Review, YouTube

Survive The Horde – Kickstarter review

A few weeks ago, I posted a preview of a game that was coming soon to Kickstarter – Survive The Horde from Laffgasm Games.  That game is now on Kickstarter and is closing in on the finish line.  Here is a review that I put together for the game to let you know what I think of it, and show you a little bit of the game play.

If this looks like something you want to add to your game collection, head on over to their Kickstarter page and back it.  The campaign ends on Wednesday, November 23.


Kickstarter preview – Survive The Horde Party Game

release-thumbnailZombies.  They are absolutely everywhere these days.  Movies.  Television.  And, yes, even in our games.  Zombies have become a staple in today’s modern culture, and quite a number of designers, developers, producers, writers, etc. use them to attract the hordes of zombie fans in the world today.  Along those lines comes Survive The Horde Party Game, designed by Evan Johnson (with art by Santi Jurado) and published by Laffgasm Games.

Survive The Horde is a character-driven zombie survival game for 2-8 players that can be played in 20-30 minutes and is intended for a 17+ audience.  In the game, each player takes on the role of one of eight characters and fights through waves of ridiculous zombies that seem to have taken on the stereotypes of their occupations and interests.  As the game progresses, some players will become undead and will play as zombified versions of their character.  The last player with a healthy brain is declared the winner.

The Setup

game-layoutEach player will select a character card and places it in front of them, living side up.  They will also take a certain number of brain chips (based on the number of players).  If playing with 2 or 3 players, start with 5 brain chips each.  In a 4 or 5 player game, each player should start with 4 brain chips.  Finally, with 6 to 8 players, give each player 3 brain chips.  These brain chips are placed in front of the player, healthy side up, and are left visible to other players at all times.  Then shuffle the Zombie and Survivor decks separately and place them in the center of the table, within reach of all players, making sure to leave room next to each for a discard pile.

box-and-componentsThe Gameplay

Determine who goes first by rolling a die.  High roll becomes first player.  On your turn, you will draw the top card of the Zombie deck and read it out loud.  Anyone can then play a Survivor card or activate their character’s Player Power.  Most Zombie cards have a number in the upper right corner.  These Zombies need to be fought by rolling dice.  To defeat a Zombie, you must roll equal to or higher than the number on the Zombie’s card.  Anytime you successfully defeat a Zombie, you will draw the top card of the Survivor deck and add it to your hand.  Survivor cards help you fight Zombies or give you ways to sabotage other players.  Survivor cards are kept secret from other players, and you can have a maximum of five of them in your hand.  If you were to ever draw a sixth Survivor card, you must either immediately play or discard one in order to get down to the hand maximum.

survivor-cardsSome cards in the Zombie deck do not have a number in the upper right corner.  These cards will, instead, contain either a Curse or a Challenge.  Curse and Challenge cards will explain how to resolve the card.  Challenge cards can only be defeated by successfully completing the challenge printed on the card.  If you defeat a Challenge, draw a Survivor card.  If you draw a Curse card from the top of the Zombie deck, the Curse is placed next to your character card and your turn ends.  On your next turn, if you do not roll high enough to break the Curse, the penalty shown on the Curse card is applied.  If you become undead while cursed, the curse is lifted and is discarded.  When you roll high enough to break a Curse, you do not draw a Survivor card.  Simply discard the broken Curse and continue play as normal.

If you fail to defeat a Zombie or you do not complete a Challenge, you will turn one of your brain chips to the undead side.  If all of your brain chips are flipped to the undead side, you will flip your character card to its undead side and continue playing as the undead version of your character.  Playing as undead will give you a penalty of some kind.  The winner is the last player to have at least one healthy brain chip remaining when all other players have become undead.

The Campaign

ks-thumbnailThe Kickstarter campaign for Survive The Horde Party Game launched on Friday, October 21, 2016 at 10am ET (7am PT).  You can back the game now at, where you’ll find more information and images from the game.  When the campaign launches, you’ll be able to grab a copy of the game and all unlocked stretch goals for $25.  For $30, your pledge will also include the Adult Apocalypse add-on.  This add-on contains 10 additional cards that add more adult humor and challenges to the game.  Shipping to the US is estimated to be $5 ($10 to Canada; $15 to the EU).  The game has an expected delivery date of April 2017.

gencon-crewGen Con

The team from Laffgasm Games demoed Survive The Horde Party Game at Gen Con in Indianapolis this past August.  The game was very well received by those who stopped by the booth.  More than 500 people signed up for the email notification list, including more than 90% of the people who played the game.  The team was given high praise in terms of humor, gameplay, and fun by those who had the privilege of demoing the game.

