The Institute for Magical Arts Review

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The Institute for Magical Arts is a game by Steve Finn, published by Dr. Finn’s Games. It is for 2 players. In this game, players will take on the role of wizards that are trying to each gain the title of headmaster of the Institute. They will employ magical powers to win over their colleagues and collect various tools to help them on their way. The player that can harness their magical energies the best will be declared the winner.

To begin, players choose either blue or red and take the corresponding action cards, scoring marker, dice, score card and 5 small power stones of that color. Player then are given 3 re-roll cubes, 2 small charm cubes and a phase card. The rest of the power stones and charm cubes are placed off to the side within reach of both players. The 2 copies of Novice Crystal Ball, Mortar and Pestle and Ring of Influence are taken out of the Institute cards. These cards are then shuffled together and each player is dealt 1 card. The remaining cards are placed back with the other Institute cards. Players place the card face up in front of them as a starting card. Players place their scoring marker on their score card on the “3” space. The 6 location cards are placed in a row in numerical order. The Ethereal Realm card is placed at the end of this row. The deck of Institute cards are shuffled together. 1 card is dealt out face up to each of the first 5 location cards. The portal card is placed beside location 6. The remaining deck of cards are placed next to the ethereal realm card. Players set up their play area and play now begins.

The game is played in a series of rounds that consist of 5 phases; assign action cards to dice, take and cast power stones, use the portal, trigger permanent powers, award institute cards. These phases are repeated on the phase card that each player received earlier. The first phase is to assign action cards to dice. In this phase, players will plan out which actions they want to take later based on their dice roll. They begin by rolling their 4 dice and then placing them next to the location card of the same number. They then choose an action card from their hand and place it facedown below the die. The cards that a player can use allow them to either take stones, cast 2 stones or cast 1 stone. The card that takes stones allows the player to collect a number of power stones equal to the die chosen. Power stones are how players gain influence over the different Institute cards. The card that casts 2 stones allows a player to place 2 power stones on the corresponding card while the card that casts 1 stone only allows 1 stone to be placed. If a player rolls less than 6 points total combined on their 4 dice, they are allowed a free re-roll. If a player doesn’t like their roll, they can use one of their re-roll cubes to re-roll any or all of the dice. The player is allowed to refill their re-roll cubes by returning a charm cube to the supply. This will lower a player’s points by 1 as charm cubes are worth 1 point each. Once both players are satisfied with their card selections, they verbally acknowledge that they are done. Players will then reveal their action cards simultaneously.

The second phase is to take and cast power stones. These 2 steps must be completed in order. The first thing that is done is to take stones, if possible. Players check to see if either of their 2 take stone action cards were played. If so, they will take the number of stones equal to the die that they placed the card beside from the general supply. The next thing that is done is to cast power stones. Players assign either 1 or 2 power stones determined by the action card played to the adjacent Institute card. The power stones are taken from the player’s personal supply and placed on the card. If the player has no power stones, no stones may be placed.

The third phase is to use the portal. The portal allows a player to either shift power stones to an institute card or to the ethereal realm card. The player must decide if they would like to move all of their power stones to an institute card of their choice, or they can move only 1 stone to the Ethereal Realm card, leaving any remaining stones on the portal. However if both players have power stones on the portal, they must secretly decide what they want to do. Each player takes an action card and a die. The card is used to hide their die. The player then chooses a value to show what they want to do, matching either the institute card or portal by the value of the location card. Only 1 player may have power stones on the ethereal realm card. If a player moves one of their stones to the ethereal realm and the other player already has a stone there, both players lose their stone and place it back in the general supply. If a player has 1 or more stones left on the card, they can either claim the corresponding reward or they can leave it there to try and claim a higher reward later.

The fourth phase is to trigger permanent powers. Players check their cards to see if they would like to activate any of their cards that are uniquely numbered. To activate the card, the player must pay 1 power stone to the general supply. Once players have either activated or passed, the final phase can begin.

The final phase is to award institute cards. This is done by checking each of the face up institute cards that have power stones on them. Players look to see if the requirements have been met both in the number of power stones that a player must have on the card and the number of power stones that the player must exceed the other player by. If both requirements are met, the player wins the institute card placing it face up in front of them. The power stones are returned to the general supply and the player adds the victory points awarded them by the card to their score card. Once all the locations have been checked and Institute cards awarded, players check to see if either player has 20 points or more. If not, any empty locations are filled by shifting the remaining cards towards the 1 location filling in each place. They will then draw a new card and fill any remaining open locations with a new card. If the portal shifts down to location 1, it is temporarily removed and the remaining cards are shifted down. The portal is then placed at location 6 and any power stones on it are removed. A new round then begins. This continues until a player reaches 20 or more victory points. Once that happens the game is over. The player that reaches 20 points wins. In case of a tie, the player with the most points wins.

