Saga of the Northmen Review

Saga of the Northmen is a game by Scott Leibbrandt, published by Minion Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of Northmen clan leaders during the Dark Ages. As leaders, they will be trying to gain control of the 7 major Kingdoms of Europe as they form trade routes and plunder the riches of these European Kingdoms. Of course their rivals can slow them down and even push them out of these Kingdoms through the use of their armies and fleets. In the end, the player that can gain the most wealth for their clan will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. Each player chooses a color and is given the influence cubes, hero tokens, time token and infamy card in their chosen color. The influence cards are shuffled and each player is randomly dealt 6 cards each. The remaining deck is placed facedown on the table. The top 3 cards of the deck are then placed in a row beside the deck. The trade route cards are shuffled and each player is randomly dealt 2 cards each. The remaining deck is placed facedown on the table. The plunder tokens are divided into 3 groups of 15 tokens each. Two sets of tokens are set aside for now. The remaining set is placed near the game board. The first player is chosen and is given the leader token. Players gain their starting infamy based on the number of players and their position in the turn rotation. Each player places a number of influence cubes equal to their starting infamy onto their infamy card. Play now begins.

The game is played over 3 rounds. Each round is divided into 3 phases; rally phase, marching phase and planning phase. The first phase is the rally phase. In this phase, players will each take turns beginning with the first player. On a player’s turn, they will follow 5 steps. First, they will play an influence card from their hand face up in front of themself. If there’s already a card on the table, they will cover it with the new card so that the current card is the only one visible. Next, the player will place an influence cube for each symbol on the card that they just placed onto the matching kingdom. Once that’s done, the player has the option of paying 3 infamy points to add a hero token to the kingdom that they just added influence cubes to. Next, the player will place a plunder token on a neutral region that is shown on the bottom of the card that they played. If the last plunder token is taken from the group for the current round, the rally phase immediately ends. Finally, the player will draw an influence card from either the 3 face up cards or from the deck. Play then passes to the next player who follows the same steps. This continues, until like mentioned earlier, the last plunder token for the round is taken.

The next phase is the marching phase. Before starting this phase, it’s recommended for players to place their hand of cards beneath their infamy card. This phase is divided into 7 steps. First, players determine who controls each kingdom by checking for majorities in each one. The player with the majority, leaves their pieces on the kingdom, while the remaining players must return their heroes to their supply and place their influence cubes onto their infamy card. These cubes now become infamy points and may be used immediately. Once each kingdom has been determined, players move their forces beginning with the Normans and continuing down the Kingdom chart on the board. Before moving any pieces, the player may choose to delay that kingdom’s movement by paying 5 infamy points, marking it with their time token. If the kingdom is delayed, play passes to the next kingdom. If the kingdom is not delayed, the player reveals the influence cards they played for that kingdom. For each soldier on the cards, the player is allowed to move 1 influence cube to a neutral kingdom adjacent to their kingdom. For each ship on the cards, the player is allowed to move 1 influence cube to any neutral region that’s adjacent to the sea. Hero tokens are moved as either soldiers or ships. Once a player has moved all their cubes out of a kingdom, the next kingdom on the chart is resolved in the same way. This continues until all 7 kingdoms have been resolved. Once this is finished, any kingdoms that were delayed will now perform their movements by following the same rules, beginning once again with the Normans and continuing down the chart. Next, any kingdom that contains pieces from more than 1 player must battle. The winner is the player with the most pieces in the region. The loser must return any heroes to their supply, while influence cubes become infamy points and are placed on the player’s infamy card. These points are available for use immediately. After any and all battles are resolved, players collect plunder tokens from the neutral regions that they control. Next, players are allowed to play trade route cards if they’re able to complete the route. To do this, the player must control the kingdom at the top of the card and have cubes in the neutral region at the bottom of the card. The player then places the completed trade route card in front of themself. Once this is completed, players remove their pieces from the neutral regions as well as any used time token, returning them to their supply.

The last phase is the planning phase. Beginning with the first player and continuing in player order, each player will take a turn. On a player’s turn, they will take one or both of the following actions; draw trade routes and/or hold influence. To draw trade routes, the player may spend 3 infamy points to draw 2 new trade route cards, choosing 1 to keep. The other card is returned to the bottom of the deck. To hold influence, the player may spend any number of infamy points to save influence cards already in their hand. They are allowed to keep 1 card for each point that they spend. Any influence cards that are not saved in this way, must be discarded. Once players have completed their planning turn, the influence deck and 3 face up cards are removed from the table. These cards along with any influence cards that were discarded are shuffled together to form a new deck. Each player is then dealt cards until they each have 6 cards in their hand. The deck is then placed face down on the table and the top 3 cards are placed face up in a row beside it. The next set of 15 plunder tokens are then moved next to the board to start the next round. The leader token is passed to the next player in turn order and a new round starts.

Once the third round has been completed, the game is over. Players will then compare their infamy points. The player with the most will receive bonus plunder equal to 1+ the number of trade routes they completed during the game. Player will then add up their points from their plunder tokens, completed trade routes and bonus plunder they may have received. Players will then compare scores and the one with the most points is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game looks really great. The board is a lovely picture of Europe with some nice details and colors on it. The influence cubes and plunder tokens are all brightly colored wood and are really sturdy. The hero tokens, time tokens and leader token are all cardboard. Each of these has some great looking artwork, especially the hero tokens. Each of these is unique and has a thematic looking hero on them . The cards for the game are outstanding. The influence cards are thematically great. I love the different ships and soldiers designs on them. The artwork looks great. The infamy cards are also nice and detail the different abilities and costs for each one on it. The trade route cards show off the same style look and art as the board. These are also quite nice as well. Overall I’m quite pleased with the look and feel of the game. It has several thematic elements to it that help get you involved in the game. I like it a lot.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this one is great. It has plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book. Each of the different playing pieces are explained in great detail. The rules are covered in great detail as well and are easy to read and understand. There’s nothing in the book that I found difficult or unable to figure out. It’s all pretty straight forward. It doesn’t take a long time to read over either, which I liked. Overall I’m very pleased with the look and feel of the rulebook. It’s quite nice.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I’ll be honest. When I first looked at this game I was thinking, “Is this a war game? I’m probably not going to like this game.” Happily, it’s not and I do. Like it, that is. Basically, in the most simple of terms the game is all about area control. Each round you will try to work out the turn order into your favor so that you can best control certain kingdoms. Once you have your marching orders, you’ll move your armies and fleets around to try to gain some lucrative plunder. There will be times when you’ll want to use your time token to delay your action to get a better idea of what your opponents are doing. However, you’ll have to be aware that they can do the same thing to you, making this a two edged sword. The good part is that even if you lose a kingdom or region, you’ve at least got some infamy points as a consolation prize to help you out later. Once you’ve got all that figured out, it’s time to use those infamy points and draw new cards and choose which ones you want to keep. This will help protect about the one weak point that I found in the game, the luck of the draw. You can’t really protect yourself completely from it. The only thing you can do is save whatever good cards you have, if you’re able, and hope for the best. I will say that I understand the comparison that this game gets to Ticket to Ride. The trade route portion of the game does have a mild similarity, but only mildly. Overall, I think the game works and is quite a lot of fun. Fans of area control games will enjoy the smooth streamlined mechanics of this one. It’s definitely a game that I would recommend.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Saga of the Northmen is a fun and streamlined area control game. It’s not a long game to play. Most game sessions last around 30 minutes or so. The artwork on both the board and cards is great and very thematic. I love the look and feel of these aspects. The game itself is a lot of fun and is smooth and fairly easy to play. Even though it’s not difficult to teach, there’s still a good bit of strategy to the game. This should make strategy players happy. The luck of the draw does factor into the gameplay but can be mitigated through the use of infamy points. The trade routes have some similarities to those in Ticket to Ride, but only slightly. Fans of area control games should enjoy this one a good bit. It’s definitely a game that I recommend. I really enjoyed it and think you will to. Now prepare the fleet, it’s time to sail.
9 out of 10