Coming Soon ….

The Chubby Meeple Review of Survive The Horde Party Game will be posted in the very near future.  Evan was kind enough to provide me with a prototype copy of the game.  However, I have not had a chance to play it as of this posting.  I plan to post a full review (with new photos!) in the coming weeks.  Until then, check out their Kickstarter page, and get ready to Survive The Horde!


Kickstarter preview – Game of Trolls

box2The internet has brought us many things since its time began.  Social media is exploding, thanks to sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and – way back in the day – MySpace.  We’ve been given powerhouse websites like Google, Yahoo, and YouTube.  But the internet is more than just a collection of websites.  The internet has also given us things like emojis, memes … and the ever-present troll.  With the popularity of internet memes, it’s a bit surprising that no one has made a game that centers around them – until now.

Coming November 1, 2016 to Kickstarter is Game of Trolls, a card game for 3-6 players (ages 7+) that can be played in 15 – 45 minutes and encourages players to awaken their inner troll with their favorite memes in an epic card game battle.  Let’s look at how the game works.

The Setup

setupThe setup for Game of Trolls is incredibly simple.  Shuffle the deck of cards and deal each player seven cards.  Set the remaining cards in the center of the table, within reach of all of the players, to form the draw pile.  That’s it.  In Game of Trolls, you will work to discard all of the cards from your hand – kind of like Uno – before all of the other players do the same.  How do you remove cards from your hand?  Let’s look at gameplay.

The Gameplay

The dealer will act as the first player for the first game, and play will continue clockwise.  On your turn, you will play a card from your hand and follow any instructions on that card.  Cards can also be discarded as pairs (two of a kind – regardless of direction on red cards).  If you choose to discard a pair of cards, their actions are ignored.  If you played a gold card, once you have followed the instructions on the card, you MUST play another card.  A gold card can never be the last card that you play on your turn.  If you cannot play another card, you must draw a card from the top of the draw pile and add it to your hand.  On your turn, you are not required to play a card.  However, if you opt to not play a card, then you must draw a card.  Drawing a card ends you turn, and play moves to the next player.  Play continues until one player has discarded or played all of the cards from his or her hand.  That player wins and is crowned the troll.  The loser of the game is the person who has the most cards in his or her hand at the end.  If there is a tie for loser, the winner decides who is the official loser – the nerd.

The Perks

Being crowned the troll of the game leads to perks that you can use in subsequent games.  There are three tiers of perks for you to earn.  Each time you win, you go up one tier.  These wins do not need to be consecutive wins in order for you to gain the next perk.  The nerd also gets perks because, as the rules state, “it sucks to suck.”  What are the perks that are up for grabs?

Troll Perks

After your first win, you gain the ability to choose the first player for the next game.  When you are crowned troll for the second time, you gain the ability to have two players (including yourself) swap hands with each other, or you can trade your entire hand in for seven new cards.  The third tier (your third win) will give you the ability to deal two extra cards to a single player (or one extra card each to two different players).  These perks stack, meaning that once you have won your third game, you will have all three special abilities.

Nerd Perks

After you lose for the first time, you will be able to – once per game – look at any three cards in the deck and choose to move them to the bottom of the deck.  After your second loss, you can choose to switch the direction of play once per game (at the end of your turn).  Finally, when you lose your third game, you can select one player at the start of the next game.  That player must draw a card each time it is the troll’s turn to play.  As with the troll perks, these perks stack – allowing you to gain up to three special abilities to make things more difficult for your opponents.

The Cards

The game has four types of cards, defined by color.  Let’s break them down a bit.

green-cardsGreen Cards

Green cards do not contain any instructions on them.  These cards can only be discarded as a pair of the same card.  For example, if you have two green cards in your hand that both have the same face on them, you can discard both cards as a single play.  If, however, the two green cards in your hand have different faces, you must hold both of them in your hand (because you can’t discard either card).

red-cardsRed Cards

Red cards are used to attack other players.  They can be used to force opponents to draw more cards or lose turns.  Attacking another player never changes the direction of play.  When playing a red (attack) card, your target is determined by the spear in the upper left corner of the card.  The attack occurs in the direction the spear is pointing (either left or right) and attacks the player in that direction.  If the card has two spears on it, you select your target (either the player immediately to your left or your right).  If the card shows four spears, you can select any opponent as the target of the attack.

blue-cardsBlue Cards

Blue cards act as your defense cards and help protect you against attacks from your opponents.  These cards can only be played in reaction to an attack.  Some blue cards reflect the attack back at the attacker or cause the attack to skip you and hit the next player in line.  Playing a blue card will never change the direction of play, and you cannot play a blue card to counter an attack that has already been countered.  Playing a blue card also does not count as your turn.  Be warned: if you have lost your turn as the result of an attack, you cannot play any blue cards either.  This can leave you extremely vulnerable to subsequent attacks.

gold-cardsGold Cards

The gold cards in the game always involve multiple players.  When a gold card is played, do whatever the cards says to do.  Gold cards are played and resolved one at a time, and they do not end your turn.  You must always play another card after you have played (and resolved) a gold card.  If you can’t play a second card, you must draw a card.

