Review – Thief’s Market

img_9431It may seem odd to start a review by talking about another game, but ….. my daughters and I play a lot of Splendor.  And, I mean … A.  Lot.  It is one of our go-to games because it was easy for them to learn, it’s simple to play (yet has some great strategic elements), has great replayability, and they love to beat me at it.  A.  Lot.

So when I first saw Thief’s Market (from Tasty Minstrel Games) on Kickstarter, I had to back it and add it to my collection.  Though it plays very differently, I saw a lot of the same elements in it that bring Splendor to our table so often.  But … does it live up to my expectations?  Let’s find out.

The Setup
To set up a game of Thief’s Market, separate the three decks of cards into their “A,” “B,” and “C” stacks.  You’ll recognize these by the letter on the back of the cards (as well as in the lower right corner on the front of each card).  Then, shuffle each deck separately and randomly remove enough cards from each so that you have 13 “A” cards, 12 “B” cards, and 11 “C” cards, returning the others to the box without looking at them.  Arrange the decks along one side of the table and turn the top five cards of the “A” deck face up to form the Market.  These will act as the first five cards available for purchase to the players.

img_9428Each player will be given a player mat and one gold token.  Throughout the game, players can earn additional gold tokens, so make sure the remaining tokens are within reach of all players along with all of the Infamy tokens.  The gold tokens are always public knowledge and will be left on the table for all to see.  Infamy tokens, however, are not.  When a player earns an Infamy token, it should be placed under their player mat.

The game comes with 13 custom dice.  If you have five players (the maximum the game can support), you will use all 13 dice.  For four players, return two of the dice to the box, and for three players (the game’s minimum), remove three of them.  Finally, give the Start Player Marker to the person who most recently stole something.

In Thief’s Market, players will compete to earn the most Notoriety points.  These points will be earned by purchasing cards from the Market, as well as gaining Infamy tokens throughout the game.  Let’s take a look at how this is done.

The Dice

img_9427Before we dive into the gameplay, let’s take a quick look at the dice. Each die has six sides – four gems (one each of red, blue, white, and green), a yellow bag, and a purple mask.

The four gems will be used during the Making Purchases phase to buy cards from the Market.

The yellow bag will be turned in at the end of a round for a gold token.

The purple mask is exchanged at the end of the round for one Infamy token, which is worth one Notoriety point at the end of the game.

The Gameplay

Thief’s Market is played over a series of rounds, each broken into two phases – the Split The Loot phase and the Making Purchases phase. At the beginning of each round, the first player will roll all of the dice and place them – along with the Start Player Marker – in the center of the table.  This roll will act as the loot that the players have stolen, and will determine what objects are available to be split.  Once the dice have been rolled and the Start Player Marker added to the loot, the Splitting The Loot phase begins.

Splitting The Loot

The player who rolled the dice (the start player) will take any quantity of objects (dice and/or the Start Player Marker) from the center of the table and place them in front of themself (being careful not to change the face of the dice as they are moved).  Play then moves clockwise to the next player.  On their turn, each player chooses to either take any quantity of the remaining items from the center of the table or steal the entire pile of loot in front of another player.  If a player chooses to steal another player’s loot, they must keep at least one object and return at least one object – rerolling any dice – to the center of the table.  This means that a player cannot steal loot from any player who only has one object in front of them.  Play continues clockwise until each player has a pile of loot in front of them.  If play gets to a player who already has loot in front of them, that player is skipped.  Only players who have no loot continue taking turns.  If there is only one player remaining with no loot, and they choose to take objects from the center, they must take all remaining objects from the center.  This means that once all players have a pile of loot in front of them, there will be no objects remaining in the center of the table (which means someone will always have the Start Player Marker).  When all players have a pile of loot in front of them, the Making Purchases phase begins.

Making Purchases

Beginning with the player who now has the Start Player Marker and continuing clockwise around the table, players will use the dice taken during the Splitting The Loot phase to purchase cards from the Market.  Each player will be able to purchase a single card on their turn – unless they have a card that allows them to purchase more.  The cost of each card is shown on the left side next to the illustration.  When dice are used to purchase cards, they are returned to the center of the table.  Each gold token acts as a wild and can take the place of any gem on a card’s cost.  When spent, gold tokens are returned to the pile.  It is important to remember that yellow bag die are not counted as wild.  They will be exchanged at the end of the round for gold tokens, which can be used as wilds beginning with the next Making Purchases phase.  Each player will have one chance to make a card purchase with their dice.  If a player has a card that allows them to purchase more than one card, all purchases are made on the same turn.

Once all players have made their purchase(s), each yellow bag die is exchanged for one gold token, and each purple mask die is exchanged for one Infamy token.  All dice are then returned to the center of the table – even the dice that were not used for purchases.  The Market is refilled from the active deck.  For example, if two cards were purchased from the “A” deck during the phase, the top two cards will be drawn from the “A” deck so that there are, once again, five cards available for purchase in the next round.  If the “A” deck is empty and there are still spaces that need refilled, immediately draw five cards from the top of the “B” deck and place them next to the “B” deck.  These cards will be available for purchase in addition to any still left over from the “A” deck, so there may be instance where the Market will contain more than five cards.  Cards purchased from the “B” deck will be replaced (any cards left from the “A” deck that get purchased are not replaced).  When the “B” deck runs out, add five cards from the “C” deck to the Market.  The game ends immediately when the “C” deck does not have enough cards in it to completely refill the Market.  So … what can you purchase?