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

http://miniongames.com

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Okey Dokey Review

Okey Dokey is a game by Hisashi Hayashi, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is for 1-5 players. In this game, players will be working together to create a spectacular music festival. They will have to arrange a variety of vocalists, horn players, bassists, drummers and pianists in the correct formation if they hope to pull of the performance. If the players are able to place each musician in the right place, they will be declared the winners.

To begin, players should choose a difficulty level. This sets the amount of Equal cards that will be available during the game. Next the Reset cards should be placed into 5 piles of 2 cards face up in 5 rows. The Musician cards and the Equal cards are shuffled together. The deck is then placed face down on the table. The unused Equal cards are returned to the box. Each player is dealt a number of cards based on the number of players. Players are then able to look at their cards and without revealing any details, they should decide who will be the first player. Once this is determined, play now begins.

The game is played in a series of turns, beginning with the first player and continuing around the table in clockwise manner. On a player’s turn, they will take 1 of 2 different actions; play a Musician or an Equal card or place a Reset card. The first action a player can take is to either play a Musician or an Equal card. To do this, the player simply takes a card from their hand and plays it to the 10 x 5 grid following the placement rules. The placement rules affect many different aspects. We’ll discuss this in just a moment. For now, just be aware of the rules. Once a card has been played to the grid, the player draws a card and adds it to their hand.

The other option a player can take is to place a Reset card. To do this, the player simply chooses a suit of cards and places a Reset card from that row into the grid following the placement rules. This will be discussed in a moment. If there are no Reset cards left in that row, then this action can not be taken. It should also be noted that if there is already a Reset card in that column, then the action can’t be taken either. The player then may discard up to 2 cards from their hand to the bottom of the deck and then draw the same number of cards that they just discarded. This is only possible if there’s at least 1 card remaining in the deck.

Earlier I mentioned card placement rules. Let me explain those now. All the musician cards in a row must be of the same suit. That means that each row will contain a different suit. Each column of card must be complete before placing cards into a new column. That means that there must be 5 cards in a column before the next column can begin to have cards placed in it. Each card that’s played must be equal or greater than the card to it’s left. Reset and Equal cards don’t abide by this rule and may be played regardless. A Reset card sets the value of the row back to 0, allowing any new value to be played after it. In every column of cards there must be 1 Reset card and 4 musician or Equal cards. When the game ends, there should be 2 Reset cards per row. Equal cards may be placed instead of a musician card. In this case, the Equal card is equal to the same value as the card to it’s left. If a Reset card is to it’s left, then the Equal card also has a value of 0.

It should be noted that during the game, player discussions should be at a minimum. Players may reveal how many cards they have of a particular suit but may not say or even give hints about the values of their cards. They may suggest a suit they wish to play, but may not show their hand to another player. They may even say that they wish to play a Reset card for a particular suit.

The game continues until either the players succeed or they fail. To succeed, they will need to place 50 cards into the grid filling all 10 columns. In this case, they will win. If they are not able to carry out one of the 2 actions mentioned above, then the game ends and the players lose.

COMPONENTS
The game consists of only a deck of cards. The card quality is quite nice and durable. The artwork is bright and fun. I like all the different animal designs on each of the cards. They’re really cute and family friendly. I like that the numbers are quite large and easy to read even from a distance away. This makes it great for people with difficulties seeing smaller numbers. Looking at the game, it kind of reminds me of Hanabi or possibly Rook or Uno with all the colors and numbers. However I like these designs a lot better. Overall the game looks great. It’s a high quality deck of cards that easily carried around.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a double sided folded up piece of thick paper. It’s actually quite nice. There are pictures and examples all over it. Everything is laid out extremely well so that it’s very easy to read and understand. The rules look great and are well designed. I like that there are also some hints from the game designer to help players win the game. Overall, there’s nothing to complain about here.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a quick and simple game to play. However the game itself can be quite difficult to win. Upon first playing it the comparison to games like Hanabi, where you can’t really discuss the specifics of your cards but you can give generalizations, is quite similar. I will say that I like this a lot better than Hanabi though. I know. How could I insult my favorite designer Antoine Bauza like that? Simply put, cause this game is better. It also has some similarities to the game Parade, which I like a good bit, where cards are placed in a row by numbers. However, I like this one better than it too. The thing is, this game has a good bit of strategy to it. If you’re playing it solo, you really have to think about what you want to to do and try not to back yourself into a corner where you can’t make any kind of move. Playing with others, you will find yourself frustrated some times cause you just know that it would have been better if you’d played your card where the other player just placed a card. It’s a beautiful game of frustration that can drive you crazy in a good way. As I said, it has a lot of similarities to both Hanabi and Parade. Fans of those games should most definitely enjoy this one. Solo players that enjoy games like Friday, should like this one as well. Overall, it’s a great game that I think most people will enjoy. I would highly recommend it.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Okey Dokey is a light weight card game of hand management where players must work together without being able to discuss their hand except in generalizations. It’s a pretty quick game to play. Most game sessions last around 15-25 minutes. The cards are bright and colorful. The large numbers make it easy to see, even from a distance. The game is quite simple to play but can be difficult to win. It’s family friendly and fun for families to play. It’s got some strategy to it but nothing that will burn your brain or cause AP. Fans of games like Hanabi, Parade or Friday should really enjoy this one. I highly recommend it. It’s a great little game that can go anywhere. Now strike up the band, it’s time to play.
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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Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy’s Mask Review

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy’s Mask is a game by Mike Selinker, published by Paizo Publishing. It is for 1-4 players. The game may be played with up to 6 players if the Character Add On Deck is used. This review will be for the core game with the Half-Dead City Adventure Deck that comes included with the game. It should be noted that there are an additional 5 Adventure Decks that may be added to the base game to continue the story, as well as adding lots of new content. Those items will be discussed in a later review, as will the Character Add On Deck. This Adventure Deck is based on the Pathfinder RPG Adventure of the same name. In this game, players will take on the role of an adventurer in a fantasy style world. They will race against time to hunt down and defeat a dangerous villain. As they venture from location to location, they will acquire items, blessings and spells along with allies to help them in the fight. Of course they will have to be extremely careful, as monsters of every shape and size imaginable are waiting to attack at every turn. They will need to work together if they hope to thwart the villain and defeat him before time runs out. If they’re able to do this, they will be declared the winners.