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COMPONENTS
Just like all of Dr. Finn’s games, this game has some really great pieces to it. All of the different cards look really great. The artwork for the Institute, Portal and Ethereal Realm cards are especially nice. They have that Harry Potter/Hogwarts feel to them. I absolutely love the look. All of the different stones, markers and cubes are nice wooden pieces that are brightly colored. They look really nice and feel like high quality components. The score cards have nice big numbers on them which are good for those with failing eyesight, like myself. The dice are nice and brightly colored as well. There’s even a nice little pamphlet that details the cards. Everything looks really great and fits in with the theme quite well. As usual, I’m impressed with the product.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook is nicely designed. It has lots of great examples throughout the book. There are some nice pictures as well, basically showing how the game setup should look and explaining certain examples. Each phase of the game is thoroughly covered in great detail. There is also a small section dedicated to variants in gameplay. There’s even a nice game summary on the last page. There is nothing that is difficult to understand. The book is very easy to read. The cover photo reminds me a lot of Professor Snape from the Harry Potter books. Everything looks good here and is well done.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This game is an area control game at heart. It’s all about getting your influence on the Institute cards before the other player can as you try to score points faster than your opponent. Each card will help you earn more points but what’s even better is the powers that they will give you. I really like using the portal as it can help you gain a lot of points pretty quickly as long as your opponent doesn’t knock off your power stones. Yes the game is quite luck based. You will have no control over what the dice do. What you CAN control is how you use what you are given. If you want to get a lot of power stones, use that 5 you just rolled to take stones. Your opponent is making a run on a particular card, use the place 2 stone card to slow them down a bit. It’s quite strategic in that way. You can easily find yourself overthinking things sometimes, which is what I did quite a bit. If that happens the game is gonna take a bit longer than the 30 minute suggested playing time. The main thing is to just go with your gut, read your opponent and move on. Once I realized that, things went a bit faster. The theme is really nice and comes through rather subtly. I really enjoyed it and found it to be a nice filler game.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
The Institute for Magical Arts is a light weight game of area control in the wizarding world. It is a very enjoyable game that can be played in a little over 30 minutes. However if players are prone to analysis paralysis, it may take a bit longer. The artwork is really nice and has a great Harry Potter type theme to them. The game is quite simple to play and is fairly easy to learn. Even though it has a lot of luck involved, the strategic part of the game more than makes up for it. Fans of previous Dr. Finn games will love this, as should anyone that likes area control games. This is a great filler game and one that I like quite a bit. I highly recommend it. Professor Snape would be proud.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out Dr. Finn’s Games at their site.

http://www.doctorfinns.com/

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Bullfrogs and Solitaire Variant Review

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Bullfrogs is a game by Keith Matejka, published by Thunderworks Games. It is for 2-4 players, but it can be played solo with the solitaire variant expansion. In this game, players will be controlling an army of frogs as they struggle to take control of the swamp. These amphibian warriors will leap from lily pad to lily pad as overcrowded lily pads sink into the swamp. The player that can best control their froggy fighters will be declared the winner.

To begin, players choose a color and receive the corresponding deck of 10 cards as well as 14 frog meeple and 2 bullfrog meeple. They also receive a player aid card. The starting cards are placed on the table, beginning with the log card first, followed by the remaining cards as shown in the rule book. Players shuffle their cards and place them face down in front of them. They then draw 3 cards from their decks. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

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The solitaire setup is a little bit different and includes a set of 2 colored dice; 1 for direction and 1 for the number of actions. I won’t go into too great of detail on the rules for this. However, I will give my thoughts on the expansion in the break down sections.

On a player’s turn, they will perform the following sequence of events; play, take actions, score, draw. The first thing the player must do is to play a lily pad card from their hand. The card is placed face up and adjacent to either the log card or one of the other lily pad cards on the table.

The next thing a player does is take actions. The number of actions that a player is allowed to take is determined by the number of lily pad icons on the card that they played earlier. There are two types of actions that the player can take as many times as they have actions available in any combination. The actions are deploy and sabotage. To deploy, a player simply adds either a frog or bullfrog of their color to one of the lily pad cards in the same row as the card that they placed earlier. They can not deploy frogs or bullfrogs to the log card or the card that they placed. They also can not deploy more than 2 frogs or bullfrogs or combination of both to any one card. To sabotage, a player will move an opponent’s frog from one of the lily pad cards in the same row as the card they played earlier to an adjacent card with an open space. There are a few exceptions. Bullfrogs can not be sabotaged and frogs on the log card can’t either.

The next thing that a player does is score lily pad cards. To do this, the player checks to see if any of the lily pad cards have been filled up. If so, players then count up the strength of each player’s pieces on the card, awarding 1 point per frog and 2 points per bullfrog. The player with the highest strength wins the battle. The player then jumps 1 frog or bullfrog to each one of the adjacent cards. If moving to another lily pad card, there must be an available space. The log card always has available spaces. The player starts with the losing player’s frogs, then their bullfrogs, moving to the winning players frogs and finishing with their bullfrogs. There will only ever be a maximum of 4 moves depending on the number of adjacent cards. Frogs that remain on the card are returned to the right player. Bullfrogs are removed from the game. The winner of the card then takes the lily pad card and places it face up in their score pile. This continues for any other full lily pad cards. Once they have all been scored, the lily pad cards that are no longer connected to the rest of the cards must be slid into position with the others. This may cause other cards to be disconnected as well. They also must be slid into place with the rest of the cards.

The last thing that a player does is draw a lily pad card. This is done by simply drawing a card from the player’s draw pile. If there are no cards left in the stack, no card is drawn. Play then passes to the next player.

Once all players have played all of their lily pad cards, the game is over. Final scoring then commences. Players add up the victory points on each card in their score pile, adding 1 point for each card of their own color. Players also receive 1 point for frogs of their color on the log card and 2 points for bullfrogs of their color. The player that has the highest strength on the log card receives an extra 3 points. Players then compare their totals and the person with the most victory points wins.

