Shuffling Horror: Roswell 51

From: Gamewick Games

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Shuffling Horror: Roswell 51 is a new Tabletop Board/Card Game from Gamewick Games.

Some time ago, I reviewed a game called Pittsburgh 68 by Gamewick, where through interesting game mechanics, you formed a classic zombie movie and attempt to survive.  The game flowed well, was very fun and different.  Recently, Gamewick has put together a high quality board game based on that same concept, with the theme being classic 50s alien invasion movies rather than zombies.  However, Pittsburgh 68  can also be played on this board game.  This is the first time I have seen a card game evolve into a board game.  I found that fascinating.

From the front cover: “A retro sc-fi B-Movie Board Game”

The game has some similarities to the previously mentioned Pittsburgh 68, except with a classic 50s aliens invasion theme.  There are references to classic movies like The Blob, THEM!,  and of course, Invasion from Outer Space.  However, there are some new mechanics that adapt it to a board game and make it more than just a story-telling game.  It states up front that these rules supersede the rules of Pittsburgh 68, and  the game plays better in this format.  The major changes to the include a Fade In and Fade Out token, as well as the Horror Star token.  These along with other aspects really bring out the feel of making a movie.

The game is surprisingly diverse because it can handle up to 3 to 13 players.  13!! We only play-tested it with 3 players but I can imagine how much fun it would be with more.  Played  cycles between a number of players and a director – a one versus cooperative many.  The players control “Survivors” and the director controls the monsters.  The players cooperatively work against the Director and the monsters and attempt to destroy them all, while the director attempts to kill the players and their allies.  With the wide player range, the game is scaled through various mechanics including the Spoint system and the cards themselves.

The players play one of the 12 survivors in the deck.  Examples are the Colonel, the Scientist, the Robot, and Rancher. They as a group work together to stop the director and the plots he hatches through card play.  The game starts with an opening scene with 3 face-up cards in the center of the board.  Cards can be a wide variety of things – monsters, event cards, equipment, and more.  These completely drive the game. The various mechanics of the game center around 4 phases or Reels of a movie, each reel being a stack of cards on the board.  Each Real, three cards are dealt from the Reel deck to form a scene.  During these scenes players can attack aliens, take items from the face-up, get another Survivor to form groups of survivors (up to 3), Rest or move into a sanctuary.  Their central goal is build up their survivors and keep the director from building up strong throngs of aliens, while at the same time creating a cinematic story of pulp alien invasion.

As a Director, the goal is to keep the movie going by building alien throngs with the cards available on the screen, attacking and killing survivors, and generally making it difficult on the players.  The Director forms the framework of the cinematic story and the players react to it while forming their own individual stories.  The job is one-part blackjack dealer and one-part antagonist to the players.  The dealer side of the director primarily is for the flow of the game, and once the director has that down, he can focus primarily eliminating survivors.  By far, the director is the more involved part of the game. While not a complicated game by any means, there is a lot that goes on in this game, especially for the Director.

From the back cover: “Don’t just play a game.  Play a movie.”

Key to the game mechanics is the resource management.  From equipment or Item cards to Spoints tokens,  the resources available to the Survivors can make or break the game for them.  Meanwhile, the Director can either perform various actions to keep players from getting the items and make them spend Spoint tokens more.  Players need to allocate Items to Survivors that can use them most effectively, as each is different.

The game mechanics beyond the card play involve dice rolling as well as the aforementioned token spending.  Two 6-sided dice are used in combat, and the Spoints can either modify the roll to-hit or damage.  It is a fairly simple combat system where you roll under a particular value clearly displayed on the cards.  There are also some very creative and interesting rules that round out the game that include the Fade In token (the Director chooses who goes first at the start of the each reel after the first), Turning Points and Last One Standing (two ways to end the game), and Pod Players (players are converted to the Director’s team).

The board is brilliantly designed to appear like a drive in theater from the view of a car.  As it turns out, it is less of a board game board and more of a advanced playing mat for the game.  It also can be used with Pittsburgh 68 with the extra cards supplied in the game.

In conclusion,  it is a very interesting and fun game with lots of back and forth between each player and the director.  There are a wide variety of event cards to break of the combat and quite a few challenges the players and the director face as time goes on.  I would imagine with a full compliment of players, this game might take longer but it still could be amazingly fun.  There is a lot that goes on in the game, so every game is different.  This gives it a lot of replay-ability value.  Where Pittsburgh 68 seemed to have a lack of “winner’ in the overall game play, this game adds enough elements to have a satisfying ending.

For more details on Gamewick Games and their new Board Game Shuffling Horror: Roswell 51.  Check them out at their website https://www.gamewick.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 18 out of 20

Product Summary

Shuffling Horror: Roswell 51

From: Gamewick Games

Type of Game: B0ard Game

Game Design & Written by: Larry Wickman

Art by: Ben Crenshaw, Mike Saputo, Donald David, Stephen Blickenstaff

Number of Pages: 21

Game Components Included: The Roswell 51 Movie Deck (56 cards), The Shuffling Horror Shuffle Board (20 x 30 inch deluxe gameboard), (54) Spoint tokens (Survivor Points), (8) Sanctuary tokens, (4) Reel tokens. (4) Dynamite tokens, (1) Fade Out token, (1) Fade In token, (1) Rulebook (with intro and advance rules), (4) Rule Cue Cards. (2) Endgame Cards. (4) Dice, Plus bonus Pittsburgh 68 cards and tokens!

Retail Price: $39.99(US)

Number of Players: For 3 – 13 players (recommend 3-6 players for initial play)

Player Ages:  Ages 14+

Playing Time: 75 minutes

Website: https://www.gamewick.com/

Just Survive The Game

From: Broken Archer
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Just Survive The Game is a Card Game from Broken Archer Games.

