and worthless gems back in the bag) so it can be valuable to wait until several worthless gems are culled from the bag before pressing your luck with this action.

Each round a little boat moves down a river. When you place a camp you must place your camp in the column above the boat. The higher the die you have chosen, the higher up the column you can place your camp and the more points it is worth. However, at the end of the game points are also scored for having a majority of camps in each row, and here lower rows are more valuable.

When you draw a card, you always only get one regardless of the number on the die so this is a good option when you decide to take that 1 die. Cards can give awesome benefits. Some cards let you exchange gems for victory points. So, you might not want to sell your gems right away, but one of the cards in the deck is a "Mine Collapses" card, and if that is pulled, all gems go back in the bag, even those that were being saved. This creates yet another push your luck element.

Finally, you can just get a number of coins equal to the die face. Placing camps costs money and is the main way to gain victory points. So, everyone needs to get money in order to place their camps. In addition to this, every player has a little treasure chest in front of them. At any time during their turn, a player can put money in the chest. This is your offering to the Queen. In a multiplayer game, the person who gave the least amount of money is automatically eliminated from the game. In a two player game you roll 4 dice at the end, and any player that donated less than the value of the four dice is eliminated. It is possible for both players to lose the game.

I love this game. I have fond memories of playing this with Julie and our two kids. Livingstone is a light family game with dice drafting and press your luck. Which are two of my favorite things. That makes Livingstone my 90th favorite game of all time.

#89 The Quacks of Quedlinburg

In Quacks players are potion brewers concocting curative brews to sell to gullible patrons. Your player board is a big cauldron. You pull ingredients (tokens) from a bag and put them into your cauldron. Garlic is bad for your brew. If you get too much you bust. Quacks is a press your luck bag building game.

In your cauldron the spaces are numbered. The more stuff that you get onto the board (into your cauldron) the higher the numbered space you reach. This gives you resources to buy better ingredients and victory points. If you bust, you get either victory points or you can buy ingredients to add to your bag, but not both. 

You can also get gems at certain points along the track. If you end your turn on a space showing a gem, then you get one. Gems can be used to get certain things, probably the most valuable of which is moving your starting point in the cauldron. This allows you to begin further and further up the spiraling track that gives you points making future turns more and more powerful.

Ingredients have special powers when you play them. Some allow you to mitigate the garlic so that you won't bust so fast. Some give you points. Some push you further along the track in your cauldron. Stuff like that. Powers for the various ingredients are written on cards and these can change from game to game creating a lot of variability.

Quacks is a neat little push your luck game. I believe that this one lands somewhere in Julie's top 20. For me, for now, Quacks of Quedlinburg is my 89th favorite game.

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Monday, April 22, 2024

There and Hack Again RPG Review (LakeSide Games)

There and Hack Again is the second of two reviews for RPGs from LakeSide games. My hope is to put a really awesome RPG that you may not know about on your radar.

There and Hack Again is one of what are generally referred to as Old School Rules or OSR style games. It's based on another OSR work called "The Black Hack," which is what the "Hack" in the title refers to. OSR games are based on early versions of D&D. This game is no exception, but it makes substantial changes to the game. This is where the term "Hack" comes in. The rules have been "hacked." They've been changed, but the idea is to not increase the game's complexity or to make it unrecognizable for people who are comfortable with the old school D&D rules.

There and Hack Again, as the name implies is an RPG based on the work of J. R. R. Tolkien's the Hobbit (and other related works.) What concerns me about this choice of title is that players that are interested in a role-playing game based on the Lord of the Rings will likely ignore it and choose the officially licensed The One Ring RPG by Free League. While others who see the title will, because they don't want to play a game based in Tolkien's Middle Earth, also give There and Hack Again a miss.

I hope the title doesn't keep the fantasy RPG fandom at large away from this game, because it is awesome. There and Hack Again is inspired by Tolkien (among others) to tell heroic stories of high fantasy. There and Hack Again takes inspiration from The Lord of the Rings in the same way that Dungeons and Dragons does. It focuses more on the way these stories are told than D&D ever did, and that's a good thing. There and Hack Again is built to tell a hero's story in a high fantasy world, and while inspired by Tokien, this world is not Middle Earth. The world is yours to create.

