Steam Works Review

Steam Works is a game by Alex Churchill, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of inventors in a Steampunk world. They will be trying to create various devices for Queen Victoria to gain prestige. In the end, the player that gains the most prestige will be declared the winner and will become the Royal Inventor to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. All the different tiles should be separated into individual stacks according to their backs. The 8 starting tiles are shuffled and placed face up onto the spaces of the blue conveyor belt on the board. The Age I, Age II and Age III stacks should be shuffled separately and then placed face down on the corresponding spaces on the board. The same should be done with the 3 basic source stacks. Each player is randomly given a Persona board which they should place in front of themself on the A side. They then receive cash and basic sources that match those shown on their Persona board. Each player also receives 2 mechanics in their chosen color, which are placed on the 2 leftmost mechanics spaces on their Persona board. The remaining mechanics and automatons in their color are placed on the corresponding spaces on the board. A number of clock counters are placed on the Age II, Age III and End Game spaces as indicated on the board for the corresponding number of players. The first player is chosen and is given the start player marker. Play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round players will take turns either paying to place a mechanic or passing and collecting income. Paying to place a mechanic is as simple as choosing one of your mechanics, paying the cost printed underneath them and placing them on an available space on either your own Persona board or any source tile in any device that’s already in play. If the player chooses to place a mechanic on their Persona board, they have 4 different actions they can choose from. They can take the rightmost tile of any conveyor belt, they can take any one basic source, they can build a device of size 2 from components and sources in their supply or they can activate one of their sources. It should be noted that when building a device, it must contain at least one source and one component. Each source must be connected to at least one component and each component must be connected to at least one source. Another option for the player is that they can also choose to place one of their mechanics on another player’s device on their source tile. If this action is chosen then the device’s owner takes a clock counter from the current age’s stack. Once a source tile is activated, either by the owner’s mechanic or by another player’s, then it sends power to any components directly connected to it. The player can freely choose to activate those components in any order they choose. If the source produces multiple types of power, then the player may choose which type of power to send in each direction.

The other option a player can take is to pass and collect income. If the player doesn’t have the money to place a mechanic or they simply choose not to, then they can pass. They will then place the mechanic onto their Persona’s picture and collect the cost for the mechanic from the bank instead of paying it. Play then passes to the next player who will pay to place a mechanic or pass. This continues until all player’s mechanics have been used. At this time, the round ends.

After the round is over, there are a few clean up steps that take place. First, each player will retrieve all their mechanics from wherever they are and place them back on their Persona board. The Automaton is returned to the board. Next, players check to see if the current stack of clock counters is empty. If it is, then the age has ended and a new age begins. If players were in Age I, then Age II begins and each player gains their third mechanic. The Age II stack is now used. If they were in Age II, then Age III begins and each player gains their fourth mechanic. The Age III stack is now used. If they were in Age III, then the game is over and final scoring occurs. We’ll discuss the end game in a moment. Next, the conveyor belts advance and get refilled. Any tiles remaining on the rightmost space of any belt on the board are now returned to the bottom of their corresponding stack. Each tile now is moved as far right as it can go. If a new age has started, then any empty spaces on the conveyor belt for that stack are now refilled. If there aren’t enough tiles in the current stack to fully refill a conveyor belt with, then the players must remove the remaining clock counters in the current stack from the game. This will then unlock the next age. If the current stack is the Game End stack, then the game is over. Once the belts have been filled, the start player marker is passed to the next player in turn order. A new round will then begin.

The game continues until the Game End stack of clock tokens has been emptied. Once this happens, final scoring occurs. Each player will now add up their prestige points from any prestige chips they may have collected. They also earn prestige points from clock counters, as well as from tiles in their completed devices that have a prestige point icon on them. Players compare their points and the one with the most prestige is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of nice looking pieces. The best looking part, in my opinion, would be the Persona boards. I love the artwork on these and think they look absolutely great. I will say that I’d wished that they had been a little bit thicker, like maybe the same thickness as the tiles instead of on the fairly thin cardboard. Speaking of the tiles, these are all thick cardboard which I’m very happy about. They could have used cards which would have slid around on the table and been a complete disaster. Thankfully they didn’t go that route. I do like that you can pretty much sit the different tiles out without having to worry too much about them getting messed up. However, I kind of wish that there had been more to these than just a bit of wording and some connectors. I would have liked to see my machine come to life in front of me. Instead I’m looking at a bunch of tiles arranged in front of me. Also made of thick cardboard are the clock tokens, money and prestige chips which I like the designs of, especially the money tokens. Of course the game is simply begging for some metal coins to upgrade it with. As a matter of fact, I think I saw some recently that have a very similar look to them which would most likely work extremely well. Needless to say, there’s a HUGE stack of punchboards inside the box when you first open it up. It’s gonna take you a bit of time to punch everything out. Kind of reminds me of the hours I spent placing stickers on the bundles of money for Millennium Blades. The game also has some wooden pieces included. There are mechanics and automatons in 5 different player colors, as well as the start player token. These are all very brightly colored and look great. I like the shapes that they chose for these. You really get a sense of the Steampunk theme from the shapes. Finally the last piece is the game board. I like that there are places for everything to sit on the board. I even like the conveyor belt style place holders for the different tiles. However it does seem to be lacking a bit, especially thematically. I just don’t get the same feel from it that I do from the rest of the game pieces. Overall though, I think it looks fine. It’s not perfect but it’s not bad either.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this one is nice. There are plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book. There’s a really great section on setting up the game with a full page picture of how it should look. About halfway through the book there is a section devoted to the different Persona boards. However only the B sides are referenced, there’s nothing to explain the A sides. You pretty much have to figure it out on your own by looking at the B side explanations. I didn’t like that at all. I felt that a simple paragraph could have explained this so that you didn’t waste a lot of time looking for what each one did. Bad show. The book also has a glossary with all the different tiles with explanations of how each one of them works. Now this was actually much appreciated and a great idea. I like that there are pictures of each one along with the descriptions. The rules themself felt a little haphazard and vague to me. They start off explaining how the tiles work before going into the actual rules. From there it just felt like what was presented didn’t fully explain things the way I felt that it should have. Even though there were examples to help explain things, I felt like a lot of what needed explaining wasn’t covered or given an example of. Overall, I would have preferred a more streamlined and detailed explanation of the rules. The book looks good but needs some work.
7 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I like the Steampunk genre. I mean, I REALLY like the Steampunk genre. I like the outfits, the technology, the theme. I like it all. On the outside, this game should be right up my alley and something that I really like. I like how that in a lot of ways, this game is a worker placement style game. You place your mechanics on a spot and then take an action. Simple. I like that you’re connecting different pieces together to form interesting new machines that will help you do lots of various things. I like that each of the Personas have different actions that you can do making each one unique. That is when you play with the B sides. All that is great. However, when playing with the A sides, there is really nothing different and so thematically it’s lacking. Things like this make the game feel a bit bland to me. It’s all well, fine and dandy that there are plenty of actions to take and that you can arrange things to help you out. That’s great. I just would have liked there to have been a more thematic feel to the game. For me, the game is just a tile laying game with some worker placement tacked on. I’m not big on tile laying games, so maybe that’s why this one falls a little short with me. I’d have rather seen a board with several different areas to place my mechanics to build different pieces and then have had some actual cardboard pieces that could either have been laid out in front of me or even put together to form some weird looking contraptions. Think Oceanos, how that you have these many different puzzle pieces that you put your sub together to be bigger and better. I’d have liked that a lot more. Now listen, I know I’m being a bit hard here. The game isn’t bad. In fact I do like several aspects of it. I’m just used to getting more. Fans of the Steampunk genre that don’t mind tile laying games with a bit of worker placement, might actually enjoy this one. For me, I’m just ok with it. I would play it again if someone asked. It’s just not one that will be on my top 10 list. I would recommend trying this one first to find out if it’s for you or not.
7 out of 10

