Nominees for 2014 Meeples Choice Awards

Well, we’ve completed the first stage of voting for the Meeples Choice Awards on the Spielfrieks User Group ( and have come up with 26 excellent nominees for the award.  Now, everyone picks their three favorites of the group and the top three games will be the winners.  The results will be announced at the end of next week.

Here are the nominated games, in alphabetical order:

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Dead of Winter
Fields of Arle
Five Tribes
Imperial Settlers
La Granja
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Port Royal
Roll for the Galaxy
Star Realms
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
The Golden Ages
Xia: Legends of a Drift System

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SdJ Re-Reviews #8: Heimlich & Co. (a.k.a. Top Secret Spies)

  • Designer:          Wolfgang Kramer
  • Publisher:         Multiple
  • Players:             2 – 7
  • Ages:                  8 and Up
  • Time:                 30 Minutes
  • Times Played:  >6 (On the 2012 Amigo German Edition Using Rio Grande Rules)

Amigo Heimlich & Co

Heimlich & Co.: a 1985 nominee, the 1986 winner, and the game that gave us the “Kramer Leiste”…

Heimlich & Co., a 1985 SdJ nominee and the 1986 winner, is widely regarded as being the first board game to feature a score track running around the gameboard.  In Germany, gamers refer to such a score track as the “Kramer Leiste,” in honor of the game’s designer, Wolfgang Kramer.  The first published game to have the the mechanism was 1982’s “Das große Unternehmen Erdgas”, a promotional game Kramer had designed for a natural gas company.  Nonetheless, the “Kramer Leiste” (or “Kramerleiste”) was first used on a early prototype of Heimlich & Co., so that is the game credited with the first use.

Calling the score track by such a name is a fitting honor for one the all-time legendary game designers.  Wolfgang has won the Spiel des Jahres a record-setting five times.  He was the first German designer to win the award solo, and his 1987 win for Auf Achse made him the first back-to-back winner.  In addition to his wins, he has received 13 other nominations (starting with Niki Lauda’s Formel 1 in 1980) and 2 recommendations.  He won the 1991 Kinderspiel des Jahres. He’s been recognized by the jury in some form in 18 of the 37 years of the SdJ’s existence.  He’s won the Deutscher Spiele Preis three times and the International Gamers Award twice.  He’s had at least twenty five games sell more than 100,000 copies.   Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Traders of Osaka


Traders of Osaka

  • Designer: Susumu Kawasaki
  • Publisher: Z-Man Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 13+
  • Time: 30 mins
  • Times played: 2, with newest edition, a review copy provided by Z-man.  At least 20 games with original language independent release from Japan, 2006.

traders of osaka

So, as the saying goes… it’s hard to keep a good game down (or something like that).  Z-Man Games has just released a re-theme of the 2006 game, Traders of Carthage.  I originally came across this game at an Essen fair many many years ago, and I loved it when it first came out.  Heck, I probably wrote a review about it on this great gaming website called  Of course, that site has been lost to the abyss of neglected and deleted websites, and I can no longer find that review.

This new version, actually the third edition (as there was a EN reprint of the original in 2008, also by Z-Man), has a different theme and title, but it is identical in rules and gameplay as the original.  I was delighted to hear that it was being reprinted as I had always remembered it to be a great game.  The original version was one of the games that was lost in the “Great Basement Flood” of 2011, and I hadn’t played it since.  However, as gameplay is identical to the previous editions, I have eschewed my usual rule of playing a game three times before a full review as I feel I have enough experience with the original version from years of play. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Flip City (aka Design Town)


Flip City

  • Designer: Chen Chih Fan
  • Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games / Homosapiens Lab
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30-45 mins
  • Times played: 6, with review copy provided by TMG as well as at Gathering of Friends (Homosapiens)

Flip City

Flip City is “a deceptively simple microdeckbuilder” – or at least that’s what the box says.  Having a natural affinity for the whole genre, I was interested in giving this one a try.  I first ran across it at this spring’s Gathering of Friends, and I played it twice there.  I was actually in the process of trying to figure out how to source one from the Far East when Michael Mindes, head of TMG, sends me an email out of the blue asking if I would be interested in reviewing one of their advance copies.  Apparently Michael had been at the Spring 2015 Tokyo Game Market, and he had just recently signed on to do the EN version of the game.  A few days later, the teeny box was on my doorstep and onto the game table within the hour! Continue reading

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SdJ Re-Reviews #7: Sherlock Holmes Criminal-Cabinet (a.k.a. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective)

  • Designers:         Gary Grady, Suzanne Goldberg, Raymond Edwards
  • Publisher:          Sleuth Publications, Franckh-Kosmos, and Ystari Games
  • Players:              1 – 6
  • Ages:                   12 and Up
  • Time:                  120 Minutes
  • Times Played:   5 (On the 2012 Ystari Edition)

Note: This review is spoiler free.  

“Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot.”

— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Abbey Grange


Sherlock Holmes Criminal-Cabinet: The 1985 Winner, Shrouded in Mystery

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective (SHCD) was written by Gary Grady, Suzanne Goldberg, and Raymond Edwards in the early 1980s.  The Sleuth Publications binder edition is copyrighted 1981, and the release of that version seems to have been in either 1981 or 1982.  Sleuth followed up with a boxed edition in 1982 and a paperback edition in 1984.  The game was awarded the Charles S. Roberts award for Best Fantasy Game in 1982.

