Dale Yu: Review of The Big Book of Madness


The Big Book of Madness

  • Designer: Maxine Rambourg
  • Publisher: IELLO
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 14
  • Time: 60-90 mins
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by IELLO


Big Book of Madness had been a long time coming… I had been hearing about it at IELLO promotional events since about 2004.  Well, that’s a slight exaggeration – but probably since early 2014!  The teaser was some awesome art, a big book, and the promise of the next great cooperative game.  I thought I was going to get to play it at GenCon 2015, but as it turns out, it was not quite done, and just more teasing art at the promo event.

Finally, at Essen 2015, the game was ready for release, and I was glad to get a copy to try.  Just writing that should cause you to double take, because as you probably know, I’m honestly not the biggest fan of co-operative games.  The mere fact that I was looking forward to trying it out tells you that I’m either getting really soft in my old age or the hype had gotten to me and I needed to see what it was all about. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2015, Reviews

Dale Yu: Review of Liguria



  • Designer: Alessandro Zucchini
  • Publisher: Queen Games
  • Players: 3-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Queen Games

liguria box

In Liguria, players act as merchants sailing around the Ligurian sea, attempting to collect the best assortment of paints for their respective bishops in order to have the best painted cathedral in the region.

The game is set up with each player taking a player board which is laid out in front of a player screen (that represents that player’s home city).  Two or three small islands are placed in between each home city; each of these islands has a VP marker randomly placed on it.  A small game board is placed in the middle of the table – the variety tiles and ship cards will be laid out here at the start of each round. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2015, Reviews

SdJ Re-Reviews: Series Conclusion

Camel Up was the last entry in our Spiel des Jahres series.  Though there is one winner I haven’t yet written about (Colt Express by Christophe Raimbault and Ludonaute), I decided it would be best to wait several months before drafting anything.  The holiday season is the first real test of a Spiel des Jahres winner’s reception in the German marketplace, so we don’t yet know how Colt Express has done.  Nor do we know how last year’s title will shape the jury’s decision next year.  In the meantime, Dale reviewed the game a few months ago, and there is an excellent publisher’s diary over at BGG.  

Writing the game histories was my favorite part of working on this series.  I had the opportunity to interview the designers of the vast majority of games that have won the award, and I owe my thanks to the designers that generously answered my questions.  Along the way, I learned a few fun details about the award’s impact, as well as some insights into the game design and publishing process.  I think sharing those details is a fitting way to end the series. Continue reading

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SdJ Re-Reviews #36: Camel Up

  • Designer: Steffen Bogen
  • Publisher:  eggertspiele, Pegasus Spiele, Z-Man Games, Others
  • Players:  2 – 8
  • Ages:  8 and Up
  • Time:  20 – 30 Minutes
  • Times Played:  > 10

Camel Up

How do you say that?  Is it Camel Up, or Camel Cup?

In 2006, Steffen Bogen began developing a game around a “dice machine” (pictured below) that he had invented.  He wanted there to be double randomness in the game, with the outcome being affected by both the order in which the dice appeared and the numbers on the dice.  He went through a couple of different versions of the machine, settling on the pyramid after later came up with the idea of stacking camels.  His family and friends were enthusiastic about what he had designed, and Steffen started to show it to publishers.   Peter Eggert saw the game’s potential, realizing it would make a great family game and party game.  

Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Klask




Designer: Mikkel Bertelsen

Publisher: Klask

Ages: 6+

Players: 2

Time: ~10 minutes

Times played: >15 with review copy provided by Klask / Marektoy


Klask was a new dexterity game that I found at Essen 2015, at a booth that was very close to the site of the old BGG stand.  There were a number of game tables set up for demo play, and they were constantly in use at the fair.

Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2015, Reviews | 1 Comment

2015 Year In Review

With 2015 now over, your intrepid Opinionated Gamers are taking a look back to answer the question on everyone’s mind about this time of year – what was the best game of 2015?  Of course, all being opinionated, we can’t agree on open or closed holdings in Acquire, so don’t expect anything definitive.  But there will at least be a lot of opinions – hopefully some of which will introduce you to new games to seek out. Continue reading

Posted in Best Of | 5 Comments

Review of Raptor by Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti

  • Designers: Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti
  • Publisher:  Matagot (Distributed by Asmodee)
  • Players:  2
  • Ages:  9 and Up
  • Time:  25 Minutes
  • Times Played:  > 5 (on Review Copy Provided by Asmodee)

Raptor Cover

In Raptor, one player controls a mother velociraptor and her five babies, and the other player controls a team of scientists hunting them.  The player controlling the raptor family wins by having three of the babies escape, or by eating the scientists that are after them.  Conversely, the scientist team wins by either neutralizing the mother raptor or capturing three of her babies.  

I first got to play Raptor at Essen, and I was impressed.  The game wasn’t on any hotness list at the time, but it has gotten good buzz recently.  It ended up being one of my favorite two-player games of 2015.  

Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2015, Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Dale Yu: Review of Karuba



  • Designer: Ruediger Dorn
  • Publisher: HABA
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: ~40 minutes
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by HABA USA


To paraphrase myself from a previous review: When I heard that HABA was going to do a new Dorn game, I was fairly certain that the game would be a balancing act between the more complex mechanics associated with most Dorn games (Snapshot being the exclusion) with the simpler, more family-oriented focus of most HABA games.  Admittedly, this is not a typical HABA game – it is one of the three releases in their more family-oriented (as opposed to child-oriented) games that debuted at Essen 2015.   Karuba turns out to be a more-complex-than-average HABA game that is still accessible and interesting to gamers of all abilities.

The game is played in a Take It Easy-like style where each player has a matching set of tiles, and all players play the same tiles in the same order.  Each player gets their own board which has a rectangular 5×6 grid of spaces with the beach along two sides and the jungle bordering the other two.  At the start of the game, players agree on the placements of four different adventurers (which are placed on the beach) and four temples (which are placed in the jungle).  There is a restriction that the adventurer and temple of the same color must be at least three spaces apart.  Thus, at the start of the game, each player has an identical starting position.  A supply of gems is placed near the center of the table as well as a number of victory point medallions in the colors of the temples (ranging from 2-5 points).Karuba box Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2015, Reviews | 2 Comments

Dan Blum: Review of Watson & Holmes

Watson & Holmes

  • Designer: Jesús Torres Castro
  • Publisher: Ludonova
  • Ages: 12+
  • Players: 2-7
  • Time: 45-75 minutes

Times played: 3, went through the other 10 cases solitaire

It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data.

It’s usually not that useful to contrast a game under review to one other specific game, but in this case I am going to because there is really only one other game on the market anything like Watson & Holmes, namely Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. If you’re interested in Watson & Holmes you have probably already played SHCD or are thinking of buying it.

In SHCD the players read an introduction to a Holmesian case and then set out to look up “clue points” in a book. To determine which points to go to they are equipped with a map of late Victorian London, a London directory (somewhat abridged), newspaper issues supposedly from the days in question (also abridged), and sometimes ancillary materials such as letters, notes, etc. When the players think they know the solution they look at a quiz which will cover many points of the case and their score is based on how many they answer and how many clue points they visited. The game is probably most often played cooperatively or solitaire; while one can play competitively there’s no interaction at all and it can drag since only one player can look at the clue book at a time. (For more details see the SdJ Re-Review of the game.) Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2015, Reviews

Dale Yu: Review of Treasure Hunter


Treasure Hunter

  • Designer: Richard Garfield
  • Publisher: Queen Games
  • Players: 2-6
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Times played: 3, at conventions and with review copy provided by Queen Games/Asmodee

treasure hunters box

Treasure Hunter is a quick drafting card game that I first had a chance to play at GenCon 2015.  It is designed by Richard Garfield, the designer of Magic: The Gathering, one of my all-time favorite games.  In the game, players travel to three different locations and attempt to collect treasures and scrolls.  Players cannot simply concentrate on winning treasure though as there are goblins which will try to steal some of your wealth while you’re away on your expeditions.

The game is played over 5 rounds – helpfully marked by a track on the board.  This board also shows the three different treasure locations, each location with a space for a hard-to-find treasure as well as an easy-to-find treasure.  There are also spaces on the boards for three goblins.  Each player starts with 15 coins. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2015, Reviews