Games Paradise Online

For all thats great in boardgames

Author: Kenny Nguyen (page 1 of 2)

The Aficionado’s Top 100 Games of All Time (100-91)

Greeting, loyal readers, and welcome to part one of my Top 100 Games of All Time (as of February 2017). This list was compiled using an online tool, which required me to choose between which game I prefer around 1300 times. With a change or two here or there, I now happily present to you my Top 100 Games of All Time!

Do note that these are not what I believe are the “Top 100 Best Designed” games of all time. There are some games high up in the list, for example, that I think are relatively simplistic, even basic, in concept and mechanics. Rather, this list is the “Top 100 Games That I Love”, for whatever reason that may be. It could be that I enjoy playing the game, or perhaps some of my fondest memories of gaming were had playing those games. Whatever the reason, every game on this list has a story behind it, and I will share them briefly as I go. Today, we go through 100-91, starting with:

#100: Forbidden Island

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Pandemic-light, as it’s often referred to, this little island adventure packs a lot of punch for such a simple game. It’s a frantic race to escape the island with all the treasure before it sinks on you. The mechanics do well at evoking the theme, while also creating a tense and extremely family friendly cooperative game. Some games higher on my list scratch a similar itch a little better than this one, but it’s still a game I’d highly recommend to anyone starting out on their board gaming journey.

#99: Eminent Domain: Microcosm

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Don’t let the time limit deceive you; there is an absurd amount of game in this little box. In fact, this is the heaviest little box I’ve ever tried out, and it does a great job of emulating its older brother Eminent Domain in a two player microgame. As much as I love the complexity of the game, it’s a little too esoteric in appeal to see the table much, and the scoring is absolutely atrocious. I’d say the scoring takes almost as long as the game, unless you have a whiteboard handy to keep track of it during the game. If you do give this one a try, I’d suggest doing that; it also enhances the overall gameplay.

#98: Epic PVP: Fantasy

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A really simple concept that just works well. Choose a fantasy race and a fantasy class, and get battling! Epic PVP has a pretty interesting resource management system in which you must balance your “mana” and your cards in hand; can you hold out on fewer cards in order to build up resources, or would you rather wait until you’ve built up enough of an economy to be able to throw out multiple attacks at once? It’s a little too simple for any deep thought, but it’s enjoyable, silly fun that only takes around ten minutes, and is chock full of replayability. Besides, who hasn’t wanted to play a Goblin Paladin and smack around a Dwarf Monk?

#97: Elysium

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It strikes me as interesting that I think Elysium is an incredibly innovative and unique game with beautiful art, yet I don’t find myself rearing to play it very much. With an interesting twist on drafting, plenty of replayability and a plethora of combinations to take advantage of, I think Elysium would be higher on my list if I’d played it a little more. At the moment, however, it sits low on my list, ready to pounce up once it proves itself a hit with my playgroup.

#96: Get Bit!

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Man, do I enjoy this game. A simple, silly little game where you get to pull lego men apart and have a laugh, it makes for excellent filler material, especially with a more casual crowd. I’m not a huge fan of the memory aspect of games, especially if you’re playing with a more serious crowd, but this little gem has been enjoyed by children and adults alike! After all, who doesn’t like watching as lego men lose their limbs?

#95: Francis Drake

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Francis Drake is the first heavy euro game on my list, but far from the last. Being all the way down here is not a jab at this game of naval exploration; on the contrary, the few plays I’ve had of the game were tight and very enjoyable. What lets it down for me is the lack of unique player powers and somewhat “samey” feel of each and every game. I love the mechanic of moving through the city, much like the journey along the road in Tokaido, but sadly the game is a little too heavy to see a lot of play, and when a heavy game does see play, there are many more on this list that I’d prefer to play than this one.

#94: A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition)

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I’m a huge fan of Fantasy Flight Games’s Living Card Games, something that will become more evident the further we go on in this list. A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition) is not least among them; it’s close to the top, and definitely one of the ones I’ve played more. The flavour is wonderfully implemented in many of the cards, and there is substantial complexity to the game which makes it very interesting. Unfortunately, deckbuilding is not quite there as of yet, and luck is often a very determining factor in games, resulting in occasionally lacklustre experiences. That said, it’s far better than the First Edition, and still makes it into my Top 100; any game that reaches there is something special.

#93: Evo (Second Edition)

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I’ve always been a fan of dinosaurs, and Evo was the first dinosaur game I played. A mix of area control, resource management, and some of the best auctioning in any game, Evo has been a fun time (almost) every time I’ve brought it to the table. The secret points aspect is a little bit of a downer, and some absolutely killer combos can ruin games, which makes me like it less than other games much higher on my list. I also find it strange that a player can win the game through skilful auctioning. Whilst it does reward clever play, it doesn’t feel right to win a dinosaur game through the auction house! Still, Evo is a game I’d happily take part in anytime it’s brought out.

#92: Forbidden Stars

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Fantasy Flight Games really have a thing for big box games, and Forbidden Star will certainly not be the last one here. As of yet, I’ve only tried this one out two player, and given the recent split between Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight will cause the game to be a little rarer, perhaps I will never play any more than that (unless I grab my own copy). Forbidden Stars is ambitious; it takes aspects of deckbuilding and mixes it in with space combat to form a very unique game of conquest. With four very different factions in the box, and enough options for each faction to be played differently each time, Forbidden Stars is the rare Warhammer game that worked for me.

#91: Libertalia

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The nautical/pirate theme is one that has been growing on me lately, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Libertalia makes it way up the list a little later on. A really unique style of game, wherein each player is given the same options to make simultaneous decisions with, trying their best to secure the most booty. Libertalia‘s many strengths are, unfortunately, weighed down by the anchor of chaos the game invites. For someone who enjoys planning as much as I do, this randomness is a little too much for me. I still enjoy the game, but this does it bring it down to #91.

Thanks for tuning in and joining me as I go on my Top 100 adventure! I hope you find some interesting games here and there, and thanks for reading as always! Next time, we’ll be looking at #90-#81, and the games will only get better and better (in my opinion of course) from here. What are some of your favourite games that you think many people haven’t heard of? Let me know, and until next time, have fun gaming, wherever you are!

Camel Up: An Aficionado Review

The Spiel des Jahres is far and away the most prestigious award in the board gaming world. Whilst there are three categories overall, the real one everyone watches out for is overall game of the year. These tend to be a little bit lighter and more accessible, yet there’s something about them which draws gamer and non-gamer alike together. Codenames, the 2016 winner, is one of my favourite games of all time, and whilst 2015 winner Colt Express doesn’t share the same prestige, I have a lot of praise for that piece of art as well. But we’re not here for either of those today; instead, we’re going back one more year. A year where a silly game about camels racing around in a desert won the award and started an eternal debate amongst gamers; is it Camel Up or Camel Cup? (spoiler, box says it’s Up, but it clearly should be Cup). What do I think of this winner? Is it deserving of its spot? Let’s jump in and find out!

Components

All the components included in Camel Up, including the amazing pyramid contraption!

All of the fun included in the box.

Camel Up is a very component light game, with only some money, some dice, a few nice and thick cardboard cards, various coloured camels….and a PYRAMID DICE ROLLER CONTRAPTION THING! Before the game even begins for the first time, you have to embrace your inner builder and construct this amazing little tool. Everything is more than functional for what it does, and there are no complaints at all with anything function wise. The only functional issues sometimes come from the dice pyramid, but they’re minor and won’t take more than a few seconds to fix.