The major differences in the solitaire variant are that the dice are rolled to determine where frogs are deployed by the opposing player and they may bump your frogs back to your supply as well. Any points scored by the opposing player are subtracted from your points which are then compared to the Grand Master Frog chart. Of course the more points that a player makes the higher their rank.

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COMPONENTS
The game is quite nice to look at. It consists of lots of cards divided into 4 different player colors. There are also 5 starting cards that include the log card as well as 4 player aid cards. The cards have some really nice looking lily pad artwork on them. They look like they were all taken from a beautiful painting. There are also 14 wooden frog meeple as well as 2 wooden bullfrog meeple in each player color. The frog meeple are quite cute looking. I really like the design. The bullfrog meeple are a bit bigger and appear to have an axe. They are both really nice. I really like the artistic design of the components.

The solitaire variant comes with a pair of dice along with a rulebook. One die is for movement and the other is for the number of actions. They are really nice. I love the patterning on the dice. They look really great.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is very nicely done. It has lots and lots of pictures throughout the book. There are tons of examples scattered on every page, usually with an accompanying picture for reference. Every step of the game is laid out really well and in great detail. There is nothing difficult to understand and it’s very easy to read. The last 2 pages of the book give a long drawn out gameplay example that should help players understand the game quite nicely. I really like the design. The cover picture looks really amazing and has more of that painted artwork that I like about the cards.

The solitaire variant consists of a small pamphlet. It explains the setup as well as the play sequence of the game, using a ghost opponent known as Isaac. There are only a couple of pictures. The back page has what is known as the Pond Log for keeping track of your solitaire scores complete with places for name and date. This isn’t quite as good as the main rulebook but it doesn’t have to be.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
The game is quite simple and fun. There is quite a bit of strategy involved with this game. You have to think about where you want to place your pieces, when to sabotage, where to place your card and when to use the bullfrogs. That’s a lot to think about, but it’s not hard and it’s quite fast. As a 2 player game, it is great. It gets a bit more complicated with more players. I honestly prefer to play it with 2 players. I like the simplicity of the game and find that it can be easily taught and learned. The theme is there but it’s not a huge part of the game. Yes it’s definitely a game about frogs and bullfrogs. It just isn’t all that deep. That’s not a bad thing though as it simply makes the game a really light, fast and fun game. The game can be played in about 30 minutes which makes it a great filler game.

The solitaire variant is really fun too. It’s a bit different but has a lot of the same strategy as the regular game. It can be played a little quicker than the regular game and took me around 20 minutes or so to play. It is quite random what the other player will do as Isaac’s decisions are decided by the dice rolls. You really have to just go with whatever happens and try your best to win off lily pad cards as best as you can. I have yet to make it to the Grand Master Frog level, but I keep trying. Normally I wind up Knight and Duke levels instead which are in the middle of the chart. As I said, I really prefer the 2 player version best but this is still nice to pull out and play by myself as well.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Bullfrogs is a light weight game of lily pad collecting through battle. It is a fun game that can be played in about 30 minutes with 2 or more players. It takes a little less time with only 1. The artwork is nice on the cards and the wooden frog and bullfrog meeple are really well done. I love them. The game is very simple and is easy to learn and teach. It has a good bit of strategy but doesn’t become too thinky. It really works best with 2 players but the solitaire variant is a nice change up for when you’re by yourself. I like both quite a bit. The game is a great filler. Fans of light 2 player games should really enjoy this. I recommend it and enjoy it.
8 out of 10

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For more information about this game, please check out Thunderworks Games at their site.

http://www.thunderworksgames.com/

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San Juan (Second Edition) Review

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San Juan (Second Edition) is a game by Andreas Seyfarth, published by Ravensburger. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be trying to become the most prosperous citizen of San Juan. They will do this by selecting one of five roles each turn. These roles will allow the player to construct buildings, manufacture goods and trade them for money. The player that can plan their roles selection the best will be declared the winner.

To begin, the starting player is chosen. They are given the Governor card. The 5 role cards are then laid out in a row next to each other in the middle of the play area. The 5 trading house tiles are shuffled and then placed in a stack face down. An Indigo plant card is removed from the deck for each player. The rest of the cards are shuffled together and placed face down in a stack next to the role cards. Each player places their Indigo plant card face up in front of them. They are then each dealt 4 cards. Play now begins.

Before I explain the rules, it should be noted that this game also comes with the “New Buildings” expansion included. When playing with this expansion, the 10 additional city buildings and 4 production buildings are added to the regular deck and shuffled in. The cathedral card is placed face up next to the 5 role cards. Other than that, there are no additional setup changes.

The game is played over several rounds, beginning with the player with the Governor card. On a player’s turn, they will take one of the role cards from the middle of the table, placing it in front of them. They will then perform the action and privilege that the role card provides them. Once they have completed their action, the remaining players in turn order are able to perform the action as well. Once all players have either performed the action or passed, the next player in turn order takes a role card and the whole process continues again. Once all players have each taken a role card and all players have either performed the action or passed, the round ends. All of the role cards are returned to the middle of the table and the Governor card is given to the next player. A new round of play then begins.

