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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Tak Review

Tak is a game by James Ernest and Patrick Rothfuss, published by Cheapass Games. It is for 2 players. In this game, players will enter the world of Patrick Rothfuss’ novel, The Wise Man’s Fear. Based on the abstract strategy game from the novel, players will try to use their pieces to create a road that connects two opposite sides of the board. The player that is best able to create this connection will be declared the winner.

To begin, the players choose which size of board to play on. This can be anything from a 3×3 to an 8×8. They then choose which side of the board to use and place that side face up on the table. Players then decide who will take the dark pieces and who takes the light ones. Each player then receives the set amount of stones and capstones as determined by the size of the board played on. For more information on piece counts, check the rulebook. The first player is chosen . Beginning with the first player, each player then takes one of their opponent’s stones and places it flat on an empty space on the board. Play now begins.

The game is played back and forth with each player taking a turn. On a player’s turn, they may perform one of two actions. They may either place a piece in an empty space or they may move one of the stacks under their own control. First we’ll discuss placing a piece. As just stated, the player can place a piece on any empty space on the board. If there are no more empty spaces or the player places a piece on the last empty space, the game ends immediately. There are 2 types of pieces that may be placed; flat stones and capstones. Flat stones can be played in 2 different ways. Normally they are played flat. These types can be stacked up and will count as part of the player’s road. A flat stone may alternatively be placed on it’s end. This is known as a standing stone. Nothing stacks on a standing stone and it will not count as part of the player’s road. These are usually used to block the opponent with, which is why they’re sometimes called walls. Capstones are the other piece that a player can play. These count as part of the player’s road and can not have another piece stacked on top of it. However, a capstone can flatten a standing stone, but it must be by itself to do this. I’ll explain how this works a little bit later.

It should be noted that a piece is never placed directly on top of another piece. Only when moving will stacks occur. More about this in just a moment, as I explain the second action a player may take, moving. To move one or more pieces, the player must first have control of the stack. That’s to say that one of their pieces is on top of the stack. A stack can be any height, even just a single piece. The player then can take any number of pieces off the top of the stack up to the carry limit. The carry limit is equal to the width of the board. So if players are playing with a 6×6 board, the carry limit is 6. The player then take the pieces and moves them in straight line, dropping at least 1 piece from the bottom of the stack on each space that it moves across. These dropped pieces will form stacks. A single piece would only be able to move 1 space. Of course the more pieces that are picked up, allows the player to move farther. Since standing stones can not be stacked on, they will block movement, as will a capstone. Earlier I mentioned that a capstone can flatten a standing stone. If a capstone moves by itself, it can move onto a standing stone and flatten it back to a flat stone. If it moves as a part of a stack, the capstone can still flatten a standing stone, as long as the final step of the movement is the capstone landing on the standing stone.