T&HA uses the core six ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, but it doesn't use ability score modifiers. Instead the ability score itself becomes your basis for success. This means that every point of an ability score matters. However, this isn't a roll under system (as is used in the Black Hack and in Dragonbane.) It's a roll high system, which is what D&D players are more accustomed to. That's a smart move. This is accomplished by taking a higher number and subtracting your ability score from it to reach a target number. That "higher number" decreases as you level up making your target number smaller. So, the system has a sort of built in Proficiency Bonus … clever.

T&HA has race and class separation and includes the races of Men, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings. While classes are divided by Archetype. There are three archetypes: The Brave, The Cunning, and The Wise. Each Archetype provides the core rules for the character, Hit Points, Weapons and Armor Allowances and some key abilities common for all members of that Archetype. Class then usually adds just one or two advantages and some flavor.

Under each Archetype are three character Classes.

Classes under the Brave Archetype are: Champion (an armored knight), Ranger (a warden of the wilds), and Warrior (a general man-at-arms.)

Classes under the Cunning Archetype are: Hunter (an archer of the woods), Rogue (a sneaky hero), and Swordmaster (a fencing swashbuckler.) 

Classes under the Wise are: Bard (Charisma based magicians of story and song), Druid (Wisdom based magicians of nature and healing), and Wizard (Intelligence based magicians of elements and illusions.)

The Wise are spellcasters and can cast each spell that they know up to three times a day. That's it. No complex charts or tables to reference. Casting spells requires a check, which determines the spell's overall effect. A failed check doesn't mean that a caster was not successful in casting their spell, it just means that the ultimate effect was not the one desired.

Spellcasting rolls and all other rolls are player facing, but enemies of levels higher than your own will make your chance of success more difficult. Conversely, weaker enemies will make your chance of success more likely. The same is true in combat (or for any opposed roll against a non-player element). Enemies don't roll to attack, the player rolls to defend.

Characters also have "Boons" These are special powers, abilities, feats or talents that players can use to fine tune their characters. Some Boons are tied to a character's class or race, but most are available to everyone. The race of man allows a player to start with three boons while the other races provide two. Players will gain additional boons as they level up their characters.

There are no experience points in the game. Players level up following milestones and a period of downtime. This downtime element is really interesting to me. It requires that characters take extended breaks between periods of adventure. The characters are people that live within the world. They have homes and families and places to be. This requirement grounds the characters in the world, and I love this.

Intertwined within the game's mechanics are: Faith and Despair. Faith is the good stuff that gives players hope and makes them heroes. Despair is the bad stuff that hurts players and gives the game a feeling of grandiose scope and its sense of good and evil without resorting to something as clumsy as an alignment system. Faith and Despair really mean something in the game. Faith can be used to mitigate bad die rolls, or cast an exhausted spell, or use an exhausted special ability. Despair can overwhelm a character giving them a penalty to all dice rolls until they are able to overcome it.

Faith and Despair are designed to focus game play on the heroic. There is also the fact that money in the game is abstracted. Players have no motivation to become murder hobos or to hoard gold (and in fact, doing so would increase their despair.) Finally, there is the Adversary. This is the "big bad" of your story or campaign. T&HA is meant to tell big stories of normal folk becoming heroes and taking on seemingly insurmountable odds. This is the good stuff folks.

There and Hack Again is my favorite OSR style game. It's awesome, and I think every gaming group should give it a try. It's a tragedy that Hasbro's D&D is played by millions while a game like this languishes largely unplayed or talked about. There and Hack Again is a masterpiece, and it's the high fantasy RPG that you should be playing.

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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Black Star RPG Review (LakeSide Games)

Black Star is the first of two reviews for RPGs from LakeSide games. My goal is to put a really awesome RPG that you may not know about on your radar.

Black Star is a rules-lite sci-fi RPG. There's definitely a bit of a Star Wars vibe to this one, but any cinematic style space opera adventure game would be well served by these rules. The game uses 2d6 for tests. A 9+ is needed for success. You add an ability score to your role. Abilities range from 0-5, but new characters can't have a score greater than 3.