OVERALL
Steam Works is a tile laying game of worker placement set in the Steampunk genre. It’s a bit too long with game sessions lasting over an hour and a half, many lasting closer to 2 hours. Mostly the components look quite nice but some aspects feel a bit unconnected with the theme and somewhat bland. The rulebook is a little bit vague on several items and could use a bit more work streamlining everything. For me, the gameplay is ok. It just feels a bit disconnected from the overall theme of the game. Griping aside, the game isn’t bad, it just isn’t what I was expecting. I still like many aspects of the game and would play it again if asked. Fans of the Steampunk genre that like tile laying games with aspects of worker placement might enjoy this one. I would recommend giving this one a try first. That way you can see if it’s right for you. For me however, the hunt continues for the perfect Steampunk game.
7 out of 10

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

 http://playtmg.com

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Amun-Re Review

Amun- Re is a game by Reiner Knizia, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is for 3-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of Egyptian royalty. They will be trying to acquire new provinces through auction as well as build pyramids and develop cultures through the Old and New Kingdoms. In the end, the player that can gain the most victory points will be crowned the Pharaoh as well as being declared the winner.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. The deck of Province cards and the deck of Favor cards should be shuffled separately. Depending on the number of players, a certain number of Province cards will be returned to the box without revealing them. Each deck is then placed faced down on the board. The farmers should be placed on their spot on the board, as should the stones, pyramids and double pyramids. The 4 Offering tiles should be placed face up next to the board. The gold cards should be separated by value with each one being placed in a stack face up beside the board to form the Gold Reserve. Each player chooses a color and is given 3 scribe pawns and a scoring cube in their chosen color. The scoring cube is placed beside the score track on the board. They will also receive 20 gold value worth of cards (1 one, 2 twos, 1 five and 1 ten), as well as a theft card and an architect’s favor card. The first player is randomly determined and is given the Start Player token. Play now begins.

The game is played over two ages, the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom. Each age is divided into 3 rounds with scoring at the end of each age. Each round is divided into 4 phases; auctioning provinces, purchase and construction, offerings to Amun-Re and harvest and income. The first phase is the auctioning provinces phase. In this phase, a number of province cards are drawn equal to the number of players and placed on the board in the corresponding province. Any stones, favor cards or gold shown in the Immediate Bonuses box of the province are placed on the province. Players in turn order will then place one of their scribe pawns on an unoccupied bidding space on one of the province cards. When placing a scribe, they may also place a protection card to block the next highest space on the card with their scribe on it. This will make it where another player would have to bid two spaces higher for a province. Once it’s a player’s turn again, they may either pass if their scribe still holds the highest position on a card or they were outbid, they may move their scribe to an unoccupied space on a different province card. It should be noted that the player may move to a higher position on the same card by playing a bribery card. Once all the provinces have only one scribe on them, each player must pay the amount of their bid in gold to the reserve. The province card is then placed in front of the player, leaving the scribe on the province to show ownership. They then take the immediate bonuses that were placed on the province.

The next phase is the purchase and construction phase. In this phase, players can make purchases beginning with the first player. Players can purchase favor cards, farmers and stones in this order. The cost for these is shown on the Order and Cost to purchase section of the board. Up to 4 favor cards can be purchased, this is determined by the highest number of favor symbols on a single province controlled by the player. Farmers may be purchased to be placed in open fields in the player’s province. However there must be a spot to place them in one of the player’s provinces. Stones can be purchased and are immediately placed in one of the player’s provinces. As soon as a third stone is placed in a single province, the player replaces the 3 stones with a pyramid. If a single pyramid is already there, it’s replaced with a double pyramid. Free Farmer and Architect cards may be played during this phase to place a farmer for free, or to build a pyramid using only 2 stones.

The third phase is the offerings to Amun-Re. In this phase, players secretly select one or more of their gold cards as an offering. They will hold them out and cover them with their hand to show they are finished. Once all players have committed to an offering, the cards are revealed. Players can offer gold cards as well as a theft card, which will allow the player to steal 3 gold from the supply. They can also offer an offering adjustment card which will allow the player to either increase or decrease the total value of the offering by 3. Each player totals up their offering, reducing a player’s offering by 3 if they offered a theft card. Each personal offering is added with all the other players to get a total. Any player with a Offering Adjustment card now declares their decision to either increase or decrease. Once the collective offering is determined, the corresponding offering tile is placed on the Nile delta of the board. Players that played a theft card return it to their hand and collect 3 gold from the supply. At this point, the player that offered the most gold is given 3 rewards as well as the first player marker. This can be favor cards, stones or farmers in any combination as long as they add up to 3. The second highest offering gets 2 rewards and the remaining players only get 1 reward. It should be noted that a player that played a theft card does not receive a reward.

The final phase is the harvest and income phase. In this phase, players earn gold for gold mines, caravans and farms. Each province that has a gold mine earns gold equal to the number shown for the gold mine. Caravans earn gold equal to the number above the camel icon in the player’s province. However they only earn gold if the offering tile shows a camel on it. Farms earn gold for each farmer in a player’s province. Each farmer earns equal to the amount of gold shown on the current offering tile. A player may also play a Big Harvest card to earn 1 extra gold per farmer in 1 of their provinces. A player also has the option to play a Treasury card which allows them to gain 8 gold for one of their provinces instead of the amount they would have collected.

Once these 4 phases have been completed, the round is over. If this is the 1st or 2nd round of an age, then a new round begins like normal. If instead it’s the end of the 3rd round of the age of the Old Kingdom, then the province deck should be empty at this time. Victory points are scored before beginning the age of the New Kingdom. We will discuss scoring in just a moment. At the end of the round it’s the end of the Old Kingdom, then players must remove all the scribes and farmers from their provinces and return farmers to the supply. All the province cards that were played are shuffled to form a new province deck which is then placed on the board. Pyramids and stones are not removed. If instead, it’s the end of the New Kingdom, then on top of regular scoring, players earn victory points for having the most gold. Once the New Kingdom is over, then so is the game. Final scoring occurs. Scoring for both ages is as follows. Players gain points for each of their temples, for pyramids they possess, for each pyramid in their province with the fewest pyramids in it, for having the most pyramids on one of the sides of the Nile and for each yellow favor card. The player’s scoring marker is then moved along the scoring track a number of spaces equal to the victory points earned. Once final scoring for the New Kingdom is over, the player with the most victory points is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This is a really lovely looking game. The board really gives you that feel of Ancient Egypt with all the really great artwork. It’s also really great that there are spots on the board for all the different aspects of the game, such as the decks, farmers and pyramids. Speaking of the decks, the different card types are really nicely done as well. I like how easy they are to understand. The artwork is a little basic but it helps convey the card’s purpose without giving you too much information. The game also comes with some wooden pieces. There are victory point markers for keeping up with your score on the scoring track as well as the scribe pawns. Let me just say, these scribe pawns are absolutely hilarious. When I first saw them, I immediately thought of the old Bangle’s song, “Walk Like an Egyptian”. Now I’ve got the song playing in my head again. Each pawn and marker is brightly colored and looks great. There are also some really cool looking pyramids and stones included with the game. I really love the look of these. They really convey the Egyptian feel. Finally the game comes with some cardboard tokens and tiles for the farmers and the offering tiles, as well as the first player marker. These are also a lot like the cards and don’t flood you with a lot of art and information. However, I really like the look of them and think they really fit in well with the game. Overall, I really think the game fits the theme extremely well and you really get that Egyptian look. This is a really great looking game in my opinion.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is actually quite nice. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. I will say that it does fold open more like a map however instead of an actual book. That could be to make room for the large board and components overview on the inside cover. All of the symbology on the board as well as the different phases of the game are covered in great detail. There is also a really nice rules overview, that when the book is opened, appears on the other side of the board picture. I’m guessing that this was planned cause it’s really quite helpful. There are also some expert rules that I didn’t cover included in the book for putting a bit more difficulty to the game. The back cover of the book explains the different favor cards and how to count up victory points. I didn’t see anything that was difficult to understand or read. All total the book consists of only 6 pages, so reading over this won’t take long at all. Overall I think the rules are really well designed.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I love Egypt and all things Egyptian. I love reading about it’s history and looking at all the beautiful pieces of artwork and architecture. It’s no wonder that this game really appeals to me on so many levels. As I’ve already mentioned, the game is beautiful and thematic. Each piece works well with each other. The game mixes area control with an economic bidding mechanic to form a well designed game. It has a good bit of player interaction as well as a bit of strategy too. One thing that I quite like about the game is that it’s broken up into 2 ages and this is where the scoring occurs. This gives the players a couple of rounds to get as many points as they can through a little strategic planning. Once that age is over everything but stones and pyramids get wiped out. Kind of like how ancient dynasties would be wiped out by later rulers, leaving only remnants of their stonework behind. I really feel that anyone that loves Egyptian history like I do, will really enjoy this game. Fans of Knizia’s work should find this game quite enjoyable as well. I highly recommend this one.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Amun-Re is a game of economics and area control with an Egyptian theme. The game isn’t extremely long. Most game sessions last around an hour and 15 minutes or so. The components are really great. I especially like the artwork of the board and the pyramids. Thematically the game is really sound. I get a really nice sense of the different ages and how each dynasty builds off the older ones. The game is really enjoyable. I like that there’s just enough strategy in the game. It’s not too heavy. There’s a good bit of player interaction which I really enjoy as well. Fans of Reiner Knizia’s games, as well as players that like Egyptian history should really enjoy this one. I would highly recommend this one. It’s a whole lot of fun and fills my need for an Egyptian themed game. This is one that you should definitely take a look at if you’ve never played it before. Pharaoh would be proud.
9 out of 10