The game continues until a player runs out of pieces, the board is completely full or a player has created a road connecting opposite sides of the board. If either the player runs out of pieces or the board is completely full, the player with the most flat stones on top of stacks wins. If a player creates a road connecting the opposite sides of the board, then they win. The road does not have to be a straight line to count. However diagonal spaces do not count as connecting. It should also be noted as mentioned earlier, standing stones do not count as part of the road but capstones do. Also of note, sometimes in very rare cases a player will create a winning road for both themself and their opponent. In this case, the active player that made the move is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This is a really beautiful game to look at. First off there’s the double sided board. On one side is the Tavern board that looks like an old wooden tavern table with all the wood grains and bumps that you’d expect in something like that. On the other side is the Selas Flower board. This side is especially pretty with all the vine and flower patterns and the beautiful red colors. I really enjoy playing on this side as it just looks so pretty. There are also the different game pieces for both the dark and light colors. They both have flat stones and capstones. The darker pieces have flat stones that look like a half circle, while the light pieces look like a trapezoid. Each of these are made of wood and are quite thick and sturdy with a really nice finish on them. Each color also has capstones that remind me of cabinet or drawer knobs. Just like the flat stones, these also have a nice finish and are really sturdy. Once you start playing and laying these pieces out on the board, the game really comes to life and looks so beautiful. Each piece is really high quality and looks amazing. I’m extremely thrilled with the look and feel of the game. When I look at it, it reminds me of some of those other wooden abstract games like Quarto or Quaridor. If you like the look and feel of those, then you’ll really enjoy this one too.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game looks very nice. There are lots of great pictures and examples throughout the book. There’s even a beautiful pencil drawn illustration of two players playing the game. I’m guessing that maybe it might be some characters from the book. I’m not really sure. Each aspect of the game is explained in very good detail. There are also some basic strategy tips as well as how to score when playing multiple games, as well as variants for scoring. I really like the look of the rules. Everything is really easy to read and there’s nothing difficult or hard to understand. Overall, I think the designers did a nice job with the book.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
First off let me state that I’ve never read any of Patrick Rothfuss’ novels. However, I will admit that I’ve read the first couple of chapters from the Amazon preview and am quite intrigued. Yes, playing this game has made me want to read the book. Is that wrong? In any event, this game is an abstract strategy game, think Quariodor or Quarto. It even has that look and feel to it with all the beautiful wooden pieces. Playing the game reminded me, in a way, of games like Tsuro and Chess. I’ll admit, I’ve not played a lot of these types of games since I was younger when I played Chess all the time. To me, this is a lot better and definitely prettier than that. I really enjoy moving the pieces around the board to create large stacks of stones. When you play with boards smaller than a 5×5 you don’t get to use any capstones. It’s really recommended for the first game or two to play something smaller like this so that you can get a feel for how the pieces move and how to use the walls to block your opponent. I really like the capstone piece and how it can crush those standing stones. However for just a quick simple game, the smaller boards are perfect. I’ll admit, I’m not big on the scoring aspect of the game. I’m pretty much a win/loss kind of guy. I prefer to go best of 3 or something like that if you plan on playing more than 1 time. Of course you can go with the points scoring and that’s fine. I’m glad that there is that option available for those players that like to play that way. Much like Chess, I find myself planning several moves ahead as I play. Of course, your opponent will most likely not do what you hope they will so all that planning is for nothing, but it’s still fun to do. In any case, the game is quite enjoyable, as if you couldn’t tell. I really like it. This is one that abstract strategy game fans will thoroughly enjoy. I highly recommend it.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Tak is an abstract strategy game that is as much fun as it is beautiful. It’s not a very long game to play. Most game sessions last around 30 to 45 minutes or so. There are the occasional game that will go a bit longer, but that’s for when you’re using the larger size board. The components for this game are amazing. I really love all the wooden pieces. They’re high quality and have a nice finish to them. The board is also lovely and looks great when playing the game. The rules are really easy to read and pretty much straight forward. The game itself is really enjoyable. Playing it makes me think of games like Chess and Tsuro. However the look makes me think of abstract strategy games like Quarto and Quaridor. This is one of those games that you could set up on your coffee table as a conversation piece. It’s one of those that I could see people playing in a coffee shop, or old men playing in the park. It’s just that versatile and interesting. This is one of those games that I’d expect to see lined up with all those high quality wooden games at Barnes & Noble. The best part is that the game is actually fun. I’ve never read Patrick Rothfuss’ novels, but playing the game has made me want to. Fans of abstract strategy games should really enjoy this one. This is one that I would highly recommend. It’s a piece of artwork that you can play.
9 out of 10

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

http://cheapass.com

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Barbarossa (Historical Photograph Edition) Review

Barbarossa (Historical Photograph Edition) is a game by Atsuo Yoshizawa, distributed by Japanime Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players control a division of the German army set to invade Russia during World War II. They will have to build up their army, create strategies and gain support to be able to deploy their troops and attack different key sites on the battlefield. Each victory will gain them victory points which can help them win, not only the war but the game. In the end, the player with the most victory points will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Supply cards, Strategy cards and Army cards should be separated and placed into their own individual piles face up. They should then be placed in rows according to their Supply cost in the middle of the play area. All the Support cards are then shuffled together and placed face up to the right of the play area. The same thing is done with the Event cards, except they are placed face down beside the Support cards. The Fortified Hill and Strategic Position cards are placed in their own piles face up below the Event cards. The City cards are shuffled together, except for the Moscow card. This is placed with the other Site cards face up. The shuffled City cards are then placed face up on top of the Moscow card. Each player is given 6 Horse-drawn Transport cards and 2 Grenadier Regiment cards, which they will shuffle together to form their starting deck. One pile of cards is randomly selected from the Supply, Tactics, Army or Support area and removed from the game. It’s recommended that for the first game, the Support pile is removed. Each player draws the top 4 cards of their deck. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round, players will take their turn performing a series of 4 separate phases, before passing to their left. Those 4 phases are the Starting Phase, Tactics Phase, Reinforcement Phase and Clean Up Phase. The first phase is the Starting Phase. In this phase, the player will reactivate any units that were exhausted in a previous turn. Supply cards may be played during this phase. However unless one of a player’s cards indicates it, no cards may be played or abilities activated. In the first turn of the game, this phase is skipped.

