Diamonds

Diamonds
From: Stronghold Games
Reviewed by: Tony McRee

Diamonds by Mike Fitzgerald, who also designed Hooyah, which I reviewed for this site earlier, brings a new trick-taking game to us in 2014. To be honest, if you like trick-taking games, you don’t need to read this review; just go buy this game. The object of the game is simple, score the most points by collecting plastic diamonds as you play cards over a series of rounds. These plastic diamonds are either in your vault, which are worth 2 points at the end of the game, or in your showroom in front of your vault, worth 1 point.

Diamonds can be played with 2 to 6 players and uses a deck of 60 cards with 15 cards in each of the standard suits found in a normal playing deck of cards. There are no face cards in Diamonds, just 1 through 15. During each round, players are dealt 10 cards, so if there are less than 6 players, some cards and not in play which adds to the strategy of the game. The game ends when the number of rounds played equal the number or players or when everyone has had a chance to deal. Dealer determines how many cards, 1-3, get passed to the left and the player to the dealer’s left starts the play.

“What makes the game of Diamonds different from other trick-taking games is that when you cannot follow suit you will get a “Suit Action.”

So, how do you get plastic diamonds? By playing the suits in the deck. If you take a trick, then you get the suit action. If you can’t follow suit, then the card you play, you immediately take that action of the suit. When all the cards are played, the player that collects the most cards in each suit gets to do those actions as well. If you were unfortunate not to take any tricks at all during that round, no worries, put two diamonds in your vault. What are the actions? If you win a trick in diamonds or play a diamond card as the off suit, then you may place a diamond from the stockpile into your vault. Hearts let you take a diamond from the stockpile and place it in your showroom. Spades let you move a diamond from your showroom to your vault. Clubs let you steal a diamond from another player’s showroom to yours. That is the game.

This game is fast and fun to play. There is strategy in this game on every card being played. You need to maximize your off suit plays and not just try and win a trick. You have to think ahead of when you want to bleed a certain suit if you are strong in it. There is always something to do and think about when playing in this game even if your hand isn’t a winning hand. And since this is not a bidding game, those that don’t like card games because of bidding should really try this one out. Diamonds can also be played in variants such as playing with partners which adds another twist to the game.

Diamonds is a great game to add to your collection and I highly recommend it.

Codex Rating: 18
Product Summary
Diamonds
Type of Game: Card Game
Game Design by: Mike Fitzgerald
Game Components Included: 60 Playing Cards, numbered 1-15 in the four standard suits, 6 Player Aid cards, 6 Vaults, 110 small clear (1-point) Diamond Crystals, 25 large red (5-point) Diamond Crystals
Retail Price: $ 24.95 (US)
Number of Players: up to 6
Player Ages: 8 and up
Play Time: 30 minutes
Website: http://strongholdgames.com

Raiding Pirates: Brethren of the Coast

Raiding Parties: Brethren of the Coast
From: Nick Pace Entertainment
Reviewed by: Tony McRee

Raiding Parties: Brethren of the Coast (RP:BotC) is a pirate themed card game in which you are trying to beat your opponent by defeating his raiding party before he defeats your raiding party. Crews battle each other through either long range combat or melee encounters with the outcome based on the flip of a card from a standard deck of playing cards. Before beginning the game, players “hire” their crew by determine the amount of gold that is to be spent. In other words, this is how you build your deck of cards. Once that is determined, players select their crew and let the battle begin.

Need to stop at this point and say that Raiding Parties: Brethren of the Coast is considered to be the expansion to the original game. Therefore, in this review, while I did not have the original game it was still possible to get a flavor for the game as a whole. The expansion added more ships and lands and did not have as many crew members as the original Raiding Pirates game. The original was produced in 2012 and the expansion was done in 2014. Both games are very hard to find currently and it has been awhile since the website was updated. Now back to the review.

“Hit the Deck”
First thing that catches your eye will be the art, it is gorgeous. This will help add to the theme of the game. The game is very quick to play and easy to teach. But like all card games of this type, it comes down to the deck building and that is where time will need to be spent and might challenge players until they get familiar with the various cards.

Because the game is quick to play, it can easily be set back up and go again. Strategy is not only in the hiring of the crew, but as you play and go through the normal card deck to determine outcome, you must figure out what your chances are based on what is left in that deck. Example, you play the Pistol card that will hit on a Heart, Club, King or Queen. Well, we know that there are 13 cards in each suit, and there are 4 Kings and 4 Queens to the deck. So for the pistol to hit, there is 30 card chance if the deck were still at 52 cards. But as you play, these odds will either improve or get worse depending on what has been played previously. Players will need to keep track of this to determine their chances during the game. While this seems to be a simple idea, it is a great strategy mechanism for this game.

If you like pirates and quick playing card games where the strategy is deceptive and the luck of the draw plays a small part in the outcome, give Raiding Pirates a shot if you can find it.

