Healthy Heart Hospital Review

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Healthy Heart Hospital is a game by Scott and Anna-Marie Nelson, published by Victory Point Games. It is for 1-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of physicians working to restore an ailing hospital to it’s former glory. Unfortunately the previous administrators really messed it up so it’ll take a lot of hard work and a bit of luck to get everything back to running smoothly again. Players will have to work together to juggle responsibilities and patients without becoming too greedy or hard hearted in the process if they want to be declared the winners.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. 5 bed tokens are randomly selected and placed in the appropriate ward. The token is placed on either the 2 or 3 side depending on which token was selected. Ward ability tokens are randomly distributed to each ward and placed on the space above each. The remaining tokens are placed to the side of the board within reach of all players. All the colored cubes are placed in a non see through container which will be referred to as the “cube cup”. Players choose 4 Doctors and an Administrator from the characters, either randomly or by choosing. These are then divided up as evenly as possible between players. The Ambulance deck is shuffled and the top 18 cards are dealt out to form a stack which is placed at the Draw Pile space on the board. The remaining cards are returned to the box. The training markers are placed face down on the appropriate space. 2 of them are then randomly flipped face up. The hiring markers are randomly placed on the Job Line with one marker per space. Each Doctor is given 2 Medical Action tokens. The Administrator is given the Chief of Hiring marker and an Administrative Action token. If a player has the Dr. Glass character they also receive an Administrative Action token. The 10 money marker is placed on the 00 box of the money area of the board. The 1 money marker is placed on the 5 box in the same area. The ten and one prestige markers are placed in their appropriate boxes on the prestige area of the board. The remaining bed tokens, O.R. markers and tombstone markers are placed to the side of the board within reach of all players, as are the remaining administrative and medical action tokens. The first player is chosen based on which doctor or administrator they have in alphabetical order. Play now begins.

The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round is divided into 3 phases; Ambulance Phase, Player Actions Phase and Housekeeping Phase. The first phase is the Ambulance Phase. In this phase several things happen in order. First off the top 2 Ambulance cards are revealed from the draw pile and are placed on the discard piles on the right and left sides of the Waiting Room area. These are called the Left and Right Triage entries on the board. If the players have a Security Guard Hiring marker in the Parking Lot area, one of the cards may be returned face down to the bottom of the draw pile and a new card drawn. The hiring marker is then returned to the front of the job line, more on this later. If the players are unable to draw a card, the game ends and the players lose.

The next thing that must be done is to draw cubes from the cube cup. Each ambulance card tells you how many cubes to draw. The cubes are then placed in the waiting room in the appropriately colored area starting with the number 1 by the chair of the same color and moving left. This is done for each side adding the appropriate cubes to that side of the waiting room spaces. If a black cube is drawn, it must be replaced with 2 more draws from the cup. If a fifth cube is added to a color and ther is no emergency room or space in the emergency room, that patient dies. It’s cubes are returned to the cup and a tombstone marker replaces it. There are special places designed to hold these dead patients, if there is nowhere to place the marker, the players lose.

The final part of this phase is to make the rounds. To do this the players check each patient in the wards by drawing a cube from the cube cup for each one. If the same color cube as the patient is drawn, their condition gets worse and they gain 1 illness level. If a black cube is drawn, two more cubes must be drawn for the patient. If a different colored cube is drawn, nothing happens. Once this has been done for each patient in a ward, we move on to the second phase.

The second phase is the Player Actions Phase. In this phase, players take turns performing a player turn. This can be done in any order chosen and until players either can not perform any more actions or choose not to. There are several actions to choose from and once a player performs an action, the appropriate medical or administrative action token is flipped over to the used side. Doctors can use their own available action tokens as well as any shared resource tokens or money. However shared tokens and money should be agreed upon by all players first before using. Their are actions for each type both medical and administrative. The medical only actions are to heal a patient and build or upgrade an area for which the Doctor has a discount. The Medical or Administrative actions are to transfer a patient or conduct research. The Administrative only actions are to build or upgrade any area, hire staff, assign staff or train a doctor. The Administrator’s special action allows an administrator to perform their special actions. I’ll now spend some time explaining the different actions.

Healing a patient is a medical only action. It’s done by using a medical action token to heal one patient. Of course multiple actions may be used to heal the same patient. To do this the player chooses a patient. If it’s in the operating room, the OR marker is flipped to it’s EKG side. The player then draws the specified amount of cubes from the cube cup as indicated on the board for the specific area of the hospital. Healing bonuses are added if possible. The player then checks the cubes drawn. If the cubes match the patient’s color, the illness level is reduced by 1. If the cube is black it increases the illness level by 1. Other colored cubes have no effect. A number of cubes may be returned to the cube cup equal to the total bonus used and the remainder of those cubes drawn are discarded. The player then collects $1 per illness level reduced times the patient value of the area that they were treated in. If the patient’s illness level is reduced to 0, they’re considered cured and are removed from the board. The hospital gains 1 prestige times the patient value of the area of the hospital that they were discarged from. If however the patient dies by gaining 5 points/cubes they are treated the same as was mentioned earlier about dead patients.

Transferring a patient is either a medical or administrative action. This is done by taking the cubes or bed token of a particular color and moving them to another suitable location, as long as their is an empty bed, chair or table in that area. The patient must have the correct color and illness level for the location. Cube patients may be turned into the corresponding bed token. However bed tokens may not be reverted to cubes.

Conducting research is also a medical or administrative action. Before this action can be taken, a Research lab must be built. Once this has been done, either basic or advanced research may be performed depending on if the Research Lab has been upgraded to a Research Center or not. Basic research allows the player to reveal a training marker in the training pool or to assign a revealed training marker to one of the doctors. They may choose their own doctor if so desired. Advanced research allows a player to do a comibination of 2 actions. Either of the previously listed basic research actions may be chosen. They also may choose to gain 1 prestige point instead.

Building or upgrading areas are both medical and administrative actions. Some areas my be built or upgraded for a medical only action by the Doctor whose card has a discount for that area. For example, Doctor Aorta the Cardioligist can get a discount to build the Cardiology area. Any area may be built or upgraded with an administrative action. The hopital only has 8 areas to build on which are on the outer portions of the board. There are 10 areas that may be chosen from. Previously built areas can be removed and replaced with new ones. Areas can be upgraded and flipped to the improved side which usually provides more places to hold patients. Half of the areas are simply operating rooms while the other half provide special abilities that will help assist the players. An administrative action may be used along with spending $10 to build a new area or upgrade one that’s already built. Once the area is built or improved, any prestige points that are shown on that side of the card are gained immediately.
Hiring Staff is an administrative action only. Using an administrative token and spending $5, an administrator may hire a face up hiring marker from the job line. Once hired some markers are placed on their respective places on the edge of the board while others are placed in the parking lot. A new administrative action must be used to reassign them. That brings us to assigning the parking lot staff. This is also an administrative action only. It takes an administrative token to place a hiring marker from the parking lot to another area of the hospital.

Training a doctor is an administrative action only. This can be done by spending $5 and an administrative action token. The player chooses a training marker from the training pool that is either revealed or unrevealed and assigns it to any doctor including their own.

The administrator special actions are only available to the chief administrator who uses the Chief of staff token to perform one of the two super administrative actions listed on their card. This chief of staff token may alternatively be used as an additional administrative action if the player chooses to not use one of their special actions.

After the player phase has been completed, the Housekeeping Phase finishes out the round. This phase cleans up and prepares everything for the next round of play. This is done by following the following tasks in order. First players check to see if certain office staff and/or doctor tokens, like the Chaplain or Chief Financial Officer, are in play and apply their benefits. Next the job line is updated by checking the hospital’s current prestige rating against the unreavealed tokens on the job line. Hiring markers are revealed that meet the prestige requirements. Next any patients in the Emergency Room die and must be dealt with. Patients in the Clinic, if it’s been built, get better by one cube. If the paitent is cured $1 is received per discharge. Discarded cubes are returned to the cube cup. Next all of the administrative and medical action tokens are flipped back to their available sides. Finally, the Operating Room markers are inspected. If it shows an EKG side, it’s flipped over to the Flatline side. If it’s showing the Flatline side, the illness level of the patient increases by 1. If the patient dies, just like any other time, the body must be dealt with. Once these tasks have been completed, a new round is ready to begin.

