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Walking Dead Card Game due Early April

The Walking Dead TV show is one of the finest shows on television at the moment… and this is coming from someone that doesn’t normally care for zombie movies/shows. On the gaming front, we have had a mixed bag when it comes to the Walking Dead.

Last year we had the fantastic episodic video game from Telltale Games (do yourself a favor and play this NOW!) and the recent not so good Walking Dead Survival Instincts. On the board game front there’s one board game based on the comic book and another based on the TV show. Now, enter a THIRD contender!

Cryptozoic is releasing a Walking Dead card game based on Wolfgang Kramer’s popular 6 Nimmt! game. The game will have two play modes, a Survival game that’s for 3-10 players, and a Hero game that’s for 2-6. The game comes with 114 cards and retails for a mere $15.00. This is one I will definitely pick up!

Look for it on the shelves soon after it’s April 12th release date!

-Rob

By |2013-06-12T23:42:15+00:00March 27th, 2013|0 Comments

Gunrunners pReview

There are numerous different types of games out there that are all vying for our free shelf space, hard earned money, and precious time. Sometimes we have to be selective in the games we pick and go after the ones that hit that sweet spot for us.

One type of game that’s always been a big hit in our house is card games and in particular ones that have new and interesting mechanisms in them. This is where Gunrunners absolutely hits the mark for us.

Gunrunners is the latest game from Dr. Finn’s Games which is most well-known for the game Biblios. As of this writing, Gunrunners is currently up on Kickstarter with a little less than two weeks remaining. Just prior to the launch of the Kickstarter campaign, I had learned about the game and was quite intrigued.

When I really enjoy a designer’s game, as I did with Biblios, I tend to want to explore other games that they’ve designed. I reached out to Dr. Finn’s Games offering to check out the game and to discuss it on my podcast. Before long, I had the game’s PnP files printed, my two packs of sleeves in hand, and my paper cutter out on the dining room table. Then the gaming began!

Overview

In Gunrunners, players play the roles of police agencies trying to stop the Merchant of Death from selling crates of weapons in various parts of the world. Cause police busts in the various locations to capture the most crates by the last bust and win the game!

Components

With a PnP version, I can’t comment on the final quality of the game but I can say that I like the artwork on the cards. It’s a cool looking retro comic book style. As for what you get, each player has 14 cards in their agency’s color, there’s a six sided die, wooden cubes to symbolize weapon crates, four location cards, a warehouse card, and a turn/bust card.

The cards are easy to read and the numbers on the cards are large and easy to spot. I’m always aware of colorblindness issues in games and here I had no problems.

This game is especially appealing to me as I like ultra-portable games that I can easily put in my backpack and take with me. This one definitely takes up very little room in my pack.

Setup & Game Rules

Setup is VERY quick as you put down a column of location cards based on player count, put the bust counter card at top, warehouse card below them all, distribute a number of crates per location, and shuffle your cards! Done!

The rulebook is a mere 10 pages and reads quite well. Ample examples help clarify rules but in the first few games we still did have to refer to the rulebook several times on the first play. Rules checks were quite fast and we were back to playing in seconds.

The Goal

Your goal in the game is to cause busts at the various locations while having your agent’s numbers (each is numbered from one to six) add up to the highest value at that location. The players then distribute the crates with each person getting half the remaining crates starting with the highest “numbered” agency. Score the most crates at the end of the game and declare a victory!

Game Play

On your turn, you start off by rolling a die and placing a crate on the location designated by the die roll. If the number is higher than the location count, then you load the crate into the warehouse to be distributed later. You have a hand of five cards of which you choose one and play either as a face down probationary agent to the LEFT of a location card or you can play them as an undercover agent to the RIGHT of the location cards.

When you play a probationary card, you replace one of your opponent’s cards in the probationary area and then place their card face up to the right of the locations. When placed face up, some cards will have special abilities that allow their owner to do some things such as move around crates or cards. If you triggered a bust on the turn, you add up the values of each player’s cards at that location and then start a distribution of the crates. Then remove the cards from the game, increment the bust counter, and continue until you have reached the last bust on the bust counter card.