There are 10 abilities that cover pretty much all the standard sci-fi adventure RPG tropes: Blasting, Brawling, Diplomacy, Discipline, Instinct, Intellect, Speed, Strength, Tools, and Transports. This "10 Abilities to rule them all … " approach reminds me of Mike Pondsmith's Dreampark RPG, which is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. It looks great here!

To augment their abilities players have Archetypes which represent job experience from their past to help to focus what the character can do. There are 10 of these as well and players get to choose two of them. The Archetypes are: Diplomat, Expert, Fighter, Heavy, Mystic, Outlaw, Pilot, Scout, Soldier, and Tech. Each Archetype grants players access to a pool of Talents. Talents provide special benefits when taking certain actions.

In addition to Talents based on a character's Archetype, there are Innate Talents that a player can choose. Some of these are quite exotic ("Wings" for example) and would allow players and the GM to create custom alien races.

Resolve is the drive that keeps characters going. It's part hit-points and part hero-points. When a player fails an ability test they can spend a point of Resolve to roll again, or to automatically succeed but with some kind of negative consequence tied to the result. This presents some interesting opportunities for negotiation role-play that really appeals to me.

The rules have examples of futuristic equipment, spaceships, psionic powers, and several adventure ideas. All in all, Black Space is an awesome Sci-Fi RPG for players looking for something that would be easy to get to the table. It's just the kind of concise yet rich RPG system that I'm always on the lookout for.

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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Harmonies Board Game Review

Almost missed my post today. Julie and I have been playing a new board game (It just hit stores on Friday.) all day today. The game is called: Harmonies. If we had played Harmonies when I ranked my Top 100, it would have landed somewhere in the top 20, maybe the top 10. It's that good!

In Harmonies players draft chonky wooden disks to create a habitat for animals to live. (It's a bit like Cascadia, but the drafting reminds me of Azul.) You score points for creating habitats appropriate to specific animals, and just for grouping your land features in certain ways. 

On your turn, you select a group of 3 disks/tiles (like in Azul, except you always keep all three) and then you must place them. This can be tricky, because you might get a tile that won't be placed for you in an optimal way, but you still have to find somewhere to put it.

You may also choose an animal card, if you don't have four already. Be careful though, these cards stay with you until you complete them. The animal cards have spaces to store a few cubes. You can remove a cube from the card and place it into the habitats that you are creating if they meet that animal's requirements. Once all cubes are placed, the card is complete and it frees up space for a new card. 

This puzzle of building the terrains and then creating the habitats for the animals is really breezy and fun. You're just creating patterns with the disks and putting cubes on them. But, because of the application of the theme to both the disks and the animal cards everything is intuitive. Julie and I were up and playing in minutes. The game is quick to learn, quick to set up, and quick to play. But, then oh so thinky! It's awesome!!

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Friday, April 19, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part Four (93-91)

Julie is right, Red7 should be higher in my Top 100, probably much higher, so should Sentient, and Jekyll Vs. Hyde. Initially, I just ran our collection through the ranking engine and then I started these blog posts. Upon review, some things just seemed out of place. I think that I made some decisions based more on how much I wanted to get a game back to the table, than on how much I liked the game. Julie pointed out in several instances, "But, we've only played that game once." It's true, we have a lot of games that we have only played once. Most of these I am excited to play again. But I probably shouldn't translate that excitement into how much I like the game. I decided to do some manual adjustments to correct some of the aberrations that I found, but the ones that I have already blogged about are locked in, at least until I try this list again in another 3 or 4 years.

#93 Scooby Doo! The Board Game

This is a game that Julie and I will agree to disagree on. She likes it, but she doesn't love it. I love it. Horrified didn't make it into my Top 100. Horrified is a great game, but for me, Scooby-Doo! completely replaces it. They are both "scary-season" appropriate cooperative games, and they occupy the same basic space in game complexity (if you play Scooby-Doo! on its hardest level.) But, Scooby-Doo! is Scooby-Doo! (I think that I just won my argument there.)

In Scooby-Doo! players take the roles of the iconic characters from the classic cartoon series. You can play Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, Velma, or Fred. The characters each have a special power that they can use once during the game by eating their scooby-snack. (Horrified doesn't have scooby-snacks. Scooby-Doo! wins.) Players move around the board collecting items to build traps to capture the big bad.