The art is very family friendly and fun, with caricatured people and camels greeting you on all of the cards. Everything’s nice, bright and colourful, making it a very attractive game to play. And who doesn’t love camels that stack on top of one another? It’s no Animal Upon Animal, but these camels do certainly spend a lot of time bouncing on and off one another, and the grooves in their humps hold the other camels perfectly.

As far as accessibility goes, Camel Up is language independent but not colourblind friendly. A few symbols to differentiate the camels between one another are a bit missed, but the simplistic gameplay has completely removed the need for card text. Got some friends who don’t speak English? No problem (as long as they can see colours!).

 

+Very family friendly, non-hostile cartoon art. Wide appeal.

+AWESOME DICE PYRAMID THING (seriously, it’s so fun to play with).

+Language independent: play with young kids or non-English speakers without issue.

-Lack of colourblind assistance which could have easily been implemented.

 

Gameplay

The race is underway! Camel Up in action.

The race is underway! Camel Up in action.

In Camel Up, the players take on the role of various denizens of the desert who have come to watch a camel race (as one does in the desert). Their objective? To have the most money (points) as soon as the first camel crosses the finish line and final payouts are awarded. Throughout the game, players will alternate taking one of four actions, trying to gain the edge on the competition. These are all quite simple and generally all award you money in some way or another (or, if things don’t pan out, they may even cost you!).

The first action you can do, and the primary way the game moves forward, is to move the camels. To do this, you take a pyramid card (effectively one money for you), shake that pyramid up, and reveal a dice. The colour of the dice dictates which camel moves, and the number how many spaces they travel. Simple, right? Well, there’s a bit more than that. You see, these camels like to hop on top of one another, and that leads to all kinds of chaos. When a camel moves, it also carries all camels that are on top of it. If a camel lands in the same space as another, it jumps on top of that, ready to be carried to victory by the poor beast beneath. There have been times where a band of four camels has gone stampeding around the track!

Players may wish to influence how the camels move, however. The second action allows them such minor control by placing either a mirage (bad) or oasis (good) on the board. Should a camel land on that space, they will move either a space backward (for mirages) or forward (for oases) one space. In addition, the player who layed the tile down will also receive a money each time the tile is triggered. There are some minor placement rules with these tiles so as to prevent odd game situations, but they’re simple enough to use yet add a minor control element to the race. Oh, and if camels go backwards and land on the same space as another camel, that camel jumps on top of them! This causes even more unpredictability and crazy outcomes in the race.

The various bets you can place on the camels.

The various bets you can place on the camels.

Of course, the main way to gain money is to pick a winner. The game is broken down into legs, with each leg consisting of one round of camel movements (that is, each camel moving once). The third action a player can take is to back the winner of the current leg; that is, the camel that will be in lead position once all camels have moved in the round. They do this by taking the highest value tile corresponding to the camel they wish to back. If that camel is the winner, they receive the large payout (5, 3 or 2). If they’re in second, they receive one. However, if the camel is anywhere else, the player must pay a money instead. With only three backing tiles per camel, you need to get in quick, but not too quick or you may be backing a loser.

The final action players can take is to back the overall winner and/or loser. Each player has a hand of cards showing each of the five colours. As an action, the player can place one of those cards face down onto either the winner area or loser area. Like leg backing, backing the overall winner/loser earlier offers a bigger payout, but get it wrong and you lose money. You can, of course, add more cards to each one, but you’ve then guaranteed that you’re losing at least one money with your incorrect guess. Do you risk it early and hope, or play it safe and get a smaller payout? The choice is yours.

Camel Up is a deceptively math-y game; knowing some basic probability will take you a long way and probably lead to you performing a little better than wild betting. That being said, there are many wild things that can happen, and at it’s core, it’s all about balancing playing it safe and risking it all. And boy is it a heap of fun! For such an unassuming little game, picking up that pyramid and seeing what comes out has caused me a lot of stress (the exciting kind, where you find out if you’re a genius and lord of the desert or just throwing your money into the sandy wastes). The game never feels too long or too short, and plays well at all player counts (though I’d say four or five is a sweet spot). And whilst some deeper thought may cause you to do better on average, Camel Up is really anyone’s game, and that’s what’s caused it to be a success with everyone I’ve played with.

+Game is very well balanced; each action you take has positives and negatives, it’s not always an easy choice.

+Turns are quick, and everyone is always involved. Very little downtime.

+Some wild things can happen; rolling the dice is a very tense and exciting moment.

+Good at all player counts, ends at just the right time every time.

 

Conclusion

You may have already guessed from the no negatives, but Camel Up has been nothing short of a beautiful success story of a game. In the short time I’ve owned it, it’s seen more table time than games I’ve owned for much longer (and caused many more laughs and smiles too!). With a lighthearted theme, simple mechanics, language independence and short play time, Camel Up has everything you want in a filler game and more. For the Aficionado, this is now my go to filler and gateway game, and I think it’s more than worthy of the prestigious award it’s earned. If you haven’t tried this game, I can’t think of many family games I’d recommend more highly at the moment than the silly fun that Camel Up delivers without fail.

The Aficionado LOVES this game.

Grade: A+

Does Camel Up sound like a game up your alley? Grab it or any other games mentioned in this article below!

Camel Up
Codenames
Colt Express

TIME Stories: An Aficionado Review

*Warning: This review contains minor spoilers for Asylum, the first scenario of TIME Stories. None of these are anything beyond the introduction, but if you do not want ANY spoilers at all, please stop reading here*

Being your first job, it was all a bit daunting. Travelling through time? Taking over bodies in the time period and using them as a host? It seemed like the kind of stuff from many a sci-fi novel. Yet there you were, ready to become a TIME Agent and prevent temporal distortions. What a time to be alive!

Bob, the stern guide and instructor for your team, went over all the details of the mission. You were bound for a French Asylum, where something…or someone…was causing distortions and unbalance the universe! Your task? To find what (or who) was causing the distortion, and correct the situation…by any means necessary. Not quite sure what to expect, but also excited at the prospect of travelling through time, you headed into the machines and let your consciousness be sent to a far, far away place. You could hear Bob murmuring something that sounded like a warning, but he was drowned out by the whirring of the machine and the fuzz that overtook you.

Opening up your eyes, this place looked like the picturesque French home that everyone thinks of. For an asylum, it wasn’t entirely unwelcoming. As you got your bearings and began heading to the Day Room, you couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed and alone. Not the sense of just being by yourself either, but a resounding and deafening scream at your loneliness. What was going on?

Thankfully, your friends from the TIME Agency also arrived, and it was only then you realised it. Looking at the unmistakable white marks on the face of one of the “hosts”, listening to the quiet whimpering of another, whose face was marred with injury, and watching the other immediately be overcome with the desire to flirt with everyone, it finally hit you that this was an asylum for the mentally unstable…and you had just inherited all of their “quirks”.

This is the start of your adventure in TIME Stories, an incredibly unique game from Space Cowboys. All throughout 2016, I’d heard talk of this game from many different reputable reviewers, all of them spouting unanimous praise for it. After having a lot of fun playing Pandemic: Legacy, I had no aversions to trying out yet another “single play” game. After finally taking the plunge and grabbing the game recently, I played through the first scenario with my lovely girlfriend. Did it live up to the hype? Well, join me now as I talk you through my journey through time and space.