The next phase is the Tactics Phase. In this phase, the player will play various cards from their hand to gain the effects. Initially, the player is granted 1 Tactic Point. Unless they play other cards that give them more points, this is the only one they get. Most cards cost 1 Tactic point to play. However Supply cards cost 0 points and are able to be played during this phase, for as many as the player would like. When playing a card, it is placed into the player’s play area. Cards have several different icons and abilities which can allow the player to gain Draw Points to draw cards with, Tactic Points to be able to play more cards or higher cost cards, Supply Points to recruit new cards during the Reinforcement Phase, Reinforcement Points to be able to recruit more cards with and Attack Points to use during combat. Also during this phase, a player may initiate combat against a Site card. I’ll go over combat a bit later. For now, all that you need to remember is that the player must have enough Attack Points to meet or exceed the defense of the Site card to conquer it.

The third phase is the Reinforcement Phase. In this phase, the player uses Supply Points that they gained during the previous phase to recruit new cards with. The player starts off with 1 Recruitment Point each turn. This allows them to recruit 1 card. Just like the Tactics Phase, if the player doesn’t play any cards that give them any more points, then they will only be able to recruit 1 time. Regardless of how many Recruitment points the player has, they must have enough Supply points to be able to pay for any cards they recruit. Newly recruited cards are then sent to the player’s discard pile.

The final phase is the Clean Up Phase. In this phase, the player places all the cards that they played during their turn that were not Deployed, more on this in a bit, into their discard pile. Once this is done, if the player has any cards left in their hand, they are allowed to keep 1 but must discard the rest. The player then draws 4 cards from their deck. At this time, any unused Supply, Tactic, Reinforcement and Attack points are lost. Play then passes to the next player in turn order, who follows the same 4 phases.

Just a moment ago, I mentioned cards that were Deployed. In a player’s area is what’s known as the Front Line. This section is devoted to cards that are Deployed. Some cards have an effect on them that states, “Deploy this card.” To Deploy a card, the player places it in their Front Line. These cards are not placed in the players discard pile during the Clean Up Phase. The remain on the Front Line until a card effect removes them. Once the card is Deployed, only the text box in yellow is relevant. It should be noted that there are no Tactic Points required to activate abilities of Deployed cards. Also of note is that a player can have any number of cards in their Front Line.

Earlier I mentioned that combat can take place during the player’s Tactics Phase. However, to be able to declare combat, the player must have army cards deployed into their Front Line. A player may declare combat against either a Site card or a City card. To attack a Site card, such as the Fortified Hill or Strategic Position, the player simply calculates the Attack Points that the Army in their Front Line has. The player is also allowed to return any previously conquered Fortified Hill or Strategic Position cards to lower the defense of the chosen Site card. If the player’s Attack Points are greater than or equal to the defense value, then the attack succeeds. The player takes the top card of the pile and follows the instructions written in red on it. To attack a City card, there are a few changes. Once a City is chosen as an attack target, the player must flip over the top card of the Event deck. They then add the number in the upper right corner of the card to the defense value of the City. The player then may decide to return Fortified Hill and Strategic Position cards to lower the defense value. They also are allowed to choose activation abilities from cards on their Front Line. Cards may not be played during combat. The player then adds up their Attack Points. If their attack is greater than or equal to the defense value of the City, the attack succeeds. The player then takes both the Event and City cards and follow the instructions written in red on them. If the player’s Attack Points are lower than the City’s defense, neither card is won. However, the player must still follow the instructions written in red on the City card. The City card remains where it’s at, but the Event card is placed on the bottom of the Event deck. Unless otherwise noted, combat may only be declared once a turn and only 1 Site card may be conquered.