Movement is done through card play for both the players and the villain. The design here is such that moving from player actions to the villain actions is very intuitive and you'll never forget to take the villain turn (which has happened to me in some other cooperative games.) Movement cards also have an initiative value on them and this can be really important because you need to balance when you want to go compared to the other players and the villain. Timing means a lot in the game.

If characters take "damage" action cards are discarded. Running out of cards means running out of time and this is one way to lose the game. As the villain moves around the board they haunt the different locations. Having too many haunted locations will also lose you the game. For locations you have all the classics like the malt shop and the amusement park.

The board and components are beautiful. You even have the Mystery Machine that you can drive in (if you have gas!) I love Scooby-Doo! so much! It's so thematic and so much fun that it's my 93rd favorite game of all time! (Side note: there are a few Scooby-Doo games out there. If you decide to try this one, be sure to get: Scooby-Doo! The Board Game that is published by CMON. The logo is in the lower left corner of the box.)

#92 Copenhagen: Roll & Write

Copenhagen: Roll & Write is basically Tetris the board game. One player rolls a set of five dice with colors on them. The more colors that you can match, the larger Tetris sized pieces you can draw on your paper. The other player gets to choose among any unused dice to mark a different area on their sheet to gain special powers.

Tetris pieces that you draw have to start at the bottom of your grid area and go up. You can only place a piece if it can sit on top of another. It's very Tetris. You get bonus points for completing rows and columns. The game ends when someone hits a certain threshold of points and the person with the most points wins.

Copenhagen: Roll & Write scores high on the quick and easy scale. It's landing high on this list because Julie and I have played it quite a bit recently, and it's just so easy to get to the table. And yeah, the Tetris puzzle is really fun! That makes Copenhagen: Roll & Write my 92nd favorite game of all time!

#91 Lost Ruins of Arnak

Lost Ruins is one of those games that I adjusted and pushed lower down my list to give other games a chance. I remember really liking my play of this, but we have only played Lost Ruins of Arnak once and it's been awhile. So, yes! I really want to get this back to the table. But, I can't remember enough about it to do it justice here. 

I remember that it's a worker placement game and that you use workers to explore ruins to gain resources to buy cards to gain powers to perform more and better actions to explore more ruins to get more resources. Doing all these things gets you points. The actions are tied to a cool "Indiana Jones" type theme and I remember really liking it. 

I have got to get this game back to the table! Who knows with a few more plays Lost Ruins of Arnak might become even better than my 91st favorite game of all time!

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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part Three (95-94)

#95 World's Fair 1893

World's Fair 1893 is a great little area control and set collection game with a rondel (a round action selection track) shaped like a Ferris Wheel! 

Players place workers at locations that are based on various themed categories around the wheel to claim different events to sell tickets to their attractions in order to gain points to win the game. 

You score for having a majority in a given category and for having sets of different kinds of events as well. It's a bit of a push and pull that keeps the game play interesting and challenging and this is all enhanced by the game's theme. 

The cards all have art and flavor text that is based on real attractions that were present at the World's Fair in 1893. This is so awesome and is yet another reason the World's Fair 1893 is my 95th favorite game of all time.

#94 Red7

Red7 is a simple card game. Cards come in 7 suits numbered 1-7. The core rule of Red7 is that you must have the high card to be winning and you must be winning at the end of your turn or you will be eliminated. I normally don't like player elimination in games, I think Red7 might be the only one that I own. But, Red7 plays really well at 2 players (where player elimination doesn't matter) and it plays really fast (so no one is eliminated for long.)

Suits have a hierarchy and this is used to break ties. So a 4 always beats a 3 regardless of its suit, but a red 3 is better than a green 3. The suits are the 7 colors of the rainbow and if you are familiar with the anagram Roy G. Biv, then you already have the hierarchy memorized. That is the colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Red is the strongest color in the suit hierarchy and violet is the weakest. So the highest valued card in the deck is the Red7 and the lowest valued card is the Violet1.

But Red7 isn't just a game of "high card wins." Each suit also has a power that changes the rules of the game. One suit changes the rule to "most cards of one color wins." Another suit changes the rule to "most cards below four wins." And the Red suit changes the rule back to "high card wins." In the case of a tie, the highest numbered card in a set will decide the winner. When this is a tie, the tied high card of the highest suit in the color hierarchy wins.

