Valentine’s Day 2014 (because I love my girls and we love games)…

I’ve had a month since Christmas to do more research, watch more reviews… and put together another Amazon order!!

In Mondo, players compete against each other while also racing against the clock. Each player has a small world board with empty spaces on it, and all players simultaneously pick tiles depicting different animals and environments from the middle of the table and place them on their world board, trying to create complete areas of the same environment. A new tile must be placed next to an already placed tile (similar to Carcassone), but the environmental borders don’t have to match… BUT… these errors will earn negative points when the board is scored.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I think the Carcassonne style tile laying and simultaneous play is what caught my eye initially. This one’s fast and fun (and Selena usually kicks our butts at this too)… This falls into a category (I only recently learned IS a category) of competitive solitaire games – that is to say games where everyone is primarily focused on doing their own thing but competing with others at the same time. And in this game there’s the additional challenge of everyone accessing the same single pool of resources to draw from so it’s very easy to get screwed when someone else takes the one piece you need.

I also added a couple Carcassone expansions…

Inns & Cathedrals was the first major expansion for Carcassonne and introduces a couple of completely new kinds of tiles – the inns and cathedrals. There are also new tiles that present cities, roads, and cloisters in new shapes. Additionally, each player gets a “big meeple” which counts as two regular meeples. Another whole set of meeples means 6 players can now enjoy the game. Finally, a set of scoring cards helps make score-keeping a little clearer.

And Traders and Builders – the second major expansion to the original game.

Traders and Builders contains 24 tiles with new features such as Bridges and Cities.

Some tiles also feature symbols for the goods Wine, Cloth and Wheat. Players collect one of these goods when the feature that has it on the tile is scored. Players with the most of each type of good gets bonus points at the end of the game. There is a popular house rule that allows the trading of goods between players in exchange for other goods and the ability to chose where a tile is placed. There are also two new wooden playing pieces in this expansion. The Builder is like a meeple in that it may be placed in a city or road as a kind of supervisor. A subsequent tile extension of the feature the Builder is in allows the player another tile placement. Farmers will also be able to place a new Pig pawn in a field for extra points at the end of the game.

Finally, Traders and Builders comes with a large cloth bag. Not only does this makes it easier to keep and handle the tiles, but it also removes the problem of having non-identical backsides.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): As I said earlier, Carcassonne has become one of our favorites so trying out some expansions was a natural… we don’t play with them all the time but they add some nice twists to the game which we enjoy.

Survive – Escape from Atlantis (30th Anniversary Edition)

(From BGG) Survive – Escape from Atlantis is a cutthroat game where players seek to evacuate their pieces from an island that is breaking up and sinking into the sea, while remembering where their highest-valued pieces are located (you can’t check after you place them) to maximize their score.

An island made up of 40 hex-tiles (randomly placed each time) is slowly sinking into the ocean (as the tiles are removed from the board). Each player controls ten people (valued from 1 to 6) that they try and move towards the safety of the surrounding islands before the main island finally blows up. Players can either swim or use boats to travel but must avoid sea serpents, whales and sharks on their way to safety.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Another game where the board is different each time you play – I like that idea… After playing the game we love the way it depicts an island sinking into the sea and the sometimes cutthroat gameplay that ensues when trying to rescue your people.

And finally Cities

(From BGG) In Cities you are the architect of a city of the world. You try to build a city that is most attractive for tourists. You position attractions close together. You build parks as big as possible and place terraces close to the water. You guide tourists to their favorite spots, because only through them you can earn your points.

The Dilemma: you never know exactly which tile will be drawn next. Will you wait another round for the perfect tile? Will you adjust your planning? Or have you got a brilliant idea and can you position the tile in a way that it brings points for more than tourist?

Every player builds his own city and makes his own choices. “All” you have to do is make better choices than your opponents!

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): This was recommended for people who like Carcassone and it came from the same publisher (Z-Man) but we weren’t as thrilled with it as we would have liked and only played it a couple times but I’d like to give it another shot in case I missed something as these types of games were still new to us back then…

OK – so Cities was a bit of a clunker… I was still feeling my way around these things and our collective likes and dislikes… I would stray again with the likes of Stomple, Swish and Pictureka Flipper but I’d eventually get back on track.

Christmas 2014 – –

My gaming knowledge base continues to grow and building on my game choices of the past year I’m ready to make informed choices as I attempt to branch out and mix it up this year… my selections include a ‘gateway’ game (term for games that are great for introducing new or non-gamers to tabletop gaming); a ‘light party’ game; a ‘light family’ style game; a ‘family abstract strategy’ game; a ‘strategic programming / race’ game and a ‘heavy co-op’ game.