My Thoughts

Game of Trolls is a very easy to learn and play game.  It is fast and allows you to get through a game in as little as 1o or 15 minutes.  This makes it a good option as a filler game, and even allows for a few plays before you pick up the next heavier game on your game night schedule.

That being said, I have a few problems with the game.  The biggest problem is that the meme theme feels pasted onto the game.  What I mean by this is that if you remove the meme art from the cards, the gameplay itself does not change at all.  The game would play exactly the same no matter what art was on the cards – or if the cards had no art on them at all.  The game also has some rules – and cards – that are a bit unclear.  The rulebook refers to “playing” a card, but in the context of the game some cards seem to be played by being discarded (green cards, for example), while others (some gold cards) seem like they need to remain on the table for a few turns.  While these slight confusions didn’t effect the games I played too much, I can see how some that are new to gaming could have difficulty getting into the game.  The game is also still being developed, so some of these rules will most likely get clarified during editing.

Overall, Game of Trolls is an approachable game that will easily appeal to those who enjoy family-type card games like Uno, Skip-Bo, and Phase 10.  The game will launch on Kickstarter on Tuesday, November 1.  If you act quickly, you’ll be able to get your hands on a copy for $15.  Later pledges will be $20, and the game is expected to sell for $30 once it hits retail.  You can click over to the game’s web page and sign up to be notified when the Kickstarter launches.  As an added bonus, one copy of the game will be given away each week to a lucky subscriber.

Disclaimer:  This review is based off of a prototype copy of the game provided to The Chubby Meeple by the game’s designers.  All photos are of the prototype.  All artwork may not be final and is subject to change.

Unboxing – Tiny Epic Western

This is the first of a new type of post I will begin bringing to the Chubby Meeple.  In addition to game reviews and previews for games coming soon to Kickstarter, I am going to begin posting unboxings of games.  These posts will be primarily photos, and will generally be games that I will be reviewing on the site in a later post.  This installment: Tiny Epic Western, designed by Scott Almes and published by Gamelyn Games.

Disclaimer: The majority of these pictures are taken on top of the official Tiny Epic Western playmat.  This playmat is not included with the game, but is available as a separate purchase through the Gamelyn Games webstore

[You can click any of these photos to view them larger and in more detail.]


The box – pre-opening


What you see when you first open the box – the rulebook and dice corral (inside the box top)


Move the rulebook and you’ll find the components – all nicely bagged for you


The player cards (also called boss cards), each with its own special ability


The six location cards


The four bullet dice – one of each color


Poker cards, building cards, meeples, and tokens


An example of a four-player setup (NOTE: playmat not included with game)


Everything pictured in this photo is what you will find in the box


Review – Lotus

Every year, Gen Con is filled with so many games that I always end up missing some of the titles that I’m interested in.  A lot of the time, this can mean waiting months to get my hands on a copy of the games I missed.  Sometimes, those games are worth the wait.  Other times, I’d find I dodged a bullet.  This past Gen Con was no different.  There were several games – and publishers – I had my eye on that I simply did not have time to take a look at.  This year, one of those missed games was Lotus, designed by Jordan and Mandy Goddard and published by Renegade Game Studios.  I was recently able to attend a launch party for the game, hosted by Jordan and Mandy at Family Time Games here in Indianapolis.  So, was Lotus worth the wait?  Let’s look at how the game plays and I’ll share my thoughts at the end.

