The Big Book of Madness Review

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The Big Book of Madness is a game by Maxime Rambourg, published by IELLO. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of student magicians, a la Harry Potter, who have unwittingly opened an ancient tome full of dangerous creatures. They will have to work together to vanquish the creatures and seal the book one page at a time before it drives them all completely mad. Failure is not an option. If the players are able to do this, they will be declared the winners.

To begin, the board is placed in the middle of the play area. A number of madness cards are placed on the appropriate space on the board. This number is based on the number of players. The curse cards are separated by element type and then shuffled. Each deck is then placed face down in a separate stack beside the board. The value 2 and value 3 element cards are placed in stacks separated by number and element. These stacks are placed face up beside the board. Each player takes one of each of the four basic spells; Combustion, Ice, Growth and Telepathy. These spells are placed face up in front of each player. Each player chooses one of the Magicians and places the mat in front of them showing the gender of their choosing. Players then receive a number of Element card based on what is shown on their player mat. Any remaining value 1 Element cards are returned to the box, not to be used. Each player then shuffles their starting Element cards, placing their deck face down in front of them. The book, or Grimoire, is set up by placing the Final Page card on the right space of the book’s spot on the board with the Bonus/Failure side face up. The inside pages are shuffled together and 5 pages are randomly selected. The pages are then placed on top of the Final Page with their Bonus/Failure side face up. A Cover Page is randomly drawn and placed face down on the other page cards with the cover side face up. The library spells are sorted faced down by Element. A random spell is selected for each of the 3 Element values. These cards are used to form face down decks for each of the 4 elements by placing the value 3 card on the bottom and the value 1 on top for each stack. These decks are placed by the board. The top value 1 card is then flipped over face up. The Round marker is placed on the Round track of the board based on the player’s chosen difficulty. The Invocation marker is placed on the Invocation space of the Invocation track. The Element tokens are placed near the board within reach of all players. The first player is randomly chosen. They are given the Active Player token. Each player now draws the top 6 cards of their deck to form their starting hand. Play now begins.

The game is played over 6 rounds. During those rounds, each player will take a turn in clockwise order starting with the player that has the Active Player marker. Each player’s turn is made up of 4 phases; Concentration Phase, Monster Phase, Action Phase and Recuperation Phase. The first phase is the Concentration Phase. In this phase the player simply refreshes any exhausted spells in front of them. An exhausted spell is one that’s been previously used and turned on it’s side. To refresh it, the player simply turns the card back right side up.

The second phase is the Monster Phase. This phase has 2 steps to it; advance the Invocation marker and apply the effects of the new space. The first part is to advance the Invocation marker. To do this the player simply moves the marker 1 space counterclockwise on the Invocation track. If the marker lands on one of the spaces numbered 2-5, the player checks to see if there are any curses on the space. The number 3 space has 2 places for curses. If there are no curses, nothing happens. However, if there is a curse on the space(s), then the player must apply the curses effect starting with the active player. If the marker lands on the Invocation space, the player checks to see if there are any curses remaining on the board. If there are still curses, the players suffer the failure effect described on the right hand page of the Grimoire. Once this effect has been applied, the remaining curses are discarded to the bottom of it’s respective card stack. If however, there are no more curses remaining on the board, the players have beaten that particular monster and they receive the bonus effect described on the right hand page of the Grimoire. Once the failure or bonus effect has been dealt with, the Invocation marker is moved to the number 1 space. The Grimoire is turned to the next page to start a new monster. The new monster’s arrival effect as described on the bottom of it’s page is applied. The Round marker is then moved down 1 box on the Round track. The corresponding amount of Multi-Element curse cards are placed on the curse spaces of the Invocation track beginning with the number 2 space. Three curse cards that correspond with the Element symbols on the monster page of the Grimoire are drawn and placed one per space following the Multi-Elemental curses moving from the number 2 down to the number 5 space.

The third phase is the Action Phase. In this phase the player uses their Element and spell cards to try and beat the current monster. The player has 5 actions that they are allowed to take as often as they would like and in any order they like, as long as they have the Element cards to pay for them. The costs are paid by discarding Element cards that match the required elements from the player’s hand, support pool or both. The 5 actions are activate a spell, learn a new spell, acquire an Element card, destroy a curse and cure one of you Madness cards. The first action is to activate a spell. To do this the player pays the activation cost of the spell card by discarding the correct type and amount of Element cards. The player then applies the effect of the spell and exhausts it by turning it sideways. The player is allowed to overpay the activation cost by up to 3 times the normal cost to augment the spell’s variable effect. Double the cost provides 2 times the variable, while tripling the cost multiplies the variable by 3.

Another action a player can take is to learn a new spell. The player is allowed to learn a spell that is face up on top of one of the four decks. To learn a spell, the player pays 2 Elements of the same type as the spell. The Spell is then placed in front of the player with their other spells. The next spell in the stack is then flipped over. Each player is limited to only 5 spells. If they learn a sixth spell, they must remove one of their other spells before being allowed to place the new spell. The destroyed spell is removed from the game. Some spells allow a player to place a card in the Support pool. To do this, the player places a card from their hand face up on one of their support slots on their player mat. Each player may have up to 3 cards in the Support pool. These cards are usable by other players to pay an action’s cost, as well as by the owner.

The player may also acquire an Element card. To do this, the player spends Elements of the same type as the Element card that they wish to acquire. The cost depends on the value. Value 2 cards cost 2 Elements, while Value 3 cards, cost 3. After purchase, the Element card is place in the player’s discard pile.

Another action a player can take is to destroy a Curse. This is done by paying the 4 Elements that are shown on the top of the Curse card. Once the Curse is destroyed, the player receives a Value 2 Element card of their choice, which is then placed in their discard pile.

The final action that is available for a player to take is to cure one of their Madness cards. To do this, the player simply pays any 2 Elements of the same type to return a Madness card from either their hand or support pool to the Madness stack.

This takes us to the fourth and final phase, the Recuperation Phase. In this phase, players do a bit of house keeping. First they check to see if they have exactly 6 cards in their hand. If they have more, they must discard Element cards of their choice to their discard pile. Madness cards may not be discarded. If they have less than 6 cards, the player draws enough cards to fill their hand back up to 6. If the player has to draw cards and there are no more cards to draw, the player is forced to add a Madness card to their discard pile and then shuffle it to form a new deck. Once this is finished, the player checks to see if they have 6 Madness cards in their hand. If they do, they are eliminated from the game and must return all their cards and spells to the box. Once this has been checked, the Active Player token is passed to the next player in turn order, ending their turn.

The game continues with each player going through the different phases and taking turns until one of the following events occur. If the players turn all the pages of the Grimoire and beat the last Monster, the players win. If a player is forced to take a Madness card and the Madness stack is empty, the players lose. They will also lose if they fail to beat the last Monster on the last page of the Grimoire or if all the players have been eliminated due to Madness.