To begin, each player will choose a character and take the corresponding character card and token card. They will then need to build a deck either from the requirements on the character card or by following the deck suggestions for each character found in the back of the rule book. The Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path card should be placed face up on the table, followed by the current adventure card and scenario card to be played. The locations should then be set out as described on the back of the scenario card. The location decks should then be set up as described on each specific location card. Villains and henchmen are then randomly added to each location deck, one per deck. Each location deck is then shuffled. The Blessing deck is then created from 30 random blessing cards and then shuffled. The deck is then placed face down on the table. Players now choose a location and place their token card near it. Each player will then shuffle their deck and draw their starting hand of cards as instructed by their character card. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they will follow a series of steps. The first thing they will need to do is to advance the Blessings deck. This is done by flipping over the top card of the Blessings deck onto the discard pile. If there is ever a time when a card must be removed or flipped over from this deck and there is no cards left, the players immediately lose. The next step is to give a card. It’s at this time that the player may take a card from their hand and give it to another player whose token shares the same location as theirs. The player may then move their token to another location in the next step. Of course this may trigger some effects which must be resolved before continuing. Next the player may explore their location once per turn unless they play a card that allows them to explore more. To do this, the player must flip over the top card of their current location deck. The card will either be a boon or a bane. If the card flipped over is a boon, they may attempt to acquire the card by rolling a skill check with the corresponding dice, playing any cards they wish to modify their skill with. If the player is able to meet or exceed the number of the check, then the boon is acquired and placed in the player’s hand. If the roll failed, the card is shuffled back into the location deck. If the player reveals a bane card when exploring, then they must attempt to defeat it. Just like with boons, the player rolls a skill check with the corresponding dice, adding any modifiers based on played cards. If the player is able to beat or exceed the number of the check then the bane is removed. However, if the bane isn’t defeated, then damage is applied to the player’s character equal to the amount of the difference between the difficulty to defeat the monster and the check result. Damage comes in the form of discarding a card from the player’s hand for each point of damage taken. If there aren’t enough cards in the player’s hand, then their entire hand is discarded. It should be noted that the character’s hit points comes from their deck. If a player runs out of cards in their deck, then the character is effectively dead. The character is removed from the rest of the adventure. If all of the characters in the adventure are dead, then the players lose the scenario. The next step for the player is to close the location. However this can only be done at a location that has no cards left in it’s deck. It should be noted that defeating some henchmen also provide an opportunity to close a location as well. Players should check the card to see if it’s possible. When the player wishes to close the location, they must check the location and follow the instructions for closing it. Usually this involves performing a specific skill check. The final thing to do on a player’s turn is to end their turn. Any effects that happen at the end of a turn are resolved first. Of course cards may be played and powers used as the player sees fit. The player then will reset their hand. Any effects that take place when a player resets their hand take effect at this point. The player then discards any number of cards that they wish. If the player has more cards than their hand size at this point, they must discard down to their hand size. If they have less cards, then they must draw from their deck till their cards match their hand size. Play then passes to the next player.

Players continue to play until either a henchmen or villain is encountered in one of the location decks. Encountering henchmen has already been discussed earlier. Encountering a villain is a bit different. When they are encountered, other players at a different location may try to temporarily close their location by following the instructions for closing it on the location card. Closing a location will keep a villain from escaping there during the encounter. Dealing with the villain is exactly the same as dealing with any other bane or henchmen, however the player must check the villain card and the location card for any special rules that might need to be applied first. If the player is able to defeat the villain, the villain will then attempt to move to another open location. If there are none left open, then the villain is defeated. The game is then over and the players win the scenario. If there is an open location, then the player counts the number of open locations and subtracts 1. That number of blessings is taken from the box and shuffled with the villain card. A card is then dealt to each open location and shuffled in with the location’s deck. If the player was unable to defeat the villain, then the blessings come from the blessings deck instead of the box. If there are no blessings left in the deck and the deck needs to be advanced, the players lose. A new scenario or adventure may then be played. Of course there are special setup rules for adjusting the player’s decks, raising skills and gaining feats between games. For more information on what needs to be done, please check the rulebook.

COMPONENTS
This game comes with a whole bunch of cards. The box itself is a bit longer than Rise of the Runelords. It seems to have a bit more room in it than the first one did. Hopefully that will make it where everything will fit in a lot better. Needless to say, there’s a lot of space to add extra adventure decks as well as the character add on deck. The cards look really nice and have a lot of great looking artwork that I’m sure was taken from the original RPG adventure. The card designs are very much similar to those in the previous games in the series. I enjoy everything Egyptian so the look of the cards have a lot of appeal to me. I like seeing all the different types of monsters and creatures that are included with this. I would say that if you enjoyed the artwork and designs on previous games in the series then you won’t be disappointed with this one either. The game also comes with a standard set of polyhedron dice. These are pretty plain and you’ll probably want to update the game with a better looking, possibly more thematic looking set. However they get the job done and are great as an extra set of dice. In any event, the game looks very good and is one that I’m proud to have in my collection.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is actually one of the biggest rulebooks that I think I own for a board game. At a whopping 30 pages, there’s a lot to read through. Thankfully the designers chose to add some shaded boxes to the rules for those of us that have played previous games in the series. These boxes explain any details that may have changed in this version. The book has a lot of nice looking pictures and plenty of examples of gameplay throughout. There are lots of places in the book where strategy for playing the game is discussed. There’s also instructions for playing solo. The rules include a 2 page example of how the game is played with plenty of explanations. There are also suggested deck lists for each of the characters, including those from the supplemental add on deck. The back cover has a nice reference sheet explaining many of the basics including the turn overview and encounters. I especially like all the brief character bios placed through the book that include a great looking picture of each one. Another great feature is the tray layout in the front of the book that shows where you will want to place each card type into the tray inside the game box. This is another great feature that I’m thankful they chose to include. Overall the book looks nice. It’s just long and will take a while to read through it all. Be prepared.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
As I’ve mentioned in prior reviews, I love Egyptian history and architecture. I love their artwork and everything associated with the country. I also enjoy the Pathfinder Adventure card game. Put them both together and you have the perfect storm of board games, at least for me. I like the RPG style feel of the game. I especially like that this entry to the series has the look and feel of my love for Egypt. This game has a lot of the same thematic feel that you might experience by playing the Pathfinder RPG, except that it takes a lot less time and involves less actual role playing. That might be a turn off to some RPG purists, but as a former player of RPGs, I like it. Sure I don’t get to act like my favorite elf character, but that’s ok. The game has a really great sense of tension as you play. I like that as things start getting really hairy near the end of the game, you’ll find yourself sweating bullets hoping that the blessing deck doesn’t run out before you defeat the villain that last time. I can say that as a solo game and as a multi player game, this work quite nicely. I especially like that the rule book pointed out a few things to help out while playing solo, like playing with 2 characters. Of course for those of us already familiar with the game, we knew to go that route already. I like that as the game progress each character has the ability to change and grow making the game feel more alive. It also helps you invest more into your character as you go along too. This is another RPG aspect that I miss from playing those types of games. You can really do a lot with the customization which makes me quite happy. Overall, this is another great series that I highly recommend. Fans of the Pathfinder RPG or any of the previous Adventure card games in the series should really enjoy this one. It’s also great for new players. I like it a lot.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy’s Mask is a RPG adventure style card game with an Egyptian theme. Hand management and exploration are highlighted in this game. This is a fairly long game, even playing solo. Most game sessions last any where from an hour and a half to 2 hours. Even with a long play time, the game is still a lot of fun. Fans of RPG games like Pathfinder and D&D should really enjoy this one. Any players familiar with any of the other entries into the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game series should find the gameplay of this one very familiar and should enjoy it as well. The artwork and design of the game looks great and shows off some beautiful art. This is a game that I would highly recommend. If you’ve never played any of these types of games, this is a great one to start off with. It’s great for both new and old players. There’s plenty of things to like about this one. It’s even got expansion decks to add more characters and more adventures to the mix. This is definitely one that will stick around for quite awhile with me. You will definitely like this one too.
9 out of 10