Thoughts

This is an intriguing game from the standpoint of that when you place a card down as a probationary agent, you MUST replace and flip a card from an opponent. With this mechanism each player’s cards get brought into play by the actions of other players. They have no idea what card they are going to put into play and this creates some interesting swings as to who has the majority in a location. Add to that the special abilities that some cards have and then you can easily turn the tables on someone.

I introduced this to a coworker that’s not a gamer (yet) and he was able to pick this awesome game up within 2 busts. After just one game, he immediately asked where he could get his own copy of Gunrunners. We often found ourselves talking about the game afterwards… About how things would swing back and forth and the different strategies we used and how we would change it up for next time. It’s rare to have this kind of discussion when you’re dealing with lighter card games.

When some locations would have more crates than others, we often found ourselves fighting for that location. This definitely amped up the excitement especially when a player turned the tide with an ability card.

The two player game has a slightly different feel than a 3-4 player game and it does use a slightly modified setup procedure. Nonetheless, plays with 2-4 people are all equally as fun.

Most games can easily be played within 30 minutes with makes it very friendly for the lunch gamers. One day we went to a local mall food court for lunch and proceeded to play a game of Gunrunners. Passersby were quite interested in the game and were asking what it was. That was quite remarkable to me as most were not the gamer type.

I would definitely recommend Gunrunners to anyone wanting an awesomely fun light card game. The extra components with the die and the cubes make it even more appealing as you add die rolling and cube placement to the card play. It has a tiny bit of luck, allows for a bit of strategy, plays quick, and most importantly is incredibly fun for all. This one’s a winner in my book and definitely worthy of my shelf space!

Rob – This Board Game Life

By |2013-09-11T21:15:37+00:00February 12th, 2013|1 Comment

AEG’s Courtier Review

I’ve always had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with area control games. I want to love them as they are so popular with the gamers that I play with but I get a frustrating lack of control feeling when I lose my controlled areas to my opponents. Granted, a lot of that is due to many of the games being really drawn out back and forth slug-fests where I seem to lose interest after the third or fourth hour. I know many people really love that kind of gaming and that’s perfectly OK, but it’s just not my cup of tea.

Here’s where AEG’s Tempest line comes in and puts the wind back into my area control sails. This game was such a pleasant surprise that it’s renewed my interest in area control/influence games. I can actually enjoy them and now realize that they don’t all need to be exhausting! But, I think I’m getting ahead of myself… let’s get on to the details of the game itself!

Courtier & Tempest
Chronologically, Courtier is the first of the first four Tempest city-state shared-world games which debuted at Essen Spiel 2012. For those unfamiliar with Tempest, it’s a fantastic new undertaking done by AEG where they’ve scripted and designed all of the back story, characters, character relationships, and art in a fictional city-state named Tempest. Game designers can then use all of this material and incorporate it into their games.

At present, Courtier is followed up by three other Tempest games which include Love Letter, Dominare, and Mercante. These four games are all set within that same shared-world and even share some characters. What happens to a character in one game can possibly affect their presence or abilities in another game. Very cool!

In its beginnings, Courtier started off as a game titled Henry the Great. Designer Philip duBarry wrote a four part BLOG regarding the design and evolution of the game. It’s really an interesting read and I encourage you to check it out at: http://www.alderac.com/tempest/2012/05/10/the-beginnings-of-intrigue/

With the help of AEG, Henry the Great was brought into the Tempest universe and transformed into Courtier as we see it today. Over that time it evolved into a fantastic mix of area control/influence, set collection, and hand management. What I particularly enjoy is that the area control is actually control/influence over people and NOT cities/counties/land/etc. So what does Courtier include?

Components
The game contents include an instruction manual, the game board, influence markers in the form of wooden cubes (four player colors and white as a neutral color), and five types of cards (ability, fashion, power, influence, and petition).

The game board is divided into eight sections with each section being a particular coterie. Each coterie has one to five characters in it and each person has one to five control spaces on them for the placement of influence markers. The layout is nicely color coded, clean, and well done but it will still take most gamers a game or two before they get used to where everyone is located at on the board. A score track at the right of the board goes up to only 20 points… which seems insufficient, but it surprisingly is.