 

From the website: “Use teamwork to help everyone stay alive or lookout for yourself and forget your family and friends”

Just Survive is a somewhat abstract and lightly themed game of cards where you play roles in a survival scenario.  The disaster is not defined, the situation is not defined, all you know is that you have to be the last person standing.   In this game, there are Job cards, Event Cards, Secret Cards and Dead/Skipped cards.  Each person gets a Secret card and a Job card.  There are a total of 11 Job cards and 15 secrets.  These define your role in the game by giving you things you can do – both your Job ability and your Secret ability. These abilities counter things in the game or break rules.  Secrets don’t necessarily have to remain secret, it’s totally up to the player.

Play goes from the youngest player onward, reacting to Event cards on each turn.  Event cards can be a variety of things.  There are 87 total cards in this stack.  They range from Bad Day  where you snap and pick a character to murder, to Food running low.   Secrets and Job abilities can effect these Events.  During these Events, sometimes the group must vote, and sometimes those votes can be deadly.  One thing to note is that Death in the game does not end the game for the player.  The only thing that ends the game for everyone is the SURVIVE card in the events.  When that comes up, the last player alive is the winner.

From the website: “You’ve just been locked in a bunker holding out to survive a disaster outside. You and the people you’re with must do whatever it takes to survive, but only one of you will be able to live.”

In conclusion,  this is a fun little game.  I prefer a little more theme and it is pretty no-frills in terms of production value.  When we played, it was with 3 players but we determined that it would play better with more people.  It became unclear at times what a Dead person could and could not do, so I think the rules need to be a little clear on that.  It has great potential for expansion, however.  And I think it would serve well if it had a little more theme.

For more details on Broken Archer and their new Card Game“Just Survive The Game” check them out at their website http://brokenarcher.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 15 out of 20

Product Summary

Just Survive The Game
From: Broken Archer
Type of Game: Card Game
Website: http://brokenarcher.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Best Pitch Card Game

Best Pitch
From: Broken Archer
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Best Pitch is a new Card Game from Broken Archer Games.

I have seen the fairly simple Apples to Apples mechanic (for lack of a better term) in many forms.  Cards Against Humanity is the most  well-known there days.  Best Pitch presents this same mechanic in a more family-friendly ad different way.  With a simple concept, a few cards, and the right group, fun for all can be had.

From the back cover: “Pitch your best idea with the most outstanding innovation to a panel of investors…”

Out of the box, there are three sets of cards – yellow Idea Cards, blue Innovation Cards and red Sabotage Cards.  Every player gets 2 of each card.  Each round, a different player is the Tycoon and everyone else is pitching ideas to the Tycoon.  Each player pitches an Idea, with an Innovation to the Tycoon, face down.  Before the Tycoon reads them, each player then plays a Sabotage on a single player’s Idea/Innovation pair.

Game play is simple, very similar to Apples to Apples or CAH.  We had a few laughs when we played but felt like it was missing something.  It’s a great family friendly game, where I think the kids would really enjoy it, but that’s not the crowd I playtested it with.  The relatively random sabotage aspect to the game (not knowing what exactly you are sabotaging) seemed kind of awkward but added as interesting aspect to the game.  At times, the sabotage enhanced the pitch.

From the back cover: “… but watch out as others are looking to sabotage your idea in favor of their own.”

While we enjoyed the game some, I feel the entire group wanted a little something more out of it.  It would be great to play with kids and family.  There is a potential for fun in this game in that environment.  Or at a convention with a mixed group of players.  I feel there is more potential with expansions that play to a specific group – adult, comic geeks, computer gamers, or something like that.  The ideas were somewhat generic and bland,  Combining them with the Enhancements did make them interesting but like I have said, there needed to be more.  I recommend this game for family game night with grade school kids or grandparents.

For more details on Broken Archer Games and their new Card GameBest Pitch” check them out at their website http://brokenarcher.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 14 out of 20

Product Summary

Best Pitch
From: Broken Archer
Type of Game: Card Game
Website: http://brokenarcher.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

I, Spy

From: Lost Boys Productions
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

I, Spy is a new Board Game from Lost Boys Productions.

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Recently I was introduced to a new game called I, Spy.  I Immediately thought it would be my kind of game when I saw the board and all the various bits.  However, I had no idea just how much. It is a phenomenal game and easily making my top 10 list for 2015, if not overall.

Players play the role of spies in pre-Great War Europe.  They have 14 rounds to increase the influence of their Nation while preventing your enemies from increasing theirs.  The catch is you do not know what national factions your opponents represent.  Players are given a Alignment token at the start of the game that defines their Nation – the Kingdom of Italy, the Republic of France, the Russian Empire, the British Empire, the German Empire, or the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  These are kept secret and part of the beauty of this game.

You can Influence for your Nation through various ways.  Along with the bluffing aspect related to the Alignment mechanic of the game, there is a strong card hand management mechanic.  Every player has a specific set of cards, which are all the same.  These represent the actions that can take place in the round, but when played, they add influence to various Nations at the end of the round. These cards also refresh every round.

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From page # 1: “It is the eve of a great war…”

Another awesome aspect of the game is the politicians, which are the random part of the game.  Politicians are placed faced down along the border of the board and can be influence by players.  As actions, you can see how much their influence are worth, move them around and promote others that are more favorable to your cause.  But you can only do this with those that you already have sway with, and to do that requires an action as well.

From  page # 1: “The year is 1908, and the powers of Europe simmer in an uneasy peace.”