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COMPONENTS
This game has some really beautiful pieces. To begin with, the board is really nice. It’s a bit smaller than most game boards but the artwork really captivates you and puts you in the mood that the game’s theme is centered around. There are some Element tokens and the Active Player token that are made of thick cardboard. The Element tokens look like something from the game, Seasons. The Active Player token shows the image from the box cover. The game also has a Invocation marker and a Round marker that are simply gorgeous. The Invocation marker is a wooden book and the Round marker is a witch’s hat. Both of them capture the theme and add a bit of pleasure just looking at the pieces. There are 8 Magicians that a player is able to choose from, 2 for each of the four Elements, one female and one male. The females aren’t just carbon copies of their male counterparts either. Each one has their own unique look and feel, as well as special ability. I’m overwhelmed with just how beautiful these look. You really feel like you’ve stepped into a Harry Potter book once you get these to the table. There are also lots of cards. The game comes with Curse cards, Madness cards and Spell cards. The Spell cards are quite unique. Instead of being the normal card size and shape, these are completely square. The really cool part is that exhausting these cards requires the player to turn them 90 degrees. Normally this would either require you to pick the card up and set it back down at the proper angle or you’d end up hitting another of your cards while turning it. This doesn’t really happen with this square design. A really unique and well thought out design if you ask me. The rest of the cards, look really great too. The artwork is amazing and each card really pops with bright colors and pictures. The Grimoire cards are a good bit larger. These contain the monster pages that the players fight during the game. This is another really unique looking design. The artwork on these is great. The monsters appear to be bursting from the pages of the book. The covers of the book look like some well worn tome of ancient knowledge that you’d expect some wise old mage to have squirreled away in the darkest recess of his library. The designer even went as far as to include an insert that actually works with the game. How cool is that? As I said before, this game is beautiful. You simply can’t argue with perfection, and this game has it in spades.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is beautiful as well. There are lots of really great pictures and examples, all throughout the book. There’s a great introduction to the game and the world that the designer has created at the beginning of the book. This little detail just adds more flavor and thematic elements to the game. Everything is explained in really great detail, including a huge full page picture of how the game should look set up. Every little nuance of the game is lovingly addressed and featured from the Grimoire pages to the player’s Magician mats. Everything is laid out in such a way that there is nothing difficult to understand or read. The rules also include rules for 3 different play modes from Normal to Nightmare. There is also an index of the various terms that a player might encounter during the course of the game, as well as their effects. Yet another great little added detail to help the players full understand the game. The book isn’t that thick so reading through it doesn’t take that long. Much like the components, the book is beautiful and full of information and pictures. I love it.
10 out of 10

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GAMEPLAY
What can I say about this game? Well I could say that it’s absolutely one of the best cooperative games that I’ve ever played. The game is very thematic. It pulls you deeply into the rich stylized Harry Potter like theme and doesn’t let go. It’s quite challenging. Each monster has it’s own unique style so that no two will feel exactly alike. The many different elements lead to lots of options and choices to make. The characters all feel unique even between the 2 genders of the same element. Most games simply copy the same formula for success on both the female and male characters but this game makes each character special and unique. The curses provide lots of challenges and variety as well. There are many different options which lead to tons or replayability. The game is really easy to play and is one that even younger players can enjoy. There’s nothing too gruesome or monstrous to give younger players nightmares. It’s very easy to teach as well. The game doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with most game sessions lasting around an hour to an hour and a half. The game is very tense and you will find yourself worrying about your next move as you try to beat each monster in the book. Once you’ve gotten the hang of playing normally you can even up your game by making it even harder with one of the variant play modes. The game works great with any number of players. Of course the more people that you have playing the more ideas and options you’ll have available for making those hard choices. I really love this game and can’t find anything negative about it. This would definitely be my pick for game of the year.
10 out of 10

OVERALL
The Big Book of Madness is a thematic thrill ride of fun. It’s a fairly simple game to play but can be quite challenging and tense. It doesn’t take a really long time to play. Most game sessions last around an hour to an hour and a half. The artwork is beautiful on every part of the game and compliment the theme greatly. The theme itself is very rich and full of Harry Potter like goodness. I absolutely love everything about this one. It truly looks and feels amazing. The game has tons of replayability and works well with strategy gamers. The game’s design is truly unique in lots of different facets including the different characters as well as the Grimoire. This is unlike any other game I’ve played before and is highly enjoyable. Fans of cooperative and thematic games like Pandemic or Ghostbusters should really enjoy this game. I would highly recommend it. It’s one that can be played with even younger players without too much support or problems. My kids really enjoyed it as well as I did. I can’t praise this game much higher than that. It’s definitely my choice for game of the year. This is an absolute must buy for every gamer. It should be in every collection. You will not be disappointed.
10 out of 10

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

www.iellogames.com

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Preview Review of Madstone Chronicles

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Recently I was given the opportunity to check out 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 Chronicles is a game by Don Riddle and Mark Hanny, published by Joe Magic Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be commanding fantastical creatures and allying themselves with various races as they raise armies and control magical forces beyond all comprehension. The player that can grab the most glory will be declared the winner.

To begin, the starting player is chosen. Each player will then choose a Commander to lead their forces in reverse turn order. The Commander card is placed face up in front of the player. The remaining Commander cards are placed back in the box. The game board is placed in the middle of the play area. The cards are shuffled and each player is dealt 5 cards. If a player is dealt a Darkness Falls card, it is placed back in the deck and a new card is dealt to them. The deck is then reshuffled and placed face down next to the board. Each player chooses 3 of the 5 to keep and places the other 2 on the board in turn order. Each card is placed on the space that matches the colored faction of the card. Cards with no color (gray artifacts) are placed in whichever pile a player chooses. The red and gold crystals are placed in the crystal area of the board. Each player will then take 5 red crystals. The poison tokens are placed on their proper place on the board. Play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they will follow 2 steps. The first step is that they will perform any special actions that are present on the bottom of the cards that are in their army. Each card has abilities that are one of 3 general types; constant, triggered or global. Constant abilities are always active as long as the card is in a player’s army. Triggered abilities are those that must either have the condition met or paid to take the action that is shown. Some triggered abilities can be used anytime and any number of times as long as the player can pay for the ability. Global abilities effect all players. Only one global ability can be active at a time. If a new global ability enters a player’s army, it negates any previous abilities.

The second step is that each player will perform 2 basic actions. Their Commander card provides them with 3 basic actions of which they are allowed to perform 2 of them. The first basic action is to attack. I’ll discuss this action in greater detail a little bit later. The second action is to place a card from their hand onto the corresponding space on the board. This allows the player to gain a number of red crystals equal to the number of red crystals shown on the card. The player is not allowed to gain more crystals than their army’s power total. This is based on the total of all numbers in the green circle at the top of each card in their army, including their Commander. The third and final action is that the player is allowed to draw cards up to their hand limit of 3 cards. Once a player has taken their 2 actions, play passes to the next player.

Now then, let me explain the attack action. Earlier I mentioned the player’s army’s power total. This total is used to attack and kill or command other cards in the player’s hand, on the board or in another player’s army. To attack and kill a particular card, the player must spend crystals of either red or gold equal to the health of the target card. This number is shown inside the heart. The killed card is then placed in the player’s spoils pile. To command another card, the player pays crystals equal to the number inside the circle next to the health heart. The card is then placed face up beside the player’s Commander and is now considered a part of their army. It’s green number is added to the player’s army’s power total for future attacks and command actions. Any new cards added to the player’s army will not be able to use the card’s special actions until the beginning of the player’s next turn. A player is not allowed to kill or command a card that they placed in the field on the same turn. Also, a player may only command cards in their hand. They can not kill them. Players are allowed to kill or command cards that have higher point totals than their power. However for each point higher than the player’s power, they must spend double the number of crystals. For example if a player has 3 power and they attack a card that has a health of 5. They must spend 7 crystals; 3 for the power they have and 2 for each point over.

It should be noted that a player is only allowed to attack cards in another player’s army if a “Darkness Falls” card has been played or the global ability has taken effect. To kill a card in another player’s army, the player uses the blue shield as the target number instead of the health heart. Commanding another player’s card uses the number in the white circle beside the shield instead of the number beside the heart. Another player’s Commander can never be targeted. Another effect of the Darkness Falls is that cards in the field are 2 points higher to attack or command. The Darkness Falls cards can be removed by the player with the lowest power total. This may be done at any point during the player’s turn.

Just a couple more things, some cards have specific energy icons that give a player additional benefits if they have certain cards in their army. Also, some cards use poison tokens to damage other cards. Any cards with poison counters on them lowers the kill number of the card by the number of tokens present on it. The card must still be attacked to kill it. It can’t die simply due to poison tokens.