The game continues until Moscow is conquered from the City deck. Once this happens, the game ends. Players then add up all the Victory Points from their Front Line, play area, deck, hand and discard pile. Players compare points and the one with the most Victory Points is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game consists of a large stack of cards. The cards are really great quality. I absolutely love the photographic images that were used for the game. Each one has some great photos from World War II showing real people, equipment and weaponry. You really get a great sense of how things were from looking at the different pictures on them. History buffs, like myself, will really enjoy the artwork chosen for the different cards. I’m really glad that there were several different images chosen for each card type too. They could have just used 1 image for each card type, but they chose to make several so you didn’t get tired of the same old image all the time. It really breaks up the look of the game in my opinion. The iconography takes a little bit of time to get used to. However, after playing a couple of times you tend to remember what each one does. I really like the design and look of the game. Even the box gives you a really great thematic feel to the game. Overall, I’m thrilled with the look and feel of everything.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook that is included with this game resembles those from other deck builders from Japanime Games. It’s the size of the card box and is black and white, with no color anywhere. There are lots of great pictures and examples. As a matter of fact, there’s a 3 page section devoted to an example of gameplay. All the different symbols used on the cards are explained in great detail. Each of the different card types is also explained as well. The book really does a great job of explaining how to set up the game, as well as explaining different areas, cards and keywords used in the game. The different phases of the game are explained in a step by step process that should be easy enough for pretty much anyone to understand. I didn’t find anything too difficult to understand while reading through the book. It’s really easy to pick up and find whatever you’re looking for in terms of rules while playing the game. I had to keep it at my side for the first few play throughs. I found it to be a great reference. Overall, it’s designed really nicely. I just wish there had been a little bit of color to the book.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Dominion and Tanto Cuore players will most likely find the mechanics of this game pretty familiar. Of course, there are a few little nuances that are subtly different. For the most part though, it’s not a whole lot different. Granted, there’s no combat in Dominion or Tanto Cuore, so there’s that. I do see the similarities between the Front Line for this game and the Private Area for Tanto Cuore though. The War Zone layout of cards is quite similar to the Town for Tanto Cuore and Dominion’s layout as well. However, all the cards except for 1 stack are on the table at a time, as opposed to there only being 10 card types in those other games. I do tend to like this one a lot better though. I really like the combat aspect of the game and how you have to have an army deployed into your Front Line before you can actually attack anything. It kind of makes it more thematic in my opinion. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I really like the look of the game, especially this version. I’m not against manga and anime style artwork, but the Historian in me absolutely eats this kind of stuff up. I’m especially intrigued by anything that deals with WWII. Probably because my grandfather fought during the war and was one of the first soldiers to step foot on Japan after the bomb. I used to love listening to stories of the war from my next door neighbor, who also fought during that time. I think it’s for those reasons that this version really resonates with me. Needless to say, I really enjoy the game and love how great it looks. History buffs and fans of Dominion or Tanto Cuore will most likely enjoy this one. Deck building fans will like it too. I’m really thrilled with the game, and look forward to playing it many more times.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Barbarossa (Historical Photograph Edition) is a deck building card game in the same vein as Dominion or Tanto Cuore. The game doesn’t take too long to play. Most game sessions last about an hour or so. The cards look great. I really like the design and I love the historical photographs that were used. They really help convey the thematic look and feel of the game. The game isn’t all that difficult to play. It can be a bit tricky at first as you’re trying to learn all the different icons and what they all mean. However it doesn’t take but a couple of play throughs to get it down. Players familiar with Dominion or Tanto Cuore will find a lot of similar mechanics and should have no trouble with this one either. Fans of those or other deck building games should really enjoy this one. History buff will also be thrilled with this one too. I love the new look of the game and can’t wait to play it more. I highly recommend this one. It appeals to me on many different levels. You definitely need to give this one a look.
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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Blend Off! Review

Blend Off! is a game by Scot Eaton, published by Thunderworks Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of Master Mixers at the local Smoothie Shop. They’ll be racing to collect fruit in their blenders to fill orders with. Each time they complete an order they will gain gold stars from the shop owner. In the end the player that gains the most gold stars will be declared the winner.

Before going into the overview, it should be noted that the different aspects of the game are referred to a little bit differently. The deck of cards is referred to as the Becca deck, as Becca is the shop owner that will be giving orders. The dice are known as Kevin. Kevin is the runner that goes and gets the fruit for each Master Mixer. The players are known as Master Mixers. They will be mixing up the fruit to make smoothies in their 2 blenders.

To begin, each player chooses a color and is given a fruit die and two Blender cards in their chosen color. The Blender cards are placed face up in front of each player. Fruit tokens of each type are placed in the middle of the play area equal to the number of players plus 2, along with the durian token. The remaining tokens are returned to the box. The Becca deck is created by using the orange cards as well as all the colored cards that match the player’s blender cards. The deck is then shuffled and the bottom card is checked. If it’s a Special Order card, the deck is cut until the bottom card is a standard order card. Once that happens, the players are all shown the bottom card and the deck is placed face down in the middle of the play area. The first set of Orders are drawn from the top of the deck and placed face up on the table. Cards are drawn for each player plus one. If a Special Order is revealed, certain rules are followed, which will be explained in more detail in a moment. Once players are all ready, one player gives a count of, “Ready, Set, Blend!”. Play now begins.

In this game, there are no player turns. Everyone plays simultaneously performing 1 of 4 different actions. The actions are Collect, Dump, Blend and Blunder. The first action is the Collect action. To perform this action, the player rolls their die and then collects the fruit token that matches the face up side of the die, placing it into one of their blenders. If they don’t like the result, they may choose to reroll. If the player rolls a question mark, they can choose a fruit of their choice, except for the durian.