The Cards

img_9429There are a variety of cards available for purchase in the Market.  Some cards are worth Notoriety points at the end of the game.  Some will give you end-game Notoriety points based on the types of cards you’ve purchased, and some will be worth less if your opponents have purchased cards of certain types.  Quite a few of the cards allow you to manipulate the dice during the Making Purchases phase, allowing you to change the face of a die.  There are also cards that have an immediate effect.  If you purchase a card that grants you a special ability, you can use that ability during the same turn.  Once cards are purchased and placed in front of you, they cannot be stolen by other players.  An example of some of the card abilities can be seen in the picture to the right.  If the iconography on some of these cards is confusing, don’t fret.  The rules contains a list of every single card available in the game – listed alphabetically – that says (in plain English) what each card does.  So you’ll never have to guess what a particular card will do for you.  For your first few playthroughs, I’d recommend keeping the rules close by for reference.


Once the game has ended (not enough cards in the “C” deck to refill the Market), the scoring phase begins.  The player with the most Henchman icons in the upper left corner of their cards will receive three Notoriety points (not tokens).  The player with the second-most is awarded one Notoriety point.  The player with the most gold tokens earns three Notoriety points.  There is no second place for gold tokens.  If there is a tie, the tied players will each get one less Notoriety point than they would have otherwise received (for example, if there is a tie for most Henchman icons, each tied player would gain to Notoriety points).  Players then add these Notoriety points to the total points from all of their purchased cards, as well as the total number of Infamy tokens received during the game.  The person with the most Notoriety wins.  If tied, the tied player with the most cards wins.  If still tied, the tied player with the most Infamy tokens wins.  If there is still a tie – and this is according to the rules – the winner is the first player to grab the Start Player Marker and run from the room shouting, ” You fools! Muahahaha!”

My Thoughts

So, is Thief’s Market the next Splendor?  Did it live up to my expectations?  Well, let me start by saying that the game plays quite differently than Splendor.  There is some resource management and some set collection (like Splendor), but it is handled differently.  So, no.  Thief’s Market is not another Splendor.  That being said, I absolutely love playing this game.  It’s a simple game to teach, plays in 30-60 minutes, but still has a ton of strategy to work through.  The concept of either taking available loot or going more “take that” and stealing form one of your opponents keeps the game changing all the time.  No two games are alike, and that makes the replayability factor very large.  The fact that random cards are removed before every game also makes the game highly replayable.  I would highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a light (but still strategic) filler game.  Thief’s Market won’t be the staple of your game night.  It’s simply not long enough for that.  However, when the time comes to play something light (either between games or while waiting for others to show up), I could see this hitting the table quite often.  Thief’s Market is currently finishing up its shipment to Kickstarter backers, and will hit your FLGS soon.  Tasty Minstrel Games does it again!

Review, Uncategorized

Review – Tides of Madness

In 2015, Portal Games introduced the world to Tides of Time from designer Kristian Čurla.  Tides of Time is a fast-to-play card drafting game for two players where each person played as an ancient civilization and worked to build the most prosperous kingdom.  Now, Portal and Kristian are back and have given us the sequel – Tides of Madness.

Tides of Madness is set in the H.P. Lovecraft mythos, and has each player taking on the role of an investigator trying to discover ancient knowledge and secrets beyond the grasp of time and – in some cases – the human mind.  Each player will contact mysterious cults, explore hidden locations, encounter horrific creatures, and learn unspeakable words.  The horror of this ancient knowledge may prove to be too much to bear for weaker minds, and one investigator – or both – could be lost forever to the madness.

The Setup

To set up Tides of Madness, shuffle the 18-card deck and deal five cards to each player.  Set the remaining cards aside to be used in later rounds.  You’ll also need to place the 20 Madness tokens nearby where both players can access them.  Also, place the included scoring pad and pencil off to the side.  You’ll use these at the end of each round to calculate each player’s points.

The Cards

Tides of Madness consists of 18 cards.  These are broken into five suits – with three cards of each suit.  There are also three cards that have no suit.  The suits in the game are pictured to the right and are – in order from top to bottom – Races, Locations, Outer Gods, Great Old Ones, and Manuscripts.  These suits are shown in the upper left corner of each card.  Of the 18 cards, eight of them are dangerous to play.  They are the more powerful cards in the game, but induce madness to the player who plays them.  Each of these eight cards are easily identified by the tentacles along the left side.

Every card also has a name (in the lower right corner) and an ability (in the upper right corner).  Most of these abilities are scoring objectives that will reward victory points if the objective is met at the end of each round.

The Gameplay

Playing Tides of Madness is really simple.  Each player will look at their hand of five cards and choose one to add to their tableau.  This card is placed facedown on the table until both players have made their selection.  Then, simultaneously, players reveal which card they chose by flipping them over.  The players then trade hands (i.e. the four cards they did not select), and will select their next card from these four cards.  After revealing the second card chosen, the remaining cards are again swapped, a third card chosen, and so on until each player has selected five cards.  These five cards are used to calculate the score – and Madness – for each player during the round (see Scoring below).

