2015 – – the year I realized I have a ‘gaming’ problem…

As we began talking more and more about our new gaming experiences, we found that most people had never heard of any of them. But one couple – John & Christy (who had children in the daycare where my wife worked at the time) – knew all about them AND even had recommendations!!

The first game they showed us was a card game named Saboteur where (from BGG) players take on the role of dwarves. As miners, they are in a mine, hunting for gold. Suddenly, a pick axe swings down and shatters the mine lamp. The saboteur has struck. But which of the players are saboteurs? Will you find the gold, or will the fiendish actions of the saboteurs lead them to it first? After three rounds, the player with the most gold is the winner.

It took a while to find because it was out of print but we enjoyed it so much I had to have a copy…

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Our first simple card game since we discovered our new world and the first we learned by playing with friends who made the discovery a few years before us… fun, quick and easy – to the point where we usually end up playing at least 3 or 4 games in a row.

While I was at it I ordered another game they showed us called Fluxx as in a ‘state of flux’ or ‘change’… (From BGG) Fluxx is a card game in which the cards themselves determine the current rules of the game. By playing cards, you change numerous aspects of the game: how to draw cards, how to play cards, and even how to win.

At the start of the game, each player holds three cards and on a turn a player draws one card, then plays one card. By playing cards, you can put new rules into play that change numerous aspects of the game: how many cards to draw or play, how many cards you can hold in hand or keep on the table in front of you, and (most importantly) how to win the game. There are many editions, themed siblings, and promo cards available.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): The idea of a game where the rules start out so incredibly simple and you don’t know how to win the game until AFTER you start playing and that condition may change several times before the game’s over – what a scream!! We all enjoy a quick (or not sometimes) game of Fluxx and I enjoy teaching newbies and get a kick out of how the game changes as it goes on…

In 2016 John gave us an early demo copy of a very interesting game he was designing called SEUT – The Card Game!!

John’s taking it to many game conventions… TotalCon… Boskone…

They did their first official demos at Carnage this year and hit SnowCon in Maine where it was named Game of the Con!! They’re also doing their first Kickstarter for the game!!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): The biggest reason we like it is because it’s the first (and only game so far) where we know the designer personally!! Aside from that it’s really an interesting and enjoyable card game… well done, John!!

As the year went on I’d grab a game here and there for no apparent reason other than our own enjoyment…

The Hare & the Tortoise (the video also includes Council of Verona which we haven’t tried yet)…

(from BGG) The Hare & the Tortoise, originally published as Royal Turtle, is a card-driven betting game about animal racing loosely based on one of Aesop’s Fables.

At the start of a race, each player secretly bets on up to two of five animals: turtle, rabbit, lamb, wolf and fox. One animal is chosen at random for each player, then after receiving a hand of seven cards, each player places one of his cards face-down (possibly the same animal) as an additional bet. Players then take turns laying down 1-4 cards, with all cards needing to show the same animal, then refilling the hand to five cards. As soon as eight total cards have been played or four cards of any one animal, the animals move (maybe).

Each animal has a distinct characteristic that players can use to their advantage. The turtle always moves one space, but it moves two if four of its cards were played. The rabbit always moves two spaces as long as cards are played. — unless four cards are played and it’s at the head of the pack, in which case it sleeps and doesn’t move. The fox moves as many spaces as the number of cards played. The lamb moves one more space than the number of cards played — but if it reaches water, it stops moving to take a drink. The wolf moves 1 space if one to two cards are played, and one less space than the number of cards if more are played. The wolf also has 3 cards with a howl, if one of these is played no one but the wolf moves.(The track consists of eleven road cards, two covered with water.)

After the animals move, players start a new round of card-playing. A round ends when three of the five animals reach the goal, after which each player scores points based on the ranking of the animals and how they bet. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I thought the girls would love the old hare and tortoise story and this game has interesting components and gameplay that bring the story to life.

Forbidden Desert

(from publisher Cocktail Games) Gear up for a thrilling adventure to recover a legendary flying machine buried deep in the ruins of an ancient desert city. You’ll need to coordinate with your teammates and use every available resource if you hope to survive the scorching heat and relentless sandstorm. Find the flying machine and escape before you all become permanent artifacts of the forbidden desert!

In Forbidden Desert, a thematic sequel to Forbidden Island, players take on the roles of brave adventurers who must throw caution to the wind and survive both blistering heat and blustering sand in order to recover a legendary flying machine buried under an ancient desert city. While featuring cooperative gameplay similar to Forbidden IslandForbidden Desert is a fresh, new game based around an innovative set of mechanisms such as an ever-shifting board, individual resource management, and a unique method for locating the flying machine parts.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This is another game where the mechanisms and story emersion make the game… trying to find parts… in the sand… in a desert… with windstorms… AND it’s only our second cooperative game though not as deep and dark as Pandemic… this is still in our regular ‘rotation’ (whenever I’m not traveling with the band)…

Formula D

(from BGG) Formula D is a high stakes Formula One type racing game where the players race simulated cars with the hope of crossing the finish line first. This is a re-release of Formula Dé with several changes from the original format. Whilst old tracks can be used with the updated Formula D rules, the new game features boards that have an F1 track and a Street Track on the other side. These street tracks each have a novel inclusion or two to add greater theme –

The game mechanisms are a simple race, get to the finish line first! However, players have to use a significant amount of planning, and rely on quite a bit of luck. Each player manages when to shift gears, with each gear providing a different speed. (For example, 4th gear is a die that rolls random numbers from 7 to 12 for spaces moved.) Each turn, players may move up one gear, stay in that gear, or move down gears. This forces players to match possible rolls with the optimum distance for that turn, and hopefully plan ahead. However, speed is not the only issue! Corners have a “stop” rule that requires players to stop once, twice, or three times on that corner in consecutive turns or face a penalty. This creates an effective speed limit to the corners.

