2016 – – The saga continues (I apparently have a new hobby)…

I snagged Tiny Epic Galaxies for my birthday (long before I saw Wil’s season 4 play through)…

(from BGG) In Tiny Epic Galaxies each player controls a galactic empire, aiming to expand their influence by acquiring highly contested planets and increasing their cosmic armada. The game revolves around an innovative dice-rolling combo mechanic. The number of dice you roll is determined by the strength of your galaxy. Each die is engraved with symbols representing the various actions you can take, such as moving a spaceship, increasing your culture or energy resources, or advancing your political or economic influence over newly discovered planets.

Through careful planning, you must make the most out of your turn, taking the available actions in whichever order you consider most beneficial. But be careful, as each of your opponents can choose to follow each action you take by expending valuable resources. This means that it can always be your turn, even when it is someone else’s turn!

Players will colonize new planets throughout the game, thereby earning victory points and accumulating special abilities which they can activate for their galactic empire. Careful spending of resources will ensure the fastest growth of your empire, while allowing you to receive the biggest possible pay‐off from the actions you take.

Will your influence be enough to control the most powerful planets in the galaxy? Will you be able to meet your secret objective along the way?

Will your empire stand victorious?

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): The gameplay looked interesting and the size or lack thereof got me curious… this is a huge little game – that’s the only way I can describe it… When we unpacked the tiny box we thought ‘this would be easy’ but when we started playing we discovered that there’s a lot of great game in this tiny package!!

Later that year for the girls birthdays I picked up Betrayal at House On the Hill (Tabletop Part 1 and Part 2) because this has become Selena’s favorite type of games…

(from the press release) Betrayal at House on the Hill quickly builds suspense and excitement as players explore a haunted mansion of their own design, encountering spirits and frightening omens that foretell their fate. With an estimated one hour playing time, Betrayal at House on the Hill is ideal for parties, family gatherings or casual fun with friends.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a tile game that allows players to build their own haunted house room by room, tile by tile, creating a new thrilling game board every time. The game is designed for three to six people, each of whom plays one of six possible characters.

Secretly, one of the characters betrays the rest of the party, and the innocent members of the party must defeat the traitor in their midst before it’s too late! Betrayal at House on the Hill will appeal to any game player who enjoys a fun, suspenseful, and strategic game.

Betrayal at House on the Hill includes detailed game pieces, including character cards, pre-painted plastic figures, and special tokens, all of which help create a spooky atmosphere and streamline game play.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Selena started watching Tabletop with me and this was something that really caught her eye… a coop game in a haunted house that’s different each time you play – that’s pretty cool… BUT… at some point in the game the ‘haunt’ gets triggered and one player may become a traitor!! What makes this game more interesting is when the haunt starts and the traitor is revealed, the traitor gets a book, references the haunt number and goes off alone to read about what he / she has to do to win while the ‘heroes’ get their own book and do the same!! Sometimes there is no traitor and the group continues to play against the game under new, more difficult conditions. Just a stellar game that our daughter would pick every time given a choice…

An updated reprint of Betrayal at House on the Hill was released on October 5, 2010.

Elder Sign

(from BGG) It is 1926, and the museum’s extensive collection of exotic curios and occult artifacts poses a threat to the barriers between our world and the elder evils lurking between dimensions. Gates to the beyond begin to leak open, and terrifying creatures of increasing strength steal through them. Animals, the mad, and those of more susceptible minds are driven to desperation by the supernatural forces the portals unleash. Only a handful of investigators race against time to locate the eldritch symbols necessary to seal the portals forever. Only they can stop the Ancient One beyond from finding its way to Earth and reducing humanity to cinders.

Elder Sign is a fast-paced, cooperative dice game of supernatural intrigue for one to eight players by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson, the designers of Arkham Horror. Players take the roles of investigators racing against time to stave off the imminent return of the Ancient One. Armed with tools, allies, and occult knowledge, investigators must put their sanity and stamina to the test as they adventure to locate Elder Signs, the eldritch symbols used to seal away the Ancient Ones and win the game.

