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New releases 16 April 2012

16 Apr

There are a number of new games released this week.

Kingdom Builder: Nomads is the first expansion for the popular gateway game. It features 4 new boards, 4 new powers, 3 new scoring cards and the all-important addition of a 5th player.

Kairo is a trading game which sees players competing for the most lavish stalls.

Discover India is a collection game for the family and utilises a tile-based system.

Startrek Expeditions Expansion Set One introduces Scotty, Sulu and and Chekov and adds a brand new mission.

Bomber Command reenacts key scenes from World War 2 and features plenty of night time raid attacks.

All games are currently available to buy from the always excellent Board Game Guru .




Lording It Up – Lords Of Waterdeep Review

15 Apr

Wizards Of The Coast has made great in-roads, by transferring its popular D&D brand to board games in recent years. This latest addition is the bravest yet though, and sees the publisher well outside its comfort zone, with a worker placement title which is a world away from the excellent dungeon crawlers it has been delivering recently.

Waterdeep, for those that don’t know, is a huge city based in the fictional Forgotten Realms settings, a D&D universe I used to love playing in a good decade or so ago when I still had a weekly Dungeons & Dragons group that I could attend. It’s a place of splendour, mystery and intrigue and is ripe for a board game adaptation, mainly because there’s so much going on in the city itself.

No doubt inspired by the treachery and intrigue found in A Game Of Thrones, Wizards Lords Of Waterdeep replicates this intrigue to a point, by placing you as one of the shadowly 11 lords that rule the city (many of them rule in private, with most city dwellers having no idea who they are). Each Lord has access to a number of agents (four in a two-player gamer, to just two in a four and five player game). The lords themselves are the gamebreakers, as they each have specific win conditions (similar to Anky Morpork, but better in my opinion, because every single one is different). Larissa Neathal earns you 6 victory points for every building you own, Nymara Scheiron scores you 4 points for every commerce and skullduggery quest you complete and so on.

Lords Of Waterdeep is set over eight rounds of play and each round sees players taking it in turns to assign their agents to key parts of the city in order to recruit thieves, fighters, clerics and mages. Only one agent can inhabit one area though, so you’ll really need to plan and bluff in order to always hits the areas you want to.

Players can also earn additional resources, by again visiting key areas. Head to Aurora’s Realm Shop for example and you’ll net yourself 4 coins, move to Castle Warterdeep and you’ll not only earn the opportunity to start first (and go to that much needed city space before anyone else) but also earn an intrigue card. Then there is the important Cliffwatch Inn which allows you to accept quests. These are especially important as they are the main resource for victory points, but can also grant additional in-game bonuses that range from recruiting additional adventurers when certain bonuses are met, to scoring additional points when you complete certain types of quests (the quests themselves are Arcada, Piety, Skullduggery, Warfare and Commerce). Up to three agents can visit the inn, and there’s a handy option to reset the entire quest board if you don’t see anything you like. You can only complete one quest per round and you’ll need a specific number of adventurers before you can successfully complete them.

Intrigue cards are another important addition, as they allow you to subtly manipulate the game whenever you visit Waterdeep Harbor. An intrigue card might allow you to recruit new adventurers, steal resources from another player, or give your opponents mandatory quests, which they must complete before anything else. Another nice touch is that once all agents have been assigned, the agents of Waterdeep Harbor are reassigned as well, meaning that it’s not a wasted turn to go there.

While there are many buildings that players can visit on the main board, it’s also possible to build more by visiting the Builder’s Hall. Whoever lands on this area gets to take one of the face-up buildings on display and add it to one of the nine available areas around the city. This property grants stronger bonuses than those found on the main board, including an ambassador who lets you immediately play first before anyone else makes their move to The Three Pearls, which allows you to trade in two random adventuers for three adventurers that will be more useful to you. Players also receive a token bonus (from money and gold to adventurers) whenever their building is used, meaning they can become a very valuable resource early on in the game if particularly high-yielding cards show up. There are more advanced buildings than spaces on the board (twneth three in fact) meaning no two games will ever be the same.

At the end of the eighth round the lords are revealed quests points are totted up and players get additional victory points for every two gold pieces they own and for every adventurer they still control.

Lords Of Waterdeep is easily the best new game I’ve played this year, even if it is very heavily-based on Caylus. It’s very fast-paced (games take around 40 minutes) is extremely easy to learn and has truly glorious componants. It scales equally well regardless of how many players are taking part and its theme is loose enough that it won’t alienate players who have never played a D&D game before.

Lords Of Waterdeep is available to buy now from Board Game Guru  and is for 2-5 players.

Why I love board games Part 2 The Rules

18 Jan

This sounds nutty I know, but I love getting stuck into a good rule book. I’m terrible when it comes to actually remembering the rules when I prepare to play a game, but I love learning about game mechanics. I love looking at the gorgeous art. I love discovering new types of games that I’ve never experienced before. Most of all though I love the promise that a rule book offers.

