Claustrophobia 1643 (2019) review
Designer: Croc, Laurent Pouchain
Survival horror is the name of this game. Not a dungeon crawler or a two player skirmish, but a survival horror.
Why is that? Because for the human player and their band of heroic warriors, they will be facing hordes upon hordes of demons that will be climbing out from the woodwork. And for our Demon player, it’s just another day in the garden, planting flowers and watching them bloom in blood.This is a game where if you are the hero ,the odds are against you and the scenario is daunting. You will feel a little claustrophobic.
The game is a streamline back-and-forth between two players trying to achieve their goals. With 20 scenarios to choose from, there is a lot of choice in how to win and how to build your dungeon. Some scenarios have a set constructed layout. While others are built as you go from an almost random stack of tiles. Each tile has its own benefit or curse, whether it be a trap that wounds a hero or tentacles that do double damage to anyone hurt in that area. And then there’s the magic well, which will heal a hero and the Spawning pits from where troglodytes will pop up.
Now, I say streamlined due to the fact that this is a reprint and the simple to play game has been modified to become a little simpler and fair but does not take away from the tactical gameplay of the original. But the set up for each scenario is not streamlined and can take a little time. You’ll be sorting out the tiles to create piles to draw from. Or laying them out in a pre-constructed labyrinth. These tiles are big and chunky but luckily they are all numbered individually to help locate which one goes where and in which pile. Then the players will be collecting their heroes or demons and adding their character sheets into their consoles. Which is another great upgrade for board gaming. As these consoles will hold your dice and damage tokens. Another added bonus is the fact that you will easily find your miniature, because they look exactly like what they are drawn on the card art. A problem that Monolith have had with their other titles.
With set up complete, you’ll be able to shake the pillars of heaven and hell, by taking simple actions. Both sides will perform the same types of actions but in an asymmetrical way. In the preparation phase the players will roll and allocated amount of dice. For the hero player, these dice will be added to the consoles indicating that particular characters movement attack and defense points. Where as for the demon player, their dice will be used to collect cards, Prima Matiera Gems, or power the values up to break the rules. After which the Demon player has a bonus phase where they can spend their Prima Matiera Gems to Spawn monsters onto the board. And finally the players will be able to activate each of their miniatures on the board by either, moving and attacking or attacking and moving. And there you have it. That is all of the rules of the game and how to play it. Very simple, streamline and fluide.
But the game is no HeroQuest. As simple as the actions are to understand, the devil is in the details. Each hero has different statistics that, when a die is assigned, will give them different abilities or even powers. For example your main character, the Redeemer, has the power to call upon God to bless his team. Or depending on the scenario, other powers. On the other hand, the demon player may have different demons that they control. Again each has its own characteristics, skills, and powers. And this is where the intricacies and delicate strategies can be found. Every decision made, especially by the hero player, can be a matter of life and death. Whereas the demon player can keep chucking their army of monsters at the heroes. As long as they have Prima Matiera Gems, of course.
Now, this big box should be an obvious giveaway that this game is big. With players having a number of consoles in front of them. Plus the ever-expanding labyrinth that they will be playing in (depending on the scenario they play). You’re going to need a very big table to play this on. Even though there are only two of you playing. Having a small table can distract you from the game a little, as you slide the map around or move one of your consuls because it’s in the way of the ever-expanding labyrinth of hell. But it doesn’t feel overly produced in size. As there’s plenty of space for all the miniatures to sit on each tile, so it does not obscure information on it. And as for the big consoles, making them smaller would probably make them more fragile. Having them at this size is perfect to place the dice, tokens and damage tokens in to. If the consoles were smaller, the dice would have to be smaller too. And they are already small and a little difficult to read.
The scenarios, at first glance seem a little unbalanced. And then you start playing the game. That’s when the hero player will actually feel the game is unbalanced as they have this momentous task to fill and a long way to go to get to their destination. And after the first few rounds, they will feel even more disheartened when they see the amount of troglodytes and possibly other demons barring their way. Making their life hell. Which fits perfectly well with the theme of the game. That is, a group of criminals have been converted by the church, into mercenaries and sent into the depths of the earth to fight the demons that are crawling out from hell to take over the earth. And I can see some people bitching about the fact that this unbalanced set up means that the game has not been well designed. But if the theme of the game was Indiana Jones going up against thousands maybe millions of Nazi's just to get one artifact, I don’t think they’d be crying as much. The game does enough with it's choices to balance itself out with its mechanisms and clever planning. Also the little tweaks that of been added to this version of the game that mitigate luck.
Yes, your old friend luck is in this game and he seems to be carrying an army of friends with him. From the dice rolling, the random tile draws for the map, up to the random cards you draw which would give you special powers and abilities. But there is enough tiny little details in the game to mitigate this luck. One of the bugbears I had of the original game, as the hero player, was being kicked when I was down. This is because as the hero player, when ever you take damage you are forced to block one of your activation lines. What is this mean? Remember I spoke about assigning dice in the preparation phase. After the dice has been rolled by the hero player, whatever the result is needs to be placed in one of the six lines of activation depending on the value. If your hero is seriously wounded and only has one activation slot open, but you haven’t rolled a dice of that value to slip it into, you’re a little bit screwed. There is nothing you can do. This hero cannot move or attack, which is the primary reason why they are there. In this version of the game, the hero can collect instinct cards that can be either used to power up one of their heroes attributes. Or be used to change the value of a dice to the number depicted on the card. This is a fantastic get out of jail free card for hero players who is feeling screwed by the dice. As certain lines of activation will allow you to draw more instinct cards, making it easy to cycle through this deck to find the powers you need at the right time.