At the end of the scoring phase, each player will collect the five cards in front of them to form their new hand of five cards.  Each player will select one card to keep on the table for the remainder of the game, placing this card facedown until both have made their choice – revealing them to each other once they’ve both been chosen.  They will each also select a card to remove from the game by discarding it, face-up, to the box.  This will leave each player with a hand of only three cards.  Deal two cards from the deck to each player to bring their hand size back up to five cards.  Then play the second round exactly as the first round was played.  Each player will select a card, pass their remaining cards to their opponent, select a new card, and so on until all cards have been chosen.  At the end of the second round, each player will have six cards in front of them – the five they selected during the round plus the card they chose to keep at the end of the first round.  Calculate the score – and Madness – for the second round.

Players will then pick up the five cards chosen during the round – leaving the card they chose to keep after the first round on the table – and will each select a second card to keep and a second card to remove from the game.  Two more cards are dealt from the deck to each player (this will exhaust the deck completely), and the third round is played exactly the same as the other two, with players selecting a card, trading hands, etc.  At the end of the third round, each player will have seven cards in front of them – five chosen during the round, and two cards kept at the end of each of the previous rounds.  Scores – and, of course, Madness – are calculated for the third round.  Then all three round scores are totaled together to give a final score.  The player with the highest total is the winner.  In the case of a tie, both players share the victory.


img_9404At the end of each round – after each player has selected the five cards they wish to keep – scoring is calculated.  First, look at the five cards in front of each player.  Any card that has tentacles along the left side (like the Necronomicon show to the left) have induced a bit of Madness.  Each player should take one Madness token for each card they have that has driven them a little bit mad.  Then look to see which player acquired the most Madness for that round.  That player can choose to either score four extra points or heal one Madness by discarding one token.  If there is a tie for most Madness, no player gets this choice.

img_9403Then each player will check their cards for their scoring objectives and score points for any of the scoring conditions that have been met.  There are several ways to score.  Players can score points for each card of a specific suit, for having a majority of a specific suit, and collecting sets of suits.  There is also a card that gives one point for each Madness token a player has acquired.  If a player has nine or more Madness tokens in front of them, they have been driven insane by the knowledge they’ve encountered and lose the game immediately.  If both players have nine or more Madness, they both go insane, and there is no winner.

My Thoughts

img_9405-1Tides of Madness is a fun, quick filler game for two players.  It is simple to play, but has a good depth of strategy and allows for a bit of “take that” between players – by allowing you to take cards you know your opponent needs (since you can always see what cards they’ve chosen to keep).  The artwork is gorgeous, and really captures the madness-inducing mythos of Lovecraftian lore.  It’s great to see some of the Great Old Ones depicted, but …. Cthulhu doesn’t induce Madness?!?  What?!?  And, while I’m sure it’s done for balance purposes, the fact that the Races and Manuscripts contain more Madness than the Great Old Ones and Outer Gods seems odd to me.  From a realism standpoint, I’d think encountering one of these beings would induce far more Madness than simply reading a manuscript or studying a race.  That’s a very minor gripe though (and is probably just me being picky).  This – in no way, shape, or form – takes away from the game.  The gameplay itself is very solid.  When it’s time for a light – but still strategic – filler game between sessions of heavier (longer) games, look no further than Tides of Madness, especially if you are in the middle of a Cthulhu-themed game night.


Review – Grimslingers (campaign)

File_009The land: the Forgotten West.  A desolate wasteland that is home to a plethora of mysterious – and dangerous – creatures.  You have been dropped into this treacherous world, having no idea why or how.  What you do know is that there is no way out, and you’ll be here for quite some time.  You’ve been turned into a Grimslinger, a witch who has been given special elemental powers and made part-machine.  Your “creator,” the mysterious Iron Witch, Icarus, wants you to fight against other Grimslingers to determine who can best be used to fulfill his own (unknown) purposes.

Grimslingers, designed and illustrated by Stephen Gibson and published by Greenbrier Games, is a card game set in a futuristic, sci-fi, fantasy Old West, and features two separate modes of play: a versus mode (referred to as Duel mode), and a co-op (campaign) mode.  In Duel mode, 2-6 players go head-to-head with one another (either in teams or in an “every man for himself” free-for-all).  In the co-op mode, 1-4 players will work together to complete scenarios in the included “Valley of Death” Story Booklet.  This review will focus on the campaign mode.  However, because the combat in the game is fought using the Duel mode mechanics, the Duel mode will (indirectly) be reviewed a little as well.

The Setup

To setup a campaign of Grimslingers, you’ll place the map board on the table and surround it with several decks of cards.  To the left of the map, you’ll lay the creature decks, along with the cards specific to each, the “general creature” cards, and the creature modifier, health, and energy tracking cards.  Above the map, place the Event deck and the number cards, leaving a space for a discard pile for the Event deck between them.  On the right side of the map, you’ll place the item and signature spell decks.  Also place the Hank the Hunter and Hexilion Blade cards in this area.

File_008Then, each player will be given a Grimslinger, an Amina (your robot companion), an Archetype, trackers for Health, Energy, and Level, and one spell of each of the six basic types (Earth, Fire, Water, Wind, Ice, and Lightning).  Your Grimslinger card is placed over the top of the Health tracking card so that the arrows at the bottom of the card are pointing to the current health points (HP). As you receive or heal damage, you’ll slide your Grimslinger card up or down to display the new HP total.  Your Anima is set up (and used) in the same manner over the Energy tracking card to track your Energy Points (EP), and your Archetype card is used in this way to track your Level (using the Level tracking card).  Your remaining cards (your six spells) make up your hand.  These cards will be used in combat as you explore the desolate wasteland and come face to face with its many dangers. Finally, place the red meeple and single die nearby where all players can reach them.  The meeple will be used to keep track of where the players are on the map (all players always travel together as a group).