Codex Rating: 15 – Fairly Good
Product Summary
Raiding Pirates: Brethren of the Coast
Type of Game: Deck Building
Game Design by: Nick Pace
Artist: Don Maitz
Game Components Included: 55 game cards, rules of play
Retail Price: $ 16.99 (US)
Number of Players: up to 4
Player Ages: 10 and up
Play Time: 30 minutes
Website: http://www.raidingparties.com

Eldritch Horror

Eldritch Horror
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Tony McRee

Eldritch Horror is a cooperative board game from Fantasy Flight Games. This game is another addition to their line of games that explore the H.P. Lovecraft lore. Getting inspiration from the Arkham Horror game, Corey Konieczka and Nikki Valens take the adventures out of the city of Arkham and send them globetrotting in search of a mystery that will bring them face to face with the Ancient Ones.

 “The end of the world draws near!”

Eldritch Horror is very familiar in gameplay to Arkham Horror, and the mission you need to accomplish is to either keep the Elder One from awakening or destroy it if it does. At the start players pick investigators, some of which are familiar faces from the other games in the series. Investigators have three steps to perform: all players take two actions, players then have encounters, and the lead investigator turns over a Mythos card from the constructed deck based on the elder one. The actions the players take include travelling, getting tickets to help move a little farther, resting, trading items, getting assets, or doing component actions. All these actions help prepare the player to face the upcoming encounters. These actions and encounters then assist the investigators in solving the three mysteries that will keep the Elder One from awakening. Sounds simple, but the Mythos card that gets turned over after the encounters only throws roadblocks up for the investigators by either spawning monsters, advancing the doom track, spawning gates or a host of other bad effects.

“The door exploded into the room with a thunderous crack, and the thing stepped past the threshold”

While the concepts of Eldritch Horror are simple, the gameplay is very challenging. It is one of my favorite cooperative games and we find ourselves at times on the verge of success only to be ripped to shreds as the Elder One steps through the threshold. Two things stand out for me about this game over Arkham Horror. First, the gaining of assets is different in this game during the player’s turn and is a nice addition to the game. Players roll dice equal to their player’s Influence stat and based on the success rolls, the purchasing value is determined. Players then gain Assets from the reserve equal to or less than the purchasing value. If a player doesn’t have enough value, he can then take Debt which adds some interesting impacts if you are not careful. The second addition is the ability to collect loot from players that have expired during the game…and players will expire, that is a given. Instead of losing their assets, players can claim them if they go and investigate the body. This is a great addition because some loot is epic and really helps along the way.

In conclusion, Eldritch Horror has the same feel as Arkham Horror but can stand on its own. If you already have Arkham Horror, should you get it?  It depends on if you need another “beat an Elder One” cooperative game in your collection. If you don’t, then Eldritch Horror is a great addition to a collection. I enjoy Eldritch Horror more than the other games in the series. I liked not having to fiddle with the stats of a character like you do in Arkham Horror and of course the challenge of the game exceeds Elder Sign. While the base game only comes with four initial scenarios, Fantasy Flight has already announced an expansion to keep the game fresh and thus showing their support.

For more details on this game, head over to the Fantasy Flight Games http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite.asp?eidm=244&enmi=Eldritch%20Horror or your local game store.

Codex Rating: 18

Product Summary

Eldritch Horror
Type of Game: Cooperation
Game Design by: Corey Konieczka and Nikki Valens
Game Components Included:  

  • 1 Game Board
  • 1 Reference Guide
  • 12 Investigator Sheets w/ Matching Tokens & Stands
  • 4 Ancient One Sheets
  • 51 Mythos Cards (21 yellow, 18 green and 12 blue)
  • 16 Mystery Cards (4 backs, 4 each)
  • 14 Artifact Cards
  • 40 Asset Cards
  • 36 Condition Cards
  • 20 Spell Cards
  • 4 Reference Cards
  • 122 Encounter Cards
  • 8 America Cards
  • 8 Europe Cards
  • 8 Asia/Australia Cards
  • 12 General Cards
  • 24 Other World Cards
  • 18 Expedition (6 backs, 3 each)
  • 12 Special Cards (2 backs, 6 each)
  • 32 Research Cards (4 backs, 8 each)
  • 245 Tokens
  • 43 Monster Tokens (34 normal, 9 epic)
  • 1 Lead Investigator token
  • 1 Active Expedition Token
  • 20 Travel Ticket Tokens (8 train, 12 ship)
  • 30 Improvement Tokens (6 for each skill)
  • 9 Gate Tokens
  • 20 Eldritch Tokens
  • 36 Clue Tokens
  • 1 Mystery Token
  • 4 Rumor Tokens
  • 78 Health and Sanity Tokens
  • 30 (1 Health)
  • 12 (3 Health)
  • 24 (1 Sanity)
  • 12 (3 Sanity)
  • 4 Dice

Retail Price: $ 59.99 (US)
Number of Players: up to 8
Player Ages: 14 and up
Play Time: 45 minutes per player
Website: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite.asp?eidm=244

Reviewed by: Tony McRee

Hooyah

From: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Reviewed by: Tony McRee

Hooyah is a new co-op card game from U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

In this co-op card collecting game, you and your team are a bunch of Navy Seals that are trying to complete five operations so that you can go on one of five missions that are based loosely on real-life Navy Seal missions. While this game is very similar to other co-op games that are based on card collecting to defeat your opponents, the addition of specific roles or functions adds a different element to this game. Hooyah is a very easy game to learn and teach and fills a nice void that is missing in the current co-op games, a co-op game that is fairly quick, avoids the majority of analysis paralysis by players and still maintains the suspense of not knowing if you have won until the last card is played.

