Essen Spiel 2019 Most Wanted (Saturday Review)

It’s that time of the year again. The huge Essen Spiel game fair is upon us, so as is custom, here is my list of games that will be at the exhibition and that I’m looking forward to.
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Photosynthesis (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2017 Players: 2-4
Designer: Hjalmar Hach Length:  30-60 minutes
Artist: Sabrina Miramon Age: 10+
Publisher: Blue Orange Games Complexity: 2.0 / 5

A handful of small trees stand at the edge of a clearing. The wind blows gently as the sun starts to rise in the east. You can almost see the trees reaching for the light, as they slowly convert the sunshine into sugars, which is used to grow and produce seeds. Each species will have different survival strategies, but all trees have a natural urge to disperse their seeds towards the middle of the clearing, where there is less competition and more fertile ground. However, it won’t be long until the many saplings have filled the available space and the fight for sunshine will become more and more intense. In the meantime, some trees will have grown old and will die, freeing up precious ground for seeds to settle and hopefully germinate. It is for you and up to three of your friends to look after your rootstock in Photosynthesis by Blue Orange Games.
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Bespoke Cargo Bike (Saturday Review)

Travelling to games night, weighed down with a giant bag full of games isn’t easy. I appreciate that many people have a car and use that to get to games night, and that makes sense, especially if you travel a bit further. However, if your friends live only a short while away, then going by bike would be another, and possibly better, option. Yet, a lot of bikes aren’t really designed to carry much. Yes, you could get panniers, but they’re not ideal. However, these days there are a lot of utility orientated bicycles available from your local bike shop, or you can go one better and get a custom-built bike that is not only up to the task of ferrying around bulky loads, like board games, but is also made exactly how you want it.

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Near and Far: Amber Mines (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2018 Players: 2-4
Designer: Ryan Laukat Length:  60-120 minutes
Artist: Ryan Laukat Age: 10+
Publisher: Red Raven Games Complexity: 2.5 / 5

In the world of Arzium, groups of brave adventurers travel from town to town, where they load up on supplies and pack animals and recruit new members, who are willing to join them on the long journey, as they look for a lost city, called Last Ruin, where legend says lies a powerful artefact that will fulfil the finder’s innermost wishes. It is time for you to add your name to the list of famous explorers, venture into the wild to collect valuable and useful items, meet new people, return to town to work for money and food, travel through abandoned mines and do what is needed to successfully complete the journey. Near and Far: Amber Mines by Red Raven Games allows you to become a hero, if you can compete with your fellow bands of explorers and come out ahead.
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Kodama: The Tree Spirits (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2016 Players: 2-5
Designer: Daniel Solis Length:  30-45 minutes
Artist: Scott Hartman, Kwanchai Moriya, Mirko Suzuki Age: 10+
Publisher: Action Phase Games Complexity: 1.5 / 5

In a world where every tree is inhabited by its own gentle and benign spirit, it is your important task to ensure that every sapling grows strong and big, and offers a home for as many small creatures and plants as possible, thereby creating harmony and balance in the forest. If you can work in harmony with the seasons and nurture the worms, fireflies, flowers and mushrooms that grow on the tree that you have been tasked to look after, you will come out as the best caretaker and will be generously rewarded with health and happiness by the tree spirit, the kodama, that inhabits your tree. It is this work that you carry out in Kodama: The Tree Spirits by Action Phase Games.
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Exchange: A Stock Trading Game of Strategy & Wit (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2018 Players: 3-6
Designer: Eric Sillies Length:  30-45 minutes
Artist: n/a Age: 10+
Publisher: n/a Complexity: 1.5 / 5

The stock market is in turmoil. There is a financial crisis. Companies’ solvency is in doubt. Panic selling has started for some securities. The year is 1792, and 24 stockbrokers meet in Wall Street in New York under a buttonwood tree to sign an agreement that creates a new way of securities trading, which creates a closed market where everyone can trust each other to honour payments and where investments are legitimate. In Exchange: A Stock Trading Game of Strategy & Wit by Eric Sillies, you are one of the group of 24 and you have to use your wit and cunning to take the beginnings of a new stock exchange to what will eventually become the New York Stock Exchange.
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Silver (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2019 Players: 2-4
Designer: Ted Alspach Length:  30-60 minutes
Artist: Andrey Gordeev, Taylor Bogle Age: 8+
Publisher: Bézier Games Complexity: 2.0 / 5