What I Expected Coming In

In short, a lot. I expected my mind to be blown. As far as gaming experiences go, I had been told that TIME Stories was wholly unique and entirely enthralling. I’ve been on sort of a mystery solving high recently, and Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective certainly scratched that itch rather well. Would TIME Stories be as multilayered and deep? Would it be purely mystery solving, or would there be some actual mechanical gameplay as well?

I was also really curious in how the game would handle its “rerun” approach.  I’d heard that the game was “practically” impossible to beat in a single run, and that because each run took around and hour to an  hour and a half, it was likely that you’d have to put the game away and resume it later. This also made me rather intrigued by the premise of “saving” the game, which had also been discussed by many. All in all, I went into TIME Stories, anticipating a truly memorable experience like no other.

What I Got Coming Out

Let me start by saying that I played TIME Stories with two players both controlling two “receptacles” (characters) each. The rulebook suggests that you should control a third “neutral” receptacle in two player, but after trying that out in our first run, we decided that it was pretty poor and moved onto two each.

The other issue that came to us was this idea of not fully sharing information. The game encourages roleplaying by only allowing certain players to view certain cards; basically, if you look at something, only you look at it. It *sometimes* makes thematic sense and invites you into the world a bit more, but sometimes it feels a bit “forced”, especially when you must effectively manage a hidden game state (which happens with skill checks, for example).

Those small hiccups aside, TIME Stories managed the amazing feat of living up to the hype. From the very first room, I found myself making notes of everything, and putting on my thinking cap and trying to work out what exactly was going on in the facility. After we discovered that [REDACTED] was [REDACTED] and we needed to [REDACTED], I was hooked.

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The box is so well prepared that saving games is a breeze…even though we never needed to.

So hooked, in fact, that we ended up powering through the game in just over three hours. While we were originally planning on just doing a single run, we just couldn’t help but formulate plans for our future runs and try to do things differently. What if we [REDACTED] instead of [REDACTED]? As we plotted and mapped out our plan of attack, I really felt like I was living through Groundhog Day or the Edge of Tomorrow.

The gameplay itself is quite light and simple, which makes it approachable for gamers and non-gamers alike. There’s enough there that some minor tactical choices may be needed, but ultimately the story and mystery is at the forefront.

Speaking of the mystery, I was surprised by the amount of creativity in the puzzles of the game. There’s not quite the level of pure deduction that there is in Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, but there was a very enjoyable mix of all sorts of…”challenges” in the box.

Conclusion

TIME Stories is instantly among the best board games I’ve ever played. While I’m disappointed that I can’t play the Asylum mission again, I now look forward to The Marcy Case and the other stories that are going to be told through this system. This is an interactive experience that has few, if any, direct rivals on the market at the moment. Even if you’re not a fan of games that aren’t replayable, I’d heavily recommend you reconsider and give TIME Stories a try. Find some friends and split the cost if you need to, it will cost you less than an average movie, and you’ll have an unbelievably engaging journey together that you won’t soon forget.

The Aficionado ADORES this game.

Grade: A+

New Angeles: An Aficionado Review

“OrgCrime and these Human First activists have gotten out of hand,” began Yuri Talunik, owner of the well renowned Melange Mining Corp, “and they must be dealt with. We must organise a Prisec unit to remove them at once, or they’ll wreak havoc on the city!”.

Farid Ahmadi of the Weyland Consortium, a company infamous for its brutal streaks, agreed that the time for “pacification of threats to stability” had come. “The city may have a host of issues, but we at Weyland stand with Melange Mining on this one”. That the personal relationship between Farid and Yuri was one of close friendship was “most assuredly not a conflict of interest”, they assured.

Even Victoria Jenkin, the CEO of NBN, who had greenlit many a story on the “evils of Weyland”, couldn’t deny that the citizens were out of hand. All that was left was to convince both Lidiah Maucher of GlobalSec and Satoshi Hiro of Jinteki of the validity of the plan. That, however, proved to be challenging.

“As the leader of our fine city’s security division, even I find the arrests of these people to be a little extreme. We should be preparing to deal with the illnesses rampant in our streets, and who better to do so than Jinteki?”. All eyes in the room turned to Satoshi, who showed no emotion at all to the proposal. He couldn’t let slip that there was something else at work here.

“We must provide Jinteki with more options to deal with these diseases plaguing our streets. I propose that this is of far more importance than dealing with a few protestors and miscreants”. With that, Lidiah signed the proposal to move forward with Jinteki’s research funding, offering the pen to the table. Ultimately, despite the protests of Weyland and CEO, Jinteki and GlobalSec’s influence proved to strong, and the proposal went forward.

That night, as the Root burned under the fires of crime and passionate activism, Gurren Imaishi, the treasurer of Jinteki, transferred 50 million credits into the accounts of GlobalSec. Everything was going according to plan, Lidiah thought to herself.

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The faces of the New Angeles Mecacorps

This is the type of experience you too can have by playing Fantasy Flight Games’s latest addition to the Android universe; New Angeles, a semi-cooperative negotiation game of hidden agendas and capitalism gone mad. As stated on one of my list of Top 10 Games on my Watch List, this one came in VERY highly at number two (with number one going to Pursuit of Happiness).

Coming back from my trip to Malaysia to find this on my desk as a Christmas present, I couldn’t wait to get it to the table. On my recent trip to the annual game convention in Canberra, Cancon, I had the perfect opportunity to. What did I think? Well, let’s not wait any longer!

What I Expected Going In

From all of the preview articles Fantasy Flight had provided, I was expecting a main course of heavy negotiation flavoured and spiced by hidden agendas. I thought the greatest tension would be in balancing the pursuit of your own goal whilst also ensuring that the game is not destroying you. In that sense, reminded me a fair bit of Dead of Winter (which I thought was rather ordinary) and Archipelago (which I love), but as opposed to going about the board and doing stuff, the game sounded like it was almost purely going to be negotiation. Given my inexperience with such games, I was very excited to say the least.

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A lone Human First protestor wreaks havoc in Rabotgorod.

New Angeles sounded like it could be really vicious, however. The traitor mechanic, coupled with the fact that it was certainly impossible for everyone to win no matter the setup, indicated to me that this was the type of game that needed the right audience. Played with people not willing to negotiate, and it would fail to entertain. Played with people who feel attacked in arguments or because people are targeting them in games, and you’d have upset players. I felt that those I game with often fell into neither of these categories thankfully, but I was curious to see just how mean megacorps could be.

The final part I was curious about was primarily concerned with the necessity of lying. I personally avoid games were lying is a necessary part of gameplay, or incredibly heavily encouraged. Therefore, a big make or break point for me would be whether New Angeles required lying or not.

What I Got Coming Out

The shortest way I can summarise New Angeles is that it’s like being in a constant argument for three hours or so. As your friends around you offer ridiculous deals that benefit neither the city or yourself, you’ll constantly find yourself having to argue and convince those around you of the benefits of letting you control the action.

It’s also absurdly entertaining.

Every single moment of New Angeles had be invested. Despite me personally only having around five turns in the game, the negotiation and free trading options mean that you’re always invested in what’s going on. Even if you’re not trying to pass your own legislation, you’re being solicited by the powers in charge for your vote. Otherwise, you’re making a case for why curing disease must take a backseat to wiping out a district of the city with a scorched earth policy.

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The game also features some absolutely stunning miniatures. They’re gorgeous!

I was so caught up in achieving my own ends and ensuring the city didn’t collapse that I didn’t even have time to try and work out what everyone else was trying to do. I also never felt that the game forced me to lie; I was able to play the entire game with integrity and honesty, while I secretly tried to fulfil my goal.

