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10 Games that Blew Me Away

Hey there loyal readers!

Once again, I find myself writing about the top ten games of some description (I did so thoroughly enjoy myself last time!). However, rather than looking forward to games I haven’t yet played, I’ll be diving into the past to tell you about the ten games that blew my mind when I played them.  Some of these may not be surprising, sure, but that doesn’t make the impact they had on me any smaller. If you’re just starting your foray into the hobby, or are just looking for high quality games, then this is the list for you! Let’s get straight into it.

10. Illuminati


Way back when I was a wee lad, I used to accompany my mum to her boyfriend’s house. One night he pulled out Illuminati, touting it as “the game that got him into gaming”. Taking control of a secret organisation vying for world domination, Illuminati is a wild, mathy ride of alliances, betrayal, blowouts and secrecy that kept me entertained for hours on end; the game manages downtime exceptionally well by keeping everyone involved in the action pretty much all the time. It also did hidden identities and variable player exceptionally well, and is a game that, in my opinion, was well beyond its time.

It’s definitely an involved game. It requires a lot of calculating and some probability knowledge certainly won’t go astray. It  lends itself to kingmaker scenarios  especially as if the leader snowballs out of control. Surprisingly, some cheeky humour combined with a gaming experience I haven’t found elsewhere make Illuminati an easy include. It  That being said, dedicated hobby gamers whose feelings are not hurt by vicious, potentially backstabbing friends will love what is offered in this game of conspiracy.

9. Revolution

Revolution Box Cover

At CanCon many years back, someone brought Revolution back to our cabin to give it a go. Many hours later, we finished our session of several games of this cutthroat, strategic bidding/area control game. Each turn, you spend all of your resources in order to influence various members of the city and gain a mix of resources, points and influence in the city. Rinse and repeat until the city is filled with influence, then the person with the most points is the winner, with the different areas of the city awarding points for the majority influence holder in them.

Bidding games are sometimes a bit tedious but Revolution’s revolutionary (I love my puns) bidding mechanic drew me in quickly.  Resources are great, but temporary; Influence is awesome, but it can be removed. Points are great, but they make it harder to gain support on the following turn. What do you go for and when? Do you focus on controlling a few, powerful members of the city or do you try and influence as many as possible, risking getting outbid? A quick forty or fifty minutes per game, Revolution has been a hit every time, and I still happily play this one to this very day.

8. 7 Wonders: Duel

7 Wonders: Duel Box Cover

When 7 Wonders came out, it was a roaring success among many board gamers, myself included. However, as time went on, I grew  tired of it; sometimes the player on the other end of the table would win and it wouldn’t mean anything to me. It was bland at times, and sometimes the game left it completely out of my control. It became a little too chaotic at higher players counts, where it becomes a popular choice due to how “well” it plays so many. I’m not saying 7 Wonders is a bad game; on the contrary, it’s quite wonderful. But something was missing…

And it feels like 7 Wonders: Duel has taken everything I loved in the original and added so much more. Easily a stronger game than its bigger brother, this little two player head-to-head card drafting game is now my go-to two player game for anyone looking for a great two-player game. Accessible but strategically very deep, Duel is an exciting journey through the ages in around thirty minutes, with a constant back and forth feeling in the game, as well as different avenues to victory that are all viable. What’s not to like about all that? If you loved 7 Wonders, you’ll likely adore this smaller yet strategically richer entry in the line.

7. Agricola

Agricola Box Cover

I debated putting this one higher on my list, but here at number seven we find the game that introduced worker placement to me.  Agricola is a controversial game that divides many gamers. Some abhor having to feed their people and the constant pressure they feel because of it. Others, myself included, love this stress and almost problem solving gameplay, layered with so many different card combinations that no two games will be the same. The first few times we played, we simply dealt out the cards randomly, which resulted in some very powerful combinations. Since then, we’ve implemented the drafting variant, and man oh man does the game really shine then.

There are many valid criticisms of Agricola, and it certainly takes a lot of getting used to. All that being said, I often think of Agricola as a very important steeping stone in my own gamer journey, and there was a time when we played it weekend after weekend without tiring of it. I have yet to play Caverna, which supposedly addresses some of Agricola’s shortcomings. Even so, I doubt it would supplant this wonderful, whimsical farming game from this list.

6. BattleCON: Devastation of Indines

Really, this could stand in for any of the BattleCON games, but this was the big one which really secured my love for it. After playing the game on iPad, this was the first game I really went out of my way to get because I loved it so much. Whereas Yomi was an absolute dud for me, BattleCON captured my love of arcade fighting games and tactical card games.

The result is one of the most innovative games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. What’s more, there is enough replayability in the box that you’ll never run out of content. Wildly different characters, simple yet deep mechanics, and an amazing double-think style of play mean this is likely to never leave my shelf.

5. Apotheca

Apotheca Box CoverThe most recent in mind blowing games, Apotheca is the game that came out of nowhere. I’ve not heard of the companies that made it nor the designer, nor did I hear anything of the game on Kickstarter. But one gaming night, when I was preparing to play Archipelago, I saw the fanciful potions and the grid-like board of a puzzle game, and kept a constant eye on it as I played my own game of colonisation. The more I watched, the more I wished I was playing this wonderfully unique abstract game.

Something of a very advanced Connect Four, Apotheca asks players to find clever ways to get three potions of the same colour in a row. With many unique player powers, a solid catch-up mechanic, simple set up and great player scaling, I’d go so far as to say that Apotheca is the best relatively unknown game I’ve played ever. This is a criminally underrated and unknown game; if you can, track down a copy and you won’t regret it. This has been a success with gamers and non-gamers alike, and at some point I’ll get around to getting a copy for myself too!

4. Power Grid

Power Grid

Few games have racked up nearly as many plays as Power Grid for me. I can distinctly remember playing five or six games of it in a row late on a weekend night in Canberra, sleeping only as the sun was just about to come up again and my brain was out of energy. Incredibly mathy and punishing, Power Grid is one of those games that really rewards precision. Make one wrong calculation, one wrong purchase, one misstep, and you’ll be crushed underfoot.

