Nathan Beeler: Review of Just One

Just One


  • Designers: Ludovic Roudy & Bruno Sautter
  • Publisher: Repos Productions
  • Players: 3-7
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 20 minutes


Just One Cover posted by LELODEY JEAN-LUC (jlele) on BGG
Just One Cover posted by LELODEY JEAN-LUC (jlele) on BGG

There’s a scene in the movie Blow-Up that I often think of when I play party GAMES. It takes place in the middle of the swinging 60s, when the lead, Thomas the fashion photographer (played by David Hemmings), wanders into the middle of a crazy happening: the up-and-coming band, the Yardbirds, are playing their rock show to a full audience that is completely motionless, emotionless. Guitarist Jeff Beck, reacting to some static in his equipment, starts banging on an amp to try to get the noise to stop. A tech runs on the stage and twiddles some knobs. It doesn’t stop. Finally, in frustration Beck smashes his guitar on the stage. The young guitar god then tosses the remnants into the tranquil sea of youth, inciting mayhem. Everyone springs to life. There is a mad scramble to retrieve the ruined instrument’s neck. After fighting tooth and nail to claim his prize, the movie’s protagonist is chased by a mob through the venue, out into the halls. Finally, with his last pursuer bent over double to catch his breath, Thomas escapes to the outside world, free, into a busy city that is oblivious to the scene that just took place. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Ton Ton

Ton Ton

  • Designer: Tori Hasegawa
  • Publisher: Happy Baobab
  • Players: 3-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Happy Baobab

Ton Ton is an interesting trick taking game from the Korean company Happy Baobab that I found at SPIEL 2018.  The game is played over three rounds, and in each round, one of the five mission cards is revealed to give you a focus for that particular round.  There are five suits (colors) in the game, and you play with one suit per player. Cards in each suit are numbered from 1 to 8.

The appointed cards are shuffled and dealt out – each player gets a hand of 8 cards.  The rules specify which colors you must play with, but really, you can choose any colors so long as you agree with card denotes the starting player.  As the rules go, the player who is dealt the Red 8 is the starting player.

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Caught! – Quick Impressions On Some New Games From Lobster Trap – by Craig Massey

Fellow Opinionated Gamer Tery Noseworthy has shared some thoughts on several of the new games she played last month at Lobster Trap. Lobster Trap is an annual event I host with a good friend. Its small with attendance topping out at 170ish people. The goal is to provide an atmosphere that feels like a family reunion of sorts. As organizers we try to have a decent number of the latest Essen and fall releases available to try ahead of the holiday season. Lots of the attendees work there way through these new releases while others schedule longer games with friends who they only see once a year. I’m biased, but it is my favorite game weekend of the year given the relaxed casual nature of the event. You can sit down with anyone and have a fantastic time whether you are at the game table or out for a nice dinner.

I never play as many new games as I would like, but below are my thoughts from the weekend in no particular order.

Trappist One – There always seems to be a thematic winner from Essen. This year we seem to have a larger than usual amount of games with a futuristic/space theme with NEOM and Lift Off below and Ganymede still to be played. Trappist One from Gen X is squarely in this thematic zone as well. Build up a tableau of cards in an attempt to colonize planets and mine them for different resources. Ship the resources for “star gold” and buy things like orbital stations and satellites for points and abilities. The theme is intriguing with the game play and mechanics feeling fairly standard. We struggled with the rules with a bit with some some variations in key terminology showing up in different areas adding some unnecessary confusion. Lots of jokes were also made as your home planet is referred to as Capital One. Feel free to add your own. We all had a noticeable level of ennui about the game. With so many new games this time of year, consignment to the back of the shelf without too much more thought is a likely possibility.