The game does a good job of providing a cover for the traitor by use of “Investments”. These individual goals, which alternate every other round, often require corps to allow the city to suffer a little for personal gain. However, by allowing the city to burn a little, you’re inevitably going to encounter problems. That’s when you have to make the call; do you forgo personal gain to help the city, or do you be selfish and hope that you can still be king of the ashes?

Conclusion

I cannot recommend New Angeles enough. Had I played this in 2016, it would have been very close to my top game of the year (nothing was gonna dethrone Star Wars: Rebellion). The shifting agendas mixed with the long term goals of the players mean that there’s always a new discussion to be had, and you’ll always have something to talk about. Oozing with flavour and fun, with only a very minor hiccup here and there, New Angeles is a game that will be an absolute hit…

With the right playgroup. I really need to stress that you’re going to be arguing in this game. A LOT. If you or your friends are the type to take things personally, or get upset easily at conflict, this is not the game for you. In addition, it’s a long one, even longer if you let discussions take too long. If none of those things bother you, get this one. Now.

The Aficionado LOVES this game!

Grade: A+

Sound like your kind of game? Check it and the other games mentioned in the article out here!

New Angeles
Pursuit of Happiness
Archipelago
Dead of Winter
Star Wars: Rebellion

Games on the Go: Planes

Greetings, loyal readers! This article comes to you from Malaysia, where I’ve recently flown to visit loved ones. Yet, the gamer in me is still pumping, and has been since I departed Australia. So much, in fact, that games were brought onto the plane to play on the flight over.

Anyone who has been on any flight to another continent knows just how long and boring flights can be. While some of the pricer airlines include movies and other fun things, budget airlines (such as AirAsia, which I flew) lack any sort of equivalent. In addition, sometimes you may not want to watch 10+ hours of movies/TV shows (especially given you can’t normally access an entire season of a show). So why not crack out a travel sized game and play with your friends? If you’re travelling alone, this probably won’t help too much (I’m not well versed in solo games). However, travelling with your partner (like I did) or a friend or two means ample opportunity to enjoy some games together.

The Games That We Played

Obviously, given the limited space, there are only a few games that can be played. The first game that we played together was Pictionary: The Card Game. Being based entirely on cards, this game only requires a single table to play properly. It meets the criteria of needing to be relatively quiet (one player can’t even talk!) AND it has an easy set up. On top of that, it comes in a box that could fit either in a large pocket, or comfortably in your laptop bag.

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Much more challenging than it may seem, especially when your phrase is “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

Afterwards, we moved onto one of our (and many other people’s) favourite games; Codenames. We opted for the picture variant, which happened to be a tight fit on our tiny AirAsia tables.

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Some plane tables are not so accomodating, but with some compromises here and there, it works just fine!

However, we were just able to fit them all in, and we ended up playing around four games or so of it. You do have to make some compromises as far as space goes, but it shouldn’t affect gameplay too much. The original Codenames would fit very easily, so if you’re not the most comfortable with being cramped, I’d recommend that over pictures. If you’re really tight for space and own both, I’d take the 4 x 5 key cards from Pictures and use them with the words from the original.

Finally, we moved onto yet another card game, this time a competitive one instead of the previously cooperative two: Monopoly Deal.

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Warning: Causes lost friendships.

This is probably the quietest game of the three, requiring no verbalisation if you’re only playing with two. Top that off with the fact it is, again, entirely card based, and you’ve got a winner as far as space goes. The only time you’ll be running short on space is if you’ve stolen all of your partner’s properties, which is a recipe for disaster on two fronts! Word of warning: maybe don’t play a rent card to take all your partner’s properties. They don’t tend to like that, and plane rides are long…

Other Games

These three games managed to keep us occupied for a good three hours of the trip, with some of the other time spend snoozing and chatting. Overall, I’d say that we had a lot of fun with all of the games (in spite of my sneaky plays in Deal). We had also brought along Animal Upon Animal (the small edition) but were unable to play the game due to the amount of turbulence we experienced. It was a really shaky plane ride, but the games took our mind off it all.

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Chances are you haven’t heard of this game, but it’s definitely worth a try!

If you’re a fan of card games, I’d heartily recommend the little known Australian game Viewpoint. Playing well with 2-3 players and requiring very minimal space makes this another winner. Its interesting, take-that style game play and the combo nature of many of the cards will keep you entertained for quite a while. When I first played this, we ended up playing game after game for hours.

Liar’s Dice is another game that deserves mention. Easy to acquire (you only need dice) and as excellent with two as it is with more, it’s incredibly easy to transport and requires almost no space at all! You can even use dice cups if you prefer, and you’ll still have room.

Considerations

There are many other games that could be played on planes. However, some things that are worth considering when deciding whether to play a game on the plane are the following:

-Is the game playable during turbulence? It’s okay to have some that aren’t, but you’ll want to make sure the majority of them can be. After all, you never know how your flight is gonna go.

-Is the game quiet? Depending on which area you’re sitting in, you may be fairly limited in the amount of noise you can make. You have every right to have fun, but just be sure your games are considerate of others around you. For example, playing games involving dice rolling may be a bit too noisy if you need to roll them frequently, especially if you’re seated in the quiet area.

-Is the game portable? Karuba is a game that would easily fit on the tables of the plane, but the box is far too large to bring comfortably in a backpack. If you can arrange some kind of alternate mode of transport for the components, it may work, but always be aware of the box size. Even Codenames‘s box is starting to push it.

That’s all for today, folks. I hope this article has inspired you to consider bringing some games on the plane the next time you go travelling. Whether it’s interstate or internationally, these wonderful bundles of fun can keep you entertained while on the go just as well as while you’re in the comfort of your own home.

What are you favourite games to play on the go/travel with? Let me know in the comments below, and until next time, have fun gaming!

Wanna try out any of the games mentioned in this article? Looking for games to bring on the plane? Check out the links below!

Codenames
Viewpoint
Karuba
Monopoly Deal

 

Top 10 Recommended Games of 2016

Hello readers, and welcome back to another Aficionado Top 10. This time, I’ll be looking back over all of the games I’ve played this year and showing you the ones that I would heartily recommend to any gamer. Thus, these ten games are games that I believe are able to be enjoyed by any gamer, whether they’ve been in hobby for 10+ years, or are just graduating from the mainstream classics Monopoly and Risk.

Note that these are NOT my Top 10 Games of 2016. This was probably the best year of gaming for me, the one where I played more games, wrote many articles, and rapidly expanded my collection. Throughout this year, I found my absolute favourite game of all time (Star Wars: Rebellion), as well as many other gems, some of which are included in this very list!

In addition, note that these games are not all from 2016; rather, they are games that I played this year for the first time. None of them are too old, with the oldest one going back to 2014. As such, you can expect to see some real gems from the recent renaissance of board gaming.

Now that you’ve heard more than enough blabbering about technicalities, let’s begin with…

10. Evolution

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For context, I only played Evolution on one night this year. The two or so games I did play of it left enough of an impression on me that I can recommend this wholeheartedly. Part hand management, part long-term planning, part outthinking, part take that, and a whole lot of fun.

Evolve your creatures from tiny insects into intelligent herbivores or savage pack hunters who feast on the other players! It can be a bit mean, but it’s a whole lot of fun, as well as being quick and simple enough for everyone to enjoy. Don’t let the number 10 slot fool you; this was a fantastic year, and even games 11-15 are ones I would recommend any day of the week!