Here is another game that I shouldn’t like, because I don’t like memory games, where you have to remember what certain cards are. However, there is something very addictive about Silver, the new card game by Bézier Games. I can’t put my finger on it, but somehow I look past my dislike of games where I have to remember things when I play Silver. In fact, I can’t stop playing it, especially against the AI that comes with the app.
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Hardback (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2018 Players: 1-5
Designer: Jeff Beck (II), Tim Fowers Length:  45-90 minutes
Artist: Ryan Goldsberry Age: 10+
Publisher: Fowers Games Complexity: 2.0 / 5

I don’t like word games. Even though I love writing, which is one of the reasons for this blog, I was never any good at crosswords or Scrabble, and it’s not because English is my second language. Even when I do a German crossword or play German Scrabble, I’m still not very good, at least not compared to my parents or a couple of my friends who seem to excel at these. Yet, when I play Hardback by Fowers Games, I have a lot of fun and have a good chance of winning.
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Mint Works (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2017 Players: 1-4
Designer: Justin Blaske Length:  15-30 minutes
Artist: Felix Janson, Thomas Tamblyn Age: 10+
Publisher: Five24 Labs Complexity: 1.5 / 5

As many of you will know, I absolutely love small box games, and mint tin games in particular (see episode 6 of the Tabletop Inquisition podcast). They’re so easy to stash away and take with you anywhere, and Mint Works by Five24 Labs is a great example. The small mint tin is robust and can easily deal with knocks, it’s quick to set up, as it consists basically of a deck of cards, and the tin itself functions as the pool for the mint worker tokens. The gameplay is also relatively quick, so overall it’s ideal for when you’re out and about – on a train, plane or a bus, or while you’re waiting for food in a pub or restaurant. Read more

The Board Game Book (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2019
Authors: Owen Duffy, Matt Thrower, Teri Litorco, Richard Jansen-Parkes
Publisher: Clyde & Cart Press Ltd.

I am making a slight diversion from my usual reviews and am looking at a book instead. However, it’s The Board Game Book, so don’t worry, we’re still on topic. It’s not the first book all about board games of course, but it certainly stands out, because it counts a number of professional writers among its contributors. So the quality of the writing is high, and the editing and production are also excellent – but let me start at the beginning.
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Tiny Epic Mechs (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2019 Players: 1-4
Designer: Scott Almes Length:  30-60 minutes
Artist: Roland MacDonald, Benjamin Shulman Age: 10+
Publisher: Gamelyn Games Complexity: 2.5 / 5

In the year 3030, mankind has developed the technology to hold epic real-life battle events where daring fighters skilled in direct combat and with hundreds of hours of experience piloting the latest advancement in mech suits, race around an arena where they place their turrets and mines, collect credits to buy weapons and shields, charge their energy storage and don their power suits in an attempt to reach the mighty mech exoskeleton, so that they can leave victorious, as hundreds of millions of viewers watch the proceedings and bet on which of the Tiny Epic Mechs will win.
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Vector Wars (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2019 Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Eli Mamane Length:  45-60 minutes
Artist: Hal Laren Age: 13+
Publisher: self-published Complexity: 2.5 / 5

In a future where mankind has resolved to abandon war and replace it with virtual battles, teams of nine elite fighters selected by their nations face each other in pairs to win a precious new energy source that promises to bring the world back from the ashes. You have the opportunity to lead one of these teams out onto the 3 by 3 grid, where you take turns with your opponent and carefully occupy key positions in the hope that you win battle after battle to become a hero of the Vector Wars.
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The Blessed Dark (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2019 Players: 2-4
Designer: Nathan Meunier Length:  15-30 minutes
Artist: Nathan Meunier Age: 13+
Publisher: self-published Complexity: 2.0 / 5

The stage is prepared: a dusty old tome in the middle, a silver dagger encrusted with rubies across the open pages marking a specific section in the ancient text, a goblet in front of the book filled with the blood of thirteen poor souls, and five candles arranged in a pentagon around the periphery of the white marble pedestal. The whole room is gloomy and the air is thick with incense. There is absolute silence as you focus your mind on the difficult ritual you’re about to perform. The stakes are high, but if you succeed you will be able to summon a greater demon, who will bestow you the nine favor [sic] you need to become The Chosen, the highest-ranking cultist in your circle. The Blessed Dark by Nathan Meunier drags you away, kicking and screaming, into a world of deck building, rolling dice and casting spells.
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Karmaka (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2016 Players: 2-4
Designer: Eddy Boxerman, Dave Burke Length:  30-60 minutes
Artist: Eddy Boxerman, Lane Brown, Marco Bucci, Dave Burke Age: 10+
Publisher: Hemisphere Games Complexity: 2.0 / 5