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

 http://playtmg.com

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Munchkin X-Men Review

Munchkin X-Men is a game developed and published by USAopoly. It is for 3-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of a student at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. They will develop their abilities to help them level up as they use their powers to defeat some of the X-men’s most dangerous foes. In the end, the player that reaches level 10 first will be declared the winner and will become the newest member of the X-men.

To begin, the cards are divided into two separate decks, one for the Door cards and one for the Treasure cards. Both decks are then shuffled separately. Each player is then dealt 4 cards from each deck. The decks are then placed in the middle of the play area face down. Each player is then dealt a random role card and is given a plastic tracker which is placed on the level 1 rank on their role card. The die is placed where all players can reach it. If a player has any Affiliation or Power cards of Rank 1, they may play them face up in front of themself. If they have usable items or Ally cards, these may be played face up as well. It should be noted that a player is only allowed to have one Affiliation, unless they play a Team Up card. Likewise, they may only have 1 ally. A player may also only equip a certain amount of items. A player is allowed up to 1 headgear, 1 armor, 1 footgear and either 1 two handed item or 2 one handed items. Once players have finished playing any usable cards, play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round, players will take a turn consisting of three phases; kick open the door, look for trouble or loot the room and charity. The first phase is to kick open the door. In this phase, the player will draw the top card from the door deck and turn it face up. If the card revealed is a monster, then combat occurs. We’ll discuss combat in more detail in just a bit. If the player revealed a trap card, then the trap is applied to the player and then discarded, unless the trap has a persistent effect. In this case, it is kept face up in front of the player as a reminder. Any other card types that are revealed are either placed in the player’s hand or may be played immediately if the player is able to legally do so.

Let me take a moment now to explain combat. Combat is resolved simply by comparing the monster’s combat strength against the players. The player’s combat strength is a combination of their level along with any bonuses or penalties from special power, affiliations, abilities, items, allies and traps. The player, as well as other players are allowed to play one shot items or use affiliation abilities to either help or harm the player during combat. The monster’s combat strength is a combination of it’s level, as well as any modifiers, plus or minus, from any cards played on it by any player or from it’s own powers. Once these strengths are determined, the player checks each. If the player’s strength is higher, the monster is killed and the player goes up a level, sometimes 2 levels in the case of bigger monsters. The player is also awarded a number of treasure cards, as determined by the monster card defeated. If by some chance, the player is unable to beat the monster because it’s strength is higher, then the player must try to run away. To do this, the player must roll the die. As long as they roll a 5 or higher, they’re fine and suffer no penalties. However, if they roll lower, then they suffer the bad stuff listed on the monster’s card. This could be anything from losing levels, an item or even death. It should be noted that sometimes a monster can not be killed by the player. In these instances it’s ok for the player to ask another player for help. However, only one player may help. If a player does decide to help, their combat strength is added to he current player’s. Of course another player is not obligated to help and so a bit of bribing might be in order to acquire their help.

The next phase in a player’s turn is to look for trouble or loot the room. This phase only happens if the player didn’t fight a monster in the last phase. In this phase, the player has 2 options to choose from. If they choose to look for trouble, they may then play a monster card from their hand and fight it. The other option is to loot the room. In this case, the player draws a second card from the door deck face down and places it in their hand. These cards can be saved for later and used on another player’s combat turn or depending on the card that was drawn, they can play it immediately to help themselves.

The final phase is the charity phase. In this phase, the player is forced to play or discard down to a hand of only 5 cards. Any excess cards in the player’s hand are then given to the player with the lowest level. Once this has been completed, play passes to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until a player is able to beat a monster to become level 10. When that happens, the game is over and the level 10 player is the winner.

COMPONENTS
Let me just say, I’ve been a fan of Marvel comics for a long time, especially the X-Men. I’ve been reading them since I was a kid and still enjoy them. The characters have always been some of my favorites in all the world of comics; characters like Gambit and Rogue, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, Longshot, Magneto, Mister Sinister and even Wolverine. The cards in this game show off characters like them and what makes them who they are in a really beautiful way. The artwork is really amazing. Each deck has lots of stunning visuals that you will simply love looking at. The role cards are bigger and are double sided with a female mutant on one side and a male mutant on the other. I like that each role is different and provides a unique ability that only they have. It’s like you are your own mutant. The die that comes with the game is really nice. It’s very bright and colorful and has an X-Men X on one side. It’s really cool looking and I think it looks really nice. Lastly, there are some small round discs that are red and somewhat see through. These are used to keep track of your level with. Overall, I love the look of everything that comes inside the box, including the insert. Yes, I said I like the insert. It’s a rather cool looking piece too. Everything looks amazing.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this one is quite nice. There are plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book. Like many of the Munchkin rulebooks, it does seem a bit longer than it has to be. The rules themselves aren’t that difficult and could easily be explained in a lot less time and with a lot fewer words. However, I’m not complaining. I’d rather have everything covered in detail then have to go hunting for explanations online. Everything is well covered, as I just said. There are some instructions for combining this game with other Munchkin sets like the Munchkin Marvel edition or even Super Munchkin. However, you’ll have to go online or have a copy of the rules from Munchkin 7 – Cheat With Both Hands to be able to merge sets with. There are a few variants that can be used as players see fit as well. Overall, the rules are pretty good. I can’t really complain about them too much.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Anyone that’s played Munchkin before knows how much fun and chaotic this type of game can be. The same is true of this one as well. It’s a lot of good old fashioned chaos but fun to the hilt. This version introduces the world of the X-Men to the game. You’ve got these role types that you can play as which are really quite cool. It’s like you’re playing a new mutant in Xavier’s school that’s trying to learn the ropes. Each player has special powers that will help them throughout the game. I really like how this makes each character a bit more unique and makes the game a little more thematic. The biggest change in the game for me was the traps. In Munchkin you face curses, however this game changes them to traps. Thematically it makes more sense but really does the same job. As a fan of Munchkin, I especially like this version. As I mentioned before I’m a big fan of Marvel comics so any fans like me should really enjoy this game. Fans of Munchkin and especially the newest Marvel version should really enjoy this one, especially since it can be combined with the Marvel edition. Overall, we really enjoy it as most comic fans should. I highly recommend it. It’s definitely one that will see a lot of play time with us.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Munchkin X-Men is a light weight card game that brings Marvel’s X-Men to the world of Munchkin. The game is very easy and fun to play. It doesn’t take too long to play. Most game sessions last around an hour. Fans of Marvel comics, especially the X-Men should really enjoy this one. Munchkin fans will enjoy this one too, especially if they’ve already been enjoing the Marvel edition that can easily be combined with this game. The artwork is really great on all the cards. I love how cool each one looks. It’s like the images were ripped right from the comics. The game is tons of fun and is great with teens and kids of all ages, making this a very family friendly game. This is one that I highly recommend. Stan Lee would be very proud. Excelsior!
9 out of 10