To locate Elder Signs, investigators must successfully endure Adventures within the museum and its environs. A countdown mechanism makes an Ancient One appear if the investigators are not quick enough. The investigators must then battle the Ancient One. A clever and thematic dice mechanism pits their exploration against monsters and the sheer difficulty of staying sane and healthy, all within the standard game duration of one to two hours.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I got this more for Selena because she loves Betrayal so much and thought this was along those same lines and it is only in a different setting and this game revolves around actions determined by dice. We really like it but Selena would still rather play Betrayal…

and Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre because this looked like a lot of fun…

When I started reading the manual to the girls (I always read through the rules and figure things out then re-read the necessary parts of it to them to teach them) I was very serious… here’s the first paragraph (no offense intended)…

(from BGG) Did you know that magical wizards are battling to the death … and beyond … right now!? “Why battle?” you might ask. “What have I got to prove, magic man?” Only who’s the most awesomely powerful battle wizard in the entire realm, that’s what! As a Battle Wizard, you’ll put together up to three spell components to craft millions (okay, not really) of spell combos. Your spells might kick ass, or they could totally blow – it’s up to you to master the magic. You will unleash massive damage on the faces of your wizard rivals in a no-holds-barred, all-out burn-down to be the last Battle Wizard standing. And it doesn’t stop there! Powerful magic items bring on a whole new level of bloody carnage as you and your mighty wizard opponents tear each other limb from limb in an orgy of killing! Do you have what it takes to use epic spells in a war at Mt. Skullzfyre? Will YOU be the Ultimate Battle Wizard!?!

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre is a humorous card game depicting a vicious, over-the-top battle between a variety of comically illustrated wizards. The game focuses primarily on creating three-part spell combos to blast your foes into the afterlife. The unique Dead Wizard cards allow players to stay in the game even after their wizards have been defeated.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): To be honest, I had passed this one by originally then watched Wil Wheaton’s show and of course I knew we’d love it. A fast paced card game where being killed doesn’t mean you’re out of the game – at least not for long…

Selena’s Uncle Adam got her Smart Ass… Here’s another one we all enjoy that also gets the ‘Mom Stamp of Approval’ – my Mom loves it!!

(from BGG) Smart Ass the board game is the ultimate fun trivia game for 2 to 12 players, where everybody plays every turn, the game doesn’t labor on for hours, and even if you are a “Dumb Ass”, you can win!

Smart Ass is an all play game. With every question asked, every player can yell out the answer at any time and as soon as they think they know the answer.

There are four question categories: Who am I? Where am I? What am I? and Hard Ass! The 500 questions are formulated into lots of clues. The clues get easy as the question is being read out, but don’t wait too long to answer, as the first person to yell out the right answer, wins the round and moves closer to the Smart Ass. If you yell out the wrong answer, then you are out of that round and have to wait ’till the next question is asked.

Beware of the “Dumb Ass” and “Kick Ass” squares, as penalty awaits!

The first person to land on the donkey’s butt is declared the “Smart Ass”.

Smart Ass was created by Rob Elliott, the long time host of Australian Channel Seven’s “Wheel of Fortune”. So come and enjoy the real Aussie flavor of this inclusive and fun, but still competitive game.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): If you read all of the above then you’ll know I was playing Takenoko with a younger member of the family the first time this got played… I’ve since made up for that and this is another one even my Mom loves to play at 86… I’m sure I’ve said it before (Wits & Wagers??) but I love trivia games where you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to enjoy the game… In Smart Ass, by the 10th clue you’ll usually know the answer… And the Dumb Ass penalty spots that make you sit out a turn at the mercy of a dice roll will keep the know-it-alls at bay… at least for a turn or two…

Again… throughout the year I’d snag a game here and there, now and then, just for fun or when I thought the girls needed a pick-me-up…


(from BGG) In Ubongo, players compete to solve individual puzzles as quickly as they can to get first crack at the gems on hand for the taking.

Original edition:
The game board consists of six rows, with twelve gems (of various colors) placed in these rows. At the start of play, each player places his pawn in front of one of those rows. Each player also takes twelve polyominoes — that is, pieces consisting of 2-5 squares in some configuration; players use these pieces each round to try to recreate shapes.