Of course, things do not always go as planned! Players take penalties if they miss their roll, bump into another car, are blocked by other cars, have to brake heavily, or have to downshift several gears. These are taken off of a car’s attributes (Tire health, Brake wear, Transmission Gears, Body, engine, and Suspension). Losing the maximum in any of these categories will result in elimination, or a severe setback for that car. This requires that players manage their car’s health, plan for their best path, and have good luck on their rolls. This high amount of luck gives the game its family appeal, and lets weaker players have a chance at winning once in a while.

However, the fun does not end with a single race! The rules include the ability to customize your cars, use a pre-generated character, add Slipstreaming (Drafting) rules and road debris, and change tire types to modify your distance rolls. There are also variations for a single lap race, or multiple laps with pit stops to repair some of your damage points. In addition, numerous expansion tracks can be purchased to vary the demands on each driver and car. Each track may also have weather effects (rain) that change car handling and die rolls due to skidding on wet track. This opens up the game for rally rules giving championship points over a number of races.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): It’s all about the dice (and the gameplay)… lot’s of dice!! Dice with more and less than 6 sides – I’ve never such dice before!! Dice with over 20 sides – they’re almost round!! We love the game and the way it incorporates all this dice… I even got us each our own set of dice for stocking stuffers for Christmas later this year!!

Settlers of Catan

(from BGG) Embark on a quest to settle the fair isle of Catan! Guide your brave settlers to victory by using clever trading and development. Use resources (grain, wool, ore, brick, and lumber) to build roads, settlements, and cities, and buy development cards. Acquire your resources through trades or the role of the dice. But beware! You never know when someone might cut off your road or if the robber will appear and steal your precious gains. Are you the best trader, builder, or settler? Will you master Catan?

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): After seeing it played and reading more and more about I decided that this was a classic that had to be in our collection. As Wil would say, “the joys of trading wood for sheep”!! By this time I’m starting to recognize designer’s names and wondering about what kind of great minds must be behind such games… I guess I just thought they stopped making games after Monopoly…

King of Tokyo

(from BGG) In King of Tokyo, you play mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and strange aliens—all of whom are destroying Tokyo and whacking each other in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo.

At the start of each turn, you roll six dice, which show the following six symbols: 1, 2, or 3 Victory Points, Energy, Heal, and Attack. Over three successive throws, choose whether to keep or discard each die in order to win victory points, gain energy, restore health, or attack other players into understanding that Tokyo is YOUR territory.

The fiercest player will occupy Tokyo, and earn extra victory points, but that player can’t heal and must face all the other monsters alone!

Top this off with special cards purchased with energy that have a permanent or temporary effect, such as the growing of a second head which grants you an additional die, body armor, nova death ray, and more…. and it’s one of the most explosive games of the year!

In order to win the game, one must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 victory points, or be the only surviving monster once the fighting has ended.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I knew the girls would like the giant monsters and the whole idea around this game. Hit points and dice chucking… we’re all learning so much…

Small World

(from BGG) In Small World, players vie for conquest and control of a world that is simply too small to accommodate them all.

Designed by Philippe Keyaerts as a fantasy follow-up to his award-winning Vinci, Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs, and even humans, who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth.

Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires – often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory!

On each turn, you either use the multiple tiles of your chosen race (type of creatures) to occupy adjacent (normally) territories – possibly defeating weaker enemy races along the way, or you give up on your race letting it go “into decline”. A race in decline is designated by flipping the tiles over to their black-and-white side.

At the end of your turn, you score one point (coin) for each territory your races occupy. You may have one active race and one race in decline on the board at the same time. Your occupation total can vary depend on the special abilities of your race and the territories they occupy. After the final round, the player with the most coins wins.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): ‘Replayability’ – another term I’m hearing a lot… the way this game combines races and special powers randomly each game (and the funny sounding combinations) make this one a favorite – especially Selena!!


(from BGG) Go down in the dungeon. Kill everything you meet. Backstab your friends and steal their stuff. Grab the treasure and run. Admit it. You love it.

This award-winning card game, designed by Steve Jackson, captures the essence of the dungeon experience… with none of that stupid roleplaying stuff. You and your friends compete to kill monsters and grab magic items. And what magic items! Don the Horny Helmet and the Boots of Butt-Kicking. Wield the Staff of Napalm… or maybe the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment. Start by slaughtering the Potted Plant and the Drooling Slime, and work your way up to the Plutonium Dragon…

And it’s illustrated by John Kovalic! Fast-playing and silly, Munchkin can reduce any roleplaying group to hysteria. And, while they’re laughing, you can steal their stuff.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): At first I thought it looked interesting with a certain style and sense of humor… kill the monster, steal the treasure, screw your friends… simple. Yet it also had elements of cooperation too… But after playing it?? How could you not like a game where your character can where the Panty Hose of Great Strength and still carry the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment?!?  This is one Selena asks to play regularly but we all enjoy it.