The Setup

To set up a game of Lotus, each player (the game plays two to four players) will take one of the four colored decks.  The cards in each deck are identical – except for the color on the back and a Guardian symbol in the upper left corner that identifies which deck the card belongs to.  Also give each player two Guardian Insect tokens to match their selected color of deck.  Each player deck then needs to be set up according to the number of players.  If there are two players, each player will use their entire deck.  If there are three players, each player will need to remove one petal card of each flower type (ensuring that none of the cards with two Guardian symbols are removed) from their deck.  If playing with four players, each player will remove two of each petal type (again, ensuring that you do not remove any cards with two Guardian symbols).  Once the appropriate number of cards has been removed, each player shuffles their deck and places it face-down in front of themselves.  Then shuffle the Wildflower deck (the cards with the gray backs) and draw the first four cards, placing them face-up within reach of all players.  Also set aside all four of the silver Elder Guardian tokens, the Special Power tokens (separated by type into three stacks), and all of the Scoring tokens.  Make sure to leave the center of the table empty to serve as the play area.  All players will then draw a hand of four cards from their deck to begin the game.

The Gameplay

On your turn, you will select two of the following actions to perform: play petal cards, exchange petal cards, or move a Guardian.  You must take two actions on your turn, and you can take the same action twice.  Let’s take a closer look at the three actions available to you.

Play Petal Cards

When playing petal cards from your hand, you can play up to two petals on the same flower for a single action.  We’ll take a closer look at the cards themselves a little further down in the review to help you better understand the specifics of how the petals are played, but for now just know that the played petals will be used to either start a new flower or added to a flower already on the table.  There can never be more than one of each type of flower on the table, so there will never be more than five flowers being grown at any given time (because there are five different flowers in the game).  As mentioned above, you can take the “play petal cards” action twice, so you could play a total of four petals on a single turn.

Exchange Petal Cards

If there are cards in your hand that you don’t currently have a need for (or you want to push your luck a bit to get cards to add to flowers already on the table), you can choose to use an action to exchange up to two of them for new cards.  To do so, place up to two cards from your hand on the bottom of your deck, and then draw the same number of cards from the top of your deck.

Move a Guardian

The third action available to you on your turn is to move one of your Guardian tokens.  You can move a Guardian token from your supply to any flower on the table, placing it on one of the petal cards – even if you have not added one of your own cards to the targeted flower.  You can also choose to move a Guardian that is already on a flower to a different flower.  Your Guardians help you to gain area control on the flowers they are on, which is important because controlling a flower when it is completed gives you the option of selecting bonus points or one of three Special Powers.

Once you have completed your two actions, you’ll check to see if you completed any of the flowers on the table.  If so, you “pick” that flower (or flowers) and will score points for it/them at the end of the game.  If not, play then continues to the left.  Either way, at the end of your turn, you will draw back up to a full hand of four cards.

When you draw back up to your full hand of cards, you can take all of the necessary cards from the top of your own deck, or you can draw any of the face-up cards from the Wildflower deck.  The Wildflower deck allows you to choose which petal cards you want (instead of drawing random petals from your deck).  However, cards drawn from the Wildflower deck do not have any symbols on them.  Therefore, they will not help you when determining control of flowers.  You can split this card draw any way you’d like.  For example, if you need to draw three cards to get back up to your hand of four, you could choose to draw all three of these cards from your deck, all three from the face-up Wildflower deck cards, or draw two from one deck and the third from the other deck.  Any face-up cards drawn from the Wildflower deck are replaced with a new card from the top of the deck, so there will always be four Wildflower cards available.

Completing and “Picking” a Flower

A flower is completed and ready to be “picked” when it has a number of cards on it equal to the number of petals required to compete it.  This number is shown in the upper left corner of each card (except for on any Wildflower cards used in growing the flower).

When picking a completed flower, the first thing to do is to determine who has control of the completed flower.  To do this, count up the total number of Guardian symbols of each color on the cards used to grow the flower.  If there are any Guardian tokens on the flower, each one counts as an additional symbol for that player/color.  Whichever player has the most of their symbol/tokens on the flower has control and, as a result, will get to choose to receive one of their three Special Power tokens – unlocking a new ability for them to use for the rest of the game – or a single Scoring token – which will be worth five points at the end of the game.  If there is a tie for control, the tied players each get the choice of reward.

Once control of the flower is determined and resolved, the player who played the card that completed the flower will take all of the petal cards that make up that flower and place them into their own scoring pile which will be counted at the end of the game.  Any Guardian tokens on the flower are returned to their owners and are not kept by the player who completed the flower.  Let’s look at the Special Powers that are available to you.

Special Powers

Each player has three Special Powers that can be unlocked throughout the game.  Once unlocked, a power is active for the remainder of the game for the player who unlocked it.  The three options are: Enlightened Path, Infinite Growth, and Elder Guardian.

Enlightened Path allows the player to have a hand size of five cards (instead of the standard four-card limit).  Infinite Growth allows the player to play three or more petals on a single flower as a single action (instead of only being able to play up to two).  Unlocking the Elder Guardian gives the player a third Guardian – this third Guardian counts as two Guardians when placed on a flower, helping the player achieve control when completed flowers are picked.