At the start of a round, each player receives a puzzle card that depicts a shape created by some number of squares; one side of this card depicts six rows of 3 pieces, the other side depicts six rows of 4 pieces, for a more difficult puzzle. When everyone is ready, someone rolls a die to determine which row of pieces each player can use to recreate the shape on their individual card. The race is timed by a sand timer, and the outcome of this race determines the action on the main playing board.

Whoever first solves their puzzle in time gets to move their pawn up to three rows left or right, with the second player to finish moving two rows and the third player only one row. Players then collect two gems from the front of the row where their pawn is located, which means that the more rows you can move, the more control you have over which color gems you can collect. After collecting gems, each player receives a new puzzle card, and a new round begins.

After nine rounds, the game ends and whoever has collected the most gems in a single color wins! If players tie, then those players compare who has the most gems in a second color, and so on.

2015 edition:
The puzzle-part of the game remains the same, but the scoring track and system has been greatly changed, to be the same as in Ubongo Extreme. There are no pawns anymore, but instead the winner takes a 3-point gem plus a random gem, the second-place player takes a 1-point gem plus a random gem, and others who finish within time take just a random gem. Whoever scores the most gem-points after nine rounds, wins the game.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I chose this because we enjoyed the simultaneous play of Ligretto Dice but also because of its Tetris element which Julie loves… It’s another sort of competitive solitaire game but we really enjoy it. And there are patterns you’ll swear cannot be completed with the designated pieces so we all work together to try to figure those out (yes – they all work) to prove it to ourselves.

Splendor (from BGG) Splendor is a game of chip-collecting and card development. Players are merchants of the Renaissance trying to buy gem mines, means of transportation, shops—all in order to acquire the most prestige points. If you’re wealthy enough, you might even receive a visit from a noble at some point, which of course will further increase your prestige.

On your turn, you may (1) collect chips (gems), or (2) buy and build a card, or (3) reserve one card. If you collect chips, you take either three different kinds of chips or two chips of the same kind. If you buy a card, you pay its price in chips and add it to your playing area. To reserve a card—in order to make sure you get it, or, why not, your opponents don’t get it—you place it in front of you face down for later building; this costs you a round, but you also get gold in the form of a joker chip, which you can use as any gem.

All of the cards you buy increase your wealth as they give you a permanent gem bonus for later buys; some of the cards also give you prestige points. In order to win the game, you must reach 15 prestige points before your opponents do.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I knew nothing about it when I bought but it looked interesting… This is a fairly simple game at its roots that tends to start off a little slow but then really gets going and is a lot of fun… AND the colored, well-made, wooden, poker-style chips are a welcome upgrade from the usual cardboard components in most games. This is a frequent play and a tribute to my developing instincts… AS I said, I bought this while being totally unfamiliar with it and later learned it was a 2014 Spiel des Jahres Nominee!!

The Game of 49

(from BGG) Starting with $49 apiece, players in The Game of 49 bid to buy spaces on the 49-square (7-by-7) game board.

Randomly drawn number cards are auctioned one at a time, with the highest bidder placing a chip on the matching board space. Wild/Payoff cards give players a choice of where to place their chip and also award cash to all players for their chips on the board: $7 per chip, with a maximum payoff of $49.

The first player to claim four spaces in a row, in any direction, wins.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I thought this would be a nice filler (game term for a simple, quick game that gives you a break from some of the more ‘thinky’ ones)… It is just that but the bidding mechanic is a little more than my Mom wants to tackle…

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

(from BGG) No moderator, no elimination, ten-minute games.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a fast game for 3-10 players in which everyone gets a role: One of the dastardly Werewolves, the tricky Troublemaker, the helpful Seer, or one of a dozen different characters, each with a special ability. In the course of a single morning, your village will decide who is a werewolf…because all it takes is lynching one werewolf to win!

Because One Night Ultimate Werewolf is so fast, fun, and engaging, you’ll want to play it again and again, and no two games are ever the same.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Another game with a cool soundtrack app that drives the game which only takes 5-10 minutes… We enjoy playing with just the three of us but I can see where this would be a great time with more people… The keyboard player in our band told me about bringing this to a family gathering and his PARENTS kept them up until 2:00am playing over and over!!