The next action is the Dump action. The Dump action is used to completely dump out the contents of one of the player’s blenders. To do this, the player simply removes the ingredients from the blender and places them either back in the middle of the play area or into their other blender to combine ingredients. This will then empty out and free up a blender.

Another action is the Blend action. This action is used once a player matches the recipe for one of the order cards exactly. To perform the action, the player shouts, “Blend!” The player then takes the order card and checks to make sure that the smoothie is correct with the recipe. If it’s not, the player places the order card back. If the order is correct, the player then draws the next card from the Becca deck and places it face up on the table. If a Special Order is revealed, certain rules are followed, which will be discussed in just a moment. The player then returns the fruit tokens from the corresponding blender back to the middle of the play area. They’re then able to continue.

The last action a player can take is the Blunder action. This happens if a player messes up one of the steps while performing the Blend action. If this happens, any other player is allowed to point to the player’s error and call, “Blunder!” The player that made the mistake is forced to correct their mistake immediately and then sit out until another player calls, “Blend!” However, they are still allowed to call, “Blunder!” on other players during this time. If all players are sitting out due to a Blunder, then players restart at a count of “Ready, Set, Blend!”

Earlier I mentioned Special Orders, let me explain what they are and how they work. Special Orders are orders that modify the recipe and star value of another order. When these are revealed, they are placed face up on the table. Another card is drawn and placed face up on top of the Special Order card so that the bottom portion showing the modifications is showing. Those modifications are Add and Hold The…. Add means that the fruit displayed must be added to the recipe. Hold The… means the fruit displayed is removed from the order. It should be noted that if when drawing the next card, it too is a Special Order, then it is placed on top of the previous Special Order and yet another card is drawn. This continues until a standard order card is drawn.

One last thing of note is the Durian. This fruit token comes into play whenever a player rolls a fruit that has been used up and there are no more remaining tokens to take. The player that rolled is then able to place the durian into another player’s Blender as long as they are not taking the Blend action. This forces the player to dump their blender with the durian token into the pile of fruit tokens in the middle of the play area.

The game continues until all the orders have been filled and the Becca deck is empty. Once that happens, the game ends. Players add up their gold stars from all their completed orders and special order cards. The player with the most gold stars is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game has some of the nicest components that I’ve ever seen, especially in a small box game. First off there is the amazing looking fruit tokens. Each of these is wooden and brightly colored. Each one looks just like the fruit that it’s supposed to represent. These would most definitely be my most favorite part of the game. Next there’s the fruit dice. Each one is hard plastic but have indented icons of each of the different fruit tokens, as well as a big question mark for choosing any token. These are very nice and I love the way that they compliment the tokens. Finally there are all the cards. There are the very nice blender cards which have different colored backgrounds for each player. Each player has 2 colored cards. I especially like how that the blenders are turned different directions, as if you were actually running a smoothie shop. There are all the order cards which have a picture of the smoothie that they represent along with the fruit token icons and a bright colored background. Finally there are the rules/spill cards. These look nice and are a great player reference. Thematically, the pieces make sense and look great. Overall, I’m very impressed with the look and feel of the game.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK

The rulebook for this game is a large sheet of double sided paper. It’s got a glossy finish and folds up to fit nicely inside the box. There are a couple of pictures of the dice and fruit tokens but that’s the only images present. There aren’t really and examples of gameplay, but that’s fine as the rules are pretty easy to follow. Everything is explained really well and in detail. I didn’t find anything that was difficult to understand. Also included in the rules are 3 different variants to the game, that I didn’t go over in the overview. There’s the Enduriance Challenge, the Race and Blend Off Jr. I’ll discuss these in more detail in the gameplay section. Just know that these are included and add quite a bit to the game. Overall, I really like how well the rules are written and how good they look.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a really fun game that can be played several different ways. Earlier I mentioned the 3 variants that were included in the rules. Let me go a little deeper into what these actually do. The Enduriance Challenge adds the purple Order card to the deck during setup and rewards players that place the Durian token into one of their own blenders with 4 stars. The Race is a speed game where players race to compete their own orders with their own fruit tokens. There is no back stabbing or take that aspect in this variant. Players win for completing their orders followed by the Sweet Nirvana order placed in the middle of the play area. Blend Off Jr. is for playing with younger players in a turn based style game. Players are able to roll all 4 dice, set aside any dice they want to keep and then reroll. They then gain fruit tokens for any pair of matching dice. Like the normal game, the player with the most stars after the deck runs out is the winner. I’m really happy to have the included variants and think that they add lots of replayability to an already fun game. As for the normal game itself, it’s all about quick reflexes and some lucky die rolls. There’s a little bit of take that to the regular game but not so much that it makes the game annoying. I really like filling orders using the tokens. There’s just something about those fruit tokens that really appeal to me. This is not a hard game and it’s not one that has a lot of strategy to it. I think fans of games like Dr. Eureka, Steam Time or Loonacy should really enjoy this one. This really fits in with that real time category. I would definitely recommend picking this one up. It’s big fun in a small box.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Blend Off! is a fast paced game of dice rolling where players compete to fill orders. It’s a fairly quick game to play. Most game sessions last around 10-15 minutes. Some of the variants might increase this time by a few minutes, but nothing major. The game has some of the most amazing looking pieces for such a small box game. I really love the brightly colored fruit tokens. They are the star of the game in my opinion. There’s not a lot of strategy but with the included variants, there’s a good deal of replayability. Fans of real time and dice rolling games like Dr. Eureka, Steam Time or Loonacy should really enjoy this one. This game is pretty light and is one that the entire family can enjoy. I especially like the inclusion of the Blend Off Jr. variant so that the younger players can join in. This is a game that I really enjoy. I would definitely recommend it. Order up!
9 out of 10

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

http://www.thunderworksgames.com/

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King of Tokyo: Power Up! (2017 edition) Review

King of Tokyo: Power Up! (2017 edition) is an expansion for King of Tokyo (2016 edition) by Richard Garfield, published by IELLO. It is for 2-6 players. This expansion adds a new updated version of the Pandakai character, as well as adding Evolutions for the 2016 edition monsters of King of Tokyo. It also adds Evolutions for the Kraken and Cyber Bunny from the original edition, as well as several new tokens.

For more information on King of Tokyo and how to play the game, please follow the link below.

https://jlnelson73.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/king-of-tokyo-2016-edition-review/

As I previously mentioned, this expansion adds Evolutions to the newest version of King of Tokyo. Before playing, each player should choose a monster and take the corresponding Evolution cards that belong to that monster. Each player should shuffle their cards and place them face down in front of themself. Players then draw the top 2 cards, choose one to keep and the other to discard. The discarded card is shuffled back into the deck. The player now keeps their chosen card in their hand until their ready to play it. The rest of the rules for setup and playing remain the same.

For those who are unfamiliar with the game, let me give you a quick overview on what an Evolution card is and what it does. On a player’s turn, they will be rolling a set of dice, Yahtzee style. They’re allowed to set aside any they want to keep and reroll those that they would like to change. Once more, they can set aside dice and reroll for a final time. If they’re able to roll 3 hearts by their final roll, they can evolve their monster. What this means is the player now gets to draw 2 Evolution cards, just like they did when the started. They then keep 1 in their hand and discard the other one, only this time, the card isn’t discarded back into the deck. It’s placed in a discard pile, face down. Of course, the hearts that were rolled will still count towards healing the player’s monster, as long as it’s not in Tokyo. Evolution cards are kept in the player’s hand until they decide to play them, which can even be during another player’s turn. There are 2 types of Evolutions, Temporary and Permanent. A Temporary Evolution is discarded after it’s used. Permanent Evolutions remain face up in front of the player and continue to award the player with it’s benefits for as long as it remains in play.

It should be noted that the game also comes with an updated version of the first edition Power Up character, Pandakai. This character has it’s own monster board and standee. I’ll discuss more about the updated look of the character in the components section. Also updated are the Evolution cards and tokens. The cards have some updated wording and names but still retain the same style backing as the Evolutions from the original version of this expansion. There are also Evolutions for the new characters introduced in the 2016 edition of the base game, Space Penguin and Cyber Kitty, as well as Evolutions for the Kraken and Cyber Bunny characters from the first edition game.