That is what blew me away about it, though. Everything you do, the bidding on power plants, the purchasing of resources, where you expand to, what you use to power your cities, literally everything matters so much. You have to be paying attention to everything in the game, every slight change in what people are doing, lest you fall behind in the money race. It’s been years since I’ve tabled this, but if someone were to ask me for a game, I’d happily jump in and be a power company CEO again.

3. Codenames

Codenames Box CoverAt the end of last year, I began hearing about a party game all about words. A game where players would try and link as many words together with a single clue. The premise sounded interesting, and when I managed to snag a copy of Codenames at CanCon, it was an instant crowdpleaser. We played so many games that night at varying player counts, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had playing a party game. Dixit amazes me too, but there’s something so satisfying about giving a good clue in Codenames, or even just being on the same wavelength as the spymaster. And, of course, it’s an absolute riot when you’re not. As the rules booklet says, win or lose, it’s fun to solve the clues.

Codenames is one of the only games that I consider to be “perfect”, winning the Spiel des Jahres. In fact, it’s the only game on this list of games that blew my mind that I consider so. That’s quite a testament to this game’s magnificence, especially given that it has to compete with my favourite game of all time:

2. Star Wars: Rebellion

Star Wars: Rebellion Box Cover

It’s no secret I’m a huge Star Wars fanboy. When I finally got the chance to play Rebellion, I tried to keep my expectations in check. I’d heard wonderful things, and I was worried about being disappointed. The giant board was set up, I’d read the rules the night before in anticipation, and took Imperial Command. And so began the greatest Star Wars experience any game has ever offered me. Having played two games since then every single one has had me hooked for every second, from the setup ’till the destruction of the Death Star or the Rebel Base.

With the exception of extended combats, which tend to be a bit of a drag, Rebellion blew me away not only thematically, but also mechanically. Never had an asymmetrical experience felt both so unfair yet fair at the same tim. It encapsulates the struggle of the rag-tag Rebels and the might of the Empire so well, you constantly feel hounded and sneaky as the Rebels, whilst feeling almighty and unstoppable as the evil Empire. The mission mechanic is also something I want to see in more and more games going forward; the assigning of all your favourite characters to missions truly evokes an emerging narrative as you play, and even though it does take quite a while, I’ve always come away wanting more.

1. Pandemic: Legacy

Pandemic: Legacy Box Cover

Number one on boardgamegeek for a reason. Pandemic: Legacy is one of the most revolutionary game in board gaming history. This is not the best game by no means. Sometimes we were eliminated by pure chance, or a series of fortunate draws or events meant we breezed through. There were lulls or gameplay that seemed a bit tedious. Yet here it is, at number one, and here’s why.

There is no game like it on the market at the moment. No game can come close to delivering the ongoing and mostly engaging story that it can. No game makes your triumphs feel better or your failures feel as bad as this one. No game has made me this attached to a character, or had me as surprised  at the twists it offered. Playing through those twenty games it took us to emerge victorious was an incredible journey; far and away the most novel and unique gaming experience I’ve ever had. Simple enough to get into, and if you have four willing to play, Pandemic: Legacy is hours of fun. Forget the naysayers talking about the finite experience. if I had three people eager, I’d go through it all again even though I completed the story.

Yeah, it was that good.



Top 10 Games on my Watch List

Greetings lovely readers!

Today, we’re going to be looking at the top ten new games on my want to play list . With GenCon come and gone, the market is flooding with exciting new titles, and if you’re not sure where to start, check out what I feel are some of the most interesting new games. It’s quite a mixed bunch, with a mix of light and heavy, lucky and strategic, serious and whimsical. 2016 has been a wonderful year for games, and hopefully this list will help to showcase why.

(A quick disclaimer; I haven’t included any card or miniatures games in this list. If I had, Arkham Horror: The Card Game would most definitely be on it, but I’ve spoken about that enough already. You can check out my thoughts here and here)

And now we begin with:

10: The Dragon & Flagon

The Dragon & Flagon

Of similar ilk to Colt Express, The Dragon & Flagon is a fun filled, chaotic game of silly fun. From what I can tell, Dragon & Flagon doesn’t appear quite as simple or elegant as Colt Express, but what you sacrifice in simplicity and ease you make up for in far greater replayability and variation. The fact that the game comes with a cool 3D double sided board and rules for team play only makes me eager. More mayhem than I normally like, but if I’m looking for just plain silly fun, this may be the perfect game to scratch that itch.

9: Captain Sonar

Captain Sonar Box Cover

Captain Sonar is the game on my list that I’m not sure I would purchase.  Not at all cause of the quality, but for the simple fact it plays a very specific amount of players. That being said, the idea of two teams of four pitted in a hectic, real-time undersea battle, with each player on each team playing an integral but different role sounds like an unparalleled experience. I’m not sure when I’ll play this one, but I’m sure that’ll be an incredibly fun time for all involved.

8. A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King

Hand of the King Box Cover

What interests me is about this game is not the theme (which I suspect will be paper thin), but that it is the latest game by Bruno Cathala, easily in my top three favourite designers (I love Five Tribes and 7 Wonders: Duel). Hand of the King seems to be a similar style of puzzle game, one that is easy enough to explain to newcomers but complex enough to reward solving the puzzles it offers. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but I do love me a puzzle game, and Mr Cathala has more than earned my trust.

7. Star Trek: Ascendancy

Star Trek: Ascendancy Box Cover

Star Trek: Ascendancy promises an  epic, asymmetrical space adventure that has definitely piqued my interest. Finally, players will be able to take command of a great empire from the source material and boldly go where no-one has gone before! Whilst I haven’t seen much of the series, I’m interested enough to see if the “epic space 4X” shaped hole in my cupboard can be plugged with this beast of a game.

