Unearthed Review

Unearthed is a game by Kat Baker, published by The Game Crafter. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of paleontologists as they attempt to lead their teams to dig up, clean and assemble the fossils of prehistoric creatures. Each time a player assembles one, they will earn fame and income from the museum. In the end, the player that can show that they are the best paleontologist by earning the most fame will be declared the winner.

To begin, each player chooses a color and takes the corresponding board and token set. Each player places their player board in front of themself. Each player places their colored rings on 0 Fame, 0 Cash and 2,000 income per turn. They will also place one of their Dig Team tokens with the color side face down on the Dig Team 1 space of their player board. The other Dig Team tokens are placed near their board. Players are also given a Quick Reference card. The Dig Site deck is shuffled and placed face down in the middle of the play area. The two Completed Creatures boards are placed together to assemble the main board, which should be placed below the Dig Site deck. The rule book is placed beside the Dig Site deck with the back cover showing the Creature Components face up. The Purchased Fossil cards are placed beside the rulebook. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played in a series of turns with each player taking a turn consisting of 4 steps. The first step is to Earn Money. Each turn the player will increase their cash by their Income per Turn, as noted on their player board. For a player’s first turn, that number is $2,000. The player will then move their colored ring on the Cash section of their player board to represent this.

The next step is to Buy. In this step, the player will have several options to purchase from. They may buy chisel upgrades, additional dig teams or fossils. On their turn, the player may only purchase up to three items, of which they may buy multiples of the same item. It should also be noted that a player has the ability to sell or trade cards from their hand to other players at this time as well. The cost for new dig teams are noted on the player’s board and may be purchased and used on the same turn. Once purchased, a new tool token is placed on the corresponding space of the player’s board. Upgraded chisels may also be purchased at a cost of $10,000. Once purchased, the player may flip over that dig team’s tool token to the colored side. This upgrade decreases the Break value of every fossil uncovered by that team by 2, more on this in a bit. Fossils may also be purchased in order to assemble a prehistoric creature. It should be noted that a player must use a purchased fossil on the same turn that it is bought. Each fossil has a set price, as noted on the purchased fossil cards. A player is only allowed to buy up to 3 of these on their turn.

The third step is to Manage Dig Teams. In this step, each of the player’s dig teams is allowed to take their own turn, starting with dig team 1 and continuing in order. On a dig team’s turn, they can either dig for fossils or assemble a prehistoric creature. They may also choose to skip their turn, if so desired. To dig for fossils, the player will flip over the top card of the dig site deck. If it is anything but a fossil, it is added to the player’s hand, of which there is no hand limit. If it is a fossil, the player must try to unearth the fossil by successfully beating the Break value. To do this, the player must roll a number on the die higher than the Break value on the card. If they’re able to do this, the fossil is added to the dig team’s Cleaning Zone. If the player rolls equal to or lower than the Break value of the card, then the card is discarded. Once all the required fossils have been found, the player can use their dig team’s turn to assemble a prehistoric creature. To do this, the player simply discards the appropriate fossils from their hand and/or from any purchased fossils they acquired during step 2. Once this is done, the player may place one of their colored discs on the corresponding creature icon of the Completed Creatures board. Doing this will earn the player a certain amount of Fame. The first player to assemble a specific creature earns an extra 2 Fame. They player is also awarded a certain amount of Income per Turn, as noted on the board. Once a dig team has completed it’s turn, the player may use their next available dig team to take it’s turn.

The final step is to Clean Fossils. In this step, the player will move any fossils in their dig team’s Cleaning Zone to their hand. This allows them to be able to possibly assemble more creatures during their next turn. Once a player has completed their turn, play passes to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until a certain number of creatures has been assembled. For a 2 player game, that number is 12. For 3 players, it’s 15 and for 4 players it’s 18. Once this condition has been met, each player will take a final turn including the player that triggered the end game condition. Once all players have taken their final turn, they will each add up their Fame. The player with the highest total Fame is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of interesting pieces to it. There are the Completed Creatures boards that are placed together to form the main board. This board shows the different creatures that can be formed and how much fame and income each one provides upon being assembled. On the back there is a really nice image that is created by placing the two boards together. The player boards are made of the same thick material and keep track of the income per turn, cash and fame that each player has, along with each of their dig teams. Of course each player requires the use of the colored rings of their player colors to be able to track these on their player board. Each player has 5 rings in their player color as well as 9 plastic discs for tracking their assembled creatures. These are all thick plastic, as is the ring for tracking assembled creatures. Each player also gets 3 double sided tool tokens that are quite thick. One side is a colored version while the other is black and white. These simply show a selection of tools that are used to uncover fossils. The game also comes with a single 6 sided die which is pretty much your normal die. Finally there are the cards, these include the dig site cards, quick reference cards and purchased fossil cards. Each of these has some really nice artwork on them and the quality of the cards is very nice too. The purchased fossils have the same image on both sides, so that you don’t get them mixed up with the other cards. The reference cards are a big help and provide plenty of info on playing the game. Overall I think that the game is well done. Of course I’d really like to see some upgraded components in the future, like maybe some wooden dig team meeples or even more thematic looking player boards. As it is though, I think the components look nice.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game isn’t very large. It’s actually only a few pages long. The book has plenty of pictures, as well as several examples of gameplay to help understand the rules. The artwork and lay out of the book is quite nice and is very easy to read through and understand. Each of the different steps of a player’s turn are explained in very good detail. The back of the book even includes a reference chart of the creature components needed to build each of the different types of creatures. This chart is used during gameplay and is a nice addition to the book. About the only things missing from this rulebook is some variants and possibly a set of solo rules. Apart from that, I don’t really have anything negative to say about the rulebook and that’s not really even a negative. It’s just more of a wish list. Overall I think this rulebook is well written and looks good. It’s quick and simple to read and it gets the job done in style.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
The main goal of this game is to get as much fame as possible. This is done by assembling creatures, whether it’s the small Ammonites or the large Tyrannosaurus. Each one of these requires a certain amount of fossils. For the Ammonite, it’s only the 1 fossil that’s required. However for a Tyrannosaurus, it takes a carnivore skull, large body, small limbs and a large tail. Once assembled these creatures will earn the player from 1 to 8 fame, as well as a bump in their income each turn. The bigger the creature, the more fame and income earned. At it’s heart this game is basically a set collection game, with a few twists. Each turn the player can choose to add more dig teams or upgrade their dig teams tools to be able to perform more actions or better dig up fossils. While the game doesn’t require a ton of strategy, it does involve a bit of thinking. Do you go ahead and build a smaller creature and earn a few extra points for being the first one to build one, or do you try to finish up a larger creature to earn more points that may be better at the end of the game. Of course this game also has a bit of luck thrown in to the mix. Each time your dig team unearths a fossil, your dig team will have to remove it from the ground without breaking it. This is done by rolling the die. If you roll too low, the fossil is broken and unusable. This is where having those upgraded tools can be a big help, as upgrading reduces this number by 2 on each fossil. Growing up I wanted to be an archaeologist. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and I wound up in a completely different career, still those dreams are there. What this game does is allow me a small taste of that life without leaving the comfort of my home. No need to get dirt and sand all over my clothes. No need to learn a new language to speak to the native people of the area. No need to be on the look out for dangerous snakes and bugs. It’s all of the fun, without any of the risk. What’s not to like about that? This is a game that fans of set collection games should like, especially if they liking building dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. For me, it’s one that I really enjoy. This is one that I would recommend.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Unearthed is a game of digging up and assembling fossils with a set collection style mechanic. The game doesn’t take too long. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes. The components for the game are nice and give a good sense of the theme. I especially like the artwork on the cards and the back of the Completed Creatures board. The rulebook is well designed and does a good job of laying out the rules of the game. I do wish there were some variants and possibly even a solo mode though. The game itself is quite fun and has a very set collection style feel to it. The main goal of building creatures and gaining fame is done in a very manageable and light way. This isn’t one that younger players will struggle with and it’s a very family friendly style game. This is one that fans of set collection games should enjoy. I do look forward to seeing how this game evolves as it goes to print. As it is, this is one that I would recommend. I can dig it.
8 out of 10

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

http://www.thegamecrafter.com/

Be sure and keep an eye out for the Kickstarter campaign.  Coming Soon!

 

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Go7Gaming EH-002 Insert Kit for Eldritch Horror Review

Recently I was given the opportunity to check out a couple of products from Go7Gaming. Those product were the EH-001 and EH-002 Insert Kits for Eldritch Horror. The inserts came in a flat rate shipping box. Inside there were several laser cut wooden sheets inside a large ziplock bag along with full color instructions on how to assemble them. After taking out the sheets and reading over everything, I was then ready to assemble the product. For this review, I will be mainly covering the EH-002 Insert Kit. The EH-001 Insert Kit was covered in an earlier review.

With that said, let me start by explaining what these are and how they are used. Well as mentioned earlier, these are inserts for the Eldritch Horror series of games. These will hold the contents of the base game and lots of expansions. The EH-001 insert is to be placed in the core game box, while the EH-002 can be used in one of the big box expansions. I’ve found that with everything that I currently have for the game, I was able to pretty much get everything into 1 box using just the EH-001 insert. Of course, the boards and rulebooks lifted the lid of the box rather high. With the EH-002 Insert, this is meant to be used in one of the large expansion boxes, but can also be substitued in place of the EH-001 insert for the core game. Anyway, let’s get into the actual assembly process and we can discuss everything else a bit later. To start off, you’ll want to separate all the different wooden sheets so that you can more easily recognize what pieces go with what build. Each of the separate pieces are all easy to punch out of the sheets so there shouldn’t be any problems there.

Now I should state that if you’ve read any of my reviews for any of the Go7Gaming inserts, you probably know that glue is pretty much required, or at the very least highly recommended. While not an absolute necessity, it’s definitely the best option. With this review I won’t be telling you each time pieces are to be glued. Just be aware that if I’m dicussing the attachment of 2 pieces, then you’ll want to apply glue between both of them. For this Insert Kit, I decided to go with Gorilla All Purpose Household Glue. It’s fairly cheap and dries clear and strong. For me, it worked rather well and was easy to use. Now then, let’s go ahead and get into the assembly process.

We start off by assembling the large card tray. This is done by taking the base and attaching the slotted outer wall. Next the end wall is connected to the base and the slotted outer wall. Once these are together, the other slotted outer wall and end wall can both be attached in this order. Once these are completed, it should look something like this.

There are two of these to assemble, so the process above is repeated on the second large card tray. It’s recommended to place a divider 2-3 spaces away from each end when drying to ensure a better fit.

The next thing to assemble is the small card tray. The assembly process for this tray is just like the large card trays. Attach the slotted walls to the base, along with the end walls and that’s it. When you’re done, it should look like this.

The last two trays to assemble are the two token trays. These are assembled the same way, so just repeat the instructions for the second one and you’re golden. First attach the outer wall to the base, then connect the end wall to both pieces. Now you’ll need to attach the other outer wall and the other end wall. Once you’ve got it all together, it’s recommended to placed the dividers into the tray to ensure a better fit. Don’t forget to repeat everything for the second tray. When you’re finished, it should look something like this.