The game continues until the last card in the deck has been drawn. Players will then get one additional turn each. Once this is done, players add up their victory points. Victory Points come from the yellow numbers in the hearts of cards in the player’s spoils pile. They also gain points for their total power as well as the number of yellow crystals that they have. Player’s also gain points for any special victory point conditions on the bottom of a cards in a player’s army. Each player adds up their points and the player with the most points is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of really great pieces included inside. There’s a good sized board which has some nice looking artwork on it and some brightly colored spaces for the different aspects of the game. There are red and gold crystals that are made of plastic and remind me a lot of the Honor tokens in the various Ascension games. There are poison tokens that are thick cardboard and have a skull and crossbones symbol on them. Lastly there are lots of nice looking cards. I really like the look and feel of the cards. They’re that plastic like feel that I’ve come to expect from Joe Magic Games. I really like the fantasy look and feel of them. Each one has some great looking artwork on it. The iconography is big but not so big that it gets in the way. The only complaint that I might have is that the text on them is fairly small. This text explains what the icons on the bottom of the card mean. With the text being so small it’s a bit hard on the eyes. Thankfully I haven’t got any problems in that area so it’s not that big of a deal. Just something to be aware of for those with glasses or other eye problems. Unfortunately there is no reference guide or player aid for all the icons in the game. I think that would have been a nice addition to help with the text issue. Other than that, the game looks great. I’m really impressed with the new look and feel to the game.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is pretty nice. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. The book has this kind of glossy type finish to it that I can’t figure out. It makes the book look quite nice. The design is pretty cool too. Each page looks like a piece of parchment with the rules placed on top. It adds to the thematic feel of the game quite nicely. The rules are fairly easy to understand. They do seem a little bit unorganized but it’s not a problem and not difficult to figure out how to play the game or what the basics of the game are. Overall there are no major problems or faults to speak of. Pretty much it’s easy to read through and won’t take long either. I can’t complain.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a really fun game that improves on the design that was established in Madstone. Simply build up your army, kill creatures, attack your opponents and take their stuff. The game has a great take that feel with some really nice engine building thrown in. There’s a fairly good amount of player interaction included as well. You really have to pay attention to what your opponents are doing as they can seriously mess up your army fairly quickly. I really like that there are different energy types in the game. If you add a bunch of creatures to your army from the same energy type as your commander, you can really amp up your abilities. I love that aspect of the game. I really like how when darkness falls, the weakest player is the one that can shut it down and stop the other players from attacking their creatures and commanding them to their armies. I also like that lots of different types of cards can be in the field at one time. That allows the player to add the cards to their army that they feel will help them out the most. The game takes a fairly average amount of time to play. Most games sessions last about an hour or so. I really enjoyed this one. It scratches my Magic the Gathering itch pretty well without making me read a lot of card text. I’d call that a win.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Madstone Chronicles is a light weight card game of fantasy army building with a take that feel to it. The game isn’t overly complicated or time consuming. Most game sessions take about an hour or so to play. The artwork is really nice and conveys the theme really well. I really like the look and feel of the game. The game has some really great player interaction that works quite well. I really like the mechanics and design of the game. This is a game that fans of Magic the Gathering should find intriguing and fun without the added cost of buying lots of packs of cards. It’s not difficult but the small card text might cause some eye crossing for those players with sight problems. Of course once you’re familiar with the different icons in the game, it shouldn’t be a problem. I still wish that there was a player aid or reference guide to help out. Still, the game is solid and packed full of fun. I would recommend giving this game a try. Better yet, keep an eye out for the Kickstarter campaign when it goes live and back it. I really think you’ll enjoy it.
9 out of 10

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

http://www.joemagicgames.com/

Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter link coming soon.

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The Red Dragon Inn 5 Review

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The Red Dragon Inn 5 is a game by Jeff Morrow, Sam Waller and Cliff Bohm, published by Slugfest Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be take on the role of adventurers who have just finished a harrowing dungeon crawling expedition where they killed all types of creatures and looted their various lairs. After a brief stint at the local healers and bath house, they’ve located the local tavern in order to procure some tasty beverages, as well as do a little gambling and partying with their friends. They will have to be careful not to get knocked out or pass out since their buddies will most likely loot their unconscious body of all the gold they’ve acquired. The player that can withstand the onslaught of fermented drinks and nonstop partying the longest will be declared the winner.

Before I explain the basics of the game, let me direct the players that are already familiar with the game to skip ahead to the section marked with 5 asterisks. There I will discuss the new characters in a bit more detail. With that out of the way, we can begin. To begin, the drink deck should be shuffled and placed face down in the middle of the table where everyone can reach it. Each player will then choose a character and take the appropriate player mat and character deck. If a player chooses Lizwick, they will receive her item deck as well. They will then be given a fortitude marker and alcohol content marker. The player that chooses Zakhan will be given the wine jug token as well. Each player will then shuffle their respective character deck. The Lizwick player should shuffle their item deck. Players should place their shuffled deck face down beside the space marked deck on their player mat. Each player is given 10 gold, unless playing with 2 players. In a 2 player game, each player receives 8 gold instead. The game can also be played with a lot more players by adding in one or more of the previous versions of the game or some of the ally decks. If the game is played with more than 7 players, each player receives 12 gold instead of 10. The remaining gold is placed to the side where all players can reach it. Players should now place their fortitude marker on the 20 space of their player mat and their alcohol content marker on the 0 space. Each player then takes the top card from their drink deck and places it face down next to the space on their player mat labeled, “Drink Me!”. Player must then draw the top 7 cards from their character deck to form their starting hand. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they will follow a series of 4 phases that must be played in order; discard and draw, action, buy drinks and drink. The first phase is the discard and draw phase. In this phase the player is allowed to discard any number of cards from their hand that they would like to and then draw back up to 7 cards. Alternatively, a player may choose to discard nothing and keep their current hand of 7 cards if they so desire. Either way, the player is not allowed to play any cards or use any effects until they have finished drawing cards.

The next phase that a player will take is the action phase. In this phase the player is allowed to play one action card from their hand. To do this, the player simply reads the title of the card aloud, giving other players a chance to respond, and then following any instructions that are written on the card. The card is then discarded by placing it next to the discard space on their player mat. If a player chooses to play a “Gambling? I’m in!” action card, a round of gambling takes place, suspending normal play until the gambling round is over. I’ll discuss this in a bit more detail a little later. Players are also allowed to skip this phase and not play an action card either because they choose not to or because they can’t.

The third phase is the buy drinks phase. In this phase, the player takes the top card from the drink deck and then places it face down on top of another player’s “Drink Me!” pile without looking at it. If the drink deck runs out of cards, each player is forced to pay 1 gold to the Inn. Afterwards, the discard pile for the drink deck is shuffled into a new drink deck.

The last phase is the drink phase. In this phase, the player reveals the top card of their Drink Me! pile. They must then read and follow the instructions on the card. The card is then discarded into the drink deck discard pile. If the player has no cards in their Drink Me! pile at this time, they begin to sober up and must move their alcohol content marker reducing it by 1. Sometimes a player will reveal a drink event card. If this happens, players must follow the instructions on the card before continuing. If the player reveals a drink card that states, “with a Chaser” and has a mug with the “+” icon on it, they must then reveal the next card from the deck that the original drink card came from. If a regular drink card is revealed, it’s effects are added to the original drink. If however another drink with a chaser is revealed, it’s effects are not only added to the original drink but yet another drink card is revealed, repeating the process. Once the player has finished resolving the effects of their drink phase, play passes to the next player in turn order.