Of course each role is different and provides different actions and privileges. The 5 roles are builder, producer, trader, councillor and prospector. The builder allows each player to build 1 building from the cards in their hand. They do this by lay the card face up on the table in front of them and paying the construction cost on the card by discarding the corresponding number of cards to the discard pile. The player that chose the role is allowed to pay one less card. When playing with the expansion, the cathedral can be chosen instead of one of the cards from the player’s hand instead. The cathedral card is then placed in front of the player. There are lots of different buildings. Each one provides different abilities. The rules provide more information on each of the different buildings.

The next role is the producer. This role allows the players to draw a card from the stack and place it face down on one of their production buildings that they have already built. The building must not already have a card placed on it. The person that chose the role cards is then allowed to repeat the process for one other empty production building.

The next role is the trader. This role allows the player that selected it to flip over one of the trading house tiles. This shows how much each good can be sold for. They will then sell a good from one of their production buildings by placing the card from the production building and placing it in the discard pile. They will then draw cards equal to the price of the good that they sold. The player that chose the role is allowed to do this twice. Once everyone has sold any goods that they would like, the trading house tile is placed face down under the remaining trading tiles.

The next role is the councillor. This role allows the player that chose it to draw 5 cards from the draw pile and keep 1. The remaining players can then draw 2 cards from the pile and keep 1. The unkept cards are placed in the discard pile.

The final role is the prospector. Only the player that selected this role receives something. They are allowed to draw and keep 1 card. The remaining players receive nothing.

This continues each round with players choosing roles and performing the actions until at the end of the builder phase, one player builds their 12th building. When this happens, the game ends. The score pad is brought out along with the pencil. Players then total their victory points from each of their buildings. Players also receive points for any cards placed under their chapel. They can also gain points for the triumphal arch, guild hall and city hall. The palace scores it’s points last. Once the points have all been added up, the player who has the highest total is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game comes with some really pretty cards. There are 110 building cards that are used during the game. There are also an additional 33 cards for the expansion that are included. There are also 5 role cards and a governor card. There are thick trading house tiles and a scoring pad with a pencil. The expansion also includes the cathedral card. Each of the cards has that look and feel of the classic game Puerto Rico. As a matter of fact, this game is basically the card version of that game. The artwork is quite nice and gives much of that style on each card. The scoring pad is nice to keep track of each players points in a little easier way. Everything looks really nice and is made of good quality.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is very nice as well. It has a nice shiny finish on each page. Everything is explained really well for both new and old players alike. It’s very simple to read and understand. Each production building card and city building card is explained thoroughly. There are lots of pictures, especially of each type of card. There is a nice setup variation included that changes up the game a little bit, also included are the rules for the “New Buildings” expansion as well. Everything is nicely done and looks really great. It doesn’t take very long to read through as the game is quite simple. I really like the card explanations. It’s nice to have for when you don’t quite understand what the wording on a card means. Not that there are any problems with that. It’s just nice to have a thorough explanation available. All in all, I’m really impressed with the rules.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Let me start off this section by saying that I am a HUGE fan of the game Puerto Rico. I absolutely love it and will play it any time I’m given the opportunity. That said, this game scratches that itch quite nicely and in a quicker way. First off, the set up time is a lot quicker. Grab the cards, shuffle them up and you’re pretty much ready to go. I really like that. Of course the main difference is that in San Juan, there are no colonists to place on the different buildings and there are no shipping of goods. The game is much more stream lined and concentrates mainly on building 12 buildings. It’s definitely a quicker game, playing in about 45 minutes or so. Puerto Rico takes every bit of an hour and a half. That means that San Juan cuts the play time basically in half. I really like the extra buildings included from the “New Buildings” expansion that comes included with the game. It’s adds a lot of variation to the game for tons of replayability. It’s a fairly simple game and is very easy to teach. Basically all it takes is reading the cards to understand what to do. Of course choosing the right roles at the right time is a major part of winning. What all that means is that this game is loads of fun and one that I thoroughly enjoy. My son is also a big Puerto Rico fan as well. We both really enjoy San Juan and love playing it.
10 out of 10

OVERALL
San Juan (Second Edition) is a light card game based on the classic game, Puerto Rico. It cuts the play time in half with most sessions lasting no longer than about 45 minutes. The artwork and feel of the game is very similar to that of Puerto Rico. It is a very fun game that has lots of strategy to it. However, it’s still fairly simple to learn and play. Fans of Puerto Rico or other games of role selection should love this game. It’s family friendly although it’s a bit too hard for the younger ones. The game plays great with any number of players and is one that my son and I both really enjoy. I thoroughly enjoy the game and will be playing it a lot more. I highly recommend this game. It’s great and you will enjoy it.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out Ravensburger at their site.

https://www.ravensburger.com/us/start/index.html

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A note on transparency

I had planned on posting this a long time ago, but somehow got busy and never got around to it. With the way things have been going recently, I decided to fish this out for a little more clarity on the subject. If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me. Thanks.

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of debate on transparency and full disclosure of game reviewers. Rahdo, someone I deeply respect posted a thread in his forum about full disclosure of his review policies in regards to preview and review copies. I felt like this was something that I as a reviewer needed to explain, as I’ve received quite a bit of criticism on the BGG for some of my reviews. So, in regards to all of this, I felt like transparency was the best course of action.

