Dale Yu: Review of Royals (Abacus)



  • Designer: Peter Hawes
  • Publisher: Abacus
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 2-5
  • Time ~60 minutes
  • Times played: 6, with review copy provided by Abacus


So, sometimes it’s funny how things work out.  As you are probably aware (as you’re reading this review), I’ve spent much of the winter playing and writing about games from Essen 2014.  With the increasing number of games being released at the show, it is taking longer and longer to get them all to the table… I’m just about to the end of the list games – and wouldn’t you know it, but two of the games that I didn’t play until February are going to end up in my top 5 for Essen 2014!

Royals has been staring us in the face for a few months now – but for a number of reasons, it just didn’t make it to the table.  I think part of the issue was that the game which Royals is developed from, Heads of State, didn’t have a great track record, and that often caused at least one of us to shy away or exercise a veto in favor of a different game to play.

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Larry Levy: Designer of the Decade

Last month, an article appeared in Fortress: Ameritrash (http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/FortressAmeritrash/~3/ycZvKTSjzlI/4988-corey-konieczka-best-designer-of-the-last-ten-years) in which the author, Gary Sax, makes the case that Corey Konieczka, one of Fantasy Flight Games’ leading designers, is the greatest game designer of the past 10 years.  It’s certainly a compelling claim.  Regardless if you are a fan of his games or not, Konieczka has consistently cranked out high-rated titles year after year.  My Designer of the Year articles lend credence to this, as there was a 5 year period (2007-2011) where Konieczka was one of the top five designers four times.  It’s a very impressive group of games.

But there have been some other very good designers over the past 10 years as well.  So rather than take this author’s word for it, I thought I’d carry out an analysis to answer the following question:  who was the Designer of the Decade?  Which game designer has produced the best group of games over the previous 10 years?

I have my own views about this, but as is my wont, I figured I’d try to answer this objectively.  So here are the ground rules I set for the analysis.  The period under consideration is from 2005 to 2014, which conveniently stretches between the midpoints of the previous and the current calendar decades.  Every non-expansion game produced by the designer over that period is eligible.  I’ll use the Geek’s definition of “non-expansion game”; basically, if it’s eligible to get a Geek Game Rank, it’s included.  I’m going to exclude standard wargames, because the designers of those games really are different animals.  But other than that, my goal is to consider as many designers from that period as I can. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of [redacted]



  • Publisher: LudiCreations, distributed by Passport Games in the US
  • Designers: Kalain Nimmerfroh, David Turczi, Mihaly Vincze
  • Players: 2-6
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Times played: 1.5, with review copy provided by Passport Games


In the game of [redacted], players take on the role of secret agents who are all at an embassy reception.  There are two teams of secret agents, but the catch here is that you don’t know who is on what side.  The embassy is made up of three floors of rooms (connected by staircases and secret staircases).  In the basic scenario, the secret agents must explore the embassy and try to find their “intel item”.  Once they have found it, their goal is to then make it to the roof of the embassy where they can hop in their allied helicopter, fly away and win the game.  Alternatively, if you can manage to blow up both of your opponent’s helicopters, they will have no chance of escaping with the intel, and thus, your side still wins!  If you are making your escape in the helicopter, you should make sure that you have the right intel item, because if you don’t, you lose the game due to your espionage blunder…

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Dale Yu: Review of Mystery Rummy – Escape from Alcatraz


Mystery Rummy – Escape from Alcatraz

  • Designers: Mike Fitzgerald and Andrew Korson
  • Publisher: US Games/Gryphon Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: ~45 minutes
  • Times Played: 3 with review copy provided by Gryphon Games

The Mystery Rummy series is a beloved series of games, the first version (Jack the Ripper) being released in 1998.  Each of the games in this line sets players in a historically memorable setting and then includes bits of information/theme from that historical event in the game.  The latest installment of the series places players on Alcatraz Island, one of the most famous of American prisons.  The players take on the role of prison guards, trying to gather information on possible escape attempts so that they can be foiled.

mystery rummy

Like the other Mystery Rummy games, the game uses basic Rummy mechanics with a few twists thrown in.  Escape from Alcatraz uses two different decks of cards.  In the Plans deck, you will find 7 suits of Escape Plan cards, 12 of each.  Unlike a regular deck of cards, these Plan cards are not numbered within the suit.  There is also one Escapee card in each suit as well as 7 generic Escapee cards.  The other deck is called the Action deck, and there are 8 different Action cards distributed within this 31 card deck.  These two decks are shuffled separately at the start of the game. Continue reading

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Tom Rosen: Netrunner Store Championship

This is my report on a mediocre showing at a recent Netrunner Store Championship.  Usually you tend to see tournament reports from folks that won or did really well.  I thought it might be a nice change of pace for the bulk of us that don’t win to see a report on mediocrity.  I was the very definition of it, finishing with 5 wins and 5 losses, and coming in 11th out of 21 people.  Note that this report will assume a reasonable level of familiarity with Netrunner, so if you’ve never played the game, then this may not be your cup of tea.

I decided to bring a Kit Stealth Spooned deck for my runner and a Blue Sun deck for my corporation.  The idea behind the Kit deck (see list here) was to rely heavily on the efficiency of Refractor.  This was combined with Spooned and Same Old Thing to destroy as much ice on R&D as possible, and Maker’s Eye to multi-access for the win.  It is slower to get going than most runner decks that I try and struggles against fast advance, but can be tough to stop once setup.  I almost played a personal favorite Noise Virus Shop deck (see list here), which excels at decking the corp and runs very infrequently, but struggles against Blue Sun, which I expected to be (and was in fact) prevalent.  I’ll likely return to Noise once Clot comes out in the near future; the more 1 cost viruses the better.

