Dale Yu: Review of Big Viking Mats (Accessory)

Dale Yu: Review of Big Viking Mats (Accessory)


So, let me start by explaining my “Regular” game group.  This group meets once a week in my basement, and we usually get four to five hours of gaming in.  Over the years, this group has evolved into a small intimate group – there are only five people on the usual email list.  The reason for this is pretty simple – by keeping the group small, we never have more than one table’s worth of gamers at this group.  We all get together, pick a game, sit around the one table in my basement and have fun.

I have really grown to like this situation.  Everyone in our group likes each other. No one takes overly long to make a move.  Everyone is willing to try any game at least once – which is awesome, because there are always new games to be played around here! Continue reading

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Patrick Brennan: Now I’m Done With Seafall …

Now I’m Done With Seafall …

… I guess I can let loose on what I think about the game. Our party of 4 has finished the campaign, taking (the roughly expected) 14 games to do so. For fear of accidentally coming across spoilers or reading something that might have given me an advantage over the other players, I haven’t been reading reviews or visiting any Seafall fora other than FAQ (and now we’re done, I have no need) so I have little idea what the reception for the game has been in general. But this is our take.

Warning: This article will reference unlocks that are obvious from looking at the initial board and rules, but not those that aren’t obvious, and I will talk about how the strategic approaches evolved throughout the campaign. If you want to play (or continue to play) an uninfluenced campaign, read no further. If you want more information before committing, this will give you a sense of where the campaign will take you and the potentially winning strategies, but without revealing any big surprises. Continue reading

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Gathering Memories: New-To-Me Games

In my last column, I talked about the newly published games I played at the recently completed Gathering of Friends. This time, I’ll comment on the new-to-me games released in the past couple of years. Not all of these games have gotten wide exposure, so this may help some of you decide if you want to pursue them. Once again, I’ll list the games in order of most to least preference and the number in parentheses following the title is how many times I played it during the week.

Madeira (1) – This is an older title (2013), but I wanted to mention it to thank someone. I had played Madeira soon after its release, but we struggled with the rules and the whole thing seemed hopelessly complicated. Consequently, I had given up on it. However, one day I bumped into an attendee named Wolfgang Dostmann, who asked if I wanted to play it. His rules explanation was much clearer and I wound up enjoying it a lot. So that chance meeting led to the resurrection of a good game. Thanks, Wolfgang!

Habitats (2) – Corné van Moorsel has been publishing games through his company Cwali for almost 20 years and I’ve been a fan of his for much of that time. They’re usually clever and almost always have a different feel. Habitats is no different. The players are constructing wildlife parks in their personal displays. Each animal in the park needs to be surrounded by specific types of terrain in order for them to be happy (and to score you points). The tiles you acquire show an animal, along with a kind of terrain, which can be used to satisfy the requirements of other animals. Tiles are drafted by moving through a common display and your opponents frequently get in the way. It’s a nice puzzle, with a reasonable amount of player interaction, which doesn’t overstay its welcome. Another solid effort from Corné. Continue reading

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Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Paul Dennen
  • Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
  • Players: 1 – 4
  • Ages: 12 and Up
  • Time: 30-60 Minutes
  • Times Played: 5


Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure has been one of the hottest games of the past few months.  Not only has the game been selling well (many outlets are sold out), but it has repeatedly been atop the BGG Hotness list, and it garnered a few nominations for the Golden Geek awards.  It is increasingly looking like Clank will break into the BGG Top 100 in the next few weeks.  

I’ve been really impressed by my five plays, so I wanted to do a quick review, with comments by more than a dozen other Opinionated Gamers. Continue reading

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Twilight Struggle Collector’s Edition (Photos and Game History by Chris Wray)



Few games have captured the attention of the gaming world like Twilight Struggle.  Designed by Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews, the game was released in 2005 to praise from both strategy gamers and wargamers alike.  The publisher, GMT, did a Kickstarter a couple of years ago to fund a Twilight Struggle app (which is now available).  At that time, they also allowed supporters to back a Collector’s Edition.