There are several locations on the board representing major cities in Europe and Russia.  Players can travel around to each city to preform specific actions that effect influence, politicians or other players.  You can also gain Asset cards in some cities which represent contacts that help your cause.   This is where much of the action takes place in the game.  Travelling about, players each round attempt to increase the potential for influence for their Nation while lowering the potential for others, before the next scoring phase.  Scoring phases occur every 3 to 5 rounds and are indicated along the Politicians track.  Any effect from a Politician along that track behind the current scoring phase takes place.

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In conclusion, this game can run a little long but in the end it is a very satisfying game. It is very strategic, with a lot of hand management and resource allocation.  I love the bluffing side of this game, and there subtle backstabbing aspect to it.  It is a very well designed game.

For more details on Lost Boys Productions and their new Board GameI, Spy” check them out at their website http://www.lost-boys-productions.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

I, Spy
From: Lost Boys Productions
Type of Game: Board Game
Designer: C. Simon Reid
Artists: Sylvie Demers, Chloe J. Tran
Number of Pages: 12 page rulebook
Game Components Included: 4 Spy figures, board depicting western Europe,  wooden block Influence counters, ower Markers, Action cards, Asset Cards, Politician Tiles, Control Tokens, Alignment Tokens, Supply Tokens, Tag Tokens, Round Marker, Initiative Card, Special Action Cards, and Players Aid cards.
Retail Price: $45 (US)
Number of Players: 1-4
Player Ages: 13+
Play Time: 30 minutes per player
Website: http://www.lost-boys-productions.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Colt Express

Colt Express

From: Ludonaute

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

When it came to crime in the Wild West, train robberies were far more common than bank robberies. Banks had the problem of being within (literal) shooting distance of the sheriff’s office. Not only was this not a concern with trains, but there was the added advantage of it often being uncertain in which jurisdiction the crime occurred. Colt Express applies an action programming mechanic to this scenario.

From the rulebook:
“The Union Pacific Express has left Folsom, New Mexico, with 47 passengers on board. After a few minutes, the sound of rapid footsteps is heard, coming from overhead; and then, gunshots. Heavily armed bandits are mercilessly robbing honest citizens of their wallets and jewelry.”

Gameplay consists of two phases; Scheming and Stealing. After everyone draws a hand of six Action cards, players will take turns either playing an Action card face up or drawing three more cards, with the number of turns being indicated on the current Round card. Some turns may be marked as having a special effect, such as the player order being reversed or requiring that cards be played face down. Once Scheming is done, the cards are then resolved in the order they were played. Possible actions include moving to an adjacent car, switching to the roof or interior as appropriate, punching a rival bandit who is in the same location, firing at a rival bandit who is in an adjacent location, claiming a Loot token in your current location, or moving the Marshal to a car adjacent to his current location. Some Round cards will also have an event which occurs once the Stealing phase is over.

Both forms of initiating player conflict have their own advantages. Punching employs superhero physics, as it sends the targeted bandit flying into an adjacent car. In addition, he’ll leave behind one Loot token of the attacking player’s choice. Firing has more long term effects, where the attacking player adds one of his Bullet cards to the target player’s deck. A Bullet card is unusable during the Scheming phase, effectively limiting the range of actions the player can take. Another source of Bullet cards is the Marshal. Should the Marshal enter a car occupied by a bandit (or vice versa), the bandit’s player adds one of the Neutral Bullet cards to his deck.

A common trope in Westerns is to have one or more characters walking on the roofs of the train cars while they’re in motion. Colt Express employs some incentives to encourage this. While up top, the Move and Fire actions have a range of three. Since the Marshal never goes up top, it’s also the best way to get around him (especially if you don’t want him filling you with lead).

From the website:
“Each character has his own personality but, at the end of the day, they all have the same goal: to get the biggest slice of the pie in robbing the passengers.”

One of the more distinctive aspects of the game is how, instead of a board, the action takes place in a three dimensional cardboard model train. Assembling the cars is a snap thanks to the clear instructions provided. The different parts also fit together snugly, so there’s no need to apply glue. The only potential issue is that thick-fingered gamers may have trouble handing Loot tokens and Bandit pawns inside the cars.

Since the conflict elements work better with at least three players, some modifications are necessary for a two player game. In this case, each player controls two bandits. To avoid the awkwardness of handing two sets of cards, players use combined decks consisting of one Marshal card and one of every other Action type for each of their bandits.

In conclusion, this is an excellent game for introducing gamers to the action programming mechanic, as the chances of played actions being rendered useless (and the attendant frustration) are minimal. It also features one of the better two player fixes I’ve encountered.

Rating: 18

Product Summary

Colt Express

From: Ludonaute

Type of Game: Board Game

Game Design by: Christophe Raimbault

Cover Art by: Jordi Valbuena

Additional Art by: Jordi Valbuena and Ian Parovel

Game Components Included: Rulebook, 6 Train cars, 1 Locomotive, 10 Terrain elements, 18 Purse tokens, 6 Jewel tokens, 2 Strongbox tokens, 6 Bandit pawns, 1 Marshal pawn, 17 Round cards, 6 Character cards, 60 Action cards, 36 Bandit Bullet cards, 13 Neutral Bullet cards

Retail Price: $39.99

Number of Players: 2-6

Player Ages: 10+

Play Time: 40 minutes

Website: http://www.ludonaute.fr/portfolio/colt-express/?lang=en

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

ApocalypZe

From: Kingdoms Publications

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

ApocalypZe is a new card game from Kingdom Publications.

The long awaited apocalypse has occurred. There are zombies. One could call it the ApocalypZe. There is no mention of how it happened or why it happened. No mention of Patient Zero or a possible cure. You are just holed up in some familiar location trying to survive.

There are others out there. Others whose idea of survival is to send the hordes of zombies and other threats your way. You have to fight fire with fire.

From the back box cover: “Legions of the undead are at your door, trying to claw their way inside. Starved and alone, you make your stand. Will you survive?