Of course there is dice combat, which relies on rolling a number of dice to attack your opponent, and if the value is higher than their armor, then you made a hit. Luckily the values of the armor do not feel excessive and you will do damage quite a few times.The mass of the team in the army is made up of troglodytes, which can be easily killed and also may be slaughtered if there are multiple troglodytes in the same space and the hero player rolls multiple dice, all of them successful.
The same can be true when attacking a hero player character. But each character has fluctuating defense levels, depending on where the hero has allocated their dice. So the demon player will need to pay close attention to the hero player consoles. Where as the hero player will be paying attention to the amount of Prima Matiera Gems, possible spawning points on the map and powers of the demons that they have in play.
So you can see there is quite a bit of interaction between the two players. And remembering this interaction will help you out of difficult situations that you believe luck has pushed you into. Whether it be from the dice the tiles or the cards. But, and this is a big but. When you start losing your heroes, the luck will be pressed against you. Hope will start deteriorating from your eyes as the long slog to reach your objective becomes infinitely harder. And even though your team may be cut in half, there is always a chance that there will be a chink in the armor of the demon player, allowing you to slip through an unseen hole and finish the game with an upstanding roar.
One of the downsides is, that your first few games will be clogged up with questions, simple as the game is. As you'll constantly be referencing the rulebook as these questions pop up in your game. For each scenario there are new and different rules. Whether it be certain tiles that does something different or whether it be different demons that have different powers. The powers of the demons are explained in two forms on their character sheets. As icons and as text. This can be a little confusing at first as you try to decipher what these powers mean. But after a while or with foresight, you'll see that the text is explaining the icons and these are not two separate things.Then you'll be checking every icon to see which one interacts with the other, then it all makes sense. And the language will take a while to get used to as well. I am still struggling to remember if "impressive" means to block opponents movement or defend another hero (it means block). Yes, even though I have demo this game more than 20 times and played it seven myself, I still can’t grasp the names of the talents that the heroes have. One day I will remember.
This is the perfect two player, deep and thematic game for hard-core gamers. A strategic movement game, more than a skirmish. But also with it simplicity it can be taut to younger players or players that I’m not normally into this kind of game. You will be tempted to play different scenarios every time you open the box. I feel more comfortable playing one scenario several times, once as the demon player and once as the hero player, letting me feel the difference of the same story, but in a different way. Then having a good time and laughing at how I failed with either faction. This facit also gives the game a lot more replayability and fluidity with each play. The box says this game plays in 45 minutes, you may find some of the scenarios will take you up to a good two hours. That maybe even without having to dip your head in to check the rules (and definitely doesn’t include setup time).
Going back to I said at the beginning, this game has the look and feel of a dungeon crawling game. And the majestic magic of a two player skirmish. but playing as the hero player, you will soon find out how much more this game has in common with Resident Evil, than Descent.
Technical score 9.5/10
Artwork on characters and monsters is outstanding. But there seems to be a general lack of artwork on the cards and consoles, leaving a bleak and dry, black and white look on your table. The component quality is outstanding, from the detail of the miniatures up to the red skull tokens which are damage points. Everything is sturdy and solid, including the box insert and how old the game packs away. And it’s all presented with a well written rulebook and scenario book. Although it could do with some reference sheets to speed up play
My BGG score 8/10
(very good- enjoy playing and would suggest it)
This game scratches the Descent itch, but has a better two player feeling. There lots of choices to be made playing as either faction, with a simple rules set. Simple enough for my 12-year-old to play. I believe the design was made so a parent could play the doomed heroes while a child could play the menacing demons. Which is perfect for me and my family. Every game is a different adventure as your opponents change and your end goal too. With lots of dice rolling which I like but with less luck than you think, which I like. This is a fun miniatures game that packs a wallop but does not get stale.
Combined score 8.75/10
A major upgrade from the original version. Upgrades include art, components, more demons and cards for heroes.Things missing from this version are pre-painted minis and cleaner looking tiles.
And now it’s over to you...
The Fantasy Sport Of Total Domination
Welcome to the world cup of the intergalactic universe's most brutal and violent sport!!! No, I do not speak of Blood Bowl ... No, here comes the time of Kaosball !
Presented as a mix of rugby, American football and violence, Kaosball is a game that tells you about a unique sport. What? Don't you know it? To tell the truth, it is rather normal because it received a rather mixed reception and was quickly shunned by the players. But why so much hatred?
Coming from a 2013 Kickstarter campaign, the game was released in 2014 (wow! that does not rejuvenate me). The designer of the game is the brilliant Eric M. Lang (Rising Sun, Arcadia Quest, Blood Rage), who made his first big collaboration with the publisher Cool Mini Or Not (CMON). At a time when the giant Blood Bowl was no longer published, Kaosball tried to establish itself as the new fantasy sports game.
The game offers three ways to play:
* The head-to-head, which opposes two players against each other.
* In alliances mode, where four players compete in teams, two vs two.
* In Maximum Kaos, where three to four players compete at the same time against each other.
The first big originality of this game is the possibility to play up to four at the same time. And that's pretty cool. Imagine very quickly the general chaos that happens in the arena.
During the campaign of the game, we were promised a sport game that was easy to get out, balanced, fast to play and very simple. But what is it really?
Kaosball is a sports game that places you into intense matches divided into four quarters with a break at halftime. The goal of the game is to score the most points. Until then, nothing abnormal. There many ways to score points, and most of the time without the ball. Yes, you have read that correctly. Score points "without the ball."
Kaosball is not a difficult game to learn from the rules. There are actually very few actions available.
First, you need a team. That's good because with the Kickstarter, there was no shortage of teams available due to the stretch goals. In the basic box, there are only four: the Götterdämmerung Fangs, the Mt. Clobberton Ogres, the New Purgatory Daemons and the Templeton Amazons. Oh, did not I tell you? We are in a fantasy world. We will find all the archetypes of this kind but that's not all ... In all, this is not less than eighteen teams that are available in all. Each team is made up of 13 players and a bust that represents the coach which only serves as a score tracker. Among the players, there are two categories: Runners and Bruisers.