9. Patchwork

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This is my lovely girlfriend’s all time favourite game, and it’s VERY close to my favourite quick two player game (being 7 Wonders: Duel. This gets the nod for being more accessible and simpler to explain). Uwe Rosenberg has designed many hits over the years, and Patchwork is no exception.

Combining tetris with a puzzle, this little game has been a riot every time I’ve opened it up. In particular, if you’re looking for a fun game to play with your SO that is simple yet very strategic, look no further!

8. Animal Upon Animal

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A quick disclaimer; the version I have of this is slightly different, involving many animal noises and a spinning board. However, the crazy stacking game that is Animal Upon Animal has been a stunning success with kids and adults alike.If you ever loved Jenga, then there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time with this kids’ game!

The aim of the game is to stack all of the animals in front of you onto the crocodile. Unfortunately, unlike bricks, animals don’t stack very well, mainly because of all their fun shapes and sizes. And that’s the point; it’s fun to try and make as large a tower as possible, and hilarious when all the furry and scaly friends come crashing down onto the poor crocodile.

7. Sushi Go: Party

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I played Sushi Go a few years back, and thought it was very cute in both senses of the word. The issue was that it just ran out of steam far too quickly; there were only so many times I could play with the few cards in the game before I would grow tired of it.

Enter Sushi Go: Party. With more combinations than there are types of sushi, it really is “the deluxe pick and pass card game”. 7 Wonders can be a little daunting with all of its iconography, but Sushi Go: Party fixes that by stripping drafting down to its bare roots. While some cards are more interesting than others, there are more than enough combinations to keep the party going for many years to come.

6. Apotheca

Apotheca Box Cover

It’s very possible I may be this game’s biggest fan. Apotheca ABSOLUTELY blew me away when I first saw it. Having heard nothing about it when it first hit the table, my jaw dropped at its elegance and subtle complexity that, to me, spelled a winner.

When I finally did get to play it, I was sold hook, line and sinker. Mixing hidden information with logic and puzzle solving, Apotheca is the type of game that will just keep on giving. It’s a little more thinky than many of the other games on thie list, but its mechanically simple enough that I believe many people will fall in love with it. If you can find a copy, scoop it up!

5. The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness Box Cover

My most anticipated game of the year comes in at number 5. The so-called eurogamer’s “Game of Life”, The Pursuit of Happiness is a great gateway into some slightly heavier games. It’s a little more complex than many of the other games on this list, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more thematic game this year.

Just recently, I played a game where my character started off working diligently as a pizza/newspaper delivery boy, before becoming a gym junkie millionaire who wrote his own books on how to be financially successful, despite not at all being qualified to do so! Yet such was his confidence and charisma that he attracted many investors and a very wealthy girlfriend, who ended up funding many of his endeavours in life. Tell me the last time you played a game like that!

4. Camel Up

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Here’s a funny story. A while ago, I purchased City of Iron, a relatively rare game that had gotten rave reviews, from an online board game group. At the same time, the man also had Camel Up for sale, at a heavily discounted price due to a damaged box. Knowing it was the Spiel des Jahres winner of 2014, I grabbed it on a whim. I expected it would be a fun filler game in between others…

Now, several months later, Camel Up has been played more times than many of my other board games! Combining luck, simple probability, and the outrageous notion of camels leaping on top of each other, this game is more than worthy of its award. It never overstays its welcome, and I’ve never felt more stressed (in a good way) than when I’m shaking up the pyramid to see which camel moves next. This is one of my new favourite fillers, with another one being…

3. Karuba

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Karuba is a relatively late addition to my collection. In fact, I picked it up mere weeks ago. In this treasure hunting game, players are trying to guide their explorers through the jungle and to the temple, where a jewels and riches await them. Everyone has the same board and gets the same pieces at the same time, yet just how they get their adventurers through the jungle will be wildly different.

The game takes no more than 5 minutes to explain and around 20 to 30 minutes to play, and all of that time is thrilling. Its simple enough for younger or newer gamers to learn without feeling intimidated, yet challenging enough that connoisseur gamers can feed their competitive desires with it. I love every bit of it, and just this week, I’ve happily played five or so games of it. If someone asked me to play right now, I’d stop writing this and go join in the hunt for treasure!

2. Pandemic: LegacyPandemic: Legacy Box Cover

I can understand why this one may be a little more controversial. Unlike every other game on this list, Pandemic: Legacy is not a filler or lighter game. It’s simple, sure, but it requires dedication and a willingness to commit to playing the whole way through. That can be tough, especially in the busy modern lives we lead. However, it is far and away the best gaming experience I’ve ever had, and that’s why Pandemic: Legacy makes this list at number 2.

That said, the way the story unravels, the rules slowly get more complicated, and the masterfully crafted legacy aspects of this game make this a game without parallel. Introduced to newer gamers, this could very well serve as an awesome launching pad into our wonderful hobby. If not, you could always just grab Pandemic, though that would be a lot lower on this list. Everything that Pandemic: Legacy is is just awesome, and what better way to capture people’s hearts than with this stellar entry.

1. Codenames

Codenames Box Cover

“Oh look, Codenames came first on a recommended games list. What else is new?”

Yes, yes. You’ve probably heard of Codenames. You’ve also probably heard of how brilliant it is and how it won the most coveted award in all of gaming. You may have also heard that it sold the most copies out of any board game this year (at least according to CoolStuffInc).

The reason you’ve heard of all this is because it’s all true. Codenames is the definitive party game, and a hit with absolutely everyone who plays it. Designed by my favourite designer, the simple rules, near limitless combinations and flexible player count mean that Codenames is far and away the number 1 most recommended game from this year. I’ve played this with gamers, family, university friends, fellow church goers, and not a single person has disliked it. In fact, some of them now also own their own copies, and have likely taught others the joy in finding the links. As the rulebook says “win or lose, it’s fun to solve the clues”.

To make it even better, you’ve even got more options now; if you’re not a words person, try out Codenames: Pictures. I personally haven’t tried the adult version, Codenames: Deep Undercover, but if that’s your shtick, know that they have you covered. If you haven’t tried this out yet, I’d urge you to find a copy and play it with friends and family. You’ll be in for an amazing time!

That about wraps up this Top 10 list. Other games on my shortlist included 7 Wonders: Duel (which was just slightly too complex), Kodama (a beautiful game that was probably number 11 or 12) and Burger Up (a relaxing game by Australian company Rule and Make). What about you guys? What were your favourite games that you played during the year? What would you recommend? Let me know, and as always, have fun gaming!

Wanna grab some of these awesome games? Links down below!

Codenames
Pandemic: Legacy
Karuba
Camel Up
The Pursuit of Happiness
Sushi Go: Party
Patchwork
Evolution (note, this Climate version includes all the stuff from the core game)

 

 

An Interview with Nate French about Arkham Horror

Arkham Horror: The Card Game has been met with some serious praise and interest, with Fantasy Flight Games completely selling out of it within just a week of its release. I myself have played through it solo a few times, and I can personally say that I find it more than worthy of all the hype its getting. An amazing out of the box experience, and a unique blend of roleplaying and card game elements, Arkham Horror: The Card Game finds itself really filling a niche in the industry.

With all that said, I recently had the opportunity to interview Nate French, one of the lead designers behind the game, about various aspects of it (as well as some background questions about his gaming life). He kindly agreed to partake in an interview, providing some interesting insights and perspectives into the thought process behind this amazing new LCG. Today’s focus is that very interview; let’s dive straight into it.

The Aficionado: What were some of the games that got you into gaming?