Each of these powers can only be unlocked once per player.  If a player has unlocked all three of their powers, they will automatically gain a Scoring token each time they have control of a completed flower.

The Cards

The petal cards in each player’s deck have a few symbols on them.  In the upper left corner of each card, you will find the player’s Guardian symbol and color (a yellow butterfly, blue dragonfly, red ladybug, or green caterpillar) along with a number.  The number on the card indicates how many petals are required to complete that particular flower.  The smallest flower (the Iris) requires only three petals to complete, while the largest (the Lotus) requires seven.  Other cards require four (Primrose), five (Cherry Blossom), or six (Lily) petals.  You will also notice a light outline toward the bottom right corner of each card.  This outline is there to show you where to play the next petal card for that particular flower.  When playing a petal on an already started flower, play your card so that it lines up with the outline on the previous card.  You’ll be playing cards in a sort of spiral pattern.  This creates a visual representation of the flower being grown.  When the last card is placed (for example, the seventh card on the Lotus), you will see a complete flower.  The cards found in the Wildflower deck have this same outline and petal art.  However, they do not show a Guardian symbol or number in the upper left corner.

End of Game and Scoring

The end of the game is triggered when one player draws the last card from their deck.  When this happens, all players (including the player who just drew their last card) will each take one more turn.  Once these final turns are taken, check the flowers on the table (they will all be incomplete) for control.  The player who controls each incomplete flower will gain the petal cards for that flower.  In the case of a tie, the players divide the petals up as evenly as possible, discarding any leftovers.  Players will then total their points, and the player with the most is the winner.

When counting points, each petal cards is worth one point (the number in the upper left corner of the card is not a point value).  Add any Scoring tokens – worth five points each – to your petal card points to determine your final score.

My Thoughts

Let’s get the obvious out of the way right out of the gate.  This game is BEAUTIFUL!  The artwork is simply stunning.  What I like most about the art is that even though the petals themselves all belong to the same flower, the artist took the time to make each petal individual.  There are different shadows, some petal edges are folded over and beginning to curl, and the flowers are drawn to appear to have texture.  The flowers really come alive.

As for gameplay, the mechanics are very solid.  The game is very easy to learn and plays quickly – roughly 20 minutes – at any player count.  It is a very light game, so I can’t see it being the anchor of your game night.  However, it is a fantastic little filler game and provides enough strategy to not feel like a “kid’s game.”  There is a luck aspect to it, which can limit how you strategize (since you’re limited by the petal cards that you draw each turn).  I know some people are turned off by games with a luck mechanism.  However, with Lotus, the ‘luck of the draw’ is offset by the area control mechanic.  By adding this mechanic to the game, the designers have put control back in the hands of the player.  How will you play your Guardians?  Does it make sense to take petals that you want from the Wildflower deck (eliminating the random draw from your own deck) even though it means sacrificing some of your area control potential?  Once you achieve control of a flower, do you take one of the Special Powers?  Or do you ignore the powers and simply take a Scoring token each time?  Having these choices allows different paths to victory, and can provide some extra replayability by allowing you to entertain different strategies with each playthrough.  I do have a slight concern that the game could get stale after several plays.  However, that concern is a very small one.  And the art makes me want to play it again and again each time I see it.

So, would I say Lotus was worth the wait?  Absolutely!  If you’re looking for a light game you can play with your family (even the kids will love this one), but want something with enough strategy and depth that you could break it out at game night, I’d recommend picking up a copy of Lotus.  It is available now and can be picked up at your FLGS for $30.  It’s well worth the price, and you’ll defintely be getting your money’s worth.  I look forward to seeing what Jordan and Mandy do next.


Review – NecronomiCards


Lovecraftian horror is such a solid genre and, as a result, has become the theme of quite a number of games these days.  You can find Lovecraftian mythos across all types of games – card games, board games, and RPGs.  Some have even started referring to Lovecraft (more specifically, Cthulhu) as the next theme to be overused (after zombies and cats).  It seems that a lot of games that are released these days with the horror theme default to Lovecraftian horror.  Now comes NecronomiCards (designed, illustrated, and self-published by Andy Hunt), a game of horror, strategy, and luck for 2 to 4 players that can be played in about 30-45 minutes.  How does it stack up against other offerings available?