The Runners, represented by minis with round bases, are there to play the ball. They run fast, can recover the ball and especially mark other characters.
The Bruisers, represented by square bases minis, have other things to whip. Even though they can carry the ball, they can not score. They are only there to protect and block spaces. It's not the ball that interests them but the opponents characters ... especially those who can bleed. They can therefore tackle and attack.
Each team has its own abilities and its own way of playing. As much as to say that for a first play, it can be difficult to know all the teams and all their powers. Besides the different amount of life points, you will also find they have different powers, movement and and attacks ... The asymmetry is great. But sometimes, we get quite significant balancing problems. In the base box, the Amazons are clearly stronger than the other teams. So do not expect to have the same chances playing against them.
To bring a little more fun at the expense of slight balancing issues, before each game there is an auction phase. But what are we going to buy? Will you tell me? ... Well we will bid on two things: permanent team powers or player abilities and Ringers.
Ringers are the third category of characters that can be found in Kaosball. Like MVPs at Blood Bowl, Ringers are the stars of the sport. Represented by hexagonal bases, they are unique characters up for auction. In addition to their own abilities, the Ringer has those of their team. They also have the abilities of the Runner and Bruiser. Just that. We do not laugh with these stars. They are very interesting mercenaries. But I assure you, you can only have one Ringer per team, per game.
Once the bidding phase is over, we prepare for the match. This time, we are still not laughing. The sport of total domination will be able to begin. At the beginning of a player's turn, you check to see if any points have been scored (according to the positioning of your players). Then, you can choose a possible action between two.
The first is to play an Energy card. You apply the power indicated on it. Playing such a card replaces the activation of a figurine (unless it explicitly states otherwise). The card thus played remains in front of the you until the end of the quarter.
The second is to play a miniature of you team, that is not stunned. Again, depending on the type of character, the actions are a little different.
If it is a Runner: it can sprint (and try to get the ball either on the ground or from an opponent) and ... that's all. If it is a Runner: it can sprint and take the ball on the ground, but not from an opponent. Tackle or attack an opponent at a distance of three spaces (the field is composed of square). Remember: Ringers can do anything.
The difference between the tackle and the attack is the finality. If successful, a tackled player is unavailable until the next turn. An attacked player loses life points and if he dies he leaves the game as a trophy for the attacker.
Of course, the defender will be able to react before. This is called the reaction (original, yeah!). When a character enters the killzone of a player, before any other action, they can make a reaction. Whether during a fight or during a reaction, we will proceed to a contest. Instead of a traditional roll of dice, the contest is a clash of cards. So be careful, here is one of the most complex but also the most original and intelligent things in the game. Normally, you choose a card from your hand, and simultaneously reveal and add the abilities of the team. The highest value wins.
Simple. Yes, but it's not all that. Before looking at the result, you will first look at all cards accumulated in front of both players. Remember, I told you that when you play a card, you keep it. This is also true with this contest. If by chance, inadvertently or due to bad luck, the card that you just revealed is of the same value as a card already present before you, it simply becomes dead. A dead card is lost to the player who played it. Sad huh. If two dead cards are returned then we still resolve the contest and the cards will be worth 0.
Are you already starting to see the breakaway side of the game? There is a lot of pretty important guessing, but also a bit of luck in the deck of cards.
It's not complicated enough? So you also have cheat cards. These cards will also be added to those in front of you. They can often be played anytime. They have various effects such as canceling the result of a fight, adding values, withdrawing them, ... But the power they bring is not free. They may cost you victory points at the end of the period. Cheating is bad, you see.
A quarter will end when a player, at the end of their turn, has at least nine cards in front of them. Players then proceed to a small clean up phase where you'll calculate your points. If you have some, you can try to corrupt the referee by using your teams gold (that that you didn’t use in the auction phase) to remove cheating cards accumulated by a player. Then, a new quarter begins.
The halftime and after the fourth quarter are a little more special. In addition to the small clean up, you will be able to score or lose points based on the deaths that have transpired and the number of times cheating has occurred. And if at any time you can not return up to five players onto the field during a quarter, you are directly eliminated.
It's okay ? I did not lose you? Well. Now, we need to know the most important and thematic information. How do we score points? In the field there are two marked areas. The first, located behind the opponent's starting zone, will give five points to a player who is positioned on it but also at the beginning of each round. The other is in the center of the field and will earn as many points as the number during the quarter-time at the start of each round.
But for that, it is necessary to be still in possession of the ball and not KO'd. These two areas can be won only with a Runner. A sports game with goals that earn points makes sense. But we can also earn points with the most death. Whenever there is a death, the miniature is kept by the attacker to tally their score. At half-time and at the end of the game, whoever was most murderous gains bonus points. For example, at four players, six points are awarded in the first half and twelve at the end of the game (up to eighteen points) for the deadliest team, and all that is without touching the ball!. As we saw we can also lose points if we cheat too much.
At the end of the match, the team with the most points wins.
Kaosball is far from being a simplistic game. It is not as complicated as it may sound, but it is more subtle than one would have thought during the kickstarter campaign. In my opinion, what has served the game a lot is the way it was presented. It's a fun game, undoubtedly. By cons, it is a game that requires a minimum investment. Master your team, adapt to others, juggle between positive and negative cards, know how to position yourself ... It's a game with a good learning curve. Learning that has not been brought to light. It's a shame because, under it's obscure aspects, hides a very original game and very pleasant sport.
