Dale Yu: Review of EXIT: The Catacombs of Horror

EXIT: The Catacombs of Horror

  • Designers: Inka and Markus Brand, Ralph Querfurth
  • Publisher: KOSMOS
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 16+
  • Time: 3.5 hours in two sessions
  • Times played: 1, with review copy provided by Thames and Kosmos

The EXIT series was one of the original puzzle-game franchises to hit the market when the escape room game craze took off a few years ago.  To date, my family and I have been able to play all of the ones released here in the US, and this is a series that we continue to look forward to future installments.

While there are many worthy competitors in the genre, the EXIT series is possibly the best known of the bunch – due in part to the initial set of games being awarded the 2017 Kennerspiel des Jahres award.

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The Opinionated Gamers (Try To) Predict the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres – 2019 Edition Final Guesses

For the past few years, our group of gamers has taken their best guess at trying to read the minds of the Spiel des Jahres jury members.  The nominations for the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres were announced back in May, and we made our predictions shortly beforehand.  The winners will be announced on Monday, and you can usually watch the ceremony over on BGG or other places.  

As has become our habit, we’ve done our predictions in two parts.  This is the second of those parts, where once the lists are out, we do a second round of voting, limited only to the actual nominees.  (In the first round, we tried to guess the nominees.)

This year, we used a similar system to what we’ve used the past three years.  Each OG writer was invited to rank all three games in each category, with their top pick (what they see as most likely) getting 3 points, second pick getting 2, and final pick getting 1.  Vote totals are shown below.    

If you’d like to see the official information on and criteria for the award, please check out the Jury’s website.

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Kenny G – Keepin’ it Saxy (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Prospero Hall
  • Artists: None Listed
  • Publisher: Big G Creative
  • Players: 2-5
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times Played: 2

“Don’t you dare turn on Kenny G to listen to while we play, damn it, you already did didn’t you, that’s why I feel like I am stuck in an elevator.” – Me

Some Kenny G for your enjoyment while you read

Don’t let Kenny lose his groove! Kenny G Keepin’ it Saxy is a cooperative, hand management styled game where the players will be playing cards, to help resolve events as fast as possible over six rounds in hopes of keeping all of the “Groove” points that Kenny has. 

At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt four cards. These cards are the different things that Kenny needs in order to squash the drama going on in his life. There are some special cards that allow the players to do different things outside of their normal choices on their turn, but for the most part the cards will have a color and a symbol on them that will match the items needed for the event to be dismissed. 

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Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots –2019 (Part 14)

Sometime in July, it turns out that Australia was defeated at the Cricket World Cup by 8 wickets. So, here’s 9 of them to help them win? They had lots of other animals though, at least 2 ducks, one of which was a maiden duck, though I don’t even know how you would go about checking for that. JK. I’m not sure that anyone was going to beat England in England. At least AUS didn’t lose on a weird heartbreaking tie-breaker like the Kiwis. It would be like a NFL game going through overtime and then having the winner be the team which had the most first downs. Pretty arbitrary. But, rules are rules.

It’s been an infamously dastardly week in new-game territory. I’d like to blame it in on exploring the dregs of Essen 2018 but most of these come from before then, and it was actually one Essen game, Scorpius Freighter, that turned out saving the week from total gaming ignominy. Let’s think of it as jumping on grenades and taking bullets so you don’t have to!

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Dale Yu: Review of Century: A New World

Century: A New World

  • Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
  • Publisher: Plan B Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Plan B on game mats also provided by Plan B – all games played with New World alone

Century: New World (C#3) is the newest and final installation in the Century game trilogy.  A few years ago, Century: Spice Road (C#1) came out, and it quickly became one of my favorite games – a masterpiece of resource management and micro-transactions.  When that first game came out, Plan B was already teasing gamers with the idea that it was the first game in a set of three; each of which could be played alone, but also each possibly being a module in a game that could combine any or all individual components.   Last year, Century: Eastern Wonders (C#2) came out, and while I did not really much care for C#2 on its own, the combined game of C#1 + C#2 was a worthwhile addition to the series for me.

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Dale Yu: Review of On Tour

On Tour

  • Designer: Chad DeShon
  • Publisher: Boardgametables.com
  • Players: 2-8
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Boardgametables.com

On Tour was a game that first caught my eye when I saw it on Kickstarter; but it came up at a seriously busy time of the year for me, and while I had plans to go back and look at it and possibly back it, I never did.  It is the first, and thus far, only game that I have played from the publisher; a company better known for… it’s boardgametables. It appears that they also have plans to re-publish Q.E., an economic game that a few of the other Opinionated Gamers have gushed about in the past.