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First Impressions of Futuropia

·    Designer:  Friedemann Friese

·    Publisher:  2F-Spiele (Stronghold Games will release an English version in January)

·    Players:  1-4

·    Ages:  12+

·    Time:  90 minutes

Friedemann Friese possesses one of the most imaginative and creative minds of any game designer in the world.  And the remarkable thing is that that statement has probably been true for over 20 years. He doesn’t just think outside of the box—sometimes it seems like his thoughts roam outside of the entire known universe.  His games are like no others. Unfortunately, that means (to me, at least) that sometimes his designs are more interesting than fun, the gameplay playing second fiddle to the fascinating concepts at the core of the titles.  This has been particularly noticeable recently, as most of Friese’s most prominent (and audacious) games, like 504 and Fabled Fruit, just haven’t worked for me, even though I admire the ideas behind them. His latest effort, though, is Futuropia, a no-luck economic game of perfect information, which is right in my wheelhouse.  Could this be, after a prolonged dry spell, a Friedemann game that I actually want to play? My hopes were high and I was lucky enough to play a couple of games of it recently. Here are my early impressions of the design.

First, let’s describe the setting.  At some unspecified time in the future, the players are tasked with creating their own personal utopia.  Not an entire social order, just a very small part of one. Specifically, the idea is to build and populate a self-sustaining condominium, complete with generators for food and energy, living quarters, robots, and people.  The goal is to house as many humans as possible who don’t have to work and who can devote all of their time to leisure activities.  As the rules so F-fortlessly put it, this is time to spend “fishing, farming, fencing, and flying”, as well as playing games, of course.  Now that’s my idea of a utopia! Continue reading

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PAX Unplugged (2018)

A last minute addition to my schedule this year, I went to PAX Unplugged to help my friends Andy and Rand demo games in the “First Look” area.

We haven’t covered this convention before, and it’s only in its second year. I’ll talk about the show itself, a few things I played, and, of course, a few pictures of what I ate.

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Dale Yu: Review of Planet


  • Designer: Urtis Sulinskas
  • Publisher: Blue Orange (EU)
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 6, with review copy provided by Blue Orange (EU)

Planet is one of those games that is so eye-catching that it forced me to sit down and try it.  This desire was made even stronger by the fact that I had actually joked around with fellow OG writer Jeff Allers on making a game where players constructed a soccer ball like structure with hexagons and pentagons.  While the shape in Planet is a simple dodecahedron – the idea is the same; and I’m a bit steamed that someone beat me to the punch here!

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Dale Yu: First Impression of Scientia


  • Designer: Evan Song
  • Publisher: BoardM
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 13+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Times played: 2 with review copy provided by BoardM

Scientia was one of the games that we got a short teaser from W. Eric Martin on BGG, and then it later turned out that the game wasn’t going to be for sale.  I was interested enough in the theme to set up a meeting with the nice folks from BoardM, and they explained the game to me, and I was instantly interested. I knew that the BoardM people had plenty of other meetings set up to try to find a partner to distribute the game, and I was quite surprised to be offered one of their four prototype copies as I was leaving the show on Saturday.  It quickly hit the table, and I wanted to be able to report back on the game quickly.

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Dale Yu: Review of Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings

  • Designer: Olivier Mahy
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Times: 30 mins
  • Times played, 4 with review copy provided by Ravensburger DE

Cool Runnings was one of my more anticipated games from SPIEL 2018.  I was honestly not sure how good of a game it would be, but the whole conceit of the game was so novel, that I really wanted to see how it worked out.  I first learned about it at my GenCon meeting with Ravensburger – the elevator pitch was “it’s a game where each player gets an ice cube, and the winner is the player whose ice cube isn’t melted”.  Yeah, that was enough to sell me on the game – and though it turns out not to be an entirely accurate description of the game, it’s definitely a sexy way to describe it. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.  Even before the fair started in October 2018, the game won an award from the organizers of the fair for being such an innovative game.

The game is a race to reach the end of the track.  There are five different parts of the gameboard which are laid out in random order to create a track.  The finish line piece is placed at the end of the track. The deck of action cards is shuffled and each player gets a hand of 4 cards.  Each of the cards has two portions; the top area can be used as an attack while the bottom half can be used for movement.