As is often the case with CMON campaigns, KS attendees have a big advantage over those who picked it up in the shop. Those who wanted to complete their range by taking teams will pay a steeper price. Especially when buying a team, you did not know what it really was compared to others. This is because the game has a real imbalance between the teams. Some are much stronger than others. Even though this offers an additional challenge for those who are optimistic and like that quality. The satisfaction of winning or losing can sometime leave a bizarre taste, leading to lots of people running away from this game. Luck also occupies a prominent place, which can frustrate players who never get good card hands. The one who accumulates dead cards will have difficulty going up this slope. Even if with seven cards in hand, the luck can be moderated.
I also think that people were expecting a faster game where you could score a lot of points with the ball. However, the bonus of killing a character seems too important compared to the difficulties of scoring. Even if this is true during the first few games, when you start to get to know it well, you quickly notice that leaving a player in the major scoring zone can be much worse. But yes, it's not a game where you will easily score points. There is also the team play aspects that can be found in other sports games with eg. long passes, incredible breakthroughs in the defense, etc. Without being too cerebral here, reflection is always present to choose your shots. But luck is here as well and your choice depends on what is drawn into your hand.
Even if the total domination remains undone, the game has so much to give, but you need to give it a chance.The components, you will not be disappointed with, as the figures are beautiful. The universe has been picked from a bit of everything you know and goes in all directions. Cowboy, Samurai, Ninja, Amazon, Goblin, Steampunk, Pirates, Hellcats, Valkyrie, Werewolf, ... anything goes. Madness is assumed, as the art is cartoonesque (when we see some Ringer, we understand quickly). The two artist, Andrea Cofransceco (Arcadia Quest, Super Dungeon Explore) and Mathieu Harlaut (Arcadia Quest, Zombicide), seems to have taken a lot of pleasure referencing other mediums.
Board and cards are good quality and the individual trays with the magnetic side can slightly warp but remain pleasant. It puts you quickly in the mood. I would have liked a special box to contain everything. That would have been easier to store and transport (but that's something most publishers almost never think of).
Kaosball clearly comes from traditional sports games. It is more strategic than it looks and it's a game with a learning curve. CMON believed in it, even creating special rules to create a league. But the game was quickly forgotten by the community and the publisher. Too bad. Even if the total domination remains undone, the game has so much to give, but you need to give it a chance.
Technical Score 8/10
Minis are beautiful, composants are good. It is difficult to carry everything (if you backed everything, like I did) because of a lack of storage. The team’s board can warp.
My BGG Score 9/10
(Excellent game. Always want to play it..)
Easy to play, easy to learn but not so easy to master. The game is very fun if you don’t take winning to seriously.
Combined Score 8,5/10
A good score for a good game. And now it's over to you...
Space Gate Odyssey (2019) tested
This is a first impressions of a game that a friend owns. Therefore, I have never read the rules and will not be using the correct terms of Space Gate Odyssey in this article. But this is the impression that I got from playing it. A game where you will be building a space station from a control center somewhere on another planet. And your goal is to populate other planets with your colonists, using a Stargate system. Beam em up, move em about and zap them out there. A worker placement, construction, puzzle, go forth and multiply game.
The games main mechanic is worker displacement. There will be a control room board depicting five rooms, each with a 3D table in it. Each room has its own action and each player has a number of scientists in each of these rooms. On the players turn they will take one of their scientists and move into another room to perform the action they wish to take. Each scientist in that room, of the same players color will be able to perform the action. Move a third scientist into the teleport room and you can teleport three groups of colonists onto your space station. Which can be great for you. It's a party in the teleport room. Woopie! But what the bummer will be is moving a scientist into a room where they are alone, meaning you perform the action only once.
And to add a downer to the bummer is if another player has three or four of their scientists in that room, they can perform the action on your turn as well. Three or four times, depending on their number of scientists. So you are basically allowing the other players a free pass to do what they want as well. This means you’ll have to plan your actions carefully and either space out to your scientists or group them together for powerful actions. At the same time you’ll need to think about if you want to help out the other players or not. This lends itself to a nice back-and-forth between the players and also lots of interaction in the game even when it’s not your turn.
Each player will have their own individual space station in front of them made up of a number of tiles. A teleport room will provide you with some colonists that will help build the station and colonize other planets. You’ll be expanding this space station with the help of your scientists in the control room, as one of the actions will allow you to draw tiles. Think of it as building an ant farm or creating a route for the lovable Lemmings (Oh No! pop). These tiles come in three different colors and have three different functions.
The functions include Teleporting rooms, where your colonists will arrive at your space station. Corridors, that when constructed will allow you to recruit more scientists in the control room, or robots (which are non-moving scientists) or upgraded scientists (which have the power of doing an action twice). And finally for lack of a better turn, the Stargate tiles, which when half full of colonists will zap them to one of the planets chosen at random at the beginning of the game. The color of the tiles is very important as you build your labyrinth of a space station. As three of the control rooms match those three colors. Moving a scientist into the green control room will allow one of your colonists to move from an adjacent tile into a green tile. Whether it be Corredor, Stargate or Teleport room. Again the more of your scientists in that room the more colonist can move about the space station.
The game seems to be about efficiently constructing a maze for your colonists to run around in and then finally get out of, to score you points on planets. And it does this, and I have found it interestingly enjoyable. But then you have the planets. Each of the planets are chosen at random at the beginning of the game and only a certain amount of planets are used per game. Each planet has its own way of being scored once they’ve been colonized. Some score you points just for the number of colonist you have on that planet. While others will score points for majorities on separate islands or sectors or if you were the first to reach a certain space on the planet.
There is an intriguing balancing system to the game, to stop runaway leaders. As your score goes up, the amount of colonists and scientists at your disposal goes down. You’ll be using these meeples to keep track of the tens of units of your score. This hurts a little when you have to use a colonist. But it hurts a great deal more if you have to remove a scientist from the control room.