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

http://www.usaopoly.com/

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Phoenix Covenant Review

Phoenix Covenant is a game by Easwaran Subbaraman, Sriraman Subbaraman, Adam Porroni and Soren Fox, published by Hikari Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will take on the role of Officer Corps Initiate. They will build an army from various types of units to form an elite fighting force that they will use to best their fellow officers with in strategic combat. The player that can best do this will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the table. Players should either create their own deck following the rules for building a deck or they may choose to use one of the preconstructed decklists from the rulebook as a guide. For beginning players, it’s recommended to use one of these preconstructed decks. Each player places their structures and any auxillary units into their side deck, which is placed face up below their side of the board in it’s corresponding spot. The units, spells and other cards create the player’s main deck and should be shuffled together and placed face down below the board in it’s spot. Each player is given a resource tracker which should be set to 25 life points. The first player is chosen. They then set their trackers to 1/1 Command Points and 0/0 Mana Points, while the other players sets their tracker to 1/1 Command Points and 1/1 Mana Points. Each player now draws 6 cards to form their starting hand. If a player wishes they may Mulligan. In this case, the player may keep up to 3 cards in their hand and reshuffle the discarded cards back into their deck. They then draw up to their hand size of 6. If they still aren’t happy with their hand, they are allowed to keep doing this. However, each time the player Mulligans after the first time, their hand size is decreased by 1. Once players have their starting hand, play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round a player is allowed a single turn of play. Each turn is divided into 3 phases; start phase, action phase and end phase. The first phase is the start phase. In this phase, players will follow a few actions. They will un-exert all their units and structures by flipping their exert tokens to the unexerted side. They will then draw a card from their deck. Their Command Points and Mana Points are refilled back to their maximum values. Finally, they resolve any start phase abilities or effects on any of their cards. Players can deconstruct any structures that they control by discarding them to their defeated pile.

The next phase is the action phase. In this phase, the player is allowed to do several actions during their turn. They can gain and spend 2 Essence points, once every turn. They can either add 1 to both their their Command Points and their Mana Points, or they can add 2 to either of these. The points are added to both the Max and Current point values. As long as a player is able to meet the requirements, they can play a card or activate a unit or structure. To be able to play a card, the player must pay it’s cost. To play a unit, the player must also reduce their max command points by the unit’s tier value. If the unit also has a mana burst value on it as well, then the player must also reduce their max mana points by this value. The unit is then place on any unoccupied square in the player’s home row and with an exerted token on it. It should be noted that Commander units allow a player to gate in a unit beside them. This means that once a Commander has been played to the home row and then moved out into the field, they create squares that allow units to be played onto just like the home row. However, a player can not use this ability to gate in another Commander unit or a unit this is of a higher tier than the Commander unit. The player can also play a spell card. This is done by simply paying the mana burst cost and resolving the effect of the spell. The card is then placed in the defeated pile. There are 2 types of spell. Strategic spells can only be used on the player’s turn, while Tactical spells can be used on either player’s turn. Another card that can be played is a structure. These are played from a player’s side deck and must be played onto a hard point. They don’t require a supply cost. They come into play exerted just like units do. Players can also activate cards that they already have in play. The player simply chooses a unit to activate. Each time a unit is activated, they can either move and turn or act. To move and turn, the player simply chooses an un exerted unit and moves it a number of adjacent squares up to it’s move value. They they are able to turn the unit to face a specific direction. For a unit to act, the player chooses whether to attack or use an ability action. The attack will cause the unit to exert. Attacking has 3 stages; declaration, resolution and damage. First the player declares which unit they are attacking with and which they are attacking. It must be within the activated unit’s range. The unit is then exerted with an exert token. Next, the damage dealt to the targeted unit is computed by resolving any applicable armor or weakpoints against the force of the attack. Finally damage is resolved based on the previous results. If the unit is reduced to 0 hit points, it is defeated and placed into the defeated pile. The player regains it’s supply value. Spells can be used during the declaration as well as the damage phases. A player can attack bases and hard points as well as units. If any damage is to be applied during the damage phase, it reduces the player that owns it’s life points instead. If a player chooses to use a unit’s ability, the player must first pay the cost of the ability before resolving the ability. It should be noted that an exerted unit can not use any abilities that makes it exert. Once the player completes the action phase by either exerting all their units or by choosing to end the phase, play then moves to the end phase.

The last phase is the end phase. In this phase, players discard cards from their hand to their defeated pile until they reach their hand limit. Any cards in play with end phase abilities or effects resolve at this point. Once this is completed, a new round begins.

The game continues until one of the players has been reduced to 0 life points. At this time, the game ends. The player that reduced their opponent to 0 is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of really amazing looking pieces. Of course the game comes with 4 prebuilt card decks as well as a puzzle deck to help you learn the game and a couple of quick reference cards. There’s also an expansion pack of card to add to everything. The artwork on these is absolutely gorgeous. It looks like something taken from Magic the Gathering or one of those Boris Vallejo paintings. The cards are not like you’re regular deck of playing cards. These are square like a tile instead of a card. Just looking at the icons and text on these makes me think of Magic the Gathering. I mean, it’s not the exact same look but it definitely gives me that type of vibe. The game also comes with lots of cardboard tokens for everything from shields and health to poison and scrap tokens. Also included with the game are these really awesome looking resource trackers. I immediately thought of the dials in those Fantasy Flight LCG games like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars the Card Game. Finally the game has this super sturdy board. It has a very similar look as the one for Summoner Wars Master Set. However this one has green squares instead of the brown ones in Summoner Wars. Everything looks really great and is really great quality. The artwork is phenomenal and I really enjoy just looking at all the cards. Overall the game is really great.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a real piece of work. The first half of the book is a walkthrough of the core mechanics of the game. Using the puzzle deck, it gives you scenarios to work through as well as the answer on how you should have performed. By the time that you get through it all, you’ve got a really good handle on the game itself. The second half of the book is a straight up rulebook. This includes the game setup as well as all the different phases and rules associated with each one. There are also rules on deck building as well as a fairly good sized dictionary of terms used in the game. Finally there is a section for each of the deck lists and which cards belong to which deck along with space to write your own ideas. There are lots of great looking pictures and plenty of examples of gameplay. Working your way through the walkthrough and then reading the rules, there’s nothing that you won’t understand afterwards. The rules are pretty straight forward and I didn’t see anything that was too difficult to understand. I should mention that the last page of the book has a handy quick reference guide to help while playing the game. Overall, I think the designers did a really great job here. I’d give it an A+.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This game is a really unique tactical experience. It combines aspects of games like Summoner Wars and Magic the Gathering and weaves them together to form a really great blend of mechanics. In a lot of ways you get that feeling that this is one of those big time collectible card games like Magic the Gathering. It also has that living card game feel, because it has everything you need to play in the box. You don’t have to buy tons of random packs of cards to get what you want. The game comes with 4 different decks as well as a stack of cards to customize your own deck with. Each deck has a rather unique feel, much like what the starter decks for Magic the Gathering feel like. There are a lot of options available to each player when playing the game. Working out how best to attack your opponent’s life points is the key. The game is a little bit slow starting out but once you start getting stuff rolling out onto the field, it’s all hands on deck. After playing through the game a couple of times, you’ll definitely want to build your own deck. I really like that the game makes this a possibility and even provides rules on how to customize your own deck. Or course the game is simply begging for expansions decks to be able to further customize your game with. I like the strategic feel of the game. Fans of strategy games like Summoner Wars will definitely enjoy this one. With the movement of units across the board and the various attack abilities of the cards, you’ll definitely feel right at home here. Magic the Gathering fans will enjoy the various spells and units that you can command. Miniature wargamers may even enjoy this one as you get a lot of the same feel of a skirmish style game without the miniatures. Overall, this game is really amazing and a lot of fun. I highly recommend it. There’s really a lot to like here.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Phoenix Covenant is a medium weight tactical card game that combines elements of both CCG and LCGs into a unique experience. The game isn’t extremely long. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes or so. The game doesn’t take a long time to learn either. You can be up and running in about 10-15 minutes. The game looks beautiful, especially the cards. I really love the stylized artwork that reminds me of the designs on cards for Magic the Gathering. The game involves a good bit of strategy, which will make strategy gamers extremely happy. For me, it feels like a mesh of Magic the Gathering and Summoner Wars. I really like the tactical combat that this one has, as well as the possibilities for custom deck building. I’m really hoping that there will be expansion decks in the near future to further customize the decks with. There’s really a lot to like about this game. Fans of games like Summoner Wars or CCGs like Magic the Gathering should really enjoy this one. I highly recommend it. It definitely scratches a lot of itches.
9 out of 10