Earlier I mentioned Gambling, let me explain how that works. When a player plays a “Gambling? I’m in!” card, each player must ante 1 gold by placing it in the middle of the play area. The player that started the round of gambling is currently winning. Players then are able to play either a gambling or a cheating card. If a player plays either of these two types of cards, they immediately gain control of the round of gambling. The player may choose to pass instead of playing one of these cards. As long as the round doesn’t end before it comes back to the player that passes, they are able to participate later in the round. The round ends once the last player passes. The winning player then takes all the anted up gold and normal play resumes with the player that started the round of gambling. Play then moves into the third phase for that player.

The game continues until only one player remains. Players can be eliminated by either running out of gold or passing out. If a player runs out of gold, they are kicked out of the inn and have to sleep in the stables. A player can also pass out by consuming too much alcohol. This is when the player’s alcohol content becomes equal to or greater than the player’s fortitude. The player then falls unconscious and the wench drags them to their room to sleep off the effects of drinking too much. If this happens, the remaining players then split the unconscious player’s gold between themselves and the Inn. The last player standing, or should I say staggering, is the winner.

***** Now, with the basics out of the way, here’s what this new version adds in terms of different rules for new characters. First off there’s Lizwick the Collector. She comes with an item deck full of all kinds of items. These cards come into play when one of her character cards has a Bag of Holding icon on it. Once the character card resolves, the player draws the top card of the item deck. These cards are placed at the top of the player mat in the first available space starting from the left unless it is marked as immediate. Immediate cards are played immediately. The more items that are added to the mat, the smaller the player’s hand size becomes. Only 3 items are allowed at a time.

The other character that has a few different rules added is Zakhan the Drunken Master. Zakhan has a wine jug token that is used to track his Drunken Chi. As he drinks, the player may choose to increase his Drunken Chi making some of his character cards stronger but also making his alcohol content higher as well. This can be a real two edged sword. The sum of both the player’s alcohol content and Drunken Chi is his Total Drunkenness. The wine jug token is placed on the player’s total drunkenness. For this character, if the total drunkenness meets or crosses their fortitude, the player passes out and loses the game. For example, Zakhan has an alcohol content of 5, marked by his alcohol content marker. He has a Drunken Chi of 3, thus his total drunkenness is 8, which is where his wine jug marker is placed. The player is able to increase his Drunken Chi by 1 any time he gains an alcohol content of 1 or more from a drink. The player can reduce the Drunken Chi by discarding 2 cards from their hand to lower it by 1.

As for Sera the Fleetfooted and Joran the Trickster, they don’t have any specific rules of note. Pretty much everything that these characters have is spelled out on their cards or is explained in the Character Specific Rules sheet that comes with the game.

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COMPONENTS
This game comes with a lot of really cool stuff. First off let me address the 500 lb gorilla in the room. This box is HUGE! I mean it’s absolutely ginormous. It’s got 4 rows to place all your cards and stuff in. Of course you won’t need all 4 rows for the cards, but it’s great for adding expansions. There are also plenty of little baggies that zip up as well as several foam spacers to keep everything together. Also included are 2 cloth drawstrings bags that I personally used to keep all the gold and platinum coins in. Combining all the 4 previous game’s coins with this one’s will take both bags. Speaking of coins, I like the new platinum ones. It kinda helps break up the look of things a bit. These tokens are fairly thick and are a bit different looking than the previous ones but are still really cool. Of course the game comes with your basic glass beads for alcohol content and fortitude markers. Pretty much if you’ve played any of the previous games, you know what to expect here. There are a few new tokens that have been added to the game. There is the wine jug token for Zakhan that I described it’s use earlier. There are also several newly remastered fortitude and alcohol content markers made out of cardboard. These are a nice option to use instead of the basic glass beads. Also included inside the massive box are tons of cardboard dividers for each of the different character decks and drink decks. Each of these are made from thick cardboard and have really great looking images on them. Of course, hard plastic like some other games use in their big boxes would have been better. Still, these look great and are pretty sturdy despite being cardboard. The final pieces are the brand new character specific player mats for each of the different characters from both this game and all the previous 4 as well as all the allies decks. These are amazing looking. I love the look of these. The only complaints that I have are that they are a bit smaller than the previous player mats and are a good bit thinner too. I really like the thickness of old mats but I will gladly trade off thickness for look. Yea, I’m one of those type of guys. Finally the last thing to discuss is the cards. These much like all the other versions, have great artwork that is very light and humorous. The theme of the game is very much a part of each character’s deck as well as the drink deck. So anyway, if you haven’t figured it out by now. I’m a big fan of the look of this game. The components are great and there are places for everything inside the box. I will note that once I put all the pieces and parts that I have for the game inside and closed the lid, the thing weighs like 50 lbs. Ok, so it’s not really 50 lbs but it’s quite heavy and cumbersome. In any event, I can’t say much more than that. Overall, really great quality components.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is pretty much the same as any of the ones that come with the previous versions of the game. It’s designed quite well and looks nice. There are several pictures and examples throughout the book. About half of the book is laid out with the basics of gameplay for those players that have never played any of the Red Dragon Inn games. The remaining half of the book contains the other rules that are more specific to the characters that are included with this game. Also included is a sheet with character specific rules that provides a basic faq for certain cards and questions that might come up while playing one of these characters. I find that everything is explained thoroughly and in such a way that is easy to read and understand. There’s nothing really difficult here. It’s pretty much straight forward and doesn’t take long to read. Overall, it’s well written and looks great.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a great game. If you’ve ever played any of the previous versions, you already know that. What this version does is add 4 new characters and a big frickin’ box to hold it and all the published stuff to date. It also updates the player’s mats with a new look and feel. Needless to say the game is fairly easy to play but is high on the fun and humor. Who doesn’t love playing as their favorite character, using a funny accent or voice and enjoying a great card game? At the heart of it, this is a simple card game that is all about playing cards to eliminate your opponents. Simple as that. Each of the different characters adds it’s own flavor and feel to the game. Lizwick and her item deck adds all kinds of new fun and randomness to the game. Zakhan makes drunkenness an assest as well as a liability. Sera is fast and stealthy. You won’t know what hit you until it’s too late. Joran is great at redirecting and negating effects. Personally I like Zakhan the best. His cards have lots of enlightened speeches like something from an old episode of Kung Fu. He’s a lot of fun to play. I find that the theme of the game is integrated quite well and feels like Dungeons and Dragons the tavern card game. In other reviews, I’ve commented on how I’m not too fond of the gambling aspect and how that I find it tends to pull you out of the world that the game drops you into. I’m still not crazy about it but it won’t stop me from enjoying such a really good game. The game can be played in a fairly short amount of time with most sessions lasting around 30-45 minutes. Setup is super fast which is a plus in my book. Fans of fantasy games or humorous games should really enjoy this one. I’m very happy to be able to add this to my collection.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
The Red Dragon Inn 5 is a light weight card game of humorous player interaction in a fantasy setting. The game is really easy to play and doesn’t take that long. Most game sessions last no longer than 45 minutes. Setup is quick and painless which is a plus. The artwork and theme are great and have an awesome fantasy feel to it. I love the new player mat designs even though they’re a bit smaller and thinner than the originals. The box itself is massive but has tons of room for all the different versions and expansions that have been published, as well as having room for a lot more stuff. Fans of fantasy games like DnD or Pathfinder, as well as humorous games like Munchkin and the like, should really enjoy this one. The theme might be a bit much for younger kids seeing as the main theme is drinking and gambling. Just something to be aware of. For the older crowd though, it’s full of fun and laughter. If you’ve played or better yet own any of the other 4 versions of the game, you’ll be happy to add this one to your collection. It’s not only a fun game but a great storage box, much like the Big Geeky Box is for Smash Up. I highly recommend this especially for those players that own the rest of the games. It’s massively fun in a ginormous box of stuff.
9 out of 10

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

http://slugfestgames.com/

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Preview Review of Cake

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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!