GMT recently sold the extra copies of the Collector’s Edition, and I bought one.  Below are some pictures of the new edition, plus an abbreviated history of the game based on an interview I did with Jason Matthews for Counter Magazine’s next issue. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of The Legend of the Wendigo


The Legend of the Wendigo

  • Designer: Christian Lemay
  • Publisher: IELLO / Masked Scorpion
  • Players: 2-6
  • Ages: 6+
  • Time: 10-15 minutes
  • Times played: 6, with review copy provided by IELLO

The Legend of the Wendigo is a cute all vs one game from Masked Scorpion.  I’ve played a number of Christian Lemay’s games, and many of them are whimsical and fun for families.  This one is no exception.  As the story goes, there is a campout of Chipmunk Scouts and the dreaded Wendigo is attacking the camp, stealing a scout from the camp each night. OK, so most family games don’t revolve around the abduction of small kids – but hey – it’s a game! Continue reading

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Gathering Memories: New Games

Well, another Gathering of Friends has come and gone and, as usual, I had an amazing time. Thanks so much to Alan Moon and all the other folks who do such a terrific job of providing good gaming and good fellowship for a week and a half.

This year, the focus seemed to be on medium weight and lighter games, particularly those that play very quickly. I was able to find some heavier games among the prototypes I played and some of those will be appearing later this year. I do tend to prefer more meaty games as a rule, but quite a few of the lighter games played very well and I had a good time exploring them.

Since I played over 50 different games while in Niagara Falls, I’m going to divide my report into three parts. This segment will discuss the new games (that is, those published during 2017) I got to play. I will talk about the older, new-to-me games and the prototypes I got to sample in my other two articles. But here are my impressions on the new titles I played, beginning with the designs I enjoyed the most. The number in parentheses is how many times I played the game during the week.

Valletta (2) – This is a fast playing deckbuilder by Stefan Dorra and Hans im Glück. Players begin with an 8 card deck, have a 5 card hand size, and play 3 cards each turn. Cards allow you to acquire or trade for resources, buy victory points, or build or upgrade buildings. The buildings are shown on tiles laid out in a public display and each can only be built once. There is an associated card on each tile and when the building is built, the building player puts the card in their hand. These cards are all more powerful than the starting cards. The buildings also have icons, which increase the yield of some of the cards. When one player builds their eighth building, each player shuffles their deck and plays until it is exhausted, with the most VP’s winning.

I struggle with most deckbuilding games, so this is the ideal level of complexity for me. The game plays very quickly and the publisher’s estimate of 20 minutes per player seems accurate. The quick turns are a good feature, but I also like the fact that there appears to be multiple ways of approaching things. In my first game, we didn’t do much deck-thinning, so I made a point of doing so early in my next contest. However, one of my opponents rushed the game end by building a bunch of inexpensive buildings. He didn’t win, but he showed it was a viable strategy; unfortunately, it hurt me, since my aggressive deck-thinning meant I had fewer cards to play after the ending was triggered. So there seems to be more to this than first meets the eye and it’s important to pay attention to your opponents’ plans. Very entertaining stuff, just as you’d expect from a pair of pros like Dorra and HiG.

Century: Spice Road (2) – This was one of the most played games at the Gathering and just about everyone I spoke to liked it. It has a bit of the feel of Splendor, but I thought it was considerably better than that title, since you’re building an engine. Turns go super-fast, but there’s still thought involved: first, in deciding what engine to build and when to stop building; and second, in properly executing that engine. It ain’t rocket science, but it’s still engaging, and far more interesting than I ever found Splendor to be. It’s also a gorgeous looking game.

I don’t know if this has a serious chance at an SdJ nomination (the timing may be wrong or the publisher too small), but it’s the kind of game I want to be nominated: very easy to teach, playable by families, but still of interest to more experienced gamers. My fear is that the current Jury will consider it too complex; hopefully, they will prove me wrong.