After everything has had time to dry, each of the pieces can then be placed inside the game box. Since I don’t have one of the big box expansions to place this in, I took pictures of what it all looks like together. I also added some of the cards, tokens and other pieces into the trays to give you a reference for size and such. With all this completed, this project is done.

MATERIALS
In this section I would normally go over the different components of the game and how each one looks. Since this is an insert, I’ll describe the packing and insert instead. Everything came prepackaged in a flat rate shipping box. Inside the box, everything for this insert was placed inside a large zip lock style bag. Everything looked very nice and there were no problems with anything. The wooden sheets are nice and thick and are very easy to punch out for each of the different pieces. If you decided to use glue or tape, you’ll need to supply your own as the organizer does not come with any of these items included. As noted above, I used Gorilla All Purpose Household Glue. It worked really well for me and I’ve rather pleased with the overall results. Assembling the product wasn’t hard at all. Pretty much the whole thing is just a series of creating 4 sided trays. Of course some require dividers, but that’s easy enough to work with. The insert took a very short time to assemble, which I liked a lot. Overall I feel that the materials look great and everything is strong and durable. I’m very pleased with the overall look and feel of this product.
8 out of 10

INSTRUCTION
In this section I would normally explain the rulebook of the game, covering the layout and details of each page. Since this is an insert I will go over the instructions that came with the insert instead. The instructions came on a single double sided sheet of paper. The only side that had any instructions was the back side of the paper. On it there was a detailed process, walking you through each step of assembling the insert along with plenty of pictures to see how each piece should look. Everything is explained quite well and I didn’t find it difficult to understand at all. Everything is well written and looks good. I did have a few questions about where each piece should go, but after looking to the website for inspiration, I figured it out pretty easily. Granted, I’ve been able to place pretty much everything that I have for the game inside the core game’s box along with the EH-001 insert kit. However I did have some issues with the amount of normal sized cards, which I may end up having to break down and place inside these trays. As you can see in the pictures, I simply put a few cards and tokens to give a bit of a reference. I honestly think that this will hold most everything from the core game along with some expansions, if you chose to go this route instead of the EH-001. Either way, I think it just really depends on what all you’re trying to store inside the box. In the end, I’m quite pleased with the instructions.
8 out of 10

CONSTRUCTION
In this section, I would normally explain the game and how it’s played, as well as my thoughts on the whole thing. Instead, I’ll give my thoughts on the assembly process and anything else that I feel is important to note. To begin with, the insert wasn’t very difficult to put together and it didn’t take all that long either. Of course with any of the Go7Gaming inserts, this one is a bit loose around the joints and connections so be sure that you have some glue or something to hold it all together. As I mentioned, I used Gorilla All Purpose Household Glue which did an awesome job. As I mentioned earlier, you can see in the pictures kind of how it all looks together. Hopefully that’ll give you enough of an idea of how this would work with what you may have. For me, it may end up being used to hold some of those normal sized cards since there’s no way to keep them all separated in the EH-001 insert. One more thing I’d like to note is that like the EH-001, this one als has a ton of extra dividers so if you choose to better organize your cards, you can. Overall, this is a really great insert and one that holds a lot of stuff. If you’ve got one of the large box expansions like Mountains of Madness or Under the Pyramids, then I’m sure this would fit inside that box very well and hold things excellently. This is one that I would recommend for anyone that owns Eldritch Horror and has at least one of he big box expansions. This is one that is very well designed and looks great.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
The Go7Gaming EH-002 Insert for Eldritch Horror is a great product that really helps organize your game quite well. It will fit in either the core game box or in one of the large box expansions. It has plenty of room for cards and components. The materials are strong, sturdy and easy to assemble. They hold everything in an organized way. The assembly process didn’t take a lot of time, which was a major plus. Once assembled, the insert looks great. This is one that I would recommend for owners of Eldritch Horror and at least 1 of the big box expansions. Basically I think this one is better used for extra pieces that the EH-001 can’t hold and might not function as well for just the base game. Overall I really like the design and am wishing that I hadn’t tossed all of my expansion boxes.
8 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great products, please check out Go7Gaming at their site.

http://go7gaming.com/

 

 

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Go7Gaming EH-001 Insert Kit for Eldritch Horror Review

Recently I was given the opportunity to check out a couple of products from Go7Gaming. Those product were the EH-001 and EH-002 Insert Kits for Eldritch Horror. The inserts came in a flat rate shipping box. Inside there were several laser cut wooden sheets inside a large ziplock bag along with full color instructions on how to assemble them. After taking out the sheets and reading over everything, I was then ready to assemble the product. For this review, I will be mainly covering the EH-001 Insert Kit. I will cover the EH-002 Insert Kit in a later review.

With that said, let me start by explaining what these are and how they are used. Well as mentioned earlier, these are inserts for the Eldritch Horror series of games. These will hold the contents of the base game and lots of expansions. The EH-001 insert is to be placed in the core game box, while the EH-002 can be used in one of the big box expansions. I’ve found that with everything that I currently have for the game, I can pretty much get everything into 1 box using just the EH-001 insert. Of course, the boards and rulebooks lift the lid of the box rather high, so just be aware of that. Anyway, let’s get into the actual assembly process and we can discuss everything else a bit later. To start off, you’ll want to separate all the different wooden sheets so that you can more easily recognize what pieces go with what build. Each of the separate pieces are all easy to punch out of the sheets so there shouldn’t be any problems there.

Now I should state that if you’ve read any of my reviews for any of the Go7Gaming inserts, you probably know that glue is pretty much required, or at the very least highly recommended. While not an absolute necessity, it’s definitely the best option. With this review I won’t be telling you each time pieces are to be glued. Just be aware that if I’m discussing the attachment of 2 pieces, then you’ll want to apply glue between both of them. For this Insert Kit, I decided to go with Gorilla All Purpose Household Glue. It’s fairly cheap and dries clear and strong. For me, it worked rather well and was easy to use. Now then, let’s go ahead and get into the assembly process.

We start off by assembling the large card tray. This is done by taking the base and attaching the slotted outer wall. Next the end wall is connected to the base and the slotted outer wall. Once these are together, the other slotted outer wall and end wall can both be attached in this order. Once these are completed, it should look something like this. Notice the end wall with the Go7Gaming logo.

The next thing to assemble is the small card tray. This is pretty much done the exact same way as the large card tray, attaching the slotted walls and end walls to the base. Once completed, it should look like this.

Moving on, the next project is to assemble the monster tile tray. First the rear wall is sat down and each of the divider walls are attached, like this.

Once these are all placed, the bottom wall is attached, making sure to connect the base to each of the bottom tabs, like so.

With that done, each of the small front walls are connected to each of the divider walls via the tabs on the front, like so. That takes care of the monster tile tray.

The next thing to assemble is the investigator card tray. This is done by taking the base and attaching an outer wall and an end wall to it. Finishing up by connecting the other outer wall and end wall. Make sure to punch out the hole in the middle. Once this is completed, it should look like this.

From here, we move on to the spare plastic base tray. Like previous trays, it starts by taking the base and attaching the outer walls and end walls. One note, make sure that you have the slots lined up so that the dividers will actually fit once it’s completed. I didn’t check this the first time and had to go back and fix it. Thankfully the glue was still wet. Once you’ve got the walls on the base, you can place dividers in the tray, like so.

This brings us to the investigator and gate tray. This starts off much like the monster tile tray, starting with the base and inserting the inner rail walls, like so.

Next the two long walls are connected to the base and the tabs of the inner rail walls, like so. One note, make sure that you have the long walls laid out the correct way, to avoid any confusion.

Finally, connect the low side wall as shown along with the remaining rail wall, making sure to attach them to the base and the long walls, like so.

From here, we move on to the dice tray. This is assembled by inserting the divider walls to the base, followed by attaching the long walls and the end walls, like so.

The health and sanity token tray is built in much the same way as the dice tray. The divider walls are inserted into the base and then the long walls and end walls are attached, like so.

Finally we come to the last project, the round token tray. This is the most complex assembly. It starts by inserting each of the small inner walls to the end wall, like so.

The slotted inner wall is then connected to the small inner walls, like so.

One of the long outer walls is then connected to the end wall and slotted inner wall, like so.

Next all the slotted inner walls are inserted into the long outer wall, like so.

The other long outer wall is then attached and connected to the slotted inner walls and the end wall, like so.

The slotted end wall is attached, connecting it to the long outer walls and the base, like so.

After everything has had time to dry, each of the pieces can then be placed inside the game box, like so. The health and sanity token tray is placed above the round token tray with the investigator tray placed on top of it. The plastic base tray is place on top of the investigator and gate tray, while the dice tray is placed on top of the small card tray.

With all that done, it’s simply a matter of placing the cards, tokens and other pieces into the trays and this insert is completed.

MATERIALS
In this section I would normally go over the different components of the game and how each one looks. Since this is an insert, I’ll describe the packing and insert instead. Everything came prepackaged in a flat rate shipping box. Inside the box, everything for this insert was placed inside a large zip lock style bag. Everything looked very nice and there were no problems with anything. The wooden sheets are nice and thick and are very easy to punch out for each of the different pieces. If you decided to use glue or tape, you’ll need to supply your own as the organizer does not come with any of these items included. As noted above, I used Gorilla All Purpose Household Glue. It worked really well for me and I’ve rather pleased with the overall results. Assembling the product wasn’t hard at all. The most complex piece was the round token tray, as I mentioned earlier. Even that wasn’t too bad. The insert didn’t take a very long time to assemble either, which was great. Overall I feel that the materials look great and everything is strong and durable. I’m very pleased with the overall look and feel of this product.
8 out of 10

INSTRUCTION
In this section I would normally explain the rulebook of the game, covering the layout and details of each page. Since this is an insert I will go over the instructions that came with the insert instead. The instructions came on two sheets of double sided paper. There was a detailed process that walks you through each step of assembling the insert alont with plenty of pictures to help you see exactly where each piece goes. Everything is explained quite well and I didn’t find it difficult to understand at all. Everything is well written and looks good. I did have a few questions about how to place all the components, but after looking to the website, I found a way to get everything placed. Having as many expansions as I did, I wasn’t exactly able to add any dividers for my normal sized cards. There just wasn’t room. I figure that I’ll need to break these down and place them into the EH-002 insert to make things easier to find. Basically it comes down to what you own. I have 2 big box and 2 small box expansions, which just barely fits inside the trays. As you can see from the pictures, it’s not the most ideal but it does hold it these with the core game. I guess it just really depends on what all you’re trying to store inside the box. In the end, I’m quite pleased with the instructions.
8 out of 10