The Gameplay

Gameplay in campaign mode consists of a series of player turns, each consisting of three phases – Narrative, Node Resolution, and Movement – and is played using the “Valley of Death” story booklet.  In the Narrative phase, you first need to check to see if all prerequisites have been met for the next part of the story.  If they have, the narrator will read that part of the story.  You will then resolve any actions required by that part of the story.  These actions may require you to trade items, battle enemies, or find and take items.  If, at the end of the current part of the story, you have not resolved the end of a chapter, you will move on to the next phase of the turn – Node Resolution.  If you have completed a chapter, you may begin the new chapter (beginning, once again, with the Narrative phase).

File_001In the Node Resolution phase, you will resolve the type of map node that the players are currently located on.  There are four types of nodes – landmark, attack, event, and rest – found on the map.  When players are on a landmark node, they must refer to their location’s page within the story booklet.  This page will tell them how to proceed.  On an attack node, the party has fallen under attack.  A player will roll to determine what is attacking the group.  Roll outcomes are found on the right side of the map, and there are six different types of beasts for you to fight (bandits, jackalope, peyote scorpion, dune worm, specter, and chupacabra).  The attack nodes are usually found on the fastest routes between landmarks.  This, of course, makes them the more dangerous routes to take.  When players find themselves on an event node, the top card of the Event deck is drawn and resolved.  It is then placed in the Event discard pile.  If the Event deck is depleted, the discard pile is reshuffled to form a new deck.  When players arrive on a rest node, they all automatically heal 2 HP and 2 EP.  They also have the ability to perform other actions such as using the Purge or Reload ability of their Anima, trade items with teammates, or using an item labeled as a “Standoff” type or item.  Some nodes will require that they be resolved as a group, while others will allow each player to make their own decision for which action they would like to take.

Once the Node Resolution phase is complete, the Movement phase happens.  During this phase, the players must decide – as a group – which map node to travel to next.  You can only move your group to a map node that is connected to your current map node by a designated path.  Nodes not connected by a path cannot be traveled between.  After the Movement phase, the next turn begins, starting with the Narrative phase.  These turns continue until players have reached the maximum number of defeats (based on the difficulty level they select when starting each new chapter), or until players have successfully completed a chapter.


The combat system is Grimslingers is designed to mimic the duels that happened during the old west.  The difference here is that, instead of pistols, you’re dueling with elemental spells!  In the Duels mode of the game, each player would select one of their elemental spells and play it facedown in front of them.  Once all players have made their choice, the cards are simultaneously revealed and resolved based on the type of spells used and their effect (abbreviated as FX throughout the rules).  For example, an Earth spell will beat a Lightning spell, but it is beaten by a Water spell.  So if Player 1 played an Earth spell, but Player 2 played a Water spell, then Player 1’s spell would not resolve (in other words, it would have no effect), and Player 2’s spell would get through (doing 2 damage to Player 1, and healing 2 EP for Player 2).  This is the simplest form of Duels within the game.  If you Duel with more than two players, you add target cards for players to play with their spells, indicating which player they are targeting.  Items can also be added to the mix, which will cause even more chaos to the Duel mode.

img_9381During the campaign, the players will be working together to fight one of the game’s creatures.  In order to set up a Duel in the campaign mode, you will take the portrait card for the creature you are fighting, draw a card from the creature modifier deck (to place under the creature so its ability for this combat round can be seen), and set it up in such a way that the arrows on the card point to the creature’s HP and EP (as pictured to the right).  Each creature has its own deck of abilities, which are shuffled with the General Creature abilities to form its combat deck.  During combat, you will draw the top card from the creature’s combat deck, playing it face down.  Then, you’ll select a card from you hand, playing it facedown as well, just as you would for a normal Duel.  Once both cards are chosen, they are revealed and resolved in order of Resolution Number (RN), with the lowest number going first.  Combat continues until either the players or the creature are defeated.  If the players defeat the creature, look on the back of the creature’s portrait card to find out what the players receive as a reward (levels, items, etc.).

My Thoughts

I have to say that, overall, I really enjoy playing Grimslingers.  It is an intense ride through the Forgotten West that is difficult to complete.  Each play session is designed to last 60-90 minutes, and that feels about right or this type of game.  Of course, players who want more of a campaign feel can play multiple sessions back-to-back if they’d like.  My only concern with the campaign mode is what happens after you complete the “Valley of Death” story booklet.  I have heard of no official plans for future campaign stories to be added – though I’d be shocked to find out that there are none planned.  I’m sure there will also be fan-made stories and campaigns posted online soon, too (perhaps on Greenbrier’s website or on the game’s page at BoardGameGeek).  That being said, the “Valley of Death” story included with the game is really well written and is an entertaining introduction into the Grimslingers world.  I look forward to playing through again, and making different choices to see how the story is affected.