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

http://hikarigames.com/

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Vikings Gone Wild Review

Vikings Gone Wild is a game by Julien Vergonjeanne, published by Lucky Duck Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of the heads of a Viking clan. They will be attacking their fellow vikings, building up their village and it’s army and completing mission as they try to impress their gods and gain victory points. Of course they’ll have to be able to defend themselves and their village as well. In the end, the clan that can prove they’re the best vikings by collecting the most victory points will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board is placed in the middle of the play area. Each player takes a helper card as reference and a player board which they will then place it in front of themselves. They then pick 2 matching player tokens. The smaller one is placed on the starting position of the scoring track, while the larger one is placed on the flag space on the player’s board. Players each get 3 Town Hall cards, one for each level 1-3. These are placed in numerical order with the level 1 card on the top. The stack is then placed in the player’s Village area beside their player board. The Mission cards are separated into 2 separate piles; 1 with the 1 victory point missions and the other with the 2 and 3 victory point missions. The piles are then shuffled separately. Players are then given 2 random missions from the 1 victory point pile which they then place on their player board face up. The stack of 1 point victory point mission cards are then placed on top of the stack of 2 and 3 point victory point mission cards. The deck is then placed face down beside the board within reach of all players. Players are now given a starting deck consisting of 6 beer cards, 2 gold cards and 2 viking warrior cards. They shuffle their starting deck and place it face down on their player board. The Unit, Defense and Building cards are separated into individual stacks and are then placed on their corresponding spaces on the board. The Odin’s Path cards are shuffled together and placed face down on their space at the top of the board. The top 5 cards are drawn and placed in the corresponding spaces of the Odin’s track. Three random Divine Favor cards for each player are taken from the Divine Favor deck. The rest of these cards are returned to the box, not to be used during the game. The chosen cards are then shuffled together and placed on it’s assigned spot on the board. The top 2 cards are then drawn and placed to the right of the deck on the board. The End Game Bonus cards are shuffled together. The top 4 cards are drawn and placed on their spaces on the board. The remaining cards are returned to the box. The Construction/Damage tokens, along with the beer barrels and gold bars are placed in separate piles within reach of all players. The first player is chosen and is given the first player token. Play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round is divided into 5 phases; production phase, drawing phase, players phase, storage phase and round end phase. The first phase is the Production phase. In this phase, each player places a beer barrel on each brewery they have in their village. They also place a gold bar on each gold factory they have in their village.

The next phase is the Drawing phase. In this phase, each player draws 5 cards from their deck. If they have a tavern in their village, they’re allowed to draw an extra card. If they have a Drakkar in their village, they are allowed to keep a card in their hand from the previous round. This card does not count against the player’s hand limit.

The third phase is the player’s phase. This is where all the action happens. In this phase, each player in turn order will take their turn. On their turn, they’re allowed to take any number of actions that they can and that they chose to take in any order. There are 6 different types of actions available; buy units, defenses or Odin’s path cards, buy buildings, upgrade the Town Hall, attack, complete a mission and exchange resources. Buying units, defenses or Odin’s path cards may be done as long as the player has the resources to pay for them. Each of these card types have either a price in gold, beer or both. Players may use the cards from their hands to pay these prices or they can use the beer barrels and gold bars from their buildings and containers. They can even use a combination of both. Once a card is purchased it is placed in the player’s area along with the rest of the cards the player has played during their turn. It should be noted that later on when storing beer and gold, only beer barrels and gold bars may be stored. Gold and beer from cards may not be stored. Just something to keep in mind when purchasing cards. Also of note, when a player purchases a card from Odin’s path. All the cards to the left of the purchased card now move to the right to fill in the empty space. A new card is drawn and placed in the leftmost empty space once this is done. Buying buildings is done much like purchasing any of the other cards. They are paid for the same way with either a beer, gold or both resources cost. However, when a building is bought, it is placed in the player’s Village area where it will stay for the rest of the game. A player is only allowed to have 3 of the same type of building and may only build buildings as their Town Hall allows. When the building is purchased, it is placed in the player’s Village with a construction token placed on it. This shows that the building may not be used or attacked during that round. It should be noted that a player is allowed to return 1 of their buildings back to the supply if they so desire. However they gain no bonuses or reimbursement from doing so. Upgrading the Town Hall allows a player to add more buildings to their village. A level 1 town hall will only allow for 3 buildings not including the town hall. A level 2 town hall allows for 6 buildings not including the town hall. A level 3 town hall allows a player to build as many buildings as they would like but still retains the 3 of each type rule. When the player upgrades their town hall to level 3, they immediately gain 5 victory points. To upgrade their town hall, the player must pay the cost in gold. Attacking can be done against another player, an undead or the Draco. To make a successful attack against another player, the combined strength value of all the attacking units must be greater than or equal to the defense value of the building targeted. A player is only allowed 1 attack per player per turn and players that have already been attacked by other players can’t be attacked again during this round. A player may use as many heroes or units as they would like to attack a single building. If the attack is successful, then the player places a damage token on the building. This allows the player to count victory points and indicates that the building can’t be attacked again that round. It should be noted that a player may defend their buildings against attack, as long as they have a defense card in their hand. They simply play it when their buildings are targeted and the defense card raises the defense value of the building under attack. If the defense value ends up being more than the attack value, the defense succeeds. Players earn victory points for successfully attacking buildings or for defending. For more information on the victory point rewards, please check the rulebook. The player can instead choose to attack an undead or the Draco. To do this, the player chooses an unded among the Odin’s Path cards or the Dracon on the board. Just like attacking another player, the combined attack value must be more than or equal to the defense value of the undead or Draco’s defense. Undead reward the player with a resource displayed on the card and a victory point, while the Draco rewards a resource of the player’s choice. To complete a mission, the player must meet all the requirements of one of the Mission cards on their player board. The player simply announces they’re fulfilling a mission and then they receive the victory points written on the card. The accomplished mission is then placed facedown on the Mission Successful spot on their player board. A player is only allowed to complete 1 mission per round. During the drawing phase, if a player has only 1 mission card face up on their board, they will then draw a new one. The final action is to exchange resources. To do this, the player has to exchange 2 identical resources to gain a resource of the other type. This can be done as many times as the player has resources to swap.