On your turn you must change the conditions of the game so that you are winning. If the current rule is "high card wins" and your opponent is winning with a blue 7 in front of them, (The only card in front of you is an orange 3.) you might play the yellow 7 from your hand down in front of you so that you are winning. Now it's your opponent's turn.

Your opponent can't beat a yellow 7. They have a red 6 in their hand, and red is stronger than yellow, but you always rank the cards by number first and then by suit. Your 7 is higher than their 6, and your yellow 7 is higher than the blue 7 that they have on the table. They can't win following the rule "high card wins." However, your opponent does have an Indigo 4 in their hand. Remember that I said that the card suits carry a special ability to change the rules. They do, but not if they are played in front of you. They must be played to the discard pile to change the rules. The top card of the discard pile dictates the current rule for winning.

On a player's turn they may play a card in front of themselves to satisfy a win condition, or play a card to the discard pile to change the win conditions, or both. Your opponent plays the Indigo 4 to the discard pile changing the win condition to "most cards in a row." Then they play the red 6 down in front of themselves to satisfy the new win condition. They now have a blue 7 and a red 6 down in front of them. They have 2 cards in a row. This is more than you have. You have an orange 3 and a yellow 7 in front of you. That's only 1 card in a row. Your opponent is now winning. 

One final thing. Because the card your opponent played has a number value greater than the total number of cards in front of them (they played a 4 and only have 2 cards in front of them) they get to draw a card. This is the only way that you can draw a new card into your hand. Your opponent draws a new card adding it to their hand. It's now your turn.

I have spent way too much time on this one game, but Red7's game play is so smooth and so clever that I just felt the need to go over it in detail. This is a great game for anyone who enjoys card games. For a long time Red7 held a spot in my top 10 games of all time. It has fallen quite a bit only because Julie and I have played it sooooo much. Still, I am happy to report that Red7 is my 94th favorite game of all time!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part Two (98-96)

Continuing my board game top 100 of 2024, here are entries 98-96. (At this rate, this list is going to take forever. I will try to break things up with an occasional non-board-game post.)

#98 Mindspace

Mindspace is a roll-and-write game. Each player has a dry-erase board that has a square grid area divided into zones. The grid is supposed to represent the human brain, and each zone is a different area of the brain. There are 5 dice in 5 colors. Each round all 5 dice are rolled and then placed above a row of six cards. If a 1 is rolled, it is placed above the first card. A 2 is placed above the second card, and so on. The cards show different Tetris style shapes. When a die of a specific color is placed above a card showing a specific shape, players may draw that shape in that color on their board.

The game comes with dry-erase markers in the 5 different colors. You want to fill in as much of the board as you can, but you can't place shapes of the same color next to each other. Scoring cards give players points for filling in specific patterns or areas of the brain, and the scoring cards have neat thematic descriptions based on psychology. The theme is barely there, but what is there is cleverly applied. The game is fun and quick and provides a satisfying puzzle. This is a great one to bring to the table when we want to play something, but we don't want to think too hard. That is why Mindspace is my 98th favorite game of all time.

#97 Rallyman GT

Rallyman GT is a car racing game. In Rallyman, players place dice with ascending or descending values to plot their course on a race track. The dice are custom six-sided dice each showing only a single number. There's a 1 die with only 1's, a 2 die with only 2's, and so on. However, these are actually dice and not just cube shaped markers. On each die there are one or more hazard symbols in addition to the numbers. 

The 1 & 2 dice each have one hazard symbol. The 3 & 4 dice each have 2 hazard symbols, and the 5 & 6 dice each have 3 hazard symbols in addition to their numbers. Low value dice have a single hazard symbol, but higher valued dice have more symbols. After you plot your movement, you roll the dice to see if your plan has caused you any trouble. If you roll 3 or more hazards, you lose control of your car, which is bad.

After you plot your course it's time to roll. You can choose to play it safe and roll only one die at a time. If you do this, you can stop at any time. Or you can throw caution to the wind and roll all the dice at once, accepting whatever happens as a result. This is called going "flat-out" and if you go flat-out and don't lose control of your car, then you get a focus token for each black (gear) die, and each white (coast) die that you rolled. Focus tokens are a good thing. They help you to mitigate bad luck and help you to win the race.