Ticket To Ride

(From BGG) With elegantly simple gameplay, Ticket to Ride can be learned in under 15 minutes, while providing players with intense strategic and tactical decisions every turn. Players collect cards of various types of train cars they then use to claim railway routes in North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who fulfill Destination Tickets – goal cards that connect distant cities; and to the player who builds the longest continuous route.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): OK – so who doesn’t like trains?? This game is easy to learn and quick to play (and it has trains) with an element of what they call ‘take that’ (I call it screw your neighbor) when someone blocks a route that you’re trying to build (and it has trains)… I think this was the first game that caused my wife to shout at me or our daughter. “YOU SUCK!!”   There have been several games since… And it has trains…

Wits & Wagers

(From BGG) Not a trivia buff? It doesn’t matter! In Wits & Wagers, each player writes a guess to a question such as “In what year did the bikini swimsuit makes its first appearance?” or “How many feet wide is an NFL football field?” and places it face-up on the betting mat. Think you know the answer? Bet on your guess. Think you know who the experts are? Bet on their guess. The closest answer–without going over–pays out according to the odds on the betting mat. Strike it big and you’ll be cheering like you just hit the jackpot!

Wits & Wagers is a trivia game that lets you bet on anyone’s answer. So you can win by making educated guesses, by playing the odds, or by knowing the interests of your friends. It can be taught in 2 minutes, played in 25 minutes, and accommodates up to 20 people in teams.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I’ve always enjoyed games where you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to enjoy them (even though I’ve won my share of Trivial Pursuit)… The concept of knowing who might know the answer rather than the answer sounded like fun… and it is.

Takenoko… This game successfully combines extreme cuteness with deep strategy…

(From BGG) A long time ago at the Japanese Imperial court, the Chinese Emperor offered a giant panda bear as a symbol of peace to the Japanese Emperor. Since then, the Japanese Emperor has entrusted his court members (the players) with the difficult task of caring for the animal by tending to his bamboo garden.

In Takenoko, the players will cultivate land plots, irrigate them, and grow one of the three species of bamboo (Green, Yellow, and Pink) with the help of the Imperial gardener to maintain this bamboo garden. They will have to bear with the immoderate hunger of this sacred animal for the juicy and tender bamboo. The player who manages his land plots best, growing the most bamboo while feeding the delicate appetite of the panda, will win the game.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): I knew the girls would like this for the adorable panda if nothing else but the gameplay is fairly simple at its core but the strategy makes it interesting and the combination makes for a great game.

A story… a couple years ago (when we got Takenoko) my sister-in-law and her two kids were staying with us – up from Georgia for our daughter’s birthday. Selena’s Uncle Adam had given her Smart Ass and they all decided to play. They thought that the questions, while not terribly inappropriate, would most likely be over my young niece’s head so I setup a separate table and taught her Takenoko… to this day she is still referred to as my ‘Panda buddy’…

Tsuro of the Seas

(From BGG) The basic game play of Tsuro of the Seas resembles that of Tom McMurchie’s Tsuro: Players each have a ship that they want to sail — that is, keep on the game board — as long as possible. Whoever stays on the board the longest wins the game.

Each turn players add “wake” tiles to the 7×7 game board; each tile has two “wake connections” on each edge, and as the tiles are placed on the board, they create a connected network of paths. If a wake is placed in front of a ship, that ship then sails to the end of the wake. If the ship goes off the board, that player is out of the game.

What’s new in Tsuro of the Seas are daikaiju tiles, representing sea monsters and other creatures of the deep. Notably, daikaiju can move: each tile has five arrows, four for moving in each of the cardinal directions and another one for rotation.

On the active player’s turn, he rolls two six-sided dice; on a sum of 6, 7, or 8, the daikaiju will move, while on any other sum they’ll stay in place. To determine which direction the daikaiju tiles move, the player then makes a second roll, this time with a single die. On 1-5 in the second roll, each daikaiju moves according to its matching arrow. On a 6 in the second roll, a new daikaiju tile is added to the board.

If a daikaiju tile hits a wake tile, a ship, or another daikaiju tile, the object hit is removed from the game. Another way to be ousted! The more daikaiju tiles on the game board, the faster players will find themselves trying to breathe water…

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): After seeing Wil Wheton’s play through there was just something about this game that made me want to play it. I thought the girls would like the dragon aspect of it and while they like playing (though not as much as I do) it’s not one of their first choices when we’re trying to pick a game…

Tokaido a very different, elegant and almost relaxing game…

(From BGG) In Tokaido, each player is a traveler crossing the “East sea road”, one of the most magnificent roads of Japan. While traveling, you will meet people, taste fine meals, collect beautiful items, discover great panoramas, and visit temples and wild places but at the end of the day, when everyone has arrived at the end of the road you’ll have to be the most initiated traveler – which means that you’ll have to be the one who discovered the most interesting and varied things.

The potential action spaces in Tokaido are laid out on a linear track, with players advancing down this track to take actions. The player who is currently last on the track takes a turn by advancing forward on the track to their desired action and taking that action. So, players must choose whether to advance slowly in order to get more turns, or to travel more rapidly to beat other players to their desired action spaces.