The next phase is the storage phase. In this phase, players are allowed to move any of their unused produced resources to their containers. They can also move stored resources to another container for that resource. If the player doesn’t have any containers for the resource, it is discarded. The player is not allowed to keep resources unless they have a corresponding container for it. It should be noted that if a player has 4 identical resources stored in a container, they gain a victory point.

The final phase is the round end phase. In this phase, several things happen. Each player must discard all the cards that they played during the round. They also discard any cards left in their hand, unless they have a Drakkar, which allows them to keep a card. Construction and damage tokens are removed from buildings. The Odin’s Path card on the right most space is discarded and all the cards along the path are moved to the right. A new card is then drawn and placed in the empty spot. The first player token is passed to the next player in turn order. A new round then begins.

The game continues until a player reaches a certain amount of victory points. Whenever that happens, the current round becomes the last round. Players finish their turns like normal. Once the game ends, scoring occurs. Players check to see who fulfilled the conditions of the bonus cards. Victory points are then handed out for each one. Players then check their victory point total and the one with the most victory points is the winner.

One thing that I didn’t mention is the Divine Favor cards. These can not be bought but must be earned either by attacking a level 3 town hall or reaching a certain number of victory points (5, 12 and 20). The player flips the top divine favor card over and chooses between it and the 2 face up cards. The chosen card is placed in the player’s area and the two that remain are placed in the two spots on the board.

COMPONENTS
There are so many great looking pieces that come with this game. There’s the board with spaces for everything including a nice looking scoring track and a gruesome looking Draco on it. There’s even a conversion rate for exchanging resources as well. Next there are the player tokens in large and small sizes with some really amazing looking character artwork on them. There’s also the double sided tokens with construction hammers on one side and damage explosions on the other. These as well as the player tokens are all thick cardboard. Next we have the wooden pieces, the gold bars and the beer barrels. These are great and look just like the resources they represent. The gold bars can be a bit difficult to pick up sometimes if you try picking them up from the side. However the look and feel of these are great. There are the player boards which are a bit thinner than the cardboard pieces but should be too big of a deal. I do wish these had been made of the same thick cardboard as the tokens though. Next there are all the beautiful looking cards. There are 10 different types of cards and each one looks great. I especially like all the various unit and character cards throughout the different card types. The reference cards are great and are very helpful when playing the game. Finally there is the first player token that is a stand up of Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. What game about Vikings would be complete without that? Like I said, there’s a ton of stuff here. Each piece fits the theme perfectly and has that humorous viking tone to it. I absolutely LOVE how nice this game looks. It’s as close to perfect as you can get without miniatures.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is extremely nice. There are lots of great looking pictures and examples throughout the book. There’s even a nice setup picture to show you how the game should look. Each phase of the game is explained in great detail and in a very easy to understand way. There are several pages devoted to explaining the different card types and what each icon means on them, including pictures. The rules also have a nice faq section to answer any nagging questions you might have. I didn’t see anything that was difficult or hard to read. Everything looked great. This has got to be one of the best looking rule books that I’ve seen this year. Overall, there’s nothing I’d have done any different.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, I love deck building games. I have to say that this is probably the most unique and different deck building style game that I’ve ever played. It has some of the hallmarks of a normal deck builder. For instance, you have a bank of different types of cards that you can purchase like in Dominion or Tanto Cuore. However there’s also an ever changing line of cards that you can buy such as in the DC deck building game or Ascension. All that makes for a pretty interesting game, but that’s not all that this game has going for it. You also have a bit of tableau or city building with your village area that can produce resources. Combine all that stuff together and you have a pretty cool game. My first play through, I focused mainly on getting buildings built to create resources and to have places to store them. Needless to say my opponent was stocking up on units to attack those newly built buildings with. Let’s just say that the game didn’t go my way that time. I learned rather quickly that you really have to do this kind of balancing act. You need those resources to buy stuff with but you also need to be able to attack and defend or you’ll get left in the dust when it comes to earning victory points. I’ve found that the best variety of things you can buy comes from the Odin’s Path cards and the Divine Favor. You can find a lot of good stuff that will really come in handy or that will bump you up faster on the victory point track in the Odin’s Path cards. However, the Divine Favor cards will supercharge your deck with lots of really powerful cards. There’s mighty heroes that can amp up your attacks or even help defend your village. You really want to pay attention to what’s available in both these areas. For a deck building game, this one has quite a bit of player interaction, more than what I expected. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just different from your average deck builders. Thematically this game is quite fun. The artwork lends itself to this fun and humorous style theme quite nicely. I have to say that I like this one. Fans of deck builders should really check this one out, they will most likely enjoy it, especially if they like a little player interaction mixed in. Overall, it’s a pretty good game. I recommend it. It’s got a lot to like about it.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Vikings Gone Wild is a deck building game that combines lots of different styles together into a really unique experience. The game doesn’t take an extremely long time to play. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes to an hour. The components are really amazing looking. I especially like the humorous style artwork and the wooden beer barrels and gold bars. Thematically the game looks and feels great. The game is quite fun and has a really unique take on the deck building mechanic. It combines aspects from Dominion and Ascension as well as adding in healthy dose of player interaction along with some city building and resource management. For me there’s just so many good things to like about this game. Fans of deck building games should really enjoy this one. Overall this game looks and feels like a wild fun ride. I would recommend it. You will most definitely want to play it again and again.
9 out of 10

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

http://www.luckyduckgames.com/

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Preview Review of Grease Monkey Garage

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

Grease Monkey Garage is a game by Fedor Sosnin, published by Disruptive Inc.. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of shift managers at a local auto shop. They’ll be managing the mechanics and the shops resources, as well as their time while the owner is on a 2 week vacation. They’ll need to fix customer’s vehicles while storing spare parts in their personal stash for quick access if they hope to earn a better reputation than their opponents. In the end, the player with the highest reputation will be declared the winner.

To begin, the shop cards are laid out to create a 4 x 2 grid. Each card is placed in numerical order based on the difficulty level chosen using the numbers on the bottom of each card. The calendar card and score card are placed side by side above the shop cards. The calendar token is placed on the calendar card on the first space. The vehicle cards are shuffled together and placed face down to the side of the shop cards. A number of vehicle cards are then drawn and placed in a face up row below the deck equal to the number of players plus 1. A certain amount of resource tokens are placed beside the corresponding shop card. For more information on the amount, please check the rulebook. Players choose a color and receive the corresponding colored stach card and 3 specialists. The specialists are placed on the designated spot of the stash card. Each player then takes 2 reputaion markers in their color which are placed on the two 0 spaces on the reputation card. A mechanic is placed on the 4 shop cards in the corners of the grid. The Employee of the Month card is set aside for now but will be used at the end of the game. The first player is chosen and they are given the first player card. Play now begins.

The game is played over a series of 10 rounds. For 2 player games, it is played over 12 rounds. Each round players take their turn in beginning with the first player and continuing in clockwise order. On a player’s turn, they will move each of the 4 mechanics, one at a time. The mechanics must be moved to an adjacent card but may not be moved diagonally. The player then takes the corresponding action that the card provides, if possible. Once the mechanic has been moved, the player lays it down to show that it’s already been moved during their turn. If a player has any specialists active, they may also be moved during the player’s turn and the card action taken. Just like the mechanics, once they’re moved, they are also laid down. Once the player has moved all the mechanics and any of their available specialists that they would like to move, their turn is over. The player then stands all the mechanics and any of their moved specialists back up. Play then passes to the next player who follows the same procedure. At the end of each round, the calendar token is advanced by 1 space.