Cake is a game by Scott Westgard, published by Scott Westgard. It is for 2-6 players. In this game, players are cake aficionados that will be attempting to eat and buy the best cakes from the bakery in order to score points. The player that is able to do this and thereby score the most points will be declared the winner.

In this review, I will mainly be discussing the basic game. To begin, the CAKE, Happy and Character cards should all be separated. Each deck is shuffled. The scoring track board is placed in the middle of the play area. Players choose a playing piece and place it on the start square of the scoring track. Each player is then dealt a Character card face up. Players are then given the corresponding amount of red Bonus Die Chips and blue Wild Chips that is indicated on their Character card. The remaining chips are set aside but within reach of all players. Each player is then dealt 2 Happy cards face up. Players are then each dealt 5 cards face down from the Cake deck.

Before the game can actually begin, there is what’s known as the Cakewalk Card draft. This is done pretty much like any other card draft. Players choose a card from their hand of five to keep, placing it face down in front of them. They then pass the remaining cards in their hand face down to the player on their left. This continues with each player choosing a card from their hand and passing the remaining cards until each player has only 2 cards remaining in their hand. When this happens, the player keeps 1 and places the last card into the center of the table face up to form the starting Bakery. Cards placed in the Bakery should be arranged in a row of ascending point values for easy reference. Players then choose 3 of their cards to flip over as their staring Pantry. They are allowed to keep one face down as their special Doggie Bag card. This card is protected from other player’s Happy cards and is only available to that particular player. The first player is chosen based on the lowest total point value of cakes in a player’s Pantry, unless a player has the Marie Antionette character card. In this case the player that has Marie, is the first player. Play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they will follow several simple steps. First off they will draw a card from the Cake deck and place it in the Bakery in the middle of the table. Next all players check their Character cards and see if their character has any effects that happen at this time or before rolling dice. If so, they may be used. Players are then allowed to use any Happy cards from their hand that say “Play before rolling dice” or “Play at any time on your turn” as long as the main rules are followed. If a player scores any points, those points are recorded by moving their player piece the correct number of spaces on the Scoring track. If they land or pass one of the Happy Cards spots on the Scoring track, they are dealt a new Happy card. Players may then use any of their red Bonus Die Chips to add a red bonus die to their dice pool for this turn. The used chips are returned to the pool of chips that were set aside during setup. The player then rolls all the dice in their dice pool including the 5 white dice as well as any red dice gained through use of their Bonus Die Chips. They are then allowed to re-roll any or all of the dice a second time in order to match dice roll requirements on some of the cards in either the Bakery or their personal Pantry. The player is then allowed one final re-roll of any or all of the dice to make matches with. Finally, the player resolves the dice rolls. Happy cards that are marked as “Play while resolving dice” may be played at this time in any order desired while resolving dice. Wild chips are also allowed to be used at this time. Wild chips provide an extra die of any number a player desires to their previously rolled dice pool. The used chip is then returned to the pool of chips.

After the third dice roll, the player is allowed to use a die or combination of dice to perform one of 4 actions. They are allowed to buy cake cards from the Bakery by matching the requirements on the card and then placing the card into their Pantry face up. They are allowed to eat cakes from their Pantry by the same matching process used to buy cake cards with. As a matter of fact, the player is allowed to both buy and eat the same card as long as they have the correct dice to perform both acts. They are allowed to use any 3 dice with the same number to buy a blue Wild Chip, which is then able to be used immediately to add a dice to those previously rolled. They are also allowed to use any 2 dice with the same number on them to buy a red Bonus Die chip. These are not usable until the player’s next turn. A player is never allowed to have more than 3 Wild Chips or 5 Bonus Die Chips at any time.

Once the player is through resolving all the dice possible, they then score points for the cakes that were eaten, moving their player piece along the scoring track. Any eaten cakes or used Happy cards are placed under the player’s Character card. The player then takes new Happy cards for passing any Happy Card spaces on the scoring track. Some Happy cards are allowed to be played at this time, if it is indicated on the card. The player then passes the dice to the player on their left, thus ending their turn.

The game continues until one player reaches or exceeds 50 points on their turn. This initiates the Final Round. The remaining players will each be given one more turn to reach or exceed the first player to go out’s final score. Once the Final Round is initiated, the Happy Card spaces on the board are no longer active and will no longer provide any cards. Once all players have completed the Final Round, players compare their scores and the player with the highest score is the winner.

The game also comes with a set of Advanced Cards that add some super high value cakes, new Happy Cards, a few new character cards and a new type of card known as Party Favor cards. Party Favors may be cashed in before playing the red Bonus Die Chips or during the scoring phase at the end of the player’s turn. These are mainly point producing cards that provide points for playing a set of cards. The more in the set, the more points are accumulated up to a total set of 5 for 15 points.

Also available to add to the game is the Evil Cards expansion. This expansion adds high powered Happy Cards, some new characters and some new cakes. Adding these cards to the game can make it possible for one player to score 50 points or more in one turn. They are extremely intense and should only be used by players that are very familiar with the basic and advanced games. The designer recommended that these should never be used during a player’s first game.

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COMPONENTS
With this being a prototype of the game, I won’t go into too much detail about the components. That said, there are a lot of cards that come with this game. The prototype cards are all smaller than your average playing card size. These cards are more like the cards you would find in Takenoko. I believe they are called euro sized. I might be wrong. In any event, the cards look really great and have some truly awesome looking artwork on them. The designs are all great and are easy to understand. The game also comes with plenty of dice. After all, this is a game about rolling dice. There are the 5 basic white dice and there are also 5 more red bonus dice as well. On top of that there are some plastic chips in both red and blue. These are the red Bonus Die chips and the blue Wild chips that I mentioned in the overview. The final pieces are the really great looking scoring track and the cake shaped playing pieces. I find it hilarious that the designer noted in the rules, “DO NOT EAT the playing pieces.” While I was tempted, I was able to refrain from eating them. I thought that I’d also note that there were some really nice little boxes inside the main game box to hold all the cards and pieces of the game instead of small plastic bags that is the norm. I thought that was a nice touch and were much better and more protective than bags. Overall, I really like the way everything looks and feels. Larger cards would be nice, but not really necessary. I can’t complain. The game looks great and should just get better once fully produced.
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RULEBOOK
Much like the game itself, the rules are also in prototype form. They came on a couple of sheets of paper stapled together in the corner. There are a couple of pictures but everything is in black and white. I had no trouble reading through and understanding everything. Everything was well written and laid out well. There are also included some tips and strategies for playing the game as well as some insights into the Evil Cards expansion. Overall, the rules are pretty basic but should improve upon production. Still, everything you need to know is covered without any problems.
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GAMEPLAY
As you may have figured out by now, the game has some similarities to Yahtzee. You roll dice and try to match up those dice with whatever you’re trying to accomplish at the time. The thing is, this game is a lot more than just rolling dice. Yes, of course it’s the main mechanic and is the basic point delivery method, but that’s where the comparison ends. The things that make this game different and unique are the character cards and the happy cards. Each character card gives you a certain amount of bonus die chips and/or wild chips. These can be real life savers for when you’re trying to complete a card. The character cards also provide special abilities. No special abilities in Yahtzee. As for the Happy Cards, these provide all kinds of things from free turns and bonus chips to allowing a player to eat a cake in another player’s pantry. That’s just in the basic cards. The advanced cards and the evil expansion just add more and more to the mix including the party favors that I thoroughly enjoy having. In any event, the game is a ton of fun and provides so many options every time you play. It’s highly replayable as the selection of cards available each time you play will be different. It has a good bit of player interaction with the use of the Happy Cards. On top of all that, it doesn’t take that long to play, usually about 30 minutes or so. That is unless you’re playing with 4 or more players, then it leans more towards an hour. I thoroughly enjoy the game and find that players that enjoy dice rolling games like Yahtzee will love this. With this game, I have no need for Yahtzee anymore. It definitely scratches that itch in a major way.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Cake is a light to medium weight game of dice rolling happiness. The game is not that long and most game sessions last around 30 minutes unless you’re playing with 4 or more players. I really like the artwork and design quite a bit and I find that a lot of the titles on the cards are quite humorous. The game isn’t hard to play. Basically if you can play Yahtzee or King of Tokyo, then you can play Cake. It shares some of the same mechanics and principals as those games. Fans of dice rolling games will absolutely love this one. It has just enough player interaction to keep you going. With plenty of cards including the advanced and evil cards, there’s no shortage of replayability. I would highly recommend this game. It will most definitely be a hidden gem once it arrives on kickstarter. You will want to keep an eye out for this one for sure.
9 out of 10

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You can check out Scott’s other game Fishfry Deluxe by following the link below.

http://fishfrydicegame.weebly.com/

Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter campaign for Cake coming soon.