There is also an added scoring section at the end of the game which can be adjusted by certain spaces on the planets. Placing a colonist on this special space will allow you to change two tiles on a track on the home planet. This track is the end of game scoring and you will score points on whether you have the most tiles on your space station of a certain color or if you have sets of colored tiles. And obviously each position on this track will have a different amount of points. Moving the green tile to the furthest right space will give the player with the most green tiles on their station, a large chunk of points. Building your entire station of green tiles might be great for those points, but will it be effective moving your colonists around?
Once a planet has its complement of colonists it is removed from the game and scored. And the Stargate moves on to another planet. If there are no more chosen planets left, the Stargate moves on to the home world and colonists which go through that Stargate will score points directly. When there are no more planets to explore and all the Stargates have been placed on the home world the game ends. You’ll do the final scoring which also includes a penalty for any open doors on your space station, a little like Galaxy Trucker (in space, everyone knows who left the door open). So constructing this in an adequate manner is important, not only to be efficient but also to be complete.
The game is small and cute but still takes up a lot of space. Control room, planets, piles of tiles, everybody's space stations sprawling everywhere. With mini meeple colonists which can be a little finicky and meeple sized scientists that have suits that they slip in and out of accidentally. It’s sad to say but it’s all a little bit too miniaturized. Yes the game takes up a lot of table space and fits nicely in a ticket to ride size box but it suffers with the finicky components. Plus there are very small icons on the space station tiles. This can sometimes lead to forgetting that you have a teleporter or a Stargate portal on the tile. And in a game where there is this much player into action, it would be useful to look across the table to see your opponents station and easily discover what they have built.
But apart from my slight component dislike, I really enjoyed puzzling this game out. As I have said the interaction between players keeps you fully engaged in the game. You are always constantly planning or doing something even when it is not your turn. There are different planets to use each time you play, and they work differently for the different number of players. You’ll hardly notice the art of Vincent Dutrait’s handy work, but you will notice the robots resemble Dr Who’s foes. It’s enjoyable to see your labyrinth space station, live and work how it’s supposed to work. A little bit like watching Simcity and seeing where the traffic jams are and where the freeways make traversal of the station fluid. This is a game that merits replaying, just to see the different types of planets and to try out different combinations of a space station.
tested - liked -want to play again
Dinosaur Island (2017) review
* Warning : all the components presented in the photos of this review come from the KS version, the retail version may be slightly different. *
Who hasn't dreamed of being able to manage a park of living dinosaurs? To be able to play with DNA while offering its visitors an intense and magical experience ? Dinosaurs were for dreamers, then Spielberg pushed the concept even further with his movie Jurassic Park.
Since then, there has always been this desire to find a game with a gameplay equivalent that could take us back to this wonderful adventure. Strangely, few games with this theme have emerged. There was an old MB game that came out many moons ago, but we were far from the possibility of managing a Jurrasic style park. License costs are certainly very high, fear of attacking this well loved monument, or simply a lack of interest ... The reasons are certainly varied to why a game like this never came to market.
Since the release of Jurassic World, licensed games have emerged. Aimed at the family audience and not necessarily the gamer, who wanted to control the management of the park itself. In 2017, an "expert" game came to Kickstarter and surprised us, with this thematic flavor: Dinosaur Island from Pandasaurus Games.
The first thing that was surprising in this game was the art. Everything is very flashy (maybe too much?) Illustrators Kwanchai Moriya (Catacombs), Peter Wocken (Dead of Winter) and Anthony Wocken, had free rein to their madness and offered us unique and surprising visuals. A breath of fresh air in a world where production tends to be more and more standardized. This art gave a unique cachet to this game. Clearly, from its aesthetics, it can be cutting.
The designers Jonathan Gilmour (Dead of Winter) and Brian Lewis (Titan of Industry) offer us with their game, the opportunity to be at the head of a company that embarks on the exploitation of dinosaurs to attract tourists into their amusement park. Does it remind you of anything?
Everything is there. Creation of dinosaurs (thanks to the recovered DNA), creation of enclosures, levels of security, booths of goodies, food stands, attractions, specialists, dinosaurs, ... Even the rules offer a lot of tributes and funny references.
We are in a game as faithful as possible to the monument that is Jurassic Park without having the film footage and stepping on any rights.
In Dinosaur Island, the goal is to make your park lively as possible. Playable for 2 to 4 players (you have also a solo mode), each is the head of a scientific corporation. Your park is represented by an individual player board, on one side is the possible locations, on a kind of grid and on the other the actions that your workers can do. The game is played in several phases.
The first is the specific resource search. You are going to send your scientists to bring back DNA, to find dinosaur "recipes" (yes I do not know what else to call it), or to transform them into mundain workers.
We are in a fairly conventional job placement. The choices are represented either by dice or by locations, as is the case for dinosaurs. Moreover, there are two types of dinosaur"recipes": Herbivores and Carnivores. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Herbivores are easier to create and generate fewer problems but they attract less visitors. On the other hand, Carnivores are the opposite.
The taste of danger brings back more people. With Carnivores, you have two types : small and large (which are more difficult to create). I take the lead and I answer you right away ... Yes, there is the Tyrannosaurs. Each species of dinosaurs is represented only once. So if you like this one especially, buy it immediately!
During the second phase, you will be able to recover equipment, build buildings and recruiter specialists to improve your park. No, you can't find John Hammond, Dr. Grant or Ian Malcom ... Though, if you look a little closer, maybe...
So you can get goodies, attractions or food stalls, each of which yield different benefits. The equipment offer you new actions for your workers. Specialists are there to give you bonuses during the game. Be careful, all places are limited and it costs money. If nothing interests you, it is possible to recover DNA instead. Each player will have the right to two purchases. Apart from taking the tile that interested the other players, the interaction is low.