6. Islebound

Islebound Box Cover

Ryan Laukat is an absolute weapon; it’s not often you get the same person being the designer, artist AND publisher for a game. The Above and Below universe offers a whimsical journey of light-hearted fun, and the nautical theme of Islebound is an attractive glimpse of the world. The game promises various routes to success, such as being a pirate or befriending the happy people of the world. I’m constantly on the lookout for lighter, family friendly games and Islebound is certainly ticking all the boxes it needs to.

5. Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars Box Cover

A fairly deep euro game, players take on the role of corporations trying to terraform Mars the best. The game will involve engine building and card drafting, allowing each corporation to form unique machines of world-altering power. It’s not the prettiest game, but that almost adds to the very gritty, real-world science feel of the whole thing, and it’s an experience I’m very much looking forward to.

4. Vast: The Crystal Caverns

Vast: The Crystal Caverns Box Cover

One of the games that came out of nowhere and took Gencon by storm was Vast: The Crystal Caverns. Touted as “the most asymmetrical game ever”, the game plays wildly differently at different player counts and with different combinations. You may be the Knight trying to slay the Dragon. Perhaps you’d rather be the Dragon trying to eat the Goblins? Maybe the Goblins tickle your fancy and you’d rather defeat the Knight. What about the Thief, who’s not even involved in that triangle? Well, if none of those tickle your fancy, why not play the CAVE ITSELF and try and crush everyone? While not the most unique theme ever, this ambitious title is something I’m very much looking forward to tabling.

3. Cry Havoc

Cry Havoc Box Cover

We’ve had space exploration.  We’ve had terraforming. What about good ol’ combat? Cry Havoc is yet another sci-fi game, this time taking place on a contested planet. Each player takes control of a very unique race in this area control game, with vastly different powers and play-styles. With a sprinkling of deckbuilding and one of the best combat systems I’ve ever heard of, Cry Havoc looks like a serious contender for many people’s game of the year. With hype like that, can you blame me for jumping on the bandwagon?

2. New Angeles

New Angeles Box Cover

I’m not a huge fan of Netrunner, but I love the cyberpunk universe of Android. New Angeles’ premise. The game reminds me of Archipelago; players need to work together to ensure the populace are satisfied and don’t riot (well, not too much at least). The draw of this game for me is finding out whether the “collaborative” component of the game will succeed. From what I’ve seen, I’m excited (though I worry it may seem a bit too vicious) and I suspect it will be  a mega hit if not too expensive.

And now…

Among these games, there have been some pretty fantastical themes; a bar fight, a dystopian future, outer space and foreign planets, and even above and beneath the sea. Yet strange as it may seem, the game I’m most looking forward to playing is about living a normal life on Earth. No spaceships, no magic, no oceans, no megacorps. Just life and:

1. The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness Box Cover

Touted as the euro-lover’s game of Life, The Pursuit of Happiness seems like an absolute ball. Have a relationship and a family or work hard at winning the Olympics and live a lavish life filled with megayachts. In The Pursuit of Happiness, you can do it all as you try and live the happiest life possible. The game oozes theme, and I can’t wait for all the stories each game will tell about the characters.


Seafall Box Cover

Easily the most conspicuous game absent from the list is SeaFall, the first standalone legacy game. Plaid Hat are a great company and Rob Daviau a great designer, so SeaFall should be a great game. However, my enthusiasm for this title is dwindling quickly. Why? Because I’ve yet to hear any reviewer tell me how great the game is. Because most reviewers seem to be waiting for the game to get better. Because most reviewers seem like they’re losing hope. And that makes me sad.

I could go on for ages about SeaFall, but I want to end this article on a positive note. Every game on my list is something I believe to be very special, each of them offering something exciting. It was a hard list to construct, and there are many more games than ten that have my attention. Which ones have yours? What are you looking forward to playing?

Until next time!

Quadropolis: An Aficionado Review

Greetings loyal readers, and welcome to my review of Quadropolis!

Days of Wonder (DoW) are easily one of the most recognisable names in the board game world. You’ll be hard pressed to find a hobby gamer who hasn’t heard of Ticket to Ride, and other games like Small World are certainly of widespread repute throughout the industry. The way in which DoW have cultivated such a prestigious brand is through two major factors: outstanding component quality, and a slow trickle of great games as opposed to a splattering of mediocre ones. When you buy a DoW game, you’re in for a great time from the moment you open the shrink wrap.

It should come then as no great surprise that it gives me great pleasure to bring you my review on the only completely new game from DoW this year: Quadropolis by new game designer François Gandon (this is literally his first release!)

Many of the colourful buildings of Quadropolis splayed over the box cover.

So many colours! Many of the buildings on offer in Quadropolis. What will your city look like?

A brand new game and a brand new designer from a well established company? It certainly sounds like they were confident with this one. Let’s dive into the role of the mayor of a city and see if this job is really as great as it sets out to be.



DoW have once again delivered well on the production side; the thick cardboard bits, colourful (if a bit bland) illustrations and the high quality meeple and barrels certainly don’t disappoint.  The game is very colourblind friendly,  and contains some simple iconography which, while not overly helpful for in-game purposes, does make explaining scoring for certain pieces simpler. Overall, it’s the same quality we’ve come to expect, but there’s no standout components. Everything is good, but nothing is exciting, except for:

The box insert included in Quadropolis. It features a perfect amount of space for everything, and everything is divided appropriately.

How to do a box insert correctly.

I know it might be a bit silly to get so excited over something that’ just used for storing the game. The fact is, however, that storing and putting away a game can be made incredibly tedious by poor boxes (Fantasy Flight Games is often the victim of such criticism). By minimising excise you’re never gonna have that feeling of dread when you need to set up or pack away the game. In fact, resetting the game and packing it up took the better part of two minutes for my playgroup! My only concern is that there isn’t really room for expansions, and I hate carrying around multiple boxes for one game.

The Aficionado was also impressed by how easy the rules were to read and understand. Easy to understand explanation accompanied by diagrams make explaining the game a breeze. As such, Quadropolis is a very easy game to get onto the table and teach to new players, even those with short attention spans.

+Same high quality bits we’ve come to expect from DoW

+Amazingly set out box insert.