CONSTRUCTION
In this section, I would normally explain the game and how it’s played, as well as my thoughts on the whole thing. Instead, I’ll give my thoughts on the assembly process and anything else that I feel is important to note. To begin with, the insert wasn’t very difficult to put together and it didn’t take all that long either. Of course with any of the Go7Gaming inserts, this one is a bit loose around the joints and connections so be sure that you have some glue or something to hold it all together. As I mentioned, I used Gorilla All Purpose Household Glue which did an awesome job. As you can tell from the pictures, there wasn’t much room left over after including two big box and 2 small box expansions. Honestly, I think this needs to be divided up as there’s just not enough room to properly divide the cards. I would like to note that the insert does have a ton of extra dividers so if you choose to better organize your cards, you can. Overall, this is a really great insert and one that holds a lot of stuff. I was surprised that it did so well considering the amount of content to sort through. I’d also like to mention that the boards don’t sit all that well on top of the insert, so there’s quite a good amount of lid lift if you put those in here. Just look at the pictures and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Other than that though, I think this does a good job with keeping everything organized and separated and it makes setting up the game a bit quicker. This is one that I would recommend for anyone that owns Eldritch Horror and has a few expansions that they’d like to be able to condense together. Just be aware that this will only hold so much. For more expansions and materials, you’ll need that EH-002 insert that goes into one of the big box expansions. Unfortunately I got rid of all my expansion boxes a long time ago, so I may just have to get a new one just for this reason. In any event, I think this one is very well designed and looks good.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
The Go7Gaming EH-001 Insert for Eldritch Horror is a great product that really helps organize your game quite well. It even has plenty of extra room for some expansions. The insert has room for everything that comes in the core box and will hold it and several expansions inside the core box. The materials are strong, sturdy and easy to assemble. They hold everything in an organized way. The assembly process didn’t take a lot of time, which was a major plus. Once assembled, the insert looks great and it makes getting the game to the table a lot easier. This is an insert that I would recommend for owners of Eldritch Horror, especially if you have a few of the expansions that you’d like to condense together. Just be aware of the lack of a lot of room for cards, so you can only put so much in here and then the lack of space for the boards. These lift the lid of the game box a good bit if placed on top of the insert. Even with these minor issues, I’d say that overall I’m very pleased with the look and feel of the insert.
8 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great products, please check out Go7Gaming at their site.

http://go7gaming.com/

 

 

 

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Venom Assault Review

Venom Assault is a game by Mike Knight, Jeff Arbough and Dave Ploense, published by SpyGlass Games. It is for 1-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of the Freedom Squadron, the world’s most elite soldiers tasked at stopping an evil organization known as Venom, from taking over the world by carrying out some nefarious plans. They will have to work together to assemble their squadrons along with the best equipment and vehicles if they plan on stopping them. If they’re successful, then Venom will fail and all the players will be declared winners. If not, then Venom will win and all hope is lost.

To begin, the game board is placed in the middle of the play area. Each player is given 6 Recruit cards and 4 Commandos. These cards are shuffled together to form the player’s draw deck. Each player will then draw 5 cards to form their starting hand. Players choose a Mission card and read the setup section on the chosen mission. This will give them Mission Specific cards, Venom leader cards or tokens that are to be set aside to be used later. It is recommended that for first time players, the “World in Darkness” mission be selected. The Freedom Squadron cards are shuffled together and placed on the Recruitment Deck area of the board. The first 5 cards of this deck are drawn and placed face up on the Training Ground spaces of the board. The Venom support cards are also shuffled before being placed on the Venom Support Deck area of the board. Based on the number of players and the chosen difficulty, some cards may be removed from the Event deck before shuffling these cards and placing them on the Event Deck area of the board. Some Mission cards will have special setup requirements like adding a random number of Reward Cards or Mission Specific Reward cards to the deck. Once these are added, the Reward Deck is shuffled and then placed on the Reward Deck area of the board. One Reward card is drawn from the deck and then placed face down on each of the seven Zones on the board. Once more the Mission Card is checked for special setup requirements for Venom Leader Cards to be added to the Venom Leader Deck. Once the correct cards are together, these cards are shuffled to form the Venom Leader Deck which is placed on the Venom Leader Deck space on the board. One Venom Leader card is drawn from the deck and placed face up on each of the seven Zones on the board. These cards are placed on top of the previously placed Reward cards. The red circular marker is placed on the 1 space of the Venom Leader Health Track. The blue marker is placed on the 1 die space of the Venom Leader Defense Track. The yellow marker is placed on the 0 space of the Event Track. The dice are placed off to the side of the board within reach of all players. Any unused tokens or cards are returned to the box. The first player is chosen and is given the Commander token. Play now begins.

The game is played in a series of turns with each player taking a turn consisting of 6 phases. The first phase is the Event phase and is only for the Commander, the other players will skip this first phase on their turns. In this phase the Commander will check to see if any Global Effects from Venom Leaders face up in Zones takes place. If so, they will resolve them at this time. After resolving these effects, the Commander will then draw the top card from the Event deck and place in in the Active Event card area, discarding any previously placed Event cards. Once placed, the event card is resolved.

The next phase is the Recruitment phase. In this phase the player will check to see if there are any Global Effects that occur in this phase and then resolve them. The player will then play cards from their hand face up in front of themself, resolving it’s ability before playing the next card. If a card has supporting abilities, the player can choose to use these but may not select that card to be Combat Leader during combat on this turn. The player will continue playing cards and resolving effects until they have played their entire hand. The player will then add up their total Recruitment points. They are then able to recruit any number of cards from the Training Ground that have a cost equal to or less than the player’s total Recruitment points. The recruited cards are placed into the player’s discard pile.

The next phase is the Tactical phase. In this phase the player begins by choosing which of the Venom Leaders that they’d like to attack. Once that’s done, the Health and Defense markers are moved to match the ones on the chosen Leader’s card. Next if the Leader has any abilities that take effect during the Tactical phase, those would take place now. Afterwards if there are any global effects for the Tactical phase, these would then take place. Now the player will choose which of their soldiers is the Combat Leader. This must be a card that has not used their supporting ability this turn. This card is separated from the others. Next any other cards the player wishes to add to the combat are chosen and become Freedom Support cards. Any other cards not to be used in combat are set aside until the end of the turn phase. At this point, the player will then place combat dice on each of the cards as noted. For the Combat Leader, the number of dice is equal to their combat value. Freedom Support cards will only gain combat dice from their supporting abilities. Once all this is done the player will then draw a number of Venom support cards equal to the Venom leader’s support value. These cards will then be placed on the Venom Support Area of the board from left to right. Once completed, any Freedom Support cards with abilities that take place in this phase are then resolved. Next any Venom Support abilities will be resolved starting from left to right. It should be noted if either a Freedom Support or Venom Support card has a zone specific ability, it may only be used if the Venom leader is in the corresponding zone type. With all this done, combat can actually begin.

The next phase is the Combat phase. To begin combat, the player will collect all of their combat dice from their Combat leader and Freedom Support cards. They will then check the Venom Leader’s health track and Defense track to make sure that they are able to gain enough successes to initiate combat. If not, then combat is aborted. If it looks like the Venom leader can be beaten, then the player will roll the combat dice. Any dice rolled that have a value higher than or equal to the Venom Leader’s Defense are set aside. These are counted as successes. Next any combat phase abilities that the Venom leader has are activated. Next any supporting abilities from Freedom Support cards that happen in the combat phase are activated. Once this is done, any Venom support abilities for the combat phase are resolved from left to right. Any modifications to the rolled combat dice are applied and then the player compares the number of successes to the Venom Leader’s health. If the player does not have enough successes to defeat the leader, then play moves to the next phase after resolving any combat phase abilities that may occur at this time. If the player does have enough successes, then the Venom Leader is captured. Any abilities of the Venom Leader or Venom Support cards that occur at this time will take effect. The Venom leader card and the Reward card beneath it are then placed in the Victory Point pile. If a reward card has a global effect, it will take place at this time. The player will then check to see if the reward card was needed to foil Venom’s ultimate plan by checking the victory conditions on the Mission card. If it was not needed, it can be used later to accomplish a special ability provided on the card. If it was needed, then the players check to see if they were able to collectively accomplish all the win conditions. If so, then Venom has been defeated and the players win. If not, then play proceeds to the next phase.

The fifth phase is the Retirement phase. In this phase, the player has the option to choose one of their cards in play to retire. If a card is chosen, then the player places it in the Retirement pile.

The final phase is the End of Turn phase. In this phase the player checks to see if there are any global effects that take place in this phase. If so, then they are resolved. Next any Venom Leader, Freedom Squadron or Venom Support abilities that happen in this phase are resolved in this order. The Venom Support cards that were used during combat are now discarded. The Venom leader’s Health marker and Defense marker are both returned to their original positions. Any empty zones are refilled with a facedown reward card and a new Venom leader card face up on top of it. If there are no more Venom Leaders or reward cards, then the space is left empty. The Training Ground is refilled back to 5 cards by drawing them from the Recruitment deck. Next any Freedom Squadron cards in play are discarded to the player’s discard pile. The player will then draw 5 new cards from their deck. Play then passes to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until the players complete the Freedom Squadron’s victory conditions as listed on the Mission card or the Event track reaches the fifth space meaning that Venom succeeded with their plans. If the first case was met, then the players win. The players compare their victory point totals and the player with the highest point total is the winner of the Medal of Honor. If the latter case was met, then the players lose and Venom wins.

COMPONENTS
This game consists of a board, some tokens and dice and a whole bunch of cards. The board is quite large and it looks like something you might see on a big screen as generals strategize a plan of attack. I think it looks pretty cool and in a lot of ways, it reminds me of the board from Marvel Legendary. The one issue that I have with the board is that where the board folds, it sort of crinkles up so that it’s not a smooth finish. Just a minor gripe, but one worth noting. The game comes with 10 blue dice that look rather good. The corners of the dice are rounded so these roll quite well. There are several cardboard tokens for both the wards and robo-trons, as well as one for the scientist and for the commander. The commander token is a bit larger than the others, but each one looks really good. I would like to note that the robo-tron tokens look like the Decepticon icon from Transformers. Wonder what that’s all about. There are also colored disks that are see through for the Venom defense, Venom health and event trackers. These are just plastic pieces that sit on the board. Finally there are all the cards. The Mission cards are a lot larger and look like some kind of mission folder for the FBI or something. The rest of the cards are all normal sized and the artwork on these is great. They look like something out of a GIJOE comic book. I guess that’s pretty fitting since the game is loosely based on the property. The cards are good quality but they do seem a bit thin. I’m afraid that to keep them from being damaged, I’ll most likely have to sleeve them so that they don’t start showing wear or get bent up. Overall the theme seems to fit pretty good and the game looks pretty good. I do wish the quality was just a little bit better on the cards and the board, since they’re the most used parts. I will say that the artwork has to be my favorite part of the components. This makes up for a lot.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a bit long and pretty thick with over 23 pages in it. The book has plenty of examples but not as many pictures. The examples are really good and help to make things easier to understand. For the first couple of pages, the book explains the layouts of the board and each of the different card types. I think this was a great way of helping players understand the most important parts of the game. After a brief explanation of how to setup the game, the book jumps into the different phases of gameplay. I will say that while the rules aren’t that difficult to understand, the rules do tend to overcomplicate things by throwing so much information at you at one time. Honestly the game isn’t that complex. The last 6 pages are nothing but a glossary of game terms to help players understand the game a bit better. The best part of the whole book is the back cover, which has a quick reference for each of the different phases of the game. I’d tell anyone reading this review to read over the rulebook to get the gist of how the game plays, but then simply use the quick reference to play the game. I’m sure it’ll make things a lot easier. Of course if any issues come up, you can always thumb back through the rulebook to find how to solve the problem. To me, it just seems that there’s so much information in the rulebook. I’m sure that the designers wanted to make sure that everything was covered but I feel it overcomplicates things. That’s not to say that the rulebook is bad, it’s just busy. As the old saying goes, less is always more.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
There are two things about this game that stand out to me. The first is the theme. Yes, this game is loosely based on the old GIJOE comics and cartoons even though you won’t find Cobra Commander or any of that bunch anywhere in this game. Instead you will find some similar characters that will make you think of the ones from that property. The other thing is how similar that this game plays like Marvel Legendary. Even the board has a very similar layout to it. I guess it’s good that I was already familiar with the gameplay of Legendary, since the rulebook was so thick with information. It made it a lot easier to figure things out. As for how the game plays, it plays pretty good. As I already mentioned, it bears a striking comparison to Legendary. However this game uses dice and things can change around a bit on how much health and defense the bad guys have. It can make for a really challenging experience if you’re not prepared to deal with it. Pretty much you have to have more of an actual plan on which bad guy to try and take out and then hope that the dice roll your way. Luck is a big factor in the game, although some cards can mitigate things making it a bit easier. I will say that I like the look and feel of the game. I always like the GIJOE cartoons and toys, so this one really appealed to me. That said, I do sort of feel that things are a bit overcomplicated. That’s not to say that the game is bad, it’s just more than I think I expected. While it does have a Legendary feel, it’s not Legendary. That said, I think that Legendary is a bit easier for new players while this one is more of a gamer’s game. I do like the game and will most likely play it again. I like that it can be played solo and that is a big appeal for me these days. While it can be played with more players, I think for me, solo is the way to go. Needless to say, I think that fans of the old GIJOE cartoon and comics will find a lot to like about this game, especially if they want a bit more of a challenge than what Marvel Legendary offers. Overall this is a good game that I would recommend.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Venom Assault is a cooperative deck building game where players will have to thwart an evil organization of terror. The game isn’t very long. Most game sessions last around an hour. The components are quite good. The artwork is really amazing but the cards are a bit thin. The board also has a small issue with wrinkling in the fold. The rulebook is fairly long and does tend to be a bit over complicated. The game itself is quite loosely based on the GIJOE cartoons and comics. It’s actually quite good and has similar qualities and game mechanics to Marvel Legendary. It can be a bit more complex, especially for new players. In my opinion, it’s more of a gamer’s game. This is one that fans of Marvel Legendary or any of the Legendary style of deck building games may enjoy, especially if they like the property that it’s based off of. This is one that I would recommend. I enjoy it and will be happy to play it again. Fight on Freedom Squadron!
8 out of 10