Here in the third phase, each player will use their workers to develop their park. It is at this moment that we will create our dinosaurs for example. What's the point of a park without dinosaurs? To come into the world, these charming creatures need a type of DNA according to their "recipe". They will bring you victory points at the end of the game but especially points of interest, that's what makes the audience come. They will also need a large enough enclosure. Apart from the joyous aspect of genetic transformation, it is at this stage that you will be able to improve your security, your money (advertising costs) and your paddocks. Here, everyone plays at the same time.
The fourth phase is the fastest. We check each park one by one and the doors open. We draw a number of tourists equal to our fame. But beware, some tourists are not there to just visit. But pose more problems, than profits. In front of all that are the crowds and is your security sufficient to protect them? Because if you have been too greedy or unscrupulous, your dinosaurs can, for a very short moment, break out of their paddock and have fun with your visitors. Nothing serious. After all, some deaths do increase the fame of a park, no! ... No? Ah! ... So you will lose a few victory points based on these unexplained disappearances. But rest assured, they had still paid their entry before their death. Also, since the world has a short memory, the next turn, your park will reopen. You'll adjust your score and start again.
The end of the game will come when all public objective have been won. These randomly chosen goals at the beginning of a game can be modulated to increase or shorten the game. There is also a “first come first serve” race between the players.
Dinosaur Island is a game with simple rules. You explain and understand everything quickly, without having to go back to the rule book. Games can be more or less long and none are really alike. I'll admit it, I love this game. And yet, let's be honest, it's not perfect. Besides its design (pink dinosaurs!), one of my first critiques is that it appears to be a solitary game. Indeed, apart from a little pressure on the objectives or which dice to choose in phase 1, the interaction is very weak or non-existent. Players create their park in their own corner and then occasionally look at where other players are. Usually, this is something that bothers me.
But, I admit that I let myself be so transported by my imagination in this game that it does not remove my pleasure. And, it always makes you smile to see another player forget the importance of security. In general, game does not offer a very difficult challenge. It is rare to be really stuck and we always end up doing what we want... almost. For players looking for complexity, you will be disappointed. Another point more anecdotal, the customization of the park is also a little limited especially by meeples dinosaurs that closely resemble the others (but hey, it would have been much more expensive to have different meeple dinosaurs for each species). There is no such thing as a specialty or a specific thing to watch depending on the dinosaur taken. It's pretty generic.
In spite of all that, I continue to love this game. I dreamlike feeling transports me into the game. Its simplicity makes it easy to take out and play. No need to go back to the rules at every game.
The replayability is present by the choice of public goals, the choices during the game and what the dice offer ... The material is very nice and quite neat. I see myself at the head of an entertainment company, choosing my dinosaurs carefully, develop my park, protect (or not) my visitors ... This game really has a magical aura.
I think the relation to Jurassic Park is not insignificant. If the game was talking about something else, with the same mechanisms, I'm not sure it would please me as much. The theme and the nostalgia therefore occupy very important places in my appreciation of the game. The first player token, a visitor's bracelet for the KS version, puts you directly in the mood.
Dinosaur Island is a particular game. The choice of graphics, the choice of the gameplay, the choice of theme, everything has been carefully worked for our greatest pleasure. We can of course expect more. After all, with such a theme, our imagination is racing very quickly. More customization, more differentiation, more challenge, more choice ...
But then we would have a different type of game. Finally, is not it the will of the authors to have created a simple game but not too simplistic. A game open to all and playable by the vast majority, while keeping a strong identity and an ounce of difficulty? In any case, I can only recommend this game, which even if it does not invent anything and remains fairly traditional (a mix of mechanisms), makes you plunge into of your childhood dreams . A success simply.
Note that following the success of the game, an expansion has been realised. Totally Liquid offers the possibility to play up to five, new types of dinosaurs (sailors), new paddocks, new specialists ... A new experience that I will review soon.
At the same time as this expansion, they released a special version for two players, Duelosaur Island. If you are interested, I could also review that for you?
Technical Score 9/10
The components of the game are very good quality. The boards are hard cardboard, very resistant. The meeples are funny. The rules are well written and everything is installed quickly. The graphics and the choice of colors can disorientate or even run away. Yet this daring choice brings a breath of fresh air into the current production.
BGG Score 9/10
(Excellent game. Always want play it.)
A game with simple, catchy rules that makes you relive the adventure Jurassic Park. An excellent game to spend a good moment of reflection between players or with you family.
Combined Score 9/10
Great Score for very good game. And now it's over to you...
Barry's first impressions
The game does capture the essence of building a theme park. With so many tiles to buy, cards to collect and different Dinosaurs to play with, there is a lot of replayability. But with that come a big load of boards. A board for each phase, is a little too much for a coffee shop to play with, but everything is thematic and interesting.
I did enjoy playing the game although I felt it was unbalance with this “short term memory” world. If a visitor died tragically at a theme park, there would be a bit of bad press and the loss of income or point. This game captures that. But a massacre at a park should be devastating to a park owners score...not here.
Globe Twister (2018) review
Many people spend many hours connecting tiny pieces of cardboard together to complete one image. My wife and daughter have just started doing one right now. A 1000 piece puzzle of London landmarks. Eventually this puzzle will be glued together and then hoisted up and mounted on a wall somewhere in our house. Hopefully out of my sight. This is something that I think we are all addicted to as children. If fact, this pastime has been turned into a board game, called Puzzle Battle. Where players are racing to complete their puzzle before the others.You can check out a review I did here.
The natural progression was then the slide puzzle. A plastic or wooden framed toy with an image, broken into many squares and left with one space in which to shuffle the pieces into the correct order. This too has been transformed into a board game.
In Globe Twister, players are trying to put their memories of their holidays back together. The game comes with five unique individual images for five players. And one universal image on the back of these double-sided tiles. Again it’s a race to finish your puzzle before the other players but unlike puzzle battle, it’s not just a one on one affare, plus you can adjust the difficulty level for each individual player. And on top of that it is a logical programmation game.