And a couple of genre-defining classics…


(from the back of the box:) “You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams! You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion! In all directions lie fiefs, freeholds, and feodums. All are small bits of land, controlled by petty lords and verging on anarchy. You will bring civilization to these people, uniting them under your banner.

But wait! It must be something in the air; several other monarchs have had the exact same idea. You must race to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, fending them off along the way. To do this you will hire minions, construct buildings, spruce up your castle, and fill the coffers of your treasury. Your parents wouldn’t be proud, but your grandparents, on your mother’s side, would be delighted.”

(from BGG) In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can “buy” as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): ‘Deck builder’?!? How does someone build a deck (other than on a house)?? We would soon find out and in the process learn that this is one of our favorite styles of game… Everyone starts out with the same small deck that they shuffle up then draw a hand from… already player’s hands are slightly different… Then as the game progresses everyone is purchasing different cards the go into your discard pile and when your deck runs out of cards the discard pile – including any cards you’ve purchased – get shuffled to form the player’s new and now bigger deck from which they draw their hand and continue… This goes on until the game winning condition is met.

There are so many things to like about this game… If I remember correctly there are 25 ‘kingdom cards’ to pick from in the base game and only a small number of them are actually used in the game so each game is different…  There are recommended combinations or you can choose your own and make the game as friendly or cutthroat as you prefer. There are several expansions available but none that I personally would classify as ‘must haves’ – the base game has everything you’ll need… It plays quick yet is very deep but still very enjoyable. Easy to see why it’s a classic!!

and 7 Wonders 

(from BGG) You are the leader of one of the 7 great cities of the Ancient World. Gather resources, develop commercial routes, and affirm your military supremacy. Build your city and erect an architectural wonder which will transcend future times.

7 Wonders lasts three ages. In each age, players receive seven cards from a particular deck, choose one of those cards, then pass the remainder to an adjacent player. Players reveal their cards simultaneously, paying resources if needed or collecting resources or interacting with other players in various ways. (Players have individual boards with special powers on which to organize their cards, and the boards are double-sided). Each player then chooses another card from the deck they were passed, and the process repeats until players have six cards in play from that age. After three ages, the game ends.

In essence, 7 Wonders is a card development game. Some cards have immediate effects, while others provide bonuses or upgrades later in the game. Some cards provide discounts on future purchases. Some provide military strength to overpower your neighbors and others give nothing but victory points. Each card is played immediately after being drafted, so you’ll know which cards your neighbor is receiving and how his choices might affect what you’ve already built up. Cards are passed left-right-left over the three ages, so you need to keep an eye on the neighbors in both directions.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This game is a sort of deck builder but with ‘card drafting’… Hmmm… we liked card drafting in Sushi Go…  It was easy to figure out and very cool… everyone gets dealt a hand, they choose a card to keep then pass the remaining cards to the player next to them and they get a new hand from the player on the other side of them. Everyone picks a card to keep from those hands and the hands get passed on again until all cards are selected. I found this mechanism to be fascinating… Often times there is more than one card in the hand that you want so you have to pick one and hope the other is still there when the hand makes it back around to you. Sometimes it doesn’t and you need to be able to change strategy mid-hand which just adds to the challenge and fun.

This is another game that I’m a bigger fan of than the girls but I think it’s only because we all have to relearn it… again, once they’re playing it we all love the game. Easy to see why this one’s a classic too!!

Like I said, ‘any excuse’…

For Christmas 2016 – –


(from BGG) Labyrinth (formerly The aMAZEing Labyrinth) has spawned a whole line of Labyrinth games. The game board has a set of tiles fixed solidly onto it; the remaining tiles that make up the labyrinth slide in and out of the rows created by the tiles that are locked in place. One tile always remains outside the labyrinth, and players take turns taking this extra tile and sliding it into a row of the labyrinth, moving all those tiles and pushing one out the other side of the board; this newly removed tile becomes the piece for the next player to add to the maze.

Players move around the shifting paths of the labyrinth in a race to collect various treasures. Whoever collects all of his treasures first and returns to his home space wins!