Focus your mind on this life, and prepare your soul for the next. The actions you take now allow you to reach fulfilment and ascend from dung beetle to Nirvana. However, don’t overreach and make sure you delay some actions, so you can use them in your future life. If you fail, you collect Karma and get a better chance at moving up the Karmic ladder when you next get reborn in this game of Karmaka by Hemisphere Games.
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Clans of Caledonia Insert by Folded Space (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2019 Publisher: Folded Space

 

Clans of Caledonia by Karma Games comes with a lot of wooden pieces, cardboard tokens, player boards and the modular game board. Fitting everything in the box, while keeping things organized, isn’t easy. It’s a very tight fit, if you separate all the different pieces into baggies or small plastic containers. However, the insert from Folded Space sorts everything neatly into separate boxes.
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Magnate: The First City (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2019 Players: 1-5
Designer: James Naylor Length:  60-120 minutes
Artist: Cze Lee, James Naylor Age: 13+
Publisher: Naylor Games Complexity: 3.0 / 5

 

You’re on the phone to the real estate agent talking about this great piece of land near a school and park, which would be ideal to develop into modern housing. At the same time, you see an email from a small local business owner who is interested in renting one of the units in your newly built office complex. Things are going really well for your growing empire, but you also realize that property prices are at an all-time high. The big crash isn’t far away now – you can feel it. It will be crucial to sell everything at the right moment and make the most profit. However, if you leave it too long, you’ll lose it all and destroy your chance of becoming the greatest magnate in history.
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Microbrew (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2017 Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Nigel and Sarah Kennington Length:  45-60 minutes
Artist: Víctor Pérez Corbella, Nigel Kennington Age: 10+
Publisher: One Free Elephant Complexity: 3.0 / 5

 

Inside the brewery, the mash and lauter tuns hum away happily on one side, as the brew kettle bubbles silently on the other. Outside, the fermentation vessels slowly turn the malt’s wonderful sugars into delicious alcohol. On the other side of the yard is the bottling line, where the beer is filled into bottles, and then it’s finally ready to be sold. It is your job to create the right balance of malts to create the best beer for your micro brewery’s customers, eagerly waiting in your bar. The whole process takes time and patience, but is worth it, when the number of loyal customers grows in appreciation of your effort.
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Six Gun Showdown (Saturday Review)

 

Release Date: 2019 Players: 2-6
Designer: Tom Lovewell Length:  5-10 minutes
Artist: n/a Age: 8+
Publisher: Redwell Games Complexity: 1.0 / 5

 

The sun is high in the sky, shining directly down onto Main Street in this ramshackle town of wooden buildings. The heat is almost unbearable, if it wasn’t for a light breeze that is creating small swirls of sand and dust. You have to squint in the bright light, as you stand outside the saloon waiting for the clock to strike twelve. A speck of dust makes you blink, which doesn’t bode well. You need to be able to see your opponent clearly, so this won’t do. You step away from the saloon and try and position yourself in a more sheltered spot, where dust will be less of an issue and there is more shade, making it easier to see. Yet, this duel is different. You actually have to face off several people in this Six Gun Showdown, and you also have to play your cards right to make sure you come out victorious.
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Assembly: Re-Sequence & Override (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2019 Players: 1-2
Designer: Janice and Stu Turner Length:  15-30 minutes
Artist: n/a Age: 8+
Publisher: Wren Games Complexity: 2.0 / 5

 

It is with a sense of deja vu that you desperately type into the console in front of you in a frantic attempt to contact your colleague who, like yourself, has locked themselves into one of the bays on this vast manmade construct. It feels like you have been in this situation before, where both of you were trying to escape alive, as the station’s AI was watching your every move and interfering where it could. As if with the help from your previous self, you manage to switch some of the station’s functions to manual mode, making everything ten times harder. Now, every command you issue will have to be confirmed by your colleague, and the AI will be able to listen in. You know you have only so many commands before the AI will lock you in permanently, sealing your fate forever. Even though the situation feels very familiar, there is something very different. You notice robots on the station, and there is an additional safety mechanism that forces you to lock all bays in clockwise order. You are back on the Assembly space station, like you were before, but this time the Re-Sequence & Override expansion doubles the difficulty.
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Terra Mystica (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2012 Players: 2-5
Designer: Jens Drögemüller, Helge Ostertag Length:  60-150 minutes
Artist: Dennis Lohausen Age: 12+
Publisher: Z-Man Games Complexity: 4.0 / 5