Let me state for the record, I have not received any monetary compensation of any kind for any reviews or previews. I don’t ask for any. Now to the specifics.

Preview Reviews
These are mostly print and play or prototype copies of games from either Kickstarter, Indiegogo or BGG. Either I will approach a company about a game that I’m interested in, or they approach me. I will usually get sent either pdf files, jpgs of the game or a protype copy of the game. I play through it with either my gaming group or my family, depending on the type of game. I write up my thoughts on the game and post it. If a company wants to send me a free copy of the game later, that’s REALLY COOL and I’m more than happy to accept it. If not, that’s cool too. I try to provide information about the game and who I feel this game is more catered towards. A good portion of the time, that’s been me and my gang. I feel that this is mostly because I only approach companies about games that interest me or that I feel will interest either my family or game group.

Reviews
As for the actual reviews, these are the fully produced and realized copies of the game. The same thing mostly applies here as with previews. I approach a company about a review copy of the game or they approach me, asking if they can send me a free copy of the game. If I approach a company, it’s because something about the game interested me. If they approach me, I try to decide if it would be something that my group or family would like. I have turned down games that I felt would not be well received. The reason is because, I don’t like to do negative reviews. PERIOD! If I don’t think it will be liked, I will and have let companies know that upfront. Sometimes the company will still want to send a copy of a particular game. In that case, I will give it a try and see how it goes. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised at how much I actually like the game that I thought I wouldn’t. Case in point, I’m not a war gamer, never have been. However, Columbia Games really liked the reviews that I had been posting and approached me. I received a copy of Julius Caesar, thinking that I would play through it and that would be that. However, this wasn’t the case. The game was actually a lot of fun and surprised the heck out of me. Thanks to them, I’m no longer anti-war games. In either case, I try my best to give my actual opinion on the game, the components and the rulebook. Not every game that I’ve reviewed has been sent to me for free. Some games I’ve actually paid for myself. As a matter of fact, some games that I’ve received for free have inspired me to buy expansions or other games by specific designers or companies.

Anyway, that’s that. Love my reviews or hate them. Just don’t call them biased simply because you don’t agree with my assessment of a game. My reviews are my opinion. They don’t have to be your opinion. We can agree to disagree. In any case, thanks for your support and for taking the time to read this thread.

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Preview Review of Suit Up

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Recently I was given the opportunity to check out an upcoming new game. I received a prototype copy of the game along with rules for play. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Suit Up is a game by Val Teixeira and will soon be up on Kickstarter. It is for 2-6 players. In this game, players will be trying to expand their character’s social network in a bid for the title of most awesome person in the city. Players will be traveling around the city as they try to gain different types of influence to gain new friends. The player that can draw the best crowd will be declared the winner.

To begin, the game board is placed in the middle of the play area with the map side face up. The favor tokens are placed in a stack beside it. The time token is placed on the start time slot with the pale side face up. The People cards are shuffled and placed face down in a stack above the board. 4 cards are flipped over from the top of the stack and form a line to the right of the deck. If more than 4 people are playing, a second line of 4 cards is placed above the first line. The Crowd tokens are randomly placed pale side up on each of the long spaces at each location on the board. The Score card is placed face up beside the board. Score tokens are randomly chosen and placed beside each corner of the score card. The Security token is placed on top of the crowd token that provides the most Influence based on the numbers provided by the score card. Each player then draws 2 People cards. They each reveal the last People card that they drew. The player whose People card is first in alphabetical order takes the Starting Player token. The revealed cards are returned to the player’s hand. In reverse turn order, players take a player board of their choice along with the matching player token. Each player chooses which side of the board that they will use. They will then place their player token with the corresponding side on the Home location of the game board. Each player receives 1 of each influence token which are placed with the unnumbered side up on the 0 slot of their player board. Players then move their corresponding influence tokens as dictated by their player board’s unique ability. Play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they will perform a couple of simple steps. They will move and collect. At any time before or after either of these steps, they can activate a favor token, if they have any. The first step is to move. This is done by simply moving the player token to an empty space on one of the locations on the board. In games with 4 players or less, there is only 1 available space for each location. If another player’s token is there, you can not move your player token there. Players can also move back to the home location at any time. As a matter of fact, this is the only way to make friends, which I will explain in just a bit. Even if other player tokens are at the home location, it is always available to be moved to.

The next step is to collect. This is done by moving your influence tokens on your player board the amount shown on the space that was moved to. Favor tokens are also taken if they are shown at that particular location. A player will gain 1 influence of the shown type for each symbol shown. They also gain 1 influence for each benefit symbol shown of the same type on any of their face up friends cards. The player moves their influence tokens on their player board to indicate that they have added the corresponding influence. Once a player goes above 10 in a particular type of influence, the player simply flips the token over to the side with the 10 on it and continues moving the token to the correct amount. There are 4 types of influence and 1 wild which can be of any type. A player also collects the corresponding favor token if the location shows it. If there is no more of that particular type, the player may choose one of the others. If a player already has a favor token, they may not collect another until the previous one is used. There are 4 different types of favor tokens. Each one does something different from swapping crowd tokens on the board to discarding people cards in the display. One favor token even allows a player to take the small starting player token, swapping it for the large one at the end of the round. This allows them to be the new starting player.