Machi Koro

(from BGG) Welcome to the city of Machi Koro. You’ve just been elected Mayor. Congrats! Unfortunately the citizens have some pretty big demands: jobs, a theme park, a couple of cheese factories and maybe even a radio tower. A tough proposition since the city currently consists of a wheat field, a bakery and a single die.

Armed only with your trusty die and a dream, you must grow Machi Koro into the largest city in the region. You will need to collect income from developments, build public works, and steal from your neighbors’ coffers. Just make sure they aren’t doing the same to you!

Machi Koro is a fast-paced game for 2-4 players. Each player wants to develop the city on his own terms in order to complete all of the landmarks under construction faster than his rivals.

On his turn, each player rolls one or two dice. If the sum of the dice rolled matches the number of a building that a player owns, he gets the effect of that building; in some cases opponents will also benefit from your die (just as you can benefit from theirs). Then, with money in hand a player can build a landmark or a new building, ideally adding to the wealth of his city on future turns. The first player to construct all of his landmarks wins!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I wasn’t sure what to expect from this – I only knew what I’d read or seen in reviews but it was enough to give it a try… it’s a simple, kind of laid back game that we all like.


(from BGG) Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their CODENAMES.

In Codenames, two teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin.

Codenames: Win or lose, it’s fun to figure out the clues.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I kept hearing about this from various sources… the girls actually played this before me at one of Uncle Adam’s game nights so I had to pick up a copy. It’s better with more players but will work with 3…

Glimpse the future (about 3 years)… the school district work for has 65 inch interactive Smart panels in each classroom (like giant wall mounted iPads)… using the Smart software that comes with them I created a touch version for teachers to use for a vocabulary game!! I also used it at the administration end of summer gathering which is the culmination of a number a team events leading up to this get together… some of them actually bought copies of the game for their families… 🙂

For the girls birthdays…

I picked up Catan – Cities and Knights expansion

(from BGG): Adds several new aspects to Settlers of Catan but the two major ones are creating knights to protect the land from invading barbarians and building city improvements that confer benefits upon that city’s owner. Adds tactical complexity to the game and game length.

The game changes the base game in three main ways:

First, there are 3 new commodities in the game, distinct from resources – paper, cloth, and coins, which can be acquired from Forest, Meadow, and Mountain spaces, respectively. Cities that would normally produce two of one of those resources instead produce 1 resource and 1 of the corresponding commodity. (To make commodities easier to obtain, each player starts the game with 1 city and 1 settlement on the board.) These commodities allow players to build city improvements that confer various advantages and eventually points.

Second, the deck of development cards is replaced by three different decks, each corresponding to one of the commodities. Building city improvements gives players a chance to draw these cards with every roll of the dice. Building more improvements will increase these chances, but cards cannot be bought directly in any way.

These cards are similar to the development cards in the base game, but with a wider range of effects. (Some cards are balanced better as well – the new Resource Monopoly card, for example, can take no more than 2 of the named resource from any one player.)

Finally, players can also build knights on the island along their network of roads. These knights can be used to claim certain intersections and move the Robber (taking the place of Soldier cards), but are also used to defend the island from periodic barbarian attacks. If the island is successfully defended, the player(s) with the most knights are rewarded. If not, the player(s) with the fewest knights each have a city downgraded to a settlement.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We really like Catan and figured this would do for it what the Carcassonne expansions do for that – and it did. It adds some new twists and characters… we still play the original alone but every so often will throw this back into the mix…

Castle Panic

(from BGG): The forest is filled with all sorts of monsters. They watched and waited as you built your castle and trained your soldiers, but now they’ve gathered their army and are marching out of the woods. Can you work with your friends to defend your castle against the horde, or will the monsters tear down your walls and destroy the precious castle towers? You will all win or lose together, but in the end only one player will be declared the Master Slayer!

Castle Panic is a cooperative, light strategy game for 1 to 6 players ages 10 and up. Players must work together to defend their castle, in the center of the board, from monsters that attack out of the forest at the edges of the board. Players trade cards, hit and slay monsters, and plan strategies together to keep their castle towers intact. The players either win or lose together, but only the player with the most victory points is declared the Master Slayer. Players must balance the survival of the group with their own desire to win.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): It looked like such a great concept that I couldn’t pass it up… Another cooperative game which is a style we’ve come to enjoy – sometimes it’s just more fun to work together rather than compete against each other. And, as the name implies, it’s a PANIC!! Monsters attacking from all sides… a lot of fun!!

Lords of Vegas

(from BGG): You and your opponents represent powerful developers in a burgeoning Nevada city. You will earn money and prestige by building the biggest and most profitable casinos on “The Strip,” the town’s backbone of dust and sin. You start with nothing but parking lots and dreams, but from there you build, sprawl, reorganize and gamble your way to victory. Score the most points investing in the most profitable development companies and putting the best bosses in control of the richest casinos. Put your dollars on the line . . . it’s time to roll!