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My First Bohnanza Review

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My First Bohnanza is a game by Heike Kiefer, Hayo Siemsen and Uwe Rosenberg, published by Rio Grande Games. It is for 3-5 players. In this game, players will be planting and harvesting many different types of beans to earn coins. The player that can collect the most coins will be declared the winner.

For this review, I will mainly discuss the basic or beginner version of the game. Later I will give a brief overview of the more advanced ways to play. To begin, only 4 types of bean cards will be used; the Mean Beans, Sour Beans, Broad Beans and Stink Beans. The remaining cards are set aside in a pile with the coin side up. The 4 basic beans cards that were just named are shuffled together. 5 cards are then dealt to each player. The player places these cards face up in front of themselves in a line. The first card that they receive is placed to the left with new cards being added to the right of the line. Once all players have their 5 cards, the remaining cards are placed in a draw pile in the middle of the table with the coin side up. Each player is then given a bean field board with is placed above the line of bean cards that they just placed with only two of the three bean fields showing. The third field is folded below the other two. Play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they will follow 3 actions in order; plant bean cards, trade bean cards and draw bean cards. The first action is to plant bean cards. To do this, the player must take the first card on the left of their line and plant it by placing it on one of their bean fields. The player is then able to plant the next card in their line if they would like. The player is only able to plant 2 cards per turn. These cards will either begin or expand a row of bean cards of a particular type.

The second action is to trade bean cards. For this step, the player flips over the top 2 cards of the draw pile, putting them next to the deck. The player whose turn it is, is then able to trade with the other players or keep the two new cards. Only the current player is able to make trades. The player is able to offer any cards from their line as well as the 2 new cards that were just flipped over and may request any card or number of cards from another player. The player is also able to give away cards as a gift for nothing in return. The other players are not forced to take any such gifts though. The players must then plant any bean cards that they receive in trade or decided to keep from the newly revealed cards. Players are able to plant cards in any order and are allowed to harvest beans before planting the next card. More on this in a moment. Once this phase of action is finished and all trades or lack of trades has been completed, the trading phase ends.

The final action is to draw bean cards. The last step for a player to do is to draw 3 cards from the draw pile one at a time and place them in their line adding the new cards to the right of the row. Play then passes to the next player.

Earlier I mentioned harvesting beans. Let me explain how that works. Each bean card has a beanometer on it. This shows a coin with a number below it. This number is the amount of matching bean cards that must be planted together in an unbroken row to be able to score 1 coin. Once the right amount of cards has been reached, the player is able to harvest them, placing the harvested bean cards in a discard pile next to the draw pile. The player then takes one of the cards off the top of the coin card pile and places it in front of themself. These cards are kept separate from the other cards.

It should be noted that the beginning game has what’s known as the Mixed Patch rule. This rule basically means that if a player has to plant a third type of bean when they already have two other types of beans on their field, they may place the third type in either one of their fields. The bean cards beneath this new cards are not able to be harvested until the the new type has been harvested first.

The game continues until the draw pile has been emptied a certain number of times. This number is dependent on the number of players. Once this happens players add up their coins and the player with the most coins is the winner.

Once players are familiar with the basic rules they can then use the other bean cards and/or add in the more advanced rules. The remaining bean cards have 2 beanometers, one that allows the player to collect 1 coin and 1 that allows them to collect 2. The advanced rules take players one step at a time closer to the full rules set as laid out in the regular Bohnanza game. It starts with using all the cards and adding in the third bean field. The player uses one or two of the harvested bean cards as coins in this step. The next step removes the Mixed Patch rule and makes it possible for players to harvest beans for no coins, simply to remove them from their fields. The next step makes it where players start with 2 bean fields and are later able to purchase a third field for 3 coins. The next step makes it where players must hold their cards in their hands instead of placing them face up in front of themselves. For younger kids, this is a bit difficult so it’s noted that this step can be skipped until they are better able to deal with the cards properly. The final step adds in the protection rule for single bean cards in a bean field. This means that a bean field with only one card on it may only be harvested if the player has no more than one on any of their other fields.

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COMPONENTS
This game simply comes with a deck of cards and some player mats. Inside the deck are 10 different types of bean cards. Each one has some really cute and humorous looking artwork. The backs of the cards show a giant coin. As mentioned earlier, this is the currency to the game. My daughter and I both really love the artwork. Her favorite cards are the magic beans and of course, the princess beans. The cards are well made and are good quality for little hands. The bean field player mats are a bit thin but are made good enough for younger players. That same type of humorous artwork is also present on the player mats as well. Overall the cards look great and will entertain even the younger players.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook is small and fits nicely inside the smaller box. Even though the book is small there’s still plenty of information inside. There are plenty of great pictures and examples throughout the book. Everything is easy to read and understand. Each step of a player’s turn is explained in great detail so that there should be no misunderstandings. The book also contains the advanced rules in a step by step format so that you can build on the skills that you’ve already learned in previous playthroughs. This is great for helping the younger players learn the rules of the game. I really liked that addition. Another really nice addition is the cute little story that the book opens with. It tells a story of a beautiful princess who loved beans. Reading this with my daughter was lots of fun and she really enjoyed it. The story actually made her want to play the game even more. Overall, I’d say that the designers did a great job with the rulebook.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a really cute and fun card game. It isn’t hard to teach or learn. It’s not overly complicated and doesn’t take long to play. What’s not to like? It’s really simple for the most part and it’s got plenty of player interaction. I like that the game basically forces you to make trades. This is gonna help the other player but also help you in the long run. You just have to decide how much you’re willing to help your opponents. I mean, ultimately the idea is to get the most coins but you will find yourself keeping a mental track of how many coins the other players have as well. I really like that the game takes you through the rules of the original Bohnanza but with baby steps so that you can fully grasp each concept. This has been a big help for my daughter. She really has enjoyed playing it and loves the trading aspect of the game. I’m beginning to see that player interaction is a big thing for her. While set collection may be the main mechanic for the game, trading is a very close second. This is simple and easy enough that younger players will enjoy it. It’s even fun for their parents. It surely beats out Old Maid or Go Fish any day of the week.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
My First Bohnanza is a very light and introductory game that helps younger players to learn the more advanced rules of playing the classic game, Bohnanza. It’s very easy and walks players through each idea and concept in a step by step way. It’s fairly quick playing with most games lasting no longer than 30 minutes. Kids will love the humorous and silly looking artwork. Fans of set collection and player interaction will really enjoy this. I would highly recommend this for parents, home schoolers and families. This is one of those games that can be played with the little ones as well as grandma and grandpa. Everyone will enjoy it. This one is kid tested and father approved.
9 out of 10

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

http://riograndegames.com/

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Avarium Academy Review

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Avarium Academy is a game by Jared Cheah, published by Chain Links Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of one of the Idols (most popular students) in a magical Japanese high school. Players will be attempting to become Student Council President through any means necessary. Of course they’ll have to be careful not to get themselves expelled in the process. The player that can recruit the best students to their side to either fulfill their win condition or claim the most merit will be declared the winner.