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

http://paizo.com

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Steam Works Review

Steam Works is a game by Alex Churchill, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of inventors in a Steampunk world. They will be trying to create various devices for Queen Victoria to gain prestige. In the end, the player that gains the most prestige will be declared the winner and will become the Royal Inventor to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. All the different tiles should be separated into individual stacks according to their backs. The 8 starting tiles are shuffled and placed face up onto the spaces of the blue conveyor belt on the board. The Age I, Age II and Age III stacks should be shuffled separately and then placed face down on the corresponding spaces on the board. The same should be done with the 3 basic source stacks. Each player is randomly given a Persona board which they should place in front of themself on the A side. They then receive cash and basic sources that match those shown on their Persona board. Each player also receives 2 mechanics in their chosen color, which are placed on the 2 leftmost mechanics spaces on their Persona board. The remaining mechanics and automatons in their color are placed on the corresponding spaces on the board. A number of clock counters are placed on the Age II, Age III and End Game spaces as indicated on the board for the corresponding number of players. The first player is chosen and is given the start player marker. Play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round players will take turns either paying to place a mechanic or passing and collecting income. Paying to place a mechanic is as simple as choosing one of your mechanics, paying the cost printed underneath them and placing them on an available space on either your own Persona board or any source tile in any device that’s already in play. If the player chooses to place a mechanic on their Persona board, they have 4 different actions they can choose from. They can take the rightmost tile of any conveyor belt, they can take any one basic source, they can build a device of size 2 from components and sources in their supply or they can activate one of their sources. It should be noted that when building a device, it must contain at least one source and one component. Each source must be connected to at least one component and each component must be connected to at least one source. Another option for the player is that they can also choose to place one of their mechanics on another player’s device on their source tile. If this action is chosen then the device’s owner takes a clock counter from the current age’s stack. Once a source tile is activated, either by the owner’s mechanic or by another player’s, then it sends power to any components directly connected to it. The player can freely choose to activate those components in any order they choose. If the source produces multiple types of power, then the player may choose which type of power to send in each direction.

The other option a player can take is to pass and collect income. If the player doesn’t have the money to place a mechanic or they simply choose not to, then they can pass. They will then place the mechanic onto their Persona’s picture and collect the cost for the mechanic from the bank instead of paying it. Play then passes to the next player who will pay to place a mechanic or pass. This continues until all player’s mechanics have been used. At this time, the round ends.

After the round is over, there are a few clean up steps that take place. First, each player will retrieve all their mechanics from wherever they are and place them back on their Persona board. The Automaton is returned to the board. Next, players check to see if the current stack of clock counters is empty. If it is, then the age has ended and a new age begins. If players were in Age I, then Age II begins and each player gains their third mechanic. The Age II stack is now used. If they were in Age II, then Age III begins and each player gains their fourth mechanic. The Age III stack is now used. If they were in Age III, then the game is over and final scoring occurs. We’ll discuss the end game in a moment. Next, the conveyor belts advance and get refilled. Any tiles remaining on the rightmost space of any belt on the board are now returned to the bottom of their corresponding stack. Each tile now is moved as far right as it can go. If a new age has started, then any empty spaces on the conveyor belt for that stack are now refilled. If there aren’t enough tiles in the current stack to fully refill a conveyor belt with, then the players must remove the remaining clock counters in the current stack from the game. This will then unlock the next age. If the current stack is the Game End stack, then the game is over. Once the belts have been filled, the start player marker is passed to the next player in turn order. A new round will then begin.