 “No man left behind”

As I stated, Hooyah is a very simple game to teach and play. The object of the game is to complete five operations and one mission to win the game as a team. Failure to complete the final mission or if one player looses all their health tokens, hence being left behind, then everyone loses the game. So how do you complete an Operation? The team must collect the shown number of the color shown on the Operation Card. For example, two cards make up an Operation. On these cards is a number that has a color background behind it.  For example, the number three with a red background on one card and the number four with a purple background means the team must now put together a set of three red cards and four purple cards to complete the Operation.

They do this by going through a Preparation phase which is taking cards from the Skills & Equipment deck. These cards have the same colors on them to match those found on the Operation cards. Each player may take two cards on their turn.  Once the players believe they have collected enough cards, the leader announces “Hooyah” and they see if they can meet the results of the Operation cards.

There is a catch, however.  During the Preparation phase, there is a timer that is passed from player to player and when that timer gets to zero and if it is passed, a player losses a health token. The timer is set based on the sum of the numbers shown on the Operations card. So in our example, it would be set to seven giving the players the ability to collect up to fourteen cards hoping to get the right combination to complete the Operation. On the Skills & Equipment cards, there are various special abilities that can help the team if they want to play them while they preparing for the mission. But by playing these cards, you may possibly be giving up a color you need to complete the Operation. This really provides the players with a tough choice at times.

If the players believe they have enough of the right colors between themselves to finish the Operation, they can go on the Operation, but before they can do that, they have to face events. The Operation cards also have events on them and the number of events you face depends on the number of players in the game plus the number of the Operation in which the players are in. This is where the suspense of the game can shine. Players may think they have enough cards to complete the Operation, but events can make you discard cards or do Skill Checks which is matching colors needed to complete the event, or even loose health. Keep in mind that events are faced by individual players and not by the group, so if one person was holding all the purple cards in our example and they had to discard two and this forced them to discard one of the purples, the group fails the Operation, so players really need to balance out the colors in their hands.

 “Congratulations Seal Team, Mission Accomplished!”

If the players successfully complete the mission, they are allowed to keep their remaining cards in hand and start the next Operation by flipping over the next set of cards. This keeps going until the players have completed their fifth operation. Once the fifth operation is complete, the players immediately go into the Mission.  Completing the Mission means victory for the players. What is really interesting here is that players will not get to prepare for the Mission like they do in earlier operations; they get no more cards, they have to do it with what is left and this can get intense near the end.

The game includes a total of five missions, each with various difficulties. While this doesn’t seem like a lot on the side of replay ability, the varying of cards that appear will keep the events leading up the mission fresh.

In conclusion, this game really surprised me in the suspense it brought to the table. It is a very good filler game because other than shuffling cards, there is hardly any setup to the game. If there is one bad element to the game that always got on my nerves was that we always lost because of bad luck during the events. We learned to manage our health tokens, but it seemed that once in awhile, the same player would draw the events that would take the health away and there was no recourse the group could do to prevent it. Now there are some cards that cancel events, but as our luck would have it, we seem never to have those when needed. Even though this bothered me, it wasn’t enough to distract from a very solid game and at the price point it is worth considering as a very nice filler.

I will say that most co-op games tend to have you play open handed with the cards, but in this game, it is recommend in the rules not to and I would completely agree. Be sure to check at the FAQ over at the Hooyah website for other ways to increase the difficulty of the game.

For more details on U.S. Games Systems, Inc. and their new Co-op Card Game “Hooyah” check them out at their website http://www.usgamesinc.com/Hooyah-Navy-Seals-Card-Game, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 17

1 Critical Fail
2-5 Very poor to moderately poor
6-10 moderately fair to fair
11-15 fairly good to good
15-19 pretty good to very good
20 critical success

 

Product Summary
Hooyah From: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Type of Game: Co-op Card Game
Game Design by: Mike Fitzgerald
Art by: Joe Boginski & Jody Boginski-Barbessi
Game Components Included: 10 Navy SEAL Cards, 75 Ops/Events Cards,  1 Insertion Card,  75 Skills & Equipment Cards,  5 Mission Cards and Holder, Time Counter Device, 30 Health Tokens, Turn Sequence Card, HOOYAH Instruction Manual
Retail Price: $ 24.95
Number of Players: 1-4
Player Ages: 10+
Play Time: 45 Minutes
IBSN: 978-I-57281-717-3
Website: http://www.usgamesinc.com/Hooyah-Navy-Seals-Card-Game
Reviewed by: Tony McRee