On the corporation side, I went with a Blue Sun deck (see list here) that aimed to use the identity’s ability to bounce not only ice as most people usually do, but also economy and ambush assets.  The idea is that I can install ambush assets early (either the advanceable ones, Aggressive Secretary or Shattered Remains, or the unadvanceable ones, Snare or Psychic Field) and if they do not run them, then rez and bounce them to my hand.  Either way, the runner becomes wary of installed cards, which I use to try to get to 5 points (through an unadvanced 3/2 agenda and a double-advanced 5/3 agenda).  This can force them into the tough position of having to run and check everything.  When it gets up and running, it can work well and be very fun to play.  I like trying to put the runner in a position where they clearly cannot choose the wine in front of me or the wine in front of them.

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Mary Dimercurio Prasad: Review of Istanbul (Plus Kebab Shop)

Istanbul (Plus Kebab Shop)

  • BoxPublisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) [Included: Istanbul: Kebab Shop Mini Expansion, by Spielbox]
  • Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
  • Artists: Andreas Resch, Hans-Georg Schneider
  • Players:  2-5
  • Ages: 10+
  • Playing Time: 40-60 min
  • MSRP $49.99
  • Released: 2014
  • Reviewed by: Mary Dimercurio Prasad
  • Game Played: Review Copy
  • Number of Plays: 4


You are leading a merchant and four assistants through the 16 Places of the bazaar. At each Place, you can carry out a specific action. The challenge is that, to carry out an action at any of those Places, your merchant needs the help of an assistant and has to leave him behind. To use that assistant again later, your merchant has to come back to that Place and pick him up. So plan ahead carefully to avoid being left with no assistants and thus unable to do anything. (From Rulebook.)

Rules Summary

The goal of Istanbul is to collect a certain number of rubies, depending on the number players. Each player controls a merchant and four assistants (represented by round disks; the merchant disk is marked with a picture of a merchant on top). The board is made up of 16 numbered tiles (Places in the rulebook, but I will call them spaces), laid out in a 4×4 grid. Each space is described in detail in the rulebook.

Game Board

Players take turns moving around the board, collecting goods, bonus cards, tiles, money, and rubies. Each player has a “wheelbarrow” player board where his goods will be tracked. The starting wheelbarrow comes with storage for up to two of each good, but players may expand the capacity up to three times during the game by stopping by the Wainwright space and paying 7 Lira (money in the game). The photo below shows a fully expanded wheelbarrow.

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of Walled City


Walled City

  • Designers: Daryl Andrews and Stephen Sauer
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 13+
  • Times: 60 min
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Mercury Games – both on Londonderry side

walled city

Walled City is the new area control game from Mercury Games.  Players act as Undertakers – the planners of the Northern Irish city of Derry/Londonderry.  Note: I am aware that the name of the city itself can be a contentious issue, especially for those actually in and around Northern Ireland – for the remainder of this review, I will refer to city on the board as Londonderry – not as any sort of political statement but merely to stay consistent with the title on the cover.

The game is played over two rounds, each of four phases. In each of the two rounds, you have a different goal.  In the first round, players work on placing roads to break up the town into the different neighborhoods.  In the second round, players now shift gears to work on building up the city walls and defense Towers.  Scoring is mostly based on majorities in each round, though the scoring is slightly different. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Baseball Highlights: 2045


Baseball Highlights: 2045

  • Designer: Mike Fitzgerald
  • Publisher: Gryphon Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Ages: 9+
  • Times played: 3 with review copy provided by Gryphon Games (2p, 2p, 3p) as well as two sessions at the Gathering of Friends 2014 (both 2p)


Baseball Highlights: 2045 is a game that I first encountered at the Gathering of Friends in Spring 2014.  It’s a card driven game that imagines what the future of baseball will be like in 30 years.  There are apparently going to be huge advances in robotics in the very near future because baseball in 2045 is filled with cyborgs, robots and a smattering of “natural” human players.

In the game, each player acts as the manager of a baseball team.  The competing teams are playing a series of short mini-games – and the winner is the team who is able to win the overall series. Games are quite short; in the future, baseball games are played over only six innings! Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Orongo



  • Designer: Renier Knizia
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Times played: 5 with review copy provided by Ravensburger Germany


Orongo was one of my more anticipated games from Essen 2014 – namely due to the combination of designer and publisher.  While Herr Doktor Knizia has been putting out many games each year, it seems like there haven’t been as many games out with the “big boy” publishers as of late.  Thus, I was excited to hear that Ravensburger had plans to publish a Knizia this year.

Orongo brings back out one of the familiar tropes of German Gaming – Easter Island.  Along with Romans, Pirates, Roman Pirates, Egypt, Egyptian Pirates, Poop, pooping pirates, and generic Renaissance themes, Easter Island is one of recurring settings for TGOO.   In Orongo, players vie to build their Moai (humongous stone head statues) on the periphery of the island.  The first player to build their fifth Moai will win the game. Continue reading

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60 Years of Designer of the Year Awards

The folks who have been following my Designer of the Year articles over the years know that I’ve actually taken the awards all the way back to 1955.  Last year, after I posted my article, a few readers asked if I could create a Geeklist that showed all of the winners.  I put one together and it proved to be quite popular.  Naturally, I want to keep it up to date, so I’ve added the 2014 winner to the list.  I’ve also added a few new designers to the list and made some other refinements.  If you’re interested, here’s the link:


Check it out and feel free to leave a comment or two!

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