Making friends is the main objective of the game and the only way to score points. To make friends, the player moves their player token to the home location. They will then choose a people card from either their hand or the face up display above the board. They must then pay the cost of their chosen card by paying 4 influence per influence symbol of the corresponding type unless it is one of the 2 right most cards in the display. In this case, 3 influence is paid per symbol instead. The player moves their influence token on their player board to correspond with the amount of each influence used. The people card is then placed face up beside the player’s player board. They are then able to use the benefits provided by the card. The remaining cards are shifted to the right and the display is refilled from the deck. If a player has less than 2 people cards in their hand, they will draw back up to 2 people cards. Players can also discard cards before drawing new cards. This completes a player’s turn.

Once a player has completed their turn, the next player follows the same set of steps. This continues until each player has taken a turn. At this point, the round ends and the crowd tokens adjacent to the security token swap places. The security token then moves to the next clockwise location. The time token then moves ahead clockwise as well. This begins a new round. Once the time token has gone completely around the board and lands back on the start space, it is flipped over to the dark red side. Each one of the crowd tokens are also flipped over to their dark red sides as well. Once the time token makes it back around the board a second time to the start location, the game ends.

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COMPONENTS
With this being a prototype copy, the pieces are final. With that in mind, I have to say that I’m rather impressed with what was presented here. The board is a rather unique design but everything is laid out quite well. The different tokens and pieces all look quite neat. The cards are extremely well done. I love the shadowy silhouettes on each one. It gives the implication of a certain type of person without all the fancy design. The artwork is really great. I really like how each influence is represented from brains to strength, money to suits. Each player board is unique and carries over that silhouette idea. It matters which side you choose as well as the female side is different from the male side for each archetype. For instance, the male athlete starts with 4 muscles, but the female can place their token on any open space as their move. In the advanced game, this matters as the player can only move to one of the next 3 clockwise locations. Needless to say, I really like the details in the design and I think that there was an excellent job done here.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this was a simple design stapled together. Even so, it looks really nice. Everything is laid out really well and was even in color. There are a lot of pictures and examples throughout the book. Everything was laid out really well. All the different pieces from the individual player boards to the favor tokens are explained in great detail. There was nothing difficult to understand at all. I like that there is an advanced game included. There is also an overview of how to play the game as well as how to make friends. All in all, I think the rules look quite nice.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
The game is really fun. I quite enjoy playing it. It has a real nice worker placement feel to it. It’s pretty simple to learn and play. The design is really neat. I like how that players don’t move their player token until it’s their turn which makes it where certain spaces will still not be available. It’s quite strategic in that way. You really have to think ahead of what you need and how to get it done. As you’re starting out you start trying to get yourself running to where you can get extra influence. From that it’s all about getting those friends paid for so that you can score points, usually the higher the better. As I played, I found myself many times fighting for the same friend cards, racing to get the proper amount of influence to be able to pay for them. The game isn’t that long to play. Most sessions last around 45 minutes. It was really fun to play. I like the theme and it doesn’t really feel forced but it is present. I tend to think that if Facebook made a board game, this might be what it hoped to achieve. All in all, a really good game.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Suit Up is a light to medium weight game of making friends with a worker placement feel. It’s not that difficult to understand and it can be played in around 45 minutes. The artwork is really unique and quite good. I really like the silhouette style on the people cards and the player boards. The theme is quite good and makes me think of making friends on social media. Fans of worker placement style games should really enjoy this one. The design is really fun and easy. I enjoy it quite a bit. This is definitely a game to keep an eye on. I would definitely recommend it. I’m sure that the finished game will look even better than the prototype does. It is one that should be played and enjoyed by everyone.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this great games, please check out the game entry on BGG where you can download a free Print and Play version of the game.

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/143146/suit

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Kahuna Review

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Kahuna is a game by Gunter Cornett, published by Kosmos. It is for 2 players. In this game, players will be vying for control of a series of islands. They will be building bridges to link islands together and grow their power. The player that can control the islands the best will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board is placed on the table between the two players. Players decide which color they will play, either black or white. They will then receive 25 bridges and 10 Kahuna markers of their chosen color. The cards are shuffled together. 3 cards are then dealt to each player. The remaining cards are placed face down in a stack beside the board. The top 3 cards are then flipped over and create a line next to the board. The starting player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played over three rounds with scoring after each round. On a player’s turn, they are allowed to play up to 5 cards from their hand. By playing a single card, a player is allowed to place one of their bridges on one of the dotted lines that connects the island on the card to one of it’s neighboring islands. Once they have played that one card, they are allowed to repeat the process as long as they have cards to play, up to 5 cards worth. Used cards are then placed in the discard pile. Players can also play 2 island cards to remove an opponent’s bridge as long as the bridge is between the two islands represented on the cards. The bridge is then returned to the player. A player may also discard a number of cards by placing them secretly under the discard pile. Once a player has bridges on more than half of the connecting island lines, they control that island by placing one of their Kahuna markers on the island. They then remove any of their opponent’s bridges and return them to the player. Sometimes removing these bridges will cause the other player to lose control of a neighboring island. If this happens the Kahuna marker is removed from that island and returned to the player. Once a player has played the cards all the cards that they wish to play, they then have one of two choices. They may draw a card from the deck or they can take one of the three face up cards from the line, replacing it with the top card of the deck.