Franckh-Kosmos published the German edition in 1984 under the title Sherlock Holmes Criminal-Cabinet, and that version won the 1985 Spiel des Jahres.  The jury admired how the game could plunge participants into the world of Sherlock Holmes.  Interestingly, the jury also noted that Criminal-Cabinet borderlined on not being family material due to the complexity of some of the cases (a sentiment seemingly shared in this excellent Geeklist), and the jury observed that Criminal-Cabinet was more of an enhanced puzzle than a game.  To date, Sherlock Holmes Criminal-Cabinet is one of the only SdJ nominees or winners designed for solo play.  It was the first pure cooperative game to win the award.   Continue reading

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Dale Yu – Review of Abracada-What?


  • Designer: Gary Kim
  • Publisher: Z-Man Games/ Korea Boardgames
  • Ages: 7+
  • Time: 30 min
  • Players: 2-5

[Editor’s Note – The initial part of this review is a repost of Nathan Beeler’s December 2014 piece.  The second portion of this review looks at the new English version released by Z-Man this month.]

The new EN box

The new EN box

Initial Review posted by: Nathan Beeler 12/09/2014

Open, Says Me

Abraca…What? can be an enchanting experience for those who are receptive to its charms.  Laughter and merriment tend to fill the aether when the game is played by a spirited group.  But the converse is also true: those approaching it with a dry analytical mindset may win the game, but in the end they’ll lose all the magic.  Abraca…What? seems to reflect back and amplify what its players bring to it.  Speak fun, and enter. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2014, Reviews | 1 Comment

The 2014 Meeples Choice Awards Have Begun!

Just a reminder that the voting for the first round of the Meeples Choice Awards has begun on the Spielfrieks User Group ( Right now, we’ve got a list of 200 games. Everyone gets to vote for their 10 favorites, with the eventual goal of coming up with 25 nominees. If you haven’t already done so, submit your ballot and make your opinion felt! If you’re not a member of Spielfrieks, you can join us by sending an email to spielfrieks-owner AT yahoogroups DOT com.

This year, we’re using the SurveyMonkey voting website, which should make the voting process a whole lot easier. I hope to see a lot of you there. Thanks!

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Photo Trip Through Origins 2015

Well, as usual, I get one day to see everything there is to see at Origins —

As I walked into the convention center, I was very pleased to see that the new registration system for badges worked efficiently and quickly.  My badge request came in the form of an email with a barcode on it.  I printed it out, brought it to any counter, it was scanned and my badge was printed up in seconds.  Easy as pie.  A vast improvement over badge requisition fiascos in the past.

As I walked it, I noticed that I was trampling on a trail of stickers…

Yes, those are my feet

Yes, those are my feet

The incredible thing is – these stickers started at the door from High street and continued all the way into the main gaming hall… Continue reading

Posted in Convention Report

Mary Dimercurio Prasad: Review of Rococo

Rococo (Rokoko)

  • Publisher: Eagle Games/EggertspieleRococo Cover
  • Designers: Matthias Cramer, Louis Malz, Stefan Malz
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 12+
  • Playing Time: 60-120min
  • MSRP $59.95
  • Release: 2013
  • Reviewed by: Mary Dimercurio Prasad
  • Game Played: Review Copy
  • Number of Plays: 2-3


Welcome to the Rococo era. Louis XV rules in France and it is bon ton to hold lavish balls. Important personages wrap up in distinguished coats and dresses, anxious to outshine one another. The biggest event is coming up in just a few weeks, and everyone is turning to you with their requests: an elegant coat here, a stunning dress there, or even a donation to help fund the fireworks. Soon you realize that it’s not just about your dressmaking business anymore – it’s about managing the most prestigious ball of the era…

Object of the Game

In Rococo, you own a dressmaking business and try to gain as much Prestige as possible. Each turn you play an Employee card and have that Employee perform a task, for example: hire a new Employee, make a Dress, or fund a Decoration. However, not every Employee is up to every task, so you must choose and lead your Employees wisely. Especially since each grants a unique bonus. Some of the bonuses generate Prestige Points, which are awarded in the form of Prestige Point tokens. After 7 rounds the game ends with the ball and final scoring. Then you gain Prestige Points for certain Employee bonuses, for Dresses that you rented out to guests at the ball as well as for Decorations that you funded. Afterwards, all players count their Prestige Points and whoever has collected the most wins the game. (From the rulebook.) Continue reading

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Review of Mysterium (a.k.a. Tajemnicze Domostwo)

  • Designers:                Oleksander Nevskiy & Oleg Sidorenko
  • Publisher:                 Multiple
  • Players:                     2 to 7
  • Ages:                          8 and Up
  • Time:                         30 – 60 Minutes
  • Times Played:           8


Mysterium: Is it worthy of the hype? 

Mysterium has been much hyped over the past six months.  The game has made numerous appearances on the BGG hotness list, and it is now the #10 ranked party game on that site.  It has also been a hit at conventions: Mysterium was reportedly the most played game at Geekway to the West, and it was number six on the buzz list from BGG.FAM.  That’s a lot of attention for a game that hasn’t yet seen an English-language release.

So is it worthy of the hype?  I think so.  I must admit: I wasn’t looking forward to trying Mysterium.  I had frequently heard it described as “cooperative Dixit,” and though Dixit is a fine game, it isn’t one of my favorites.  Nonetheless, heeding the hotness, I threw a copy into one of my recent imports and pulled it out at my weekly game night.  It was an instant hit, and I was unexpectedly impressed.

A note on the various editions, and an update on the U.S. street date…

Oleksander Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko created a prototype of the game back in 2011.  The Polish first edition (Tajemnicze Domostwo) was released by Portal Games in late 2013 or early 2014.  The game has since seen Italian, Russian, and Ukranian editions.  The art is the same in all of the editions, but the Italian, Russian, and Ukranian releases have nicer components, as can be seen over at BGG. Continue reading

Posted in Reviews