In this review, I will mainly be discussing the 2 player duel format. To begin, the board is placed in the middle of the play area. Players will each pick one of the Idol cards and place it face up in front of themselves in the area known as their “Class”. New players should start off with one of the Basic Idols for at least a game or two before moving to the Advanced Idols. Players will then take a Merit Dial and set the number on the dial equal to the amount of Merit shown on their Idol card. All the Student cards are shuffled together and placed face down on it’s respective place on the board to form the “School” deck. The discard space beside it is known as the “Expel Pile”. The top six cards from the School deck are flipped face up and placed in two rows of three in the middle of the board known as the “Courtyard”. The Scheme cards are shuffled together and placed face down on their respective place on the board to form the “Library” deck. The discard space beside it is known as the “Trash Pile”. Players then take turns drawing two cards from the top of the Library deck. This is the player’s starting hand. The attack tokens and Reputation tokens are placed on either side of the board within reach of all players. The first player is chosen. The second player receives 2 extra Reputation and play now begins.

A player’s turn is broken down into 3 phases; a start phase, a planning phase and an end phase. The first phase is the start phase. This phase is broken down into 4 steps. First off the player checks their Idol card’s Win-Con or win condition. Next the player readies their Idol and Student cards. These first two steps are not done on any player’s first turn. On later turns, readying a card is done by simply turning it back upright. From there, the player gains reputation from their Idol. The amount is indicated inside the gold star on the Idol card and is gained through Reputation tokens. Finally a player draws the top card from the Library deck. Once this is done, the player moves into the next phase.

The second phase of a player’s turn is the planning phase. In this phase a player is able to perform any of 3 different actions as many times and in any order they would like, until they choose to end their turn. The 3 actions are recruit a student from the courtyard, play a scheme and declare a fight. To recruit a student, the player spends Reputation equal to the Reputation cost of the student card. The student is then placed on top of the player’s Hallway space on the board in front of them. The player then replaces the removed student card by drawing a new card from the School deck. To play a scheme, the player reveals the card from their hand, reads the card’s effect aloud and then pays the cost either by spending Reputation equal to the scheme’s cost or by exhausting a Student in their class whose cost is equal or higher than the cost of the scheme. Once the cost is paid, the scheme’s effect takes place. The card is then placed into the Trash pile. Some schemes called “Surprises” can be played at any time, not just during the planning phase. Fighting is a little bit more detailed.

Fighting is how players can expel another player, their Idol or a student from the school. Each Idol or student is only allowed to attack once per turn and only one at a time. Fighting follows 3 steps. First the player gets set. This is done by choosing a ready student or Idol with no attack tokens on it and declaring it as their attacking leader from their class. Next a target is chosen from one of the other player’s students or Idol. However an Idol is only allowed to become the target of an attack if the opponent player’s class has no more ready students to attack. The enemy becomes the defending leader. Second the player’s party up. To do this the player may assign any students or their Idol that is not already in the fight to help support the attacking leader. This forms the attacking party, that once chosen, can’t be changed. The defending leader’s player is then allowed to assign any of their students or Idol that’s not already in the fight to support the defending leader. This forms their defending party which can also not be changed once it’s chosen. Student abilities and schemes that are allowed, may be played at any time before this in the fight. The last step is to fight. Damage is assigned by calculating the combat power of all the cards in the player’s attacking party and dealing damage to the opponent’s defending party. The opponent then does the same thing with their defending party to the attacker’s attacking party. Damage is dealt first to the leader and then any remaining damage is divided up between the other students or Idol in the party as the player sees fit. If an Idol takes damage, the amount is removed from their Merits. If an Idol loses all their Merits, they are expelled. If a student takes damage equal or higher to it’s defense, it is expelled and placed into the Expel pile. If it’s not expelled, the student card is exhausted. This is shown by turning the card sideways. Once all this is done, clean up is done by removing any damage left on students still in the player’s class and then putting an attack token on each Idol or student that attacked.

The third and final phase is the end phase. Once a player decides to end their turn, they must then say, “I end my turn”. They then finish their turn by doing a number of things. First they place all the student cards in their Hallway into their Class. If a player has more than 5 students in their Class, they must then expel a number of students until they have no more than 5 students in their class. The player then checks their hand. If they have more than 5 cards in their hand, they must trash a number of cards until they have no more than 5 cards in their hand. Finally they player removes all attack tokens from any of their cards that have them placed on top of them. The player finishes their turn by completing any end of turn effects. Play then passes to the next player.

The game continues until one of 3 things happen. If a player achieves their Idol’s Win-Con, they win. If a player is able to expel all the other players by bringing their Merit down to zero they win. Finally if the School runs out of cards, the game ends and the player with the most Merit is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of really great looking pieces. There’s a really nice board that folds up nicely to fit inside the box. The artwork isn’t elaborate on it or anything but it’s nice to have a place to set everything instead of just throwing it all down in the middle of the table. There are lots of really great looking cards. The artwork is really amazing and looks like something taken from some quality Manga or Anime. The Idol cards have gold embossing on them which is a really nice added touch. The reputation and attack tokens are a little bit thin but work fine. About the only thing that concerns me is the Merit dial. It’s a bit flimsy and feels like it could fall apart at any minute. I would have liked it better if they had been made of a little thicker materials, like the dials for King of Tokyo or Lord of the Rings the Card Game. For now though, this gets the job done. In any event, I really love the look and feel of the game and it has a great thematic feel to it. Overall I think the game is pretty well put together and gets a passing grade.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook is really nice. There are lots of great pictures throughout the book including both examples as well as some great art samples from the cards themselves. Each of the different card types are explained in great detail with pictures included. The book isn’t difficult to read. I will say that it’s a bit of a flip fest when it comes to understanding however. The phases of a player’s turn are all laid out well but you will find yourself flipping ahead and then back to understand each concept and step. It’s a bit tedious but once you understand each step it’s not that big of a deal. I will say though that it works out pretty well as reference material since you can find each concept fairly quickly while playing. The book also has advanced rules for playing a 4 way multiplayer Battle Royale. Also included is a great reference guide that shows the breakdown of a player’s turn as well as a page of frequently asked questions for more clarification. Overall I’d say the book looks really great but suffers just a little bit on explaining the rules in a cohesive sequence of events.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a really fun game that plays a lot like a CCG (Collectible Card Game). It has a lot of that same feel as games like Yu-gi-oh! or Force of Will. There’s that real great player interaction and elimination that you get from those CCGs except you don’t have to trace down all the rare and powerful cards. It can get a bit math heavy when multiple students and Idols are fighting, factor in a few schemes intertwined here and there and some exhausting of students for payment…you get the picture. The game works really great as a 2 player game. More players tend to muddy the waters too much and cause more wins through fulfilling an Idol’s Win-Con then through elimination. For me, I prefer a more well rounded game where wins can be accomplished through multiple paths instead of being due to fear of attacking. In any case, I really enjoy playing this one, especially in a 2 player duel capacity. Players of dueling card games like Yu-gi-oh! or Force of Will should really enjoy this one. Fans of manga style art should enjoy the great artwork and designs. Overall, the game has a lot going for it and is a lot of fun.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Avarium Academy is a medium weight card game that plays like a CCG. The game doesn’t take that long with most sessions lasting around 20-30 minutes. The artwork is outstanding and feels like it was ripped from some of the best quality Manga or Anime. I love the design of the cards and love the extra little foil touches on the Idol cards. The tokens are a bit thin and the Merit dial is a bit flimsy but they get the job done. The game can be played with more than 2 players, however the duel format is where the game really shines best. Fans of dueling card games like Yu-gi-oh! and Force of Will should really enjoy the CCG feel of this game. Players that enjoy a lot of player interaction should find this one right up their alley as well. I would highly recommend this as a 2 player game. I really hope to see some expansions for this game in the near future with more Idols, students and schemes. This is a really great game that, like sushi, I can’t get enough of.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this game, please check out Chain Links Games at the Avarium Academy main site.

http://avariumthegame.com/main

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Preview Review of Hoard

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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!