Once the last card is taken from both the deck and the line of cards, the round is over and scoring takes place. Afterwards, the discard pile is shuffled and a new line of 3 cards is placed out. The shuffled deck is then placed face down and play continues with the player who was next to play when the last card was taken.

Round and Final Scoring is done by each player counting the number of islands that they control with Kahuna markers on them. The player with the most islands after the 1st round score 1 point. The winner of the second round scores 2 points. After the third round, the winning player is awarded the difference in the two players points. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner. If there is a tie, the player who scored in the third round is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game comes with some very nice looking pieces. The bridges and Kahuna markers are made of wood and are very sturdy. They come in two colors, black and white for the separate players. The board is very nice looking and small. This makes it fairly easy to be played on almost any surface. The art on the board is very nice and has a very nice feel to it. The cards are very nicely done as well with the symbols showing how each card should be oriented. I really like this feature on both the cards and the board as it can be very easy to get confused on which island is on the card. This is very helpful in figuring it out quite quickly. My daughter was even able to easily determine which island was represented on the card. When a 4 year old can do that, I’d say that you’ve designed it really well. There should be no problems in determining which island is which. I really like the simplistic design and how nice everything looks.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook is fairly nice. There are some nice examples and a few pictures in it. The only real problem I found with it is that there seemed to be more text than what was really needed. It seemed that the designer tried to hard to explain things and by doing this made it a bit difficult to follow. Thankfully the rules are really that hard to understand so picking out the information that you needed wasn’t that difficult. I just wish it hadn’t been quite so wordy. I really felt like everything could have been written up on a single sheet of paper. I do however appreciate the variations on gameplay that were included so that helps me feel better about the size of the book. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad and it’s not that big. It just seems a bit bigger than it had to be.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I really enjoy this game quite a bit. I like the abstract feel of the whole thing and think that it is fairly easy to learn and play. It’s not really difficult and can be easily taught. For me it seemed like the first round is more about getting your initial bridges out, while the second round is more about removing your opponent’s bridges. The third round is about keeping ahead of your opponent and every round is just plain fun. The game is family friendly and is something that you can play with just about any member of your family. You really have to be paying attention to what your opponent is doing and what options that are available to you from your cards and the face up line of cards as well. Getting some of the easier islands first appears to be the smart thing to do, but they can be easily lost during the later rounds. I learned that fairly quickly. A lot of the game has to do with how your opponent plays as well. If they are fairly passive and are content with simply trying to make their own bridges then you can go with a similar strategy, but if they are aggressively go after your islands then you have to be more defensive in your play style. In any case, I really enjoy the game and find it to be a lot like chess in a sort of abstract way. It’s a very strategic game that I like quite a bit.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Kahuna is a light weight game of abstract strategy with an island theme. The game doesn’t take that long. Most games sessions only take about 30 minutes. The artwork is quite nice as are the wooden pieces. The theme doesn’t really play all that much into the game itself. When I first looked at the game, it made me think of Paradise Fallen. However the game plays more like Chess in a way, as it is more of an actual strategy style game. The game is very fun and can be played almost anywhere and with pretty much anyone. I really like the smaller board style and find that it’s quite portable. Fans of strategy or abstract games should really enjoy this. It is a great little 2 player game that looks nice and is great fun. I highly recommend it.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out Kosmos at their English site.

http://www.kosmos.de/content-199-199/foreign_rights/

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Preview Review of Vault Wars

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Recently I was given the opportunity to check out an upcoming new game. I received a prototype copy of the game along with rules for play. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Vault Wars is a game by Jon Gilmour and Ben Harkins, published by Floodgate Games. It is for 3-5 players but can be played by 2 players with a few changes. In this game, players will take place in a series of bidding wars for vaults full of various items, jewels and even junk. The idea is to get the most victory points by collecting the most valuable items. The player that is best able to do that will be declared the winner.

To begin, the cards are separated by type. Vault cards are shuffled and dealt to each player determined by the number of players. Contracted Hero cards are shuffled and 2 cards are then dealt to each player. All of the Item cards are shuffled together and placed into a stack that is set out facedown in the middle of the play area. The Loan Shark card is placed near the Item deck. Each player is given 20 gold in coins. The rest of the coins are placed in a stack within easy reach of all players. The remaining Vault cards and Contracted Hero cards should be set aside. It should be noted that this game also includes the Worker expansion as well. I will not be covering that here. For more information on this expansion, please check the rules. Play now begins.

The game is played over the course of several rounds of play. During each round there are 4 phases; prepare the vaults, auction, get paid and end of the round. The first phase is to prepare the vaults. To do this, each player will simultaneously choose one of the vault cards in their hand and will then place it face down in front of them. Once all players have done this, the cards are revealed at the same time.