The game board is broken into 8 different areas, each consisting of a number of empty ‘lots’. Players build lots by paying money and placing a die of the value matching the one shown on the lot’s space onto the lot, along with a casino tile of one of 7 colors. Adjoining lots of the same color are considered a single casino. The casino’s boss is the player whose die value is higher than any other in the casino. On each players turn, players turn over a new card representing a new lot they get. The card also is one of the casino colors. Any built casinos of the matching color will score both money and VP.

Money is earned for each lot in the casino, where each lot may be owned by a different player. VP goes only to the casino’s owner. Players can expand their casinos; try to take over casinos owned by other players; make deals to trade lots, casinos and money; or gamble in opponents’ casinos to make more money. Ultimately, though, only victory points matter, and that means making yourself boss of the biggest casinos.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Another Tabletop play that piqued my interest… I had to read and re-read the rules to make sure I got it… and even the first play took a little work… Everyone has their own colored dice but the differently colored casinos are available to everyone – this took a little getting used to but after a while we all got it and it’s become one of our favorites. Selena especially loves to pay the price for a one-on-one dice faceoff for control of a casino – sort of a hostile takeover and she’s won more than her share…

Dixit –

(From BGG): 2010 Spiel des Jahres Winner. One player is the storyteller for the turn and looks at the images on the 6 cards in her hand. From one of these, she makes up a sentence and says it out loud (without showing the card to the other players).

Each other player selects the card in their hands which best matches the sentence and gives the selected card to the storyteller, without showing it to the others.

The storyteller shuffles her card with all the received cards. All pictures are shown face up and every player has to bet upon which picture was the storyteller’s.

If nobody or everybody finds the correct card, the storyteller scores 0, and each of the other players scores 2. Otherwise the storyteller and whoever found the correct answer score 3. Players score 1 point for every vote for their own card.

The game ends when the deck is empty or if a player scores 30 points. In either case, the player with the most points wins the game.

The base game and all expansions have 84 cards each.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I picked this especially for my daughter because I knew she’d love the artwork and her imagination would go crazy with it. A very interesting and entertaining low-key game – perfect for a quiet evening though I’ve discovered that I apparently don’t have as much imagination as I used to…

Julie also gave her Headbanz…  Play Hedbanz, the quick question game of “What am I?” Ask “yes” or “no” questions to figure out if the cartoon on your head is an animal, food or man-made object. Be the first player to guess what you are and win! Hedbanz – the game where everybody knows but you!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Another game the girls played before me… in fact, I don’t think I’ve played this one at all yet though Selena loves to get it out whenever she has friends over (the girls don’t like to play a lot of the more complex games unless I’m there to play and be the rules master…

Sushi Go

(from BGG) In the super-fast sushi card game Sushi Go!, you are eating at a sushi restaurant and trying to grab the best combination of sushi dishes as they whiz by. Score points for collecting the most sushi rolls or making a full set of sashimi. Dip your favorite nigiri in wasabi to triple its value! And once you’ve eaten it all, finish your meal with all the pudding you’ve got! But be careful which sushi you allow your friends to take; it might be just what they need to beat you!

Sushi Go! takes the card-drafting mechanism of Fairy Tale and 7 Wonders and distills it into a twenty-minute game that anyone can play. The dynamics of “draft and pass” are brought to the fore, while keeping the rules to a minimum. As you see the first few hands of cards, you must quickly assess the make-up of the round and decide which type of sushi you’ll go for. Then, each turn you’ll need to weigh which cards to keep and which to pass on. The different scoring combinations allow for some clever plays and nasty blocks. Round to round, you must also keep your eye on the goal of having the most pudding cards at the end of the game!

Roll For It

(from BGG) Roll For It! is a casual, family-friendly dice and card game. Each player starts the game with six dice of a single color, and three target cards are laid face-up on the table. Players take turns doing the following: On a turn, a player rolls all of her dice not already on cards, then places any dice that match the targets on the corresponding cards. (Alternatively, before taking her turn, a player can first choose to reclaim all of her dice from all cards.)

If the player now fulfills the target with her dice – e.g., a pair of 3s, a quartet of 6s, or a specific combination of numbers – she claims the card, takes back her dice (and returns any other dice on the card to their owner), then places a new card on the table. Each card is worth a certain number of points. The first player to earn forty or more points wins!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): In the fall of this year my wife landed in the hospital and I thought some small, lightweight games that she, our daughter and I could play in the hospital might cheer her up and take Selena’s mind of Mommy having be away from home. Not having time to order anything I stopped by Toys R Us and discovered that they actually had some interesting titles beyond the ‘norm’. I snagged Sushi Go and Roll For It – two games they carried that I remembered watching on Wil Wheaton’s show that looked like fun.

We love both of these games and my Mom will always play Roll For It! (maybe it reminds her of Yahtzee)… These were perfect for their intended purpose – we could toss them in and bag and play on Julie’s meal table in the hospital. Despite the circumstances we were able to enjoy some fun family time thanks to these two titles. NOTE: we have the deluxe version of Roll For It! but I think the only difference between that and the original is the number of players (this goes up to 8) the tin that this one comes in.

Christmas 2015 – –

Escape – Curse of the Temple

(from BGG) Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a cooperative game in which players must escape (yes…) from a temple (yes…) which is cursed (yes…) before the temple collapses and kills one or more explorers, thereby causing everyone to lose.