There are five different card types in the game. These include petition cards which you will resolve to get victory points, fashion cards which usually populate the board with neutral cubes after a player resolves a petition, coterie ability cards which you will take when you take control of a coterie, and finally the power and influence cards which you will use to place/move influence markers around the board as well as certain card actions like drawing cards.

Setup & Game Rules
The 12 page rulebook reads very well and starts off with a one page introductory story of the Prime Minister speaking with King Arnaud IV. The story helps set the theme for the game by calling into question some of the Queen’s actions.

The setup and game play is explained very well in the rulebook. There is even a FAQ section at the end of the rulebook and examples of play are spread out through several areas of the rulebook which helps better explain the rules. Four variants are also detailed at the end of the rulebook including a two player variant that has players play a third “ghost” player.

Setup is very quick as most of it involves shuffling the different card decks and placing them in their respective piles. You then reveal four petition cards, and one each of the power and influence cards. Each player begins the game with 15 influence markers in their pool, one hidden secret petition, and a hand of five cards.

To get their starting hand cards, the players carry out a quick bidding process. At first, I was a little put off when I heard that there was bidding at the start, but after I saw how quick and painless it was, I didn’t mind it at all. To start the bidding process, each player decides on a five card mix of influence/power cards. These cards are drawn from their decks and laid out on the table. Then, players bid on the hands with their influence cubes. If you win the bid for a particular hand, you lose your bid cubes to your reserve. If you get outbid, they go back to your pool. So, bidding big can hurt you by giving you less influence cubes at the start. The rules book recommends that for a first play people should skip the bidding process and just play the game after drawing three influence and two power cards. Either process works well in my experience.

The Goal
The goal of the game is quite simple… advance your position on the score track and complete petition cards to gain victory points. Keep on doing this until you encounter the fashion card (drawn after each completed petition) that has “The Queen is Arrested!” printed on it. As soon as you run in to this card, the game is immediately over and you tally up your victory points on the track and completed petitions.

The petition cards will have a number of people listed on them along with a victory point value. To complete a petition card, you must control all of the people listed on that card at the end of one of your turns. If you do, take the card and score it at the end of the game.

Game play
Game play is quite simple as you just carry out one of three actions in each of your turns: play a power or influence card from your hand and do what the card text instructs you to do, discard any/all of the cards in your hand, or take one influence marker from your reserve and put it in your pool.

After you take your one action you then have the option to complete a petition card then always refill your hand back to five cards by drawing from either the influence or power decks.

The card text on the power and influence cards will instruct you to do certain things such as placing influence markers on certain characters or within a particular coterie, have you move markers around, draw/discard cards, or gain influence markers from your reserve. I often found myself struggling with the decision of which card to play since I had to weigh which strategic goal I wanted to attain first. But, that’s part of the fun!

Placing influence markers on the board lets you battle it out for control of characters and coteries. If all the influence spaces on a character are filled and your markers are the majority, then you control that character. If you manage to resolve a petition card, you then also trigger the next fashion card which typically distributes neutral markers across the board.

The final thing that influence marker placement can get you is control of a coterie. This was a little confusing to me at first and I had to do a look up online to get this understood properly. The person with the most markers in a coterie takes control of that coterie and gains its ability and associated ability card. The rules spell it out fairly well, but for some reason I kept thinking that all the characters in a coterie needed to be filled up with markers. Well, they don’t need to be all filled to take control as just one lone marker in a coterie is sufficient to give control of a coterie to that marker’s owner. Having the abilities can be a nice advantage as they include things like extra points, placing extra cubes, and discarding a card each turn.

Thoughts
This game was such a pleasant surprise for me as was the fact that my wife Wendi loved it also. After having played Dominare at Gen Con 2012 and many many many games of Love Letter, I was definitely excited to play Courtier. Courtier combined AEG’s Tempest world with Philip duBarry’s design skills which seemed like a natural win… and it was!