The Witch King

Outside of the gameplay, the components are solid.  The cards are great quality and the map is just the right size and weight to be useful without being too much.  And the art.  Wow!  This art is incredible.  Stephen Gibson, the designer of the game, also did all of the artwork, and I have to say that it is my favorite art in a game today – even more impressive in my eyes than the magnificent art found in Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn.  The creatures, the Grimslingers, even the items are all drawn to perfection and do an amazing job of capturing the feel of the world that acts as the game’s setting.  It is simply stunning to look at (look at that Witch King!).  I’ve found myself thumbing through the cards to just look at it even when I don’t have time for a game.  When I came across the game at the Greenbrier booth at Gen Con, I was sucked in immediately by the art quality.  Luckily, the game doesn’t just look good.  It plays good as well.

Grimslingers is currently available for pre-order through the Greenbrier Games store, and will begin shipping on September 1.  That only gives you a couple of weeks to secure your copy – so click that link and grab your copy today.  For its $30 price tag, there is a lot of game – Duels, Advanced Duels, Multiplayer Duels, and a Campaign mode – in the box.


Gen Con – Day 4

I feel like this post should have been posted sooner than today (now that we’re more than a week past the end of Gen Con).  However, I kept putting this post off because I feel like once I post it, Gen Con is officially over for me.  That, of course, isn’t entirely true.  I still have a number of games that I picked up and Gen Con to post reviews for (and those will be coming soon).  So, without any further delay, my recap of day 4 – my final day – at Gen Con 2016.

My first event of the day wasn’t scheduled to begin until 10am.  I still showed up at the convention center around 8, so I had a couple of hours to kill.  The first thing I did was go to the First Exposure Playtest Hall and check out the upcoming games.  It was there that I got my playthrough of Sharknado: The Board Game! with the designers.  Since I already posted a review of the game a few days ago, I won’t say anything more about the playthrough – other than to say you can check out my thoughts here.

pic1912529After I completed my playthrough of Sharknado, I headed to my first event of the day, some light play with a little game called Takenoko (designed by Antoine Bauza and published by Asmodee) – or so I thought.  Now, I will start by saying that I had never played Takenoko before.  I’d watched video playthroughs on YouTube, and always wanted to give it a try, but I just never got around to it.  So, when signing up for events, I thought “let’s play some Takenoko,” and I signed up for a Sunday morning event to play.  What I didn’t pay attention to – and didn’t find out until I arrived for my event – is that I was not signing up to simply learn to play the game.  I had – completely by accident – signed up to play in a three-round AsmOPlay tournament to win prizes.  Well, this should be interesting.  I was one of twelve players completing in three rounds of Takenoko, with the winner taking home a really nice Takenoko playmat.  Having never played the game before, I was a bit nervous.  I only had a passing knowledge of the gameplay and some very basic framework knowledge of the rules.  Luckily, for my first game, the guy to my left ended up being the first player.  This meant I’d get to see three turns before I had to do anything!  I lost the first game pretty badly, only scoring 19 points, but I felt like I had enough know-how to at least get me through the final two rounds.  Round two went far smoother, and I ended up putting up 37 points, tying for the win.  By the time the third round started, I knew what I was doing, and was able to strategize a bit more than I had been.  I ended up with a second-place finish (26 points, losing by only 3) in the final round.  I didn’t win any prizes fro the tournament, but I didn’t finish dead last either, so I considered that a win (since I’d never played the game before sitting down at the tournament table that morning).  I did get a promo item – a set of alternate art player boards for the game – so I guess I need to add Takenoko to my home collection.  I absolutely loved this game, and could see my kids playing it a lot.  Does it get any more adorable than that chubby little panda?

pic2952642I then had time to grab a quick lunch before heading to my final scheduled event – a Marvel Legendary win-a-box event.  The winner of this event would go home with a copy of the new Legendary: Civil War (published by Upper Deck Entertainment)!  This contest was one I actually scheduled myself to take part in, unlike the Takenoko tournament.  The rules were simple.  Players would play Marvel Legendary: Civil War for one hour.  At the end of the hour, whoever had the most victory points from defeating villains who win and go home with the spoils.  There was four other players at my table, and since the focus was on victory points, none of us paid any attention to attacking the Mastermind.  The focus was solely on knocking villains out of the city and scoring points.  I used a strategy that, in addition to defeating villains, focused on rescuing bystanders (since each rescued bystander was worth one victory point).  Every chance I had to recruit a hero that allowed me to rescue a bystander simply by playing the card (thank you, Spider-Man!), I would jump at the chance.  At the end of the hour, the final scores were tallied.  Our fifth place finisher scored 16 points.  Third and fourth place were tied – each scoring 21 points.  The first and second place players had each scored 22 points – and I was one of those two players!  It came down to tiebreakers.  The first tiebreaker in Legendary is who hit the Mastermind the most.  Since neither of us had hit the Mastermind, we had to look at the second tiebreaker – the most villains defeated.  This made me nervous because quite a lot of my points had come from rescuing bystanders.  Would this strategy end up hurting me in the end?  The other player had five villains in her victory pile.  I had six!  I won on tiebreakers by one villain, and walked out of the contest with a shiny new box of Legendary: Civil War to add to my ever-growing library of Legendary Marvel games.  What a way to end Gen Con.