The next phase is the auction phase. This is where the bulk of the game is played. Players check the vault priority number for their previously revealed vault card. In ascending order, players will become the Auction Master with the other players bidding on their vault. The Auction Master checks their card and draws a number of item cards equal to the number beside the closed chest. They will then look over the cards drawn and must reveal a number of items equal to the number beside the open chest on the card. These cards are placed face up on the table. The remaining item cards are shuffled and passed face down to the player’s left. Each player will then randomly select a number of cards equal to the number beside the spyglass on the vault card. They will then peek at these cards before shuffling them with the others in their hand and passing them face down to the next player to their left. This keeps on going until the cards return to the Auction Master. At this point, the Auction Master announces their opening bid for the items. The amount can not exceed the total amount of gold that the Auction Master currently has. Bidding then continues to their left with players either raising the bid or passing. Once a player has passed they can no longer bid. The Auction Master can not bid after their opening bid. Once all but one player has passed, the bidding is over. The player with the highest bid wins the auction. If the Auction Master wins the bid, they pay the amount of gold to the bank, otherwise the Auction Master is paid by the winning bidder. The winning bidder then takes the item cards, looks at them and places them facedown in front of them in their item pile. The winning vault card is placed in front of the player face up. Play then passes to the next highest vault priority number and this whole phase continues again. Once the last face up vault from the previous phase has been won, play moves to the next phase. One word of note, sometimes there are cards that will change up how items are drawn, peeked at, etc., when that happens the players will simply follow the card text to perform the auction.

The third phase is to get paid. In this phase, players are allowed to simultaneously sell any number of items from their item pile. They will sell them to the bank by placing them face up in the trash pile beside the item deck and take the corresponding gold amount as shown on the card from the bank. Once all players have sold off their chosen items, any player that has less than 10 gold may visit the Loan Shark. They are allowed to take 10 gold from the bank but they also must take a corruption token which give negative points based on how many the player has at the end of the game.

The final phase is the end of the round. Players at this time are able to equip any items that have the equip keyword on them. This is done by placing the item card face up in front of them. They are then able to use the item’s end of round ability. Players must then pay storage fees on any remaining items that are not equipped in their item pile. One gold is paid for each item left in the item pile. If they can not pay the cost, they must discard an item for 1 gold each. The player may also reveal 3 junk items for 1 gold. Once all players have paid their fees, the round is over. Play begins back again at the first phase, unless all player’s vaults have been played. If this is the case, scoring takes place.

Scoring is done by each player adding up their victory points from items in their item pile, bonuses from one of their two contracted heroes and their gold. Players lose points for dragon eggs not in a collection of 3 and corruption tokens. Once all the points have been tallied up, the player with the most victory points is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
Since this was a prototype copy, I won’t get really deep into the components. The artwork that was finished looked really excellent. It had a lot of the feel and look of Epic Resort. The cards were really good quality which makes me think that the finished product will be even better. There will be some money and corruption tokens included with the game as well. What I got was some plastic coins that made me feel like a pirate. You can check out some of the art on the preview link at the bottom of this review. In any event, I have a lot of faith that the finished product will look really awesome, much like Epic Resort does.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rules that I received were on several sheets of paper, stapled together. They were in color and had that same type of look as the rules for Epic Resort. That tells me that I should expect to see the same quality in the production quality rules as in it. Everything was easy to understand and explained really well. I really feel that this will not cause anyone any problems at all. I really like that there was a gameplay summary at the back. I hope this remains a part of the finished product as it was nice to be able to look back at. There were also a few added rules for the Worker expansion that explained how to use those cards. Basically it involves a worker market and paying a certain amount of gold relative to the worker you’re paying for in the lineup during phase 1. It should also be noted that there are rules for 2 players as well, but as those are very much experimental at this time, I won’t go into to it here. Overall, I really liked the rules that were presented and expect that the published product will be just as good.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
If you like games of bidding and auctions, then you’ll love this. The game takes about an hour to play, depending on the number of players. It’s really simple to play and doesn’t take long to teach. I really like the randomness of the items. In many ways I feel like I’m playing a fantasy version of Storage Wars. My son loves that show and so this really got his attention when I explained it like that. He was also a fan of Epic Resort so the artwork really pulled us both in. I am NOT a fan of Storage Wars but I like a good bidding game, so there’s that. In any case, as I played the game I realized one thing. There is absolutely a lot of junk cards. I mean that literally. I’m not insulting the game. No matter how good you shuffle, many times you’re gonna end up with Junk item cards in your vault. The good thing is that there are some cards that will capitalize on that junk making it beneficial to bid on those vaults full of junk. I like how that some cards like the jewels increase in victory points the more you have of them. I also love how that the helm, chestplate and shield cards are worth more money if sold together. It makes you more willing to hold on to these cards until you can make the big score from your collection. Many times I found myself running out of money to be able to bid on the vaults. Thankfully there’s always the loan shark to bail you out. It just stinks that it costs you points at the end of the game. You really have to plan when to bid high and when to borrow money. I have to say, I enjoyed playing the game. I assume that there might be some changes on the finished product but for what is already here, it’s great.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Vault Wars is a light card game of fantasy auctions. It’s a really simple game that can be played in about an hour. The artwork and design of the game is really light. Much of the artwork will have the same style and feel as that of Epic Resort. That great as I really love that art style. Fans of auction and bidding games should really enjoy this game. I’d also think that if you liked Epic Resort, you will probably like this as well. There is some randomness on what cards will be drawn from the item deck, but that is some of the appeal to the game, much like the Storage Wars reality show. The game is quite fun and is one that the whole family can enjoy with minimal instruction and a fairly small learning curve. I enjoy it and think most people will too. I would definitely recommend it. I’m positive that the finished product will be just as amazing looking as Epic Resort.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out Floodgate Games at their site.

http://floodgategames.com/

Also, you can check out the current Kickstarter page for the game here.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/floodgategames/vault-wars-bidding-and-bluffing-game-by-jon-gilmou

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