Overall game play is smooth and moves very quickly. The only thing that somewhat slows down the game is when players start scanning the petition cards trying to sort out who has what and what they should go after. This may be an issue for people prone to analysis paralysis, but if they scan the petition cards when it’s NOT their turn, things can play out quicker during their actual turn. Also, using cards for the selection of influence marker placement really helps tone down the confrontational nature found in some area control games. Plus, this can also be another thing that can reduce AP since your placement is limited by the cards you have. Gamers that normally steer clear of area control games can find themselves actually having great fun with Courtier!

At the start of the game, the pace can be a little slow as players start distributing their influence markers across the board. As the board gets filled up after a few rounds, the action really picks up nicely and continues through to the end of the game. It’s really important that everyone keep track of what they control as it’s incredibly easy to miss out on a petition card because you didn’t notice you met its requirements or that you should have had that one ability for the last two turns. This does get easier after a play or two.

Wendi and I tested out the two player variant and initially came out with some mixed feelings of it. We first played without it to see how a two player game ran with just two players. It was fun but a little long since it takes longer to get control of the characters. Then we tried it with the two player rules. Playing with the “ghost” player, after their turn each player discards an influence card from the deck. If that card names a specific character, the “ghost” player places a marker on that character. Let me tell you, that “ghost” gets their markers out FAST! The “ghost” player also completes petitions and uses several of the abilities. Getting the other set of markers out definitely helps the flow of the game, but it’s a lot of work for each player to manage their game AND share the responsibility of the “ghost” player. In particular, the worst part is seeing if the petitions get resolved for the “ghost” player. We will surely play some more with this two player variant and I will provide an update on this. I’m sure that the two player “ghost” player management will get easier in subsequent plays.

AEG states that this game plays 2-4 people and plays in about 45 minutes. I would have to say that the first game will definitely be over an hour and then games after that will approach the 45 minute mark. Outside of the game play, one of the most amazing things about this game is that AEG has set an MSRP of $34.99 on this title. WOW! At the price this is a FANTASTIC deal for a great game like this and will be accessible to many people.

If you’re interested in trying the game out, AEG has released a Lite version of Courtier in print and play form. It’s a slightly scaled down version of the game but it seems like it would be close enough to the real deal to give you a representative play experience. If you absolutely can’t go out and just buy the game, then definitely do yourself a favor and try the Lite game.

I must say that I really enjoy this game a LOT. It’s easily one of my top favorite games of 2012 and my favorite game from the Tempest line. Well done Philip and AEG!!!

Enough of this writing, I think I’m going to have to end this here and go off to pester my wife to see if she’ll play yet another game of Courtier!

-Rob

By |2013-09-11T21:14:56+00:00November 7th, 2012|1 Comment

AEG’s Love Letter Review

16 cards?!?!?!?  Yes!!!  16 cards!!!!!  How can a card game with only 16 cards be fun and re-playable for an audience of very critical hobby gamers?  When it comes to AEG’s Love Letter, the answer is easily seen after just several rounds.  Read on!

Love Letter & Tempest

Love letter is one of AEG’s four new shared-world games due to debut at Essen Spiel 2012.  AEG created the shared-world Tempest city-state to be a revolutionary new way of game design.  They’ve created all of the story, the character relationships, and art for the shared-world.  Designers then incorporate this content into their games and subsequently continue an ongoing storyline between all the games in the series.  For example, at the end of one game a character might get imprisoned which then affects their presence in subsequent games.

In the case of Love Letter, Designer Seiji Kanai set Love Letter’s story setting in-between the events of Philip DuBarry’s Courtier and Jim Pinto’s Dominare.  At the end of Courtier, Queen Marianna has been imprisoned for high treason.  Her daughter, Princess Annette, was so heartbroken by this that she locked herself away in the palace.  In Love Letter, the players play the roles of suitors trying to get their love letters in Princess Annette’s hands so she can once again experience some joy in her life.

Components

So what does one get with Love Letter?  The game includes 16 character cards, four reference cards that summarize the character cards, tokens of affection to track scoring, and 24 pages of rules printed on a card sized booklet.  The character cards are very easy to read and have the excellent Tempest artwork common to all of the Tempest games.