Players will have a handful of cards and each card will have an action depicted on it. For example one card will have a rotate a tile 90° left,while another card, 90° right. There are cards that will make you switch the positions of two tiles, either adjacent or on the opposite side of this 3 x 3 grid. The other neat twist to this concept is the fact that you’ll be placing these cards in an empty frame that represents the 3 x 3 tiles of your image. The position that you placed your card in this frame will corrisponde to a tile, dictating its action. Each space can only contain one action card. So as soon as you have placed all the actions that you can possibly do or are a little out of actions that you need to do you can stop.
So you'll be racing to use your logic to get these tiles into the right spaces. Each card that you have has one unique action whether it be a rotate or a move. And placing each card in its correct space becomes very important when it comes to your turn to carry out your programmation.
Your puzzle will be given to you at the beginning of the game from another player who will be shuffling the tiles before hiding them behind an image of the final photo. Sometimes your puzzle will be handed to you, and a majority of those tiles will need rotating. Where as the puzzle you shuffled for another player may just need them to place their tiles in the right space is, without rotating. This is where the only technical bug of the game lays. In its unfairness of the shuffling, may require one player to do more programming than another.
Where this could be great is where adults are playing against children and the adult gets the harder puzzle. It’s not really that big bug as it only affects the generic image that has only one orientation. Where as the unique images can be made any way up, the puzzle becomes which way is the quickest to complete.
If you are the first player to finish programming, you will place your image over your puzzle and turn the sand timer. This gives 30 seconds for the other players to finish playing cards before the end of the round. Then players will, one by one act out their programmation. And this is where the fun begins.
The programmations are carried out in reading order, meaning that the first card in the top left hand corner of the frame activates first. After it has activated or there is no card there, it goes to the next card to the right of that. And all the way down to the bottom right hand corner. Fun you say! Well yes, sometimes you will move a tile to a different position where you have a rotate tile. And if you have not correctly thought this through you may rotate the tile that didn’t need rotating. This can lead to giggles from your children if you are playing against them. Or banging your head against the table when you’re playing against your friends.
After everyone has carried out their programmation you start again. Just until one player has completed their image, ending the game.
This is a perfect game for a family or for people new to hobby gaming, due to the fact that it is relatively simple. You are doing a picture puzzle and everybody can relate to that. I just think the adjustment of the difficulty level is an added bonus. As there are two powerful cards that can be removed for experience players. These allow tiles to move anywhere that you wish and rotate at any angle you wish too. A major rule with these cards is once they are used they are removed from the game. But if you see fit your children could keep these cards and carry on using them throughout. Also the images reflect the varying degrees of difficulty. The five unique images are very colorful and very mixed with their design. They are also very much like a fish lens image going all around the outside of the puzzle. Where is on the backside of the universal image, has a horizon.
Gameplay is relatively quick and within 10 minutes, your puzzle will be complete and you'll probably play again with a different image. Unfortunately it lacks more images that could add to replayability. Maybe down the road they’ll be a new version with a 4 x 4 grid and more picture postcards for you to complete.
The art is jolly and colorful and the components are of good quality. The rulebook does and exceptional job at explaining everything in good detail, from each of the different cards powers to how the programmation works. It also has some suggestions on how to play without the timer or without the frame. And there is even a solo mode, where you will have to complete a set puzzle in a set amount of turns. This could be very interesting when playing with experience players. Either as a group logic puzzle cooperatively. Or as a competition to see who can complete their puzzle the quickest. It’s all packed into a nice small size box which makes it a nice game to take away on holiday. There is enough game play here for young children. And with the imagery of different cultures from around the world will give them something to talk about as they play. I do enjoy the logic puzzle aspect of the game but it gets a little old, too quick.
Technicals score 9/10
Small and portable. Simple and well presented. Colourful and easy for anyone to play.
My BGG score 7/10
(Good - usually willing to play)
A good logic puzzle that is 10 minutes of fun, then sadly forgotten.
Combined score 8/10
and now it's over to you...
A Handful Of Stars (2017) review
A Handful of Stars is the latest game in a "Deckbuilding" trilogy by designer Martin Wallace. This trilogy was initiated by A Few Acres of Snow and then followed by Mythotopia. As often with this designer, the classical mechanism is transformed into a rather interesting mix. In this series of games, Wallace has fun with deckbuilding. We start with a mechanism that we know but we will quickly end up with a gameplay quite different.
A Handful of Stars is a very playable game even with 2 or 4 players. The story is set in a science fiction universe where a very strategic confrontation will take place. You’ll embody a faction, an alien race and our goal is to conquer the galaxy. A Handful of Stars is a game that does not forgive, especially with only two players where the conflict is even more brutal. At three or four players, the forces involved can balance out and unofficial diplomacy plays a non-trivial role.
Aesthetically, the board and the overall rendering is beautiful. It sounds stupid to say that, but Wallace games are not famous for their graphics especially those edited by Treefrog Games (of which this was the last). But rest assured, we plunged into the "normal" when we talk about the tokens spaceships.
Each player starts on their native world, chosen among the choice in our hand. We embody one of seven alien races available. Each being asymmetrical. When set up, the planets that make up the galaxy are randomly placed. This ensures tremendous replayability, as even roads that connect planetary areas can be blocked by black holes. The initial arrangement of the board will only rarely be identical. This will also affect how the players start the game. Indeed, from one game to another, you may be lucky and begin with an advantageous start ... or, if you don't, pretty disastrous one. But you’ll have to deal with it. You don't become Emperor of the Galaxy without challenge.