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Voices in Board Gaming: Interview with Brandon Kempf

About Today’s Guest: This is the fifth interview in our “Voices in Board Gaming” series here on The Opinionated Gamers.  Today’s guest, Brandon Kempf, is one of the most prolific gaming voices I know, and one of the finest.  He previously ran the WDYPTW podcast, and now he edits and hosts The Shuffle, a monthly podcast featuring various gaming topics.  He tweets often about board games (@Vacabck), plus he posts over at BGG, where he has been Geek of the Week.  He posts written reviews on, and appears in other media forms with regularity.  But most importantly, he’s also incredibly fun to play games with, and he’s one of the few voices in this hobby who I deeply respect.  Without Brandon, I wouldn’t get to play nearly as many as games as I do, and I love being part of his game group in Jefferson City, MO.  

(1)  When did you get into the hobby?  What’s kept you in it for so long?

In truth, I’ve always been part of the “gaming” hobby. Although early in my life it was predominately video gaming, but my parents did try to have game nights with the kids every now and then and we had neighbor friends who occasionally got those big cool games like Fireball Island or The Dark Tower, but I was predominately video game oriented up until about 8 years or so ago. My sister was looking for a gift for my oldest daughter at Christmas, at that time Gabby was 6, and my sister wandered into the old Valhalla’s Gate in downtown Columbia Missouri and she walked out with a copy of a game she had no idea about, but it looked fun. It had magnets, cool pieces and it was a memory game, The Magic Labyrinth. We played that a bunch that winter, but ultimately it kind of faded away and I went back to playing video games, mainly World of Warcraft still at that time. I kind of realized a bit later that my hobby of video gaming, was kind of isolating the rest of the family from me and I tried to figure out things that we could do together when I wasn’t playing video games and it all bounced back to board gaming somehow. My wife, Kerensa, will tell you that when I do things, I tend to just jump in head first without looking and just immerse myself in whatever it is I am doing, and board gaming was no different. I wish I would have discovered the “need” to create a Board Game Geek profile earlier on as we’d be able to dig in and see where it all really started or what we bought when we first started, but I didn’t. So I kind of see me actually jumping into the hobby of board gaming as most people think about it until the beginning of 2012 when I first discovered BGG, even though my family and I were those gamers who had no idea what was going on outside our own little world for 3 years before that. Just for curiosity’s sake I checked my first three logged games on BGG and they were, Forbidden Island, The Magic Labyrinth & Ticket to Ride. Pretty iconic Gateway games to start with even if we weren’t asking folks what should we be playing. Kind of amazing how you can find things on your own sometimes.

What has kept me involved for so long? I don’t really think we’ve been here that long, but what has kept me going has been the sense of discovery and the way that board gaming can bring families and friends to the table for laughs, good fun and even some friendly (or not so friendly) competition.

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Opinionated Gamers – Quick Takes, Part Deux…

Well, we’re back for round 2.  A lot of the Opinionated Gamers have had a chance to play more games, especially those who had a chance to go to BGG.con.  This is our second round of quick comments on the new games – you can find our first 175 comments here… This time around, it’s closer to 150…

Like last time, the comments have been randomly placed in order… for the most part.  There were a few comments which were paired or meant to be read one after the other; those comments have been kept together – and it should be fairly obvious that they go together.

We’ll be starting our reviews up for real in the next week or so, and then we’ll probably have enough new games to get us thru February or so!   We keep track of the games that we’ve played, and thus far, our group has played 188 different “Essen games” this year, with over 800 ratings given to those game – below is a selection of what we’ve played and what we’ve thought about them.

Key Flow – It’s like 7W, but in this game, scoring feels like it is based less on strategic drafting and more on speculative drafting.  The majority of your scoring cards come in the final round’s draft; and at that point, there are no more production cards. Sure, you can use your opponents cards to make stuff, so you may not necessarily have to have the right cards in your own village – but still, you spend 3 of the four seasons gathering stuff without really knowing how you’ll use them to score in the end.  

Key Flow –  While one can certainly compare it to 7 Wonders I think comparing it to Keyflower is more instructive. In Keyflower you see fewer scoring opportunities ahead of time and you can be sure that any that other players are holding that are particularly good for you will be thrown out. In Key Flow someone can only prevent you from getting a good scoring card by taking it themselves.

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