 

As witches fly overhead, giants stomp around the wastelands, swarmlings huddle in swamps, chaos magicians cause, well, chaos, halflings burrow the plains and engineers build their bridges from their mountains, you roll up your carpet and prepare to continue through the desert in your nomad way. As you consider the scene in front of you, something nags you. Engineers building bridges from mountains – that doesn’t sit right somehow. Yet, that’s not all. Suddenly the desert in front of you terraforms into a wasteland. Deserts aren’t much of a laugh and wastelands don’t seem much different, but terraforming in this fantasy setting seems completely out of place. You half expect a spaceship to land in front of you, when instead a giant places a dwelling in the newly created space. Not only that, they then proceed to convert the dwelling into a trading house. It is not clear what giants have to trade, but you consider it for a moment, before you decide to send one of your priests to advance on the cult track for air – because after all, everyone needs air to live. A moment later you realize that you’re in a giant game of Terra Mystica by Z-Man Games.
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The Hanging Gardens (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2008 Players: 2-4
Designer: Din Li Tsan Length:  30-45 minutes
Artist: Harald Lieske Age: 8+
Publisher: Hans im Glück Complexity: 1.5 / 5

 

Strolling along the parterres, taking in the view of the stepped garden to one side and the water garden on the other, you relax and try to fully appreciate the immensity of this Wonder of the world. The whole arrangement is cleverly emphasized by carefully placed temples. The huge amount of work and dedication that has gone into this expansive and exquisitely manicured design, the countless shrubs, hedges and flowering plants, all add to the feeling that you are but a small creature in this giant world. Suddenly the zen-like peace is rudely interrupted by deafening noises, as you watch in disbelief as the water garden is bulldozed to the ground to make room for more parterres. Welcome to The Hanging Gardens by Hans im Glück, which are in constant change to score the gardener as many points as possible.
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Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018 Players: 1-5
Designer: Przemysław Rymer, Ignacy Trzewiczek, Jakub Łapot Length:  120-300 minutes
Artist: Aga Jakimiec, Ewa Kostorz, Rafał Szyma Age: 16+
Publisher: Portal Games Complexity: 2.5 / 5

 

The rain is relentless, pouring down in heavy sheets, making the city outside your office window appear like it is behind net curtains. The James River appears to be bubbling, but you haven’t noticed any of it. You have spent the last few hours staring at your computer, checking various databases and cross-referencing intel. You drank at least six coffees, yet you’re no further. Welcome to Detective by Portal Games where you’re an officer in the recently created special unit of Antares. Your task is to solve curious cold cases, following up leads and doing other detective work, all against a mercilessly ticking clock.
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Sensor Ghosts (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2019 Players: 1-2
Designer: Janice and Stu Turner Length:  15-30 minutes
Artist: Janice Turner Age: 10+
Publisher: Wren Games Complexity: 2.0 / 5

 

Imagine the asteroid field scene from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, where our heroes risk their lives to try to get away by entering an asteroid field, then add the AI HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, which has gone mad and taken over the spaceship, forcing the crew to try and outwit it – and you basically end up with the gameplay of Sensor Ghosts, the new game by Wren Games, due to launch on Kickstarter on 28 May. Read more

Yucata (Saturday Review)

In my second review of online gaming platforms I look at Yucata, a free website that is all about a great, friendly community of people who love playing modern German-style tabletop games. It was started by Kay Wilke back in 2001, but since then he and many helpful people expanded the selection on the site into what it offers today – over 140 multi-player games for your enjoyment.
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Happy Meeple (Saturday Review)

In a new type of review, I talk about Happy Meeple in this article, a free to join website where you can play tabletop games online against other people as well as AIs. The brainchild of Nicolas Guibert, the website aims to introduce more people to modern tabletop games, which is something I highly encourage, by offering an easy way to learn these games, as well as creating a friendly, welcoming platform. Read more

Travel games (Saturday Review)