Nate French:  Growing up, I was a big fan of Chess, Dungeons and Dragons, and board games like Monopoly and Risk. I have also always been a huge sports fan—football, baseball, basketball—and team sports, at their core, are games!

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The first CCG I ever played was Spellfire; I loved playing with the characters from the TSR worlds of Dragonlance and the Forgotten Realms.
In late 2002 I picked up the A Game of Thrones Collectible Card Game. I was a huge fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels (there were only 3 back then!), and loved the idea of playing another card game with the characters from a series of books I enjoyed. I had much success with this game, and it eventually lead to my position with Fantasy Flight Games.
The Aficionado: What is your favourite game of all time?
Nate French: I’ve probably spent the most time playing Poker, Chess, and pick-up Football. And I don’t regret any of the time spent playing any of those games!
The Aficionado: What is your favourite game amongst those you’ve designed?
Nate French: The games I’ve worked on are kind of like children — I’ve grown to appreciate each of them for different reasons. Because of this, it’s really impossible to pick a favourite.
The Aficionado: Outside of gaming, what are some of your favourite things to do?
Nate French: I have a background in writing, and I love to read and write. I read mostly novels — fantasy, sic-fi, horror, mystery & suspense, and classic literature. Occasionally I’ll read a biography as well. When the weather is nice, I enjoy jogging. Music is another hobby; I love going to hard rock and metal shows. And I’m a sports fan — I don’t play as much any more, but still love going out to a bar to watch a game and cheer on my team (or my fantasy team!).
The Aficionado: What were some of the key games which you drew on when designing Arkham Horror: The Card Game?
Nate French: We knew there were going to be comparisons between the Arkham Horror LCG and the Lord of the Rings LCG, given that both Matt Newman and I worked on both games, and that they are both cooperative LCGs. Because of this, we were very conscious of making sure that Arkham was its own experience and did numerous things differently than the Lord of the Rings card game, so that playing the Arkham game was an entirely new experience.
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The Aficionado: You’ve done an excellent job translating the mechanics of an RPG into an LCG; did this translation cause hurdles or was it a smooth ride? If there were hurdles, what were some of the largest ones?

Nate French: The biggest challenge was not having a game master figure to control the scenario. You need to figure out a way to automate every interaction.
The Aficionado: How did you decide which role-playing game mechanics to emphasise?  Why did you prioritise those over others?
Nate French: We wanted the experience to be narrative based and tell a story, so we aimed for mechanics that added to this type of experience.
The Aficionado: In regards to expansions, what made you decide to lead off with a deluxe expansion (The Dunwich Horror) instead of a cycle building off the core like in Lord of the Rings?
Nate French: We wanted the first campaign (found in the core set) to be self contained, so that players could have a complete experience right out the gate. That meant that we would have to start a new campaign with the very next product — and  a deluxe box makes for a better start of a campaign than a single cycle pack.
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The Aficionado: Experience is a fascinating idea that I personally believe was a perfect use of the Victory mechanic from Lord of the Rings. When designing encounters, did you intentionally include options for players to gain more experience by trying to do more difficult things and, in essence, push their luck?
Nate French: There are some areas in the game where taking greater risks can lead to greater rewards of experience points. There are other areas where the experience reward is just part of the natural evolution of the campaign, so that the investigators can grow and evolve as the story unfolds.
The Aficionado: Sometimes my local Lord of the Rings playgroup feels we are blown out completely during games (“The Wounded Eagle” comes to mind) and it doesn’t feel great. Do you feel that Arkham Horror still has such blowouts? Do you feel that Arkham Horror still feels fun to lose? If so, would you attribute that feeling of fun to the theme?
Nate French: Winning or losing isn’t really a binary thing in the Arkham LCG. There are a wide range of possible outcomes for each scenario, and in many cases there is some uncertainty as to whether or not a “good” ending was reached. Maybe the players achieved what they thought was their objective, but in the process there was a great cost — maybe in game sacrifices, maybe in questionable morality, maybe in unintended consequences. Exploring these different possibilities creates an experience where the journey, and how you get to the result, is just as important — if not more so — than the final outcome.
The Aficionado: Upcoming card “Delve Too Deep” is fascinating on a number of levels, and for me is far and away the most exciting card spoiled in the game. However, it is also the kind of card that is only important in campaign play (much as “Cover Up” also is).
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What made you to decide to make campaign play the basic way to play, as opposed to a single, isolated game?
Nate French: The ability to tell more intricate, nuanced, and layered stories that can really draw people in over a longer period of time was compelling. Once people go through the effort of creating a character (in RPG terms) or building a deck (in Arkham LCG terms), they tend to want to spend some time with and get to know that character. A campaign provides the opportunity to do this.
The Aficionado: Out of the Core Set investigators, which is your favourite?
Nate French: I go through phases where I like each of them. Recently I’ve been playing Agnes the most, but it depends quite a bit on my mood.
The Aficionado: What do you believe the greatest achievement of Arkham Horror is? What is your favourite part of the design?
Nate French: Probably the way the Act deck and Agenda deck work together to create a plot, with an honourable mention for the weakness cards. I’ve really enjoyed the way those play out.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Nate French for the wonderful and interesting answers he gave to my questions, and just for being willing to be interviewed in the first place. Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a wonderful gaming experience for two to four players, and easily one of the best games I’ve played all year. Be sure to check it out!

Check out the games mentioned in this article here:

Twilight Struggle: An Aficionado Review

While Europe was the main contest, it was Asia where the spread of Soviet communism experienced its greatest triumphs. Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, all of them came under the influence of the snowballing Russian empire. While the United States of America had a solid grip in Western Europe, it was losing its influence pretty much everywhere else, as decolonisation efforts sprung up and former colonies rejoiced in their new freedom. The powers of the West were crumbling in this age of uncertainty.

To make matters worse, US efforts at launching an animal into space had failed miserably. Meanwhile, the Russians had not only already launched an animal, but also a man into space. The great superpower that the US once was was but a distant memory. Cuba’s communist ideals flourished under Fidel, and even regions of South Africa began to feel the allure. All seemed hopeless for the great nation of America in this cold, cold war…

But then, one by one, the nations of Eastern Europe began to renounce their support of Russia. Soon, the most important continent in this war was once again united with America, and as the allegiance of Europe became solidly American, the Russians had no choice but to admit defeat; despite their successes elsewhere in the world, it was Europe that ultimately determined the fate of the war. The US had lost many battles, but ultimately won the war.

That, loyal readers, is a recap of Twilight Struggle, a game that many hobbyist board gamers would be familiar with, even if they haven’t played it. That’s because, for as long as I can remember, Twilight Struggle was the number one game of all time on boardgamegeek.com, a position it only lost to the revolutionary Pandemic: Legacy. Despite all the time it sat in that position, something about the theme of “Political Struggle During the Cold War” didn’t quite appeal to a much younger me, and whilst I was interested in at least trying it out, the opportunity never arrived…

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Until recently. After a member of my family picked up a copy for cheap, we sat down to engage in what was touted to be the best game of all time. A battle of communism and capitalism, of East and West, of global superpowers in such a volatile time in history. Join me now as I tell you what I really thought about the game, and whether or not it’s worth the investment. Greatest game of all time or overrated? Find out with me right now!

What I Expected Going In

To say my expectations were high would be an understatement. I’ve played almost all of the top twenty games, and they are certainly all something very special. For Twilight Struggle to have maintained its spot for such a long time, to me, means that it must be something extraordinary.

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A game of Twilight Struggle in progress. The United States have successfully taken control of all of Asia.