Now let me explain what each of the different shop cards do. As mentioned earlier, each of these provides a different action. Four of these actions provide the player with resources. The Oil provides 1 oil resource. The Parts provide 2 parts resources. The Tires provide 2 tire resources. The Tools provide 1 tool resource. Each time a resource is gained, it’s placed on the player’s stash card. If there are no more of the resource available in the supply, the player may then take it from another player’s stash. The other 4 are a bit more complicated. First off there’s the Checklist. This allows the player to take one of the vehicles from the face up row of cards and place it below their stash card. A new card is then drawn from the deck to refill the row with. Each player may only have 1 vehicle that they’re working on at a time, unless they have hired a specialist. They are then allowed 1 extra vehicle for each hired specialist that they have. The Front Desk allows the player to return a vehicle or they may gain a resource of their choice. We’ll discuss returning a vehicle in more detail in a moment. The Shop Office allows the player to return a vehicle or they may hire a specialist. If they choose to hire a specialist, the specialist is laid down on the Shop Office and can not be moved until the player’s next turn. It should be noted that players are not allowed to hire a specialist until they’ve reached a certain reputation. For the first specialist, that number is 5. The second specialist requires 10 reputation and the third one requires 15. The Workbench allows the player to pay any 2 resources to gain a resource of their choice.

Earlier I mentioned that certain cards allow the player to return a vehicle. Returning a vehicle is the main way that reputation points are earned, or lost in some instances. To gain reputation, the player needs to pay the required resources printed on the vehicle that they’re working on to repair it. If they’re able to pay the type and amount of each, returning them to the supply, then they gain the number of reputation points printed on the card. The vehicle card is then placed in the discard pile. The player can also choose to return a vehicle without repairing it. This means that they don’t pay the resources to fix it. The card is simply placed in the discard pile. However, the player must lost 1 reputation point because of this.

The game continues until the calendar token reaches the space marked with the red X on it. At this point, the game ends and scoring occurs. The game can also end if the last vehicle is taken during a round. If this occurs, the current round is finished and then the game ends. Once the game ends, players earn bonuses to their reputation. They earn points for each specialist that they’ve hired and for every 3 resources left in their stash. They can also lose points for each vehicle they have not returned. Players add up their reputation and the one with the highest total reputation is the winner. They are the Employee of the Month and get to write their name on the Employee of the Month card.

COMPONENTS
As this is only a prototype, I won’t go into too much detail here, as things are likely to change. From what I’ve seen so far though, everything looks to be going in the right direction. There are stash cards which are the player mats for each player, as well as the calendar card and reputation card. I like the designs for these. They’re very efficient and work really well with the game. I also like the artistic look of them too. There are the different shop cards and the employee of the month card too. I really like the shop cards. I don’t think the iconography is difficult to understand and the art looks really great. The same can be said for the vehicle cards and the various resource tokens. The reference cards are really great and are very helpful. The meeples and cubes are all wood and brightly colored. Nothing spectacular about these but they work. Of course I hope that if this game goes to Kickstarter, the meeples will be upgraded with some heat printed designs for specialists and mechanics or maybe some stickers if nothing else. I think that would put it over the top for me. As it is now, it’s really good and I like it a lot. I really think that this will be another really nice looking game.
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RULEBOOK
Like the components, the rules are also a prototype. There are lots of great pictures and examples throughout the book. There is even a great picture of how the game should look once it’s set up. Each of the different shop cards are explained in really great detail. The rules are all well written and are easy to read. The book is fairly short so it won’t take a long time to get through either. Overall, it looks really nice and covers everything quite well. I didn’t see anything that was difficult to understand at all. I’m sure there will most likely be some revisions to the rules, but for now they look great.
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GAMEPLAY
This is a really fun game. It has some of the aspects of a worker placement game to it, but you’re not actually placing workers on the board. Instead you’re moving the workers around on the different shop cards to have them do different actions. Of course, that will then affect what the next player can do on their turn and so on. I really find myself liking how that works. It sort of reminds me of Little Circuses. However, I like this a lot better as you have more pieces to move around and collect resources with or perform actions with. I like that as you move up in your reputation, you can add more specialists which then make it possible to work on more cards. Of course you have to be careful that you don’t have too much going on at one time as the game can end and you’re stuck with vehicles that aren’t repaired to count against you. I really like games that give you that risk vs reward factor like this one does. I also like it when a game penalizes you for stretching yourself too far. This one really highlights a lot of things that I like in a game. Fans of games like Little Circuses or Mint Works will most likely like this game. It’s a really light and fun game that the whole family can enjoy. I highly recommend it. It’s really quite good.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Grease Monkey Garage is a light weight worker placement game that the whole family can enjoy. It’s not a really long game. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes or so. The artwork throughout the game is really nice and simplistic but still light and fun. My only hope is that if the game goes to Kickstarter that heat printed meeples or stickers for the meeples will be part of the stretch goals to help the overall look of the game. The game itself is really fun and simple. I really enjoy the worker placement style mechanics in this one. It reminds me a lot of Little Circuses. Fans of games like Little Circuses and Mint Works should really enjoy this one. I really enjoy the game and think that this one is definitely headed in the right direction. It’s a great family game that everyone can enjoy. I highly recommend it. It’s Shoptastic.
9 out of 10

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

http://www.dsrp.tv/boardgames

Keep an eye out for the upcoming Kickstarter campaign as well.

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El Alamein (Historical Photograph Edition) Review

El Alamein (Historical Photograph Edition) is a game by Atsuo Yoshizawa, distributed by Japanime Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this sequel to Barbarossa, players move their forces from Russia to Africa as they attempt to defeat the British Army’s main stronghold in Cairo and then their last line of defense in Alexandria. This is both a stand alone game as well as an expansion that can be combined with Barbarossa. It adds lots of new cards as well as a few new rules regarding combat and retaliation from the British Army.

For more information on Barbarossa and how to play it, please follow the link below.

https://jlnelson73.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/barbarossa-historical-photograph-edition-review/

It should be noted that this game adds a new type of card, Victory cards. These will be discussed in more detail in just a bit.

To begin, the Supply cards, Strategy cards and Army cards should be separated and placed into their own individual piles face up. Support cards, Event cards, City cards and Victory cards should be placed in separate piles from the previous ones. These card types should each be shuffled separately, except for the City cards. They should be sorted by their City number and placed in a pile with the smallest City number on top. Each type of card should then be placed in rows according to their Supply cost in the middle of the play area. The Event cards and Victory cards are placed face down, while everything else is face up. It should be noted that there are 2 types of Panzer Regiment cards. These should be set up so that the (III) cards are on top of the (IV) cards. For more information and a detail diagram on how this should all look, please check the rulebook. Each player is given 6 Motorized Transport cards and 2 Italian Infantry Regiment cards, which they will shuffle together to form their starting deck. Each player draws the top 4 cards of their deck. As you can see, there are a few minor changes in the way the game is set up. From here, the first player is chosen and play now begins.

Just like in Barbarossa, the players will follow the same 4 phases during their turn. For more information on the step by step details of a player’s turn, please check out the link above. As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are several changes and additions to the rules which I’ll discuss now. One new item of note is that this game introduces the new Victory cards. These cards are gained when a player takes a City and are the main way that players score points in the game. When these are gained, they are immediately deployed activating any effects that the card might have. Of course taking a City can only be done through combat.

