Tag Archives: review

Thunderstone – An 11-year old’s viewpoint

26 Jan

I’ll be covering the awesome Thunderstone soon because it’s brilliant. In the meantime, here’s my daughter Emily explaining why she enjoys playing this excellent deck builder from AEG.

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Cyclades Video Review

22 Jan

Here’s a vide review of Cyclades to complement the written review on the blog. 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.

Expansion Madness #1 Carcassonne Catapult

6 Jan

Expansions are a great way of extending the life of a board game, so join me as I look at some of the best and worst that are currently available. First up I’ll be taking a look at Caracassonne The Catapult.

Carcassonne is a brilliant game that I always have trouble pronouncing properly, and sometimes even spelling properly. While it appears deceptively simple – you do little more then lay tiles each turn, which edges must match other tiles that are already on the board – it proves to be a deceptively strategic game. A game that my 6-year is absolutely amazing at, constantly trouncing me by a good 70 points whenever we play. She’s like the Rain Man of board games, so good is she at grasping the mechanics of most titles. But I digress.

You get 12 new tiles with Carcassonne Catapult. I like the one that looks like a cat's head (top left second in).

There are many expansions for Carcassonne, befitting for a game that’s so popular, and it’s a typical ‘Gateway’ title, essentially a stepping stone to other types of board games. Although there’s a certain randomness to the game (in so much that you don’t know what tile you’re drawing) it’s balanced enough that you’re rarely stuffed by a draw, as there’s always somewhere that you can place the tile.

Sadly, Carcassonne The Catapult, ignores this careful beautiful structure and throws a barrel load of chaos into the mix with a healthy side order of randomness. In short my six year old loves it.

Here's the catapult itself. It appears to be made out of a sturdy balsa wood. I've included a bumper pack of Pringles for comparison purposes. The Pringles were very nice.

The main draw of Carassonne Catapult is the catapult that comes with it. It’s a fairly sturdy construction and i’d imagine you’d have to apply a lot of pressure in order to break it. Which you’ll want to do, as it’s one hell of a frustrating addition to the game, mainly because it’s about as accurate as hitting a square peg into a small round hole. Whenever you flip the catapult it rarely lands where you want it to. While this randomness delights young children, it becomes very frustrating as it’s possible to lose larger number of points due to randomness that’s completely out of your control. Take a look at the following new cards to see what I mean…

The new tiles from left to right: Target Hurling, Catch, Knock Out, Seduction. I hate you all.

Each player is given 4 tokens, one of which can be played whenever you draw a Catapult tile from the bag or pile of tiles you have. The first tile shows a bullseye and is ‘Target Hurling’. If you play this, you must take it in turns to try and hit the last placed tile. Whoever gets closest scores 5 points. The icon showing a ball is called ‘Catch’. Here players use the included measuring tile to mark a halfway line between an opposite player. You must then attempt to flick your tile past this line. Points are scored by your opponent if they catch it or you don’t shoot far enough, and you score points if they miss it or you shoot to their side. Next up is the blue knock out tile – one of the most horrid tiles in all Carcassonne creation (at least in those I’ve played). If this little bugger comes into contact with an in-play meeple, it immediately removes it from the board (you can lose your own this way as well) as horrible as it sounds. Lastly we have the yellow ‘Seduction’ tile. Successfully land the tile on the board and you can switch the nearest meeple of an opponent with one of your own. It’s a nice idea, but like all the other options, is flawed due to the unpredictability of the catapult itself, which turns the game into a complete luckfest. Fine if you like that sort of thing, dreadfully frustrating if you don’t.

While I recommend Carcassonne The Catapult to those with small children, the sheer randomness and the low precision targeting of the actual catapult makes it hard to recommend to anyone else.

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.

Video Review – Lost Valley Of The Dinosaurs

18 May