One thing should be noted about death when it comes to patients. Not only must the body be placed somewhere but a settlement cost must be paid as well. The cost is a prestige point and an amount of money equal to the newly placed tombstone marker’s location, multiplied by the patient value of the hospital area where they died. This gives both a cost in prestige and money that must be paid.

The game continues each round until either the players win or lose. If players find that there are no more Ambulance cards left to draw, they have won. The hospital’s final score is then calculated by adding prestige points with the amount of money divided by 2 and rounded down. If the hospital goes broke and there’s no more money, the players have lost and the hospital is closed down. Another outcome is if the players have no more places to hide their last dead patient. In this event, players neither win nor lose. Technically you can count it as a win but just barely. The players subtract an amount of prestige points equal to the number of tombstone markers that they accumulated during the game including the final one that could not be hidden. The final score is the amount of prestige points that remain. The scores tell the epilogue of the hospital’s story. Win, lose or draw.

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COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of really interesting and unique looking pieces. First off there’s the board which is a bit thin but I’ve come to expect that from Victory Point so it’s not really an issue. The artwork on the board really draws you into the hospital theme of the game. There are several different types of cards which are really cool. The different room cards add to that hospital theme and are double sided for when you upgrade the area. The Ambulance cards give of a dangerous feel as they are bright red with the traditional red cross sign on both sides. You’ll feel nervous each time you flip over a new card thanks to the design. The Doctor and Administrator cards are beautiful. Each one of these has a really great looking person on them that give off a bit of a Pandemic meets a 1950’s advertisement look. I absolutely love these as they are probably my favorite part of the game. The game also includes a whole bunch of brightly colored cubes in 6 different colors. Granted you have to provide your own cup or container to draw these out of but it’s not a big deal honestly. For me I grab an old dice bag that’s not being used for anything and problem solved. There are lots of tokens for the game as well that come on a die cut sheet. These look really nice and are very unique. Many of them, like the tombstone, action tokens and bed tokens, look really great and really help get you into the theme of the game. I’ll warn you though, some tokens like the money and prestige tokens are very small and are a little bit difficult to get punched out properly from the sheet. All in all, I like the way each piece looks and the thematic feel when everything gets set up. I’m quite happy and think this is probably one of the best looking games that I’ve seen from Victory Point.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is really well designed and looks great too. There are lots of great pictures and examples throughout the book. The designers even included special little boxes scattered through the book to give you more information on concepts and ideas of the game. Everything is laid out really well from start to finish so that the ideas simply flow from one to the next. The different areas that can be built an upgraded are fleshed out a little more so as are the different administrator’s special abilities. The book also includes was to adjust the difficulty of the game to make it harder or easier as well as a variant that allows cubes to be removed from the discard pile and returned to the cup known as the Ordering Supplies variant. The back of the book has a handy reference guide that includes the step by step play sequence as well as hiring marker explanations and a illness level chart. Also part of this reference guide are references to what action tokens can be used to perform which actions. Everything in this book is easy to read and understand. I couldn’t find anything difficult at all. It’s extremely helpful and easy to find whatever you need inside. I’m very happy with it.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a great looking game that is rather fun to play. That said, the game is quite long. I mean REALLY long. After awhile you just get to the point where you’re ready for it to be over. Technically the game is designed to last about 9 rounds. Those rounds can last close to 2 hours especially if you’re really analyzing every move and thinking everything through like we tend to do. Look, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here. The game is really intriguing and very unique. I don’t mind pulling cubes from a cup or dice bag. That doesn’t bother me at all. Yes it’s random and a bit of luck is involved but then again sometimes life is random. I can say that for me I enjoyed the solo version quite well. It seemed to be a bit more difficult without others to express their thoughts and concerns. Sometimes you’ll miss something that could have kept you out of trouble. Needless to say, I’ve yet to win a solo game. As for the multiplayer games, those are much more enjoyable. Not that I’ve won those games either but it was more fun losing with more people involved. There’s really a lot to think about and sometimes you will second guess your decisions especially when the cube pull doesn’t work in your favor. Having the right selection of doctors in the beginning can be key. I found that if we had doctors that matched up with the patients in the beginning made it a bit easier to get rolling in the right direction. Of course later on when things start going bad, it doesn’t matter what you have. So yes, there is some strategy involved in this game. Planning each move and which doctor does what will be your salvation. This game is great for those people that love games like Pandemic or other co-op games of that nature. As I mentioned earlier, luck is involved here as well especially when it comes to cube pulls. If you don’t like that aspect of the game then this might not be the game for you. All in all, the game is thematic and fun but a bit of a brain burner. I enjoy it.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Healthy Heart Hospital is a medium weight game of pandemic proportions. The game is fairly long especially if you have players that tend to over analyze everything. Most sessions we played lasted close to 2 hours. The look of the game is very thematic and fun. I especially like the doctor and administrator cards which feel like and old 50’s advertisement. The game can be quite difficult to win. Add in the long play time and you might find yourself just wishing the game was over especially if you’re playing solo. With more players the game tends to be more enjoyable although the difficulty doesn’t decrease unless you play with one of the variants. I find that the game is a bit of a brain burner. You’ll definitely want other player’s advise and thoughts when playing. As a co-op, the game works rather well. Fans of games like Pandemic should enjoy it. This is not a game for every one. If the theme and idea of pulling cubes from a cup or bag don’t interest you, then neither will this game. As for me, I enjoyed, more so with other players than solo. That said, the solo game does have it’s merits and can be an intriguing puzzle for those players looking for a challenge. I would recommend giving it a chance especially if Pandemic has gotten a bit stale for you.
8 out of 10

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

http://www.victorypointgames.com/

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Legends of Andor Review

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Legends of Andor is a game by Michael Menzel, published by THAMES & KOSMOS. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of mighty heroes in a medieval world of fantasy as they work together to save the land of Andor. They will embark on several quests that will be played out over a series of scenarios. Each movement and decision that they make will ultimately change and advance the scenarios. If they are not careful the land will be overrun with monsters and all hope will be lost. In the end, it will take careful planning and cooperation to save the day and become winners.

This game is a deeply story driven game. As such, there’s a lot of information that is not revealed until the players progress to that portion of the game. So, to keep this review spoiler free, I’ve decided to explain how to set up the first initial game. This is the basic first set up that everything builds off of. As you continue playing extra parts and pieces will be added to that are a bit more complex and a lot more exciting. I hope you enjoy.

To begin, the large Legend cards should be sorted out. Those cards with the words “Legend 1” will be used in the initial game. The rest can be set aside or returned to the box, for now. The 12 silver backed event cards and the one with the green arrows on it, will be used as well in the first game. The remaining cards may be set aside or returned to the box as well. Players will then choose a hero board which they will place in front of them on either the male or female side depending on which they prefer playing. They then receive the corresponding game figure, as well as 2 wooden discs, 1 wooden cube and the dice of the matching color. This is noted on the hero board which color belongs to which character. The board is then placed in the center of the play area with the Land of Andor side face up. The 7 large blue tokens are placed face up on the board in various locations as noted in the rules. Players place one of their wooden discs in the sunrise box at the top of the board. Each player’s hero figure is placed in a different location as noted in the rules. The gold tokens are placed near the board within reach of all players. The white wooden narrator pawn is placed on the A space on the Legend track, located on the right side of the board. The Legend 1 cards are sorted alphabetically with A1 on top and N at the bottom. These cards are then placed beside the board’s Legend track. Each player places their wooden cube on the “1” space of the strength track on their hero board. Their remaining wooden disc is placed on the “7” spot of the willpower points track. Play now begins.

The game starts by one player reading the Legend Card A1 aloud. Players then take turns performing 1 action. In the introductory game, players learn mostly how to move their characters. The move action allows a player to move their hero figure any number of spaces but it will cost them 1 hour on the time track for every space that they move. This is noted by moving the player’s colored disc an equal amount of spaces forward on the time track at the top of the board. To begin with, the player only has 7 hours available so may only move up to 7 spaces. If a player chooses to move less than 7 spaces, they will have more hours left to be able to do other things later in the round. If the player’s hero figure ends their movement on a space that has a token on it, the token is activated and the instructions on it are carried out. The player also has the option of passing. This moves the hero’s time marker ahead 1 hour. Once a player is done perfoming their action, play passes to the next player clockwise. This continues going around until all players have either completed all the tasks or have used up all 7 hours from the time track. A new day then begins.

Once all the tasks have been completed, the board is set up for the next Legend card. Players keep all the items they gained through the opening scene. The heroes’ time markers are returned to the sunrise box. Whichever hero entered the castle places their marker on the rooster box. They will be allowed to take the first turn of the next part of the game. The large blue tokens that were not already removed, are returned to the box. I will now explain a little more about the game without revealing too much information so as not to spoil any of the story for you.

As the game continues you will be adding new tokens to the board in various locations. Well tokens are added to several spaces. A red X token is set aside to be used, as is a parchment token. Star tokens will be placed on several different spaces of the Legend track. The event cards are shuffled and set face down with the green arrows card placed on top. Creature figures will be set to the side of the board to be added when needed. The battle board is placed with the equipment board on the rear side. The “End of Battle” and “Fighting Together” Legend cards are placed side by side beside the board. The red creature dice will be placed near the creature display, while a red disc is placed on the “4” space of the creatures’ willpower display. A red cube is placed on the “2” space of the creatures’ strength. Fog tokens are added to several spaces after removing 4 of them as noted in the rules. After this is done, play commences again following the previous time rules with one extra addition. This time around, players are able to use more than 7 hours at a cost of 2 willpower points for each extra hour used, up to a maximum of 3 hours. A hero can end their turn early and place their marker in the rooster box of the time track, becoming the first player on the next day.

Once the day is over the effects of the sunrise box now take place and will take place at the start of each new day from here on out. Everything is laid out in the box with a picture to remind you of what happens when. Let me explain this part of the game fairly quickly. Each symbol on the box stands for a different thing. First off the top event card is read out loud and it’s instructions carried out. Next all the small gor creatures move beginning with the one on the lowest numbered space. Their movement is determined by the small arrow points on the space they are standing on. It should also be noted that creatures can’t stand in the same space as another creature. This means that if they move into a space already occupied they must follow the next arrow points to the next space until there is an open space available for them to stop on. After the gors have all moved, the other creatures follow the same rules and move as depicted by the creature pictures in the box. After the creatures have finished moving, all well tokens are refreshed by flipping them over to their colored side. The last thing that happens is that the narrator pawn advances 1 letter space up the Legend track. When a star token is landed on, the corresponding Legend card is read out loud. It should also be noted that the Narrator is also moved whenever a creature is defeated. After all this has been done, a new day begins with the player in the rooster box of the Sunrise box.

Once creatures make their way onto the board, the heroes have another action that they are able to take aside from simply moving. That is they are able to fight. Let me explain how fighting works a little bit. A hero that shares a space with a creature may attack that creature. Likewise, a hero with a bow may attack a creature from an adjacent space. To attack a hero follows a few simple steps. First the hero’s time marker is moved ahead 1 space for each round of battle. The hero then rolls all the dice available to them as indicated by their current willpower points. They then add their strength points to their highest roll to get a battle value. The hero can then use a witch’s brew or medicinal herb if they have one and would like to use it at this time. At this point, the creatures react. The players note the strength and willpower points of the creature. The player to the left of the attacking player rolls the creature’s available dice. Just like with the player’s character, the highest die value is used. However if there are dice with an identical number, these are added together. If this number yeilds a higher value than the highest rolled number, this new value is used instead. The creature’s strength points are then added to this number to obtain it’s battle value. The difference between the two battle values is deducted from the willpower points of the defeated side. If the creature and hero still have willpower points, the battle continues and a new battle round takes place. This continues till either the hero has no more time left on the time track or they choose to disengage from the battle. Once the creature loses all of it’s willpower points, it is defeated. The hero player then takes their choice of gold or willpower points. The amount is determined by the strength points of the creature as designated on the creature display. The defeated creature is then placed on space 80 and the Narrator pawn advances 1 space. If by chance, the player loses all of their willpower points, they not only lose the battle but also a strength point to boot. He then gains back 3 willpower points and play passes to the next player. Players can also work together to attack a creature by adding all their available dice and then adding the highest value from each player together to get a battle value. That battle value number is exactly the same as if it was a single character attacking with the difference being subtracted from the loser(s).

The game continues until one of a couple of things happen. The game can end with the heroes victorious if they manage to complete all the Legend goals before the Narrator reaches the “N” on the Legend track. If by chance the Narrator does reach the “N”, the game is also over but in this case, the heroes lose. Another way the game can end for the heroes is if too many creatures enter the castle. Any time a creature enters the castle, they are placed on one of the golden shields next to the castle. The number of shields varies for the different number of players. If a creature enters and there are no more shields left for them to be placed on, the game ends and the heroes are defeated.

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COMPONENTS
WOW! This game has a ton of stuff packed inside the box. If you like cardboard, you’ll love this game. I’m just gonna give you a summary of what all you get. There are hero boards for each character that are double sided. One side is for a male character and the other side is female. There are standups for each character. Yes, there’s one for both the male and female characters. There are lots of creature standups as well in 4 different types. There are also special standups for the dark mage, Prince Thorald, shield dwarves and a witch. There’s also a huge dragon and a tower that must be put together. On top of the standups, there are tons of tokens for gold, poison, medicinal herbs, stars for the Legend track, farmer tokens, parchments, rune stones, wells, rubble tokens, gemstones, red Xs for marking out different things, equipment tokens that fit into special areas on the hero board, fog tokens, creature tokens, several large tokens for the opening game, wineskins, telescopes, witch’s brew, and helms for the hero boards as well, and the “N” token for the Legend track. If that don’t get you excited about the game, then nothing will. The different standups have colored bases that they fit into which help keep things easy to pick out. The artwork on these pieces is great looking. I really love how the equipment and helm fit onto the hero boards to affect the way your character looks. If you character has a shield, it really looks like they’re carrying a shield now. It’s quite cool. Those are just the cardboard pieces. There’s also all the small event cards and fate cards as well as the larger Legend cards. Once you make it to the second Legend, you can pick from easier or normal level cards to make the game harder or easier. These are easily distinguished by color. Needless to say, this game requires a lot of table space. The board is HUGE! My poor little table barely holds it all. In any event, everything in the box looks amazing and is great quality. You will NOT be disappointed with the components for this game. I gurantee it.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is actually broken up into 2 pieces. There’s the Quick-Start Guide that’s a lot larger for diving head first into the game. It helps you through the setup and gets you started with the game, really quickly. There are lots of big pictures with explanations on what each piece is and does from the board to the hero boards. The last page has a great reference section that explains the Sunrise box and how it works. This works great for quickly looking back at if there are questions or just as a reference. The other book included with the game is the Reference Manual. This is almost completely nothing but text. This is the main book for the game. Everything is laid out really well with lots of examples. There are sections about fighting creatures as well as explanations of how each of the many tokens in the game are used. There’s a great overview on how the game is played from start to finish. Yes, it would have been nice to have had some pictures thrown in here and there, but this is used for reference not for looking pretty. Granted, the cover of the book has a full page of nothing but pictures of all the items in the game. Trust me, without it, I’d have forgotten some of the pieces when I went through the components earlier. In any event, the books work great together for the first couple of games and everything is explained really well and are very easy to understand. I’m very happy with the combined rules set.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
If you’re looking for a grand sweeping fantasy story driven board game that will suck you deep into an epic world of adventure, you’ve just found that game. This is all that and more. This is a story telling game that really gets you involved in the world of Andor. Each time a card is read, it brings more of the story and world to life. Just because this is game rich with story, it’s not easy. Some times it will take multiple plays to get through a Legend. Even the easy ones are hard. At it’s heart, the game is co-op which is great because you don’t need someone to play all the bad guys and monsters. Everyone can play a hero which is awesome! Look the game takes a bit of time to set up and it’s a bit of a table hog. However, once you have everything set up it’s full speed ahead. Seriously! That’s one of the great parts of this game is that you can just jump right in there and learn as you play. No need to sit around and read 50 pages of rules. The theme, as you may imagine, is very rich and full of life. I love fantasy style games and this one brings out that genre really well. There are so many things that have to be done and that you’ll want to do, yet you won’t have the time for your characters to do everything. Like I explained in the rules section, when you beat a monster, the time advances. Once that Narrator pawn reaches the “N”, you’re done. That’s all she wrote. Game over! That means that random hack and slash techniques won’t cut it for this game. You have to really think about the big picture and what needs to be done. Then you all work together the best way to accomplish your goals. The game is very replayable. Sure, once you’ve finished all 5 Legends in the box, you’ll feel like you’ve done everything. However there are different difficulty levels as well as some variables that change up the way things are played. For me, I can see this being played numerous times. With expansions being made and even dowloadable legends available, it’s very much replayable. One thing to note is that the game is fairly long so make sure you have plenty of time to play it. Once you get started playing you will not want to stop. You’ll want to play one more Legend or try that one you lost just one more time. Fans of games that tell stories like Tales of the Arabian Nights or possibly Above and Below might enjoy this one as well. As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to many more adventures in Andor.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Legends of Andor is a medium weight co-operative game of story telling goodness in a fantasy kingdom. The game can be quite long so make sure that you have plenty of time for both setup and playing. This can take in excess of a couple of hours, especially since you’ll want to keep playing. The artwork and components are all really well designed and look great. I love the hero boards and the double sided game board. However, this game is a monster and it takes up a lot of table space so be warned. The gameplay is one of adventure and exploration with some dice chucking monster fighting thrown in for good measure. It has a great puzzle solving feel as you’ll need to figure out the best way to accomplish all your tasks before the Narrator completes his travels on the Legend track. Fans of story driven games like Tales of the Arabian Nights should really enjoy this one too. The very thematic and rich with fantasy goodness. This is one that I’ve really enjoyed playing. I highly recommend this game. It’s one that will be played and replayed several times. Make sure that you give this one a try. You’ll definitely enjoy yourself.
9 out of 10

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

http://www.thamesandkosmos.com/index.php/kosmosgames

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Ascension: Dreamscape Review

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Ascension: Dreamscape is a game by Justin Gary and John Fiorillo, published by Stone Blade Entertainment. It is for 1-4 players but can be played with 4-6 players using team play. It can also be combined with any of the other Ascension games to allow up to 6 players to play. In this game, players will start off with a loyal group of untrained followers but will acquire heroes and constructs to aid them as they battle evil monsters of every shape and size. The player that can achieve the most honor in battle will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board may be placed on the table if players choose to use it, however it is not absolutely necessary. I will assume that it’s being used for the sake of this review. The Heavy Infantry, Mystic and Cultist cards are placed on their respective space on the board. Each player is given 8 Apprentice cards and 2 Militia cards. These cards are shuffled and players then draw 5 cards for their starting hand. The remaining cards are placed face down in front of the player. The Dream cards should be shuffled together. Each player is then dealt 5 cards. They will then choose 3 of the cards which will be placed face down in front of them. The remaining 2 cards are returned to the deck and the deck is shuffled again. The Dream deck is then placed face down near the board within reach of all players. The cards for the main deck are shuffled together and placed face down on the corresponding space on the board. The top 6 cards are flipped over and lain out on the open spaces in the center row. 30 Honor tokens are placed onto the Honor Pool space for each player. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they will play cards from their hand to gain Runes, Power, Insight and Honor. Runes are used to acquire heroes and constructs. These cards are placed in the player’s discard pile once acquired. Power is used to defeat monsters. When a monster is defeated it is sent to the void, which is the name for the main deck’s discard pile. The player then gains a reward, usually including Honor tokens. Insight is used to acquire cards from the player’s dreamscape, the 3 cards that the player chose at the beginning of the game from the dream deck. These cards can only be gained by that player. A player may play their cards in any order of their choosing by simply playing the card face up and announcing it’s effect. Every time a card is bought from the center row, a new card is drawn from the main deck to replace it. If a Dreamborn card enters the center row, every player gains 1 Insight. Also when one of these cards is acquired by a player, they will also gain 1 Insight. When a construct card is played it remains in play to be used by that player each and every turn. These are not discarded at the end of the player’s turn. Once the player is through playing cards, gaining heroes and constructs, defeating monsters and acquiring dream cards, they must then discard all the played hero cards and any cards remaining in their hand to their discard pile. The player then draws 5 new cards from their deck. If the deck is empty or runs out of cards, the discard pile is shuffled to gether and a new draw deck is formed.

As stated earlier, this set introduces the new dream deck and the new Insight resource. Since the Dream deck and Dreamborn cards have already been covered earlier, I won’t repeat that information here. The main thing to understand is that unlike the other resources, runes and power, Insight comes in the form of little orange tokens that are not lost at the end of a player’s turn. This resource can be kept until the player chooses to spend it.

The game continues until the last Honor token has been taken. Once this happens, the game ends at the end of the current round. That means that the last player that started the game will be the player to end the game. Honor may still be gained but must be taken from any leftover tokens in the box. Players add up the number of points beside the Honor symbol in the bottom left corner of each card along with the Honor tokens that they gained during the game. The player with the most Honor points is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game is full of some of the most beautiful looking cards. There are 35 new Dream deck cards that highlight the new Insight resource. The main deck has 98 cards. There’s also mystic, heavy infantry and the cultist card, as well as enough starting deck cards consisting of apprentices and militia for 4 players. The beauty and design of each card is simply amazing. The artwork continues to get better with each new set of Ascension that comes out. There are also the large red and small clear Honor tokens that are a staple to the Ascension game world. What’s new is the large and small orange Insight tokens. These remind me of the Precursor Orbs from the old Jax & Daxter video games. Just like the Honor tokens, these are made from plastic. The only bad thing is that with them being egg shaped, they tend to roll around a bit more than I’d like. However that’s only a small gripe and they look great so really, I’m not complaining. If it’s too annoying you can always grab a small bowl, clean ashtray or one of those plastic trays that come with the game, Abyss. It’s pretty much whatever floats your boat. For me, the design is still cool. As for the board, WOW! It really looks great. There are several designs from the cards that are reprinted on it. Sure, there are those people that may find it to be a bit cluttered looking but I really like the design and find the extra artwork to be fun. It’s definitely unlike the previous boards that were included with the earlier games. You’ll either love it or hate it. For me, I love it. Heck, I love all of it. This is just a really great looking game, period.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game looks amazing. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. The book begins with the very thematic story behind the new set. Everything then transitions into the new aspects of the game. There’s a page consisting of a breakdown of the new vision cards from the Dream deck. From there we get into the setup for the game including a full page look at set up. The following pages showcase the Hero, Construct and Monster cards in the same style as the Vision cards. The next couple of pages breakdown how to play the game. Let me just say, the look and design of the book is great. Everything is thoroughly covered in great detail. It’s easy to read and understand. There’s also a page of frequently asked questions followed by a glossary of game terms. The last page consists of gameplay variants for 4-6 players using team play and also solitaire rules for playing solo. As I’ve said, I couldn’t be happier with the rules. There’s nothing inside this book that should give you any trouble. Old players can pretty much check out the first couple of pages for the new mechanics and cards and move on. New players will want to check out everything. Either way, a great looking book cover to cover.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
For those readers unfamiliar with my reviews, let me just say that I’m a big fan of Ascension. That said, it should in no way color your enjoyment of the game. Now then. I love this game. You didn’t really think that I’d say anything different did you? I love the idea of the Dream deck/Vision cards. I really like having certain cards that my opponents can’t buy. They are just for me. You can sort of tailor things to your way of playing by looking at what options are available from the Dream deck cards you draw at the beginning and then going from there. With such a huge stack of Vision cards available, it’s very unlikely that you will wind up playing the same game twice. This leads to having a huge replayability factor. I really liked the added depth of having another resource available to purchase new cards with. What’s even better is being able to hold on to those Insight tokens until you really need them instead of losing any left over resources at the end of your turn. The game works great with every number of players, including solo. Of course, the magic spot has to be 2 players, in my opinion. Just like with Magic the Gathering, this game works best in a duel type format. Regardless of how you choose to play it, it’s a great game that you’ll find yourself wanting to play over and over again.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Ascension: Dreamscape is a light weight deck building game that is great for both old and new players alike. The game can be played in around 30-40 minutes. Using 4 or more players may tend to increase that time frame by another 10-20 minutes. The artwork on the cards and board are really great. Some people may find the board to be too busy due to the extra artwork but I personally like it. I really like the new polished look of the cards themselves and the new mechanics are really fun. Clean up is easy since the new Dream deck cards all have a gold outline making them easy to pick out. Fans of any of the Ascension games will love to add this to their collection. Fans of deck building games and Magic the Gathering will also find this game worth picking up. I really enjoy everything about this game and find that it’s super easy to play and even easier to teach. It works great with any player count including solo but it really shines as a 2 player game. I highly recommend this game. It’s a great game for new and old players alike.
9 out of 10

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

http://stoneblade.com

 

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Preview Review of Super PACS

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Recently I was given the opportunity to play test an upcoming new game that will be available on Kickstarter very soon. I received a prototype of the game with everything needed to play. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Super PACS is a game by Brandon Patton and André Pereira, published by Tabletip Games and Merlin Pool Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of one of the up and coming leaders in the United States of Humerica. They will be buying investments and adding factions to their coalition to win elections. The player that can gain the most power by the end of the game will be declared the winner.

To begin, the game board should be placed in the middle of the play area. The faction cards are shuffled. Five cards are dealt out to each player. The remaining cards are placed face down on the board. Each player is also given 2 megabucks. The remaining cards are placed face up on the board. The House of Rep, Senate and White House cards are removed from the event deck. The cards are then shuffled. The event deck is then formed and placed on the board by placing the White House card sideways on the bottom face down followed by 2 random event cards. The Senate card is then placed on top of them sideways, followed by 2 more random event cards. The House of Representatives is placed sideways on top with 3 more random event cards placed on top to finish off the deck. The random event cards are all placed in a normal orientation while the 3 special event cards are turned sideways. The investment cards are shuffled and placed face down on the board. The top 4 cards are flipped over and placed on the 4 investment spots on the board. Leader cards are shuffled together. A random leader is dealt face up to each player. These are placed in front of the player forming their play area. The buttons are placed face up beside the board. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played over 10 rounds. On a player’s turn, they are allowed up to 2 actions. First they must choose an initial action. Those actions are to campaign or to embezzle. To campaign, a player simply follows the instructions beneath the word Campaign on their leader card. This usually allows a player to draw faction cards. To embezzle, the player simply takes 2 megabucks from the supply.

Once the initial action has been performed, they may choose a main action. The main actions that are available are to exploit, sneak and fundraise. To exploit, the player will add a faction card with the exploit icon to their coalition and follow the instructions at the bottom of the card. The player’s coalition is formed by placing like colored cards face up in a column beside the player’s leader card. To sneak, a player is allowed to place up to two faction cards face down above their coalition in their sneaked card zone. These cards are flipped face up at the end of the round, before the event, and added to the player’s coalition, ignoring the text on the card. To fundraise, the player adds up the wealth from all of the faction cards in their coalition. They are then able to take that much money from the supply.

There are a couple of other things that should be explained; surprises, superpowers and investments. Surprises do not require an action to use and may be played during another player’s turn. To perform the surprise, the player simply discards it from their hand and executes the text beside the surprise icon. If the card has an exploit icon, it is not performed. Likewise, cards that have been exploited may not use the surprise icon’s text. Superpowers are special leader abilities that may be performed once per round either during the player’s turn or when the card states that it may be played. To use this ability the player must pay the cost beside the action in megabucks and then they follow the text of that ability. Investments may be bought by a player at any time during their turn. To buy one of these cards, the player simply pays the cost to the treasury and then they are able to collect the card and any benefits that it provides. The card is then placed underneath the player’s leader card. If the player chooses not to perform a main action, they may pass.

Once each player has had a chance to perform their 2 actions, the end of round events and elections take place. First off, players reveal any face down sneaked cards and add them to their coalition. After this is done, an event card if revealed. Players must then follow the instructions at the bottom of the event card. Once the card’s effect has been resolved, it is placed in the events revealed discard pile. After the 4th, 7th and final rounds, an election card is revealed instead of a random event card. Those 3 elections are the House of Rep, Senate and White House. When these special election events are revealed an election occurs. Players must count up the votes in their coalition and announce the total. Once this is done, starting with the first player, each player may either discard a surprise card to affect the vote totals, use a superpower to affect the vote totals or pass. This continues until all players have passed. The player with the most afterwards wins the election and adds the event card to their coalition. Once the White House election has been completed, the game ends. Players then add up the power from all their factions and investments. The player with the most power is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
With this being a prototype copy, I won’t go into great detail about the quality of the components. Let’s just say that there are quite a few cards included with this game. There are leader cards, faction cards, event cards, investment cards and reference cards, as well as cards for money. That’s right, I said money cards. No paper money here folks. Each card has some really silly and fun looking artwork that pokes fun and every facet of our country from the past several years including the up coming elections. While not directly naming any one individual by name, if you’re familiar with current events you will know who each leader card refers to. The main board, while currently only in paper form, looks nice and is very organized with a place for everything. The buttons look like something from a political campaign and are used at various times during the game, including the one that is used as a first player token. I’m sure once both the board and tokens reach production level, they will be made of much better quality materials and be even better. In any event, the game seems to be on the right track with everything well thought out. This should end up being a very nice looking game.
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RULEBOOK
The rules that I received for this game were also in prototype form. Things were a little rough around the edges and seemed to be mildly haphazard. It does seem to take a bit to understand exactly what the designer was going for here. I will say that at least they look good. There are plenty of pictures and examples throughout the rules. The design is quite nice. I just hope that once everything is polished and completed, that we end up with something much more streamlined and understandable. For now, I’ll reserve my judgement.
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GAMEPLAY
This game is quite easy and fun to play. At it’s heart it is a game of set collection with a humoristic take that approach. Add in a touch of variable player power with some hand management and voting thrown in for good measure and you’ll get this game. I really like the humor that the game plays around with. I find that this game really plays to those people that keep up with the headlines of today. I enjoy all the various abilities and powers that the different cards possess. I find that each leader plays a bit different providing for a mild varitey in game play. Playing this game makes me think a lot about games like Bohnanza. However the humor in this one, might not be for everyone. There are a few cards that lean a bit towards the racy side. Nothing that older players should have a problem with but I don’t think this is one that you would want to play with the younger kids. There’s not a ton of strategy to the game but it does have a lot of player interaction. Everything from the events and elections to the exploit abilities and super powers. For me, this is what really makes the game. I really like that this isn’t just one of those games where each player is waiting for the others to finish their turn so that they can do something. Surprise cards will keep every one on their toes. The game is fairly light and isn’t going to appeal to everyone. For me though, I find it to be very entertaining and full of fun.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Super PACS is a light weight set collection game of political satire with a take that feel . The artwork is very humorous and fun. However, some people may be turned off with some of the cards, especially those players without a sense of humor. The game is fairly simple and is quite easy to learn. It plays in about 45 minutes or so, depending mostly on the number of players. With 12 playable leaders and plenty of faction, event and investment cards, this game is highly replayable. Fans of games like Bohnanza or other games of set collection may find this one enjoyable as well. As I’ve stated earlier, this might not be the most appropriate game for the younger kids but should amuse most everyone else. I look forward to seeing the completed product and hope that the game continues to impress. I enjoyed the game and would recommend giving this one a try. It would be well worth backing on Kickstarter or picking up a retail copy when it becomes available.
8 out of 10

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

http://www.tabletipgames.com/

You can back this game right now by following the Kickstarter link below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1828042758/super-pacs-the-game-of-politics-about-the-game-of

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Steam Time Review

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Steam Time is a game by Rüdiger Dorn, published by THAMES & KOSMOS. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the roll of airship captains working for the Temporal Institute for Monument Exploration or T.I.M.E. for short. They will travel through space and time in an attempt to find hidden treasures, deposits of crystals and information about ancient civilizations among other things. The player that can navigate the temporal vortex the best and gain the highest esteem of T.I.M.E. will be declared the winner.

To begin, each player is given an airship board, 3 airships and 3 control discs in their chosen color. The board is placed in front of the player. The airships are placed on the hangar space of the player’s airship board. The control discs are placed on the “1” space of the player’s steam track, the start space of their time portal track and the start space of the esteem track on the game board. They are also given 8 gold which is placed on the vault space of their board. Players are also given a number and color of crystals depending on the play order. Some players may also gain gold and steam as well. Crystals are placed in the proper place on the player’s airship board. The remaining crystals are placed into the bag. The game board is put together and placed in the middle of the play area. 30 clear crystals are placed in the secret mine space. The gold tokens go in the bank. The esteem tiles are place on their correct spaces. Mr. T.I.M.E. is placed on the time compass. The encounter cards are shuffled and placed face down on the encounters box. The missions cards are shuffled and placed in the missions box. The expedition cards are separated by Roman numeral, with each deck being shuffled separately. The decks are then stacked together face down in the expeditions box with the Roman numeral V cards at the bottom and the I cards at the top. The upgrades are done the exact same way and then placed in the upgrades box. The effort cards are sorted by the Greek symbol on the back before being shuffled. 2 cards are drawn from the alpha deck and 3 from the omega deck. The 2 alpha cards are place on top of the 3 omegas and then placed face down on the effort box. The remaining effort cards are returned to the box. The first player tile is placed next to the board. The monument boards are separated by the numbers on the boards then, based on the number of players, are placed in any order next to the board. The remaining 3 are returned to the box. The action spaces of each monument board are prepared by placing crystals in crystal deposit spaces, mission cards drawn for mission spaces, expedition cards drawn for expedition spaces and upgrades drawn for upgrade spaces. The first player is chosen and receives the first player tile. Play now begins.

The game is played over 5 rounds. Each round is comprised of 3 phases; income phase, action phase and supply phase. The first phase is the income phase. This phase does not happen in the first round of play as no players have acquired upgrades at this point. In this phase, players receive rewards based on the upgrades they’ve made to their airship board. Beginning with the first player in player order, players receive their rewards. Gold is taken from the bank, the control disc is moved on the esteem track, time crystals are removed from the secret mine and placed in a free generator slot, crystals of the depicted color are removed from the bag and placed in the corresponding slot on the player’s airship board, the control disc is moved up on the steam track and a crystal is taken from any crystal deposit on a monument board and placed on an open generator slot. Of course not all these actions will happen, this is all determined by what each player has accomplished on their player board up to that point. Another thing is that there are placement rules for crystals which must be followed. I won’t go into detail there but just know that this is a part of it.

The next phase is the action phase. In this phase, beginning with the first player, players may take 1 of 2 actions. They can take the first player tile or place 1 airship and execute the action of the space. The first player tile can only be taken once per round. The player that takes it is then allowed to perform 1 of 2 special actions. They may convert 1 steam into 1 esteem or they may convert 1 steam into a T.I.M.E. crystal which must then be placed into a generator. The current first player can not take this action until all the other players have had a chance to pass on it.

Instead of performing these actions, the player may place an airship and perform the space’s action. The player simply places one of their airships from their hangar onto an unoccupied action space on a monument board. Once the action is performed, the player may receive a reward or bonus. Each monument board has a number of spaces. Hower not all of the action spaces may be available on every board. It should also be noted, if a player has placed an airship in a previous turn, then the next time they place an airship it must be at least 1 monument board further up in the stream of time. In total, there are 6 different types of action spaces; mission, encounter, crystal deposit, upgrade, gold and expedition. Mission spaces allow a player to take a mission card. If at the end of the game they are able to complete it, the player gains the esteem reward. As a bonus, the player is able to advance their esteem disc by 1 space per crystal in their bridge area. Encounter spaces allow a player to draw encounter cards and execute 1 of them. They can perform either or both actions on the card drawn. As a bonus for taking this action, they player gets 1 steam for each blue crystal in their engine room. Crystal deposit spaces allow a player to buy crystals for 2 gold each. They also get a T.I.M.E. crystal from the secret mine fore each black crystal in their laboratory generator. Upgrade spaces allow a player to buy an upgrade based on the current effort card. They then gain the income depicted on the upgrade. As a bonus, they are allowed to advance the control disc on their time portal by 1 space clockwise for each pink crystal in their time portal. If the disc advances past the top pink space, the player is allowed to take a bonus action on one of the monument boards. In this case, the player uses the Mr. T.I.M.E. pawn instead of an airship. Gold spaces allow a player to take a certain amount of gold as depicted on the space. Some spaces will also allow the player to gain 1 steam or advance their time portal control disc. As a bonus, the player gains 2 gold for each gray crystal in their Midas machine generator. The Expedition space allow the player to pay for an expedition using a number of crystals. Afterwards as a bonus, they gain a number of rewards based on the number of orange crystals in their analytic engine generator. Once no more players can place any air ships or choose not to, the phase ends.

The third and final phase is the supply phase. This phase basically prepares players for the next round. Players take back all their airships, placing them back in their hangar. The monument board in the top position is moved to the bottom and the remaining boards slide up. Crystals remaining on crystal deposit spaces are returned to the bag. Expedition cards, mission cards and upgrades that were revealed for this round are discarded. New crystals are placed in the crystal deposit spaces. New missions, expeditions and upgrades are laid out for the new round. The previous effort card is discarded and a new one is flipped over. The new first player places the first player tile next to the board and begins a new round.

Once the 5th round has been played out, the game is over. Players reveal their missions and spend the required resources to increase their esteem, advancing their control disc on the esteem track. If the disc crosses the start space, the player takes their colored esteem tile and place it next to their airship board with the 60 side up. If they cross it a second time, it is flipped to the 120 side. Once all players have completed this task, esteem totals are compared. The player with the highest esteem is the winner.

This game also comes with a couple of extra modules for more advanced play; sabotage and specialists. The sabotage module adds saboteurs into the game, making player pay T.I.M.E. crystals to be able to use the blocked space. The specialists module allows a player to use a special deck of specialist cards during the action phase. Each player will receive 9 specialists in their color. These cards allow the player to perform special actions as described on the card.

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COMPONENTS
This game is overflowing with some of the best looking pieces I’ve ever seen. There is a ton of cardboard, wood and plastic pieces inside the box. There are the 3 game board tiles that are put together like a puzzle, monument boards that are placed alongside the game board and have beautiful backdrops of some well known monuments, a first player tile, gold piece tokens, esteem tiles, upgrade tiles and airship boards with 4 amazing looking ships that would make any steampunk adventure happy. That’s just the thick cardboard pieces. There are lots of cards as well. There are encounter cards with some famous historical figures, expedition cards that portray some really beautiful places, mission cards as well as effort cards. There is a huge bag of plastic crystals in several different colors, as well as a fabric bag to hold them in. There are some brightly colored wooden pieces including control discs, airship meeples and the Mr. T.I.M.E. pawn. If that’s not enough stuff to make your mouth water, there’s also the saboteur tokens for the sabotage module and a deck of specialist cards for the specialist module. When all the pieces for this game are laid out, you will not believe how beautiful it truly looks. The artwork is gorgeous. The character drawings on the different card types are amazing. I’m just completely blown away. I couldn’t have asked for a better looking game. You will not be disappointed with the pieces in this game.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is just as beautiful and nice as the components. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. The first 2 pages give you a lay out of all the different pieces included with the game in full color. The next page shows how the game is set up with a reference for setting up the crystals. The accompanying page has the text for setting up. The next several pages break down the rules and explain how to play the game in great detail. There are also thematic little entries from different specialists like the commander, engineer or navigator to break up the sections. It adds a little bit of something to the rulebook to draw you into the world that the designer has created. The last page lays out the extra rules for including the 2 bonus modules into your game. The back cover has a very unique steam time almanac. This gives a brief description of the people that you find on the encounter cards and the places you’ll go to on the expedition cards. It’s a really nice addition that adds a little history and geography to the book. As I’ve said, the book looks amazing and is just jam packed with information. It’s really easy to read and understand. With only 12 pages, it won’t take a long time to read either. This is definitely a well designed rule book.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
What can I say about this game? It’s absolutely amazing. It is one of the most fun games that I’ve ever played. It is packed full of choices with lots of decisions to make. Do you try to increase this section of your airship or that one? You really have to plan out your decisions and decide which way your gonna try to go as the decisions you make will affect you later on in the game. The good thing is that there are so many different spaces available throughout the game, that you’ll never feel like your getting the short end of the stick. Every option is a good one. There are so many options available and paths to victory that you can pretty much customize your ship to fit your particular play style. Fans of worker placement games will absolutely fall in love with this one. It’s very cool and will delight even the most strategic minded player. I love that the game scales extremely well, regardless of how many players you have playing. The different monument boards provide for all play groups to get an equally fun and addictive game. It’s not a super long game either. Most game sessions will run about an hour or so. Of course with more players it may take a bit longer. The theme doesn’t come through as much as I thought it would but is an extremely minor thing. You won’t be worried about it at all. I promise. The replayability of it is very high. You will find yourself wanting to play it again and again. The added modules increas the longevity of this game in so many ways and add lots of extra flavor for when you want a little something more. Regardless of how you look at it, this is absolutely one of the best games that I’ve ever played.
10 out of 10

OVERALL
Steam Time is a medium weight game of airship exploration through time and space. The game has an average play time with most games lasting around an hour or so. The artwork is very beautiful and feels very thematic, even though the game doesn’t quite feel that way. There are lots and lots of great looking pieces and when set up completely, it looks amazing. The gameplay is tons of fun with lots of choices and decisions to make. There is quite a bit of planning ahead involved with this game so strategic minded players will absolutely love it. Fans of worker placement games will adore it. There’s plenty of customization to appease those players, like myself, who love to make their own unique design. Even with all the strategy, decisions and customization, it’s a game that is fairly simple to play. This is one that I really feel that everyone should enjoy. I can’t recommend it highly enough. This one will definitely see a lot of play at my house. It’s a work of art.
10 out of 10

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

http://www.thamesandkosmos.com/index.php/kosmosgames

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Tumult Royal Review

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Tumult Royale is a game by Klaus Teuber and Benjamin Teuber, published by THAMES & KOSMOS. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of greedy narcissistic royals who just have to erect statues of themselves all over the country side. Of course, their loyal subjects have just about had enough of this type of mess and have called for an uprising, a revolution if you will. The royal players will be trying to put up statues everywhere by robbing commodities from their subjects. However if the royals take too much, a tumult ensues and the greediest royal will be punished. The player that can find the right balance and keep their people happy while erecting more statues than the other players, will be crowned the winner.

To begin, each player chooses a color and receives 25 statues and a castle board in their chosen color. The castle board is placed in front of the player and the statues are placed inside the die cut track at the bottom. Players also receive a mercy card, placing it beside their castle board with the “people show no mercy” side up. Players are given a set number of supporters based upon the number of players in the game. These are placed to the side of the player’s castle board. A set amount of commodity tiles are placed face down into the center of the play area, based on the number of players. The remaining supporters are placed beside the face down commodities. A set amount of nobility cards, based on the number of players, are shuffled under the table. A stack is then made from the shuffled cards. Players take the top card in turn order and choose either the male or female side. The card is then placed between the towers of the player’s castle board. The frame is assembled in a certain way based on the number of players. It is placed on the other side of the commodities. The region tiles are shuffled and a certain number are drawn. Half of the region tiles are placed face up and the other half are placed face down inside the frame as shown in the rulebook. The highest ranking player receives the hourglass timer and the tumult spinner. Players take the statue above the number “1” in their castle board and place it on an unoccupied pasture field beginning with the lowest ranking player and working backwards in rank. Play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round consists of 7 phases; gauge the people’s sentiment, collect taxes, resolve potential tumults, place statues, redistribute ranks, crown the new king and receive the people’s mercy. The first phase is to gauge the people’s sentiment. To do this, the king player spins the tumult spinner. Whatever number that the arrow stops on is the number of commodities of each type that must remain after the collect taxes phase is completed.

The second phase is the collect taxes phase. In this phase each player takes 3 commodity tiles of their choosing from the facedown commodities pool without looking at them. These are placed in a face down stack beside the region tiles frame. Players will then consider which commodities they wish to rob and how many. Once all players have indicated to the king player that they are ready, he will then flip the hourglass and say, “Collect Taxes!” As long as their is time left in the hourglass, players are allowed to view commodity tiles, one at a time but must keep 1 hand under the table at all times. Once the tile has been viewed they can either return it face down or place it face down onto their castle board. This continues until time runs out and a player shouts, “Stop”. Commodity tiles on the table and on player’s castle boards are revealed. This leads to the next phase.

This phase is to resolve potential tumults. In this phase, players check to see if any tumults take place. This is done by counting up the number of commodities remaining in the center of the table for each commodity. If the number left is equal or greater than the number on the tumult spinner from earlier, then no tumult takes place. However, if the number is less, the people are not happy and a tumult ensues. In the case of a tumult, players must determine who the greediest player for that particular commodity is. This is done by each player adding up the commodities in question from the tiles they stole in the previous phase. The player with the most commodities in question is considered the greediest. However players are allowed to subtract 1 from the number of commodities if the “people show mercy” is face up on their mercy card. Once the greediest player is determined, that player loses 3 supporters, returning them to the supply. They are then only allowed to keep the lowest value commodity tile of the commodity that was affected by the tumult. The remaining tiles of that commodity are placed face up with the other commodity tiles. This is done for each of the 3 different commodities.

The next phase is to place statues. Beginning with the king and continuing in order of rank, players place from 1-3 statues on an unoccupied field. The amount of statues placed is based on the type of field. Statues must be placed horizontally or vertically adjacent to a field that another of the player’s statues have already been placed. The statues are taken from the left most place on the player’s castle board. The cost is then payed by discarding the required commodities. The player receives supporters for any over paid commodities but are not allowed to use more commodites than what is necessary to pay for the statue. Once all players have had a chance to place a statue, a second round of placement may begin, as long as there is at least 1 player with enough commodities to place another statue. Beginning back with the king a new placement round begins, following the same rules as before. If a player was unable to place a statue because they didn’t have the right commodities and as long as they weren’t the greediest player, they receive 2 supporters as a consolation.
The fifth phase is to redistribute ranks. In this phase, players count up their supporters. The player with the most supporters takes the king/queen card and gives their previous card to the player they took the rank from. This continues with the next highest player taking the duke/duchess card and so on until each player has a rank card. In the case of a tie, the player that had the higher ranking previously receives the higher ranking nobility card.

The next phase is to crown the new king. The player that has the king ranking card begins by returning 5 supporters to the supply. They then take the leftmost statue at the bottom of their castle board and place it on the left most unoccupied space in the royal chronicle. Once the first five spaces have been taken, players place 2 statues to fill the dual spaces in the chronicle. Players then check to see if the end of game condition has been met if it is round 6 or later. If this condition has not been met, then the king player then takes the tumult spinner and the hourglass.

The final phase is to receive the people’s mercy. The player that has the most statues remaining on their castle board, indicating that they have placed the least amount of statues, is allowed to turn their mercy card to the “people show mercy” side.

Once the 7th phase is complete, the next round is prepared. All the commodity tiles, including the ones set aside earlier in the second phase, are returned to the center of the table and mixed up thoroughly. If the king player placed a statue in the third space of the royal chronicle, they are allowed to reveal a number of face down region tiles depending on the number of players. If the king placed a statue in the 5th space, they will then reveal the remaining region tiles.

As mentioned earlier, the game can end after each placement of 2 statues in the 6th phase. Players must subtract the number of statues placed by the player that has placed the fewest from the number of statues placed by the player that has placed the most. If that difference is greater than the number below the statues most recently placed in the royal chronicle, then the game ends. The player that has placed the most statues is the winner. Another way the game can end is after the 2 statues have been placed in the chronicle in the 10th round. Once more the player having placed the most statues is the winner. The game can also end if a player’s 25th statue has been placed. If this is the case the game ends immediately and they are the winner.

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COMPONENTS
Let me being by saying, Kosmos makes some of the best looking games out there. This one is no different. There are lots of great looking pieces included with it. There are 100 little wooden meeples in 4 different colors. These are the statues that you’ll be using to place on the region tiles. They look great and are very sturdy. The commodity tiles, supporter tokens, region tiles, frame pieces, castle boards, nobility cards, mercy cards and tumult spinner are all made of thick cardboard with some really great looking artwork on them. The artistic design is really great on every piece. The nobility cards, tumult spinner, mercy cards and supporters all have this cartoon like feel to them that looks great. The castle boards are really interesting in how they house all of a player’s statues along the bottom of the board so you can always know how many statues you’ve placed with just a glance. I also like that the boards act as a player aid. On one side of the boards is the cost for building statues, while the other side has a summary of the 7 phases of play. The frame pieces fit together nicely and the top section has the different king and queen portraits that make up the royal chronicle. Those pictures are very similar to the cartoon like artwork on the other pieces. I’ll say that with this game, it’s like everything was thought out when producing it. Of course the game has the nice little plastic hourglass for the collecting taxes phases. It has about 20 seconds worth of sand in it, so that gives you an idea of how long you have to do what you need to do during that phase. I can say with all honesty that this a lovely looking game. I like it a lot.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is quite nice. It’s well organized with every aspect of the game covered very well from setup to gameplay. There are some very nice pictures and several examples sprinkled throughout the book. The first page has one of those little helper apps that you scan with your phone that shows how to play the game without reading the rules. That’s what it says anyway, I’ve never understood how to use those things so can’t comment on the authenticity of it. In any event, the rulebook also has some great hints as well as a section of what if questions on the back page that are quite helpful. There’s also a Tax Collection variant included for those players that really like to gamble. A nice little addition to add a bit more spice to the game, for those that like their games on the spicy side. I can say that everything was really easy to read and understand. I had no problems with it and found that everything was explained really well. I have absolutely no complaints with it whatsoever.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a really great game. It’s fairly simple to learn and play but difficult to master. It plays really quickly and can feel a bit silly, especially with one hand under the table while you’re collecting taxes. I really like the aspect of the greediest player being penalized. This leads to some cat calling from the other players. You really have to think fast during that portion of the game cause that timer goes really fast. I mean lightning quick. First couple of times, it was all I could do to get 1 or 2 good tiles onto my board before time was up. Of course, you’ll learn quicker ways of checking tiles as you go along. There is a bit of a luck feel to the game in certain aspects, as you really have no control over what the spinner will land on or if the tiles you check will be what you need or not. It’s split second decision time for the latter. You really have to plan what you’re gonna do each round but a bad flip of the tile or wrong decision can leave you trailing really quickly. I don’t feel like this is one for the younger players. The level of decisions to be made and the commodity tile choosing tends to be a bit too difficult for them. As for the gamers, the luck aspect will either turn them off completely or not bother them. My group tends towards the no problem side of the coin. The first thing this game made me think of before I started playing it was Carcassonne, but once I did, I realized it doesn’t compare with that game at all. For one, this is a much more fun game in my opinion. As I said earlier, this game doesn’t last long and can usually be played in about 45 minutes tops. For me, this game just works. I like every aspect of it and find it to be really entertaining.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Tumult Royale is a medium weight game of greedy nobles and statue building. The game plays fairly quickly with most sessions lasting no longer than 45 minutes. The artwork is really light and fun. I especially love the design of the castle boards that double as player aids. The gameplay is mildly thematic as the feeling of being a noble and taxing your people does come through. There is a bit of player interaction interspersed throughout the game from building statues and choosing commodity tiles. Each decision you make can possibly affect the other players. Fans of strategy games may find this one uniquely intriguing. It is really fun and has a really charming look and feel to it. I highly recommend it. It’s a game that Napoleon would approve of, at least until the peasants revolt. This is another winner for Kosmos.
9 out of 10

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

http://www.thamesandkosmos.com/index.php/kosmosgames

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Preview Review of Madstone

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Recently I was given the opportunity to play test an upcoming new game that will be available on Kickstarter very soon. I received a prototype of the game with everything needed to play. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Madstone is a game by Mark Hanny, published by Joe Magic Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of wandering wizards trying to rid themselves of some unruly magical creatures. Of course, they’ll have to capture some of these creatures to help them get rid of the others. The player that collects the most creature heads as trophies will be declared the winner and will be given the grand trophy known as the Madstone.

To begin, all of the cards should be shuffled together. Three cards are then dealt face up in the center of the play area. Each player is then dealt 5 cards. They must then choose 2 cards to place back in the deck, which is then reshuffled. Players are given 2 crystals each. The remaining crystals are placed within reach of all players. Players are also given a player mat and 2 wizard figures of their chosen color. The player places a wizard on the 2 of the wizard’s power and on the 1 of the action section. Play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they may take one of four actions; gain crystals, attack a creature, draw cards or attack another player’s creature. Player’s can gain more actions later on as they build their army of creatures. A player can gain crystals by taking a card from their hand and placing it in the center of the play area. The number of crystals on the bottom of the creature card is the number of crystals that the player takes from the supply.

Another action that a player can take is to attack a creature. Players begin with an attack power of 2. The player chooses one of the creatures in the center of the play area and places that many crystals into the center supply to damage the creature. If the number of crystals matches the first number next to the red shield on the card, the creature is killed. The player takes the card and places it face down in front of themself. If the number of crystals is equal to the second number, the creature is captured and is now part of the wizard’s army. The player places the card face up in front of themself. The number next to the creature’s green shield is added to the wizard’s power and the number is adjusted on the player mat. Players are allowed to attack creatures that have a higher number, however the cost in crystals is double for the number higher than their power. If a player gains matching creatures in their army, they can increase their number of actions. The player is allowed as many actions as the largest number of matching creatures that they control. This number can also be increased by enlisting one of the 2 Killer Kiwi cards into their army.

The next action that a player can take is to draw cards. To begin with a player is only allowed to hold 3 cards in their hand at a time. If a player has less than that number in their hand they can use this action to draw enough cards to replenish their hand back to their hand size. Bob, the Green Goopy Blob allows a player to increase the number of cards they are allowed to have in their hand by capturing him.

The last action that is available for players to take is to attack another player’s creatures. This is only available if a Darkness Falls card has been placed in the center of the table. Just like creature cards, the player that places this card gains crystals using the gain crystals action. This card causes all creatures in the center of the play area to increase their kill and capture costs by 2. Once it’s on the table, a player can then attack another player using the numbers by the blue shield on the creature card in the same way as if they were attacking or capturing them from the center of the play area. The player then adds the creature card to the appropriate place in front of themself. The player with the lowest power is allowed to remove the Darkness Falls card anytime they want during their turn without using an action.

The game continues with players killing and capturing creatures. Once the last card is drawn the current player finishes their turn and each player is allowed one more turn. Once this has been completed, players add up the gold victory points next to the red shield on the creature cards they killed. The player with the most points is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game has some nice pieces to it. It comes with cards, green crystals, wizard figures and player mats. The player mats are quite nice and are thick sturdy cardboard. They are brightly colored and are great for keeping track of power and actions. The little plastic wizard figures that are used with the player mats are also quite nice and are also brightly colored. I love that instead of just using colored cubes, the designer went with wizard meeples instead. It just makes for a better looking game. The green crystals are plastic as well and are comparable to those used in games like Spyrium. They are really bright neon green and just add to the game as well. Now we come to the cards. On these, I have mixed feelings about. First off, I really like the light hearted wizard design on the back. It’s the same design that’s on the cover of the box. It really gives me a fun sense of the game. I like the thickness and design of the cards. They’re really nice and are the same type of cards as those used in other Joe Magic games. What I don’t like is the goofy names and creature images. I get that this is a silly and light card game but I felt like these images could have been more in line with the card back and looked a little better. It’s not a major deal, just a minor gripe for me. Of course the images and names don’t affect the gameplay in any way. It just feels a bit less thematic as a whole for me.
7 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebooks for this game is a single double-sided sheet of paper. It’s got plenty of pictures and examples included. There’s a really nice glossy finish to it that makes it nice in case I accidentally spill something on it. Everything is explained really well and there’s nothing to difficult to understand. There’s a nice section included that breaks down the anatomy of the cards which is great if you need to look back for reference. I like the look and feel of the rules sheet and can’t find anything wrong with it.
8 out of 10

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GAMEPLAY
This is a very simple and fun game. It’s really easy to learn. You simply try to kill as many creatures as you can by building your army up strong enough to do so. In the meantime, you’re trying to make sure that your opponents don’t steal or destroy your creatures, but you can always get back at them by doing the same thing to their creatures as well. The game is really light with a fair amount of player interaction. Of course if players choose to only go for the creatures in the middle of the table, there is basically no interaction whatsoever. It really depends on what type of game that you’re looking to play. Do you want more of a take that feel or simply an engine building game, or something somewhere in between. Whatever your choice, this game works for all play styles. I like that the weaker player has the choice on how long other players can attack their creatures. This helps if one player is being ganged up on. Simply shut it down and work on building your army up so that you’re the one in charge now. Getting multiple creatures of one type and getting those specialty monsters will help bump up your actions and your hand size. Players will be fighting for those as soon as they become available due to the huge benefits that those specialty creatures add. This game doesn’t take a very long time to play. Most of the games we played lasted about an hour long, give or take a few minutes. For me, the game is a fun filler quality game that works best as a warm up for some heavier game play. I really enjoyed this one.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Madstone is a very light weight card game of wizardly combat with a mild take that feel. At it’s core it’s an engine builder that works best with 2 or 3 players. The game has an average play time of around an hour. The pieces look nice and are good quality. The artwork on the cards is a bit too goofy looking for me but this doesn’t take away from the quality of gameplay. Other than that, I don’t really have a problem with the game. There is a fair amount of player interaction through the use of the Darkness Falls cards. I like that the weaker player determines how long this interaction can occur. The game is super simple and fun. It’s easy enough for younger players to pick up and play with only a small amount of help the first couple of times you play. Fans of games like Munchkin should enjoy this one. This is a game that I enjoyed playing. I recommend giving it a try and backing it when it becomes available on Kickstarter in a month or two.
8 out of 10

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

http://www.joemagicgames.com/

Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter link coming in the next few months.

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