pic2689545Before heading home I hit the exhibit hall one last time to see if I could snag any last minute deals.  At the Vesuvius Media booth – where I had gone on Thursday to pick up my Kickstarted copy of Cosmic Pioneers – I found a deal that was too good to pass up.  The designer of Centauri Saga, Constantine Kevorque, was at the booth and offering to sell all three of their games – Cosmic Pioneers, Centauri Saga, and Dwar7s Fall – for $60.  This is a great deal on its own, because Centauri Saga itself is $70 – so I’d essentially be getting two games for free and a discount on their largest game.  I mentioned to Constantine that I was a Kickstarter backer of Cosmic Pioneers and, as such, had already picked it up (so I didn’t need it).  He replied, “Fantastic!  We take care of our Kickstarter backers.  Since you already have Cosmic Pioneers, I can do the other two games for $40 total.”  This was a great offer, but I had not intended to buy anything on Sunday, having spent quite a bit on games on Thursday.  pic2454666I told Constantine that, while it was a great offer, I hadn’t intended to spend any more money at the Con, to which he said (with a smile on his face), “$30.  Both games.  Final offer.”  I looked at him and said, “you’ve got a deal.”  He signed my rulebook for Centauri Saga, handed it and Dwar7s Fall to me, shook my hand, and wished me the best.  Finishing out my trek through the hall, I picked up information about a couple of other games I plan to check out, Dragoon from Lay Waste Games, and JunKing from David Gerrard and Junk Spirit Games.

All in all, I think Gen Con 2016 was a huge success for me.  I was able to pick up a lot of games I had been eyeing, play some games I’d never played (found ones that I need to add to my collection like Castle Panic, Fool’s Gold, and Takenoko), met some great game designers along the way (special shout outs to Nick and Carla at Weird Giraffe Games, David Gerrard at Junk Spirit Games, Constantine Kevorque at Vesuvius Media, and Eric and Anthony at Devious Devices), and – most importantly – played a lot of games with friends old and new.

I look forward to what Gen Con 2017 will bring – especially with it being the 50th anniversary.  That only leaves me with one question …. is it Gen Con yet?

Gen Con

Gen Con – Day 3

pic496923My third day of Gen Con started by playing Castle Panic (Fireside Games) with my girlfriend – someone who doesn’t play games.  I was excited when she said she wanted to give Castle Panic a try with me on the Saturday of the Con (her one day there).  My hope going into the event was that it would be the slippery slope that would bring her into my love of games.  If Castle Panic would get her going with gaming with me, it would be the absolutely BEST two dollars I’ve ever spent at Gen Con.

When we sat down at the table, I was a little concerned with how well the game would be received because the event was being run by a mid-teenaged kid.  As he began to explain the game, it started out as hard to follow (though I had played Castle Panic a few times before) because of his explanation of the rules.  They felt very much all over the place.  I could almost feel my girlfriend’s interest in the game waning.  However, once we started playing, it came together quickly.  The further we got into the game, the more she began interacting with the others at the table, even helping strategize our next move and some of the item trades.  We got through the “teaching game” fairly quickly and played a second game.  It made me happy to see that she seemed to be having a good time with the game.  When we were done playing, she did initiate some conversations about picking the game up to play with my daughters at home.  Time will tell if we pick the game up or not.  If we do, then my hope of getting her at least started with gaming with me is still alive!  I’ll keep you posted in future posts as to how it goes.  We do have a few games at home specifically for us to play together (though we have yet to play any of them).  I picked up CV, 7 Wonders Duel, and The Pursuit of Happiness specifically to play with her.  We’re working to get some time on the calendar to give these a try.

pic1800625After we completed our second playthrough of Castle Panic, it was time for us to split up for a bit.  She had a tour of the catacombs under Indianapolis’ City Market scheduled, and I was off to play Fool’s Gold (Passport Game Studios).  I had had my eyes on Fool’s Gold since running across it last year.  With my home gaming situation (a non-gaming girlfriend and two kids, 13 and 10), there is no way I’d get to play it at home, so I decided to give it a go at the Con.  My playthrough was an interesting experience because the guy teaching the game ended up having to also teach El Gaucho to the group at the table next to us.  Plus, because Fool’s Gold requires at least three players to play, he also had to play in our game (there was only one other person at the event with me).  Fool’s Gold uses a combination of worker placement and set collection to mine gold from five different locations.  But, you have to be sure to balance your mining between the locations because at the end of the game, whichever location you mined the most gold from does not cont toward you final total (it’s your fool’s gold).  I really enjoyed the game, and if I had the ability to play it at home, it would be on my list of ‘must have’ games.  I got handily defeated in my playthrough, losing to the other person in my event as well as the guy teaching the game (despite the fact that was only half-paying attention to our game).

pic2954794Once we re-connected after our solo events, we hit the exhibit hall to look around some more.  With no direction or goal in mind, we just blindly walked around and ended up finding ourselves at the Overworld Games booth, playing a demo of Exposed.  I backed Exposed on Kickstarter, and had received my copy of the game prior to Gen Con, but we sat down to demo it anyway.  There was one other person playing with us.  In Exposed, you are given a secret identity and are stealing wallets from people around you.  To win the game you can either be the first player to steal 7 wallets, or you can expose the other players’ identities.  There is a lot of strategy and deduction involved, and though it looks like a light game based on the art, it is actually pretty heavy in the strategy department.  I will say that I could tell right away that my girlfriend did not like this game at all.  As we played, she was making it blatantly obvious which character on the board was hers, but I was paying too much attention to the other player (trying to figure out who he was) to notice what she was doing.  The other player exposed her, knocking her out of the game (making her happy to not have to play anymore).  A few moves later, I exposed him, winning the game.  I really enjoy Exposed, but can see that I will only be playing it with my kids (and maybe a game night or two with friends).  My girlfriend has made it clear that she is not a fan of Exposed, and has no interest in trying it again.