The action spaces allow a variety of actions that will score in different, but roughly equal, ways. Some action spaces allow players to collect money, while others offer players a way to spend that money to acquire points. Other action spaces allow players to engage in various set collections that score points for assembling those sets. Some action spaces simply award players points for stopping on them, or give the player a randomly determined action from all of the other types.

All of the actions in Tokaido are very simple, and combined with a unique graphic design, Tokaido offers players a peaceful zen mood in its play.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Another game sold via a Tabletop episode… I was sold on the Zen-like mood but more so by the turn order mechanism and various other aspects of the gameplay… lots of things I’d never seen before and couldn’t wait to share with the girls who also like it.


(From BGG) The robots of the Robo Rally automobile factory spend their weekdays toiling at the assembly line. They put in hard hours building high-speed supercars they never get to see in action. But on Saturday nights, the factory becomes a world of mad machines and dangerous schemes as these robots engage in their own epic race.It takes speed, wits, and dirty tricks to become a racing legend! Each player chooses a robot and directs its moves by playing cards. Chaos ensues as all players reveal the cards they’ve chosen. Players face obstacles like industrial lasers, gaping pits, and moving conveyer belts — but those can also be used to their advantage! Each player aims to make it to each of the checkpoints in numerical order. The first player to reach all of the checkpoints wins.

In RoboRally players each control a different robot in a race through a dangerous factory floor. Several goals will be placed on the board and you must navigate your robot to them in a specific order.

The boards can be combined in several different ways to accommodate different player counts and races can be as long or as short as player’s desire.

In general, players will first fill all of their robot’s “registers” with facedown movement cards. This happens simultaneously and there is a time element involved. If you don’t act fast enough you are forced to place cards randomly to fill the rest. Then, starting with the first register, everyone reveals their card. The card with the highest number moves first. After everyone resolves their movement they reveal the next card and so on. Examples of movement cards may be to turn 90 degrees left or right, move forward 2 spaces, or move backward 1 space though there are a bigger variety than that. You can plan a perfect route, but if another robot runs into you it can push you off course. This can be disastrous since you can’t reprogram any cards to fix it!

Robots fire lasers and factory elements resolve after each movement and robots may become damaged. If they take enough damage certain movement cards become fixed and can no longer be changed. If they take more they may be destroyed entirely. The first robot to claim all the goals in the correct order wins, though some may award points and play tournament style.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): OK – this one is strictly for the geek in me!! The game is built around ‘programmable movement’ (see – I’m still learning more terms) and while some don’t like the fact that having your robot knocked out of position by another robot can screw up your entire program, to me that’s just one more fun aspect of the game. There are a ton of boards which let you make it as easy or hard and as short or long as you like. The girls love it even though they have no idea that this relates to my tech life… I’ve even played this with my tech interns at school and it was a lot of fun even with the larger number of players… of course the geeks in us want to build a gym size board using RC robots!!


(From BGG) In Pandemic, several virulent diseases have broken out simultaneously all over the world! The players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hotspots while researching cures for each of four plagues before they get out of hand.

The game board depicts several major population centers on Earth. On each turn, a player can use up to four actions to travel between cities, treat infected populaces, discover a cure, or build a research station. A deck of cards provides the players with these abilities, but sprinkled throughout this deck are Epidemic! cards that accelerate and intensify the diseases’ activity. A second, separate deck of cards controls the “normal” spread of the infections.

Taking a unique role within the team, players must plan their strategy to mesh with their specialists’ strengths in order to conquer the diseases. For example, the Operations Expert can build research stations which are needed to find cures for the diseases and which allow for greater mobility between cities; the Scientist needs only four cards of a particular disease to cure it instead of the normal five—but the diseases are spreading quickly and time is running out. If one or more diseases spreads beyond recovery or if too much time elapses, the players all lose. If they cure the four diseases, they all win!

The 2013 edition of Pandemic includes two new characters—the Contingency Planner and the Quarantine Specialist—not available in earlier editions of the game.

Pandemic is the first game in the Pandemic series.

Why (we wanted it / like it (or don’t): Easily the hardest and ‘heaviest’ game we’ve attempted it was also our very first ‘COOPERATIVE’ game – everybody wins or everybody dies!! It took us a while to figure out and it’s a bear – even at the easiest level!! We enjoy it but it’s not one we play very often I must say…

This would be a good time to mention that I’d built and since removed a ‘Games On My Radar’ page where I was keeping an ongoing wish list of sorts for games I’ve seen previewed or reviewed that look interesting… the problem I ran into was there were so many great games coming out and at such a rapid pace (the 2019 Essen Spiel introduced over 1000 new games) I quickly learned I couldn’t keep up… It’s a great time to be a modern board gamer!!  🙂

In 2015 I realized I had a problem… click here to continue