Instead of looking at a particular game, this week I want to look at a number of games that are great to have with you when you’re out and about. These games are easy to learn and quick to play, don’t take up much room in your pocket or on the table, are quick to set up and put away, but still create enough interest to while away the time. Most of these games will already come in a small box, but some you will have to re-package yourself to make them portable. Read more

Mint Tin Pirates (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2014 Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Kate Beckett, David René Miller Length:  5-15 minutes
Artist: David René Miller Age: 10+
Publisher: subQuark Complexity: 1.0 / 5

 

As you can tell from my previous reviews of subQuark’s games (Mint Tin Mini SkulduggeryMint Tin Mini Apocalypse and Mint Tin Aliens), I love mint tin games. The love and effort Kate Beckett and David René Miller put into every game makes them very special indeed, and Mint Tin Pirates is no exception of course. It offers lots of pirate fun in a small tin that you can easily take with you, that is easy to learn, quick to play and has a small footprint, so can be played virtually anywhere. I believe Mint Tin Pirates was subQuark’s first game, and it already showed that it is possible to squeeze a lot of fun into a small package, something that the whole line of subQuark games shares. Read more

Minty’s Bootiful Football Game (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2017 Players: 1-2
Designer: Alex Bardy Length:  15-30 minutes
Artist: Alex Bardy Age: 8+
Publisher: Alex Bardy Complexity: 2.0 / 5

 

I haven’t yet reviewed any pure print-and-play (PnP) games, but Alex Bardy contacted me via Twitter and sent me a complimentary copy of Minty’s Bootiful Football Game. I decided to try it and wasn’t disappointed. As the name suggests, it is a mint tin game all about football. Now, I love mint tin games, in case you hadn’t noticed, but football isn’t really my cup of tea. Yet, when I played this game, I actually really enjoyed it and did get the feeling of taking part in a real football match – but let’s start at the beginning. Read more

Mint Tin Aliens (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2014 Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Kate Beckett, David Rene Miller Length:  5-15 minutes
Artist: David Rene Miller Age: 10+
Publisher: subQuark Complexity: 1.5 / 5

 

It might be time to call me the Mint Tin Man, à la The Wizard of Oz, given how many of subQuark‘s mint tin games I have now reviewed and made videos about. However, there is just so much fun in these small packages that I just have to write about them. Of course, games that last only 5 to 15 minutes won’t satisfy everyone’s needs – but then, few games do. Also, being only two player limits who these games are for. Yet, it is exactly the length, player count and box size that make these games perfect for taking with you and playing with anyone, including people who may not otherwise be much into modern games. Of course, Mint Tin Aliens is no exception. Read more

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2015 Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Kate Beckett, David Rene Miller Length:  5-10 minutes
Artist: David Rene Miller Age: 10+
Publisher: subQuark Complexity: 1.0 / 5

Here is yet another mint tin game, simply because they pack such a huge punch in such a small package. Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse by subQuark is another game that comes in a small form factor mint tin, is really quick to learn and a lot of fun to play. It easily fits into virtually any pocket and doesn’t take up much table space, so you can have it with you anywhere and play it everywhere. It is a realtime game, which means there are no turns and both players take their actions continuously in order to win. It creates a lot of frantic excitement and hilarity for players of virtually all ages. Read more

Wingspan (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2019 Players: 1-5
Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave Length:  45-90 minutes
Artist: Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas, Beth Sobel Age: 10+
Publisher: Stonemaier Games Complexity: 2.5 / 5

I’ve been saying it for a while now: Wingspan by Elizabeth Hargrave and Stonemaier Games is an amazingly beautiful game. The great physical table presence created by the dice tower and eggs, the gorgeous illustrations on the player mats and cards, the sheer number of different birds on the cards, all with their latin name and a brief description of what they are, and the high quality of all the components and parts make it very special. The artists, Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas and Beth Sobel, have done an amazing job, and Stonemaier Games has ensured that the product meets, if not exceeds, everyone’s expectations. However, the beauty and quality are only one part of what makes this game so outstanding. For me, it is the gameplay that lifts Wingspan to the next level. Read more

Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018 Players: 1-4
Designer: Kate Beckett, David René Miller Length:  15-30 minutes
Artist: David René Miller Age: 8+
Publisher: subQuark Complexity: 1.0 / 5

I absolutely love mint tin games, and Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery by subQuark fits this bill perfectly, as it comes in a properly small, rectangular mint tin, rather than the larger format that many other mint tin games come in. That means it fits neatly into your coat pocket, so you can have it with you at all times. After all, you never know when the opportunity arises to play a game when you’re out and about. Read more