The Setup


NecronomiCards is played with two decks of cards – a Spell Deck and a Summon Deck.  The object of the game is to be the first player to use your Spell cards to draw and play seven Summon cards.  To setup the game, separate the Spell cards, Summon cards, and Curse cards into three separate decks.  Shuffle each deck individually and deal two cards to each player from the Spell Deck.  Then take the top seven cards from the Curse Deck and shuffle them into the Spell Deck.  The remaining Curse cards can be set aside; they will not be used in the game.  Place the shuffled Summon and Spell Decks next to each other on the table, leaving room for a discard pile.  Then simply choose a player to go first (play will continue clockwise).  An example of a 4-player setup is shown to the right.

The Gameplay

file_006On your turn, draw the top card of the Spell Deck.  If you draw a Curse card, immediately place it in the discard pile and resolve its effect.  Your turn is now over and play moves to the player to the left.  If the card you drew is not a Curse card, add it to your hand and then examine all of the Spell cards in your hand.  You are looking for matching sets of Spell symbols on these cards – referred to as a Spell hand.  If you have a Spell hand and wish to play it, you will reveal your sets to the other players, discard the cards used, and draw Summon cards from the Summon Deck.  The number of cards you will draw is determined by the type of Spell hand that you revealed.  When you draw Summon cards, you can immediately play one by placing it face up on the table in front of you.  Then resolve the effect of the played Summon card.  You can only play one Summon card on each turn, and playing a Summon card is not required on your turn.  You may save any number of Summon cards to be played later (again, only one per turn).  Be warned.  If you have unplayed Summon cards, they can be lost before you have the chance to play them.  Once a Summon card is played, it cannot be taken from you in any way.

file_007If you do not have a Spell hand, check to make sure you have no more than six Spell cards in your hand.  If you do, discard down to six cards.  Unplayed Summon cards do not count toward this maximum hand size.  You can see an in-progress game pictured above.  In the picture, both players have played two Summon cards.  Player one (at the bottom) has four Spell cards in-hand, as well as an unplayed Summon card.  Player two (at the top) has two Spell cards in-hand.  The picture to the right shows a completed game.  Player one has won by playing seven Summon cards (compared to the five played by player two).

The Cards

As stated earlier, there are three types of cards in NecronomiCards – Spell cards, Curse cards, and Summon cards.  Let’s take a quick look at each.

Spell Cards

file_002Each Spell card has either 4 or 6 spell symbols.  Some of these symbols differ greatly from one another.  Others are incredibly similar.  Be sure to play close attention to the symbols on your Spell cards when determining whether or not you have a Spell hand.  Each Spell hand will allow you to draw a certain number of Summon cards.  If you have 3 sets of matching pairs, you will draw one Summon card.  If your Spell hand contains two sets of matching triplets (3 of one symbol, and 3 of another symbol), you will draw two Summon cards.  Finally, if you have six of the same symbol, you will draw three Summon cards.

Curse Cards

Hidden in the Spell deck are several Curse cards.  These Curse cards can cause you to immediately lose turns, discard cards, or give cards to other players.  These cards, as you can imagine, can quickly derail any strategy you may have had in place.  Keep in mind that if you have unplayed Summon cards, these cards may also be lost as the result of a Curse card.

Summon Cards

file_004Each Summon card in the Summon Deck depicts a deity, demon, or other monster.  These creatures come from a variety of religious, mythological, pop culture, or literary sources (some are – according to designer Andy Hunt – “just plain made-up”).  Each card also contains a special ability that is activated as soon as the card is played to the table.  These actions will cause your opponents (and sometimes you) to lose turns or cards.  The first player to draw and play seven Summon cards is the winner.  If you would like to play the game a bit longer, you can change the win condition so that the winner is the first to play 10 Summon cards (if playing with four players) or 13 Summon cards (if playing with two or three players).

file_003Included in the Summon deck are cards that represent the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Death, Pestilence, Famine, and War).  In the incredibly unlikely event that you draw and play all four Horsemen to the table, you automatically win (regardless of how many other Summon cards have been played).