 

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

http://spyglassgames.com/

 

 

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Imhotep: A New Dynasty Expansion Review

Imhotep: A New Dynasty is an expansion for Imhotep by Phil Walker-Harding, published by Kosmos. It is for 2-4 players. In this expansions, players will continue to construct monuments in ancient Egypt. They will find new sites to build on and may even be rewarded by the gods for their achievements. In the end, the player that can perform their role as master builder the best by earning the most points will be declared the winner.

For more information on Imhotep and how to play the base game, please check out the link below.
https://jlnelson73.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/imhotep-review/

To use this expansion, there are a couple of changes to the rules. First off players will no longer discard their used red market cards to the discard pile. Instead they will now keep them face up in front of themself to use during the Amun prophecies of the gods card. The next rules change involves playing a two player game. For these games, players may use a second unused color of stones from the stone quarry to play with, treating these two stone colors as one single color. Setting up the game has a few changes as well, first players must decide which side of each board type to use. Since this expansion adds new boards, players will now have four different sides of each to choose from. The new market cards from this expansion can simply be shuffled in with the others to create the deck. Lastly, players can choose if they want to play with the seven prophecies of the gods cards, since this is an optional expansion module, more on these later. Apart from these changes and the special instructions regarding each of the new boards, the rest of the rules and setup pretty much remain the same as explained in the base game’s rulebook.

As noted above, the players have new site boards and an extra module that is optional; the prophecies of the gods. Some of these new sites require the use of new tokens, meeples or cards. At this point I will briefly touch on each of the new site boards and what each one introduces to the game. The base game consisted of the A and B sides, this expansion introduces the C and D sides. First let’s look at the C sides. The market site’s C side introduces the Luxury Market. This site starts each player off with 2 coin tokens. When placing a stone onto the board, not only can the player gain a market card, but they can use one of these coin tokens to take an adjacent cards to the one they took. This action is available two times during the game, once for each coin token. The pyramid site’s C side introduces the scaffold. This site starts off with four of the five scaffold tokens included with the expansion. Each time a player places a stone on this site, they gain points, stones from the quarry and/or a market card from the draw pile. Once the scaffold is filled, a new scaffold is drawn and placed on top of the stones on the site. The temple’s C side introduces the Temple of Ra. This site is just like the A side giving players a point for each stone visible from above. However it also gives other bonuses as well, based on where the stone is lying. These bonuses can be points, stones, or a market card. The burial chamber’s C side introduces the Burial Mound. This site awards the player with points at the end of the game for each stone that they delivered to it. Players will earn more points for connecting stones across multiple levels, up to a max of 4 times the amount of stones connected. They can earn points for stones that don’t connect and they can also earn points for any stones delivered after the burial mound is completed. The obelisk’s C side introduces the Great Obelisk. This site starts off by giving each player an obelisk card in their player color and places a supply of obelisk tokens off to the side. When a player places a stone here, it is placed on the next free space on the path, awarding them with the obelisk token depicted on the space. That token is placed on their obelisk card. Players will place these Tetris like onto their card to try and get as many complete rows as possible, earning them two points for each. Players can also earn extra points for having the most complete rows, based on the number of players.

With the C sides explained, let’s take a look at the D sides. The market’s D side introduces the Black Market. This site allows the player to take a market card from the board, or to pick up one of the stacks of three cards at the bottom and look through them, choosing one of the cards to take. The Pyramid’s D side introduces the Corridor. This site introduces the Imhotep meeple. Each stone delivered to this site is placed on the next free space ahead of the Imhotep figure and awards the player with the number of points on the space. When a player takes new stones from the quarry as an action, they are able to move the Imhotep figure to the next free space in a clockwise direction, if they choose. The D side of the Temple introduces the Arena. This site provides each player with a chariot meeple of their player color which is placed on the starting space of the site. When a stone is delivered to this site, the player moves their chariot the number of spaces that correspond to the number of arrowheads on the place where their stone was placed. The players gain points for having the lead at the end of each round and at the end of the game for the number on their chariot’s space. The burial chamber’s D side introduces the Tomb. This site adds 24 tomb tokens to the game. These are mixed up and placed beside the board. Four of them are randomly chosen at the beginning of the game and placed on the 4 spaces to the left of the tomb’s entrance. When a player places a stone here, they may select one of these four tokens, returning it to the box and then placing their stone on the matching numbered space. At the end of the game, the player earns points for connecting stones in their color. Players can also lose points for not delivering any stones to the tomb. The obelisk’s D side introduces the Alley. When placing a stone here, the player may choose which obelisk to work on. Each of their following stones must be placed on this space until it reaches it’s specified height before the player is able to start construction on a new one. At the end of the game the players gain points for having a fully constructed obelisk.

Finally this brings us to the prophecies of the gods optional module. To use these, the seven cards are shuffled together and then three are randomly drawn from the mix. These 3 cards are placed face up next to the boards, while the others are returned to the box. Each player is given two scarab tokens in their player color. The player is able to place these one of these tokens on one of the spaces of the cards, twice during the game. When this token is placed, they player is basically saying that they think they can fulfill the card’s specific task by the end of the game. However if they fail the task, they will lose points. It should be noted that a player is only allowed to place one token during rounds 1 and 2, one in rounds 3 and 4 and/or one in rounds 5 and 6. They also are only able to place 1 token per prophecy card.

After 6 rounds have been played, the game ends and scoring occurs with sites being assessed and points awarded. Points are also awarded for certain market cards. Just like with the base game, the player with the most points after everything has been added up is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This expansion has a variety of new cards, tokens, boards and meeples to be added to the core game. First off, this box comes with a bunch of cardboard pieces. There are the site boards, as well as all the tokens. The site boards are very much in the same style and feel as those in the base game. That same kind of beautiful and thematic artwork is present on these too. As a matter of fact, the Temple of Ra board looks like you could almost walk right into it. Now remember, these boards are double sided so each one provides different and unique challenges. All the tokens that go with these boards seem to fit in quite well, even though they’re not overly artistic or anything. Probably the only ones with any real art style are the coins and the scarabs. The others could basically fit in with any other game without clashing too much. Still the thing is that the tokens don’t distract or take anything away from the board which is a win in my book. Next you have the cards which consist of the prophecy of the gods cards, obelisk cards and new market cards. The market cards have that same stylized look and feel that those in the base game have. The artwork and colors all seem to match up quite well so there’s no real issues there. The prophecy of the gods cards look like something you’d see on the side of a monument in ancient Egypt as they depict one of the different gods of the Egyptian pantheon. The obelisk cards look like a stone foundation where they will be building a monument. These even have workers on the side that look like they’re ready to build. Finally the last pieces in the box are the wooden chariot meeples and the Imhotep figure. The chariots match the same color as the wooden blocks from the base game, while Imhotep is more of a bright yellow. I quite like the designs of these and think that they look really nice on their respective boards. Overall I think the designs of all the pieces for this expansion fit in well with the main game and they look really nice. These are a nice addition to the game and add even more flavor to an already gorgeous game.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this expansion isn’t very long. It’s only has 8 pages in total. That’s including the front and back covers. This rulebook is very similar in style and design as the one from the core game. There are lots and lots of pictures and examples throughout the entire rulebook. The front cover runs through the different components of the expansion, along with a quick look at what’s new. The next page highlights the few changes to the rules before beginning the detailed explanations of each side of the different site boards. The C sides are explained over two and a half pages. The D sides are then explained over the next two and a quarter pages. The remaining portion of the seventh page explains how to use the optional prophecies of the gods cards. The back cover of the book explains all the market cards from this expansion, as well as including a variant for using face down market cards to make things a little less predictable. Much like the original rulebook, this one is also very impressive. I would have thought that with this expansion there would have been some solo rules included, but alas that was not the case. Maybe in the next expansion, if I’m lucky. In any event, this one looks great and is extremely well done.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Let me just say, if you haven’t played Imhotep then you definitely should. It’s a very fun game and one that I really enjoy. That said, what about this expansion? Does it measure up to the high praise of the original? Yes, it does. This adds new content that just mixes in a lot of variety that you can take or leave. It adds endless replayability from all the different combinations of site boards as well as adding in the optional prophecy cards. One of the best parts is that if you don’t like a particular site, you don’t have to use that side. With double sided boards you’ve got 4 sides to choose from now. So if you don’t like the black market, then don’t use it. If you don’t enjoy the temple of Ra, then don’t use it. Simple as that. However if you enjoy playing Tetris, then you might like the great obelisk board. If you’re looking for a good race, then maybe the arena is your style. Regardless of how you set up the game, adding this expansion is always a good idea. I personally enjoy playing a time or two with the base game by itself before mixing things in with this expansion. That way players get a good feel for what they need to do, before throwing too much at them. Not that these site boards are overly difficult to understand. Everything is actually quite simple. As a matter of fact, this expansion and the base game make for a great family style or introductory game. For me, the Temple of Ra and the Arena are my favorite new boards. I especially like the prophecy cards and enjoy adding those into the game. These really give you something to shoot for and put a little more direction and less random point grabbing to your game. Needless to say, this expansion adds quite a lot of joy and happiness to my table. I like it a lot. Fans of the base game will find a whole lot to love about this expansion. This is one that I highly recommend.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Imhotep: A New Dynasty is an expansion for Imhotep that adds new site boards, tokens and an optional module that introduces the prophecies of the gods cards. Adding in the expansion adds a few minutes to the game. Most game sessions involving the expansion are close to an hour. The components for this one are really great and they have some gorgeous artwork. I especially like the hieroglyphic style prophecy cards. These pieces fit in well with the base game and don’t detract from an already beautiful game. The rulebook is just a good as the one from the core game. It breaks everything down into bite sized chunks that are easy to digest. It doesn’t take long to read through and is quite simple to understand. The expansion itself is a buffet of lots of new options and modules to be added into an already great game. With double sided boards, this brings the total up to 4 different locations for each site adding a lots of replayability. This is one that the whole family will love especially if they like the base game. This is one that I highly recommend. For me, it’s a must have expansion. It’s player tested and Pharaoh approved.
9 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Kosmos at their site for North America below.

https://www.thamesandkosmos.com/

 

 

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Imhotep Review

Imhotep is a game by Phil Walker-Harding, published by Kosmos. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of master builders in ancient Egypt. They will need to transport blocks of stone to various building sites using the ships at port to carry them. They will need those stones if they plan on erecting monuments to gain points. In the end, the player that can prove themselves worthy enough by earning the most points will be declared the winner.