+Well set out rulebook, functional and elegant.

~Nothing overly exciting or standout. Bits are all fairly standard (meeple, octagons and cardboard squares)



Quadropolis is an abstract city building game, where players act as mayors of a city under construction. During each round, players will take turns trying to acquire the buildings they need to create the highest scoring city they possibly can. However, as players send off their architects to start building, it starts getting really crowded. This in turn makes it increasingly more difficult to build the buildings you want, both due to your own city filling up and players, intentionally or unintentionally, blocking you. It’s a pretty classic Euro-style game, but the Aficionado found that the tension and blocking in the game definitely plays a major part of the experience.

The heart of the game is that players will take turns placing an architect around a 5 x 5 board. Depending on where they place their architect and on what number the architect is, they will obtain a different building and have to place that building onto a space on their board corresponding to the number of the architect. If you’re not quite sure you understand, have a look at this helpful three step visual guide to understand.

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Got that? Well, there’s a little bit more to it than that. After all, who is this Urbanist fella?

Well, in short, the Urbanist is an unpleasant guy or your best friend, depending on if you’re placing them or being blocked by them. When placing an architect, there are two rules you must follow. Firstly, you cannot place an architect so that it would point at the Urbanist. In the example above, the next player therefore could not place an architect in the third column or the opposite side of the second row. Secondly,  architects stay where they are until the end of the round. This means that other players cannot place architects on top of others’. As the board fills with architects and empty spaces, it becomes more and more likely that you may be unable to take buildings you want. You may even end up taking nothing at all! Sometimes it’s tough being a mayor.

In the classic game, players will be placing architects numbered one to four, in an order of their choice. Play alternates clockwise until players have placed four architects each, at which point the board clears and the next round begins. After four rounds, the game is over and players score their buildings. How, you ask? Well, that depends on the building and whether the building is powered or not. I won’t go into excessive detail, as there are many different ways they score. For example, Factories like being near Harbours and Shops, while Tower Blocks like being stacked on top of each other.

Each of the buildings you can build in the game.

(Top) Park, Factory, Shop
(Mid) Public Services, Harbour, Tower Block
(Bot) Office Tower, Monument

When you select a building, it grants you the resources in the top left hand corner. Whilst these do nothing until the end of the game, I would advise that you collect them as you go. The life of a mayor is tough, and being able to visually manage your pieces makes it much easier. In the bottom right corner, buildings require resources in order to be powered, with only parks (and monuments in the expert game) not requiring anything. If you cannot power the building then that building will not score!

Stress not, however, as you’re not required to assign your resources until game end, allowing you to optimise in case you come up short. Interestingly, the game also encourages you to “waste not”; for every excess person or energy you produce, you lose a point. The people of Quadropolis dislike overcrowding and excess pollution, much like we do. After powering buildings and scoring points for them, as well as losing points due to your excess, the winner is the player with the most points.

A city in Quadropolis at game end. It scored 54 points.

My second ever city, which took the second game with a score of 54. It certainly is satisfying to see your city nice and finished 🙂

That’s already quite a bit of game, but there are actually two different game modes: Classic and Expert. The Aficionado is normally one to just jump straight into expert, but he found Classic to be more than deep enough already. In fact, Expert appears to be more of a hardcore variant than a more complete game. There are significant differences between the two, so much in fact that I can easily see both modes seeing play as almost separate games.

At first, in spite of Quadropolis‘ simple mechanics, it was really difficult to grasp exactly what to do. Early on, the Aficionado and his pals felt a bit overwhelmed, aimlessly taking moves with no sense of long term strategy. However, after two rounds, the gears in everyone’s heads began turning and the tension of each decision became very evident. In the end, the first game was very tight, with first and second needing a tiebreak, and third only a point behind!

One concern of Quadropolis is that it could certainly induce analysis paralysis. Every move in the game is crucial, and there are a lot of possible moves at any given time. I personally don’t find this to be a huge issue, but if you play with people prone to analysing every single possible move at all times, this otherwise short game may overstay its welcome. Other than that, the game features some well implemented tension and puzzle solving into an unimposing and relatively short game.

+Interesting and difficult puzzles to solve each and every move.

+City building is enjoyable, and long-term planning is rewarded.

+Easy to understand and learn, coupled with short playing time.

+Innovative core mechanic that creates a lot of tension.

+Two modes of player, but neither is lacking.

~Scoring is not obvious.  Keeps players invested, but makes decision making harder.

-Prone to analysis paralysis.

-Can feel surprisingly mean sometimes.



Much like DoW‘s other title Five TribesQuadropolis plays like a large, complex, multi-layered puzzle. I thoroughly enjoyed what was on offer here, and this is  one  I’ll keep in my collection. The mechanics and depth of the game will keep me coming back for more, and the theme is very family friendly. For those who enjoy simple mechanics with deep replayability and puzzle style games, this foray by François Gandon will offer a tonne of fun.

The Aficionado was very impressed by this game.

Grade: A

Interested in some of the games mentioned in this article? You can find them here:


Stopping Cthulhu One Game at a Time

Cthulhu. A character that pretty much every gamer under the sun nowadays has heard of. The board game industry has absolutely exploded with various takes on the Lovecraftian universe, in particular by Fantasy Flight Games, with Elder Sign and Eldritch Horror being some of the more notable ones in recent years, as well as the classic Arkham Horror. A lot of this coincides with the rising popularity of purely co-operative experiences, and in today’s article, we look at three more of these co-op battles against the dark and terrible forces of the universe.

Mansions of Madness Second Edition

Mansions of Madness Second Edition Official Image

Far and away the largest game of the three, Mansions of Madness Second Edition departs notably from the original in that it is now a fully co-operative game. Gone are the days of the “dungeon master” type player; now everyone can work together to solve the mysteries and best the horrors they encounter.

How does it achieve this?

By making use of a companion app, just as games like XCOM have in the past.