When I’m reading a rule book I imagine how those scenarios will actually play out in an actual game. I love thinking about how my friends are going to enjoy certain situations, and I love thinking how we will react to those situations. I love the anticipation, the thought that very soon I’ll be sitting around a table with people I enjoy, and that these simple words, phrases and sentences will become something more. Something tangible.

Some games like Fortune And Glory have a starter rule set and a more complicated rule book. I obviously love reading both, but will still make mistakes.

Yes I get frustrated with ambiguous rules (who doesn’t) but I love the satisfaction I get when I finally work something out and finally get it when it all clicks into place. Granted, I’ll often have the points pointed out to me by my virtual friends at Rllmuk, but it’s a lovely Eureka moment. The kind you get when you finally work out how to take down a boss in a video game, or finish a particularly difficult crossword.

Some rules are harder to understand, but that's also part of the fun.

I love how the vast majority of rule books I own are like precious little tomes, full of gorgeous artwork, and beautiful presentation. I’m sure there are clunkers out there, but the many ones I have are dripping with theme, and make you even more excited about playing.

Perhaps most of all though I love that I can get excited by simply reading a rule book. I guess that’s part of the magic of this hobby that we all enjoy.

Cyclades Review

16 Jan

I’ve not played many board games that intentionally blend genres, but if they all do it as well as Cyclades does then I’m going to start tracking them down. Cyclades is a board game designed for 2-5 players, but it’s definitely suited for larger play groups, and is even more enjoyable if you’ve a love for Greek mythology.

How Long To Set It Up?

You can get all the pieces together and ready in about 5 minutes. It’s relatively straightforward to do, but does require a decent amount of space.

The Win Condition

Build or secure 2 metropolises before your opponents. You do this by either building four of the different structures that are available, collecting 4 philosphers, or simply taking a metropolis from another player by force.

What Makes It Special?

Cyclades big draw is that you must make offerings to 4 gods in order to get their help. Ares, the god of war grants you the ability to buy and move soldiers, and build fortresses, while Athena allows you to gain and buy philosophers and build universities. Poseidon lets you build fleets and move them and also allows you to build ports, while Zeus lets you buy priests and exchange monsters for new ones at a cost of one gold.

Only one player can earn the favour of a god, so everyone has a turn to place the highest bid (providing they have the gold) to earn a god’s favour. The starting play group determines how many gods are in play at any one time, so whoever fails to earn a gods favour (or simply wants to save money) can visit Apollo. Apollo gives you one gold and a horn of plenty piece that can be placed on one of the player’s island. Players get one gold piece for each horn of plenty icon they have, meaning sometimes it pays to purposely visit Apollo.

The gods have different abilities. You can only bid on one a turn, so be sure you get a god's favour when you actually need it.

How Does A Turn Work?

Quite simply really. First the order of the players (for bidding purposes) is randomly determined and the gods are shuffled and placed in vertical order on the left hand side of the board. Then gold is given out based on what a player owns. Once everyone have made a successful bid, the player who made the highest bid on the lead god goes first. He can perform any actions, or special actions that the god offers and also has the option to summon monsters, which can hinder the other players. Play then continues until every player has had a turn. It’s worth noting that priests allow you to bid less gold (one less for each priest you had) which makes Zeus very powerful early on in the game.

What are the components like?

Generally of a very high quality. The board is a little small for the box (it comes in two pieces with a flap that bends down) but it seems sturdy. A nice touch is that the board can also be flipped, so if you are playing with more people you have a larger playing area. There’s a large number of men and boats for each player, 8 in fact, while the game also comes with 5 large monster models. These monsters are very well detailed, but a little prone to bending (my centaur was in terrible shape and must be bent back at the start of each game). Monsters, philosophers and priest cards are nicely illustrated and sturdy, meaning they should soon plenty of use before they start getting dog-eared. The presentation throughout is of a very high standard, and I was extremely pleased with the amount of stuff you get for your money.

The monster cards are beautifully illustrated. In fact the overall quality of Cyclades is very good indeed.

What Are The Rules Like?

Pretty good. There’s a little disambiguation to be found, mainly with regards to the offerings, but there are plenty of illustrated pictures throughout the six pages that make many of the rules far easier to follow. The back page of the manuel also reveals how the set-ups for various players should be completed.

How long does a game take?

This obviously depends on the amount of players, but we’ve been managing 3 player games in about an hour and a half. The turns are relatively fast-paced as well, meaning that there’s very little downtime for each player, as they’re waiting between turns.

Should I buy it?

Definitely. I’ve been very impressed with Cyclades. It looks the business with excellent visuals and sturdy, well designed models. The game plays very quickly and it’s just as fun with 2 players as it is with 5. The theme is incredibly strong, and it does a great job of blending different genres. It’s worth noting that Cyclades doesn’t do anything new, but it’s very, very polished and highly enjoyable. Pick it up if you’re looking for something a little different.

Why I love Board Games Part 1

12 Jan

Man updating this blog regularly is hard work, goodness knows how people like Tom Vasel manage it all the time. All my spare time gets eaten up so quickly that before you know it, the time has just disappeared, and a new day has begun.