Bärenpark (1) – Phil Walker-Harding has certainly been moving up the publisher food chain. He began by self-publishing, then placed releases with Abacus (Cacao) and then Kosmos (Imhotep), which were, respectively, recommended and nominated by the SdJ jury. His latest design, Bärenpark, was picked up by Lookout, quite possibly because it features polyominoes, but also because it plays very well.

This is another title that’s super-fast and dead easy to teach. Each player begins with their own park area divided into 16 squares, in a 4×4 array. Some of the squares have symbols on them, which are associated with collections of differently shaped polyomino tiles (which are all bear-themed). Each player begins with one such tile in their supply. On their turn, the player places one of the tiles from their supply on their board; if any symbols are covered up, they get to take one tile from that group of polyominoes. One of the symbols allows the player to take another 4×4 park area, which they add to whichever side of their existing displays that they want. When someone completes four of their park areas, the game ends.

That’s the whole game. Some of the tiles have VPs on them; players also receive VPs for completing their park areas—the earlier, the better. In the “expert” variant, there are also some achievements that the players can reach, with more VPs for the players who manage those first. But even the expert game plays very quickly.

Despite the simple rules and fast play, this is quite engaging and requires some thought. Plus, the self-replicating tile concept is clever and a lot of fun. Like Century: Spice Road, I can see this being a big hit with mixed groups, or as an opening or ending game for experienced gamers. And, like C:SR, it’s the kind of game I’d like the SdJ jury to consider. Given how straightforward it is and Walker-Harding’s previous track record, I’d say it has more than a fighting chance.

Jump Drive (3) – Race for the Galaxy is a game I admire, but am not very good at. I struggle with the icons, as well as deducing what actions my opponents will want to take in anything close to real time. Consequently, I play this like a MPS, which obviously misses the point of the game. So if you think that a stripped down, fast-playing version of Race makes sense for me, you’d be right.

With only two types of cards (planets and developments) and a limited number of other icons, this is all about quickly building up your income, then finding a point-scoring combo and milking it for all it’s worth. It only takes one game to figure things out and then it’s off to the races (pun intended). It’s the cotton candy version of Race, but sometimes that’s exactly what you want. It should be perfect as a palate cleanser or while you’re waiting for the last player to arrive on game night. More good stuff from the very racy Mr. Lehmann.

Sagrada (2) – Sagrada must have been one of the most-played games of the week. This made me very happy, as it’s co-designed by one of my favorite Gathering buddies, Daryl Andrews. When I met Daryl a few years ago, he was trying hard to get one of his designs published. Now, he has not only arrived, but has a ton of games that will be published this year or in the near future. It’s nice when good things happen to good people and particularly when it’s someone who works as hard at his craft as Daryl does.

Sagrada is a dice drafting/placement game. Players draft differently colored dice to fill their displays. Points are scored for certain placements and achieving certain patterns. There are also ways of manipulating your dice. Finally, there are restrictions on which dice are placed where (for example, you can’t have dice with the same value or the same color be adjacent). It only takes about 45 minutes, has an attractive theme (stained glass windows), and the physical production from Floodgate Games is superb. It’s a solid game that should appeal to a wide variety of gamers and one I’d be happy to play anytime.

Yamataï (2) – This had to be the heaviest newly published game I played at the Gathering. Since it’s really only a moderately heavy middleweight (after all, it’s a Days of Wonder title), that neatly summarizes the lack of complexity in the new designs that were available for play. I played the prototype for this last year and really enjoyed it. For some reason, when I played the published version this year, it fell a little flat. Still enjoyable, but it didn’t wow me quite as much. It’s still an interesting game, albeit a bit abstract, and one I want to explore some more. Hopefully, this last play will prove to be an aberration and my future plays will reflect the enthusiasm I felt when I tried it for the first time.