The app comes with stories spoken aloud and many useful tools for keeping track of various game elements, such as damage on enemies and slowly revealing information that would normally be controlled by the dungeon master player. In my opinion, this is where the app will really shine; damage tokens can get really fiddly, and the clever removal of the 1 v X gameplay will certainly push its cause in a market increasingly appreciative of purely co-operative games.

An example screen from the companion app

The app helps you know where all the action is, including clues, doors and even friends…or foes.

Another aspect of the game achieved via the app are puzzles in the same vein as mastermind and other similar puzzles, which you must solve in order to open locked rooms or other various things in the game. Whilst this is certainly a novel idea and I find such puzzles enjoyable. I query whether Mansions of Madness Second Edition has delved too far into technological possibilities and become a video game with physical parts as opposed to a board game supported by an app.

I’m a little apprehensive at just the extent to which the app is required for the game. What happens if support for the game dies out, and a game-breaking bug never gets patched? These are issues that aren’t present in purely physical tabletop games, and only time will tell just how successful they’ll be. Myself, I have a small gripe with any game that’s not complete out the box or is completely dependant on technology. If co-operative Cthulhu monster fighting or investigation style games are your cup of tea and you’re not against the coming wave of app based games, then Mansions of Madness Second Edition will be right up your alley.


Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu Official Image

Pandemic is credited with starting the co-op revolution in board gaming, so it makes sense that Chuck D.  Yager eventually decided the time had come for Cthulhu to invade the frantic and challenging design by Matt Leacock. Instead of going around the world to stop the spread of viruses, however, this time you’ll be stopping cults and their rituals in order to save the world. As the game progresses, monsters and other horrible creatures will awaken and radically influence the game; a large departure from the original Pandemic. For those who are concerned about a reskinned game, fear not; whilst the elements that made Pandemic great are still there, there is enough difference to be worthy of more than a cursory glance.

The world is crumbling....can you stop it?

The world is crumbling….can you stop it?

Compared to many other Cthulhu games (excluding Elder Sign, which I find lacks the depth and replayability required of a great game), Reign of Cthulhu is quite accessible to newer board gamers, and would likely be a solid entry into the wonderful world of board gaming. With some fantastic looking player pieces, Reign of Cthulhu will likely interest those looking for Pandemic with a twist, or those who are more interested in sealing away ancient evils than curing diseases (I’m a bigger fan of the latter, especially after the wonderful Pandemic: Legacy).

Arkham Horror The Card Game

Easily the one I’m most looking forward to whilst also being the most mysterious of the three is the upcoming Living Card Game Arkham Horror, an entry is far more interesting than the previous two in the author’s opinion.

One, it’s not based on an already existing game like the earlier two were.

Two, it’s only the second co-operative Living Card Game to be released, after The Lord of the Rings back in 2011.

There’s a lot of ground to cover and explore in this area, and hopefully Fantasy Flight can take to heart the lessons learned by the early missteps in Lord of the Rings and deliver a gripping and engaging experience from the get go (the core set of Lord of the Rings was great, but the first cycle was lacking. They’ve gotten a lot better lately, and they’ve created really innovative mechanics in the last two years).

One of the character cards in the base game, Roland Banks, and his unique character card.

Roland Banks is a federal agent with a secret past. As part of the game, you’ll be taking on the role of a character, complete with unique cards and deck-building restrictions.

Players each take on the role of investigators trying to get to the bottom of some Lovecraftian breed of mystery (who’d have thought?).  In addition, taking some recent inspiration from Warhammer 40000: Conquest, each character comes with some unique cards which must be included in their deck; the twist, of course, is that not all of these cards are good. You may find yourself suffering from Amnesia or need to Cover Up some of the crimes of your past! Really keen to see how this works out!

Other substantial departures include a fairly unique token bag system, which seems to present unique opportunities for difficulty scaling as opposed to a purely random dice system. Some tokens will produce effects which vary depending on the character and adventure, while others will simply provide a boost or penalty to your efforts.

The way in which actions are taken and resolved is far more akin to a role-playing game than any other LCG; in fact, many other aspects of role-playing games have also been incorporated with an emphasis on persistent character development between games.

Having the focus be on long term continued campaigns from the get go is ambitious; I’m concerned that single, isolated games may suffer slightly if the focus becomes too much on the campaign, much like Imperial Assault, where the game is unplayable as a standalone. However, the potential for the game to be incredibly rewarding and groundbreaking also exponentially increases from this risky venture, and I’ll be eagerly watching the development of the game over time.

I personally love playing these flawed heroes and trying to save the world from horrid monstrosities from beyond time and space, and the world of HP Lovecraft is rife with many stories to share with friends around the board gaming table.  With even more boxes of mystery and wonder to be opened and enjoyed, these games may be your gateway to another world…of fun (and terror, but mostly fun).

Check out some of the games mentioned in this article!

All About Living Card Games

Introduced by Fantasy Flight Games  all the way back in 2008, the Living Card Game (LCG) model of distribution is an innovative alternative to the widespread collectible card game model.  Anyone who has played Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon will know the sting that competitive play can bring to your wallet, as you try and track down those rare competitive cards whose prices make money strapped gamers sad. The LCG model was the answer to this, beginning with A Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu back in 2008, with many more games joining the fixed distribution model later on.

For those who don’t know what the main draw of an LCG is, it’s quite simple; no random packs. Before you purchase a product, you know exactly what you’re going to get. No more chasing down those money cards and forking out ludicrous amounts of money just for the right to compete. Just work out which pack the cards you want are from and grab that. Or just grab everything; keeping up with an LCG is really not an expensive venture, and they combine excellent gameplay with their lowered barriers to entry to create a healthy and thriving scene.

If you’re not sure which LCG is for you, then you’ve come to the right place; I’ll be looking at each LCG that is currently in print and still continuing to release product (as well as one upcoming one), giving a brief rundown on my own thoughts on the game, as well as a quick recommendation on who I believe it’s suitable for. Note that this article doesn’t cover the LCG-like games of other companies (Doomtown: Reloaded and VS2PCG come to mind), but only those offered by Fantasy Flight Games.