To begin, the 5 site boards are placed in the middle of the play area in the order as shown in the rulebook. For the first couple of games, it is recommended to use the A sides of these, as these are a bit easier for beginning play. The scoring track board is placed to the right of the site boards. The 8 ship tokens are placed above the site boards. The round cards are separated from the market cards. The market cards are then shuffled together and placed face down in a draw pile to the right of the market board. The 7 round cards that correspond to the number of players are removed from the stack of round cards. The remaining ones are returned to the box. One of the 7 round cards is returned to the box along with the other cards. The cards that remain are then shuffled together and placed face down beside the ship tokens. Each player will choose a color and is given the supply sled token of that color. If there are less than 4 players, then the remaining supply sleds and stones of that color are returned to the box. The player colored stones are placed to the right of the boards to form the stone quarry. Each player will take 1 stone of their color and place it on the 0/40 space of the scoring track. The first player is chosen. That player will then receive 2 stones of their color from the stone quarry, placing them on their supply sled token. The second player receives 3 stones of their color to place on their supply sled token. The third player will receive 4 stones and the fourth player receives 5. Play now begins.

The game is played over 6 rounds. Each round begins by turning over the top round card to see which 4 ship tokens will be available for that round. These tokens are then moved to the left side of the site boards. Next the top four market cards from the draw deck are revealed and placed face up on the market board. Each player will then take their turn which consists of performing 1 of 4 actions. Those actions are to get new stones, place 1 stone on a ship, sail 1 ship to a site or play 1 blue market card. The first action is to get new stones. To do this, the player simply takes 3 stones from the stone quarry and places them on their supply sled token. It should be noted that a player’s supply sled may only hold a maximum of 5 stones. So if the player already has more than 2 stones already on their supply sled, then they will only take the stones to fill the empty spaces and will lose any extras.

Another action the player may take is to place 1 stone on a ship. To do this, the player simply takes 1 of the stones from their supply sled and places it on an empty space on any of the ship tokens that have not already sailed to a site. It should be noted that if a player has no stones, or there are no more free spaces on any ship, then this action may not be taken.

Yet another action available to be taken is to sail 1 ship to a site. To do this, the player simply chooses 1 of the ship tokens and moves it to a chosen site board. There are a few things that must be considered before moving the ship. First, it must already be loaded with at least the minimum required number of stones as shown on the bow of the ship token. Next, the site that the player chooses to move the ship token to must not have another ship already docked there. Once the ship has been moved, it’s load of stones are unloaded from front to back. Each site has different rules in regards to what each stone’s owner will receive for each of their stones that is delivered. For instance, the Market allows the player to take a face up Market card from the board, while the Pyramids, Temple, Burial Chamber and Obelisks all earn the player points, at varying times, for each stone. The points rewarded and timing on when each player is rewarded is given on each specific site board. One more thing should be noted, a player does not have to have a stone of their color on a ship to be able to sail it. Once the ship has been moved to a site, it stays there until the end of the round. Only 1 ship can occupy each site.

The last action available for a player to take is to play 1 blue market card. To do this, the player must first have a blue market card. It is then played, resolving the text on it, before discarding it onto the discard pile. Each player is only allowed to play 1 blue market card per turn.

The round continues with players taking turns until all 4 ships have been sailed to one of the five sites. When this happens, the round ends immediately. Once the round ends, the temple is assessed and each stone that is visible from above earns the player 1 point. After points are awarded, players prepare for the next round by returning the 4 ship tokens to the top of the boards with the others. Next any market cards that are still on the market board are placed onto the discard pile. A new round will then begin. One thing of note, any stones that were already placed on a site board or a supply sled token will remain in place.

To start a new round, the next round card is revealed from the top of the stack. The four ship tokens that are shown on the card are placed to the left of the market boards and four new market cards are drawn from the stack and placed face up on the market board. The player to the left of the player that sailed the final ship in the previous round becomes the new starting player. Play then continues in turn order as explained above.

The game continues until 6 rounds have been played. Once the sixth round is finished, the game ends and scoring occurs. The stones in the burial chamber are assessed first and points assigned as indicated on the site board. Next the obelisks are assessed and once again points are assigned. Certain market cards will earn extra points, as will any unused blue market cards. Players add up all their points and the player with the most points is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game doesn’t have a ton of pieces, but what it does have is a lot of theme and fun. First off there are the cardboard pieces. These include the ship tokens, supply sled tokens, site boards and scoring track board. Each of these is very thematic looking. The different ship tokens vary in size from having room for one stone or up to four. Each one looks like an something you might see floating down the Nile river. The supply sled tokens are player color coordinated and have spaces for five stones. The spaces appear to be on a wooden platform that is supported by logs to be rolled from the quarry to the port to be shipped. The site boards are the most artistic looking and have various Egyptian looking artwork that fits in beautifully with the theme. I especially like the look of the obelisks and the burial chamber boards. Each of these is double sided with an a side and a b side. The a side is a bit easier and is suggested for first time players. The scoring track board looks like a simple stone pathway that is numbered up to 40. Any player making more points than that will have to continue going around the board. Next there are the market and round cards. These are quite as detailed as the other pieces but still have a nice piece of artwork that looks like what it’s supposed to represent. For instance, the statue looks like an Egyptian statue. The round cards simply show which 4 boats that the players will be using during that round. The last pieces that this game contains are the stones. These are wooden and are painted in one of four different player colors; either white, brown, gray or black. There are 30 of each color, which adds up to a bunch of blocks. These are bigger than your average wooden cubes. As a matter of fact, they look like they ate a few of those smaller ones. That’s just how big these are. Finally, inside the game box is a nice cardboard insert with lots more of that amazing looking artwork. It isn’t an organizer, just simply a cardboard piece with a space in the middle to dump all the pieces into. Still, it looks really cool. Needless to say, I really like how cool this game looks. Each piece seems to bring out that theme of stone building in Egypt quite well. I like how impressive each piece looks on the table and it is one that will draw you in from across the room. That said, there’s always room for upgrades. Sure the box is a bit too big for all the pieces that the game comes with and it could use an insert, but that’s not really a big deal. There are plenty of clear zip closed bags included to hold everything separately. One thing that stands out to me is the artwork. Over on Etsy, a company named MeepleForge has created some very thematic looking buildings and ships that can be added to the game to really up the beauty of the game. I look forward to being able to take a closer look at these very soon. Till then, I’m enjoying the look and feel of this game as is. It’s a well designed and great looking game.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is very well designed. It has a ton of pictures and examples throughout. The first couple of pages consists of showing off the components and explaining how to set up the game. The next 2 pages are the actual rules, which are explained step by step in a very detailed manner. The next page is dedicated to the designer and gives all the people that contributed to the game. The other half of the book is for the different site boards and cards. Both the A and B sides of the site boards are explained rather thoroughly with some very good examples. The back cover explains all the market cards and how each one of these works. The rulebook also contains a Wrath of the Pharaoh variant that makes the rules a bit harsher. The rules themself are quite simple but the book provides plenty of information on how to play the game and how each piece works. I’m very impressed with the look and feel, as well as the overall design of this one. This is absolutely one of the best rulebooks that I’ve come across this year. The only thing that I wish this rulebook had is some rules for playing the game solo. That would have made it perfect. As it is though, this one is a cut above the rest. Grade A+
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a very thematic and fun game. The Egyptian theme is very much ingrained into the game. Every bit and piece tells the story behind the game in a way that is easy to recognize. As someone that has always been in love with Egyptian history, architecture and art, this one really fills all of my wants in one game. The game is fairly simple but has plenty of strategy to it as well. Knowing where to place your blocks and when to sail the boats is as big a deal as choosing the site to dock those boats. I found that many times I’m trying to think 2, 3 or even 4 steps ahead, only to have my plans derailed by an unplanned ship docking or a ship sailing before I was ready for it to. That’s one thing that I love about this game. Your strategy has to be very flexible. Even though you’re thinking about what you’ll do on your next turn or two, you may find that you have to adjust that strategy and go for something different because of your opponent’s movements. I also like how that the game can grow as you learn how to play it. After a couple of plays, you can up the difficulty by switching over to the B sides of the site boards or you can use the variant that’s included in the rulebook making things even harder. I really think that playing through these levels of difficulty make it an easy way to learn and transition into the expansion, which will be covered in a later review. This is a game that I wanted to play ever since I first saw it on BGG. The artwork and theme really drew me in, but it’s the gameplay that has kept me coming back to play again. Yes you’re vying to get the most points, but to do that you have lots of different routes that you can take. Needless to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed this one as I fully expected to. I think that fans of area control games will really enjoy this one, especially those that like the Egyptian theme of the game. This is one that I would highly recommend. Overall this is a great looking game that the whole family can enjoy.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Imhotep is a game of monument building and area control in ancient Egypt. It’s not a game that takes a long time to play. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes. The components for this game look great and the artwork is superb. The Egyptian theme is well executed and is one that I truly enjoy. The rulebook is well designed and is one of the best I’ve seen this year. The game itself is a lot of fun and is very easy to learn. The fact that after a few plays, you can increase the difficulty by using the B sides of the site boards is great. You could even randomize each one making the game different each time you play. The replayability is very high with this one and it’s a great game that the whole family can enjoy. This is one that I highly recommend. It’s a great game that’s fit for a Pharaoh.
9 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Kosmos at their site for North America below.

https://www.thamesandkosmos.com/

 

 

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Exchange Review

Exchange is a game by Eric Sillies, published by Bicycle. It is for 3-6 players. In this game, players take on the role of New York Stock exchange traders as they try to buy and sell securities to make tons of money. They’ll have to plan their strategies just right as the market will be constantly changing. In the end, the trader that can best predict the market and have the highest net worth after 5 rounds will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Market Value board is placed in the middle of the play area. The Market Forces cards are placed face down in a stack to the left of the board. The Lobbyist sleeve is placed on the right of the board with 3 Phase 3 cards placed inside it. The Money cards are placed in three separate stacks below the board. The tokens for each of the securities are placed on the board at the $50 share column. The Round token is placed on the 1 space at the bottom of the board. Each player is given a Ledger board, Phase cards and 3 Phase sleeves. Each player should have the following: Phase 1 – Banks, Bonds and Insurance; Phase 2 – cards valued 1-9; Phase 3 – Banks +/- 1, Bonds +/- 1, and Insurance +/- 1. The Founder Cards are randomly dealt to each player until all the cards have been dealt. Each player will then choose which founder to start the game as. The remaining founders are discarded. A marker is placed on the corresponding number for each of the three securities on their Ledger board. They will also take the amount of cash listed on the bottom of their Founder card from the stacks below the board. Play now begins.