Labyrinth is simple at first glance and an excellent puzzle-solving game for children; it can also be played by adults using more strategy and more of a cutthroat approach.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I was afraid this might be more for little kids from the artwork but the description said otherwise and I decided to give it a shot and am glad I did. We love this game… easy to learn yet very challenging and even a little cutthroat in spots!! I had to include a picture of the board to explain…

16 of the tile are a permanent part of the board… the rest are shuffled and placed randomly – including which direction they face – and there is one tile left over. This is where it gets more interesting… on each turn the player uses that extra tile, facing any direction they choose, to push in at one of the areas along the edges of the board marked with an arrow and push that entire row!! Their tile is now part of the maze and the tile they pushed out at the other end of the row is now the extra that the next player will use to do the same somewhere else. Bottom line is you’re trying to get your pawn from your home tile, collect the required treasures to win then get back to your home tile while the path keeps changing the whole time!! Such a great time!!

Khet 2.0

(from BGG) Khet is a two-player chesslike game that combines lasers with classic strategy. Players alternate turns moving Egyptian-themed pieces having two, one or no mirrored surfaces. All four types of pieces (pharaoh, Anubis, pyramid and scarab) can either move one square forward, back, left, right, or diagonal, or stay in the same square and rotate by a quarter twist. Each turn ends by firing the real laser diode built into each player’s Sphinx piece. The laser beam bounces from mirror to mirror; if the beam strikes a non-mirrored surface on any piece, it is immediately removed from play. The ultimate goal is to illuminate your opponent’s pharaoh, while shielding yours from harm!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I had to get this for Selena… she saw it played and it was one of her first ‘must haves’… It’s similar to chess but with LASERS!! Well, actually it’s a laser pointer but it’s perfect for this game where you’re trying to manipulate your pieces – including mirrors – so that the laser hits the desired target. Most games are pretty quick – some because if you don’t plan your shots just right it’s easy to kill yourself… Amazing game concept and a lot of fun!!


(Game description from the Thames & Kosmos 2015 Science Kits & Games catalogue) Dimension is a fast-paced, innovative puzzle game that takes place in three dimensions with 60 colourful spheres.

All of the players play at the same time.

Everybody tries to position the spheres on their tray to earn as many points as possible. The task cards indicate how the spheres must be placed to earn points: for example, exactly two orange spheres must be on the tray, black and blue must touch each other, and blue must not touch white.

Complete these tasks while racing against the timer. You get a point for each sphere you use and a bonus token for using all five colors, but you lose two points for each card you don’t follow correctly.

Prove to your opponents that you are the master of multi-dimensional thinking!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This was our first dexterity game since Wobble – back before we knew what they were called… This also has that competitive solitaire aspect to it as well (I’m here to teach as well as enlighten)…   Everyone has their own player rack with the same set of colored balls and is working towards the same task cards… how hard can this be?? VERY!! Especially with that timer running!! And it’s very easy to miss something in the tasks that you accomplished early in the round but unintentionally changed later while completing a different task… A really great game!!

I made two changes for us that I’d like to share… with everyone so focused on stacking balls and the tasks at hand no one is really watching the timer… We use the timer on our smartphones but a kitchen timer would do too – anything with an audible sound when time is up. The other thing was we found the scoring using the game chips a little clunky… get some give some back for each task and rarely with the correct ‘change’ so I put together a spreadsheet that would auto calculate the bonuses and overall score for each player and run that on a laptop or , if we’re feeling particularly techie on a given evening, through our TV.


(from BGG) Intruders have made their way onto your ship, and their goal is total destruction! More than twenty bombs have been detected onboard, and the countdown has begun. Your elite Bomb Defusal Team (BDT) has been called upon to neutralize the threat. Does your team have what it takes to work through the intricacies of the bombs and defuse them all in time?

FUSE is a real-time co-operative game that employs 25 dice and 65 cards. Each game is set to a ten-minute timer, and players must work together in that ten minutes to defuse all of the bombs. Each bomb is represented by a card which needs a certain combination of dice in order to defuse it. A player will draw a number of dice equal to the number of players out of a bag and roll them. Players must then decide who will get which dice, but each player must take one and only one.