boxAfter we grabbed dinner at Tilted Kilt (one of our favorite places to grab dinner in downtown Indy), we headed back to the Convention Center to meet up with Nick and Carla from Weird Giraffe Games (who I met while playing Between Two Cities on Day One).  We were getting together to playtest their upcoming game, Super Hack Override.  I won’t go into much detail here (because I will be posting a preview of their Kickstarter – which launches on September 12 – soon).  However, I will say that I had a great time hanging out with them again, and really enjoyed playing their game.  I look forward to helping them get funded when their campaign launches roughly a month from now.  Once we had played through Super Hack Override a couple of times (neither of which did I win, by the way), we made the decision to head home for the evening.  Stay tuned for a recap of my final day at the Con.  Until then, thanks for stopping by.


Kickstarter Preview – Sharknado: The Board Game!

2013: The year a cultural sensation began.  Sharknado hit the SyFy network and took the world by storm (sorry … I couldn’t resist).  Full disclosure: I am a big fan of the entire film franchise.  I love the absurdity and the fact that the movie doesn’t take itself – or anything – seriously.  Since it’s release, it has spawned three sequels and a multitude of products (t-shirts, hats, bobbleheads, backpacks, etc.).  But there has never been a Sharknado board game.  Until now!  Sharknado: The Board Game! is coming to Kickstarter on Saturday, August 13!

Designed by Eric Cesare and Anthony Rando, and published by Devious Devices, Sharknado is a cooperative board game for 1-4 players (ages 15 and up).  Each player will take on the role of a citizen trying to survive – and ultimately overcome – the most lethal of animal-based weather phenomenon.  You will have at your disposal various weapons and other items to aid you in your adventure.  Let’s take a closer look at how it all works.

The Gameplay

miaEach time you play the game, you will play a different scenario, which will determine the game setup, as well as the win condition.  The game is played over a series of rounds, each broken into two phases: the player phase and the Sharknado phase.  During the player phase, players will spend action points to move, siphon water from flooded tiles, and search the city for weapons and other items to help them complete the scenario objective.  One of the things that makes this game different from other cooperative games is that there is no defined turn order.  Instead, players take their turns in whatever order is best for their plans, and multiple actions could be happening at once in what designer Eric Cesare describes as “organized chaos that is intended to simulate several things happening at once.”  As long as players have action points to spend, they can continue taking actions – even if those actions are interrupted by other players taking their own actions.  For example, player 1 can siphon a flooded tile, allowing player 2 to move through the siphoned tile without spending extra action points.  Player 1 can then spend more action points to search the city deck for weapons/items or move.  When you search, you can also run across citizens who need your help thanks to Encounters that are shuffled into the city deck (and bad stuff happens to your group if you can’t help them).  Once all players have spent their available action points (or have chosen to save some so they have more in the next player phase), the Sharknado phase begins.

IMG_9292During the Sharknado phase, the Sharknado will take multiple “turns” based on the number of players.  The Sharknado is controlled by its own die and an AI deck.  For each turn, you roll the die and move the Sharknado according to the movement chart on the board.  Any sharks on the new tile get “sucked up” into the Sharknado (which is done by actually placing shark tokens into the Sharknado itself), and the tile is then flooded.  After the Sharknado moves, you draw a card from the AI deck and follow its instructions.  These cards will generally involve sharks being thrown out of the Sharknado.  Some cards will have you add sharks to the Sharknado, others will have you disperse them around the board.  And if you happen to be on one of the tiles that a shark lands on, you get thrown into a completely unavoidable fight.


combatCombat is designed to simulate sharks attacking you as you attack them.  This means that you can take critical damage at the same time you kill a shark.  Combat is resolved using three colors of d8’s – each representing a different aspect of combat.  Yellow dice represent ranged combat, and are the first to be resolved.  Green dice represent defense, and are the next to be resolved, determining how many shark bites you will take.  Finally, the red dice are your melee dice, and are the last to be resolved (after damage has been done).  When you take damage, it not just simply reducing your hit points.  Oh, no.  When fighting sharks, you can easily lose limbs!  For each shark bite you take, you will roll two damage dice.  The result of the roll determines what happens to you.  Will you lose a leg?  An arm?  Your head?  Only the dice know!  Losing an arm inhibits your ability to carry items (if you don’t have two hands, you can’t use a two-handed weapon).  Losing a leg slows your movement.  Lose your head?  You die, of course.  You can also take torso wounds.  Take three of them, and you also die.

goblinSharkThere are numerous types of sharks – even boss sharks – included in the game.  Each shark has its own ability, which alters the combat in a variety of ways.  Some sharks will run away if you hit them a certain way or don’t kill them in a certain number of tries.  Others will bring more sharks to the fight.  And others will eat your weapons and other items, making the fight more difficult.  Sharks can also target specific parts of your body (the Ankle Biter shark, for example, always bites your legs).  And, the shark deck gets reshuffled at the end of every round, so you can see the same shark multiple times during the course of the game.