Still that’s not the point of this latest update. The point is that my busy days reminded me how much I actually look forward to getting home and playing board games, so I thought I’d start putting those points together as I remembered them.

By far the most important aspect it that I can play them with my family. Being a modern family, it means that we don’t do a lot of things together. We might be in the same room, but I’ll be browsing my iPad, Alice will be playing on her DS or reading a book, Emily, my eldest will be browsing clothes shops online (she’s obsessed with shopping) while the wife will be reading one of her many novels. We’re all in the same room, but aside from the odd snatch of conversation, or a quick break to make a cup of tea (which always seems to be my turn). That’s as far as the interaction goes. We’re with each other, but we’re not with each other, if that makes sense.

Board games changed all that. There’s something truly satisfying about sitting around a table with your friends or loved ones, and enjoying a game. Any game. Yes, the wide age difference between my two daughters (Alice is 6, Emily is 11) means we can’t play every game together, but experimentation has revealed plenty of titles that we can all play. Carcassonne, Zooloretto, Wildlife Adventure and It’s Alive are the most popular ones, and I’m sure we’ll add many others as time goes by.and my youngest gets older.

You can’t be passive when playing board games, you have to participate, you have to join in, you have to query rules, you have to challenge people when they’re trying to do something on the sly, you have to touch and caress the lovingly created pieces. Most importantly though you have fun and you’ve had that fun with people that matter.

The Legend Of Drizzt The Board Game Is Nearly Here

19 Oct

Looking forward to Wizards Of The Coast’s third board game based on the Dungeons & Dragons universe? Then you really need to check this video out where I reveal the contents of the new game. Do not miss it.

Quarriors! Review

4 Sep

Let’s get one thing out of the way. Quarriors! is nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is.

WizKids’ new game is seemingly obsessed with the letter Q, trying to shoehorn it into Quarriors!’ rules whenever it gets a chance. It’s childish, it isn’t funny and it begins to grate around about page 5 of the manual.

Fortunately, while WizKids doesn’t know how to do good humour, it certainly knows how to make great games and Quarriors! is no exception.

At its heart, Quarriors! is a card-building game, a genre which has grown ridiculously since the likes of Dominion and Thunderstone. The key difference here though is that rather than rely on cards, Quarriors! uses dice; in fact it uses 130 of the buggers.

Starting off with 12 dice comprising of 8 basic quiddity (think of it as mana) and 4 assistant dice a turn is comprised of 6 phases: Score Creatures, Draw and Roll Dice, Ready Spells and Summon Creatures, Attack Your Rivals, Capture One Quarry and Move Dice to your used pile.

The contents of Quarriors! are truly lavish, easily justifying its high price-tag.

Each turn you roll 6 dice and examine the results. A spell face means the die goes into your ready area, while faces with monsters on are summoned by paying the required quiddity. Once a monster or monsters have been summoned you can choose to attack your opponents. This is done by calculating their combined attack strength and attacking the opponent to your left. He then chooses one of his own creatures to defend. If your attack strength is greater than his defense you destroy his creatures and he must put up a new one to face the rest of your assault (your attack strength is lessened by your opponent’s defeated defense so if you started with 5 and your opponent’s defence was 4, he now only has to defend against a final point of damage). Once an opponent is bested you then attack your next opponent until you either beat his creatures or are forced to make a retreat. At the beginning of your next turn you will then score points for any monsters that are left in your ready Area.

Each turn you’re also given the option to capture a Quarry die from the wilds (providing you have the quiddity points to do so) spells and creatures can be captured and vary in strength and power, while there is also the option to buy portal die (handy as they usually give you additional die to throw) a basic quiddity (for a cost of 0) or an assistant. In short, you can always earn a new die each turn, regardless of your die throw.

Play continues until someone reaches the required number of points of four creatures cards are depleted. That’s right, i said cards. While Quarriors! is a dice-based game, it used a number of cards which effectively represent its dice board. There are 3 basic cards used each game – Basic Quiddity, Portal and Assistant – and then you randomly choose 3 spell cards and 7 monsters. One nice touch is that there are different strength monsters and spells (you can only have one type of each in play) ensuring that there is plenty of variety whenever you play a new game.

It’s this variety which is one of Quarriors! greatest strengths. Initially it feels quite restrictive, but as you start buying portal die (which give you the opportunity to draw and roll more dice) and creatures, you realise that there are plenty of different combos and options available to you. It’s also a blisteringly fast-paced game, with the average session taking no more than an hour to play.

Cards show the monsters and spells you can capture. You can capture one such die each turn.

There’s a huge potential for expansion in Quarriors!, but the base set gives you more than enough to keep you going. It’s also a marvelous looking game, with bright, easy to follow instructions, fantastic die, great artwork and a gorgeous tin box to keep everything in. In fact the only real downside to Quarriors! is that the four die bags that come with it are both small and of a low quality. It’s a minor niggle though, and the presentation throughout is generally excellent.

Quarriors! may be nothing more than a deck-building game in new clothing, but it’s one that is both highly entertaining and fun to play. Currently in high demand due to a low print run I suggest you seek out a copy as quickly as possible. You will not be disappointed.