Clans of Caledonia (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2017 Players: 1-4
Designer: Juma Al-JouJou Length:  30-120 minutes
Artist: Klemens Franz Age: 12+
Publisher: Karma Games Complexity: 3.4 / 5

Economic simulation games set in 19th century Scotland are few and far between, but Clans of Caledonia by Karma Games is one of those rare games. Your role is to expand your influence in the Highlands, cut wood or mine ore for income, plant the land with wheat, as well as herd cows and sheep. You build factories that turn your milk and grain harvest into delicious cheese, bread and, of course, whiskey, all of which you will export and trade for imported sugar cane, cotton and tabacco. It is very much what you would expect from any other economic simulation game of the same ilk, yet Clans of Caledonia is exceptional because the theme and mechanisms fit like glove and hand, making for a really smooth gameplay. Read more

Haunt the House (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018 Players: 2-5
Designer: Josh and Helaina Cappel Length:  30-45 minutes
Artist: Josh Cappel, Apolline Etienne Age: 8+
Publisher: Kids Table Board Games Complexity: 2.0 / 5

 

Haunt the House by Kids Table Board Games is not your usual paranormal investigation game, where your role is to explore a haunted mansion and exorcise the evil spirits found within. Instead you take the role of ghosts living happy lives in a comfortable and beautifully spooky house, which is suddenly invaded by pesky humans. So to chase them away you use your full arsenal of scary noises: moans, creaking doors and sudden bumps. Match the right noises to the right person and you score points – but your fellow ghosts try to do the same and they could steal the person and the points from under your nose. So it’s important you make the right noises at the right time. Read more

Project Dreamscape (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2015 Players: 1-4
Designer: Sarah and Will Reed Length:  30-45 minutes
Artist: Julie Okahara Age: 10+
Publisher: Undine Studios Complexity: 1.5 / 5

In Project Dreamscape by Undine Studios your aim is to chain together as many of the same dream types as possible to get the most points. However, building those chains is a lot harder than it looks. Very quickly you realize that you have to plan a few cards in advance to make sure you get the longest chains, and if you’re not careful, you can easily undo all that great planning. Project Dreamscape first draws you into a false sense of being a light game, and then pounces and makes your head hurt as you try and find the best order in which to build your dream sequence. The illustrations by Julie Okahara are beautifully dreamlike, adding to the sense that there is a lot more to the game than you might think. Read more

Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018 Players: 1-4
Designer: Sarah and Will Reed Length:  30-45 minutes
Artist: Derek Bacon Age: 10+
Publisher: Undine Studios Complexity: 1.5 / 5

If you like dice action selection games where you slowly build up action combos, then Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture by Undine Studios is for you. Now don’t be put off by dice rolling, because in this game you can easily mitigate bad luck and even bad rolls still give you plenty of opportunities. Oaxaca (“wa-ha-ka”) is also beautifully illustrated, quick to learn and really quick to play, while still maintaining enough interest even for very “serious” gamers. So there is something for everyone and one of the few games that I can confidently recommend for family gaming as well as regular games night groups. Read more

GoodCritters

GoodCritters (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018 Players: 4-8
Designer: Fabian Zimmermann Length:  30-45 minutes
Artist: Valerio Buonfantino and Stephen Gibson Age: 10+
Publisher: Arcane Wonders Complexity: 1.5 / 5

GoodCritters by Arcane Wonders is an i-cut-you-choose sort of game with a twist. Players are members of a very successful gang of burglars and take turns to be the boss who divvies up the loot amongst everyone in whichever way they see fit. There is plenty of opportunity to be selfish or favour some players over others. Yet, it is up to the whole gang to vote on whether to accept the split or not. It’s a bit like being a pirate really – but that’s a different story. Read more

Bremerhaven (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2013 Players: 1-4
Designer: Robert Auerochs Length:  60-120 minutes
Artist: Klemens Franz Age: 12+
Publisher: Lookout Spiele Complexity: 3.0 / 5

Here is another review of a game that is quite a few years old. Bremerhaven by Lookout Spiele is from 2013, so over five years old, but it is probably the only game with a secret bidding mechanism that really works, and lots of player interaction without making you feel helpless if the other players gang up on you. There is also a huge time element in the game, that keeps you on your toes. To top it all off, the game also has a really fun theme, beautiful illustrations and a really tense gameplay. As you can see, I really like the game, so let me explain a bit more. Read more