GMT games are known for being deep and strategic. Dominant Species, for instance, has so many things going on at a time and requires a lot of forethought, but is an outstanding game for the heavy euro gamer. It also takes many, many hours to play. What else would you expect from a company that originally made war games? Their dedication to flavour and depth is respectable, if sometimes excessive.

Thus, I would summarise that going into Twilight Struggle, I was expecting a long slog of a game that would require my undivided attention. I definitely had high hopes for it, given its status and the devout fanbase its managed to acquire over the years. I’d heard a bit about it from a friend who had been hyping it up a fair bit, and from what he had told me, I began to imagine it as somewhat akin to Rebellion; to great but unequal powers battling it out for control of the board. Given that Rebellion is my favourite game of all time, Twilight Struggle would have to do a lot to unseat it.

What I Got Coming Out

Let me start off by saying that Twilight Struggle is by no means a game for everybody. Whereas I would heartily recommend Pandemic: Legacy to any and everyone who asked me for a recommendation, Twilight Struggle is certainly a lot more niche; not only is it two player only, but it also requires heavy investment from both players during the game. This is both due to time, complexity, and the fact that Twilight Struggle HEAVILY rewards repeat plays.

The main reason for this is that there can be some absolute blowout cards that define the game.  Not knowing their existence or position in the game can lead to some real negative play experiences. For example, in our second game, an otherwise outstanding game came to an abrupt end when I played the card Wargames.

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That’s right. The game ended on the spot, out of nowhere. We were just getting excited about this final age in an epic back and forth when all of a sudden I accidentally won. It wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t expected. It didn’t feel clever. It was just…over.

Other cards exist in the game that have a very historical flavour to them, but have similar punishing effects. For example, The Warsaw Pact can completely obliterate any of the US player’s early efforts to control Europe; if you spend your early game aggressively taking Eastern Europe, you will struggle to recover after this card hits.

Thus, it is very possible that Twilight Struggle will leave an unexpectedly salty taste in your mouth. In fact, our impressions after the first game were nothing short of bewilderment. How had this game managed to make it to number one, let alone maintain that spot? It was squarely in the “alright” category; neither of us disliked it, but it didn’t blow our minds.

Upon a second and now third play, however, I can safely say that whilst Twilight Struggle is still leagues away from being my number one game, it is definitely an interesting one. Each and every time I play, my strategy evolves. As I begin to be able to anticipate certain events from my opponent, my play becomes smarter. Suddenly I realise that without Fidel coming to power in Cuba, Central America is relatively safe for me (except for De-stalinization). I know to avoid investing heavily into Eastern Europe, but also to be careful about Western Germany, lest an early Blockade ruin me.

Recommendation

Twilight Struggle is, as said earlier, not a game for everyone. In fact, I would say that the appeal of the game is actually rather limited. Not many gamers I know would be willing to commit several hours time and time again to a game that starts off as just mediocre. However, for anyone not adverse to a Cold War theme, heavy mechanics or the task of playing through at least twice before deciding whether they like it, Twilight Struggle may be able to shine through. With now three games under my belt, it has grown on me, and I am looking forward to playing it again.

And that is always a sign of something special in my eyes. There are many games I’ve played over the years, but few that I actively think about playing again. While Star Wars: Rebellion will get the nod over this any day of the week (at least, for me) Twilight Struggle has done well to cause me to ponder on how I should next bring the fight to the Soviets (in the game, of course).

The Aficionado quite likes this game.

Grade: A

Wanna give Twilight Struggle or any other game mentioned here a try? Check ’em out below!

Twilight Struggle
Star Wars: Rebellion
Pandemic: Legacy
Dominant Species

 

The Pursuit of Happiness: An Aficionado Review

Gerald was always a bit of a nerd. He was the quintessential bookworm, and felt very strongly about politics, especially those concerning healthcare. So great was his love for politics that it resulted in him starting up his own political party as a teenager. However, it eventually devolved into a social club, though two great things did come out of this pet project of his: he engaged in a lifelong study of the political sphere, and he met Sophie.

As an adult, Gerald’s love of helping people and his interest in healthcare resulted in him studying to become a doctor. Whilst he did continue his study of politics, it was more a hobby than anything now. With a secure job and a now stable relationship with the very sociable Sophie, Gerald bought a cheap car, and began collecting antiques of all sorts. A promotion to surgeon allowed him to complement his antique collection with a large library, and he soon wed his high school sweetheart.

With both Gerald and Sophie too busy to have children, much of their adult lives was spent acquiring more material comforts. The genius that he was, Gerald soon found himself lecturing at a university. After a comfortable life led and a very successful career, Gerald was able to retire a little earlier than most, riding his pension and savings to be able to continue to afford all of his goods.

As old age set in, Gerald and Sophie found themselves with more time than they’d ever had. They decided to upgrade their library from a single wall of books into a great room, and took a trip to go skiing, something that they’d wanted to do their whole lives but never had the time for. Now too old to have children of their own, the couple decided to adopt and start a family, with Gerald finally being able to become a father and live the happy life he’d always dreamed of…

Then came the health issues. His whole life, he’d pursued material gains and a stable, happy but childless relationship with the one love of his life. As he  lay on his deathbed, Gerald wondered if he could have been happier. What if he hadn’t pursued his career with such focus and, instead, had children of his own to raise? What if, instead of concerning himself with the difficult and lifelong study of the political sphere, he’d gone out and volunteered to help people, or learned to play the guitar? As all these thoughts raced through his head and his life flashed before his eyes, Gerald departed from this life.

The Pursuit of Happiness Box Cover

This is the type of story you get from playing The Pursuit of Happiness, a new game from Stronghold Games that I have been looking forward to ever since the first time I heard about it. In fact, it topped my list of top ten games on my watch list, which can be found here. Yesterday, I finally got the chance to play it after waiting for so long, and what better way to start off a review after such a long break than with a bit of a format shakeup?  Let’s get down to business.

What I Expected Going In

As this was one of the games on my watch list, you can expect that I had a fair idea of what the game was about. A mid-weight worker placement game with a heavy emphasis on flavour was what I had been promised. The bright colour scheme, family friendly art style and generally simple mechanics meant that I expected this would end up being a great game to pull out during family time. I also imagined that a lot of the enjoyment of the game would be derived from losing yourself in the experience of the game as opposed to from mechanical brilliance.

What I Got Coming Out

The Pursuit of Happiness delivered what was promised as far as the thematic experience goes. As you can tell from the write-up, I loved every second of the flavour story. One of the other players even mentioned getting so lost in the flavour that he fully intended to finish his character’s lifelong project, even if it wasn’t optimal. The fact that the game can evoke these kinds of feelings in the players is testament to the strength of the theme. It was everything I had wanted and more.

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A two player game of The Pursuit of Happiness in progress.

At least, thematically. Mechanically speaking, the game doesn’t quite translate well. In effect, the entire game is a conversion engine; you’re constantly trading some resources for either long term happiness (points) or some kind of resource, which you then use to gain more cards which also convert your resources. There is some slight engine building that excels at reproducing the flavour, but other than that, I don’t always feel the flavour of what my character is doing in my actions so much as what the cards themselves say.

There are some solid mechanics in the form of stress (another mechanic in which the theme makes sense) and upkeep, as well as the penalties of getting fired, breaking up, or having things repossessed. However, for the most part, the actual worker placement aspects of the game are incredibly basic to the point of blandness. Other mechanics (particularly short-term happiness) have strange options that don’t make any sense at all. For example, you can lose short-term happiness to replace all the cards available in one of the sections with some new ones. Not only is this strange thematically, but also a bit tedious mechanically (given that you can effectively burn all your short-term happiness before your last action in order to find a card that you really want).