My Thoughts

NecronomiCards is a very easy game to learn and is highly replayable.  The fact that you can get through a game in roughly 30 minutes makes it a solid filler game addition to your game night.  The cards themselves are great quality – Tarot-sized and printed on a heavy card stock.  I don’t have any concerns with the cards wearing out for quite some time.  They feel very solid in-hand, and the art on them is simply stunning.  Artist Andy Hunt – who is also the game’s designer – did a fantastic job of capturing the mood of the various creatures.  Horror characters are drawn and colored with a menacing palette, while there are other cards that are bright and almost fun (such as the “My Monstrous Pet” card).  The various card abilities are similar, but different enough to make each game feel different.  I’ve yet to feel that the game is getting stale, and – by no means – do I feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again.  The addition (and danger) of the Curse cards to the Spell Deck keep you on your toes, and the possibility of drawing one on your turn keeps you from hording a multitude of Summon cards (since you could lose one or all of them at any time).  The game does have a bit of a “take that” component, but those situations are caused by the Curse and Summon cards rather than a player making the choice to launch an attack.

file_005If I have one complaint, it is that the game tends to slow down while a player is reviewing the symbols on his or her Spell cards.  Because there are so many different symbols (some of which are very similar to one another), there can be a bit of analysis paralysis that sets in as a player looks over the cards in his or her hand to see what kinds of matching symbols – if any – they may have.  Because of the size of the cards, it can also be difficult to hold them all in your hand while looking over the symbols on them – especially if you have small hands.  This can slow the game down, especially in the first playthroughs.  I like the idea of using the symbols to summon the various creatures.  It feels very much like being a sorcerer reading arcane and ancient symbols to perform your spells.  However, I can see some players being turned off to the game because of the potential for other players to take quite a bit of time to look over their cards.  The pace of the game can certainly suffer.  It’s possible that this could have been helped by having less symbols (or less similar ones), but I fear that doing so would have made the game too repetitive and greatly cut into the replayability.

I see the potential to have future expansions, introducing new creatures to summon, as well as new Spell cards (though I don’t know that adding new symbols would be a great idea).  Expansions with new creatures – maybe new card abilities or ways to “kill” your opponents summoned creatures – could add to the game’s mechanics and add a new level of strategy (though some players may be opposed to having more “take that” than the game already has).

Overall, I would recommend NecronomiCards to anyone looking for a quick filler game with great art, simple rules, and great replayability.  It is available to order now at


Kickstarter preview – Super Hack Override

img_9446If you’ve read my Gen Con – Day 1 recap, then you know that I had the privilege of meeting Nick and Carla Kopp of Weird Giraffe Games, and was able to play Between Two Cities with them.  In fact, one of the two cities I built during the game was built with Carla’s help.  We had a great time and, through conversation with them, I found out that they were preparing to launch a Kickstarter for their first game – Super Hack Override!  What is Super Hack Override?  How does it play?  Should I back it?

Super Hack Override is a fast-paced, light card game for 2-6 players.  It plays very quickly; you can get through a game in 5-10 minutes.  In the game, you take on the role of a hacker, vying to gain enough cred to be crowned the Super Supreme Hacker by competing in a secret cyber-battle against other hackers.  You will earn cred be executing the most epic hacks that you can, all while avoiding the authorities.  Throughout the competition, you’ll make use of proxy swaps and protection hacks to shield yourself from the other hackers, while hacking into government facilities and doing whatever it takes to avoid Hacker Jail.  Let’s take a look at how this all works.

The Setup

The box contains 25 hacks (cards).  If playing with five hackers (players), all 25 cards will be used.  If playing with any other number of hackers, you’ll remove cards according to how many hackers are competing.  The remaining cards are dealt until the deck is exhausted.  Hackers will have an equal number of hacks in their hands.  These hacks begin the game face-in (or private).  There is no draw pile and no hacks will be drawn throughout the game.  Only the hacks that have been dealt will be used for the contest.

The Hacks (Cards)

Super Hack Override includes 10 different hacks for you to execute.  These hacks fall into one of three categories – proxy swaps, protection hacks, and government hacks.  Each hack is worth a certain amount of hacker cred (think of this “cred” as victory points), noted by the number at the top of each card.  Based on the number of hackers that are competing, you will need to acquire a certain amount of cred in order to win.  The majority of the hacks also provide special abilities when they are executed (played face-out/made public).

Proxy Swap Hacks

img_9453Proxy swaps allow you to swap hacks between hackers.  There are four different types of proxy swap hacks, one of which is actually an interrupt.  These hacks have the most powerful abilities in the game.  This makes them more common hacks that are not worth much cred (because they’re pretty easy for hackers to accomplish).  The cred values on proxy swap hacks range from 1-4.  Proxy swaps are recognizable for their light blue color and the proxy swap icon (except for the interrupt, which is purple and includes the interrupt icon).

Protection Hacks

img_9454Protection hacks are designed to keep your hacks safe from being proxy swapped by your opponents.  There are two different protection hacks – the Firewall and the Trace Spoof.  The Firewall will protect you from one kind of proxy swap, while the Trace Spoof will block another.  These hacks provide more cred than the proxy swap hacks, but not as much cred as hacking into a government facility. Protection hacks are worth either 5 or 6 cred, and are identified by their yellow color and the protection/shield icon (which indicates which proxy swap is blocked when these hacks are executed).