Scythe (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2016 Players: 1-5
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier Length:  90-150 minutes
Artist: Jakub Różalski Age: 14+
Publisher: Stonemaier Games Complexity: 3.5 / 5

I know, Scythe by Stonemaier Games has been out since 2016 and has had a couple of expansions released as well, including promo packs with additional encounter cards. So chances are you have already heard plenty of reviews about this game and maybe own  it yourself, but I still felt it’s worth reviewing, because I am sometimes surprised by how many people still don’t know Scythe. Read more

KeyForge: Call of the Archons (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018 Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Richard Garfield Length:  15-45 minutes
Artist: Age: 12+
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games Complexity: 2.5 / 5

KeyForge: Call of the Archons by Fantasy Flight Games is the first Unique game – and the word “unique” has a very special meaning, but I will talk about this later. KeyForge, for short, is a competitive two-player-only card game where players aim to forge three keys, each costing six Æmber. As players draw and play cards, they can attack their opponent and collect Æmber. The player to first forge their third key is the winner. So far it’s very much like any other card game of their kind, but it is the uniqueness of the decks that is new and is what interests me about this game. Read more

The Mind (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018 Players: 2-4
Designer: Wolfgang Warsch Length:  10-30 minutes
Artist: Oliver Freudenreich Age: 8+
Publisher: Coiledspring Games Complexity: 1.0 / 5

If you are looking for an easy-to-teach, easy-to-carry, quick, fun, co-operative card game, then The Mind by Coiledspring Games is the right game for you. However, let’s start at the beginning. The game is really simply: there is a deck of cards numbered 1 to 100, every players is dealt a certain number randomly from the deck, there is no turn order and everyone plays when they feel the time is right, without co-ordinating with each other, and as long as all cards are played in ascending order everyone wins. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Sounds easy enough – but it’s actually really hard – and that’s what makes this game so interesting in my view, as it creates a new gameplay mechanism that I have not come across before. Read more

Top 5 Tabletop Games of 2018

Yes, it is nearly the end of 2018, so it is time to list Tabletop Games Blog’s top 5 games of the year. It has been a great year for tabletop games in general, and I have been lucky enough to play nearly 25 different games over the year, including playtesting, PnPs, online games as well as games played during our weekly games night, with family and at MeetUp sessions. So I thought choosing 5 from those games would be a good number. Read more

Rise of Tribes (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018 Players: 2-4
Designer: Brad Brooks Length:  30-60 minutes
Artist: Sergio Chaves Age: 10+
Publisher: Breaking Games Complexity: 2.0 / 5

Rise of Tribes by Breaking Games looks like your normal area control game with the usual random terrain made out of hexagonal tiles. The game is set in ancient, prehistoric times, and you move your tribe members around the terrain, collect resources, craft tools to upgrade your tribe’s abilities and generally do things that you will have seen before in other games. However, look closer and you will see that there are at least two interesting mechanisms in this game, which make it stand head and shoulders above the rest. Read more

Mystic Vale (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2016 Players: 2-4
Designer: John D. Clair Length:  30-60 minutes
Artist: Ralf Berszuck, Storn Cook, et al. Age: 14+
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group Complexity: 2.0 / 5

Card games come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from the traditional games played for centuries throughout Europe to the modern card collecting, card drafting and deck building games. It is the modern deck building games that I want to focus on in this review. In Mystic Vale by Alderac Entertainment Group you don’t just build your deck in the traditional sense, where you simple buy new cards to improve what you have. Instead you have a fixed deck where every card can be added to, meaning that you literally customize every card. That creates a very interesting mechanism not seen in other games. Read more

Haspelknecht: The Story of Early Coal Mining (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2015 Players: 2-4
Designer: Thomas Spitzer Length:  60-90 minutes
Artist: Johannes Sich Age: 12+
Publisher: Quined Games Complexity: 3.0 / 5

Haspelknecht: The Story of Early Coal Mining, to give it its full title, is a kind of action selection game by Quined Games set in the Ruhr region of Germany. The game is set at a time when the area was still covered by forests and coal was first discovered close to the surface. During the game your task is to dig up that coal until its depleted and you have to start digging deep pits to get to this precious resource. The great mechanism in this game is the action selection element, where you draw all tokens of one colour from one of a number of common pools at the start of each round. These tokens are then used to activate your workforce and develop new technologies. It sounds simple, but it creates a really complex, interesting game with lots of options and very few player interaction. Read more