This game looks good. The box is sturdy and the art, a nice play on the typical zombie hordes at a door, is muted and well done. The cards are glossy, printed on a good stock and the artwork is very nice there as well. It’s an almost realistic style that works well with the theme. One highlight are the zombie cards. Your ‘basic trooper’ card is basically two in one. The left side depicts your police officer/military soldier/ ganger/ average citizen on a blue background. The right side depicts the same character as a zombie on a red background. A cool concept that is very well done.

Each player has a 60-card deck. There are four pre-made decks. Each is based off a ‘home’ location. A church, a military base, a police station or a bar. You can use these pre-made decks and jump right in the game. I would suggest doing so. Extra cards are given so that players can personalize their decks.

To start the game, each player places his base down and draws eight cards from their deck. Each turn consists of five stages:

1-Draw: Draw from your deck until you have eight cards in your hand

2-Occupation: Pick one location and play as many cards as you please to that location

3-Scavenge: Other locations may come available. When you play them you can send people to that location to scavenge for items and allies.

4-Combat: Self explanatory.

5-Consumption: Basically ‘spending’ cards to feed and keep your people alive.

It sounds like a basic game rules wise but it turns out to be quite complex in play. The key here is that you pick one location to play cards to. The first turn you have to occupy your base. After that you can send your minions to any location. Blue cards are allies and are played to your base or other locations you are attempting to scavenge. Red cards are zombies, cultists or other threats that you direct towards a location one of the other players control. Those cool half blue and half red cards? When you play them you state which they represent, a human or a zombie when played. There is a good bit of strategy involved with placement.

Combat is easy. Each location has an Access number. This represents doors, windows, chimneys and more that attackers can attempt to enter. Some locations are more secure than others. The more access, the more venues for attackers to split their forces and hit. However, each location has a Value number as well. If an attacker does get in, this value number, representing the damage the attacker does, is what you will have to spend on consumption at the end of the round. For example, the church may only have one set of doors and few windows, but if a horde of zombies does make its way in, it’s going to do more damage to the infrastructure that player controls than it would at the military base.

Each card has an attack and a defense value. When an attack is blocked and combat occurs you basically compare these values. Each side takes the damage and it is possible for both sides to be destroyed. It is also possible that you could have an extremely tough character who walks away unscathed. If attacking an enemy base, any attackers who get through this defense affect the Value as described below.

There are other cards that affect play. Some represent weapons and items to enhance a character in play. Some are occurrences that affect combat or scavenging. Overall a nice way to buff your cards and to see a little randomization in the game.

From page #3: “Throughout the course of the game, you will be forced to consume resources. In order to do this, you will move cards into your discard pile.”

Consumption is the win or lose concept in this game. At the end of your turn you have to consume. For each character you have in play you spend one consumption. Other factors such as cards in play and damage done by attackers to your base can increase this. For each point of consumption you have to pay, you can either discard the top card from your deck, discard two cards from your hand or discard a character, counting his Value number as the amount of consumption paid. The object of the game is to be the last one with a deck left.

In conclusion, this is a fun game. It might take a play or three to get the hang of it but it’s more complex than it seems. Luck does play a part. There are only so many allies and characters in your deck. In my first game, my opponent pulled four strong attackers in her first draw. I pulled only one weak defender. She had me on the defensive the entire game.

Once you get past the learning curve and get a little experience, this one is quite enjoyable.

For more details on Kingdoms Publications and their new card game “ApocalypZe” check them out at their website http://www.ninekingdoms.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 17

Product Summary
Apocalypze
From: Kingdom Publications
Type of Game: Card/Strategy
Game Design by: Ivan Turner
Developed by: Ivan Turner, Peter Spano, Chris Hanson
Art by: Pamela Mazurkevich, Kara Zisa, Nick Bowen
Number of Pages: 16 (rulebook)
Game Components Included: Rulebook, 304 cards
Retail Price: $40(US)
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Player Ages: 13+
Play Time: 30 – 60 minutes
ISBN: 978-0-9836116-1-5
Email: None given.
Website: www.ninekingdoms.com

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

Eldritch Horror

From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Eldritch Horror is a new Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games.

Few games get a reaction like the Arkham Horror game series.  The base game is incredible and the expansions do add a lot.  I just do not recommend running it with more than one expansion.  As time went on, it was harder and harder to pull in players for the game unless you were at a con where people were prepared to play a 4+ hour game.

Then came Eldritch Horrora new take on a the Arkham Horror concept.  The designers took the basic concept of Arkham Horror and globalized it. They had me at global!

From page #2: “Harrigan ran his bandaged hand across the map on the hotel room’s wall. Dozens of documents and scraps of paper from all over the world were pinned to their corresponding locations, interconnected by a complex web of colored string.”

In general, Eldritch Horror is a cooperative game where players trek across the world, investigating and taking on challenges with the overall goal of defeating an Ancient One causing all the trouble.  Of course, like Arkham Horror, this game is inspired by the writings of HP Lovecraft.  In each game, an Ancient One is chosen and various setup based on that is determined.  The players ultimate goal is to banish this Ancient One, but if they fail, it awakens and humanity is doomed.

There are a lot of similarities between Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror.  However, obviously because of the global nature of the game, there are some differences. The board is a full map of the earth, divided up into countries and major cities highlighted with large circles with game information in it, much like the locations in Arkham in Arkham Horror.  All are connected by travel routes called Paths either by rail, sea or the dotted wilderness trails.  You need tickets to travel rail or ship paths and a character is limited to two tickets at any given time during the game.  There are also locations marked along the paths with numbers and symbols signifying what kind of location it is (city, sea or wilderness location).  These act as other locations used in the game for Clues as well as other things in the cards.