The initial game board consists of a row of three square tiles, each showing a combination of two symbols, say, two green adventurers or one green adventurer and one blue key in one corner of the tile. All of the explorers start in the center tile – the safe room – and each player starts with a hand of five dice. Each die has five symbols:

  • A cursed mask – this die is set aside when rolled.
  • A golden mask – each such symbol counteracts two cursed masks, either your own or those of another explorer in the same room.
  • A red torch or blue key – these are used to enter rooms, access treasure, or activate gems.
  • A green adventurer, which appears twice on the die – you need these to move from room to room, and to activate some gems.

Escape is played in real-time, with all players rolling dice and taking actions simultaneously. You must roll the right symbols to enter a room, and if you’re at an open doorway, you can roll to reveal the next tile in the stack and add it to that doorway. Some rooms contain combinations of red and blue symbols, and if you (possibly working with other players in the same room) roll enough red or blue symbols, you “discover” magic gems, moving them from a separate gem depot onto that tile.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This is another game where the mechanisms and story emersion make the game… trying to find parts… in the sand… in a desert… with windstorms… AND it’s only our second cooperative game though not as deep and dark as Pandemic… this is still in our regular ‘rotation’ (whenever I’m not traveling with the band)…

The real-time aspect is enforced by a soundtrack to be played during the game. At certain points, a countdown starts, and if players aren’t back in the safe room when time is up, they lose one of their dice.

Once the exit tile is revealed, players can attempt to escape the temple by moving to that tile, then rolling a number of blue dice equal to the magic gems that haven’t been removed from the gem depot. Thus, the more gems you find, the easier it is to escape the temple. When a player escapes, he gives one die to a player of his choice. If all players escape before the third countdown, everyone wins; if not, everyone loses, no matter how many players did escape.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): A number of things got this on my list… it’s another coop game and another game where the board (in this case the dungeon) gets created as you go so it’s different each time; the game is timed and only lasts 10 minutes; there’s an app / soundtrack that serves as the timer!! We thought Pandemic was stressful until we played with this timer… we were chucking dice (the gamer’s actual term for it) like crazy trying to get back to the safe room before things got ugly!! This is easily one of our favorites and the length of game means we usually play 2 or 3 before we need to play something else to ‘relax’…   I recently found alternative soundtrack / timers on YouTube – one of which plays Yakety Sax (or the theme from the Benny Hill Show if you prefer) each time players are scrambling to get back to the safe room… I didn’t tell the girls ahead of time… their expressions were priceless.

Arcadia Quest (my girls saw someone playing this at our local library and had to have it!!)

(from BGG) In Arcadia Quest, players lead guilds of intrepid heroes on an epic campaign to dethrone the vampire lord and reclaim the mighty Arcadia for their own. But only one guild may lead in the end, so players must battle against each other as well as against the monstrous occupying forces.

Arcadia Quest is a campaign-based game for 2 to 4 players, where each player controls a guild of three unique heroes, facing off against the other players and the various monsters controlled by the game. Players need to accomplish a series of quests in order to win each scenario and choose where to go next in the campaign.

Players are able to choose the path their campaign takes, navigating through six out of eleven available scenarios, so each time the campaign is played it can have a different configuration of scenarios. As the campaign progresses, the heroes are able to acquire new weapons, equipment and abilities that give them powerful options to tackle the obstacles ahead. Furthermore, by fulfilling specific quests in a scenario, players unlock exclusive features in subsequent scenarios.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As I mentioned earlier, the girls saw a guy and his son playing this at our local library back in the fall and kept telling me about it… I kept telling them I couldn’t find it anywhere online… I love to mess with them at Christmas… I still wrap and hide things that I don’t bring out until they’ve all been asleep for a while… Yes – Santa still stops at our house…

As for the game, I came away feeling like it was OK and the girls never asked to play it again…

A peek into the future 5 years… it’s 2020 and I’m thinking we were just too inexperienced to fully appreciate and enjoy the game so I’m seriously thinking of setting it up one night and reteaching it…

Dixit Odyssey is an expansion for one of my daughter’s favorites – Jean-Louis Roubira’s Dixit, which won Germany’s Spiel des Jahres award in 2010 – and adds 84 new cards, each with a unique image drawn by Pierô and colored by Marie Cardouat, artist of Dixit and Dixit 2.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Selena loves the original so much how could I not get at least one expansion for this… the artwork on the cards is just as amazing as the original!!

Sheriff of Nottingham

(from BGG) Prince John is coming to Nottingham! Players, in the role of merchants, see this as an opportunity to make quick profits by selling goods in the bustling city during the Prince’s visit. However, players must first get their goods through the city gate, which is under the watch of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Should you play it safe with legal goods and make a profit, or risk it all by sneaking in illicit goods? Be mindful, though, as the Sheriff always has his eyes out for liars and tricksters and if he catches one, he very well may confiscate those goods for himself!

In Sheriff of Nottingham, players will not only be able to experience Nottingham as a merchant of the city, but each turn one player will step into the shoes of the Sheriff himself. Players declare goods they wish to bring into the city, goods that are secretly stored in their burlap sack. The Sheriff must then determine who gets into the city with their goods, who gets inspected, and who may have their goods confiscated!