The game is played over 5 rounds. Each round consists of 3 phases, along with a few other steps. In the first phase, each player will choose which of the 3 securities to trade; either banks, insurance or bonds. They will place the corresponding card into the phase 1 sleeve and place it face down in front of themself. Once all players have done this, each player will then simultaneously reveal their choices by flipping over the sleeve.

In the second phase, each player will decide to either buy or sell. They’ll also have to choose how many shares to buy or sell. Just like in the previous phase, the player will place the corresponding card into the sleeve. However this time, the player will need to make sure that the desired action is on the top and place the card into the phase 2 sleeve. Once more, the card inside the sleeve is placed face down in front of the player until all players have completed the task. This time the sleeves are not revealed until the end of the round, as noted below.

For the third phase, each player will choose which of the three securities that they wish to influence by either raising it or lowering it. Just like in the previous phases, each player chooses the corresponding card for the phase and places it into the phase 3 sleeve with the correct action at the top. The sleeve is then placed face down in front of them. Once everyone is finished, the sleeves are all flipped over simultaneously to reveal their choice.

With the three phases completed, this brings us to a quick series of steps that will be followed. First the top card of the Market Forces deck is revealed and resolved by adjusting the appropriate security token(s) either up or down. Next the corresponding security tokens are adjusted based on each player’s Phase 3 card that was revealed earlier. Once this is done, each player will reveal their Phase 2 sleeve and which how much of each of their chosen security they are either buying or selling. Each player will then adjust their ledger board and pay or collect money from the supply.

There are a few extra things of note that should be mentioned. The first thing is called the Market Bubble. At the top and bottom end of the market value board are noted as the Market Bubble. If a security goes above the highest value or drops below the lowest value on the board, it will flip to the other side of the board resulting in a huge price change. Next there is what’s called Market Intelligence and the Lobbyist. Market Intelligence is available to any player that chooses to pay $50 to the supply and allows them to look at the top Market Forces card, before returning it to the top of the deck. The Lobbyist cards and sleeve is given to the player with the most cash each round, beginning with the second round. These cards are used just like the other cards for phase 3 but are placed inside the Lobbyist sleeve and revealed during that phase. This gives that player another vote during phase 3.

The game continues until the end of the fifth round. Once this round has been completed, each player will get one more chance to influence the market. This step is called the Final Influence. Each player will cast one final phase 3 Market Influence vote before their final net worth is calculated. One thing should be noted, neither the Lobbyist or market Forces cards are used at this time. Once players have revealed their Final Influence, the market value board is adjusted one last time. Each player will then add up their net worth based on cash and the value of each security that they own. The player with the highest net worth is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game comes with several different pieces that make for an interesting looking game. First there’s the Market Value board. This is a nicely made multi-fold board that isn’t overly large so it fits nicely on pretty much any table. The graphics on the board are well done and fit in well with the theme. The Ledger boards are made of thick cardboard and have slotted grooves for the plastic sliders that are inserted into the board. These are supposed to be slid up and down as your commodities are bought and sold. The problem is that these sliders are a bit tough to move. Many times I feel like I’m going to tear up the board or break off the slider. The game comes with three brightly colored plastic pyramids that are used to track the commodity prices on the Market Value board. These are very nice. I really like the coloring of them. The game comes with only 1 cardboard token and that’s for tracking the round. I wish that they’d made a white pyramid like the other 3 colored ones. It would have made sense to me. Next there are all the different cards and sleeves. The game comes with several sleeves for up to 6 players to have one for each phase, plus there’s a sleeve for the Lobbyist. These are thin cardboard and get the job done rather well. The cards are in 2 sizes, the smaller euro sized money cards and the normal sized cards which make up the rest. Each card has a nice finish and is a good thickness. The money cards have the same amount of both sides and come in values of $10, $50 and $100 and have designs that look like the actual money in the background. The other cards include the founder cards, market forces cards and the player cards for each of the 3 phases, as noted above. The founder cards are nice and the colorations match those on the ledger boards. The market forces and phase 2 player cards are just black text on a white background. To me, that’s kind of bland and boring. I’d have liked a bit more color and life to these. The first and third phase cards have the same coloration as the different commodities they represent and have a bit of artwork on these. These are probably the best looking part of the game, apart from maybe the plastic pyramids. All in all, I think there are some good quality pieces here, but I feel that the designs and artwork fall a bit short for me. Thematically this all may work together, I think in some ways it probably does. It just doesn’t catch my eye or really draw me in like other games do. Overall I think it’s a mixed bag, some things work and some don’t. If the theme appeals to you then it might be more appealing to you.
7 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a bit off for me. Most rulebooks start by giving you a list of the components along with how the game is set up. For this one, it tells you what the game is about, followed by the objective and then jumps right into a quick setup. After that, the book sort of explains the first 3 phases and then sort of explains all the other little nuances and steps of the game before telling you how to find out the winner. The last couple of pages of the book are divided from the other pages by a single green page with the words, The Fine Print, on it. The following pages are tips and tricks for the game, followed by 2 pages of frequently asked questions. That’s it. That’s all the rules there are for the game. The book has a couple of pictures and a few examples in it. Needless to say, I’m not thrilled on the presentation. I think a more step by step design process would have been better along with more explanations. That green page could have been removed making room for more rules and perhaps even a list of components. While the tips and tricks section is nice, some of the faqs felt a bit vague and didn’t exactly answer what I felt it should have. Another thing that would have been nice is some rules for playing with only 2 players and possibly even rules for solo play. Overall this feels like a big miss in my book. I’m not thrilled.
5 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Let me start off by saying, I’m not a big fan of economic games so my thoughts may be a bit biased in the wrong direction. Granted, as a kid growing up I played a lot of Monopoly. To the point that I ended up winning more than my fair share of times. Once I discovered that there was more to board gaming than just Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, I found myself not caring very much for non hobby related games like these. It wasn’t until I came upon Monopoly Gamer that I actually found a reason to enjoy Monopoly again. Still, I haven’t found much love for economic games. That said, this one falls right into that category and so didn’t really appeal very much to me in the first place. That’s not to say that the game isn’t good. I’m sure that there are fans of economic games that probably think this is the Taj Mahal of games. They may be right. Look, it’s not that I hated the game. In fact, it wasn’t really bad. It just wasn’t something that I’d normally choose to play. That said, if you’re looking for a commodities trading game or want to feel like a stock broker, then this is probably the game that you’d want to play. Making those tough decisions on which commodity to manipulate and just how you might want to do that, along with the speculation of what your opponents might be planning. It takes a bit of strategy and a whole lot of understanding your opponents to work things out for your own benefit. In a way, it’s almost like Poker in that way. You’re basically having to read your opponents in a way so that you know what they’ve chosen to do so that you can make the best decision to earn the most money for yourself. In the end, this game just didn’t work for me. While it wasn’t my favorite, I still didn’t mind playing it. However given the options out there, I’d be more apt to request playing something else. While this one didn’t work for me, I’m sure that there are players out there that would really enjoy it. I feel that the mechanics of this one worked in the way that the designer had planned. Overall this is one that I’d recommend for fans of economic games. For everyone else, I think it’s more of a try before you buy.
6 out of 10

OVERALL
Exchange is a light weight economic strategy game about buying and selling securities. This isn’t a super long game. In fact, most game sessions last around 30-45 minutes. The components look pretty good, even though the ledger boards didn’t quite work so smoothly and the artwork could have been a bit more exciting. The rulebook felt more like a game summary and less like an actual rulebook. The game itself wasn’t bad but didn’t excite me. Perhaps that’s due to my lack of excitement with most economic games or it could simply be that the game was a bit less that what I expected. Fans of economic games may actually find something to enjoy with this one. However for me, it is more of a pass. While it’s one that can be played fairly quickly, at least it doesn’t take too long to get through and be able to move on to something that I enjoy more. Basically this is one that I feel doesn’t suit me but may be a good fit for others that enjoy the mechanic. For those people, I would recommend it. For everyone else not big on the economic game style, it’s a try before you buy.
6 out of 10

 

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

https://bicyclecards.com/

 

 

 

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The Alpha Review

The Alpha is a game by Ralph Rosario, published by Bicycle. It is for 3-6 players. In this game, players will take on the role of a pack of hungry wolves as they attempt to hunt and scavenge for food. Of course some times, that’ll mean coming into conflict with other wolf packs where a player’s wolves can become injured and need to rest and heal. In the end, the player that can best unleash their wild side and gain the most food by the end of the game will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Food Tracker board is placed in the middle of the play area. Each player is given a Den board, Alpha Pair, 6 Beta Wolves and a Conflict token of the same color. Each player places one of their Beta Wolves on the grey stone 5 space on the board. They will place the remaining Beta Wolves, along with their Alpha Pair onto their Den Board which is placed in front of themself. The Weeks Left token is placed on the yellow 5 space in the upper right corner of the board. The Region tiles are placed next to the board based on the number of players. Large and Medium Region tiles are placed above the board beside the Deep Forest area, while Small, Scavenge and Livestock Region tiles are placed below the board beside the Near Forest area. The Region Dice that match the colors of the Region tiles are placed next to them. The first player is chosen and is given the Conflict token, play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round is broken up into 5 phases. The first phase is the Stalk phase. In this phase, players will place their wolves on Region tiles to establish dominance. Starting with the first player, each player will place either a beta wolf or an alpha pair from their Den board onto one of the region tiles. This continues in turn order until each player has placed all of their wolves from their den. It should be noted that beta wolves count as 1 and an alpha pair counts as 2 when it comes to region control. There are a couple of other things of note. When a player places either a beta wolf or alpha pair onto a region tile in the Deep Forest, they must pay 1 food by moving their wolf down one space on the Food track. If a player is at 0 food, they can not place a wolf into the Deep Forest. Only 1 wolf per pack may be placed on each of the Scavenge regions. The large region tiles require 5 wolves in order to roll the dice for food in those regions. These 5 wolves may come from multiple packs in order to meet the requirements. The Livestock tile may only contain 1 wolf total. Finally any wolves that are healing from injuries may not be placed onto a region.