There is something called the Omen Track on the board as well as a Doom track and the Asset reserve area.  These have similar parallels to Arkham but because of the more epic nature of Eldritch, they act differently.  Assets (which are various pieces of equipments, artifacts and allies) are acquired through skills tests rather than money.  There is no real monetary system in this game – only clues and tickets.

Of course, the game is heavily card driven, as one would expect.  The turn sequence is simple, it just gets complicated the more cards are drawn and the more challenges one has to face.  There are Encounter cards for each region (America, Asia and Europe), as well as General Encounters which are chosen as an option in certain areas and mandatory in others.  These act similarly to Arkham Encounter cards and can be somewhat helpful or can be really challenging.  Additionally, there are Expedition Cards, which are cards drawn if you land on the current expedition.

From page # 2: “He followed a red string from the transcribed testimony of a lunatic in Arkham to a pencil rubbing of some pictographs he found in the Amazon. From there, he traced a blue thread to a page torn from the journal of that astronomer who was murdered in Sydney.  ”

Clues are slightly different from Arkham Horror.  They are not just automatically acquired.  One has to solve a Research Encounter (another set of cards, keyed towards the specific Ancient One).  So they are not as plentiful as they are in Arkham. Like Arkham, they can be used to help in skill checks.  They also help in solving Mysteries and Rumors.

There are the dreaded Mythos cards that we all should be familiar with if you played Arkham Horror. There is a specific mechanic on building the Mythos deck, with three different colors marking the progression of difficulty in the game.  Make progress early in the game or things are going to get harder.

In the end, your goal is to solve the Mystery cards associated with the Ancient One you chose, all the while trying to keep the number of gates down (opened by Mythos cards) and killing creatures (released by gates).  Your progress is hampered by various events like Rumors, which are like short term Mysteries that effect your progress considerably.  Rumors and other events come up in the Mythos cards as well.  More simplified in the game, as compared to Arkham, are the gates and travelling to other worlds.  These are boiled down to their own cards but still have similar impact.

The game comes with four starting Ancient Ones and more come with expansions.  There are 43 monsters, 12 characters and 9 possible Gates.

I have played this game multiple times, some at home and some at cons.  I have had a lot of fun with it and it continues to challenge us.  Much like Arkham Horror, it has a lot of replay-ability and it is like a different game every time you play.  I have yet to win the game, however, but that only makes me want to keep trying.

In conclusion, this game is very fun to play but like its predecessor, very involved.  It takes a long time to play, even without the expansions.  I was a big fan of Arkham Horror but I am even a bigger fan of Eldritch Horror.  I think it is a worthy heir to the product line.  I highly recommend it if you can handle long games.

For more details on Fantasy Flight Games and their new Board GameEldritch Horror” check them out at their website http://www.fantasyflightgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Eldritch Horror
Game Design: Corey Konieczka and Nikki Valens
Additional Content and Design: Tim Uren, Richard Launius
Inspired by the Arkham Horror Design by: Kevin Wilson, Richard Launius
Editing/Proofreading: Brendan Weiskotten
Graphic Design: Michael Silsby with Dallas Melhoff, Chris Beck, Shaun Boyke
Cover Art: Anders Finer
Investigator Art: Magali Villeneuve
Game Board Location Art: Raymong Bonilla, David Griffith, Ed Mattinian, Patrick McEvoy, Emilio Rodriguez, Tim Tsang, Magali Villeneuve, and Drew Whitmore
Additional Interior Art: The artists of Call of Cthulhu LCG and Arkham Horror Files products
Investigator and Location Art Direction: Zoë Robinson
Managing Art Director: Andrew Navaro
Managing Graphic Designer: Brian Schomburg
Production Manager: Eric Knight
Executive Producer: Michael Hurley
Publisher: Christian T. Petersen
Number of Pages: 16 Page rulebook
Game Components Included: Board, a bunch of cards and a bunch of card board bits. (Typical for FFG)
Retail Price: $59.95 (US)
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Player Ages: 14+
Play Time: 3+ hours
Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Hegemonic

Hegemonic: Explore Build Fight Plot

From:Minion Games

Reviewed by:W. E. Mitchell

Hegemonic is a new Tabletop 4X game from Minion Games.

Do you long for the seared steak of the harsh vacuum of space to fester in your nostrils as you knock the regolith from your boots? Then it’s time to dust off your bejeweled battle shorts and start shoveling space-coal into your turbo engines. Minion Games’ new tabletop game Hegemonic is a twist on the 4X genre. Once the event horizon of a learning curve is over come, this game offers a fairly fast paced version of eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate.

From the page 2: “It is a momentous time for the galaxy-spanning Post-Human Assembly. Tens of thousands of years have passed since Humanity’s reach permeated resolutely and without conflict across the Milky Way. This era of stability and calm has continued to withstand the ravages of fate and time. But mankind always grows restless.

The Milky Way is full and the time has come to Human up some more galactic real estate. Players assume control of one of several handwavium future people to fulfill the transhumanist congress’ mission to exploit a neighboring galaxy.

Using tactics that would make Frank Herbert weep salty tears of joy into his stillsuit, players must attempt to bring their chosen faction on top in this endeavor. That is, you will once you figure out how to play the game.

First time out of the box and figuring out how to play can be daunting. Take the 45 minute per player estimated and double it for the first play through. Although the authors have included some simplified rules on page 18 of the manual to make starting out a bit less of an asteroid hurtling toward your home planet.

From the page 3: “The object is to have the most victory points (VPs) at the end of the game. VPs are earned over the course of the game by controlling regions of the galaxy and by advancing technologies.

The game is structured in a series of six rounds: Collection, Expansion, three Action Phases, and finally Arbitration.