It’s a simple task: maximize the potential of your dice among all of the players. The problem is that you have only ten minutes, and there are more than twenty bombs on your ship. You don’t have time to think through every option. You barely have time to yell at Grandma as she reaches for that red die you need. This game will self-destruct in ten minutes…

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): A 10 minute game with brightly colored dice… SHINEY THINGS!! And the description had me hooked!! Dice chucking at it’s best!! This is at the same time the most fun and stressful game we’ve played!! And the soundtrack adds a whole new dimension to the pressure… and she’s RUDE!! We love the game but can rarely play more than 2 or 3 times in a row…

Dominion Upgrade to 2nd Edition

(from BGG) Dominion: Update Pack contains the seven new kingdom cards introduced in the second edition of Dominion, thereby allowing owners of the first edition to obtain these new cards without needing to repurchase the entire game.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I bought this to bring our original version up to date. It adds new cards and removes some from the game altogether but I know of some people who’ve kept everything adding more variety.

Isle of Skye

(from BGG) Isle of Skye is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with soft sand beaches, gently sloping hills, and impressive mountains. The landscape of Isle of Skye is breathtaking and fascinates everyone.

In the tile-laying game Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King, 2–5 players are chieftains of famous clans and want to build their kingdoms to score as many points as possible—but in each game only four of the sixteen scoring tiles will be scored.

Thanks to the scoring tiles, each game is different and leads to different tactics and strategies, but having enough money is useful no matter what else is going on. Managing that money can be tricky, though. Each turn, each player places two area tiles in front of them and sets the selling price for the tiles. Setting a high price is great, but only so long as someone actually pays the price because if no one opts to buy, then the seller must buy the tiles at the price they previously requested.

In the end, the player with the best kingdom—and not the richest player—becomes the sovereign of the island.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I thought the time was right for another but more current Carcassonne style game. This one looked great and added an economic element that I thought was interesting. We’ve only played a couple times but DO really like the game!!

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

(from BGG) In the tile-laying game Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players are tasked with building an amazing, extravagant castle for King Ludwig II of Bavaria…one room at a time. You see, the King loves castles, having built Neuschwanstein (the castle that inspired the Disney theme park castles) and others, but now he’s commissioned you to build the biggest, best castle ever — subject, of course, to his ever-changing whims. Each player acts as a building contractor who is adding rooms to the castle he’s building while also selling his services to other players.

In the game, each player starts with a simple foyer. One player takes on the role of the Master Builder, and that player sets prices for a set of rooms that can be purchased by the other players, with him getting to pick from the leftovers after the other players have paid him for their rooms. When a room is added to a castle, the player who built it gains castle points based on the size and type of room constructed, as well as bonus points based on the location of the room. When a room is completed, with all entranceways leading to other rooms in the castle, the player receives one of seven special rewards.

After each purchasing round, a new player becomes the Master Builder who sets prices for a new set of rooms. After several rounds, the game ends, then additional points are awarded for achieving bonus goals, having the most popular rooms, and being the most responsive to the King’s demands, which change each game. Whoever ends up with the most castle points wins.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Tile laying but with more of nod to the economic end and instead of building a city you’re building a castle!! I knew my girls would like that whether or not they liked the economic part… turns out they really liked both!!


(from BGG) It’s the early 1900’s and you are the owner of one of the fastest growing rail companies in the eastern USA.

In Spike, you expand your rail network as you connect cities in order to pick up and deliver more goods; complete contracts and routes to bring in money to modernize your train; upgrade your engines, tenders and railcars to transport the most freight; and build farther, transport more, and amass wealth on your way to become “King of the Rails”.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): We all love Ticket To Ride so I wanted to take that to another level… trains and routes but add pickup and delivery and stocks… this game succeeds on all levels and we love it!! The only downside was the track laying and keeping the train on the tracks can be a little fidgety…

Great Western Trail

(from publisher Stronghold Games) America in the 19th century: You are a rancher and repeatedly herd your cattle from Texas to Kansas City, where you send them off by train. This earns you money and victory points. Needless to say, each time you arrive in Kansas City, you want to have your most valuable cattle in tow. However, the “Great Western Trail” not only requires that you keep your herd in good shape, but also that you wisely use the various buildings along the trail. Also, it might be a good idea to hire capable staff: cowboys to improve your herd, craftsmen to build your very own buildings, or engineers for the important railroad line.