I’m going to use the generic terms “Pack” and “Deluxe” to represent the smaller sixty card expansions (well, three times twenty different card) and the larger box expansions respectively. They are called different things depending on the game, but for the sake of simplicity, I will be using these two terms instead. If you’re thinking about getting into the LCG, click on the title just before their respective sections. Without further ado, let’s get into it, starting with:

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (2011)

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Lord of the Rings is an interesting product in that whilst it has been out the longest and has far and away the most product available for it (currently 33 Packs and 12 deluxe expansions), it is also the game that has the lowest barrier to entry, a virtue of the fact that the game is entirely co-operative. You need not be concerned with needing everything; you can grab everything at your own pace and slowly discover the game. In fact, the Core Set itself contains so many powerful cards that with the Core Set and even just a handful of packs, you can build decks to take on any adventure.

The game has really ramped up in the last few years. I found the initial quests in the early cycles to be a bit lacking, but the last three cycles have been absolutely amazing, as have the Fellowship adventures, which allow for a campaign mode as well. And boy oh boy have the quests gotten harder; even with well tailored decks and experienced players, the game is very difficult, just as a co-op game should be.

A great option for solo-play and even as a pseudo board game on its own, Lord of the Rings is definitely worth a look into if you’re looking for a readily expandable cooperative experience that’s thematic, challenging and innovative. Probably one of the further advantages of the game is that even if your area lacks a playgroup, you’re still able to enjoy all of the game by yourself, or even with friends; you don’t need a community for the game to be at its best. A good entry point would be two Core Sets and some of the Fellowship deluxes, Alternatively, one cycle of six packs plus the deluxe to go with it can replace the Fellowship deluxes. An important thing to note is that each cycle is tied to a deluxe, thus you’re better off not buying random packs without the corresponding deluxe. As far as cycles go, I was a huge fan of the Land of Shadow, and am really liking the interesting direction the designers have taken with the Grey Havens, so either of those would make for awesome places to begin your adventures in Middle-Earth.

Android: Netrunner (2012)

Android: Netrunner

I will freely admit that Netrunner is one of the few LCGs I haven’t had much experience with. An asymmetric card game set in a cyberpunk world, one player plays as the hacker trying to bypass all of the traps and blockades set up by the corp played by the other. It’s certainly a very unique game, forgoing much of the standard spend resources, play character of other games and replacing it with a game full of risk management, bluffing and constant tension. Sure, cards still cost money, but the main driving force of the game is action and risk management.

Netrunner has easily seen the most success out of all the LCGs, with hundreds of players turning up for its largest events.  Now many cycles in, the game is very deep and deck possibilities are vast and varied. That, however, comes at a cost, and the entry point at the moment is intimidating. In my own experiences, it’s the type of game that you have to make your main game to truly enjoy it;  the hidden knowledge component of the game means that not being up to date with the cards is going to cost you even more than in other games, and the risk management/math heavy nature of the game means that in order to get the most out of Netrunner, you have to invest yourself in it,

Thankfully, the community resources are far and away the most expansive of the LCGs, and you will likely have no issue finding tournaments or competitive-minded players to play against. I would recommend Netrunner to the competitive card gamer looking for something to throw themselves into, but definitely not for those looking to just dabble and play for fun; to me, the game just doesn’t quite do casual well, and shines brightest in the heat of competition.

Star Wars: The Card Game (2012)

Star Wars: The Card Game

Yet another asymmetric game, though not quite to the extent of NetrunnerStar Wars: The Card Game  has had a bit of a tumultuous history. After an excellent and interesting core set, the first cycle was rather weak, and that coupled with delays meant that many became disillusioned with it. As a point of comparison, Star Wars and Netrunner were released in the same year, but Star Wars is seven packs behind! This means that it’s much more difficult to find a tournament for Star Wars.

That said, the game is not without fantastic mechanics that, again, got much better as time went on (the second cycle was magnificent). If you’re a true fan of the license, you can have a lot of fun with this game, and there are a whole heap of viable options for deckbuilding at a casual, fun level. There is a bit of a thematic disconnect which a lot of people have taken issue with (an X-Wing blasting down Darth Vader, or the Executor being poked by Ewoks for example) but with two core sets and two Edge of Darkness expansion packs, a lot of fun can be had. It pains me that I can’t recommend this higher, given how interesting the game play is (really, if you like game design, try play a game of it) and how much I like the license, but you can’t win ’em all.

Warhammer 40000: Conquest (2014)

Warhammer 40,000: Conquest

Speaking of excellent game design, the LCGs continue to deliver with Eric Lang’s Warhammer 40000: Conquest. Much like Netrunner, Conquest really lends itself to tournament play above anything else; you can certainly play the factions you like, but due to the super tight game play, not playing with competitive options means you’re going to get crushed quickly. With a much more spacial aspect than the other LCGs (fitting given the license) and the extremely innovative and well thought out simultaneous decision making mechanic, Warhammer 40000: Conquest has a lot going for it gameplay-wise for a start.

What’s more, on top of the strong license, great gameplay  and fantastic artwork is the relatively low price point of the game at the moment. With only two deluxes and thirteen packs, you can have everything in the game for a relatively low entry point. Whilst recent developments on the game have been slow and it lacks the same consistent community which both Netrunner and the next game have in spades, you could do far worse as far as great, skill intensive competitive games go.

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition (2015)

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

Wasting no time after ending First Edition, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition (AGOT 2.0) is running pretty hot at the moment. If you’re a fan of the source material, you’ll find all of your favourite characters faithfully represented in AGOT 2.0, which currently has a heavy focus on these unique fan favourite characters going into various challenges against one another as you struggle for the Iron Throne. With a healthy mix of luck and skill, relatively simple mechanics, a healthy and steadily growing community and the fact that it’s currently FFG’s youngest LCG, AGOT 2.0 is definitely the game to get into at the moment if you’re on the fence about all the others (or you’re just a mega-fan of the series).