Government Facility Hacks

img_9456Hacking into a government facility is worth the most cred (values range from 7-10) because they are the more difficult hacks to pull off.  Since they provide so much cred, the special abilities they provide are less powerful than the proxy swap and protection hacks.  Hacking the mainframe, in fact, does nothing except give you maximum cred.  Hacking government facilities can also be dangerous.  If, at any point in the game, you have hacked three government facilities at once (meaning the hacks are face-out/public in front of you), the government has triangulated your location and you are sent to Hacker Jail immediately.  All of your private/face-in hacks are made public/face-out, and you are eliminated from the contest.  Government facility hacks are identified by their red color and the government hack icon.

The Gameplay

The first player is the hacker who holds the Diskette card in their hand.  The Diskette is immediately played face-out (made public), and then the first player executes another hack.  If the Diskette was one of the cards removed during setup (i.e. no one has it in their hand), then the hacker who most recently won a game goes first.  If this is your first game, then the youngest hacker will go first.  Play will then continue clockwise.

On your turn, you will execute a hack in one of two ways.  You can either execute one of your face-in/private hacks by flipping it face-out (making the hack public), or you can flip any face-out/public hack in front of one of your opponents – returning it to their hand.  You then resolve the effect/ability of the hack.  If you opt to execute an opponent’s public hack, the effect is resolved as if you had played the hack from your own hand.  Executing an opponent’s hack has the added benefit of removing cred from them.  On each of your turns, you will only ever execute one hack (whether one of your own or one belonging to an opponent).

The Table Is Optional

One of the unique aspects to Super Hack Override is that you do not need to have a table in order to play the game.  The game was designed so that it could be played anywhere – including while you’re standing in line somewhere.  If playing sans table, you simply turn your public (face-out) hacks around in your hand -facing your opponents – and continue holding them.  Combined with the small size of the game (it is only 25 cards, after all), the “table optional” feature makes this game easy to transport.

My Initial Thoughts

Super Hack Override will launch on Kickstarter on September 12.  Having played the game with a couple of different groups and different player counts (including a few playthroughs with Nick and Carla), I feel like I have a good grasp of the game and how it plays.  At first glance, Super Hack Override seems too light to be enjoyable.  And, I’m not going to lie … the firs tfew playthroughs were tough.  I initially had trouble understanding the terms face-in vs face-out, as did quite a few of the others that played the game with me.  Like a lot of gamers, I’m very familiar with the terms face-up and face-down.  These new terms were initially confusing.  However, once I had played through a couple of “learning” games and got used to the terminology, I found it very easy to play.  I also discovered that there is a surprising amount of strategy involved in the gameplay.  There are a few different paths to victory, and this allows the player to determine their strategy right out of the gate – and still have the flexibility to switch it up mid-game if the intial plan begins to fall apart.  I do know, after having a few conversations with Nick and Carla, that some of the terminology is being modified.  I believe that face-in and face-out are being replaced with private and public, respectively.  This should make learning the rules much faster, and help cut down on any initial confusion.

The artwork on the cards does a good job of capturing the feel of the classic hacker movies of the late 80’s and early 90’s.  The entire game has a very solid retro feel to it.  I also really like some of the game’s unique concepts.  The “table optional” functionality is a brilliant adaptation for making a game portable.  If I can throw a game in my pocket and play it anywhere I happen to be, that’s never a bad thing.  And, if that game is fun to play, that’s a bonus.  I also really enjoy the ability to execute my opponents’ hacks.  This provides plenty of “take that” opportunities that can quickly turn the tides.

That being said, Super Hack Override is not going to be a staple in my game night.  It is simply not a long or complex enough game.  However, it will come off of my shelf often to be played when I know I’ll be in a line somewhere, or at a restaurant while waiting for my food.  And that’s exactly the niche that the game is designed to fill.  It’s not designed to be a heavy game that takes a couple of hours to play.  It’s meant to give you a game to play when you have a few extra minutes to kill.  And it does this very well – especially at times when you’d otherwise be staring at your phone and not socializing with the friends and family that you’re out with.

Super Hack Override will hit Kickstarter on September 12.  If you’d like to be notified when the game launches, head on over to Weird Giraffe Games’ website and sign up for their newsletter.  For $10 (less than the cost of two Pumpkin Spice Lattes), you’ll be able to get your hands on a great little time killer that can be played literally anywhere.


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.