This brings us to the next phase, establishing dominance. In this phase, each player will count up the number of wolves they have on each Region tile, making sure to count the alpha pair as 2. The pack that has the most wolves on a tile, is considered the Dominant Pack. In cases of a tie, they’re both considered dominant. The other wolves on the region are now considered Scavenger Packs.

The third phase is the chase phase. In this phase the Dominant Pack for each region will roll the die that matches the color of that particular region. If multiple packs are dominant, then the dominant player closest to the player with the Alpha token will roll. The die roll will result in 1 of 4 outcomes. These are explained in more detail in the rulebook, along with a visual aid. Just in brief, a die roll can result in a number of food becoming available. It can mean that the prey escaped and no food is gained. It can mean that the region’s prey was wounded and will become Carrion in the next round, resulting in a Conflict between wolves on that region. Finally it can mean that a wolf in the region has died and is removed from the game. Once the die is rolled, it placed on the region tile for the next phase.

The next phase is the resolve phase. In this phase each Region tile is resolved starting with the smallest Region and ending with the largest one. To resolve the tile, if there are no wolves on the Region, then players move on to the next Region. If the hunt was successful and there is only 1 Dominant Pack, then that player advances their wolf on the Food Tracker a number of spaces equal to the number shown on the Region Dice. If there multiple Dominant Packs in a Region, then those packs will have a Conflict. When a Conflict happens, players must determine whether they will fight for the food or share it. They start by determining how much food is at stake. That amount is equal to the number on the Region die. If a C is rolled on the die, then the small number by the C is the amount. Players will then secretly choose whether to fight or share using their Conflict tokens. They will then simultaneously reveal their tokens. If all packs share, then food is distributed one at a time starting with the player closest to the Alpha and continuing in turn order. If only one pack chose to fight, then that pack receives all the food. If two or more packs chose to fight, then one wolf from each fight pack is wounded, placing them on the Injured Wolf space on the Food Track. Neither of these packs will receive food. Food is distributed evenly between any Dominant Packs that chose to share. If all packs chose fight, then all the food is lost. One thing of note, if gaining food puts a pack above 30 food, then that player places their wolf marker back on the 1 space, laying it down on it’s side to indicate that they are over 30 food. One more thing to note, if all other Dominant packs are injured in a fight, then the Scavenger packs will divide the food evenly between themselves. If at any time the food does not divide evenly, then the leftover food is given one at a time to any pack that received food in the Region, starting with the Alpha and moving forward in turn order.

The final phase is the advance phase. In this phase, all wolves remaining on the Region tiles are returned to their player’s Den boards. Any wolves in the Healing Wolves space are returned back to their den. Any wolves in the Injured Wolves space are moved to the Healing Wolves space. The Weeks Left Token is then moved 1 space down on the Weeks Left portion of the board. The Alpha token is then passed to the player with the most food. If there is a tie, then it goes to the player closest to the Alpha in turn order. A new round will then begin.

The game continues until the Weeks Left token reaches zero. Players will then check the Food Tracker and the player with the most food is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game has some really nice looking pieces to it. First there are all the region and conflict tokens. The region tokens are good sized, some of which are a good bit larger than the others. Each one has a great image of an animal that the wolf packs will be hunting, such as a moose, deer or hare. These tiles are double sided so on the back side there is a dead carcass for carrion. Livestock and Scavenge tiles are only single sided. The back sides of these are just plain white. The Alpha and Weeks Left tokens are also cardboard and are round just like the conflict tokens. The conflict tokens are color coordinated with the player’s wolves. Speaking of which, another great set of pieces that comes with this game are the wolf meeples. There are two types of these, the regular wolves and the alpha pairs. These are all color coordinated in 6 different player colors. The wolves look like little wolves, while the alpha pair are two wolves sitting and howling at the moon together. These are absolutely awesome looking and are my absolute favorite parts of the game. The game also comes with some colored dice that appear to be screen printed. Not sure how long the printing on these will last, but so far I haven’t had any problems. I really would have preferred etched dice so that the images wouldn’t go away with time. Hopefully these will last and be really good. Next there are the Den boards that each player starts the game off with. I kind of think with all the great artwork on the other pieces of the game, that these could have used a bit more color and life to them as well. Unfortunately I feel that they sort of missed the mark just a bit. They’re good quality and quite thick but could have used a dash more color than just the drab browns that they received. Finally there’s the board. This folds out into 4 sections and the artwork looks quite nice on it. There are all these wolf prints for keeping track of the food and sections for injured wolves and those that are healing, as well as spots for the weeks left in the hunt. The board is really well done and I like the design for it. One last thing I should mention is that inside the box, this games has a really nicely designed insert that holds everything together in a very organized way. There are slots for each player’s wolf meeples and other places for the different tokens. The board even fits into a specific slot to hold it all together. Overall I’m really amazed at how nice this game looks and the quality of the different pieces that are included. This one, for the most part, has surprised me. I think the quality is excellent and the game is pretty well designed. There’s not much that I can say negative about it.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is only 8 pages long. It’s not that big and is easy and quick to read through. The book has a few smaller pictures inside it, as well as a couple of examples of gameplay. The rules aren’t all that difficult to understand and are presented in a step by step process that’s fairly easy to follow. The one thing that I really wish had been included was a reference card or sheet or even something on the back of the rulebook for the explanation of the die results, just to be able to remind you of what each symbol means. Another thing that I wish had been included is rules for 2 players and for solo play. Sometimes I just want to play something by myself or with just my daughter. For those instances, a game like this would be fun if it included rules for those player counts. As it is, I think the book does a good job with the presentation. Overall it gets the job done in a quick and concise way.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
When I think of area control games, I think of all those so called, Dudes on a Map games, full of lots of miniatures. While this game is not full of miniatures, it is full of fun. Knowing when and where to place your wolves is a lot of what this game is about. However it’s also about taking risks to fight for dominance and knowing when it’s the right time to take that risk. While sharing food can earn you lots of food, being the only one to fight can earn big rewards. Strategy is the key. That said, this game does involve a bit of luck too. The roll of the dice can go your way and provide plenty of food, or it can mean that your wolves go hungry this round. In this game you simply place your wolves, figure out who has the majority in a spot and then roll the die for the area. If there is more than one dominant pack then you can choose to fight or share. Depending on what each player chose, determines who gets food and who doesn’t. After that it’s simply clean up, heal your injured wolves and start a new round. That’s a pretty simple summary, but there’s not much more to it than that. That’s one thing that I like about this game, it’s very simplistic in it’s design. I also like the theme. While it’s not overly heavy, it has a nice feel to it. Granted, this game could have been pretty much about anything. It could have been about soldiers taking over different strategic positions or it could have been about food trucks choosing the best locations to serve their customers. Either of these I think would have been fun ideas, however I really like the idea of playing as a pack of wolves. I’m sure that I’m not the only one that’s hyped up on the theme of this one. The artwork and the meeples help to bring this game to life in a wonderful way. While area control isn’t one of my favorite game mechanics, this is a game that I’ve come to enjoy. I do think that area control fans will enjoy this one quite a bit, especially those animal lovers of the group. This is one that I would recommend. It’s an excellent game that friends and families can enjoy together, without taking too much time to play. Overall, I quite like the game and look forward to unleashing my inner wolf again.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
The Alpha is a light weight game of area control that will unleash your inner wolf. The game doesn’t take a very long time to play. Most game sessions last around 30-45 minutes. The artwork and wolf meeples look great and are a lot of fun to play with. The rulebook also looks good and is easy to read through and understand. The game itself is full of fun and does a great job of introducing the area control mechanic to new players. The game isn’t overly complex so players of all ages should have no trouble with this one. This is a great family game that I think fans of area control will really enjoy. This is one that I would recommend. It’s a really good game that will have you howling with delight.
8 out of 10

 

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

https://bicyclecards.com/

 

 

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Shuffle Grand Prix Review

Shuffle Grand Prix is a game by Robert Newton, published by Bicycle. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will take on the role of a madcap racer as they try to reach the highest distance by the end of the race. Of course they’ll have to be careful as their opponents will always be trying to sabotage them and make their car spin out. In the end the racer that can endure all this reach the farthest distance will be declared the winner.

To begin, each player takes a tire health card, a reference card and two turn trackers. The distance deck is shuffled together and each player is dealt a card. The player with the highest value card is the first player. Each player in turn order, starting with the first player, will now select their first driver, taking the driver card and their ability deck. Once each player has finished, players will then choose their second driver, starting with the last player and continuing in reverse turn order. Players will then set up their card with a driver card on top of their tire health card. They will also place their second driver card beneath both of these cards. Players will place their tire health card so that the 4 tires are shown to the left side of their driver card. Players will then shuffle the ability cards of both of their drivers together to form a single deck. Each player will then draw 3 cards to create their starting hand. The remaining cards are placed face down beside their driver. The distance deck is now reshuffled, along with the distance cards that were dealt out earlier. Once this is finished, the newly shuffled deck is placed in the middle of the play area. The trophy tokens are also placed their in a single pile. Once all this has been done, play now begins.

The game is played over a series of turns, with each player taking a turn consisting of 4 phases. For the first phase, the player will draw a distance card and place it above their car to track their distance. Each time a new distance card is played, it is placed on top of the last distance card in their row. When placed, it should allow the number of the last distance card to be read so that players can visually compare how far they’ve traveled. The card on the top of this stack is called the top distance card.

For the next phase, the player will rotate a turn tracker, if they have any ability cards with a turn symbol that are active. This is done by simply rotating the turn tracker card beneath the card with the ability to show the correct number.

In the third phase, the player will be able to play an ability card or perform another action. There are 5 types of cards that can be played; action, nerf, trap, equip and anytime. Action, nerf and trap cards can be played straight from the hand. Action cards are simply played and then resolved. Nerf cards are basically equipment cards that are played on an opponent’s car. Trap cards are conditional and are only allowed to be played if the specific condition is met. It should be noted that a player is not immune to their own traps. Equip cards are attached to a player’s car and have no effect until then. Only 2 equip cards are allowed to be placed on a player’s car. Anytime cards may be played at any time, even during an opponent’s turn and may be used to cancel another card’s effect. In this phase another option available to the player is to take a pit stop, swapping an equipped card on their car with one from their hand. If this is done, the player must discard their top distance card from their row. They may also choose to discard a card from their hand and draw one from their ability deck instead. Finally, they may simply choose to pass.

The final phase is to spend trophies. Trophies are collected any time a player reduces another player’s tire health to zero, forcing them to spin out, more on this in a moment. A player may choose to spend 1 trophy to swap their driver with their co-pilot. They may spend 2 trophies to play an extra ability card.

Just a moment ago I mentioned spinning out. Any time a player’s tire health is reduced to zero, that driver spins out. When this happens any equip cards on their car are discarded, as are all the cards in the player’s hand. Any nerfs played on their car are discarded back to the original player’s discard pile. The spun out driver will also have to discard their top distance card and then swap their co-pilot with their driver. Until their next turn, the player will then be immune to all actions. The player that caused the driver to spin out earns a trophy. If multiple players cause a spin out, then each player will gain a trophy. If a player causes their own driver to spin out, they will earn a trophy.

The game continues until there are no more distance cards to draw. Once this happens, the player that drew the final distance card will be allowed to finish their turn before the game ends. Afterwards, each player will add up their distance cards and the player with the highest total distance is the winner.