 

 

COMPONENTS
There’s a lot to like about the components. Just like in previous Power Up expansions, this expansion provides another playable character, Pandakai. However, this character should be pretty familiar to players of the older Power Up version of the game, as it’s pretty much the same character with an updated look. Granted, he looks a lot more menacing and fits in really well with the graphic design of all the other updated characters in the new 2016 version of the base game. Earlier I mentioned that the Evolution cards had been updated. Mostly it’s just a bit of minor word changing but nothing really graphically different. Nothing is really that much different as far as the actual Evolutions go in terms of gameplay. That said, what is new are the Cyber Kitty and Space Penguin’s Evolutions. I’m very happy to have these included with the game, as well as the updated versions of the original characters, Cyber Bunny and the Kraken. I’m super thrilled to have these as well. They easily could have been left out but the designer chose to give us original players a little something to make us happy too. The tokens received a bit of an upgrade graphically as well. Just like Pandakai, the tokens have new artwork that matches with the newer version of the game. Overall, I love the new look and feel of everything and am happy to have all the extras that this provides.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook that comes with this expansion is small and fits easily inside the box. There are a couple of pictures but not much. The rules are all laid out really well and are easy enough to understand. There’s nothing difficult at all to read. To help, there’s also a full page dedicated to explaining the Evolution cards with illustrations. Also included on the back cover is a Mutant Evolutions variant for drafting Evolution cards before playing. It’s really nice addition and works really well too. Overall, I didn’t find anything to complain about as the rules do a nice job of explaining everything.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
If you know me, you know that my kids and I LOVE King of Tokyo. This expansion adds a bit more to the updated version of the base game. However, unlike the King of New York Power Up expansion, there’s not quite as much content this time. I will say that it’s nice to have the new Evolution sets as well as the updated version of Pandakai. He definitely fits in better with the new artwork for the 2016 edition. The Evolutions have been reworded to make things easier to understand and a bit better looking overall. Some Evolutions have new names, such as The King’s King of Tokyo evolution has been changed to I Am the King. Evolution effects like for Gigazaur’s Radioactive Waste say, “Gain 2 energy and 1 Heart,” instead of “Discard this Evolution to gain 2 energy and to heal 1 damage.” Some of the cluttering wording has been removed in these cases. You can look a little closer at some of the differences in the Evolution pictures above. Overall, there’s not a lot of new material, most of it is simply cosmetic changes to match with the 2016 edition of the game. However for me, this is a must have as it gives Evolutions for the new Cyber Kitty and Space Penguin characters. In my opinion, it’s worth it just for those cards. Fans of the new updated version of King of Tokyo, will love this. For those with just the older version, it might not be such a big deal to them. However if you have both versions, you’ll want to get this for those 2 new Evolution sets. Overall I recommend this expansion. It’s definitely worth picking up a copy to me.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
King of Tokyo: Power Up! is an expansion for the 2016 edition of King of Tokyo, but also has content for the older version of the game as well. There’s really nothing new as far as game time or setup time. The artwork has all been updated to match with the new 2016 edition of the game. I really like the new look for Pandakai. It definitely looks like it fits in better with the game this time. The Evolutions have had a bit of a revamp as far as wording and names. Most of it is simply making things easier to understand and removing overused text. The new material is the Evolutions for Space Penguin and Cyber Kitty, but this also includes updated Evolutions for Kraken and Cyber Bunny from the original game. I’m very happy to have the new material, especially the Evolutions. Fans of either version of the game should be able to find something to like here. For me, it’s a must have. I’m sure that those with the new version or both versions will most likely agree with me. I recommend this expansion. The kids and I love it and I think you will too.
9 out of 10

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

www.iellogames.com

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King of Tokyo: Cthulhu Monster Pack Expansion Review

King of Tokyo: Cthulhu Monster Pack is an expansion for King of Tokyo and King of New York by Richard Garfield, published by IELLO. It is for 2-6 players. This expansion adds a new playable character including board and figure, as well as tokens and Evolution cards for both games.

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

https://jlnelson73.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/king-of-tokyo-2016-edition-review/

The rules for both games remain the same, so I won’t go into details about that. Instead I’ll explain what this character expansion brings to the table and how each piece works.

During setup, this character can be chosen to play as. However, there are a few things that need to be mentioned. Included with this expansion are several double sided tiles. One side has a Cultist on it, while the other has a Temple of Cthulhu. The Cultist tiles can be used even if no one chooses to play as Cthulhu. Likewise, you can play as Cthulhu without using the Cultist tiles. However, if a player chooses to use Cthulhu’s Evolution cards, then the Cultist tiles must also be used. When playing King of Tokyo, the Temple of Cthulhu side of the tiles are not used. However when playing King of New York, both sides of the tiles are used. Let me explain how these are used in each game.

First, let’s discuss King of Tokyo. When playing this game, the Cultist tiles are placed next to the board in a face up stack. On a player’s turn, when they resolve their dice if they have 4 identical faces showing, they’re allowed to take a Cultist tile and place it in front of themself. The tile can be used at any time by simply discarding the tile. When this is done, the player chooses to either gain 1 health, 1 energy or 1 extra roll.