Much like Netrunner and ConquestAGOT 2.0 is primarily a competitive game. The first of two game modes, Joust is the more common of the two and is  a traditional one versus one affair. In addition, casual play is much more encouraged mechanically than in any other LCG, at least in my opinion. This is further exemplified by the wilder, more chaotic Melee format, where three to four players struggle for the throne, forging alliances only to break them off just as quickly. The melee option even works quite well as just a family board game on its own, making AGOT 2.0 one of the easier games to sample first before committing.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game (4th Quarter 2016-Early 2017)

The only LCG not yet released that we’ll be looking at today is the mysterious Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Not too much is known about this game yet, but early reports point towards a hybrid LCG/roleplaying experience unlike any other game on the market. I’m incredibly curious to see how much FFG has learned about making a cooperative LCG from Lord of the Rings, and if they can get it right from the beginning, the popular theme and innovative design space may prove to be a winner!

Whichever LCG you do end up choosing, I hope you have an amazing time with the diverse, thematic experiences awaiting you in each and every box. Fantasy Flight Games have done a wonderful job with the core of each of their card games, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this innovative model of card games (there are two more upcoming LCGs, but they’ll have to wait for another article).

European Machines and Havoc in Space: The Latest Hotness

It’s not a secret that tabletop gaming has been experiencing tremendous growth for a number of years now, and whether you like it or hate it, Kickstarter has definitely been a large source of this. From allowing new designers to come out of the woodwork, to  acting as something of a pre-order system for established companies, opinions on Kickstarter games tend to be a very mixed bag. Today, we’re going to be looking a little deeper at two of the hottest upcoming games, Scythe from Stonemaier Games and Cry Havoc from Portal games, both of which fall into the broad category of area control games, and both of which have garnered huge attention this year.

Before we get into that, let’s take a brief look at the genre as a whole. As the name would imply, area control games are about just that. That being said, it’s difficult to think of the secret bidding game Revolution, the very Euro style El Grande and the mythical creature combat heavy Kemet as being part of the same genre. And yet, they all share the same basic idea; controlling areas yields you victory points (or other helpful benefits. Generally speaking, you want the most (or only) pieces in a space on the board. The diversity of the genre is leaps and bounds greater than games in other genres which tend to fall into tropes, but that is not to say that there aren’t dangers and pitfalls which certain area control games, particularly those involving combat, can fall victim to.

Scythe is  economic at heart, with combat still relevant but taking a back seat. The importance of area control comes from accessing resources on the board; area control is the means to the end, not the ends itself, as it is in other games. In fact, combat loses you popularity in the game, with low popularity limiting the amount of points you are able to score at the end of the game. This tension is of a truly different flavour to many other games, which promote constant conflict and invasions, and instead places much more weight onto the decision of which areas are important to control and whether they are worth the sacrifice.

Scythe, an area control game from Stonemaier Games

A game of Scythe in progress. The game really comes with some exquisite bits and pieces!

Cry Havoc falls into the category of games which promote constant combat, but don’t be fooled into dismissing it as too simple; clever implementation of deckbuilding and hand management had me intrigued (deck building games where deck building is not the whole game, such as Mage Knight or A Study in Emerald, are some of my favourites) but what I cannot wait to try out is the innovative combat system contained in Cry Havoc. In fact, from the sounds of it, it could be one of the simplest yet deepest combat systems in a game ever. Like Kemet, destroying all of your opponent’s units doesn’t necessarily win you the area, and in the same vein, it is not necessary to destroy all of your opponent’s units to win the battle. It’s no secret that one of the common pitfalls of area control games with combat related themes is the tedious, bogged down combat. As Kemet (and likely other games) before them, both Scythe and Cry Havoc have quick, simple yet rewarding systems of combat.  

While many games tend to offer small helpings of differing player powers (such as the aforementioned Kemet, where you slowly acquire unique powers over the course of the game, or Blood Rage, where the powers afforded to you each round change), Scythe and Cry Havoc begin ambitiously, with wildly varied player setups, powers and even ways to achieve victory. Scythe goes a step further than Cry Havoc in this sense, with twenty-five possible combinations of player power combinations in the base game (though my understanding, having not played the game, is that it’s the faction differences that are the largest, and there are five of those). Cry Havoc comes in with a modest four factions, though the differences between them are, again, vast.

Cry Havoc, an area control game from Portal Games

The Trogs of Cry Havoc are out in full force!

I for one am incredibly eager to try out both of these hot new area control games, but for entirely different reasons. With Scythe, the novel upgrade system and interesting mesh of area control and resource management, coupled with ever present threat of combat certainly entice me. Cry Havoc, on the other hand, offers a much more focused and what you may call “traditional” area control experience, but the impression I have leads me to think that they’ve merged the best of the old with some new twists; a combination with the potential to become a new golden standard for the area control genre.

Check out some of the games that I mentioned in this blog!

Fulfill Your Destiny with Star Wars: Destiny!

There has been an awakening!

For those of you who aren’t aware, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) released an article about an upcoming dice-based collectible game. Oh, and it’s from a pretty cool IP too.

Star.  Wars.  Destiny.

I’ve taken the time to pull apart all the information from the original release article and the product page in order to extrapolate as much as possible about the rules of the game and what we can expect.  Without for ado, let’s get into it.

1. It’s collectible!

FFG is quite well known for creating new games using their existing LCG system. For those that don’t know, this meant that there were no randomised booster packs or collectible aspects to a game; instead, you simply purchase an expansion pack and bam, you have a playset of every card (most of the time). It’s a great system for fostering healthy game environments and keeping the cost barrier to card games lower than CCG counterparts.

I believe that FFG saw the incredible success of Wizkids’ Marvel Dicemasters (which literally sold out everywhere and became impossible to acquire initially) and began to ponder the viability of a collectible dice game. The strength of Marvel Dicemasters was definitely its license (some may say that designer Eric Lang was also a big drawing point, but lets face it; Generic Heroes Dicemasters would have faired far worse), and if FFG has anything going for it at the moment, it’s access to some of the biggest licenses possible (Game of Thrones and Star Wars most prominently). The little spiel by the designer about the game only working as a collectible game is certainly a stretch, as the success of Quarriors (of which Dicemasters was a successor) can show.