Hoard is a game by Tim Kings-Lynne, Beck Veitch and Julia Schiller, published by Cheeky Parrot Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players are treasure seekers who’ve discovered a sleeping dragon’s treasure hoard. They will be trying to secure as much treasure as possible while fending off the other players and keeping the dragon asleep. The player that can best manage this will be declared the winner.

To begin, the three dragon cards should be placed in the middle of the play area and arranged to show the dragon fully asleep using the blue side of the cards. All the game cards are shuffled together. The top twelve cards of the deck are arranged around the 3 sleeping dragon cards to form a 5 x 3 grid. The remaining cards are placed facedown in a stack within reach of all players. Each player draws a starting hand of 5 cards. They also select a colored pawn which is placed on one of the 12 facedown cards that were placed around the dragon earlier. Each player is then able to peek at the card beneath their pawn. Once everyone has completed the task, play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. On a player’s turn, they may perform one of four different actions; roll and move, secure treasure, use a dragon action card or use a sword or shield card. The first action that can be taken is to roll and move. To do this, the player rolls the die and moves their pawn the number rolled either clockwise or counter clockwise. If the symbol is rolled, the player may stay where they are or they may announce a number between 1 and 5 and move that number of spaces. The player then secretly looks at the card they landed on. The player can then keep it and draw a new card to replace it with or they may replace the card with a card from their hand. If a new card is drawn, the player may look at it before placing it face down. If they choose not to keep the card, they may place it back face down and draw a card from the deck.

The next action that a player may take is to secure treasure. To do this the player may place a set of cards from their hand face up in front of themself, in their scoring area. At least three matching treasure cards must be placed to begin a set. Double item cards count as two cards. The player may later extend a set using at least two matching cards of the same color or one double card. A shield card may be laid down to accompany a sword card that was played on a prior turn to attack an opponent successfully. The shield card can also be played to take an opponents unpaired sword. Both cards are then placed in the player’s scoring area. Treasure chest cards are wild cards that can be used in place of any of the colored treasure cards. However, only one treasure chest may be played at a time and they cause a dragon card to be flipped over to it’s red awake side.

Another action that a player may take is to use a dragon action card. To do this the player simply places one of the dragon action cards in front of themself. A bones card will wake the dragon causing one of the dragon cards to be flipped over to the red awake side. The first time that the dragon is awakened the player flips over the tail section. The second time the body section is flipped and the last time the head is flipped over, ending the round. A Shhhh! card will cause the reverse effect, putting the dragon back to sleep. This is done by flipping the red dragon awake card back to it’s sleeping blue side. The choice card allows the player to choose between either the bones or shhh! side. The player simply announce which side they wish to use and place it face up in front of themself. Only one dragon action card may be played on a turn.

The last action that a player may choose to take is to use a sword or shield card. To do this the player simply places a sword card in front of them and names the opponent that they wish to attack. If that player has a shield card, they may place it in front of themself and take the attacker’s sword card, thereby blocking the attack and scoring points for themself. If the defender, does not have a shield card, the attacker may do one of three things. They may look at their opponent’s hand and take one of their cards from them, they may give them one of the cards from their hand or they may take a card from their opponent’s hand and give them one of their’s in exchange. The sword card remains in front of the attacker for any successful attacks.

Once a player has taken an action, play passes to the next player in turn order. The round continues from player to player until one of the round ending events take place. If the third dragon card is flipped over to it’s red awake side the round ends. It can also end if the last card is drawn from the deck. The other way the round can end is if a player ends their turn with no cards in their hand. In this case, each of the player’s opponents are allowed to take one final turn. One of the player’s opponents can use a sword card to give the player a card, thus delaying the round’s end. Of course that’s if an opponent has a sword card to use. Players may also try to fully wake the dragon causing the round to end immediately and not allowing any other players to have their last turn. Once the round ends, scoring takes place.

Scoring a round is done by counting up the points scored by each player. Players receive 1 point for each treasure card that was secured. Double cards count as 2 points. A sword and shield that are paired together count as 1 point. If a player played only 3 dragon action cards, they score 5 points for the set of 3. Players lose 1 point for each treasure card left in their hand. They lose 2 points for double cards. Treasure chests count as 1 point if secured but do not count against a player that has one left in their hand. Swords, shields and dragon action cards don’t count against a player either. Players then compare their scores and the player with the most points receives a 2 point scoring token. The second place player receives a 1 point scoring token. A new round is then setup and play continues. All this continues until a player has at least 5 points in tokens at the end of scoring. The player that does this first, is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
Since this was a prototype, the components aren’t finished. Therefore I won’t go into a lot of detail. What I will say is that most of the game consists of cards. Each of the different card designs look really nice. There is a really thematic approach to the look and feel, from the double sided dragon cards to the treasure cards. There’s really some great looking art for each one. I really like how that when the game is setup, it looks like a giant sleeping dragon on top of it’s hoard of golden treasure. It made me think of Smaug from the Hobbit. In the prototype the player pawns were different colored meeples, however I’m sure this will most likely change before the final draft. The game does come with a custom six sided die that has a unique looking symbol in place of the number 6. If you read the rules above you understand how this works out. In any event, the game really looks to be headed in the right direction. I think the finished product will only improve on a really great looking design.
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RULEBOOK
The rulebook is also a prototype copy. It’s very close to completed though so I can give you a fairly good idea of what to expect. First off it’s not very large. There are only a few pages so it doesn’t take long to read. It has several pictures but no real examples to speak of. Everything is really easy to read and understand. The rules are all laid out in an orderly fashion with each of the different actions explained thoroughly. With the smallness of the book, there’s not really a lot to it. That said, it looks nice and takes care of everything you need to know so that you can play the game.
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GAMEPLAY
This is a really light, fast and fun card game. It doesn’t take a lot of thinking or strategizing. It’s mainly about set collection. Of course there are a few more things to consider than just that. I played this one with my 6 year old daughter and she really enjoyed it. She enjoyed collecting the different treasures and moving around the board. She kept telling me to be quiet cause we didn’t want to wake the dragon. Of course by the third play through of the game, she was doing everything she could to wake that old dragon up. Needless to say, she’s pretty darn good at the game. I enjoyed the many different actions that were available. A lot of times everything seemed pretty well cut and dry. I’ve got 3 cards of one color, time to lay down and score some points. Other times it was a bit more challenging. Do I move to a card that I already know I could use or do I try to find something else and come back to the one that I already know. Lot of choices and lots of interactivity to be had with this game. It’s a fairly quick game too, with most rounds lasting about 10 minutes. The number of players per game and how everyone plays will affect the full play time. Either way, the game is a light fun game that is great for families. Fans of games like The Butterfly Garden and Bohnanza should really enjoy this one. It’s kid tested and father approved.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Hoard is a light weight card game of set collection and memory. The game time varies but each round takes about 10 minutes each. The art style and look of the game is really fun and thematic even in the prototype. The game is simple enough that younger players can enjoy the game as well as adults. It’s a great family game that will appeal to all players. There’s plenty of player interaction with only a little bit of strategy thrown in. My daughter and I both enjoyed the game and found it to be very entertaining. Fans of set collecting games like The Butterfly Garden and Bohnanza should enjoy this one as well. I would highly recommend this game especially to families. I look forward to the finished product. Looks to me like this is one game that is a treasure in it’s own right.
9 out of 10

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

http://www.cheekyparrotgames.com/

Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter campaign launching May 17th.

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