The character cards include eight different characters from the Tempest city-state and each has its own value along with its own unique card effect text.  The cards include Princess Annette (8), Countess Wilhelmina (7), King Arnaud IV (6), Prince Arnaud (5), Handmaid Susannah (4), Baron Talus (3), Priest Tomas (2), and Guard Odette (1).  The higher their value, the “closer” they are to the princess and the more valuable the character is.  Card effects are the meat of the game and include such things as trading hands, looking at someone’s hand, guessing a player’s hand, and discarding a hand.

The Goal

The player finishing the round closest to the princess (or is the last one remaining in the round) is the one that delivers their love letter and scores a token of affection.  The game is won by scoring seven tokens of affection in a two player game, five in a three player game, and four in a four player game.

Setup & Game Rules

The rules read extremely well.  I rather like that AEG printed the rules on the little booklet as I dislike the large fold out sheets present in many other card games.  The reference cards help summarize the card effects for each character and also give you the card counts so you can maybe deduce the cards remaining in the deck or the other player’s hand.

Setting up the game and teaching someone to play Love Letter and can both be done in mere seconds.  You don’t need a lot of time or a lot of room to play this game.  Shuffle the 16 card deck and remove one card when playing with three to four players.  In a two player game, you remove four cards.  This offers a decent randomization of the cards to keep people from being able to guess the cards all too easily.  Each player then draws a single card from the deck which is their starting hand.  Throughout the rest of the game, you will only have a ONE card hand… that’s it! I know… I know… you’re still skeptical right now… but read on!

Game Play

How’s the game play?  VERY fast paced and VERY addictive!  It reminds me of playing solitaire on the PC where as soon as a game is over, you tell yourself “Just one more game!”  Or akin to eating chips out of a snack bowl…  Gotta have one just one more!  And one more…  And one more!

On your turn, you draw a card and then discard back down to one card.  The card that was discarded is placed face up in front of you and the card’s effect text is resolved.  IF the round’s not over, the next player draws, discards, and resolves their discarded card.  IF the round’s not over, REPEAT!

Why do I keep writing “IF the round’s not over”?  Rounds happen quickly, especially after players learn the cards and start getting a feel for what card the other player might be holding.  Think the other player might be holding the Princess?  Play the Prince that forces them to discard their hand.  If the Princess gets discarded that player loses the round immediately!  Score!  Or maybe play the King to swap hands to steal the Princess away from the other player.  Do you really want the Princess though?  Sure she’s the most valuable card at a value of 8, but if you are forced to discard her you immediately lose the round.  It seems life is fast, furious, and not always fair in Tempest.  Just as you get that good card, your opponent plays that one card that pushes you out of the round.

Thoughts

This game is all about aggressive plays, risk taking, and fast action.  Push the other player(s) out of the round before they do it to you.  If you hesitate, you will usually find yourself out of the round and screaming to play again.

When played fast, that’s where Love letter shines.  The first few rounds go a little slow as the players read the card effect text on each card.  Each and every round gets faster and faster as people remember the effects like that the Handmaid is protection or the Guard lets you guess a player’s hand.  With so few cards, most people will have all the cards memorized within four rounds.  The trickiest part of the whole game is remembering several simple rules on which card effect rules apply when the cards get discarded through game play (some apply and some do not), other than that, the game is a breeze.

Overall, this is an extremely fun game with little down time.  I don’t think I would be far off if I said it is almost intense at times.  You often find yourself holding a card that you tensely hope will survive until your next turn so you can whammy another player.  Chances are high that you may not get another turn but that anticipation is just part of the excitement!

The portability of this game is also a fantastic draw for me.  It easily can be taken anywhere and played anytime.  Play it on the commute if you take the train or bus, play on your lunch break, or even play while walking down the halls of Gen Con (as was posted on BGG).  Play it before a 3+ hour game to get everyone in the mood, or play it afterwards to wake everyone up again.  But, be warned, it’s sometimes hard to stop and you may find yourself playing Love Letter for longer than you expected.

This one’s a winner in my book!  Check it out!

-Rob

By |2013-09-11T21:08:35+00:00October 5th, 2012|0 Comments