My initial thoughts

kriegI had the privilege to demo Sharknado: The Board Game! at Gen Con this year with Eric and Anthony.  In the scenario we played, we had to steal a dump truck, drive it to a lab, hack the lab’s security in order to steal the “secret substance” being developed inside, and one player had to sacrifice their character to drive the dump truck into the Sharknado to destroy it.  The scenario felt very true to something you would see in a Sharknado movie – an absurd story that makes no logical sense, but fits into the Sharknado world perfectly.  As I said earlier, I am a big fan of the Sharknado franchise, and all of the absurdity that comes along with it.  So, naturally, I enjoyed the ridiculousness of the stories and items within the game.  The character I played, Krieg, was running around the city in a cowboy hat, killing sharks with a submachine gun.  I could picture him in a movie shouting “yee haw!” the entire time.

sharkpileYou might notice that Krieg isn’t a character from one of the four Sharknado movies.  This is because the characters in the game are not characters from the movies – and by choice.  This allows players who are not familiar the franchise to jump in and play and not feel lost by not knowing who characters like Finn, April, and Nova are.  At first, I was not a fan of the idea.  I wanted the ability to play as someone from the films that I enjoy.  However, in practice, the decision to leave these people out of the game is a great one.  The fact that I was playing as Krieg instead of Finn did not take away from my enjoyment of the game.  The game does include weapons and other items that will be familiar to fans of the movies – chainsaws, bar stools, etc. – which helps immerse the players into the world.  The immersion is also helped by the simultaneous player turns.  You can have two people working on one section of the map, while the other players are working elsewhere to complete another portion of the scenario.  The game does a solid job of making you feel like you are actually working together to achieve a common goal.

Since this post is a preview of a game coming soon to Kickstarter (again, it goes live on Saturday, August 13), I need to point out that much of the art seen in the pictures is not final and is subject to change.  For example, the character pawns seen in the photos will be replaced with cardboard pieces that match the art of the player boards.  Also, some of the things you see here could be stretch goal or expansion material that is being tested (and, therefore, may not be included in the base game).

You can take a look at the Kickstarter page now, and leave feedback for the designers prior to its launch this weekend.  If you have any questions about the game, let me know in the comments below, and I will do my best to answer them for you.  Then, when the Kickstarter launches in a couple of days, back the game because I want Zombie Sharks!


Imploding Kittens

I had the pleasure of picking up Imploding Kittens, the highly-anticipated expansion to the smash hit Exploding Kittens, at Gen Con this year.  Want to know how it adds to an already great game?  Read on!

img_9322First, let’s talk about what is included in the package.  At first glance, I was confused why a 20-card expansion is in such a large box.  The reason … a human-sized cone of shame is included in the box as well!  This cone of shame is a fun (goofy) way to keep track of the turn direction (because it can change – more on that below).  When setting up a game of Exploding Kittens, and you want to include the new cards, you simply trade one Exploding Kitten card for the Imploding Kitten in the expansion.  Then you deal six cards to each player and give each a defuse card, as normal.  So each player will begin the game with seven cards (since you’re playing with more cards than before).  Let’s take a look at what the new cards do.

The Cards

Let’s break down the cards included in then box.  Each new card adds new actions to the game.  We’ll begin with the main new card – the imploding kitten itself.


The Imploding Kitten card

The imploding kitten cannot be defused.  This makes it an extremely dangerous card to draw.  The first time the card is drawn, it is simply placed back in the deck – without using a defuse card.  The difference is that it now goes back in the deck face up.  When the card is drawn face up, that player is eliminated.  Again, the card cannot be defused in any way.  This makes cards such as Attack, Skip, and Shuffle all the more valuable than they were before.  There are also some new cards in the set to help you avoid this dangerous kitten.


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Alter The Future cards are similar to the base game’s See The Future card, except they allow you to place the top three cards back on top of the deck in any order (in stead of in the same order).  So, not only can you see what’s coming, you can actually attempt to alter who draws what card.




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Targeted Attack cards act just like the Attack cards in the base game, causing an opponent to draw two cards from the deck to end their turn.  The difference here is that you can choose any opponent.  It does not automatically target the next player to go.



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What other options are available to keep you from drawing the ever-destructive imploding kitten?  Well, if the game-ending card is on the top of the deck and it is your turn to draw, you can play one of the new Draw From The Bottom cards.  These cards allow you to end your turn by drawing a card from the bottom of the deck, instead of the top.  These cards can be very effective in avoiding elimination from the game.



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You also have the ability to play a Reverse card.  This card will reverse the direction of play (and the done of shame on whoever is wearing it).  It also ends your turn without drawing a card.




The Feral Cat card
The last type of card that is added to the game is the Feral Cat.  The Feral Cat is another cat card with no instructions (similar to the Tacocat, Hairy Potato Cat, and Cattermelon cards).  The Feral Cat, however, acts as a wild card, and is played with any other non-instruction card to create a pair (or trio, if you already have a pair).

The Verdict: is it any good?

In a word, ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY!!!  If you enjoy the original base game, then you should definitely pick up this expansion.  It adds some new actions – and, hence, new strategy – to an already fun game.  And, like the original, if you do not include the NSFW deck, it is completely appropriate to play with young children.  My daughters (13 and 10) absolutely love this game.  The expansion will be available in October, and you can pre-order it now through Amazon.  For $10, it’s a great addition to your gaming library.