Speaking of combat, this has actually had several new changes to the rules that we first saw in Barbarossa. However, just like in Barbarossa, combat can be initiated only once during the player’s Tactics Phase. Combat follows a series of steps. First the player msut declare combat by having at least 1 army card deployed. Next they choose a Site card to attack, either a Box card from the Site deck or the top card of the City deck. If the player chooses a City card to attack, they must then flip over a number of Event cards equal to the City card’s Garrison value. The player then must resolve the red text on each card as they are revealed. If the player attacked a City, they must then send a number of cards equal to the City’s reinforcement value from the Event deck to the British Reinforcement stack. Players are not allowed to look at these cards. The player is then allowed to activate any abilities from cards they have deployed. They can also use Supply cards or other cards from their hand that have the combat ability on them. Any destroyed Event cards are then exhausted to show this. Any Event cards that were not destroyed will then add their defense value to that of the City’s defense value. If the player chose to attack a Box, then there are no Event cards used. That means that it’s defense value does not change. Next the player must pay attack points greater than or equal to the total defense value of the chosen card they are attacking. If they’re able to pay the cost, then the attack succeeds. If not, they lose. If the player wins, they gain the defeated Site card and activate it’s abilities. First off they must choose a number of Army units from those they have deployed that are equal to the battle damage value of the City card. These cards must then be discarded. The player then draws and deploys a number of cards from the Victory card deck equal to the Victory Point value of the City card. Next if any of the Event cards that were revealed have effects when they’re acquired, then these effects take place now. If the player loses the combat, the effects of the Site card still activate even though the card is not acquired. The player must also discard a number of deployed Army units equal to the battle damage value of the City card. Once this is taken care of the player may activate any abilities from played or deployed cards, or if they have a playable card in their hand, they may play it now. After this is done, any remaining Event cards from those that were revealed are placed at the bottom of the Event deck.

Earlier I mentioned that in this game there is a way for the British Army to retaliate. This is known as the British Counterattack turn. A British Counterattack turn happens if one of the Event cards revealed during the attack of a City is a British Counterattack card, or if the player defeats the El Alamein card. This counter attack happens after the player’s turn ends and before the next player’s turn begins. Once the Counterattack begins, it continues until all the counter attacking forces have beend destroyed or there are no more players left to intercept them. The British Counterattack follows a series of steps, just like regular combat. First all of the Event cards in the British Reinforcements stack are revealed. Only card type and sub type are important on these cards, everything else is ignored. Next the order in which players will intercept the counter attackers is determined. First the player that triggered the counter attack will go first. After that, any player that has at least 1 City card deployed goes next based on the number of the City deployed. The higher City goes first. Players who have no City cards deployed will not have to face any counterattack forces. Once the order is determined, the players will intercept the counterattack by following a few steps. Each time, they will determine if the Counterattack continues or is stopped. First the player checks to see if all of the Counterattack forces have been destroyed. If so, then the Counterattack ends and the players have won. If all the designated players have already been targeted, then the counterattack can also end this way. However if neither of these conditions have been met, then the British Counterattack Turn continues by moving to the next designated player. If the Counterattack is ending, then any remaining cards in the War Zone of the Counterattacker’s forces are placed on the bottom of the Event deck and the next player in turn order begins their turn. However, if the Counterattack is continuing, then the attack simply moves to the next player.

Earlier I mentioned that another player might be able to intercept the Counterattack. In a lot of ways, interception mimics combat with a few differences. First the player is able to activate any abilities of cards in their Combat Zone. They can also play cards that can be played while intercepting. It should be noted however that Attack points serve no purpose in intercepting, so effects that give these points are useless at this time. Next, the player that is intercepting declares allotment. What that means is they choose at least 1 of their deployed army cards that has an interception rating on it for each Counterattacking Forces card that have not already been destroyed. The higher the number the more Counterattacking Forces cards that may be allotted to. Once this is done, the actual Interception is done. Each paired card is handled as follows. If it’s a Counterattacking Forces card that has an army unit alloted to it, it’s destroyed. The card is exhausted to show this status. If it’s an army card that has been allotted to a Counterattacking Forces card, it is Forfeited and sent to the players discard pile. Once each paired up card has been resolved, the player has the option to activate abilities and play cards just like before. The results are then checked. If the Counterattacking Forces have all be destoyed, then the interception is a success. If not, then it was a failure. If it succeeded, nothing happens. However if it failed, then intercepting player must return the highest numbered City card they have deployed to the top of the City stack. They must then return a number of Victory cards equal to the City card’s Penalty Value that they just returned. These Victory cards are chosen at random and are placed at the bottom of the Victory Card deck. This happens for each player that can intercept until the Counterattack is stopped as discussed earlier.

The game continues until one of two things happens. If a player acquires the Alexandria City card, then the game ends after their Tactics phase. Likewise, if at the end of a player’s Tactics phase, there are no more Victory Point cards in the stack, then the game ends. Players add up all the Victory Points from their deck, discard pile, hand and Combat Zone. Players compare points and the player with the most Victory Points is the winner.

COMPONENTS
Just like Barbarossa, this game contains a box full of cards. They are really great quality and the photos used for this edition are just as nice. There are photos of people, equipment and weaponry from World War II that will really draw you in. History buffs like myself will be very pleased with the overall look and feel of each card. Again the iconography is a bit difficult to understand for new players but seasoned veterans of Barbarossa shouldn’t have any real problems. There’s a great thematic feel to this set, just like there was with the original. Overall I really like the look and feel of this set, probably even more so than the original. It looks really great and is one that will be a highlight to any collection.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
Just like the rulebook for Barbarossa, this one is also designed in much the same way. It’s the length and width of the cardboard box that it comes in and is only printed in black and white. There is no color. There are however lots of great pictures and examples including a 3 page look at combat and a British counterattack. There’s a nice reference that explains all the symbols used in the game as well as explanations for some of the new terms and codes that appear in this set. Each of the different card types are covered in great detail with pictures. The step by step process of each of the phases of gameplay are also covered really well. I must also mention that this book has grayed out text boxes that highlight rule changes and additions for this set that aren’t in the rulebook for Barbarossa. There’s also a nice explanation of how to combine this set with the Barbarossa set as well. Overall, there’s nothing really difficult to read or understand. It’s a great reference book and everything is easy to find. My only complaint would be that I wish that it had been in color. Other than that, it’s quite nice.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
As I mentioned in my original review for Barbarossa, this game has a lot of similar mechanics with Dominion and Tanto Cuore. If you’re familiar with those games then this won’t be too much of a leap for you. I will say that there are several new mechanics and features that kind of turn everything on it’s head though. As I’ve noted in the overiew there’s combat and a British Counterattack turn that makes this game fairly aggressive. If you enjoyed the first game with Barbarossa but felt it was lacking a bit and not warlike enough, then this one will most definitely fill that void. I’m kind of back and forth on this aspect. While I really enjoy a great deck builder, I’m not usually too keen on attacking and defending. To me that makes things a bit too much like a war game and as we all know, I’m not a fan of war games. That said, it’s not that bad. It actually adds a bit of flavor and theme to an already interesting game. I really like the look of this version of the game, not that anime style artwork isn’t nice. It is, but the historian in me simply adores the look that this version applies to the cards. I like the extra addition of the Victory Point cards as well. They add another layer to the game as well. I know it sounds like there’s a lot to keep up with, but it’s not that bad. You will get used to it after a few plays, especially the iconography. History buffs and fans of Dominion or Tanto Cuore should enjoy this one. Barbarossa fans, especially those players that were looking for a little more depth to the gameplay, should love this one. I really enjoy it. I can’t decide just yet if I like it more or less than the original. So for now, I’d rate it about the same. I highly recommend this one.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
El Alamein (Historical Photograph Edition) is a deck building card game that is both a self contained game, as well as an expansion for Barbarossa. The game does take a little bit longer to play. Most game sessions last a little over an hour or so. Just like Barbarossa, the cards in this one look amazing. I really love the historic photographs and the design is really nice. The pictures really add to the theme of the game. The game adds a bit more as far as gameplay goes, which also adds a bit of complexity to it. For players that struggled with Barbarossa, this might not be the game for you. Those players that enjoyed Barbarossa should really love this one as well. It adds quite a bit more to an already great game. Dominion and Tanto Cuore fans will most likely enjoy this one too as it replicates a lot of the same mechanics. If you don’t like conflict in your deck builder, then you might not like this one. For me, I’m good with it. It makes the theme feel a bit more real and adds a bit more depth to the gameplay. I especially like that it can be mixed with Barbarossa to add even more replayability. I highly recommend this one. It’s a very solid expansion and a great game by itself. I think you’ll enjoy it.
9 out of 10

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

http://www.japanimegames.com/

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