Players start by setting up the galaxy with the core sector and a number of additional sectors depending on the number of players. This will be the start where players build bases, research technology, construct inter-galactic doom-fleets, and most importantly make money (CAPs). Players must agree on who should start as Arbitrator. Play starts with the Arbitrator who lays down their home sector and play proceeds clockwise. Once all of the home sectors are laid, the phases begin with each player doing the action of the phase in clockwise order starting with the Arbitrator. There is a handy phase tracker to keep track of play as well as a score tracker for each player’s VPs.

Collection – each player collects CAPs.

Expansion – add sector tiles to the board and draw technology cards.

Action Phases – each player plays an action cards and this repeats three times before moving on to the last phase. This is where most of the maneuvering and crushing of weaklings is accomplished. This bit is a little reminiscent of deck building games where cards are drawn, played and recovered in pursuit of specific strategies. What can be accomplished is almost endless with the variety of cards provided.

Arbitration – a new arbitrator is chosen.

This continues until all of the sectors are explored or there is no more sector tiles to play. Whoever has the most VPs wins. Tossing the loser out of the nearest airlock is optional and may result in loss of reputation with the Galactic Police and hurt feelings.

In conclusion, Hegemonic represents a breath of air fresh off the oxygen generators and should appeal to fans of sci-fi and deck building games. The streamlined card system allows for quicker play than a lot of traditional 4X games like Twilight Imperium. If you’re a big 4X fan and would like to get some friends who liked Settlers of Catan into some more complex games, this might be a good game to pick up. The learning curve is very steep, but if one person is knowledgeable enough with the set up it isn’t too hard for novices to pick up. This can be alleviated by the simplified rules provided. Variation on play is high from the different leaders and dynasties available as well as more advanced rules found on page 18 of the manual.

For more details on Minion Games and their new 4X “Hegemonic: Explore Build Fight Plot” check them out at their website http://www.miniongames.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 15

Product Summary

Hegemonic: Explore Build Fight Plot

From: Minion Games

Type of Game: 4X

Game Design by: Oliver Kiley

Graphic Design by: Oliver Kiley and Clay Gardner

Developed by: Eric Jome, Peter Dast, Garrett Dunn, and Kenneth Stuart

Artwork by: Alex Skinner and Honoel A. Ibardolaza

Number of Pages: 20

Game Components Included:1 x Galactic Core Board
9 x Five-Sector Galaxy Boards
90 x Industrial Complexes
18 x Quantum Gate Pairs
54 x Political Embassies
18 x Political Agent Units
72 x Martial Outposts
18 x Fleets Units
1 x Score Track
6 x Score Track Tokens
36 Action Cards
54 Technology Cards
60 Sector Tiles
6 Player Start Sector Tiles
1 Arbiter Token
100 Capacity Tokens
6 Player Boards
Game Components Not Included: Friends and a ravenous appetite for conquest and victory that cannot be slated my Top Ramen and all the tabasco sauce in the galaxy.

Retail Price: $79.99(US)

Retail Price: $124.23 (Can)

Number of Players: 2-6

Player Ages: 13 years old up to so old that stars cannot number your years

Play Time: 45 minutes per player (double that if you’re learning the game)

Item Number: MNI HG100

Email:Contact Page through Company Website

Website: http://www.miniongames.com/

Reviewed by: W. E. Mitchell

The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: Deluxe Edition

The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: Deluxe Edition

From: APE Games

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

One of the more prominent gaming webcomics out there is Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick. Part of its longevity can be attributed to its successful transition from a basic gag comic poking fun at the tropes and mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons to a tale with an elaborate storyline, while never abandoning its humorous roots. The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: Deluxe Edition revisits the dungeon crawling antics from which it originated.

From the rulebook:
The members of the Order of the Stick are a band of deeply incompetent and dysfunctional fools who are more interested in proving who is the best than in working together as a team.

The game is a modular board dungeon crawler of the semi-cooperative variety where the objective is to explore the Dungeon of Dorukan and defeat the evil lich Xykon. As the above quote implies, everyone is out for themselves in spite of their common goal. One turn you could be helping another player lay a smackdown on some goblins, and the next you could be bushwhacking that player and taking their stuff.

Players interact with the game through their Shticks. Each of the six characters has their own Shtick deck providing a wide range of abilities themed for the character in question. For instance, Elan’s Shticks lean towards aiding other players while Haley’s are geared towards Loot acquisition and Belkar’s encourage him to attack other players. Some Shticks are flipped when you use them, leaving them unavailable until you get an opportunity to unflip. New Shticks are gained primarily by cashing in either Loot cards or XP gained from killing monsters. If you draw a duplicate of a Shtick you have in play, it provides a Boost. A Boost grants an additional bonus for the Shtick, which are cumulative if multiple Boosts come into play.

A player’s turn begins by taking any number of non-combat actions desired, such as looking for stairs or collecting Loot cards in the room. The player may then choose to move up to three spaces, though movement must end if a newly discovered room is entered. If there are no other characters or monsters in the room, players take turns playing monsters from their Battle hands, starting with the one to the left of the active player. The number of monsters that get played are based on factors such as how deep the player is in the dungeon as well as relevant monster abilities. If there are any monsters in the room the player must engage in combat. Once combat is over, any available non-combat actions may be performed.