The game continues until the Game End stack of clock tokens has been emptied. Once this happens, final scoring occurs. Each player will now add up their prestige points from any prestige chips they may have collected. They also earn prestige points from clock counters, as well as from tiles in their completed devices that have a prestige point icon on them. Players compare their points and the one with the most prestige is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of nice looking pieces. The best looking part, in my opinion, would be the Persona boards. I love the artwork on these and think they look absolutely great. I will say that I’d wished that they had been a little bit thicker, like maybe the same thickness as the tiles instead of on the fairly thin cardboard. Speaking of the tiles, these are all thick cardboard which I’m very happy about. They could have used cards which would have slid around on the table and been a complete disaster. Thankfully they didn’t go that route. I do like that you can pretty much sit the different tiles out without having to worry too much about them getting messed up. However, I kind of wish that there had been more to these than just a bit of wording and some connectors. I would have liked to see my machine come to life in front of me. Instead I’m looking at a bunch of tiles arranged in front of me. Also made of thick cardboard are the clock tokens, money and prestige chips which I like the designs of, especially the money tokens. Of course the game is simply begging for some metal coins to upgrade it with. As a matter of fact, I think I saw some recently that have a very similar look to them which would most likely work extremely well. Needless to say, there’s a HUGE stack of punchboards inside the box when you first open it up. It’s gonna take you a bit of time to punch everything out. Kind of reminds me of the hours I spent placing stickers on the bundles of money for Millennium Blades. The game also has some wooden pieces included. There are mechanics and automatons in 5 different player colors, as well as the start player token. These are all very brightly colored and look great. I like the shapes that they chose for these. You really get a sense of the Steampunk theme from the shapes. Finally the last piece is the game board. I like that there are places for everything to sit on the board. I even like the conveyor belt style place holders for the different tiles. However it does seem to be lacking a bit, especially thematically. I just don’t get the same feel from it that I do from the rest of the game pieces. Overall though, I think it looks fine. It’s not perfect but it’s not bad either.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this one is nice. There are plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book. There’s a really great section on setting up the game with a full page picture of how it should look. About halfway through the book there is a section devoted to the different Persona boards. However only the B sides are referenced, there’s nothing to explain the A sides. You pretty much have to figure it out on your own by looking at the B side explanations. I didn’t like that at all. I felt that a simple paragraph could have explained this so that you didn’t waste a lot of time looking for what each one did. Bad show. The book also has a glossary with all the different tiles with explanations of how each one of them works. Now this was actually much appreciated and a great idea. I like that there are pictures of each one along with the descriptions. The rules themself felt a little haphazard and vague to me. They start off explaining how the tiles work before going into the actual rules. From there it just felt like what was presented didn’t fully explain things the way I felt that it should have. Even though there were examples to help explain things, I felt like a lot of what needed explaining wasn’t covered or given an example of. Overall, I would have preferred a more streamlined and detailed explanation of the rules. The book looks good but needs some work.
7 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I like the Steampunk genre. I mean, I REALLY like the Steampunk genre. I like the outfits, the technology, the theme. I like it all. On the outside, this game should be right up my alley and something that I really like. I like how that in a lot of ways, this game is a worker placement style game. You place your mechanics on a spot and then take an action. Simple. I like that you’re connecting different pieces together to form interesting new machines that will help you do lots of various things. I like that each of the Personas have different actions that you can do making each one unique. That is when you play with the B sides. All that is great. However, when playing with the A sides, there is really nothing different and so thematically it’s lacking. Things like this make the game feel a bit bland to me. It’s all well, fine and dandy that there are plenty of actions to take and that you can arrange things to help you out. That’s great. I just would have liked there to have been a more thematic feel to the game. For me, the game is just a tile laying game with some worker placement tacked on. I’m not big on tile laying games, so maybe that’s why this one falls a little short with me. I’d have rather seen a board with several different areas to place my mechanics to build different pieces and then have had some actual cardboard pieces that could either have been laid out in front of me or even put together to form some weird looking contraptions. Think Oceanos, how that you have these many different puzzle pieces that you put your sub together to be bigger and better. I’d have liked that a lot more. Now listen, I know I’m being a bit hard here. The game isn’t bad. In fact I do like several aspects of it. I’m just used to getting more. Fans of the Steampunk genre that don’t mind tile laying games with a bit of worker placement, might actually enjoy this one. For me, I’m just ok with it. I would play it again if someone asked. It’s just not one that will be on my top 10 list. I would recommend trying this one first to find out if it’s for you or not.
7 out of 10

OVERALL
Steam Works is a tile laying game of worker placement set in the Steampunk genre. It’s a bit too long with game sessions lasting over an hour and a half, many lasting closer to 2 hours. Mostly the components look quite nice but some aspects feel a bit unconnected with the theme and somewhat bland. The rulebook is a little bit vague on several items and could use a bit more work streamlining everything. For me, the gameplay is ok. It just feels a bit disconnected from the overall theme of the game. Griping aside, the game isn’t bad, it just isn’t what I was expecting. I still like many aspects of the game and would play it again if asked. Fans of the Steampunk genre that like tile laying games with aspects of worker placement might enjoy this one. I would recommend giving this one a try first. That way you can see if it’s right for you. For me however, the hunt continues for the perfect Steampunk game.
7 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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Amun-Re Review

Amun- Re is a game by Reiner Knizia, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. It is for 3-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of Egyptian royalty. They will be trying to acquire new provinces through auction as well as build pyramids and develop cultures through the Old and New Kingdoms. In the end, the player that can gain the most victory points will be crowned the Pharaoh as well as being declared the winner.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. The deck of Province cards and the deck of Favor cards should be shuffled separately. Depending on the number of players, a certain number of Province cards will be returned to the box without revealing them. Each deck is then placed faced down on the board. The farmers should be placed on their spot on the board, as should the stones, pyramids and double pyramids. The 4 Offering tiles should be placed face up next to the board. The gold cards should be separated by value with each one being placed in a stack face up beside the board to form the Gold Reserve. Each player chooses a color and is given 3 scribe pawns and a scoring cube in their chosen color. The scoring cube is placed beside the score track on the board. They will also receive 20 gold value worth of cards (1 one, 2 twos, 1 five and 1 ten), as well as a theft card and an architect’s favor card. The first player is randomly determined and is given the Start Player token. Play now begins.

The game is played over two ages, the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom. Each age is divided into 3 rounds with scoring at the end of each age. Each round is divided into 4 phases; auctioning provinces, purchase and construction, offerings to Amun-Re and harvest and income. The first phase is the auctioning provinces phase. In this phase, a number of province cards are drawn equal to the number of players and placed on the board in the corresponding province. Any stones, favor cards or gold shown in the Immediate Bonuses box of the province are placed on the province. Players in turn order will then place one of their scribe pawns on an unoccupied bidding space on one of the province cards. When placing a scribe, they may also place a protection card to block the next highest space on the card with their scribe on it. This will make it where another player would have to bid two spaces higher for a province. Once it’s a player’s turn again, they may either pass if their scribe still holds the highest position on a card or they were outbid, they may move their scribe to an unoccupied space on a different province card. It should be noted that the player may move to a higher position on the same card by playing a bribery card. Once all the provinces have only one scribe on them, each player must pay the amount of their bid in gold to the reserve. The province card is then placed in front of the player, leaving the scribe on the province to show ownership. They then take the immediate bonuses that were placed on the province.

The next phase is the purchase and construction phase. In this phase, players can make purchases beginning with the first player. Players can purchase favor cards, farmers and stones in this order. The cost for these is shown on the Order and Cost to purchase section of the board. Up to 4 favor cards can be purchased, this is determined by the highest number of favor symbols on a single province controlled by the player. Farmers may be purchased to be placed in open fields in the player’s province. However there must be a spot to place them in one of the player’s provinces. Stones can be purchased and are immediately placed in one of the player’s provinces. As soon as a third stone is placed in a single province, the player replaces the 3 stones with a pyramid. If a single pyramid is already there, it’s replaced with a double pyramid. Free Farmer and Architect cards may be played during this phase to place a farmer for free, or to build a pyramid using only 2 stones.

The third phase is the offerings to Amun-Re. In this phase, players secretly select one or more of their gold cards as an offering. They will hold them out and cover them with their hand to show they are finished. Once all players have committed to an offering, the cards are revealed. Players can offer gold cards as well as a theft card, which will allow the player to steal 3 gold from the supply. They can also offer an offering adjustment card which will allow the player to either increase or decrease the total value of the offering by 3. Each player totals up their offering, reducing a player’s offering by 3 if they offered a theft card. Each personal offering is added with all the other players to get a total. Any player with a Offering Adjustment card now declares their decision to either increase or decrease. Once the collective offering is determined, the corresponding offering tile is placed on the Nile delta of the board. Players that played a theft card return it to their hand and collect 3 gold from the supply. At this point, the player that offered the most gold is given 3 rewards as well as the first player marker. This can be favor cards, stones or farmers in any combination as long as they add up to 3. The second highest offering gets 2 rewards and the remaining players only get 1 reward. It should be noted that a player that played a theft card does not receive a reward.