Do you have what it takes to be seen as an honest merchant? Will you make a deal with the Sheriff to let you in? Or will you persuade the Sheriff to target another player while you quietly slip by the gate? Declare your goods, negotiate deals, and be on the lookout for the Sheriff of Nottingham!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Tabletop strikes again… they had so much fun I had to try it… we have a lot of fun too. Selena especially likes when I start telling tales about the goods I’m supposedly trying to bring into the city…

Kingdom Builder

(from BGG) In Kingdom Builder, the players create their own kingdoms by skillfully building their settlements, aiming to earn the most gold at the end of the game.

Nine different kinds of terrain are on the variable game board, including locations and castles. During his turn, a player plays his terrain card and builds three settlements on three hexes of this kind. If possible, a new settlement must be built next to one of that player’s existing settlements. When building next to a location, the player may seize an extra action tile that he may use from his next turn on. These extra actions allow extraordinary actions such as moving your settlements.

By building next to a castle, the player will earn gold at the end of the game, but the most gold will be earned by meeting the conditions of the three Kingdom Builder cards; these three cards (from a total of ten in the game) specify the conditions that must be met in order to earn the much-desired gold, such as earning gold for your settlements built next to water hexes or having the majority of settlements in a sector of the board.

Each game, players will use a random set of Kingdom Builder cards (3 of 10), special actions (4 of 8), and terrain sectors to build the map (4 of 8), ensuring you won’t play the same game twice!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): While I enjoyed the Tabletop playthrough of this game I was more interested because of the replayability – I’m really starting to be impressed with the way some of these designers can make a game that’s still the same game at its core yet the game’s scoring or winning conditions are different each time. This one achieves that with a board that comes in several sections that you mix as you select 4 for each game and assemble them randomly… it also has a goodly number of game conditions to pick from but only 3 are used each game so the number of combinations makes it different every time. These elements and a minimalistic board and card design make for an interesting game that I enjoy maybe just a tad more than the girls but we all like it.


(from BGG) In Concept, your goal is to guess words through the association of icons. A team of two players – neighbors at the table – choose a word or phrase that the other players need to guess. Acting together, this team places pieces judiciously on the available icons on the game board.

To get others to guess “milk”, for example, the team might place the question mark icon (which signifies the main concept) on the liquid icon, then cubes of this color on the icons for “food/drink” and “white”. For a more complicated concept, such as “Leonardo DiCaprio”, the team can use the main concept and its matching cubes to clue players into the hidden phrase being an actor or director, while then using sub-concept icons and their matching cubes to gives clues to particular movies in which DiCaprio starred, such as Titanic or Inception.

The first player to discover the word or phrase receives 2 victory points, the team receives points as well, and the player who ends up with the most points wins.

Why we like it (or not): A simple party style game – sort of Charades meets Pictionary… we like the team variant that Wil plays in the video where the group is trying to beat a predetermined score. Here’s another one that we’ve even got my Mom playing… have I mentioned recently that she’s 85 at the time of this writing (2017)?? I think as much as anything we all enjoy trying to figure out what the other person is trying to convey when they’re banging a pawn on the board because none of us are getting it…


(from BGG) Granada, 1278. At the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, one of the most exciting and interesting project of the Spanish Middle Ages begins: the construction of the ALHAMBRA.

The best master builders in the whole of Europe and Arabia want to demonstrate their skill. Employ the most suitable teams of builders and make sure that you always have enough of the right currency. Because no matter whether they are stonemasons from the north or horticulturalists from the south, they all want a proper wage and insist on their “native” currency. With their help towers can be constructed, gardens laid out, pavilions and arcades erected and seraglios and chambers built.

In Alhambra, players are acquiring buildings to be placed within their Alhambra complex.

The money in Alhambra comes in four different currencies and is available in the open money market. The 54 buildings of six types become available for purchase in the building market four at a time; one building is available in each of the four different currencies. On a player’s turn, a player may 1) take money from the open money market, 2) purchase a building from the building market and either place it in his Alhambra or reserve, or 3) engage in construction and re-construction projects with buildings that have been placed in the player’s Alhambra or reserve. The game rewards efficiency, as when a player purchases a building from the market for the exact amount of money, the player may take another turn.

Players with the most buildings in each of the six building types in his Alhambra score in each of the scoring phases, and points are awarded for players’ longest external “wall” section within their complex. The game ends when the building market can no longer be replenished from the building tile supply, and there is a final scoring, whereupon the player with the highest score wins.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Yet another Wil Wheaton play that I thought looked like fun… I really like it but I think the girls could take it or leave it – I usually have to guilt them into playing but once we’re in the game they do enjoy it…

Another peek into the future… it’s 2019 and I have a rare night off and the local game group is meeting… as I arrive they’re just setting up Alhambra and after a quick refresher I was reminded of why and how much I really liked this game…

Five Tribes

(from BGG) Crossing into the Land of 1001 Nights, your caravan arrives at the fabled Sultanate of Naqala. The old sultan just died and control of Naqala is up for grabs! The oracles foretold of strangers who would maneuver the Five Tribes to gain influence over the legendary city-state. Will you fulfill the prophecy? Invoke the old Djinns and move the Tribes into position at the right time, and the Sultanate may become yours!

Designed by Bruno Cathala, Five Tribes builds on a long tradition of German-style games that feature wooden meeples. Here, in a unique twist on the now-standard “worker placement” genre, the game begins with the meeples already in place – and players must cleverly maneuver them over the villages, markets, oases, and sacred places tiles that make up Naqala. How, when, and where you dis-place these Five Tribes of Assassins, Elders, Builders, Merchants, and Viziers determine your victory or failure.