As is appropriate for a dungeon crawler, slaughtering monsters is a key element. The player starts by selecting a Battle Shtick. If a valid Shtick isn’t available (typically due to a monster being immune to certain Shtick types), the battle must be done Shtickless. For the first battle, the player must use Defense if he moved earlier in the turn and Attack if he didn’t. If desired, you can request aid from another player on the same floor. This is done by offering Loot cards with Drool icons matching the character used by the player being petitioned. If accepted, a +2 is gained for each Drool icon. Unused characters hang around in the lowest floor revealed, where they’re always willing to provide aid. The modifiers from the Shtick and any aid are then applied to a die roll and compared to the monster’s Attack or Defense rating as appropriate. If the result is higher, the Shtick’s listed effect is applied. If the result is lower, the player takes a Wound (counter-intuitively called losing a Wound in the rules and game materials), moving the Wound token one space down the track and ending combat. A tie results in a draw, as does getting a higher result without a Shtick, which also ends combat. If a Shtick’s result inflicts a Wound on the monster, it gets removed from the room and saved for its XP while placing the indicated number of Loot cards in the room. If there are still monsters in the room, you can choose whether or not to continue fighting. However, you can’t collect any Loot until all the monsters in the room have been defeated. Another advantage to continuing combat is that you can choose to Attack or Defend, whichever is more advantageous.

You don’t necessarily have to be in the same room to fight a monster. If a Battle Shtick is listed as having a Range of 1 or greater, you can use it to Attack a monster in another room on the same floor. The only requirement is that there are no monsters in your current room and you haven’t moved. The main advantage to using a ranged Attack is that if the die result is lower than the monster’s Defense, it counts as a draw so long as the monster’s Range stat is lower than the distance between the two. However, unless you have a Shtick that allows otherwise, you can’t collect any Loot cards that get dropped on the same turn.

There’s more to managing your Battle hand than just slapping down the toughest monster you have available. Several monsters will have one or more special abilities which can prove more troublesome than a high Attack or Defense. The most powerful of these are those that make the monster immune to a specific type of Battle Shtick. Monsters can also have Support abilities, which function similarly to a Shtick’s Boost. In this case, the Support’s effect is applied for each monster of the indicated type that’s on the same floor. In addition to the monsters, the Battle deck contains several “Screw This” cards. These are one shot abilities which allow you to bend the rules in your favor. However, it doesn’t pay to hoard them, as you must discard your Battle hand and draw a fresh one if you’re called on to play a monster and don’t have one.

Monsters aren’t the only things that can hurt you. Some of the Loot cards are actually traps to ensnare unwary adventurers. When a trap is revealed, the player must roll higher than the trap’s listed Evade or suffer its effects. Players can also fight each other so long as the player initiating the combat isn’t in a room with monsters. The procedure is much like that of monster combat except that both sides roll a die and add on the relevant modifiers, with the higher result applying its Shtick effect. Should the attacker win, he also gets to take one of the defender’s Loot cards.

With all the ways you can get hurt, your Wound track can easily drop to the bottom before you know it. Should this occur, on your turn you must flee in a cowardly manner by using your full movement to head towards the Dungeon Entrance. What’s more, before moving, you drop one of your Loot cards in your current room. Once at the Dungeon Entrance, your Wound track resets and any flipped Shticks become unflipped. However, there are ways to avoid this ignominious fate. One of the best is to ask that Durkon’s player use his Healing Shtick on you, healing a number of Wounds based on the amount of Boosts it has. This requires that both be on the same floor and you pay Durkon’s player with a Loot card. Should this not be an option, you can always choose to Rest as the sole action for your turn, so long as there are no monsters at your location. This allows you to move your Wound tracker up one space and unflip all your flipped Shticks. But it does entail a risk. Until the beginning of your next turn, you suffer a -4 penalty on your Defense rolls should any players choose to attack you.

From the side of the box:
Banjo the Clown commands you: Play this game!! Obey the will of Banjo!

There are two ways to play the game. The default method has the dungeon generated on the fly. The number of floors that can be generated depends on the game length the players agreed upon at the beginning of the game. In this version, the lowest floor uses a special deck of room cards to represent Xykon’s lair. In addition, each room gets a draw from the Xykon deck. These can either stick the room with an additional feature or provide a unique monster (one of which is Xykon himself). But before the lair can be entered, a player must possess a minimum number of Shticks and Loot cards. The second variant has three floors worth of room cards dealt out face down at the beginning of the game. But instead of the dungeon crawlers coming to Xykon, Xykon comes to the dungeon crawlers. Every turn a die is rolled to see if Xykon comes out of his lair based on the number of Shticks in play. Once put in play, Xykon’s turn will occur after that of the player who made the offending roll. On his turn, Xykon will move two spaces towards the closest player so long as he hasn’t just successfully wounded him. The Wandering Xykon has a Wound track like the players, so he won’t be going down with a single hit. Once he’s one wound away from being taken down, Xykon will flee like the dastardly coward he is back to his lair. Should the players fail to score the final hit on Xykon before he makes it back, his Wound track will reset. Of these two, I find the Wandering Xykon more enjoyable. In the base game, Xykon goes down with one wound like any other monster. As mentioned above, the Wandering Xykon can take multiple wounds, making for a more dynamic boss fight. And since there is no Shtick and Loot card minimum like in the base game, it’s less likely to drag on for hours on end. The one negative is that an unlucky roll can result in Xykon coming out before the players are ready. This can be especially brutal in a two player game, with Xykon bouncing back and forth between them.

Once Xykon has been slain, some idiot will activate the self-destruct and the dungeon starts collapsing. At this point, all monsters are removed and have their listed Loot left behind (which can be collected by players on their way out). At the end of each turn, a Room card from the lowest floor that hasn’t completely collapsed is removed, saving a room connected to a stairs card for last. Once everyone has cleared out, it’s time to total up Bragging Points, with the highest total winning the game. These are based on the number of Shtick cards you have in play, possessing Loot cards with Drool icons matching your character, the order in which you exit the dungeon, and if you killed Xykon (as well as wounding him in the Wandering Xykon variant). An optional source of Bragging Points comes from the Backstory cards. At the beginning of the game, three of these are dealt to each player. While some will score by meeting a specified condition, the bulk of them will give points for the number of monsters you’ve slain that are of a particular type or possess a specific ability.