That being said, The Pursuit of Happiness absolutely oozes theme. Much like Burger Up, however, a lot of your enjoyment in the game will likely be determined but how much you engage with it. If you’re looking at it as a mechanical game to be optimised, you will very quickly grow bored with it. However, if you go in as I did, expecting a wondrous and family friendly frolic where you get to watch your character grow and change, this game will deliver that in spades.

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In this game, Alexander (my character) was a famous artist who, after meeting Robin, became a lot more social, and ended up moving into a career as a teacher.

Recommendation

The Pursuit of Happiness is not a gamer game. The mechanics are fairly brittle and susceptible to being gamed, yet even then, they do not exactly lend themselves to tension or excitement. What Pursuit of Happiness IS is a platform for storytelling and immersion into the lives of ordinary people (like Gerald), wherein the whole family can have a laugh and have fun with this simple and incredibly flavoursome work of art.

The Aficionado enjoys this game a lot.

Grade: A-

Interested in The Pursuit of Happiness? Grab your copy today!

A New Journey: First Impressions of Seafall

Seafall was not a game I was looking forward to very much. I’d been listening out for people to hail this as “the next best thing”, but word never came. Many a reviewer claimed that the game was slow and unexciting and a far cry from the roaring success of Pandemic: Legacy. I believed that the hype train had derailed, and this title was on a crash course for disaster.

Then, a friend of mine invited me to take part in his copy of the game. Taking part in a legacy game is an investment, but being invited to one is a gift, one that I gladly took.

*WARNING: SPOILERS!
Please note that this will be a fairly photo light article because I don’t wish to spoil anything for anyone else.

The Set Up

Learning the rules fell to me, and it took me a while to cover everything in the game.There was very little confusion as to how to play the game once we got into it. Big plus so far; the rulebook makes sense (mostly).

There are plenty of treasure chests that line the box; what wonders will be found inside those? Well, we get to find out some things very quickly. We begin by choosing our leaders. For me, I chose this handsome fellow, whom I named Prince Ishmael of Zion.

Prince Ishmael

Introducing Prince Ishmael of Zion a.k.a me in the world of Seafall

Before we even got to play, we had to set up just who our nation and character were.  My decisions resulted in Ishmael earning the appellation “The Efficient”; I knew exactly what I was going to be doing in the first game. The other players received an upgraded farmland and an improved luck stat, just a taste of the other things you can receive.

I was pretty excited  to set sail into the world of Seafall.

The Early Game

Most of the early game was spent exploring the various options to us. I picked up a few advisors (effectively player powers) that would help me with my goal of building, whilst the others went off doing more exciting things like exploring new lands. Still, I was content to go about my merchant business.

At this point, it seemed to me that exploring was far and away the most exciting thing to do, and it also seemed to be an easy way to gain glory (how you win the game and the campaign overall). I was busy building up my home port with marketplaces and ports, meaning I couldn’t explore just yet.

Originally, we weren’t reading the events out loud, but there seemed to be no reason not to. After all, that’s one of the main drives of the legacy game; to experience a growing and deep story. However, this is where I encounter what will become a glaring issue later on.

The Late Game

As we got a handle on the mechanics, we started aiming for the milestones; an easy way to gain great amounts of glory. Ishmael the Efficient managed to claim the builder milestone, which led to [CONFIDENTIAL]. It was really interesting that [CONFIDENTIAL] and this really involved me in the game a lot more. I needed more milestones, but it wasn’t gonna be easy.

On what would be the final turn of the game, I made a mad dash for the last milestone with an adviser called the Madman, and managed to, on a fantastic roll, succeed and achieve my goal. In the end, the three of us tied on twelve glory each, though the winner ended up being the person who started with the lowest title.

One of the objectives resulted in a box being opened, and boy oh boy, it was a doozy. At that point, I was hooked and more than ready for the second game. Now, this is where I’d like to raise some design issues I have so far.

Both my friends received bonuses which will stack with others they gain as the campaign continues. The gold received from farms and the luck at the start of the game can be further increased later. However, my Appellation can only be replaced. Now that I’ve seen the others available, I’m contemplating aiming for one of them, but that would mean that I would therefore effectively start the campaign with no bonus. To me, that seems like a bit of an oversight in design, and I’m a bit disappointed.

In addition, as we played the game, we noticed that there are many cases and keywords that pop up in the game that are not well covered in the rulebook. This slowed down game time and resulted in a fair bit of google searching, with limited success. Whilst the rules did a great job at getting us into the game, they didn’t seem to be prepared for what we were going to encounter.

Back to the end of game stuff, it was pretty exciting to choose an advisor to start with (which would definitely dictate my strategy next game) as well as upgrade my ship. Sticking to my roots, I chose to upgrade my hull (to carry more goods) and to keep a building advisor to help me get my markets up and running quickly.

Harrison Biggs The Foreman

Harris Biggs joins Ishmael to help him out in his quest to become emperor.

The End Game

Overall, after my first play, I was pretty eager to play again. In spite of the reviews, I felt as though the game was solid thus far and hoped to see it evolve as I went along.

Two days later, I played my second game. Without going into spoiler territory, here are my summarised thoughts on my second game:

-I felt like the game was pretty strategic and rewarded long term planning for certain strategies. However, it does currently feel as though there is a dominant strategy as far as each individual game goes.

-I love the advisor system in the game. For me, that is far and away the strongest part of the game. The actions in the game are all super simple to understand. What the advisors do is complicate them, altering them in interesting ways that allow for some really big plays.

-I’m starting to see how the game is going to evolve over time, and I’m curious to see if it will unfold as elegantly as I believe it will.

-I am not invested at all in the story of what’s happening, besides my own character and nation’s growth. All of the exploration that has been done feels more like random happenings than a coherent story, and I often couldn’t care less about the actual story. For me, this is not unexpected, but I realise moreso now that Pandemic: Legacy‘s biggest strength was the powerful narrative it drove. I really can’t see that happening in Seafall, as the players are driving the action forward, not the game itself.

 

Summary

I’m impressed with the gameplay and design of Seafall so far. It has definitely exceeded what low expectations I had of it going in and is a solid game in its own right. The Advisor mechanic, in my opinion, carries the game a great deal, and the mechanical legacy aspects of the game are rather simple but well thought out, rewarding long term planning of strategies.

Seafall is not without it’s faults though. I’d like to re-emphasise the story being quite weak. If you’re looking to be engrossed in the world, you’d best look elsewhere.  I also feel that the game is a little more exciting for certain types of players than others; merchanting is a rather math based and calculating affair with little to excite. Exploring and raiding, on the other hand, are where the adventure is at.

Perhaps such a fact is not a fault, but a boon to the game. After all, who wants to be a trader and builder all day when there’s adventure to be had? Well, funnily enough, I did. I enjoy economic strategies, but I’m not certain they’re really what’s encouraged in Seafall.  As such, for my third game, I’ve hired decided to speed up my assault boat and hire a cannoneer. We’re a-goin’ player hunting next game.

This is not the revolutionary game that Pandemic: Legacy was, at least nowhere close at the moment. But if you like nautical themes or campaign-style games, you’ll have a great time with Seafall.

Prince Ishmael and his neew pal, Victoria de Seval

Sailors beware! We’re a-comin’ for you.

 

 

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