If you cleverly manage your herd and navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of Great Western Trail, you surely will gain the most victory points and win the game.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Where do I begin?!? I’d been chompin’ at the bit (sorry – cowboy term… I’m a little excited) for this ever since it was announced and I saw the first previews and later reviews… I was on the edge of my seat for months – hoping it would be available and in stock in time to be my Christmas present to myself (and the girls)… It was released in early December and everyplace sold out immediately… this HAS to be good… or maybe just on speculation… I kept checking and eventually caught a place with it in stock and my copy was on its way. I had it in my hands and wrapped it and put it under the tree and with that felt an anticipation of Christmas morning that I hadn’t felt since I was a little kid!!

There’s a lot to it… card drafting and worker placement and more… I read and re-read the rules, watched a couple playthroughs and we played most of the other games that Santa brought and by then I felt like I was ready to teach and play this with my girls…

As with most games the first time through was slow – lots of referencing the rule book to make sure we were doing things right but mostly learning the ‘iconography’ (what all the little graphics mean that tell you what you can do or get)… By the time it was over we had figured it all out, had amassed huge, valuable herds and delivered them to various cities along the route. And I… I was in love!!! I couldn’t wait to play it again but was anxious to go back and watch some more videos to get some clarification of some rules and such but this is one fantastic game!!! It can take over 2 hours but it goes by in the blink of an eye… like a really good movie…

We can’t get Selena to try it again but my wife was hooked and she and I have played a two player game a number of times and it seems to ‘scale’ well (scale is the term they use to describe whether or not a game plays better or worse with more or fewer players)… I’ve since taught and played a couple times with my friend and coworker Bill… he’s hooked… And another coworker bought this for her husband’s birthday and they’ve asked me to teach their family!! I can’t wait to teach it!! I’ll play or teach this to anyone anytime!! This is easily and by far my favorite game!!!

and Tzolk’in – the Mayan Calendar from

(BGG) Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar presents a new game mechanism: dynamic worker placement. Players representing different Mayan tribes place their workers on giant connected gears, and as the gears rotate they take the workers to different action spots.

During a turn, players can either (a) place one or more workers on the lowest visible spot of the gears or (b) pick up one or more workers. When placing workers, they must pay corn, which is used as a currency in the game. When they pick up a worker, they perform certain actions depending on the position of the worker. Actions located “later” on the gears are more valuable, so it’s wise to let the time work for you – but players cannot skip their turn; if they have all their workers on the gears, they have to pick some up.

The game ends after one full revolution of the central Tzolkin gear. There are many paths to victory. Pleasing the gods by placing crystal skulls in deep caves or building many temples are just two of those many paths…

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): OK – the gears!! The game looked fascinating but it was the incorporation of the 6 interlocking gears that made me want to play this!!

I wasn’t sure what they meant by ‘dynamic worker placement’… I’ve placed enough workers in games by now to know about worker placement so what was the dynamic element?? NOW I got it… DAMN!!!

Below is a picture of the gears with workers placed on the small gears…

The giant gear represents a year in the Mayan calendar… The game only lasts one ‘year’ (one full revolution of the gear) and in each ’round’ the gear is turned one tooth. BUT… with each turn of the main gear the smaller gears automatically turn… this is where you’ve placed your workers and you have to know when to place them but more importantly, when to REMOVE them and collect whatever it tells you!! THIS is the dynamic part… with each turn of the main gear your workers are no longer where you initially placed them!! Oh – this is diabolical!! You can only remove one each turn and if you don’t plan right you may get something you don’t want or need or worse, get your worker back and gain nothing!!

This game really get’s you thinking and there is a lot going on but we all love it!! Fantastic game!!

In 2017 Julie’s battle with the aftermath of cancer treatment reduced our game time…