Regardless, I personally have no issue with FFG experimenting with a collectible game again, and from a business perspective, it makes absolute sense. I can see people easily going nuts over it, just as they did with Dicemasters.


2. It’s NOT a Quarriors or Dicemasters Clone

Star Wars: Destiny has eschewed the Quarriors model of “dice-building” and replaced it instead with something more akin to a miniatures game. You begin with all of your characters in play, and as the battle goes on, you get rid of your opponents as they try and get rid of yours. You win the game by eliminating all of your opponent’s characters. Let’s take a quick look at a character card:


Now, the article mentions a few things regarding the cards in the game. There are three colours of characters (red for Commanders, yellow for Rogues and blue for Force Users) split between Heroes and Villains. Apart from the Hero/Villain divide, you are free to construct your force as you please. However, also note that there are point values in the bottom left (two in fact, separated by a slash). From viewing videos and thinking logically, I predict that the higher point value allows you to play a second dice of the same character (in one of the videos, you can clearly see a second Kylo Ren dice being rolled). Point Values also implies a build limit, again, much like a miniatures game. A key aspect of the game will be attacking the units which are key to the strategy of the opponent; do you focus on taking out lower health units to take them out of the game and cause your opponent to have fewer actions to take, or do you try and take out the bigger, more powerful units? Colour me intrigued.

3. Destiny is a hybrid card/dice game.

Continuing in their trend from Imperial Assault, Destiny features not only face-up open information character cards but also a deck of extra supporting cards, mixed with support and event cards. One of the dice faces in the game provides you resources which presumably you can spend to play these. Like the characters, they are also split into colour and faction. Note below the spoiled card “The Best Defense…” is a Red Villain Event:

The BEst Defence

This means that, like Imperial Assault, there are lots of hidden surprises just below the surface of what may appear to be a mostly puzzle-like experience (that is, simply calculating the best play given there are no tricks to be seen). I applaud this move; adding this extra element to the game not only vastly expands customisation options, but also adds tension and far more replayability to the game. I haven’t played Dicemasters at any competitive level, but I can easily see it becoming incredibly samey each and every game. Destiny, however, just like any other card game, allows you to see different outcomes and options each and every game.

4. It Features Characters from All the Star Wars Movies

Some may hate on Episodes I. II and III but no-one can deny that there are characters from it which are extremely popular. While it’s easy to cite Jar Jar as one of the most annoying characters in the series and a permanent stain on the series, it’s hard to find any fan who doesn’t think that Darth Maul and his double-bladed lightsaber, or Mace Windu and his purple lightsaber are not iconic parts of the franchise. Forget the flavour; I look forward to taking Jango, Boba and other villainous rogues into dice-chucking combat!

In summary, Destiny might look like the type of game that will be quickly be brushed aside (anyone heard anything about Warhammer Diskwars in a while?) but given the strength of the license, the excitement of finally being able to crack packs, and the simple yet innovative looking gameplay, I know that Star Wars: Destiny is something that’s going to be on my radar. As soon as I get my hands on some starters, there’s gonna be dice flying all over the place!

Excited about Star Wars: Destiny? You can pre-order it and check out some of the other games mentioned in this article:

Watch this space

Don’t mind the mess, our blog is undergoing a revamp and will soon be active again.

XCOM: The Board Game


alien invasion

XCOM: The Board Game is a cooperative board game of global defense for one to four players.


Placed in command of the elite military organization known as XCOM, you and your friends must find some means to turn back an escalating alien invasion. As UFOs appear in orbit and worldwide panic threatens to undermine national governments, the game’s free companion app and its push-your-luck dice rolling mechanics immerse you deep in the tension and uncertainty of a desperate war against an unknown foe.


You are humanity’s last hope…

Where Others Have Failed, You Must Succeed.

A Digitally Enhanced Experience

The most notable aspect of XCOM: The Board Game is the way that it incorporates a free digital companion app into the core of its gameplay. The companion is easy to access, available both as an online tool or as a downloadable app.Within your games, the app heightens suspense as it both coordinates the alien invasion and permits a dynamic turn structure, something that would be impossible without its use.

In XCOM: The Board Game, the alien invasion has begun. Early encounters have only served to prove that the world’s militaries are hopelessly outgunned. Panic leads to riots, and governments struggle to maintain any control. Human civilization is on the brink of collapse…

As the department heads of XCOM, you and your friends must succeed where the world’s militaries have failed. You lead the elite members of an international, military organization, which is funded by a secret coalition. It is your job to destroy UFOs, research alien technology, uncover the alien invasion plan, and find some way to turn back the alien invaders. You must do this all while preventing the collapse of the governments that secretly fund your organization, and you must do it quickly. You do not have the luxury of time.

Each game of XCOM: The Board Game requires the cooperation of XCOM’s four department heads: Commander, Chief Scientist, Central Officer, and Squad Leader. Whether you play the game solo, with one friend, or with three, you must always include all four roles. Each department head manages a specific set of responsibilities, and each is vital to the world’s defense.

xcom gameplay

Toy and Games Expo 2014 and the Australian Boardgames Championships ACT

Toy and Game Expo 2014

2014 looks like its going to be a big year for the Toy and Game Expo. After a huge attendance last year, TAG14 looks like it will be the biggest one yet. Heaps of new exhibitors like Moose Toys will be there and there is the usual huge amount of board games to play and too buy.

We plan to bring a bigger and better stall this time around with the usual awesome selection and value prices.

Check out what else is on:

Join in on the 5-6th of July!

Australian Boardgaming Championships

Think you are hot in Carcassonne, Dominion, Ticket to Ride and Settlers? There is only one week left to try your hand in the ACT Family Tournaments.
Prizes include paid trip and accommodation to the Australian Boardgames Championships during TAG14 in Sydney.
Play with the best and see how well you go. I also hear that the winner of the Ticket to Ride Championships gets offered a trip to Paris.

Live in the ACT? Check out the details here:

Join in on the 20-21st of April!

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