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Dale Yu: Review of Escape Room in a Box: Flashback (Spoiler Free!) – $10 ON AMAZON PRIME DAY (July 15)

Escape Room in a Box: Flashback

  • Designers: Juliana Patel, Ariel Rubin
  • Publisher: Mattel
  • Players: 1+
  • Ages: 14+
  • Time: 90 minutes on the box; our game took 86 minutes with 3 players
  • Times played: 1, with review copy provided by Mattel


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Dale Yu: Review of Blokus Puzzle

Blokus Puzzle

  • Designer: uncredited   (Blokus was designed by Bernard Tavitian)
  • Publisher: Mattel
  • Players: 1
  • Age: 7+
  • Time: as long as it takes 😊
  • Affiliate link: https://amzn.to/2Y5jR71
  • Times played: 4 separate sessions, having completed about 80% of the puzzles

Blokus Puzzle is a new release to me from Mattel – the company which owns the rights to Blokus, the colorful and popular family friendly abstract game.  This solo activity is not a game per se – it is a collection of 48 brainteaser puzzles which is set in the Blokus universe.

The player is given a cardholder with a plastic grid on the front of it.  Twenty one blue plastic Blokus pieces are also provided.  There is a deck of 48 puzzle cards, 16 each of three different types (more on this later)…  You choose a puzzle card and slide it into the holder.  The bottom of the card has outlines of a number of puzzle pieces; grab these shown pieces and then use those specific pieces to solve the puzzle.  There are plenty of black shapes on the puzzle cards.  These represent pieces played by your “opponents” and your pieces cannot overlap those black areas.  Additionally, on each card, there will be at least one blue piece printed on the card.  At least one of your playing pieces must touch a corner of this piece.  And, as in Blokus, you may not have any pieces of your color directly adjacent along a side – all your pieces can only touch at the corners.  You can lie adjacent to the black pieces.

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My Favorite Games of 2018: The Dirty Dozen

So it’s July of 2019.  Why am I coming out with an article listing my favorite 2018 titles at this late date?

Well, first of all, it takes a while to try enough games from a calendar year to make such a list be accurate.  The ever increasing number of interesting games released each year, combined with the reduced amount of gaming I’m able to get in these days, means that I’m well into the next year before I have a good feel for what my favorites truly are.  Still, I was getting ready to write this article during April when a mishap led to a torn tendon in my knee. That made it hard to get to my computer and life basically got put on hold. Then, last month, came the Meeples Choice Awards, which I run every year, and I was devoting my time to that.  So this is coming out later than I’d planned, but hopefully most of you will still find it of interest.

Here are my top 12 games from last year, my Dirty Dozen, if you will.  Overall, I found 2018 very much to my liking. I discovered five games that I’d categorize as “great”, which is quite a healthy total, particularly given the lower number of games that I was able to sample, when compared to other years.  Each of these games are ones that I’d happily play and suggest. Here’s hoping to an equally good crop of titles during 2019!

For each game, I’ve provided a brief description, my reasons for liking them, and my OG rating for each one.  They’re given in order of preference, beginning with my Game of the Year:

1.  Blackout: Hong Kong – Alexander Pfister and eggertspiele continue to be an unbeatable combination.  You’re tasked with doing the best job of restoring Hong Kong, following a catastrophic power failure.  Every turn, you allocate three of your cards to gather resources or carry out actions. Then, you try to meet objectives on cards you acquired earlier (to allow you to put those cards in your hand or gain their abilities) and scout unrestored areas of the city (which yields resources and points).  There are a lot of different paths to victory and we continue to discover new ones. Playing cards to different slots seems a lot like Pfister’s earlier Mombasa, but I find the decisions harder here and a good deal of enjoyable planning is required to get it right. On the downside, the production isn’t up to eggert’s usual standards and the game occasionally runs long.  Still, it never drags and downtime isn’t an issue; with experience, we’ve been able to get this down to 2 hours, which is perfect for a game of this weight. In a strong year, this is unquestionably the highlight and I’m always ready to play it again. Rating: I love it! Continue reading

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Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots –2019 (Part 13)

No game night is complete without snacks – Lamingtons are an Australian specialty cake. Small squares of white cake are dipped in a chocolate frosting and then covered in coconut. Delicious?

If a game is in the top 1000 in the BGG rankings, it’s a fair indication that it’s pretty good. It may not suit you exactly, but you know it’s going to be well designed with good components. The bar used to be top 500, but good games just keep on coming as the designer community grows … I keep finding games I like in the 800’s and 900’s so it seems top 1000 is now a fair guideline.

When I look at the top 1000 however (in the search for games I’m interested in playing), there are two things about the BGG game rankings that peeve me.

Firstly, I haven’t played an Unlock game so I don’t know, but why on earth are the Exit games considered to be games at all. A game has an indeterminate outcome. That’s why it’s a game. These are puzzles. The outcome is predetermined. There’s only one answer. Like a jigsaw. It’s a puzzle. Why is the top 1000 being clogged up with puzzles that I have no interest in?! Surely we can siphon them away and have a separate system and ranking profile for puzzles, can’t we?

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