The final phase is the harvest and income phase. In this phase, players earn gold for gold mines, caravans and farms. Each province that has a gold mine earns gold equal to the number shown for the gold mine. Caravans earn gold equal to the number above the camel icon in the player’s province. However they only earn gold if the offering tile shows a camel on it. Farms earn gold for each farmer in a player’s province. Each farmer earns equal to the amount of gold shown on the current offering tile. A player may also play a Big Harvest card to earn 1 extra gold per farmer in 1 of their provinces. A player also has the option to play a Treasury card which allows them to gain 8 gold for one of their provinces instead of the amount they would have collected.

Once these 4 phases have been completed, the round is over. If this is the 1st or 2nd round of an age, then a new round begins like normal. If instead it’s the end of the 3rd round of the age of the Old Kingdom, then the province deck should be empty at this time. Victory points are scored before beginning the age of the New Kingdom. We will discuss scoring in just a moment. At the end of the round it’s the end of the Old Kingdom, then players must remove all the scribes and farmers from their provinces and return farmers to the supply. All the province cards that were played are shuffled to form a new province deck which is then placed on the board. Pyramids and stones are not removed. If instead, it’s the end of the New Kingdom, then on top of regular scoring, players earn victory points for having the most gold. Once the New Kingdom is over, then so is the game. Final scoring occurs. Scoring for both ages is as follows. Players gain points for each of their temples, for pyramids they possess, for each pyramid in their province with the fewest pyramids in it, for having the most pyramids on one of the sides of the Nile and for each yellow favor card. The player’s scoring marker is then moved along the scoring track a number of spaces equal to the victory points earned. Once final scoring for the New Kingdom is over, the player with the most victory points is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This is a really lovely looking game. The board really gives you that feel of Ancient Egypt with all the really great artwork. It’s also really great that there are spots on the board for all the different aspects of the game, such as the decks, farmers and pyramids. Speaking of the decks, the different card types are really nicely done as well. I like how easy they are to understand. The artwork is a little basic but it helps convey the card’s purpose without giving you too much information. The game also comes with some wooden pieces. There are victory point markers for keeping up with your score on the scoring track as well as the scribe pawns. Let me just say, these scribe pawns are absolutely hilarious. When I first saw them, I immediately thought of the old Bangle’s song, “Walk Like an Egyptian”. Now I’ve got the song playing in my head again. Each pawn and marker is brightly colored and looks great. There are also some really cool looking pyramids and stones included with the game. I really love the look of these. They really convey the Egyptian feel. Finally the game comes with some cardboard tokens and tiles for the farmers and the offering tiles, as well as the first player marker. These are also a lot like the cards and don’t flood you with a lot of art and information. However, I really like the look of them and think they really fit in well with the game. Overall, I really think the game fits the theme extremely well and you really get that Egyptian look. This is a really great looking game in my opinion.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is actually quite nice. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. I will say that it does fold open more like a map however instead of an actual book. That could be to make room for the large board and components overview on the inside cover. All of the symbology on the board as well as the different phases of the game are covered in great detail. There is also a really nice rules overview, that when the book is opened, appears on the other side of the board picture. I’m guessing that this was planned cause it’s really quite helpful. There are also some expert rules that I didn’t cover included in the book for putting a bit more difficulty to the game. The back cover of the book explains the different favor cards and how to count up victory points. I didn’t see anything that was difficult to understand or read. All total the book consists of only 6 pages, so reading over this won’t take long at all. Overall I think the rules are really well designed.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I love Egypt and all things Egyptian. I love reading about it’s history and looking at all the beautiful pieces of artwork and architecture. It’s no wonder that this game really appeals to me on so many levels. As I’ve already mentioned, the game is beautiful and thematic. Each piece works well with each other. The game mixes area control with an economic bidding mechanic to form a well designed game. It has a good bit of player interaction as well as a bit of strategy too. One thing that I quite like about the game is that it’s broken up into 2 ages and this is where the scoring occurs. This gives the players a couple of rounds to get as many points as they can through a little strategic planning. Once that age is over everything but stones and pyramids get wiped out. Kind of like how ancient dynasties would be wiped out by later rulers, leaving only remnants of their stonework behind. I really feel that anyone that loves Egyptian history like I do, will really enjoy this game. Fans of Knizia’s work should find this game quite enjoyable as well. I highly recommend this one.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Amun-Re is a game of economics and area control with an Egyptian theme. The game isn’t extremely long. Most game sessions last around an hour and 15 minutes or so. The components are really great. I especially like the artwork of the board and the pyramids. Thematically the game is really sound. I get a really nice sense of the different ages and how each dynasty builds off the older ones. The game is really enjoyable. I like that there’s just enough strategy in the game. It’s not too heavy. There’s a good bit of player interaction which I really enjoy as well. Fans of Reiner Knizia’s games, as well as players that like Egyptian history should really enjoy this one. I would highly recommend this one. It’s a whole lot of fun and fills my need for an Egyptian themed game. This is one that you should definitely take a look at if you’ve never played it before. Pharaoh would be proud.
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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Munchkin X-Men Review

Munchkin X-Men is a game developed and published by USAopoly. It is for 3-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of a student at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. They will develop their abilities to help them level up as they use their powers to defeat some of the X-men’s most dangerous foes. In the end, the player that reaches level 10 first will be declared the winner and will become the newest member of the X-men.

To begin, the cards are divided into two separate decks, one for the Door cards and one for the Treasure cards. Both decks are then shuffled separately. Each player is then dealt 4 cards from each deck. The decks are then placed in the middle of the play area face down. Each player is then dealt a random role card and is given a plastic tracker which is placed on the level 1 rank on their role card. The die is placed where all players can reach it. If a player has any Affiliation or Power cards of Rank 1, they may play them face up in front of themself. If they have usable items or Ally cards, these may be played face up as well. It should be noted that a player is only allowed to have one Affiliation, unless they play a Team Up card. Likewise, they may only have 1 ally. A player may also only equip a certain amount of items. A player is allowed up to 1 headgear, 1 armor, 1 footgear and either 1 two handed item or 2 one handed items. Once players have finished playing any usable cards, play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round, players will take a turn consisting of three phases; kick open the door, look for trouble or loot the room and charity. The first phase is to kick open the door. In this phase, the player will draw the top card from the door deck and turn it face up. If the card revealed is a monster, then combat occurs. We’ll discuss combat in more detail in just a bit. If the player revealed a trap card, then the trap is applied to the player and then discarded, unless the trap has a persistent effect. In this case, it is kept face up in front of the player as a reminder. Any other card types that are revealed are either placed in the player’s hand or may be played immediately if the player is able to legally do so.