As befitting a Days of Wonder game, the rules are straightforward and easy to learn. But devising a winning strategy will take a more calculated approach than our standard fare. You need to carefully consider what moves can score you well and put your opponents at a disadvantage. You need to weigh many different pathways to victory, including the summoning of powerful Djinns that may help your cause as you attempt to control this legendary Sultanate.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Very colorful… loved the theme and thought the girls would too (hey – they love Disney’s Aladdin)… Here’s another game where the ‘board’, comprised of a tiled grid, is randomly laid out before each game so every game is different… And it used something I’d never heard of to determine movement called a ‘Mancala’ mechanic… Mancala from the Arabic word naqala meaning literally “to move”. Wikipedia says there are over 800 games based on these feature but no one game named as such. This has become one of our favorites and really makes you think as the game goes on…

Colt Express

(from BGG) On the 11th of July, 1899 at 10 a.m., the Union Pacific Express has left Folsom, New Mexico, with 47 passengers on board. After a few minutes, gunfire and hurrying footsteps on the roof can be heard. Heavily armed bandits have come to rob honest citizens of their wallets and jewels. Will they succeed in stealing the suitcase holding the Nice Valley Coal Company’s weekly pay, despite it having been placed under the supervision of Marshal Samuel Ford? Will these bandits hinder one another more than the Marshal since only the richest one of them can come out on top?

In Colt Express, you play a bandit robbing a train at the same time as other bandits, and your goal is to become the richest outlaw of the Old West. The game consists of five rounds, and each round has two phases:

  • Phase 1: Schemin’ Each player plays 2-5 action cards on a common pile, with the cards being face up or face down depending on the type of the round. Instead of playing a card, a player can draw three cards from her deck.
  • Phase 2: Stealin’ The action cards are carried out in the order they were played, with a player’s best laid plans possibly not panning out due to mistakes and oversights!

The game takes place in a 3D train in which the bandits can move from one car to another, run on the roof, punch the other bandits, shoot them, rob the passengers, or draw the Marshal out of position. The train has as many cars as the number of players, and each car is seeded with gems, bags of loot or suitcases at the start of play.

Each player starts a round with six cards in hand, with each card showing one of these actions. At the start of a round, a round card is revealed, showing how many cards will be played; whether they’ll be played face up or face down, or individually or in pairs; and what action will occur at the end of the round (e.g., all bandits on top of the train move to the engine). You can pick up loot, gems or suitcases only by playing a “steal” card when you’re in a train car that holds one of these items — but since everyone is planning to get these goods, you’ll need to move, punch and shoot to get others out of your way. You can punch someone only in the same car as you, and when you do, the other bandit drops one of the goods he’s collected and is knocked into an adjacent car.

Each player’s character has a special power, such as starting the round with an extra card, playing your first card face down, or pocketing a bag of loot when you punch someone instead of letting it hit the ground.

You can shoot someone in an adjacent car or (if you’re running on top of the train) anyone in sight, and when you do, you give that player one of your six bullet cards; that card gets shuffled in the opponent’s deck, possibly giving her a dead card in hand on a future turn and forcing her to draw instead of playing something. If the Marshal ends up in the same car as you, likely due to other bandits luring him through the train, he’ll be happy to give you a bullet, too.

At the end of the game, whoever fired the most bullets receives a $1,000 braggart bonus, and whoever bagged the richest haul wins!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): The 3D-ness of the game ‘board’ – you’re actually playing the game in and on a train!! And the gameplay – playing cards into a pile then taking turns telling the ‘story’… just an all-around good time!!

Stone Age

(from BGG) The “Stone Age” times were hard indeed. In their roles as hunters, collectors, farmers, and tool makers, our ancestors worked with their legs and backs straining against wooden plows in the stony earth. Of course, progress did not stop with the wooden plow. People always searched for better tools and more productive plants to make their work more effective.

In Stone Age, the players live in this time, just as our ancestors did. They collect wood, break stone and wash their gold from the river. They trade freely, expand their village and so achieve new levels of civilization. With a balance of luck and planning, the players compete for food in this pre-historic time.

Players use up to ten tribe members each in three phases. In the first phase, players place their men in regions of the board that they think will benefit them, including the hunt, the trading center, or the quarry. In the second phase, the starting player activates each of his staffed areas in whatever sequence he chooses, followed in turn by the other players. In the third phase, players must have enough food available to feed their populations, or they face losing resources or points.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): After seeing the Tabletop episode and almost pissing myself from laughing so hard we HAD to have this game!! And it’s such a great game… our first real ‘worker placement’ game and we love it!! It’s fun and challenging and the board is very detailed… a must have game!!

XCOM The Board Game (from Fantasy Flight Games) You are humanity’s last hope.

In XCOM: The Board Game, you and up to three friends assume the roles of the leaders of the elite, international organization known as XCOM. It is your job to defend humanity, quell the rising panic, and turn back the alien invasion.

Where the world’s militaries have failed to stand against the alien invaders, you must succeed. To do so, you must make strategic use of the resources available to you. You must launch Interceptors to shoot down alien UFOs, assign soldiers to key missions, research alien technology, and use that technology to defend your base — all while trying to keep the world from collapsing just long enough that you can coordinate one final mission to repel the invaders for good.