Rallyman GT presents a great press-your-luck puzzle. The choice for when to go flat-out is important and provides interesting tension. Curves on the track must be entered at lower speeds that are marked on the curves, and if you are going too fast then you will have to use red (brake) dice which have three hazards on them. The track itself is modular. You have a bunch of hex tiles that you can use to build whatever sort of custom race track that you want. This track building element is one of my favorite features of the game. That combined with the intense press-your-luck element makes Rallyman GT my 97th favorite game of all time.

#96 Jekyll Vs. Hyde

Jekyll Vs. Hyde is a trick-taking card game for two players. Over the course of three rounds, if Hyde is able to achieve 10 points, he wins, otherwise Jekyll wins. For a trick taking game, Jekyll Vs. Hyde is surprisingly thematic. I love the idea that in order to win, Jekyll has to keep Hyde under control (preventing him from scoring 10 points.) Note that I said "points" and not "tricks." Another thematic part of this game is how it is scored. At the end of the round, Hyde scores based on the difference in tricks taken between himself and Jekyll. So Hyde wants to be as different from Jekyll as he can, while Jekyll needs to keep the number of tricks on both sides as close to equivalent as he can. Jekyll seeks balance while Hyde seeks discord … very thematic.

The deck is made up of 25 cards. There are 7 cards each of three suits numbered 1-7 and then four special potion cards numbered 2-5. Jekyll Vs. Hyde doesn't have so much as a trump suit as it does a suit hierarchy. The hierarchy is determined during play. The first card of a given suit that is played marks that suit as the weakest in the hierarchy. Then the next suit played becomes the middle powered suit in the hierarchy, making the remaining suit the strongest in the hierarchy. You must play in suit if you can, but if you can't you can play any card paying attention to suit hierarchy because when you don't follow suit, the number on the card doesn't matter and the strongest card in the suit hierarchy will take the trick.

The potion cards trigger one of three possible special powers. Which power is triggered depends on the card played by the other player. If you lead a potion card, you can demand that the other player play a specific suit, and they must play this suit if they have it. If they don't have it, they can play any other card they want, even another potion card, but when two potion cards are played at the same time, no special powers are activated.

Jekyll Vs. Hyde is a tense, interesting, trick-taking puzzle that works great for two players. There is a cooperative version called Jekyll & Hyde Vs. Scotland Yard that I really want to try, but until then I will have to be happy with my 96th most favorite game of all time, Jekyll Vs. Hyde.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part One (100-99)

It's been four years since I blogged my Board Game Top 100. I did share a Top 23 last year, but given that I want to focus on writing everyday, I have decided now would be a good time to do the Top 100 thing again. There is an online Ranking Engine on a website called PubMeeple. Their engine was made for users of the BoardGameGeek website to rank their collections. All I have to do is input my BGG user name and the Ranking Engine loads in the games in my collection for me to rank one at a time. 

I compare game to game. Would I rather play this or that. The engine organizes the games into brackets and keeps prompting me until all the games in my collection have been sorted. It's not a perfect system. Some games just don't compare well against each other because they create such different experiences, but it works well enough. I am not sure how many games I will talk about within each post. I am not going to promise a specific number. I am just going to write as much as I feel like writing each day, and we will see where that gets us.

#100 - Sentient

Sentient is an awesome card placement, dice manipulation game. In the game players roll a set of dice and then organize them in a row by color on their player board. After this players take turns selecting cards from a central market and then placing those cards in order to score them at the end of the round.

Cards are placed between the dice that you have arranged on your player board. The cards score based on the values on the dice, but there's a catch. Each card also has a mathematical symbol in its upper left and right corners: +, - or =. The + requires the player to increase the die next to that symbol by 1. The - requires the player to decrease the die next to that symbol by 1, and the = leaves the die next to it unchanged.

You need to select cards for scoring based on the dice values that you have on your player board, but also plan ahead to not what those dice values are now, but rather what they will be after they have been changed by those same cards that you plan on scoring. It's tricky, and it's actually a pretty neat puzzle.

Players also have some workers that are used for an area control part of the game. The areas represent the different kinds of cards that you can place in your tableau and if you win an area for a particular type of card, then you score extra points for those cards. This adds a set collection element to the game. 