In conclusion, despite a couple of niggling quirks (particularly the troublesome Wound phrasing issue), the mechanics employed stand out from other modular board exploration games while being fairly easy to grasp. The way the Shticks decks encourage players to act like the web comic characters they selected also helps establish the theme.

Rating: 17

Product Summary

The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: Deluxe Edition

From: APE Games

Type of Game: Board Game

Game Design by: Kevin Brusky and Rich Burlew

Cover Art by: Rich Burlew

Additional Art by: Rich Burlew

Game Components Included: Rulebook, Quick Start rules, 54 Dungeon Room cards, 7 Xykon’s Lair cards, 6 Character cards, 6 Quick Reference cards, 1 Xykon Character card, 156 Shtick cards, 210 Battle cards, 10 Xykon cards, 136 Loot cards, 48 Backstory cards, 5 Wandering Xykon cards, 8 Stairs cards, 1 Dungeon Entrance card, 7 Movement tokens, 7 Wound Tracker tokens, 2 twelve-sided dice

Retail Price: $54.95

Number of Players: 2-6

Player Ages: 13+

Play Time: 90 minutes+

Website: http://www.apegames.com/

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

Battle Merchants

Battle Merchants

From: Minion Games

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

Fantasy literature is replete with accounts of massive armies clashing against one another in epic conflicts. But have you ever stopped to think about the logistics behind fielding so many troops? There’s a reasonably good chance that you haven’t, and a greater likelihood that the author didn’t either. Battle Merchants focuses on one of the factors in this complex equation.

From the rulebook:
It is a time of conflict, The Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, and Hobgoblins all hate each other with a passion, and are ready to declare war. All they need are weapons.

As implied by the above quote, the players are arms merchants in a typical fantasy world ready to supply all sides with their weapon needs. Over the course of four seasons, players will attempt to amass more gold than their competitors so as to dominate the weapons market.

On a player’s turn, one of four possible actions can be taken. Upgrading your Craft levels will be an early priority. This is done by selecting one of five face up Craft cards. While the majority can be taken for free, some require that you spend gold on them. These will offer benefits like providing multiple Craft levels or reducing the cost of forging a weapon. You can also select from one of three face up Kingdom cards. Each Kingdom card provides either an immediate or long term benefit. However, there’s a limit to how many Kingdom cards a player can possess based on the current season. In addition, players cannot discard any of their current Kingdom cards to gain a new one. So be very sure when you take one.

The real meat of the game comes from the production and sale of weapons. To forge one of four types of weapons (swords, axes, hammers, and maces) requires at least one Craft level in the weapon type. The more powerful and profitable vorpal weapons require at least five Craft levels in the weapon type to forge. Up to three weapons may be forged per turn so long as the player has enough gold to cover the production costs. Selling weapons requires that you cater to the current demands. The game board consists of three or four regions (depending on the number of players), each with a line of six battlefields. At the beginning of the game, all but the centermost battlefields will be locked, as indicated by their Demand tokens. Each battlefield has two icons consisting of an outline of a weapon type. Selling one of the weapons you have forged involves placing a Weapon tile and an ownership cube on a matching icon in an unlocked battlefield and gold from the sale is collected. Once both icons in a battlefield have been claimed, its Demand token is moved to an empty space in the current Season area and the Demand token of the next battlefield is flipped to the unlocked side.

From the rulebook:
As a Battle Merchant, your goal is to make as much money as you can. Fortunately, none of the races seem to notice that you’re selling weapons to their enemies at the same time…

Once the final spot in a Season area has been filled, it’s time for the races to duke it out. But before that happens, each player except the one who removed the last Demand token gets one more turn (with any Demand tokens that get removed at this point going to the box). Each battlefield with two Weapon tiles in place is then resolved. Victory goes to the player who has more Craft levels for their weapon. Vorpal weapons also defeat standard weapons automatically, regardless of how many Craft levels are backing it up. The winning player then takes the losing tile (which get used to determine any bonus gold received at the end of the game) and gains two gold. If the battle results in a tie, both tiles are removed from the board and returned to the supply pile, with their respective players gaining one gold each. When the battles have concluded, all currently face up Craft and Kingdom cards are discarded, with new sets being dealt out.

If there’s one weak spot, it’s the two player game. Like many economic games, the dynamics work better when at least three players participate. However, a fix is provided in the form of Salesman Steve. Whenever a player sells a weapon, on the same turn Salesman Steve will make a sale as well. This is done by placing a matching Weapon tile on the empty battlefield space pertaining to a specific race (which alternates) closest to the center. Salesman Steve’s wares are of poor quality and always lose in battles against weapons sold by players. Though this is an improvement over using the rules as written for two player, the predictable nature of Salesman Steve still makes it less than satisfying.

In conclusion, the moderate array of options is such that the gameplay has considerable depth while not being so overwhelming as to induce analysis paralysis. Just be sure that you can get at least two other players before setting up.

Rating: 15

Product Summary

Battle Merchants

From: Minion Games

Type of Game: Board Game

Game Design by: Gil Hova

Graphic Design by: Chuck Whelan

Game Components Included: Rulebook, Game board, 4 Player mats, 101 Coins, 24 Demand tokens, 80 Standard Weapon tiles, 40 Vorpal Weapon tiles, 68 Reward tiles, 28 Kingdom cards, 56 Craft cards, 4 Craft Bonus cards, and 64 Ownership cubes.

Retail Price: $54.95

Number of Players: 2-4

Player Ages: 13+

Play Time: 90 minutes

Website: http://www.miniongames.com/

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck