DC Deck Building Game: Crossover Pack 5 – The Rogues Expansion Review

DC Deck Building Game: Crossover Pack 5 – The Rogues is an expansion for The DC Deck Building Game by Matt Hyra and Nathaniel Yamaguchi, published by Cryptozoic Entertainment. It is for 2-5 players. This expansion adds lots of new cards and Super Villains to fight with, much like in the Forever Evil set.

For more information on the many different box sets that this product can be used with, please check out the link below.

Now before I actually go into what this adds to the game, let me give you a brief synopsis of how the game is played. Each player starts with a deck of 10 cards; 7 punch cards and 3 vulnerabilities and a starting hero, or in this case villain, that they’ll be playing as. They will shuffle these up and deal themselves 5 cards. Each turn the player will play their cards to gain power to be able to buy cards from the lineup or to try and defeat the super villain or in this case super hero from the deck. They’ll be trying to gain points and power up their decks to make them stronger. Their starting hero/villain gives them a special power that helps them on their turn, usually depending on the cards they played. Once the last card from the Super Villain/Super Hero deck is defeated, the game is over and the player with the most points from the cards and victory points they gained is the winner. That’s pretty much it.

So, what does this expansion add as far as the game goes. Well to begin with, there are 6 new oversized Super Villains based on the Flash’s Rogue’s Gallery that the player can use as their starting Villain, much like in the Forever Evil set that I mentioned earlier. Fans of the CW show will recognize many of the villians, including Captain Cold, the Trickster, Heat Wave and the Weather Wizard. There is also a 8 card Super Hero deck for the players to battle against that focuses on the Speedsters of the DC universe, including Max Mercury, Impulse and of course Wally West and the Flash himself. Also included are 23 new cards for the main deck that center around the Flash’s supporting cast as well as new equipment and powers for the Villains.

Setting up the game with this expansion is fairly simple. Players choose a Rogues super villain card. They should then choose one of the main box sets for the DC Deck Building Game. I personally chose the Forever Evil set as it made more sense. Players take the main deck and shuffle it. The deck is then split in half. The main deck cards from the expansion are shuffled into one of the stacks. That stack is then placed on top of the other one. The Super Hero cards that the players will battle against are placed in cost order from 8 to 15, with 8 placed on top. The rest of the rules for setup and playing the game remain the same.

It should be noted that this expansion introduces a new Keyword that is found on many of the cards and is on each of the Rogues Super Villain oversized cards. That keyword is Teamwork. This means that during a player’s turn, they can play the top card of any of their foe’s decks. Once the card leaves play, it is returned to the top of it’s owner’s deck. For the Super Villain cards, when Teamwork is used, that foe gains 1 victory point from the pool. This only happens when the Super Villain’s effect is used, not from cards in the main deck. Another thing that should be noted is that the new cards in the main deck do not have victory point values on them, instead they give the player points when they are bought or gained. This is noted by a gold band text box on each of the main deck cards.

COMPONENTS
As I’ve mentioned in the overview, the expansion includes several new cards for the main deck, as well as new super heroes to fight and oversized Super Villains to play as. The artwork on each card is great and looks ripped right from the comics. I love the look of each one. I like that there are different equipment and super power cards that coincide with the different villains to help them out. There’s also supporting cast members like Iris West and Patty Spivot included as well. The cards are very sturdy and compliment any of the boxed sets nicely. Thematically the cards are just what you’d expect for the Flash’s Rogue’s gallery set. The cards work well together and look amazing. Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the look and feel of this expansion.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this expansion is a simple rules card. It is the size of the oversized super villain cards. It basically explains how to add the expansion to any boxed set to be able to play, as well as explaining the new features and keyword that this expansion focuses on. There’s a couple of specific card clarifications to help understand some tricky wording on a few of the cards which is a nice addition. No pictures or examples included but that’s fine. The card does a more than adequate job of explaining everything. I find it’s great for keeping the expansion separate from the rest of my other sets and cards. Overall it gets the job done.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Let me just start by saying, the Flash is my favorite DC super hero and the DC Deck Building Game is one of my favorite deck builders on the market. That said, you can expect that my love for this expansion was already gonna be high. Yes, I love it. I love the Rogue’s gallery and I’m so happy that an expansion was made focusing on this part of the DC universe. I’m especially happy to see the Trickster as a playable character. I’ve loved the character since I saw him played by Mark Hamill on the old Flash TV series. There’s definitely a lot of love put into this pack. But enough about me, how does it play? As I’ve mentioned, the new keyword for this set is Teamwork. The rules mention that the Rogues aren’t the most powerful villains around that’s why they have to team up to beat a super hero. Thematically, it makes perfect sense. By themselves, they aren’t too powerful. However as a team, they’re unstoppable. I like that each time the Teamwork attribute is used, it rewards the opponent whose deck was chosen to play a card from. Kind of like sharing the loot among your fellow compatriots. I have to say that I thought the idea of giving Victory Points during the game instead of at the end would be weird and make no sense. However you’ll need those points to use certain card’s effects to the fullest. After playing it a couple of times, I realize why you get those points now. I really like the expansion a lot. Fans of the DC Deck Building Game will love this expansion. Flash fans will find it a must buy. I highly recommend it myself. It’s a must have expansion in my opinion.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
DC Deck Building Game: Crossover Pack 5 – The Rogues is an expansion for The DC Deck Building Game. It adds 6 new playable Super Villains, 8 new Super Heroes to battle and 23 new cards for the main deck focused on the characters and villains from the Flash and his Rogue’s Gallery. Play time isn’t really affected much. Most game sessions still last around 30-45 minutes depending on the number of players. The cards are great. I absolutely love the look of the artwork on each one. Thematically everything really works. The expansion adds a new keyword that works well with the villains in this set. I like the look and feel that the expansion adds. I like how the Teamwork ability works and the bonuses given to other players as well. Thematically it makes sense. I really like all that this expansion brings to the table and find it to be an absolute must have. Fans of the DC Deck Building Game and especially the Flash will love to add this to their collection. I highly recommend it. Try to catch a copy, before it’s gone like a bolt of lightning.
9 out of 10

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

http://www.cryptozoic.com/

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Kingdomino Review

Kingdomino is a game by Bruno Cathala and Cyril Bouquet, published by Blue Orange Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of Lords of a budding new kingdom. They must explore new territories as they try to add the best spots to their kingdom. Of course, their opponents are trying to do the same thing and might snatch up those places before they can. In the end, the player that can build the best kingdom and earn the most points will be declared the winner.

To begin, players choose a color and take the corresponding colored castle. They are also given a starting tile which they place in front of themself. They then will place their castle on the starting tile. The dominoes are shuffled face down and then randomly placed back inside the tray of the box. Depending on the number of players, a certain amount of dominoes are removed from the tray, not to be used during the game. Each player is given a wooden king of their chosen color. In a 2 player game, each player gets 2 of these. A number of dominoes are then drawn from the tray based on the number of players. For 2 and 4 players, 4 dominoes are drawn. In a 3 player game, only 3 dominoes are drawn. The dominoes are then placed face down in a column from lowest to highest number. Once the column is determined, the dominoes are flipped over to their landscape side. A player takes all the colored kings into their hand and shuffles them up. One at a time, a king is drawn out of the player’s hand. Each time a player’s king is drawn, they will then place it on one of the face up dominoes. Once all the dominoes have been chosen and kings placed on each one, a new column of dominoes is chosen by drawing new ones from the tray and repeating the same process as earlier. Once completed, play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round players will place dominoes into their kingdom. The order in which this is done is determined by the position of the kings placed previously. Starting with the domino at the top of the column, the player whose king is on that domino now retrieves their king and places it on one of the dominoes in the new column. They then place the domino they removed their tile from and place it into their kingdom. This continues down the column until all 4 tiles have been placed in kingdoms and new dominoes chosen. A new column of dominoes are drawn just like during setup and a new round begins. It should be noted that as players add dominoes to their kingdom, they must be in a 5×5 grid. Each domino must connect to either the starting tile or to another domino that matches 1 of the lands on it. If there are no matching dominoes or empty spaces around the starting tile, then the domino must be discarded.

The game continues until the last dominoes are lined up. Players then complete 1 final round of placing dominoes. However no new dominoes are chosen as there will be no new column to choose from. Once the last dominoes are placed, the game ends and scoring occurs. Players gain points for each group of connected lands that match. Each square earns the player an amount of prestige points equal to the number of crowns on all the matching and connected lands times the number of squares. For instance if there are 3 squares of connecting forests and two of the squares have a crown on them, then the player would earn 6 prestige points for the forest. Players add up their prestige points for all their territories and the player with the most points is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game doesn’t consist of a whole bunch of pieces. There are 4 colored castles that must be assembled from 4 punchboard pieces. There are 4 small starting squares that each player will place their castle on. There are 8 wooden kings in 4 different colors. Finally there are the stack of dominoes. The cardboard castles are kinda nice looking and pretty easy to put together. The wooden king pieces are really bright colored and look nice. The starter squares and dominoes are all really thick with a glossy finish. They are super sturdy. The box has an insert that actually works with the dominoes and makes it easy to pull them from. The artwork on the dominoes is really nice. It has a kinda cartoony feel to it that should appeal to kids. I have to say that I really like the look and feel of the different pieces. I think overall it’s really well designed and looks light and fun.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook is written in 3 different languages; English, French and Spanish. Each set of rules is separated into it’s own section. Each set is only 3 pages long, making it very fast and easy to read over. There are lots of pictures throughout the book, as well as plenty of examples of gameplay. Each page of the book has a nice full color glossy finish to it that looks great. The back cover of the book has a nice reference guide to all the dominoes, telling you exactly how many squares there are of each type of land and how many of each land have crowns on them. For instance, there’s only 1 mine tile that has 3 crowns on it, but there are 21 blank desert tiles. Overall I think the rulebook conveys the rules in a really simple and easy manner. It’s well written and looks really nice. I’m pretty much happy with the overall look.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a really fun and simple game. Basically you’re drafting tiles and then placing them in your kingdom as you try to match up the different territories to earn points. This is a quick game that even my daughter enjoyed. You can play a game in like 10 minutes, especially if you’re playing only 2 players. There is a little bit of strategy involved as you’ll have to think about whether you want to be able to go first the next round or to take that bottom domino for the crowns on it. You can block out your opponents and do a little hate drafting but I find it to be more fun to simply try to get the best for your kingdom. The game is very simple and easy to play. After playing through the game once, you’ll most likely want to play it again. My daughter regularly requested to do just that. There are a few variants included in the rules to add a bit more difficulty but it’s still not a difficult game. Fans of tile laying games like Carcassonne should really enjoy this one. I’m not normally a tile laying fan, but the drafting aspect of this one really saves it for me. It’s really a nice fun game that can easily be played with the whole family. I highly recommend it. It’s full of fun for everyone.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Kingdomino is a light weight tile laying game with a bit of drafting thrown in for fun. It’s really quick and easy to play. Most game sessions last around 10 to 15 minutes, making it a great little filler. If you’re like us, you’ll most likely want to play it again. The components are all good quality and the artwork is light and fun. I like that every aspect of the game was well thought out including the insert for the box. There’s not a lot of strategy involved but can include a bit of hate drafting for those that choose to go that direction. Fans of games like Carcassonne should enjoy this one. Even if you don’t like that game, you might enjoy the drafting aspect of this one. Overall, this is a really fun and simple game that’s great for the entire family. The young kids will enjoy it as well as the adults. I highly recommend this one. Long live the King.
9 out of 10

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

http://www.blueorangegames.com/

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Orléans: Invasion Expansion Review

Orléans: Invasion is an expansion for Orléans by Reiner Stockhausen, Inka and Markus Brand, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is for 1-5 players. This expansion adds 6 new ways to play, including a two player game as well as 3 solo scenarios.

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

https://jlnelson73.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/orleans-review/

The review of this expansion will be a bit different from some of my previous reviews, as there’s just way too much to try and cover without completely confusing both you the reader and me the reviewer. In any event, what I’ll try and do is give you a brief look into each of the different scenarios along with what each one adds in terms of components as well as game play. I’ll then break down my thoughts on each one within the gameplay section below. Hopefully this will help you get an idea of what the expansion gives you so that you can best determine if this is something that would be right for you and your gaming group. With all that said, let’s dive right in.

The first scenario is the Prosperity scenario. It’s for 2-5 players. This scenario introduces the Prosperity scenario board which takes the place of the Beneficial Deeds board, as well as the carpenter and structure cards which the carpenter can build. Also introduced are the neutral markers and Carpenter extensions for each player board, as well as several new locations and a cover tile for the Scriptorium which allows a player to receive a new structure card. Events in this scenario are predetermined so players will be aware of what’s coming up before each one happens. Basically this scenario plays a lot like the base game, with the addition of the carpenter actions. Let me explain what these do. The Carpenter allows a player to place up to 3 character tiles of either traders or boatmen. No technology tiles are allowed on this location. During the action phase, the player can then remove their tiles to move the carpenter 1 space per character removed. If a boatman is removed, the carpenter moves on a waterway. If a trader is removed, he moves on the road. Then if the Carpenter lands on a town that is depicted on a structure card the player has, they can build the structure, placing the card face up in front of themself. They then place a trading station on a goods tile on either a road or waterway that leads to that town. The player then draws 2 structure cards, keeps one and returns one to the bottom of the deck. Structures require various items like goods, character tiles or coins. Once they’ve been completely manned the items are removed and the structure card is placed under the player’s neutral marker to be scored at the end of the game. These will give extra victory points during end game scoring. That’s pretty much the gist of this one.

The next scenario if the Invasion scenario for 2-5 players. This scenario is cooperative. This one adds a ton of new stuff including the City Defense scenario board, cooperative event tiles, character cards with personal objectives, special building tiles, the Assembly Hall board and Support Action boards for each player, as well as several new locations. For this one, players have to work together to complete a bunch of common and personal objectives. This one is played for 16 to 18 rounds, depending on the number of players. There is no census in phase 2, however. During the game, players have 5 different common objectives to complete. The exact specifications differ depending on the number of players. There’s the city wall where players have ot provide a certain number of knights. Citizen Tiles must be collected and added to the objectives. The City Treasury needs a certain amount of coins. The Warehouse needs certain goods in certain amounts. If that’s not enough, players also have to build Fortified Towers in each town along the edge of the map. There are also Personal Objectives that the players have to complete that are specified by the character card they received at the beginning of the game. Some of these are easier than others, but are still hard. There’s actually a lot to deal with but if the players are able to complete all the goals, both common and personal, before the end of the last round, they win.

The last multiplayer game is The Duel scenario for 2 players. This scenario uses the Duel scenario board, neutral markers and Bourgeois House action board. This scenario is played pretty much the same as the original game. The only differences are that the scenario board dictates the events, much like in the Prosperity scenario, there is no census during phase 2 and the torture rules don’t apply. Instead of the torture rules, if a player can’t pay what they owe, they lose. On the scenario board are several Beneficial Deeds which work the same way. There are also 4 Objectives that a player needs to complete to win. Each time a player completes one, they place a neutral marker on the space to show that they completed it. The first player to complete all 4 objectives is the winner. Also of note is the Bourgeois House action, which I haven’t really touched on yet. This action requires a character tile and a citizen tile to use it. It then rewards the player with one of 5 bonuses, including a good of their choice or even advancement on the development track.

Now let’s take a look at the 3 solo scenarios. The first of these is The Dignitary. This scenario uses the Dignitary scenario board, a neutral marker and the Stage Coach place tile. Just like with some of the other scenarios, the events in this one are predetermined as well and there is no census in phase 2. The player starts off with the Stage Coach, which they’re able to use in the very beginning. The idea of this one is to collect 7 or 8 citizen tokens, depending on the level of difficulty chosen, before the end of round 16. If the player is able to do that, they win.

The next solo scenario is the Capital Vierzon. This scenario uses the Capital Vierzon scenario board, 6 neutral markers and the Market Stand place tile. Again, like in other scenarios, events are predetermined and no census in phase 2. The player gets the Market Stand which they are able to use at the beginning of the game. This one is more like the Duel in that the player has objectives that need to be completed before the end of round 14. Each time a objective is completed, the player marks it with a neutral marker. The difficulty can be raised to make things harder by only allowing 1 objective be completed per round or even making the player complete them in order. If the player completes all 5 objectives, they win.

The last solo scenario is the Travelling Salesman. This scenario uses the Travelling Salesman scenario board, 6 neutral markers and the Market Stand place tile. Events in this one are also predetermined and again there is no census in phase 2. The player gets the Market Stand to use from the beginning of the game. Just like with the Capital Vierzon scenario, this one requires 5 objectives be completed, but this time they have till the end of round 15. If the player is able to do this, they win. Also like Capital Vierzon, the difficulty can be raised in the same way by allowing only 1 objective be completed a round or by forcing objectives be completed in order.

COMPONENTS
Much like the original game, the expansion has a ton of stuff inside the box. There’s are two boards that make up the City Defense board for the Invasion scenario. There are separate boards for each of the different scenarios. There are all the different new action boards. There is an Assembly board and support action boards. There are special cover tiles for the Scriptoriums. There are new cooperative event tiles, new place tiles and special building tiles. There are structure cards and character cards. There’s a carpenter token and neutral markers. As I said, there’s a lot of stuff. Everything is great quality. The boards and tiles are all thick cardboard, however the scenario boards aren’t the same thickness. Those are a bit thinner but still pretty good. The carpenter and neutral markers are wooden. The artwork is compatible with the base game and has lots of the same look and feel, as well as iconography, of the base game. I really like how nice everything looks. Design wise it all works together really well. Pretty much if you like the components and artwork of the base game, then you’ll like this one too. I don’t think there’s gonna be anything here that could be considered a real negative. Overall, the quality is there.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this expansion is rather large. That would be because there’s so many different scenarios that have to be explained. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book so there shouldn’t be any problems understanding how to play through any of the scenarios. Each individual scenario tells you what you’ll need and the special rules that you’ll be dealing with while playing. Each new action, event and objective is explained in great detail. I think that everything is laid out really well. I like that there’s a overview of all the different events at the end of the book for quick reference. Overall, I feel that the book compliments the game and is really good quality as well.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are 6 different scenarios included with this expansion. As a fan of Orléans, I can tell you that overall I like Invasion. Some scenarios I like better than others, of course that’s to be expected. Let me go through each one now and give you my thoughts. First there’s Prosperity. Meh. Ok I like this one but I don’t. I really love the carpenter and constructing the different structures for points. I like the predetermined events cause you can figure out what’s coming and better prepare for each one. One thing I don’t like is that all the goods are face down on the board. It’s kind of hard to figure out where to go to get what you need to complete your structure if you don’t know where each good is. So you wind up moving all around gathering up stuff you don’t need hoping that you’ll find what you do. It’s a bit frustrating. Also frustrating is moving the carpenter. While it’s really cool to get him to the right place to be able to build a structure, it also stinks when you spend 3 characters to move him and another player spends 3 characters to move him in the opposite direction. It’s not quite as bad with more players but if you play with only 2, expect frustration. Next there’s Invasion. I like this one a lot. I really like the cooperative aspect of this scenario. I like working together and trying to get everything completed. I even like that it’s hard, sometimes very hard. I haven’t won yet but that doesn’t mean that I won’t keep trying. I like the personal objectives but they can be tough, even the ones recommended for an easier game. It takes a lot of strategy and planning to get things done properly. I can tell that this one will be one that I’ll wind up returning to many times. Next there’s the Duel. I like this one pretty good. I like the predetermined events and the objectives. There’s not a really big change between this and the original game but there’s just enough to make it interesting. Of course you could simply play the regular game with 2 players and be just fine. So I don’t really know if this one was needed or not. However I’m still happy to have it in the box. Now there are the 3 solo scenarios. I really enjoy solo games so having these 3 is a big time bonus for me. The Dignitary is the first one I’ll discuss. I like this one a lot. In a lot of ways it’s kind of like the base game, getting citizen tiles is a major way to make lots of points in it. For this one, you’re just getting them to complete your objective. Once more, predetermined events I like. Next there’s Capital Vierzon. This one adds a bit more objectives to complete and therefore adds more difficulty. I like this one too. It’s just a bit more of a challenge. While the Dignitary is pretty much straight forward, this scenario has you diversifying into a lot of different directions. More difficult but still fun. The last one is the Travelling Salesman. Five new objectives with more of a pick up and deliver bent towards it in this one. I think of the solo scenarios, this is probably my favorite one. I like pick up and deliver games so having that aspect in a game that I already enjoy just adds to my enjoyment. You do have to be careful with this one though as you have to be stocked for the events. If you don’t have enough food or coins each round to pay, you immediately lose from starvation. It’s a bit harsh but something to be aware of. Overall, if you like Orléans, you’re most likely gonna like this too. With so many different scenarios, there’s bound to be something that you’ll enjoy. Solo gamers should love this one. It takes a great game and makes it playable for just them. For me, it’s worth it just for the Invasion and solo scenarios. Everything else just adds to the enjoyment. I would highly recommend this one.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Orléans: Invasion is an expansion for the truly amazing game, Orléans. It adds 6 new scenarios along with lots of new stuff to give players lots of new ways to play. There are even solo scenarios for players to play without anyone else. Game time varies depending on which scenario you play but still plays in a reasonable amount of time. The components are really great and really compliment the base game quite well. The original game is great. This expansion simply adds more ways to play as well as new challenges. I enjoy many of the scenarios and found them to be a great addition to the game. Are they all great, not exactly, but they’re still interesting enough to try at least once. I really like the Invasion and solo scenarios, especially the Travelling Salesman. Fans of Orléans will most likely want to add this to their collection. Is it a must have expansion, not necessarily. However, if you like the base game, you owe it to yourself to give this expansion a try. For myself, this is one I’m happy to have. I’m pretty sure, you will be too. I highly recommend it.
9 out of 10

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

 http://playtmg.com

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Orléans Review

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This review is dedicated to my Aunt Sylvie Hyde, who is actually from the city of Orléans, France.

Orléans is a game by Reiner Stockhausen, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be trying to gain the majority in several different areas around the medieval French town of Orléans. They will need to gain the help of farmers, craftsmen, boatmen and traders, as well as scholars, knights and monks. They’ll also need goods from their merchant. In the end, the player that can acquire the most coins, goods and other necessities, will be declared the winner.

To begin, each player chooses a color and is given a follower bag, wooden markers, a merchant token, trading stations and a set of followers in their chosen color. They are also given a player board and 5 coins. Each player places their trading stations in front of them along with their player board. They then place their followers onto the market space of their player board. The game board along with the Beneficial Deeds board are both placed in the middle of the play area. The technology tiles are placed on the matching space on the board. The Pilgrimage tile is removed from the deck of Hour Glass tiles. The remaining tiles are then shuffled and placed face down on the corresponding space on the board. The Pilgrimage tile is then placed on top of the stack. Each player places one of their markers on the first space of each of the Character tracks on the board. They also place one on the Development Track. The neutral Character tiles are all sorted by type and then placed on the corresponding locations on the board. The coins are placed near the board within reach of all players. The Citizen tiles are placed on the corresponding space on the board and the Beneficial Deeds board. One remaining tile will be placed near the board for end game scoring. The Place Tiles are sorted by the Roman Numeral on the back side. They are then stacked into 2 separate piles beside the board with the Roman Numeral side face up. The Goods Tiles are shuffled face down on the table before being randomly placed face up on the road and waterway spaces. If playing with fewer than 4 players, some tiles will be removed from the game. It should be noted that some neutral characters will also be removed from the game if less than 4 players are playing. Any remaining Goods Tiles are then placed on the corresponding spaces on the board. Each player places their Merchant Token on Orléans on the map side of the board. The first player is chosen and is given the Start Player Token. Play now begins.

The game is played over 18 rounds. Each round is composed of 7 phases; hour glass, census, followers, planning, actions, event and start player. The first phase is the Hour Glass phase. In this phase, the first player draws the top tile of the Hour Glass stack and places it face up beside the stack. This reveals the event that players will have to deal with in phase 6. Since the Pilgrimage tile is the first tile, it is the only tile that is dealt with during the 5th phase instead of in phase 6. It keeps players from recruiting monks.

The second phase is the Census phase. In this phase, players determine who has the most and who has the least farmers by checking the player markers on the Farmer’s track. The player whose marker is furthest to the right receives a coin from the supply, while the player farthest to the left must pay a coin to the supply. In cases of a tie, no coins are payed or received. In a 2 player game, the person ahead receives a coin, but the person behind doesn’t have to pay.

The third phase is the Followers phase. In this phase, players may draw character tiles from their Followers bag and place them on the Market of their player board. The number of tiles drawn is equal to the number indicated by the player’s marker on the Knights track.

The fourth phase is the Planning phase. In this phase, players are able to use the character tiles that are on the Market of their player board to activate actions from different locations on their boards. Once all the required tiles have been placed on a certain spot, the spaces is considered activated. The player is then able to carry out the action during the Action phase or during a future Action phase. We’ll discuss these actions in a bit more detail in just a moment. It should be noted that players do not have to place all the required tiles on a spot in the same Planning phase. They are able to place some at this time and may complete the requirements in later rounds.

The fifth phase is the Actions phase. In this phase, players are able to now carry out any actions that they fulfilled all the requirements for during the previous phase or in previous rounds. Once the player has completed the action, they remove the followers from the space and return them to their Follower bag. Players are also allowed to pass if they can not or do not want to take any actions. Once a player passes they are not allowed to participate in the current Action phase any longer. Once all players have passed, play moves into the next phase. It should be noted that any Technology tiles on a spot are not removed and must remain on the space until the end of the game.

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At this time, I’ll explain the common locations found on a player’s board. Of course there are more locations that may be acquired during the game, this is simply the main actions. There’s the Farm House. This location allows the player to take a Farmer tile and place it into their bag. They then advance their marker 1 space forward on the Farmers track. They then receive the good shown on the space. The Village allows a player to gain either a Boatman, Craftsman or Trader. If the Boatman is chosen, the player places a Boatman tile into their bag and advances their marker 1 space on the Boatman track. They then receive the amount of coins shown on the space. The first player to reach the end of the track receives a Citizen tile. If the Craftsman is chosen, the player places a Craftsman tile in their bag and moves their marker 1 space forward on the Craftsman track. They then receive a Technology tile which is set beside their player board. It may only be used after the player passes. I’ll explain how these work in a moment. If the Trader is chosen, the player places a Trader tile into their bag and advances their marker 1 space on the Traders track. They are then able to expand their city by choosing a place tile from the stack of tiles. The first time the player advances on this track they are only allowed to choose from Stack I. The next time they advance, they can choose from either Stack I or Stack II. The new location is placed next to the player’s board and gives them a new location to take actions on. The University is another location. This location allows the player to take a Scholar tile and place it into their bag. They then advance their marker on the Scholars track. They then gain the corresponding number of Development Points. Each point allows the player to move their marker 1 space on the Development Track. The Castle is another location. This one allows the player to take a Knight tile and place it into their bag. They then advance their marker 1 space on the Knights track. This track shows how many followers a player is allowed to draw from their bag during the Followers phase. The first person to get to the Citizen tile on the track receives it. The Monastery is a location that allows a player to take a Monk tile and place it into their bag. They are able to use the Monk tile in the place of any other tile. The ship location allows a player to move their Merchant token along a Waterway to an adjacent town. Any goods tile they cross along the way is taken by the player. If there are multiple goods, they are only able to take 1. These tiles are then placed beside the player’s board. The Wagon location is exactly the same as the ship action, except the player moves their Merchant token along the Road instead. The Guildhall allows a player to build a Trading Station in the town where their Merchant token is located, as long as there are no other Trading Stations already there. However, Orléans is the exception to this rule, as each player may build a Trading Station there. The Scriptorium allows a player to receive a development point, moving their marker 1 space on the Development Track. The Town Hall allows the player to place any type of character tile here during the Planning phase. It’s activated with either 1 or 2 tiles on it. The player is then able to move one or both tiles onto a free space on the Beneficial Deeds board. They then gain the corresponding reward shown on the board. In most cases this is a number of coins or in some cases can be a Development point. Each character tile placed gains the reward. Whicever player places the last character tile to complete a Beneficial Deed, gains the Citizen tile related to it. It should be noted that monks may not be used to replace Character tiles on this particular board. The exact tiles must be used.

The sixth phase is the Event phase. In this phase the current Event shown on the Hour Glass Tile for the round is resolved. This could be something beneficial like gaining a coin for each Trading Station the player has built, or it could be something negative like losing a Character tile from the Followers bag. It should be noted that if a player can not pay something that they owe, they are required to undergo torture. What that means is that they have to replace every missing coin that they were required to pay with either a Trading Station, follower, Development Point, goods tile, place tile or Technology tiles. These items are then removed from the game and may not be used.

The final phase is the Start Player phase. In this phase, the player with the Start Player token passes it to the player to their left. That player then becomes the first player for the next round.

Several times I’ve mentioned the Development Track. This track indicates the player’s state of development. As they move forward on this track they may move onto spaces that contain coins or even Citizen Tiles. Each time a player’s marker moves onto the corresponding spot, they take the indicated reward. Some events will be affected by the player’s status on this track, especially the Income event.

The game continues until the end of the 18th round. Before players score their points, the remaining Citizen tile is given to the player with the most Trading Stations. Players then add up their scores, gaining points for coins, goods, Trading Stations and Citizen Tiles they have. Players then compare scores and the one with the most victory points is the winner.

orleans-board

 

COMPONENTS
This game comes with some really great looking pieces. To start off, you’ve got a really nice looking game board. The map is on one side and the tracks are all on the other. Not really sure why they tilted the map image on the board to make it look off kilter but it’s fine. Next there’s the smaller Beneficial Deeds board and the player boards. These are made of thick cardboard and are really good quality. The iconography is pretty easy to understand so it shouldn’t cause a lot of problems for most players. There a plenty of wood bits too. There are player markers, trading stations and merchant tokens in 4 different colors, 1 color for each player. This game has a ton of cardboard which makes up almost all the rest of the pieces. There are character tiles, goods tiles, technology tiles, citizen tiles, coins, building tiles, event tiles, overview tiles and a start player tile. That’s a lot of cardboard. I really like the artwork and how the different pieces compliment each other. It really makes it feel like a very cohesive game. I especially like the character tiles and the building tiles. The characters all correspond with the different tracks on the left side of the board. I like the designs for each one and how you get a real feel of having these people come and work for you. The building tiles compliment the player boards. Each of these has that same style of design with the action to take at the top with the workers needed to take the action at the bottom. All this is placed on top of a thematic looking background that works with the building type. The final pieces are the velvety smooth follower bags. These are super nice and are in the 4 different player colors. Overall, I can’t say enough good things about the design here. The only thing that could make this game better is if it had the special components contained in the Deluxe game. For what you get though, this game looks beautiful and is chocked full of goodness.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this one is really well thought out and designed great. The setup is easy to follow and has plenty of great pictures to aid you with. The book itself has lots of pictures throughout as well as some great examples of gameplay too. Each step and phase of the game are well detailed and explained superbly. There should be nothing difficult to understand at all. I especially like that the different actions and places are explained so well. There are even sections devoted to the different events and the place tiles as well. Each of these are also explained in great detail. Overall, I really like the design and look of the rulebook. It really exceeded my expectations and it didn’t take a very long time to read through. Can’t complain about that.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is an absolutely phenomenal game. I love the worker placement aspect of it. I like how that each time you gain a new follower, you also move on the corresponding track, which gives you more stuff to be able to do even more with. I like the blind bag drawing. Sure it’s a bit luck oriented but if you’re thinking about what you’re putting in there and what’s still left in the bag, you’ll pretty much get what you want out of it. It’s kind of like counting cards but in this case, you’re counting followers instead. I like the city building aspect as well. I like having new places that I can use to build up my city and increase my productivity with. This aspect gives me a bit of an engine building mechanic feel to the game. Each action you take helps you to add more things to make your workers even more effective. The events are also a nice touch and can either be very beneficial or sometimes even detrimental to your productivity. Another aspect of the events is that they also keep the time of the game. Once they’re gone, the game’s over. For me, there’s really a lot to like here, especially since I like worker placement games. This is one that does it with style. I will also say that there’s a ton of options and decisions to make. So much so that you’ll find yourself wishing that you had more followers to be able to do even more stuff with. I like the medieval style theme of the game. For me it fits in well with games like Lords of Waterdeep, and makes a natural evolution for a bit more challenge. Not necessarily more difficult, just more to do. Fans of games like Lords of Waterdeep or Yedo, should really enjoy the worker placement aspects of the game. This is a game that I would highly recommend. If you haven’t tried it, you owe it to yourself to play it. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Orléans is a worker placement style game with a medieval theme to it. It’s a fairly average length game. Most game sessions last around an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. The components are all really nice. I especially like the art style of the different characters, board and places. Everything fits really well together thematically and looks great. I kind of wish that there was a bit more wood pieces with the game, such as are found in the Deluxe edition of the game. However, I’m not complaining because you actually get quite a lot inside the box. The rulebook is extremely well done and is super easy to read through. There should be nothing here that would be difficult to understand. The game is extremely fun, especially for fans of worker placement games. Fans of games like Lords of Waterdeep or Yedo should especially enjoy this one. Even Euro fans like those for Agricola or Caverna might enjoy this one a lot to. This is a game that I highly recommend. If you only get one thing from this review, get this, “BUY THIS GAME!” You will not be disappointed. It’s absolutely gorgeous and a ton of fun, just like my Aunt Sylvie.
9 out of 10

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

 http://playtmg.com

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Preview Review of Crossroads of Heroes

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

Crossroads of Heroes is a game by Patrick Lee, published by Pat Piper Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players will take on the role of a Wulin hero as they try to return peace and honor to the Jianghu. They will have to train hard and perform many noble acts if they intend to obtain the mantle of Grand Master. In the end, the player that can gain enough renown through their deeds will become the Grand Master and be declared the winner.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. Players should choose a character from the 5 main sects and receive the cards and character piece that belong to their chosen character. The player’s character card should be placed face up in front of themself. The basic techniques and sect signature technique cards are set aside face down. If using the optional sect guardian card, it is placed beneath the character card until used. The stratagems and items decks are shuffled separately and then placed face down in 2 separate piles near the board. The top card of both decks are flipped over and placed beside the corresponding deck to begin the discard piles. Each player is given a number of qi tokens equal to 3 + the number of players. Nemesis tokens, evil karma tokens and the extra qi tokens are set aside for later use. Each player is now dealt 3 stratagem cards face down. The 5 Wulin Master cards are placed face down on the top row of the board. The Travel Jianghu cards are placed face down on the bottom row of the board. Each player now places their character piece on the starting space of the reputation chart. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

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The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round players will take their turn. On a player’s turn they will complete a series of actions in order. First, they must draw a card from both the stratagem and items decks. One card is discarded to the appropriate discard pile and the other is placed in their hand. Next the player will resolve any actions or effects that were placed on their character during a previous turn. This includes completing the training of a technique, losing 1 qi if they were poisoned or skipping their turn if they were paralyzed. It should be noted that a player is able to play stratagem or items cards at any time during their turn, as long as they are able to meet the cards prerequisites. It should also be noted that a player is not allowed to play duplicates of the same stratagem card on a turn. Stratagems can be used to gain renown, attack opponents or any of several other actions. Items are single use items that can be used as a card action or sometimes even during a duel. Finally, a card is allowed to perform 1 primary action. The primary actions are train a technique, duel with a player, travel the Jianghu, and challenge a top Wulin Master.

The first primary action is to train a technique. To do this, the player places the chosen technique card face down beside their character. The player must then place the corresponding amount of qi displayed on the back of the card onto the card itself. The player must have at least 1 qi remaining after this is done or they can not initiate training. The training is completed during the next round. At that time, the qi is discarded to the qi pool and the trained technique is now turned face up beside the player’s character. It should be noted however that qi placed on a technique card can be depleted prior to the completion of training due to certain stratagem effects or duels. If the player does not have enough qi to complete the training after these events happen, then the training will not be completed and will have to be continued into the next round. It should also be noted that sect basic techniques must be trained in a specific order, starting with level 1 and continuing upward from there.

The next primary action that can be taken is to duel with a player. To do this the player must initiate a challenge to another player. The defending player can not refuse and must take part. Players compare their wugong rating from the combination of their character card and any trained techniques that they might have. The player with the higher rating wins, gaining a set amount of renown in the process, depending on the rank of the player defeated. It should be noted that if the winner is a nemesis to the defeated player, they do not gain renown. Also if the defeated player has a lower renown, the winner only gains 1 point of renown instead of 2. The loser is then forced to lose 1 qi for every 1-3 points that they lost the duel by. After a player has been defeated, the winning player becomes the losing player’s nemesis. To show this, the winning player gives the loser one of their nemesis tokens. To remove a nemesis token and thus be able to gain renown from a duel again, the losing player must either beat them in a duel or use the stratagem, “Forgiveness”.

Another primary action for players to take is to travel the Jianghu. To do this, the player simply turns face up one of the Travel Jianghu cards at the bottom of the board. The card is then resolved based on the encounter or event that takes place. Once completed, the player must shuffle all the Travel Jianghu cards together and place them face down on the board again. These cards can grant increases in renown, initiate encounters to gain the character’s sect artifact or even be forced to duel the wandering duelist.

The final primary action available is to challenge a top Wulin Master. To do this, the player simply chooses one of the five Wulin Master cards at the top of the board and flips over the card. Dueling is the same as with dueling a player, the player compares their character’s wugong rating with that of the revealed Master. If the player defeats the Master, they receive renown points based on their rank. They also gain the special technique belonging to that Master as a bonus. The player takes the corresponding technique card from the Special Items deck placing it beside their character. The defeated Wulin Master is removed from the game. The remaining Masters are shuffled together and placed back on the board face down.

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A few things of note should be pointed out at this time. During the game some actions like playing certain stratagems, will result in the character gaining evil karma tokens. Once a character has gained their fourth token, their character card is turned over to the evil side. Evil characters can not be turned back. Their character piece is removed from the renown chart and placed on the “Evil Scum” zone. If the players are using the Sect Guardians, any unused ones and any sect special items of theirs are removed from the game. Another item of note is in regards to a character’s qi. If a character loses all their qi, either through training or injury during duels, they must seek the help of the Divine Healer. For the next 3 rounds, that player may only travel the Jianghu in search of him. If after the third round the player has still not been able to find the healer, their character is dead and the player is eliminated from the game.

A few times throughout this review I’ve mentioned the Sect Guardians. These cards are optional and only for players who’ve had some experience playing the game. They can be used as a guardian to defend a player who is about to lose all their qi during a duel, or they can be used for the card’s text ability. Once they have been used, the Guardian is removed from the game.

The game continues until a player has gained enough renown to reach the final rank and become the Grand Master. Once reaching the rank, the player must be able to stay there for an entire round. If other players are able to reach the same rank during that turn, they must duel. The loser of the duel will be forced to take a step back losing 1 renown, while the winner of the duel will retain the rank and become the Grand Master of Wulin. If a character has turned evil, they can win by killing all the other player’s characters. However if the Grand Master loses a duel to an evil character but remains alive, he will also lose 1 renown. If either of these instances occur, the player is declared the winner.

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COMPONENTS
Since this is only a preview of a prototype, I won’t go into a lot of detail here. What I can tell you though is that this is some of the best looking artwork that I’ve seen in a game. Each card has a unique artistic style that I absolutely love. The characters all have a different look and feel to them. Each stratagem and item card has a very thematic look to it. There are so many cards and each one is so thematic. Also included with the game are various tokens for poison and nemesis, as well as special half marble looking evil tokens and qi. The game also has reference cards and character standees, as well as a beautiful looking board. I’m telling you, if this is how good the prototype looks, I can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like. The only thing that I could even recommend at this point would be miniatures instead of character standees. Other than that, the game already looks gorgeous. In any case, the game is definitely headed in the right direction and should be amazing once it’s finished. I really think players will be amazed when they receive their copy.
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RULEBOOK
Just like the components, the rulebook is also a prototype copy. What I got was a bunch of papers bound together. There are lots of pictures and examples in the book. The rules start with explaining who the characters are and giving a bit of a back story and details about each one. Setup is next followed by detailed directions on how to play the game. From there the rules move into detailed pages on stratagems and items. Each card and item is explained in great detail. Next the rules focus on turning evil and explain abilities and reasonings behind each character’s turn. Sect Guardians follow that section and explain the rules for each of them. Finally the rules finish up with a nice FAQ section to tie everything together and clear up any issues. Reading through the rules I received, I didn’t really see anything that stood out as being an issue. I think for being a prototype everything looks pretty good. I understand from the designer that there have been some rules changes, some of which I’ve worked into the overview above. I’m sure there will be more revisions before the game goes into production. As it is, I’m happy with the look and feel of what’s already here. I really think that once the game goes into production, the rules will follow suit with the components and should be fantastic.
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GAMEPLAY
This is a really great game. While playing, you get a great sense of the theme and story behind it. Each action you take affects your character and adds to their story. Once a player makes it to Grand Master, there’s a really rich story behind how they got there. Each technique learned increases the character’s strength making them more powerful and moving them closer to the goal. Duels are simple and quick. No need for tons of dice rolls and adding up numbers. I like how that each negative decision a player makes, moves that character one step closer to becoming evil. There’s a great feeling of adventure and growth to this game. For me, I compare this one to several different games. The theme feels a bit like Yedo with the rich narrative that your character goes through and the decisions that must be made. I also get that same thematic feel of exploration from Naruto Shippuden the Board Game. However for this one, the characters feel more personal and less of a carbon copy. Playing the game, I feel like I’ve stepped into a episode of Kung Fu with David Carradine. It’s just so thematic. Death comes quickly in this game, especially if you over exert yourself by training or dueling too much. I like that the designer has made it a little easier to be healed. I didn’t go into detail about this in my overview. Originally you only got a single card each round to find the healer, now he’s made it where each round you get an extra card. So for the second round, you get 2 cards and the third round you get three. That makes it a bit easier to come back and not die so quickly. This is just one change to a constantly evolving game. The designer is really working hard to make this the best game it can be. That said, I already like the game as it is. I can only imagine that it’s just going to get better as the kinks are worked out. I really like the theme and design of the game. I really think this game is going to appeal to many different play styles. Fans of worker placement games like Yedo or adventure games like Naruto Shippuden the Board Game should really enjoy this one. I highly recommend this one and can’t wait to see more.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Crossroads of Heroes is a game of adventure and discovery with a very rich theme. The game isn’t a very long game to play. Most game sessions last from around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the number of players. The prototype copy I received is gorgeous, as are the pictures I’ve seen of where the game is headed. The rulebook looks just as good and I really feel like when this game hits shelves, it’s gonna be a work of art. Even though the game is still going through revisions with the rules, the framework here is pretty darn solid. I really like the mechanics of how the game is played and the richness of the theme. The game really pulls you in through each decision that you make. I really enjoy how characters can go evil from a couple of bad decisions. I also like that there’s more than one path to victory. I feel like this game will appeal to a lot of players. Fans of worker placement games like Yedo or adventure games like Naruto Shippuden the board game should really enjoy this one. The design is solid and a true joy to play. Once it’s produced, I feel that it will make a lot of people happy. I highly recommend this game and can’t wait to see the finished product. Much respect for this one.
9 out of 10

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Crossroads of Heroes is now available for backing on Kickstarter.   Just follow the link below and you can back it right now.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/patpiper/crossroads-of-

You can also find more information on the game, as well as videos and a web comic for the game, by checking out the link below.

http://crossroadsofheroes.com/

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Ars Alchimia Review

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Ars Alchimia is a game by Kuro, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of overseers at an alchemical factory. They will be gathering orders, collecting resources and transmute them into new forms. Of course their opponents will be trying to do the same thing, just more efficiently than them. In the end, the player that can collect the most points from creating the rarest items and elements will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. The Transmutation Forges are shuffled together and placed face down onto the Transmutation deck spot marked with the potion icon. 1 Forge card is dealt face up onto each empty space with a potion icon on it beside the deck. The Assistant cards are shuffled together and placed face down next to the board. 1 Assistant card is dealt face up onto each spot marked with a people icon on it. For games with less than 4 players, only 2 spaces will be used. The Location cards are shuffled together and placed face down on to the Gathering deck spot marked with the compass icon. 1 Location card is dealt face up onto each empty space marked with the compass icon on it beside the deck. For games with 2 players, only 2 of the spaces will be used. Each player chooses a color and is given a set of workers of their chosen color and a corresponding scoring disc. If there are less than 4 players, each player returns 2 of their workers to the box, not to be used during the game. Players then take 9 of their workers and set them in front of themselves. The remaining workers are set aside in the box lid to be acquired during the game. The scoring disc is placed next to the 1 space on the edge of the board. The factory cards are shuffled and randomly dealt out to each player. The 4 card is not used when playing with 3 players and the 3 card is also not used if playing with only 2 players. This determines the first player. The die is then given to the player with the 1 card. The Order cards are separated into 3 different stacks based on their ranks. Each stack is then shuffled separately. 3 Rank C cards, 2 Rank B and 1 Rank A card are dealt onto the corresponding colored spaces marked with the scroll icon. If there are only 2 players, one of the Rank B spaces is left empty. Each player is then given a player mat and a colored cube that corresponds with each of the 5 elements on the mat. Each cube is placed on the corresponding colored track on the 0 space. Play now begins.

The game is played over a series of 4 rounds that represent 1 year. Each round is made up of 3 phases; start of round, main step and end of round. The first phase is the start of round. In this phase, the playing order is determined via the Factory cards. In the first round, this has already been done. From the second round on, the player with the least amount of points gets to choose from the Factory cards first, followed by the next lowest points and so on. Once this is done, players gain workers from the box lid equal to the number on their Factory card. Players will then pay any upkeep for assistants they have from a previous round. This is done by placing a worker on the Town Square for each assistant they want to keep. Players also have the option of returning the assistant to the bottom of the deck if they don’t wish to pay the upkeep cost.

The next phase is the main step phase. In this phase, players will take turns placing workers, beginning with the lowest Factory card number and continuing to the highest. The player is then able to place one of their workers in one of the rectangle boxes beside one of the cards on the board. The player must place as many workers as there are already in the box + 1. In other words, if there is already a worker in the box, the player would have to place 2 workers. The player then moves any previous workers to the town square. It’s also possible to place more workers than is required, for some places this will earn the player a benefit. The action from the spot is then resolved based on the card. Once the action is resolved, the player hands the die to the next player. This continues until players run out of workers or chose not to place any more. The player then passes.

There are several actions that are available for workers to do. They can gather resources. This is done by visiting one of the locations. This can also include the face down deck. To use the deck, the player flips over the top card then once the action is completed, it’s returned to the bottom of the deck. The player gains the resources indicated by the card and adjusts the cubes on their player mat accordingly. They then roll the die and if the number is rolled is equal to or higher than the indicated number, the player also gains the bonus resource. The player can gain +1 to their die roll by placing 1 more worker than was required to place on the location.

Another action a player can do is to take up orders. To do this the player takes the chosen card and places it on an empty card slot on their player mat. A new card is then drawn from the corresponding deck to replace it with. Players are only allowed to take orders of Rank C until they have fulfilled 1 Academic order. This then allows them to use Rank B orders. Once they fulfill another Academic order they are then allowed to take Rank A orders. Once the fourth and final round is reached, players are allowed to take any rank orders, regardless of their academic rank. Players are only allowed to have 3 orders at a time.

Yet another action that’s available to do is to employ assistants. To do this, the player takes the card and places it beside their player mat. The top card of the deck is then drawn to replace the taken card. The effect of the assistant is applied immediately. Some assistants only allow for effects to happen once per round. For these assistants, the card is turned sideways to show that the effect has been used.

Transmuting is another action that can be taken. The player is able to use one of the face up forges to create elixirs or complete orders with. They can also use the face down deck just like using the location deck. To use the deck, the player flips over the top card then once the action is completed, it’s returned to the bottom of the deck. The player rolls the die to see if they can gain bonus points by rolling equal to or higher than the number indicated on the card. Each transmutation done during the turn then gains bonus points for the player. Just like if they were gathering resources, the player can place more workers to add 1 to the die roll. The player may transmute as many times as the forge has transmute symbols. Fulfilling an order is done by adjusting the cubes on their player mat that correspond with one of the orders the player has on their player mat. Elixirs may be used as any resource. Once the order is completed, it is set aside and the player gains points equal to the card. Bonus points are awarded if the die roll succeeded and based on the rank of the order. Transmuting an elixir is done by taking 2 different resources and creating an elixir. The die is rolled and if the roll succeeds, the player gains an extra point as a bonus.

The final phase is the end of round phase. This phase begins once all players have passed from the last round. Three steps are then followed. First, all the workers on the board are returned to their respective owners. Next, any assistants that have been used and turned sideways are now refreshed and returned to their upright position. Finally, all the face up cards on the board are shuffled separately by type and then returned face down to the bottom of their respective decks. New cards are then drawn to fill up the board just like during setup.

The game continues until the end of the fourth round. Once the round is over, players compare scores. Any player with unfulfilled orders loses points equal to half the order’s point value. Players then gain bonus points for how many of each type they fulfilled. They also gain a point for each elixir and one for each assistant they have. Points are added up and the player with the most points is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game comes in a rather small and compact box. Even so, it’s got lots of pieces with it. There are lots of wooden pieces here. There are the worker pawns in four different bright colors. There are the 5 different colored cubes for each player’s mat. Finally there’s the 4 different colored player scoring discs. I really like the bright colors on each of these and the quality is really great. The die that comes with the game is a bit small. I’d have like a bigger die but it’s just a die and this one gets the job done fine. Next we have the player mats. These look nice and fit the them nicely but they’re just a bit thin. I’d have liked thick cardboard instead of these. The cards are the smaller Euro size but the quality of these is really great. I really like the artwork and design. They fit nicely with the theme and look of the game. The art reminds me of Final Fantasy Tactics in the assistant designs especially. Not sure why the Japanese text was left on the cards as it does tend to take up a bit of room on them, making the English text even smaller. However this is only a very minor irritation on an otherwise nice design. The board itself is beautiful. I really love the art chosen for it. It looks like a lovely place I’d like to live. I have to say that even though there are a few minor quirks here, I really like the overall look and feel of the components. They all look really great.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this one is a bit odd. I’m not really sure what happened here. The book is only 4 pages long, but the front cover is actually the last page. The inside 2 pages are the cover and the 1st page. The back cover is the third page. I’m guessing the printing machine went a bit screwy. There are only a couple of pictures in the book and these are kind of small, but nothing really to worry about. The setup and components are lumped in together so there’s no real coherent thought on getting the game ready to play. Some things aren’t even mentioned, like the player mats and the resource cubes. Some things like the scoring discs aren’t referenced correctly, being called point cubes. Huh? Thankfully the rules are only 4 pages and small enough that it’s not hard finding what you’re looking for. I will say that for the most part, each phase is detailed fairly well. I didn’t find a lot that was confusing or too difficult to figure out. Overall the rules do look kind of odd and feel rather weird, but it gets the job done despite the major issues here. Maybe just a little better quality control and translation job could have made this not such a mess. Still, it gets a passing grade despite the flaws.
6 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a light and fun game. I really like worker placement games and this one takes hold of the mechanic and runs with it. There are always plenty of choices to make and lots of things that you can do on your turn. I especially like the addition of the die roll when you do certain actions to gain extra benefits. The game can be rather strategic as you choose which orders you want to try and complete. Of course you have to be careful that you don’t overload yourself and wind up with negative points during scoring because you couldn’t complete the order. The way that workers are placed in this game reminds me of the game, Coal Baron. Each time that you decide to place a worker you have to think about the cost. If the space is empty it’s pretty simple to just place a worker and move on. As the round progresses, you have to consider how badly you want to make a certain move as you may end up having to pay a lot of workers just to do the action. I really like this game the most with 2 players. More players are fine but each action tends to cost a bit more and it’s a little harder to get things done. Of course that’s kind of the idea. As a 2 player game, in my opinion, the game is at it’s best. You’re able to do stuff but there’s still a bit of competition for certain spaces. Fans of worker placement games like Coal Baron or Lords of Waterdeep should enjoy this one fairly well. It’s a game that I recommend especially with 2 players. Overall, I think most people will enjoy it.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Ars Alchimia is a worker placement game about alchemy. It’s not an extremely long game. Most game sessions last a little over an hour. The game plays great with all number of players but for me it shines with just 2. The artwork is really nice. I especially like the designs on the cards, which remind me of Final Fantasy Tactics. However the text is a bit small due to the japanese text included on the cards. I also would have like a bigger die and thicker player mats. The rulebook seems to be the largest issue with the game as the lay out is completely messed up and there are some glaring mistakes and omissions throughout the small 4 page book. Thankfully the game play is fun making it fairly easy to overlook the minor issues. Fans of worker placement games like Lords of Waterdeep and especially Coal Baron, which has similar mechanics, should really enjoy this one. I recommend this game, especially as a 2 player. Now if I could just figure out how to turn lead into gold.
8 out of 10

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

 http://playtmg.com

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Preview Review of Trade & Troll

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Recently I was given the opportunity to preview an upcoming new game that will soon be available to back on Kickstarter. I received a print and play file of the game and rules. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Trade & Troll is a game by Emanuele Buffagni & Giulio Torlai, published by Good & Evil Games. It is for 2-6 players. In this game, players will take on the role of merchants in a medieval town. They will be trying to create effective routes between their resources and stalls and then on to the market. They will have to watch out as their opponents will try to block their routes and keep them from being able to fill their stalls. On top of that, they’ll have to be on the watch for the greedy troll who will also block their trade routes. In the end, the player that can best manage their goods, stalls and market will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board is laid out in the middle of the play area on the appropriate side, based on the number of players. The Closed Road tiles are placed on the board according to the number of players as well. For more information on placement check the rule book. Players choose a color and receive the merchant meeples of their chosen color as well as the corresponding colored troll bag. The first player is chosen and receives the first player token, which is placed in front of them on side 1. The Initial resource tiles are shuffled together and each player is dealt 1 tile. A Road Tile is is given to each player except for the last player. The Building Tiles are shuffled into 3 separate piles based on their types; Resource, Stall and Market. The 3 separate piles are placed face down near the board. The remaining Initial Resource tiles are reshuffled and placed on top of the Resource tiles. Five of each type of tile are flipped over and placed face up beside the board in a row. Each player is then given 5 coins of 1 value. Beginning with the First Player, players now take turns in turn order placing their initial building tile and road on the board. Players must follow the rules of placement in regards to placing their road and building. Players now place one of their merchant meeples of their color on top of their building tile. Play now begins.

The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round is divided into 3 phases; troll auction, player actions and end of round. The first phase is the troll auction. In this phase players gather up all their coins in their left hand and then place a secret bid in their right hand. Once all players have their bids ready, they now simultaneously reveal the coins in their right hand. The player that bid the most wins the troll and is then able to put him into play. The troll can be placed in an intersection between two roads blocking the way between buildings, or he can be placed on a building itself keeping it from providing materials to other buildings. The winning bidder also receives a victory point token and the Acquisition token which is placed face up in front of them, keeping them from bidding on the next auction. Once the troll has been placed, players place the coins that they bid into their colored troll bag. These will not be used during the game but may count towards victory points at the end of the game.

The second phase is the player actions phase. In this phase, players take turns beginning with the first player. Once all players have completed their first action, the first player turns the first player token to the 2 side and players now take their second action in turn order. Once players have completed their second action, the phase is over. Players have 4 different actions that they can take; buying and placing a building, buying and placing a road, activating a building and passing. To buy and place a building the player spends a set amount of coins to place one of the face up buildings beside the board onto the board, following the rules of placement. They then place one of their merchant meeples on it to show ownership. A new tile is then drawn to replace the taken tile. Resources cost 3 coins, stalls cost 8 coins and Markets cost 15. To buy and place a road, the player simply pays 2 coins and places a road on an unoccupied road space. To activate a building, the player chooses a building that has not already been activated and that is connected to the required building with open roads. The player then takes an amount of coins based on the building type and places the merchant meeple in the lying down position. It should be noted that players are allowed to rent other player’s buildings to fulfill requirements for the activation of a building. The rented player’s building rewards that player with a set amount of coins based on the type of building. Also of note, resources don’t need to be connected to any other buildings to be activated. Stalls require connection to the corresponding colored resource. Some stalls have two colors and require connection to two resource tiles. Markets follow the same rules as stalls and must be connected to two different stalls of the appropriate colors, even if a single stall contains both colors required by the market. Passing is done when a player can not or does not want to carry out any of the actions above.

The final phase is the end of round phase. In this phase a few things must be done in order. First the first player passes the first player token to the player on their left, who then places it on the 1 side in front of themself. All merchant meeples are then returned to their standing positions. The troll is then removed from the board. A new round is then able to begin.

Earlier I mentioned the rules of placement. Basically what this is that when a building is placed it must be placed on a square that is adjacent to another building that is already on the board. It should be noted that the entrance must not be facing a closed road. When placing a road, the path where the road is placed must be between 2 building squares and must be connected to at least one other unclosed road already on the board. It also can not be placed on top of another road or closed road.

The game continues until one of two things happens. If there are less than or the same amount of free spaces on the board as there are players, the final phase of the game begins. There are then only two rounds left. The final phase token is used to show which round it is. If at any time there are nor more spaces left to place buildings, the game ends at the end of the round. This happens even if the game is already in the final phase of play. It should be noted that during the final phase, the troll auction does not take place.

Once the game is over, players calculate victory points based on several factors. A merchant meeple should be used along the scoring track of the board to keep track of each player’s points. Players gain points from buildings they constructed that have a road in front of it and is connected to the proper resources. They lose points for each building that does not have the proper connections. Players also gain points for every 10 coins in their possession. At this point, players will now empty their troll bags and count up the number of coins. The player with the most coins gains 3 points while the second most gains 1. Players now compare their victory point totals and the player with the most points is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
Since all I received for this review was the print and play files, I won’t go into too much detail here. If you want to more know about what will actually come with the game, I suggest checking out the Kickstarter link at the bottom. Basically what I can tell you is from the design images that I’ve seen in both the prototype rulebook and the WIP thread on BGG, everything looks pretty solid. You kind of get this feeling of Settlers of Catan with a little touch of Jaipur. The artwork looks to be pretty good. I’m hoping that the quality of the components is as good as the artwork is. A couple of things that I’d like to see is for the troll meeple to actually look like a troll. It would be great if it was larger and shaped like a troll or had a sticker that you could place on the wooden meeple to give it the look. Here’s hoping that the merchant meeples are done the same way, shaped like a merchant or stickered. Apart from those two things I’d say that the game is already headed in a really good direction. I think players will be happy with the finished product.
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RULEBOOK
Just like the components, the rulebook also falls into the same category of print and play quality. The rules that I received look a bit more polished and pretty than the components though and look to have a lot more of the finished look to them. Reading through them, I didn’t see anything that looked difficult to understand or confusing based on design. Everything appears to be well thought out so far. There’s even a special set of rules for 2 players. Also included in the prototype rules are some frequently asked questions and a very nice reference guide on the back page. There are lots of pictures and examples in the book so everything should be pretty clear. Overall I think based on what I’ve seen so far, the rules should be in pretty good shape.
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GAMEPLAY
This is a fun game that’s fairly easy to play. The first phase of the game is all about bidding. How much do you want to pay to use the troll to block your opponents or to keep your opponents from blocking you. You also have to think that every time you win the troll, you’re getting a victory point which can seriously add up if you win several times. For this part of the game it’s all about out thinking your opponent. Will they choose to go low expecting you to outbid them or will they go high to outbid you. In the second phase your looking at several different options to take. You’ll earn quite a few victory points at the end of the game for the more expensive buildings but you’ll have to pay quite a bit of coinage to get them on the board. You also have to think that if those buildings aren’t connected to the proper resources then you’re going to be losing points instead of gaining them. Another thing to think about is collecting coins, which you’ll need to be able to purchase those buildings to place on the board. In many ways, the game is a balancing act. You have to think about what you want to do and how you’re going to do it, usually a couple steps in advance. It’s this balancing act that I really enjoy. I also like that the game penalizes you for not keeping an eye on what your opponents are doing to your buildings. In some ways the game has a little bit of a worker placement feel in this phase. Once the game reaches it’s end, it’s point salad for everyone. You get points and you get points. Oh wait, no you lose points cause your building isn’t connected to the proper resource. Scratch that. Needless to say, I really feel like this game will appeal to a wide variety of players. Fans of bidding and worker placement games should enjoy this one. This is a game that I recommend. It’s definitely worth trying.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Trade & Troll is a light game that incorporates several mechanics into a melting pot of fun. The game doesn’t take an extremely large amount of time to play. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the number of players. The game looks really good from all the pictures I’ve seen in the rulebook and the WIP thread on BGG. I really like the board and building designs. I’m hoping that the troll and merchant meeples will get a nice upgrade with some Kickstarter stretch goals. The rules seem well written already and should be polished to perfection once the game is produced. The game itself highlights both the bidding mechanic as well as some worker placement aspects. I like how easy the game is to teach. It’s easy enough that my kids can play without any real problems. I also like the many different ways to earn points and the use of negative points to penalize players that aren’t keeping up with their opponents moves. I really feel that the mixture of mechanics will really delight most players. Fans of worker placement and bidding games should enjoy this one. It’s well designed and looks like it will be well produced as well. I recommend this game and look forward to seeing it once it’s finished.
8 out of 10

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For more information about this great game, please keep an eye out for the upcoming Kickstarter coming soon.

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