Let me take a moment now to explain combat. Combat is resolved simply by comparing the monster’s combat strength against the players. The player’s combat strength is a combination of their level along with any bonuses or penalties from special power, affiliations, abilities, items, allies and traps. The player, as well as other players are allowed to play one shot items or use affiliation abilities to either help or harm the player during combat. The monster’s combat strength is a combination of it’s level, as well as any modifiers, plus or minus, from any cards played on it by any player or from it’s own powers. Once these strengths are determined, the player checks each. If the player’s strength is higher, the monster is killed and the player goes up a level, sometimes 2 levels in the case of bigger monsters. The player is also awarded a number of treasure cards, as determined by the monster card defeated. If by some chance, the player is unable to beat the monster because it’s strength is higher, then the player must try to run away. To do this, the player must roll the die. As long as they roll a 5 or higher, they’re fine and suffer no penalties. However, if they roll lower, then they suffer the bad stuff listed on the monster’s card. This could be anything from losing levels, an item or even death. It should be noted that sometimes a monster can not be killed by the player. In these instances it’s ok for the player to ask another player for help. However, only one player may help. If a player does decide to help, their combat strength is added to he current player’s. Of course another player is not obligated to help and so a bit of bribing might be in order to acquire their help.

The next phase in a player’s turn is to look for trouble or loot the room. This phase only happens if the player didn’t fight a monster in the last phase. In this phase, the player has 2 options to choose from. If they choose to look for trouble, they may then play a monster card from their hand and fight it. The other option is to loot the room. In this case, the player draws a second card from the door deck face down and places it in their hand. These cards can be saved for later and used on another player’s combat turn or depending on the card that was drawn, they can play it immediately to help themselves.

The final phase is the charity phase. In this phase, the player is forced to play or discard down to a hand of only 5 cards. Any excess cards in the player’s hand are then given to the player with the lowest level. Once this has been completed, play passes to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until a player is able to beat a monster to become level 10. When that happens, the game is over and the level 10 player is the winner.

COMPONENTS
Let me just say, I’ve been a fan of Marvel comics for a long time, especially the X-Men. I’ve been reading them since I was a kid and still enjoy them. The characters have always been some of my favorites in all the world of comics; characters like Gambit and Rogue, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, Longshot, Magneto, Mister Sinister and even Wolverine. The cards in this game show off characters like them and what makes them who they are in a really beautiful way. The artwork is really amazing. Each deck has lots of stunning visuals that you will simply love looking at. The role cards are bigger and are double sided with a female mutant on one side and a male mutant on the other. I like that each role is different and provides a unique ability that only they have. It’s like you are your own mutant. The die that comes with the game is really nice. It’s very bright and colorful and has an X-Men X on one side. It’s really cool looking and I think it looks really nice. Lastly, there are some small round discs that are red and somewhat see through. These are used to keep track of your level with. Overall, I love the look of everything that comes inside the box, including the insert. Yes, I said I like the insert. It’s a rather cool looking piece too. Everything looks amazing.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this one is quite nice. There are plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book. Like many of the Munchkin rulebooks, it does seem a bit longer than it has to be. The rules themselves aren’t that difficult and could easily be explained in a lot less time and with a lot fewer words. However, I’m not complaining. I’d rather have everything covered in detail then have to go hunting for explanations online. Everything is well covered, as I just said. There are some instructions for combining this game with other Munchkin sets like the Munchkin Marvel edition or even Super Munchkin. However, you’ll have to go online or have a copy of the rules from Munchkin 7 – Cheat With Both Hands to be able to merge sets with. There are a few variants that can be used as players see fit as well. Overall, the rules are pretty good. I can’t really complain about them too much.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Anyone that’s played Munchkin before knows how much fun and chaotic this type of game can be. The same is true of this one as well. It’s a lot of good old fashioned chaos but fun to the hilt. This version introduces the world of the X-Men to the game. You’ve got these role types that you can play as which are really quite cool. It’s like you’re playing a new mutant in Xavier’s school that’s trying to learn the ropes. Each player has special powers that will help them throughout the game. I really like how this makes each character a bit more unique and makes the game a little more thematic. The biggest change in the game for me was the traps. In Munchkin you face curses, however this game changes them to traps. Thematically it makes more sense but really does the same job. As a fan of Munchkin, I especially like this version. As I mentioned before I’m a big fan of Marvel comics so any fans like me should really enjoy this game. Fans of Munchkin and especially the newest Marvel version should really enjoy this one, especially since it can be combined with the Marvel edition. Overall, we really enjoy it as most comic fans should. I highly recommend it. It’s definitely one that will see a lot of play time with us.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Munchkin X-Men is a light weight card game that brings Marvel’s X-Men to the world of Munchkin. The game is very easy and fun to play. It doesn’t take too long to play. Most game sessions last around an hour. Fans of Marvel comics, especially the X-Men should really enjoy this one. Munchkin fans will enjoy this one too, especially if they’ve already been enjoing the Marvel edition that can easily be combined with this game. The artwork is really great on all the cards. I love how cool each one looks. It’s like the images were ripped right from the comics. The game is tons of fun and is great with teens and kids of all ages, making this a very family friendly game. This is one that I highly recommend. Stan Lee would be very proud. Excelsior!
9 out of 10

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

http://www.usaopoly.com/

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Phoenix Covenant Review

Phoenix Covenant is a game by Easwaran Subbaraman, Sriraman Subbaraman, Adam Porroni and Soren Fox, published by Hikari Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will take on the role of Officer Corps Initiate. They will build an army from various types of units to form an elite fighting force that they will use to best their fellow officers with in strategic combat. The player that can best do this will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the table. Players should either create their own deck following the rules for building a deck or they may choose to use one of the preconstructed decklists from the rulebook as a guide. For beginning players, it’s recommended to use one of these preconstructed decks. Each player places their structures and any auxillary units into their side deck, which is placed face up below their side of the board in it’s corresponding spot. The units, spells and other cards create the player’s main deck and should be shuffled together and placed face down below the board in it’s spot. Each player is given a resource tracker which should be set to 25 life points. The first player is chosen. They then set their trackers to 1/1 Command Points and 0/0 Mana Points, while the other players sets their tracker to 1/1 Command Points and 1/1 Mana Points. Each player now draws 6 cards to form their starting hand. If a player wishes they may Mulligan. In this case, the player may keep up to 3 cards in their hand and reshuffle the discarded cards back into their deck. They then draw up to their hand size of 6. If they still aren’t happy with their hand, they are allowed to keep doing this. However, each time the player Mulligans after the first time, their hand size is decreased by 1. Once players have their starting hand, play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round a player is allowed a single turn of play. Each turn is divided into 3 phases; start phase, action phase and end phase. The first phase is the start phase. In this phase, players will follow a few actions. They will un-exert all their units and structures by flipping their exert tokens to the unexerted side. They will then draw a card from their deck. Their Command Points and Mana Points are refilled back to their maximum values. Finally, they resolve any start phase abilities or effects on any of their cards. Players can deconstruct any structures that they control by discarding them to their defeated pile.