COMPONENTS
This game consists of only 2 things, cards and trophy tokens. The cards, as you’d imagine, are very high quality. They’re super sturdy textured cards that you’d expect in a expensive deck of cards. The game comes with 8 different drivers, along with their ability decks. There’s also the distance deck which contains 4 different distances from 25-100. There are also tire health cards and turn tracker cards, as well as player reference cards. There’s actually quite a lot of cards included with this game. The artwork is kind of fun, albeit a bit odd looking. It’s almost like a kid got ahold of pens and markers and made some designs for the game. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it fits the wild over the top design of the game. Each driver has their own deck which is specialized just for them, so every card’s artwork and design fits in with that driver’s specialty. As for the trophies, these are simply thick cardboard pieces that resemble golden trophies that a person might win. Included in the box is a great insert that has special places for the trophies and for all the cards. This was a really nice addition that I wasn’t expecting. Overall I think that the wild silliness of this game fits the fun designs and look of the artwork. While it’s not exactly my style, I think it looks pretty good.
7 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a nice and small little book. It doesn’t have a lot of pages to it, but it does have plenty of pictures and examples. The book explains everything from the individual card types to the various steps of gameplay. It looks pretty nice and is easy to read through. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t take long to read. Other than that, there’s not much to discuss in regards to the rules. Everything is pretty much straight forward and doesn’t take much to learn.
7 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a fairly simple game to play. Like a game of Mario Kart, you will be trying to go farther and faster than everyone else without getting too much damage to your car. You’ll be playing cards in a take that kind of manner to affect other players or equipping things to make your car run faster or smoother. As you wipe out your opponents, you’ll be able to earn trophies which will allow you to play an extra card or even swap out your driver to use their abilities. Knowing when the right time to make this move can be crucial. While this one does have some strategy to it, a lot of the game relies on luck. You never really know what the distance on the card you draw will be. You could get lucky and pull a 100 distance or be unlucky and only get 25. A few bad draws and a spin out or two and you might as well throw in the towel. While I do like the sheer ease of play and the fun factor of the various drivers, I really don’t like the luck aspect of this game very much. In some cases this can be mitigated with the right equipment or abilities. Other times it’s just completely aggravating and can run your fun. This one goes back and forth for me. I do like things about it, but there are others I don’t like. For this reason, I’ll say that this is one that players interested in the theme or that think the game sounds fun should give a try. One good thing about the game is that it can be played fairly quickly. So the luck and chaos doesn’t really get too frustrating before the game is over. I think players that are ok with luck and chaos may actually find they enjoy this one. As for me, it kind of misses the mark just a bit. While it’s not one that I normally would recommend, I still think it deserves a try though. As it is, if the mood is right I’m willing to give it a go and play it again.
7 out of 10

OVERALL
Shuffle Grand Prix is a light weight racing card game. This one doesn’t take a very long time to play. Most game sessions last around 30 minutes. The artwork is zany and silly and the cards themselves are high quality. The rulebook is short and sweet without too much filler. The game itself is an interesting race that is mostly luck based with only a small amount of strategy involved. It does have some interesting aspects including the fact that each driver feels unique and has their own skills that can be utilized to help them win. However that can be buried beneath the high luck factor of drawing distance cards. As I’ve mentioned in the gameplay section, this can result in huge deficits that are too high to overcome. If players enjoy a good bit of chaos and don’t mind a mostly luck based game, then this may be one that they’ll enjoy. For me, I’m on the fence. There are aspects that I like and others that I don’t. Overall this is one that I would recommend trying first.
7 out of 10

 

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

https://bicyclecards.com/

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Frontier: Enchanted Land Review

Frontier: Enchanted Land is a game by Greg Dyson, published by Jackdaw Co Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players will be be gaining resources and building their own fantasy realm in an attempt to gain victory points. In the end, the player with the most points after 8 rounds will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board is placed in the middle of the play area with the Round Marker token placed beside it. Decks of each of the 3 basic resource cards are placed face up in the middle of the play area. There should be one for wood, one for straw and one for stone. The advanced resource cards and building cards are shuffled together to form the draft deck. Once players are ready, play now begins.

The game consists of 2 phases; the Draft phase and the Build phase. The first phase is the Draft phase. In this phase, each player is dealt 8 cards from the draft deck. Each player will then choose one of the cards and place it face down into their personal supply. Players will then pass the remaining cards clockwise. Once again, each player chooses a card and places it face down in front of them, passing the remaining cards to their left. This process is repeated until each player has 7 cards in their personal supply. The final card in their hand is placed on the bottom of the draw deck. Once this is done, 7 new cards are dealt out to each player. Again, the process of choosing a card and passing the remaining ones continues until each player has 13 cards. Once more, the final card in the player’s hand is placed on the bottom of the draw deck. Players should now have 13 cards that they drafted. This becomes their hand for the next phase. One thing of note, a player may look at the cards in their personal supply at any time during the draft.

The second phase is the Build phase. The Build phase consists of 8 rounds that are broken up into 3 stages; start of round, card selection and card resolution. The first stage is the start of round. In this stage the Round Marker token is moved to the corresponding round number. For the first round, it is placed on the number 1 space. If the space has a resource symbol on it, then players are able to take a basic resource card from the supply and place it into their play area. It should be noted, if a player has an advanced resource card in their hand, they may choose to play it into their play area instead of taking a basic resource card. Once this has been done, any other card effects that state that they happen during this stage will now be resolved.

The next stage is the card selection stage. In this stage each player will choose a card or cards from their hand to play, placing them face down in front of themself. It should be noted, a card or cards are only able to be played if the player has enough resources from their resource cards to play them. A player may play more than one card, but they must have the required number of resources and may not use a resource card more than once per round. In other words, 2 buildings can not use the same resource card to build them with.

The final stage is the card resolution stage. In this stage, players will turn over the card or cards that they placed during the previous stage. If a player plays more than one card, the must choose the order in which each card is played. Some cards have abilities that will trigger during this stage. These cards have a trigger number in the bottom right corner of the card. Abilities are resolved based on these numbers, starting with the lowest number and ascending in order. If two cards have the same number then the card with a letter earlier in the alphabet will be resolved first. Once all the cards have been resolved, a new round begins and the round marker is moved to the next round number on the board.

The game continues until the end of the 8th round. At that point, each player will add up the number of points from the cards that they played in front of themselves, making sure to add any bonus points from special abilities. Cards in a player’s hand are worth no points. The player with the most points at this time is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game is adorable. There aren’t a lot of pieces to it, but it just looks and feels fun. The game comes with 45 basic resource cards, 12 advanced resource cards, 73 building cards, a board and a dragon round marker token. The round marker token is this cute wooden dragon meeple that is painted bright purple and it’s my favorite shade of purple to boot. This thing is so CUTE! I love it. The board looks like an amazing fantasy dream with so much going on that you’ll have to just see it to understand it. I will say, I wish that the resources on the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th rounds had been bigger and/or clearer to see. As it is, it tends to fade into the artwork of the board making it hard to remember when to play resource cards. The cards have the same style of artwork as the board and look great. They are a decent thickness and have a good finish to them. Granted they aren’t linen finish or premium thickness, I think they’re quite good actually. There are lots of different building designs with very easy to read iconography. The resource cards do seem a bit bland, having a colored image of the resource that they represent front and center with a black and white background of where this resource came from, such as a mine for stone or a forest for wood. I think that these could have been replaced with wooden or cardboard tokens for the basic resources and a wild token for the advanced resources. If this had been chosen instead, then each player could simply place their tokens on the card that they wished to use to pay for it. Of course I’m sure that might would have increased the production cost, so I understand not going that route. As it is, I feel that the cool artwork is hidden on these cards and simply wasted. One last thing that I want to mention is the box insert. Inside the box is this really nice cut foam insert that has space for everything. The board sits down on top of that and keeps everything together…mostly. With so many cards, the top ones do tend to move around a bit beneath the board. Still, I think that the game looks really great and is an amazing piece of work from this designer. I really enjoy the look of this one.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game isn’t very long. It only contains about 6 pages. The first couple of pages explain the details of each card type and symbol. It also explains how resolution order works. The next couple of pages go step by step through the process of how the game is played. The last pages include a section of frequently asked questions and a variant for the first play through of the game. It also includes a replica of the artwork that graces the board. The book contains plenty of pictures and examples of gameplay. It’s very quick and simple to read through. It does contain a few typos and misspelled words here and there, but it’s not anything that should cause you any problems. The cover has a nice finish and another great looking piece of art on the cover. Overall I think the designer did a really great job on the rulebook. It was very easy to understand all of the rules. This is definitely well designed.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Card drafting is one of my most favorite game mechanics. I truly enjoy looking through my hand of cards and picking what I hope will benefit me the most later in the game. Never knowing if that one card that I passed on might come back to haunt me later as my opponent uses it against me in a way I’d never thought of. It’s this thrill that brings me back to these types of games. This is one of those games. You start off working through 2 separate drafting phases which will provide you with a hand of cards that you’ll be playing during the second half of the game. The ones you choose can make things better for you or can possibly even hinder you from completing that building you thought that you’d be able to get completed in time. During my plays I found several times that I just didn’t have enough time to get everything done that I’d wanted to get done. That just makes me want to come back again and again to see if the next time I’ll be able to do more. For me, wanting to play a game again and again is the hallmark of a good game. This is a good game because it gives me that feeling each time I play it. One thing that stood out to me is how the different icons play off of each other based off of the abilities of certain cards. For instance, some cards like the School of Magic provide extra points at the end of the game for each set of certain symbols that you have in play. Others like the Welcome Sign provide extra resources for having certain symbols. Making the best use of each card and knowing when to play each one can be a big boost to your strategies. It took me a game or two to really get dialed in to those card synergies. Needless to say, this is a game that I have really enjoyed. It bears some striking similarities to another game that I enjoyed quite a bit, Town Builder: Coevorden. For anyone that’s every played it before, this one feel very familiar. I had a similar reaction to it myself. A lot of the same things that I liked about that game were present in this one. That’s why I think fans of that game would really enjoy this one. It definitely scratched the same itch for me. I also think that fans of deck building or card drafting games will find a lot to enjoy about this one as well. The game has a lot of depth to it, even though it’s simple to play. Fans of strategy games may find a lot to love about this one too. As it is, this is a game that I would highly recommend.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Frontier: Enchanted Land is a game of card drafting and hand management in a fantasy world. The game isn’t very long. Most game sessions last around 30 minutes. The game looks really nice and the artwork on the cards is very unique and fun. I do wish that it was a bit easier to see the resource icons on the board, but that’s one of the very few minor complaints that I had about this one. Overall I like the look and feel of the game. The rulebook is well designed and is easy to read through and understand. The game itself is a lot of fun and reminds me a lot of Town Builder: Coevorden. Even so, this is one that I really enjoyed playing. I do think that fans of Town Builder: Coevorden will enjoy this one as well. I also think players that enjoy card drafting games would like it too. This is one that I would highly recommend. It’s one that can be enjoyed by the whole family, with just a little bit of instruction. Players can expect a great quality game with this one.
8 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Jackdaw Co Games, at these sites.

https://www.facebook.com/JackdawCoGames/

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JackdawCoGames

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