Every planet under your control brings you cards. These cards will be your deck. Do not forget that this is a deckbuilder ... with an integrated 4X system ... or the other way around ... The more you will spread in the Galaxy and conquer systems, the more you will be present on the board. But the bigger you get, the bigger your deck will grow. The need to purify your deck or draw THE ONE card you need, will therefore diminish according to your warlike appetite. This aspect, thematic level, is reminiscent of an Empire lost in the middle of bureaucracy and its inertia due to the amount of planets controlled.
The concept of deckbuilding is quite important in the game. But not in the traditional way. Indeed, here no rivers of cards to buy. The cards that will form your deck will come from your conquests or your ability to invest in technology. With six cards in your hand per turn, you can play as many as you want. At the end of a round, you only draw until you have six cards again. Yes, we can keep cards from one turn to another. You don't have to play all your hand during a turn. But the more cards you keep, the less you renew your hand. In order to plan future actions or put aside cards until the right time, we find the action , thanks to Wallace, to "Reserve." In A Handful of Stars, on the individual player board, we have two "Reserve" slots. The first slot stores cards based on its capacity limit. This is one of the possible actions that gets rid of your hand or your deck while keeping the ability to play them later. The second slot is for some special cards that will have a permanent effect as long as they are visible. This is a very important notion in the game and above all very useful.
With the help of the resources present on the cards, we will gradually build our civilization. Each card can have several resources, but only one is used when played. The choice can sometimes be difficult. There are four resources available. Developing your research, allows you to acquire new technology cards. Recovering energy sources allows you to move. Acquire a special kind of material that will be used during spaceflight. Finally, capturing or pacifying populations will allow to settle on new systems.
The possible actions are quite numerous: put cards in reserve, move, recover cards technologies, play cards technologies, create front posts, settle on habitable planets, create your troops, remove a single card, discard one card or pass. To be honest, the last two actions are not useful in this game. Among all that, we can only choose two per turn.
One of the important points of the game is the fight. To become Emperor, peace is beautiful but it does not last forever, especially when others have the same goal as you. Suddenly, it poses a problem quickly. We realize that the Galaxy is not so big and that if someone could disappear, it would not be as annoying. The attacker will therefore go to the neutral planet or one belonging to another player. For this, they must spend energy to move their ships or bases. Each having it's own fighting force. We then have two possibilities. If the target is neutral, we look at its strength on the token. If the attacker has at least +1, they win. They can stay to eventually later settle down on that planet. If it's a player, the fight can become bloodier. Once the attacker has moved, the defender has the opportunity to do the same (also paying with energy). Players also play potential technological cards. They compare their forces, then half of each of the armies are slaughtered (rounded up or down depending on who wins). The winner remains, the loser flees their home (otherwise they perish). It's a violent game. Those who do not like to suffer or to be attacked, look away NOW! In space, the law of the strongest reigns supreme.
But how does this fierce struggle end? Again, Wallace has created a pretty clever system. The central mechanic is deckbuilding, therefore each player has their own deck to build. Once their deck is empty, they shuffle it. So far so good. Except that once a player (anybody) shuffles their deck, the turn token is moved one step further. When it reaches the end of the track (depending on the number of players), it's game over. Management and speed with which one will or will not play their cards, will count enormously. If player play too fast, or someone's deck is too small, the game will move much faster.
A Handful of Stars is an extremely clever game. Wallace has once again create a unique game in its mechanics while drawing heavily on what exists elsewhere. The tension is ubiquitous. The game is nasty, brutal and doesn't forgive much. The replayability is enormous due to the random set up, the choice of its race, and the way of playing ... The interaction is very strong. You must constantly monitor the others. Their place in the universe, their ability to move, the number of times they puts to mix his deck. Many factors to consider for a game that ultimately is not so calculating. With this game, I feel that Wallace has reached the end of his approach : transcended and transformed the essence of deckbuilding to make it even more intense and concrete. Be careful, the duration of the game is quite important. A game that will not leave you indifferent but that will require several plays before it can be tamed.
This game also has a small taste of bitterness. Even though it is very good, it will always have this little end flavor. Indeed, this was the end of Wallace, not to create games fortunately, but the adventure of his company, Treefrog. It may be anecdotal but it counts for me. This game is a little unnoticed as of its release and continues to be hard to find. Maybe it's a bit of that ... Anyway, if you like the 4X system and the deckbuilding go for it, you're in front of an excellent game.
Technical Score 7/10
You either like or don’t like old school graphics of this game. All components are correct without being extraordinary. Rules are very minimalist in their design but are ok.
BGG Score 8/10
(Very good game)
A very good mix between 4X and deckbuilding. Naughty and ruthless, the war is raging and will leave no one indifferent.
Combined Score 7,5/10
And now it's over to you...
One of the greatest films of our time is Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” I believe.
It was such a gritty, realistic view of the future. A group of co-workers on their way home, after a long haul, are requested to pull over to check out a vehicle that has crashed. When one of the team brings back a pet that picks them off, one by one, while they are stranded in the middle of nowhere. Leaving them helpless and alone.
Well, that’s kind of the story. The things I love about the film are its cramp corridors, the slow tension, the isolated setting and the philosophy of the creature. Things that make for good horror and storytelling. In the past, thanks to technology, we have had the chance to experience this situation by playing the Playstation 3 game, Dead Space. And now we can kinda capture that experience on our table top.
You may have missed out on it’s original release as it was a Kickstarter only project, with two pledge levels. The basic game and version with 3D board. Luckily, it is coming back to Kickstarter as of February the 14th 2019, with some promised new bit for those who own the first version and the opportunity for those that missed its first tour around the sun, to catch up.
But should you back it?
As always, I am here to help with my first impression of the game. And I have compiled them into a video and a written article that you can see below. Yes, I love the theme, and yes, I love this genre of game, so take that into consideration when I say that I can’t wait to play it again. And as always, I hope that this helps point you in the right direction to decide if this is a Kickstarter for you, or not.
Barry Doublet &