The next phase is the action phase. In this phase, the player is allowed to do several actions during their turn. They can gain and spend 2 Essence points, once every turn. They can either add 1 to both their their Command Points and their Mana Points, or they can add 2 to either of these. The points are added to both the Max and Current point values. As long as a player is able to meet the requirements, they can play a card or activate a unit or structure. To be able to play a card, the player must pay it’s cost. To play a unit, the player must also reduce their max command points by the unit’s tier value. If the unit also has a mana burst value on it as well, then the player must also reduce their max mana points by this value. The unit is then place on any unoccupied square in the player’s home row and with an exerted token on it. It should be noted that Commander units allow a player to gate in a unit beside them. This means that once a Commander has been played to the home row and then moved out into the field, they create squares that allow units to be played onto just like the home row. However, a player can not use this ability to gate in another Commander unit or a unit this is of a higher tier than the Commander unit. The player can also play a spell card. This is done by simply paying the mana burst cost and resolving the effect of the spell. The card is then placed in the defeated pile. There are 2 types of spell. Strategic spells can only be used on the player’s turn, while Tactical spells can be used on either player’s turn. Another card that can be played is a structure. These are played from a player’s side deck and must be played onto a hard point. They don’t require a supply cost. They come into play exerted just like units do. Players can also activate cards that they already have in play. The player simply chooses a unit to activate. Each time a unit is activated, they can either move and turn or act. To move and turn, the player simply chooses an un exerted unit and moves it a number of adjacent squares up to it’s move value. They they are able to turn the unit to face a specific direction. For a unit to act, the player chooses whether to attack or use an ability action. The attack will cause the unit to exert. Attacking has 3 stages; declaration, resolution and damage. First the player declares which unit they are attacking with and which they are attacking. It must be within the activated unit’s range. The unit is then exerted with an exert token. Next, the damage dealt to the targeted unit is computed by resolving any applicable armor or weakpoints against the force of the attack. Finally damage is resolved based on the previous results. If the unit is reduced to 0 hit points, it is defeated and placed into the defeated pile. The player regains it’s supply value. Spells can be used during the declaration as well as the damage phases. A player can attack bases and hard points as well as units. If any damage is to be applied during the damage phase, it reduces the player that owns it’s life points instead. If a player chooses to use a unit’s ability, the player must first pay the cost of the ability before resolving the ability. It should be noted that an exerted unit can not use any abilities that makes it exert. Once the player completes the action phase by either exerting all their units or by choosing to end the phase, play then moves to the end phase.

The last phase is the end phase. In this phase, players discard cards from their hand to their defeated pile until they reach their hand limit. Any cards in play with end phase abilities or effects resolve at this point. Once this is completed, a new round begins.

The game continues until one of the players has been reduced to 0 life points. At this time, the game ends. The player that reduced their opponent to 0 is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of really amazing looking pieces. Of course the game comes with 4 prebuilt card decks as well as a puzzle deck to help you learn the game and a couple of quick reference cards. There’s also an expansion pack of card to add to everything. The artwork on these is absolutely gorgeous. It looks like something taken from Magic the Gathering or one of those Boris Vallejo paintings. The cards are not like you’re regular deck of playing cards. These are square like a tile instead of a card. Just looking at the icons and text on these makes me think of Magic the Gathering. I mean, it’s not the exact same look but it definitely gives me that type of vibe. The game also comes with lots of cardboard tokens for everything from shields and health to poison and scrap tokens. Also included with the game are these really awesome looking resource trackers. I immediately thought of the dials in those Fantasy Flight LCG games like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars the Card Game. Finally the game has this super sturdy board. It has a very similar look as the one for Summoner Wars Master Set. However this one has green squares instead of the brown ones in Summoner Wars. Everything looks really great and is really great quality. The artwork is phenomenal and I really enjoy just looking at all the cards. Overall the game is really great.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a real piece of work. The first half of the book is a walkthrough of the core mechanics of the game. Using the puzzle deck, it gives you scenarios to work through as well as the answer on how you should have performed. By the time that you get through it all, you’ve got a really good handle on the game itself. The second half of the book is a straight up rulebook. This includes the game setup as well as all the different phases and rules associated with each one. There are also rules on deck building as well as a fairly good sized dictionary of terms used in the game. Finally there is a section for each of the deck lists and which cards belong to which deck along with space to write your own ideas. There are lots of great looking pictures and plenty of examples of gameplay. Working your way through the walkthrough and then reading the rules, there’s nothing that you won’t understand afterwards. The rules are pretty straight forward and I didn’t see anything that was too difficult to understand. I should mention that the last page of the book has a handy quick reference guide to help while playing the game. Overall, I think the designers did a really great job here. I’d give it an A+.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This game is a really unique tactical experience. It combines aspects of games like Summoner Wars and Magic the Gathering and weaves them together to form a really great blend of mechanics. In a lot of ways you get that feeling that this is one of those big time collectible card games like Magic the Gathering. It also has that living card game feel, because it has everything you need to play in the box. You don’t have to buy tons of random packs of cards to get what you want. The game comes with 4 different decks as well as a stack of cards to customize your own deck with. Each deck has a rather unique feel, much like what the starter decks for Magic the Gathering feel like. There are a lot of options available to each player when playing the game. Working out how best to attack your opponent’s life points is the key. The game is a little bit slow starting out but once you start getting stuff rolling out onto the field, it’s all hands on deck. After playing through the game a couple of times, you’ll definitely want to build your own deck. I really like that the game makes this a possibility and even provides rules on how to customize your own deck. Or course the game is simply begging for expansions decks to be able to further customize your game with. I like the strategic feel of the game. Fans of strategy games like Summoner Wars will definitely enjoy this one. With the movement of units across the board and the various attack abilities of the cards, you’ll definitely feel right at home here. Magic the Gathering fans will enjoy the various spells and units that you can command. Miniature wargamers may even enjoy this one as you get a lot of the same feel of a skirmish style game without the miniatures. Overall, this game is really amazing and a lot of fun. I highly recommend it. There’s really a lot to like here.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Phoenix Covenant is a medium weight tactical card game that combines elements of both CCG and LCGs into a unique experience. The game isn’t extremely long. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes or so. The game doesn’t take a long time to learn either. You can be up and running in about 10-15 minutes. The game looks beautiful, especially the cards. I really love the stylized artwork that reminds me of the designs on cards for Magic the Gathering. The game involves a good bit of strategy, which will make strategy gamers extremely happy. For me, it feels like a mesh of Magic the Gathering and Summoner Wars. I really like the tactical combat that this one has, as well as the possibilities for custom deck building. I’m really hoping that there will be expansion decks in the near future to further customize the decks with. There’s really a lot to like about this game. Fans of games like Summoner Wars or CCGs like Magic the Gathering should really enjoy this one. I highly recommend it. It definitely scratches a lot of itches.
9 out of 10

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

http://hikarigames.com/

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