Chai (Saturday Review)

Release Date: due 2019 Players: 1-5
Designer: Dan & Connie Kazmaier Length:  20-60 minutes
Artist: Mary Haasdyk, Sahana VJ Age: 8+
Publisher: Deep Aqua Games Complexity: 2.0 / 5

I had the pleasure of trying the prototype PnP version of Chai by Deep Aqua Games, which is due to launch on Kickstarter on 4 December, so keep an eye out for it. The aim of the game is to collect resources, in this case flavours and additives, to fulfil the outstanding tea orders for customers, which give you points. It’s the classic mechanism of completing contracts or quests, like in so many other games. However, the twist is how you collect your resources from the market, which creates a really interesting puzzle which forces you to think ahead and work out what you need versus what other players may need. Read more

Assembly (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018 Players: 1-2
Designer: Janice Turner, Stu Turner Length:  10-20 minutes
Artist: Mike Jessup Age: 8+
Publisher: Wren Games Complexity: 1.0 / 5

After the Kickstarter campaign for Assembly by Wren Games finished successfully back in June, the game is now close to being sent out to backers. So it is time to have a closer look at this fun, co-operative card game. The game can be played solo, which is also possible using an app, or in a two player co-operative setup. The aim is to manoeuvre a set of tokens along a randomly configured circle of locations into their correct slots by playing cards that allow you to rotate, swap and lock these tokens in place. To do this efficiently you need to play cards that your team mate can match with a card in their hand – but the problem is that you don’t know what cards they have. Read more

Battle Ravens (Saturday Review)

Release Date: due 2019 Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Daniel Mersey Length:  45-60 minutes
Artist: Peter Dennis Age: 14+
Publisher: PSC Games Complexity: 2.0 / 5

My latest review is for Battle Ravens by Daniel Mersey and published by PSC Games. Just for disclosure, it was PSC Games who kindly sent me a review copy, but that didn’t influence my view of the game. It’s a war game set in Viking England and due to launch on Kickstarter on 20 November 2018, so keep an eye out. You either take the side of the Norse or the Anglo-Saxon armies, who face each other’s shield walls on the battlefield. Your aim is to puncture three holes in your opponent’s line to win the game by manoeuvring your warriors and attacking with your six-sided dice. However, the clever twist to this game is that your actions are determined by how many raven tokens you place on your six battle spaces. It creates a bidding element which means that being the first player isn’t necessarily an advantage. Read more

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2012 Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg Length:  30 minutes
Artist: Klemens Franz Age: 13+
Publisher: Lookout Games Complexity: 2.5 / 5

In my third review I look at another digital conversion by Digidiced that Asmodee Digital was kind enough to let me try out. It is another Lookout Spiele game by designer Uwe Rosenberg. In Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (I shorten this to just Agricola for the rest of this article) you are a 17th century farmer in central Europe. It is a very clever 2 player only worker placement game where you have to manage your resources, life stock and farmland. Of course, this game also has some clever little twists, which make the gameplay so interesting. Read more

Lincoln (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2018 Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Martin Wallace Length:  90-120 minutes
Artist: Peter Dennis Age: 14+
Publisher: PSC, Worthington Games Complexity: 4 / 5

In my second review I look at the fast-paced, two-player only wargame Lincoln by Martin Wallace and published by PSC Games and Worthington Games, which finished its Kickstarter campaign back in May. Just for disclosure, it was PSC Games who kindly sent me a review copy. The game is set in the American Civil War and you can choose between taking the side of the Union or the Confederate. The game is completely asymmetric, in that the Union and Confederate sides have different decks, different starting locations and strengths, and opposing aims. That in itself makes for an interesting game, but the mix of deck building and strategy board game creates an additional interesting angle. Read more

Le Havre: The Inland Port (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2012 Players: 2 (only)
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg Length: 30 minutes
Artist: Klemens Franz Age: 10+
Publisher: Lookout Games Complexity: 2.5 / 5

Digidiced and Asmodee Digital have been very kind to offer me the opportunity to review a number of their digital conversions. I decided to start with Lookout Spiele‘s award winning game Le Havre: The Inland Port which is one of the many popular games by designer Uwe Rosenberg. The game is set in the 18th century in the maritime city of Le Havre in the Normandy region of France. Players are harbour masters who try to build the best port by constructing great buildings. It is a two player only resource management game with a large action selection element – but with a twist. Read more