Next, there’s King of New York. When playing this game, the Cultist tiles are shuffled in with the building tiles from the base game. Stacks are formed with 4 tiles in each, building side up. 3 stacks are placed in each of the boroughs of New York just like normal. The Temples act just like a normal building in the game. Once it’s destroyed, it’s turned over to it’s Cultist side, which acts just like a unit from the base game. When a Cultist is destroyed, nothing is gained. Instead, the player takes the Cultist tile and places it in front of themself. Just like when playing King of Tokyo, the tile can be discarded to gain either 1 health, 1 energy or 1 extra roll.

For both games, Evolutions act exactly the same. Of course they both require the use of the corresponding Power Up! expansion though. While were on the subject of Evolutions, one last thing I haven’t mentioned are the Madness tokens. These are given to other monsters due to some of Cthulhu’s Evolution cards. Let me explain how they work. At the beginning of a player’s turn, they must roll as many dice as they have Madness tokens. Once rolled, the dice are set aside and may not be rerolled. Effectively, they are locked. The player then rolls the rest of their dice and can set aside or reroll them like normal. When a player chooses to resolve their dice, the locked dice are resolved as well. To get rid of a Madness token, the player simply uses a heart icon on a rolled die to discard it, instead of gaining 1 health.

COMPONENTS
If you like the new updated version of King of Tokyo, then you’ll love this too. This expansion comes with a monster board and figure of Cthulhu as well as a plastic stand to help him rule over either Tokyo or New York. The artwork on these is very much reminiscent of the new versions. There are also double sided tiles of Cultists and the Temple of Cthulhu. There are several different styles of temples. Even though they could have simply went with 1 design, IELLO chose to go a step further which I felt was a nice touch. I have to say, I really like the look of the little Deep Ones on the Cultist side of the tiles. It looks like they could summon up the Ancient One at any minute. Also included are the Madness tokens which show the eyes of Cthulhu. I wouldn’t recommend that you stare for very long or you might lose your grip on sanity. All of these items are thick cardboard which is completely identical in size and durability as those of King of Tokyo. The last pieces are the Evolution cards for King of Tokyo and King of New York. There are 8 cards for each game which are easily distinguished by the backs. These have the same look and feel as those of the other games. Overall, I really love the look of everything that’s included. I couldn’t have asked for anything better looking.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK
For the rulebook, all that was included was a small double sided page of rules. One side explains the Madness tokens and Evolutions, while the other gives you the rules for playing in Tokyo or New York. Even though the page is quite small, they included a couple of small pictures of the tiles for reference. No examples of gameplay included on the rule sheet, but they weren’t needed anyway. However there is a small section of new icons that show up in this expansion. Overall, there’s nothing difficult to understand. It’s a quick and easy read. I wouldn’t add anything else. It gets the job done very well.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
It’s not a secret that I LOVE King of Tokyo and King of New York. What might be a secret is my love for all things Lovecraftian, especially those things that involve the sanity destroying Cthulhu. When I first reviewed the updated version of King of Tokyo, I was quite sad that my favorite monster, the Kraken, had disappeared. I had always thought of him as a surrogate Cthulhu when I played the original. You can imagine my moment of excitement when this guy showed up on my doorstep ready to destroy those other pathetic excuses for monsters. I have to say that I really love the look and feel of the expansion. I’m also overjoyed that not only can he destroy Tokyo, but also New York as well. I love the Cultist tiles. They’re great for when you need a quick point of health or when you’ve almost got enough to get that power card that you desperately want. I especially like that Cthulhu can use Evolutions to create Madness in his opponents. Nothing like locking up another person’s dice to drive them slowly insane. Fans of either Tokyo or New York , will absolutely love having this guy as a part of the game, especially those with an affinity for the Cthulhu mythos and HP Lovecraft. This monster pack has just made my love for the game even greater, if that were humanly possible. Having an actual version of Cthulhu to play as, I completely forgive IELLO for taking away my Kraken. It was worth the wait. I highly, highly recommend this expansion!
10 out of 10

OVERALL
King of Tokyo: Cthulhu Monster Pack is an expansion for both King of Tokyo and King of New York. Since this adds a new character and not really a whole lot more, there’s absolutely no real difference in terms of length of game. The components look great. I absolutely love how easily the design fits in with the updated version of King of Tokyo and King of New York. I really like the tokens and tiles for this one, as well as the standee and monster board. Heck, I like everything! Fans of either King of Tokyo or New York will love this, especially fans of HP Lovecraft. It’s a great addition to the game. I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a definite MUST have. At this point, the question you should be asking yourself is, “Why haven’t I already bought this?”.
10 out of 10

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

www.iellogames.com

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