Using your workers for this creates some tough decision making, because you can also use those workers to place over the tops of those math symbols mentioned before, neutralizing them, so that you don't have to change your dice. This is great if you already have the perfect numbers for your scoring card.

The card art on Sentient is beautiful which is what first drew me to the game. The cards show different kinds of androids or robots that supposedly you are "programming" when you place them on your board between your dice. The theme isn't really there at all, but it looks gorgeous. At the end of the day, all that matters is that Sentient is a neat and engaging puzzle, and a really fun game. That's why it's my 100th favorite game of all time.

#99 - Mint Condition Comics

While my #100 game: Sentient, may have had some pretty involved mechanisms and no theme, my next game is the opposite. It has really light mechanics, but feels very thematic. In Mint Condition Comics players are collecting comic books and trying to create sets.

Mint Condition Comics is a card drafting, set collection game. The cards represent different comic books, and the art is awesome! The central market, aka the comic book shop has some comics on display and others in face down piles. This is just like comics that are on open display in the comic shop and issues that are in the back issue bins that you have to dig through to find what you want.

There are three face down piles that represent the back issue bins, and one master draw deck that represents other comics that will come into the shop from the outside. As you look through one of the three face down piles, you may take that pile or return it face down and look at the next one. However, each time that you "skip" a pile, you draw a card from the master deck without looking at it, and add it face down to the pile that you just rejected.

When you take a pile, you add all the cards from that pile face up in front of you. This is your comic book collection. If you skip all three available back issue piles, then you must take the top two cards from the master deck and add those to your collection. Your collection will score points at the end of the game based on the number of comics that you have in each set.

Once you have comics, you can trade for the face up comics (the comics on display) in the comic shop. If you have a comic with a high rarity, you can trade for two comics of a lesser rarity with the comic shop. Alternatively, you can trade any two comics from your collection for one comic from the shop. You can also trade with other players on a one for one basis. You must always give the other player a comic of equal or greater rarity, and you can only trade for their "loose" comics (that is: lone comics that are not yet part of a set of two or greater.)

Mint Condition Comics is so thematic! The comics are all original made up titles. They aren't based on existing comics, but they feel like they could be. Every card represents a comic. It has a title, an issue number, and a rarity. Each round a random title is selected as the "hot comic" which is worth more points. The player with the most points after three rounds is the winner.

I got Mint Condition Comics following a Kickstarter Campaign four years ago. I don't think it was ever sold outside of that Kickstarter. If you ever see a copy, snatch it up. It's awesome, especially if you are a comic collector, or know someone who is. Julie isn't and she still really enjoys the game, too! That's why Mint Condition Comics is my 99th favorite game of all time!

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Monday, April 15, 2024

Arborea Board Game Review

Julie and I played Arborea yesterday. In Arborea players move workers on action tracks. There are 8 sets of tracks covering different actions you can take in the game. These actions vary from collecting resources, attracting specific creatures, collecting creatures, adding terrain cards to your personal monster ranch, training specialized workers and giving gifts to powerful sages. 

Arborea is all about manipulating the action tracks, knowing where to commit your workers, and when. Some workers have to be retrained every time you use them while others can be used again right away after they complete their tasks. This is tricky because workers are placed out on these sort of conveyor belt things. Taking action will only happen after a conveyor belt moves. The longer a worker stays on the conveyor belt, the better actions they can take, but the longer they remain unavailable to perform other jobs.

The steps to game play in a turn are spelled out on the game board and the game play loop is reasonably intuitive. This makes the game feel simple, while at the same time, you know that it's not. You have to get resources to gain terrain and then place the terrain. You then need to attract some wild monsters and then capture those monsters and place them in the habitats that you create. The proper placement of your monsters is where you are going to score most of your points.

The board and the components are beautiful, but manipulating the actions of the game to get what you want is a real brain burner. I think Arborea is the heaviest board game we own. It's probably as heavy as I want to get. I do really enjoy it, but Julie and I have played twice now. There is a 100 point score track around the outside of the board. In our first game, Julie almost lapped me in points. In our second game, she did lap me. So, I seem to be missing something, but it's a testament to Arborea's gameplay that I really enjoy the game despite losing so badly.

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