One of the more notable aspects of XCOM: The Board Game is the way that it incorporates a free and innovative digital app into the core of its gameplay. This digital companion will be available both as a downloadable app and as an online tool.

The app’s primary function is to coordinate the escalating alien invasion, randomly selecting from one of five different invasion plans. Each invasion plan represents a general outline that the alien commanders will use to coordinate the arrival of new UFOs, plan strikes against your base, and respond to your successes or failures as it seeks to conquer Earth. The app manages all of these tasks and heightens the game’s tension as it forces you to respond in real-time. Then, after you move quickly to coordinate your response, you engage the enemy in the untimed resolution phase and feed the results to the app. Based upon these results, the app launches the invasion’s next strikes.

Additionally, the app teaches you the rules, controls the information that your satellites provide you, and tracks the progress of your resistance efforts, even as it allows you to enjoy the game at any of three levels of difficulty: Easy, Normal, or Hard.

The use of this app does more than simply streamline your play experience and track your turns in real-time; it also permits a uniquely dynamic turn structure. While the variety of game phases remains the same from round to round, the order in which you and your friends must play through them may change, as may the number of a given phase. As a result, while you’ll want to know where UFOs appear before you deploy your Interceptors, the alien invaders may be able to disrupt your satellite intel and force you to deploy your Interceptors on patrol with limited or no knowledge of the UFOs current whereabouts. Similarly, you may be forced to think about the costs of resolving the world’s crises before you know how many troops you’ll need to commit to your base defense.

The effect of the app is to immerse you deep into the dramatic tension at the core of XCOM: The Board Game, and it ensures that the game presents a challenging and cooperative (or solo) experience like no other. Just like the XCOM department heads that you represent, you’ll need to keep cool heads in order to prevail.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As I said in the intro to this page, we’ve played the ‘zapped’ versions of Life and Monopoly but this is the first game I saw where the app really ‘drives’ the game and adds to the tension. Selena and I went to play this for the first time and I was tired to start… by the time we’d read the rules and finished the setup I was ready for bed. Sadly, I’ve yet to make it back to this game but Selena has played it several times SOLO and loves it!!!

and Shadows Over Camelot

(From BGG) Shadows over Camelot is a cooperative/semi-cooperative hand-management and deduction-based board game for 3–7 players.

Each player represents a knight of the Round Table and they must collaborate to overcome a number of quests, ranging from defeating the Black Knight to the search for the Holy Grail. Completed quests place white swords on the Round Table; failed quests add black swords and/or siege engines around Camelot. The knights are trying to build a majority of white swords on the Table before Camelot falls.

On each knight’s turn, the knight takes a “heroic action”, such as moving to a new quest, building his hand, or playing cards to advance the forces of good. However, he must also choose one of three evil actions, each of which will bring Camelot closer to defeat.

Moreover, one of the knights may be a traitor, pretending to be a loyal member of the party but secretly hindering his fellow knights in subtle ways, biding his time, waiting to strike at the worst possible moment…

But enough words… don your cloak, climb astride your warhorse, and gallop into the Shadows to join us in Camelot!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I would call this the grand-daddy of cooperative games!! There is just so much going on – so many different ways to try to win… OR LOSE!! That’s right – one of your ‘teammates’ might actually be a traitor!! This adds another whole degree of difficulty to this already challenging game but what a great time!! This is a semi-regular go-to game for us when we’re having trouble picking a game…


Our friends and fellow game freaks John and Christy, knowing our new passion for Carcassonne gave us a couple more expansions…

Carcassonne: The Flying Machines

(from BGG) In Carcassonne: The Flying Machines, a small expansion for Carcassonne, eight landscape tiles showing a pair of wings are mixed with the other tiles to be used in the game.

Whenever a player draws one of these tiles, he places it according to the normal rules. He then has the option of placing a follower on this tile as normal or of attempting to fly a new follower to a nearby tile. This meeple will travel in the direction determined by the wings’ orientation; the distance (1-3 tiles) is determined by a die roll. If a tile exists in this location, he can place the meeple on any unfinishednon-field location, whether that feature is occupied or not; if no tile exists in this location or all the non-field features are complete, then the player places no meeple this turn. Crash!

And Carcassonne: The Messengers

(from BGG) In Carcassonne: The Messengers, a small expansion for Carcassonne, players place a second meeple (included in this expansion) on the score board at the start of the game. Whenever they score points during the game, they decide which scoring meeple to advance; if a meeple lands on one of the dark spaces on the score track (0, 5, 10, etc.) and the owner of that meeple is the active player, then that player draws the top message tile from the track and either scores two points for it or takes the action shown on the tile. The possibilities are:

  • Score that player’s smallest road, city or cloister as if it were the end of the game, but leave the meeple in place.
  • Score two points for each banner in a city that player occupies or two points for each of that player’s knights.
  • Score three points for each of that player’s farmers.
  • Draw and play an additional tile.
  • Score one follower and return it to that player’s supply.

Whichever option the player chooses, he then places that tile on the bottom of the message stack.

At the end of the game, players add the scores represented by their two scoring meeples, place one meeple on that sum, then figure out their final scoring, earning no more messages.


In 2016 the saga would continue and our collection would grow…