Twenty One (1) – It’s funny how things change. 15 years ago, dice in games were scorned by most experienced gamers; today, we can’t seem to get enough of them. In response to that love, we’ve seen a ton of pure dice games pop up lately. This is one of the most recent, in which you have to fill in your sheet based on the values rolled (by you and your opponents) on the six differently colored dice. It’s pretty good, but I’d much rather play Qwinto; even the simpler Qwixx might be slightly preferable. Still, I’d be willing to give this another try, to see if there’s more here than I first observed.

Pyramid Poker (1) – I had heard some good things about this 2-player game, so I gave it a try. It’s played with tiles which show playing cards from an ordinary deck. First, the players build a pyramid from the tiles they draw, then they draft the tiles, one at a time, in order to form highly ranked poker hands. Unfortunately, I really didn’t care for it. The luck factor seemed quite high and coming up with decent poker hands was difficult, which made it feel pretty boring. It’s simple enough, so it might be a decent entry into boardgames for a pair of poker lovers, but there are much better 2-player games which are equally easy to teach. So I can’t really recommend it.

Those were the newly published games I got to try. Most of these titles are already available or will be available soon. The English language version of Valetta should arrive by July. The English version of Century: Spice Road should hit the shelves by mid-June. Bärenpark should be available by the end of June. And the Kickstarter copies of Sagrada have already been delivered; the retail version should be available soon.

In my next column, I’ll discuss the new-to-me games that I got to try during the Gathering. Highlights? Lots of stuff from Japan and yet more dice games!

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Century: Spice Road (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
  • Publisher: Plan B Games
  • Players: 2 – 5
  • Ages: 8 and Up
  • Time: 30-45 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 14


Century: Spice Road — a game designed by Emerson Matsuuchi and published by Plan B Games — will be released in the United States in June.  Plan B had a few copies flown into the Gathering of Friends, and the game was an immediate success, becoming one of the most-played games of the Gathering.  

This is the first game by Plan B Games, and they have subsequent titles in the “Century” series for 2018 and 2019.  Each game will be stand-alone, but they will also be “mixable.”  Each is set in a different century with a slightly different theme.  

So far Spice Road is my favorite game of 2017 (although we still have several months left), and I could see this being a hit of the summer. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Deckscape: Test Time (Spoiler Free)


Deckscape: Test Time

  • Designers: Martino Chiacchiera and Silvano Sorrentino
  • Publisher: dv Giochi
  • Players: 1-6
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: ~1 hour
  • Times played: 1, with review copy provided by dv Giochi

The puzzle game genre has been rapidly growing over the last few years – there have been many entries in this field over that time period.  Many of the initial forays into the puzzle area have been big-box affairs, some with electronic solving devices – allowing for multiple expansions that use the same hardware.  The catch with most of these games are that they can really only be played once – because once you know the solution to the puzzle, you can’t really experience the solving of the same puzzle again…

The new movement in the genre looks to be in making the puzzle solving experiences more portable. There are at least two different series of games coming out that attempt to give you the same experience in a single deck of cards.  Deckscape from dv Giochi is the first such game to hit my table (the other is the Unlock! series coming soon from Asmodee). Continue reading

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Veggie Garden (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Kelly North Adams
  • Publisher: Quick Simple Fun Games
  • Players: 2 – 4
  • Ages: 14 and Up
  • Time: 30 Minutes
  • Times Played: 5 (On Review Copy from the Publisher)


Quick Simple Fun Games is a relatively new publisher, and a couple of their titles — particularly Hanamikoji — have really impressed me.  They specialize in games that “strive to be quick to setup, simple to learn, and provide a truly fun experience.”

So when I recently saw Veggie Garden and Moons on the BGG hotness list, they caught my attention.

My family and I played Veggie Garden several times over Easter weekend (as part of our tradition of playing games with rabbits), and we enjoyed our plays, so I wanted to do a quick review.   Continue reading

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